The title of her exhibition might say ‘Chemical Reactions’ but it is the membrane and how Mariah Robertson manipulates it that creates the basic structure for her work. The chemical reactions are the relative results of events that have occurred on the surface. This illustrates why I believe the ‘absolute’ aesthetic thought, Membrane Art is a legitimate art movement, as it is the thought itself (whether its subconsciously or consciously derived) that prevails under any conditions or circumstances. So, artists like Mariah Robertson are able to use different mediums, techniques and processes to achieve results that hold Membrane Art principals. Watch how she does it. This is a beautiful process of discovery!
Stories Well Told recently interviewed Malcolm about the RiAus exhibition, Under the Surface.
Stories Well Told (SWT)
Malcolm, a finalist in the prestigious Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize for 2014, has always been interested in science and the internal workings of nature.
In Membrane Art his canvas becomes a metaphor, recreating layered, multifaceted organisms.
His artistic process ends with recreating the way human visualise science.
SWT: How do you examine what’s ‘Under the Surface’?
Malcolm: My objective is to investigate nature. To understand surface and space the challenge has always been to imagine the complexities of our world beyond the limits of our visual abilities. So, by questioning the way we observe, it became apparent to me that a fresh approach was needed to the way we paint. In particular, to decipher the physiology of our world in a way that relates to the multi-dimensional aspects of it. There are more dimensions than the ones that we can obviously see like height, width and depth.
SWT: What fresh approach to painting did you come up with for Membrane Art?
Malcolm: One way to achieve this was to paint on an uneven or undulating surface. This canvas provides a re-enactment of nature and its multi-dimensional values. And then, at a later date, the canvas is flattened, becoming two-dimensional. The human experience is demonstrated by compressing the depth, creating a visual metaphor for how we observe.
SWT: So are you comparing complex science to human observation?
Malcolm: I’m not comparing them, I’m acknowledging them as one and the same. What I’d like people to see is that when a scientist theorises that we live in a multi-verse, it’s not because they’re conveniently trying to hide extra dimensions to make their calculations work, it’s usually because they make their observations facilitated by tools. Through these tools they can make more observations, more precisely than those our basic senses are equipped to handle.
SWT: Are you following this same scientific method in making your art?
Malcolm: Actually, in my art I often undulate the surface so tightly together that I can’t see where and how paint might flow or blend together, so I’ll rely on my other senses of feel and experience to calculate desired events. This is the unseen physiology. Then opening the work and making it as flat as possible shows that the events that occurred when it was in an undulating state haven’t disappeared, it’s just changed form on the surface.
SWT: Where is Membrane Art heading in the future?
Malcolm: I’ve created a new work exclusive to this exhibition, titled MA#47. Rather than just using paint, I’ve taken a circular-saw and made 12 individual cuts on the undulating linen. In this instance I used two undulations, so 12 cuts across the canvas have turned into 24 cuts when flattened. This hints at particle physics, where it’s possible to be in multiple locations at the same time. Its only when we observe the cuts on the flat two-dimensional surface do we realise that there’s a relationship between two particular cuts that couldn’t have possibly have occurred unless the surface was in a different state.
The RiAus exhibition ‘Under the Surface’ is on until 26 September 2014.
Dr Leonora Long a science writer at Neuroscience Research Australia recently took an interesting look at my Membrane Art. See article
MA#47, oil on Belgian linen, 2014. On display at RiAus until 26 September, 2014.
12 individual cuts of a circular-saw on the undulating (folded) surface, have materialised as 24 cuts when opened out. This hints at particle physics, where it’s possible to be in several locations at the same time. Its only when we observe the cuts on the flat 2D surface do we realise that there’s a relationship between two particular opposite cuts that couldn’t have possibly have occurred unless the surface was in a different state. A metaphor for the way we observe.
