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BLAZE THIRTEEN


BLAZE THIRTEEN DEAN CROSS SKYE JAMIESON ALEX LUNDY SHAGS JOSHUA SLEEMAN-TAYLOR

CURATED BY DAVID BROKER


BLAZE THIRTEEN One of the artists in BLAZE THIRTEEN described their participation as “a big deal”. It was always meant to be – an annual exhibition of emerging visual arts practice in the ACT and a ‘best of’ new artists from the previous year, in this instance 2018. Since 2006 when Leah Bullen, Karena Keys, Marina Nielson, Meg Roberts, Simon Scheuerle, Kate Smith and Charlie Sofo emerged onto the local and national art scenes, BLAZE has produced a growing archive of artists with their eyes on the future. Thirteen years later many of these names will be familiar to audiences across the country for like the exhibition itself, they are the among the stayers. In many respects BLAZE is a difficult exhibition, with little to hold it together other than the idea that all artists are emerging at roughly the same time. Once confined to the CCAS Studio Residency Program, consisting largely, but not exclusively, of Bachelor of Arts (Hons) Visual Arts graduates from the ANU School of Art and Design, in 2010 BLAZE spread its wings to take a more inclusive approach that focused on the artists exhibiting at venues such as Australian National Capital Artists, M16 Artspace, CCAS Manuka, Belconnen Art Centre and the odd Artist Run Initiative that popped up on the fringes of Canberra’s active visual arts community. Looking back through some of the past catalogues for BLAZE  I was fascinated by the variance in work and approaches to exhibitions as each year goes by. Each iteration has focused the community’s enthusiasm for artists who are warmly welcomed into what can be a recalcitrant society. BLAZE is a perfect storm of evolving technical expertise and exciting new ideas born partly of innocence and the desire to make an enduring impression in the vast and competitive milieu of creativity that greets all graduates from the sheltered confines of art school. The question arises for all new artists; how does one make a mark amidst this amorphous mass of creative enterprise where technique alone will not suffice? Perhaps another factor that loosely binds the artists in exhibitions such as BLAZE, where the curators’ role is unusually distanced, is a sense of self. All five artists in BLAZE THIRTEEN, Dean Cross, Skye Jamieson, Alex Lundy, Shags and Joshua Sleeman-Taylor have invested something of themselves into their works. While this is not unusual in the arts, the ability to translate self-reflection into form can be the difference between making a lasting impression and none at all. BLAZE THIRTEEN brings together five artists who have participated in exhibitions around Canberra (and some interstate) over the past year – in Contour 556, at CCAS Manuka, Tributary Projects, Canberra Grammar School, Belconnen Art Centre and Megalo Print Studio + Gallery. The work, however, is new: produced over Christmas and New Year (2018-19) to reach completion near the time of the opening. BLAZE THIRTEEN is straight off the drawing board if not created in the gallery itself, and driven by a curator’s predisposition to discover connections and links between artists and works I immediately attempted to produce a kind of gestalt that is perhaps futile and unnecessary. Against that grain, however, I note that four out of the five artists have emerged from the Printmedia and Drawing Workshop at the ANU School of Art and Design and one, Dean Cross, completed his Honours degree in the Sculpture Workshop. The works are overwhelming monochromatic with a small amount of blue; only Cross has added colour and it is economical. And then there are the personal distinctive identity issues that distinguish the works while the artists simultaneously attempt to avoid excess subjectivity.


SHAGS

Threshold, 2019, Acrylic on lasercut MDF, dimensions variable, photo by Brenton McGeachie


SHAGS

‘W’ (detail from Threshold), 2019, Acrylic on lasercut MDF, dimensions variable, photo by Brenton McGeachie


SHAGS

‘H’ (detail from Threshold), 2019, Acrylic on lasercut MDF, dimensions variable, photo by Brenton McGeachie


SHAGS

Threshold, 2019, Acrylic on lasercut MDF, dimensions variable, installation photo by Brenton McGeachie


ALEX LUNDY

Sequence, 2019, Charcoal and soft pastel on paper, 228cm x 540cm, photo by Brenton McGeachie


