traces - desires & presentiments

watch this space - alice springs 2005
solo exhibition* for the alice desert festival

Deep In The Desert
exhibition review by Rachael Maher for Real Time and On Screen - Issue 69*

Traces: desires and presentiments is the richly textural exhibition of latest work by visual artist Bek Mifsud*. Elegantly occupying the minimalist gallery at Watch this Space, Traces is a collection of black and white imagery of landscape in a variety of mediums. Enormous graphite rubbings and digitally modified photographs, sculpted forms, drawings and texts “pay homage to the legacy of the Great Inland Sea which once submerged the Central Australian region”, says Mifsud.

Recognisable forms abound in Mifsud’s work. The graphite renderings carefully capture the ripples that have been etched into the rocks of the Macdonnell Ranges of Central Australia. But the depictions shimmer: one minute solid rock, the next a pool of water. In Mifsud’s photographs these ripple formations and other watermarks emerge at first as minute studies of geological detail, then distant aerial views of the land. The compositions, though small in scale, sustain long and meditative observation.The gallery space is commanded by a large central multiform installation. Mifsud’s mass of miniature paper boats, scattered across a glass-covered expanse of rock rubbings evokes the masses of water so absent now—a perfectly dry inland sea.

Constructed simply from photocopied pages of text and diary drawings, the boats have an iconic presence, yet they are very fragile.There is a strong autobiographical thread in Mifsud’s work. The pieces describe her own journey and compulsion to travel to the centre, most obvious in the featured text from her diary entries. Significantly, her investigation of the landscape of the Central Desert is rooted in science and history. The artist’s study of geology was motivated by a desire to inform her art and her journeys into the desert to find striking geological formations is reminiscent of explorers driven by scientific concerns. Her fascination with the allure of an inland sea—and its traces to be found in the desert—finds parallels in the diaries of others before her. The ruminations of explorers, artists and thinkers are sampled in her work, combined with her own words. Traces is a careful, almost reverent translation of the artist’s landscape. It invokes the absolute proportions of the desert, the residual nature of water, the sheer age of this weathered land and the tenuousness of human interaction with the environment.

*under my previous name Bek Mifsud