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Reviews/Visual Art

Women artists form a powerful chorus

5 July 2022

Vibrating with tension and energy, ‘Sustaining the Art of Practice’ is an exhibition that amplifies the voices of women, reports Jaimi Wright.

There is a notable hum in Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery when one walks into “Sustaining the Art of Practice”, an exhibition curated by Lee Kinsella.

It’s not audible, but palpable.

This exhibition sings at two distinct frequencies. The first is the voice of the individual artists, speaking to the depth of their lived experience, whether familial, political, spiritual, or historical.

Exhibited together, these lived experiences become far more powerful; a chorus of voices, interconnected in protest and jubilation. It’s in this habitat and haven for the public expression of these women we feel the second frequency, vibrating with tension and energy.

With works predominantly drawn from the Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art (housed at Lawrence Wilson), Kinsella’s curation of “Sustaining the Art of Practice” is a masterful analysis of the networks that exist between 15 Australian artists, their artwork, and the ideas that reverberate between different artistic practices.

For instance, the work of Melbourne artist Maria Kozic sits between, and converses with, the work of local artists Jody Quackenbush and Angela Stewart, and in doing so, explores a broad scope of identities. Kozic’s collection of t-shirts, for example Screen scream c. 1984 (pictured top), is not only a record of the relationship between the artist and her friend Sally Jackson, but also draws attention to ideas of personhood and performativity. Screen scream, a screen print in white, black and fluoro pink, is an image of Jackson replicating a scream by the actress Elizabeth Taylor in the 1959 film Suddenly, Last Summer. Though dramatised and playing pretend, Kozic’s T-shirts are also, importantly, drawn from very real relationships.

Jody Quackenbush, Northbridge butcher’s shop, 2012, Giclée print on archival paper, ed 1/10, 42 x 59.4 cm, Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art, The University of Western Australia. Copyright and courtesy of the artist.

In turn, Quackenbush’s pieces deal heavily in performativity and identity. Her giclee print on archival paper Northbridge Butcher’s Shop (2012) together with Octopus/deep sea creature mask (2013), a mask created with fabric, embroidered flowers, fake pearls and found plastic, show Quackenbush in the guise of a surreal, fleshy masked figure in the mundane setting of a butcher’s shop, the mask both contrasting and echoing the cuts of meat in the shop’s cabinets. In creating and using the mask to this end, Quackenbush explores the use of costuming to conjure different personas, playing with the idea of identity and personhood.

Three portraits on the wall at Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, of a woman's face, distorted in different ways.
Angela Stewart, ‘Alison, 1642, 2022’, 2022, Ilford high gloss and oil paint, oval mounted on Aluminium, triptych, 90 x 64.5cm each. Courtesy of the artist

Angela Stewart’s portrait series Alison, 1642, 2022 (2022), oval mounted prints with details on oil paint, records a relationship of complex identity and intimacy between the sitter and the artist. The three portraits are murky, blurred and overlayed impressions of the face of Alison, indicative of a personhood which is alive and shifting. Despite depicting the subject this way, the candid proximity between Alison and Stewart conveys a deep and longstanding relationship between the two women.

“Sustaining the Art of Practice” hosts a rich arrangement of voices, drawn from a significant and fascinating collection of artworks. Though it is almost impossible to quantify all the relationships and networks between these artists, their energy together is no less tangible and remarkable.

“Sustaining the Art of Practice” continues at Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery until 20 August 2022.

Pictured top: Maria Kozic, ‘Screen scream’, c. 1984, 2 colour screenprint, 68 x 68cm, Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art, The University of Western Australia, Gift of Sally Jackson. Copyright and courtesy of the artist

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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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