Shags’ practice developed in the context of a persistent challenge where decoding single words and symbols would not follow the same systems used by other people. With both dyslexia and synaesthesia, (both indicating different ways of understanding the world), she has made good of what psychologists and teachers call ‘learning difficulties’ by focussing on the interconnectivity of everyday surroundings and the ways that she is able to operate in a society that does not accommodate neurodiversity. Her fascination with letters, words, symbols and codes is based on the ways she employs the brain to discover different techniques of processing information such as understanding her environment in non-verbal ways via colour, sensation, noise and tactility. Shags has said, “language is not my first language”, a ‘problem’ that is arguably fortuitous for an artist. Her creative process is therefore, at the outset, obsessively methodical as she devises a clear set of artificial parameters within which she can produce a work of art. She might write her own code, record field notes over many months and scan prints like animation frames. Thus it could be said that Shags creates structure from uncertain situations where everything seems pertinent and it is difficult to filter relevance from irrelevance. While her process is framed by a kind of emotional risk management that includes a strategy for engagement with the environment, her set period of production often introduces elements of chance and spontaneity. Threshold (2019) begins with the imposition of strict guidelines generated specifically for this piece. Structure emerges from an amorphous semantic that becomes the way to achieving an end against the odds. With the English alphabet, paper sculptures, photography, and digital programs Illustrator and Fontographer, Shags created a font called Alphabet for Modernity with letters that might be silhouettes of architectural designs by Flank Lloyd Wright or Mies van der Roe. Bauhaus, where all arts including architecture would come together, is never far from her mind. Using the newly generated lettering she laser cuts the glyphs from MDF sheet to spell a sentence. Painted black and placed sequentially on a white wall this work defies classification and might be a masterpiece of design or a geometric abstract painting. It is, however, a decodable sentence in that it asks the audience to question ways they might engage with what superficially appears to be a series of meaningless glyphs formally arranged on the wall to create a commanding visual event. The use of black on white references the exasperation of a speaker attempting to explain the obvious when the answer is there “in black and white”. Offering her audience something of a dyslexic experience Shags imagines they will try to decipher the Alphabet for Modernity consciously or not, and thus reconcile their curiosity threshold and/or walk away from a message that for her is abundantly clear. All she asks is that viewers consider other ways of seeing and understanding.


While Alex Lundy is the subject of Sequence (2019) she is quick to point out that this monumental monochromatic work is not a self-portrait. She is in a sense a model, using her own body to generate an effect where time ruptures to produce a series of images that follow each other while seeming curiously unrelated. The fracturing of time and motion is magnified by the size of Lundy’s charcoal and soft pastel drawing consisting of 28 sheets of BFK paper and spanning 5.4 metres in length and 2.28 metres in height. It is impossible to dissociate oneself from the overwhelming size of Sequence as it dominates both the space of the gallery as well as the field of vision. While obviously size matters, in this instance it is not dimension alone that renders Lundy’s sequential assignment so powerful. Her figure shifts uneasily across the ‘canvas’ creating at each moment a sense of intense drama that is all but unexplained. In other words we have no idea of intent in terms of why or where. It is simply a stop motion representation that Lundy describes using the contemporary vocabulary of digital renderings, as being like a glitch; a temporary malfunction or fault in equipment. In this digital age the audience is aware of this frustrating concept through the everyday deterioration, disintegration and reconstitution of images as seen on the various screens that pervade modern life. It is via this conceptual technique that Lundy is able to convey a sense of anxiety and discomfort to her audience. Lundy’s process is begins digitally, employing photographs to produce a sense of different temporalities combined in one image. Collaging black and white photographs to create a composition that forms the foundation of a fascination with time and motion recalls the images produced by pioneer photographer Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) that study frame by frame, the motion of humans and animals. Essentially scientific diagrams, these dramatic images found their way into the lexicon of photographic art. Importantly, however, Sequence is not photographic and Lundy’s convergence of time, drama and drawing is more closely related to the large classical tapestry depicting the heroic battles of old where size and craft, as well as the narrative, diminish the viewer. I also thought of Picasso’s 3.49 metre x 7.77 metre Guernica (1937) where scale conveys a message concerning the breakdown of humanity in war and suffering. Like many contemporary artists Lundy works with everyday experience, a deceptively simple matter of space and animated gesture, presented incongruously as an epic event for contemporary times. An element of life, of motion, is filtered through digital media to produce an analogue representation of continuously variable spatial positioning where we might imagine that we can actually envisage time itself.


