Two Pages

Two Pages is inspired by Art Forum’s 500 Words and seeks to bring some reflective element to the artists, exhibitions and works that engage with Jugglers at a number of levels. Submissions are invited from artists and arts writers in particular. Editor: Peter Breen. Previous articles by: Emily Devers, Peter Breen, Jan van Dijk, Sue Beyer, Stephanie Munro, Ashleigh Bunter, Paul Harris, Megan Holloway and others.

If you are interested in work experience writing article about exhibitions, for use in promotional material, website and/or newsletter please send us an email at info@jugglers.org.au for more information.

A Series of Spectacular Events: biennale extravaganza and those who display, decide, and turn up

Biennales have changed the rules for how art is displayed and why exhibitions should occur. Their method of display hinges upon grandiose spectacle and immersive atmosphere. On one hand, biennales have been hailed as the global platform for critiquing society’s obses-sion with spectacle, consumerism and market forces. However, on the other hand, their critics argue that biennales are intrinsically reliant upon innovation and sublime extravagance, which undermines their capacity to provide meaningful and objective critique. The biennale context has prompted the contemporary art-world paradigm, specifically museums, to reevaluate their curatorial practice in the hope to remain relevant in contemporary society. This report will address and analyse how the biennale model, and the shift in curatorial practice it represents and enforces, has impacted the relationship between art and the public.

Curatorial models for exhibition have become diverse to the point where the term ‘model’ may no longer apply to curatorial practice. Exhibition formats are inclusive of the-matic group shows, solo shows, or shows presented on their own intrinsic narratives – the blockbuster show (Graham & Cook 2010). Importantly, the shift of modernist to post-modernist perspective invalidated and replaced past curatorial models that enforced all-encompassing universal narratives with models of collaboration and dynamism (Schubert 2009). Over the past forty years, the global mega-exhibition model has experimented with new ideas for curatorial practice and has become a leading example regarding artistic display, production and perception (Gardner 2011; Griffin 2003). Indeed, Nedkova (2001) argues that holistic curating has become crucial; the ‘ultracurator’ embracing ideals that art and culture are all around us. In her opinion, the 20th century curatorial method produced projects that lacked depth, and were “fluid-starved”, while the shift away to a new method has gone too far in the other direction, and is now a method of over-curating as seen in biennales.

The shift in curatorial ideology saw the emergence of the ahistorical and mono-graphic models, which made the past historic-chronological model and MoMa model redun-dant. According to Schubert (2009), these two models now dominate display of art within museums and are “the complete antithesis of what come before”. He points out the shift in curatorial models occurred in response to the recent uncertainty of the museums role in con-temporary society and the lack of funding for museums. Townsend (2003) however argues that the influence and agenda of the museum remains at the forefront on the presentation of contemporary art, while the museum continues to exercise considerable authority upon artistic practice and production. An example of this authority would be the historic absence of new media art in museums, and although this is changing in practice the traditional image and ide-ology of art museums still places a significant barrier (Graham & Cook 2010). Upon reflect-ing on the role of curator and the curatorial model in general, Graham & Cook (2010) high-lighted how due to the myriad of collaborative contexts and practical incarnations of curating, the practice of curatorial models are more a fiction than a truth; that curating was more akin to a ‘mode’ in which curators function.

In general, the biennale model has created exhibitions of grand scales that often in-corporate several venues, present broad and ambiguous themes regarding significant social and aesthetic, and presents these themes to audiences as stimuli for constructive interpretation (McAuliffe 2016). However, the ‘innovative biennale’ model or ideal requires original themes to be continuously presented, and demands from the biennale curator compulsory re-writing and/or out-doing of any preceding biennale (Hlavajova 2010). This has lead to an in-creasingly difficult task for curator’s to construct new ideas for an increasing overabundance of biennales (Taylor 2016).

The phenomena of spectacle and event culture in relation to contemporary curatorial practice will now be analysed. Importantly, their are several topics beyond the scope of this report that significantly correlate with biennale spectacle and impact upon curatorial practice: funding and/or corporate pressures (Zenakos 2016); the shift away from geographic epicen-tres for art (Enwezor 2008); the de-valuing of artists and the growing labelling of curators as art producers (Buren 2010); and their effectiveness as mechanism for economic endeavour and political agenda (Mesquita 2003).

While biennales have certainly influenced curatorial practices, the extent in which biennales can provide a platform for social critique has become a point of debate. Hou Hanru (2016) defines the contemporary global society as one of spectacle, which develops an indi-vidual’s sense of perception, imagination, and reflection via a market capitalism and consum-erist ideology. According to Hanru, contemporary art biennales are an ultimate manifestation of society’s demand for spectacle. Indeed, their combination of numerous artworks makes them more akin to major sporting events than art exhibitions (Lowry 2012). Furthermore, the venues, resources, and preparation time provided by biennales (some more that others) have privileged artists to produce extravagant artworks and popularise certain art mediums, best exemplified in both cases by installation and video art, that are now referred to as ‘biennale art’ (Gardner 2011). However, the overall diversity of artist and artworks throughout bien-nales has been limited, the new global ‘circuit’ of biennale spectacle dominated by a small number of ‘star’ artists like Serra, Cattelan, Viola, Murakami, and Sherman, who’s works are continually represented and re-represented (Gardner 2011; McAuliffe 2016). Predictably, bi-ennales have thus been criticised for neglecting local concerns and local art practices, favour-ing instead the itinerant curators and artists who service international art markets and mobile global spectatorship (Blom 2010). The role of curators is key; if they are unwilling to engage in the first-hand research needed to discover new artists, than lesser known artists in fringe countries, such as Australia, will be consistently overlooked (Gardner 2011). Barker (2010) has criticised the sublime scale of mega-exhibitions, their layouts often presenting overly complicated narratives that are impossible to comprehend. Furthermore, mega-exhibitions are seldom accessible to a traditional public; rather these events are created by the elite for the elite, and propel and exacerbate a class system for art appreciation and viewership.

