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BLAZE TWELVE Welcome to BLAZE TWELVE, marking a dozen exhibitions that annually survey the field of emerging artists that live in Canberra and the surrounding regions. BLAZE is traditionally composed of recipients of the CCAS Studio Residency program – awarded through the ANU School of Art and Design’s Emerging Artist Support Scheme – alongside exemplary colleagues who have spent a year in the artistic wilderness. In this latest edition, artists who completed Honours in 2016 – not 2017 – are the backbone of the exhibition. This was due to funding cuts from the Australia Council for the Arts, which meant CCAS was unable to host studio residencies for the first time. This shows that the artists who have made the cut are tough, resilient and savvy in an increasingly cutthroat art world – they are going to make work no matter what, with or without the support, funded or unfunded. The last few years has seen a strong cohort emerge from the ANU Painting workshop; producing the likes of Riley Beaumont, Rowan Kane, Sanne Koelemij and Mei-Lynn Wilkinson. Featuring alongside these painters is not an outlier, but an artist that shares similar interests in fracturing and abstraction of form, Western Australian ex-pat Luke Aleksandrow.

LUKE ALEKSANDROW Locally National, 2018, found Australian Ceramics, dimensions variable

Luke Aleksandrow is a Perth born artist who completed his Masters in Applied Design and Art at Curtin University, majoring in Ceramics. Based in Canberra since winter 2016, this bold life-move and the accompanying change of environment are the sort of things that have come to directly inform his practice. During his studies, Aleksandrow made ceramics that were concerned with design and aesthetics; yet he became increasingly fascinated with the fragility and impermanence of his chosen medium, so began to deliberately break his works. By filming the action of vessels smashing on the ground, a medium normally presented in a static form is translated into a time-based work. It is this language that Aleksandrow has developed to interpret and understand new and unfamiliar surroundings. In Aleksandrow’s early works he would drop vessels he’d made from outside of the frame, recording only the sound and video of the object smashing on the floor – a continuing theme that he calls The Breaks Series. It wasn’t until A Silent Tour of Rome (2015) when he wandered the streets at night waiting for his slip-cast forms to dry, that he first stepped in front of the camera to break his vessels. This simple shift allowed him to act as both a performer in the landscape, and the composer of the audio soundscape. Soon before relocating to Canberra, Aleksandrow continued on this trajectory while on a residency in Finland. Here he created Hiljaisuus: Four Walks (2016) using locally made ceramics sourced from thrift shops and markets. It was in these works that Aleksandrow began to experiment with finding silence in public spaces, and to fully explore the way his audio interventions could describe the parameters of a space. Once the initial surprise of seeing someone deliberately smash something settles in, it becomes a consistent reference point that sonically maps snowy roads, cobbled streets and building foyers in dramatically different ways; an auditory portrait of a visual landscape. Aleksandrow’s work presented in BLAZE TWELVE extends upon the Break Series he has developed. It acts as a litmus test to investigate the dual identity of Canberra he has experienced since his arrival. In the dual channel video work Nationally Local (2018), he is seen dropping found Australian ceramics in front of nationally recognisable institutions and tourist destinations including New Parliament House, The National Gallery of Australia and The High Court. In the other he repeats the performance in local places of personal importance such as the Cook Shops, Jamison Trash and Treasure Market and a walking trail on Black Mountain. These two versions of the same city are brought together in the accompanying mound of ceramic shards, Locally National (2018), which provide material evidence of this investigation, and in doing so unites the artist’s impression of Canberra.

LUKE ALEKSANDROW Nationally Local (Channel 1 still), 2018, dual channel HD video with stereo sound, 11’57’’ duration, looped

LUKE ALEKSANDROW Nationally Local (Channel 2 still), 2018, dual channel HD video with stereo sound, 9’43’’ duration, looped

RILEY BEAUMONT And Something Nape, 2018, acrylic, shellac, varnish, enamel, oil on linen, 180cm x 130cm

