Mason Kimber, Strata
by Neha Kale
Catalogue text, Kronenberg Mais Wright, Sydney
Cities are easily dismissed as inanimate, stony witnesses to the lives that pass through them. But walls and ground and pavements are living organisms, as marked by history and experience as human skin.
When I think about the past, faces are blurry. But I remember peach-coloured paint, flaking off my grandparents’ Bombay apartment, Roman rubble near a London tube stop and Triassic-era sandstone cliffs under a Sydney bridge with a startling acuity.
To recall these surfaces is to embark on emotional archaeology. It’s to unearth childhood awareness, the promise of twentysomething adventure, the flashes of awe that are part of regular adult life.
In literature, ‘memoir’ stems from the French for aid-memoire – a device that helps you remember. Mason Kimber made the works in Strata, which owes its name to a Walter Benjamin essay, during walks around his former neighbourhood, near Forbes Street, Darlinghurst.
The artist alighted on interesting surfaces: a drain cover, referencing a 19th century plumbing company, a texture as cranial as a sea sponge on the face of a sandstone brick.
Kimber cast gypsum to each site. But his mould would snap as he pried it off, creating a sense-impression that was also a record of his encounter. In the studio, the artist housed these fragments in wall-based panels, manifesting his memory of each place by reworking his material.
Strata’s sculptural reliefs reflect the ways in which we are shaped by the places we move through. But for Kimber, making memories isn’t a passive process. It’s an act of excavation. We get to know ourselves by looking closely at the world around us, understand what lies beneath the surface by giving the surface itself a physical form.