Side by side

25 October 2017

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What happens when you exhibit amateur and professional art works side by side… and anonymously?

You’ll be able to find out at “The State Collection”, a show with that very premise, to be presented next month as part of the 2017 Fremantle Festival. Running at PS Arts Space for the second year, “The State Collection” displays the anonymous works of amateur artists alongside professional artists, and here’s the clincher… all works are for sale for just $20, with proceeds going to Community Arts Network. They’ll be up for grabs at the “Art Market”, to be held at the exhibition’s closing party. As the exhibition’s director Julian Tompkin put it, “You might walk away with a David Spencer or a Ross Potter, or you might walk away with something by the old lady that lives around the corner, and you wouldn’t even know. It puts them all on equal footing.”

Seesaw’s Phoebe Mulcahy caught up with director of “The State Collection” Julian Tompkin to find out more about this fascinating project.

Phoebe Mulcahy: Could you describe the project and how it came about?
Julian Tompkin: I guess the inspiration came from living in Berlin, where there are a lot of public art events. I moved back to WA and saw a great opportunity to try to create something that would be of interest to the broader public and break down all the barriers of a cultural event. So, for example, we asked people to submit everything on A4 paper. There’s no entry fee, there are anonymous boxes around town where you can sneak in and drop it in a box. We then complement that by getting established artists to partake. For the artists it’s a chance to experiment and try something different and for the general public it’s an opportunity to be exhibited next to real professional artists, and all the works have the exact same value.

PM: The brief for submissions is to “explore West Australia’s distinct sense of place” – I’m wondering what that means to you and how people have interpreted it so far?

JT: It’s about having a conversation about what it is to be West Australian and people can interpret that in whichever way they like—some works are figurative, and some are abstract works that are hard to read. It’s really tapping into that idea of “who are we?” West Australia can be a feeling, it can be a physical thing, it can be a sense of place, it can be an emotional allegiance—it can be whatever you want it to be.

PM: What would your A4 work be like if you were to sit down and work at that right now?
JT: I’m really moved by the remoteness, so mine would probably be trying to reflect something of looking out to this boundless sea—there’s nothing between you and Madagascar. It’s the wilds! And then you look down and there’s nothing from here to Antartica. I find that exceptionally powerful. Mine would try to reflect that very powerful sense of remoteness and that very singular idea of being connected but also being at the edge.

PM: Besides a twenty dollar work of their own, what are you hoping audiences will come away with?
JT: I hope they come away with a sense of feeling like the community’s utterly inspired. I think a lot of people understate the cultural power in Australia and the imagination of the people. For me it’s a simple way of proving that we’re a deeper and more thorough and more considered society than we sometimes even assume we are. It’s just a wonderful way to have a conversation about the power of culture and the power of reflection in our lives.

Submissions are open until Sunday 29 October, with deposit boxes in Fremantle and Perth.

The exhibition will run at PS Art Space, 31 October – 2 November, Closing Party and Art Market 7pm, 2 November.

Photo: Elle Borgward

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