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Reinventing the Medium

Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology

Madeleine Thornton-Smith


This year I have been interested in challenging traditional archetypes of the vessel, pedestal and canvas by subverting the idea of the “support” or “medium” in contemporary art. Focusing on ceramics, sculpture and painting, I aimed to do this through remediation, reconfiguration and an investigation into the material possibilities within discreet “mediums”. Exploring Marshall McLuhan’s claim that “the ‘content’ of any medium is always another medium” (in Lange-Berndt, 2015, p. 200), my work primarily explores the concept that subverting the material of archetypal forms can alter the reading of that form. The idea of “remediation” – changing the material of an object – has been integral as I have experimented with materials allied with certain “mediums” including painting, sculpture and ceramics. Though based in a ceramics studio, this process has included experimenting with not only with clay and glazes but with making frames, canvases, vessels, shelves and plinths out of related materials such as coloured plaster, paper clay, concrete, papier mâché and paint. Forms I have made this year mimic each other in texture and form but their materiality is ambiguous – challenging the modernist paradigm of medium-specificity.


Remediation relates to the idea of mimicry in that replicas of objects are made using alternate materials. The process of remediation has been integral in my explorations into the medium and the support. Casting objects creates an index that emulates the original. For example, I have slip-cast paintings to make them objects and created frames out of acrylic paint, using it as sculptural material in its own right. Amy Gogarty argues that the process of remediation leads to new realities; mediums borrow, repurpose or refashion examples from within their own history, as a form of homage or critique, or as a formal rhetorical device to reinterpret older media (2007, p. 95). In the installation, I have tried to create dialogues between objects and mediums, each which have their own traditional conventions of display. This has included making that which is usually considered “invisible” in the gallery (plinths, shelves, frames) visible by subverting their material, size and what other objects they are displayed with. Plinths and frames are invisible “gallery furniture”; objects which traditionally obfuscate themselves, to disappear, beneath that which is more “important”, the “art”. However, Paul Mathieu writes that “the frame or the plinth is the space, the place, the site where things change, where the transition between art and life takes place” (2007, p. 118).

Images by Madeleine Thornton-Smith and Chris Bowes

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11. Madeleine Thornton-Smith - 'Reinvent
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Chris - objects that look like concrete.
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