How Big is Enough?

Round Up for Margaret River Regional Open Studios (MRROS) 2022

How do you keep commercial interests at bay and put artists first? How is the MRROS ‘open studio’ brand staying en pointe if more and more artists set up pop up galleries and aren’t in their studios?

168 artists and artisans participated this year. MRROS released data that there was an estimated total of 10million brought into the region over the 16-day period – don’t think you’ll be seeing millionaire artists and artisans.  There were more commercial businesses participating with feature artists than ever before. There are pages of advertisements in the book.

If on average visitors spent three -four days here and visited on average 10 studios – that’s roughly 2-3 studios a day. If you could see which artists and which commercial businesses reaped the most traffic, that would be a handy statistic.

There will always be an unbalanced power dynamic at play when commercial businesses engage with art and artists. Are these commercial businesses joining MRROS engaging with the ‘Event’ and its success or art and the artists? Can it be both? We don’t think so. The gap between MRROS ‘the event ‘and ‘the artists’ participating is widening. Artists will need to be making savvy business decisions in order to gain economic return and greater visitor numbers as more artists and more commercial interests get added to the total overall event.

We had so many questions this time around for Margaret River Regional Open Studios 2022, its 9th year. One thing is for sure, the event has changed the pattern of art tourism in the Southwest Region.

Could MRROS show some responsibility for this going forward?

We think they could, beginning with identifying hobbyist, emerging, professional, established artist and distinguishing between these stages of career within the book alongside the individual artists blurbs. Right now, the art tourist must work it out for themselves. And artists’ livelihoods are in play here. The MRROS model works on equality amongst artists, but the playing field isn’t equitable.

The adage ‘any exposure is good exposure’ is a ruse and all artists do themselves a disfavour if they do not weigh up the fiscal returns and mutual benefits for themselves directly when they participate with MRROS, including up to 16 days of unpaid labour and/or wages not earned.

So, with all that in mind here’s our round up of MRROS 2022.You will hear two distinct voices; we don’t always agree, and we see things differently but also the same- that’s why LAP works. We see our role as educational and advisory, to help artists grow through critical thought and engage with the field of criticism – talking about what they do and why they do it and enriching our world views as they go. Thanks to everyone we saw and chatted with.

Reviews are done according to the maps in the MRROS book.

Margaret River and Surrounds

Francesco Geronazzo

Printmaking

Francesco Geronazzo Studio

Irregular, minimalistic, organic.

If only we could communicate Francesco’s image making process in few words. We can’t and we shouldn’t.

The apparent simplicity of his prints exhibited on his studio walls hide a long and matured process, from its concept to its result. Using ancient printmaking techniques the artist explores a variety of forms, lines and colors inspired by his surroundings.

Fragments of the natural world side by side with their multiple reproductions on paper and material reveal attentive artistic research over the years, one that strives to create a visual narrative that suggests the way the artist relates to the earth and its elements. Its imperfections and roughness are left to elevate the craftsmanship of printmaking practice, to illustrate the diversity of textures present in nature.

Sarah Hewer

Photography      

Sarah Hewer

Describing Sarah Hewer as a photographer would be redundant. She is a visual creator.

A visual creator with a driven sense of aesthetic. Her large-scale photographic prints of leaves, shells and light create a division between a sensorial world and a physical reality. Through the manipulation of light, the use of different exposures and black backgrounds, the artist engages in a dramatic dialogue by revealing the minuscule details of the subject. This dichotomy between chiaroscuro (light-dark) is all part of Sarah’s artistic research to explore the limits of the natural world – tension versus prudence, fragility versus strength.

Among the photographs were a collection of her most recent work – Resonant.  Incorporating pen and ink drawings, plus printmaking techniques within a more abstract theme, Sarah shows a more loose, playful yet highly textural group of work in resonance with her previous prints.

