Peter Alwast: Frozen In The Tracks
Ryan Renshaw Gallery, Brisbane, Australia
11 September - 12 October 2013
Review by Tim Walsh
Polish born, Australian artist Peter Alwast creates epic, multi-channel video work. Utilising sophisticated CGI modeling software, Alwast brings together elements of drawing, painting, sculpture and installation into a speculative visualisation of the expanded field. In 2008, Alwast won the Premier of Queensland’s New Media Art Award for ‘Everything’, a startling three-channel projection that incorporates a fair swathe of the world, including, but not limited to: a sherbet orange Renault Clio, the Moon, two polished timber coffins, a cold drinks cabinet, a bargain bin, apartment blocks, a cinema screen, torn portions of the night sky and a vast system of knotted, twisting cylindrical piping. Recurring in his practice, these tubes snake and twist sinuously beneath and through Alwast’s scenes - some reflective, some emitting neon white light, others spewing cream-coloured paint collecting in a puddle on the floor.
With that scale in mind, Alwast’s latest exhibition at Ryan Renshaw seems at first domestic. There is one video work, on a vertically wall-mounted LCD, four oil paintings, and three large-scale giclee prints. As Naomi Evans describes in her 2008 essay ‘‘Everything’ as a meta-picture in motion’, Alwast’s practice is concerned with a leveling of media.
By translating their forms into digital animation, Alwast performs a magic trick on normally combative styles’ egos. Moving away from the grey virtual spaces of his earlier projections, ‘Light Study’ (2013) splits the vertical LCD screen horizontally into two. In the upper half, shot in a relaxed, languid-style, we see a number of successive scenes - a typical suburban house at dusk; light on a doormat through a sliding door; a microwave covered in dust. The scenes progress slowly through night time, before the subject matter becomes bleaker as daylight reappears; a magpie’s corpse floating in an algae-covered body of water and then a deserted office block. The soundtrack shifts from warped, plucky guitars to the sounds of a synthesised Caribbean steel-pan. In the lower half, the glowing pipes snake idly.
Australia is currently undergoing a massive infrastructure programme to update its aging internet network. Fibre optic cables have been promised to course all across the country, delivering blistering speeds (at least by Australia’s poor bandwidth standards). The pearlescent, futuristic coatings of the piping clash against the modest beauty of the suburban sky. Alwast supposedly took some inspiration from stories that New York stockbrokers often complain of the millisecond ‘latency’ or delay that exists between the East and West Coasts of the United States. ‘Light Study’ ends up feeling a little like an ode to the opposing, humid pacing of the subtropics.
In the main gallery space, Alwast has printed a series of three large-scale giclee prints of the pipes in strong, high definition colours. ‘Fourteen Trillion’ (2013) is a mix of chromium tubing and warm white neon - above this nest a dirty grey cloud of smoke looms. On the opposite wall a series of four paintings are hung. Recalling Alwast’s interest in medium-mixing, the paintings are in fact hybrids, giclee prints crossbred with oil components. ‘Meanwhile Outside There Is Trouble With The Unemployed’ (2013) brings in subtle subject matter from ‘Everything’ - the silhouette of a kit home is cast across the bright pink carpet and up the far wall. With this, ‘Frozen In The Tracks’ emerges as both a domestic extension of the broader topics of aesthetics and the virtual from earlier work, as well as a subtle comment on the abstract machinations of industry and economics.
 Naomi Evans, ‘‘Everything’ as a meta-picture in motion’ in Premier of Queensland’s New Media Art Award [exhibition catalogue], Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2008, pp. 8-11. Accessed online: http://www.peteralwast.com/images/Everything%20as%20a%20Meta%20picture.pdf