The Nature of Falling Light

Artist: Angela Casey

Angela Casey explores a variety of societal issues and spiritual ideas in her latest display at MAC, most notably, the effects of bio degradable material on the natural environment, the worthlessness of worldly possessions and the absolute permanence and inevitability of death.

This is achieved through 12 photographic still life compositions, the largest framed 104cm x 104cm, as well as time based media and installation pieces. These choreographed arrangements see objects of interest (animal taxidermy, personal artefacts, antiques) interacting amongst contemporary junk, all re-staged in the style of 17th Century vanitas paintings.

Whatever Is Important To You 2018

Influenced also by 16th and 17th Century Dutch masters and artists such as Caravaggio, Casey uses an effect known as chiaroscuro (brought to its full potential by Leonardo da Vinci in the late 15th century) to balance the light and darkness. This treatment of light and shade contrast allows the subjects to hover against black velvet backgrounds in melancholic obscurity. The sometimes ambiguous and seemingly innocent objects emerge forth from the abyss to convey grotesque ideas and bleak apocalyptic symbolisms.

Left: Hedonism Has Run Out of Credit 2016
Centre: The Future of Light 2017
Right: Cautionary Tales no. 1. 2017

Casey explores not only local histories of Tasmanian gothic, but more broad ideas attaining to themes of Victorian era spiritualism and symbolisms associated with mortality and morbidity. Presenting tableau arrangements allows Casey to shine a light on macabre personal curiosities, societal insecurities and existential fears, all the while reconstructing nostalgic connections to place and memory.

Decolonise the Landscape Now! #2. 2019

The elements of intimacy evident in each piece both paradox and replicate. Quiet contemplations of things past clash and merge with ominous cautionary tales of a toxic dystopian future; a world that is ultimately unsustainable. Objects of the dead emerge from the grave to forewarn a fools paradise in waiting.

Considering the abundance of ideas put forth in each piece and the polished aesthetic, the presentation here is anticlimactic. The display space is not sufficient to host works of this magnitude. There are too many medium scale works within proximity of one another, all housed within too a confining space. This both tarnishes each individual artworks visual potential and contemplative value, but also hurts the body of work in its entirety. The high symbolism and visual power each work possesses requires room to breathe, therefore each piece should be individually pondered on its own right, opposed to being stacked side by side in a small space. Less is more.

Also, with the artist utilising the chiaroscuro effect so prominently as a process, perhaps the gallery should give the works similar treatment in regards to lighting. An intimate, dimly lit and somber room only discover-able through a curtain or enclosed entrance should be considered here, where each piece hovers in peace, emphasised with diffused lighting treatment. Instead, we are presented with natural lighting in a singular, open room. Lighting is not present (or visible in the daylight) and environmental atmosphere has not been considered. It could also be argued that the addition of sculptural installation within this restrictive nook dilutes the impact of the works overall. Less is more.

All criticisms aside, this collection at its raw core possess powerful allegory capable of emotional persuasion, no matter where or how they are presented. This magnificent and terrifying collection offers grotesque imaginations that spawn from an identifiable place, where Casey forewarns human annihilation through a recycle of life.

Review by PHANTASM