Yu-Hua Lan

Sculpture / Ceramic

Yu – Hua Lan

Yu-Hua Lan is a Taiwan born artist living in the South-west Region. Based on her professional and living experiences with the local flora and surroundings, the artist presented in a singular body of work her emotional and physical relationship with the natural world. An ode to nature and its beauty cast from ceramic creations that resemble, in their shape and form, its elements, such as seeds and shells.

Yu-Hua stays truthful to her interpretation of nature by revealing its diverse patterns, textures and formations to keep its essence. The aesthetical choice of black and white is not arbitrary. This allows a game of light and dark to show the complexity of the process-making of the works and how intricate they become in their own way. This dramatic effect becomes a reflection of good and bad, fear and hope according to the artist own words. 

Yu-Huan studied Fine Arts at the Camberwell College of Arts in London (UK) and is one of the members of the Hive Margaret River Art Collective.

Wendy Henderson

Painting

Wendy Henderson

Abstraction, landscapes, portraiture. Can they happen all at once? Wendy Henderson says, ‘Yes, they can’.

The variety of works accompanied by a variety of mediums are the base for Wendy Henderson’s practice. It is all about balance and awareness – of life, of her own surroundings – which then allows Wendy to develop a painting style that represents a world in constant change. The use of different techniques – acrylics, pastels, charcoal – enables the artist to explore different artistic realities and to break free from pre-aesthetic boundaries.

Her abstract pieces are mainly geometric. Vigorous lines, unruly forms adding bold and bright colours to generate a sense of modernity in the composition. Imaginative cityscapes and traffic routes reveal a structural complexity that contrasts with the idyllic seascapes painted almost in simultaneous. The moonlight blue landscapes set the mood and transcribe the immensity of the northern skies. Here the focus is beyond what you can see.

Caroline Bannister

Ceramic / Sculpture

Caroline Bannister

You don’t need an invitation to enter the whimsical universe of Caroline Bannister. You are welcomed into an intriguing journey through fantastical forests and the supernatural world of dragons and sea creatures.

Among these works, Caroline’s trees of glazed clay had a marked presence. These Micro Sculptures highlight the versatility of ceramics to explore new shapes adapted from our environment. Such plasticity is also accentuated by the way the artist fluctuates between rough and smooth textures to better express her interpretation of the subject. Stylistically, there was a close approximation to the Art Noveau style.

For this year’s edition, Caroline expanded her connection to nature through her portrayal of the Big Sea. Her ceramic representations of the ocean as round plates reflect an intrinsic dialogue between land and water, reflecting her years of contemplation and observation. The glazing on the wave’s contrasts with the sandy raw clay to emphasize this natural dichotomy.

Caroline is a co- founder of the Margaret River Art Collective- The Hive- a space created to promote collaborative practice within the local artistic community. 

Emily Jackson

Printmaking / Painting

Emily Jackson

Emily Jackson describes herself as a creator of visual moments. Her illustrative way of expressing nature through colour gains a different dimension when we start unravelling the layers of images that compose her work. It pushes the viewer to be diligent on how they observe her prints as they give us this illusion of an ordinary print that reveals its complexity as we get closer. This visual impact is unique in Emily’s work, offering different interpretations of the local natural world.

The juxtaposition of the subjects on a multiplicity of surfaces allows the artist to process through different printing techniques, an array of information absorbed over the years. Her celebration of the native flora and fauna represented in all its glory through an explosion of colours reveals their intrinsic magic, defaulting their original appearance. A vision of what is beyond the visible gives Emily endless representations of her own environment. 

The outdoor sculptures presented in this year’s edition are new additions to the artist’s work. They become more organic as they are exposed to the elements, and they offer multiple views of the same theme.  They are a mix of etching prints, painting and drawing images printed on glass or acrylic and stainless-steel surfaces reflecting a continuity of her practice on the smaller scale works on canvas and fabrics. In the background, the artist exhibited her process – the making of the images – revealing studies, observations, different technical and stylistic experiments that emphasized the studio living feeling that MRROS should be about.

Fin Debbo

Printmaking

Fin Debbo Studio

A first timer at the MRROS, Fin Debbo took this experience with a high level of professionalism and a willingness to learn from it.

