Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)
12 September to 17 November 2013
Jacqueline Ball, Jackson Eaton, Heath Franco, Brendan Huntley, Thomas Jeppe, Jess Johnson, Juz Kitson, Kusum Normoyle
Primavera 2013 showcased the work of eight artists from around the country who demonstrated incredible energy, ambition and commitment to their work and a willingness to push it in compelling directions.
Presented in one gallery space, Primavera 2013 brought together Jacqueline Ball’s large-scale photographic portals into alternative worlds; Jackson Eaton’s series of photos staging and re-staging intimate relationships; Heath Franco’s performative video works; Brendan Huntley’s sculptural and painted heads; Thomas Jeppe’s paintings, sculptures and installation; Jess Johnson’s detailed marker drawings set in a high-key domestic interior; Juz Kitson’s cascading porcelain forms; and Kusum Normoyle’s video works and performances that release the powerful sound of the artist’s voice into the built world. Together, they activated the gallery space, drawing attention to its specific structure and its function as a platform to transport the viewer to new, imaginary dimensions.
Primavera 2013 was curated by Robert Cook, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Photography and Design at the Art Gallery of Western Australia. About the selection of artists, Cook wrote: “Part of me wishes I could claim that this group of artists faithfully replicates young Australian art now. They don’t. They are 'simply’ really amazing thinker-makers whose work has all the good stuff: humour, anger, off-kilter sarcasm, art-historical shuffling, the will-to-impossible-transcendence and the creepily perverse!”
Primavera is the Museum’s annual exhibition of Australian artists aged 35 years and under. Since 1992, the series has showcased the works of artists in the early stages of their career, many of whom have gone on to exhibit nationally and internationally.
Primavera was initiated in 1992 by Dr Edward Jackson AM and Mrs Cynthia Jackson AM and their family in memory of their daughter and sister Belinda, a talented jeweller who died at the age of 29.
Jacqueline Ball's large photographs are depictions of constructions she makes in her studio, experimenting extensively with a wide variety of materials and casting processes. These elements serve as props that she employs to create highly ambiguous, disorientating works that leave location and scale indeterminate. This approach stems from her interest in the ways photography intersects with the immersive experience of cinema, and the way her medium can be used to create destabilising fictions. The size of her works in Primavera 2013 are based on an over-sized domestic doorway. They function as thresholds into unknown terrain, conjuring the sense and enveloping experience of an internal and external sublime.
Jacqueline Ball on the integral place of drawing in the development of her work
This group of 32 photographs includes a presentation of Eaton’s earlier series Jackson and Hasisi Were Never Married, and a recent recreation of it. The first series was a celebration of the artist’s relationship with a young Korean woman he met whilst in Seoul. Eaton was heartbroken when she left him. In the meantime his father, who had divorced his mother years earlier, went to Korea and met and married a Korean woman. Suddenly Eaton’s dad seemed to be living the life Eaton once had, and still yearned for. To deal with this loss, and the sense of his dad co-opting his life, Eaton restaged the original photos with his father and his new stepmother. As well as being poignant on that level, the uncanny similarities in Eaton and his father's tastes in women, and their own physicality, seem to create a sense of one life mapped onto two, related bodies.
Heath Franco’s videos are constructed and performed by the artist himself. Featuring complex costumes, they begin as improvisations as characters come into being through a series of, often repetitive, gestures and verbal phrases. In this way, YOUR DOOR creates a loaded threshold experience; DREAM HOME acts out the vicious awfulness of a suburban, domestic interior; and TELEVISIONS is, on one level, a parody of television experience and presenters gone thuggish and very dark indeed. Beyond their thematic content, Franco’s works act out the Id of every person - the loathsome, vicious, creepy internal self that remains untamed by civilisation. However, as much as they are taunting and belligerent they are infectiously involving and utterly hilarious.
Heath Franco on his characters
Brendan Huntley started making art by painting and sculpting objects from his surroundings. He came to his main motif, the head, after he sculpted a balaclava. From that point, he says, 'everything begged to have eyes and lips'. His works – which owe a debt to the round-headed expressionism of Australian artists Arthur Boyd and John Perceval – show unique and quirky personalities that often channel, but do not represent, people he knows. As personable as they are, however, they also stage a dialogue between surface expression and inner unknowability, and, possibly, dark emptiness.
Brendan Huntley on the shifting moods of art making
Thomas Jeppe's installation in Primavera 2013 is made up of three components - Tudor Minimal, Vista Verticals and Postboxes. Tudor Minimal is just what it advertises - a minimalist intervention in the gallery space using thin, painted, wooden planks whose design is based on the exposed beams of Tudor period architecture. As per minimal art from the 1960s, these frame and draw attention to the structure of the gallery. The Vista Verticals paintings are titled after a Perth blinds company and thereby reference his place of birth. They are scaled on the lookout which offers an elevated view of this gallery, and even include a hand-rail between the halves of the paintings.
The motifs in the works are from plans the Italian designer Gae Aulenti did for a 1972 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Here, Jeppe shifts Aulenti’s impulse to produce work that casts people as furniture, by treating people as skylines. This allows us to see his paintings as if on a horizon that also watches over us. In this way, he creates a flicker between minimal and representational modes of dealing with exhibition spaces. In distinction, Jeppe's Postboxes move from (literal) high design to the human level. These structures are based on his neighbour's letterbox and speak about the analogue and material nature of communication as well as the beauty and humility of vernacular design.
Thomas Jeppe talks about the idea of the 'mute witness'
Thomas Jeppe discusses his work's relationship to site and its aesthetic references
Jess Johnson's work is inspired by sci-fi novels, secret society symbology, utopian manifestoes and underground comic artists such as Mark Beyer. She uses these as leaping-off points to create high-key, shallow depth-of-field drawings of an almost suffocating intensity that sit between figuration and abstraction. Some of the works here owe a debt to Michael Faber's novel Under the skin, where an alien picks up Scottish hitchhikers and delivers them as food for her kind. Others are evocations of unknowable societies, mixed with bleak, or passive aggressive slogans. Johnson sets these drawings within a wall painting of an austere domestic interior which creates a world within a world, hinting at the layers of unknown meaning and forces that circulate beneath and beyond our daily experience.
Jess Johnson on 'terraforming' and her installation practice
Jess Johnson talks about making worlds in her work
Juz Kitson identifies as an 'artist who uses porcelain' and she uses this material as the foundation for wall installations that are at once poetic and grotesque. While based for much of the time in China, where she has established a studio, her work draws from the surrounds of her Australian home in the bush on Sydney's Central Coast. She will often, for instance, incorporate found animal parts from the region into her work, covering them with fluid porcelain. In addition to fauna, individual units use botanical forms to draw attention to the elements of sexual difference. This amalgamation of references to mortality and reproduction offers a meditation on evolutionary processes and evidence of, as yet unclassifiable, life forms that might test the boundaries of taste, knowledge and gender categories.
Kusum Normoyle's performance and video work deals with the limits of vocal performance. They draw on the extreme arenas of noise music and death metal, not for shock value, but to frame the particularities of the female voice as expressed within specific environments. This six part work combines performances of Normoyle screaming – aided by a powered amplifier – with animations that suggest the world shaking and shifting to her voice. In doing so, Normoyle creates a kind a fracture in the world, a fault-line where feminine expressiveness shapes matter into potentially new formations.