Review: Erin Coates and Jack Sargeant, ‘Other Suns: Cult Sci-Fi Cinema and Art’ ·
Fremantle Arts Centre ·
Review by Miranda Johnson ·
Embracing the non-human, the historical, the retro-futurist and the impossible, “Other Suns” imagines alternative futures through an examination of the science-fiction genre.
An expansive exhibition featuring works from 20 local, national and international artists, “Other Suns” is curated by Erin Coates and Jack Sargeant, and continues as part of Revelation Perth International Film Festival’s 2019 program, which otherwise wrapped up last month.
With a particular focus on the alternative, undiscovered or unfamiliar narratives of science fiction, “Other Suns” places the limitless bounds of artists’ individual imaginations at the centre. This shines through in the exhibition, with a broad range of different worlds created through each artwork that feel exciting, fresh and accessible, regardless of the viewer’s knowledge or interest in sci-fi.
Jess Day and Joanne Richardson’s geodesic half-dome is a playful examination of what space exploration might mean, and who it might be for. Expanding notions of space travel beyond masculine tropes of conquering other worlds, the work is filled with thoughtful eccentric details and embellishments regarding the pleasure of exploration for its own sake. Revelling in the excitement of the unknown without needing to possess the outcome, the journey and the experience are pushed to the fore, rather than the navigators’ glory or personal gain.
In a similar manner, Sydney art duo Soda_Jerk’s Astro Black interrogates who and what space exploration, science fiction, and other futures might encompass. Their video cycle samples a diverse range of video and music sources, pointing to an Afro-futurist world. Elsewhere, Dan Bourke’s work presents sentences from cyborg scholar Donna Haraway printed on T-shirts, propagandist slogans that sit alongside the works of key sci-fi writers from curator Jack Sargeant’s personal collection. The personal, private worlds of these books is writ large across objects made for bodies, a literal embodying of the possibilities of alternative ways of living, or of being in the world.
Alongside the range of other works in the exhibition, including the hand-decorated rocks of Oliver Hull – remnants of the natural world reframed as alien beings – and the large-scale installation of Lisa Sammut, whose work A Monumental Echo leverages planetary exploration to remind us of the hubris of anthropocentric thought, the “Other Suns”‘ revolutionary possibilities become clear.
Whilst some people may not feel that sci-fi is for them, everyone can understand the exciting horizons of new worlds, alternative systems, and different futures. When these prospects are harnessed to critique, re-imagine, or simply enjoy, the possibilities are endless.
Also on show at FAC is Stuart Elliott’s new solo exhibition, whose centrepiece, Fremantle 1988, is an imposing cabinet of horrors which takes visitors on a “fakeological dig” through 200 years of recent WA history. Fremantle 1988 was recently donated to the City of Fremantle Art Collection by Spare Parts Puppet Theatre.
26 Jul – 14 Sep @ Fremantle Arts Centre ·
Presented by Fremantle Arts Centre ·
Celebrating the optimism of space travel and a diversity of voices, view works by 20 local, national and international artists who embrace the science fictional imagination. Artists explore the detritus of the future, the ecologies of other spaces, and the polymorphic technologies of tomorrow.
The human imagination unveiled on digital screens, in junkyard sculptures, and at all points in between. From terraformed suburbs to ancient landscapes, the pleasures of the limitless flesh to alternative manifestations of space travel. The universe and dreams, dreams and desires, the surrealism of science fiction and minds unleashed: Other Suns engages with the individual imagination as the key element in the science fiction vision.
Opening: 6:30-9pm. Friday 26 July
Exhibition runs Sat 27 July – Sat 14 September
Review: Feet First Collective, S-27 ⋅
Fremantle Arts Centre ⋅
Review by Steven Cohen ⋅
There’s something about dystopian reality that bites, that shakes and shudders at our sensibilities. And when that “something” manifests itself in the theatre it leaves a discerning mark on the audience.
From Orwell’s’ 1984 to The Handmaids Tale, we’re used to dystopian thrillers. Audiences seem drawn to alien settings and alienated characters. The stories are riveting, the dialogue terse and the scenes dramatic.
But dystopian drama is much rarer because the style is founded in science fiction. And a theatre, by its very nature, is a forum for collective reflection, drawing out participation and expression of popular concerns.
Good dystopian theatre will illuminate the urban and reflect the irreparable. Perhaps more than that, dystopian theatre gives us a chance to recall the true horrors of horrors so that we might learn something and begin again.
