Shadows on the Wall 2017, Anna Pappas Gallery, Melbourne

  • Amber Koroluk-Stephenson : Shadows on the Wall, 2017, installation view, Shadows on the Wall 2017, installation view, Anna Pappas Gallery, Melbourne
  • Amber Koroluk-Stephenson : Canopy Above, 2017, oil on linenCanopy Above 2017, oil on linen, 84 x 101 cm
  • Amber Koroluk-Stephenson : Pink Billows, 2017, oil on linenPink Billows 2017, oil on linen, 71 x 86 cm
  • Amber Koroluk-Stephenson : Lonely Idols, 2017, oil on linenLonely Idols 2017, oil on linen, 84 x 101 cm
  • Amber Koroluk-Stephenson : Inside Scenery, 2017, oil on linenInside Scenery 2017, oil on linen, 71 x 86 cm
  • Amber Koroluk-Stephenson : Under this Paper Moon, 2017, oil on linenUnder this Paper Moon 2017, oil on linen, 84 x 101 cm
  • Amber Koroluk-Stephenson : Standing Still, 2017, oil on linenStanding Still 2017, oil on linen, 84 x 101 cm
  • Amber Koroluk-Stephenson : Softening into Darkness, 2017, oil on linenSoftening into Darkness 2017, oil on linen, 71 x 86 cm
  • Amber Koroluk-Stephenson : Room with a View, 2017, oil on linenRoom with a View 2017, oil on linen, 71 x 86 cm
  • Amber Koroluk-Stephenson : Between Shadow and Veil, 2017, oil on linenBetween Shadow and Veil 2017, oil on linen, 71 x 61 cm

Lost in No Space

Written by Andrew Harper, October 2017

Amber Koroluk-Stephenson has never made images of places. If something in her art resembles an historic bridge, found in the Tasmanian Midlands in a heritage village that is at once rather beautiful and terribly twee, Koroluk-Stephenson is not painting that bridge. She is painting the historical implications of the bridge, or she is painting a bridge that is analogous with something that feels like a bridge one encounters from a half-recalled dream state. It is not bridge. It is the idea of bridge.

There are no bridges in this series of paintings.

Koroluk-Stephenson is not sitting still as an artist, but is enhancing, editing and refining her own vernacular of images. This process is ongoing in her artistic production: her work is not static and her investigations are expanding but also becoming more complex.

The landscape is artificial.

There is not a landscape. There is the idea of landscape. It is a landscape overlaid and enhanced with a notion of being alien, or having elements that are alien, composed of a dialogue of bright coloured fraudulent birds and broad-leafed plants, steamed through with a moist sense of an exotic delicacy, that is at once threatened and threatening.

The idea of other and elsewhere looms massive behind the fake walls.

If you go to the theatre – the actual theatre, there will often be a set, and sets are strange things, because they are flat and not even remotely real, but we accept them because you cannot put a real tree into a theatre. We see the image of a tree that is analogous with a tree, which has the historical (and other) implications and context of a tree. This is not a tree. It is the idea of a tree. We accept this construction without blinking in the theatre, where our duty is spectate in a certain way, that there is context for, and that we are taught. It’s interesting that we have to be taught to go to the theatre.

If we look at this series of paintings, they do have elements of theatre sets. Stairs are too flat and do not go anywhere beyond the edge of the painting; the stairs are an idea that lead us up to somewhere, that might be the attic or the upstairs studio or heaven.

None of those places exist.

These are not paintings of places.

They are not paintings of theatre sets either: they are paintings of non-existent theatre sets, or things that remind of and imply theatre sets, which remind of or imply other things, like the idea of trees or stairs, enriched by the complex layered notions all the works are infused with.

Nothing is literal. Nothing is real.

The rubber gloves that appear again and again become birds, but they are not birds. They are used as puppets, but they are not proper puppets, they are gloves, and when no one is using them as puppets they lie, limp, like shed skins, their bright colours like fruit or flowers, and they are none of these things because they complex intersections of notions of materiality, consumer culture, the impact of waste on the environment, the way that people seal themselves off from nature and they are not rubber gloves: they are paintings of the idea of rubber gloves. Tents. Oranges. We go camping in tents and we take oranges along, but we also make pretend tents in the lounge room on a wet day.

Are these places inside or outside?

Why are trees from different altitudes and indeed different types of forests, that are possibly quite geographically distinct, all mixed together? They are exotic. They do not belong. They are from somewhere else.

There is something unsettling about all the images and how they sit together, both in one painting and as a series of paintings.

There is something that reminds of surrealism, but surrealism as a movement in art was a long time ago and the world has changed: there is a cascade of imagery now, and we see the world in digital resolutions so high they may be more real than reality itself, and this has some bearing on how we see our world, the traditions of art and what Amber Koroluk Stephenson is investigating, with all her complex vernacular of forms and hints that point to a relationship she has with the history of painting, and her understanding of what some symbols mean, and how her work interrogates history, and examines context.

Why do we see a bird or a tree when we are not looking at one?

What have we been taught to see, and by implication, to think, to accept, and to ignore? Koroluk-Stephenson deals in the construction and exposure of mechanics not to de-mystify or destroy, but to examine what is occurring. Her complex language exposes, interrogates, and examines what she sees; and she arrives at a moment where the nature of painting as a way to make art is being examined. She is painting, perhaps, the idea of painting, and dissecting symbol and tradition, exposing artifice and problematic aspects. This is not destructive. It is creative in the extreme, rolling back to essential elements to find put for herself why the work needs to be made, what it is for, and how she may do it better.

It is not a place. It is the idea of place, and the idea of an artwork about a place.