ALEX LUNDY

Sequence, 2019, Charcoal and soft pastel on paper, 228cm x 540cm, photo by Brenton McGeachie


ALEX LUNDY

Following page: Sequence (detail) 2019, photo by Brenton McGeachie


JOSHUA SLEEMAN TAYLOR

Above left: f4 Agglutinate, 2019, Intaglio print on paper, 140cm x 120cm, 2018, AP/3EV,

Above centre: m4 Preserved, 2019, Intaglio print on paper, 140cm x 120cm, 2018, AP/3EV,

Above right: m3 Security, 2019, Intaglio print on paper, 140cm x 120cm, 2018, AP/3EV, photo by Brenton McGeachie Right: f4 Agglutinate, 2019, Intaglio print on paper, 140cm x 120cm, 2018, AP/3EV, photo by Brenton McGeachie

Following page, left: m4 Preserved, 2019, Intaglio print on paper, 140cm x 120cm, 2018, AP/3EV,

Following page, right: m3 Security, 2019, Intaglio print on paper, 140cm x 120cm, 2018, AP/3EV, photo by Brenton McGeachie


A Mulher no Jardim – The Woman in the Garden, and As Duas Irmãs – The Two Sisters, photographic print on linen lace, acrylic, photo by Brenton McGeachie


The disarming humanism of Joshua Sleeman-Taylor’s prints belies the complex technologies and consuming experimentation upon which their success is founded. His works depict people in a way that is rudimentary and direct, their vulnerabilities, their awkward sensuality and their complex relationships. Working from life or photographs sourced from the Internet, he selects a pose and draws a series of prototypes that investigate characteristics of human nature that will then be translated via the vast opportunities print media has to offer. His initially anonymous subjects are reduced to voluptuous black lines representing the naked human form seen from slightly differing angles, conveying perhaps the notion of multiple personalities within one individual or sometimes suggesting that the same individual might be better understood as a group. The figures are transparent, conjoining and overlapping, giving the impression that the audience can penetrate their inner ego as it mediates between conscious and unconscious introspection. This is where the success of Sleeman-Taylor’s works can be found, in a set of techniques and practices that somehow reflect intimacy. These figures are not portraits; they do not represent any one individual but rather exist as an “amorphous amalgamation of human form” that provides the basis for a response that the artist expects will be sympathetic, if not empathetic. Sleeman-Taylor describes his approach as direct and physical, this being the most effective way of communicating his desire to generate an audience that is commiserative with his emotive agenda. Behind the heavy black lines that outline his merging forms there is a complex system of mark making and experimentation where he has attempted to explore the tensions that are created as he gains and loses control of various investigative processes. Even as a specialist in intaglio print-making methods, such as etching and dry point engraving, the production of large (1.4 metre x 1.20 metre) works is gruelling and unpredictable. Each image is constructed through a network of obsessive marks, cross hatches, chiaroscuro patterns of dark and light where every part of the finished print is enlivened by diverse zones of artistry that Sleeman-Taylor has arrived at through trial and error. Beyond the lines, beyond the emotional impact of the prints these unexpected zones of craft provide the completed print with a freshness that heightens its impact. Citing spontaneity and honesty as essential elements of a successful work Sleeman-Taylor’s investment is personal, reflecting perhaps his own vulnerabilities and insecurities, as well as physical in that all marks in his prints are the result of strenuous labour and the continuing acquisition of skills.


