Write-ups and Critiques

The Opus Series

"What else, when chaos draws all forces inward, To shape a single leaf".
  Conrad Aitken

Clarity, meaning, logic, are all qualities of hindsight. Our lives only have form because we can look back and see how the confluence of paths have formed identifiable patterns, and how those patterns lead relentlessly and logically to "now". It is in looking back that we identify direction and grasp ongoing themes.

Paradoxically however, it is the process of venturing forward (be it in life or in creation) in an apparent chaos of chance, opportunity and mishap that the formlessness of events and our consequent decisions confronts us. And this chaotic state cannot be denied or controlled, for it is the way in which all things are made manifest. In this way, Nature is allowed to form its own perfection; the paradox being, that ultimately perfection will always arise from apparent chaos.

So much of art is patience in a waiting game.

"I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope For hope would be hope of the wrong thing".
T.S. Eliot

Adrian Mauriks received his art training at the Victorian College of Arts, where he developed an immediate preference for sculpture. Of this he says,

"I suppose one of the reasons I'm a sculptor is because I'm a physical person - I like painting, the gestural activity of it, but essentially, to me, the process remains the same, whether I was a musician, a writer, or whatever. Any creative act has the same processes, the same lessons to be learned, the same thresholds to be crossed, the same tensions that create success or failure - and so the way I do what I do isn't exclusive to sculpture - I'd say it's universal..."

From 1978 to the present, he has held teaching posts at various colleges, lately as Lecturer in Sculpture at Melbourne University, the Department of Architecture, and the School of Visual Arts at the University of Ballarat.

Mauriks' early works were predominantly installation based, and though he participated in many important group shows, such as the Mildura and Australian Triennials, the "15 Sculptors" travelling exhibition (as both coordinator and participant), and many others, he felt that the nature of the work was unsuited and uneconomic for exhibition in mainstream commercial galleries. It was only when the work changed, and he began working with wood and then welded steel, that the one man show became an option.

It was in 1986, after having spent 6 months as "Artist in Residence" at the Riverina Murray Institute of Higher Education, that he held his first one man show at the Irving Sculpture Gallery in Sydney.

The 1986 show, called "Wingstands and Rainbow Racks", was well supported by the eminent Art Critic for The Australian, Elwyn Lynn who, in an article entitled ëVariations on a Theme of Felt and Fat', wrote of Adrian's spiritual kinship with Joseph Beuys.

"...It is a splendidly compelling show...It has the energy that Beuys sought and saw in Pollock..."

The Sydney Morning Herald's Art Critic, John McDonald, was equally effusive and commented in an article entitled "A Search for Art's Human Side".

"... These shapes look as if they've been plucked from one of the Tanguy's amorphous landscapes...Mauriks" Totem sculptures have a more monumental feel. It wouldn't take much to visualise these pieces blown up to a grand scale and used to adorn parks and similar public places... "They are simple in style and respond well to the problem of how to create an abstract sculpture while still recognising a fundamentally human dimension..."

Then, in 1988, while completing an 18 foot bronze sculpture called "Bird Totem", commissioned for the AMP Society in George Street, Sydney, Mauriks held a second exhibition at the Irving Sculpture Gallery.

Critical assessment was enthusiastic, with Elwyn Lynn concluding that,

"...He has emerged as a figure of real importance..."

Bronwyn Watson of the Sydney Morning Herald wrote of the same show,

"...Mauriks has carved 11 commanding sculptures...a room full of Mauriks' sedate works made me feel I was lost in a forest of imposing religious shrines..."

Mauriks' first one-man show in Melbourne took place at the William Mora Galleries in August 1989. At this show there were 12 totemic works, and a number of drawings.

Gary Catalano, the art critic for The Age wrote,

"...For all its physicality, Mauriks' work is still one which gestures to truths that must be intuited or guessed at..."

Between 1989 and 1993, no one-man show was undertaken. During this time, Mauriks consolidated his position, reassessing the past decade's work and clarifying his direction. He reaffirmed his commitment to the physicality of sculpture, emphasising his growing philosophical estrangement from installation art. He says,

"...the viability of sculpture can only be demonstrated by making it visible, putting it "out there" so to speak. No amount of discourse or theorising can take the place of the confrontation with the "real thing"..."

In 1993, he decided to curate a group exhibition called "Just Sculpture" at the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery. The catalogue to the show stated a critical re-evaluation of the recent developments of sculpture, suggesting that in the recent Australian Sculpture Triennial, with its focus on installation art, sculpture as a discipline had been poorly served. It emphasised that the main thrust of "Just Sculpture" was a demonstration of the "existence and viability of sculpture", and the critical consensus was that they succeeded.

