(John Fries, 1943 - 2009)
The prize remembers John Fries, who died suddenly following an accident earlier this year. John served on the Viscopy board of directors for 5 years and made a remarkable contribution to the life and success of the organisation. The cash prize has been committed by the Fries family. Speaking on behalf of the family John’s daughter Kath Fries, herself an artist, said :
“My father was always supportive of my work and through his work with Viscopy he really understood the financial challenges that face artists. I think he would be very proud of this award and the opportunity it presents for the winners to significantly advance their careers.”
Entries will open in April next year and the winner will be announced at an exhibition of finalists’ work in October 2010.
Viscopy is a not for profit membership rights management organisation representing over 7,000 artists and their beneficiaries, approximately 43% of the total population of artists in Australia and New Zealand. Indigenous artists account for almost half of these. Viscopy also represents some 40,000 international artists in the Australasian territory.
Recoiling is situated at Stonehurst Cedar Creek Cellar Door as part of
Sculpture in the Vineyards 2009, on the Wollombi Wine Trail in the Hunter Valley NSW.
23rd September – 23rd October 2009
Artist-in-resident with Kate Moore at Birrarung, Laughing Waters
Artworks of quiet observation - Kath Fries
One morning we were bush walking and noticed the ground cover of yellow flowers had closed up. At first we thought they had died off, but then realised that they were waiting for the sun to rise higher in the sky before opening their petals to the new day. Crouching down close to them we waited and gradually began to develop a new sense of patience. We peered intently at the small flora, which was balancing on the precipice between slumber and moment of awakening.
Needless to say the flowers’ movements were very gradual, almost to the point of being invisible. My only prior recollection of watching flowers bloom, is from nature documentaries - always presented in fast motion. The experience identified a very different sense of time to our usual days spent in the city rat-race.
During our month long residency at Birrarung, Laughing Waters, Kate and I spent significant periods of time being contentedly quiet and still, listening and watching the natural sounds and sights of the local flora and fauna of the surrounding bush.
I was drawn to reusing two materials familiar in my art practice, embroidery threads and mirrors, in notably site-sensitive manner. Each work aimed to focus on a particular moment of time and sense of light. My thread installations seemed to naturally grow to echo the complex structure of the spider webs found in the buildings and outside in the rocks and plants. The tension, dangling and tying of the threads formed a strong sense of interdependency suggesting metaphors of human relations going far beyond my initial concept of three-dimensional drawing in space.
Birrarung’s landscaped ponds threatened to overflow during heavy continuous rain, but between these downfalls the surface of the water would lie still and flat creating perfect reflections of the surrounding trees, rocks and sky. The possibilities of simple reflections have become a constant in my artwork, lying square glass mirrors flat on the ground facing upwards to engage the viewer in looking down to see a section of the roof or window above. Positioned outside, like holes in the ground that somehow look up into the sky, the mirrors inverted the viewer’s usual vertical sense of gravitational reality to create a more cyclic unity between the elements of ground, growth and air. In other installations the mirrors were angled so their duplicitous reflections were lost in the bushland’s surrounding complexity. The hard flat physicality of the unnatural mirrors became illusive and camouflaged as their double images vanished amongst the setting’s abundant detail.
|Kath Fries, Ariadne's thread, 2009|
|Kath Fries, Ariadne's thread, 2009|
Le Fil (the thread) - exhibition text
At first glance one might assume that the artists in the exhibition, Le Fil (the thread), are exploring the techniques of craft. However, they are using traditional craft techniques and combining them with contemporary media like video, sound and installation aesthetics, sparking the age old debate about where, and if, craft ends and art begins. By using traditional techniques the artists give their works the authenticity of being hand made – something which is becoming increasingly valued in our society – and delivery through contemporary media makes the works and their meanings more accessible.
Blurring the boundaries between craft and art is paramount for the twelve artists in this exhibition: Hannah Bertram, Linden Braye, Sophia Egarchos, Kath Fries, Michelle Heldon, Sahar Hosseinabadi, Chrissie Ianssen, Shannon Johnson, Michele Morcos, Jade Pegler, Megan Yeo and Melinda Young. These artists work across a diverse range of media, dispelling the idea that craft and art exist as separate genres.
For a few of these artists (Linden Braye, Sophia Egarchos, Kath Fries, Chrissie Ianssen, Shannon Johnson, Michele Morcos and Megan Yeo) it isn’t the first time they have come together to explore the ideas of reinterpretation of craft and the reassembling of found objects. In 2008 they were part of the group exhibition through the eye of the needle in which (as Megan Robson says in her exhibition essay) the artists similarly aimed to “...investigate the methods, ideology and forms associated with mass manufactured textile and domestic goods. Utilising the tools, techniques and structure associated with textile and domestic objects...”
In Le Fil (the thread) several artists directly reference traditional craft practices, such as Shannon Johnson who has used embroidery to recreate a giant 5-cent piece and Michele Morcos who creates an artistic meditation in her works, the needle and thread reflecting how “life can be broken down to the simplest of acts”. Sophia Egarchos’s focus is on sewing techniques such as pleating and shirring. When applied to her paintings (she shirrs the canvas), Egarchos transforms flat two dimensional works into tactile three dimensional pieces. Chrissie Ianssen on the other hand composes her paintings using elements of traditional Norwegian knitting patterns. She uses them to striking effect, some may say harking back to a past that is no longer relevant in contemporary Norway. Megan Yeo uses the traditional British craft of embroidery as a quaint and pleasant façade to mask the internal terrorist threat that lurks under the surface of modern Britain.
While the exhibition title, Le Fil (the thread), might suggest that artworks in the exhibition hang together precariously – that the connection is flimsy and delicate – it is used as a metaphor to reflect the fragility of the connections we create in our society which can break or fade away at any moment. As our world continues to advance at a lightning pace, and communication becomes key we question how strong these bonds actually are.
Much more than just a thread holds together the work of these artists, as they deconstruct and rebuild ancient and modern materials and processes, exploring the thread both in its simplest form and the more complicated web it weaves. In Kath Fries’ artwork she creates a literal web using woven strips of recycled fabric forming a rope which is woven through the nooks and crannies of the gallery. Based on an ancient Greek myth, Fries takes us on a journey through the labyrinth which reflects the web of life.
Whether it is the video work of Iranian born Sahar Hosseinabadi, Hannah Bertram’s site-specific installation, or even the wearable jewellery pieces by Melinda Young, these artists are connected by a conceptual thread that runs through the works addressing ideas on how we value fabrics.
This concept is further explored through the notion that we are constantly consuming and discarding large quantities of textiles. It’s not surprising then that the artists explore the renewal and recycling of found objects. These objects are embedded with history which when brought to the new work adds immense value. The cycle of discard followed by renewal highlights the object’s continual value and links the past to the present.
Jade Pegler plays with this notion, creating a future history with her “curiosities” crafted from everyday materials. Linden Braye takes materials with little value from urban or natural environments and creates constructions which reference "the natural world through the built one". Michelle Heldon is also inspired by nature and works with found objects focusing on how the different materials feel and react with each other. The tactility of the surfaces are of particular interest as Heldon explores the relationship between form, colour, texture and shape.
Jane Llewellyn is a free-lance arts writer and arts consultant, currently based in Sydney, she has previously worked as the sub-editor for Australian Art Collector Magazine