February 14 – March 8 2015
@ Run Amok Gallery
By a String is a solo exhibition by Australian visual artist Tim Craker. It comprised sculptures made from found, recycled and low-cost objects collected from Tim’s ventures around George Town. The works are based on the idea of the “festive decorations” whichcelebrate the many festivals of Malaysia’s well-filled and multi-faith cultural and religious calendar. Tim has created his own version of these celebratory decorations, which – true to their inspirations – will be hung from the ceiling at Run Amok Gallery for visitors to roam through, as an experience of an “outsider” response to these special decorative objects. One room at the gallery was converted into a working studio where people could make their own decorations from the same materials that Tim has gathered – in an individual response to these decorations, both the original and the new.
By a String is an exploration and celebration of the temporary decorations with which we adorn our streets and houses and places of worship for festive occasions. With references to the garlands and lanterns and ketupat and baubles which mark George Town’s cultural and religious festivals, the works in By a String re-interpret those decorations with a hand-made aesthetic and a definite low-tech approach, using a limited “palette” of everyday, found and low-cost materials. Using (and discovering) the decorative language of repetition, symmetry and balance – of shape and colour, size and texture – the works combine an improvised vocabulary of forms to create strange objects: decorations for a festival unknown.
The process of creating the works for By a String, however, also raised questions. What does it mean to suspend something, to hang it up? The object becomes almost-automatically non-functional (unless it’s a light-fitting or a birdcage) – and enters the realm of the decorative, the solely-aesthetic, the just-to-be-looked-at… This exercise also questions our understanding of space – space we interact with physically in our daily activities versus space with which we hardly have any physical contact i.e. ceilings. And to hang an object by an almost-invisible string not only commands a certain visual presence, but also “disrupts the void” in our optical perception of space.
Then there are the memories associated with festivals. I can still conjure up the anticipatory excitement I felt as a child, unpacking the – in my own case – Christmas-tree ornaments from the boxes stored in high cupboards, suspending the shiny baubles from the branches of the tree, placing the impossibly-beautiful “fairy” on the tree’s highest point… So the decoration – by definition “non-functional” – does in fact have a cultural role to play, as a marker of tradition and continuity, and a cue for memory and nostalgia.
By a String is also an objective demonstration that being nudged sideways in one’s self-defined artistic trajectory – as initially resistant as one might be – is always worthwhile.