A Queensland native that has called Canberra home for over half a decade, Riley Beaumont’s enthusiasm for painting and visual art as a whole, is highly infectious. Fascinated by the material properties of paint, he uses unorthodox approaches to abstraction. Text, spatial representation and ventures into three-dimensional forms convey his vision of tropical grunge. It is within these extremely loose boundaries that Beaumont is able to experiment with a unique balance of honesty and cynicism, humour and despair. Included in BLAZE TWELVE are three large paintings on linen that communicate the bodily interaction that Beaumont shares with his work. In And Something Nape (2018) large gestural marks appear to be laid down at speed from distance, while delicate forms float within the central space. The inclusion of a broken border – resembling the marbling of a salmon fillet – abruptly breaks the sprawling spatial plane, a contradiction that retains the atmospheric energy reminiscent of the skies in the Australian Surrealist James Gleeson’s latter works. These interventions are key with Beaumont’s work. They allow him to speak of “endearing spiritual hopefulness” without falling into fantasy art territory. The title of Beaumont’s work Owt Gnop [12] (2018), references a fictional sequel to the computer game Pong, and aims to test the obsessive-compulsive nature of his viewers. A 280cm x 165cm diptych in the shape of an “X” with canvases perfectly level and almost touching in the middle, Beaumont skews the extremities so they appear to need straightening. If this unorthodox ground isn’t enough to unsettle the viewer, the tropical explosion that bleeds its way down the canvas interrupted by masked stripes and topped off by a giant WHOA will. As much as one may feel like Beaumont is taking the technicolour piss, he’s absolutely delighted to be testing his limits and takes everyone along for the ride. While his practice is greatly led by improvisation and he may profess not to have a plan when making his work, a bit like a Cheshire cat, he always has a giant smile, and somehow lands on his feet.

ROWAN KANE Can’t Help Falling in ****, 2018, acrylic, oil and vinyl on canvas, 140cm x 160cm, framed

A recent Painting graduate from the ANU School of Art and Design, Rowan Kane makes work that is strongly influenced by the aesthetics of 20th century art, music and fashion. His nostalgic fascination for pop cultures never experienced first hand acts in two very different ways: as a means to immortalise the impermanence of mainstream culture, and as a critique on the banality of everyday life. With this knowledge in mind, one could be excused for mistakenly experiencing Déjà vu when presented with his work – the sense of the familiar in something brand new. This is by no means to say that Kane’s work is derivative. His palette, application and motifs may feel like a mash up of all your favourite guitar riffs played backwards. The notes are familiar, but the tune isn’t. Kane’s three large works on canvas in BLAZE TWELVE all take their titles from well-known songs about love, yet in each the word is redacted: To Know Her is to **** Her (2018), Can’t Help Falling in **** (2018) and **** Will Tear Us Apart (2018), by The Beatles, Elvis Presley and Joy Division respectively. The majority of pop songs written since the 1950s have arguably revolved around themes of love, romantic relationships and – as censorship laws have softened – sex. Using stencils, collage and heavy impasto medium, Kane is able to harness the rapid-fire emotions of young love, lust and loss normally condensed into a few minutes of music. While there is definitely a heart-on-the-sleeve approach evident within this series, there is a palpable sense of humour and self-awareness at play in the work. In To Know Her is to **** Her a frayed stencil made of canvas is brutally nailed to the top of the frame, hanging limply above the bold yellow gestures it facilitated. Similarly **** Will Tear Us Apart mashes 1980s Australiana in the style of Ken Done with vibrating butterflies, flowers and letters that spell ‘evol evol evol’. Meanwhile Can’t Help Falling in **** permits stylised vines to wind their way across a vast pink expanse, with a thin strip of silver canvas floating above rose buds stencilled with Elvis’ face. It’s in works like this that Kane masterfully plays Andy Warhol’s swift pop sensibilities off against the warmth and depth of space experienced in the landscapes of Fred Williams. A bit like the redacted four letter words in each title, Kane offers familiar landmarks as he leads his viewers down memory lane, while boldly allowing space for one to come to their own conclusions and for new stories to emerge. The critical overlapping of pop culture references and reoccurring trends are artfully edited into works that are humourous, sad and nostalgic, and in doing so produces something wholly unique and greater than the sum their parts.

