Why artist Carly Snoswell thinks Beyoncé is a Port supporter

With her latest exhibition Adelaide artist Carly Snoswell has turned years of research into a colourful and personal meditation on pop culture, fandom and creation. It also has the best exhibition title we’ve seen this year.

In Beyoncé Is A Port Supporter, Snoswell re-contextualizes imagery from The Simpsons, AFL and pop music using materials and practices more common to Spotlight than contemporary art galleries. A knitted jumper covered in eyes pays tribute to Lisa Simpson, a patchwork football banner made from repurposed Port merchandise evokes the weekly cycle of pre-match creation and destruction, and the flower crown from Beyoncé’s 2017 Instagram pregnancy reveal is recreated with sequins.

For Snoswell, a former FELT co-director and Helpmann Academy graduate who has exhibited widely around Adelaide, a simple embroidery experiment came to inspire a whole body of work. “It started from just using an old Beyoncé calendar in my studio to practice a particular embroidering technique,” Snoswell tells The Adelaide Review. “These experiments then took on a life of their own and instead of being tests, became the focus of the show I was working towards. I was suddenly making these Beyoncé shrines to show in an exhibition, and realising that it didn’t have to take itself too seriously.”

One Plus One, Carly Snoswell (Photo: Steph Fuller)
One Plus One, Carly Snoswell (Photo: Steph Fuller)

Materially, Snoswell’s work embraces embroidery and banner-making, forms that aren’t typically celebrated in the art world. “These ‘handicraft’ practices as I like to call them, I think are often dismissed due to the fact that they’re often done in the the spirit of leisure – seen as mindless and purely decorative, without any significant content,” she explains. “But this devalues the labour and intent involved in this form of making, and the importance that this act has for the maker. Using these techniques that are inherently repetitive seemed fitting to encapsulate the way in which fans devote their time to their fandom.”

A lifelong AFL fan, Snoswell experienced this firsthand by observing the Port Adelaide Cheer Squad at one of their weekly banner making nights, as its members collaboratively craft massive artworks that are ceremonially destroyed by their heroes. “The squad prepares the basketball court-sized crepe paper banner using just sticky tape every week.

Carly Snoswell, Since 1989 (Photo: Steph Fuller)
Since 1989, Carly Snoswell (Photo: Steph Fuller)

“Everyone there was so excited to tell me their own unique fan story and the love of Port Power just filled the room. They all go to every game all over Australia, and seeing how excited they were to be there made me realise how important this act of coming together to create something was to them.”

As the digital age allows pop culture to become ever more fragmented, the opportunity for such intense pockets of fandom is greater than ever. “I personally love the fragmentation,” she says. “I love that there’s that one particular friend who will understand and appreciate the weird Simpsons or Game of Thrones meme I’ve found. Those kind of connections are nice and link people in an interesting way.”

And as for that incredible title? “[I thought] that because I love Beyoncé and I love Port Power, that surely Beyoncé would also love Port Power,” she explains. “Kinda silly, but it also [reflects] how fans project their own beliefs onto their chosen subjects of fandom.”

I always wanted to be just like Lisa Simpson (detail), Carly Snoswell (Photo: Steph Fuller)

Carly Snoswell: Beyoncé is a Port Supporter
SASA Gallery
May 15 – May 31 (Open Monday – Friday, 11am-5pm)
carlysnoswell.com

Header image:
Selected works from Beyoncé Is A Port Supporter (Photo: Steph Fuller)

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