Developed in response to the KILGOUR PRIZE 2021, guest curator Donna Biles Fernando examines artistic modus operandi through portraits from Newcastle Art Gallery’s collection.

The exhibition INSTRUMENTAL CAUSE is a response by Guest Curator Donna Biles-Fernando to the KILGOUR PRIZE 2021, featuring portraits from Newcastle Art Gallery’s collection that examine artistic modus operandi.

‘Instrumental Cause’ is both a scientific and theological theory first articulated in 350 B.C.E by philosopher Aristotle in his classical masterpiece Metaphysics. It was later expanded upon by scholastic theologian St Thomas Aquinas in The Argument from Efficient Cause in the 1250s.

Aristotle endeavoured to explain motion and change with four logic-based cause methodologies. Instrumental Cause is that which happens at the same time or is elevated to the production of something more noble than itself, beyond the measure of its own proper perfection and action. Aquinas concluded that there is an ‘efficient cause’ for everything. Nothing can be the efficient cause of itself, that to take away the cause is to take away the effect.

Both theories can be illustrated in the production of an artwork. It begins with the ‘material’, the medium. Then the ‘formal cause’ is the sketch in the Artist’s mind followed by the ‘efficient cause’, the Artist who brings about the change from medium to work. The ‘final cause’ is the purpose for which the work is made, in this example it is the creation of a portrait.

In an artmaking context, Instrumental Cause is the ability of the artist to connect, capture and create imaginings of the human guise.

19 Oct - 30 Jan

Newcastle Art Gallery

1 Laman Street Newcastle NSW 2300