Australian artist Shaun Gladwell presents ‘Homo Suburbiensis’ at Anna Schwartz Gallery in Melbourne, until 24 April. Gladwell’s practice centres on painting and moving image as creative means to explore human activity and body movement, and how it can activate thought processes.
By bringing the modalities of painting and video together in this exhibition, Gladwell forms a dialogical bond between a series of paintings leaning tall against the gallery wall and a single channel video work entitled Homo Suburbiensis (2020), which places everyday actions such as eating, running and dancing, under surveillance.
“The paintings continue to appropriate and juxtapose images from the history of painting and graphic illustration in either direct dialogue to the video, via harmonised colour, or through discursive links such as movement and scale that lead back to questions of the body,” notes the gallery. “The work significantly develops Gladwell’s ongoing study of human movement through its use of the film-essay and scientific documentary structure, and continues the artist’s ongoing engagement with performative action as a way to creatively mis-use objects and environments.”
Gladwell’s exhibition and the video work, both borrow title inspiration from Australian poet Donald Bruce Dawe’s (1930-2020) poem Homo Suburbiensis. Through evocative poetic verse, Dawe’s contemplates the human condition, drawing on connections with the urban backyard setting and the dichotomies of everyday life.
In Gladwell’s video Homo Suburbiensis human movement becomes the subject of focus in the landscape or domestic setting. The artist puts physical motion to the test across a range of public and private spaces, “as a way to challenge and transform the design and intended function of one’s immediate environment, from object and tools, through to a questioning of the body itself and its capacity to act,” the gallery explains.
With reflection on our recent experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic we have become familiar with the idea of object creativity, using domestic resources in new ways, and the necessities of innovation and spatial adaptation. Gladwell engages with non-functional objects, such as we see here in the artist’s reimagined Brillo Box sculptures by Andy Warhol. In Gladwell’s version they are not merely an arrangement of boxes, but instead serves as a functional yoga platform. In other seemingly precarious acts captured in the exhibition, Gladwell balances a wheelchair on a small dining table, and a BMX bike on a kitchen bench.
“Homo Suburbiensis (2020) considers the relationship of action to actor in physical and virtual spaces that offer absurd dislocations. The use of voice-over and cinematic framing presents a faux-scientific observation of everyday activities. Initially ‘classified’ as separate and distinct, the actions eventually synthesise into hybrid forms.”
Anna Schwartz Gallery represents more than 30 multi-generational artists and works on individual projects with artists and curators globally. Anna Schwartz Gallery distinguishes itself for its uncompromising conceptual position and contribution to culture spanning visual art, music and publishing, under the imprint SCHWARTZCITY.
Images: Shaun Gladwell, Homo Suburbiensis, 2020, (still) High Definition video (4K), colour, sound, 13 minutes 5 seconds.
Cinematographer: Skye Davies. © Shaun Gladwell. Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne