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STURGEON

alex kiers: I don’t particularly like mindless jobs, otherwise I just think about the fact that I’m working too much. I don’t think I can necessarily relate to MacPherson. When I’m at work and I am doing a really tedious task in a gallery, I’m thinking about all the other things that I want to be doing. I’m not concocting ideas, I just wish I was trying to paint or whatever else. sr: Is that the same for you, Paul? paul williams: For me not so much. Some elements sure, they occur outside of installing, but have been reinforced by being an installer, such as being introduced to ideas of precision and quality of materials, or how a space operates. I have definitely found that strange things happen, where you see work in a different way. You seem to pick things apart a lot more. sr: So when you are mounting shows as a job, you think about how your work could be seen in that kind of context, and then you start critiquing the way that people are doing it? ak: Definitely. I think, in terms of informing practice it is mostly for me just making things clean. I guess you notice meticulousness in presentation. Someone like Kenzee Patterson for example, is incredibly neat in his presentation. You can definitely pick up on his background in art installation. sr: That’s interesting. The idea of the artist’s practice in and of itself is making an object, but when you’re also a technician you’re thinking about your own practice at the same time how it is being staged. All the processes lead up to that, and so you have this longer timeline that you perceive your own art practice within. As a technician, when you start receiving works for exhibition and you look at them and you think, “Well they haven’t thought about how they are going to hang this work.” It’s as if the artist hasn’t thought about the life-cycle of their work. pw: I think the one thing that made me think directly about my experience as an installer in the MacPherson article, was when he talked about his time painting boats. It made me think of painting walls in galleries and how I’ve observed things like the drop sheet with confetti-like paint flecks all over it, or the process of sanding back walls. There are a couple of my works that directly reference the idea of labour or using that as a kind of markmaking process. ak: One work in your last show you included text that said: “I don’t want to die an installer.”

pw: So that’s the other response. That ceramic piece had a direct reference to my means of income being an installer, and actually finding that whole experience of installing other peoples’ work as a constant visual bombardment in the form of often dodgy artwork. It also made me realise that there are few artworks that have really stayed with me over time; in fact I’m trying to think of an artwork over my four years of installing. In a way it has made me switch off from viewing arworks as creative pieces, and more as just objects to handle carefully and put up on walls and place on plinths. So it’s had this impact on me personally, demystifying the whole industry. What it makes me want to do is move away from any banality in my own work, and instead use my practice as an escape, something in which to become fully absorbed while I am in the studio, where I can forget about things like pragmatism. I’m really grateful for having learned to put two screws in the wall, but as a painter I still reject those parts of my working life that involve precision. I find that a big part of my philosophy as an artist is chance and the incidental, while also having intention. There’s a kind of opaqueness about being an installer, where you have a job to do and that space for the enjoyment of art is reduced by the weekly pressure of completing a show. I’d like to separate myself from that. I almost feel nostalgic for those times when I was a bartender, a cleaner in a butcher or a shelf-packer at night; I was really productive during the day as a painter and I would even come home after a late shift and paint into the night. sr: That’s interesting that you are aware of the influence your paid work is having on your practice, and maintaining your practice as the primary thing and then pushing back if something starts to interfere. You become this kind of itinerant worker, where you are in one field and that starts to put some pressure on your practice so you move on and set up shop somewhere else. ak: There’s a whole lot of pros and cons in terms of who you come into contact with, like curators for example. You are there and yet you are not ‘the painter in his studio’ any more. You are kind of the like the workhorse in the gallery just doing the labour, and maybe that changes a curator’s perception of you. pw: You are more a technician than an artist. sr: Yes, you are kind of demystified as an artist. ak: I think everyone who works in galleries thinks about that; “I’m not the guy that is scrubbing paint off the floor, I’m the guy that is making beautiful paintings.” I tend to work as an audio visual installer because the problem

Sturgeon Issue 6  

Australian art, culture, etc.

Sturgeon Issue 6  

Australian art, culture, etc.

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