The art world is a funny universe. It operates on a multitude of levels: the artists, the public galleries, the commercial galleries, the curators, art writers and critics. For the most part, the community is strong and supportive. It’s an exciting industry that has the ability to enact change and provoke thought.
Art can be a dialogue that speaks freely across time, gender, culture and disciplines. It achieves this best when it’s produced from an honest place, a place where the artist feels safe – or where they feel a genuine passion for what it is they’re saying and making. This might seem obvious to many but what happens when the strength and support of the community isn’t apparent to the artist?
The downturn in the global economic marketplace has impacted industries and countries in different ways. The Australian art market has not been immune to its movements and the last 12 months has seen it impacted – mainly insofar as 2012 was an unpredictable time for the commercial side of the industry.
ARTIST PROFILE isn’t a publication about the market but, rather, about the artists and their working lives and artistic practice. However, what was noticeable from where I was sitting was the impact this uncertainty had on artists themselves. The community, which as I mentioned is strong and supportive most of the time, seemed to be communally distracted by the level of uncertainty that surrounded the marketplace aspects of the industry.
It’s a new year and there’s much anticipation about what’s ahead. There are projects aplenty, new and exciting art fairs both locally and abroad. We are a community made up of strong, talented and exciting creative individuals – this issue is but a snapshot of that talent but supports this perspective.
We received an open letter from Ken Whisson, on the back of his critically and popularly acclaimed survey at Heidi Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney last year. In this letter he discussed the importance of art in society and the need for artists to simply look, live and respond to the world around them; to avoid making art for anyone but themselves. Each of the artists in this issue, I believe, strives in this endeavor. It is something we can all work towards more positively, in whichever sector of the industry we work.
IN GENERAL, ARTIST PROFILE tends not to construct an issue guided by a theme. It’s much like curating a group exhibition; the editorial team selects artists whose work and practice compliments those in the other pages of the issue. In doing this, a common thread tends to emerge throughout the magazine. What has emerged this issue is a collection of artists driven by a common goal of ‘art for art’s sake’.
Art is at the core of defining societies and their culture. It communicates and considers these societies’ values as well and leaving a visual impression whose legacy will be looked at by future generations. Art is a vital ingredient in the patchwork of life and each of the artists in this issue are making work driven by a connection with their chosen material, reflecting on their place in the world.
Our cover artist is Sydney Ball, who is Australia’s undeniable statesman of colour painting. With a career than spans more than five decades, Ball has produced a body of work that explores colour and abstraction, exhibiting his work around the globe – and bringing home his influences and experiences. Kevin Lincoln’s still life paintings are a subdued rendering of objects and people. His compositions are full of space and use an unconventional perspective forcing the viewer to reassess how they look at the image. In both instances, these two artists have made work – and continue to make work – that pushes their personal limits.
We speak to Jumaadi – an Indonesian-born artist whose delicate works combine traditional folklore of his native country with Western modes of narrative that he acquired while studying in Australia. Similarly, John Pule’s practice leans on the aesthetics of his Maori heritage. Gywn Hanssen Pigott talks of her love of pottery and crafting its form. And we visit the studio of Max Miller, whose prints and ink paintings immortalise the natural debris of the Australian outback.
As always, the Preview section of the magazine features essays on a wide range of artists, including Jeffrey Smart and his survey exhibition, and Allora & Calzadilla on the eve of their Australian debut with Kaldor Art Projects. Also, Steve Lopes and Euan Macleod regale us with tales from a Scottish painting expedition, discussing the importance of travelling and looking beyond the confines of a studio space. Plus there’s art news and reviews of exhibitions from around the country.
Issue 20 of ARTIST PROFILE goes into the studio of sculptor, Sam Jinks, whose life-like forms capture the expanse of an individual’s lifetime in a single moment. We hear from Jinks about what underpins his practice and artistic vision.
