26 November - 3 December, 2022
Yale-Columbia Telescope, Mount Stromlo Observatory, Canberra/Kamberri
“HEAVENS” is an exhibition on alien life – observed through aberrant forms and eerie images that press upon the boundaries of familiarity.
The site of the Mount Stromlo Observatory is a place where we – life on earth – look beyond our terrestrial realm to consider what is “out-there”. It signals our desire to imagine and investigate the universe beyond, to understand our humanity by looking up into “the HEAVENS”– especially in moments of crisis.
During dark and difficult times, religiosity, rumour and myth surge, colonialism and conjecture, conspiracy theories and pseudoscience abound, often reverberating with a new futurist gloss. “Living myths” like these loosen our connections to reality, they afford us the opportunity to establish symbolic relationships with concepts that are beyond us, yet are capable of dividing us.
In his essay “Flying saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies”, Carl Jung did not doubt whether or not UFOs existed, rather arguing that UFOs are the psychological projections of our grief and psychic tension onto objects. He described how in “situations of collective distress, danger and vital psychic need”, “the projection-creating fantasy soars beyond the realm of earthly organizations and powers – into the heavens, into interstellar space”, and outward toward other archetypal symbols.
Many of these symbols are laden with salvationist fantasy, we are hopeful and are lifted by apparitions, driven by “spirit-motivated illusions of desire”, and we imagine salvation from above. Such a condition is omnipresent, existing for instance in the ominous “cloud” of contemporary technocapitalism, with some people hoping for a techno-scientific salvation for a post-human planet.
So why do we imagine such things, and why do we imagine at all? And why the urge to materialise and anthropomorphize? Why the pull to project our subconscious content onto alien lifeforms?
These artworks act as lures, archetypal figures situated at the borderline between what is familiar and what is strange, between pure sign and purely functional, between body and machine, between spirit and nature, heaven and earth.
HEAVENS seeks to uncover the emotional and psychological nature of how we come to know, maybe helping to show us that we are capable of different – alien – experiences of knowing that operate beyond any determination of truth or reality, fact or fiction, human and non-human.
Alexis Kanatsios is a Melbourne-based artist who graduated from Monash University (BFA with Honours) in 2021, and was awarded the Damiano Bertoli Memorial Award.
The ‘object’ is a core component in Kanatsios’ practice. Through a number of sculptural and drawing processes, Kanatsios utilises a unique visual language to explore relationships between form and image. Kanatsios’ work blurs the line between representation and abstraction, appearing at once recognisable and uncanny. Engaging with the aesthetics of design, art history and ‘the everyday’ as a tool to navigate curiosity; Kanatsios defines relationships between form, image and audience, creating a new context for the everyday and fantastical to become increasingly ambiguous.
Recent exhibitions include Foul is fair (2021), at Asbestos, Melbourne. Kanatsios is participating in upcoming exhibitions at Bossy’s, Melbourne; Al Fresco, Canberra; and Asbestos, Melbourne.
Beth Maslen is an artist from Perth currently living in Melbourne. She graduated from Monash University (BFA Honours) in 2021, and was awarded the Sue Rose Award, and was a finalist in Hatched: National Graduate Show 2021, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA).
Interested in the ways that wonder can be generated by engaging and reconfiguring the material of her everyday, Beth’s work often combines found objects with considerable material research and processes.
Currently her practice circles around sculpture, observation and photography.
Hugo Blomley’s practice operates primarily within sculpture. He constructs idiosyncratic systems and methodologies that play with the tension between familiarity and abstraction.
Blomley completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Painting) at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2020, and is currently completing Honours Fine Art (Honours) at Monash University. In 2018, he was awarded the Maude Glover Fleay Scholarship. Blomley also has a collaborative practice with Clara Joyce; together they run NWEB, a curatorial project with an adaptive methodology interested in the potential of collaboration and organisation.
Jasper Jordan-Lang is a Melbourne-based artist working across various media, primarily sculpture and film.
His work interrogates the urban landscape through a speculative lens, imagining a collapse of distinction between past, present, and future. A process which begins with walking, observation, and documentation, quickly devolves into a web-like world of urban mythmaking, local history, and apocrypha.
Focussing on aspects of the urban environment such as indexical, transitory marks, as well as infrastructural and utilitarian textures, Jordan-Lang highlights the inherent strangeness of the everyday and the connection of the physical to the imagined, the real to the fictious. Subculture, rumours, and physical clues in the public domain are thus a blank canvas for non-specific, implied narrative. Within this, details of his immediate surroundings are re-interpreted as out of place artefacts in an imagined future.
Jordan-Lang’s work is held in numerous private collections in Australia.
Megan Walch is a Tasmanian artist who exploits the plastic conditions of painting and drawing media to cross cultural and aesthetic boundaries of form. She is a graduate of the University of Tasmania’s School of Art and has a Masters from the San Francisco Art Institute, USA. She is a Samstag Scholar and an alumnus of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the Space Program, USA. Her practice has developed through spending extended periods of time living and working overseas.
Megan has undertaken residencies in Tapei and Thailand. Her work has been exhibited in the United States and Australia, including Wilderness, curated by Wayne Tunnicliffe at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2010, Kindle and Swag - The Samstag Effect, curated by Ross Wolfe, University of South Australia Art Museum, 2004, Artists to Artists, Ace Gallery, New York, 2002, and Primavera 2000, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.
Megan Walch appears courtesy of Bett Gallery, Hobart
Patricia Piccinini examines the increasingly nebulous boundary between the artificial and the natural as it appears in contemporary culture and ideas. Her surreal drawings, hybrid animals and vehicular creatures question the way that contemporary technology and culture changes our understanding of what it means to be human and wonders at our relationships with – and responsibilities towards – that which we create. While ethics are central, her approach is ambiguous and questioning rather than moralistic and didactic.
“My practice is focused on bodies and relationships; the relationships between people and other creatures, between people and our bodies, between creatures and the environment, between the artificial and the natural. I am particularly interested in the way that the everyday realities of the world around us change these relations. Perhaps because of this, many have looked at my practice in terms of science and technology, however, for me it is just as informed by Surrealism and mythology. My work aims to shift the way that people look at the world around them and question their assumptions about the relationships they have with the world.”
Patricia Piccinini appears courtesy of Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Trent Crawford (b.1995) is a Melbourne-based artist whose work considers the influence images and image-based technology have on notions of truth, belief, and agency. He completed a BFA (Honours) at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2017, and the Lisbon-based Maumaus Independent Study Program in 2022. Trent is a Samstag Scholar and has been awarded the John and Mary Kerley Studio Research Travelling Scholarship and Keith and Elisabeth Murdoch Travelling fellowship. In recent years he has participated in national and international exhibitions at 4649, Tokyo; Palazzo San Giuseppe, Italy; Ace Open, Adelaide; Myojuji Sarue, Tokyo; Hobiennale, Hobart; Metro Arts, Brisbane and Auto Studio, Beijing.