Hanru (2016), however, believes the global nature of biennales can provide an ironi-cally productive platform for art to expose, address, and resist society’s obsession with spec-tacle, consumerism and market forces – evident by his curating of the 2009 Biennale de Lyon ‘The Spectacle of the Everyday’. The point raised Hanru regarding biennales as a platform for instigating discussion is an important one, be it somewhat contradictory to his comments in the prior paragraph. The practice and theory informing resistance to spectacle can be traced back to Marxist political theory and the more recent Marxist inspired Situationist theory (En-wezor n.d). By reinventing Marxist theory, Situationist theory identified ‘spectacle’ as con-struct of capitalism’s impoverishment of interpersonal relationships through promotion, spe-cifically via mass media, of consumerism’s benefits and requirement for prioritisation (Debord 2014). Fundamental contradiction exists within mega-exhibitions; their intrinsic in-stitutionalism, spectacle and imperialism certainly questioning their legitimacy to provide any meaningful critique of such issues (Barker 2010). Although biennales and their role within society remains contested, the ‘spectacular biennale’ certainly provides a pivotal delivery sys-tem for influencing the display and reception of art.

The contemporary museum provides insight to how the biennale format of spectacle has influenced curatorial practices. Schubert (2009) explains how event culture has compelled museum curatorial practice to avoid risk by adhering to proven formulas for artwork display and arrangement. Society now expects exhibitions to be block-buster events, and from the curator’s position failure to deliver is not an option. Thus, curators stick to iconic, famous, perennial favourites like Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and prominent artists of the twentieth century. This perspective advocates the display of artworks that are inseparably linked to autobiography such as those of Caravaggio, Van Gogh, Modigliani, Freda Kahlo, Diane Arbus, and Tracy Emin. As a result of event culture, the new museum’s perspective has shifted to works that are easy to digest, easy to install, and/or immersive. Of particular note to Schubert (2009) is the emergence of fashion defined as artwork for exhibition. In this in-stance, he argues that the display of fashion is due to the museums’ alignment with ideals that require continually re-hashing social aesthetics in a way that is entertaining and anti-historic. Furthermore, in order to embrace event culture, curatorial selection process has replaced artis-tic judgement with aspirations to create spectacle and immediacy, the result being exhibitions that are open-ended resources for social trends and where examination of authenticity no longer matters. The expectations that art consumers now have regarding the definition and display of art has placed significant pressure on institutional bodies, so much so that curato-rial practice has experienced dramatic shift towards providing instantaneous understanding and satisfaction.

The recent 56th Venice Biennale, “All the World’s Futures”, in several ways high-lighted the inveteracy of ‘spectacle’ within contemporary society by exposing socio-politico-economical ramifications of capitalist and colonialist history. Curated by Okwui Enwezor, the biennale’s foremost endeavours were to critique capitalism and colonialism, and enable dis-cussion about humanity’s future by contemplating social injustices (Milliard 2015). The bien-nale displayed artworks that addressed the many tensions present across the globe (Baratta 2016), and in this way actively enabled the public to directly engage with social and institu-tional failings via a platform of global spectacle. However, the Biennale received criticism for its selection and presentation of artworks and the arguably quite confronting sentiments they embodied. Art critic Benjamin Genocchio (2015) described the biennale as “the most morose, joyless, and ugly biennale in living memory.” Much of Genocchio’s dislike for the biennale came from the experience, or rather lack of experience, he felt the biennale delivered. Genoc-chio (2015) criticised the biennale for having excessive focus on the past and present turmoils of humankind. In his opinion, the biennale was excessively moralising and didactic, to the point of annoyance, and created an unenjoyable visual experience due to its dispiriting and disconcerting content. Indeed, Buren (2010) argues the contemporary curator has gained li-cense to generalise artworks and artists by displaying artworks of tenuous relation side-by-side, and in doing so, has potentially diminished the intent and autonomy of each artist and/or artwork. True, the developing crisis in artistic authority has important correlation to event culture, which Buren acknowledges, and Enwezor’s artistic authority grants him ability he may abuse. However Buren’s points relate more to exhibitions with little to no legitimate ar-tistic theoretic foundation or direction, and so provide little support for criticism of ‘All the World’s Futures’. Enwezor deliberately used overlapping narratives, as opposed to a singular narrative, in order to symbolise history’s multiple and paralleled re-tellings (Milliard 2015).

Genocchio’s (2015) demand for visual pleasure, as if that was all that mattered, it seems, makes him more a propeller of spectacle rather than an advocate for derailing event culture or problematic artistic authority. He sought to delegitimize any constructive dialogue regarding the capacity of art to comment on confronting historic narratives. Genocchio felt the display of violence and death throughout the biennale overshadowed the few works he considered visually beautiful and joyous, such as “Earth’s Creation” by Kame Kngwarreye. Unbelievably, Genocchio implied that the significance and enjoyment of Kngwarreye’s work was lost due to the audiences’ education of “the appalling conditions in which Aboriginal art-ists live”. Genocchio stated that if he wanted to know such depressing details he would watch CNN or BBC news. As stated above, Situationist theory discredits mass media due to its bi-ased propensity for capitalist agenda (Debord 2014), regardless, the biennale’s purpose was to channel art’s obligation to reflect society as it is, not how we would like to imagine it; a cot-tonwool world of glitter and presumption where social empathy is left at the door. The use of artistic display by the 56th Venice Biennale highlights the influence biennales have gained via spectacle culture, the questionable and/or undiscerning expectations that event culture generates, and the biennales ironic potential to confront the spectacle enthralled audience.

