The Helpmann academy is a unique feature of the South Australian art scene. It aims to support students involved in the arts in SA. For many of the Artists featured in this exhibition it was their first showing of this magnitude. Now celebrating its seventeenth year, this unique exhibition showcases artworks by graduates from the Adelaide Central School of Art, School of Art, Architecture and Design and the Adelaide College of the Arts. The works were selected from more than 150 graduating artists across a wide range of disciplines.
I have attended this exhibition many times over the years. In the past I have used this exhibition to showcase the work of University students to my students in High School. One of the problems of an exhibition of this type is it takes work from students who have explored a variety of different ideas through many artworks and seeks to put them together. As a viewer you are often left wondering if the visual problems were actually resolved as it can be difficult to place the work into the context of what the artist was trying to explore. Some works are clearly resolved but for others I wanted to see more of their work for comparison. Luckily many artists provided blog links that allowed me to do so.
The breadth of this exhibition means that it can offer something for all tastes. There is of course plenty of work to view with 29 Artist’s work on show.
Graduation shows of this calibre are great fun for the artists concerned. They can become a possible stepping stone to a bright future.
Mark making is as old as time. It is such a primal part of our existence as human beings. Arlan Hall with his painting “Mystical fingertips of the west” uses his own forms of mark making upon a surface of primed board. Using the formal elements of both painting and drawing he has sought a post-modern stance. Meaning there is no overarching truth, only what we create for ourselves. Thus his lines resist interpretation by the viewer.
When examining such a work I am drawn into the rhythmic line work that seethes on the primed board surface. It is well-balanced and harmonious. Hall states that he is reacting against direct appropriation, yet he uses a calligraphic style of painting that invites the viewer into the work. The dynamic, angular line and shape push my eye about the work, not gently but with a harsh momentum. I seek to make sense of the lines yet they elude me, that is the intriguing aspect of this work. Symbols appear that I try to interpret and are then discarded, and so my eye moves on. Bold orange strokes create an element of discord, dripping and dancing about the work. While the dark line work and amorphous forms are more solid and weighty, throwing an element of stability into the work. Subtle changes in tone upon the white negative space provide an aspect of unity amongst the fast paced chaotic shapes. Hall invites the viewer to read this work and though it is in a language that we do not understand. It still speaks to us.
Of course my attention was brought to this work, dragged over by my 7 Year old son I stood before the 180cm high construction. My son referred to it as a “Transformer”, though the artist, Andre Lawrence, in his statement refers to it as an investigation into the mythical and modern archetypal hero. I think they may have both been right to a certain extent. It is an amalgamation of discarded electrical goods. Seeing this work through the eyes of my son, I cannot help but wonder about its form. It looks tired, its arms resting upon its knees. The bulbous vacuum cleaner motor head is tilted toward the ground, its face in shadow. Here as I moved in closer for a better look I noticed the most impressive aspect of this work. Projected black and white images play inside the helmet, boyhood memories playing out within the mind of the monolith. The sculpture looks to me vaguely familiar when I see the weapon like arms. Google search for weary soldier and several results have a similar form. To do what you must in war that which is human within us must be cast aside. Menacing as this mechanical warrior form is there is a remnant of the human still within.