Date: 02-May-2015 – 31-May-2015
Location: Contemporary Art Tasmania
Tender Exotics presents an international selection of works on paper from across two centuries revealing an expansive range of aesthetics and intentions. Botanical drawings, originally serving as pedagogical tools for scientific research, are contrasted with highly imaginative works from underground figures.
Sucking on Nothing is the title of the new series of drawings by Sydney based artist Nik Kamvissis. The artist’s work can be summarised as primitive surrealism, presenting a type of folkloric perversity. Kamvissis’s imagery has as its source a more specifically graphic tradition in record cover illustration and design. As a visual, sound and vocal artist over the past two decades, Kamvissis has been a recognised force behind the Australian noise and punk scene collecting accolades from the New York group Sonic Youth and Japan’s the Boredoms.
Bobby Beausolei is an American artist and composer who has been producing artworks whilst serving a life sentence for murder. Often anthropomorphic, Beausoleil’s images represent mans struggle with ego, nature, and spirituality. His work veers from the mystical and allegorical to the overtly psychedelic. His work as a composer, most notably for legendary filmmaker and “the high priest of troublesome art” Kenneth Anger in his work Lucifer Rising (1972), also informs his painting and drawing in that, space, sound and a musical sensibility inhabits every corner of his meticulously rendered bristol board and pencil icons (he has taught himself to work with the only materials available in the American prison system). Taking his spiritual and visual cues from an Aleister Crowley/OTO splinter group ‘The Solar Lodge’ comparative religion, ancient mythology and American Biker-culture iconography Beausoliel has alchemically combined these seemingly insoluble ingredients in the cauldron of 45 years incarceration.
Alongside is the work of eminent Australian botanical artist Margaret Stones. Born in Victoria (Australia) in 1920, Stones was the principal illustrator for the six-volume botanical publication The Endemic Flora of Tasmania. Commissioned by Lord Talbot de Malahide (1912 -1973), a British Diplomat who in 1940 inherited an estate at Fingal in the North-East of Tasmania, where his ancestors had settled since the 1820s. Lord Talbot had a keen interest in gardening and more specifically, in collecting and growing rare plants. He had tried growing Tasmanian species in Ireland and finding this difficult, he turned instead to the notion of collecting ‘plant portraits’. In 1962 Margaret Stones, alongside Dr Winifred Curtis, a botanist at the University of Tasmania began this project that would eventually be described as one of the foremost botanical publications of the twentieth century.
The exhibition will also present adaptations of designs by 18th Century Scottish botanist, garden and cemetery designer, John Claudius Loudon. These drawings of Loudon’s greenhouse designs will be re-appropriated and reproduced by Alan Townsend, who reproduces historic wallpaper in various institutions and heritage sites. Townsend will create wallpaper from these schematics using traditional silk-screening methods.
The title Tender Exotics refers to the unifying themes of the exhibition: specimen, artist and institution. Whether operating within the seemingly conservative framework of a disciplinary field, like botanical drawing, or propelled by more autonomous directives, the highly diverse artworks provide models of dedication to practice that are exemplary and inspiring. The illustrator’s fastidious attention to their floral subjects resonates with the ferociously independent spirit of the underground artists and so the exhibition seeks to present these figures as unlikely but undeniable kindred spirits. This show endeavours to challenge and unsettle the classification of images in a contemporary art institutional context through its unique integration. The re-contextualisation of work by these disparate artists asks the viewer to interrogate their own ideas of authorship and artistic value.