When Peter Kozak accepted his $4000 award as winner of the 2012 Marie Ellis Prize for Drawing at Jugglers Art Space he said: ‘Thank you. I don’t do speeches’. As the third winner in this new prize on the Australian visual art awards landscape, Peter’s evocative pencil on paper work ‘Absorb’ spoke as a clear, eloquent and deeply reflective representation of the mysterious experience of illness.
‘I chose to approach the subject of illness through a series of pencil drawings, drawn from fragments of woollen garments in a state of stress and decay. For me, these fragments of wool are an effective metaphor for the body, with their damage representing the body’s susceptibility to violent change.’[i]
Within the framework of the artist statement, my sense of this drawing in its subtle tonal range and improvised chaotic appearance is that the artist has experienced the mystery, debilitation and trauma of illness. Illness is a uniquely personal and unpredictable experience that can force itself to be expressed and diarised by sufferers to make sense of change and to find, perhaps, moments of calm. Kozak’s ‘Absorb’ is a diary of some experience over days or months or maybe moments represented by sweeping lines and convoluted squiggles that evoke agitation and dissonance. In my existential response to the work, I might have found some resonance with the artist’s experience. I need further conversations with him to find some essence of what he has represented in this drawing.
There are four or five lines in ‘Absorb’ that I will call ‘clean’ with the dominant line emerging out on its own on the left of the drawing. It sits in the middle third of the drawing and intersects with these other ‘clean’ lines at various points in the middle third of the work. The rest of the lines – hordes of them – are short ‘squiggles’ and form the most tonal intensity in the middle third of the work to the right of the dominant clean line. In the top and bottom third the short ‘squiggles’ fade out. The squiggle lines form irregular shapes at some points in each segment of the drawing, most clearly in the top and bottom thirds.
The overall sense of the drawing is of some kind of grotesque human form that has had its ‘skin’ removed to reveal the pulsating metamorphosing cell structure in a state of dramatic change. Maybe this was the unintended consequence of the artist’s diarising. It would be informative to bring his other works together with this one to get a sense of the rhythm of his responses to the illness.
Jugglers Art Space Inc and the Hopkins Weise family will host the 4th Marie Ellis Prize for Drawing in 2013 with online applications available from March, 2013. All three 2012 winners’ works can be viewed at www.jugglers.org.au.
Author: Peter Breen is the Co-Founder, Chair and Acting Director of Jugglers Art Space Inc. As an Artist Run Initiative [ARI], Jugglers is in its tenth year.
[i] Artist statement Peter Kozak.