003 Installation view, left to right: Teelah George, Blue Biro, 2018-2019, thread, linen and bronze, 220 x 190cm; Marzena Topka, Geometrisation of bodies (suspended animation), 2014-2019, deconstructed office clothing, dimensions variable; Susan Roux, (un) / fold (detail), 2019, Canson paper, ink, thread and polish, dimensions variable; and Ómra Caoimhe, The Sum of the Parts (detail), 2019, hand-spun tussah silk thread and wool thread, wool cloth, wooden beads, nails, bees wax and oil on curved wooden panel, loom parts and wooden spool, dimensions variable. Photograph by Lyle Branson.
News, Reviews, Visual arts

A material world

Review: Joanna Sulkowski, ‘HERE&NOW19: Material Culture’ ·
Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery ·
Review by Miranda Johnson ·

As the name implies, Lawrence Wilson Gallery’s annual “HERE&NOW” exhibition is all about contemporary art practice in WA, at this moment in time. Now in its seventh year, the exhibition gives an emerging curator the opportunity to offer their take on the subject.

For “HERE&NOW19”, it is emerging curator and artist Joanna Sulkowski’s turn at the helm. Under the title “Material Culture”, Sulkowski brings together a selection of works that both examine our collective cultural obsession with the “material world” of production, trade and business, and reflect upon the ways in which materials themselves play a significant role in the way we comprehend the world around us.

Featuring five WA artists, this year’s ‘HERE&NOW” feels more scaled back than previous iterations; the open gallery space seeming ever-so-slightly cavernous. The exhibition touches upon the broadness of the phrase “material culture”, which most commonly refers to fabrics but also to thread, paper, plastic and yarn; each artist’s work employing a different engagement with the ongoing process of making.

Teelah George, 'Blue Biro', 2018-2019, thread, linen and bronze, 220 x 190cm. Photo: Lyle Branson.
Teelah George, ‘Blue Biro’, 2018-2019, thread, linen and bronze, 220 x 190cm. Photo: Lyle Branson.

This link between the materiality of the object and the process by which this materiality was realised is a notable point of commonality between the works. The repetitive nature of production is emphasised, particularly through stitching but also in repeated shapes and forms – a literal mark-making of the time taken to create the object. We see this in the repetitive stitching in Teelah George’s Blue Biro, the title referring to a different kind of mark-making that also references the passing of time in the endless scribbling or doodling with a pen; and in the spinning of yarn by hand, a line that connects the disparate parts of Ómra Caoimhe’s installation The Sum of the Parts. Deliberately idiosyncratic arrangements of objects –  dedicated to making the fabric – together form a whole.

Central to the exhibition is Marzena Topka’s installation of office clothes, split open and hung to form a maze, reminiscent of office cubicles that function to block people from one another. The clothes, rendered into curtains and removed from any kind of gendered shape or form, remain an oppressive force. Hung above eye height, the garments impress a kind of conformity upon the viewer as they negotiate the maze of beige and cheap rayon fabric.

This response to the oppressive nature of corporate life and the mass-production of impersonal materials finds its counterpoint in Susan Roux’s (un) / fold. Here, the mutable nature of materials becomes clear, as the fabric that spreads and unfurls across the wall is in fact paper, pleated and smocked using traditional production methods to manipulate its shape and form. This labour-intensive way of making stands in sharp opposition to the mass production of most of today’s material objects. It’s a critique of industrialisation that finds a different yet complementary angle in Holly Story’s immersive and mesmerising work The Embrace, a meditation on natural environments that are constantly under threat, an ecological landscape printed on silk and cotton.

Ómra Caoimhe, The Sum of the Parts, 2019, hand-spun tussah silk thread and wool thread, wool cloth, wooden beads, nails, bees wax and oil on curved wooden panel, loom parts and wooden spool, dimensions variable. Photograph by Lyle Brason.
Ómra Caoimhe, ‘The Sum of the Parts’, 2019, hand-spun tussah silk thread and wool thread, wool cloth, wooden beads, nails, bees wax and oil on curved wooden panel, loom parts and wooden spool, dimensions variable. Photo: Lyle Brason.

