Tag Archives: art

Exhibition: Arpilleras in contested spaces

Arpilleras are hand-made textiles, made by Chilean women from scraps of fabric to tell stories about life during the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990). First sailing under the political radar, due in part to their humble domestic origins, the arpilleras were eventually declared “seditious handcrafts”. Their makers, the arpilleristas, were reviled as subversive of the Chilean state and were persecuted for their critical stance and dedicated advocacy of human rights.

NO a la ley antirrerorista/NO to the antiterrorist law Chilean arpillera, Aurora Ortiz, 2011. Photo Martin Melaugh [Image c/o Te Papa Museum Wellington]

NO a la ley antirrerorista/NO to the antiterrorist law
Chilean arpillera, Aurora Ortiz, 2011. Photo Martin Melaugh

Curator Roberta Bacic, a Chilean now based in Ulster in Northern Ireland, brought approximately twenty pieces from her personal collection to stage an exhibition of arpilleras in Wellington, New Zealand, in conjunction with the Third International Conference on Visual Methods. In her conference keynote address, Roberta highlighted the historical and contemporary significance of the arpilleras as acts of political testimony, which have inspired similar works in other “contested spaces” around the world. She framed them as deserving the status of works of art, beyond “folk craft”.

The arpilleras were exhibited in St Andrew’s Church, in the heart of the city—a fitting location, as the MC pointed out, due to the important role of church communities in helping to support the arpilleristas and the Chilean community in exile. An opening night hosted by the Chilean community in Wellington and in the presence of the Chilean Ambassador to New Zealand brought together stories of the arpilleristas and their work in song, dance, poetry, story, and film.

This was an extraordinary exhibition, and an important moment for the Chilean community to have some recognition of its history. The Pinochet years are not “past”—many Chileans live with the legacy of this time. To see Chilean community members Ines and Katya dance La Cueca Sola, in memory of women whose husbands “disappeared” under the regime, brought some audience members to tears. The remarkable thing is that many arpilleras express a love of life and hope for the future. The message of the arpilleristas is ultimately one of democracy, justice and peace.

Arpilleras in contested spaces, at St Andrew’s on the Terrace, Wellington NZ, ends on 6 September.


InspiringPlaces#4: The Cedars, Hahndorf

A visit to the Heysen estate, The Cedars, brings the lives and works of this artistic family vividly to life. Set on the outskirts of Handorf, a Lutheran German colony in the Adelaide Hills, the property nestles into the undulating pastoral country that Hans Heysen obsessively reconfigured in his landscapes. With its screened verandah, stoves and inglenooks, the homestead is a northern European house in Peramangk country. Heysen’s studio is left as it was during the artist’s working life: tubes of colour, sketches, props. Family memorabilia hints at the complex relationship of father Hans and daughter Nora, both painters.

Studio of Hans Heysen, The Cedars

Studio of Hans Heysen, a chalet in miniature. Photograph by Jose Morales on Flickr.com. Some rights reserved.

Alex Selenitsch: AGORA at Place Gallery

I enjoyed AGORA, the recent show from Alex Selenitsch, held last month at Place Gallery. Place is an intimate and tranquil venue, tucked away in Richmond’s industrial backstreets. With a fresh exhibition program that covers a wide range of media and contemporary themes, it is well worth seeking out.

Work by Alex Selenitsch, Place Gallery, July 2013

AGORA was installed upstairs. The work featured two striking timber “shields” (created from offcuts from the timber workshop in the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at the University of Melbourne); a series of mixed-media drawings and collages; and a further series of acrylic and timber sculptures (the polis series). All related to questions of architecture and urban form, particularly in relation to two key sites: the Stoa of Attilos at the site of the Agora in Athens, and Arthur Circus in Hobart. Two very different spaces, borne of different cultures and times; yet each place could be said to represent (or reproduce) a certain ideal of social encounter as it occurs in public space. Each space is, of course, overlain with buildings, people, human activities, roads, rubble, and representations—such as photographs. Together, these activities and objects ensure the persistence of space in individual and collective memories over time and across distance.

The meaning of representations shifts over time, and accordingly I appreciated that many of the works could be read in multiple ways. The timber “shields”, for instance, could easily be read as three-dimensional plans or models of an imagined urban landscape, with buildings scattered around bold Graeco-Roman geometric axes. In the contemporary Australian scene, the proposal that a city might be read as a shield also takes on an unexpected and highly ambivalent political meaning, for this viewer at least. For the measuring and mapping of space may work hand in hand with processes of social inclusion and exclusion, particularly for recent arrivals to the community.

Installation by Alex Selenitsch, Place Gallery, July 2013

Unlike Selenitsch’s previous show, flotsamandjetsam, AGORA did not foreground ideas of migration, movement, and displacement, but instead highlighted measurement, mapping, and drawing. There is continuity in the work that reveals itself in Selenitsch’s preoccupation with form-making—or with what he terms assemblage—as an act of translation.

Alex Selenitsch
AGORA: shields, maps & transparencies
3 July to 27 July 2013
Place Gallery, Richmond, Melbourne

“flotsamandjetsam”: New exhibition by Alex Selenitsch

"dispersed brown slab" by Alex Selenitsch

A new show of works by Alex Selenitsch opens at Place Gallery in Richmond on 9 May.

Alex is a man of many talents: poet, teacher, architect, artist (in no particular order). Formally, his visual works often appear modernist in inspiration, but they also draw on the artist’s personal recollections and interest in identity and the history of place. Words and their placement are also important.

The title of his latest show, “flotsamandjetsam”, is testament to all this. The show promises mixed media, collage, intense colour harmonies – and perhaps a dash of agent provocateur sensibility.

Looking at Alex’s work, I am often reminded of Paul Klee. Klee also favoured mixed media, and his works on paper are characterised by texture and vibrant colour. “Abstract” forms break up and float free from the confines of the modernist grid. There is a sense of playfulness, a willingness to look differently at things. Alex’s work is very much his own, but I find similar (to me, admirable) qualities there.