From single lino prints in fine handmade paper to more complex compositions, Fin explored a unique universe of animalia, cityscapes and intrinsic environments to express her artistic reality. A surreal world inhabited by extra-ordinaire creatures involved in “orderly disorder” scenes of an illusory sphere. Portraits of an unquiet mind, filled with stories and infinite imagery suggesting multiple readings of these works. A connection with her imagination enabled a creation of unpredictable responses to different concepts, abstract dichotomies of inside and outside spaces, liberty and captivity within a natural fruition.

The choice of printing with red and blue ink gives Finn the freedom to ease her message to the audience, to better interpret her own artistic experience or simply to explore a particular style. The drawing and carving qualities shouldn’t pass unnoticed as the fine line work emphasizes the high level of detail, the dynamism of the forms and sets the feeling of these images. A distinctive repertoire that leaves us wanting to see more of it.  

Rochelle Boland

Painting / Photography

Rochelle Boland

New to Margaret River, Rochelle Boland timidly opened her studio just to unveil a complex and yet intriguing universe.

Originally from Perth where she studied Fine Arts, Rochelle was attracted to the spiritual connection of Margaret River’s Forest. After years of travelling and living abroad, the artist is now able to reconnect with all these experiences and integrating them into her artwork. If downstairs Rochelle exhibited more naïve figurative scenes of love, as we go up a level the transition to a more abstract subject happens. Images of geometrical non-native animals floating in a cosmic atmosphere reminiscent of ancient scientific drawings, others in starry-night-blue background but still outer-worldly with inscriptions of letters and symbols, colourful spirals suggesting movement and reconnection within a metaphysical world.

Don’t be confused with such description. This is the base for Rochelle’s work – her interests in metaphysics, the position of the Man in the cosmos, the analogy between Micro and Macro-Cosmos. Going back in history, artists like Kandinsky and Hilma af Klint expressed all these questions through their artworks. A spiritual influence where the artist is the vehicle of such artistic demand. That is why Rochelle works on the floor moving around her paintings, to experience art in a physical manner.

Kate Debbo

Painting

Kate Debbo

A professional full time artist Kate holds to the ‘open studio’ ethos and invites you in to see her working space and paintings finished and underway. This is a generous way to be. Kate was also holding a solo show throughout the time MRROS was on at Cherubino Wines in the gallery space run by Linton and Kay Galleries.

Kate did observe that most of her MRROS buyers were supporters who had bought her work previously and this could indicate a price tipping point for the general visitor during MRROS, possibly?.

Fi Wilkie

Painting

Photos c/Fi WIlkie MRROS website

There is a new pictorial space emanating in Fi’s work, with more rest for the eye and more depth as a result. A 9th timer for MRROS Fi also sits on the board of MRROS, that’s some long volunteer hours at work there. She usually shares the main larger space of her studio with another artist for MRROS, so it was nice to see how she inhabits that whole space without another person’s work in it for this open studio. The mess of the papers, books, thoughts in action, with an easel sitting calmly amidst it all was a welcome sight after seeing many heavily curated spaces.

Nancy Tost

Mixed Media

Photos c/Nancy Tost MRROS website

A First timer in MRROS, with a new studio space, and who we would call a ‘re-emerging’ artist. With more time in her own space, we think she will do fab things if she participates in MRROS again. Great prints on a range of entry level products like cards and clothing. This can be a big cost outlay up front, so hopefully she reaped the benefits. We went off the back of a friends Instagram post.

Lee-Anne Townrow

Painting

Lee-Anne Townrow

Lee-Anne has been in lots of MRROS’s, but this is the first time we’ve seen her. And this was a new studio space. The detailed texture – impasto but also like stucco- was a great offset to the single focus on the detail of flora in the work. Lee- Anne has carried this focus across the years of her practice and that discipline shows in her work.

