The Suburban Version is an ongoing project that emerged in late 2016 from an idea hatched by Jane Skeer, whilst listening to a talk by Lisa Slade at Adelaide Central School of Art (ACSA). Slade’s inspired talk was on the topic of curating, and Jane got an itch. She called me, and we discussed the opportunities, or lack thereof, for emerging artists to exhibit their work. The words of ACSA lecturer James Dodd, from a class way back in first year, resonated in our collective mind… he had encouraged us all to think creatively and with rigour, not only with our making, but also in the ways we might get our work seen. Dodd encouraged us to exhibit work when and wherever we could; from the car boot to the kitchen table, and to recognise and embrace the potential of non-conventional exhibition opportunities. He explained that the entire notion of the exhibition needed to be challenged and reinterpreted. James Dodd reminded us that exhibitions could exist outside of the conventional gallery space and they could run for an afternoon, a day, or a weekend. At the time, his words were an epiphany, and they simmered away at back of our minds while our formal BVA studies consumed us. Slade’s talk was the catalyst for these ideas to slowly rise to the surface again and Jane lamented over the course of our conversation the limited opportunities for many new graduates despite their hard work and the great art being produced.
The Suburban Version’s plan was to facilitate an end of 2016 art wrap; an exhibition that would reflect upon and celebrate the journey of new graduates. Jane generously offered her family's suburban home as a venue, and we selected a group of emerging artists’ work to exhibit over the space of a weekend. The criteria was simple; artists needed to be emerging and making varied, contemporary work, have graduated from multiple institutions, and have work ready within 10 days. We curated artists making video, paintings, sculpture, multimedia works, photography, and drawing. All of the artists invited said yes, and most had existing work, which made our tight timeline achievable.
The fun bit was the installation process… work arrived sporadically, but it needed to be hung quickly and as close to the opening as possible to minimise the inconvenience to the Skeer family, whose private living space was rapidly morphing into a public gallery. We approached the entire house as a potential space, and loosely mapped where some pieces would hang, but until the work arrived in-situ, we had little idea of how and where work would sit. Jane and I worked well together, and really enjoyed a collaborative sense of play during the installation, and ultimately, finding connections between the works and the spaces.
Kristen Coleman’s enigmatic landscape video work shimmered under the kitchen sink, while the family sized kitchen table was up-ended to maximise Carly Snoswell’s richly fringed sculptural tributes. Aida Azin’s energetic paintings relaxed on the lounge room couches and Michael Schaefer’s hard rubbish still lifes shone from light boxes scattered across the billiard table. Ceramic sculptures exquisitely crafted by Maggie Moy perched delicately on the ironing board. Jane Skeer’s joyous installation in the shower alcove overflowed with bright orange balloons. Space limitations dictated a close pairing of Andrew Clarke’s epic paintings, serendipitously doubling the absurdity of the narrative that played out across 2.6 meters of canvas. Lisa Losada’s modestly scaled oil paintings were stuck to the fridge with magnets like some obsessive postcard collection of the Grand Tour. In the master bedroom, the lights were dimmed and Jessie Green’s video quietly inhaled and exhaled on the bed. Outside, Edwina Cooper’s kinetic boat swung from the pergola and Jane Skeer’s barbies "did their thing" in the swimming pool.
Utilising the suburban home as a gallery space blurred the edges between art and everyday life, just as the realism of Sophia Nuske’s ceramic match work challenged the viewer to recognise the difference between the two.
Our approach for The Suburban Version project was underpinned by James Dodd’s energetic, ‘have a go’ attitude; we took risks, we played and thoroughly enjoyed the curating experience. Jane and I found a balance between the artists’ intent and our own. We were proud of the outcome and appreciated the trust the artists gave us to hang their work in unconventional ways and spaces. The Suburban Version connected with a large audience and received much positive feedback.
It was an intense 10 days, and we managed to sell over 30% of the art work, taking no commission. We encouraged all exhibiting artists to be present at the exhibition, hoping for new relationships to be made, between maker and buyer, as an outcome of the weekend. This is difficult to quantify, but already one of our artists has been commissioned to make new work for a commercial venture.
The Suburban Version curated 105 works of art made by 28 artists over a 3 day period. It was a wonderful and positive way to finish 2016, and a great opportunity to reflect upon and celebrate the hard work of creative emerging artists. We hope to make this exhibition an annual event, and use The Suburban Version name as a flag for artistic endeavours that use non-conventional spaces and ideas in positive and interesting ways. Huge thanks go to the Skeer family for opening their lives to the masses over that 10 day period, to the exhibiting artists and all those who helped us realise this project.
Our artists include: Aida Azin, Tom Borgas, Gabrielle Cirocco, Andrew Clarke, Kristen Coleman, Edwina Cooper, Leah Craig, Jon George, Jessie Green, Arlon Hall, Zoe Kirkwood, Kate Kurucz, Lisa Losada, Shannon Lyons (Perth), Louisa Magrics (Newcastle), Maggie Moy, Sophia Nuske, Jenna Pippett, Mike Schaefer, Jane Skeer, Carly Snoswell, Jess Taylor, Sarah Tickle, Cassie Thring, Harry Thring, Luke Wilcox, Emmaline Zanelli.
By Cassie Thring, Co-Curator of The Suburban Version.