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Avis Newman: Descriptions

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)


19 Jun 2003 to 24 Aug 2003

Curator: Vivienne Webb

about the exhibition

This solo exhibition of British artist Avis Newman, explored the wide ranging nature of her practice. Although Newman has worked across a range of media during her career, since the early 1980s she has been primarily associated with large-scale, minimalist drawings on unstretched canvas – usually pinned directly to the gallery walls for display. Central to Newman’s practice as an artist is the notion of drawing as the silent act of marking, gesturing and making signs. She has described drawing as the activity that is closest to pure thought: 'I understand drawing to evidence the materialisation of an act of consciousness – where the gestured act embodies an act of thought.’

This exhibition included the Meridians series from the late 1990s – expansive canvases layered with marks in acrylic, charcoal, oil, chalk and pastel – and the more recent Descriptions series (1999-2003). The paintings in the Descriptions series were given titles which did not correspond to the works; Newman was attempting to highlight the distance between conceptualisation and realisation. The linear and organic forms grappled with the futility of our attempts to describe through representation.

This solo exhibition was presented concurrently with The Stage of Drawing: Gesture and Act. Newman was invited to select works from the Tate Collection which formed the basis of that exhibition, based on the importance of drawing to her art practice and her sensitivity to the medium. With this selection, Newman hoped to engage with the proposition that drawing is an open-ended and exploratory activity.