‘In art and science we are now in a delta, at the end of the long flow of progress. In a delta there is no clear direction but there may be many choices. The best we can do is to enjoy the choices that we have and to be genuinely and creatively eclectic’. Robert Bateman. MA#41, Finalist and Highly Commended, Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize 2014. South Australian Museum
Malcolm Koch presents 8 Membrane Art paintings (4 new works) and a not to be missed work-in-progress. Plus Christopher and Therese Williams present a collaborative sound and video work, combining Christopher’s soundscape composition with Therese’s real-time video drawings. 1 August – 26 September 2014 Under the surface The Royal Institution of Australia (RiAus) The Science Exchange: 55 Exchange Place , Adelaide SA Open: Monday–Friday 10am–5pm RiAus FutureSpace-Gallery
Opening night: Thursday 31 July 2014, 7–9pm. Wine supplied by Chaffey Bros. Wine Co and Dunes & Greene. Canapes will served on the night.
This is a group exhibition (5 artists). I will have 5 paintings on display. Please RSVP firstname.lastname@example.org
Recently, my painting MA#41 was highly commended in this year’s prestigious Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize, an international competition that invites artists to investigate the environment around us and present their own perspective on natural science. It’s an achievement just to be recognised. Likewise, I’m also thrilled to be invited to exhibit in the RiAus FutureSpace Gallery during this year’s SALA festival, where a similar synergy between the arts and science has been occurring. This support of the arts highlights how artists can interpret common themes, issues and thoughts in a multitude of different aesthetic ways that can engage mainstream audiences in science. Hopefully, by humanising scientific pursuits we may together speak a common language for all humanity.
As an artist, I like to say that my art is founded in science. I call my work ‘Membrane Art’ and believe it to be an absolute aesthetic-thought. This is distinct but not separate to the mounted-pieces that are about to go on display in the FutureSpace Gallery, titled Under the Surface. These are the relative-thoughts, the by-products of the absolute-thought which each have their own individual story to tell.
When making a claim that something is ‘absolute’, as is done in science, you need to be able to provide strong, quality evidence to support the theory. For almost 10 years now, since the idea for ‘Membrane Art’ first came to me, I can confidently say that I’ve achieved a body of work and a method of working that can consistently confirm this as so.
It was the 19th-century scientist and philosopher Hermann von Helmholtz who wrote, ‘Everything is an event on the skin’, and these words seems so poignant when you consider the process I employ to produce each piece — quite simply, I undulate the surface before I paint on it, hence the terminology ‘Membrane Art’, as it is the membrane (canvas) that creates the basic structure for the work. Why I paint in this way stems directly from my understanding of nature and the way it appears to be. To understand surface and space, the challenge has always been to imagine the complexities of our world beyond the limits of our visual abilities — you can’t solely rely on the flat 2D surface; it just doesn’t work. So, by questioning the way we see, it became apparent that to understand the presuppositions that shape our world, a new visual language was required.
Undulating the membrane was a liberating thought, and it also allowed me to employ modern thinking in physics and geology for which I have a keen interest. I started by experimenting with various materials and techniques, including sizing my own linen to try to build an innate understanding of it. Since then, I’ve been able to demonstrate that I can repeat the idea of absolute thought, in a variety of ways, and under any conditions and circumstances. And just to prove it, I’ve created a new work exclusive to this exhibition, titled MA#47. Rather than just using paint, I’ve taken a circular-saw and made 12 individual cuts on the undulating linen — in this instance I used two undulations, so 12 ‘actions’ have turned into 24 cuts. This hints at particle physics, where it’s possible to be in several locations at the same time. Its only when we observe the cuts on the flat 2D surface do we realise that there’s a relationship between two particular cuts that couldn’t have possibly have occurred unless the surface was in a different state.
At this point, I must emphasise that undulating the surface is not the complete idea of Membrane Art — the work must eventually return to the flat 2D picture plane, a key part of the absolute-thought. This shows us that the undulating membrane provides a re-enactment of nature (containing multi-dimensional values), and the flat plane generates the human experience (by compressing the depth), a visual metaphor for how we may observe. This is further illustrated in the exhibition by a piece I call ‘undulating-work-in-progress’, and is indicative of how all mounted works are created.
Absolute aesthetic-ideas don’t come around very often. Given recent scientific discoveries about the laws of nature (like the Higgs Field), Membrane Art could well be the contemporary visual language of our times.
I trust you’ll enjoy the exhibition. I’d love to hear your feedback!
