To see and experience Adrian Mauriks' work merely as sculpture, is to grossly underestimate his art. At the opening of his exhibition, at the William Mora Gallery in Melbourne (23rd August to 14th September, 1996) recently, I found myself asking How many other sculptures can give gun-blued steel the lightness of a cloud; the lyricism of music and water, or the elegance of a quiet meditative "smoke", without drawing attention to the very hardness and materiality of its existence. Witness those two-hands in Opus 16 for example, surely the ultimate "willing suspension" of disbelief. In a postmodern world like the one we live in "Everything solid melts into air" as Karl Marx reminds us, and Adrian Mauriks' work certainly fits and vibrates along that very aesthetic.
Mauriks' art, it seems to me, is based precisely on this "illusion-making" ability. His ability in short to allow himself enough canvas, so to speak, to scribble and sketch-out a story, in the "air", like a pen and ink drawing, while remaining in a 3 dimensional space. The ease of some of the line-work reminds me of a Zen master who once he has found the "moment" scribbles the end result onto a surface with a magnificent flourish. The spontaneity in Mauriks' work is so pervasive in fact that it comes as a bit of a shock to be told by (one of his reviewers) Marie Geissler, that his work begins "with drawings"! Yet it is precisely in this "duality", the interplay between the calculated and the seemingly spontaneous, that Mauriks work shines, enabling him, as Marie Geissler says, to explore "The expressive potential inherent in steel".
As I walked around the gallery, I found that the pieces began to literally talk to me. I could almost make-out what they were saying. The word "music" loomed LARGE in my EYES and I was surprised to see that Adrian Mauriks had anticipated my reaction, by titling the pieces in the exhibition as "Opus 16" or some such number. What I mean to say is that the very word "OPUS" means literally both a "body of work" and a piece or music. In my mind's eye, I imagined a lot of the pieces, as fragments of those complicated squiggles composers made on music-sheets that, look more like totems than musical notes; And in that delirium (or intoxication) as my mind bounced around assembling and re-assembling the various elements in the work, I began to see that Adrian Mauriks was creating all kinds of music; Smoke music, water music, air music, fire music, earth music and language music. In short, a festival of lyricism!
Muriel Rukeyser, the poet, tells us that "The universe is composed of stories not atoms" and in a strange sort of way, that's what Adrian Mauriks is, a "Storyteller", working at the interface between sculpture and language. In Opus 16 we see a silver ball, a pterodactyl plant-form, a cog like a sun of circular fire, a funeral pyre, a grasshopper (or locust), a hand strumming a leaf, eagle-legs dangling out of a thunder cloud and holding a blue cloud by a claw. In Opus 11, we find a penguin figure (African?) (Picasso's?) (some kind of heavy metal Album cover?) (whatever!) its got berries in its hands, and there's a slowness in its eyes. There are flowers there. A snake. A cloud. A nasty bird with a devil's tail. A cloud for a wing. A worm in its beak, and a complaint of sorts. While at the very top of the sculpture is the Shangrila -- the gold-tip of a mountain peak. Mauriks allows our minds to move around ìin a forest' of images and almost calls out for a kind of verbalisation. The complex of stories melting and bleeding into each other in the shadows cast onto the gallery floor. "Every angle TALKS", I found myself saying.
The critic, Roland Barthes tells us that the more meanings a "text" has, the better the work is, but that no one meaning can or should be privileged over another. In short, everything in a work of art is meaningful, but nothing is meant. Those "animal-like" figures that appear on his totems for example, are not there because they are GOOD to EAT as one might suppose, but rather because they are GOOD to THINK!
No artist or storyteller however, ever creates a narrative (however much symbolist it may be) ex nihilo as it were, but rather draws on and creates out of the collective unconscious we are all heir to. So the longer I looked, the larger the repertoire I was able to draw on to bring to the work, and the one persistent image was that of a long hallway lit-up by a yellow-carpet of curves and curls flickering up and down the walls and floors, with the flame of some torch or taper, like the images one finds in Gothic novels, or a "Shakespearian fairyland" as Marie Geissler put it. This emotion was instilled in me, not so much by the totemic nature of the work, but by the splash of colour and shapes created on the gallery floor, in effect affording Adrian Mauriks a kind of "secondary" canvas to play with. This Nordic (or Northern European) paradigm however, is not a complete statement, 'cos it ignores another facet of his make-up, namely that he migrated to Australia from Holland in 1957, at the tender age of 15; old enough to have absorbed a Nordic influence, yet young enough for him to have absorbed and fused a profound sense of the South Pacific; A reality borne of water, coral, tornadoes and volcanic activity. In Opus 25 for example, we have I think, the quintiscential synthesis of those two trends, ie. a Wagnerian symphony with an Oceanic motif ... "swift" and "Effortlessness" being two adjectives that quickly come to mind. The whole structure seemingly defying the Laws of gravity in a world turned upside down. This "duality" in Adrian Mauriks work is I think a direct product of his migration and is an enduring strength in all his work. And in one fantastic thought, than ran over me in the process of writing this review, I felt and imagined that perhaps his whole interest in sculpture was to develop a language through which he can and could TALK OUT his emotions, and thereby render OURS audible.
is a poet and occasional critic for various journals. His latest book of poems is entitled "24 Hours" and was published by Collective Effort Press in 1996.
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