Lemonade: Letters to Art


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Courtney Pederson and Charles Robb: Fractionate

Wreckers Artspace, Meanjin/Brisbane
— Grant X Wilkes
In the foreground of a photograph is a jumble of peach coloured waxy chunks is piled on a table. Behind is  an object in green bubble wrap and a small white plinth with an upturned grey plaster head attached. Behind is another disembodied head, lying face up in profile and moulded in flesh toned plaster.
Courtney Pederson and Charles Robb, Fractionate, installation view, Wreckers Artspace, 2024. Photograph: Lee Wilkes. Courtesy of the artists.

Entering Fractionate, we are confronted by a bandsaw: its teeth bared at eye height, the macabre products of its labour laid to rest in piles of offcuts arranged on the floor. The scene evokes pathos and nostalgia, with a hint of dark humour. A cluttered collection of sculptural remnants from almost thirty years of practice fills Wreckers Artspace. Tables littered with orderly clusters of segmented figures and disembodied heads greet us, whilst larger scale moulds lean against the gallery walls, patiently awaiting their turn for deconstruction. 

At the heart of Fractionate is the collaborative output of artists Courtney Pederson and Charles Robb, who met during their undergraduate studies at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) and began working together in 1994. Pederson majored in photography and Robb studied sculpture. Both turned to large installation works at the beginning of their shared career. Pederson’s public installation projects include Last Drinks Gentlemen Please (2004) at the South Brisbane Cemetery, and her work as co-director of the feminist art collective LEVEL. As a portrait sculptor, Robb has been commissioned to complete monumental public art such as the General Sir John Monash Commemorative Sculpture (2018) (with Sarah Holland-Batt) for the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, and closer to home, Reverie I (2015) at the Gardens Point Road Plinth, Brisbane. After moving to Meanjin/Brisbane and continuing their studies, Pederson and Robb both currently work in academia alongside pursuing their art practices.

Looking in from the outside of a weathered shop window with a blue frame. Along the top of the window the word 'SELECTED' is painted in faded red on a white background. A stacked row of bubble wrapped, flesh coloured, mannequin-like figures fills the entire frame. The window glass is crisscrossed with a grid of security bars.
Courtney Pederson and Charles Robb, Fractionate, installation view, Wreckers Artspace, 2024. Photograph courtesy of the artists.

Notions of mortality, artistic legacy, and the economics of art practice have influenced the artists’ decision to embark on this personal deaccessioning project. The messy residue of making art can take up considerable physical and psychological space, plus precious environmental resources. Fractionate is made of plaster and hessian moulds, wax figures, fibreglass and resin castings, rubbish bags loaded with fabric and foam, metal rods, wooden offcuts, and plastic fixtures. The cluttered chaos of the exhibition space feels like a replicant toymaker’s workshop gone awry,1 with pale fragmented body parts scattered amongst crumbling plaster structures. This accretion of materials and equipment in an artist’s practice can become a costly burden to store and manage. How to archive, what to keep, and the thought of leaving this heavy task to someone else after you’re gone, are difficult considerations for any artist. Fractionate takes agency over the inevitable task of deaccessioning objects from an artist’s studio, transforming it into a celebratory act. 

Two open cardboard boxes are in the foreground of a photograph. One contains a pile of cut up white plaster chunks and the other is filled with cut up pink fleshy coloured sections of what appears to be a human anatomy model, with  muscles and sinews. Two large objects, one white and one black, lean against the wall in the background.
Courtney Pederson and Charles Robb, Fractionate, installation view, Wreckers Artspace, 2024. Photograph: Lee Wilkes. Courtesy of the artists.

Pulling back the curtain to reveal the inner workings of their collective practice, Fractionate is a durational deconstruction. It involves the dividing up, cutting down, and reformulating of leftover materials from Pederson and Robb’s sculptures and installations. There is an apt irony to this task being undertaken in a former motorcycle wreckers; the site’s history neatly dovetails with the current demolition activities. The duo’s monumental works are reduced to human scale by being sawn into roughly twelve centimetre square pieces, each fitting comfortably into the palm of a hand. In the exhibition, these remnant portions then undergo a process of sorting and arrangement into what the artists have termed ‘modules’. 

Viewing Pederson and Robb’s evolving practice offers an aspirational insight into the divergent possibilities of working together as a couple over time: something that we, as a collaborative artistic duo ourselves, feel acutely. It’s an impressive feat to create a procedural work that started in 1994 but was not conceived until thirty years later. The complex durational layering of change, transience, and nostalgia is what we enjoyed most about Fractionate. 

Interestingly, the exhibition is also bringing family, friends, fellow artists, and former students into the space as the process of entropy unfolds—with some expressing dismay at the destruction, and others contributing their memories of works to this ultimate reiteration. 

A close up of a person in a mustard coloured T-shirt, wearing black protective gloves with red and white trim. Their face is not visible. They are holding a small waxy, flesh coloured object on a bench as it is cut in half by a bandsaw.
Courtney Pederson and Charles Robb, Fractionate, installation view, Wreckers Artspace, 2024. Photograph courtesy of the artists.

Our visit to the exhibition fell halfway through the artists’ residency, with the operation of dividing the destroyed pieces only partially complete. The artists are present on site during exhibition opening hours and will continue systematically processing their former studio materials for another week (earplugs supplied!) A closing event is planned for displaying their modular reconfigurations before the work’s final disposal into a rental skip bin. Rest assured, this is not an Abramovic-versus-Ulay-style Great Wall swansong2 unfolding in the industrial back streets of Woolloongabba. Upon querying each artist, Pederson conceptualised Fractionate as a necessary “creative destruction,” and Robb described the exhibition as a process of “pruning”—a cutting away to make room for new growth. Both are unified in their continued process of shared evolution, and of forming and reforming their interleaved collaborative practice.

Closing event 6–8:00 pm Saturday 27 April

  1. See dystopian masterpiece BLADE RUNNER, directed by Ridley Scott (Warner Bros, 1982). ↩︎
  2. Marina Abramović and Ulay, The Lovers–The Great Wall Walk, 1988. The artists walked for 90 days from either end of the Great Wall of China, infamously ending their twelve year collaboration upon meeting in the middle. ↩︎