Soma Art Space in Brunswick, Melbourne, hosted my solo show in November 2018. The work looked amazing in this beautiful, light filled gallery on busy Sydney Rd. I felt encouraged by the uplifting feedback and encouragement I received from the many people who came to see the show. Most people seemed surprised at how much they connected with the story and loved the detail and quality of the artworks.
To all of you who made it to the opening night or came into the gallery during the exhibition in the following days: Thank you! I drew enormous courage and motivation, to dream up new goals for my future work.
For those who couldn’t attend or want a reminder, come on a small video tour of the Gallery space:
HANGING A SHOW is a big task. How the works are seen in relation to each other is all important, but that’s only the beginning. You have to weigh up many factors such as: size, colours, subject matter, shape, contrast, height, placement’ balancing and counter balancing different principles until you find the right fit for the show; no, one exhibition layout is the same. This is a dynamic process, potentially full of complexity. It turned out that in this show, the artworks found their place with little effort… a rarity. I started by prioritizing the visual integrity of the artworks; weighing up their size, medium, appearance and mood with the story line.
Though the work was heavily based on a story, my aim was for the art to dictate how it would be told. This meant surrendering to the visual flow of the art. I had to consider, to some degree, the possibility of approaching it as a ‘lineal story-telling’ or, the sequence in which the art was created. Each artwork had a significant description placed on the wall next to it; either a caption that was the storyteller’s voice, or the art process with more of the artist’s voice.They were treated as having the whole story within them, operating on their own merit but also worked together as a whole, like pages in a book. To give visitors a context for the show I included two large plagues, one with an introduction to the show printed on it, at the entrance of the gallery and a Bio placed towards the back of the space, .
THE TO-DO LIST: Though incredibly rewarding, there is a massive list of things to do in the build up to staging a solo exhibition. And at some point, it runs parallel to creating the art. Often times in an exhibition of this scale a commercial gallery oversees everything that occurs outside of the artist’s creative studio. For this show however, I oversaw and implemented every aspect of my show, as the gallery space was run as a pop up venue. This left me full freedom but also, total responsibility for its organisation, promotion, installation and presentation.
Apart from creating the art, months in advance I prepared the labels, the layout of information, catalogs, window display and shop frontage. I even went as far as to arrange and create signage for the gallery. Finally in its fruition, on opening night, I had the support of an awesome team of family and friends which included my two young nieces, wearing colourful ‘Gallery Staff’ badges.
OPENING NIGHT: Speech time came on opening night and I tackled my nerves to perform the entire story by heart for the crowd. In the tradition of the ‘bard’ i told a story in as animated a way as I could muster, given that I could hear my heart beating louder than my voice ! Though my attempt was modest I experienced first hand, the value and power that this had for the audience/viewer and the artworks. On the days that followed, with renewed confidence I offered gallery attendees a performance of the story. The artworks played the role of signposts for the storytelling,, complimenting visually as I recited the tale. This became a great way to deeply connect people to the tale and allow further musings and interest in the artworks, to develop.
For me personally constructing a story with the art and then, considering all aspects of presentation of that story, has paved the way for further explorations into Storytelling within the contemporary art space. The power of a: “Once upon a time..” offers audiences, of all ages and cultural backgrounds, connection with a tradition that resonates deeply with our innate creativity and wonder.