Saturday, 21 April 2018

Thoughts on contemporary/modern art and immersion

The highlight of the 2018 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art – Divided Worlds (the sections held in the South Australian Gallery) for me were two walls. 2018 by Nike Savvas, a wall of mirrored strips, and the textured metallic surface of the opposing wall, which I assumed was just part of the setting for the exhibition as it had no identifying card. The thing about these two walls is that they were fun.

While I wasn’t as taken by the rest of the exhibition (with a few exceptions), I happily came back again and again to the two walls. It occurred to me that it was because they engaged with me, the viewer, in a way the rest of the art did not.

The thing with contemporary or modern art is that it can often seem a bit out there or, in some cases, just plain odd. Of course this can be interesting and thought provoking, but the art that I really enjoy from this broad category is the type that engages or allows you to immerse yourself in the art. Art that is odd or challenging proves more effective when it allows you to interact with the art in some way. This interaction creates a door into which a viewer can step to better understand the art, rather than being held at a distance.

The two walls interacted not just with the viewers but with the environment. Savvas’ mirrors reflected fragments of the room and the viewer, allowing you to see different things as you looked, while the opposite wall turned everything into an impressionist painting. These two pieces weren’t necessarily the most thought provoking at first glance (although a thousand words of academic or poetic prose could be written after consideration), they were the most fun.
This fun invites longer looks and greater consideration, it breaks down the barrier between the meaning of the work and the viewer.

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