Artwrite winners 2012

The winners of the 2012 Artwrite competition were selected by the editors of Art & Australia magazine and Leeanne Carr, coordinator of secondary education programs at the Art Gallery of NSW.

Their winning entries are reproduced here, unedited.

Section 1: Art labels

Winner, intermediate: years 7–10

Emann-Ray Arago
Penrith Selective High School

Ugo Rondinone
all MOMENTS stop here and together we become every memory that has ever been 2002

Windows are symbols in society of looking out into your future. The window is situated against a blank wall, foreshadowing the isolation it possesses. The white frame of the window gives a sense of that it was once flooding with daylight, reassurance in one’s life. Uncertainty and loneliness is provided with the empty background, a blank canvas, where it is up to the person to imagine and discover the unknown ahead.

Section 2: Art essay

Winner, intermediate: Years 7–10

Ella Werman
Moriah College

Klippel fever

Through the collaborative fusion of Cubist and Constructivist art making theories, Robert Klippel’s assemblage Fever Chart has come about. 68.8cm in height, this abstract construction entails the conjunction of a gouache painted wooden frame, with the cutout pieces of a jigsaw and lengths of dowel. “Junk parts, I just see them as shapes, I forget about it being junk… making a sculpture is all that matters”. Klippel seemingly disregards the initial impression of junk to subsequently uncover its full potential once recycled. Klippel exceeds the boundaries of real life by entering the complex process of the human mind, making him a surrealist evident in other sculptures such as Madame Sophie. Following the conventional process of Cubism, Klippel brakes up, analyses, and finally re-assembles for the creation of Fever Chat, both physically and metaphorically speaking. The obscure, disconnected shapes of the sculpture’s body aim at the simplification of its entire construction, yet another characteristic of Cubist practice.

Klippel recognises “a relationship existing between organic trees and men”. In principle, he clearly outlines the association of the sculpture’s wooden composition in comparison to that of a man, both natural creatures of growth. In such a context, the axis, or midpoint is symbolic of a human’s central spinal support. Figuratively speaking, the flat planes emerging from the fundamental building force of the sculpture could suggest arms or even broken bones. The abstract construction of flat and intersecting planes, pierced sections, voids and parallel sectors creates dimension and the implication of movement. Upon the plinth, Klippel has used a staccato line that could be a metaphoric reference to an irregular, increasing heartbeat.

Klippel cleverly indicates his focus of ‘sickness’ upon initial observation through the sculpture’s dominant dull, green colour. However, the array of chosen shades suggests irregular fluctuations of feverish behaviour of an anxious, tense energy. The random indications of red paint could convey signs of irregular blood patches. Klippel’s peculiar colour palette may be unappealing to the eye, however is quite significant in relation to its context.

Winner, senior: Years 11–12

Ainsley Halbmeyer
Sydney Girls High School

Dadang Christanto
They give evidence

Dadang Christanto is an Indonesian artist of Chinese descent, born in Indonesia in 1957 into a volatile and dangerous political climate. He has gained a significant reputation internationally as well as in his own country through his artistic oeuvre, which includes painting, drawing, performance and sculpture. His moving works have an intangible power to transcend grief and suffering.

Christanto experienced the state-induced persecution of his family, growing up through the 1965-66 massacres in Indonesia, where at the age of eight, soldiers took his father away – never to be seen again. It has been estimated that between 100,000 to 2 million people were killed in Indonesia during this period. The figures Christanto has produced are evidence of an injustice suffered, both physically and mentally, within a society tainted by power, poverty and oppression. Informed by this experience of personal suffering, Christanto does not dwell on pain – the memorial -like quality ever present in his work offers audiences a means of healing.

It is this memorial quality that was so beautifully portrayed in the monumental presence of the figures in Christanto’s installation in the AGNSW They Give Evidence. Sixteen oversized male and female figures, symbolizing victims of past atrocities, speak of the continual recurrence of systematic violence in the world. When the work was first exhibited in 2002 in Indonesia, the artist was forced to cover the figures in black cloth and red ribbon, as there was public protest against their ‘nudity’. This in itself the created a very different work, yet at the same time enhancing the issues hidden within the old – those of freedom and opression. Nonetheless the works were soon removed entirely, as religious leaders objected to their very existence. When Christanto came to exhibit this work in the Art Gallery of NSW’s new Asian galleries in 2003, he decided to create a performance piece, which was to unveil the work and give his figures a new life, presenting them in a context they had been deprived of in Indonesia. During the official opening of the Asian galleries in 2003, he uncovered them in a performance that was symbolic of allowing the figures to breathe again, to give life and expression.

There is a video in the installation where the viewer can sit and watch the artist perform this unveiling – it is a silent, reverential performance, where the only sounds are the artist’s prayer like intonation before beginning; “I can’t forget”. These works resonate on a very physical level – made of stone and larger than life, they have a serene strength that gives the whole room where they are exhibited a contemplative atmosphere, suggesting reflection and the experience of grief. I felt very humbled by these silent monoliths, their human forms- yet total lack of human expression – making them seem almost otherworldly. Through their ‘offerings’ proffered to the audience, they plead for humanity, even as this gesture reminds us of our complicity in allowing the recurrence of violent atrocities. The empty clothes held by the figures immediately confront the audience with the question: what is missing?

Christanto eloquently imbues his work with ‘multiple readings’, inviting his audience to react on universal and intensely personal levels, and for me this is the real power of the work. If we were to walk in and just observe the figures, without knowing the historic or personal grief of the artist, we would still gain a feeling from the silence these figures emit. The silent stone statues bring us back to our ancestors, reminding me of the ancient Easter Island statues or the Terracotta Warriors – beings from our past who stand witness to our actions in the present. This invokes a sense of responsibility, of obligation – the horrors of war have been presented to us as an expression of grief and in a sense disappointment. I think this quiet evidence has a much more powerful impact than the shocking images of violence and anger that we find in much contemporary art.

Although Christanto created the work in response to violence he experienced in Indonesia, They Give Evidence is not specific to any time, place or culture – the audience can take away a meaning unique to them. In doing so the artist has created an incredibly powerful work – testament to the inhumanity of man, a silent monument to communal grief.