Pressure Sensitive - Interview

V∆ND∆L Gallery will soon be celebrating the opening night of ‘Pressure Sensitive’, an exhibition by artist Joel Dickens

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“Children unleash scribble in a moment of uninhibited, spontaneous, emotional expression - subconscious, absent-minded and pure.

This is not that.

Here, childlike and spontaneous gestures are constricted by the neuroses of adulthood. The paint never reaches the boundary; staying within the lines. Identity is restricted by the adult ego, and passions are sacrificed to the day-to-day realities of life. Good intentions meet their limitations. A nervous breakdown that you’re not allowed to have.

The paintings are created by laying many layers of paint, before meticulously chipping away to create a calculated expression of hi-key emotional outburst.

The gestural works encapsulate a tension between the modern adult’s state of freedom and imprisonment. Taking flight in a cage.”

Over the past couple of years Joel has experienced a number of confronting events which have both inspired and hindered his practice.

‘Pressure Sensitive’, is a series of works made around these events, the title alluding to this period in the artist’s life. This exhibition at Vandal Gallery will be the first time these new works have been shown as a series, showcasing his new approach and marking a new period in the artist's career.

Art Pharmacy writer, Karl Sagraab sat down with Joel to discuss how he came to create ‘Pressure Sensitive’.

What made you decide you wanted to be a painter?
I saw a photo, when I was about 15, of Guernica hanging at the UN which made an impression on me. It suggested to me, that painting could make a difference in some way, and that's what I wanted to do. It turned out that Guernica was a tapestry copy and that the UN is less than perfect, but at the time it pulled two things together in my mind, art and wanting to make the world a better place. I'm a bit more cynical now but I continue to believe that art can make a difference to people's thinking and that the ripple-effect from one person's interaction with an artwork or book, upon society, can be significant.

Can you describe your practice, your use of medium and material, for the series of works in Pressure Sensitive?
Like most artists I struggle to find the amount of time I would like to paint. I have a family, a house and a day job. In this way the work has a performative aspect to it, inasmuch as it is created within and in reaction to life's events. Time to paint is snatched from the jaws of everyday responsibilities and the work is, in no small way, inspired by this predicament. In terms of medium, I use both acrylic and oil; a number of layers of acrylic underpainting and then an oil layer which I extract the gesture from. The title refers to both the technique of the production and the environment the work is painted in.

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Did you have an underlying theme in mind when creating the works or did they come about individually and come together in exhibition form in the end? In other words, was there a particular inspiration for these works?
The inspiration for each work can differ dramatically. As with previous work, they are painted in reaction to events, be they personal, political or environmental. With this work now, however, there is a greater emphasis on the language, the motif,  which I've spent a few years developing and arriving at. The individual works are painted in their own space and time and in response to a particular event. But the exhibition might be read as a series of diary entries, scribbled utterances, or a cross section sample of one person's existence.

This exhibition is in Sydney but do you have a favourite place to exhibit your works?
I had a couple of exhibitions in Buenos Aires which was exciting. There's a vibrant painting scene there and, for some reason, my work went down well. In terms of where it ends up, my work has been bought for display in foyers and restaurants. It gives me a kick when the work can be seen in public spaces, where the viewers are many and constantly changing.

Are there any painters or artists that inspire or influence you and you work?
The work I'm influenced by is the work that has had the greatest emotional impact on me. I'm a fan of anything that investigates the human condition. There are many artists I like but I have been inspired and influenced by; Pablo Picasso, Franz Klein, Willem De Kooning, Ernst Ludvig Kirchner, Edvard Munch, Kathe Kolwitz, Helen Saunders, Bram van Welde, Graham Sutherland, Alexander Calder, Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Sylvia Plath, Hermann Hesse, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. I sometimes feel embarrassed that my influences aren't more obscure, but there you go...

Vandal Gallery will be hosting the opening of Pressure Sensitive on Tuesday 5th of September.

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'Desert Stars' Exhibition Opening

Review by Melanie Booth

On August 10 ‘Desert Stars’ debuted at V∆ND∆L Gallery in Redfern. V∆ND∆L exhibited works from incredibly talented Indigenous Australian artists with a key focus on their connection to the land and the ethics behind exhibiting Aboriginal work.

