Tanya van Irsen
Emerge Art Space
REVIEW: LAETITIA WILSON
Patterns have fascinated artists for as long as humans have been consciously making marks.
They also occur prolifically, whether in the natural world, our built environment, in the things that surround us, in life, history, language or numbers. They are so much a part of our everyday life that often we fail to notice them in all their detail, simplicity, complexity and intricacy.
Emerging local artist Tanya van Irsen is not one to suffer such an oversight. She appears to be fascinated by the formal qualities of the urban fabric, fascinated by pattern and repetition and in particular the designs of drains and grates below our feet as we walk along streets.
In a new series of works she has photographed such patterns, made inkjet prints of the results and meticulously folded the prints into shapes. These shapes are three- dimensional and made conical, triangular, diamond and star-shaped. They are arranged on MDF in gridded and circular configurations. At first glance they appear to be 3D prints that are presently all the rage, but closer inspection reveals evidence of the human hand.
The works force the viewer to look at the everyday urban world anew and to recognise its beauty and be curious about the otherwise mundane. Admittedly van Irsen has not placed a city grate on the wall and compelled the viewer to come close up to it. Rather, the subject is at a third- level remove from its original form, pulled through the various layers of artistic mediation to become de-familiarised as artistic object.
The effect of this process is mesmeric. The qualities of the surface undulate in an optical play of form, line and repetition. Despite being utterly urbane, there is also something organic about these forms. This is especially the case with a piece titled 15, which is a series of conical forms that appear to pulse out of the MDF like dense creaturely foliage. Another titled 12 is reminiscent of sea-urchins closely huddled together in a diamond shape.
Beyond associations with the natural world, van Irsen places primary emphasis on the ordered, geometric attributes of the works and their three-dimensionality. The fact that these pieces are relief works, that they literally come out of the wall towards the viewer, gives them their magic. This is more evident when hundreds of forms are combined, rather than the more sparse arrangements of 14 and 18.
It is impossible to look at these works without considering the process behind their creation. An almost obsessive amount of fastidious work has gone into them. An enormous level of patience and focused attention must have been required to achieve such seamless folds. There are no elements left to chance, this is art that is highly contrived.
Essentially, with this series van Irsen has developed a well- articulated methodology, from seizing on an awareness of the ground beneath her feet, to capturing its details, rendering them two-dimensional and rearranging them as voluminous fragments of a larger pattern. In other words, making the ordinary extraordinary.
Tanya van Irsen is showing at Emerge, 2/827 Beaufort Street, Inglewood, until June 28.