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Connecting generations

Review: Martumili Artists & Spinifex Hill Artists, “Pujiman” ·
The Goods Shed ·
Review by Jenny Scott ·

“Pujiman” is a travelling exhibition presented by Form, featuring works created during a two-year collaboration between Martumili Artists and Spinifex Hill Artists, two Aboriginal art centres from the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The title “Pujiman”, a word which means “desert born and dwelling”, refers to the last living generation of Aboriginal artists to lead traditional lifestyles. This collaborative project links pujiman painters, including Nora Wompi and Jakayu Biljabu, to a younger generation of emerging Aboriginal artists, who have been encouraged to develop their creative practices.

Presenting the results of such a valuable community project, “Pujiman” emphasises the importance of sharing knowledge and culture within Aboriginal communities, honouring senior artists, and celebrating intergenerational learning. In the words of senior Martumili artist Nola Ngalangka Taylor, “There’s so much lost, but we need to keep sharing to keep it alive.”

MMulyatingki Marney and May Wokka Chapman, 2017, 'Wilarra', 125 x 300cm, Acrylic on Linen.
Mulyatingki Marney and May Wokka Chapman, 2017, ‘Wilarra’, 125 x 300cm, Acrylic on Linen.

A week-long artist camp was arranged as part of the project, which saw 26 artists travel to Punmu community to work with creative facilitators including, Steven Aiton and Andy Quilty. The exhibition includes some video footage from this camp, which gives insight into the communal creation of the large-scale paintings, and the charming stop-motion sand animations that are also screened. In this documentary footage, viewers can watch the development of many of the exhibited paintings including Wilarra, a three metre long work by Mulyatingki Marney and May Maywokka Chapman.

Featuring gestural dotwork around fields of wide, emotive brushstrokes, this stunning painting depicts the site of Wilarra near Punmu, which is adjacent to the salt lake Nyayartakujarra (Lake Dora). In the wall text accompanying Wilarra, Mulyatingki explains the Jukurrpa (Dreaming) story of the site and the salt lake, emphasising the deep connection between culture and land.

Many of the paintings in the exhibition have been created to encompass the traditional significance, uses and narratives of different landscapes within the Pilbara region. Karlamilyi, Big Country, Big Area, a tall painting by Wokka Taylor and Nancy Karnu Taylor, functions as a husband and wife’s collaborative depiction of Nancy’s ngurra (home country).

Other artworks illustrate recent events and stories, such as Doreen Chapman’s energising Camel Chase, and the Captain Hedland comic book page by teenage artist Layne Dhu Dickie who featured in the “Revealed” exhibition at the Fremantle Arts Centre last year. Equally captivating are the smaller figurative works, which include Wendy Nanji’s stylised pencil portraits of senior artists, and Owen Biljabu’s acrylic paintings of community leaders.

“Pujiman” brings together an engaging and diverse collection of contemporary Aboriginal art, celebrating the art centres of the Pilbara region as hubs of continued cultural collaboration and creative excellence.

“Pujiman” shows at The Goods Shed until September 27.

Pictured top: Husband and wife Wokka Taylor and Nancy Karnu Taylor in front of their collaborative ‘Karlamilyi’ painting. Photograph by Sarah Stampfli, Serene Bedlam photography.

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Image: Tim Maley, Untitled, 2017, pencil on paper
Calendar, Drawing, June 18, May 18, Painting, Visual arts

Visual arts: Exhibition: Specimens by Tim Maley

25 May – 29 June 2018, Wed-Fri 10am – 5pm @ Midland Junction Arts Centre ·
Presented by Mundaring Arts Centre ·

Specimens is an expansive series of intricate works on paper in which artist Tim Maley explores the complexity in the architecture of insects. Working in watercolour and pencil, Maley captures the fragility of his subjects, imbuing them with a sense of wonder and reverence.

Supported by DADAA Inc.

More info: www.mundaringartscentre.com.au/current-exhibitions/specimens
Email: info@mundaringartscentre.com.au

Image: Tim Maley, Untitled, 2017, pencil on paper

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Stephanie Reisch, ‘River Jewels’, 2018, oil, haematite, tiger eye, bone ash and Lumcolor pencil on Arches paper, 98 x 155cm
Calendar, Drawing, July 18, June 18, Painting, Visual arts

Visual arts: Artist in Residence: Stephanie Reisch

1 June – 15 July: Exhibition Opening Friday 1 June, 7pm, Viewing Times 2 June – 15 July 2018, Tue-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat-Sun 11am-3pm @ Mundaring Arts Centre ·
Presented by Mundaring Arts Centre ·

Working in residence at Mundaring Arts Centre, Stephanie Reisch explores mystical and shamanistic principles as they apply to drawing, painting, sound and digital media. Grounded in manipulation of biological specimens and natural forms. Reisch employs concepts of alchemy and ritual, to create layered and rich images which hover between abstraction and entropy.