All works originate from art centres in extremely remote desert communities within Australia, for example Martumili, which is located in the very heart of the Western Desert. The exhibition provides a platform for these usually inaccessible works to be viewed by an urban Sydney audience.

Nichola Dare, the guest curator and owner of Aboriginal Contemporary is one of the lucky few that has earned the trust of some members of these communities in order to gain an understanding of their practice and to form strong, supportive relationships.

The works all share a common theme in their connection to ‘country’, a vital concept for all Aboriginal peoples. According to Dare, “some of the works tell stories of country tens of thousands of years old, others are depictions of country, the locations of tracks, hunting grounds and waterholes.”

Specific care has been taken in the orchestration of this exhibition to engage in ethical practices in displaying the work of these artists within an urban setting. This is a crucial, positive step forward within the Australian art scene in its engagement with, and representation of, art created by remotely located Indigenous people who may have difficulty having their work represented to a city audience.

The event was opened by Sophia DeMestre on behalf of Art Pharmacy, the Welcome to Country was given by Donna Ingram, a Wiradjuri woman and active local community leader, while curator Nichola Dare gave some background on the artists and their works.

MCA X VANDAL Gallery: Ask An Artist Anything

Written by Louisa Tiley

The latest MCA Young Ambassadors event was much more personal than regulars are used to. Hosted by Redfern’s new kid on the block, Vandal Gallery, it was an intimate gathering of artists and art lovers - all curious about the relationship between creatives and their work.

On the night Vandal’s current selection of vibrant artists - Ariella Friend, Joi Murugavell and Marnie Ross - played an active role in a private viewing of their exhibition Somewhere Between.

It was a unique evening which endeavoured to break down the often impermeable barrier between artist and audience. To achieve this the three exhibiting artists were part of a speed-dating style session during which attendees could “ask them anything” about their practice, creative process, mentality or career.

A bell was used to signal three minute intervals, when guests rotated to the next artist. However many of the more sneaky patrons ignored it to stay for 6, 9 or 12 minutes, in order to delve further into compelling discussions.

Marnie Ross was the first artist I spoke to. Seated beneath a selection of her bright, graphic paintings, we chatted candidly about how printmaking and design inform her abstract compositions. She is closely influenced by the detail and movement inherent in nature - something strongly evident in the wooden textures of Every Night.

Ariella Friend’s work provided an interesting point of contrast, as three dimensional pieces which challenge the boundaries between painting and sculpture. I loved hearing about her sustainable approach - particularly the way she reuses discarded items alongside new materials to reflect the complexities of consumerism. This was most clear in my favourite of her works, Composition in Metallics.

Joi Murugavell completed the collection. She was wearing one of her signature outfits - a blazer, pants and hat combo printed with her own artwork. I was immediately drawn to her bold, witty paintings, with works such as Bad Art Day and A Small Plot Change cleverly playing with cultural iconography.

It’s interesting to note that all three artists began their creative careers with design backgrounds. Because of this Vandal’s exhibition subtly confronted the stigma against graphic designers which often influences contemporary art critique.

This was just one of many refreshing aspects of the night. Having honest, open conversations with artists brought up insightful questions about the future of the industry and how young artists can carve their own unique paths to success.

V∆ND∆L Gallery: Talking ‘Aboriginal Contemporary’ Exhibition

Interview with Nichola Dare, conducted by Jennifer Hesketh

V∆ND∆L Gallery will soon be celebrating the opening night of ‘Desert Stars’, an exhibition of Indigenous art to be guest curated by Aboriginal Contemporary owner, Nichola Dare. ‘Desert Stars’ consists of works from talented Indigenous Australian artists who live in remote communities.

‘Desert Stars’ will showcase the work of some of our finest living contemporary artists to an urban Sydney audience.

Jennifer Hesketh AKA Art Pharmacy artist Quirky Bones talks to Nichola about bringing remote indigenous art to an urban audience, sourcing art and ethics.

You’ve curated a very diverse selection of artworks and artists for this exhibition. What themes bind them together?
Nichola Dare: Essentially, two things link all the work in ‘Desert Stars’. The first is provenance. All of the paintings are from art centres in extremely remote desert communities. Some of them, such as Martumili, in the very heart of the Western Desert, is one of the most remote communities in all of Australia, many hours by 4WD from the nearest town of any significance.

