Words by: Freya Parr
PICA’s most recent exhibition aligns all of PICA’s objectives as an artistic institution, and explores new approaches to art making, curating and audience involvement. A fantastically put-together series, the Salon opened with a “Vernissage”; a glamorous opening night for all PICA’s donors and sponsors. As a contemporary reworking of the traditional Parisian Salon, PICA uses the central theme of “Epic Narratives”, with all 19 artists interpreting this concept in thoroughly different ways, with some even exploring the microscopic. Kynan Tan’s work features mini DNA sculptures, with data being physically re-imagined as the smallest entity.
All the artists involved have a strong connection to WA, and the majority of the 120 works were created for the exhibition itself. One particular feature of the Salon which draws it apart from others of its type is that it provides a rare opportunity to buy and sell art, and PICA takes no commission from any of the artwork sold. After the Vernissage on the opening night, over $100k worth of art was sold. This provides an invaluable opportunity to extend the Perth art collector base, and provide a platform for artists in WA to create entire bodies of work to sell. It also provides an opportunity for innovation; artists have been able to experiment with works on new, larger scales, and are supported by PICA throughout the creative process.
The layout of the exhibition is fantastic. Using the entire downstairs area of the PICA gallery, the different rooms and alcoves are used to reflect different elements of the epic narrative. As one enters the space, they are greeted by Tarryn Gill’s pair of sphinxes, which act as “guardians” at the opening of the exhibition. The final room was a euphoric utopia of bright, almost garish colour, and was an overwhelming conclusion to the experience.
One of the main bodies of work that stood out for me was Jacobus Capone’s “Dark Learning Series”, which featured photographs and videos from his time travelling across Iceland and Finland. The colour and quality of the images was superb, and they were the perfect representation of the epic narrative that PICA was trying to portray. His piece “Everness” coincided well with the visual imagery, as it was a piece of text coated in copper, which he had worn strapped to his chest for the two month duration of the trip, creating a real life element to his work.
Shannon Lyons’ work was also incredibly interesting, exploring the history of the Salon itself. Her paintings appeared as though they were merely sections of the wall of a gallery in the process of setting up for an exhibition, complete with peeling coloured tape. In sections of the room she had also painted directly onto the walls themselves too, drawing attention to the manufacturing processes of the production and display of art. It was a really unusual take on the “epic narrative”; instead suggesting that the manufacture of art is an epic tale within itself, creating a lovely juxtaposition with some of the other pieces.
I could go on all day about various different pieces in the exhibition, but ultimately they need to be viewed in person for full value. The Salon has been wonderfully curated, and it is clear and apparent to all how much work has gone in to the whole process, and the sense of “journey” is obvious within the Salon itself, as well as in the wonderfully diverse selection of works within it. A must-see for everyone in Perth.
PICA Salon runs until 16th August.