BY Carol Jackson in Reviews | 09 SEP 01
Featured in
Issue 61

Pauline Stella Sanchez

BY Carol Jackson in Reviews | 09 SEP 01

Pauline Stella Sanchez compiles evidence to substantiate her aesthetic and experiential explorations. Included among this exhibition of sculptures and large-format giclée prints was a small erotic snapshot of the artist on the sun. (Past shows of Sanchez' work have also included this ethereal photograph.) Variously titled A Snapshot of Me...on the Sun with Sun Porn... (1989-2001) or Portrait of Me on the Sun as the Sun Queen (1990-96), the image apparently verifies that not only has Sanchez been on the sun, but for the duration of her stay there she was a queen treated to oral sex from a torch troll. The remaining work in this exhibition was, for Sanchez, uncharacteristically sombre. All but the smallest traces of painfully bright Klein Blues, and yellows derived from cartoon colour, were absent, as were her familiar circular floor forms, which resemble sacred geometric landing pads. Sanchez' is an epic endeavour in which scenic shifts occur but remain informed by the absence of previous motifs.

In the larger gallery were three sculptures, each similarly built from three base units consisting of a circular raised platform. Near by were two almost waist-high flat-topped rectangular structures. They look like first-aid kits, and are equipped with remedies in minutely varying formations: wood and lacquer pieces of differing shapes, cotton sacks, multiple tongue depressors arranged in circular shapes and 'sun porn' - fingered and fired porcelain bisque retrieved from, or perhaps prepared upon, her approach to her destination.

The arrangement of these sculptures looked somehow rapid but not random. Sanchez' obsessive-compulsive spirit of fabrication is frantic but never despairing; an ecstatic 'better get it all just right' rather than a fearful one. Poised between perceived grace and disaster, these assembly methods honoured by Sanchez are not just a mystical stab in the ether. Reminiscent of Madame Blavatsky, the artist has, apparently, been instructed by her own solar masters.

Two large-scale photographs hugged the corners in a separate room like the wrap-around windows found in Le Corbusier's 'Machines for Living'. Here a more explicitly narrative element was thrown into the mix. Were these large depictions of huge trees lying prone and uprooted documenting the result of a tornado or activity from the objects in the next room?

Perhaps perceiving the imperceptible is only possible when channelled through familiar fragments. Through a systematic investigation of aesthetic and scientific theories awakened by the Modernist project, Sanchez achieves something alien and disruptive. For the Theosophists - one of her sources and a belief system that both Klein and Mondrian shared - life is a grand school of being wherein the individual must use every means available to affirm the 'hidden essence of being'. Shunning categories such as religion, because religion implies faith, this school of thought explored no 'new' ethics since, according to them, all 'truthful' principles are identical and eternal. In this respect they abandoned a revolutionary mission or at least avant-garde errand before the term 'postmodernism' even came into being. They just kept the good stuff, as Sanchez has kept the best of the look of high Modernism to further her own work. The hope unearthed in her pursuit is exhilarating.