Exhibition Guide: The Baker's Dozen

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6 March - 5 Arpil 2012 Vivienne Binns Bonita Bub Debra DaweS Lynne Eastaway Lesley Giovanelli Elizabeth Gower Lorna Grear Lisa Jones Elizabeth Pulie Nike Savvas Gemma Smith Kerry Smith Samantha Whittingham Curated by lorna grear

The Baker’s Dozen invites the viewer into a setting that echoes the domestic as it plays with arrangement, display and re-arrangement. The aesthetic is contradictory, the minimal is juxtaposed against the busy, and the optical illusion is transferred to three dimensions. Experimenting in abstraction and with form, these thirteen artists draw attention to the processes and materials used as they work into areas of beauty, domesticity and the hand-made. Here, the curatorial approach celebrates informal mentoring and peer-topeer relationships, embodying the tangential connections that span the established, mid and early career artists. With practices overlapping Neo Geo, Formalism and Post Pop these outstanding Australian artists allow the personal and spontaneous to intersect with political, social and aesthetic ideologies. L.G. 2012

The Baker’s Dozen Some scholars suggest that the suspicion of sensory joy in contemporary art harks back much further than Conceptual art’s critiques, and can rather be found at the roots of Western aesthetics in Platonic thought. As art historian Jacqueline Lichtenstein puts it, following Plato’s regime, ‘Only what is insipid, odourless and colourless may be said to be true, beautiful and good’.i The association of austere aesthetics and moral seriousness found powerful expression in early modernism; it was perhaps most vehemently captured in Austrian architect Adolf Loos’ infamous pronouncement that ornament is a crime. ii This stance was fundamental to some of the ideological rationales of Modernism, which asserted that radically reinventing form could radically reinvent reality, that the unadorned aesthetics of mass production could deliver a better, fairer society. The relation between Modernism, aesthetic restraint and social progressiveness is complicated however by certain historical antecedents, not least the Arts and Crafts movement, in which decoration and ornamentation were wielded as defences against the dehumanising effects of capitalism. Often ornate and sumptuous in colour and detail, the objects produced under the auspices of Arts and Crafts were dignified by harbouring within them the duration of the artist’s effort; they affirmed the inherent nobility of manual labour. The intricate, handrendered wallpaper designs of William Morris, for instance, were seen to stand ‘against corporate labour…and for individual selfdetermination’, against disembodiment in all its forms and for ‘the potential of the human body at work’.iii On account of these qualities, craft was then, and remains, according to craft historian Bruce Metcalf, ‘an opposition’, ‘a

social movement’. Metcalf argues that despite ‘a gradual breakdown’ in hardened attitudes, the conceptualist bent of contemporary art remains ‘utterly blind’ to craft’s important attributes. These include precisely those qualities that give craft its oppositional potential, namely its relationship to the handmade, its arduous and demanding technique, and its associations with the domestic sphere.iv We know that these conflicting narratives of the making of the Modern have been thoroughly problematised. And yet, many of their propositions remain unresolved, still resonating in the contemporary in generative ways. In this exhibition, these histories form a rich context that the artists draw on and work through with well-honed, often craft-based (or craft-like) techniques. What is evident is the pleasure of thoroughly testing, even mastering, a material, the joy of playful experimentation with form, the fun in transposing material from one context to another and discovering unexpected connections, and the delight of sensory stimulation. Also evident is a holistic approach — like that of the early modernists— that does not separate out the art object from the designed world. Another strong underlying current in the exhibition is feminist re-readings of the distinctions that hardened after the fluidity of early modernism, namely the battle lines between craft and art, art and design, beauty and political critique, pleasure and purpose. It is noteworthy that all the artists here are women, whose practice has necessarily traversed the complex insights of their feminist forebears. Moreover, the exhibition has provided for an intergeneration dialogue on these feminist insights, given the broad range of career and life experience represented. Contemporary art’s re-valorisation of

Modernism was identified a while back by international curators and critics; for some, this trend marks (along with other developments), the passing of the postmodern period and the beginning of something else, be it ‘the contemporary’, ‘supermodernity’, or ‘the altermodern’.v (Interestingly, the cultural cachet of early modernism has also escalated in the world of high-end design, with evidence of a ‘tectonic shift in the tastes of the super-rich, away from English and French 18th century antiques, long the international lingua franca of grand domestic furnishing, and toward early to mid 20th century design’. ) As such critics assert, to be aware of history and actively dialogue with its narratives does not mean to be stuck in the past, reiterating well-tried — or arguably anachronistic — positions. Brecht once warned, ‘Don’t start from the good old things but the bad new ones’vii, but this is not a rejection of historical self-reflexivity as much as an incitement to not venerate tradition for its own sake. To assert the appeal of rhythm and rhyme in contemporary poetry, for example, as the so-called New Formalists have done, is not necessarily conservative and nostalgic. To assert the special value of the hand-rendered object, for example, is not to return to discourses of originality and authenticity, nor even to necessarily engage with 21st century political debates around sustainability and down-sizing. It may rather be an affirmation of the endless creative opportunities that are ‘at hand’, opportunities that allow artists to ‘de-program in order to re-program’ the world. Such gestures may suggest ‘that there are other possible usages for techniques, tools and spaces at our disposition’, and together may help to ‘permanently affirm… the transitory, circumstantial nature of the institutions and the rules that govern individual or collective behaviour’, as Bourriaud puts it.viii

