Re-Imagining History: Launch of AGWA’s Historical Collection

AGWA Historical Install LR

August 11th marked an important day in AGWA history, as the gallery celebrated the reopening of its Historical collection; part of the permanent AGWA Collection displays which spans across many time periods in Australian and international art.

Moving from the Centenary Galleries, the historical collection is now located upstairs alongside AGWA Six Seasons, Screen Space and the contemporary craft and design in AGWA Design.

The reopening of AGWA Historical offers an exciting opportunity to revisit the Gallery’s permanent collection and experience the works in a new and refreshing way.

“There is a lot of architecture in the Centenary Galleries which impacted on the display,” said Melissa Harpley, Curator of Historical and Modern Art.

“Moving the historical works into the main gallery space has taken that visual interference out so that you can see the works differently.  As a curator, it enabled me to make some interesting groupings and provided more flexibility in the placement of works than was possible in the Centenary Galleries.”

Unlike the Centenary Galleries, which is mostly comprised of long-established square rooms, the central gallery space is designed in a triangular shape, which enhances the viewing of the collection.

“What is so fantastic about this building is the fact that it doesn’t have right angles,” she said.

“It allows those visual connections which are important for art. You can stand in some spaces of the gallery and see a 1860s landscape, but you might also see a Heidelberg landscape and a Hans Heysen from 1914. You couldn’t do that in the Centenary Galleries.”

The AGWA Historical will undergo two separate iterations. The first hang coincided with another important historical exhibition, Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series which opened the same day.

“There’s one point where Ned Kelly and Historical share a wall, and we’ve managed to design the show, so the Ned Kelly work sits next to the Hans Heysen. I think there’s a nice connection between not only the approach to the Australian landscape but even down to the two men on horses echoed in both paintings.”

The second iteration of AGWA Historical is scheduled for November and Melissa said she is excited about the upcoming curatorial possibilities and encourages the public to attend both reprises of the collection.

“Looking at the works in the historical collection, particularly the ones with figures, humans haven’t changed. The works from the past are still very much a meditation or commentary on what it means to be human and what it means to be in the world,” says Melissa.

“I think people will connect with that because it’s as relevant now as it was then.”

Glimpse into the collection

Find out more about the AGWA Historical Collection visit our website artgallery.wa.gov.au

Free Guided Tours

Join a free guided tour of AGWA Historical or one of our other fantastic collections.

 

 

 

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Hopetoun residency unveils a complex history

Gustav LR
spaced 3: north by southeast artist Gustav Hellberg

Swedish artist, Gustav Hellberg’s new work Amnesia is influenced by his time in the Ravensthorpe and Hopetoun region, located approximately 590 kilometres from Perth.

His film explores the absence of knowledge and the unspoken histories of the Ravensthorpe region, its nature, and also the people who have been active in this land. We sat down recently with Gustav to talk more about the project.

“I wanted to participate in this project because of my interest in land and property, who owns it and who has the right to land. I have also been doing a few works involved with nationality. That is a subject that I strongly question in my work,” says Gustav.

“Australia and Scandinavia have a few similarities in that both have a small population in a large land mass and a turbulent history involving the indigenous people. Mining is another commonality between the two and the terrible effects that this is doing to the natural landscape.”

“This particular project was challenging in the sense that I knew absolutely nothing about Western Australia and therefore did not know what to expect. I also did not want to go into this project with any false presumptions. As I did more research and on subsequent visits to the area I discovered that there was a fascinating and dark past to the township that appeared to have been lost over the generations.”

Gustav visited Hopetoun four times over the project’s three-year lifespan with each visit providing him more information about the history, the land and its people. His final project is made of three main sections: a video film, a video installation and a collection of artefacts together with text material.

“The reality is always complex and usually too large for one individual to comprehend. To me, this relatively small geographical area between Fitzgerald River in the west and Jerdacuttup River in the east, Ravensthorpe Range in the north and the Southern Ocean in the south, is overwhelmingly large. So is its entire history, as well as the history of people that have lived here for thousands of years.”

“I hope my work will help us to remember and to create a sustainable life for the future in Hopetoun, Ravensthorpe, Western Australia and anywhere.”

Gustav will share more about his time on the spaced 3: north by southeast project and the community collaboration involved in the upcoming free event In conversation with spaced 3 – Panel Discussion” on the 18 August. 

spaced 3: north southeast is organised by the WA-based International Art Space.

