A shot of the new

The Age Preview Magazine

By Luke Benedictus
March 26, 2006

NATASHA JOHNS-MESSENGER

Natasha Johns-Messenger  would make a great practical joker. The Melbourne artist's work, Automated Logic, toys with spatial awareness to leave you mentally bamboozled. "It's designed to be disorientating," she explains. "The whole experience is about perception overtaking logic."

One installation, for example, involves walking down a narrow corridor. There's a mirror positioned at the end, but as you approach you're unable to catch sight of your reflection. Your instinctive reaction is to assume the mirror isn't really there - until you almost walk straight into it. As the 34-year-old artist explains: "Perception is automatic rather than logical."

The optical illusions can leave you pleasantly bewildered. One work shows a wooden cube apparently floating in space. Another involves a mirror that reflects an inverted image of your face minus the eyes.

The effect of these visual stunts forces you to become increasingly alert and scrutinise the next item with greater concentration. You find yourself warily approach a large plywood block only to discover that it really is, in fact, just a large plywood block. "When you play with illusions, people expect that everything might be one," Johns- Messenger says.

But the point of her work isn't just to try to hoodwink the unsuspecting punter. "It's not about tricks because they don't interest me at all - it's about trying to make immediate space interesting," she says. "I want to make pictorial spaces come alive again because I find that they're often quite dead."