Circular art reflects on Buddhism – Bangkok Post

Circular art reflects on Buddhism

Courtesy of La Lanta Fine Art

Up-and-coming Thai artist Pannaphan Yodmanee’s latest mixed solo media exhibition titled “Time Lapse” comes at a befitting moment as Thailand’s art scene slowly resurfaces from the easing of the Covid-19 lockdown measures.

Pannaphan, whose work has been showcased in exhibitions in France, Japan, Australia and China, examines here the relevance of Buddhist philosophy in our present day lives in this exhibition, which will be held at the gallery La Lanta Fine Art from June 6 to July 29.

Pannaphan Yodmanee’s latest work is showcased in the exhibition ‘Time Lapse’. Photos Courtesy of La Lanta Fine Art

The 32-year-old goes all out in employing a combination of raw, natural materials and objects of contemporary origins in her work which imbue the painted designs and motifs endemic to traditional Thai art with the universal and persistent themes of loss, suffering, devastation and the karmic cycles of death and rebirth.

Consistent to the theme which she has probed through her artistic practice, “Time Lapse” presents eight circular artworks that combine elements of contemporary and traditional Thai art. She mixes natural raw materials such as rocks, precious stones, and gold leaf with modern science such as cements and paints to create a heavily textured artwork.

“The challenge in creating this series is in the technical aspect of working with natural material,” said Pannaphan. “I use clay and other types of earth materials to symbolise the idea behind the artwork. My previous series focused on using cement. For this series, I revive the technique that I explored while I was studying for a bachelor’s. It reflects the circumstances of the current state of the world with global warming and the pandemic.”

Pannaphan, who currently resides and works in Nakhon Pathom, was born in Nakhon Si Thammarat. Some of her most impressive accolades include winning the 11th Bernesse prize at Singapore’s Biennale (2016), in addition to top prizes in the Thai Traditional Painting Awards (2013), as well as the Young Thai Artist Awards (2006-2007).

In 2015, her work was showcased at the Thailand Eye exhibition presented at the Saatchi Gallery, London, and later at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. In 2016, her site specific installation Aftermath at the Singapore Biennale made her only the second Thai artist who captured first place at the Bernesse Art Prize.

In 2018, she was invited to participate in the 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT9) at QAGOMA in Australia and later her In The Aftermath installation became part of permanent collection of the institution. In the same year, her installation Sediments Of Migration was exhibited in Wat Pho as part of Bangkok Art Biennale.

Courtesy of La Lanta Fine Art

Courtesy of La Lanta Fine Art

Courtesy of La Lanta Fine Art

In light of Covid-19 developments, the gallery will not host any opening reception. The exhibition can be viewed online at lalanta.com. Appointments for private viewing can be made at info@lalanta.com or 02-050-7882.

Create Australia’s Future

Art asks important questions and in doing so reminds us of the world we want to create. Art is a model for policy innovation, and the time for advocacy is now.

As Australians, we are currently in a fortunate position with avenues of financial support at a national level, devised to reduce the burden COVID-19 is driving. In terms of targeted stimulus relief for the arts, the federal government announced on April 9 a $27 million package – made up of $10 million for regional artists and organisations, $7 million to support Indigenous artists and art centres, and $10 million for Support Act, a charity that delivers crisis relief to artists, crew and music workers. State, Territory and Local Governments around the country have also redirected or reinstated funding for arts-related activities of varying sums and qualifying factors.

Where does this place in line with international responses? Germany has elected to invest AUD$84 billion in culture, with a special focus on freelance workers, the UK have announced a AUD$320 million arts package, and in Canada AUD$550 million will be directed to its arts, culture and sports sectors. In terms of cultural funding, Australia ranks 26th out of 33 measured in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations.

Raquel Ormella, Wealth for Toil #1, 2014, nylon, acrylic and glitter on hessian, 250 x 250cm (irregular). Courtesy the artist and Milani Gallery, Queensland

Conservative estimates from a report produced in April 2020 by The Australia Institute found that the creative arts contributed $14.7 billion to Australia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2017-18 (approximately 0.8% of the total GDP). More broadly, the Bureau of Communications and Art Research found that cultural and creative activity contributed $111.7 billion (6.4%) to GDP in 2016-17.