The tantalising colour, pattern and texture of ‘The Baker’s Dozen’ is an invitation to engage aesthetically — meaning both conceptually and sensuously — with the still live debates about the relationship between craft and art, art and design, beauty and critique. In this exhibition, the artists appear to propose that the pleasures of making and form, as well as the pleasures of looking, are integral to considering the social purposes of art. Jacqueline Millner Dr Jacqueline Millner teaches theory at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney, and writes widely on contemporary art. Her latest book is ‘Conceptual Beauty: Perspectives on Australian contemporary art’ (Artspace: 2010).


i. Jacqueline Lichtenstein, ‘On Platonic Cosmetics’, in Bill Beckley (ed.), Uncontrollable Beauty, New York: Allworth Press, 1998, 87. ii. Adolf Loos, ‘Ornament and crime’, 1908 iii. Bruce Metcalf, ‘Contemporary craft: a brief overview’, 1999, in Jean Johnson (ed.), Exploring Contemporary Craft: History, theory and critical writing, Coach House Books, 2002, 16-17 iv. Ibid, 22. v. For example Julian Stallabrass, Terry Smith, Marc Augé, and Nicholas Bourriaud. In Australia, an early identification of this trend was Linda Michael’s Adelaide Biennale of 2006, 21st Century Modern. vi. Martin Filler, ‘London’s Apocalypse Then and Now’, The New York Review of Books, LVIII:20, 44, January 2012. vii. Brechtian maxim, quoted by Walter Benjamin, Walter Benjamin, ‘Understanding Brecht’, London: Verso, 2003, xi viii. Nicolas Bourriaud in conversation with Bartholomew Ryan on Tate Triennial, ‘The Altermodern’ : http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/newsopinion/conversations/2009-03-17/altermoderna-conversation-with-nicolas-bourriaud/

Vivienne Binns

Fifth Translation of Nylon Mat 2006 From the series In Memory of the Unknown Artist acrylic on canvas, 200×260cm From David’s Jumper mark II From the series In Memory of the Unknown Artist 2007-08, acrylic on canvas, 152.5×183.8cm

Highly respected artist Vivienne Binns first came to prominence in the late 1960s. She is recognised for her contribution to feminism and improving the conditions for women artists in Australia; she was a founding member of the Sydney Women’s Art Movement in the early 1970s. For the last decade or so she has focused on studio-based painting but prior to this she has worked across mediums and contexts, from techniques such as enamelling to community arts and installation. Based in Canberra where she is Senior Lecturer in Painting at the Australian National University, School of Art, Binns received the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for contribution to art, craft and community; the Ros Bower Memorial Award and the Australian Artists Creative Fellowship. In addition to her participation in numerous group and solo exhibitions, her work is held in major museums and collections throughout Australia. Vivienne Binns is represented by Sutton Gallery, Melbourne

Bonita Bub

Hovercraft 2010 ply, acrylic, hinges, dimensions variable

Bonita Bub’s work sits between art and design as well as art and architecture, she has been inspired by modernist principles of design and architecture, particularly the use of screens and flexible partitions. She uses industrial materials such as ply, cardboard, concrete, timber, plastic and foam. Bub has recently returned from Akademie Bildenden der Kuenste (The Academy of Fine Arts), Vienna. She completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Honours) at Sydney College of the Arts where she is currently working on a Masters degree. In Sydney she has exhibited in a number of group and two-person exhibitions including at Mop Projects, Locksmith and SNO as well the recent international, curated exhibition Silver Moon at Gallerie Lisa Ruyter in Vienna in 2011.