Raised on the family farm in Ngunnawal/Ngnambri country Dean Cross is of Worimi descent. Like the other artists in this exhibition he shies away from egocentrism, however, all four contributions focus on the lands he is most familiar with. White Dogs (2019), is a complex installation that presents a bleak view of the consequences of agriculture, industry and current land usage. Taking the perspectives of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people into account, Cross imbues objects both made and found with specific meaning, each component generating a narrative around Australian landscape and our place within it. White Dogs represents the decomposed corpse of a farmer who struggled to survive on the land he occupied. An outline of his face is painted over an image of a black sheep, disconnected from elementary wooden skeletal remains found sitting in an upright position that seemingly captures the moment of death. The farmer’s severed hand made from brittle kiln-formed glass is connected to the body by a frayed string, the pitiful occupant of an animal trap. A white dog poised atop the trap seems to mock the farmer’s inability to survive on land where First Peoples and endemic creatures have lived successfully for thousands of years. I was thinking of you, too (2019) is also a comprehensive study of Australian landscape with Cross’s painting referencing Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd and Fred Williams sitting on a framed picture that suggests the idea of landscape expressed through horizontal lines on a two dimensional plane. An Esky, Australia’s iconic racist cooler (short for Eskimo) from the 1950s is the foundation of a work that reminds us how the land’s bounty is rejected and the comforts of consumer society are imported into the wilderness preserved in a convenient container. A spindly mother-in-law’s tongue sits beside as it, a further reminder of how we strive to commune with nature in artificial worlds. L’Origine du monde (2019) appropriates the title of Gustav Courbet’s (1866) painting that marked a departure from the idealised nude to confront audiences with a close up view of female genitalia. In terms of landscape, Cross’ dishevelled tent is literally strung up on the gallery wall, also marking a departure of significance. Stained by the earth and torn by use, it has accommodated many campers for whom it provided shelter against the elements. With ‘wings’ outstretched the tent sits in direct relation to Cross’s photograph Untitled Landscape (Bogong Moths) (2019), a poignant view of two moths, divided by the thorn of a native rose and a fence on his family’s farm. These once plentiful migratory moths, common in New South Wales and the ACT were a delicacy for Indigenous peoples and local fauna. The effects of climate change on the Bogong’s summer retreat in the Snowy Mountains has resulted in few moths being seen over the last two years and starvation for dependent occupants, such as pygmy possums. With frequent historical and geographical references Cross describes all aspects of his practice in terms of landscape, and he acknowledges the challenge of finding ways to address this genre in ways that are not redundant.


DEAN CROSS

L’Origine du Monde (1986), 2019, Found tent with nails, dimensions variable, photo by Brenton McGeachie


DEAN CROSS

Untitled Landscape (Bogong Moths), 2019, Pigment print, ed. 1 of 5, 84.1cm x 118.9cm

I was thinking of you too, 2019, Paper, Ikea frame, found Esky, Mother-In-Law’s Tongue, acrylic on persepex and acrylic, Ngunnawal Ochre and ink on linen, dimensions variable, photo by Brenton McGeachie


Following pages: Annotated News: 1 – 10 & Annotated News: USA (detail), 2018, screen print on paper, photo by Brenton McGeachie


DEAN CROSS

White Dogs, 2019, Wood, acrylic paint, kiln-formed glass, rope, concrete, wire and particle board, dimensions variable, installation photo by Brenton McGeachie


SKYE JAMIESON

An aluminium sheet, 2019, China clay on canvas, 120cm x 100cm

Plaster on my left eyelid, 2019, Pure pigment on canvas, 120cm x 100cm, photo by Brenton McGeachie


SKYE JAMIESON

pour a bucket of water on my feet, 2019, Pure pigment and oil pastel on canvas,120cm x 100cm

the corner of Wattle and Macarthur, 2019, Oil paint, china clay, pure pigment on canvas, 120cm x 100cm, photo by Brenton McGeachie


JOSHUA SLEEMAN TAYLOR

f4 Agglutinate, 2019, Intaglio print on paper, 140cm x 120cm, 2018, AP/3EV

m4 Preserved, 2019, Intaglio print on paper, 140cm x 120cm, 2018, AP/3EV m3 Security, 2019, Intaglio print on paper, 140cm x 120cm, 2018, AP/3EV


SKYE JAMIESON

An aluminium sheet, 2019, China clay on canvas, 120cm x 100cm

Plaster on my left eyelid, 2019, Pure pigment on canvas, 120cm x 100cm, photo by Brenton McGeachie