The other thing that binds all these works is their connection to ‘country’, which is a profound concept for all Aboriginal peoples. Some of the works tell stories of country tens of thousands of years old, others are depictions of country, the locations of tracks, hunting grounds and waterholes.

The link between people and country is so complete in fact that there is a contemporary painting by Tjungkara Ken from Amata in the APY Lands in this year’s Archibald Exhibition, which, as you know, is a portrait prize, that is actually a representation of the land but submitted as a self portrait because of her connection to her lands. All credit to the Archibald curators for not insisting all portraits need to show eyes and a nose!

A big part of sourcing your art is travelling to these remote communities. How has your relationships with these art centres, artists and communities changed over time?
I consider it an extraordinary privilege to be able to go into these communities, most of which are totally off-limits to the general public and even some art dealers. Even though I’ve travelled to these communities many times, the raw beauty of the landscapes and the warmth of the people still fills me with excitement and awe.

The communities themselves are understandably cautious of strangers so it has been a long process of slowly earning their trust, listening to their concerns and always doing the right thing by them. Once you are accepted the relationships are very strong and need to be, as individual art centre managers move on and the communities of artists are also fluid. The work I sell through Aboriginal Contemporary in Bronte is one of the main sources of income for many of these communities so I feel a real sense of responsibility towards them.  A big upside of building authentic relationships with communities, art centres and artists over many years is getting access to some of the very best work that those art centres produce. I’m very lucky.

More and more people today are concerned about ethical practices in Aboriginal art. What role does this play in the way you select work and curate exhibitions?
Some of the stories of unfair and unethical exploitation of artists make my blood boil. People are right to be concerned and wary but at the same time it’s important they aren’t scared away from the category or both themselves and the communities who rely on art sales miss out.

My responsibility as a gallery owner is to ensure my customers can be confident they are buying work with impeccable provenance and can be confident that the artists are treated fairly, respectfully and ethically. The simplest way to do this is to work directly with the community art centres, who always issue certificates of authentication for every piece. Art centres also provide opportunities, training and career development for practising Aboriginal artists and arts workers and act as agents between artists and galleries, museums and institutions. Most art centres will sell directly to the public but as they are often in very remote locations it’s often more efficient for them to work alongside reputable galleries in urban areas, who are better placed to sell and promote the artwork.

Why is it important to bring regional Indigenous art to an urban audience?
It is not only important to bring remote community art to Sydney it is essential, for both the artists and customers.  Having worked with remote communities for the last seven years I know that people will look at this exhibition and be amazed at what they are seeing, this is as exciting for me to see as it is to sell an artwork.  It is also important for people to understand how scarce some of these works are, for example the only other works available in Sydney at the moment by Mabel Juli are held in the public collections by the MCA and the Art Gallery of NSW. My belief is that every home should be filled with art, as it is good for the soul, and when Australia has one of the richest art cultures in the world it makes total sense for that art to be indigenous art.

RSVP to event here

Exhibition Review - When the Sky Fell: Legacies Of The 1967 Referendum

Showing at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, 2nd July - 20th August 2017. Written by Karl Sagraab - a young writer from WA - tells Sydney based Art Pharmacy about what is happening in the Perth arts scene this NAIDOC week, and why art can address current issues of Indigenous recognition.

Marking the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Federal Referendum, a catalyst point in the consideration of Aboriginal affairs in Australia, the exhibition at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, When the Sky Fell: Legacies of the 1967 Referendum, is poignant of current issues of recognition and acceptance.

Including works from artists such as Sharyn Egan, Mervyn Street, John Prince Siddon, Rammey Ramsey, and Kathy Ramsey. When the Sky Fell, explores consequences (or non-consequences) of the referendum, 50 years on. While the referendum removed discriminatory clauses from the constitution, it is often viewed as a grand failure toward Aboriginal Australians.

The works
Sharyn Egan’s work, The Nullians (2017), makes a commentary upon the diversity of Indigenous Australians - whose individual needs and rights were not considered by lawmakers. Each exquisitely sculpted piece in The Nullians is different from the others; bearing unique inscriptions, with each distinct within the mass of objects.

