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Binns, Vivienne - 2018.53

Vivienne Binns

Floating 2000
lino, plywood, acrylic
93.8 x 89 cm
Purchased 2018

Vivienne Binns’ Floating is a subtly colourful and detailed acrylic assemblage painting on board. Up close, the work, at just under a metre and almost square, has a direct and intimate relationship to the body. Creamy yellow, soft pink, light blue and sage green paint are applied in sections to the surface of the board in linear and crosshatching impasto. These lines evoke the texture and colours of grout under and between tilework, with a delicacy that evokes quality of cake icing. In square- and rectangle-shaped segments, the tiles float in the centre of the painting, interposed with segments of linoleum, ranging in texture, colour and pattern; a lino piece with a pink flower and green leaves, sits bottom left; a field of light, mid and dark grey spots, while others in cream with dark red flourishes sit to the right. A handful of lino fragments float at the work’s centre, while more frame the board’s edges. The surfaces of these fragments recall cross-stitch embroideries, mosaics, weavings and abstract paintings. The lino and painted sections float on the surface of the work, held in place on a duo-chrome field, with outlines of circles in off-white brushstrokes not quite covering the dark brown board beneath.

How the artist relates to and uses materials connects her work directly to specific places, histories and contexts. Materials such as lino and board are imbedded in the artwork to embody certain relationships and meanings. The artist’s ongoing interest in texture and pattern link her work formally to French artist Jean Dubuffet’s Hautes Pâtes artworks (a thick impasto style of painting that mixed sand and other materials with pigment). Binns’ use of impasto-like techniques also connects her work to American Abstract artists Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, who incorporated various materials from everyday life, such as bed linen, flags and other mixed media, which were then heavily overpainted. Binns’ approach is rich with responses and connections to place and community. Inscribed on the reverse of Floating are two pieces of information that tell us more about her relational and feminist perspective: ‘In memory of the unknown artist series’ and ‘Plywood found in Watters Gallery sent from Hong Kong or Singapore as packaging for a painting. Lino from old? houses in the ACT’.

‘In memory of the unknown artist series’ is the title of Binns’ ongoing artworks that reference the unattributed works of designers and craftspeople that decorate and adorn the surfaces of our everyday lives. It can also be seen as a political statement about the lack of recorded data on some artists’ works in the fields of craft, design and art. This neglect is a deliberate strategy within colonial structures such as the Western art canon to omit artist details because of perceived genre, gender and/or race.

‘Watters’ is a reference to Binns’ connection with Sydney. Watters Gallery was a private commercial gallery in East Sydney, opening in 1964, which ran for 54 years and represented many significant Australian painters. Born in Wyong, on the central coast of New South Wales in 1940, Binns grew up in Sydney, living in Willoughby then Wollstonecraft. It was in Sydney that she studied, at East Sydney Technical College and the National Art School, in the 1960s, established her art practice and arts industry work, and helped found the Sydney Women’s Movement. The lino connects Binns with Canberra, where she has lived since 1994. Here she is not only an artist but also an educator and a vital member of Canberra’s art and academic communities. For more than 50 years, Binns has been dedicated to arts practice and education that promotes feminist and community-based perspectives, inclusive of diverse approaches to contemporary art, craft and design.

Dr Meredith Turnbull is a Melbourne-based artist, writer and curator, and currently Coordinator of Bachelor of Fine Art First Year in the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture at Monash University.