Connecting with AGNSW

  • Categories: Blog
  • Date: 29th February 2012
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I was fortunate enough to go to the preview of Level 2 Contemporary Projects exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW last week, hosted by CCB the Contemporary Collection Benefactors of the Gallery.

Level 2 Projects is a small room in the midst of the contemporary exhibitions space on, obviously, level 2 of the Gallery – head down 2 sets of escalators – in which artists (mostly Australian) have an opportunity to exhibit their work. Artists are invited to submit ideas and concepts which the curatorial staff assess closely. The resulting exhibited work is not necessarily acquired by the Gallery – that is not the intention – rather the projects space affords an opportunity for the Gallery to engage more closely with the very broad and vibrant community of practising artists and provides the artists, an opportunity to place themselves and their work in the major cultural institution of the State. It can bring accolades and credibility for the artist and extends the Gallery’s reputation for being open, groovy and committed to contemporary practices.
More often than not the artist thinks big and ambitions soar. The Gallery is a grandiose place, in structure and concept and we should expect great things to come from it. We should expect grandiose gestures from the artists who are fortunate enough to create whatever they wish (with a few strings attached) in it. Invariably the resulting work becomes a major piece in the artist’s body of work.  
The 2012 programme was launched with an installation by Eugenia Raskopoulos, titled Footnotes. The preview was a really pleasant evening – welcoming, informal and informative, the artist in attendance and in public conversation with the Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art Anneke Jaspers, the much needed 6pm glass of wine & an olive and a catch up with fellow CCBer’s. So civilised.
Raskopoulos is interested in language, as words, as culture and as meaning; how it is formed, where it comes from, what it alludes to and how it is expressed. Footnotes is 3 interrelated photographic and video pieces and has obvious language in it – that is, words are spelt out – but it is also the language of the body, its sexuality and gender, which is played with. 
She draws and writes in red: the polish on the tidy toenails of what I presume are her feet; the lipstick which spells out in video staccato onanism (I have to admit I had to looked it up – ‘seeking one’s own sexual pleasure’) which confirms another dimension to the work and then, so female, the dripping, pooling ‘blood’ at the feet of the same woman’s feet. Colour, language and the body speak loudly and boldly of female sexuality: the colour red; the clean, elegant feet and toes, a highly erogenous zone; and words, ‘moist’, ‘onanism’. 

Eugenia Raskopoulos footnotes 2011 (detail from still), 3-channel digital video, sound, installation, 4.18 min, courtesy the artist and William Wright // Artists Projects

This is not the work of a Gen Y chick, but of a woman who has lived and breathed women’s sexual politics in all its intellectual and physical intensity over the past decades and has explored aesthetic means to determine a personal expression and understanding. It is a piece of steadfast revolution. It’s not an easy piece, and possibly difficult for above the couch. But stay with it, it seduces slowly and gradually takes a commanding hold over you. 

So back to my host at the Gallery last week, the CCBIt is a benefactor group at the Art Gallery of NSW, managed by the Curator and a committee of dedicated boisterous volunteers, which raises funds for the acquisition of contemporary Australian art by the Gallery. The Gallery receives no government funding to build its collections & relies solely on patronage. CCB has been going strong for about 15 years now and has become a solid group of passionate, lively, interested & interesting people, who come together to learn more about & enjoy contemporary art. The annual programme of events is usually made up of exhibition previews, private curator-led tours, a look into a private or corporate collection, trips to a major interstate/ international art event or a hoot of a party, CCB makes contemporary art an essential part of working, social and thinking life.
You pay to join – an affordable (though not cheap) annual fee which is wholly tax deductible, always an incentive – and your membership fee goes towards these acquisitions. Some of you may perceive CCB as exclusive, but I don’t believe it operates that way. The Gallery is remarkably welcoming and egalitarian and CCB follows that lead. It’s not about who you know or even who you are, but about your own personal interest and desire to know more about contemporary art. It is about giving too, at a level at which you are comfortable. 
Some people are well versed in benefaction and are incredibly generous. Andrew and Cathy Cameron is one couple which regularly steps forward to contribute to a prospective acquisition, exhibition or publication. They maintain ongoing support of the Contemporary Projects on level 2.
Now, I am off to Adelaide to catch up with a group of fellow CCB’ers, for the opening of the Adelaide Biennial and other things arty. It is my idea of fun – great company, a well organised, packed programme of art, speakers, colleagues & dinners (always delicious in Adelaide). It is a welcome indulgence being able to immerse myself completely in this world for a few days.
But today is also the beginning of Art Month Sydney. Hang onto your hats! It is art at every turn. Check out their website for what’s on in March. Pinch and a punch for the first of the month!
News from Adelaide next week.

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