Caroline Rothwell takes us through the untold stories from natural history that informs her sculptural practice that combines facets of contemporary existence with creatures now extinct.
Joe Furlonger’s paintings record his experience of Australian landscape and rural life, working from his studio and property in country Queensland.
Also in the issue, are emerging artists Claudia Damichi and Kristin Tennyson; we hear from Wendy Sharpe who roams the globe, painting portraits of the people around her; Andrew Christofides’ complex and abstract works draw on his cultural heritage, which we learn about in the lead up to his next solo exhibition; and we look at the intricately painted used-glass-bottles that make up the large installation works of Chinese artist Liu Zhuoquan, with whom we caught up while he was in Sydney for this year’s 18th Biennale of Sydney.
The Preview section of the magazine features essays and reviews; one on photographer John Bursill, and Glenn Barkley reports back to us about a significant collection of Indigenous art on exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum, USA, ‘Ancestral Modern’‚ the catalogue for which is yours to win by subscribing to the magazine. And we review the Cockatoo Island portion of the 18th Biennale of Sydney, as well as solo exhibitions by Sean Cordeiro & Claire Healy, and Trevor Weekes.
Plus, this being our fifth anniversary, there’s a 20-page photographic special that features some of our favourite studio visits and profile spreads from our first five years.
Artist Profile is a proud Media Partner to the 2012 Melbourne Art Fair (MAF). Here is a sneak peak inside the issue that focuses on those artists exhibiting at this year’s fair.
Issue 19 | A Melbourne Art Fair Special Edition
Featuring | SALLY SMART + JAMES MORRISON
Also inside | CHRIS AERFELDT + CLINTON NAIN + PETER ATKINS + STEPHEN BIRD + JEFF MAKIN + JULIAN HOOPER + IAN BURNS | Plus Essays, Reviews, News | SANTIAGO SIERRA by John McPhee + IRANIAN PHOTOGRAPHY by Paul Flynn + AMBER WALLIS + GRANT NIMMO + JUD WIMHURST + ILDIKO KOVACS + INDIGENOUS TRIENNIAL :: unDisclosed + DARREN WARDEL + LAURA JONES.
In recent years there has been a spate of projects in which a group of artists are taken to some far-flung location and invited to respond to a new environment. The result is a group exhibition that gathers together works made on the spot, and those created afterwards in the studio from memories, sketches and photos.
Not the Way Home at the S.H. Ervin Gallery is the latest of these shows and, in terms of quality, probably the best and most consistent so far. This may be because the terrain was already familiar to some of the artists, while others are now seasoned veterans of these group excursions to the bush.
The destination was Fowlers Gap, a research station maintained by the University of NSW, about 90 minutes’ drive from Broken Hill. For more than 10 years the NSW College of Fine Arts has been bringing students to Fowlers Gap to paint and draw on the edge of the desert. This time the sponsor was Artist Profile magazine, which supplied accommodation and upkeep, artists’ materials and other essentials. It also sent a writer, an ABC producer and a printmaker, putting together a complete package for issue No.18 of the magazine. The editor, Owen Craven, is also the exhibition’s curator.
The Artist Profile crew are obviously not superstitious, having chosen 13 artists for this adventure: Margaret Ackland, Elisabeth Cummings, Merran Esson, Joe Frost, Alan Jones, Jennifer Keeler-Milne, Ross Laurie, Steve Lopes, Euan Macleod, Idris Murphy, Amanda Penrose Hart, Peter Sharp and Guy Warren. This roll-call represents a broad cross-section of talents, techniques and experience.
As teachers at COFA, Murphy and Sharp had taken hundreds of students to Fowlers Gap. Warren, at the sprightly age of 92, and Cummings were the senior artists. Macleod and Cummings have been on so many of these trips that it wouldn’t be the same without them.
