'When writing about Ruffels' work I was struck by the fact that the Sublime was a much over-used term  and usually it was applied to things which were not in themselves sublime and might, at best, refer to it peripherally. I wrote then that in his book The Romantic Sublime - The Structure and Psychology of Transcendence, Thomas Weiskel defined he Sublime as “the state in which all known relations are suspended”. Weiskel describes this state of transcendence as being inevitably impermanent – that it is a state we enter but cannot remain in, for to remain there would mean we must be unable to relate one sensation or experience to another. In this state we are utterly receptive, our urge to catagorise and distance ourself from sensation has been subverted by the enormity or the power and force of an experience, undifferentiated from all other experiences. Children live for a time in this state, or at least in the potential of it. They see, for a brief and precious time, each sensation as unique and the word as a constant flow of sensual experiences, all entered into completely, all experienced fully. This is the precious time when we can see fully, and for most of us this is lost, as is our trust in instinct. I sense that Ruffels has never lost this sense of wonderment, of engaging with each moment, each image, fully and entering into to engage with it more completely.'

'The work seems to hold the indefinable, the unfixable - moments passing almost before they can be apprehended, captured from the ceasless flow of phenomena. Such is the response of the poet, whose role it is to experience with sensitivity and then to extend and test the limits of language to realise such subtleties.

This is why we regard some artists as special, they see and engage on our behalf and return that to us that we may share in that experience, and they perhaps also teach us that we may also have the capacity to experience the sensate world, by revealing its richness and complexity to us, and of course, its beauty. This way of experiencing is not romantic, it merely is, what is romantic is our perfectly natural longing, (like Wordsworth's), to return to that state. If this is nostalgia, then it is nostalgia aroused by a desire for a re-apprehension of important lost abilities and perceptive faculties.'

- SEAN KELLY (extracts)

Heaven's Keep, 2012
Archival solvent based print on composite aluminium sheet with backing frame
Edition of 12
107 x 107cm

Edition of 6 - 85 x 85cm on Hahnemuhle 300gsm paper

Clover Hill, 2012
Archival solvent based print on composite aluminium sheet with backing frame
Edition of 12
107 x 107cm

Edition of 6 - 85 x 85cm on Hahnemuhle 300gsm paper

A Star's Keep, 2012
Archival solvent based print on composite aluminium sheet with backing frame
Edition of 12
107 x 107cm

Edition of 6 - 85 x 85cm on Hahnemuhle 300gsm paper

Tundra, 2011

Archival solvent based print on composite aluminium sheet with backing frame
Edition of 12
107 x 107cm

Edition of 6 - 85 x 85cm on Hahnemuhle 300gsm paper

Night Air, 2011

Archival solvent based print on composite aluminium sheet with backing frame
Edition of 12
107 x 107cm

Edition of 6 - 85 x 85cm on Hahnemuhle 300gsm paper

When stars fall to sea, 2011

Archival solvent based print on composite aluminium sheet with backing frame
Edition of 12
107 x 107cm

Edition of 6 - 85 x 85cm on Hahnemuhle 300gsm paper

 

Pyre, 2011

Archival solvent based print on composite aluminium sheet with backing frame
Edition of 12
107 x 107cm

Edition of 6 - 85 x 85cm on Hahnemuhle 300gsm paper

Flood #7, 2011

Archival solvent based print on composite aluminium sheet with backing frame
Edition of 12
107 x 107cm

Edition of 6 - 85 x 85cm on Hahnemuhle 300gsm paper

The inbetween of hours, 2011

Archival solvent based print on composite aluminium sheet with backing frame
Edition of 12
107 x 107cm

A winter's tale, 2011 from Bramble series 
Archival solvent based print on composite aluminium sheet with backing frame
Edition of 12
107 x 107cm

Edition of 6 - 85 x 85cm on Hahnemuhle 300gsm paper

Bramble, 2011, from Bramble series 
Archival solvent based print on composite aluminium sheet with backing frame
Edition of 12
107 x 107cm

Edition of 6 - 85 x 85cm on Hahnemuhle 300gsm paper

Cider Gum, 2011, from Faultline series 
Archival solvent based print on composite aluminium sheet with backing frame
Edition of 6
107 x 107cm/ 60 x 60cm

Edition of 6 - 85 x 85cm on 300gsm Hahnemuhle Paper

 

Flood #1, 2011, from Flood series 
Archival solvent based print on composite aluminium sheet with backing frame
Edition of 12
107 x 107cm

Edition of 6 - 85 x 85cm on Hahnemuhle 300gsm paper

Flood #2, 2011, from Flood series 
Archival solvent based print on composite aluminium sheet with backing frame
Edition of 12
107 x 107cm

Edition of 6 - 85 x 85cm on Hahnemuhle 300gsm paper

Flood #3, 2011, from Flood series 
Archival solvent based print on composite aluminium sheet with backing frame
Edition of 12
107 x 107cm

Edition of 6 - 85 x 85cm on Hahnemuhle 300gsm paper

Night Air (Eucalyptus), 2009
Archival solvent based print on composite aluminium sheet with backing frame
Edition of 6
107 x 107cm

