Place Gallery
HomeCalendarArtistsContact Us
 
  Wes PLACEK


Wes Placek CV (PDF)

Totemics
11 April to 5 May 2012

CIRCLES

The grid may be seen as a quintessential 20th century figure and particularly recognized for its totalitarian and materialist associations. But against the grid, or rather oblivious to it, like real geography against the longitudes and latitudes of maps, there have always been the multiple centres of rocks and lakes, plants, animals, humans and their various objects, to say nothing of clouds, planets and stars. It is this order of multiple centres that Wes Placek’s new paintings present for us to contemplate, through the use of circles.

Circles, discs (or rings) are notoriously difficult to compose. Unlike triangles, squares or hexagons, they will not tesselate. Their peripheries avoid or interfere with each other, and attention is drawn to their centres: this dialogue of distinctive sameness and difficult difference informs the relationships in these new paintings.

As a group, Placek’s paintings offer a number of such relationships. There are rows and fields of circles in which the centres and peripheries are kept apart. All of these use the flat surface and shallow space of the picture plane. There are also implied stacks, as if centres share a spine or spindle. Colour unifies or separates the circles, and sometimes lines and other marks are laid over the composition to suggest ways of scanning and then understanding the relationships. While each painting carries a particular arrangement as a proposition, the close thematic nature of the propositions in a group of Placek’s paintings means that the paintings will also engage each other.

The articulation of multiple centres has a long history. Flowering in Byzantine art and in Romanesque painting, but somewhat clouded by the single-centre paradigm of Renaissance perspective, the articulation has survived in Eastern Europe, most notably in the production of icons. At their simplest, these relate the circle to a head, and range from images of single heads to scatters of halos over a flat surface. In between, the ubiquitous image of mother and child interlocks two circles, one large and one small.

While this kind of art is without context for most Australians, at the daily end of the visual world, there are pervasive multiple centres in the domestic realm: vases, bowls, plates, glasses and food cans. We use these all the time, and group and regroup them again and again. These objects have been the subject of Placek’s paintings and prints before, and they provide a grounding for these new paintings if the high art of Byzantium seems too remote. Even the most common and industrial of these domestic objects, the tin can, which was the subject of a print done by Placek for the Australian Print Council in 1994, has a strong metaphysical presence. It brings together two circles: when standing, one end is on the ground, the other to the sky. The Renaissance tradition separates earth and sky (and their associated values) into incommensurate square and circle, to the extent that ‘squaring the circle’ is a cliché phrase for ‘attempting the impossible’. But in a tin can…

What if two (or more) circles are to be brought together? Differences can be presented through size and the contrasting shapes or colours inside the circle and particularly at their centre-points. There is also the dramatic idea that each circle can belong to a different version of the same discourse. At a social level this is discussion in which individuality and sociality are in balance; at a spiritual level it concerns division and integration, where the divided bits – like mother and child - are wholes as well.

Alex Selenitsch
asele@unimelb.edu.au
March 2012

 

Wes Placek 2008 Exhibition
Wes Placek 2004 Exhibition