Tim Olsen Drawing Prize and Exhibition 2015

18 - 29 August 2015  

Opening Night Tuesday 18 August 2015, 5-7PM 

With the intention of encouraging excellence and promoting research and practice in drawing the Tim Olsen Drawing Prize, now in its fifteenth year, and the accompanying exhibition has been an important event on our school's calendar. The Tim Olsen Drawing Prize has been a collaborative initiative between the Tim Olsen Gallery and former Department of Drawing and Painting, School of Art since 2001. This collaboration has been continuously supported by Tim Olsen Gallery and the new venture - Olsen Irwin. Since 2014 Tim Olsen Drawing Prize has been open to all Postgraduate and Honours students who use and demonstrate drawing as a very significant part of their research practice across the faculty. 


Event Image and 2014 Tim Olsen Prize Winner: Yvonne East, Peonies (installation still), 2014, Charcoal on fabric with video projection, 1500 x 4000 mm

What does it mean to draw? By Kate Stodart

In it’s fifteenth year, the Tim Olsen Drawing Prize offered a rare collection of works by current postgraduate and honours students. The true highlight of the exhibition was it’s remarkable ability to show the broad nature of drawing as a practice. For those who didn’t see the exhibition, imagine soft charcoal studies of material forms next to small, delicate figure drawings next to attention demanding pornographic figures. Now, turn the corner to neon lights, a suspended barrel and blue light torches illuminating hidden features of drawings on paper. You may have then walked away from the exhibition contemplating whether or not each work could be classified as ‘drawing’ and I have a sneaking suspicion that newfound curiousity was no accident.

Amongst the wonderful assortment of drawings was the poetic work of Elise Harmsen, a current MFA student. Pushing the potential of this age-old art of mark making and representation, Elise delves into the temporal and highly emotional nature of fleeting memories. One of her videos showed falling graphite dust being temporarily illuminated in abstract outlines of Elise’s mothers face. The second placed Elise, closed-eyed in the center of the screen as her pointed arm and finger traced the face of Jürgen Kerkovius, a close collaborator and friend who recently passed away. Together, the two works were a poignant reminder of great sorrow, the temporality of memory and the struggle to imagine in detail those we have lost. Unfortunately, in the gallery space these works were not accompanied by such context and explanation. As such the meaning and power of the works was lost. Nonetheless, I was hooked on these videos and shortly after the exhibition I sat down with Elise to talk about her current practice and the origin of these mesmerizing works.

Q. In one word, describe your current practice: 


Q. Where does your inspiration come from?

Usually, I begin in the studio doing something in front of the camera and recording it. This is often in relationship to something I’ve done before or something I’ve seen/experienced. I then watch the footage and try to find points of interest. I then slowly build on this process often stripping things back, building influence from conversations I have with other artists, their work, films, books etc.

Q. Why were you attracted to drawing? 

I think that drawing is a part of all art practice. For the work shown in the Tim Olsen prize I began to draw as a way of reconnecting images from memory and how that translates on screen. The first part of the work came from 2012, where in front of the camera, with eyes closed, I was trying to remember the face of Jürgen Kerkovius by drawing an imaginary line with my index finger. In the second part to this work, Jürgen appears on a separate screen following this line with charcoal, although the drawing remains off-screen and you only see his arm and face following the projected image of me. Following on from this and in response to Jürgen’s untimely passing in 2014, I reinterpreted this process by following a similar action. I found it an interesting process to sense a connection to him in contrast to the digital imagery we had amassed of each other throughout our seven year collaboration.  

Q. Your videos offer a beautiful questioning of what it means to draw and what constitutes drawing in a modern art context. Why did you begin to use projections? How has this new venture changed your practice?

I began to use projection quite early on. At the time Jürgen and I shared an interest in the perspectival construct of the projector and camera and the way this has reinforced a perspectival way of seeing, acting as a visual mechanism for distancing the body from it surroundings. We would often use live feeds to explore the way in which we could communicate across these spatial thresholds, attempting to bring the body back into the experience of viewing the moving image.

Q. Of the other works in the exhibition, which were you most drawn to? Why? 

Eunjoo Jang’s work was particularly mesmerising, I kept on walking around it discovering something new on each rotation. I really enjoyed how the process of making was inherent within the ideas of the work. 

Q. What projects are you currently working on?

I am currently playing with images I have found of my Mother’s apartment from real estate websites, using projection, shadow and drawing to reconnect with these very stark representations of a space I have known so well.  

Q. How do you deal with creative blocks?

I try to think about the worst thing I could do in relation to the project, do it, and then feel better that I don’t have to worry about doing the worst thing anymore. 

Q. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

Foley Artist

Kate Stodart was a participant of the White Cube Program.

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