You can also read more about his journey by visiting Gustav’s blog.

Tom Moore and that Pyrotechnic puffer fish

studio portrait

It was Tom Moore’s meticulous attention to detail and execution of a unique concept that captured the attention and votes of the Tom Malone Prize judges this year. We talk to Tom Moore about his award-winning piece the Pyrotechnic puffer fish and the challenges facing glass artistry.

Tell us how you came to the idea of the Pyrotechnic puffer fish?

puffer cup

I have been researching how the wider cultural context of Renaissance Italy influenced the kinds of glass objects that were produced and the social functions and meanings of these objects.

During the 16th-century, objects displaying the fine network of white glass lines such as in these goblet-bowls were thought to be imbued with miraculous properties and were collected in cabinets of curiosity alongside specimens of unicorn horn and pufferfish. I saw one of these pufferfish in a Museum in Florence and could not get it out of my head. It seemed weirdly aware of its placement in the collection. This species has an extremely satisfying form to translate and inflate as hot glass.

Renaissance glassmakers were closely aligned with alchemists. The transformation of sand and plant-ash into glass through the intense heat of the furnace was regarded as a marvellous demonstration of human ingenuity and virtuous artifice. The burning match is intended as a reminder of the pyrotechnic nature of this material.  The absurd drinking vessel in the form of a bent funnel refers to laboratory apparatus and to a rich tradition of trick-glasses that were surprising to look at and intentionally difficult to use. The position of the pufferfish as oversized stems adds to the joke.

It’s a very detailed and beautiful piece of work. How long from conception to completion did this project take and were there any challenges along the way?

It is difficult to calculate the amount of time taken to complete complex objects such as these because there are several processes involved over several weeks. Designing the work and preparing all the parts takes many hours. I complete a full-scale drawing that is meticulously planned.  Coloured and clear glass is combined and stretched to make patterned rods. These are used to create the fine patterned lines within the blown forms, and all the small parts: eyes, fins, teeth, match and flame. The final forming of the parts requires an assistant. All in all these works took approximately 30 hours including the assistant.

There is a certain amount of risk involved in working on forms for such prolonged periods. The glass must be re-heated every couple of minutes or it will crack, but it must not be over-heated or it will melt. It is attached to metal rods while it is being worked and these must be kept turning.

Bending the funnel is a risky moment. After focussing heat on the long skinny neck it becomes difficult to control and after bending it is off-centred which makes the constant turning awkward. Putting the dentures into the fishes mouths is a fussy step and I only get one shot to stick them in the right place.

You’ve taken on the challenge of achieving a carbon neutral art practise. Tell us a bit more about this and is it something that glass artists should be using?

As a contemporary artist who has the privilege of continuing to practice a traditional pyrotechnic craft, I feel compelled to address the issues of climate change and environmental degradation.

 

Tom Moore blowing glassI know that there is an inherent contradiction in making objects that overtly display their complicity in continuing to create these problems. I also believe that this contradiction adds to the communicative potential of glass artworks.  I decided that I could not justify continuing to make objects that seek to navigate my concerns without offsetting 150% of the own carbon impact of making. This is a tricky issue to speak about, I don’t feel I can say my colleagues should be minimising and offsetting their carbon impact, however, my own experience has shown that calculating and offsetting an art practice is surprisingly achievable.

This is not the first time you’ve been awarded the Tom Malone Prize. What do you enjoy about the exhibition and will we see another project from you in the next one!

It is very gratifying to have work shortlisted for this prize so that it can sit amongst its peers. It is a great honour to have my work selected twice for inclusion in the permanent collection at AGWA, this helps the audience to appreciate the breadth of an individual art practice and how it evolves over time. I am pleased that some traditional Venetian decorative techniques and references to the historical forms of the goblet and scientific labware are now part of the growing collection.

The wider collection of winners is a unique record of the Australian glassmaking community. I am very grateful to the sponsors of the Tom Malone Prize for giving this group of specialised makers the impetus to strive toward ambitious works.  I am certain that I will continue to participate in this important national survey exhibition.

View the Tom Malone Prize exhibition before it closes 28 May.

To view more of Tom Moore’s work visit his official page.

Images courtesy of the artist Tom Moore.