BY Gillian Jansz

Gladwell’s ‘Pacific Undertow’ exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art this spring, slows down life’s hidden beauty within movement, celebrating the moments we miss. What’s striking and unique about ‘Pacific Undertow’ is its slow motion detail of high movement activities, depicting people dancing, swimming, driving, skateboarding and spinning all within an eerily quiet aesthetic that allows the viewer to appreciate the miniscule moments that make up the big ones.

Defying gravity within these activities between the background setting and the aura of its organic soundtrack, note by note, defines Gladwell’s work. Each participant in their movements defies gravity as we witness an unseen power dynamic between its presence in keeping them grounded and the way they push against it.

… it makes perfect sense to question, test, measure and meditate on one’s surroundings through art.

Shaun Gladwell is an Australian artist with over two decades of artistic experience that spans from traditional oils on canvas to exploring the human body in motion through videos. The principles that inform his work are the elemental forces. In his video piece titled ‘Storm Sequence’, he explores the solitude of a man skateboarding freestyle amidst the backdrop of a storm and the crashing waves of the sea in Bondi. Gladwell combines the strength of the natural world with the strength of a lone human, lost but somehow confident within it.

Isolated participants rise to a challenge, breaking the rules and riding the boundaries of performance and function, urban and natural. Gladwell’s work focus on the participant and the process of their story, where most works are not solo, but part of a larger intrinsic collection. Like the slow motion videos that characterise his modern style, his work varies in depth, but focuses on a distanced voyeuresque perspective of the figure in motion. The space provided at the MCA encourages the viewer to see his work in pairs. For example, in ‘Afghanistan’ and ‘Apologies 1-6’, a sense of hypnosis is created between a shared perspective.

‘Pacific Undertow’ is the largest survey exhibition of Shaun Gladwell’s work, bringing together his vast expertise and quietly shocking yet deceptively simple aesthetic. The exhibition ends on the 7th of October and is free for all visitors.

Combatting natural forces and the load of life weighing you down, it seems we so easily overlook the small moments of skill, talent and form in the way we appreciate time – solo or together. I encourage you to slow down, breathe and be mesmerised by a moment’s glory on wall and through screen

Shaun Gladwell's Pacific Undertow is exhibiting at the Museum of Contemporary Art until 7 October 2019.

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