Over an 8 month period the Shotgun 2011 artists Amanda Davies and Andrew Harper participated in an intensive program of industry access and critical engagement. The program culminated in exhibitions in the CAT gallery: Amanda Davies Purge and Andrew Harper Hieronymus, both presented from 29 October - 27 November 2011. Sarah Miller developed an insightful essay on each artists work.
Signalling through the Flames (1) :
The art of Amanda Davies and Andrew Harper
In the age of rationalization, of the ideal of calculation and of generalized rationality of the market, it falls to the [artists] to deal with the extremes of affect by means of an aesthetics of risk, extremes which always also contain the possibility of offending by breaking taboos (Lehmann 2006: 187).
In the archives of the small provincial city of Hobart in Tasmania lies an account of an astonishing historic occurrence (2). Two artists – a woman and a man – each barely known to the other, are invited to participate in Shotgun, an early career artist exhibition and professional development opportunity.
At first glance, it seems these artists have little in common. Amanda Davis is a painter living in a rural idyll on the Tasman Peninsula, while Andrew Harper is a performance artist and experimental filmmaker, inhabiting an inner city suburb of Hobart. They create work that is clearly differentiated: painting and performance, object and action, image and spoken word, and yet despite these obvious differences, what becomes increasingly evident are the affinities between these artists and their distinct and distinctive bodies of work.
These may be described in terms of visceral and emotional intensity, art-making as a profoundly embodied experience, an interest in a religious, or perhaps less contentiously, a spiritual condition of heightened awareness, a DIY aesthetic, and a strong sense of theatricality, which following Artaud, may be characterised as, ‘…that momentary pointlessness which drives them to useless acts without immediate profit’ (1977, p.15). This may be understood as a kind of excess, referencing an ethical extreme, a moral edge that demands our attention, speaking to the means by which pleasure and pain, joy and despair, humour and disgust are drawn or etched into the surface of life and art.
The externalisation of inner landscapes, an unsettling of the viewer’s perception, the shout of rage, tension - and its physical expression or evocation - the body as a site of meaning. I did not anticipate these artists in proximity.
Sarah Miller - excerpt
(1) The title is borrowed from Antonin Artaud (1958) in ‘The Theater and Culture’, the preface to The Theater and its Double as quoted in Lehmann, H T (2006), and Fuchs E (1996).
(2) With apologies to Antonin Artaud, (1977) ‘Theatre and the Plague’.
IMAGES: Amanda Davies, from the series Purge, 2011. Photos courtesy of the artist | Andrew Harper, Hieronymus, 2011. Video stills.