Cowaramup and Surrounds

Stuart MacMillan

Painting / Mixed Media / Photography

Photos c/ Stuart Macmillan Instagram

A painter and drawer, this was Stuart’s first solo gig with MRROS. He has previously been out at The Farm with other artists for the event. His studio feel was great, lots of work lying around, piles of paper drawings to look through and a fab wall of pinned drawings to look over. Color everywhere.

Kay Gibson and Evelyn Henschke

Printmaking / Jewlery

Photos c/ Kay Gibson Instagram

Photos c/ Evelyn Henschke Instagram

We love seeing Evelyn’s jewellery making process in practice, live in the studio. That’s a privilege. There are several artists who hold true to the ‘open studio’ ethos and Kay and Evelyn are two of them.

Kay, we have visited many times before and we go back each year to see how she has pushed and developed her thinking and images onwards. On a yearly basis her participation in MRROS feels like a window into her process. Kay is also one of the founding board members of MRROS and kudos is due for the volunteer hours that go into behind the scenes.

Callum Fairnie

Mosaics

Photos c/ Callum Fairne MRROS website

Out at Millers Ice Cream, Callum was doing his first MRROS.

Callum produces edgy landscape and seascape mosaics, with an eye for a wicked abstraction of form. His statement pieces with text and image were particularly apt as we finally head towards a referendum on A Voice to Parliament in 2023.

Callum’s political edge was refreshing and much appreciated from this art viewers perspective.

Bill Meiklejohn

Potter

Bill Meiklejohn Studio

Bill can be found at the haven of pottery called Wilyabrup Dreaming, which is closer to Metricup than Cowaramup. Everything oozes authenticity out there. The pottery studio has existed for decades. Bill is a master of his craft, and this was his 8th MRROS. The rich patina like colors on his pottery forms is sublime. Particularly the greens that look as though he found the cups washed up from an ancient shipwreck. The pottery shed is caked in clay and history. Wilyabrup Dreaming is also open all year round.

The Farm (Burnside)

Out at The Farm on Burnside Road the artists are simply artists. More like a colony really. This is a good example of patronage and art being supported at a regional level.

Martine Perret

Photography

Photos c/ Martine Perret Instagram

How can we belong?

Through her latest projects NgalaWongga (Come talk) and Belong, Martine Perret embarked in a visual journey above Western Australia land and coastline to emphasise the cultural importance of The First Nations languages. Using her own artistic style to transcribe the diversity of Western Australian land and to interpret how this same land can be a key connector to their indigenous people. Land is culture and identity unified by indigenous languages.

From Broome to Augusta, Martine remains dedicated to investigating and capturing the shapes, forms and colours that characterizes our landscape adding a pictural feel to her photographs. The graphic effects and sharp contrasts between the turquoise sea and the brown-reddish bush, the natural flow of the waves printed on the sand, the dark line of rock formations dividing land and water could only be achieved through aerial photography. According to the artist, seeing it from above is only way to understand unfamiliar terrain. An interesting aspect of this edition was the scarves printed with a selection of these images which could be hanged on the wall or warn as Martine likes to do it.

Her commitment to portray and reveal the richness of indigenous culture and the way they connect their stories to their land served as base for a multimedia exhibition at the Western Australian Museum Boola Bardip in a multidisciplinary effort combining dance, video, photography, storytelling, sound and music that ended at the beginning of the year.

Jolene Hewison

Ceramics

Jolene Hewison Studio

Jolene is a ceramicist making both figurative and functional objects. This was not her studio, and she is an established artist with various commercial premises selling her work outside of MRROS. There is a wonderful story book feel to her clay animals, they have such life. She explained that underlying their creation was a desire to bring back to life the poor feral creatures that lost their lives on her family’s farm.

Witchcliffe and the Southern beyond

Laurie Hill

Painting

Laurie Hill

Laurie Hill is another first timer at the MRROS. Due to personal circumstances, Laurie had to relocate from Metricup to Witchcliffe’s newly renovated Old Darnell Store / Post Office.

