Chroma Coded/ not - august 2016

ARTISTS:  philip gibson, brad lay, jessie lumb / grace marlow

AUTHOR –  Alysha Herrman


What happens to the people who never see it/

in square rooms/

in stacked stools/

slippery dreams/

what happens to them//


I arrive at FELTspace slightly puffing and with the tingles of a headache creeping in.

The space is so full of sound. Bouncing against the edges of bodies. Colourful, buoyant, overwhelming sound.

My headache grows exponentially.

Group show, Chroma Coded in the Front Gallery feels instantly accessible. It’s fun and colourful. Photographs, framed paintings with headphones, colours on a wall. It looks and feels like art. I don’t know what it’s about, but I know what it is.

not in the Back Gallery on the other hand, feels like a weird collection of IKEA furniture, fruit and chicken fillets (you know those squishy flesh coloured things people wear over their breasts?), arranged in strange combinations around the white room. I don’t know what it’s about, and I don’t know what it is.


I find myself returning.

Again and again and again.

Across the course of the evening, I spend more time in the tiny Back Gallery, with this odd collection of items, than I do with the more easily accessible Chroma Coded.

I watch other people come in and out of the Back Gallery, clutching the program - a single A4 sheet of paper, which lists each artwork, and its dimensions. I watch couples, solos and groups, try and figure out which artwork matches which description on the program. I watch them circle around the room, trying to figure out what it’s all supposed to mean. I watch them crouch down and stand on tiptoes, tilt their heads in every possible direction – trying to see and by seeing, understand.

The artworks in not have names like:

hand hole in the top makes the step stool easy

this is not a melon

fit in

public exposure

and my personal favourite…

now you see it

I’ve watched everyone else matching titles to artworks and I’ve tried to match them all myself too. And I’m pretty confident I’ve matched them up correctly, but I can’t find an artwork that matches now you see it. There aren’t enough artworks in the room and there definitely isn’t an artwork that matches the dimensions listed on the program.

I’m intrigued and frustrated.

After the artist talks, I ask a few people I know which artwork they think now you see it is. They don’t know either. Eventually someone who knows Grace suggests I go and ask her.

What are things/

what are not things/

what are you/

what are we/


for ever/

for always//


Grace explains to me that now you see it – dimensions listed as 2.01 + 0.98 + 2.08m on the program - is the extra doorframe in the Back Gallery. The one with a door that doesn’t open. I ask Grace about this intriguing and deliberate site specificity over email later.

“The thought amongst artists who show in this space regarding the extra door seems to often be 'it has that extra doorway, ahh… annoying'. This definitely crossed my mind because it is so visually loud. (….)I realised a lot of what I was thinking about was getting people to see things in new ways, maybe, so it seemed fitting. The doorway is so present in a lot of shows as an interference but when I made this little shift and listed it on the floor sheet it's suddenly this invisible thing.”

Grace didn’t create the doorframe, or even position it in the room like the other works in not, she just noticed it. She noticed it in the context of her work and invited her audience to notice it too.

I experience Chroma Coded differently after finally seeing now you see it. Reentering the Front Gallery, I ask myself, what are these three artists – Phillip Gibson, Jessie Lumb and Brad Lay - asking me to notice?

I notice….

A wall of black rectangles, fractured by coloured vortexes. Movement caught in colour. Shiny edges pinned to scruffy walls. Each work with the name of a song. Each work is a song. Each work sings a different song.

A wall of white frames with lines of colour against teal oceans. Each frame attached to a set of black headphones (an easy way to escape awkward hellos on my way into the gallery). Competing with the chatter of a full room, the headphone’s lonely songs resonates. Strangely distorted echoes that feel like the ocean, a suggestion of whale song and missing notes.

A pulsating screen, echoing colour from a painted line on an opposite wall. If you were a colour, what colour would you be? If you were not you, who would you be? If not art, what?

I notice the way individually each of these walls feels resolved, but how collectively they feel less cohesive. Phillip, Jessie and Brad all talk about experimenting in their artist talks, specifically with colour and representations of colour. They talk about music and text and feelings and a day in an operating theatre.

I notice how their intellect and passion brings their work to life for me.

I notice that my headache has disappeared.

Oceans unfold in white frames/

joy explodes in vibrating teal/

gender unbending in door framed questions/

not here, not now//


As I leave the exhibition, and I walk up past the Torrens to my car, I wonder if maybe I don’t like art at all – maybe what I like is artists.






Alysha Herrmann is a writer and maker of things, including two excellent humans and a bunch of weird theatre. She loves chocolate, hates birds and always thought she'd grow up to be cement. You can read about her latest breakdown at or follow her #tinytwitterpoem (s) with @lylyee