Current exhibitions at the Anne and Gordon Samstag Museum
30 June 2017 - 1 September 2017
The two exhibitions at the Samstag Museum of Art opened on the 30th June 2017. These exhibitions celebrate a milestone for the museum, as they celebrate their 10 year anniversary this year and for the first time in many years host entirely South Australian artists over the SALA period.
Trent Parke & Narelle Autio’s The Summation of Force is an inaugural moving image collaboration for the pair and has been filmed in conjunction with Closer Productions, Matthew Bate and the Adelaide Film Festival. This exhibition has been listed as a finalist for the ‘Unitcare Services Moving Image Award’ as part of SALA 2017.
The Summation of Force is a family affair. The artists, who are also life partners, have worked with their children to shoot ethereal, monochromatic films in reflection of their family’s interest and children’s development as keen cricketers. The boys’ transition from backyard games to cricket pitch matches is the subject matter for the aptly titled The Summation of Force. Samstag Museum of Art's Director Erica Green says … ‘It is an ambitious multi-channel video project that pitches competitive sport and the mythical power of cricket as a metaphor for life and parenthood.’(1)
In discussion with the artists at an opening event, Autio revealed some of the restraints of the marathon production of the work, which included filming with their children who did still have a bed time to keep, as well as the inherent difficulties of shooting a summer activity in the cooler months. The result of this collaboration is a multi-channel video work which presents pinnacle life events - cinematically presented in high contrast black and white and frequently filmed in slow motion - with a bodily resonant sound track.
The backyard is a place you can’t manufacture - it’s a place of practice where one learns hard truths through formative experiences. It’s no secret that Australian backyards are shrinking. However, the works in The Summation of Force speak to the experience of backyard sport. This is particularly poignant to Australians, as sport plays a critical role in forming our national identity and is synonymous with our way of life. The works emulate and draw parallels between the god-like status we give our athletes, the scientific scrutiny they endure in becoming their best and their beginnings as backyard heroes. The multichannel videos give space for a chronological narrative to form on the process and rigour involved in the step between the two.
While neither of the Verso team have much experience with competitive cricket (we only ever made it to the backyard stage) we are not locked out of this work. Whilst the game of cricket may not be universal, the metaphors it evokes are. The audience is urged to pause and consider crafts passionately honed and the universality of our passage through life.
Michelle Nikou’s a e i o u is on show on the upper level of the Samstag Museum of Art. This survey of Nikou’s work has been curated by Kendrah Morgan and Melissa Keys, in partnership with Heide Museum of Modern Art, as a travelling exhibition. The structure of this upper floor gallery necessitates that one must move through the space in order for each of the works to reveal themselves, which lends itself well to Nikou’s object based, autobiographical works which span both the floor and walls.
Thematically domestic and materially varied, Nikou’s work playfully expands on ideas of family suburbia and the detritus of the everyday. The works are industrial yet honest in their manufacture. The artist describes lead as being a material available to her and also as a material loaded with metaphorical significance. Objects such as pie cases (part of Lead Landscape (2007), part of the installation view documentation below) are familiar, however, when cast in lead are unsettlingly void of their original purpose as a throw away vessel for a very specific type of food. Her use of neon is a comparative embellishment of the otherwise everyday.
Each of Nikou’s works have been crafted through laborious methods, yet appear masterfully resolved; stitching, etching and casting for example. Her attention to form is evident in the work Potatoes (1999) - potatoes cast in lead to create sculptural forms. Similarly, the support structures for the neon formations lend a subtle hint to their reading.
Nikou uses letters of the alphabet as individual objects to be poetically arranged just as any other material in her oeuvre. Similarly, we are asked to consider the individual letters as characters with their own form and emotion. Arranged unconventionally these alphabetic forms leave the audience with a taste for their meaning. One almost mouthes a e i o u whilst walking around the exhibition, hoping to place the letters in their correct positions.
This survey of Nikou’s work reminds us of the power of language. Language, often unconsciously, shapes our experience of objects. Nikou deftly juxtaposes our experiences of things by presenting us with a familiar shape in unfamiliar, potentially dangerous material. It is with skill and dexterity that Nikou tests our visual vocabulary.
(1) Press release, June 20 2017- It’s just not cricket - The Summation of Force bowls into Samstag
Further reading for The Summation of Force:
Further reading for Michelle Nikou: a e i o u:
Michelle Nikou: a e i o u is a NETS Victoria touring exhibition developed in partnership with Heide Museum of Modern Art, curated by Melissa Keys and Kendrah Morgan. Presented by the Samstag Museum of Art for the SALA Festival and FRAN Festival.