Journey into DIVIDED WORLDS
Mad March is over in Adelaide and we had a really fantastic festival. I managed to get to some of the Biennale at the Art Gallery of South Australia and was inspired. I want to share with you some reflections about two women painters on show. The 2018 Adelaide Biennale, titled DIVIDED WORLDS,
‘offers an opportunity to experience an alternative dimension – one where “difference” is the natural order of things, and a strength to be celebrated.’ (Erica Green – curator).
The exhibition is largely installation oriented and challenges our perception of space, memory, body, land and ultimately identity.
Entering the basement of the art gallery is like embarking on a journey into the underworld. It’s dark, and the exhibition spaces are divided up into sometimes small and very intimate spaces and sometimes large cavernous voids. In the half-light is an invitation dream as our perception is challenged.
Some of the artist talks for this Biennale were held in the basement. We shuffled from one talk to another in the dim atmosphere. What I loved about this experience is that the half-light seemed to free up people to ask questions and ponder, perhaps because we couldn’t see each other that well. Or perhaps because it was intimate.
Louise Herman gave a great ‘talk’. I use inverted commas because she turned the talk around and invited us to talk about her work. She facilitated the discussion and learned many things about her work from peoples responses. She created a space for the viewer to collectively build a response to her paintings. Interestingly, Louise also never titles her work.
Her paintings are all hung on one wall in a corridor like space. They aren’t portraits as there is nothing posed about the people we see. We are not familiar with the identity of the people in the paintings. All the works are untitled. We know nothing about them. As I walked along the corridor I had the sense of glimpsing someone else’s world. The circular format of each painting is like an orb opening up into a parallel universe. In this orb I see a person caught in the middle of a thought. In that moment I have a sense of looking into the parallel world of someone else’s thoughts. While moving past other viewers looking at the paintings, it occurs to me that I’m glimpsing people in mid-thought all the time. Psychologically, we are parallel worlds trying to find consensus in the world around us.
On the light filled upper level of the gallery are some beautiful paintings by Lisa Adams, a Queensland based painter. While I was pondering these works a security guard approached me. I thought ‘oh no, I’m going to get told off again for breathing on the paintings’. To my delight he said ‘They’re beautiful aren’t they?’ I agreed. We then had an engaging conversation about their symbolic meaning as people gathered around. I was enchanted by this spontaneous event.
This painting below is titled ICEBREAKER. Looking past the beautiful detailed paintwork, I was struck by how the bunched up broken ice looks like the swan. Nature in different forms. One so soft, warm and alive, the other hard, cold and brittle. The guard commented that usually icebreakers are big, hard ships. Yet sometimes softness is needed to break the ice.
SECRET (below) sits next to Icebreaker. A young woman whispers into a tree and the tree is alight. The patches of sky behind the tree are suggestive of smoke even thought no smoke is present. This young woman has a burning secret that she can’t share with anyone but the tree. The guard noticed how the tree appears to burn from the inside. It’s like how we often feel when we hold a secret that shouldn’t be shared. It consumes us.
DIVIDED WORLDS is a really well curated and thought provoking exhibition. Over the opening weekend there were also panel discussions with artists. These were recorded and you can listen to them here.
Feel free to share my post with anyone you think it may interest. Thanks for reading.