Out the back of Isadora Vaughan’s studio, there’s a small yard that looks onto a huge, semi-vacant lot. “They’ve been building warehouses out there,” she says. Last year, she watched as they dug enormous basalt boulders out of the ground. “There were these huge rock breakers out the back, turning these giant, giant rocks into smaller boulders.” The rocks got smaller and smaller. “They were making gravel,” she explains. “It was just one of the most amazing and insane processes.”
Vaughan likes working outside. From her spot in the yard of her Melbourne studio she can also see ponds that have been built to filter runoff before it reaches a nearby creek. “All these beautiful, very precise endemic species have been chosen and planted around it. There are reeds – a whole system,” she says. “There are these machines that are doing, on some level, these fantastical things. You can see how much destruction and chaos it’s causing, but then there’s also this industry and this real presence, despite it all, of the native flora and fauna.”
In Sally Anderson’s Sea Belly Screen, the sea is always at a distance. It’s seen from the shore, up high, through a window. It’s always out there, over there—never something you’re in. In these paintings, distance has to be constantly negotiated.
Anderson’s landscape imagery is often taken second-hand, borrowed and filtered through the experiences of others. She takes screenshots of her friends’ social media and references this part of her process in her titles. Heather’s Sea View with GM Vessel and MM Banksias, 2021, is a riff on a view that does not strictly belong to her, and yet it does.
In the en plein air tradition, direct sensory experience is essential to capturing place. Anderson’s works treat landscape as something far less fugitive—far less in need of capturing, and much more powerful. When she paints these fleeting moments, Anderson is acknowledging the split-screen nature of contemporary life, with its layering of simultaneous experience, and also questioning inherited values around immediacy and authenticity.
Over the years, Maree Clarke’s practice has ranged across jewellery, sculpture, photography, printmaking and video. Clarke is a Yorta Yorta / Wamba Wamba / Mutti Mutti / Boonwurrung woman who grew up in regional Victoria and now lives in Melbourne, and a large part of her work involves reclaiming cultural knowledge, such as making kangaroo teeth necklaces and possum skin cloaks.
Clarke spoke to Jane O’Sullivan about her drive to tell First Nations stories through art, in whatever form that takes, and her major show at the National Gallery of Victoria, Maree Clarke: Ancestral Memories, which surveys 30 years of her diverse practice.
Jane O’Sullivan: You’ve worked across many mediums, finding different ways to tell stories through art. You seem to have such a clear sense of purpose, but where does that story start? What was your path to art?
Maree Clarke: I didn’t go to art school or even finish high school. I pretty much wagged as often as I could. I would catch the bus to school and when I got there, I would cut through the school and meet the other black kids down the channel… When I was in my teens, I used to just about turn myself inside out wondering what my purpose in life was.
Then I was an Aboriginal Educator at the local primary school from 1978 to 1987. And after that, the local Aboriginal Corporation wanted to set up an Aboriginal art shop in Mildura and my brother Peter, who was a brilliant artist, started making jewellery for the shop. He gave me my first pair of earrings and it took me about 15 goes before I was happy with the end design, to actually show people and sell. And basically, I haven’t stopped making jewellery since.
VAULT talks to choreographer Jo Lloyd about the psychology of her craft and the importance of collaboration.
“More and more, it’s the intimate relationships that happen in performance – and they’re not so obvious,” says choreographer Jo Lloyd about what interests her. “It’s the psychology behind the choreography – the psychology of the behaviour in it – and the negotiation between performers.”
Based in Melbourne, Lloyd has presented work in the Biennale of Sydney, Liveworks and Dark Mofo, as well as in New York, Japan and Hong Kong. Her works often treat dance as a form of social encounter. They are highly choreographed but involve a lot of variability and choice for performers. It’s an approach that draws out those processes of observation, modulation and response that we, as social creatures, engage in constantly, almost without thinking.
Science, geometry, séances: the extraordinary spirit world of once-forgotten artist Hilma af Klint.
Commissioned by a spirit guide, Swedish artist Hilma af Klint spent a decade of her life painting 193 works for a spiralling temple. The temple was never built, and when she died in 1944 she entrusted the works to a nephew, instructing that they not be opened for 20 years. It was a protective act. The world, she thought, was not ready for them.
These temple works were “far ahead of their time,” says Sue Cramer, the curator of The Secret Paintings, which comes to the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) in June. “For a long time, her work was dismissed because it was spiritual, and therefore not art.”
It has been a remarkable reappraisal. In 2012, when MoMA staged its canonical exhibition Inventing Abstraction: 1910-1925, her work was not even included.
But will they? VAULT looks at the extraordinary amount of investment in bricks and mortar for the arts.
“You need that scale to convey its world class nature,” said National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) director Tony Ellwood, when the plans for the new 30,000-square-metre NGV Contemporary were announced late last year. Ellwood’s comments echoed Michael Brand in the early days of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ (AGNSW) Sydney Modern project, when he said: “Sydney is a global city and we have to behave like a global institution.”
The $344 million Sydney Modern project is now a quarter of the way there, and is expected to open in 2022. It has been a massive public-private partnership, with AGNSW raising over $100 million. In Melbourne, the funding for the first stage of NGV Contemporary is coming out of the Victorian Government’s $1.46 billion redevelopment of the Southbank arts precinct, but now the NGV must embark on a major philanthropy campaign, too. These projects are among the largest in a raft of arts building projects across the country – from the relocation of Sydney’s Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) and Perth’s recent $400 million Museum Boola Bardip, to the construction of new regional galleries and smaller refurbishments. Not all of these projects share Ellwood’s and Brand’s world-class ambitions, but they have a common, codified language.
Is the emerging artist label only useful for finding grants and opportunities, or can creative practitioners benefit from thinking about different phases of their practice?
There’s no consensus on what an emerging creative practice is. The Vogel Literary Award, established in 1980, is famously for authors under 35. The Museum of Contemporary Art’s annual Primavera art exhibition, founded in 1992, also stipulates 35. That link between emerging practice and youth is strong, although it is slowly changing.
‘It’s a tricky one,’ said Ruby-Rose Pivet-Marsh, the artistic director of the Emerging Writers’ Festival. People often assume the festival is just for young writers, she said, but that’s not the case. ‘We do try to program older emerging writers as well. We’re quite conscious of that.’ Full story on ArtsHub.