Sarah Grochala’s play S-27, first produced in London a decade ago, is better than good. It is both tense and disturbing in recounting the tales from Khmer Rouge Cambodia.
Aptly staged in the historical asylum of the Fremantle Arts Centre, local producers Teresa Izzard and Lauren Beeton successfully manage to immerse the audience into a universal atrocity, balancing the cultural intricacies of Pol Pot’s ruthless ideology with the indignation of his horror.
To begin, we are stripped of our belongings, given numbers, separated from our partners and hoarded into a small slither of a room. Violence is within earshot and sometimes seen. Posters illuminate the blankness of the walls – English renditions from Pol Pot’s Little Red Book – illuminate the extremism of the revolution. Some of the audience are pulled away. Most stay in situ and in line. Quiet and following.
Eventually we arrive in a cold dank old hall, replete with a single line of facing parallel seating with a single forward fronting chair perched alone in between. An old-style camera, the type my dad used to carry, sits on a tripod aimed at the empty chair. The theatre space is more a thriller scene. The audience become intimate witnesses.
Then we meet May, cold and tearless, whose job is to photograph the living dead. As May’s story slowly unwinds, so does she and we become witness to the frailty of human emotion and what it takes to survive a holocaust. Compassionately played by Gabriella Munro, May is the protagonist whose interactions with those she photographs underpins the production.
The seven supporting cast members are nameless. Sheathed either in black police garb or for a few, they serve as photographic fodder. Their acting is tight and well-controlled, blending erratically into the catastrophic nightmare.
Balancing the well-constructed performances is original music by Rachael Dease, haunting sound by John Congrear and claustrophobic lighting by Andrew Portwine, who successfully encase the audience’s senses in a confronting maelstrom.
This is a story that must be told. It is uncomfortable, horrific and bloody, but important for our own humanity. S-27 is a gem of a play. We are lucky to have such wonderful talent in our city.
“Bring your rain poncho and wear noisy shoes,” the instructions read. Now that sounds like an intriguing art installation.
Contemporary artist Marnie Orr is running school holiday workshops at the Art Gallery of WA and they are all about rain. From July 10-19 children will use their bodies and found materials to brew up a storm in an immersive exploration of rain. The AGWA workshop is one of many art activities for children launching as Perth’s creative community gears up for school holidays.
The State Theatre Centre is brimming with events. On July 13 the building will come alive with Aboriginal art, poetry, films and culture to celebrate Naidoc Day. And between July 6-14 the theatre will be overrun with robots as Barking Gecko take over the building. A season of Finegan Kruckmeyer’s show My Robot (read Seesaw’s review here) will be complemented by some very cool free classes. Kids can flex their engineering and design skills by building a Lego robot, then fight it out in the Battle Arena with other young programmers. In the Super Heroes Workshops kids and adults work together using drama and creative thinking to solve problems.
From August 13 – 16 the State Theatre will present a production of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts. Roald Dahl’s classic reworking of The Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Goldilocks and Jack and the Beanstalk is being brought to the stage by Shake and Stir Theatre..
There is an enormous range of art classes at Fremantle Arts Centrefor children and teenagers: photography, cartoons, pottery, anime and mosaic to list just a few. And you can check out the work of 2018’s Year 12 students in Pulse Perspectives, (reviewed by Seesaw here) in an exhibition at the Art Gallery of WA.
Don’t forget to include some musical magic in your school holiday fun. The WA Youth Jazz Orchestra will present Jazz for Juniorsat His Majesty’s Theatre July 9 & 10. These fun-filled concerts introduce young children to the concepts of jazz music and the instruments the musicians play. Best of all, everyone gets the chance to try out some instruments built for small hands.
Be inspired by some of WA’s best young musicians as the WA Youth Orchestraand conductor Benjamin Northey perform a concert of Australian and Russian music, including the world premiere of a piece by Australian composer Melody Eötvös. Tickets don’t come much cheaper than this for a full symphonic concert and you can be guaranteed a passionate performance.
At UWA’s Conservatorium of Music kids can leap into the world of percussion at the Discover! Percussion workshop at UWA on July 10, or a saxophone bootcamp with Emma McPhilemy on the 12-13th.
And of course Spare Parts Puppet Theatre will perform puppet shows in Fremantle throughout the holidays. Their show this time is the story of the unexpected friendship between a magpie and a dog. Foxis a fusion of puppetry and dance that will take you on a journey through scorched scrub and ochre desert where the true meaning of friendship and loyalty will be discovered.