Edition of 6 - 85 x 85cm on Hahnemuhle 300gsm paper

Poplar, 2009
Archival solvent based print on composite aluminium sheet with backing frame
Edition of 6
107 x 107cm

Edition of 6 - 85 x 85cm on Hahnemuhle 300gsm paper

Ridge, from Bramble series  2011
Archival solvent based print on composite aluminium sheet with backing frame
Edition of 12
120 x 120 cm /107 x 107cm

Edition of 6 - 85 x 85cm on Hahnemuhle 300gsm paper

Paper Sky, 2011
Archival solvent based print on composite aluminium sheet with backing frame
Edition of 12
107 x 107cm

Edition of 6 - 85 x 85cm on Hahnemuhle 300gsm paper

Sentinel, 2009
Archival solvent based print on composite aluminium sheet with backing frame
Edition of 6
107 x 107cm

Edition of 6 - 85 x 85cm on Hahnemuhle 300gsm paper

Two Worlds, 2009
Archival solvent based print on composite aluminium sheet with backing frame
Edition of 6
107 x 107cm

Edition of 6 - 85 x 85cm on Hahnemuhle 300gsm paper

Seeking Equivalence

Troy Ruffels is one of Australia’s most exciting emerging artists. He now has a great deal of international experience behind him having exhibited in Sydney, New York, Asia, and Glasgow. But it was not always so. Until his early twenties he spent his entire life in Tasmania, Australia’s stunningly beautiful island state. Yet throughout his childhood and teenage years his imagination travelled ahead of him, not just across oceans and continents, but through star fields and galaxies on a raft of science fiction books, television serials, and a million disparate visual images.

In many ways he is the quintessential artist of what theorist Rosalind Krauss calls “the post-medium condition”. What does she mean by that? Quite simply, she has noticed the tendency for many contemporary artists, such as William Kentridge or Fischli and Weiss, to work from project to project, selecting whichever medium is appropriate for the task in hand. Thus, Troy Ruffels has worked as a painter but has also photographed drops of rain on the windscreens of cars; he has photographed migrating birds arcing through the overcast skies; he has, as a sculptor, worked with dozens of car bonnets attached to a northern Tasmanian hillside; he has made public sculpture using ceramic tiles and aluminium plates as well very private art works that have been exhibited in galleries and collected by those that have fallen in love with it.

In August 2002 he took part in a collaborative exhibition between artists and scientists at the CSIRO (Research Laboratories) in Hobart, Tasmania. Here is part of what he wrote in the catalogue as a response to seeing some underwater footage made by a camera scanning the ocean floor.

“A foreign landscape emerged and dissolved as the craft’s alien lights passed over what was for me an unfamiliar terrain. Fine debris and tiny filaments of life floated timelessly by, carried in and out of the light on the currents; a slow sideward drift of rain or sleet; of how you imagine the night wind carries dust, pollen, or tiny insects.”

We are immediately in the realm of the microcosmic and the macrocosmic, but I mention this passage to show that in everything he does Troy is also a poet – a neo-Romantic – in awe at the wonders of the universe, the changing of the seasons, and the migration of both living things and of ideas.

A few years later Troy has forsaken the cold of a Tasmanian winter for the heat and humidity of an artist’s residency in Malaysia at the Rimbun Dahan studio which he shares with his painting partner and life partner, Anne Morrison. Once again he is painting. Once again he is looking at reflections. Some, as Jane Stewart Director of the Devonport Regional Gallery has written in a previous catalogue essay are found in “the seemingly impenetrable surface of new cars, puddles, glass and hard wet ground. Reflections in such urbane, ever-present fabrics are not something we usually register consciously.”  In Malaysia, Ruffels expanded his vocabulary of reflections and also his lexicon of sensibilities. It is his gift to us that we also see the world in a different way through entering into his world. Constable and Turner did this with clouds; Joseph Beuys and Tony Cragg did it with everyday household objects; Troy Ruffels and Gerhard Richter have done it with reflections – and through reflecting on reflections.

In 1803 in ‘Augeries of Innocence’ the English poet, artist, and mystic William Blake wrote:

 

To see a world in a grain of sand

And a heaven in a wild flower

Hold infinity in the palm of your hand

And eternity in an hour

 

In these lines Blake was seeking and finding equivalences for the very large and the very small and binding them together through poetry and image. Those same equivalences are to be found in Troy Ruffels recent work – but they are more subtle than a wild flower or a grain of sand. They take more searching, and they are more to do with the transitory than the infinite. There is a sense that if you look away for a moment and then let your eyes return certain shifts will have taken place. Shifts outside you. Shifts inside you.

As with many artists, Ruffels new work builds on all that he has made before, all that he has brooded about before. And there is a sense of brooding as well as revelation about his work. It doesn’t, you feel, arrive easily, but it never lets you go.

 

Dr Peter Hill

 

Dr Peter Hill is Head of Painting and Associate Professor of Fine Art at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Sydney. In 2002 he exhibited his Superfictions at the Sydney Biennale and in 2004 his book Stargazing: Memoirs of a Young Lighthouse Keeper won Scotland’s Saltire Award for best First Book of the Year.