Formalist fusion
Whibley mines modernist sensibilities

By David Jager

Already garnering an international reputation for his work, former Team Macho member Jacob Whibley has his first solo show, called Just A Conspiracy Of Cartographers, Then? at Narwhal’s Junction location.

Like many of his contemporaries, Whibley’s aesthetic roams freely across the modernist terrain of the last century, borrowing and quoting whatever fills the need. Here, his focus is on assemblage and collage, and there are echoes of Kurt Schwitters and Kazimir Malevich in the show’s cool and painstakingly constructed formalist works on paper.
In the main series, There Are No Soloists In A Fugue, he uses the backs of found maps, the first dating to 1886. Those barely visible maps come through as faint backgrounds to visual exercises in restraint. Every piece contains a line or shape typed on a manual typewriter, a piece of a drawing and a found scrap that carries a human marking. Whibley mines these elements with admirable creativity and precision, drawing out interesting irregularities in the materials.

Whibley plays a very subtle game with colour and texture, using the faded palette of antique paper to compose tonal harmonies that are intriguingly pleasant.

That rigour explodes into vibrancy in The Recent History Of History, Parts 1 and 2, composed of scraps and leftovers. Bits of detritus gather into swirling knots of density and colour, veer into lines, stagger and then burst into other loosely tangled clusters. These arrangements seem to be inspired by the complex, chaotic configurations of our current communications systems, and they are beautiful.

Whibley’s visual understanding and diversity are almost unsettling in their quiet strength.

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