In 2019, 193,600 Australians were employed in creative arts – more than finance (190,600), accommodation (97,500), electricity supply (65,000) or coal mining (49,600). We promote ourselves as a creative nation, in recent reports the Australian Trade Commission spruiks arts and entertainment industries to foreign investors and importers with artists such as Ben Quilty and Tracey Moffatt.

Despite this, in the ten-year period from 2007/8 to 2017/18 government arts funding fell 18.9% in real terms (considering inflation and population grown) found a study conducted by
A New Approach. The news that the Australia Council of the Arts four-year funding pool for the 2021-2024 period would be increasing from $28 million to $31.7 million (after a $105 million cut in 2016) was a small victory quickly deflated by the announcement that the funding would be thinly dispersed between its recipients – with 41% of the grant applications finalists unsuccessful in their bid for funding, and the successful 95 applicants will see a 70% reduction of the amount requested in the first year.

Some of the country’s largest art institutions will not receive support from the operational funding program and a handful of arts publications are also among those defunded. In a press statement, Adrian Collette, CEO of the Australia Council rationalised their motive was to ‘provide support for the greatest number of small to medium arts organisations’. The recognition of this sector of the arts community is undoubtedly important; yet at a pivotal moment, when the long-term sustainability for the industry as a whole requires urgent attention and funding, this justification is questionable.

As Michael Fox, Arts Accountant and Valuer, shared ‘the issue that has crystallised with COVID-19 for the arts is that, for majority of arts organisations, their funding is short term, being seasonal and tied to outcomes… A common feature of the stimulus schemes, such as cash flow boost, JobKeeper and the state and council compensation programs, is that they reward businesses that employ people.’

The creative industries by its inherent nature is underpinned by a ‘gig economy’ and ‘portfolio careers’ of freelance and casual workers – as the NAVA lead #CreateAustraliasFuture campaign advocated, should the industry collapse because it does not adhere to a uniform employment structure?

Equally, by accounting procedures that fit the federal funding models, how do you show a downturn for cancelled events and rescinded contracts that are months away and not yet on the books – an issue facing a great number of Australians? I Lost My Gig Australia, an initiative of the Australian Festivals Association and the Australian Music Industry Network recorded as at 27 April the tally of lost jobs and contracts was in the sum of $340 million and in March 470,000 workers had been affected with a total of 240,000 job opportunities lost.

Raquel Ormella, Wealth for Toil #2, 2014, cotton, acrylic and Australian currency, 250 x 250cm (irregular). Darebin Art Collection. Courtesy the artist and Milani Gallery, Queensland

NAVA’s Executive Director, Esther Anatolitis, discussed the Federal Government’s stimulus packages during a symposium with Dr Holly Arden, Associate Director of UQ Art Museum, stressing the need for advocacy in addressing the gaps in funding for large portions of the arts sector; ‘who are expected to suddenly magically get everything online for free’. Anatolitis canvassed that institutional bodies such as universities and government-owned regional galleries will largely miss out on the federal wage subsidiary measures. For the universities, in addition to concern for current students and staff members, this move raises issues as to how we support employment prospects for the next generation.

As recorded by The Australia Institute not only are regional galleries significant contributors to visual arts in Australia, but they rely largely on the efforts from volunteers. In the 2015-16 year, the value of volunteer hours from the activities of regional galleries equated to $7,824,216 – making the value of volunteer time over 20% of total funding received, second only to local government funding as a source of support for regional galleries. Both volunteer capacity and local government funding will be impacted by the pandemic, emphasising the need for increased federal and state government funding. Brett Adlington, Director of Lismore Regional Gallery, reiterates that ‘the intrinsic value of a rich cultural life needs to be continually fought for.’

The benefit of the arts is not solely emotive, but also fiscal. The interconnectedness of the industry and as a factor of economic importance is the ambit of ‘cultural and creative’ activities forming part of manufacturing, sales, education, design and professional services. The importance the arts has on well being, identity, personal development and fostering connections with others, is widely accepted and acknowledged, especially now. Rhana Devenport ONZM, Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA), points out ‘isolation has poignantly highlighted how people turn to artists to navigate and seek meaning in our world.’

