CO. is an exhibition that proves six heads are better than one, with multiple artists partnering up to create a multi-disciplinary series of works.
With so many artists involved, we thought we’d get them to interview each other. First up, curator (and artist) Amber Smith and Sarah Lewer talk about the exhibition together.
AMBER TO SARAH
Amber: What is the work you have produced for CO. and how did it come about?
Sarah: I’ve produced a short film in collaboration with Pascalle Bailey, one of the artist/curators of the exhibition. Together we’ve created a work that discusses the female reality, and its ebbs and flows. It came about as the result of a number of chats and musings; the work is relative to our own experiences, which we felt a necessity to express. It’s got a dreamy aesthetic with pink and yellow hues throughout however, the figure depicted in the work is kind of mystic, and her actions at times, contrast the works overall prettiness.
Amber: What were the key concepts that you wanted to explore?
Sarah: Having noticed a serious contrast between the perceived and the reality of my own feminine experience, presenting an aesthetically feminine image – which has contrasting subject matter gave a more realistic representation of femininity. Often the female is portrayed as soft and gentle, in our work there is a sort of mysticism and hardness to the figure; she is soft and gentle but, there is more to her than that. Despite, being bathed in pink light.
Amber: I understand you are studying psychology, what interests you about the intersection between art and psychology and does this feed into your recent works?
Sarah: I do; there is psychology in everything we do but, art allows for direct of expression of the psyche. You can paint what you feel and the same goes for photos and films. You capture how you feel and what you see both in reality and your mind’s eye. My works tend to be relative to my own experience, and my nostalgia for them. A massive part of my own psyche, it’s all pretty fluid to me; it’s all therapeutic.
Amber: What do you hope people take away from your work?
Sarah: I hope that the work gets people thinking. The interactive aspect of Pascalle’s drawn piece asks for participation, allowing viewers to react and contribute. I hope people walk away questioning femininity, and give a nod to it’s complexity.
Amber: What is it about female sexuality and the female experience that intrigues you? What insight do you hope to give the audience?
Sarah: Mine, is a female experience. My intrigue lies in the contrast between what I know and what is perceived of female sexuality, of this experience and, of myself and my peers (in both a physical and mental capacity). What is true, and what is perceived; we’re a bit of both, honestly. We feel, a lot. Sometimes we just are a lot. We’re complex and we don’t have to be soft and gentle.
SARAH TO AMBER
Sarah: What is the premise of CO. the exhibition?
Amber: The main notion behind CO. was to expand the roles of artist and curator and to see how these disciplines could benefit from both participating parties. They have quite a symbiotic relationship and I was interested in seeing how the curator could learn from the artist and vice-versa, essentially deconstructing the hierarchy that exists there. It’s not something new, it’s been done before, but I feel like the show has a very different feel due to the melding of roles between the participants and myself.
Sarah: How important is collaboration in the art world, we see today?
Amber: Collaboration is always important. It’s great to have your own practice and to be good at what you do, but you cannot thrive in your own bubble forever. Pushing the boundaries of comfort and process within your artwork are essential. I find that you always learn the greatest lessons from group work. It can be challenging and frustrating at times, however it can be liberating and an emancipation of sorts. One should never underestimate the great learnings that arise from opening up your practice. On a more practical level, emerging artists can use collaboration as a means to share the financial burden of exhibiting, as well as helping to promote each other and ensure a wider audience is reached.
Sarah: Tell me about the work you produced for this exhibition?
Amber: This work is quite literally the physical art of curation. Using drop sheets from all of the installs this year, they contained the unconscious markings of manual labour in the name of curation. Made with the free-spirited, abstract and conceptual artist, Miranda Jarvis, who is a peer of mine, both at CHYA and Deakin University.
My own practice can be quite structured, regimented and informed by research, focusing a lot on the inner idioms of my brain. Miranda has such a fresh approach to her own practice and I feel we complimented each other nicely. The deliberate intervention by the artists’ hand really complimented the impassive yet delightfully random quality of the dropped gallery paint.
Sarah: What does your work express? How do you want your audience to respond?
Amber: Homesick/magic are a series of works four works and a book of prose created by Miranda and myself. The large-scale paintings synthesize the practice of curation with that of art-making. Using the gallery drop sheets as the canvas, the passive action of dropped curatorial
elements combine with the active and deliberate method of mark-making to create a work that celebrates interdisciplinary and collaborative gallery processes. The zine unites the two artists prose in response to the outcome of this two-way method. We wanted the works to be
aesthetically pleasing, and yet poetic. Both Miranda and I make very sentimental works in our own practices, so it was always important that this notion was present in the works.
Sarah: Do you feel your work reflects the time you have spent as a curator at Courthouse?
Amber: Despite reading quite literally in terms of showcasing every colour I’ve painted this year in our galleries and mural spaces (haha) it shows the constant curatorial transformation the spaces go through. The pieces also show a major growth in my own practice, thanks to the opportunities that the curator role at Courthouse has afforded me. Including a freeing and loosening of control over my own creative output and really embracing interdisciplinary within the arts- be it performing, writing, drama or the visual arts. Most importantly, it shows the extensive process and abstract quality of curating; how one translates an intangible narrative into something more concrete and perceptible. I feel like these works are a pictorial metaphor for the process.
Sarah: I understand that you are quite nostalgic, collections being a constant in your artwork, how is this work similar and different to your past work?
Amber: I am hopelessly sentimental, and I do mean hopelessly. Sentiment gets in the way of function, memories become objects, objects become collected, collected becomes stockpiled. There is a large part of me that hold objects in too high regard, however the quality that objects possess in terms of holding ideas and memories fascinates and abates me. This only increases when you place 2 or more objects together. Collections become personal museums that present the most precious dialogues of human life. This work really focused on the notion of nostalgia (also this idea of ‘homesick’) and the anxious longing that arises when faced with the impossibility of planning your future. My inability to throw things with meaning away often results in them being repurposed or turned into an art object that I can keep. Combining them with prose meant that I could combine my great passions in an abstract yet sensible way.
Sarah: What’s next?
Amber: I have no idea. I always like to leave it up to the universe to direct me. Which is somewhat ironic, considering the nature of my arts practice. I love curating and hope to continue with it. I’d also love to spend some time working on my own stuff for my PhD, which is in the works as I ready myself to move into a new studio space. I just know that I want to keep working and immersing myself in the arts.
Images by Patrick Callow Photography. Top image of Amber by Liekography.