Represented in the show, along with Adrian Mauriks, were Jock Clutterbuck, Bruce Armstrong, Peter Blizzard, Augustine Dall'Ava, Elwyn Dennis, Peter Cole, Maurie Hughes, Richard Stringer, Guiseppe Romeo, Colin Suggett, Fiona Orr, Lorretta Quinn and Geoffrey Bartlett.

"The Age" critic, Christopher Heathcote observed,

"...the values "Just Sculpture" stands for are clearly worth conserving. The show deserves to travel, for it conclusively demonstrates that there is nothing at all "just" about serious sculpture".

In February of 1994, Mauriks had an exhibition of recent works at the William Mora Galleries in Melbourne, including the gun blued steel "Opus" series. He saw the works in this show as bringing together the divergent interests and directions his work had taken over the last 20 years.

He wrote of it,

"...The work is not just about one thing. Being a continuous process, it is more like a series of discoveries and experiences made visible..."

"...it is a living process, one that I can perhaps equate with my view of the old Aboriginal culture, where identity and knowledge of place, as in landscape and their relationships to it, and each other, was governed by a totemic belief structure guaranteeing continuation and survival..."

The lyrical aspects of Mauriks' current work are obvious, but to know the work only in those terms would be facile - this almost melodic quality is only the veneer of a profound conundrum that can best be illustrated by examining the processes by which the works came into existence.

The work begins with fragments - the shapes, and the general thrust of an idea, and once chosen, these shapes sort themselves out quite naturally. The quality of each decision is essentially spontaneous, but it is seen that the shapes, the fragments, create their own unity - that they gradually demand their own positions.

The discovery of quantum physics has meant a reassessment of reality, what we thought to be the basic building blocks of matter, appears as a complicated web of relations between the various parts of the whole. These relations always include the observer in an essential way. This means that the classical ideal of an objective description of nature is no longer valid.

Abstraction is a crucial feature of this knowledge. In order to compare and classify the immense variety of shapes, structures and phenomena around us, we cannot take all their features into account but have to select a few significant ones.

Because of the inter-relatedness of all things, everything has some function that relates to everything else.

A question can be asked at this point - is the apparent systematic nature of past events a quality of mind looking back, or has it always been an inherent dynamic of creation?

"...The moment I start editing what I am doing in the making of a work, I risk losing contact with the essence of what it is becoming. Conscious of this, I've made a deliberate effort not to allow my prejudices to enter into the initial process of the work..."

"...Both in my life, and in my work it's essential for me to find ways past the internal dialogue, to quieten the mind, to tiptoe past the questioning..."

Every piece of work done, has its own history of sweat, its own requirement of uneventful, and uninspired tedium. But it's in the sudden emptiness that appears at the peak of a threshold, that point where stamina and intellect are transcended, that all of those apparently fruitless hours of work unexpectedly synthesise.

"Sometimes, when I look back at something I've done, I can't imagine how its come about - but at the same time, I realise it's more complete, more whole than I could ever have planned it to be".

Mauriks became aware, from a very early age, of the notion of what he calls "otherness" - the notion that all that is immediately perceived with our senses is not all there is to be known.

The instinctive sense that there is an embodiment of energy, that exists in the silence outside of our immediate perceptions, but that has an overt and profound influence on all things.

"...you only have to look at the Brancusi to know that it allows you access to a thinking process, or a feeling process, or a being process, that simply goes beyond what the object is..."

The notion of making art has to do with going outside of oneself, challenging the limits of self, and allowing this to be reflected in what occurs.

"..ln the creation of a work of art, things must be allowed to occur, spontaneously, without the artist trying to take overt control..."

"It's where the personality disappears, that great work appears. I find there is never a direct path to the realisation of my work - it's more of a circular thing. You keep walking around it, spending the time, doing the moves, until the piece decides to reveal itself..."

"...My work is an attempt to visually manifest, with a degree of accuracy, a universe that exists as a discrete, weblike and interconnected structure. This allows us, as participants, conversely, to see separateness as an issue, and interconnectedness as an element of the metaphysical, with the realisation that ultimately, physical manipulation of space is on one level only adding to the webbing, and on another, less physical, but more psycho/spiritual level, it is the opportunity to, within the existent structure, manifest consciousness that potentially changes and adds, in its own way, to the structure of the webbing and interconnectedness, experientially uplifting human consciousness..."

Richard Wells, 1994