The critical backlash against “All the World’s Futures” serves as evidence to the ex-pedience now placed upon the biennale model. Its’ failure to fulfil the basic tenet of any bien-nale – sensory overloads of enjoyable immersive experience – was criticised and took prece-dence over any important socio-politico-economic observations that were presented. And yet, criticism has also been directed at biennales for their adherence to this tenet; their intrinsic dependence upon spectacle, which significantly questions the format’s legitimacy to provide an artistic critique of capitalism. Perhaps the presentation and layout of “All the World’s Fu-tures” were not delivered with the clarity required to convey their meaning, and were testa-ment to Barker’s (2010) criticisms of biennale. Certainly, the curatorial model of display used by the biennale has divided many and, for better or worse, significantly impacted the manner in which art is displayed and interpreted.

By Adam Buchanan 2016

Jugglers 26/07/16

Without a Trace

I am arriving at an austere old derelict looking building it is used as a youth detention center. The weather is weird for Darwin, the sky is white and there is a chill in the air that feels like it is not moving at all. Everything in sight is shadows of grey to white.

There is a process of course and I have to sign in as a pre approved visitor. The girl on guard looks surprisingly like Amy Winehouse a dark beauty fully clothed in military style clothing and boots, with the fashionable thick intense drawn on dark brows of the day to enhance her mysterious tough look. She also has amazing black hair all pilled up on the top of her head and she is efficient.

No cameras, no phones, ID please, sign in time, date, both in and out of the building. Keys rattle, doors open and I am let through to first base the office to prepare my materials and wait until the participants have finished lunch. We will start at 1pm sharp and finish at 3pm as the boys are locked up at three for the afternoon and evening.

Time to go to the class room space for workshop, I am led by the team leader through a silent yard, quite large, minimal, dusty surrounded by a high wall adorned with a linier twist of double edged barbed wire and shards of glass. There is a white tower central to the yard which seems to merge with the white sky and one would never suspect that 29 boys between the ages of 12 and 18 live and breathe behind the walls of the surrounding austere buildings as one can hear a pin drop. Total silence permeates a scene of white in a dusty baron landscape. And I wait, guards come and go no sign of any boys and I wait.

Right on one pm I see a small group of Indigenous boys different ages and sizes and two guards walking down a pathway in my direction, they enter the compound I am in, we walk to the classroom in an orderly fashion of course a couple of the boys ask if they can help carry the materials and canvas and off we go.
More keys and regulations and we enter another small compound with a high powered hose, drain and a small concrete room off to one side. It has one table and I think perfect place to sit on the floor with two 2mt x 2mt canvases and paint. The guards position themselves either end of the room and instruct ‘keep the noise down’. The boys ask what are we supposed to do miss?

Okay we are going to paint two big paintings today on these canvases in groups. Who would like to think about the earth colour, sky colour, water colour? Not a great deal of response so I deligate , who said sky , who wants to work with this guy?

Hands go up and people join to work together.

And so it goes and before long we have four grouped around one canvas and five the other. What should we do miss? Mix colour , purple , yellow, pale blue, green, pink, earthy red, and white and black to add or paint shapes with. Paint a shape from the edge with your colour into the canvas then fill in the spaces with other colour. So we spend time mixing and painting and swapping colour, brush sizes and ideas and silence and focus fills the space as we sit on the concrete and in harmony with each other feel our way into multi coloured grounds drawn from the environment and this moment in time.

When the canvases are covered in coloured shapes I encourage the boys to think about their own mark, story, texture line work or signature, which can be worked over the top of the surface. One or two are resistant and seem insecure about such a commitment but with gentle coaxing we talk about feelings from home country, textures of the earth, movement of the sky and ways to lay images over the top and it happens quite naturally. An image of stick figures of a boy and girl under a rainbow emerges as a solemn young man eludes that this may be an image of him and his girlfriend. Some masterful cultural dot painting under high levels of concentration, delicate hatching in fine reds over green start to bring the surface to life.

The head psyche and team leader of the juvenile detention center come to take a look at how things are going and were amazed at the quiet and focus and stuck around for the rest of the afternoon. They had some one on one chat with the boys and even pushed a bit of paint around and spent some quality time.

A young boy from Alice Springs about 12 is helping with all the mixing and swapping of colour and is so helpful and well mannered I comment to him that he has lovely manners and his response to me is ‘ your very welcome miss’.

Delicate tracks meander across the vast interior of the painting as pathways are explored and compositions emerge from sensitivity and feeling. Nearing the end of our time together I ask who would like to sign and three or four boys carefully signed their names on the edge of the work.

‘Miss can I use my hand or foot to sign? ‘Sure but be careful not to spread the paint everywhere, ‘miss can you do this for me paint my foot? ‘ Sure , what colour come over here hold my shoulder and I will paint your foot, and he gracefully place a large purple footprint over the orange section of the painting and hops into the courtyard to hose off. Two or three other boys lined up and I painted hands and feet, signatures were made and printed on canvas.

