Essay by Gillian Marsden
Fragments of King sees artist Marisa Molin again traipsing the periphery. This time, the shores of the other leader of islands laid out in the Bass Strait like a game of solitaire: King.
Years prior to Marisa’s visit, the debris of a biological phenomena (interestingly, more commonly associated with Flinders Island of the last Fragment series), had swung wide and swept up on the shores of King Island, mirroring the many ships that had gone crooked and drowned against the island throughout the nautical-dependent years of the 19th and early 20th century. This echo of doomed passage continues through nomenclature and mythology for in fact, in both intact and shattered form, the biological phenomena was that of another kind of ship; the discarded shells of the Paper Nautilus or Argonaut nodosa*.
There is something wonderfully paradoxical about the Paper Nautilus. We are predominantly acquainted with their exterior remnants and by the time such remnants drift ashore (somewhat mysteriously every few years and in their thousands), their soft interiors are long rotted out. In our minds, we hold the name, ‘paper nautilus’, and in our hands, exquisite pressed-tin shells of la mer: no wonder we imagine ethereal creatures that glide through the water like elegant ships and yet, the Internet outs the Paper Nautilus as actually, a jaunty, dinghy kind of vessel and the animal itself, as having a vertically flattened face and a feature that can only be described as a proboscis or snout. I think this is a paradox that is emblematic of the dualism of imprinted surfaces: where one side is raised, the other is depressed. Where one side is intended for appearances, the other is utilitarian and circumspect.
It is therefore fitting that the wreckage of these Argonauts became a significant motif for Marisa, as did the remnant plugs of the industrialised Bull Kelp. Beyond the undeniable beauty of Molin’s work, is the process of creating them, the movement away from the origins, in which the capturing of impressions not only mimics, but also overlaps with, found surfaces as well. It is a process that tenderly disrupts the surfaces of things, where they start sliding into and across each other not unlike the distribution of spring ice-sheet floes. In Molin’s work, the surface of human skin moves beneath a capture of another skin – animal and plant, nautilus and kelp. Further, the skin’s material transformation, from the organic to the metallic, starts to work alongside the photographic. Indexes of surface indentation and undulation become uncannily liquid and the sea, la mer, becomes suspended in silver movement.
* The Argonauts being the men such as Orpheus, Nestor, Laertes and Perseus who manned the Argo, built by Argus, for Jason on his famous quest.