WA’s performing and visual arts companies are reaching out this winter to engage young people with the arts. There’s no better time to dive in!
Pictured top: A real robot is part of the cast in Barking Gecko’s My Robot. Photo supplied.
12 – 21 July @ Fremantle Arts Centre ·
Presented by Feet First Collective ·
Feet First Collective presents the WA premiere of S-27 by Sarah Grochala cocooned within an immersive experience that unfolds inside the rooms and winding halls of the iconic Fremantle Arts Centre as part of the 2019 Fremantle Festival.
Winner of the iceandfire/Amnesty International ‘Protect the Human’ Playwriting Competition in 2007, the play was inspired by the history of Cambodia’s S-21 prison under the rule of the Khmer Rouge and draws on prison records and interviews.
S-27 is an opportunity to imagine a dark and disturbing future. This work will be of interest to theatre lovers, history buffs and Fremantle businesses looking for a really different team experience in their City. Numbers for this performance are strictly limited so early bookings are encouraged.
S-27 contains adult themes and is recommend for 15+ years. Fremantle Arts Centre is a licenced venue: 15 -18 year-olds must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Please visit the website to check mobility requirements.
12-14 and 16-21* July
*Additional late show on 20 July (Doors open 8.30pm – Performance at 9.30pm)
Doors open: 6:30pm (Drinks available, meet in bar area in the Cell Room)
Performance begins: 7:30pm (Cell Room and Pavlich Room)
Running time: 80mins (approximately) Ticket Price: Standard $25 +bf
Review: ‘Revealed: New and Emerging Aboriginal Artists’ and ‘To Be Continued: Photography from Indigenous Australia’ ·
Fremantle Arts Centre ·
Review by Miranda Johnson ·
“Revealed: New and Emerging Aboriginal Artists” and “To Be Continued: Photography from Indigenous Australia”, currently at Fremantle Arts Centre, are two exhibitions that display the breadth of talent of Aboriginal artists in Australia as well as the strength of their active resistance to ongoing colonial practices.
“To Be Continued” is a survey of contemporary photography from remote, rural and metropolitan based Aboriginal artists. In contrast to “Revealed”, the show is quite contained, spanning just two rooms. Within these rooms, however, dreamlike memories and historical narratives are retold and reimagined, examining Australia’s colonial past – and present – to undermine accepted narratives.
“To Be Continued” somehow feels speculative, towards not only the past but the future. Lavene McKenzie’s works draw out pivotal memories from her childhood of discovering and cementing her cultural identity through the relationship to her country. In Grandfather, a tableau beautifully draws out the mundane details of a childhood afternoon – chicken flavoured chips and a bottle of coke – to contrast with the landscape of the Stirling Ranges peeking tantalisingly through the screen door. McKenzie’s grandfather gestures towards their country to reinforce their spiritual and cultural connection to what’s out there.
McKenzie’s dreamlike images speak closely to the centrepiece of the first room, Fiona Foley’s fictionalised retelling of the Aboriginal missions in Queensland, and the power relationships between the men of the clergy and government, and the Badtjala people. Drawing on the historical records of the time, Foley does not turn away from the dark narratives of sexual abuse, slavery and addiction. In her images, Aboriginal people and white colonialists are photographed side-by-side, their deliberate gazes and conscious poses belying the seemingly historical tableaux, conscious of their presence as performers rather than subjects. Looking to a dystopian future – as well as a historical land grab – Michael Cook’s speculative images of native Australian fauna invading 1960s London on spaceships provides a humorous yet pointed consideration on the violence of invasion, inverting narratives of power.
Comprising of an art market, exhibition, artist talks, mentorship programs and curatorial placements, “Revealed” is an annual program that brings together Aboriginal art centres from around Western Australia as well as a number of independent Aboriginal artists, to display the expansiveness of Indigenous art practice.
The biggest “Revealed” exhibition to date, the 2019 iteration certainly feels expansive, as the corridor lined with block printed linen from the women of the Nagula Jarndu Aboriginal Women’s Art and Resource Centre encloses the viewer in the narrow space, then gives way to the airy galleries of FAC’s South Wing. Here, works by established Aboriginal artists are placed alongside emerging artists, with strong themes of mentorship and generational knowledge providing links between individual works as well as individual art centres.