At this point I looked up and one of the small boys had painted a blue purple mask on his face, the guards were grinning, I wondered if it was such a good idea…. Then white wrist bands were painted on bodies, blue hands, patterns on faces and (my kingdom for a camera and permission to use it ) the boys were in the grip of creativity and paintings were make on bodies and canvas.

At this point the guards became anxious about three o’clock lock down and cleaning up and boys were instructed to go into the courtyard with the big hose and clean themselves and any paint on the floor up. This of course was a bit of fun as they has been under lock and key most of their stay and smiles and eyes were shining with stars. A couple of older boys were taking turns cleaning the floor with a mop and two large paintings were moved into a storeroom to dry. I thanked the boys for having me and they thanked me for coming and we parted.

I was instructed that time was up and myself, team leader and head psyche gathered materials and headed back to the office .
The Amy Winehouse look alike signed me out of the compound and I left feeling a strangeness knowing that I will never see those boys again and a feeling of hope that those boys could find their way.

I suspect quite a few of them could be natural painters, and I left with no real trace of ever being there of course but for this story.

By Paula Payne
Artist, Brisbane.
Paula is part of Jugglers Art Space Inc “Citywell” project, a curated rotating installation of sculptural and 2D pieces by Brisbane artists installed in Public Buildings in Brisbane’s CBD – 111 George Street and 33 Charlotte Street.
 www.jugglers.org.au

Jugglers 26/07/16

Christopher Inwood is inward – painting to think

Chris Inwood de-installed his exhibition “Vouyer” from the Level 1 space at Jugglers today after two weeks and no art sales. He has secured a show at the BCC Square gallery in the city in 2017 after some serious lobbying and foot work and in a climate of closing spaces and an expanding artist cohort in Brisbane this is a significant success. His work as a new and emerging artist was expensive for Brisbane but it sometimes happens that good work – his work is good – and conceptual exhibitions like his fail to connect with collectors. Chris is a philosopher with a serious focus on understanding and meaning. It is a good thing that he has begun Art History at UQ as even though his self taught arts practice has reached a level of aesthetic impact with viewers, he has an obvious passion for making sense of his world and the world in general using his art as a spring board. This is not to say that he isn’t passionate about his arts practice as it seems that he is, but his ability to frame his work as scaffold for conversation and dialogue move him on from artists who only seem interested in their practice. As a collector and Director at Jugglers I am fine with that focus and the hundreds of artists and art works I have seen here attest to my passion for the aesthetic. However, to find someone so young who has a well developed grasp on at least the process of inquiry into a range of visual impacts is refreshing. Chris’s artist talk on the Saturday afternoon was a lively and helpful group discussion that he led with a mature group approach rather than a lecture.

His installation including 2 data projectors suspended from the ceiling included the scrolling of thousands of text messages between him and his girl friend Kate – who was the subject of the main body of painted work – and a series of GIFS he had collated into a looped stream. The theme of his work was around vouyerism as a habit that we have now all been drawn into where a “like” and a short sharp GIF means that our minds are being fast tracked away from a more reflective approach to art and life, a kind of shallow acceptance or rejection of commodified visuals. Chris’s skill as a painter and as one able to bring art movements onto canvas where some of his painting triptychs were intentionally art movement influenced, focused our eyes and inner responses into more than the well resolved works that he had painted. We were forced to assess what this was really about and why one photorealistic painting might not have been enough. As a young person influenced by the market driven world but with obvious understanding of its limits and of the benefits of a fairer and perhaps socialist world, he still had marketed himself with cards, printed books and TShirts which he did make some money from. We have been treated to a well thought out exhibition that had firm foundations and where Chris should move towards a successful career in bringing some impact on the deepening of our culture and our understanding of what it’s all about.

By Peter Breen 2016

Jugglers 21/07/16

“Decoy” - A Right of Passage

James Mullholland Artwork at Jugglers Artspace Inc.

James Mulholland’s pencil and charcoal on paper drawings at Jugglers Art Space Level 1 gallery are captivatingly haunting works, an unpacking of his own experience as a young male attempting to make sense of maleness incorporated as it so often is in young adult male violence, threat and fear. Self identity and a sense of self comes out in this body of work as a pathway still clouded with uncertainty.

Even the clenched hands have an element of nervousness and the shadowy self-portraits carry a feeling of lostness or shrouded desire, a common feeling in young white males in Australia. There have been excellent programs and money spent on key issues such as once punch can kill, drug fuelled violence, depression and suicide, but reaching male maturity in Australia in both indigenous and the white community seems to have become stuck. Perhaps not everywhere but from my observation certainly in the general population.

Some schools, men’s groups and churches have developed programs and support networks and books such as Biddulph’s “Manhood” are making a significant impact. My view is, however, that we need a spiritual, legitimate and honoured process of leaving boyhood and entering adulthood that is celebrated by all families,and mothers in particular.

James’ works are confronting and arresting with a powerful ability to hold the gaze. They are aesthetically appealing and his drafting skill second to none, but as one couple confessed to me at the opening, they didn’t want such confronting work on their wall. Perhaps their, or rather her feelings evoked by these drawings, are part of the confrontation that needs to happen. Art is the nerve end of the culture.

Over the weekend after this show opening I watched “Kes” a 1970 movie made about Billy [David Bradley] whose desire to not follow his father into the coal pits of northern England is an impossible dream until he finds, trains and becomes enamoured with an injured Kestrel [hawk]. The bullying, belittling and victimisation of Billy reflected cultural norms of the late 60’s in the UK but the view of James Mulholland would be that in 2016 in Australia, the same kind of attitude is rife. Young males are trapped by a system unable to see itself or find a way to wholeness or full humanness.

