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Dwyer, Mikala - 2013.15

Mikala Dwyer

Diviner 2012
Perspex, acrylic, steel, rope, bronze, glazed ceramic, dirt, PETG, mandarin seeds
310 x 410 x 410 cm (overall)
Purchased by the Faculty of Science 2013

Diviner moves slowly through space. Dangling rhomboid forms swing like fruit on a strange tree, counterbalanced on slender mobile arms. Title and form work in tandem, asking us to question what we are doing when we seek to divine. Do we seek to understand, to reach deep into the nature of something? Perhaps. Do we seek to see beyond surface structures, the rules governing complex interrelated systems? Or, do we seek to reach beyond the material world – to a divine realm – to access the super- or supra-natural?

Sydney-based artist Mikala Dwyer (daughter of a jeweller and a plastics scientist) has maintained a broad-ranging interest in many fields of intellectual inquiry alongside a playful material language. Her practice also touches on histories of spiritualism and the occult. We see this in Diviner. Imagine a divining rod, amplified, a strange machine with which to sense and channel the invisible energies that surround us; magnetism and electricity, for instance. Our own energies, also. This is a particularly playful challenge in the context of a university: what do we divine from the past and where will this take us, as knowledge grows and is transformed in the minds of new generations?

Diviner is an unfurling poem of slow-spinning geometries. Of the primary Perspex forms some are a translucent, almost violet grey; others appear silvery or reflective, and some a mute black. Most are flat and two dimensional, and as they spin in space they appear to wax and wane, gaining and losing volume. One takes the form of a cube, a mysterious black box. Reminding us of other instances of this form: the flight recorder, the Kaaba, and the black square paintings of Kasimir Malevich. All focus on the black cube as a container of potential and a mirror to our humanity – our drive to ‘read’ form, language, the soul of another – is deeply bound to the ineffable.

Beneath these smooth spinning surfaces Dwyer suspends a variety of sculptural objects, employing a material language of contrasts. For instance, a pair of bronze rings hangs, the surface of each lumpen as if still modelled in clay, perhaps bearing an imprint of the artist’s hand. Also suspended is a transparent vessel of earth, a signature motif in Dwyer’s practice, made from pliable clear plastic, sculpted and folded, encompassing both earth and air. Ceramics too – earth again – have been modelled by the artist, glazed and fired. Such material transformations were at the core of the historical pursuit of alchemy; not just the quest to turn base to gold but also linking the pursuit of knowledge with that of immortality, the search for the philosopher’s stone.

Mysticism and the history of scientific enquiry converge at such points. They weave from near to far and back again – hard science with questions of life, death and deep time. Space, matter, life and change. To divine we must see, we must read the deeper patterns that underlie systems in constant movement and evolution. Read and react: we too are agents in this spinning symphony of counterbalanced forms, bringing together pure geometry, base amalgam and one final material that evokes potential and is surely placed to make us smile: mandarin seeds.

Geraldine Kirrihi Barlow is Curatorial Manager, International Art at Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane and former Senior Curator, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne.