All Stations ToDavid Capra, Jagath Dheerasekara, Marikit Santiago, Jodie Whalen, Shaza Smit, Zanny Begg. Curated by Claudia Roosen.
11-15 August 2015
Opening Night Tuesday 11 August 2015, 5-7PM
All Stations To celebrates the diversity of artists’ practices from Sydney’s Western Suburbs. Contrasting artists at differing levels in their careers, All Stations To aims to showcase a small snapshot of the current climate within the arts from ‘The West’.
Often recognised as the genesis of ‘suburbia’ in Australia, ‘The West’ has provided unique inspiration and formative experiences for the artists contributing to this show. The practices of these Western Sydney artists are unique, challenging, and contemplative and suggest that some of the most exciting work that is being made today is outside of traditional urban centres.
With a population of around 2 million people of extremely diverse backgrounds and histories, Western Sydney provides inspiration, opportunity and experiences for locals, resulting in a fresh, relevant, current, cultural hub that has been existing and developing for years. The artists represented in this show are exploring their own cultural, social identities and the identities of others in a suburban environment and creating work that gives unique insight into multiculturalism, Australian identity, the working class and the mundane. These are the experiences of Sydney’s majority.
Image: Jagath Dheerasekara - In The Outskirts Of The Australian Dream 2012-14 digital image
All Stations To review
by Laura Butler
Western Sydney: it is a place we are all familiar with, whether through our everyday lives, visits to Wet N Wild, or the ubiquitous stories on the nightly news.
We know it. Or so we believe.
Beyond understandings built through superficial snippets of information, the fact remains that Greater Western Sydney is a hub of multiculturalism, economic growth, and dynamism – making it one of Australia's largest economies and most politically influential cities. Recently, the recognition of this in the art world has been growing, with explorations of the emerging city's creative output gaining prominence. In her first curated show 'All Stations To', Claudia Roosen continues this exciting trend – bringing together six artists at varying stages of their careers to celebrate the diversity of artists' practices from within the region, in the hope “to show aspiring artists at a student level that you don’t have to move to the city to become an artist and that there are great things happening out west.” As Roosen tells me, “when I started Uni, I had no idea that there were all these cool artists and programs and institutions in Western Sydney, I thought that good art only happened in the city and all hope would be lost unless I moved. I hope that any student feeling the same could see ‘All Stations To’… and learn about some of these great artists, and hopefully look them up and discover all the other great things happening out west”.
Jagath Dheerasekara and Zanny Begg are just some of these great things, with their respective works In the Outskirts of the Australian Dream and Doing Time challenging stereotypical assumptions about Western Sydney from within. For example, while the documentary-style portraits of In the Outskirts of the Australian Dream initially recall the ‘poverty porn’ aesthetic (which recently gained prominence through the controversial television program, Struggle Street), the seemingly familiar faces before us are is humanised through a multi-hour-long looped recording of oral history interviews. Importantly, listeners will only over grasp a snippet of these people’s stories, and only begin their journey to understanding their complex lives.
Interestingly, like Doing Time, this form and the process involved in creating Dheerasekara’s photo series resembles more of a community enterprise aimed at empowering those on the “outskirts” of Sydney’s social sphere, and working with issues “in a way that gives it proper respect and looks beyond the stigma and really looks at the problems and the people”, as Roosen explains to me. Effectively then, ‘All Stations To’ provides a platform where the rich experiences and diverse opinions of ostracised voices can be shared. These include opinions concerning social housing in In the Outskirts, and youth criminality and marginalisation in Begg’s engaging, hauntingly beautiful video work, where lingering shots of piercing eyes peer into our thoughts and disrupt possible assumptions. While more ambiguous, this emphasis on community voices is also evident in David Capra’s exploration of place-making through memories of Australia’s Wonderland in Teena at Funpark,and the sentimental, domestic mundanity present in each of our everyday lives, as observed in Jodie Whelan’s Mouse.
With these works reflecting on Western Sydney from within, the inclusion of Shaza Smit’s cheekily humorous I Don’t Give a Fog indicate another important characteristic of Western Sydney which defies stereotypical perceptions – that yes, the people of Western Sydney are capable of looking beyond their own backyard. With Smit to thank for the crisply grouted tilework, this white-tiled plinth-form comments on resource use in relation to mining near the Great Barrier Reef. Recalling a bathroom vanity, the form of this interactive installation foregoes its traditional use, with no basin and the shimmering, chromatic tap sporadically gurgling out smoke. This invites us to question our responsibilities regarding domestic resource use, particularly considering the damaging global systems and industries this is perpetuating. Importantly, what Roosen and Smit show here is that identifying as an artist from Western Sydney does not limit artistic practice to exploring ideas perceived as characteristic of the region – that people from Western Sydney have just as complex and global concerns as those living elsewhere. Crawling along Parramatta Road in peak hour traffic or wobbling to the rhythm of the Western Line trains does not – surprise, surprise – condense intellectual curiosity.
To conclude, an assessment of Western Sydney in ‘All Stations To’ is perhaps best brought together through UNSWA&D graduate Marikit Santiago’s moving exploration of multicultural identities, family, and religion in The Weaning Madonna. While speaking directly of her Filipino identity, the emotional resonance of the image can be understood by all, as Santiago pays a beautiful tribute to the importance of family through a Renaissance-esque portrait of a mother nursing her child, illuminated by the near-sacralising shimmer of gold leaf. From the kitsch, mundane fun in Teena at Funpark and Mouse, to the relationships within In the Outskirts of the Australian Dream and Doing Time, plus the shared humanity of I Don’t Give A Fog: these ideas of family, relationships, and lives fully-lived in despite of stereotypes and challenges are revealed as a crucial tie linking Western Sydney together, and to the world beyond.
Thus, ‘All Stations To’ was a success in its disruption of assumptions and celebration of Greater Western Sydney, as well as its avoidance of claiming to represent the region in its entirety. Indicative of the diverse practices and experiences within Western Sydney, the exhibition’s multidisciplinary character and concern for the social was insightfully utilised by Roosen to point curious visitors down a variety of interesting paths, and reveal the true potential of art from Western Sydney.