All works are for sale. Any enquires call me direct on 0419 864 987
Under the Surface will be exhibited in the Futurespace Gallery at The Science Exchange from Friday 1 August 2014 to Friday 26 September 2014. bit.ly/1zakEho
I’m very happy to announce that I was Highly Commended for work MA#41 at this year’s Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize. With the high quality of work on display, this is a very satisfying achievement. It does mean that my work will form part of a tour to the National Archives of Australia in Canberra later in the year.
The exhibition opens this weekend at the SA Museum: www.bit.ly/1jV37X2
As an art critic, Peter Drew has created a six part online series called Art vs Reality. All aimed at providing information, insight, humour and well-researched opinion on today’s Artworld. After each episode he invites comments from viewers and then ‘grudgingly’ responds to them. So, I was chuffed (possibly slightly flattered) to get his favourite comment to episode 3. ArtvsReality_response (approx. 2 minutes in)
Watch his entertaining series as it unfolds over the coming months: ArtvsReality
Here’s my comment in response to episode 3 (Street Art vs The Art market):
As you point out, Art like everything else repeats itself. So assuming that we are about the cycle of 1874, then the question might be: What is the modern-day equivalent of Impressionism (an Absolute aesthetic-idea) that can present a real alternative to the Artworld? The answer may evolve through subcultures but its only through Absolute ideas that provide the artist with a common philosophy or goal, so that he or she, or collective group, can bring about a sense of purpose and direction that may thrive once again outside the salons.
Transcript of my speech made to 70+ guests at the opening cocktail party of Membrane Art exhibition at the Adelaide Convention Centre (Centre ArtBeat) on 4 June 2014:
So, what preoccupies the perennially tormented mind of the contemporary artist? Quite simply; the language of aesthetic-ideas (aesthetic-thoughts).
But what I want to talk to you about tonight — is how this visual language can be delineated into two parts — absolute and relative ideas. Absolute being what is complete, and relative being something that is dependent upon humans. I particularly want to make this distinction as it relates directly to my art. Art always needs to steer itself away from becoming monotonous, so by defining the merits of ideas itself — or at least by bringing it to your attention — I believe robust, imaginative and independent forms of inquiry may continue to exist. As it is only through the development of absolute-ideas that art has a future that may authentically explore the issues to be debated, the ideas to be contested, and the images yet to be re-imagined.
The mounted works you see on display, are my relative-ideas. Each one has an individual story to tell. The undulating-works-in-progress you see here (below), represent the absolute-idea and is indicative of how every one of my paintings is created. But before I explain this, let me first define, these terms.
RELATIVE: They are relative because they stand in relation to certain conditions or circumstances. They relate to individual human beings. This is what artists execute 99.9% of the time. Pick a topic: Politics; environment; social; religion; sex; make a comment or highlight an issue about it, and hey presto! — you have an exhibition that everyone can relate to.
ABSOLUTE: Absolute-ideas, on the other hand, do not stand in relation to any conditions or circumstances. They prevail at any time or place and under any circumstances. It is a first order thought and can’t be denied or refuted. For example, the idea of Cubism is absolute — show multiple viewpoints on the picture plane. This is a truth that has stood the test of time. So much so, that Cubism has influenced generations of artist, creating a multitude of outcomes with this basic principle.
The objective of absolute-ideas is to provide the artist with a common philosophy or goal, so that he or she, or a collective group, can bring about a sense of purpose and direction. Whatever the means, you either — respond with it, or react against it.
So what makes these undulating membranes absolute?
10 years ago, almost to the month, it hit me. If I could just undulate the surface before I painted on it, I might be able to capture the pervasive features that shape our natural landscape — then at a later date, compress the depth by returning the work to the flat picture plane.
This was a liberating thought, and it quickly became obvious that it was a much larger idea then just about landscape, it was science. However, with no obvious historical art references to show me the way, I continued experimenting on my own, trying various materials and techniques, including sizing my own linen, as well as trying to overcome technical issues. But most importantly, I needed to be able to repeat the idea, in a variety of ways, in order to build a body-of-work that could confirm my assertion — Membrane Art holds the principle view: that the confluence of events in nature and human observation occur as one and the same. DISCUSS: [The undulating membrane is nature. The flat-plane is observation. The membrane creates the basic structure for the work. Through the act of compressing the depth, after applying a series of multiple dimensional values, you begin to reveal a truth about the human experience of observation. Nothing disappears! It just changes its form on the surface].
