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May 10 - May 24, 2024
Simon Wheeldon

What is a liminal space? Intuitively, we know them when we’re in them. They’re the rooms we pass through in order to be somewhere else. They aren’t built to be lingered in, they aren’t warm and cosy, but they help us on our way. Consider waiting rooms, airports, hospital corridors, foyers, break rooms, stairwells and multi-storey car parks. These spaces often announce the start or finish of something: your day, your lunch break, your holiday. Mostly, the emotions associated with them are neutral but they are also present on our most defining days. Liminal spaces signify a shifting of mode from one state to another – they’re quotidian but not insignificant.

You might have noticed the rise of the #liminalspace on your feed. There’s a growing interest in them, perhaps due to the above connotations. They have elements of nostalgia, memory and constancy. In all our mortality, there is something endearing yet challenging about liminal spaces because we sense they’ll outlive us. In his exhibition, Drift, Simon Wheeldon takes one liminal space and splinters its visual associations in an algorithmic approach of his own.

Puzzle Art Garage is just that, a garage space, and Wheeldon considered this status in the making of his show. It’s easy to forget its origins, now that the space has transcended itself, but its functionality goes back to one simple purpose. Taking ‘garage’ (and its offshoots) as a starting point, Wheeldon responds across mediums. Along the right-hand side of the space, we observe Drift, an immersive video with an accompanying droning sound that Wheeldon has created using four analogue synthesisers. The artist transports us to a carpark that he encounters in his daily life, only something unusual has occurred.

The carpark is flooded and the space’s utility is undermined. With its concrete floor now an ankle-deep pool, the space finds itself transformed. Cruising through the space in his car, Wheeldon filmed the scenes that float past. Each scene is darkly monochromatic and painterly. At one point, the pool reflects a repetitive grid of white bricks. At other moments, the water reflects the carpark pillars and it is difficult to tell where they begin and end. These scenes are enlivened by pops of colour from the lines that delineate the carpark floor to the staccato of a faulty light that bounces on the water’s surface. At key moments, the water is so deep that it rebounds from the tyres of Wheeldon’s car, creating smooth, rolling and intersecting waves in a kind of micro-environment. There’s an uneasy quality to a utilitarian space rendered useless, of urbanity being pushed to its limit, but Wheeldon ensures the experience is a serene one.

Turning his focus to the garage in its domestic form, Wheeldon also presents the three- dimensional works car hole #1 and car hole #2. Considering this squared-off, useful structure as one that functions in its own right, he has constructed individual wooden ‘dioramas’. Both exist as a space within a space, a study of the garage while you inhabit one. It is a space you might not usually consider. After all, it is often the home of cars, bric-a-brac, tools, abandoned hobbies and other miscellanea of life, but in these individual studies, it becomes a structure of its own importance and not just a room built to enable transit and obscurity.

A selection of paintings exists concurrent to this show that shift the garage iconography in a lateral direction. Wheeldon draws on imagery such as an outdoor shed, a retro car, cats sitting on abandoned furniture stored away in a garage, and one of those large dancing balloons you often see outside car dealerships. Here the associations are cast more widely but derive from a visual bank of connected motifs. The artist often draws on reference material to construct his paintings. Material that existed in a pre-internet era, from manuals to old zines and documentaries. He selects pictures which might otherwise be lost to time, reframing and connecting them in a new light, applying his own filter and editorial process. In this way, the images are spared from a kind of no-man’s-land carved out by the internet’s hurtling pace.

Together, these separate components are coherent and relational. Wheeldon demonstrates the capacity for separate mediums to communicate in distinct ways, and an artistic ability to take one concept and tap into its vast potential as a visual language. Art is its own kind of information superhighway. From one defined point an artist might explore and experiment, then return only to make the journey again in a different direction. It is a liminal space of another kind.

Emma McLean

Emma McLean is acting editor of Look magazine. She currently lives and works on Gadigal Land.

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