The indispensable role of art is not up for dispute, and political apathy is not an option.
This is the time to create Australia’s future.

For more information on funding programs, visit our Artist Opportunities page and visualarts.net.au

Prudence Flint: The Wish

In The Wish (2020), a woman lies prone on the bed; head to one side, with her arms tucked beneath her chest. She is still; resting. An unplayed guitar beside her sustains the quiet in the room. We watch, patiently, in silence for her next move.

Prudence Flint’s ‘psychologically charged environments’ draw the viewer into acts of inadvertent voyeurism, seduced by semi-undressed figures and a glimpse into intimate everyday domestic activities – from nourishing a child, bathing and sleeping, to coition. Their averted stares rupture the tranquillity of the scene and encourage the viewer to explore the true complexity of their narratives. I spoke with Flint ahead of her first show with Fine Arts, Sydney.

In paused moments of contemplation, what lies beyond the frame, or within the emotional framework of the characters?

I’m trying to create a scene of familiar tension where the surface of the paint, the shapes, the colours, the figures, form a whole. I want a feeling of intimacy and intensity. I think about early renaissance paintings where the viewer enters into a world, and a clear story is being told, but not without ambiguity and complexity. I like it when my unconscious distorts and gives unexpected qualities to the images. As in a dream, I don’t always know exactly what is going on in the narratives, but I am attracted to certain arrangements of shadows, furniture, angles, poses and objects and the atmosphere this creates.

You often focus on the single figure, yet occasionally you insert a second. Does this complicate the narrative or relationship of the composition?

It has taken me a long time to tackle the complexity of arranging multiple figures. There are certain curious blind spots in the social world regarding figurations of women-with-women unless it is clearly spelt out, but I am most attracted to mysterious gatherings. Couplings of men and women are tricky to paint because the symbolic law creates such primal fixed power relations. I find myself needing to play with angles and size relations for months before I can start painting because of all-the-trouble it brings. I have to subjugate the male figure in relation to the female figure; otherwise, the male figure colonises the narrative. Women need space for anything desirous or impossible to happen.

So, what role does the male figure, or male audience, play in works such as The Cup (2020); laying on the bed, asleep and exposed while his female counterpart stands semi-clothed and drinking?

He’s definitely the sacrifice in this work.

There are recurring objects in this series – for example, the seashell and the apple – what relevance do they hold?

I want the objects in my paintings to sit well within the narrative. I will often change them, paint them in, remove them several times until they feel right. Both the apple and the shell are meaning-laden in relation to the female subject. Shells are womb-like and have receptive oceanic listening associations with the Roman Goddess Venus (born of seafoam). The biting of the apple as symbolic of womanpower in biblical stories and fairy tales. These objects sit well in this series of paintings because of the themes of desire and loss.

Do your distortions of the female form and restricted palette of flat pastel pinks and muted pared-back greens tones attribute to the emotive psyche of the works?

I want the distortions to give emotional weight to the figures. I like it when the distortions become almost uncomfortable – but not quite. Colour has to have a temperature and work spatially within the picture plane, and its associations need to work within the narrative. I want the colour and surface of the paint to be pleasurable and palpable.

In this time of crisis and isolation, do you think your paintings can be redefined or given new relevance in regards to enforced solitude and self-reflection?

Context will always temper how an artwork is received. Being home for me is real sanctuary, where all my epiphanies, realisations and emotional shifts happen, and it is also where I paint. Solitude is highly desirable (necessary). It gives everything else meaning. My paintings are concerned with a self-relation that has developed over a long period of time.

Fine Arts, Sydney
13 May to 20 June 2020
Sydney

‘Reopening windows to other worlds through art’

This week has marked our first cautious steps out of lockdown and into a ‘COVIDSafe‘ Australia as slowing rates of infection have prompted an easing of restrictions on gathering and movement across the country. Businesses and workplaces are gradually starting to reopen, offering hope of a return to some semblance of normality – although social distancing and other precautions will remain in place for the foreseeable future. While many in the hospitality and retail sectors anxiously adapt to new limits on the volume and density of their clientele, all eyes in the arts are turned toward the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) in Darwin, the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) in Adelaide and the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) in Sydney, the first state and territory galleries to announce their reopening, with more likely on the way soon.