As we ventured inside the old historical building, we were surprisingly happy to see Laurie’s artworks within the space. The greatest catch was the contrast between the darken restored features of the old shop and the brightness of Laurie’s paintings, the dogs, birds and flowers. Large scale canvases were invaded by vivid and intense use of pinks, orange, yellow, blues, white all at once to achieve an expressive effect. The use of acrylic paint adds a textural note to her works to reinforce this idea.

On the opposite side of the building, Laurie presented several small canvases depicting mainly still life subjects. Studies of form, line and light are part of the artist’s everyday practice. Just as the Old Darnell Store has gained its new life, Laurie gave herself this opportunity to re-emerge into the artworld.

Jan Harwood

Eco dyeing / Painting / Collage / Ceramics

Jan Harwood

Jan Harwood started making art and never stopped.

She became a dedicated art practitioner embracing all the adversities she might encounter along the way. As a new artist, Jan defines herself as being in an experimental state exploring different mediums, getting to know her own style, braving different techniques and expressing her ideas through different subjects.

And this is what we encountered when we visited the old Town Hall building in Witchcliffe where Jan had her works. Eco dyeing prints on paper, sculptural ceramic works, metal and wood sculptures of boats made from scavenged materials she had found in her surroundings. She believes practice is the only key to success no matter where you are from, your age or gender.

Ant Debbo

Sculpture

Ant Debbo Studio

Beloved whale maker and artisan woodcarver. Ant’s combination of different woods, raw shapes and rough paint work thrown together with a good dose of humour make his whales very popular in Open Studios. He had a new space attached to his workshop, so the MRROS visitor was given a great insight into his working process. The workshop sits on a vineyard and slightly off the beaten path but a stop in at Yardbyrd for lunch and coffee and the thriving community of Witchcliffe makes a trip south to Ant well worth it.

His mobile bird and rider were the star attraction, a puppet like construction of raw timber spinning in the breeze. His wooden swimmers’ forms have also been developing over the years, and now ‘swim’ more gracefully across the wall than ever before.

Dunsborough and surrounds

Christian Fletcher

Photography

Photos c/Christian Fletcher MRROS website

Christian Fletcher is a professional landscape photographer who has a commercial gallery in Dunsborough. There was a gallery assistant present only and there was an ‘artist’s collaboration’ with other participating MRROS artists interpreting Christian’s photos in their own style. The predominance of Christians work overrode this collaboration unfortunately. However, we hope that the cross advertising worked for the individual artists during MRROS.

From his MRROS Statement – ‘Christian Fletcher has been shaping the photography scene in Western Australia for 3 decades. He has a gift that few others do. Arguably, Western Australia’s best landscape photographer, Christian is also a passionate advocate for the environment and for the community of Dunsborough, where he lives.

Busselton and Surrounds

Georgia Zoric

Ceramic

Georgia Zoric

Georgia is a figurative ceramic artist, and she was located at Art Geo in Busselton, which is another dedicated professional gallery space run by the City of Busselton. The atmosphere was very lively, the shop, the café, a range of other artists and their work in the main room and the museum was open.

Georgia’s sales were amazing, and this was her first MRROS. Her sailor folk is full of life and character and the room was beautifully presented with plants draped over works and wooden cabinets full of knickknacks.

See you next year!

Daniela Palitos & Jenny Potts Barr

Local Art Paper as Guest bloggers for the Mycelium Project via The Creative Grid WA

Deep in the trees in the South West of Western Australia is a small town called Northcliffe. Originally a timber milling town there are only a few 300 people (2016 Census ABS) living in Northcliffe townsite. Yet, from here stems a powerhouse of Regional Arts activity in the guise of the Creative Grid, Southern Forest Arts, the Painted Tree Gallery and the fab Understory Art and Nature Trail.

So we were deeply humbled, and challenged to be commissioned to write for the Mycelium Project, for the Creative Grid, as Guest Bloggers. Our topic was Why Can’t we talk about art? The Dearth of Critical Thinking. The piece was published in early 2021, and we are happy to share it with you here. At the end please follow the links over to the Creative Grid so that you can check out this project connecting the arts across Regional Western Australia.

