Roy Ananda, Matthew Bradley, Louise Haselton, Heidi Kenyon, Kate Power.
FELTspace is celebrating their tenth birthday with Director’s Cut. Current co-directors have highlighted the spirit of collaboration at the core of the FELTspace ethos by inviting all past committee members to join them in a vote. Artists have been drawn from the long list of those who had exhibited with FELTspace over the past ten years. The final five? Heidi Kenyon, Louise Haselton, Kate Power, Matthew Bradley and Roy Ananda. Though curating by committee can be risky, and by vote even more so, these artists have produced works that collectively explore materiality and function. Each artwork captures a unique aspect of working in artist run initiatives, and the freedom it offers.
In her 2009 solo exhibition at FELTspace, Heidi Kenyon installed the air finds it hard to breathe, a ghostly white piano that appeared to disappear shyly through the back wall of the gallery, or burst robustly through it depending on the viewer’s perspective. This was a turning point in Kenyon’s practice where she continues to work with household objects, quietly pulling them apart, rebuilding them, and disrupting both their function and how they sit in space. In the air finds it hard to breathe (swan song) (2018) Kenyon has brought back her piano for a final performance. Though silent in its first iteration, she has given the work a proxy voice: a trailing native Australian vine. Billardiera scandens spills over the piano, emitting a jumble of tinkering sounds triggered by the electromagnetic variations between the surface of the plant’s leaves and its root system. The whitewashed piano is only able to speak through the vine, a small piece of native Australia taking over and reclaiming space. This final performance is off beat, the sounds emitted in an irregular way, a compliment to the disappearing instrument. In this work, Kenyon is closing a loop in her practice, bringing a beginning to an end. But she has also opened another door, showing for the first time her musical plants.
Working in her studio, Louise Haselton stretches, prods, and worries at her materials. In 2017 she began working with blue jeans. Beginning life as a utilitarian item built for comfort and strength, this wardrobe staple has now become a fashion statement, with designer rips. Haselton sources her garments from second-hand stores, stretching them to form a right-angled frame. The jeans have been altered slightly, a change that is almost imperceptible upon first glance. They are pulled apart and then stitched back together. Resting on top are blocks of salvaged marble. Untitled (2018) is a meditation on texture, surface and strength. Materials are transformed through processes of casting and refining, made stronger or weaker. Elements combine to form a balanced composition, the texture a mixture between hard and soft, cold and warm. Each form is complimented by its opposite.
Likewise, former co-director Kate Power has been utilising the detritus in her studio to experiment with balance and harmony, through a process of repetitive action and quiet reflection. Pain is a sacred puzzle (2018) is composed of two sculptural elements sitting side-by-side. One formed of soft leather draped over cold steel rods, which shoot up out of a textured, bruised surface. The other presents strong, rib-like forms, which mimic the cage that protects our vital organs. She attempts to stretch the limits of materials, testing they’re strength, and how far they can be pushed before they snap. The combination of elements is a meditation on the dynamics of relationships. How much weight can they hold before they break and splinter. She is in search of a new language that can be used to describe both her work and the bonds that hold her world together. It is through the process of working that she is able to think through her ideas. These are tactile works, the outcome of many hours of reflection in a search for greater balance and a new language with which to describe her practice.
Matthew Bradley explores big questions in his practice, the central one being ‘what is the true nature of my existence’. In Director’s Cut Bradley has created a sculpture, which exposes the transformative space that is the artists’ studio. The studio, 1928 (2018) is named for, and examines, Pablo Picasso’ The Studio (L'Atelier)(1928). In the left of the frame there appears to be a sculpted bust - for which Bradley could find no evidence that it actually existed as a three dimensional form. He has painstakingly replicated this statue, measuring and calculating to make it real and to scale. Bradley’s work moves the sculpture from the flat two-dimensional frame into a three-dimensional object. He has used classic provisional materials: timber, steel, plaster and a student’s sculpture stand. He presents the viewer with the object that would be used to make a mold for the final casting, not the finished work itself. He is conflating the utilitarian with the magical, and in doing so, creates this transformational space. The audience is implicated in the work as he invites them to witness the shift from a two dimensional representation into a three dimensional object. Bradley has layered transformation upon transformation, mimicking the freeing world of a studio where anything is possible.
Roy Ananda’s Dungeon Module B2: The Keep on the Borderlands (after Gary Gygax) (2018) celebrates the world of the fantasy role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons. A series of axonometric drawings pinned to the wall of the gallery, the blueprints map one of original quests from the game. The drawings grow in complexity as the players venture further into this fictional world. The ruptures become more pronounced, the planes shift further apart. Ananda has long explored the creation of real and imaginary worlds, predominantly through science fiction, fantasy and horror. He tests new ways of representing space, incorporating chance, through the use of dice and pre-determined consequences. This work can be experienced in three-dimensions in Thin walls between dimensions (2018) installed at the Art Gallery of South Australia as part of Divided Worlds, the 2018 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art. For many, this game is their first chance to construct a world of their own. They work together to defeat orcs, battle new dangers and become heroes or fail. Ananda brings this new view into the gallery, disrupting space, building realms and new adventures.
In creating these works, each artist has captured an important aspect of what FELTspace gallery achieves. They have brought the old and new together, tested new research, exposed the transformative nature of art making and materials, and by extension the gallery space, and have experimented with new forms of language. This celebration captures the essence of what this space does; supporting experimentation, risk taking and exploration. Director’s Cut exposes these processes, bringing into view the strength and support offered by the gallery. Congratulations not only to the artists, and co-directors but to all those who have been before, and all those who will be in the future.