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WA Art Review

WA Art Review

An installation view of Jordy Hewitt’s 2015 exhibition at Gallerysmith in Melbourne.

Artisits to Watch

JORDY HEWITT

Photography Liz Looker

Although she began her creative life as a musician in Melbourne, when Jordy Hewitt relocated to Perth she was forced to search out another creative outlet. She found it in painting. ‘Making the intangible tangible’ was something she had discovered in music, and through painting her work has evolved into an exploration of how form, colour, shape and line can echo a human presence. It is a process of translation that requires honesty, vulnerability and authenticity, just like music. Indeed, her increasingly abstract images evoke Walter Pater’s famous dictum that all art aspires to the condition of music, in that it fuses form with subject.

Perhaps it’s a long bow to draw, but the book on Gauguin she won for her drawings in Year 3 may have been a catalyst. The interlocking forms of intense colour in Gauguin’s painting – that electric point of contact between one shape and its neighbour – is crucial to her current work and alludes to the harnessing of the formal qualities of the medium for intellectual or expressive intent.

Her recent series of works, titled Act One Scene One and shown at Gallerysmith in Melbourne earlier this year, was painted in response to her grandmother’s last words. The amorphous clouds of colour that fill the canvas “speak about endings, beginnings, facades, costumes, acting, changes, choices, awareness, performing and directing, controlling, writing your own script,” she explains. Echoing Shakespeare’s reference to the stage on which we all have our exits and entrances, Hewitt creates a theatre of allusion in which we can immerse ourselves, to “question the psychological origins of things, how people confront things emotionally (or not), the choices they make, what happens to them, what they struggle with”. The ominous dark presence that invades these paintings reinforces that sense of melancholy and reflection, of being aware of what might be, while remaining hopeful and positive about possible futures.

Act One Scene One VI (2014), Oil on arches, 109x73.5 cm.

The colour that saturates her current works is in part, she suggests, a response to the physical environment of Western Australia, and in part a consequence of her own sensitivity. “I’m drawn to potency and intensity, which for me often goes with colour sensitivity and saturation; however, I caught myself marvelling over all the different greens in the beach scrub and how good they looked against the maroon bike path the other day. I do think about nature and can’t help but be inspired by it.” It is this interconnectivity between her internal and external world that provides such a unique charge to these works. They have a weight and resonance, more cello than piccolo, that low rumble of mortality a counterpoint to the pulse of intense colour.

Over the past four years, Hewitt has achieved a great deal with solo shows in Perth and Melbourne, and inclusion in group shows and prizes. Her next exhibition opens at Moana Project Space in Perth on July 31 and, with plans for a show in Sydney later in the year, she is certainly a young artist to watch.

HATCHED NATIONAL GRADUATE SHOW 2015

Every year, thousands of young artists graduate from art schools around the nation. For every one of them, the first goal in their journey toward a professional career is selection for the annual Hatched exhibition at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art. The exhibition is a fascinating showcase of talent, and many of the country’s most successful young artists, such as Shaun Gladwell, David Noonan, Julie Dowling and Raquel Ormella, had their first professional outing within the PICA galleries.

Athanasia (detail) by Broc Webster, 2014. Oil on canvas, large-format film photography, digital painting, ink, acrylic, wood, audio, found materials, 210x350x210 cm, 3 mins 29 secs (photography Broc Webster). 

This year, 35 young artists were chosen from the 90 students nominated by 22 art schools. The selection panel included Barry Keldoulis, director of Sydney Contemporary art fair; independent curator Matthew Ngui; PICA’s Education Program curator Laura Evans; and PICA curator Nadia Johnson. All exhibiting artists were in the running for the prestigious Dr Harold Schenberg Art Prize. For 2015, the generous $35,000 cash prize was awarded to Andrew Styan from the University of Newcastle, to invest further in the development of his career.

Hatched is not only an exciting overview of what has been achieved over the past year in the nation’s art-school incubators, but it is also a window into an exciting future.

PICA, until June 21.

The Bell Buoy by Andrew Styan, 2014. Kinetic multimedia installation.

WESTERN AUSTRALIAN INDIGENOUS ART AWARDS 2015

Alongside the Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award, which has been running for 32 years, the Western Australian Indigenous Art Awards is a relative upstart, but it has rapidly become one of the most prestigious prizes focusing on the work of Aboriginal Australia. Founded in 2008, the Indigenous Art Awards at the Art Gallery of Western Australia is not only one of the richest Indigenous arts prizes in the country, it has also marked out its territory by providing selected artists with an opportunity to show a small body of works in a mini-survey of their practices. Rather than having to select a winner on the basis of only one or two works, the judges have the opportunity to assess the depth and breadth of an artist’s oeuvre.

Blaktism (detail) by Megan Cope, 2014. Single-channel HD video, edition of five. 8:04 minutes. © The artist, courtesy THIS IS NO FANTASY.

The exhibition celebrates the scope, diversity and excellence of art from all corners of Australia. It is an important acknowledgment of the significance and ongoing contribution that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists make to Australian art, culture and society.

This year, 14 finalists have been selected for the Western Australian Indigenous Art Award with a prize of $50,000, the Western Australian Artist Award of $10,000, and the People’s Choice Award of $5000.

Art Gallery of Western Australia, July 4-October 12.

Homemaker #6: Surfs Up, by one of this year’s finalists, Sandra Hill. Oil on linen, 76x91cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Mossenson Galleries.

OPINION

ART IN PUBLIC

Perth has been transformed. During April, some of the dreariest walls in town were enlivened with massive murals designed to redirect attention to the architecture of the city and suburbs, and encourage local citizens to reimagine their urban environment. It has worked! Over the past few months, these incursions into the social space have been embraced by a broad section of the community. It’s not just the young kids for whom street art is de rigueur, but people across a whole spectrum of interests, covering a wide demographic, who have been delighted, shocked, confronted and entertained by art on a massive scale.

