MAKING GERTRUDE’S WALLS TALK.

Profile by Megan Backhouse
Publication - The Age, The Culture
November 27, 2002 page 6
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First Natasha Johns-Messenger used her jigsaw, and then her handsaw, to hack into a wall at Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, although there is nothing random about the resulting destruction. The dimensions of the “architectural cut” have a mathematical, surgical precision - the width of the rectangular hole is identical to the width of the floorboards, and its overall proportions precisely echo the window above the gallery desk.

Below the cut-out, Johns-Messenger has painted strips of colour to mark the wall’s various incarnations. There is the vivid pink chosen by fellow artist Kathy Temin as well as the dark blue Starlie Geike used for another show. A different strip commemorates someone else’s light-blue phase, then a leaf-green one, followed by lines of floroescent yellow, dark-grey, bottle-green and tan, all interspersed with white strips of varying widths (reflecting the various lengths of time) when the walls were left plain white.

The wall excavation is just one of the works included in the Gertrude Studios 2002, an exhibition of the work of 16 artists (including Nick Mangan, Renee So and David Rosetzky) working across a range of media, who have held shows at Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces over the past year.

This is the first time in about two years that Johns-Messenger has made a work without incorporating her signature mirrors but she says the wall excavation – like her mirror works – is a way of representing a specific site to explore issues of perception.

“It’s about seeing immediate space in a different way. Dissecting the wall demonstrates a different viewpoint and somehow injects the wall with another meaning. There are so many ways of representing something without photographing or painting it,” Johns-Messenger says.

The artist takes another look at “space” in a walk-through installation, which will be open to the public this weekend as part of the annual Open Studio Day. Johns-Messenger has positioned mirrors, windows and walkways to inspire in viewers a heightened awareness of the area around them. The installation, which feels far larger than it is, raises the question of what is “real” and “not real”. “It’s being alert to different ways of seeing a basic room,” she says.

Gertrude Studios 2002 is at Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces (200 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, phone 9419 3406) until December 14. The Open Studio Day, when artists will be present to talk about their work, is this Saturday from 2pm to 5pm.