SANNE KOELEMIJ Still Life of Studio Waste #2, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 130cm x 95cm

Since graduating from the ANU School of Art and Design’s Painting workshop, Sanne Koelemij has continued to investigate the language of collaged composition that she developed; one where colour, shape and material are always in a state of flux. At the core of these explorations is an ongoing interest in material worth, questions of value, and an environmentally driven desire to produce finished work from the waste of her own practice. Presented in BLAZE TWELVE is Koelemij’s series Worthless Matter and Useful Objects that continues her recent investigations into shallow depth abstraction by working on both sides of acrylic sheets. Using collages made from studio waste – offcuts of paper, cardboard, canvas etc – she creates her own source material to produce paintings that are potentially both representational and abstract depending on one’s viewpoint. It is in the translation between source collage and final painting that Koelemij is able to experiment with compression of space, painting and etching into both sides of the acrylic. This technique is key, as a great deal of her recent work surrounds ideas of obscuration and revelation on the pictorial plane. As someone who has had a keen eye on Koelemij’s practice over recent years, the leaps and bounds she has taken into the most recent works in BLAZE TWELVE, Still Life of Studio Waste #1 and #2 (2018), are extremely rewarding. Produced through a process of self-referential sampling, studio scraps are collaged with resin and paint, and act as brooch-sized maquettes for the final paintings. These works mark a confident progression in her practice, and in doing so, allows her the freedom to work unrestrained by hard-edged abstraction. Her dexterity with paint application, light and shadow permits fiction to emerge, in contrast to cold hard fact.

SANNE KOELEMIJ Worthless Matter and Useful Objects #2, 2018, acrylic paint on acrylic, 40.6cm x 50.8cm

SANNE KOELEMIJ Worthless Matter and Useful Objects #1, 2018, acrylic paint on acrylic, 40.6cm x 50.8cm

MEI-LYNN WILKINSON Arterial Rift, 2018, acrylic on adhesive fabric, 160cm x 220cm approx

Since completing honours in the ANU Painting workshop Mei-Lynn Wilkinson has actively driven her practice into personally unchartered waters, and seems never to take the easy way out. Wilkinson’s recent practice is characterised by an overarching fascination with the stylistic language of Pop Art – the flattened space of 20th Century advertisements and comic imagery in the manner of Roy Lichtenstein, and in pattern making and optical illusion inspired by artists like Bridget Riley. Wilkinson draws together these disparate influences and mashes them through the framework of post-internet culture to question relationships between painting, animation, movement and how the body relates to space. One of the most striking things about Wilkinson’s work is that it is removed from the constraints of a fourcornered ground. The perimeters of her work on both adhesive fabric and floating MDF sheet are organic, and thus frameless. This liberation from a right-angled field allows Wilkinson to experiment radically with the positioning of her works within the gallery space, encouraging active participation from her viewers as they negotiate the work and experience it from many different angles. Presented in a corner of the main gallery space is Wilkinson’s Arterial Rift (2018), a giant liquid explosion appears to shoot forth from opposing holes in the wall and collect in a puddle below; it’s illusion reinforced by shadows painted into the work. The piece is positioned so that only half of the image can be seen as one enters the space, and reads as a twodimensional form. As more of the work is revealed, it begins to play tricks on the mind; the wild splash of liquid becomes voluminous and appears to float in mid-air at the optimum-viewing angle. This cheeky illusion is aided by Wilkinson’s use of adhesive fabric – a thin canvas-like material that she has chosen for two reasons: it’s ability to absorb paint in the flat style of a screen print, and one that can be cut and re-applied to surfaces again and again. Another key trick that Wilkinson has played on her audience in BLAZE TWELVE is to present a series of three works on cut-out MDF sheets. Mirage, Rainbow Puddle Pop and Mirror, Mirror (2018), float off the wall to create real shadows. This play between the illusion of the flat works and the facts of the floated, urges viewers to look again as they question what has just been seen. Added into this mix, Wilkinson introduces iridescent paint – from dozens of pots of nail polish – that catches the light and changes colour with viewing angles. The combination of these techniques allows Wilkinson to produce work that is static but visually dynamic, alluding to animation despite the use of flat motionless paint.

As 2018 slowly begins to unravel, exposing the ever-increasing fractures across the globe, it’s very difficult not to draw comparisons with the current state of the arts. Although BLAZE TWELVE is strong on painting, shared concerns of a world in flux, distortion and breakage are reflected across the exhibition. If Aleksandrow, Beaumont, Kane, Koelemij and Wilkinson share only one thing in common, it is their hunger and drive to make contemporary art in increasingly uncertain times and by any means necessary. Alexander Boynes February 2018




BLAZE is an annual showcase of emerging contemporary art in Canberra. BLAZE TWELVE is curated by Alexander Boynes and showcases the work of...