As a stark contrast I also watched a short video of Our Lady of Gethsemane, a Trappist Monk monastery in Kentucky, USA where the reclusive anti nuclear activist Thomas Merton lived before his untimely accidental death in 1968.

Merton had lived a wild “normal” life as a young male until his epiphany and conversion and “call” to his reclusive life as both a theologian, poet, activist and spiritual biographer. The stark contrast to Billy’s journey and James’ drawings is profound but I am not sure that Merton or any of his brothers were any more sure of their own maleness than the rest of us. The stark contrast, however, is that there is no violence in such a place, nor in the careful loving training of Kes by Billy. Gentleness is a path less travelled by men but it is in stillness, silence and reflection – along with courage, ritual and hard physical work – that men find missing parts of their maleness lying dormant under layers of bravado, fear and ego.

James Mulholland’s “Decoy” is an important addition to the conversation and action so urgently needed if young men from twelve to twenty are to find a new way of being that is free of violence, force and ego. A helpful follow on to this exhibition would be an artist’s talk with small group discussion to follow.

By Peter Breen 2016

Jugglers 31/05/16

Paper Boats

Above Jugglers Artspace on Brunswick Street in Fortitude Valley is a large-scale mural by Brisbane street artist Guido Van Helten. It features a black and white image of a man whose contemplative gaze is directed above and beyond the bustling street and surrounding rooftops. Helten created this tangible image from a photograph and subsequent drawing on paper. Like most of his works, which are painted on water towers, reactors, building facades, and other public spaces around the world, the mural captures the man’s inner essence, and provides a gateway into exploring his story. It is the story Sha Sarwari.

Sha Sarwari is a former Hazara refugee from the Ghazni province in central Afghanistan. He made the long and treacherous journey to Australia in 1999, and after spending seven months in detention was relocated to Brisbane. It was here that Sha began his practice as a visual artist. He uses this practice to create multifaceted artworks that help him to understand and come to terms with his experiences, as well as to reflect upon the broader social and political issues affecting refugees and asylum seekers.

The multifaceted nature of Sha’s artworks can be seen in his ongoing boat and postcard projects. Here, he took the potent symbol of a boat and recreated it using newspaper and cardboard. When referenced in relation to refugees and asylum seekers, this familiar object conjures up a myriad of catch phrases and headlines such as ‘stop the boats,’ ‘turn the boats around,’ ‘illegal people,’ ‘queue jumpers,’ and ‘security threat.’ The newspapers Sha selected featured these generalised mass media headlines. To counteract their claims and provide a personal insight into the plight of forced migrants, Sha concealed the words with a hand written script of his own story of arriving in Australia and his time in detention. He then took a photograph of this multi-layered object and turned it into a postcard, which he distributed around the suburbs of Brisbane, asking people to return to sender their thoughts on refugees and asylum seekers. The few responses he received were mainly positive, and these were displayed in his 2015 exhibition at Jugglers Artspace, alongside those that remained blank, or as captured in their title, reference a silent conversation. This ongoing process of taking a singular object and recreating it into a series of alternative forms, allows for an endless conversation that reflects the personal and collective complexities and perceptions of refugees and asylum seekers.

The most recent addition to Sha’s project was a ceremonial burning of the paper boat. This overtly symbolic and moving moment occurred in the early hours of the morning on a deserted beach in northern New South Wales. With the light of a full moon, Sha and his wife Affifa dragged the boat onto the beach, and as the sun began to rise, covered it in turps, set it alight, and watched it burn. This powerful act encompassed Sha’s journey to Australia, where there were boats, destruction, flames, and fire. Despite this, it was an incredibly peaceful and contemplative process that allowed Sha to come to terms with what happened, let some of the pieces go, but never forget them. He captured this inability to forget through collecting jars of ash, which will now be used to continue the project.

Art is a powerful medium for both reflecting reality and imagining an alternative. It is the space or tension between these states, where the transformative ability of art lies. This tension is not only seen in the burning of the boat, but in Helten’s mural. The painting, which was created from a photograph and drawing on paper, references both the paper boat and the layered nature of Sha’s art practice. Helten creased and folded the drawing of Sha into an origami boat. The delicate construction was then unfolded, and it is this image, with its intimate creases and folds, that Helten recreates in his mural. The process of unfolding, similar to that of burning, marks a coming to terms with, exploring, discovering, and letting go, and yet, the presence of the paper’s crinkly surface, like the ash that remains from the boat, reveals that our experiences can never be forgotten, but instead become part of who we are.

Helten’s mural captures the personal story of Sha Sarwari – a story that refugees and asylum seekers can both relate to, and use as a symbol of hope as they embark on a journey to create a new life in a foreign land.

By Alice-Anne Psaltis 2016

Jugglers 04/05/16

Burning The Boat

Early last Wednesday morning, before sunrise, I drove to a small beach in Northern New South Wales with a handful of artists and students. We had been invited to the burning of a boat, the next phase of an art project by Sha Sarwari, a former Hazara asylum seeker from Afghanistan and graduate of Griffith University [Queensland College of Art]. Sha has become a close friend over the past 3- 4 years through his work which I see as a very public journaling of his journey from asylum seeker/ refugee/detainee to Australian citizen and justice advocate. When not caring for his new son and developing his arts practice, he works as an interpreter for asylum seekers and detainees under the Australian Government’s “pacific solution.”