WHY CAN’T WE TALK ABOUT ART? THE DEARTH OF CRITICAL THINKING

By Daniela Palitos and Jenny Barr

Introduction

The Local Art Paper (LAP) is an online curated site produced to explore the visual arts environment of the South West of Western Australia in an in-depth but conversational manner with written interviews and long-form articles. LAP was born out of a perceived dearth of critical art writing in the South West in 2019. What we didn’t realise at the time was that this absence was occurring across the globe.

For us peering deeply into art works, artist minds and their practices, art collectors and the infrastructure surrounding and facilitating the visual arts in our regional area was full of rich conversations needing to be had. But there was seemingly nothing other than social media loops of advertising of “creative/arts events”. We created LAP with the intention to fill this gap, to fulfil our own need to talk art and enrich our own daily lives, and we just figured that others would be into it as well.

Through artists words, we transcribe our interviews – verbatim – researching in-depth the chosen artists relationship with the history of art, asking questions about their artistic life, who do we see in their work, and following whatever interesting path we are given to go down. Christopher Young’s photography work Eight caught our collective eye and led us into the photography style of Walker Evans and the Depression Era photo documentary work. Kate Debbo’s painterly love of colour, surface and texture is grounded in her own understanding of the works of Joan Mitchell. And Britta Sorensen lead us to Social Practice Art and the struggles of the non-commercial artist’s practice. Everything has led elsewhere but with a grounding in the Arts.

The title of our piece for the Mycelium project begs lots of questions, but the first ones were-

Why is the continued presence of art criticism important or relevant at all? and What do we mean when we say we can’t talk about art?

In our survey of multiple discussions and panels for this post, what stands out is that there is a general agreement across the world that discussion, or ‘conversations’ as Roberta Smith of the New York Times likes to instigate, whether its heated, balanced, nuanced, informed or not, are good essential things for any artist or those interested in the arts to be engaging in. Curator and Frieze magazine co- editor Tom Morton describes criticism as the history of attention to ideas and a density of attention. Suzi Gablik was highlighting, as far back as the early 90’s, how the enriching of these conversations and expansions of viewpoints is created by the tension of many and opposing views that all interweave and complement each other. And that any entrenched position will always be open to comment.

In reality, the more we talk and write about the visual arts, the more access to information anyone has that is critically informed, the more expansive, deepened and comprehensive the views that can be formed.

If we stop to think when and where we saw our first artwork, would we be able to remember it? Certainly yes. The art of viewing and observing a work of art can be experienced from different periods of our lives.

Watching the first episode of the new eight part documentary series of The Art of Museums (2018) we see how engaged three little girls are, cross legged on the floor, sitting under the 1656 vast canvas of Velasquez’s Las Meninas in the Prado Museum in Spain.

The simplicity of their dialogue between them relating to the details in the painting, the painter and their characters reminisces with our own childhood experience of visiting art museums throughout our school years, and how it influenced our own critical vision/thinking.

We grew up in city environments and every year, there were always excursions booked to different types of art museums and collections. Classes were divided in groups with three or four students, and our task was to sit and observe the painting or sculpture in detail and discuss within our group and suggest a valid interpretation of what we have seen.

Foggy Wake in a Desert an ecosphere by Fujiko Nakaya installed in the Sculpture garden at the National Gallery of Australia and Bosch’s majestic Temptations of St Anthony, in the National Museum of Ancient Art in Lisbon were the first artworks that we experienced as children and which are clear and present in our collective art memories to this day.

In many different countries, there is accessibility to a myriad of cultural spaces and their unique collections, and they form an integral part of an education system which incites and supports young students to develop their critical thinking. Understanding from an early age how art is intrinsic to the human being from the beginning of the Human existence is an essential concept to retain as we move forward in life and with our education.

In Australia, art education is strongly linked to art practice and not necessarily to art history and the art of looking at art works. It is not until University that this leap is made which then ties art history knowledge with the elitism of tertiary education.

Having access to art exhibitions is immanently linked to having a National, State or Regional Institution able to support, receive and secure supporting travel exhibitions.

