In 2012 Inflight in Hobart was grounded, the long running Tasmanian ARI closed its doors for a time to re-think and re-invigorate itself. Becoming Constance ARI in early 2013, the name was not the only update. Constance ARI is one to watch after participating with FELTspace (SA) in the inaugural Sydney Contemporary Art Fair earlier this year, and with current exhibitions from Lucy Bleach and John Vella. Polly Dance, gallery director relocated from Adelaide and has taking the bull by the horns planning PAINTFACE, a paint extravaganza to wow the MONA FOMA crowd when it kicks off in January. The project asks questions about painting as a media, its traditions and boundaries. This series of exhibitions, performances and interactions throughout the year is set to impress including artists such as Fernando De Campo, Henry Jock Walker and Josh Foley. I caught up with Polly to ask her a few questions on how this ambitious project came about.
PAINTFACE is a bold idea for Constance, or any ARI for that matter to undertake, what was the jumping off point/idea for this project?
The ‘jumping off point’ or starting point for PAINTFACE really began with conversations between myself and Laura Hindmarsh, who was the Chair of Constance at the time, about what we could do during January to take full advantage of the MONA FOMA Festival and the great number of tourists in Hobart. At this point in time the Board of Constance and I were in the process of planning the next 6 month exhibition program for the gallery and we had to decide whether we would close for the month of January (like most ARI’s do) or do something really amazing that would draw a crowd and get people talking and thinking about Tasmanian art differently. I proposed to put together a curatorial project that would launch in January before the MONA FOMA and would continue as a series of exhibitions throughout the year. The idea for PAINTFACE came as a response to the gap I saw in the art scene in Tasmania for painters to experiment with site-specificity and the materiality of paint. For a state that has one of the oldest and most recognised painting history I was surprised at the lack of opportunities and venues for painters to push the boundaries of their practices.
There are many places in Tasmania and Hobart specifically for painters to show and sell their work commercially but very little opportunity for experimental painting to occur. From there I pulled together an unlikely group of mostly Tasmanian painters or artists wanting to experiment with paint and found sites for their specific work/working projects to be presented. These series of exhibition will happen throughout 2014 and begin at Constance artist-run initiative gallery and surrounding spaces and will be an ongoing progression throughout the year.
As you noted, this project is in response to the struggle painters and artists more generally sometimes find themselves in between the commercial and the experimental/exploratory side of their practice, how will this project will address these issues?
PAINTFACE brings together artists from various points in their career, from emerging to established, many of whom are represented by local commercial galleries. These artists have expressed and demonstrated a hunger for their practices to extend outside these commercial realms and off the canvas into more unconventional and experimental areas. All these painters have already begun to push the boundaries and take their work off the wall but not been given the freedom to explore this further, until now.
The reality is that many of these artists have to serve what the galleries and arts markets want because they live off their art and their primary income. The Australia Council for the Arts Presentation and Promotion grant has provided the much needed funds to support the production and fee of these artists for their participation in PAINTFACE. Giving these artists the freedom that they have been longing for and what’s better, reward for doing something different.
What are your big hopes for the outcomes of PAINTFACE?
My greatest hope, apart from allowing and ‘giving the permission’ for these artists to truly experiment with the paint medium, is that PAINTFACE transforms peoples understanding of what contemporary painting practice is and can be. I am so looking forward to providing the general public with the opportunity to see the ‘guts and glory’ of painting and to see behind the scenes, to look closer and to question what it is all about.
Will we see other ‘FACES’ in the future from Constance?
There have been conversations about what other ‘FACE’ might appear and how this series might develop into the future. What I know for sure is that this is an ongoing process and one that I’m very excited to be a part of. When the paint hits the fan there’s no knowing what can happen!
PAINTFACE was funded by the Visual Arts Section of Arts Funding at the Australia Council through the 2013 Presentation and Promotion Grant. And it opens January 8 2014.