Elaine Woo MacGregor: Press


“Exploring the luminous, emotive potentiality of colour, tone, texture, Elaine Woo’s paintings, hung in the dilapidated Emerged space on Bell Street, are intense, focused mediations on portraiture. Lonely, contemplative figures, sipping a drink or gazing out of the painting, look dissolute, solitary, against backdrops of vibrantly connotative colour, sometimes echoing the grim, existential black of a Francis Bacon portrait. One of the figures, lit by an ethereal light that gives one side of his face a ghostly pallor, sits lonely with a glass, like an Edward Hopper painting, whilst in another the same figure, seemingly squeezed into the canvas, is backed by a wooden yellow which makes it seem as if he’s inside a coffin. Unafraid of grim or potentially disturbing work, Woo’s paintings are psychologically penetrating and almost voyeuristic in their glimpses of interior worlds or evocative in mood. Dark, sexual, beautiful and sad, her figures and the spaces they inhabit are fascinatingly pensive.”

Jasper Hamil, Skinny Magazine, a review on ‘Portraits’ at Emerged space, 2006

BADGER BADGER projects presents Heterotopia:
An exhibition of work by Louise Schmid and Elaine Woo MacGregor at Tempa Tempa Gallery

The boat is a floating piece of space, a place without a place, that exists by itself, that is closed in on itself and at the same time is given over to the infinity of the sea and that, from port to port, from tack to tack, from brothel to brothel, it goes as far as the colonies in search of the most precious treasures they conceal in their gardens, you will understand why the boat has not only been for our civilization, from the sixteenth century until the present, the great instrument of economic development, but has been simultaneously the greatest reserve of the imagination. The ship is the heterotopia par excellence. (Foucault, M. (1967) Of Other Spaces)

Michel Foucault described a situation in which, to contrast the unobtainable utopia, exists both an illusionary and yet real disputation of the spaces where we live. This ubiquitous yet unstable duality between isolation and penetration, influence and inadequacy, is a discussion appositely cited in the title Heterotopia by Elaine Woo MacGregor and Louise Schmid. The boat is Foucault’s metaphor for this place; the nomadic free flowing motion of a structure based on foundations without heredity – and what more pertinent situation to explore this system than in the art gallery.

Informed through personal experiences, residences and travels through Russia, Mongolia, China, the artists investigate the disjunctions implicit within interaction between cultures of such vast variation. There is a deliberate ambiguity of visual language in the works, which cultivates atypical and subjective interpretative processes from their audiences. Faced with disparate symbols and images, obfuscated objects and subverted sites, depicted through timeless analogue processes of image making, instinctively we attempt to decipher. Yet as we seek solace in classification – simplification in order to comprehend – between the abstract and the representational, between the old and the new, some other meanings slip from our grasp. Schmid and MacGregor communicate in neither literal nor linear fashion, but through layered metaphoric and symbolic interpretation of experience and culture. The fluid motion of calligraphic expression, the fractured languages of cohabiting social systems and the other, expound the duplicities of human communication and cultural identity.

And now patterns begin to emerge between things, places and people. In and between both nature and nurture, these patterns of relation are present; whether fascias of mobile phones and leaves, or the elusive geometries of individuality and social structures, each coalesce and synthesize, resurfacing as a philosophy of subjectivity. Even these letters carry no intrinsic meaning, just ink characters on a piece of paper, yet their combinations and arrangements are understood, as language at least. The value of semiotics is just that, there is no definitive allusion - only that which is applied. And therefore it is imperative that you should make up your own mind.

Text by Michael Davis