MAGNT Darwin, the Museum of Central Australia, Megafauna Central and Lyons Cottage opened their doors on 18 May as part of the second stage in the Northern Territory Government’s ‘Roadmap to the New Normal. Discovery Centres in Darwin and Alice Springs, the Defence of Darwin Experience and Fannie Bay Gaol remain closed, and all reopened venues must enforce strict physical distancing and hygiene measures, but many in the territory will undoubtedly find great cause for celebration and reassurance in this sign of change, perfectly timed to coincide with International Museum Day. Another sign of change is the continued commitment to online initiatives reaffirmed by MAGNT Director Marcus Schutenko, indicating that a dual approach to exhibitions and public programs will likely remain a defining feature of our arts landscape for some time yet.

In Adelaide, AGSA Director Rhana Devenport ONZM has announced that the gallery will reopen from 8 June, again with strict physical distancing, capacity limits and increased hygiene measures in place. ‘While attendances will be diligently monitored and the safety guidelines outlined by Government adhered to,’ Devenport assures, ‘we are so pleased to welcome a limited capacity of visitors … reopening windows to other worlds through art.’ Like MAGNT, AGSA will also maintain a commitment to the provision of online resources and an active social media presence. Most recently, AGNSW Director Michael Brand announced the reopening of that gallery on 1 June.

Ironically, despite the closure of galleries and museums across Australia and the possibility that visitor numbers will be down for some time, the pandemic has likely inspired an expansion rather than contraction in other areas of engagement, with podcasts, video tours and interactive encounters opening collections and exhibitions to a broad diversity of regional, interstate and overseas audiences.

For the arts, as for other sectors, our first tentative steps out of lockdown and into an uncertain future have revealed the extent to which the medical and economic devastation brought about by COVID-19 compel a reassessment of our priorities. It cannot be denied that many people and institutions have suffered greatly and continue to suffer as the crisis intensifies elsewhere in the world – a reminder that we cannot become complacent and must remain cautious in our efforts to recover. Yet for those who have the good fortune to weather the storm, this has also been a lesson in the need to adapt and innovate, to make use of new technologies, and to share our advantages and resources with the widest possible audience. It is this commitment to diversity, transparency and accessibility that offers our best hope for a better future.

Dr Alex Burchmore, Publication Manager

Painted Silos Are Turning the Outback Into an Alfresco Art Gallery – Atlas Obscura

Australia was bled dry. From 2017 to 2019 the sunburned country endured one of its worst droughts on record—a prolonged natural disaster that forced farmers to walk away from their land and left rural towns reeling. With no tourist dollars to depend on, such towns were in danger of being erased from the landscape.

Until the painted grain silos began to appear, that is.

In the past few years, an unlikely public-art movement has burst to life in the outback, giving visitors a reason to travel long hours on dusty roads to the middle of nowhere—and giving at least some of those remote towns a reason for hope.

The first painted silo actually preceded the drought when it appeared in 2015, in the Wheatbelt town of Northam. There, in the arid outback of Western Australia, a cultural nonprofit called FORM recruited two well-known street artists, Phlegm and HENSE, to paint eight 124-foot-tall silos owned by Australia’s largest grain exporter, a growers’ cooperative called the CBH Group. What they hoped would be Australia’s largest outdoor murals—part of an unnamed project aimed at bringing art to the country’s dusty interior—soon became much more than that.

The silos were a hit, and became the catalyst for the Public Silo Trail—a joint project of the CBH Group and FORM that brought international artists to towns in Western Australia hankering for their own enhanced silos. The towering artworks that have resulted, visible for miles around, have been a boon, with visitors spending their time and money at local pubs and lodgings.

The silo trail has since extended to other states in the country, including New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Queensland. Towns have formed silo art committees to apply for government grants, raise funds, and join the Australian Silo Art Trail, which connects remote communities through art and tourism.