As I crept around the house at 2.30am I found myself in some kind of imagined world where Sha and other asylum seekers were quietly leaving a coastal village in Indonesia to board a boat only twice as big as his sculptural work. For 5 days – and one day with a broken down motor – they sailed across calm seas towards Australia and finally to a confrontation with an Australian customs vessel. Christmas Island and then Curtin detention centre led finally to his release and approval of his application for asylum. This was before Kevin Rudd’s pacific solution and the inevitable different trajectory of his life had he attempted asylum in 2016.

A full moon sunk majestically down on a still and glorious morning beach as the grey lights of dawn filtered up over the horizon and the moment of burning arrived. The symbolism of the burning was wrapped up in the theatre of the event as the turps fuelled paper and cardboard fire took hold. Sha invited me to pour the turps on the vessel with him and so it seemed like baptism, a preparation for death and rebirth. The moment had a deeply spiritual sensibility about it for me. There was a sensual almost romantic element to this morning’s fire on the beach and Sha’s walk to the water’s edge evoked images of New Testament mythology around the Jesus person’s post resurrection breakfast on a secluded stretch of Palestinian sea with his friends.

As we watched in a mesmerised trance fueled by metaphor, symbolism, tragedy, determination, kindness and luck Sha’s palpable relief broke into a smile on his handsome face. There was no closure, a word only applicable to doors, but there was a sense of being in a liminal space a space opened through this threshold experience.

The cooling embers were smothered in water and sand but not before a couple of kilograms were gathered into bowls for the next project – an ash brick.

The art making process seems to be a never ending exercise if both the aesthetic and emerging story are held as unfolding chapters. It is possible that in the attempt to construct meaning an essence statement or position arrives and there is an approximation to meaning but until that moment the making must continue to validate its beginning. My view that cultural and spiritual inquiry must be inextricably tied to the infinite creative core to hold their integrity and authenticity has Sha’s project as a fine example. There is yet more to be told of this man’s courage, pain, grief and growth and we do well to take our time to be present both to him and his work slowly and with respect and humility. The lesson is that if we are sidetracked as artists, designers, makers and collectors into only the ephemeral and utilitarian then our output and contribution to bringing understanding, meaning and depth to ourselves and our culture will be diluted.

Sha added another element to this story on the beach as the boat was burning down to the sand. It seem that the burning ritual had set him free to tell me another chapter. His cousin had wanted to come to Australia from a refugee camp in Pakistan and to do as Sha had done, come by boat. Sha had discouraged the boat idea but in a horrible twist of fate his cousin was killed in a suicide bombing in a pool room on his way home with friends. He had been in the room when the first bomb went off and as he went to help the wounded, the second bomb was detonated – a well tried terrorist strategy – and he was killed. The ash brick is, I suspect, part of a memory shrine for Sha and his family.

By Peter Breen 2016

Jugglers 26/04/16

Teagan Ramsay QUT Art Awards: Exhibition Review

What does it mean to talk of “space”? The word at once invites the idea of specified place but also the notion of absence, a gap, a void. Teagan Ramsay’s work can be seen as mediating these two, almost oppositional notions of space. Her ambient, durational videos depict domestic spaces, yet without their usual inhabitants. In this way, they are not so much empty as they are emptied: we can sense people were in them a day, hour or even minute ago. There is something ghostly underlying Ramsay’s interiors. The ghost is haunting because it is at once present and dead. Much the same, the people in Ramsay’s scenes are both there and not there: lingering in the wood, glass and concrete.

The Queensland house is the subject for Ramsay’s latest series, but we could equally say it is the sitter of her portraits. House 184 (2015) depicts the interior of an unkempt share house with a personality of its own. The house is filmed from various angles. The first looks out from a dark room to a frosted window, the second onto a pile of dirty laundry, the next to a coffee table piled with mugs, Heinz sauce bottles, toilet paper and bong, and finally the camera rests on a corner of the house, the white interior of the bathroom just visible in the background. Over the images plays a droning, high frequency sound.

Room (2016) films the same house but with quite a different personality. The video shows only one scene: a tall window seeping light into the house as a thin curtain moves back and forth in the breeze. There’s less of the grunge of House 184 here, and the house itself seems to have softened.

While Ramsay’s scenes are expressive, the medium of video gives the works an air of documentary. This sets her art in line with something like the Becher project. Bernhard and Hilda Becher aimed to photograph the disappearing industrial architecture in post –war Germany. What they produced was a vast typology illustrating that many of these public structures shared particular formal qualities and indeed, shared a kind of personality. Like the Bechers, Ramsay reveals something of humanity in the very non-human structural forms. Of course, Ramsay’s work is not taxonomy but the same respect for objects and architecture remains.

Behind the two projected videos stands Ramsay’s installation work. Windows taken from a Queensland house are stacked together, as if making a bonfire. The wood is lit from below and beneath it Ramsay has placed a carpet very similar to the one seen in House 184. The installation forms a nice materialisation of the videos, as if Ramsay has plucked the important elements of her films and arranged them in the real world. This small pile of material – a deconstructed Queenslander – works particularly well in the gallery space. The gallery architecture is much like the houses Ramsay depicts. After studying the wooden panels of House 184 or the windows piled before us, we might turn our heads and realise we are in a very similar space. The works ultimately encourage us to read the place we are in with as much care as the ones depicted on screen.

