Chout Ballet Curtain, (The Choreography of Cutting) at Tony Raka Art Gallery, Ubud – Image Courtesy of Honold Fine Art & Evelyn Pritt
Australian contemporary artist Sally Smart has a long and enduring bond with Indonesia, having first exhibited in 2005 at the Jogja Biennale. “I have a special fascination in the shadow theatre, and have had a collection of Wayang Kulit puppets for many years. This has inspired my interest in the representation of the shadow world and its story telling dimension, across cultures,” Smart said.
“I visit Yogyakarta regularly where I have formed relationships with artists and artisans who I continue to collaborate with and engage in immersive dialogue and practice, examining cultural history and the commonalities in the post-colonial world discourse.”
P.A.R.A.D.E – Sally Smart at BIASA, Kerobokan
In 2012, as the Sackler fellow at the University of Connecticut, USA Smart worked with their School of Puppetry and animation, learning shadow puppet techniques and creating a series of works that also included moving image. Her puppet creations are a fusion of Eastern and Western cultures, the artist also being inspired by the seminal European avant-garde artists of the Dada movement, along with the Constructivism philosophies. She positions early 20th century experimental choreography, costume and theatre design alongside traditional Indonesian shadow puppet performance.
The ‘immediacy and simplicity’ of collage as a potent contemporary art practice is often overlooked. Cutting out and re-assembling, taking from one source to compliment another is a disruptive, yet highly creative method with limitless potentialities. For Smart it is the foundation of the communication of her artistic ideas. “The cut out methodology has been a strong part of my practice since the early nineties – the expression of a cut out – aligns silhouette and the shadow play conceptually and technically,” she said.
Puppets (The Choreography of Cutting) – Sally Smart at the Tony Raka Art Gallery – Images coutesy of Honold Fine Art & Evelyn Pritt
Honold Fine Art (HFA) presents in parallel solo exhibitions Sally Smart’s most recent offerings held in two different venues in Bali, Indonesia. From 19 June The Choreography of Cutting opened at the Tony Raka Art Gallery, Ubud, and P.A.R.A.D.E. at BIASA in Kerobokan. Her work ‘speaks’ about the human body as a vehicle of expression through movement, performance and gesture, revealing collective and individual anxieties, while questioning the status quo.
At a glance both shows appear worlds apart, yet they are innately connected, P.A.R.A.D.E. being the perfect synthesis of Smart’s two works exhibited in Ubud. Displayed at Tony Raka is Chout Ballet Curtain, (The Choreography of Cutting) 2018, an enormous 350 x 900cm wall hanging assemblage in which abstract organic forms and imaginary landscapes come alive upon Smart’s colourful textile curtain that includes dye transfer photographic prints on satin and chiffon, with multiple collage elements. And, Puppets (The Choreography of Cutting) 2016-18 a mixed-media installation of over 30 abstract suspended puppets, with moveable parts and of varying dimensions.
P.A.R.A.D.E – Sally Smart at BIASA – Image Courtesy of Honold Fine Art & Evelyn Pritt
P.A.R.A.D.E is inspired by Smart’s encounter with the immense stage curtain painted by Pablo Picasso for the Ballet Parade in 1917 on display in Rome in 2017. In Smart’s P.A.R.A.D.E which features Parade (In Being Dancing), 2018, Staging the Studio (Blaubart &Pina), 2017-18, and Drama (Staging the Studio), 2018, all floor to ceiling curtains with photographic dye transfers on textile with collage elements, a troupe of figures are represented on transparent textiles intersecting and overlapping to create multiple images of performance.
While Chout Ballet Curtain is predominated by strong colors and dense ‘heavy’ fabrics, the illusory impact emphasizes the laws of gravity grounding the observer to the floor. P.A.R.A.D.E, on-the-other-hand, has the opposite impact. It’s multiple see-through films are soft and delicate, soothing upon the eye. While its transparent qualities with layered figures appear sensual – a most potent allure. Air conditioning choreographs gentle rhythmic waves of motion across the curtain’s surfaces that are seemingly engaged within a dance of their own, and we become captivated in the dynamic interplay of Smart’s layered translucent ‘performers’. Our vision is then drawn upwards allowing us to feel elevated and expansive. The beauty and simplicity of the material is seductive – our experience is potent and ethereal.
Puppets (The Choreography of Cutting) – Sally Smart at Tony Raka Art Gallery – Image coutesy of Honold Fine Art & Evelyn Pritt
One of Australia’s leading contemporary artists, Smart is the recipient of numerous awards and prizes. She is currently the Vice-Chancellor’s Professorial Fellow at University of Melbourne, and a board member of the National Association for the Visual Arts. She is represented in significant international public and private art collections. Recognized internationally for her large scale cut-out assemblage installations and, increasingly, performance, Smart’s artistic practice engages identity politics and the complex relationships between the body, thought and culture.
The most delightful aspects of Smart’s work are the opportunities for audience interaction, and personal art experiences. Her installations invite the observer to venture closer, to wander within and take part in a make believe other world. In response some people become animated in their own intimate performance, which has the potential to touch them deeply, while being coded into their memories.
Detail of Chout Ballet Curtain, (The Choreography of Cutting) – Sally Smart
“I am interested to observe the audience physically engage with my work,” the artist said. “As performance and movement are imbedded conceptually in the works, the feeling of movement and dance within the space becomes manifest, with the puppets and the curtains – making it feel dynamic and engaging. I was excited to see this.”
When asked if she believes that as artists seek out new avenues to create more positive opportunities for fresh and personal audience art experiences that society will gain greater benefits through contemporary art? Smart responded, “Yes, always when something is triggered, even the slightest gesture, to reveal and present possibilities for news ways of thinking an engagement in all aspects of society. Art makes essential pathways.”
Detail of P.A.R.A.D.E – Sally Smart at BIASA
The Choreography of Cutting
at Tony Raka Art Gallery,
Jalan Raya Mas 86, Mas, Ubud
& P.A.R.A.D.E. at BIASA,
Jalan Raya Kerobokan 51 X, Kerobokan
Open from 17 June – 17 July 2018
Words: Richard Horstman
Images: Courtesy of Honold Fine Art with Evelyn Pritt & Richard Horstman
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