Visiting Turner Galleries is always an exercise in being pleasantly surprised, but the latest Stuart Elliot exhibition has pushed aesthetic serendipity to new heights.
The main gallery is a fusion of what may well be construed as a meeting of the Star Wars Props Department and a group therapy session at Dr. Frankenstein’s rooms.
If this fascinating show doesn’t have an impact, then nothing will!
Strange, vaguely sinister, life-size figures sit in a ring, a kind of creature conclave in the main gallery. Patrons moving through the circle clearly display emotions ranging from amazement and appreciation, to curiosity and apprehension.
Stuart’s powerful syndicate iii: the council is like nothing else you will see in a gallery in Australia, or anywhere else, for that matter.
This is creation from a deeply imaginative plain and tempts us to ponder realms of the scary, amusing, bizarre, dystopian and otherworldly.
“The artist’s work for several years has been rooted in his concept of ‘Fakeology’, a unique philosophy about making objects that are encoded with cross cultural ideas,” say the exhibition notes.
“Inspired by urban decay, African fetishes, and mementos of power and beauty, he creates a parallel world where the familiar becomes the unfamiliar, a fake archaeology.
“For these imposing sculptural works, the back line of a set of life size chess pieces has been the departure point. Ten council members, sitting on high stools, stare menacingly across the room at each other.
Certainly unsettling, as high office generally is.”
Meanwhile in the adjoining gallery, Engine Room 1, visitors will find ‘Yard, a small exhibition of paintings, prints and sculptures.
“An industrial yard is a place where goods in transit or surplus to immediate need are retained,” says Stuart.
“Similarly, the material in ‘Yard consists of that which is either refined residue from, or consequential to The Council project. While these figures needed to be different but equal, my own intention was for each figure to be self-sufficient while being part of a greater installation, perhaps as in an ideal culture where each individual is unique but integrated into a cooperative whole.
“To develop such a large and process-intensive body of work there was a considerable amount of R&D. With this came the flotsam and jetsam of that journey, experimental prototypes and stuff that simply did not fit,” he says.
“While much of this material was essentially overburden in terms of the greater project, much of it also had some kind of currency as sign posting of the evolution of the project as a whole.
“Thus the contents of ‘Yard (an abbreviation of Council Yard) is a selection of material and ideas that were surplus to need, redundant or obsolete for The Council. It is a selection. There was much that was crucial to the realisation of the parent project but had little intrinsic evocative juice.
“Some of that also developed into sub-genres of by-product work, related ever more distantly to the core project but of strange interest in their own right. Some of this appears in the ‘Yard’s photographic work. Much of it still forms as yet dormant dunes, stacks and fields in the studio.”
Stuart’s career spans some 40 years, in which time he been earned a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010 by Artsource, 20 solo exhibitions and over 150 group exhibitions in venues as prestigious as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney and the National Gallery of Victoria.
He is an influential lecturer, highly articulate, and generous with his art, writing and exhibitions skills.
In 2013 he was selected as the third Syndicate commissioned artist. The Syndicate is a consortium of like-minded art patrons who have gathered under the stewardship of West Australian art collector and philanthropist Lloyd Horn.
The ten members each contribute an equal sum of money over a two to three year period for the commissioning a carefully selected sculptor to develop a suite of ten life sized, human figure focused works.
The Council was completed in 2017 and was first shown at the Bunbury Regional Art Gallery.
Pop in to Turner Galleries for a bit of ‘counselling’ – you’ll be glad you did!
The Stuart Elliot exhibitions are at Turner Galleries until May 26.
40 William Street
Northbridge WA 6003
For more information about exhibitons at Turner Galleries go please visit www.turnergalleries.com.au