Debra DaweS

Dare two 2010 oil on canvas, 85×85cm. Photo: Paul Green Got a hankering (green) 2010 oil on canvas, 260×180cm. Photo: Paul Green

Debra Dawes uses formal structures such at the grid to extrapolate political and social issues into abstract paintings. Through disrupting the picture plane, Dawes creates a visual experience where the view may become immersed in the space of the painting. Zigzags of colour appear to advance and recede across the canvas, destabilising habitual observation. Dawes’ work has been included in many major exhibitions, including Cross Currents: Focus on Contemporary Australian Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2007, 21st Century Modern, Adelaide Bienniale of Australian Art, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 2006 and Phenomena: New Painting in Australia 1, 2001 at at the AGNSW. Dawes’ work is represented in major collections including the National Gallery of Australia, the AGNSW and the National Gallery of Victoria. Debra Dawes is represented by Gallery Barry Keldoulis, Sydney

Lynne Eastaway

Unpacked #2 2008-11 acrylic gouache on laminated linen, mixed media, dimensions variable

Lynne Eastaway’s work has long investigated the relationships between colour, form and space with particular interest in perimeters of the rectangle and the irregular traces of the hand and the various flaws in the surface of the canvas or linen. The dialogue between physical presence and aesthetic formality is the core of the work’s contemplative nature. Eastaway completed a Diploma in Painting at the National Art School in 1973 and an Masters of Fine Art, College of Fine Art, UNSW in 1998. She exhibits her work with the SNO Group and with Factory 49 in Marrickville and has shown in numerous group shows in London, Paris, Netherlands and the USA. Eastaway currently teaches in the Drawing Department at the National Art School.

Lesley Giovanelli

Turquoise Cloud Chair 2012 polystyrene, polyester wadding, wool, dye, pins, 120x100x120cm

Lesley Giovanelli explores processes in relation to materials that are sensually or spatially familiar – bitumen from roads, polyurethane and polyester from furniture, or sheep’s wool with its invitation to handle. The ubiquity of her materials counters the unconscious spatial memory and dream spaces of her arrangements. Amorphous structures or elements frequently juxtapose the rigidity of architecture. Giovanelli has travelled extensively and exhibited in Australia and overseas including Mexico, Los Angeles and Canada. She has been the recipient of The Australia Council studio residency in LA and has attended residencies in Banff, Canada, Arnhem in the Netherlands and Bundanon, NSW.

Elizabeth Gower

Prismatics 2006-07 paper on canvas, five canvases 100Ă—100cm each

Elizabeth Gower creates abstract compositions from humble materials such a packaging and newspapers, reflecting her interest in the human desire to create order from the chaotic. She has held more than 40 solo exhibitions throughout Australia and internationally since she began practicing in 1976. Gower has also participated in many major group exhibitions including the Biennale of Sydney Art Gallery of NSW 1978, Australian Perspecta, Art Gallery of NSW 1981 and 1985, to more recent exhibitions such as Stick it! Australian Collage, NGV: Australia in 2010. Her work is held in most state collections including Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of South Australia and National Gallery of Victoria as well as private collections. Elizabeth Gower is represented by Sutton Gallery, Melbourne

Lorna Grear

Woodmix 2012 paper, inkjet prints, ply, collage on plywood, 60×70cm Whitepop, 2012 oil, acrylic, paper on plywood 60×70cm Giftwrap, 2012 oil, acrylic, ply on plywood 60×70cm

Lorna Grear’s work is formalist in tradition, yet political in content. Icons from Australian art history are combined with personal iconography to create an abstracted space through the juxtaposition of colour, shape and edge. Grear’s work has also been hung in the Portia Geach Memorial Prize, Fishers Ghost Art Award, Mosman Art Prize and the Liverpool Art Prize. In addition to her studio practice she has curated Homefront at Sheffer Gallery in 2010 and The Baker’s Dozen in 2012. Grear is a graduate of both Sydney College of the Arts and The National Art School and currently teaches art history and painting at South Western Sydney Institute of TAFE.

Lisa Jones

Playing Host 2006-12 wood, felt, thread, silicone, steel, variable Pocket Series 2011 acrylic, 70×50×50cm

Lisa Jones’ work is an on-going investigation of the human body and its relationship with the everyday. Known for her sculptural work with laser-cut acrylic, felt, hand-sawn timber and cast silicon, Jones also produces intricate drawings on paper which interweave imagined and realistic images of body organs, creating fictional systems of networks and relationships. Jones was born in London and studied at the Wimbledon School of Art and the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. She currently lives in Sydney and completed a MVA at Sydney College of the Arts in 2004. Her most recent solo show Replicators, was held at Conny Dietzschold Gallery, Sydney. Earlier this year she recently participated in Drawing Lines in the Sand, a group exhibition on Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour. Lisa Jones is represented by Conny Dietzschold Gallery Sydney|Cologne

Elizabeth Pulie

Foyer (II) 2011 acrylic, oil stick, medium on linen, 120×100cm Foyer (I) 2011 acrylic, oil stick, medium on linen, 120×100cm Board Study (Angles) 2011 acrylic, oil stick, medium on board, 21×30cm Board Study (Silver) 2011 acrylic and oil stick on board, 21×30cm

