Contact Us

Of late, we have been forced into an acute awareness of our bodies – as they brush against others, cautiously inhale, and perhaps betray their owners with coughs and sneezes. In the context of this heightened consciousness, ‘Contact Us’ presented by Cement Fondu is an uncannily pertinent grouping of newly commissioned works by Emma Finneran, Tom Polo and Campbell Patterson.

Throughout their exploration of the notions of contact, exchange and detritus, the trio orchestrates moments of profound discomfort and total joy. At various junctions, the viewer feels like they are part of an in-joke, interrupting a private moment, in the way or simply in the wrong place.

Emma Finneran interrupts the flow of the gallery spaces, imposing boundaries and behaviours through the obstruction and concealment of walkways whilst simultaneously spotlighting the ‘out of bounds’. Fluoride Mafia (self-serve) (2020) activates the frosted glass partition that separates galleries and offices with a film of Vaseline that captures the marks of the artist and others, along with a fine layer of dust – the detritus of human presence. As touch takes on new meaning, the sticky film feels distinctly ominous. In the bathrooms, X-rated shorthand (questions in answers) (2020) prompts patrons to consider and perfect the act of hand washing. The partially obscured mirrors mute the individual and reflect only the actions of one’s hands; a mundane motion is propelled to an act of every-day heroism.

Tom Polo’s suite of free-standing paintings present his characteristically amorphous figures in swathes of colour, conjuring a room full of darting eyes and a crowd of strangers to be navigated. As if caught in a state of undress, the paintings’ stretchers and stands remain exposed. Polo’s site-responsive work, passage/ways (2020), enlivens the gallery walls with expansive blocks of vivid colour sprinkled with hand-written utterances and advice. In the shadow of a handrail, the wall text gently draws attention to ‘the part of the pole that’s been touched the least’. Elsewhere the small scrawling text ‘mosquito, mosquito’, brings to mind the low hum of a disease-bearing vector.

New Zealand artist Campbell Patterson bombards Cement Fondu with a multi-channel video work, spent (2020) that propels the viewer into a state of agitated purgatory as the end credits of popular movies form a never-ending loop and a cacophony of competing soundtracks. The endless stream of thanks teasingly withholds the desired content, playfully upending the notion of closure and gratification. In tight jeans (2018), Patterson wrestles with too-tight pants in the dull fluorescent glow of a retail changing room. Humiliation and humility co-mingle, as a relatable private experience is plunged into the public sphere.

‘Contact Us’ perhaps alludes to the empty invitation and distancing measure of the info@ email address or blank slate web-form. The exhibition taps into the psychic space and emotional consequences of this modern dichotomy. In a time of social distancing, ‘Contact Us’ positions us to acknowledge the everyday politics of co-existing, and to appreciate humour as an antidote to despair.

Contact Us
6 March – 3 May 2020
Cement Fondu, Sydney
Viewings by appointment



Latest  /  Most Viewed  /  Related