Distilling the Dimensions

Summer 2010

I was drifting through a Tasmanian School of Art exhibition, in that glorious old building at Hunter Street, when I came upon an installation that made me want to hold my breath. In a carefully constructed white space among the exhibited explosions of colour and the accumulated stains of paint against old wood and sandstone, a strange landscape of glass seemed poised in thought. The clean shapes were at once sharp and soft, catching light and imagination in equal measure. Suspended circles of glass which, at first glance, were empty of ‘meaning’ gradually offered up their reflections on the world. Shifting slightly in eddies of air and breath, each circle reflected a different glimpse of its surroundings, and the more I looked, the more I saw. Some even harboured words – etched in whispers against their surfaces – or clouds. And against the opposite wall, arcs and discs of glass embedded themselves with an arresting lack of violence, forming enticing half-globes, and overlapping each other’s boundaries.

This was Sophie Carnell’s installation, States of Belonging, images of which are featured in this issue of Islet. I was confronted by a challenge: is it possible to represent a three-dimensional installation in the insistently two-dimensional confines of an online journal? Is it reasonable, even? But the more I considered it, the more I became convinced that, in fact, this is not so very different a challenge to what the writer does when committing words to paper. In both cases, it is a distilling of senses, textures, intersections, lives, hearts, dimensions.

Sophie speaks articulately of her desire for her work to allow people ‘to find a small space of calmness and time to not only wonder, but to also let their mind meander and imagine; a meditation of sorts’. (You can read more of Sophie’s thoughts on her art here.) I admire such gentle, compassionate motivation for creating art. It is a desire I can relate to; one always foremost in my mind as I select works for Islet. In the prose and poetry of this issue, nearly all the characters remain unnamed, linked together like the discs of Sophie’s work, and gently mirroring each other and also their readers. They hang in the space of our collective imagination, occasionally twisting to reveal half-hidden inference, analogy, allusion. I hope you might catch sight of yourself in some of these works, or perhaps catch a momentary, startling reflection of someone beside you, behind you, somewhere nearby, quietly watching the same world with different eyes.

I’ve enjoyed bringing this issue’s distillation of both text and image to your screens, and I hope you enjoy constructing and reconstructing their meanings, and finding your own small space of calmness here.

Anica Boulanger-Mashberg
Islet editor