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Curator‘s Note

Dr. Megan Evans

Open House is a bit of an anomaly at present. We can’t really open our houses at the moment. The gallery has had its doors closed since March due to COVID restrictions and this exhibition, as with many others we have had this year has had to transform into something else. We had planned for comfy couches and conversations about art, situated amongst the work of our wonderful local artists, however this digital form allows viewers to find their own comfy couch to travers the world of our artists.

We hope it inspires conversations in the households of Wyndham.

The ten artists who have been selected by our guest curators, hand in hand with our in house curators, are Jeff San Agustin (aka Vifilante Creative), Angela Hickey, Duain Kelaart, Stephanie Lenehan, Moreen Wellington Lyons, Catherine Mackay, Dean Patchett (aka Tilter), Crystal Peterlin, Stephanie Prole, and MIchelle RIpari. 

The artistic life of Wyndham is growing and OPEN HOUSE is an exhibition that celebrates this. Ayesha Dharmabandu and Paul Zahra are two community members and artists themselves, who have been active in developing the local arts mob through the Artists Co-operative Red West. They have been mentored by myself and co-curator Caroline Esbenshade, who was one of the originators of RedWest, to discover and select the work on show. It is great to see members of our local community step up and be involved. Living and working in a locality is a great opportunity to help create your community, allowing you agency in the places and spaces where you reside.

Ayesha and Paul have worked together to experience the difficulty and also the joy of curating. There are always many ways an exhibition can go. It is like building a house; you have to have the framework first and then there are so many choices to make, should you do a slick modern house or a 70’s revival style. Once those decisions are made that determines the wall colours and the fittings. It is the same with selecting works for an exhibition. Choices are made by what goes with what and how the overall exhibition fits together. It is sometimes said that curating an exhibition is like making a work of art using other people’s work. It all has to hang together.

This exhibition includes a wide variety of mediums, from video to papier-mâché to fine pencil drawing. Jeff San Agustin’s works are heroic in nature. Chadwick Forever is no doubt a note to Chadwick Boseman who tragically passed away recently, being the much-loved star of Black Panther. In Jeff’s image the character from the fictional film stands atop what could be a memorial stone carved of the man himself. He also reworks the fairy tale of Alice in Wonderland into a powerful modern-day woman.

Catherine MacKay deals with the feelings of social isolation that we are all too familiar with at the moment in her work by that name. We see the crush of faces and pets, all distorted somehow by the attempt to fit into the frame. Alternatively, her work Sienna shows a woman alone contemplating a plant, possibly the other equally difficult but different experience of being alone through isolation.

Moreen Wellington Lyons work speaks about connection to country. As a Jaadwa woman from western Victoria living in Wyndham her connection to her land  and community is evident in her beautiful painting, On Land is Home. Gariwerd is the traditional name for the Grampians and her painting Gariwerd Rainbow Serpent seems to be a tribute to that country and sacred place.

A different sense of place is evoked in Stephanie Lenehan’s photographs. Inquietude 1 and Inquietude at Grand Central Station. Both include portraits of a young girl standing with an orange slash across her eyes. She stands alone in both photographs and the orange intervention in the black and white photograph seems almost violent, a paradox against her title. Perhaps it is a comment on the silence of personal reflection.

Both Michelle Ripari’s pencil work and Duain Kelaart’s papier-mâché sculptures hint at long hours lovingly toiled over their art practice. Michelle takes seemingly random slices of life and literally draws attention to them. Dad’s Beast is a corner of what is presumably her father’s car, a Ford Falcon. Both the image and the title bring up associations with loved old cars that hang around long after their due by date and their roadworthiness. Discarded is a close up of rubbish and Michelle’s attention to detail takes something insignificant and gives meaning to it.

Duain has spent thousands of hours constructing Al Drago and Chupacabra Gargoyle Hybrid. They are wonderfully wrought and fabulous examples of the imagination bought to life in 3D. It is always a pleasure for me to see such things that have the mark of the hand in them, not computer generated or 3D printed.

Stephanie Prole’s paintings, Small Window and Hotel Soap are as delicate as Duain’s dragons are robust. Her deft use of acrylic to give us a glimpse of a dwelling including the damaged roof and cracked wall are masterful, as is the simple Hotel Soap image.

Crystal Peterlin has similarly mastered the digital world with her new age creations. There is a uniformity in her artwork that works well as a suite. She creates an otherworld that we can dream into with the replication in the image.

Dean Patchett is a graffiti artist with a difference. He takes photographs of trains and then does his graffiti on the photographs. I guess we could call him a virtual graffer. His work is a fine example of that genre. His designs are dynamic and he provides another way to practice his art without getting arrested.

It’s a pleasure to see these artist bloom in our virtual OPEN HOUSE exhibition. We look forward to the day when we can actually open our doors and have them all visit the gallery to make themselves known and celebrate our local creativity in what has been a challenging time.

Wyndham Art Gallery
Great Art. Deep West.