The Hatched National Graduate Show, currently on display at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA), showcases thirty emerging artists from institutions across Australia, and explores creativity, waste, and global borders through highly sensory mediums. Despite some problems with the arrangement of this exhibition, the visceral works make for a standout show.
The main gallery, as viewers enter the exhibition, explores human experience through form in a tactile approach that becomes signatory for the show. Mandy Quadrio’s striking Hole in History, comprised of large, clotted bands of steel wool hung from the ceiling, presents a metaphor for the attempted ethnic cleansing of Indigenous Australians, the material arranged in such a way as to resemble the human figure. In an adjacent room, Sacha Barker’s Mindfield: The Sewing Seeds, featuring A4-sized sheets of fabric suspended at hip-height explores the practice of craft and successfully side-steps falling into kitsch, a potential risk when utilising a typically domestic medium.
Upstairs, the exhibition lacks the punch of the ground floor. The thematic weakness of this area is demonstrable in the placement of Benjamin Bannan’s Sorry for the Inconvenience, a video and pamphlet piece exploring queer identity, next to Lucia Dohrmann’s Improper Fractions, which consists of four brightly-coloured
squares of frayed fabric and explores geometry and time. Such a contrast of the themes explored in the works dilutes the meanings of each due to an incongruity of their messages with one another. This limited thematic continuity means that varied perspectives on the same theme are not posed, so the effectiveness of this dialogue is reduced. Considering all the pieces in this exhibition explore important themes, it is unfortunate that viewers are barred from this more meaningful experience that only the gallery can facilitate.
Although wall and floor space is maximised on the ground floor, mostly attributable to the variety of mediums, the same cannot be said of the upper floor. My intentions to engage with the art were hindered by the cramped space. Many of the works, notably Olivia Fisher’s Empty Bags, a hauntingly illuminated, tent-like structure made of plastic bags, were spoiled by the inability to actually see them.
A prominent feature of the exhibition is that the artworks are not cordoned off from the viewers, allowing people to interact closely with suspended and sculptural pieces. Whilst this facilitates a unique viewing experience, I also feel it places the art in a precarious position, being more vulnerable to accidents. On an aesthetic level, it is highly successful, but less so on a practical level.
I do not feel that I can write a holistic review of the show without mentioning one of its most dazzling pieces. Having typically low expectations from prize winners, I was surprised by the piece that won the Schenberg Art Fellowship. Elham Eshraghian’s Bohrân, exploring “Iranian diaspora” through video on larger than life-size screens, is uncomfortable and insidious – it confronts viewers, and was a deserved winner.
Hatched boasts of displaying art from emergent talents, and this year’s show certainly fulfilled that criteria. The show endeavours to engage with viewers on a tactile level that makes for an alternative experience of contemporary art when compared to traditional modes of viewing; the exhibition is thus visceral without compromising on communicating important ideas. The few problems with the exhibition, namely the thematic incoherence and sometimes cramped display areas, are not, on the whole, detrimental to quality of art displayed; that the issues were managerial rather than artistic is preferable to the reverse.
Elham Eshraghian, Bohrân, 2018. Installation view. Image credit: Alessandro Bianchetti.
The exhibition is on until July 15.
Stirling is an avid art lover and would be a groupie for Velasquez if he was still alive.