This is the premise of Grey Foundations, and as an artist who has emerged from art school into this COVID art world, I deeply appreciate what they’ve done, and who they are doing it for.
Ciara Turnbull’s self-portraits Limbs without a purpose and a head gone mostly still render the experience of someone alone in their head, alone in their house - a sombre place. This is the kind of isolation that spawned a country-wide mental health crisis, reminding us that humans are social creatures; - something we all learned the hard way. Turnbull’s disorienting and claustrophobic room spaces are filled with stray limbs, heavy bodies and seemingly weeping eyes.
On the other hand, Nic Mason has maintained her cosy and cheerful style with a series of paintings of objects as they’re found on her studio floor. A painting of a painting, a knocked over jar with flowers, some moth bits, her son’s origami. Her feet and apron make it into half of the series, reminding me of all of the time I’ve spent looking at my feet for inspiration. It is reaffirming to see that through her lockdown experience and despite her anticlimactic first year as a qualified artist, her style and humour rise up to defend her world against its absurdity.
The show’s emerging curator Emily Roebuck displays her lasting impression of zoom meetings with the many faces of Untitled (Zoom) 2020-2022. Installed in a grid formation, 160 polymer clay faces averaging a square inch and a half kept her hands busy in the many zoom meetings featuring bodiless faces that have become the universal anecdote of work during these last few years. They have a jaunty Aardman feel behind their protruding ears and defined teeth. Hairless caricatures of strangers and friends send me instantly back to zoom workshops full of unfamiliar faces where I would privately and voyeuristically observe how they listen or wonder what they might be thinking of or looking at out of screen.
Lisa Dwyer tops off the show with her lone, empty, floating skeleton of a brick. Hanging from the rafters amongst the other works, you barely see it until it’s above your head. She’s taken away the mass that creates the house, and is working with the structure. I like bricks 2019-2022 makes me think of what my house would look like without all of the secrets it knows, the memories it holds. I imagine a house built of these bricks, and the purpose of the structure of our house; obviously it wouldn’t provide warmth or shelter, but even in the absence of these material qualities, our house is still our home. A human construction that also provides refuge and comfort in its immaterial form. It makes me wonder what my walls learnt from the time we spent together during lockdown.
My friend was half way through the exhibition before she saw a ‘no shoes’ sign and almost took her shoes off. ‘Oh, it’s an artwork’ (by Kathleen Travers.) Which reminded me of when the Victorian College of the Arts installed a vending machine with healthy food and we all thought it was an artwork. Kathleen also instructs us to take a coin from one jar, not to sit, not to take photos in one corner of the space, and to put a coin in another jar.
This exhibition felt like I was back at art school, which I think is the best place to be, torment aside. I want to be somewhere that accomplished artists exist together in a community space. If I can talk to them about their work which is fun and weird then I’ll feel comfortable, even though I don’t have 30 years and 4 overseas residencies backing me. Until I’m established, my tagline is going to be along the lines of how emerging artists are the substance of our community, balancing what they’re learning and experiencing now, and what they’ve been taught by their predecessors. I’m so excited to see what each of these artists go on to do, and where their practice will take them, while being jealous that I didn’t do it first.