From the Place: Rebecca Ross

Exhibition Essay
Published in May 2012 to coincide with the exhibition ‘From the Place’ by Rebecca Ross, Comb Artspace, Gold Coast.

In From the Place, Gold Coast based installation artist Rebecca Ross invites the audience to explore a topographical, mark-making environment that allows for colour, form and shape to infect the conventions of space.

Employing strips of vinyl to ‘trail’ along the gallery walls and crevices, the artist turns surfaces into territories familiar and foreign, drawing correlations between a heterotopicspace that is both real and imagined, solid and porously in-between.

Ross has long been interested in urban landscapes and architecture, often feeding her practice – which she describes as “exercises in mapping” – with inspiration from personal travels and research into case studies of geographical and weather maps. New courses and segues are stamped and forecasted through the mapping of ceiling-to-wall-to-floor,  creating “anchors in real time and space.” The result is a way-finding activity that entices the audience to follow the paths, intricacies, and start/end points laid down by the artist during the installation process.

At its core, the show is an invitation for people to prime their own experiential connotations of Ross’s work; therefore my response is from the point of view of a placemaking enthusiast.

Comb Artspace, as an exhibition site, plays an excellent host to Ross’s cartographic delve into this intersected matrix. Multiple lines span across the space to emulate the speed of tilted roads, underpasses and super-highways. Others – particularly the pseudo-linear streaks – remind me of the mundanity of interstate journeys, and within their ratio forms a rhizomatic cluster that sprawls out from inwards, turning cubic pockets into flatlands and roads into horizonless snakes with no head or tail in sight.

Along the wall’s surface, I trace a route that appears cyclical and perpetual, and as I curve its corners I reach a halt: the dead-end of both the work and its ‘road.’ These spider-legged pathways lead me recall the Gold Coast of two decades ago, when the city was nothing more than as a series of lake-side properties and suburban fringes with decent room to move. On the contrary, the modernistic areas that infest the middle space, bring to mind the current bustle associated with Australia’s fastest growing city, causing a slendering of roads, apartments and corridors in the squeezy anticipation of population growth.

The Gold Coast, famed for its long coastal strip and man-made canals that spaghetti across former swamplands, has managed to amass a total space area that is nine times bigger than the waterways of Venice in Italy. Interestingly, Ross’s video piece, Vertigo, which accompanies this show, explores the time she was clinically diagnosed with vertigo during a Venice trip.

Through a filmic montage of visceral spins, the artist catalyses her experience into what she calls a “one- minute spinning, jerking, and gyrating Len Lye-inspired disjointed vertiginous colour wheel.” To gravitate this motion-based piece to its static wall-work counterpart is to mirror the disorientation of bodies crashing into geography.

While From the Place marks Ross’s first solo show on the Gold Coast, it is also her farewell. In a few weeks the artist will return to Italy to undertake a residency at the British School at Rome (and perhaps stock up on motion-sickness tables). While there, she will pursue her interests within the behaviours of spaces, in particular, the “embellished topographical wonderland” of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, and their relation “to the synthesis of sensations and site.”

After this exhibition ends – and the vinyls are pecked off and unmapped – Ross will go from place to place, drifting further from the stamp of this work. Down the track, it would be recalled as a previous stopover, a mental-marking of a space once inhabited. A reminder to both artist and the viewers that for a moment in the spin of time and space, we were all once here.

Image1 : From the Place exhibition invite image. Courtesy of Rebecca Ross.
Image 2: From the Place installation view. Photo: Mariam Arcilla.


“” Quotes are drawn from conversations between the artist and the writer during the artsmaking process.

*Heterotopia is a term coined by philosopher Michel Foucault to describe a phenomenological investigation into the mental or illusionary spaces that sit alongside real, physical spaces.