The Ministry for Mystical Reckoning Stockroom Gallery 2023
The divine mathematics in nature has long transfixed Wanda Gillespie's artistic endeavours. Her bespoke abacus sculptures continue this enquiry through the illustration of abstracted forms in the landscape, linking our thoughts around value structures and economy to the natural environment and, in turn, our effect on it. For her Stockroom exhibition, The Ministry for Mystical Reckoning, she turns her gaze to native Australian flora. Orchids, Warratah and Grevillea become entwined in the inner brass workings of her unique iterations of this ancient counting device.
Materials are selected for their energetic potency. Native timbers, once living, come loaded with the secrets of seasons of time, while Beads taken from broken Japanese Soroban (abacus) are infused with the invisible worlds of spirits (in Japanese folklore, tools over 100 years old acquire a spirit). The laboured craftsmanship required to create Gillespie’s abaci, runs counter to the perpetual growth models of our consumerist society.
The hourglass, another instrument for measuring, is brought into this play of objects as the artist considers the elusive elastic nature of time. Our linear consistent perception of time has been challenged in recent years through lockdowns, and the notion that time is constructed by the observer has become more evident. Time is an illusion created by the senses. Outside this human experience, as described in many faiths, time as we know it doesn’t exist.
A subtle being looks on, observing the movements of these earthly devices from the timelessness of altered dimensions, or heavenly realms. Its body, chip carved in a rhythmic pattern, references the artist’s thoughts on the passing of time. In eras gone by, small cuts in sticks were used to document the passing of time, hence the saying ‘in the nick of time.’ The deep sense of time encountered through the peeling back of layers of timber rings has been an enduring obsession for the artist as she creates artefacts from this epoch.
Together with the abaci, these carefully crafted objects symbolise our significant moment in history, and an urgency to act on preservation as time seemingly runs out.