This year, a focus on experimental use of materials and ways of making shines throughout the exhibition; Amanda Bell’s teabag-stained fabrics alongside a projection of her making process sits next to a vibrant fabric map of Langford. Denim patches with – variously – gum nuts, bird feathers, pebbles, bark and felt, embroidered painstakingly onto the fabric, create a visual map of country that marks the memories, emotions and cultural traditions embedded in the land.
It’s not only personal relationships to country and culture that are on display here, but a strength of resistance against the commodification and appropriation of said culture. This thread runs through both ‘Revealed’ and ‘To Be Continued’.
Questions of what culture means, on both a personal and a community level, and how it is abused by settler colonialists, capitalists and big corporations, are everywhere. It’s in asking these questions and telling these stories that the importance of exhibitions such as these – and the role played by Aboriginal art centres in creating and sustaining cultural knowledge, art practices and community – becomes clear. These are not just local initiatives, but sites of resistance.
With a focus on the creative and community-building possibilities of collaboration, and a strong commitment towards leaping into the unknown, project curator Andrew Nicholls gave Miranda Johnson some insights into the background of the project and what to expect when the installation is opened to the public at Revealed: WA Aboriginal Art Market, Saturday 13 April.
Miranda Johnson: How did the relationship between Polyglot, Tjanpi Desert Weavers and FORM originally come about? Andrew Nicholls: FORM has worked with Tjanpi on numerous exhibition projects over the past two decades we are huge admirers of their work in general, and well-aware of their artistic significance at a national level. Although we had not previously worked with Polyglot, they came to our attention a few years ago when we were looking to incorporate some more children-and-family-focused programming into what we do. It was actually my colleagues Amy Plant and Mollie Hewitt who first came up with the idea of bringing the two organisations together, as they recognised strong aesthetic similarities between the work made by both organisations. The three of us just had a gut feeling that there was the potential there for a really exciting collaboration.
I then approached each of the organisations (back in 2016) with an exceedingly vague invitation to collaborate, which was a bit daunting because at that stage we really didn’t have any clear idea what we were pitching! Luckily it turned out that Tjanpi had been thinking about exploring performance for some time and had just been waiting for the right project, and that Polyglot were huge fans of Tjanpi and also had been looking for a project that would allow them to collaborate with Aboriginal artists, so everything just fell into place. There’s been an extraordinary amount of serendipity and good luck as the work has come together over the past three years.
MJ: How were the project’s artists selected? AN: Tjanpi Desert Weavers engage artists from numerous communities spread across hundreds of thousands of kilometres of central Australia, so to make things manageable they suggested we work with four highly respected tjanpi artists from Warakurna, in remote Western Australia: Cynthia Burke, Dianne Ungukalpi Golding, Nancy Nanana Jackson, and Dallas Smythe.
Polyglot similarly recommended some of their most innovative performers, Justin Marshall, Justine Warner, and Tamara Rewse, with their phenomenally talented artistic director and co-CEO Sue Giles leading the development workshop sessions.
MJ: How has the collaborative process rolled out? AN: We held our first workshop at Polyglot’s premises in Melbourne in November 2016, to get to know each other and throw ideas around. Again, it was quite daunting for everyone because none of us had a clue what we were actually going to do together, or if a collaboration would even be possible. Thankfully everyone very quickly realised that we wanted to work together to make something really special. It has been an absolute joy to develop the work together, and to draw inspiration from such a talented and professional group of creatives.
The initial workshop was followed by a trip to Warakurna, where all of the non-Tjanpi artists were introduced to the Tjanpi artists’ Country. This was a transformative experience for everyone involved and allowed the artwork to really start to take shape. Further workshops followed in Perth and then in Warakurna again, and now in Fremantle during the lead-up to Revealed.
MJ: What are the similarities and differences that you noticed between each arts organisation’s artistic practices? AN: The project came about because everyone involved recognised similarities between what Tjanpi and Polyglot do. Both organisations make very sophisticated work from simple materials and techniques, and both of them have a joyously playful aesthetic and a highly mischievous sense of humour. In terms of the working methodology, the content of the project was primarily driven by the Tjanpi artists and how they wanted to share a sense of their Country, which was then shaped by the Polyglot team into something that would work as an experience for audiences. Throughout this process, FORM played the role of facilitator.
But the joy of tjanpi weaving is that the techniques are so easy to share, so within a couple of hours of meeting everyone at the first workshop in Melbourne we were all making tjanpi creatures that will be travelling across the country to be part of the work in Fremantle.