Who is responsible? Well, we have Lynda Dorrington from FORM to thank for the works, ideas and conversations generated by PUBLIC 2015. Along with the program of murals and street art, FORM organised
a symposium where international, national and local thinkers examined the role of creativity in building dynamic social places. Leaders in the fields of art, architecture, urban planning, technology and philanthropy were invited to share a range of perspectives on the needs of places and communities as they transform and renew themselves. This has been Dorrington’s mission for the past decade. She has invited international gurus, encouraged debate amongst local leaders, and stirred the mix with a seasoning of creative artists to energise the City of Perth. So far, PUBLIC 2015 has left the greatest physical legacy. Only time will tell whether it has left its mark on the consciousness of urban planners, architects, politicians and developers.

Amok Island’s image of a praying mantis on the side of the former Myer Building in Fremantle. 

But that legacy of its street art is with us every day. My daily commute has been revitalised by three extraordinary interventions into the urban fabric. Each morning as I cross Fremantle Bridge, I see the Octopus unfurling its expansive tentacles when I pass the Fremantle Naval Stores, and it welcomes me home in the evening.  Painted by UK artist Phlegm, the creature has populated the building, weaving in and out of windows and doorways, sending its arms out to ensnare and delight us. In a similar way, it has possessed the local populace, which has almost universally — from my straw poll analysis — taken it to heart as a new local icon that heralds the city’s marine associations.

Not far away, a giant praying mantis stands protectively at the old Myer building, stretching up the full three storeys and visible from several blocks away. Its menacing presence is ameliorated by the graphic presentation and the abstraction of form, but is arresting and demanding our attention just the same. It is also a wonderful counterpoint to ROA’s wonderful and realistic 25m numbat, painted during a previous FORM event in 2011.

The side of a Claremont apartment building, as created by Moneyless.

My favourite of all the works completed as part of this and earlier FORM projects is the remarkable and literally breathtaking series of concentric circles that intertwine up the side of an apartment building on Stirling Highway. Italian artist Moneyless has created a work that is not only beautiful and wonderfully complementary to the building and its surrounds, but also ingenious and constantly intriguing as you try to determine how he created this work so high up, perched on a cherry-picker crane.

The byline for PUBLIC 2015 was ‘a celebration of art and ideas’: it
certainly met its brief. It is to be hoped the ideas it broadcast will change attitudes and flourish in our city.

The Octopus on the side of the Naval Stores, by Phlegm. All photography by Jean-Paul Horre.

ART INSIDER

Helen Turner

When Helen Turner opened her first gallery in Claremont in 1999, it was a very different environment for the arts in Western Australia. The Church Gallery was a new addition to an already vibrant commercial gallery sector that supported the work of local artists, and nurtured a committed group of collectors. But times have changed, and the Turner Galleries (renamed after its relocation to Northbridge in 2007), is one of the last still operating, with a stable of artists, regular exhibition programs, and a dedicated collector base. New galleries have opened, such as Moana, Paper Mountain and Free Range, but the terrain has altered with the closure of Galerie Düsseldorf, Gallery East, Perth Galleries, Goddard de Fiddes, and Greenhill Galleries.

But if things have changed, Helen Turner is the first to admit that maybe it was about time. The model of the commercial gallery was established in the 1860s, after the French dealer Paul Durand-Ruel opened his first Gallery in Paris on the fashionable Rue de la Paix in 1857. The young Impressionist painters he represented were not able to reach a market through the official Salon and, as a result, Durand-Ruel developed a different marketing strategy by arranging small exhibitions of individual artists’ work in his gallery, selling direct to the rising middle-class, and acting as a go-between to his artists. It was extremely successful, and that model has shaped the commercial art market ever since.

With the short attention span and demand for instant gratification that the internet has engendered, Helen believes it may be time to reinvent the marketing of contemporary art. The ‘commercial gallery’ sector has been a misnomer for some time, she asserts. It’s hardly a sound financial platform, selling art through a large gallery, and Turner Galleries – set in a refurbished 1920s factory workshop – is one of the largest in Perth. So what are the alternatives?

Helen, in front of Good Muslim Boy by Abdul Abdullah, 2013. C-type print, 155x330cm.

Already ahead of the field, Turner Galleries established its Art Angels
program in 2001. This group of collectors and supporters has grown to almost 100 members who, over the past 15 years, have contributed more than $500,000 towards the gallery’s artist-in-residence and Art Acquisition programs. In return for limited-edition artworks and access to the artists and their work, the Art Angels have a closer relationship and a more in-depth knowledge of the practice of key figures in the Australian art scene. In 2015, Art Angels is supporting artists-in-residence Christian Thompson, Kate Shaw and Philip Hunter.

The more intimate involvement of Art Angels heralds a different model – the ‘Agent’ rather than the ‘Gallerist’ – and this is likely the way forward for Helen Turner, who is currently reassessing her options. With the rise of art fairs and art tourism, the internet, and the democratisation of culture evidenced in the popularity of Sculptures by the Sea, the Giants, Vivid Sydney and White Night Melbourne, Helen is determined to rethink the paradigm. It doesn’t mean she won’t have a space, it will just be different, and much of the excitement is in the planning and re-imagining. Whatever she does, it will radically shift the current rat race where artists are on a two- to three-year cycle for exhibitions that may or may not find a market. Her goal is to find new ways of supporting artists, assisting them to connect with their audience and collectors, and to re-energise the WA arts scene in the process. Watch this space!

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