Artspace, Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide December 2001 - February 9, 2002
One of the joys of the exhibition program in Adelaide this summer was the biennial Australian Paper Art Awards show, now in its fourth year. It was show-cased to good effect at Artspace, in spite of the building demolition program that now envelopes the Festival Centre. The touring show and the accompanying catalogue are a tribute to its corporate sponsors and hosts, Australian Paper and the George Adams Gallery, Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne. Exhibition curator, Lesley Harding, also sadly acknowledges the passing of Tristan Humphries, who played a central and collaborative role in the previous lavish biennial of 1999.
Even though the exhibition was pruned down from the original Melbourne showing, Adelaide gallery goers were still enabled to view representative selections of work by each artist that were medium to large scale. The twelve artists selected for the 2001 award demonstrated an eclectic range of approaches and their works were a stimulant to considering the endless riches provided by the medium of paper. Works which shone in the exhibition either did so by virtue of their graphic directness, or by seducing the viewer into looking more closely at the gestural and textural surfaces that had been wrought upon and in the substrate.
Without an overbearing curatorial agenda, shows like this in South Australia are like a breath of fresh air for those unable to travel to the eastern states to savour the smorgasbord of current artistic explorations The absence of any representation of South Australian artists working with paper is a surprise, nor were they in the 1999 show.
That being said, there were sympathetic resonances abounding through the show, between works by Ian Friend, Marion Borgelt, Jane Dyer and Allan Mitelman, and in a second grouping featuring photographic or computer manipulated imagery in works by Louise Weaver, Mary Scott, Robert Colvin, and evergreen Pat Brassington, whose The Flea (2001) and Berlin (2001) evoked the best of Surrealist tradition in images expressive of displacement, theatricality and disquiet.
Ian Friend's Fenestra Ovalis (2000), with its layered washes, stained arabesques and rhythmic dabs were an exuberant and methodical foil to the brooding, understated organicism emanating from Borgelt's technically accomplished Bloodlight Stack series (2001). Equally, Jayne Dyer's large multi-panelled Site I (2001), located as an installational keystone in line with the entrance to the gallery, sat confidently alongside these works, rich in its explorative purchase. One was teased by the knowing absence of her second catalogued contribution.
The selection of works for this show demonstrates a commendable attempt to include work by lesser known artists alongside those that have been practising their art and refining their focus over many years, although it is puzzling to see inclusions of groups of sketchbook studies by a few of the artists which hark back to art school exercises and sit somewhat lamely alongside such experienced company. The catalogue, less generous in its production than the lavish 1999 edition, provides well edited summaries of the artists' career achievements and concerns, although I was casting around at times for a magnifying glass to be able to read it - or maybe that was just a sign of something that catches up with us all.
Organisers and sponsors are to be congratulated on this undertaking, and it is hoped that the interstate touring schedule of such an event will continue into the foreseeable future. We in South Australia certainly look forward to the 2003 event, by which time the Adelaide Festival Centre will have undergone a transformation.