Working with olive oil, pure pigment, oil paint and china clay, Skye Jamieson’s paintings are moulded and shaped to reveal immediate impressions of her environment. Each of four diptychs is a psychogeographic exploration ‘documenting’ Canberra’s cityscape as she drifts through the streets in a state of acute awareness. Jamieson’s approach can be linked with the Situationists’ (1957-1972) idea of dissolving the boundaries between life and art, and her every work is a journey of discovery in which she has exchanged distance for depth. As is the case with many forms of abstraction, the ways that Jamieson’s paintings connect with audiences depends on her ability to communicate feelings and to present views of the city that are not pictorial but emotional. These minimal pieces, the result of much experimentation with unfamiliar materials, are a slow burn as Jamieson eschews drama for the quiet intensity that has characterised her work to date. In their succinct subtlety she distracts and seduces an audience overwhelmed by the glamour of consumerism, (such as television and computer games) ultimately providing welcome relief from the pace and pressures of everyday life. Jamieson’s new work proposes inventive strategies for exploring the city, or any other inhabited space, by straying from predictable paths and inspiring awareness of intuition as a catalyst for cognizance. Jamieson’s unique brand of abstraction with patches of blue also owes a little (but less than usual) to Yves Klein and the Nouveau Réalisme movement (1960s), noted for finding new ways of presenting and perceiving reality. The approach of both the New Realists and the Situationists connects directly with the discovery of familiar things we encounter in the streets, but don’t necessarily notice. The challenge for artists such as Jamieson therefore, is to find innovative ways of seeing the ordinary. Thus the fluidity achieved through her ostensibly free-form manipulation of china clay juxtaposed with adjacent blues, mimics the flow of water, a recurrent presence in Jamieson’s work. Acutely aware of her physical relationship with water through, for instance, puddles, drains, dew and sprinklers, she strips her environment to reveal observations of presence and absence, positive and negative, in worlds where the natural and artificial converge. The properties of flowing water might also stand as a metaphor for the ways that Jamieson and her audience come together, in an essentially tranquil place, free of modernity’s ambient noise, where the artwork flows over and immerses the viewer in a state of calm disquiet. THIRTEEN is not my first BLAZE. After several years I returned with the knowledge that this generic annual exhibition poses challenges for curators that ultimately result in a satisfying experience. Working with a limited pool of artists places restrictions on the scope of the exhibition, however, it also encourages the curator and artists to overcome any perceived limitations. With new artists, in the case of BLAZE THIRTEEN only one year from art school, the exhibition is forged in an atmosphere of excitement where participants see it as an opportunity to make their mark. Even in the absence of an initial overriding concept this working partnership offers certain freedoms and coherence comes from unlikely places. Discussions take place around what artists plan to do while a sense of camaraderie and ownership develops with the intention of creating a knockout exhibition. At the outset we talked about ways that all five artists drew upon modernism to a greater degree than most contemporary artists. There are more than traces of Bauhaus, Picasso, Duchamp and Klein to be found in this exhibition but in the search for cohesion it was colour (or lack of it) that brought it together. This was not a change of direction for the artists, but rather provided a point where everyone could work as a cohesive unit. This sense of collective activity frames BLAZE THIRTEEN, unifying a range of technical and conceptual pursuits in ways that continue to cement the prestige of Canberra’s much-anticipated showcase of emerging art. David Broker March 2019


BLAZE THIRTEEN DEAN CROSS SKYE JAMIESON ALEX LUNDY SHAGS JOSHUA SLEEMAN-TAYLOR

CURATED BY DAVID BROKER CATALOGUE BY ALEXANDER BOYNES

F R ID AY 15 T H F E B R U A R Y SATURDAY 13 TH APRIL 2019 CANBERRA CONTEMPORARY ART SPACE GORMAN ARTS CENTRE, 55 AINSLIE AVENUE BRADDON, CANBERRA ACT 2612 TUESDAY - SATURDAY, 11am - 5pm

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CCAS IS SUPPORTED BY THE ACT GOVERNMENT, AND THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT THROUGH THE AUSTRALIA COUNCIL, IT’S ARTS FUNDING AND ADVISORY BODY.

Profile for Canberra Contemporary Art Space

BLAZE THIRTEEN @ CCAS (2019)  

'BLAZE THIRTEEN' featuring Dean Cross, Skye Jamieson, Alex Lundy, Shags and Joshua Sleeman-Taylor, curated by David Broker

BLAZE THIRTEEN @ CCAS (2019)  

'BLAZE THIRTEEN' featuring Dean Cross, Skye Jamieson, Alex Lundy, Shags and Joshua Sleeman-Taylor, curated by David Broker