SALA is here and that means I am out and about at exhibitions being drenched in the creativity of artists around me. I have been fortunate to be involved in a few of the openings, invited to speak and have an opportunity to reflect and introduce the art being shared.
The diversity of images and media chosen by various artists calls us voyeurs to come closer. I am not a visual artist or sculpture, but I can sometimes see things other people can’t in a situation or detect something emerging on the horizon. Artists have the ability to make visible what perhaps others of us can’t see. Their eye, their choice of colours, how they frame their subject, what media they use, are all portals of possibilities to enable us gazing on their work to get a glimpse into how they are seeing the world.
I opened an exhibition at the Willunga Uniting Church Bethany Hall called Breathe. I talked about the relationship between inspiration and expiration – breathing in and breathing out. Doing this simple exercise of breathing together has been seriously compromised in these pandemic times, and so I think it is more important than ever to find ways in which we can communally get an opportunity to share the air without causing us harm and the humble act of an exhibition opening in a church hall, is one such way. Masked up and suitably separated by distance, the assembled gathered to celebrate the coming out of studios where work was created, now being shared and made visible for all to see.
The artists I’ve seen over these first two weeks of SALA are incredibly diverse. I have seen the beauty of crayon and paint of a 4 year old Estelle at a school-based SALA event, the interlocking pieces of old car parts and industrial rusted components transformed into sea creatures, oil paints layered to recreate a memory of a lost love, weaving patterns as old as the Dreamtime being used for baskets, mixed media collages calling forth the seasons, glass mosaics, endangered lizard potrait in charcoal, bejewelled earrings telling a tale of surf and sand, mandalas in ink drawn by the steadiest of hands, abstracted landscapes in every shade of green, deep time reflected in ancient red gum hosting seed pods, sunflowers offering up a blessing to a blue sky in honour of Ukraine.
Just as the artist puts their work in the world, an expiration if you like, or what has inspired them, so we the viewer get to inhale their work and then exhale it through our interpretation. We don’t survive if we only breathe out or only breathe in! We can’t live on oxygen or carbon dioxide, it is the mix and balance of these gases that enables us all to survive and we need both.
I know a bit about what it is like to have one more than the other and it is very unpleasant. Regular readers over the years will know my husband died of a disease where the lungs capacity to transfer oxygen into the blood stream and deliver enough oxygen to the rest of the body failed, and it took almost a decade for that failure to end in death. It is not too dissimiliar to what is happening to us as a planet. If we don’t arrest this situation we too will literally won’t be able to breathe.
Artists and their creations are critical in helping us see what might be invisible. Get along to any SALA event if you can and open up to seeing something new, or being moved by a memory, or even repelled by an image that offends your sensibilities. What ever your reaction it is an echo of the relationship between breathing in and breathing out, and we need both.