SHOWS THAT MATTER: James Angus Recreates Space at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery

SHOWS THAT MATTER: James Angus Recreates Space at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery
"Red I-beam Knot," 2012 by James Angus
(Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery)

WHAT: James Angus at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery

WHEN: 31 January – 2 March, 2013

WHERE: Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, 8 Soudan Lane, Paddington, NSW, 2021


Australian sculptor James Angus is best known for his wild and crazy spatial manipulations. One of his most ambitious installations involved squeezing a MACK truck into the Level 2 Contemporary Project space of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, sandwiching it between the two doorways.

For his latest body of work currently on show at Sydney’s Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Angus has taken a number of deeply symbolic architectural materials and altered their appearance and structure so that their meaning and physical presence are completely changed.

Space, as in the space we as human beings occupy, is something that most people take for granted yet guard so fiercely that breaches of so called “personal” space been the cause of much death and destruction. 

There are two types of space that we as human beings are familiar with: open space and enclosed space. Each of these types of space has both negative and positive characteristics. Open space can be liberating and exhilarating but also isolating and lonely; enclosed space can be comforting and reassuring but also confining and restrictive.

With his knotted I-beam sculptures, the highlights of the show, Angus challenges the viewer’s perception of both open and enclosed space.  What were once symbols of strength and guardians of structure become redundant in the hands of Angus. “They are a visual trap and an insult to orthagonality, mocking everything that an engineer always wishes an I-beam to do. It’s an invented structural failure, disguised as formalism,” Angus explains.

During the exhibition opening one lady commented that “these artworks would make great outdoor sculptures” – a statement that perfectly sums up why these sculptures are so effective.  Angus’s I-beam sculptures may only inhabit a small amount of space yet they dominate the space in which they are exhibited to such an extent as to give the impression that they require more room.  The way in which they absorb the space around them creates an uncomfortable atmosphere and a sense of unresolved tension.  It is almost as though if given the room the sculptures would expand and grow.

Although they are obviously constructed to be exhibited indoors in a gallery space, the architectural materials used by Angus still retain the crucial, inherent characteristics that make them recognisable and definable.  Regardless of how Angus has manipulated the I-beams, the crucial factor is that they are still I-beams. “People learn to see John Chamberlain’s work as abstract sculptures rather than wrecked cars. Here the opposite is true. This is a sculpture of an I-beam,” says Angus.

James Angus has been exhibiting with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery since 1993. His work is held in major public and private collections in Australia and overseas, including the National Gallery of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. This will be Angus’s sixth solo exhibition at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.