A chair is not just a chair in new work from chameleonic artist Cynthia Schwertsik.
One of the unsung and hidden gems of Flinders University is its art museum. Tucked away up a few stairs and down a few corridors, the Flinders University Art Museum (FUAM) is home to a significant collection of Australian and international art.
In a partnership that is now in its third year with the Guildhouse Collections Project, FUAM is opening its doors to South Australian artists to explore, interact and interpret. It is an initiative to reinvigorate historical works as seen through the eyes of artists practising today.
In February 2019, Cynthia Schwertsik spent time at the museum, finding a particular connection with The chair is not a tourist, a 1975 artist book by Aleks Danko. For Schwertsik, the image of the chair has a strong resonance and is an object that has appeared often in her work. Delving into the meaning of the chair within her practice uncovers an artist who is deeply thoughtful and interrogative.
Schwertsik is hesitant to define or pigeonhole her practice. She works across performance and visual arts, often in site-specific situations where she responds to a space and often leaves no trace. Also creating video and photography, she produces powerful imagery inspired by landscape and public space.
So, for Schwertsik, a chair is not just a chair, it is an object imbued with many layers of symbolism and meaning. She mostly finds chairs very uncomfortable.
She says, “Chairs have a patriarchal emphasis and force you to sit in a certain way.” Originally from Austria and now living in Adelaide, she adds, “In Australia a chair has a colonial emphasis in how it places you.”
There is an otherworldly intensity to Schwertsik which is compelling and magnetic. When asked why she became an artist she responds, “It just happened, it wasn’t a particular choice. What I really embrace about art is insecurity. It makes me feel uncomfortable at times.”
What is important to her is being a parent and finding meaning in family connections across all ages. Her son is a drummer and said to her recently, “Musicians and artists should look somewhere else for inspiration and not at other artists.” It is true that inspiration can be found almost anywhere, but with initiatives like The Collections Project, artworks from the past can remain alive and inspire meaning for now and into the future.
The Collections Project: Cynthia Schwertsik at SALA Festival 2019, Flinders University Student Hub and Plaza, 29 July – 30 August.
The Adelaide Review is a media partner of Guildhouse.
Cynthia Schwertsik, UTE-ilitarian (Photo: Jennifer Hofmann)