Today there are 35 painted silos dotting rural Australia, many of which are owned by GrainCorp. They’re accessible via six driving trails that span 4,700 miles—a public open-air gallery improbably blooming in the outback. And there may be more soon: 25 towns around Australia are currently planning new commissions.

Each painted silo tells a story about the region, its people, and its history. These are a few of them.

Barraba, New South Wales Annette Green

In March 2019, Sydney artist Fintan Magee was selected to paint the privately owned Barraba Silos. After speaking to local residents to get a sense of the town, Magee conceived this 131-foot-tall mural. Completed in 24 days, it depicts a man searching for groundwater using a Y-shaped divining rod—a technique still widely used in Australia.

Yelarbon, Queensland Tex Acola

Yelarbon is a small town on the edge of a spinifex desert. Artist Joel Fergie (aka The Zookeeper), envisioned painting an oasis on the silos here, but due to health reasons was unable to complete his work. Jordache Castillejos and Jordon Bruce—members, along with Fergie, of the Brisbane group Brightsiders—took over and created a hopeful mural of a boy cooling off in the Yelarbon Lagoon with a paper boat in his hand. The artists used more than 264 gallons of paint across 19,375 square feet.

Nullawil, Victoria Robin Dunk

Sam Bates (aka Smug) used a cherry-picker to paint this mural of an Australian kelpie named Jimmy sitting beside a human companion—a concept the artist settled on after seeing photographs of daily life in the town. It took Bates 14 days to paint this 80-year old silo, which cost $115,480 AUD—a sum raised by the Pick My Project community grants initiative in Victoria.

Sea Lake, Victoria Ron Bonham

This mural by Fergie and Vinson tells the story of the Boorong people. The indigenous group is known for its astrological knowledge and ability to understand the changing seasons using constellations. With a vivid, vibrant backdrop, the mural depicts a young girl swinging from a mallee eucalyptus tree, gazing out over a lake and surrounded by native animals. The project took 11 months from conception to execution, with 20 days of painting.

Devenish, Victoria Annette Green

Melbourne street artist Cam Scale painted the 19th silo on the trail. The first stage was unveiled on Anzac Day 2018 and included two tall silos—one depicting a World War I nurse, the other a modern female military medic—painted to celebrate the centenary of the war’s end. The second stage, unveiled a year later, is a tribute to the mounted troops known as the Australian Light Horse. Painted on two shorter silos, it honors the 50 young men and women from Devenish who enlisted in the military a century ago. At the time, that meant that one in six of the town’s residents went to war.

Behind Closed Doors

Social distancing measures put the onus on galleries and artists to rapidly re-think how to share their work with audiences. For most, the answer was to close and thrive online. However, artists whose work was either scheduled to open, or already on display, felt the sting of this swift, yet necessary response. Meanwhile, with a second wave of upcoming exhibitions due to be installed also postponed, they were gifted some extra time to digitise their shows. I spoke with several artists who work with drawing, painting and sculpture to comment on the extraordinary situation that they found themselves in.

At Australian Galleries, Sydney, all the preliminary work had finished and the show had been hung. It was opening night for Camie Lyons who was uncertain of what to expect. Her fears allayed when many people did attend to share in the celebrations of the artist’s first exhibition with the gallery. Delighted with the audience response who ventured out on that night, she commented ‘it was still a beautiful evening and I felt way more supported than expected, people must have decided to come out for one last hurrah before shutdown. I was grateful so many felt that way.’

Camie Lyons, Honeyeater, 2018, bronze on concrete, 70 x 60 x 27cm. Courtesy the artist and Australian Galleries, Sydney

In Brisbane, Edwina Corlette Gallery closed the doors indefinitely as restrictions were ordered. It was the one, and only, day that Jane Guthleben’s exhibition was open to the public. With all the pre-show activity and marketing already done, including installation photographs, meant a different online pathway lay ahead. While Corlette adhered to health guidelines she was able to take individuals in the gallery, but Guthleben was in Sydney when the borders closed, making it impossible to attend her exhibition and the scheduled talk was cancelled.

