Every year the MCA presents MCA Collection:New Acquisitions in Context, an exhibition of newly acquired artworks hung alongside existing works from the Museum’s collection. ‘In Context’, the works create a visual dialogue highlighting between them various interconnections and relationships. Here, MCA Curator Anna Davis and MCA Assistant Curator Megan Robson explore this year’s works along with the Museum’s practice of collecting.
MCA Collection: New Acquisitions in Context 2013, running until 23 February 2014, brings together a selection of recent acquisitions by contemporary Australian artists in conversation with artworks from the MCA and JW Power Collections. Celebrating the diversity of contemporary artistic practice, the exhibition features 28 Australian and international artists who work across a range of media from painting and photography to moving image and installation.
Presented across both the MCA’s Level 1 North and South galleries, New Acquisitions in Context 2013 connects the Museum to its past and explores how the Collection is evolving into the future. The exhibition provides an opportunity for viewers to revisit artworks presented in previous exhibitions at the Museum, view old favourites again and make new discoveries.
Collecting is one of the Museum’s core functions and plays a key role in its exhibitions, touring projects, learning programs, online platforms and publications. In 2003 the MCA re-launched its Collection Policy focusing on the acquisition of recent work by living Australian artists. The MCA aims to build a distinctive Collection, developing its strengths and reflecting new areas of artistic activity. The Acquisitions Committee discusses and debates all proposed acquisitions and gifts, with the Curators putting forth arguments as to why particular works should be in the MCA Collection. With so many incredible works to choose from, and finite resources, the decision about which works to acquire is always a challenge.
The exhibition New Acquisitions in Context 2013 began by reviewing the works acquired by the Museum over the past twelve months and selecting key artworks that would become the starting points for a series of conversations. The selection of works then highlights a number of connections and relationships that can be explored within the broader Collection.
For example, an underlying theme throughout the exhibition is the idea of landscape, which has a rich and varied history in both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australian art practice.
Imants Tillers’ Tabula Rasa (for my father) (2011) is a multi-paneled painting dedicated to the artist’s late father, a mechanical engineer who travelled to remote parts of Australia. In this work the artist reflects on what his father must have ‘thought of the vast, barren Australian landscape he was compelled to traverse – having grown up in the gentle, intimate landscape of Latvia’.
Inclined Perspective Wedge (Riverbed) (1995) by Mike Parr is intended to show its physical transformation over time. Each presentation of the artwork, comprising three formply structures covered in unpurified beeswax, will draw attention to the evolving nature of the work, highlighting both organic changes and man-made interventions.
Simryn Gill’s Untitled (Interior) II (2008) is a bronze casting of a crack that has formed in the ground during a long drought. The work is a unique edition from a series of five castings that were made near Nyngan and Lake George in regional New South Wales. The cast imagines ’something that is invisible or intangible but loaded with a range of shifting meanings – in this case the negative space of a crack in the earth’.
Anmatyerre artist Gloria Petyarre’s paintings are inspired by Aknangkere country, in the Utopia region of central Australia. The artist is known for her meticulous patterning, which creates the effect of a shimmering, moving surface. In Leaves in the wind (1999), Petyarre depicts bush medicine leaves drying on the desert floor.
As works by Gill, Parr, Petyarre and Tillers reveal, landscape is not simply a view of our surroundings or a representation of the natural world, it can encompass the spiritual and the psychological, the emotional and the scientific, the real and the imagined.