Umbra - Galerie Pompom, 2018

Adelaide-based sculptor, Steven Cybulka, uses architectural interventions to explore inner unrest. His new body of work, Umbra, takes its name from the darkest part of a shadow. Churning surfaces are created on acrylic sheets using spray paint, paper, and epoxy resin. Cybulka works instinctively, the final image forming under his fingers, guided by the materials themselves. The resulting shapes are formed organically, with deep, moving surfaces of cloud-like swirls, mirroring our interior thoughts.

Audiences have become used to the gallery as a white cube, walls that are, as Brian O’Doherty described, ‘unshadowed, white, clean, artificial’. When artworks enter they are seemingly removed from all outside context. These spaces are designed to allow quiet contemplation of each object, unfettered by these influences. Cybulka interrupts this quiet space of contemplation with the installation of jagged forms, growing from walls and plinths. There is movement on each surface; giving the impression of smoke or dust continuously swirling within the acrylic frames. Hints of gold lace their way through these clouds, flashes of illumination shaping the surface. The shapes are formed by sharp corners and wide angles, the traditional right angles nowhere in sight. There is a sense that these forms are exploding out, growing and threatening to consume the gallery.

Drawn to the work of psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, Cybulka explores the shadow of the self, the parts we keep hidden but bubble away beneath our surface. Thoughts that linger, working away at us until, like the works here, they are barely contained. In his studio, Cybulka worries away at the materials. His sculptures are formed through a repeated process of papering, spray painting, and tearing, working towards achieving a balance in the composition. Known for working on a monumental scale, Umbra is by contrast a grouping of smaller doubts, worries that gently whisper constantly throughout our lifetime. These objects solidify the voice in our head that criticises and cannot be quieted.

In a room of rich, textural surfaces and jagged edges, Cybulka moves these fears from a niggling feeling into something solid that we can approach, touch and attempt to confront. Each piece reflects back the worries and concerns of the onlooker, inviting us to engage in moments of contemplation and drawing us back into our shadow world.

Eleanor Scicchitano

1 O’Doherty, B. Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space. United States of America: The Lapis Press (1986). pp. 15

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