Julie Reed Henderson: Political Dancer
West Gallery Thebarton, 29 August – 29 September, 2019
Power Brit poet Alice Oswald says that “Poetry is not about language but about what happens when language gets impossible.” Julie Reed Henderson’s work seems to function on this principle. It’s all about what happens when thoughts impose more and more silence on events until all one has are intervals, are absences held apart from each other by found objects and barely mediated materials, like temporary barriers and makeshift signage. This exhibition has all the hallmarks of an artist who is comfortable in her own skin, spinning coherency out of seemingly casual encounters within a menagerie of found and mediated objects and materials. What matters is the gesture – that sense of things being related ‘just so’ according to the kinds of instincts that one associates with contemporary dance. Henderson, as a dancer as well as visual artist, draws on her faith in the right gesture at the right time, small moments of possible meaning in a world that just doesn’t add up. Henderson says that, “Political dancer is a reference to my own way, my first way of being in the world … To move around and change due to circumstance is to gain another perspective or to become more aware and then there’s just the desire for a life truer to self.” Entry point to this exploded cabinet of curiosities is Testament and Gathering, a spectral image composed of informally pinned draughting paper that threatens to become a figure. In this single work is the artist’s mode of operation – imprints of movement, speculative juxta-positioning and a finely calibrated aesthetic awareness. That language matters deeply in Henderson’s work is evident in For Art Not to Be … a hooked rug ‘runner’ embedded with a halting, stuttering text that warns of subjecting true realities of life to the entanglements of glorious systems. There is slow burn in these deceptively humble assemblages in which the semiotics of the way materials and objects are used and manipulated imply apprehension, even a nervous darting, like a bird on the wing, from one vantage point to another, to get the lie of the land.
The Adelaide Review, #477, September 18th, 2019