 Sharyn Egan,  The Nullians , 2017

Sharyn Egan, The Nullians, 2017

Mervyn Street’s works focuses heavily upon the droving days prior to the referendum - days hardly influenced by the referendum changes. Prior to 1967, many Aboriginal Australians worked on cattle stations and were paid not in wages but in rations of flour, sugar, and tea. Following the referendum, many Indigenous Australians lost their jobs due to the reluctance of white Australians to pay them a wage, let alone a living one. Street conveys this frustration in her works, consisting of illustrated saddles.

 Mervyn Street,  Barcoo Stock Saddle , 2017

Mervyn Street, Barcoo Stock Saddle, 2017

John Prince Siddon creates marvellously vivid etchings of life in Australia before the arrival of Europeans, making commentary upon the theoretical and flawed notion of the “Australian People”. Siddon’s work reflects the distinctly negative impact that the arrival of Europeans had upon the welfare of Aboriginal Australians - an impact manifest in the Referendum, despite all its good intentions.

 John Prince Siddon,  Australia , 2016

John Prince Siddon, Australia, 2016

Rammey Ramsey’s vibrant art speaks of connection to place. Working in ochre and acrylic pigment on linen, Ramsey’s pieces form a figurative and literal connection to the land, whereby the ochre both represents and is a part of the landscape it serves to paint. Kathy Ramsey’s work is, like Siddons’s and Ramsey’s, an incredible evocation of place. Painting her ancestral country, incorporating old Ngarranggarni stories and new tales of station life, Kathy combines country and history in canvases created with strong compositional narrative and use of negative space.

 Rammey Ramsey,  Untitled , 2008

Rammey Ramsey, Untitled, 2008

 Kathy Ramsey,  Bow River Country , 2016

Kathy Ramsey, Bow River Country, 2016

The Ceremony
The opening celebration, celebrating both the opening of the exhibition and the launch of NAIDOC week, was beautiful and moving, as befits the exhibition of this calibre. A wonderful welcome to country, performed by Nyoongar Elder Rev. Sealin Garlett, was followed by a dance performance from Moorditj Moort, and talks from the curator, Clothilde Bullen, and artists Mervyn Street, John Prince Siddon, and Charmaine Green.

In addition, Mervyn Street created a live sand-animation throughout proceedings that was projected onto the big screen in the Perth Cultural Centre to lend an air of grandeur and fascination for all to the occasion.

But perhaps the Hon. Paul Papalia MLA, Minister for Tourism; Corrective Services; Defence Issues; Gascoyne; Goldfields-Esperance, choice to suggest that the inherent value of Aboriginal Australian culture is purely for tourism benefits, was not the best addition to what was otherwise a great night.

In my view, this seemed to underline a lack of interest by the government in Indigenous affairs; marking the need for such a prescient exhibition.

Calling All Future Espo’s: School Holiday Workshop For Mini Artists

Art Pharmacy Consulting is excited to work with Mirvac and UrbanGrowth NSW to be part of the strengthening of the local community at Green Square through art and collaboration.

Dates:
Friday 14th July: 9am-5pm
Saturday 15th July: 9am-5pm

Where:
East Village Shopping Centre
4 Defries Ave, Zetland NSW 2017

As part of Mirvac and UrbanGrowth NSW’s creative hoarding initiative, there will be exclusive art making workshops for the world’s top creative thinkers... kids!

This school holiday, local Sydney artist Elyssa Sykes-Smith, graduate of NAS and Sculpture By The Sea prize winner, will be leading workshops in East Village Shopping Centre for some artists in miniature (alongside their parents).

The arts and crafts activity will involve the creation of designs on timber letters, to later be installed on Mirvac and UrbanGrowth NSW’s hoarding at Green Square Town Centre. Mini artists and parents are invited to come see their handiwork once the artwork has been installed and grab a free hot drink from The Social Corner.

Mirvac and UrbanGrowth NSW have opened The Social Corner at Green Square Town Centre. This new community meeting point is a space to relax, grab a coffee, collaborate and be inspired. There’s free Wi-Fi too.

The letters will spell out:
INSPIRE
ART
YOU

We want the creation of this artwork, as well as the final product, to reflect the importance of coming together, and getting to know each other. In short, the transforming nature of community in Green Square.

Read here about the giant rooster we created with Mirvac & Sykes-Smith for Chinese New Year