We now live regionally and have observed that the access to the visual arts and collections of works not for commercial purposes is very limited. And to see is taken here as to be able to physically stand in the presence of a visual artwork, to engage the senses, with texture scale smell present before you. We know many artists and art appreciators who will make the journey to see a particular artwork elsewhere in the globe in the real just to see it. The more you look, the more you see.

The nearest private collections open to the public in Margaret River Region are the Leeuwin Estate Art Collection with works of notable Australian artists, and the Vasse Felix Gallery which hosts different exhibitions throughout the year mainly from the Holmes à Court private collection. Both galleries are situated in vineyards. A bit further up the coast the Bunbury Regional Art Gallery holds the City of Bunbury Collection, which was kick started with a philanthropic donation in 1948 to bring art to the people of the South West. Smaller gems such as The Art Gallery of WA’s Picture Club where individual works are discussed in depth are currently open to WA Gallery Foundation members only.

At the Local Art Paper, we realise that it is time to reinvigorate this dialogue at a regional level. Education is the key to promote art discussions from a young age bringing schools together with local art galleries to engage the children in a critical thinking between themselves, within the teachers and their families. We recognise how important it is for kids to familiarise with images, their presentation with different mediums, techniques and to create a narrative around what they see and observe.

Only then they can start to understand the singularity of each art work; how organic these works are as they have a life, how they grow and get old; that they will need preservation and conservation to keep them for future generations to see them. Then they will start to learn to contextualise the artworks in a period of time and in a particular style comparing artist and their works, and finally capture and learn the meaning and content of the artwork. Understanding all the more that artworks are inexhaustible.

And when the depth of looking and conversation is lost what will we be left with? Will it just be a continuous engagement with reproductions and screen lit imagery contributing to more disengagement, fostered by the unparalleled dominance of a online construction that relies upon catching an increasingly diminishing attention span in the viewer with the lowest common denominator but one that is currently favoured for its ability to produce quantifiable numbers?

The Australian Art Critic Sebastian Smee’s Quarterly Essay ‘Net Loss’ is listed as a self help book in Goodreads. Yet, he addresses the inner life and the price we are all paying for living in an age of constant distraction especially for developing artist and thinkers into the future. A life of not looking deeply, a life of distraction. Instead is this not a political or social commentary essay about the fate of culture/s?

The dearth of critical thinking

The more sides of view that are accommodated, the more we learn to go beyond an elite western hierarchy of class, gender or race. As Lance Esplund questioned in his title ‘The Art of Looking’ are the art-viewing public intimidated to look and to make a range of possible interpretations of art works in galleries and museums? If so, that is why we believe that art writing is still so relevant to ease this gap within our communities.

Overall, we learnt that Art criticism can take the written form of the review, the conversational column, the catalogue essay, or the theoretical synopsis to name a few conventions. Each has its own predetermined constraints, bonuses, hazards. What we notice is most art reviewers seem to be writing about a show that is already shut or located elsewhere across a vast countryside which you can’t get too.

Our choice of the long form written interview is based on a vision we have of being an actual paper one day whereby a long cup of tea or coffee can be had whilst perusing words and ideas relating life to art.

Criticism the word itself has really suffered in a post politically correct social media reconstructed world. Then throw in the concepts of “taste”, “judgement”,”kitsch”. In the beginning criticism belonged with “discussion”, “conversation” and had an expectation of reciprocity between discussers. In the end, the goal is to understand. But really as Octavio Paz says about Cy Twombly “it is very difficult to talk about an artist, always we are talking about another way of trying to understand a secret.” (Chalk by Joshua Rivkin 2018)

The creation of the International Association of Art Critics in 1950 under UNESCO recognised that art criticism was a critical discourse that needed saving after Fascism and World War II. Nowadays, we understand and acknowledge art criticism as a practice with different types of writing, audiences and objectives that come within a specific style.

