The Liminal Space

Liminal Space guides us into Snell’s playful yet perplexing space of assembled knowledge, situation and circumstance that moves and flows in a dynamic momentum. His works are penetrating and active punctums that compel us to explore the in-betweens of being and becoming within liminality.

Liminal Space creates a situation in which we can question and unsettle our existing perceptions and ways of knowing. Rather than experiencing an easily shared idea or commonly held belief, Snell’s work acknowledges that meaning making can be disturbing, unexpected, and even hesitant. In entering into Snell’s Liminal Space, we can take some time to play in the void of vulnerability and uncertainty, where understanding can be interrogated and ruptured, allowing us to then, if we choose to do so, linger in an intensely affective personal experience.

In the warming tingle that can follow a cold, sharp slap in the face, Liminal Space calls us to attention to contemplate potentialities and interrelationships inherent to events and experiences, where, within Snell's large scale works, we are invited into a space where becoming holds primacy over being.

- Dr Abbey Macdonald.


ST and D Ark live in a colourless world. ST and D have never experienced colour. Their capacity for naming colours is absent. So when someone starts slipping a colour swatch of a different colour everyday under their door both are startled into a private feeling of shock and revulsion. As the colours amass on the kitchen table there is sensory alarm over the unimaginable newness before them. They immediately turn the swatches facedown to conceal the shocking intrusion of the unknown.
Curiosity begs them to flip over the swatches intermittently, initiating thrilling shrieks of horror. Eventually more are revealed and left revealed as ST and D begin to argue over the arrangement of the swatches. The relationships between the colours increasingly confound them.
One evening ST finds D staring at a dead green swatch at the kitchen table. The colour has rendered D immobile.
- What are you doing D? Turn it over.
- I can’t
Angry, ST upturns a pierce red swatch and leaves.

This fanciful story acts as a segue into the complexity of colour and the aesthetic reception of abstract art works that utilize colour as a primary trope. The colour swatches, in this instance, are sensate but not named. Colour is primarily doing something rather than linguistically meaning something. The swatches create a situation between the Arks and a sensation: there is a kind of activity occurring in the realization and affect of colour.

Chromophobia, as defined by David Batchelor in the book of the same name, is a loathing and fear of corruption through colour. Chromophobia exists in the presence of its opposite, chromophilia: the veneration of colour. Batchelor cedes that “chromophobia recognizes the otherness of colour but seeks to play it down, while chromophilia recognizes the otherness of colour and plays it up”.

In present society colour pervades, exists ubiquitously, and invades the senses to the degree of invisibility. Colours are not only omnipresent but moving and often ungraspable. The neural pathways in our brains can choose to “see” colours or assimilate them into the general forms and structures that we focus upon. Surprisingly, despite colour’s primacy as syntax, colour is not often the subject of art; the materiality of it is overlooked in favour of the form. Colour is non-existent without form and yet there is a formless quality to its nature. Colour is a product of naming; an attribute given to all solids, liquids and gases. It is a sensation created by light reflecting off different forms and can therefore be subject to the vicissitudes of light. In order to be understood, it can only be spoken of in relation to other things.

The use and digital manipulation of colours taken from reality − photographs of concrete things in the world − is the subject of this exhibition of image-objects. The disassembling and reconfiguration of images of reality into coloured bands – with printing pigment – renders colour the subject of these works, relative to time and space. All detail is reduced to linear vibrations of colour, prompting the question “What is this work doing?” Doing implies an act of faith on the part of the perceiver to perceive the work as a sensate experience. The colours throb with light and appear, like paratactic lines, to be embedded within the form of the work, challenging the notion of colour as surface. The image-objects represent sensation. The perceptual qualities of each work incite a kind of conflicted gaze whereby there is a feeling of bombardment of multiple moving colours and a shifting within rather than across the surface of the work.

Colour and geometrically linear forms of digitally manipulated photographs, as seen in the Snell Lambda metallic prints overlayed with a thick sheet of clear Perspex, are astoundingly different from coloured pigments painted on canvas. The prints do not show the hand of the artist but rather a computational process that engages chance in order to determine the final form of the work. In opposition to a painting, in which visibly material colour is applied to the surface of a support, these are objects embedded with colour; colour is part of the object itself. This is strangely enhanced by the high-gloss, dense, clear surface. Another kind of doing occurs in front of and within the internal space of the work. The activity of reverberating wavelengths of colour within the work is heightened through the Perspex surface, through which the colours appear to float in an illusionistic, three-dimensional space; a space of perceptual uncertainty. The locus is in the visual. The subject of this work is perplexity held within the mental space of the perceiver. This space is not a personal space but rather a universal, impersonal space.

These works demand presentness. They are the sum of corresponding lines and colour forms; not predetermined compositions but nevertheless constructions that are geometrically predetermined and, therefore, works of art-as-object. In the moment of beholding, the perceiver’s experience is subjective: it belongs to the subject (the perceiver). The perceiver’s gaze is transfixed but the object is far from visually fixed. This moment does not feel reflective – implying a drawing up from memory – nor contemplative, which involves a type of perception that is both introspective and passive.

To have a subjective experience in art is to imply that art objects are capable of some form of expression. Richard Wollheim, in his “physical-object hypothesis,” theorizes two kinds of expression. Firstly, the expression or “secretion of an inner state” – referred to as “natural expression” – and, secondly, the capability of an object to express “a certain condition… [which] we experience inwardly.” Wollheim calls this second form “correspondence.” He attributes natural expression to the feelings of the artist and that of correspondence to the perceiver. Abstract art image-objects call attention to themselves through the use of colour sensation and the corresponding relationships between perceiver, object and the gallery space that they occupy. The fields of coloured lines exhibited in Chromophobia are akin to multiple plucked strings and the subsequent sound that is made. They are an open field inciting an immediate situation and response, an experience through which the perceiver is struck with being aware of being aware.

- Dr Anne Mestitz

August 11-12th, 2012, Out & About, Weekend a plus, The Australian

Launceston artist Paul Snell ponders society’s obsession with saturated images through his vibrant digital photographic works. Luminous and trance-like, the works invite the viewer to think about the evolution of digital photography. In his artist statement, Snell writes: “The aim has been to immerse the viewer in colour, rhythm and space, creating a sensory experience of inner contemplation and transcendence.”

- Justin Bourke, Out & About editor