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Ash Keating, Painting The West Park Proposition, 2012. Painting performance, variable dimensions. Photo by Greta Costello. Courtesy the artist.

PAINTING THE WEST PARK PROPOSITION

Exhibition essay for Ash Keating
Painting The West Park Proposition
25 July–10 August 2013
Fehily Contemporary, Melbourne

Here is an artist in a field of change, a tiny figure before a monolithic slab in an expanse of waving grasses and shifting colours. The city lies just off in the distance, slowly encroaching in concrete subdivisions across the land. The figure paces back and forth, considering the scale, the immensity, the possibility of this out-of-place structure. And then an endurance event begins: an intensive performance of high-pressure painting in sweeping arches and towering splays, all filmed from near, far and robotically from above. The artist, Ash Keating, becomes embedded within this field, transforming himself, the construction, and the landscape, in a vast illusionary mnemonic.

Endurance in art might call to mind names like Abramovic, Unsworth, Orr, or even Stelarc; artists who push the physical limits of their bodies as elemental aspects within their work, and who also demand equal levels of endurance from their audience, even if only as participants in the time spent in observational stimulation.

Painting The West Park Proposition takes its cue from Zidane, un portrait du 21e siècle, a 2006 French documentary by Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno. This 90-minute (game length) film tracks the former Real Madrid football icon, Zinedine Zidane, with a 17-camera, time-synchronised setup. Filmed from a range of perspectives, the POV switches like a multiplayer video game, bringing waves of intensity to the subject-object spectacle of sporting worship through the insistent gaze of relentless recording.

When the artist speaks to this connection between endurance — in particular through sport performance — and the gaze, he refers to the constant attendance of the media eye through technological voyeurism; televised sport and the cult of celebrity on a 24-hour cycle that allows little time for contemplation of the effects on the immediate environment within or beyond.

Keating reconstructs and imitates key elements from this endurance spectacle for his large scale proposition, using similar multi-camera viewpoints, from extreme close-ups to stadium flyovers (with wide angle shots and aerial drone perspectives). The comparisons layer through the work: a context (with a semi-rural environment in transition); a field (with a blank, concrete, tilt-slab wall); a set of rules (with a time limit for an endurance painting); a game time (with 90 minutes of on camera performance cut down into highlights); a stained uniform (with grey clothes slowly colouring with paint impacts); and physical restrictions (with weather, materials and energy).

While the sporting analogies at work here are not as obvious as the spatial qualities in the physical performance, Painting the West Park Proposition can be viewed and read in a number of ways: as process performance, as self portrait, as landscape mural, as ecological intervention, as constructed critique.

Consider the field once more: formerly open grassland for millennia, more recently co-opted for colonial grazing pastures, now subdivided into a new industrial park, a familiar transition of ecology to economy. Visually and physically, Keating is reclaiming this extrinsic concrete construct, reverting the field of an expansive wall by representing the colours and movement of grass, clouds, light and wind of the surrounding environment.

At its simplest, West Park Proposition is a large-scale mural painting, but more importantly it becomes a tertiary field, shifting and vacillating: from nature, to infrastructure, to an illusion in abstraction.