The Held Breath
June 9 - July 23, 2023
a willow branch
that doesn’t reach the water
in the vase.
The consciousness of death is in most cultures very much a part of life. This is perhaps nowhere truer than in Japan, where the approach of death has given rise to a centuries-old tradition of writing a death poem.
By observing death, changing seasons, the growth and decay of plants, the rising and setting of the sun and moon, and the constant flux of the elements, Japanese Zen Buddhism believes we gain insight into the impermanent and conditioned nature of our own existence, and our insufferable clinging on to survive is futile.
The monstera leaf plays the protagonist role in Tané Andrews' exhibition The Held Breath. The monstera leaf is 'every leaf', as Andrews puts it. It is a symbol of nature and culture, of beauty and design, of exoticism and familiarity. It is also a cliché, a plant that you can find in any home or office, a decoration that has lost its meaning. But Andrews gives it new life, new significance, by suspending it in a precarious state of life and death.
This 'every leaf' hangs dynamically static, motionless, perfectly poised between the two questioned states. The void between the leaf and water appears sustainable to the viewer outside the gallery, yet is terminal.
28 monstera leaves will die over the duration of this exhibition, however the audience will see only 4 perpetually alive. Son of a botanical drawer, Andrews is comfortable living in the realm of life caught in suspended immortality. Andrews will answer the dying leaves with a procession, pilgrimaging to the gallery every few days to remove the bodies and replace them with new leaves.
The stainless-steel armatures have been meticulously designed by Andrews with the shiney futuristic precision that would be at home in a surgeon’s theatre. They hang above hand-blown glass vases that have been made by local artisans. The armatures draw reference to support structures for ageing trees, such as the metal braces that prop up trees in the Imperial Palace Gardens in Tokyo or the many pruned gardens throughout Japan. Like bonsai plants or the Ancient Chinese tradition of foot binding, Andrews draws to our attention instances where life is intervened and manipulated and its natural spontaneity and will is replaced with the artificial.
Despite the discomfort death may bring, and though we may prune, shape and bind life to our will, we can not avoid that around that bend, it will be us that one day sits just above the water.
Installation images photographed by Campbell Henderson
About The Artist
Tané Andrews (b. 1986) is an artist based in Sydney, Australia. His practice explores transience, transformations, and hybridizations within the natural world. Working with perishable organic materials including; flowers, living cocoons, wood, and water, as well as more durable products such as pearls, marble and bronze. Andrews’ artwork involve repetition, process, and a demand for meaningful contemplation.
In 2007 he completed a Bachelor of Arts (Art) with First Class Honours at Curtin University, Perth. Andrews has exhibited nationally and internationally since 2011. Solo exhibitions include: Lying in Wait, Wellington St Projects Sydney (2016), The Collector, Venn Gallery Perth (2015) and Silent Distortions, Venn Gallery Perth (2014).
Notable group exhibitions include: Perspectives, Ginza Museum of Modern Art Tokyo (2004) Sculpture at Bathers, Kidogo Arthouse Fremantle (2017) and De Monstrable, curated by Symbiotic A Director Oron Catts, Lawrence Wilson Gallery Perth (2015).
In 2015 he was awarded a residency at Artspace, Sydney and in 2017 he was the recipient of the 4A Beijing Studio Program.