Teagan Ramsay’s exhibition is small but important. Young artists are returning to architecture, but perhaps with more nuance than their predecessors. Ramsay reveals the presence a space has when we are absent. There is both an emptiness and a richness in her works, which uncovers the complex relationship we all experience with the space around us.

_Reviewed by Sophie Rose

Jugglers 20/04/16

Pleasure, Pain & The Liminal Space

Janna Kovak created her installation Between two worlds by digitally projecting florescent light onto two pieces of fabric that she suspended from the ceiling. Visible as I entered the gallery, the work immediately grabbed my attention and encouraged my interaction. The wavering green light beckoned me forward, and as I approached, I was struck by the transparency of the material. It reminded me of the mosquito net that hung over my bed as a child, and provoked by this memory, I stepped through the first veil and into the liminal space.

The liminal space is the point between pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness, the rational and the irrational, the past and the present. We live our lives between these conditions – these personal and emotional states. The exhibition Pleasure, Pain and the Liminal Space brings together the artworks of six female artists to reveal how Art Therapy can help propel people ‘across the threshold, through the liminal space, and into the here and now.’ Each artist explores this process in different ways. From physically creating the liminal space, to depicting what lies on the other side of this space, their highly personal works confront and capture their individual journeys through pain, trauma, and suffering, in search for, and to ultimately find, a new consciousness.

This consciousness is seen in the vibrant canvases and whimsical jewellery of Jessica Edwards. She created these works to help her come to terms with the realities of post-traumatic stress disorder. An all-consuming force, PTSD often restricted Edwards from seeing the pleasure, beauty, happiness, and strength in her life. Her artworks became a space where she could explore these opposing emotions, as is captured in The Tulip, which references both endings and new beginnings, as well as in her brass jewellery, which features fictional mushroom figures, and explores the void between isolation and togetherness. To complete this body of work, Edwards has cleverly included her grandmother’s mirror. It alludes to the role of her art in reflecting what PTSD masks, and in turn, provides a contemplative space where the viewer is invited to confront their own realities.

The intricate constructions of Melissa Stannard also require the viewer’s in-depth engagement. She uses an assortment of disregarded objects to create challenging works that reflect her personal journey. In Memory Box, Stannard explores a series of painful memories. Reminiscent of a child’s dolls house, it features a selection of familiar items, such as family photographs, vintage rulers, tape measures, clocks, feathers, a birds nest, eggs, nails, bottles, plastic doll parts, crosses, OHT film, cap gun caps, newspapers, and a death certificate. The artist lost her mother when she was two, and her upbringing thus became a period of trauma and homelessness. Memory Box reflects this suffering, whilst also appearing playful and hopeful. This is seen in Stannard’s ability to identify with things that are abandoned and useless, and yet turn them into something with purpose and meaning.

This sense of transformation is also seen in the sombre tones and harsh lines of Jen Chester’s paintings. They are transformative processes, which allow the artist to let go of something, piece the puzzles together, and confront difficult issues. Next to her work Anomie, which features a red figure surrounded by other ghostly outlines engulfed in a blue and black landscape, Chester has placed a response book in which she poses the question what do you see? In doing so, I believe the artist extends the process of Art Therapy to include both the act of art making, as well as the act of looking. Viewed in this context, the artworks in the exhibition take on a heightened dimension – one that allows the viewer to step into the liminal space and reflect on their own past and present, pleasure and pain.

– Exhibition Review by Jugglers Art Space Inc. Volunteer Alice-Anne Psaltis

Jugglers 14/03/16

Transition - A Process of Change

Transition refers to a process of change or adaption. It is a passage between one form, state, or condition, and another. In disrupting the viewer’s perceptions, it allows for the creation of an alterative reality.

The exhibition Transition at Jugglers Art Space brings together the works of Cherylynne Bullen, Justin Garnsworthy, and Birgit Kehr, to explore how technology can be used to physically alter images, materials, and mediums. Each artwork in the exhibition maps a transition of sorts – from the figurative to the abstract, the materiality of recognisable objects into two-dimensional forms, and a personal transition between differing worlds.

On entering the gallery, I found myself surrounded by Bullen’s pixelated images of varying colours and sizes. The artist creates these images by digitally manipulating photographs she has taken of everyday objects and personal memories until they are devoid of their recognisable features. This is seen in Yacht 2016, where Bullen has adapted a photograph of a yacht at sunset into a rotating vortex of blues, yellows, and greens. Aside from these signifying colours, the artist has distorted the original image beyond all figurative representation. In this act, she creates her own language of abstraction that carry’s metaphors of the everyday into an evolving digitalised space.

Garnsworthy also constructs his own visual language, which he describes as ‘hyperdrawing.’1 He uses the everyday office material of blu-tack as a drawing tool – stretching and moulding it into ‘blobs and smears.’2 He then scans these forms onto the computer, where he digitally enhances them in Photoshop, before reprinting the images in hardcopy. The resulting artworks are the strongest and most striking in the exhibition. Unlike Bullen’s altered photographs, the blu-tack in Garnsworthy’s work maintains its familiarity. It transitions between abstracted forms suspended in a blackened space, and a malleable material with a functional purpose. In this process, the artist extends notions of drawing and our conceptions of physical materials, allowing the viewer to experience their possibilities and limitations.3

Alternatively, Kehr’s photographs do not offer a physical transition between forms, but rather a personal and spiritual one. Having moved to Australia as a migrant, the artist was taken with the country’s rugged coastline and harsh landscape. Instead of exploring the realities and imperfections of the environment, Kehr adjusts her photographs into pristine renditions of nature. They provide the viewer with a meditative state, and seek to offer a passage into another world. In this sense, her works play on the concept of ‘Art as Therapy.’