Since the idea behind the trip was simply for the artists ”to make a body of work in response to the landscape and their experience as a whole”, it’s no surprise that the dedicated landscape painters seem to have produced the strongest pieces. Cummings’s work has a depth and consistency that can make other artists’ efforts seem amateurish, but the standout performer is Ross Laurie, who has produced an impressive variety of images, from small charcoal sketches to densely worked studies in oil stick, to large oils on canvas.
In Laurie’s work one sees the complete cycle from straightforward observation to transformation in the studio. His two large paintings, Ridge and Creek, Fowlers Gap I and II, are very far from being snapshots of the desert landscape. Laurie has taken huge liberties with the colour, using swaths of white-ish paint to reproduce the effect of bright sunlight. This is reminiscent of Ian Fairweather, who would often finish a painting with a final tracery of white. The other Fairweatheresque aspect is the creation of an internal rhythm that holds the composition together, even though each component seems to be bulging and sliding.
It’s hard to believe we are looking at the same environment when we turn to Murphy’s work, which is a series of small, square oils and one large-scale acrylic painting on a sheet of aluminium.
The small pictures are much crisper and brighter than one expects from this artist, but the large panel Reflections and Shadows, Fowlers Gap, is one of the surprises of this show. A very simple arrangement of black and purple planes, it has a dominant presence in the room. As one looks into the black area at the bottom, one sees the outline of something that might be a tree trunk, but could just as easily be a detached limb borrowed from a Philip Guston painting.
We meet a subdued version of Euan Macleod in this show. While this is probably only a small selection of what he actually painted, his pictures are modestly scaled and introverted.
Alan Jones has eliminated colour altogether, working in tones of black, white and grey. Jennifer Keeler-Milne does something similar, producing a series of 42 charcoal drawings of desert plants, and one large study of the sky.
Amanda Penrose Hart has opted for a large number of small, naturalistic oil sketches, hung in clusters. Joe Frost takes the opposite course, veering towards abstraction in paintings that feel self-consciously experimental.
Peter Sharp has also tried to reinvent himself on this trip, concentrating on small details in the landscape that have been translated into ambiguous forms on canvas.
He has also completed a series of sculptures that reveal his increasing confidence working in three dimensions. If Sharp’s paintings occasionally seem almost too elegant, his sculptures are the antidote: raw, jagged hunks of wood bearing the scars of their creation.
Of the other artists, Merran Esson is the odd one out. As a ceramicist she was constrained to scratch about, sampling clays and making impressions of animal tracks. Her real work came later in the studio, where she completed a set of rough-and-ready pots.
Guy Warren and Margaret Ackland were both preoccupied with the ghosts or spirits of those who had lived in this arid region. While Warren incorporated those wraith-like forms into a very free rendition of the landscape, Ackland placed the figures from old photographs against a pitch-dark backdrop – one of the few attempts to capture the nocturnal atmosphere of the outback, free from the light pollution of the cities.
That leaves only Steve Lopes, who remains staunchly figurative, painting realistic figures in the landscape and studies of the detritus that accumulates around any settlement. His most fanciful and rather touching work is Memory Painting for Sam Byrne, which incorporates an imaginary portrait of the great naive painter of Broken Hill. One wonders what Byrne would have produced on an artists’ excursion to Fowlers Gap.
It’s not possible to draw any sweeping conclusions from Not the Way Home. It is a sampler of 13 approaches to the desert landscape, but there are no revelations in these works. Each artist has remained within the bounds of a personal sensibility, even when they have tried to extend those boundaries a little or set themselves a new challenge. Nevertheless, this is a very satisfying exhibition. The experience will probably have effects on some participants that will emerge only over time, and in a way that is barely conscious.
An exhibition of works by 13 artists in response to the Australian desert, Not the Way Home is my next curatorial project.
In May 2011, ARTIST PROFILE led 13 Australian artists to Fowlers Gap – an Arid Zone Research Station managed by UNSW – for an arts laboratory that asked each of them to respond to the surrounding.
