Lemonade: Letters to Art

Lyle Duncan: Making a Name

Upon entering the foyer of Tweed Regional Gallery, my eyes meet Lyle Duncan’s work. The pink paper is an invitation for my mind to momentarily travel to The Pink Poodle in Surfers Paradise and the taste of fairy floss at Dreamworld. The saturation of colour connects the majority of works in the exhibition; as an arbitrary beacon, purposely intended to be eye-catching, and with subtle hints to sunburnt flesh, it sits nicely within the Gold Coast’s vernacular.

The exhibition’s namesake, Making a Name, is a series of twenty solar photograms. The process involves placing an object on a piece of paper and exposing it to sunlight to reveal an image of contrast. In this instance, Lyle has transferred the typography, emblazoned on what remains of low rise unit blocks along the coastal strip, into reverent compositions that reveal the sunny names of New Galaxy, Time & Tide and Halcyon. Again, my mind travels, this time imagining that the paper was once red, the colour most often used for highway signage due to its long wavelength and visibility, now faded a hue or two, just like the facades and mid-century fanfare of the buildings in each artwork.

Mounted like oversized postcards in perspex frames, each of the solar photograms read as windows, both virtual windows in an internet browser logged onto Google Street View (from where the graphics were sourced for each image) and windows to the artist’s thoughtful process and his observations of the Gold Coast built environment. The grid formation of their presentation renders them as carefully categorised museum pieces, preserved behind protective substrates. The perspex facades hint at the new faces of glass skyrises, which will no doubt soon come knocking on their door.

The fringe on I Burn reminds me of vintage beach accoutrements. Along with the blurred edge of the work’s bleach, it can be read as associated with the porous edges of a life lived by the sea and exposure to the elements, with the outside always seeping in. These crossovers are also referenced in Making a Name, places where the architecture is conducive to crossing neighbours, where balconies are shared, stairwells are meeting places, and people mingle. And it recalls fringe dwelling, particularly the early years of holiday-making along the ‘South Coast,’ of tents pitched in sand dunes and holiday-makers setting up temporary camps under the sun. In a similar way, I Burn is a temporary marker. Installed as a flag, it marks the halfway point in the exhibition and stakes out an outpost for the Gold Coast in northern New South Wales, a place across a border, which, as recent history tells us, is not as liquid or permeable as the one portrayed in Lyle’s work.

Beyond I Burn, I look out to the spacious rolling hills of Tweed Valley and the slender window panes that punctuate the word View. Like the typography captured in his solargrams, the deckled edges of the handmade paper that form this single word recall relics of a bygone era. The paper, in combination with a serif font and rosy tone, creates softness in contrast with the sleek lines of the gallery. Its periphery mimics the blurriness of the geography in I Burn. I am struck by the site-specificity of this work, how sensitively the artist has delivered this provocation, and how it speaks to the Gold Coast from afar. Pointing to the narrowing eyelines afforded as a result of increased development on the waterfront, View resonates with the immediate vista whilst simultaneously alluding to the commodification of Pacific Ocean panoramas along the Coast.

I leave the gallery carrying with me impressions of Pacific Moon and Blue Pacific Place from Making a Name. Both are places I take joy in passing on my daily dog walks, whimsical anchors to here and now, but also ever conscious reminders of what could soon be ‘there and then.’ And, as I consider the fading era of the ‘Old Coast’ and the halcyon days of the past, I am attuned to the bright prospects of an emerging artist whose work is clearly focused on making a name.

Rebecca Ross is an artist living and working on Kombumerri Country (Queensland’s Southern Gold Coast).