Arts West Creative Members unite to bring you an exhibition drawing on the common threads of connection; between each other, between other artists and to the world in different but interrelated ways. Because creativity, and beyond that, creative practice, cannot thrive in isolation. It requires inspiration, conversation, points of reception and interaction, funding, practical support, re-evaluation. It requires an audience, and to be sustainable it usually requires a market. These are all elements a creative practice needs to thrive and flourish, but at its core, artistic practice is driven more simply by a need to connect.
To think about connection is to draw attention to the spaces between us, between objects, between experience and between thoughts. Multitudinous connections are forming on a continual basis, some tenuous, others established. The form these connections take varies, from loose associations, meaningful relationships, to complex interdependencies. They can be physical or immaterial, defined by clear boundaries or be nebulous and fluid. They exist in the realm of attraction and repulsion, push and pull, tether and bondage.
Connection is supply chains, networking, fuses and cables, reception and airwaves. Connection takes us online and unceremoniously dumps us back out again when it fails. It is geopolitical, it is economic, it is environmental.
The artists represented in Connected evidence various forms of connection in their work. In his quintych Unsurveyed, Jonathon Goodfellow harnesses his personal longing for connection with an Australian landscape unsullied by colonial intervention. His longing speaks to the breadth of trauma and rupture seeded in the colonial era. Zimbabwe-born (to British parents) and now living in Australia, Unsurveyed also speaks to Goodfellow’s own displacement. In seeking connection with his adoptive land, he highlights the disconnect between settler and indigenous communities and ways of thinking about our environment.
Our first awareness of connection forms in utero, while neural pathways are rapidly forming connections of their own, and long before we begin to comprehend our own identity and separateness. This connection is built around scent and sound and felt as bodily responses. When developmental bonds are prematurely disrupted or excessively neglected, it can introduce stress that may have long term repercussions, just as our parents’ exposure to extreme prolonged stress may significantly alter our genetic inheritance. Within the emergence of connection sits potential for tension, rupture and transformation.
Tension is central within Francesca De Maria’s paintings of women. In Espy Princess in the 90s the tension is physical; in the upright posture and clasped hands we can immediately read the emotional state of the subject. This is no relaxing vignette, the figure is on edge, alert, waiting for something to occur. The layers of experience we bring to the work inform the way we will connect her posture with narrative potential. De Maria’s paintings reveal her as a keen observer, her connection to her subject matter is deeply embedded in these depictions.
Triobola speaks to something different. De Maria explains that this is a work born of nostalgia and her connection to place. Globalisation and modernisation of food networks is eroding traditional producer, vendor, consumer relationships as produce and transactions become sterilized. Triobola is an acknowledgment of the value of interpersonal contact provided by traditional networks, particularly to elderly people in rural sectors of Italy.
Networks are a proliferation of connections intersecting and diverging. Taking as her motif the iconic network of early industrialisation and economic expansion, Larissa MacFarlane relocates train tracks and journeys to the personal realm. Inspired by her experience as an artist living with disability, MacFarlane’s work navigates belonging, meaning and connection. She utilises the intersecting and diverging lines of train networks to make sense of the ways in which she is personally ‘navigating life’s encounters.’ MacFarlane expresses a desire to identify ways to move forward but also celebrate the present, ‘Train journeys, not only connect us with other places, but also with other people, both along the journey and at the other end.'
Tamirat Gebremariam’s practice operates within a space where new networks are currently being established, seeking points of connection to existing ones. As part of Australia’s recent wave of African immigration, he is developing a nuanced and celebratory representation of the African diaspora he inhabits. One dimensional representation establishes a single node of connection, Gebremariam’s practice adds multiplicity of contact points that disrupt our ability to stereotype and Other his subjects. His personal journey from Ethiopia, to Egypt and Australia has informed his interrogation of the way people experience belonging and connection to place.
Establishing connection to other people usually occurs via a sense of shared identity or experience. This can be established or aspirational. Linda Fry paints Frida Kahlo. Frida after Frida. She draws inspiration from the other artist’s style and emotional honesty. The response Kahlo’s work evokes in Fry is a gateway to her own creativity. Separated by time, geography and culture, Kahlo’s art provides a significant point of connection for Fry.
The works in this exhibition reveal a scope of shared enquiry occurring across disparate practices. Our need for connection to our own identity, stories, place and relationships feeds the creative practice of each artist. In presenting the works together we invite audiences to connect their experiences with our own.
EXHIBITING Arts West ARTISTS:
Curated by Danielle Smelter.
WHEN: Thursday July 25th, to Sunday August 4th 2019.
Opening Night: Thu 25th July at 8pm.
Wed, Thu, Fri & Sun: 10am-2pm / Sat: 10am-5pm
WHERE: Long Space, 419 Melbourne Rd, Newport VIC 3015
IMAGE: Larissa MacFarlane | “The choices that I must make ...” (2015) - Linocut
CATCH UP CLUB - CONNECTIONS
Join us for a very special Artists Networking opportunity on Thursday July 25th as part of Arts West’s Catch Up Club series. Supported by Hobsons Bay City Council, this event aims to build a stronger, supportive network of peers that will contribute to artists’ health and wellbeing and professional sustainability. More details can be found HERE.