The project was recorded in situ by ABC Open with a live project blog. And writer, James Compton, chronicled the artists’ journeys out and back in his essays that featured in ARTIST PROFILE Issue 18, alongside Q&A discussions about the project between the magazine and each artist.
This exhibition - opening at the S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney, on 24 May – is the final instalment of the major project. Paintings, sculptures and drawings are brought together and present each individual’s interpretation of this iconic landscape. The exhibition takes the audience on the artists’ journeys of exploration and discovery.
Margaret Ackland, Elisabeth Cummings, Merran Esson, Joe Frost, Alan Jones, Jennifer Keeler-Milne, Ross Laurie, Steve Lopes, Euan Macleod, Idris Murphy, Amanda Penrose Hart, Peter Sharp and Guy Warren. Curated by Owen Craven.
Proud sponsors: ARTIST PROFILE and Winsor & Newton
By flicking through the pages of our current edition, you will notice it is a break from our standard format. That’s because many of the artists featured in the issue took part in an artist expedition to the arid desert of north-west New South Wales, sponsored by ARTIST PROFILE in conjunction with artist material specialists Winsor & Newton. We relocated a group of 13 painters, sculptors, drawers from their everyday lives to Fowlers Gap, a research station owned and managed by the University of New South Wales, located about 90 minutes from Broken Hill.
The vast desert zones surrounding Broken Hill are isolated from much technology, infrastructure, and creature comforts of an urban lifestyle. The landscape is a foreign beast for those of us from an urban, metropolitan centre. The sky stretches on for a seemingly infinite distance, uninterrupted by manmade structures. The usual hum of a city centre is nonexistent and you’re engulfed in silence. The darkness of the night is a blinding blackness that a city rarely experiences.
On top of these factors, the area is steeped in history for Australia. It has held a significant role in Australian art, painted by the likes of Sam Byrne and Pro Hart, like them or loath them. Indigenous dreamings, passed down over 1000s of years, are marked into the rocks of sacred sites around the area. All this is mind, the area is the perfect location for contemporary Australian artists to reflect on their histories and the context of their role as artists in this country.
We gave them art materials, housed and fed them, and took them on prepared tours with talks from local experts. We extricated them from their usual routines, from the distractions of the everyday, and also their comfort zones. Each confronted the challenge of interpreting Fowlers Gap in artworks in a different way.
In addition to the artists, writer and journalist James Compton and ABC Open producer Sean O’Brien join us on tour. While on site, these two maintained a live blog with video and sound interviews and pictures of the artists working en plein air. Compton spent time with each artist, discussing their experiences in the outback and then followed them home to their studios.
In the issue, Compton chronicles the journey from Sydney’s CBD to Fowlers Gap, the fortnight spent in the outback with the artists, as well as what happened when the artists returned to their respective studios after the tour. The issue strives to give you, the readers, an insight into the artists’ experience of the landscape, how they approached their respective art-making processes and, finally, what they created as a result of this tour. The final stage of this journey will be a public exhibition at Sydney’s S.H. Ervin Gallery, premiering on 24 May this year.
Sam Leach’s paintings are stunningly rendered and haunting in their subject matter. He paints to investigate the natural world and the ways we relate to it, assembling visual cues from historical painting, scientific pursuits and modern technology to populate his uncanny compositions.
For our cover story this issue, Sam Leach welcomed us into his studio to discuss the ideas behind his polished surfaces. Having begun a PhD at the beginning of the year, Leach talks to us about how his paintings look to science as an agent for change in how humans interact with their natural world. It is a contentious topic generating heated debate across our planet as we face up to the consequences of rapid development. These issues also consume our second feature artist Sarah Smuts-Kennedy.
A New Zealand native, Smuts-Kennedy works in a variety of media including film, photography, painting and sculptural installation, with a recent focus on industralisation, its impact on the environment and our ability to shut out the consequences from our comfortable domestic lives. Through the eye of a narrative filmmaker, Smuts-Kennedy tries to make sense of her world with delicately constructed objects and personalised landscapes.
