Georgia Hutchison and Arini Byng: Adult Contemporary by Michael Fitzgerald
It is the early 1980s and Milan architect and designer Ettore Sottsass is looking for a thread to connect a loose collection of artistic ideas that have started to coalesce under his watchful eye. These first began to emerge the previous decade with Studio Alchymia, in which he and a group of like-minded furniture designers sampled high colour, lowbrow materials and often kitsch imagery to postmodern effect. But it is only when he hears the lyrics to Bob Dylan’s 'Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again', and plays the song again and again, that Sottsass finds his hook. He will call his new group Memphis. 'Memphis is not new,' he declares. 'Memphis is everywhere.'
For barely five years, Sottsass drove this design movement based on something as light as a musical riff. But its ephemeral spirit and eclectic arrangement of materials is perfectly recaptured in the still-life photographs of Melbourne collaborative duo Georgia Hutchison and Arini Byng. Formed in late 2012, with the union of an industrial designer (Hutchison) and sculptor/photographer (Byng), the artistic pairing found immediate recognition with the Perimeter Editions publication Moved Objects (2013). ‘These recognisable geometric volumes,’ wrote Matthew Hassell in NY Arts Magazine, ‘are carefully placed to point a finger out of the land of sculpture and back towards painting, all the while directing our gaze through the medium of photography.’
Against often high-key colour backdrops, unlikely things are corralled and choreographed for our contemplation. A Memphis-like riffing of materials and finishes – a pumice stone activated by an antenna of copper wiring, for instance; an ear-shaped lump of foam wrapped with light-transmitting foil – means that these objects are never still. Instead, they are perpetually poised, balanced and suspended. Looking at these everyday plays with scale, form and materiality – honed by months of quiet observation by the artists in their studio – one can’t help but think of Sottsass’s ethos for Memphis: ‘Today everything one does is consumed. It is dedicated to life, not to eternity.’
With the pair’s most recent body of work, ‘Adult Contemporary’ (2014), their concerns have become, if anything, more distilled – as if their mysterious product line is now being offered in concentrate. The colours seem sharper and deeper, the plays with form increasingly muscular. What crystallises is a more abstract and painterly form of still life:
The images are inquiries into ambiguous and discursive materials; choreographed acts within the photographic studio; captured encounters of material, movement, form, line, shape, structure, colour, formality.
Seeing the works in the flesh at Melbourne’s Edmund Pearce late last year, these choreographed acts were rendered even more explicit. Here small-scale photographs were pressed hard up against large-scale ones, and a pairing of nude-coloured Shandies were immediately signalled by the red-light glow of Down my spine. Between the groupings a confident white space opened up, providing a stage-like scrim for the flourishing forms.
In two of the larger works, Blue Eyes and Palaces, there is the sense of fragments half-remembered, like Matisse’s cut-outs, suspended in time and space. Objects are not just moved but have become states to be beheld and inhabited – dunes to be travelled and excavated, and feelings to be flexed and analysed. Standing in the gallery and jump-cutting between these images, it was easy to hear Bob Dylan’s voice, summoning something from the ether: stuck inside of Mobile, with the Memphis blues again.
Georgia Hutchison and Arini Byng are exhibiting as part of the group show ‘Lit from the Top’, curated by Laura Lantieri and Sarah Wall, at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, 24 April – 21 June 2015.
 Matthew Hassell, ‘Moved Objects by Arini Byng and Georgia Hutchison’, NY Arts Magazine, 3 December 2013; see www.nyartsmagazine.com/?p=14416, accessed 30 December 2014.
 Georgia Hutchison and Arini Byng, in conversation with the author by email, 30 December 2014.
 ‘Adult Contemporary’, Edmund Pearce, Melbourne, 26 November – 20 December 2014.