In terms of differences, Polyglot allows everything they do to be driven by input from children – kids are involved wherever possible throughout the development of their projects. This isn’t necessarily how the Tjanpi artists work, but children are always a strong presence in remote community life, so this felt like a very natural thing to incorporate into the process, and we worked with children in each of the workshop locations. The Tjanpi artists meanwhile are primarily inspired by culture and their connection to Country, and everyone got a taste of this in Warakurna. While non-Indigenous visitors to Warakurna are never going to have a comprehensive understanding of what this means, the creative team were given an extremely warm and generous introduction that really crystallised the project for everyone involved.
MJ: Can you tell me more about the interactive nature of the installation? AN: The installation is a space for children to explore at their own pace. The artists will all be present to guide this, but as with most of Polyglot’s work it is the participating children who will take control. They will get to climb over and explore the installation, discover tjanpi creatures hidden throughout the space, listen to the sounds of Warakurna, and sit inside the wiltja (a traditional shade structure) and learn how to create a tjanpi object of their own. We have tried to make it a work that children of almost any age, and all levels of physical ability, will be able to enjoy.
MJ: You’ve spoken about the wiltja as a literal safe space created from collaborative labour, which became central to the project. Tell me about this idea of a safe space, and what it can provide in terms of creativity… AN: Something that I think resonates with everyone who learns tjanpi weaving technique is how incredibly meditative and soothing it is to do – spending an hour or two in the company of those artists, hand-making something and sharing conversation simply makes you feel fantastic. I think the technique itself is a “safe space” and the wiltja was an organic extension of this. As an object in its own right it’s very clearly hand-made and it’s something you can sit inside, so it has a very cosy feel.
Everyone involved in “Manguri Wiltja” has had nothing but respect toward everyone else for the duration of the project, and this trust was able to build up over a solid length of time, which has given us all the confidence to work at our best and take a few creative risks with each other. That’s an incredibly rewarding space to be in as a creative. Ten days out from the world premiere we still don’t entirely know exactly what the experience of the final work will be, but we trust each other enough to know it’s going to be marvellous.
MJ: Do you see collaboration as central to cross-cultural learning and communication? Do you think this is something that would be beneficial to adults as well as children? AN: Absolutely. At FORM we always strive to try to achieve a level of collaboration in most projects we undertake with artists – we are passionate about placing artists in conversation with Western Australian communities and seeing what can happen as a result. However, co-creation is not something you can force. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The great joy of “Manguri Wiltja” is how the various collaborators “clicked” almost immediately on our first day together in Melbourne. Given how vague the parameters of the project were to everyone initially, and how disparate the various creative practices and cultural influences were, it could easily have gone the other way.
We have always intended for “Manguri Wiltja” to be a work that children can experience with their parents (or other relatives) so we absolutely want people of all ages to share in the joyous spirit of the project and learn some more about life in remote Australia.
12 April @ Fremantle Arts Centre ·
Presented by Fremantle Arts Centre ·
Revealed: Artists in Conversation offers a great opportunity to learn more about the fascinating and diverse projects happening at Aboriginal art centres throughout WA and across the national sector. Join us for a morning of insightful, intimate conversations.
Timo Hogan, Kumanara Stevens and Sophia Brown from Spinifex Arts Project in Tjuntjuntjara (Great Victoria Desert, WA) will speak about MILPA: Language, Driving & Art, an important interdisciplinary arts project focused on creating Pitjantjatjara language resources for Anangu drivers.
Perth Centre for Photography and GEE CONSULTANCY will present on their recent photographic development program EXPOSURE: New Voices in WA Photography.
Artist Yhonnie Scarce and curator Hannah Presley will share some of their recent projects, focusing on work theyare undertaking in remote communities.
Lavene McKenzie and Dave Laslett, photographic collaborators from South Australia, will share their experiences of the First Nations Photographic Mentoring program they have been offering in South Australia.
Artist and storyteller Mervyn Street from Mangkaja Arts will share his recent project Veins of the Country which explores the importance of water, and the deep connection people have to water in the Fitzroy Valley.
Revealed: Artists in Conversation runs from 10am to 12pm.
Revealed: Artists in Conversation will be hosted by Western Australian curator, producer and writer Glenn Iseger-Pilkington. Cultural associations: Wadjarri, Nhanda, Noongar, Dutch and Scottish.
13 April @ Fremantle Arts Centre ·
Presented by FORM and Fremantle Arts Centre ·
During the Revealed Market, children and families are invited to enter Manguri Wiltja, an interactive play space made from intricate tjanpi woven forms, repurposed tyres and evocative sounds. A wiltja is a traditional shelter created here from woven circles, offering a tranquil space for contemplation. The installation draws upon the playful yet sophisticated aesthetics of both Tjanpi Desert Weavers and Polyglot Theatre and is designed to introduce children to the culture and Country of Warakurna.
