Life cycles of the artist studio


In The Long Kiss Goodbye, six artists play with old artworks, materials, ideas and images, transforming them anew. At the core of the exhibition is a sculptural wall-hanging—a quilt the size of a cinema screen, Sarah Contos Presents: The Long Kiss Goodbye, 2017. Made from “fragments and artist proofs,” as curator Gemma Weston explains, this work, which won Sydney-based artist Sarah Contos the inaugural Ramsey Prize, “was made with the intention of wrapping up and saying goodbye to a moment in time.” Fabric, screen prints and embellishments from previous works are gathered up together; disparate narratives coalesce.

Sarah Contos, Sarah Contos Presents: The Long Kiss Goodbye (installation view), 2016, screen-print on linen, canvas and lamé, digital printed fabrics and various found fabrics, PVC, poly-fil, glass, ceramic and plastic beads, thread, artists’ gloves, 330 x 610 x 25 cm, Gift of Janet & Diana Ramsay Foundation for the Ramsay Art Prize 2017, Art Gallery of South Australia, . Photograph courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.

Clare Peake’s practice also frequently re-digests itself, using old works as the basis for new pieces. Here, the artist has made sterling silver rings filled with the ashes of her visual diaries. “There’s a kind of catharsis to reusing those works,” says Weston; “it borders on ritualistic practice.” Titled Things are never ending, this series suggests an ongoing and self-perpetuating cycle rather than a neat wrap-up. An installation by Penny Coss, which sees the artist’s dreamy paintings expand into three dimensions, will be reworked three times throughout the exhibition in a choreographed performance.

Curated for Perth Festival, The Long Kiss Goodbye may have begun as an exploration of studio processes, but the project has gone through its own transformation—sprouting references to psychoanalysis, deities, ritual and the afterlife. Both Iain Dean and Brent Harris situate existential spectres within pop culture and art history. Michele Eliot’s textile series the confidantes emerges from her work as artist-in-residence at a community funeral home, and involves cloths dyed with funeral flowers donated by bereaved families. This turn towards grief and end-of-life care throws a different light on the exhibition’s title, as transformation moves out of the studio and into the slippery, intangible stuff of life and death.

The Long Kiss Goodbye
Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery
8 February—9 May

This article was originally published in the March/April 2020 print edition of Art Guide Australia.

Art Guide Australia is continuously monitoring gallery and museum responses to COVID-19 with our daily gallery update. At this time Lawrence Wilson Gallery remains open to the public.

Preview Words by Anna Dunnill