At Tamworth Regional Gallery in New South Wales, closure was about to take place on the very day that Rowan Matthews was delivering his body of work. He arrived at the gallery in time to hear the news that the Director, Bridget Guthrie, had been instructed to close the doors to the public; opening night did not go ahead. However, Guthrie decided to hang the show determined to push on with creating the exhibition under the new conditions.

Back in Sydney, Kate Dorrough was in her studio with an upcoming exhibition at Arthouse Gallery due to open 5 May. As time passed from late March through April, the ground kept shifting; Dorrough said she had to ‘put uncertainty aside and focus on the works themselves’. Apprehension about the unknown eventually turned into reassurance that the exhibition would go ahead, albeit differently, and an early deadline for photography helped.

Kate Dorrough, River Language installation view, Arthouse Gallery. Courtesy the artist and Arthouse Gallery, Sydney

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, galleries have expanded the range of viewing portals for audiences – virtual spaces featuring videos and gallery installation photographs, and recruiting support from platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo and other social media. The artists that I spoke to had either worked with galleries or independently to increase their ‘views’.

Guthleben decided to do an Instagram talk from her home in Sydney at the time when her Brisbane gallery talk would have taken place and was thrilled with how many people joined the live feed. Later she was interviewed by Richard Morecroft for his new podcast series, ‘Exhibition’.

Jane Guthleben, Dutch still life with black cockatoos, 2019, oil on canvas, 100 x 136cm. Courtesy the artist and Edwina Corlette Gallery, Queensland

Lyons had been interviewed by Maria Stoljar for the podcast series ‘Talking with Painters’ about the works for her upcoming exhibition, which meant extra support was already in place. A virtual tour was quickly produced and uploaded, which helped to see the sculptures in the current gallery installation. Implications for Lyons didn’t stop there, with the cancellation of the Scenic World exhibition in the Blue Mountains, where she was to show sculpture, along with a residency at BigCi in Bilpin, New South Wales, which started then closed a week later.

During the past month, Arthouse Gallery has produced a series of videos for Dorrough in conversation with director Ali Yeldam, discussing each work. Dorrough says ‘the video will function as opening, introduction and artist talk’ with small bite-size introductions, or longer more detailed versions ‘this is critical to convey the scale and depth of expression in the works.’

At Tamworth, the gallery staff worked quickly with Matthews to upload online hi-res close-up and textural images of each painting and a virtual tour where viewers can click on each work for an audio artist’s statement. A new component will be an interactive ‘en plein air’ painting workshop in real-time, where participants will be engaging with Matthews and access the exhibition while working independently from their own studios.

Rowen Mathews, Rain is Emotional, 2020, oil on canvas, 152 x 198cm. Courtesy the artist and Tamworth Regional Gallery, New South Wales

Galleries and artists have worked exponentially over past weeks to meet the demands of this unprecedented situation. Still, the idea of not being able to offer a physical space has limitations.

The artists all spoke about the inadequacies of online, the sensory experience of immersion, the materiality and tactile presence, the sustained meditative approach to being in the same space as the artwork. These are the things that online simulation continues to develop. Matthews comments about his exhibition, ‘The paintings are large, moody and textural. They talk back’, and Dorrough remarks ‘scale and the surface qualities of works are difficult to convey; there is always a level of compromise that only visiting a gallery space can provide.’

It is hoped that the doors of galleries will be open again soon and we come out the other side of this pandemic equipped with a greater cognisance of flat screen technologies, that for now is the best tool available. Gone for the moment is the social aspect of community which so many are missing. Jane comments ‘I definitely miss openings. There is nothing like seeing the work together in one place, and honouring the effort of colleagues, and the power of the work.’

Kate Dorrough: River Language
Arthouse Gallery, Sydney
May 5 to 23, 2020
Online

Jane Guthleben: Grandiflora
Edwina Corlette Gallery, Queensland
March 17 to April 9, 2020
Online

Camie Lyons: A Physical Response
Australian Galleries, Sydney
March 17 to April 5, 2020
Online

Rowan Matthews: Land is Emotional
Tamworth Regional Gallery, New South Wales
March 28 to May 24, 2020
Online