Where Smuts-Kennedy finds delicacy and danger, John Olsen advises us to ‘get out there and draw’. With an exhibiting career spanning more than six decades, Olsen handles our natural environment with a creative intimacy few can match. Olsen recently returned from a tour to Lake Eyre and readily admits his heart and inspiration lies in the Australian landscape and the stories it has to offer.
John McPhee argues this very case for indigenous artist Barney Ellaga, whose paintings record the dreamings of his mother’s Alawa country; Julie Harris walks us through her abstract landscapes; while Bernard Ollis’ more formal compositions offer viewers a moment on a dream-like journey far away from home. Bronek Kozka leads us back to the uncomfortable familiarity of domestic life with cinematographic images of characters frozen in an awkward reality.
Simon Ives takes us into the painting conservation rooms of the Art Gallery of New South Wales as he restores and cleans Eugene Von Guerard’s Milford Sound; Peter Simpson reflects on the work of artist and friend, Michael Shannon; we hear from three emerging artists to watch – Emma White, Simone Eisler and Ali Noble – on our project pages; and we preview forthcoming exhibitions by David Wadelton, Jake Walker and Ryan Presley.
We have now added 16 extra pages each issue to squeeze in even more profiles, projects, essays, news, and reviews from Australasia and beyond. And if you need your ARTIST PROFILE fix between issues, check out our blog, or find us on Facebook and Twitter so we can keep you up to date in real time throughout the year.
Art making is an immensely personal and private practice. Whether an artist is a painter or a photographer, a sculptor or a printmaker, they use their chosen medium to navigate their thoughts, ideas and world views. In an age where everyone is increasingly connected through new technologies, artists are some of the remaining few whose occupation sees much of their work conducted in solitary. This isolation allows a uniquely personal and intimate process; an experiential engagement between their thoughts and medium without the intrusion of the outside world. One we, as viewers, do not often get to see.
All this said, the art-making process is a fascinating one and, in my opinion, knowledge of an artist’s process is a vital ingredient to the understanding and comprehension of their end products. Understanding ‘how’ and ‘why’ an artist makes their work up skills a viewer with unique details for viewing and interpreting an exhibition or a work of art. When ARTIST PROFILE was founded some 15 issues ago, this was the premise of its mission: the go into the studios of artists and hear from them directly; giving the artists their own voice about their art. It is with immense privilege to now be sitting in the Editor’s chair—continuing this mission—and taking you behind the scenes into the working lives of contemporary artists in Australia, New Zealand and occasionally even further abroad.
This issue is true to form and our writers and photographers have been extremely privileged to meet with a good many artists, working across a variety of mediums, to delve into their professional practices. Pausing from the throes of preparing for a solo exhibition in Sydney, our cover artist, Del Kathryn Barton, met with ARTIST PROFILE to discuss the intangible aspects to making an artwork. We discuss her love for the handmade, her personal and emotional interaction with the art making process and reflect on what makes a standout work for her.
Our second cover feature, likewise, explores these ideas of the handmade as a way of delving into the psyche. Vivienne Binns is one of Australia’s finest abstract painters whose career has spanned more than 4 decades. Now living and working in Canberra, Binns looks back on a changed artistic landscape and reveals the ethereal qualities of her art making practice. The concept of the indefinable is further explored by regular columnist and artist Steve Lopes, who asks what makes a masterpiece just that as he looks at the paintings of Giorgio Morandi. We also meet with jokester Tim Moore whose work delights in the light hearted; and with Locust Jones whose practice takes on a more serious tone in deconstructing the news cycle.
Also in the issue, the filmic inspired sculptures of Ronnie van Hout are explained; Gordon Hookey voices his political concerns on indigenous identity and cultural wellbeing; we look at how the spiritual beings created by Rodney Glick interact with contemporary society; and Claudia Terstappen leads us through her globetrotting photographic journeys.