Through our research, we have also noticed that there has been a global discussion around the state and function of art writing and art criticism. Some panelists argued that more than a state of crisis in the art criticism circle, there has been a shift of critical practice to new art professionals like curators, auctioneers and art collectors who bring now a different agenda to the primary art critic role of the “agitator”. For example in New Delhi, editor-chief for TAKE Magazine, Bhavna Kakar realised that there was a lack of independent art writers as many of them were working as curators for different art galleries creating a conflict of interests that could compromise their critical objectivity.

On the other hand, former manager-editor of Afterall Journal Melissa Grolund believes that curators have a closer relationship with artists and their work allowing them to bring their vision across from a different perspective, not putting the art critic authority in danger.

The changes in how we pay attention and how we discuss are linked to the social media landscape that has radically altered the world since its inception and uptake in the early 2000’s. Behind the scenes algorithm driven engines of questionable ethics and intentions, are built to build clicks, build audiences into statistics, to bury the lowest denominator and all this succeeds in pushing the less popular the less viewed out into the back carpark in the worst parking spot. It is a circuitous framework that you can’t escape if you choose to engage.

What we did notice before beginning LAP was that most online visual art platforms were in a state of regurgitating advertising and constantly providing copy to maintain traction in this digital space. Through necessity Artists themselves have had to become more self sufficient, more enterprising, using this digital space as galleries have closed and/or moved online and print media has declined and had to redefine itself.

The LAP chooses not to have a Facebook page, acknowledging that publishing quarterly doesn’t fit the dictates of the Facebook structure. Instead, we use the Community Noticeboards and Instagram to advertise when a new interview is up, and are simply relying on email subscription and word of mouth to build our audience. This is slower perhaps, but we are slow and that is our reality.

In Conclusion


What do we want LAP to be, and where do we want it to go?

Part of our endeavour is to clarify the work we do within the visual arts using language that moves away from the contemporary lexicon of the “creative industry” which was born from the 1994 “creative nation” policy’s economic definition of ‘Culture’ and ‘the Arts’ as a “sector”. The policy was updated in 2013 to include the growth of new media technologies but now uses a very broad brush with the term ‘creative’, including for example the more commercially structured Advertising and Graphic Design Industries.

The term ‘creative industry’ encapsulates industries that directly compete in our opinion with the visual arts on an uneven commercial footing. All of Humanity uses creative thought to solve problems and dream up new ideas yet this doesn’t necessarily make you a visual artist.

To give an extra voice.

LAP grew out of recognising that there was a dominant commercial gallery presence in Margaret River, and observing n.f.p’s that were receiving funding for advertising and social media based initiatives under the ‘creative industry’ umbrella, and that more traditionally based visual arts were underexposed and without representation.

To link the art community in the South West and encourage a continuity of critical thinking in the arts in general.

We celebrate and exalt the fact that we have places like the Cocoon Gallery at Margaret River Library giving space to emergent artists to exhibit their work, and the Foyer Gallery, a concept originating from Arts Margaret River, and now being facilitated by the Shire of Augusta Margaret River HEART. How Bunbury Art Gallery under new curatorship is growing its public profile with a progressive active engagement with the wider Regional community delivering workshops, art talks and multiple art events. To highlight how Margaret River Regional Open Studios, an art event success story regionally, has over the last few years undertaken to educate the audience in how to enhance their viewing experience with a little more information about how to talk and look at artworks and engage with the artists.

And lastly…

We would like to reinforce the idea that art is a democratic force, and that art-viewing and art criticism are an essential support of the artistic practice. The language of the visual arts needs rescuing, expanding, re-imagining and defending all at once.

We will leave you to think on the recent press release from the next Biennale of Sydney 2022 titled ‘Rivus’. The statement declared that the curators are to be a part of ‘The Curatorium’ (a board of curators) and those selected to show work at the Biennale, which is usually a career highlight, are to be ‘participants’. Now who gets the cooler latin term and who sounds like they’re playing Auskick? What will the viewer’s be? Experiencers’…And we haven’t even mentioned Wellness and Art…

DP and JB

https://southernforestarts.com.au/the-creative-grid/