Mikala Dwyer sculpts air. Nestled between the internal columns of the historic Naval Store 2 building in the Docks Precinct of Cockatoo Island, the artist has created a new site-specific work. Heating transparent, acrylic material to produce a kind of exoskeleton, Dwyer’s large and lumpy The Hollows (2014) fights for its own space, and occupies it in an act of bravura. Her shapes may seem fragile because of their transparency, but they are – like the methodology that has made them – strong, resilient and prepared to risk seeming impermanent in the face of immutable architecture. In keeping with Dwyer’s methodology, The Hollows substantiates traces of the effort that has created it.
For more than two decades, Dwyer’s artistic practice has pushed the boundaries of installation, performance and sculpture. Often borrowing methods and ideologies from science, her artworks are playfully complex installations that invite the viewer to walk in and around them – becoming immersed in a fantastical new world that investigates imagination and emotion.
Voids and solids have been part of Dwyer’s work from the beginning of her three-dimensional practice, which incorporates a strong tactility where the marks of making are evident in roughly moulded clay, ceramic ware and costumes. The body is everywhere in her art, reasserting the relationship of sculpture to the human form, even when the object is not figurative.
The material Dwyer often uses – clear plastic Perspex – glints and glistens and picks up light. These refractions reflect and multiply the viewer into the exhibition space. The body is reflected and scattered throughout the work, referencing the physical nature of installation and environment; trapping and claiming the body in sculpture.
Dwyer’s works have been the focus of solo exhibitions at Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne (2013); Project Arts Centre, Dublin (2012); Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney (2012); Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane (2012); Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne (2011); Hamish Morrison Galerie, Berlin (2010); Kunstraum Potsdam (2007); Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney (2004); and National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2002). Her extensive participation in group exhibitions has included ‘The End of the 20th Century. The Best is Yet to Come. A Dialogue with the Marx Collection’, Hamburger Banhof, Berlin (2013–14); ‘Less is More: Minimal and Post-Minimal Art in Australia’, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2012); ‘Plus ou moins sorcières 2/3: Épreuves ritualisées’, La Maison Populaire, Paris (2012); 17th Biennale of Sydney (2010); and Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art (2010).