Diena Georgetti: blackboard paintings, 1992

Georgetti commanded attention early. Her blackboard paintings first appeared in 1989 at the Institute of Modern Art (IMA) in Brisbane - just three years after she graduated from Queensland College of Art - and were promptly included in the 1992 Biennale of Sydney. A juggernaut of an assault on language, the blackboard paintings feature chalky white text: German and Italian words scrawled in such a way that they become purely visual forms.

There is a palpable urgency in these early paintings, as in Enhalten (1992). This sense of urgency remains intensely evident today and fits Georgetti's recollections of painting these early works: "A kind of panic made the blackboard paintings," she wrote to me in an email. "In the last hours of the last day of the week I drank some wine and a few espressos. It was a stop-start combination."

Describing the kind of frantic mood that accompanies the making of her work, Georgetti remembers being alone in her studio, wearing a tight black pencil skirt over tight black jeans, and blasting punk music: "There was violent discomfort upon me. I was thinking it might destroy me. I wanted some sex act to settle me. I should've watched some TV or called someone on the phone to bring me an everyday calm. But I made the blackboard paintings instead."

In the postmodern fervour of the early '90s one would not expect to paint and smudge white text on a blackboard without calling into association the spectre of artists such as Joseph Beuys or Cy Twombly - the pedestal-perched mega figures of the patriarchal avant-garde. In his Actions series in the '70s Beuys famously performed in a manner that blended shamanism with teaching, leaving behind a series of blackboards covered in diagrams and slogans.

White Beuys's works were rooted in the faith and power of authority and pedagogy, Georgetti's blackboard paintings have a sense of mistrust and frustration about them. Words, after all, are untranslated symbols in her paintings - squashed and wiped out. Their forms are recognisably familiar to an English speaker, but not quite right, like "konsequenz", "abstrakt" and "analysen."

excerpt from Rosemary Forde, 'Diena Georgetti, Art World, Issue 5, October-November 2008, p. 170


For further reading on Georgetti's blackboard paintings, see Max Delany, 'The blackboard paintings as lexicon and manifesto', in Max Delany and Robert Leonard, Diena Georgetti: The Humanity of Abstract Painting: 1988-2008, exh. cat. Monash University Art Museum, Melbourne and Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2008, pp. 7-9