Cat Poljski - 'Sub-divide'
Wednesday 17 February - Saturday 6 March 2021
I could tell you how many steps make up the streets rising like stairways, and the degree of the arcades’ curves, and what kind of zinc scales cover the roofs; but I already know this would be the same as telling you nothing. The city does not consist of this, but the relationships between the measurements of its space and the events of its past... Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
Cat Poljski is interested in cityscapes as a subject for recording and observing particular cities. The influence of a city’s sounds, its chaos and movement along with the constant change in the way that cities keep developing is also important in developing the images she produces.
The term sub-divide, a verb (used with object), sub·di·vid·ed, sub·di·vid·ing, means to divide (that which has already been divided) into smaller parts; divide again after a first division; to divide into parts; to divide (a plot, tract of land, etc.) into building lots.
There are many reasons why one would sub-divide a property in this current climate. For example, to make money, to downsize or to condense the amount of open space available to them. The aim of this project was to envisage a space that was being erased only to leave traces of what once was. We continue to flood our cities and inner city neighbourhoods with developments that cloud our vision of what is means to have open space.
In debates about urban density, we often find comments about buildings being too tall or not tall enough, about too many people in a neighbourhood or too few, about streets and buildings being overcrowded or empty. The concentration of buildings, and the decreasing of free space has meant that our cities are now becoming mega-metropolises. Space is therefore condensed and the most common measure of building density is the ‘floor area ratio’ (known as FAR, FSI, FSR and plot ratio) – the ratio of floor area to land area. This is the most widely used measure for limiting the bulk of development on any given plot. However, it does not control the building height, ‘footprint’ (the area occupied by the building) or ‘coverage’ (the proportion of land covered by buildings). Thus, it is quite possible to build high-rise low-density (with very low coverage or small footprints) or low-rise high-density (with high coverage or large footprints).
Experiencing space for Poljski these days has become more about height and overshadowing light. This has led her to erase space by layering, superimposing and over-printing to suggest the congestion and the mass density that we keep bumping into regardless of the major city visited. Poljski sees shadows and the façade of a building’s exterior shape; details are skewed and vision is blurred as she walks through these spaces. Our current climate has been changing for some time now; our landscape has shifted. These prints are done as unique state (not editioned) to symbolise the fragility of our global footprint.
In her own practice, the artist has been working from the particular urban sites such as Melbourne, Japan and London, occupying them as the recorder, transcribing what she sees. There is also a sense of displacement and a process of alteration as the results of experience are recorded. The buildings navigate her interaction with space. You have no choice but to engage in a space that has successfully overpowered you into believing that a city is the ultimate architectural experience. Swamped by high-rise towers that have a significant historical setting, you are by no means in a position to govern the interaction, but rather you become a part of the place, transfixed, transcended and pursued.
As a result, space in Poljski’s etchings becomes positive and negative; she has learnt to see how certain structures are made up of specific geometric patterns - the framework, the planes, the varied viewpoints and the shapes all combine together as formal design elements used to construct the images onto a flat surface. Stripping back the buildings to their formal elements and the organisation of such elements in the images becomes the integral ingredient for deciding upon the selected viewpoint. Viewpoints vary from one-point perspective to orthogonal projections, which are then deconstructed in to skeletal forms.
This is a process in which the artwork is created. Pattern is dominant, line is important and the layers that lie beneath the surface intensify the experience of sensing space. The intrinsic value of line (as a path of vision and guide), shape and pattern, which manifests the spatial properties, encourages the viewer to interact with the image. The rules of geometry for organising space, regulating lines and establishing order through perspective including the tone of the colours to be used, also reflects on the way each image combines with the other. The eye orders the forms in the composition, discovering spatial depth.