The Relevance of Art

With the growing popularity of Street Art, I was interested to see at Wonderwalls in Port Adelaide this year, a group of writers working on a wall next to a Street Artist*.  The Street Artist listed her own name on the official program, and the others worked under a crew name, for obvious reasons, to stay incognito.

This defining difference between the establishment and the newcomer, made me reflect on art in general, and the opening up of avenues for displaying and expressing art.

Our Art Gallery of South Australia is under the direction of Nick Mitzevich, who is happy to show colonial art next to Aboriginal/First Nations cultural objects.  He follows that theme around the gallery, mixing together works that would usually be seen as opposing, as having something significant in common.  As we don’t have a formal contemporary art building (yet), Mitzevich treats our gallery as contemporary art meets the art history of the world, including representation from our Asian neighbours.

This is a challenging and exciting way of displaying art, and keeps the gallery relevant culturally and geographically.  It also makes the gallery an inspiring place to visit, as we see the old collection in a new way and the new work in the context of the old.

After spending some years now admiring and participating in street art, I feel the pristine white walls of a gallery space that shut out history, noise, and windows to the outside world, are both restricting and old in the limited atmosphere and lack of authenticity in the space.  The artist is responsible for creating these things, which can come across as contrived and like a static museum display.

When operating exclusively in a gallery setting, an artist can begin to take this for granted, and I think that impacts on the relevance of art in the real world.  Artist Alfredo Jaar says to imagine the world we want to live in, meaning to use art to push us towards that world.  The beauty of street art is that it goes to the people, the people don’t have to seek it out.  Street art also reflects the integrity of the existing surrounding, and so becomes a part of it.

I’ve said previously, I embrace all street art, including tags and sgraffiti, as relevant to the contemporary and historical art scene.  Widening our definition of art as existing in the everyday, allows us to think outside the gallery space and work alongside others who have different perspectives, and so makes what we do relevant.

As a footnote:  The Art Gallery of South Australia could be inclusive and embrace street art by opening the outside side wall(s) as free walls for any artists to participate.  Then we would have a world leading rather than a world class art gallery.

*Street Art as the new wave of painters who only work by permission to paint a wall, street art includes any form in general.


Ideas as the Instrument of Change

With the current political climate in Australia, featuring an increasingly unpopular party that says their problem is selling the message, not the message itself, I’ve been thinking about the value of ideas.  Great ideas that form a better society for everyone, not just a select few.  But who can have these great ideas, and how is it possible to achieve influence with social, political, geographical or financial disadvantage?

I’ve just finished Vivienne Westwood’s autobiography with Ian Kelly.  A leader and innovator of fashion since the 1970’s, Westwood talks about how ideas led to the invention of Punk, and how her interest in the authenticity of historical clothing and mixing it with contemporary fashion, led to a revolution in fashion design today. Continue reading Ideas as the Instrument of Change

Dark Heart Top Five – Art Gallery of South Australia

Here are my Top Five picks from  Dark Heart, 2014 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art.  Could be a different Top Five at the next visit…

Sally Smart

'The Choreography of Cutting (Spring)' Sally Smart

'The Choreography of Cutting (Spring)' Sally Smart

What’s not to love about collage?  Close up this art work is nothing special, a mix of roughly cut and pinned printed and painted fabric (and paper?), but stand back and it’s amazing.  Unlike some other exceptionally well crafted works in Dark Heart that have less impact as a whole, this installation entitled ‘The Choreography of Cutting (Spring)” is the most dramatic.  Sally Smart was born in South Australia and is based in Melbourne.  She combines collage, printmaking, photography, video, puppetry and text in her work.  Click here to see more.

Tony Albert

'108' Tony Albert

I loved this room, not just because of the exciting artworks, but because there is nothing better or more uncomfortable than walking in another person’s shoes.  Tony Albert’s installation 108 combines collage, printmaking and cut outs with vintage kitsch (and often offensive) racial stereotypes from books, magazines and newspapers.  Being of vintage age, I recognised a lot of the images and text from school and growing up in Adelaide.  It’s good for people of Anglo descent to see these vintage items from an Aboriginal point of view, as imagery that we often view as harmless has a sinister undertone.

'I am, You are, We are' Tony Albert

I particularly liked the cards questioning I Am You Are We Are (Australian) as this gets to the dark heart of Australian identity.  Why aren’t all Australians proud of our Aboriginal history?  We are fortunate to be attached to the same land and by adoption, Aboriginal heritage.  It’s impossible to celebrate Australia Day until we accept the fact that we colonised a country that was inhabited, and deal with the last 226 years by listening and learning.

See more of Tony Albert’s work here.

Ian Burns

'Clouds' Ian Burns

‘Clouds’ is a super-sized sculpture of everyday objects found in hardware and department stores.  Ian Burns has built them into projector of light, images and sound with the addition of two keyboards.  The screen repeats the words ‘imagine one moment’ as a plane flies through clouds to piano notes played through the two keyboards.  It is hauntingly beautiful and interesting to view from all angles.  I wish this artwork was a permanent fixture.  More on the artist and artwork here.

Brook Andrew

A fellow blogger, Brook Andrew is one of my favourite contemporary artists so I’ll divert temporarily to show a couple of examples of past work:

'Sexy and Dangerous', 1996, Brook Andrew

Sexy and Dangerous, 1996.  One of Andrew’s well-known artworks that challenges the idea of Aboriginal and other indigenous peoples as an exotic curiosity.

'War Memorial Jumping Castle' 2010, Brook Andrew

Jumping Castle War Memorial, 2010, created for the 17th Biennial of Sydney, is for victims of war who do not have their own memorial.  By interacting with the memorial by bouncing on it. you are also agitating the severed heads, and contributing to the injustice.  For more information see here.

'Australia II' (?) 2013, Brook Andrew

For Dark Heart, Australia II (hope this is the correct title).  Here is the blurb from the Dark Heart website:

‘Andrew reworks images originally by a young German artist Gustav Mützel, who never visited Australia but was commissioned by Prussian naturalist and inveterate traveler William Blandowski. The once-small bookplate images are up-scaled using new screenprinting technology, and printed onto reflective metallic surfaces that speak of the lure and magic associated with Aboriginal culture in the eyes of nineteenth-century Europeans.’

Dani Marti

I can’t go past fantastic textiles, and the Armour installation is outstanding in scale and design.  The undulating over-sized knotted sculptures from what looks like shoe laces and cords of varying thicknesses weigh a tonne (sorry Lauren, forgot the exact weight you mentioned!).  The sculptures reminded me of the exoskeleton spacecraft from Alien and Prometheus.  An added bonus is the inclusion of the Gallery’s Goya etchings .

'Armour',2014, installation in progress, Dani Marti

'Armour', 2014 Dark Heart, Dani Marti

'Armour' detail, 2012-13. Dani Marti

Here’s the blurb from the Dark Heart website:

‘Dani Marti’s Armour is a series of suspended sculptures woven in synthetic rope, leather and industrial rubber. The artist’s viewing of Samurai armour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York provoked the creation of this series. Marti, who trained in Catalan tapestry techniques, has employed the same knot used in the body-wrapping forms of a Samurai’s garments to create his own shadow warriors.

A selection of etchings from Goya’s Los Caprichos, drawn from the Gallery’s collection, have been included in Marti’s Adelaide Biennial installation, staging a conversation between two artists of Spanish descent across more than 200 years of human history.’

For more on Dani Marti, click here.