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Where's the frame

Maribelle Bierens

July 3, 2024 6:17 PM


On view at Night Café this summer, ‘Acts of Transience’, a duo show presenting the works of Mandy Franca and Katrina Cowling.In this exhibition, the artists capture the fleeting moments of everyday life, and punctuate them with their distinctive mark-making techniques that act as signs and markers of existence.

Mark-making, the fundamental act of leaving an imprint, whether it’s applying material to a surface or gesturing spatially, is an assertion of presence, a sign of existence. It’s a tangible act that leaves a trace which immediately carries within it a suggestion of absence, hinting at the space between what is and what is not. This duality embodies the transient nature of existence, where every moment of presence simultaneously acknowledges the inevitability of absence.

Installation view ‘Acts of Transience’. Photography by Vinx. 

In this ongoing flux, mark-making can be seen as a way of anchoring oneself in a shift- ing reality. It represents an effort to assert stability amidst change, to create a tangible point of reference amid the constant motion that defines life. The trace left by every mark speaks to this reality, suggesting that what is created also carries with it the possibility of fading, of being altered or erased over time.

The trace, therefore, has a certain ambiguity—it can act as a witness to something that once existed, but also as a reminder that its context and meaning can shift. This inherent uncertainty in traces challenges the permanence of mark-making, implying that each mark, despite its attempt to solidify presence, contains a fragment of absence. It under- scores the idea that they are not mutually exclusive but are instead intertwined, each informing and shaping the other.

Detail Mandy Franca, ‘An Area of Semi-natural Space,’ 2023. 170 x 460 cm. Inkjet, oil pastel, oil stick, china marker, graphite on canvas. Photography by Vinx. 

In the exhibitionActs of Transience, Mandy Franca and Katrina Cowling explore these themes, capturing the fleeting moments of everyday life and punctuating them with distinctive mark-making techniques that act as signs and markers of existence.

Franca delves into existential inquiries and the interconnectedness of human experience through her practice. She combines figuration with abstraction, bringing together images captured with her iPhone and various traditional art techniques like collage, painting, and drawing. By using expressive mark-making to physically rework these photographs, she explores it as a sign and marker of existence.

detail Katrina Cowling, ‘tremble (studies for blue), 2024. Photography by Vinx. 

The exhibition presents works from the seriesAnArea of Land Dominated by Trees, in which Franca draws inspiration from the opening sentence of Wikipedia’s description of a ‘Forest.’ Through this exploration, she examines diverse realities and forms of intelligence that extend beyond humanity, encompassing contemporary technology and the natural world in a more-than-human context.

The work explores the social and communicative nature of trees, pointing to a more-than- human context that challenges the boundaries of human intelligence. This exploration underscores the idea that interconnectedness extends beyond human relationships, inviting viewers to reconsider their place in a broader, evolving ecosystem.

Installation view ‘Acts of Transience’. Photography by Vinx.

This approach resonates with the ambiguity inherent in these expressive traces: while her marks create a sense of solidity and presence, they also suggest the underlying transience of our rapidly changing world. Through this process, Franca connects individual experiences to broader communal narratives, emphasising care and interconnectedness.

Katrina Cowling’s sculptures, with their spatial drawings in light and ceramic, mirror Fran- ca’s gestural approach while exploring themes of vulnerability and precarity. Cowling’s work, with its leaning, flailing, and teetering forms, encapsulates the tension between presence and absence, demonstrating that even the most deliberate marks can be subject to instability. By combining materials from disparate vernaculars—industrial, everyday, natural, domestic, rural, and urban— captures conflicting forces of stability and instability, safety and threat, growth and collapse.

Cowling’s sculptures negotiate spaces and edges, often referencing architecture, mod- ernist design, the human body, and bodies of land. Rather than isolating any medium, she is interested in the relationships between objects and materials, generating atmospheres through these poetic frictions.

Details of Katrina Cowling, ‘Tremble (Studies for Blue) 2’, 2024. Photography by Vinx.

This tension not only underscores the transient nature of existence, where every structure and gesture embodies the duality of presence and absence, but also serves as a poignant reminder of the ephemeral essence inherent in all acts of creation. Just as marks on a surface hint at the space between what is and what is not, Cowling’s sculptures evoke a similar sense of fleetingness, where the potential for change and collapse is ever-present, echoing the impermanence of existence itself. 

For more information, visit Night Café’s website