10 years on, Membrane Art prevails as an absolute aesthetic-idea. It can’t be mistaken as a technique or process, as it is about understanding space and surface in order to build the relative-ideas. It shows us that we are blind to the internal workings of nature. I hope that by displaying these undulating-works-in-progress — and explaining the methodology behind my thinking — you can see much more work can be achieved which has not consciously been recognised anywhere. More importantly, I hope that other artists embrace or challenge the idea, as it is often through the collective group that good ideas gain momentum and flourish for the benefit of all.
Absolute aesthetic-ideas don’t come around very often and given recent scientific discoveries about the laws of nature (like the Higgs Field), Membrane Art could well be the contemporary visual language for our times.
I’ve been selected as a finalist in the prestigious Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize for 2014 (Category A – Paintings).
This highly competitive event is one of Australia’s most prestigious art competitions. With a total prize pool over $100,000, makes it one of the richest arts’ prize in Australia, attracting many national and international entries.
The competition invites artists to investigate the world around them and present their own perspective on natural science. Since, my work (Membrane Art) has its basis in ‘science’, as you can imagine, I’m just thrilled to be recognised.
Prize winners will be announced at a media call at the South Australian Museum at 10:30am on Thursday 24 July 2014.
This is an article I read in 2003. It inspired me to think on a completely different level. Here the American art critic, Hilton Kramer summarises Abstract Art from his wealth of historical insight, outlining its checkered history, discussing its harshest critics and then hypothesis as to why he thinks it has become so marginalised in galleries and museums all over the world. Pointing towards Minimalism in its effects to diminish the aesthetic scope and resources of abstraction may have marked a terminal point in its aesthetic development from which it has not yet recovered. If he was alive today, would he be able to see Membrane Art as a clear sense of purpose and direction as do? Does Abstract Art have a future?
By understanding that a surface interconnects and defines space, provides the means to create a vocabulary that can be found in our physical world. This vocabulary may repeat itself but its in the way that you perceive it and how you go about putting it together that provides endless differences.
The Hughes Gallery is displaying one of my pieces. I haven’t seen this work for six months and looking at it again on display I still believe its one of my finest. The Hughes Gallery: Fullarton Park Centre, 411 Fullarton Road. 20 March – 17 April 2014. Mon-Fri.
Slight change of dates: The Adelaide Convention Centre (Centre ArtBeat) will be displaying my artwork for approximately 8 weeks. The official opening and cocktail party has changed to Wednesday 4 June, 5 – 6.30pm. Dandelion Vineyards will be supporting the opening. Yummmmm!
5 of my large oil paintings have made their way to Veda – Art & Interiors: This is the collaboration between Tony Bond (AP Bond Art Gallery), Paul Swain, Paul Gerard, Zoe Elvish and Jacqui Hooper. Its a great idea – check it out at 140 Barton Terrace West, North Adelaide 11 – 4pm most days.
I’ve been asked to do a one hour talk about my work. I’ll most likely talk for 10–15 minutes and then follow up with a short presentation. I’m hoping that there will be a lot of questions to fill up the rest of the time. If not, I’ll read some selected essay’s from Art Critics’ collected over many years to the present day that I believe validate my thinking. The artist talk is at Pepper Street Arts Centre on 1 February 2014, Saturday 3pm – 4pm.
“I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.”
#ProspectGallery‘s exhibition ‘The Era We Live In’. Open 3pm this Sunday.
I’ve managed to curate ten paintings within the Tidswell Wines cellar door that I think work well together. I’m showcasing 6 new works. Its also very pleasing to place work in an unconventional space and see them still able to work in varying lighting conditions throughout the day.
Exhibition now showing at Barossa Living Gallery (28 Murray Street, Tanunda) extended to March 2013.
Barossa Living Magazine_article_Malcolm-Koch
Barossa Living Magazine, Spring 2012, Free Run Press, p72-73, p84-85.