Unfinished Business


Place, specifically Canberra, and a loose adherence to formalism bring together artists Peter Alwast, Rebecca Mayo, and Nigel Lendon in Unfinished Business.

Canberra Contemporary Art Space (CCAS) curator Alexander Boynes cites a gap in his city’s exhibition programming as the instigating drive for the show. “There are some terrific artists in Canberra. Their careers have been successful, and they have massive bodies of work,” says Boynes, “What brought them together for me is that they all have stellar practices; however, they haven’t had much representation in the city where they now live.”

The title of the exhibition, Unfinished Business, has multiple resonances. Firstly, it’s a joking gripe about the fact that these artists have never exhibited at CCAS before.

Secondly, the artists themselves could also be viewed as having ‘unfinished business.’ Boynes describes Lendon as a “re-emerging artist.” After an active career in the 1960s and 1970s (including exhibiting in the seminal exhibition The Field in Melbourne) Lendon moved on to academia, working as an art historian, teacher, and at times, curator. His art practice took a back seat. With a re-focus on his career, he is back working in the studio and many of his new works revisit his earlier works.

Nigel Lendon, Even. And. But. Also., 1969-2019, Powdercoated steel, 152.5cm x 767cm x 4.5cm. Image courtesy of Canberra Contemporary Art Space. Photograph by Brenton McGeachie.

For example, in his powder coated steel piece Even. And. But. Also., 1969-2019, Lendon reworks an earlier artwork, shifting material, and colour from yellow to white. “It’s just really fascinating seeing that these ideas are still there and he’s still chipping away at them,” says Boynes. “But his way and his manner of delivering them have moulded and changed ever so slightly.” As well as working with, in a sense, his earlier self, Lendon has also collaborated with the early career artist Emma Beer to produce a work under the moniker LENDON/BEER. Unfinished Business is not just linear progression, but looks back, and ‘sideways’ at one’s peers.

Thirdly, elements of modernism and formalism can also be conceived of as ‘unfinished’ with motifs such as the grid which can repeat to infinity.

Certain works in the exhibition rope the natural world into abstract concerns. For her sculpture Bound by Gorse (Elex europeaus), 2017, Rebecca Mayo collected gorse in Melbourne from local parks and submerged waterways which she used to make bricks stamped with the postcode from where the gorse was found. “In a sense, she’s riffing on ideas on the multiple and the grid as a way to investigate the landscape around her through a mode of formalism and structured investigation into sculpture and space,” says Boynes.

In Peter Alwast’s collage works, he employs materials such as rabbit skin and hessian which are cut and pasted like an early form of photoshop. “He creates what are really forms of controlled chaos that come out of stripping apart networks and pulling apart formal structures to discover their inner workings,” says Boynes.

As Boynes points out, all of the artists in Unfinished Business are working with the idea of the multiple and expanding matrix that in a sense, is boundless. They have a lot more work to do.”

Unfinished Business
Canberra Contemporary Art Space (CCAS) Gorman House
31 May – 27 July  

Preview Words by Zara Sigglekow