Arts VISUAL ART:
ACTS OF EXPOSURE THERE ARE ART CLICHÉS AND THERE ARE ART CLICHÉS. IN TASMANIA, WORK ABOUT PLACE AND SPACE IS THE OVER RIDING ONE. PEOPLE MAKE ENTIRE CAREERS OUT OF ENGAGING WITH SOME OF THE MORE INTERESTING AND EXTREME LANDSCAPES THAT ONE MAY FIND SCATTERED ALL OVER THE ISLAND. TO BE FAIR IT’S ALWAYS GOING TO BE FASCINATING, BUT WHEN A NEW EXHIBITION TACKLES IDEAS AROUND SPACE AND THE BODY IN SPACE, AND THINGS LIKE THAT, SOMETHING NEW NEEDS TO BE BROUGHT TO THE TABLE. THE CHOICE OF ARTISTS HERE, SELECTED BY CONTEMPORARY ART TASMANIA, WHO HAVE COLLABORATED WITH TMAG TO REALISE THIS SHOW, SEEMS TO BE BEEN A THOROUGH ONE.
THE HISTORY OF ARTS FUNDING I GOT HOODWINKED RECENTLY. ONE OF THOSE ANNOYING MEMES ONE SHARES ON SOCIAL MEDIA DRIFTED THROUGH MY VISION, AND I WAS TRICKED. PERHAPS YOU'VE SEEN THE CLAIM THAT WINSTON CHURCHILL, WHEN ASKED TO CUT ARTS FUNDING DURING WORLD WAR TWO, REPLIED “THEN WHAT ARE WE FIGHTING FOR?” Great sentiment but it's not quite true. Churchill rather thought the existing art was worth hanging on to. I thought it was neat, and wrongfully shared it about. When the error was pointed out to me, I began to delve into Arts Funding itself, and found that what became the British Council for The Arts was actually set up in World War Two. Art production was seen as having social and cultural worth at one of the most dramatic times in Britain's history, and when under the massive military threat, the reaction was that the Arts had great importance.
Michael Schlitz, who is best known as a print maker, is an artist known for his interaction with, and reverence for, the landscape of Tasmania, has cast his mythmaking eye into a world that smacks of mysterious legend and even magic. It’s slightly different work from this very reliable artist, and it’s good to see that he has not settled into a shtick. His images are incredibly distinctive and filled with the artist’s character and hand, and it’s something of challenge for him to subvert this, but he’s really made an effort here. Schlitz is always worth a look basically, and can surprise, so if you think you know his work and find it a bit yawnsome, perhaps go and have another glance. Mark Shorter is a performer. He has a character, a wild, feathered beast that stumps mawkish and ruinous through a familiar landscape (and a detail of a Glover work) made unfamiliar by his presence. This takes the form in the gallery of video work, partially manipulated, so it’s not quite strict performance and not quite video art. It’s very humorous work, a bit scatological, and certainly confronting – full frontal urination is a hell of an analogy, but I like the immediacy of such a move. Spraying toxic waste about like an un-gelded tomcat is a blatant metaphor, but if you’re talking
about the European settlement of Australia, it’s a fair and accurate reading. Subtly is only useful as far as it goes, and it’s artist like Shorter who are prepared to confront and use weirdness that seem really necessary when talking about massive and thorny issues. This is a polarising work but it makes the exhibition all the better for it. Leigh Hobba’s installation is an imaginative exercise in re-visiting one’s childhood. Hobba’s work is always at its best when he dares to be personal and it seems that as he has aged as an artist and a human, he cares less and reveals more. With Sailing To Samoa, Leigh exposes an awful lot – about his idyllic and possibly idealised childhood, about where he is now in life and about that moment where you confront your own fear and one’s capability of having an adventure. The work is filled with one of those emotional overloads where the past is contained by the present, made vibrant and yet inaccessible. Hobba has reached for and created something really beautiful, and it deserves your attention. It’s a hymn to the heaven of childhood, where all our emotions and experiences are vital and sharp. You may not have grown up in distant Samoa, but if you were fortunate enough to have a happy childhood, something in this work will resonate.
Acts Of Exposure is an exercise in contrast. Schlitz’s rough-hewn, hand made beauty exists in stark contrast to the video work of Hobba and Shorter, while those two demonstrated between themselves the great range video work might take – Shorter’s precise and intelligent critique sitting almost at odds with the seductive sentimentality of Hobba’s installation. It’s an excellent show, with much meat to chew on. There’s an artist’s talk at TMAG on Sunday February 16 from 1pm, it promises to be very rich indeed. Get along. ANDREW HARPER
The timing is fascinating. One can only speculate why, when so much of the UK had been devastated by bomb attacks, and so many lives lost, why the Arts were considered important. I like to think that it was recognised that celebrating and growing culture is exactly what is needed after such a trial. Whatever the reason, the fact of the timing remains. It is this I would remind our various levels of government of. No, Churchill did not give a glib one-liner that looks good made into a Facebook meme. He did, however, preside over a government that, under about the most extreme conditions a government can be under, deemed it important to oversee the creation of a body whose purpose was to encourage the Arts.
Acts of Exposure is on show at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart, through to February 23.
ROUND ROOM GALLERY IS SEEKING ARTISTS TO EXHIBIT HOUSED IN THE HUMBLE SURROUNDINGS OF THE HOMESTEAD TASMANIA, LOCATED AT 304 ELIZABETH STREET, NORTH HOBART, THE ROUND ROOM GALLERY IS A NEW SPACE PROVIDING ARTISTS THE OPPORTUNITY TO EXHIBIT THEIR WORK. SOLO, GROUP AND CURATED SHOWS ARE WELCOME AND THE SPACE IS ALSO OPEN FOR THE USE OF MEETINGS, FORUMS AND WORKSHOPS.
Have a think about that: an archly Conservative government, when under air attack and nightly bombing raids, didn't just think to keep what existed already in galleries safe, but to begin a programme to make more art. That program was CEMA (Committee for Encouragement of Music and the Arts) and in 1941, the great economist John Maynard Keynes was its chair. In 1945, CEMA funded 46 organisations, becoming the Arts Council of Great Britain in 1946.
Applications for shows and expressions of interest for other uses are now open. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and application form.
I have no doubt that times are tough, but in all my adult life I do not recall times when they were not, and Australia is not the Third World any more than it is wartime Britain. All kinds of public programs are important for Australia to be a great place to live in and something to be proud of, and what we present to the world is important – how we treat the original inhabitants of this country, how we look after the most vulnerable people in our society and how we express ourselves culturally. Arts funding is not the entire solution to these very complex issues, but it's a part of it. It's important, it is not disposal and it is not a luxury. The Arts show us who we are, and we probably need to work on that one a bit in Australia in 2014. No wonder the knife is looming. ANDREW HARPER
Published on Feb 4, 2014