FORM presents Manguri Wiltja at Revealed in a world premiere. The installation will tour nationally throughout 2019. For more information visit www.form.net.au
Perth Festival review: David Noonan, “A Dark and Quiet Place”; Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran & Renee So, “Idols” ·
Fremantle Arts Centre ·
Review by Belinda Hermawan ·
Fremantle Arts Centre has opened its 2019 programming with an impressively curated double-bill of exhibitions presented as part of the Perth Festival, both of which raise questions about visibility and power. David Noonan’s monochromatic film, collage and tapestry works transport us into a wholly immersive experience of stagecraft; while Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran’s and Renee So’s ceramic works “face off” in a gallery space of their own.
Noonan’s 28-minute film Untitled, A Dark and Quiet Place is the main feature of his exhibition. Noonan describes the piece as “art directing existing images, stripping them back”. Black and white photographs are overlayed, juxtaposed and collaged together in a shifting tableau that draws parallels between the way in which theatre productions are staged and the way in which we stage our own lives. Often the camera will pan out from what initially looks like a simple pattern of lines or shapes, to reveal the theatre stage, various props, audio-visual components, actors dissolving into the next frame or exiting stage left… all the elements of a performance. The viewing experience is immersive, even three dimensional; at times I felt I was in a fragment of an MC Escher sketch or inside a Magic Eye puzzle. While the images are not quite surrealist, they do conjure a sense of awe.
The film includes a variety of interchangeable actors who are never afforded staying power. This theme echoes into the untitled jacquard tapestry hanging in the adjacent room. The stage actors are performing, but are lying on their backs with their heads raised, as if they are aware of a potential audience but lack the agency to make the next move. In thematic contrast, the other three untitled works in this exhibition are prints that juxtapose actors in poses with collages of lines where patterns appear in the vertical. While these columns appear rigid, like the test pattern on a television set, the variation in the horizontal lines’ height and opacity demonstrates that not everything is fixed, that even within a set structure, there is room to move.
The playful sculptures in Nithiyendran and So’s “Idols” provide an equally evocative commentary on agency and representation, this time in the context of gender expectations and idol worship. So’s stoneware works Bellarmine XV and XVI and Woman III, IV and V present as artefacts from another world, the evocative, deep earthy brown colour a result of the oxidisation process during firing. But these enigmatic idols are tongue-in-cheek, from their peculiar heads and voluptuous figures, down to their alien-like three-legged bases. Questions are raised: Are they both male and female? From which body parts do their authoritative auras come?
One theory of the origin of Bellarmine, or Bartmann, jugs is that they were conceived to make fun of Cardinal Robert Bellarmine and his anti-alcohol stance. This context makes So’s subversive decision – to sculpt a womanly figure with a face of grapes as a drinking vessel – particularly satisfying. The grape motif reappears in the neutral-coloured, knitted pieces Legs II and Circle – protest interwoven in body, a resistance to labels or instructions.
Nithiyendran’s background as a painter serves him well in his outlandishly colourful depictions of deities. Having taught himself ceramics via YouTube tutorials, his sense of adventure comes through in the deliberately unrefined sculpting and glazing of the giant heads. Throughout history, idols have been, typically, serene but Nithiyendran embraces chaos, firing smaller pieces in the kiln before assembling them in totems of unexpected scale and textural detail – exaggerated facial features, a king’s crown of tubular creatures, coral-like beards, bones as limbs, piercings and tribal-like jewellery – on stages of vibrant yellow. His signature is painted haphazardly in huge letters on the back of one head, while the letters of his first name are implanted across two eyes in another.
Rather than worshipping order and rules, should we not celebrate the freeform and unique? Perhaps, as the large collage Trio of selves at the proverbial gym appears to suggest, it is unhealthy to subscribe to the myth of the ideal male body, an Instagram goal that doesn’t seem even remotely achievable when juxtaposed behind three figures whose features more closely resemble those of a child’s drawing.
Thought-provoking and visually arresting, these three artists’ curated works are an excellent example of worthy investment in visual art by the Perth Festival. Fremantle Art Centre’s installation and use of gallery space is particularly well executed and their staff knowledgeable. I highly recommend setting aside at least an hour for this free event – you’ll be transported to stages unknown.