Meanwhile, 2023

See the exhibition online at the Flinders Lane Gallery website HERE

Elli Walsh, 2023

Bert, 2023
Ernie, 2023
Oscar, 2023
Beaker, 2023
Fozzy, 2023
Kermit, 2023
Piggy (Miss), 2023
Rocket, 2023
Squiggle (Mister), 2023
Blackboard, 2023
Gonzo, 2023

Animal, 2023
Rowlf, 2023
Scooter, 2023

For Jay Kochel, air and nothingness are, paradoxically, the pillars of his practice. Working across several complex stages with impressive technical prowess, the Canberra artist creates machine drawings that quarry the haptics of immateriality, and the pliability of perception.

Kochel’s series ‘Meanwhile’ continues a process he began many years ago in Japan while on a residency at the Kyoto Arts Centre. A small handheld 3D scanner creates digital models of inflated sculptural forms, handmade from brown paper, gold mylar or any membrane taped together to make a rudimentary balloon. The digital scans are rendered into flat meshes that are then worked on to produce drawings with a plotter and scribe to engrave aluminium. These ethereal engravings on brushed aluminium and enamel engage with the trope of air as a separator, and a void to fill.  Kochel terms the works ‘air studies’, or ‘reading air’, alluding to the Japanese phrase ‘to read air’ – similar to reading between the lines of a social situation. Temporality and spatiality cease to exist in the ghostly engraved marks, which profile invisible forces like strange celestial nets. Embryonic forms twist and turn in space, incarnating before our eyes. There is the sense, here, of possibility, plasticity, and promise. 

For the first time, ‘Meanwhile’ also includes a collection of three-dimensional works, produced from the same formative scans of the engravings. The undulating surfaces of the original inflated objects are articulated through 3D-printed resin meshes, which Kochel describes as a “strange sci-fi process”. Resin is manufactured from soybeans and is sensitive to a wavelength of UV light that hardens the resin in microscopic layers. The artist explains, “I love the series of translations, from brown paper and mylar, scanned with a low-level laser, into ones and zeros, but more fundamentally, magnetic inscriptions, then translated into soybeans with light.” He uses a process of electroforming to cover the surface of the meshes with copper, and the resulting copper-plated prints are housed within vitrines of timber and acrylic.

The nebulous forms in this series feel somewhat reassuring – nostalgic, even – via the connective tissue of their Muppets titles, which include Kermit, Fozzy, Bert and Ernie. Complexity and innovation collide with childhood and innocence in a vivacious whirl ripe with representational currency. One of Kochel’s more evocative engravings, perhaps, is Squiggle (Mister), the allusive title encouraging the viewer to search for delineative imagery within the web of white contours and the burgeoning charcoal mass. The silhouetted side profile of a man’s bust orbits in and out of recognition, dissolving into shifting sand dunes, constellations, turbulent bodies of water, membranes and fabric.  It is mesmerising, this ability of Kochel’s amorphous forms to conjure pictures, memories, and allusions. Though every work commands its own autonomous space for expression, and reflection, if read as a collective the series unfolds like a succession of film stills (indeed, American Beauty’s iconic plastic bag scene comes to mind, in deconstructed frames). Each form is a fossilised micro-moment from the same fleeting motion, and we see the poetry in the prosaic.