Reviews/Fringe World Festival/Visual Art

Gems in our own backyard

4 February 2022

This annual exhibition by ECU Galleries offers an unpretentious, environmentally savvy message, writes Jaimi Wright.

‘HERENOW22: Outside In’, various artists, curated by Isaac Huggins ·
Spectrum Project Space, ECU Mt Lawley campus ·

This year’s iteration of Spectrum Project Space’s annual exhibition “HERENOW22: Outside In” is your friendly neighbourhood slice of Australiana with a twist. 

Each year “HERENOW” delves into exciting and innovative local talent as selected by an emerging curator appointed by exhibition coordinator, Edith Cowan University Honorary Professor Ted Snell. 

“HERENOW22: Outside In, curated by Isaac Huggins, champions an environmentally savvy message by using artists’ investigations of recycled, repurposed and discarded materials to investigate our global footprint, with an Australian satirical edge.

Artist Jack Richards a.k.a. HERKS is manning the door during my visit, and his artworks seem as good an entry point as any to explore the spirit of this exhibition.

Mural by Jack Richards (left) and artworks by Conor Macgrath. Photo: Danielle Fusco

An electrician by trade, Richards’ series of works echoes the style of a Dad Cave but has a gorgeous aesthetic and thematic richness. If The Swell’s Up It’s Tools Down (2022), an upcycled saw with the titular phrase painted in bold typography across its blade, is just one of his works that juxtaposes familiar phrases and found objects to create wry vignettes. 

There must be something about an electrician that makes a good artist because fellow artist Conor Macgrath is a sparky as well. His work Word of mouth (2022), composed of acrylic paint, aerosol paint and HDPE beer packaging, is an embodiment of Macgrath’s social relationships and how they have evolved during the pandemic. Bright blue and yellow circles and dark swirls are connected by a series of neatly placed beer packaging, reflecting the transition from order to chaos, from bevvies at the beach with friends, to no plans at all.

Around the corner is a stark monochrome collection of artworks by Andy Quilty, Shanti Gelmi and Luke O’Donohoe. Quilty’s graphite monotypes, for example La Seyne (Warnbro), vehicle theft, arson and automatic drawing #1 (2022), are eerie records of burnt out and stolen vehicles from a carpark in Rockingham, near a residential development due to be demolished. 

‘Dad cave’-style works by Jack Richards (HERKS) in ‘HERENOW22’. Photo: Danielle Fusco

O’Donohoe’s Cold Beer and Hot Meals (2022), a graphic slogan on recycled cotton flags, effectively reappropriates Australian sentiments into a gallery setting.

And the mural by Gelmi and Macgrath, Rethink (2022), is a geometric representation of our interconnectedness with the world around us. The word RETHINK, visually part word and part abstract landscape in black and white, is an affecting call to action, concerning our environmental impact on the world around us. Together these works encourage the audience to re-examine shared experiences, both as Australians and as residents of Perth.

A down to earth message with a cheeky wink, HERENOW22 is the familiar elevated without pretension. This is a gem grown in your own backyard and is a compelling reason to think global and buy local.

“HERENOW22: Outside In” continues until 3 March 2022

Pictured top: ‘Rethink’ mural by Conor Macgrath and Shanti Gelmi, and works by Luke O’Donohoe (foreground) and Andy Quilty (right). Photo: Danielle Fusco 

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Author —
Jaimi Wright

Jaimi is a Development Coordinator for ARTRAGE and your friendly neighbourhood arts writer. She also writes for Art Almanac and ArtsHub as she cannot keep still. Her favourite piece of play equipment is the roundabout even though her stomach should know better.

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