Primarily known for paintings that incorporate decorative patterning Elizabeth Pulie was also codirector of a two-year project gallery in her home called Front Room from 2002-03 and edited and produced a magazine, ‘Lives of the Artists’, from 2002 until 2005. Pulie has exhibited in Australia and internationally since 1987 and in 1998 was resident at the Australia Council’s Milan studio. Decorated Wall, a 6 metre long mural comprised of 25 vividly paintings incorporating classical and formal design motifs was shown at the MCA, initially in Primavera in 1995 and subsequently in To make a work of timeless art in 2009. Pulie studied at Sydney College of the Arts from 1987 to 1991; she completed her Masters degree there in 2000 and is currently a PhD candidate at the same institution. Elizabeth Pulie is represented by Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney

Nike Savvas

Sliding Ladder: Truncated Icosahedron  #1 2010 wood, wool, 130x130x130cm. Photo Jamie North Sliding Ladder: Mandala 2010 wood, wool, 220cm diameter. Photo Jamie North

Nike Savvas produces large-scale installations that ‘translate’ painting into three dimensions. She upsets boundaries and categories, creating confusion between disciplines and seeks to empower viewers to engage with the work on their own terms. Savvas was awarded the Anne and Gordon Samstag scholarship in 1996, subsequently studying at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Having participated in significant exhibitions in Australia and overseas, her work is included in major collections such as the Art Gallery of NSW, Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney, and Auckland Art Gallery. In September 2012, an extensive monograph on Savvas’ work will be launched to coincide with a major solo exhibition at Leeds Art Gallery UK in November. Nike Savvas is represented by BREENSPACE, Sydney

Gemma Smith

Chessboard Painting 12 2012 acrylic on wooden chessboard, 38×38cm Tether Tangle 2010 acrylic on board, 140×120cm

Gemma Smith’s practice bridges both painting and sculpture. Through these disciplines she explores colour and its ability to subvert the flat picture plane. Her work has more recently shifted from the precise angled, geometric abstraction for which she is best known to spontaneous, painterly gestured works that appear to tangle and weave together. Smith completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts at Sydney College of the Arts in 1999 and an honours year at Queensland University of Technology in 2004. Recent significant exhibitions include PRIMAVERA 2008 at the MCA, Sydney; Contemporary Australia: OPTIMISM at GoMA, Brisbane in 2008, CaseStudy — Gemma Smith Considers the work of Margo Lewers Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest in 2011. She has also produced large public artworks including Ceiling Artwork Supreme Court and District Court Brisbane 2011-12. Gemma Smith is represented by Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney

Kerry Smith

Traveling Beyond the Homeland 2008 birdcage, nylon ribbons, springs, 40×38×22cm Homeland Security 2006-12 furniture and utilitarian objects, wool, blanket fabric, 1500×300×300cm

Kerry Smith’s sculpture and installation work is grounded in the concepts of security, identity and social behaviour. She creates sculptures and installations from a variety of materials including wool, wire, nylon and found objects. Her soft sculptures made by wrapping familiar, often domestic items in old Australian checked blankets suggest both concealment and camouflage. In these works the blanket, an everyday symbol of warmth and comfort takes on a disquieting effect, both stifling and immobilising the objects underneath. Smith was a finalist in the Fishers Ghost Art Award at the Campbelltown Arts Centre and the Wynne Prize at the AGNSW in 2006 and her work was included in the Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize in 2007. She has Bachelor of Visual Art (Hons) from Sydney College of the Arts and is currently based in Bellingen, NSW.

Samantha Whittingham

Temptation 2011 cast bronze, 53×45×46cm Table and Chairs 2012 formply, 80×70×300cm

Samantha Whittingham’s sculptures focus on the transformation of architectural & domestic forms - shifting the emphasis and value from their historical, cultural significance in reference to generic, mass-produced, modernist forms. She utilises a diverse range of media including timber, bronze, plastic, plaster, wax and fabric. Whittingham’s work has been included in Sculpture by the Sea, Sydney in 2000, 2003 and 2010 and shown numerous group exhibitions. She has been a finalist in several Fisher’s Ghost Art Award at the Campbelltown Arts Centre and completed a Bachelor of Fine Art at The National Art School in 2000, Bachelor of Art Education at COFA, UNSW 2009. Last year she was awarded the Encouragement Prize in the Willoughby Sculpture Prize and was recipient of the Sculpture by the Sea, Clitheroe Foundation Emerging Artist Mentor Program in 2010.

THE BAKER’S DOZEN 6 March - 5 April 2012 UTS Gallery University of Technology, Sydney

Text copyright the authors; all images copyright and courtesy the artists and their representing galleries unless otherwise stated. Not to be reproduced without permission. ISBN: 978-0-9807595-5-6 Part of Art Month, Sydney UTS Gallery supported by Oyster Bay Wines & Coopers. Media Partner: 2ser

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