If four years at university taught us one thing, it was to expect the unexpected. We both began our journey at university with completely different paths, but they inadvertently joined in a way neither of us expected. Through travel and our keen interest in Western Art developed through our high school education we both began a Bachelor of Art History and Curatorship at The Australian National University (ANU). Our interests diverged early in our degrees, and we pushed the focus instead to Asian Art, and subsequently completed our Honours in 2016 with two theses on topics in this field. Admittedly, when we were presented the opportunity to curate the CAPO Emerging Artists’ Prize exhibition in Canberra, we were a little nervous – our strengths lie in historical Asian Art, and contemporary art was an area that we have only just begun to specialise in. Putting aside our concerns we began the process of selecting and bringing together the works of different artists.
We decided to keep the focus of the 2017 Emerging Artists’ Prize on the artists themselves, selecting creators that, in their technical processes and artistic practice, challenge and engage their chosen mediums in new and dynamic ways. Subconsciously, the works in this exhibition truly reflect our own interests, and although not specifically “Asian Art”, the works are indirectly connected to the topics discussed in both of our theses; namely prints, objects, ceramics and animation. This exhibition places a subtle emphasis on the artists’ time at university through celebrating how they developed and created these works of art.
Like us, they have spent many years at university. They were introduced to new methods of creating and given the opportunity to learn new technical skills whilst also experimenting with these in the years that passed. As is the case for many artists, this time studying has been of immense importance to their artistic practice.
The eight artists that we have selected come from diverse artistic backgrounds – painting, graphic design, video, glass, photography and print media and ceramics – and are representative of how emerging artists have adopted technical artistic processes but also adapted these to create exciting and unique works of art. They are a collective based on their ability to challenge their chosen mediums’ conventional practice, but they also represent the dynamic Canberra art community at large.
In their artworks from their final years at university, Catherine Newton and Rose-Mary Faulkner used the method of glass casting to create works of art that replicated their physical presence. For Catherine, a mother’s hug provided a foundation for her practice and along with her children created a form that embodied this intensely loving experience. Rose-Mary also used parts of her body to cast her artworks. For her, imprints of her knees, elbows and ankles were transformed into glass as commentary on the form of the body, movement and the lines that connect these.
Similarly, Abbey Jamieson has given emotion a physical presence in her ceramic works, Comfort Cups. At face value, these ceramics are restrained functional cups with subtle hues of earthly pigments, yet embedded into the form is the action of making that provided an outlet for the artist. These functional hand-modelled pieces demonstrate the ability of artists to create artworks that can be used and retain a sense of emotion and individuality.
Mei Wilkinson and Amy Campbell, both working in the medium of painting, push the traditional practice of painting into new dimensions – literally. Wilkinson uses unconventional materials such as Perspex and metal rods to create a three-dimensional experience for the viewer. Her paintings are not on flat canvas, but instead invade the physical space in dynamic manifestation.
Campbell physically affects the flat and quadrilateral shape of the traditional canvas using collage, and the sculptural surfaces of her works evoke a sense of flux.
Contrasting the physicality of Wilkinson and Campbell are the bold and graphic prints of Monica Styles (winner of the 2017 CAPO Emerging Artist Prize, image via Tara Cheyne). Presenting object as subject, Styles uses everyday objects that resonate on an individual level to create striking images that capture the viewer and challenge them to question what the ‘subject’ of a portrait is meant to evoke. The works in this series Disposable Women were created especially for the Emerging Artists Prize, and continue to explore similar themes to her Honours series Objects/Possessions.
The graphic theme is complimented by the three-dimensional renders by Chelsea Agno, who goes by the name “Cream Team.” Her works are playful and bold, if not on the cheeky side and represent the vogue for urban art currently manifesting in Canberra.
This concept of the ‘unconventional’ resonates in the video art of John Evans. The medium of video itself is a burgeoning art form, and his use of overlapping digital and hand drawn images in his two videos brings a feeling of motion to the exhibition. Evans’ video Altar complements the bold graphics and references to animation apparent in Styles’, Wilkinson’s, Cream Team’s and Campbell’s works. But the delicate monochrome of To Sin resonates with the fragility of Newton, Faulkner and Jamieson’s objects.
The 2017 Emerging Artists’ Prize is a celebration of Canberra’s art community. It has provided us with the opportunity to put the knowledge we gained at university into practice, whilst also teaching us valuable skills. More importantly, it has been a way to showcase the emerging talents of Canberra artists. Whilst only a sample of the Canberra’s art community, these artists represent the way in which emerging artists are challenging conventional artistic processes to produce exciting and provoking works of art.
We hope you enjoy the show!
Clare Fealy and Emily Stewart