Critics’ Picks

Grace Culley, Non-stimulant, 2021, Biro pen on rag paper, 30 x 22".

Grace Culley, Non-stimulant, 2021, Biro pen on rag paper, 30 x 22".


Grace Culley

Sutton Projects
230 Young St, Fitzroy
July 10–September 30, 2021

While decorative wrought iron was once a hallmark of cathedrals, chapels, and palaces, its whorls and scrolls now permeate suburbia, adorning everything from garden gates and security doors to balustrades and window frames. Grace Culley’s exhibition “Closer to Nature” renders these formerly rigid suburban thresholds unstable and yielding, complicating the sense of outer limits, privacy, and control inherent in the notion of the suburban garden. Through exacting lines of ballpoint pen on paper, the artist manipulates the commonplace configurations of wrought-iron barriers into more fluid and irregular silhouettes: These are security doors that are left unlocked and gates that can be easily scaled.

Although the etymology of the word garden is itself closely tied to notions of borders and enclosures, the plant life in Culley’s drawings is not representative of the procession of ordered arrangements classically associated with gardening. In Radicant Stop and Late Shadow (all works 2021), weeds emerge from cracks in the concrete and brick. Resilient life forces beyond our control, they further unsettle the nature/culture divide. Likewise, Culley’s sculptural gate assemblages—wrangled from steel wire and newspaper pulp—do not demarcate an inside or outside. Instead, they hang from the ceiling, underlining the arbitrary construction and willful instability of the boundaries between public and private spaces.