A fascinating collaborative exhibition has opened at ANCA Gallery in Dickson.
Meet Makers 8 showcases art produced during classes at the Hands On Studio in Griffith where professional artists partnered with Hands On artists with a disability to create work for exhibition. All the artists came out of the experience with new ideas.
Brian Allan collaborated with Canberra artist Byrd on five stencil paintings. “We used stencils and spray paint,” he says. “I’m pleased with how it looks.”
He would enjoy working in collaboration again in the future. “It’s pretty exciting doing something different,” he says.
Curator Tilly Davey dreamed up the collaborative exhibition and put the pairs of artists together.
“I’m the Program Manager at Hands On,” she explains. “I’ve been teaching at Hands On for five years. The artists I chose for this project I knew from around Canberra, and they are all lovely open people.
“I’m interested in breaking down the barriers between practising artists and community artists.”
Hands On artist Robyn Chick worked with local sculptor Amanda Stuart on her exhibition pieces. Together they created a group of jellyfish from found objects, and Robyn Chick completed a bright ink painting to go with it.
“We used facemasks, cut off plastic bottles and rope from the beach, fairy lights and wire,” she says. “Those were the main ingredients.”
Chick hadn’t done sculpture before. “It is incredible what you can make out of rubbish and bits and pieces like that,” she said. “I do paintings normally using ink and salt – the salt soaks up the colour and makes patterns.”
The process of meeting with a professional artist in her weekly art classes and creating pieces for exhibition was successful for Robyn Chick. “Working with Amanda [Stuart] was great,” she said.
“I did enjoy the art opening. It was the first one I’ve really been to. I thought it was good.”
Chick threw herself into all aspects of the project. “I came and helped set up on the Monday for the opening. It was nice to see the [jelly fish] work out there, shining in the light.”
Robyn Chick’s favourite piece in the exhibition is the ceramic sculpture of faces. “They are all nice, but I really love that,” she says.
The professional artists enjoyed the process as much as the Hands On artists, and Program Manager Tilly Davey has plenty of artists keen to be involved if she runs similar programs in future.
The practising artists can learn a lot from working with the community artists at Hands On.
“A lot of artists work alone, we work in a community,” she says. “The professional artists can learn not to be afraid to share, and not to be too precious about their work.
“They have also learnt to accept people with disabilities and learnt more about the varying disabilities people can have. We have built stronger relationships through this project.”
Artist Tom Buckland agrees. He collaborated with Simon Whiteside on an immersive aquarium piece. Kids visiting the exhibition love peering through the diving mask into the deep-sea world of shells, pearls and coral within.
To get started, Buckland looked at Simon Whiteside’s previous work and noticed a lot of detail. “I decided on a detailed ocean scene,” he explained. “We made the animals, plants, ocean floor and so on.”
Tom Buckland found working with Whiteside at Hands On to be quite inspirational.
“Simon is very free, without restrictions on himself,” he said. “Perhaps I can be too limited and need to get out of my box a bit. Sometimes you need someone else to say: ‘Why do it that way?’. There are always different approaches and new directions.”
So, at the end of the project, with the art completed and the exhibition installed in the gallery, would the artists do it again? Brian Allan and Robyn Chick from Hands On both say yes. And practising artist Tom Buckland says “definitely.”
With 75 community artists at Hands On Studios, and many keen professional artists around Canberra, curator and project manager Tilly Davey will have to put her thinking cap on and organise another community collaboration project, so that more artists can get involved.
Meet Makers 8 exhibition is supported by ACT government arts funding, CatholicCare and Australian National Capital Artists.
ANCA Gallery, Rosevear Place, Dickson
Open 12 to 5 pm Wednesday to Sunday until 25 August.