Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre Re-Opens

This week, June 1 marked the day when art galleries and museums across Australia were given the green light to open their doors to the public after the long weeks of closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and although visitor numbers are limited for now while we ease back into community life and social gathering, here begins a joyful return to the world of art as we once knew it, seeing it in the flesh!

Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre in Sydney’s south west is just one of the many art institutions back in operation and the centre has reignited their visual arts program for audiences with two exhibitions ‘Adaptation’ and ‘A Familiar Place I’ve Never Seen’, both of which opened on March 21 just a few days before major shutdowns swept across NSW.

Louise Zhang, Lend me a hand, 2018, acrylic, oil on plywood, rope. Courtesy the artist, Artereal Gallery, Sydney and Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Sydney

‘Adaptation’ is an exhibition of works by artists with disability or chronic illness, whose creative practices have evolved to support their bodily or psychological conditions, and who are working across a range of artistic practices including video, performance, painting, sculpture, ceramics and textiles. The showcase brings together work by Ohni Blu, Bruno Booth, Marion Conrow, Pat Larter (1936-1996), Prue Stevenson, Nell Syme and Louise Zhang, and are either works that tell stories of the challenges the artists face living with their conditions, or are works by artists who have had to modify and adapt their artistic processes to better align with the abilities of their bodies.

To name but a few of the works in ‘Adaptation’, Blu presents a new video work titled Physiotherapy: Hand Dance (2020), which documents the artist’s creative achievements through dedication and hard work in physiotherapy. Booth’s video The struggle is real (2019) shows the strength and perseverance of the artist as he navigates his way through rugged bushland in his wheelchair. Conrow’s Unravell Egg (2016) is representation of the artist’s difficulties in life after a brain injury and how the experience has shaped who she is today, as a person with disability and as an artist. A series of paintings by Syme bring this artist’s love of birds into view in vibrant splashes of colour on canvas. Zhang’s selection of works draw inspiration from the artist’s Chinese cultural and religious upbringing(s) and demonstrate the strategies she uses to align her art making with the capabilities of her body. The exhibition also includes two significant works from Larter titled Jelly Beans Blues (1993) and Pink Glow (1994), which are part of the Liverpool City Council Collection. Click here to view the ‘Adaptation’ catalogue and to read the inspiring artist statements.

Jomakhan Jafari and Danny Kennedy, Effort, 2012, Indian ink on pigment print, 45 x 65cm. Courtesy the artists and Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Sydney

Dreams allow our deepest subconscious thoughts to emerge during sleep and bring memories of our past to the present, often in abstract and delirious ways. In this exhibition, ‘A Familiar Place I’ve Never Seen’ artists Jomakhan Jafari and Danny Kennedy explore the ethereal world of dreams and how our life experiences can haunt us or give us hope and understanding for the situations we are in.

As the focus for this body of work Jafari and Kennedy invited a number of local residents from Western Sydney’s diverse community, to tell them about their dreams during the artist’s studio time at Peacock Gallery and Auburn Arts Studio in 2012, with the aim to interpret their subject’s dreams into a visual representation. Jafari’s Persian calligraphy techniques, which use tar and petrol as the medium come together with Kennedy’s staged photographic reimaginations. A series of individual and collaborative works accompanied by written texts of the shared dreams reveal personal sensitivities and intriguing moments of awareness the dreams evoke. Click here to view the catalogue for ‘A Familiar Place I’ve Never Seen’.

Venturing to the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre to see these exhibitions also presents an opportunity to take the short walk to Casula Parklands to explore works from Sydney’s ever popular ‘Sculpture by the Sea’ outdoor exhibition, which feature in the ‘Liverpool Sculpture Walk’ until 31 August.