Jon Campbell, Dream team (detail) 2012, enamel paint on plywood. 22 paintings, installation (variable): 300 x 300 cm. © Courtesy the artist, Kalimanrawlins, Melbourne; and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. Photo: Mark Ashkanasy
editor Jeff Sparrow recently questioned
the relationship between art and sport:
‘What’s the difference between sport and art? Can you make a rigid distinction? ... Sport [also] involves a codification, with the action defined by a set of rules rather than a script, but perhaps the same thing might be said about improvisational art. What, then, is the distinction and what’s at stake in it?’
The Basil Sellers Art Prize, currently showing at the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne, examines these enquiries. Encompassing a range of distinct responses, the exhibition is an expansive look at the potential for a relationship between art and sport and what such a relationship could mean for contemporary art practise.
The relationship between two established industries has, in the past few years, become a point of interest for many contemporary artists, and this show takes us on a journey through the multiple and simultaneous responses to the themes. Exhibiting artists are Brook Andrew, Richard Bell, Lauren Brincat, Jon Campbell, Eugene Carchesio, Greg Creek, Louise Herman, Pat Macan, Gabriella and Silvana Mangano, Simon Perry, Kerrie Poliness, Patrick Pound, Sangeeta Sandrasegar and Christian Thompson.
Thompson, in To make you feel this way, presents a large format self portrait in oversaturated colours, in which – adorned with cheap medals, pink lipstick and a swimming cap – he looks wistfully into the distance. Presented with the photograph are gold medals featuring his portrait delicately embossed into their surfaces. He tells a story of a school swimming carnival in which he comes first and is subsequently disqualified on a technicality. The extreme sway between pride and loss felt deeply as an adolescent imbues the work with a haunting nostalgia, underpinned by the kitsch presentation of ceremonial sporting accoutrements.
Winner of the illustrious prize of $100,000 was Jon Campbell with his series of paintings entitled Dream Team. Towering over the viewer on the wall, in pastel hues, were stylized renderings of sporting nicknames on small canvases in assorted sizes. Campbell’s work positions itself in an interesting cross section of Australian vernacular and sporting culture.
On a dated television monitor, we are presented with The life and death of Ewan Chatfield by Pat Macan. Here we see footage from the final days of a test cricket match between New Zealand and England displaying batsman Ewan Chatfield knocked unconscious at the wicket. The footage is part of an installation that includes painting and object-based work, which combine to focus on the seminal moment between life and death as experienced in public.
Cropped close, and filling most of the frame in Lauren Brincat’s 10 metre platform is the modernist concrete structure of a diving board. The artist’s small figure is dwarfed by the monumental properties of the building, and the viewer is presented with Brincat pacing back and forth uneasily. The original intention for this performance was for the artist to dangle off the edge of the diving platform, until finally at the point where she could no longer hold on, she would drop the 10 metres. The final product however was much different. The artist, confronted by the challenging nature of her own task, ended up failing to even begin, realising the fear inherent in the task. This work, intended to be framed by endurance and ultimate failure, ended up being framed by the endurance of a failed task. The frustrated feeling of waiting for something to happen in the video, for some ultimate explanation or release, works to communicate the artist’s frustration and embarrassment.
The tension between two established industries has, in this show, been a fruitful stimulus. In her artsHub article, ‘Art and sport: natural enemies?’ Sarah Adams states: ‘The arts/sports divide, isn’t one we should be championing from either side. We should recognise its fallacy then take a holistic approach to solving it.’ Through the variety of works in this exhibition, we see how artists can extrapolate on the essential properties of sport and its function, in order to reflect on both contemporary art practise, as well as the human condition.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
The Basil Sellers Art Prize 2012
Coordinator: Bala Starr
Featuring works by Brook Andrew, Richard Bell, Lauren Brincat, Jon Campbell, Eugene Carchesio, Greg Creek, Louise Hearman, Pat Macan, Gabriella Mangano and Silvana Mangano, Simon Perry, Kerrie Poliness, Patrick Pound, Sangeeta Sandrasegar, Christian Thompson
The Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne
August 3 – November 4