In our post-industrial globalised world, material culture is associated with questions about labour and production, a deeply political issue that is touched on in this exhibition, but could have been expanded upon. Nonetheless, the works presented in “HERE&NOW19” experiment with their materials in a multitude of different ways, rewarding the viewer’s close attention.

“Here@Now19: Material Culture” runs until December 7.

Pictured top: Installation view, left to right: Teelah George, ‘Blue Biro’, 2018-2019, thread, linen and bronze, 220 x 190cm; Marzena Topka, ‘Geometrisation of bodies’ (suspended animation), 2014-2019, deconstructed office clothing, dimensions variable; Susan Roux, ‘(un) / fold’ (detail), 2019, Canson paper, ink, thread and polish, dimensions variable; and Ómra Caoimhe, ‘The Sum of the Parts’ (detail), 2019, hand-spun tussah silk thread and wool thread, wool cloth, wooden beads, nails, bees wax and oil on curved wooden panel, loom parts and wooden spool, dimensions variable. Photo: Lyle Branson.

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woman studying painting
Calendar, Lectures and Talks, November 19, Visual arts

Visual Arts: Out of the Boxes and into the Desert: In Dialogue with Conservation

15 November @ Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery ·
Presented by Berndt Museum of Anthropology ·

‘Out of the Boxes and into the Desert’ features extraordinary Central Desert artworks that have been in storage at the Berndt Museum for many years. Bringing these artworks to exhibition standard has required close attention to their conservation and preparation.

Join conservator Michael Houston to learn some of the stories behind preparing this exhibition. Houston has worked within the commercial Indigenous art industry for nearly a decade. In 2018 he was tasked with the completion of the final objective of the Berndt Museum Storage Improvement Project, entailing the stabilisation and preparation for storage/display of over 150 canvas paintings.

Friday 15 November, 1pm – 2pm

More info
W: lwag1939.eventbrite.com.au/?aff=seesaw
E:  lwag@uwa.edu.au

Pictured: Opening night, Out of the Boxes and into the Desert, Berndt Museum of
Anthropology. Photograph by Ilkka K Photography.

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Calendar, Exhibitions, October 19, Visual arts

Visual Arts: Access Programs @ LWAG

26 October @ Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery ·
Presented by Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery ·

LWAG Signs: Auslan Interpreted Tour: Saturday 26 October, 11.30am – 1pm
Experience the artwork at LWAG in Australian Sign Language. LWAG Signs is an Auslan interpreted tour for adults with hearing loss and their friends and family. Join us for a free tour of the current exhibitions, guided by a gallery staff member and interpreter. Refreshments provided.

Free event. Register: lwag1943.eventbrite.com.au/?aff=seesaw

Verbal Description and Tactile Tour : Saturday 26 October, 2 – 3.30pm
Join us for a touch and verbal descriptive tour of the current exhibitions. A trained guide delivers descriptions of the visual elements of artworks exhibited, along with tactile opportunities using mixed media, maquettes, and some artworks.  Tours are for visitors with vision impairment, their friends and carers. Refreshments provided.

Free event. Register: lwag1944.eventbrite.com.au/?aff=seesaw

More info
W: www.lwgallery.uwa.edu.au/events
E : lwag@uwa.edu.au

Susan Roux, (un) / fold (work in progress detail), 2019, Canson paper, ink, polish and thread, installation dimensions variable, courtesy of the artist. Photograph by Daniel Grant.

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Woman viewing several paintings
Calendar, Lectures and Talks, October 19, Visual arts

Visual Arts: Friday Talks @ LWAG

11 & 25 October @ Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery ·
Presented by Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery ·

Join us at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery for a lunchtime discussion on the latest exhibitions and events. Hear from curators, artists and experts as they share their insights with us.

Portraits of Maternity
Friday 11 October 2019, 1:00 – 2:00pm

Join UWA Associate Professor of English and Literary Studies, Alison Bartlett, as she explores the exhibition ‘The Artist and Her Work’, featuring work drawn  from the Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art, through the lens of representations of maternity.

