Dirty Dozen Exhibition: Guides to Help You
10 April 2017
Guides to Help You is an exhibition of artworks made with light that present a wide overview of creative approaches spanning neon, fluorescent and LED.
Aly Indermühle, Brendan Van Hek, Eugenia Raskopoulos, Kristin McIver, Marc Freeman, Tracy Sarroff and Veronica Caven Aldous are all multidisciplinary artists whose stylistic and conceptual explorations of this medium are as unique as they are varied.
Guides to Help You - February 14 - April 23 at the Dirty Dozen, Campbell Arcade
Creative Spaces spoke to curator Tracy Sarroff about the exhibition and the diversity of works on display.
How did the exhibition develop? The general basis of the show is light. Is there also a certain criteria you used to choose the artists?
Guides to help you developed off the cuff and very quickly. Having said that, I have followed a wide range of artists using the medium of light in a multitude of ways over time, so beginnings were already secured. The criteria in choosing artists were important to ensure an overview of creative approaches of utilizing light as a medium. The stylistic and conceptual explorations of each artist was a consideration to ensure the overall exhibition presents work that is both unique and varied, not just in terms of aesthetics, but also concepts explored within their oeuvre.
For a lot of people, the use of neon lights in contemporary art conjures associations with the likes of Dan Flavin and, more broadly, American Minimalism. There is certainly a new wave of artists using the medium, several of whom are exhibited in Guides to Help You. Do you think these artists build upon the legacy of Minimalism? Or are they doing something completely different?
In short, we stand on the shoulders of giants. Artists are always building upon the legacy of those who have gone before them, but I would have to say that every artist in Guides to Help You explores a combination of concepts, style and light as medium in a unique way, thus bringing something a little different. Veronica Caven Aldous and Brendan Van Hek are influenced by Minimalism the most in this exhibition, but the particular artworks on show are not so reductive and the display cases prohibit a such a strong physical/reflexive relationship.
In a wider sense, Eugenia Raskopoulos, Aly Indermuhle, Kristin McIver and myself sometimes employ factory-made and/or fabricated materials that leave no trace of the artists’ hand. Marc Freeman on the other hand associates more with Minimalism’s arch-rival, Abstract Expression through his textural and multi-layered mark making.
Dan Flavin utilises the gallery space well to inter-relate his art with the gallery experience. Fluorescent tubes cast beams of illusionistic light along the walls and floors, creating an atmosphere, which changes upon the viewer’s body and the gallery as they move about the objects. Flavin, like Morris wanted to inhibit and permit the movement in the gallery space. Both Brendan Van Hek and Veronica Caven Aldous have explored similar concepts in their arts practice.
Yet both artists also create works that refer to other things, not just formalism and materiality. Minimalists wanted instead to produce an art that was less personal and more substantial, believing that a work of art should not refer to anything other than itself. While Brendan Van Hek’s two works An Isolated Moment and A Blue Moment are formalistic explorations. Concepts in his arts practice have sometimes explored symbolism, relationships and emotional content outside of the materiality of the work. Personal history, fiction and cultural politics are some such narratives. Veronica Caven Aldous shares associations with Post Minimalism art seen in the Light and Space movement, whose work sometimes suggests Zen Buddhist philosophy instead of formalism. Her background in Vedic philosophy and the connections between being and materiality informs her work. Other investigations include a spatial intervention where a field is created that extends outside or inside the work and references near and far extended space. Her light sculpture Light in Space exhibited in the show, invites the viewers to look inside the artwork’s seemingly infinite space at close range in order to consider their own spatial situation.
How do you think the glass cases of the Dirty Dozen influences the reading of the works exhibited?
Interestingly, consideration of the glass cases was paramount in the selection process. The Art Deco architecture of the exhibition space, dimensions of the display cases and how they create their own installation spaces informed the curatorial decision making. The dimension of each display case frames and contains the artworks. This is an unusual method of display when considering the history of Minimalism, Colour Field art and the Light and Space movement, which often encouraged the viewer to navigate, immerse or react physically to the visual and ambient effects of the work and its outer domain.
The glass cases instead prohibit immersion, but prompt intimacy, in so far that they act as vitrines, which attract people to peer in, come close but don’t touch. The works become precious and spectacle, transcending the original purpose of conventional window dressing for enticing consumers. A passer-by is faced with art in unusual places in unexpected contexts that surprise and delight.
Each display case presents its own art installation by a different artist, each different to the next and offering an experience of discovery.
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