Leichhardt High School – Art Show Launch

Painting graffiti in public spaces is anti-social and mostly illegal. This makes the act of painting graffiti more thrilling. Good art seems to need to bounce off an edge to bring it to life. In the case of graffiti the act of making it is accompanied by anxiety, adrenalin and goose bumps on the back of the neck induced by anticipating being busted. Graffiti is executed in the studio of the night. With the anxiety, add a layer of not being able to see much, with the silence of the night and you get a good edge.

It occurred to me while thinking about what to say tonight is that graffiti perhaps is best judged in the light conditions in which it was made. Alternatively, the less we can see, the better.

There is too much work here tonight to talk about everything that's here. Everyone needs to be congratulated for having got to this point. With the freedom to explore your own direction and desires comes the burden of motivation, need and choice. Other subjects within your syllabus offer a greater resistance to guidelines. We should probably congratulate your teachers for having led you or carried you safely to these executions.

Making art can leave us gagging, or short of breath. We can be elated from making it on the one hand and desperate and confused if things don't work out, on the other. No other subject prepares us for vacuum navigation like art does. Provided we are not lost in our explorations we are more equipped to deal with many of life's uncertainties as they reveal themselves. That however, is a side issue to tonight's purpose.

Making art does make great use, in fact, of every thought, feeling and experience that we encounter in the travails of our lives. The collection of work here tonight displays the abundance of those resources applied.

I came here yesterday to get a sense of what you had done. As a result, I have had an opportunity to digest your work and I propose to offer some of my thoughts on some of the work. While making art in difficult light conditions is a challenge, so am I offering these responses without appreciating your intentions or knowing any of you, or looking for more than an hour or so. Just as darkness shines, so I trust my ignorance of you and your work is illuminating.

In the spirit of night and blindness, Harris Ponting seems very happily employed. The absence of light has induced a veritable flow of paint. He shows that he has been able to give himself to the activity. If painting involves the extent to which the flow of paint can be apprehended, then this is how that flow looks at its source. We should happily look forward to the river as it broadens.

The night reveals itself in different ways than by the presence or absence of the sun. In the work of Lewis Ihnatko, there is no light or space, only depth and detail and darkness. One is compelled to look, having been dared. I trust the excavation will ultimately reveal its opposite, which is light, air, space and noise. I found these works dark, promising and strangely amusing.

In the same vein of the microscopic, I was taken by the work of Hannah McKay. Where Lewis's directions are quite ambiguous, Hannah gives us subject clues to drive our interpretations. How close can you get to a work of art?

You can get behind it, these works seem to suggest!

As a sculptor, I am drawn to sculpture. James Field's white spaces provided the openness that Hannah and Lewis obscured. The ordinariness and casualness of the selection and placement of parts was easy to look at. Is this the shape of the space beyond the white page, the blank canvas? There is mileage in holding your breath and there is mileage in breathing.

On the same white sculptural page we find Madeline Carr, who has invited us into her book world, into how we cross over, how we are taken in and transported by that contained within the pages of the books. How does one book relate to the other? How are we made by all of the convergences and collisions that thus arise? This is how, and how.

Art when it works offers a self-contained world. The extent that we are taken by it, held by it, is determined by the way in which the parts compose themselves together to discourage the viewer's eye to wander away. Viewers are fickle. It takes persuasion and cajoling to hold the viewer. However much we may feel, we are only a tool to exorcise that life in us, to bring it into the world according to the very strict demands of the material and the integrated structure that is required that traps the viewer.

We need to look after ourselves in order to look after the art. The idea of sustainability applies to the material and to the artist.

Vanessa Tang's Organica is a sail full of wind. The navigation is set. Is it just August or am I carried away?

Madeline Constantine takes us to the sea as well and to the sky in quite a different way and reminds us there are so many ways of working and sensibilities to employ. Reuben Wakefield offers ships and silos and reminds us of the virtues of restraint. Rory Lucas' dry drawings make the board onto which they are drawn compellingly boney. David Webber compels us to read and to look simultaneously inducing different cortexes of the brain to interact while Evelyn Sellick steals us charmingly to a different place altogether.

Ellie Chessel's brooding scenes of a spiritual life contrast starkly with Landy Tan's quite remarkable conflagrations between the old and the new and a mastery of the craft by which one cannot not be impressed.

From having been invited to open the show tonight I would like to thank you all for inviting me into your worlds. I have found the exercise enjoyable and inspiring.

I would like to declare the show open.