Young artists look to their ancient futures in Primavera


Primavera, held annually at the Museum of Contemporary Art, showcases the work of Australian artists under the age of 35. This year eight artists respond to the theme ‘Ancient Futures.’ Jacobus Capone, Adam John Cullen, Nicole Foreshew, Teelah George, Laura Hindmarsh, Elena Papanikolakis, Tom Polo and Kynan Tan explore the connection between existing in the present and the past, and how this relates to collections.

The reference to archives and collecting is particularly apparent in the work of Elena Papanikolakis. In Unbound, 2017, she combines personal photographs, second-hand books and magazines to create a collage which she then draws and paints over. By maintaining many of the original features of the book pages, the result is an image far removed from its original but which still maintains the allusion of validity as an archival object. Through the appropriation of information, Papanikolakis has altered the way these objects communicate, effectively changing the message and re-writing the pages.

In direct contrast to this, Kynan Tan’s video installation Data Erasure ,2017, highlights our connection to, and reliance on, data. Three screens fill the space. Two screens display visual mappings of data as an analysis of different data sources is performed. The sound it creates is loud and consuming. On the third screen is an animated simulation of a factory conveyor belt on which, one by one, hard drives are systematically destroyed. Data Erasure highlights the sheer amount of data we consume and create every day, and our eternal fear of losing it all.

Tom Polo_In a Part of Your Mind-I Am You_2017_install view (LowRes)
Tom Polo, In a Part of Your Mind, I Am You, 2017, installation view, Primavera 2017: Young Australian Artists, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, multimedia painting installation, image courtesy the artist and STATION, Melbourne, © the artist, photograph: Jessica Maurer.

Inspired by the Bocca della Verità in Rome (also known as The Mouth of Truth) Tom Polo has created a free standing wall of masks. In a Part of Your Mind, I Am You, 2017, masks are used as a symbol of personal protection and a means through which to conceal emotion. As the wall of black, open mouthed, wide-eyed masks stare back there is a distinct sense of something far more sinister lurking behind the façade. Masks can camouflage feelings of fear, sadness and happiness, but they also conceal lies, deceit and rage. This relates back to the artist’s  source of inspiration: legend proclaims that if you placed your hand in the mask’s mouth and it bites down, you were revealed to be a liar.

With the vast and empty landscape of Lake George as her backdrop, Laura Hindmarsh used 16mm film to record short repetitive shots 20 seconds long. This is the maximum shot duration you can achieve with the wind-up film camera. The artist began by being close-up to the camera and she gradually increased the focal point of each shot while running into the distance. By using film not suited to the strong Australian sun, the shots end up overexposed and Hindmarsh disappears. Finding Focus, 2016, explores our connection with the landscape and the almost mythical qualities of the Lake George region.

Throughout each of the works in Primavera the dichotomy between the physical, natural world and the overwhelming digital landscape (and our relationship to it) is dissected. Featuring collage, installation, painting, photography and video, Primavera delivers a strong and engaging range of works, while each of the exhibiting artists present a highly personalised view of ‘Ancient Futures.’

Primavera – Young Australian Artists
23 August – 19 November
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

Preview Words by Naomi Gall