Critics’ Picks

Holy Land Journal, 2005-06.

Holy Land Journal, 2005-06.

Sydney

Peter Atkins

Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (SCAF)
16-20 Goodhope Street, Paddington
May 4–May 27, 2006

Peter Atkins gathers litter and lost objects as he travels. He sorts curiosities and junk carefully, and divides it all into categories, pinning, taping, or gluing the resulting collections of like objects on to fifteen-inch-by-fifteen-inch boards. This exhibition includes lint, fake flowers discarded in the Melbourne Cemetery, found photographs, chocolate wrappers, and buttons. Each indexes the same processes of travel and collection, making equivalent a sealed plastic bag filled with drugs and a collage constructed from paper fragments retrieved from a gutter after a fireworks festival in Hong Kong. Atkins arranges the panels horizontally so that each of the show’s three works—Journal (Bangkok, Cairo, Hong Kong, Melbourne), 2005–2006, Holy Land Journal, 2005–2006, and Brunswick Journal, 2005—consists of a collection of small collections. But when he photographs a number of Stars of David during a visit to Israel, tapes the contours of the successive borders of Jerusalem’s protean old city into a spidery abstract icon, and arranges a grid of train tickets found in Tel Aviv, his Holy Land Journal telegraphs a violent entropy that pretty much consumes the panels’ otherwise cute art-historical riffing on Schwitters, Conceptual art, marginality, measurement, and marginalia. In the same way, Brunswick Journal grimly anamorphizes a Melbourne suburb in collections of condom wrappers, an astonishing letter from a tenant to his landlord, and a piece of cardboard covered with the inky fingerprints of printmakers found near their atelier. This is an unexpectedly stark, downbeat show from an artist whose work had previously seemed oblivious to these dimensions.