Be sure to enjoy the newly designed back section of the magazine, with its artist project pages and numerous essays. It’s here we preview the forthcoming exhibitions of Jane Burton, Andrew Antoniou and Josie Kunoth Petyarre as well as a handful of exhibitions from across the Tasman in View_NZ. We are also excited to launch our new Gallery Listings, which will allow you to keep track of what’s on all around the country. As always, stay in touch with news and exhibitions through our website and on our Facebook and Twitter pages.
Last week saw the launch of not the way home :: painting the far west, a working title for the next artist project led and sponsored by ARTIST PROFILE, managed by Owen Craven. Proudly sponsored by Winsor & Newton, the tour will also be followed by ABC Open under producer Sean O’Brien.
not the way home will see 12 prominent Australian artists – Guy Warren, Elisabeth Cummings, Idris Murphy, Alan Jones, Amanda Penrose Hart, Steve Lopes, Jennifier Keeler Milne, Steve Lopes, Margaret Ackland, Peter Sharpe, Joe Frost and Merran Esson – travelling together to Fowlers Gap, an hour from Broken Hill. The tour will be documented by ARTIST PROFILE and through a curated exhibition opening in 2012. ABC Open will also host online daily updates directly from the artists in the form of images, audio and video.
The first of a series of blogs can be found here.
Katrina Lobley compiled today’s Sydney Morning Herald’s Spectrum Planner and included On This Island’s final showing at King Street Gallery:
“Eleven artists headed across the Tasman in 2009 to paint the North Island’s Mount Ruapehu and Castlepoint. The touring show, curated by art mag wunderkind Owen Craven, makes its final stop in Darlinghurst. See what Euan Macleod made of his home country.”
(SMH, p. 23, 15 January 2011)
Issue 13 of ARTIST PROFILE is now on the news stand. Our cover artists for this exciting issue include Judy Watson, Brisbane-based indigenous artists whose work is highly celebrated around the globe, + Marco Fusinato, whose politically motivated work explores a multitude of mediums from photography to sound and light installations.
Other exciting features include Lusia Rossitto, who spoke to Gillian Serisier from her New Zealand studio about her delicate watercolours; Nathan Taylor uncovered the working methods of his hyperrealist paintings to Paul Flynn; Victoria Hynes caught up with film maker cum artist Joshua Yeldham painting northern Sydney’s Hawkesbury River; Tom Carment took Joe Frost to some of his favourite plein air locations around Sydney’s eastern suburbs; Melbourne based Theo Strasser spoke to me about the making of artist books; and Jayne Dyer met with Paul Flynn in Beijing to discuss her experiences of making art, as an Australian, in China for the past 15 years.
The issue is packed with other news and essay by the likes of John McPhee, Steve Lopes + Joe Frost. As well as previews of work Sean Rafferty, David Band, Sally Ross+ Santiago Sierra. And, as always, I’ve complied a list of not to be missed exhibitions for around the country.
To get your hands on a copy of the issue pick one up at your local Newslink newsagent, Borders bookstore, large public gallery or simply subscribe online and get a copy sent directly to you at home.
Issue 12 of ARTIST PROFILE is now on sale. Cover artist profiles and conversations with George Gittoes + Deborah Kelly. Other exclusive interviews include Lara Merrett, Moya McKenna, Tim Maguire, Penny Byrne, Godwin Bradbeer and I speak with Italian artist Giacomo Costa.
The issue is packed with news + essays + reviews and I’ve collated a list of recommended exhibitions not to be missed.
To get your hands on a copy of the issue pick one up at your local Newslink newsagent, Borders bookstore, large public gallery or simply subscribe online and get a copy sent directly to you at home.
Opening 9 July, 2010
Owen Craven launches his new website. For further information on projects, news, reviews and more stay tuned to www.owencraven.com