More info: www.mundaringartscentre.com.au/exhibitions/silent-synchronicity
Email: info@mundaringartscentre.com.au

Image: Stephanie Reisch, ‘River Jewels’, 2018, oil, haematite, tiger eye, bone ash and Lumcolor pencil on Arches paper, 98 x 155cm

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Holly Story, Spellbound (detail), 2018, variable, Banksia grandis flowers, plant dyed silk organza, silk thread, plywood, xanthorroea, resin and acrylic paint. Photography by Jessica Wyld_preview
Drawing, Mixed media, News, Reviews, Sculpture, Visual arts

Seductive and sensual

Review: “Sensual Nature”, various artists ·
Fremantle Arts Centre ·
Review by Jenny Scott ·

Featuring works by twelve Australian artists, “Sensual Nature” explores our sensorial engagement with nature, considering the ways we perceive, interpret and project onto our natural environment.

Developed from an idea by Lia McKnight and curated by Dr Ric Spencer, the exhibition examines our participation in nature through the lens of personal bodily experiences, whether it be the common impulse to collect stones or fallen flowers, or our role as hosts to internal parasites.

The skilled craftsmanship of all participating artists encourages our sustained contemplation, with the majority of the works featuring a fine, sometimes hypnotic level of detail, from the delicate stippling technique used in the drawings of Tane Andrews, to the carefully stitched face of Nalda Searles’ life-size Hay Skull.

With an emphasis on materiality, the small-scale sculptural works each have a directly relatable physical presence – it’s easy to imagine running your fingers over their surfaces, or fitting the objects neatly into your hands (but remember, don’t actually touch the art).

The sensuality of “Sensual Nature” sometimes involves eroticism, although without an “ecosexual” explicitness – there is the playful innuendo of Julia Robinson’s strange gourds, and the camp beauty of Andrew Nicholls’ reclining male nudes.

Other works simultaneously inspire a sense of mild repulsion, such as Juz Kitson’s Life and everything in-between (2017), a seductively lush yet disturbing pastel assemblage of scrotum-esque blown glass, fox pelt, porcelain scales, boar tusks and more. For an exhibition encouraging “sensory immersion”, the addition of an audiovisual work or similarly lavish large-scale installation would also have been welcome.

Sarah Elson, "weapons for a new ecology".
In Sarah Elson’s exhibited works a series of wilting flower buds are transformed into durable, sharp weapons designed for a “new ecology”.

There is a subtle corporeal intimacy to Spellbound (2018), Holly Story’s suspended line of banksia flowers. Wrapped in silk organza, the flower heads have been tightly sewn into bulging packages, with their stems pressed down like coarse hair under stockings.

In another mixed media work, Sixteen chambers with velvet upholstery (2014), Nalda Searles has used finely stitched velvet to clothe semi-hollowed roots found in the process of bardi (grub) collecting by Aboriginal women. Such a decadent fabric highlights the sinuous forms of the roots, endowing the natural debris of food gathering with a higher significance. Once temporarily valued for their now-eaten contents, these remodelled roots become established as “artefacts”, and encourage new associations with ritual and the uncanny.

The works of Sarah Elson similarly elevate and transform organic matter as she collects soft, fragile plant materials before casting them in molten metal. In Elson’s exhibited works the pollinating lips of orchids are collated and reborn in a spine-like chain, while a series of wilting flower buds are transformed into durable, sharp weapons designed for a “new ecology”.

Delving into ideas of environmentalism, decolonisation, and anthropocentrism, “Sensual Nature” presents our natural environment as evocative and fertile grounds for artistic contemplation, and encourages us to examine our subconscious associations with, and sensuous experience of, the living world.

“Sensual Nature” runs until May 20.

Read Seesaw’s interview with “Sensual Nature” artist Lia McKnight.

Pictured top: Holly Story, “Spellbound” (detail), 2018, variable, Banksia grandis flowers, plant dyed silk organza, silk thread, plywood, xanthorroea, resin and acrylic paint. Photo: Jessica Wyld.

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Lia McKnight
Drawing, Features, News, Sculpture, Visual arts

Close to home

Finding sensuality in organic objects is one of the central ideas behind “Sensual Nature”, an exhibition that opens at Fremantle Arts Centre, March 29. It’s a concept that comes from one of the 12 artists whose work is featured in the exhibition, WA’s Lia McKnight. A curator as well as an artist, McKnight tells Seesaw’s Nina Levy more about her career in the arts and the ideas that drive her work.

Lia McKnight, Follic #2, 2018, ink, graphite and pencil on paper, 28.5 x 19 cm
‘I spoke about the sensual experience of objects and ways in which imagery of natural or organic forms can connect to the subconscious, the erotic and the uncanny.’ Lia McKnight, ‘Follic #2’, 2018, ink, graphite and pencil on paper, 28.5 x 19 cm.

Nina Levy: Is it challenging being a curator but also finding time to make your own work?
Lia McKnight: Yes, it’s very difficult to find the creative energy and the time to do both. For that reason, I made a choice many years ago not to take on projects as an independent curator – it was just too hard to have a family, a job, curate shows AND be an artist. I have been fortunate to be able to curate (or co-curate) three exhibitions over the past few years as part of my role as collection manager at the John Curtin Gallery. I do find that I tend to work less on my own creative projects during these times.