Free event. Register: lwag1949.eventbrite.com.au/?aff=seesaw

On the Life & Work of Nora Heysen
Friday 25 October 2019, 1:00 – 2:00pm

Join writer Anne-Louise Willoughby as she discusses painter Nora Heysen (1911-2003), whose work is currently on view in ‘Cosmopolitan’. Heysen was the first woman to win the Archibald Prize and Australia’s first female painter to be appointed an official war artist.

Free event. Register:  lwag1942.eventbrite.com.au/?aff=seesaw

More info
W: www.lwgallery.uwa.edu.au/events
E:  lwag@uwa.edu.au

Pictured: Installation view, The Artist and Her Work. Photograph by Ilkka K Photography.

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Woman studying large Aboriginal painting
Calendar, Lectures and Talks, September 19, Visual arts

Visual Arts: Out of the Boxes and into the Desert: Curator’s Talk + Tour

13 September @ Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery ·
Presented by Berndt Museum of Anthropology ·

‘Out of the boxes and into the Desert’ explores the Berndt Museum of Anthropology’s collection of paintings from the Central Desert. These works include stories of ancestral beings that travelled across country, through waterholes and into the stars.  Join exhibition curator Dr Vanessa Russ as she leads us through the exhibition, sharing insights into the artworks and the history of the Berndt Museum.

Dr Vanessa Russ is the Associate Director of the Berndt Museum of Anthropology. She was awarded Honours (Fine Arts) at the UNSW 2009 and a PhD in Fine Art at the University of Western Australia in 2013. She was awarded a Churchill Fellowship by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust in 2014.

Out of the Boxes and into the Desert Curator’s Talk and Tour takes place from 1 – 2 pm on Friday 13 September.

More info
W: lwag1938.eventbrite.com.au/?aff=seesaw
E:  lwag@uwa.edu.au

Pictured:
Opening night, Out of the Boxes and into the Desert, Berndt Museum of Anthroplogy.
Photograph by Ilkka K Photography. Artwork: Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri (c1926-1998),
Pintupi, Many Dreamings, 1978, acrylic on canvas, 202 x 337 cm. Berndt Museum of
Anthropology collection [1978/0037] © Estate of the artist licensed by Aboriginal Arts Agency Ltd, 2019.

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Landscape in shades of light brown and grey
Calendar, Lectures and Talks, September 19, Visual arts

Visual Arts: Cosmopolitan: Curator’s Talk & Tour

7 September @ Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery ·
Presented by Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery ·

Join Cosmopolitan curator Dr Sally Quin for this discussion exploring the exhibition and a look into some of the major themes in Australian art in the 1930s, a time of significant political, economic and social change. The eclectic range of works, featuring pieces in surrealist, abstract and realist styles, reflect both the optimism and tumult of the decade.

Dr Sally Quin is Curator of the University of Western Australia Art Collection at LWAG. Her work focuses on modern and contemporary Australian art, and her publications include ‘Bauhaus on the Swan: Elise Blumann, an émigré artist in Western Australia, 1938-1948’  (UWAP, 2015) and the  monograph ‘Stewart Scambler: Works 1982-2018’ (LWAG, 2018).

The Curator’s Talk and Tour takes place between 2 and 3 pm on Saturday 7 September.

More info
W  https://lwag1936.eventbrite.com.au/?aff=seesaw
E:  lwag@uwa.edu.au

Pictured: Dorrit Black, Landscape, Noarlunga, c 1937, watercolour, 23.8 x 29.7 cm, The University
of Western Australia Art Collection, University Senate Grant, 1984.

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Men engaged in work in fields
August 19, Calendar, December 19, November 19, October 19, September 19, Visual arts

Visual Arts: Cosmopolitan

31 Aug – 7 Dec @ Lawrence Wilson Arts Gallery ·
Presented by Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery ·

The 1930s was a stimulating period in Australian art, defined by the effects of travel and the exchange of ideas, both artistic and political. ‘ Cosmopolitan: Art from the 1930s in the University of Western Australia Art Collection and the Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art’ explores this vibrant and tumultuous decade in Australian art.

The exhibition comprises works by Australian artists; émigré and refugee artists recently arrived from Europe, such as Elise Blumann and Desiderius Orban; and itinerant travellers such as Ian Fairweather and Danila Vassilieff who spent time in Melbourne in the 1930s. Also included are six American prints gifted to the university in 1949, which can be viewed in concert with Australian prints of the same period.

Additional artists include Lina Bryans, Grace Crowley, James Gleeson, Nora Heysen, Frank Hinder and Ethel Spowers.

Join us for opening night: Fri 30 August, 6 – 8pm. Free event, RSVP via
lwag1950.eventbrite.com.au/?aff=seesaw

More info
W:  lwag1950.eventbrite.com.au/?aff=seesaw
E:   lwag@uwa.edu.au

Pictured: Ethel Spowers, Harvest, 1932, linocut, 19.3 x 29.1 cm,
The University of Western Australia Art Collection, University Senate Grant, 1982

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Blue denim fabric
August 19, Calendar, December 19, November 19, October 19, September 19, Visual arts

Visual Arts: HERE&NOW19: Material Culture

31 Aug – 7 Dec @ Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery ·
Presented by Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery ·

HERE&NOW19: Material Culture highlights the work of five contemporary Western Australian artists experimenting in innovative ways with textile materials. Curated by multidisciplinary artist Joanna Sulkowski, the exhibition challenges the perception of craft as a repetitive activity of making things by hand and offers a new perspective on the processes and materials-driven practice of a dynamic group of contemporary artists.

Commissioned to create new work for the exhibition, HERE&NOW19 features a range of  work, including wall-hanging textiles, large-scale installation and video by artists Ómra Caoimhe, Teelah George, Susan Roux, Holly Story and Marzena Topka.

Established by LWAG in 2012, the annual HERE&NOW series showcases some of the most exciting work by Western Australian artists. Each year, an emerging curator is appointed to organise the exhibition and offer fresh insight and perspective on contemporary art practice in WA.

Join us for opening night: Fri August 30, 6 – 8pm. Free event, RSVP via:  lwag1950.eventbrite.com.au/?aff=seesaw

More info
W: lwag1950.eventbrite.com.au/?aff=seesaw
E: lwag@uwa.edu.au

 

Pictured:
Teelah George, Blue Biro (detail) 2018-2019, thread, linen and bronze, 220 x 190cm.
Photograph by Thomas Rowe. © Courtesy of the artist.

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News, Reviews, Visual arts

Decades of natural wonder from Nikulinsky

Review: Philippa Nikulinsky, ‘Nikulinsky Naturally’ ·
Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery · 
Review by Miranda Johnson ·

Since the 1970s, Philippa Nikulinsky has been travelling to remote areas of Western Australia to embed herself in the rugged but fragile landscape and illustrate its botanical beauty with great precision and care.

“Nikulinsky Naturally” is a survey of the artist’s deep investment and love for the incredibly diverse, resilient and beautiful flora of Western Australia over the past 40 years. Published alongside the exhibition is the book Nikulinsky Naturally: An Artist’s Life, which provides a depth of understanding about Nikulinsky’s working methods, her life as a female artist in the 1970s and 80s, and the history of botanical art and collecting since European arrival.

The exhibition and publication, both curated and edited by Ted Snell, speak to many pertinent themes of conversation in our current political and environmental climate. They address questions of classifying and preserving flora and fauna as well as the ability of artworks to reproduce, change form and mutate into more portable formats such as monographs and reproductions.

This last point is made in the book by Clive Newman (p. 34), that the mobility of a publication has the chance to do what exhibitions cannot – to travel beyond their immediate location and reach audiences much farther away. This seems prescient to the itinerant nature of WA’s botanical life in the 19th century, as specimens and seeds were voraciously captured, preserved and shipped back to Europe as exotic luxury items, far away from their homeland and the sandy soil that sustained them.

Taking items such as plants (and animals) out of their context and preserving them as specimens has the effect of anonymity, reducing an individual plant or animal to a representative of its entire species, a classifying act that fails to consider the specificity of environment. In her works, Nikulinsky works hard to avoid this trap, wanting the viewer to understand the relationship between flora and its environment, to make clear that they are part of an entangled whole. Displaying her deep investment in delicately portraying the natural world, she is mindful of finding ways to represent specific flowers or trees in their original environment, as individual parts of a whole, rather than as an anonymous specimen, a representative of a species.