The artists in the exhibition each offer different ways of visualising processes of transition, revealing that nothing is ever as it seems, it can always be manipulated into something else.

– Exhibition Review by Jugglers Art Space Inc. Volunteer Alice-Anne Psaltis

1. Justin Garnsworthy, ‘About,’ http://www.justingarnsworthy.com/about/.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.

Jugglers 01/03/16

Numinous-i at Jugglers Art Space - Oct 9th to 21st 2015

Article written by Sophie Rose

On entering numinous- i, one is invited into a space of sanctified quietness. A series of large, busy, Primitive-esque paintings by David Howard encircle a suspended black box, containing Darryl Roger’s hologram piece, Sehnsucht; and so, pagan visions surround the tabernacle. A sense of ritual undoubtedly informs both sets of work, yet is manifested quite differently in each. Howard gives a wild, uncontained spilling-forward of figures: as if spirits have seeped from the canvas into the gallery space. The shapes seem to balloon before one’s eyes: the image is full of gaseous intensity. Rogers provides a far more internal experience. One must enter his space; the art becomes a kind of confession-box and, as such, the surrounding area of the gallery begins to concave in on the box. The coupling of these two artists is something like the coming together of the voodoo and the sacramental, to create a meta-spiritualism.

It is from this that we can consider both artists in a dialogue with Magritte’ian surrealism. In both works, one figure slowly morphs into another. In Howard’s paintings this transition is spatial. Thick coils join one shape to the next, springs jump out from the background and various substitutions – a saucer for eyes, a river for a tongue and the face divided like tectonic plates- form conceptual links between shapes. What Howard makes apparent is that the mind does work to see saucers in eyes and connective “coils”, that is associations, between the objects in our world.

Rogers achieves much the same effect in the temporal. His hologram is projected onto a model stage, allowing a pantomime of associations to unfold. Against a backdrop of ocean, a moon superimposed by a sheet of clouds sits. On looking at this collage one cannot help but separate the elements: a moon sits above the sea; a moon lies in the sky with clouds. Each still forms a condensation of associative imagery: a reduction of common memory into a code. And yet nothing stays still. The moon fades into brick, the brick into wild dog. If in automatic drawing the hand is allowed to move freely over the page, then here we have something like automatic theatre: the show moves freely from one concept to another, following the thread of a playful mind.

Through its bold and heavy forms, Howard’s series brings Surrealism back to its Cubist and Primitive roots. The shapes in the work push out from the canvas, tense behind the picture plane, bouncing off its surface. The small sections of titanium white leap out at the viewer, above the collection of deep greens, yellows and red. The images appear to bubble to the surface, pushing against the picture plane. Like water boiling beneath the lid of a saucepan, the tightness of Howard’s painted forms creates a repulsive force against the eye. The paintings provides a retrospective insight into this repulsive nature of surrealism and the surreal nature of the repulsive: often we say of something strange, a dream perhaps, that it cannot be grasped and that it seems to work against one’s memory.

On the other hand, Rogers brings Surrealism forward to what may be considered its natural conclusion: the virtual realm. In digital art, images can be collected, stored and re-arranged with great ease; pictures of different times and places can be brought into the same space with the click of a button. As Rogers explains, many different images stream into his process:
My digital art is approached like a collage. I collect images, video, 3D meshes and other art works that interest me, over a very long period of time. The video imagery in Sehnsucht was collected from disparate times, a holiday in the Whitsundays, a walk on a beach in Tasmania, a chance connection with a 3D modeler in Madrid. (Darryl Rogers, 17 October 2015)
If we consider the various images one sees on a computer screen, associations between them are not necessarily pre-ordained but generated by their collection in the one space. In other words, Rogers’ images are not products of a singular theme but hold a potential to create a number of different ideas, depending on their arrangement. In this way, a “memory” between objects is creative: one does immediately know the connection between the sea and a brick wall but is forced to create one; both can shield objects from view, perhaps.

However, the spiritual is not merely the surreal but also the ritualistic. Here it is worth considering the use of repetition in both artists’ work. In Howard’s paintings, rhythm bounces form one canvas to the next. As a series, one might be tempted to think that Howard’s work is monotonous: that each canvas is very similar to the next. However, what may appear at first to be repetition is, more precisely, insistence. In Gertrude Stein’s famous line “a rose is a rose is a rose”, one does not hear “rose” in monotone but with a varying stress on each repetition. Similarly, each canvas by Howard embodies a different character; has a different stress to it, one could say. Motifs are carried throughout the series, in particular, wires and coils. Yet from painting to painting we see wires thicken, coils accumulate and spirals tighten.

The repetition in Rogers’ work is more dreamlike, as if following a steady mantra. The transitions from one frame to the next are regular and slow. Sehnsucht is a German word that means to long for a home never able to be obtained. It is to feel a kind of dislocated nostalgia: to miss something without knowing precisely what that object of desire is. Watching Rogers’ work for a few minutes entails seeing repetitions of the video. After a while, one cannot remember whether the memory of an image in the hologram originates in real life or from a prior cycle of the tape. The work is not only about a dissociative memory but in fact induces the very feeling of sehnsucht in its rhythm.

The exhibition lives up to the expectation set in its title. Both artists achieve that specific combination of dream and ritual embodied in religious sensation. This is a show that matches its theory with competence and beauty.

Jugglers 19/10/15