The Unsolicited Proposals Unit – Exhibition Preview

Canberra Contemporary Art Space, aka CCAS, is a much loved stalwart of the ACT art scene; giving opportunities to early career artists and curators, as well as presenting work from leading local and national artists.

So it’s apt that this latest show is about an important aspect of being an artist – presenting new ways of looking at the world without being asked to.

Curiously, turning bureaucracy back on itself, the show borrows guidelines from the ‘Unsolicited Proposals Team’, part of the South Australian Government Treasury and Finance Department, and uses these as a framework to present and discuss the exhibited works.

‘The Unsolicited Proposals Unit’ is curated by Eleanor Scicchitano and includes artists Roy Ananda (SA), Bernadette Klavins (SA), Margaret Richards (SA), Jacqueline Bradley (ACT), Raquel Ormella (ACT), James Tylor (SA and ACT) and Saskia Haalebos (ACT).

James Tylor, (Removed Scenes) From an Untouched Landscape #4, 2018, Inkjet print on hahnemuhle paper with hole removed to a black velvet void , 50 x 50cm, Copyright the artist

James Tylor’s work draws on the visual cues of erasure in his images of the natural world in black and white with large black shapes obscuring our vision, redacted areas. He is speaking on the impact of colonisation which removed, covered, or broke down the presence of Indigenous people and culture in the Australian landscape. Beside this visualisation of loss he includes tools once used by the Kaurna people, which reasserts their place in the bigger picture.

Also celebrating Country and course correcting in the process, Margaret Richards paints her land teeming with life, contrary to some views about the desert being desolate.

Raquel Ormella’s work is an Australian flag carefully reduced to a lattice of text. The words; ‘the promised land of humanity still lies far far out of sight’ are from the diary of second Prime Minister Alfred Deakin. This phrase reminds present day citizens of the need for improvement.

Raquel Ormella, Problematic Fragments #2 (Deakin), 2019, Re-worked nylon flag, 150 x 250cm

On the subject of inversions and dualities, Jacqueline Bradley’s sculptural installation that comprises seeds and eggs considers the negotiation between nature and the gardener, reproduction and growth.

Change, through time, and the impact of humans on nature is a theme in Bernadette Klavins’ floor piece. It appears to be a series of nine concrete slabs each with a pothole in the centre, as you move along the line you can see the hole is filled and worn down in its ‘Failure Pattern’.

Kinks in the system, such as the snark and point scoring in politics are explored with humour in Saskia Haalebos’ ‘Ya farkin…’ an insult generator which randomly supplies us with a quip (and giggle) comprised of an adjective, a food and a body part. Similarly compelled by the spectacle of Parliament, Roy Ananda’s drawings use pop culture references to fictionalise the departments and connections of our system which highlight how it is padded in reality but also, to prompt us to think about how it could operate if we borrowed from fantasy.

Saskia Haalebos, Insult Generator (‘Ya farkin…’), 2020, Three laptops with 150 words on random code, duration: infinite, Image via Instagram

Speculating, challenging and querying are virtues not always valued in the appreciation of art, especially if you look to art as an answer. As I mentioned, the curator has measured the bodies of work on display against the criteria of the ‘Unsolicited Proposals Team’ and concludes that they could pass and at the same time stand to be rejected.

So this exhibition is a call to action for the viewer, to appreciate art and take thinking about the future personally rather than wait on policy.

The gallery is down by the water on Queen Elizabeth Terrace near a coffee shop and the promenade to walk Lake Burley Griffin, it’s also a stone’s throw from the political and administrative heart of the city. Be you a weekend warrior or looking for some creativity in your lunch break, head down to CCAS for this unique exhibition, on view until 28 February.