This effort is shown clearly through her work as she focuses on the intricacies of entangled brush, or through her images displaying the banksia growing, flowering, browning and dying. This experience of  difference and growth over a life span is a common theme in her work, and one that is beautifully and movingly represented. In the same way, the blackened, twisted bodies of xanthorea thorntii (cundalee grass trees) after a bushfire are hung below pre-scorched trees. This before-and-after series represent the dangerous, harsh environment in which biodiversity flourishes. It is both a stark reminder of the devastating effects of fire and the joyful potential of renewal as Nikulinsky’s subtle splashes of colour gesture towards rebirth. These cycles of life, death and regeneration give her images pathos and an individuality that removes any idea of scientific, classifying distance from one’s artistic subject.

The monograph delves deeply into Nikulinsky’s approach to her work, and her single-minded drive to embed herself deeply in the bush. She spends weeks in remote desert drawing and illustrating what she sees, going bush to live in a space, as  her daughter-in-law Angela Nikulinsky stresses in her chapter That Girl From the Bush (p. 7). The extent of her immersion in their environment is reflected in the way her own field notes and diary entries are written across the paper upon which she has illustrated whole scenes of bushland. This is a particular kind of emotional and physical investment, an embodied presence upon the images.

This approach to the landscape, and to conserving and representing its particularities, felt deeply political, especially in the post-election haze and increasing sense of climate anxiety with which I viewed the exhibition. I felt that with such a strong focus on an embodied presence within the landscape, something that Nikulinsky clearly brings to her work with dedication and passion, the monograph would have benefited from Aboriginal perspectives or contributions.

Against the backdrop of a topic that so clearly references colonial practices of naming, classification and preserving, which are delved into in both Ted Snell’s and Kingsley Dixon’s chapters in fascinating detail, I was a little surprised that there wasn’t more reflection on the impact of imposing Latin names, collecting specimens and using European agricultural practices that differed radically from those used by First Nations people.

It would have been valuable to see a dialogue about this, or a critical reflection. However, considering Nikulinsky’s passion for continuing her practice, bush trips and conversations about the incredible biodiversity of our state, perhaps this is something for the future.

‘Nikulinsky Naturally’ runs until August 17.

The monograph Nikulinsky Naturally: An Artist’s Life may be purchased online or from the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery.

Pictured top is ‘Misteltoe’ by Philippa Nikulinsky.

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2 women and 2 men with a backdrop of posters
April 19, Calendar, Lectures and Talks, Workshops

Talks & Workshops: Feminist Futures: Wikipedia Edit-a-thon & Panel Discussion

13 April @ Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery ·
Presented by UWA Cultural Precinct ·

Join us for ‘Feminist Futures: Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon & Panel Discussion’ for an afternoon of events exploring the overlap between feminism, art and archiving practices. The work of women, transgender and non-binary artists has been underrepresented within public art collections. While disrupting the white, cis-male art canon has been integral to the work of feminists for decades, what are some of the issues for those carrying on this work today?

PANEL DISCUSSION (1:00pm – 2:30pm)
Join a panel discussion featuring local artists and arts workers committed to questioning and challenging institutional collecting practices. Collectively, we will consider ways feminism might be used as a toolkit to strive for more meaningful collections.

Speakers:
Aisyah Sumito
Dunja Rmandic
Gemma Weston
Sharyn Egan
Moderated by Megan Hyde

ART+FEMINISIM WIKIPEDIA EDIT-A-THON (11:30am – 3:30pm)
Join us at any stage throughout the afternoon for a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon! While anyone can contribute content to the world’s largest encyclopaedia, only 9% of contributors identify as female and less than 1% as trans or non-binary. Help improve those statistics by learning how to create and edit Wikipedia content. Some resources will be available on artists from Western Australia.

More info
W: www.facebook.com/events/753843034999324/?active_tab=about
E:  lwag@uwa.edu.au

Pictured: Kelly Doley, Things Learnt About Feminism #1 – #95 (detail), ink on 220 gsm card, 52 x 60 cm (95 pieces), CCWA 956 © Courtesy of the artist.

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