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Reviews/Visual Art

Food for thought in the everyday

16 April 2021

Two local artists give viewers plenty to chew on in their explorations of ordinary objects and materials, discovers Jaimi Wright.

‘Lotus’, Robyn Bernadt and ‘An Ode To Transperth’, Pip Lewi ·
Spectrum Project Space, Edith Cowan University ·

The mundane is given a thoughtful twist in the pair of exhibitions by two Boorloo (Perth) based artists, currently on display at Spectrum Project Space at Edith Cowan University (ECU). The poignant “Lotus”, by Robyn Bernadt, and the playful “An Ode To Transperth”, by Pip Lewi, make for an engaging pair of exhibitions, both of which propose intriguing commentaries on human behaviour.

An ECU visual arts graduate, Robyn Bernadt utilises a variety of unexpected everyday materials. In “Lotus”, which is her sixth solo exhibition, she continues to use found materials, to challenge their perceived value and comment on the impact of consumerism.

A sea of brightly coloured origami lotus flowers.
Waves of geometrically arranged colour form Robyn Bernadt’s ‘Lotus’. Photo: Danielle Fusco

Inspired by the Buddhist proverb “the lotus flower blooms most beautifully from the deepest mud”, the installation Lotus (2021) is the first exhibit encountered when entering the gallery. On the floor are rows of meticulously placed origami lotus flowers; closer inspection reveals that these are crafted out of junk mail catalogues. These origami catalogues have been arranged according to specific colour palettes and so create waves of geometrically arranged colour.

On the wall behind this installation are large photographs of individual origami lotus flowers, Lotus I, Lotus II, and Lotus III (2021). The images’ proximity to the origami flowers on the floor encourages the viewer to reconsider the details of the lotus flowers themselves. The relationships between the spectacle of the installation and its details are the real strength of this piece; the photographs hint at the unusual use of materials, but it’s not until looking closely at the lotus flowers that they eye comprehends that they are catalogues. In utilising junk mail as a material, Bernadt effectively encourages the audience to reassess the value of what they throw away.

Pip Lewi also uses an unorthodox combination of mediums to capture the spirit of everyday objects in “An Ode To Transperth”, a light-hearted analysis of the visual and social culture of the titular transport service.

Lewi’s commentary has a fascinating reverence for the characters and rituals aboard Transperth, while also revelling in its gaudy visuals and the fun, disruptive moments on public transport. Not only have they featured depictions of passenger life aboard Transperth services in a variety of mediums, bus seats from Transperth vehicles have been installed on wooden plinths at the centre of the room. The proximity of the garishly patterned seats to the rest of the pieces immediately conjures up personalised experiences of life aboard Transperth for the viewer, and adds an emotional resonance to the surrounding artwork.

A series of framed paintings of scenes from Transperth public transport, depicted in watercolour.
Pip Lewi’s slice of life series, ‘(Another) Three Weeks of Transperth 13’ (2018), ink on card. Photo: Danielle Fusco.

In the series of paintings (Another) Three Weeks of Transperth 1 – 21 (2018) Lewi adopts the role of voyeur by documenting slice-of-life passengers and experiences, many in Transperth’s trademark palette. (Another) Three Weeks of Transperth 13 (2018) is one example, giving an abandoned Mother Energy Drink satirical life by depicting it in the manner of a portrait, as if it were a passenger.

Lewi has also documented the social culture of Transperth through a series of posterised notes taken on her iPhone in situ, noted from android 1-21 and noted from iPhone 1-7 (2021). No occurrence is too small for them notice, whether it’s treading on a Ritz cracker in the bus aisle, or confusing a fellow passenger by pressing the “stop” button just before they do.

Lewi’s collection of visual and lingual observations in “An Ode To Transperth” succeeds as relatable tongue-in-cheek fun that pays semi-serious homage to personal experiences aboard Perth’s public transport.

Together, “Lotus” and “An Ode To Transperth” are intriguing social observation and perception brought to aesthetic life, and have more than enough food for thought for each viewer. Catch this one while you can.

“Lotus” and “An Ode to Transperth” continue at Spectrum Project Space until 22 April 2021.

Pictured top is a detail from Pip Lewi’s ‘An Ode to Transperth’. Photo: Danielle Fusco.

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Author —
Jaimi Wright

Jaimi Wright is your friendly neighbourhood art historian. She has just completed a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) at UWA and dabbles in curating, local arts writing, and 19th century French history. Her favourite piece of play equipment is the roundabout even though her stomach should know better.

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