NL: When did you know that you wanted to be an artist? And how did you find your way to making a sustainable career in the arts?
LM: We always had art materials in my home when I was growing up – my mum was an art teacher and very creative herself. After I left school I went straight into a teaching degree as it didn’t seem at all possible to be an artist. I ended up changing courses a few times and doing other things until I finally went back to do a visual arts degree when I was 22. I knew then that I was in the right place and it was wonderful. Being an artist in the “real world” is much harder than art school though and it was a long time until I was in a position to really prioritise that. At the end of the day, it’s a lot of hard work and persistence.

'My drawings and sculptures find inspiration in collected objects from the natural environment, while also revealing the darker, uncanny world of the psyche.' Lia McKnight, Aurum, 2018, ink, graphite and pencil on paper, 57 x 76 cm.
‘My drawings and sculptures find inspiration in collected objects from the natural environment, while also revealing the darker, uncanny world of the psyche.’ Lia McKnight, Aurum, 2018, ink, graphite and pencil on paper, 57 x 76 cm.

NL: Your bio states, “Privileging lived experience and emotional geographies as areas of intrigue, [Lia McKnight’s] work seeks to speculate on the shifting parameters of identity and context.” Tell me more!
LM: This is a rather convoluted way of saying that I am interested in the everyday – what we feel and experience, as well as the objects and environments that we live with. This includes psychological states, dreams and the unconscious. You could draw connections to an artist like Louise Bourgeois who created work that directly referenced her own internal reality and memories or experiences of her childhood. In this way, aspects of life that have traditionally been framed as feminine (and therefore lesser), such as emotion, domestic realms and so on, are provided equal status to, or primacy over, intellect.

I am interested in the ways in which we identify ourselves and the things around us and how this is constantly changing depending on a vast range of factors. To give an example, the sourced imagery and collected objects that I reference in my work have been found around the bushland and coastline where I regularly walk: places close to my home outside Fremantle. They are humble and everyday objects but placed and arranged in my studio, they become precious. This particularly became the case last year when some of the places I walked were bulldozed as part of the Roe 8 project. The banksia nuts, balga resin and sticks I had collected became like artefacts or sacred objects. To cycle back to that original sentence, my drawings and sculptures find inspiration in collected objects from the natural environment, while also revealing the darker, uncanny world of the psyche.

Lia McKnight, Memento 17, 16 & 18, 2017, found objects, copper, wool and balga resin. Photographed by Eva Fernandez
‘I have also created a number of sculptural works that combine ceramics and textiles that I describe as ‘uncanny assemblages’.’ Lia McKnight, ‘Memento 17, 16 & 18’, 2017, found objects, copper, wool and balga resin. Photo: Eva Fernandez.

NL: “Sensual Nature” has been developed from an idea that is credited to you. What was the original idea? How did it land up being developed into this exhibition?
LM: I proposed a solo exhibition to Fremantle Arts Centre and there were a number of themes and ideas described within my proposal that resonated with curator Ric Spencer. I spoke about the sensual experience of objects and ways in which imagery of natural or organic forms can connect to the subconscious, the erotic and the uncanny. There were also connections to broader environmental concerns. Ric and I are both interested in the writings of cultural ecologist and philosopher David Abram who describes the possibility of an active participation with nature, saying, “Perception is a kind of improvised dance with the world, a dynamic interaction between my sensing body and the sensuous landscape.”

Ric could see the potential for this to be broader than one small personal story and there are now eleven other amazing artists on board.

NL: Tell me about the work you have made for “Sensual Nature”
LM: I have created a series of ink and graphite drawings that interweave imagery of collected findings from the natural environment with a kind of process-driven “stream of consciousness” technique. I have also created a number of sculptural works that combine ceramics and textiles that I describe as “uncanny assemblages”. There is a dark humour to many of these works and they all shift between the real and imagined.

NL: What is your favourite playground equipment?
LM: Ooh I love a good slide. Or if it’s an extra cool playground, the flying fox!

“Sensual Nature” runs March 29 – May 20.

Top: Lia McKnight.

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Calendar, Drawing, February 18, March 18, Painting, Sculpture, Visual arts

Visual art: Northern Perspectives 2018

16 February – 29 March @ Wanneroo Gallery, 3 Rocca Way, Wanneroo, 6065 •
Presented by Wanneroo Gallery •

Northern Perspectives, an annual exhibition hosted by the Wanneroo Gallery, provides Year 11 and 12 students from the Cities of Wanneroo, Joondalup and Stirling the opportunity to exhibit their work in a professional exhibition space.

This year’s offering features artworks from a wide range of categories, including painting, drawing, sculpture and much more. Northern Perspectives is an exhibition that is gaining traction with more students entering every year. This year’s exhibition features 53 outstanding works that showcase the exceptional talent of the young people of this area.

Category winners will be awarded prior to the exhibition opening to the public, however the People’s Choice Award will be decided by visitors so make sure you come along and vote for your favourite artwork.

The exhibitions runs from 16 Feb – 29 March and is free entry.

More info: www.wanneroo.wa.gov.au/historyheritageandarts
Email: alana.part@wanneroo.wa.gov.au

Top artwork by Imogen Jackson, St Stephen’s School, Duncraig 2016.

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