An abandoned seaside motel stands in Port Dickson, Malaysia. After being sold to foreign speculative buyers in the 1980s, it now sits in ruins, overgrown with foliage. Yet there is also creation; it’s the site that artist Simryn Gill, who looks at the relation between history, place and experience, has been working from. Producing photographs and monoprints that trace the minutiae of the motel’s fading remains, such as white bathroom tiles and the crevices left by copper piping theft, Gill places ink directly on the motel’s surfaces, imprinting onto cloth the negative spaces left by grooves and cracks. The Singaporean-born artist, who works between Malaysia and Australia, creates images that trace memory and site.
Gill is one of six artists showing at TarraWarra International 2019: The Tangible Trace. With a global outlook, the exhibition comprises artists who collectively imagine, document and experience the world via an echo or remnant, including Francis Alÿs (Belgium/ Mexico), Carlos Capelán (Uruguay/Sweden), Shilpa Gupta (India), Hiwa K (Iraq/Germany) and Sangeeta Sandrasegar (Australia). While the trace may at first seem imperceptible, the artists carefully summon it as both idea and action; a concept and a material.
Formally The Tangible Trace occupies many mediums – installation, video, painting, monoprints, pressings, photography, mappings – but it’s the shared dialogues and concerns that are crucial: personal and collective memory, displacement and refuge, war and conflict, history and passing time, the production of cultural knowledge, surveillance, and the experience of bodies moving through cities.
Now in its third iteration, the TarraWarra International series has always sought to foster a global dialogue between artists, yet this year’s exhibition seems particularly pertinent in light of the current worldwide discourse on global movement and displacement, alongside an intensifying, twisted nationalism. For a show centred on quietness, soft gestures and intuitive modes of experience and representation, it feels urgent.
This piece was originally published in the May/June 2019 print edition of Art Guide Australia. You can read the full feature at Art Guide here.