A wall of crocheted corals
Installation, News, Reviews, Visual arts

A fragile wonderland

Review: Mulyana, “A Man, A Monster & the Sea” ·
FORM Claremont, Goods Shed ·
Review by Belinda Hermawan ·

In his first Western Australian residency, Indonesian installation artist Mulyana delights with a playful yet thought-provoking sea-themed installation “A Man, A Monster & the Sea”, at FORM’S Goods Shed exhibition space. Using yarn – a medium traditionally associated with accessories such as scarves, throws and blankets – Mulyana‘s soft and dynamic knitted and crocheted sculptures of reef, coral and marine creatures not only subvert our expectations but reference the threat that climate change poses to underwater worlds.

Mulyana’s grouped installations are ambitious in scale; each installation piece is its own standalone feature occupying the floor, wall or air-space. In combination with the intricate detailing that cleverly mimics coral, the works evoke a sense of wonder.

Crocheted and knitted jellyfish and fish
Schools of fish and jellyfish ‘float’ in the air. Photo: Taryn Hays, courtesy of FORM.

First, we encounter the safe world, where Mulyana’s alter-ego, a monster named Mogus, takes refuge. The colourful coral reef in Mogus World IV is teeming with life and vitality. It reaches, sprawls and cascades. Hung from the ceiling to “float”, the resulting movement of the schools of fish and jellyfish mimics the undulation of water. This exhibition is not a static experience; for children and adults alike, the installations invite exploration from different vantage points. Though touching the works is discouraged, there is an interactive family-friendly activity in the exhibition which encourages participants to use props to play and imagine.

knitted white jellyfish and coral
A sobering reality in ‘Satu’. Photo: Taryn Hays, courtesy of FORM.

Though the googly-eyed creatures of Mogus World (as Mulyana describes his imagined marine environment) are cute and cartoonish, the narrative of the exhibition is grounded in sobering reality; environmental disaster is not the stuff of fairy tales. As the Satu installation reminds us, coral turns white when it starts to die. The vivacity of Mogus World IV starkly contrasts the stretch of bleached jellyfish, whose tentacles dangle eerily towards the skeleton-like coral below. The fish are gone, the jellyfish are drifting away from the coral, leading to Si Hideung, who stands as a warrior evolution of Mogus. He is now on the defensive, in armour woven from a foreign material; plastic rope. The messages seem clear: it is plastic that is starves and destroys marine life.

The final installation, Kosong, is constructed in monochromatic dark tones. Mulyana explains that “while blackness may appear to be a symbol of emptiness, it also provides space in which to pause and begin a new journey”. So, though the word  “kosong” means empty, the work speaks to renewal; the end of one cycle leads to another. This cyclical nature is depicted in the tilted ring of numerous black jellyfish suspended above the greyed coral like a halo askew. The effect is ethereal; highlighting, perhaps, the fragility of these precious and unique underwater environments.

Mulyana originally learnt how to knit and crochet at the Tobucil collective in Bandung. Now based in Yogyakarta – aka Jogja, a city well known for its contemporary art – his collaborative community-based projects see him training and working with a group of women known as Konco Mogus. He and his “Mogus family” work to co-create these vivid, intricate clusters of sea-life. It’s this spirit of connection that embodies how we should interact with each other and our surroundings if we’re to realise conservation efforts.

An exhibition for all ages, “A Man, A Monster & the Sea” is worth diving into.

“A Man, A Monster & the Sea” shows at FORM Claremont, Goods Shed until the end of May.

Pictured top is ‘Mogus World IV’ in which intricate detailing cleverly mimics coral. Photograph by Taryn Hays, courtesy of FORM.

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Comics, Drawing, Film, News, Painting, Reviews, Visual arts

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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News, Reviews, Visual arts

Implanted clouds: Builded Remnants

Review: Builded Remnants –
Berndnaut Smilde –
The Goods Shed –
Reviewed by Phoebe Mulcahy

It is a testament to the shifting and often indefinable state of contemporary art today that an artist can build a career working with what essentially amounts to vapour and smoke. A ‘sculptor of clouds,’ Berndnaut Smilde has gained international acclaim both in and beyond the art world after first generating a successful cloud in 2012. He has been manufacturing and photographing these artificial clouds, known as the Nimbus series, ever since.

