Best After brings together three artists exploring the theme of environmental sustainability for the group show at Praxis Art Space.
While their approaches to the notion of sustainability might differ, the three artists (Liz Butler, Cynthia Schwertsik and Renate Nisi) share a preference for salvaged materials, natural or man-made, breathing new life into the remains.
“I don’t think we would call ourselves environmental artists as such but we would say that we are talking about the environment,” Butler says.
Butler’s contribution to the exhibition includes images printed onto Pianola rolls and sculptures made out of discarded palm fronds and an old water tank. “With most of my work I am trying to do the ridiculous, the impossible,” she says. “I’m taking natural materials and man-made materials and bringing them together.”
Butler began her art career later in life, studying at the Adelaide Central School of Art after she spent 35 years working with Indigenous communities throughout the state, which has greatly informed her practice. Her work is of the land and can be seen as a dialogue with its surface patterns, while also acknowledging and respecting that which lies beneath, unseen.
Butler works across a variety of media including experimental printmaking, digital imaging, video, sculpture and installation. “I’m curious all the time,” she says. “I seem to always gravitate towards trying to put disparate materials together. Part of that is trying to put us together – Indigenous and non indigenous,” she says.
Like Butler, Nisi also works with found materials and man-made materials. In the work Graft, which was highly commended in the 2018 Fleurieu Biennale, Nisi uses road-killed emu legs and other found bones, forking twigs gathered during walks and poultry wishbones donated by diners. Through her work, Nisi is highlighting the similarities between humans and other living creatures by demonstrating the cycle of life and death.
“My art-making is an act of bodily communication with the matter our world is made of,” Nisi says. “In terms of imagery, I am particularly drawn to the universal forms of life’s processes, as in cellular accretion and branching growth.”
While Schwertsik’s work is different from the others – in that she isn’t taking found objects and creating sculptures – she is still presenting art that focuses on the environment, including a performance piece, a video work, photographs and drawings. In the video work Peri Urban Progress, Schwertsik moves from chair to chair creating a contemporary landscape through her interactions with everyday objects in particular places. “Sculptural installations and photographic images are representational memories of contemporary landscapes,” Schwertsik says.
Praxis Art Space
Until Friday, September 14
Header image: Liz Butler, Blue Streak (detail.)