Nadia Hernández and Jon Campbell present ‘Speech Patterns’

Nadia Hernández and Jon Campbell ‘critically and expressively mobilise the rhythms, harmonies and dissonances of language’ – Art Gallery of Western Australia

At the very heart of ‘Speech Patterns’ at the Art Gallery of Western Australia (AGWA) is a rich and layered dialogue between contemporary artists Nadia Hernández and Jon Campbell.

On until 8 January 2023, the dynamic exhibition of painted works, paste-ups, drawings, posters, banners and flags reimagines and draws connection between Hernández and Campbell’s experiences, observations, and critiques of the world around them.

Jon Campbell, All the boys, 1984, oil and enamel paint, cotton duck, 106 x 206cm. Courtesy of the artist, Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney and Art Gallery of Western Australia. © Jon Campbell

Venezuela-born emerging artist Nadia Hernández uses textiles, paper, paint and the poetry of words in the creation of installation-based works, murals, paintings, sculpture and paper constructions as a way to keep her familial and cultural connections and language alive, to express her own sense of being in the world, and to articulate her concerns for the displacement of her family from their homeland and the current political climate of their country and their future.

For ‘Speech Patterns’ Hernández exhibits a selection of textiles, paper cuts and paintings made between 2015 and 2022, including Las matas en mi casa, golondrina viajera y citricos (The plants in my house, travelling swallow and citrus) (2019), a painting of house plants where the wilted leaves reflect on the artist’s heartfelt feelings after a breakup. This sentiment is juxtaposed by ‘Pinta flores, pinta acuacates, pinta un bodegón ileno de cosas que te gustan, pinta algo que hayas cocinado con, tu madre, pinta…’ (2022). Resembling a still life painting, the work gathers a collage of “motifs, symbols and characters from popular culture and everyday life that were suggested by people close to Hernández, including her mother, grandmother, girlfriend and best friend,” evoking a sense of joy and happiness at the simple things that populate and connect the artist to her world.

Among others from Hernández’s paper cut series is La fuerza es la unión / Strength comes from union (2015), an artwork created after the artist returned from a visit to her homeland in 2015, which brings focus to the strength and resilience of her people standing against and ‘speaking back to the regime.’

Nadia Hernández, “Pinta flores, pinta aguacates, pinta un bodegón lleno de cosas que te gustan, pinta algo que hayas cocinado con tu madre, pinta…”, 2022, oil on linen, 198 x 137cm. Collection of River Capital. © Nadia Hernánde. Courtesy the artist and Art Gallery of Western Australia

Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland and raised in the western suburbs of Melbourne artist Jon Campbell, whose high school art teacher was renowned Australian artist Jenny Watson, playfully ruminates on the Australian condition and its unique character. Banners, paintings and prints from 1984 to 2022 showcase a selection of Campbell’s earlier figurative works as well as his more recent text-based creations that artfully animate the power, meaning and interpretation of the Australian vernacular.

In Australian male culture, car ownership has been a kind of rite of passage a lean towards adulthood. Campbells figurative set includes All the Boys (1984), an oil and enamel painting depicting a car full of young men driving around in a bench-seated car, an FJ Holden or a Kingswood perhaps, looking for action, which draws on the car as a symbol of ‘freedom and possibility, weighted by boredom and restlessness.’

Moving to Campbell’s text-based imaginations, his 2014 work titled Up shit creek abstractly spells out the familiar Australian slang phrase that conjures the scenario of being up the creek without a paddle. ‘Its crisp and optimistic tone might imply the odd relief in acknowledging that we’re in a pretty bad spot and can now focus solely on getting out of it. It also flirts with our compulsion to repeat traumatic events and the ways we often receive incredible pleasure from complaining,’ the exhibition notes suggest.

Jon Campbell, Up shit creek, 2014, enamel paint, cotton duck, 150 x 80cm. Courtesy the artist, Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. and Art Gallery of Western Australia. © Jon Campbell

‘While emerging from different cultural and generational experiences, their practices share a powerful commitment to the grain and poetry of egalitarian yearning and grassroots resistance. This results in punchy and wholly accessible works and installations that celebrate the possibility of popular, oral and familial cultures to unite people historically, politically and socially,’ AGWA Curator of Western Australian and Australian Art summarises.

‘Speech Patterns’ the publication, featuring essays by artists and writers Lisa Radford and Diego Ramirez alongside curator Robert Cook offers deeper insight to the artists creative motivations and is available through the AGWA design store.

The Art Gallery of Western Australia welcomes visitors Wednesday to Friday from 10am to 5pm and is closed Tuesdays and Christmas Day. Free guided tours of ‘Speech Patterns’ the exhibition can be taken at 1pm on Mondays and 11am on Wednesdays until 8 January 2023.

Nadia Hernández
Jon Campbell