Beyond the obvious novelty value of witnessing a miniature cumulus cloud take shape indoors, Smilde’s works keenly challenge ideas of space, time and nature. Working between mediums—photography, sculpture and installation—and seeking to explore what lies between established dualities, such elusive and intangible phenomena as clouds and rainbows are fitting centrepieces in his practice.

Smilde’s clouds, which are generated by shooting smoke against water vapour, dissolve in just ten seconds and until recently, had only been produced in indoor settings. Oddly suspended in the ornate rooms and chambers of mansions, cathedrals and museums, Smilde’s inquiry into the boundaries between interior and exterior space, and the natural and artificial, achieve vivid expression.

Yet, as part of FORM’s International Residency Program last year, these synthetic clouds have for the first time been brought outdoors at two locations in Western Australia’s remote Pilbara region. Working with local photographer Bewley Shaylor, Smilde’s month-long residency also saw him create works at disused industrial sites in Perth, as well as in the state’s South-West, where he was able to use the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse to dazzling effect with an experimental work based on the colour spectrum.

As Smilde’s works are by their nature extremely short-lived and unrepeatable events, the resulting exhibition, at FORM’s The Goods Shed, is chiefly one of documentation, presenting just a handful of large-scale photographs by which these ‘moments of revelation’ have been recorded. The Nimbus clouds are shown at the East Perth Power Station and the Midland Railway Workshops in Perth; but it is their appearance in the Pilbara that is most striking. The clouds may now be outdoors, but you would never mistake them for those that naturally occur in the sky above. Hovering just a few metres from a waterhole in the gorges of Karijini National Park, the implanted cloud appears so uncanny as to be almost sinister, recalling the kinds of misgivings about the Australian landscape that have been immortalised in stories like Picnic At Hanging Rock. As with previous entries in the Nimbus series, the photographs’ intensely crisp and accurate resolution heightens the sense of intrigue and strangeness.

In inviting Berndnaut Smilde to create works in Western Australia, FORM particularly anticipated a series that would speak to the unique natural environments found in this part of the world, taking his critical awareness of Romantic landscapes as the point of departure. It’s clear that this has been more or less achieved, and the resulting works are as captivating as any Smilde has produced. Yet it is inevitably an outsider’s perspective, and it is hard to say whether the images ultimately add very much to our understanding or appreciation of these landscapes on a local level. Placed against the vast and clear-skied vistas of this state, it seems that much of what made these Nimbus clouds so striking as indoor phenomena has only evaporated in the open air.

“Builded Remnants” runs until 17 September.

Top photo: ‘Nimbus Roebourne’, Berndnaut Smilde, 2017. Photograph by Bewley Shaylor, courtesy of the artist, Ronchini Gallery, and FORM.

‘Nimbus Powerstation’, Berndnaut Smilde, 2017. Photo: Bewley Shaylor, courtesy of the artist, Ronchini Gallery, and FORM.


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August, Calendar, July, September, Visual arts

Visual arts: Builded Remnants – Berndnaut Smilde

6 July – 17 September @ The Goods Shed. Presented by FORM

“Builded Remnants” is an exhibition by Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde capturing moments of revelation throughout Western Australia.

The works are the result of a residency undertaken by Smilde in Western Australia, in 2016, at FORM’s invitation. Based in Perth, Smilde one his studio assistant, German artist Annegret Kellner, also travelled extensively throughout the Pilbara region and the South West.

Smilde has a history of artificially creating natural phenomena such as clouds and rainbows and a critical approach to Western understandings of landscape in the Romantic tradition, and FORM asked him to respond to WA’s regional landscape through this lens. Smilde worked with WA photographer Bewley Shaylor to create a new series of his Nimbus cloud images, both in metropolitan locations and in the remote Pilbara. This included his first outdoor Nimbus works, created in Karijini National Park and the red dirt landscape outside of Roebourne. Following his Pilbara residency, Smilde travelled to the South West to create an experimental rainbow work at the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse on Australia’s most south-westerly point, a site first mapped by the Dutch several centuries ago.

“Builded Remnants” runs until 31 August.


Top image: Berndnaut Smilde creating clouds outside east of Roebourne on his Pilbara residency, 2016. Photo: Bewley Shaylor, 2016.

Nimbus Powerstation, Berndnaut Smilde, 2017. Photo: Bewley Shaylor, courtesy of the artist, Ronchini Gallery, and FORM.
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