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Art lovers and critical architects


Text: Sara Anne Best
Images courtesy: Art Month Sydney

Contemporary art is intimidating. But during March in Sydney a free, open invitation exists for the uninitiated to explore and the entrenched to cultivate their local scene. That is, if you’re not exhausted from the Sydney Festival or saving your energy for the Biennale.

The fifth edition of the event offers some intersections and parallels between various fields of design. Mediated through fashion, architecture and design, the ‘In Situ: Intersections between contemporary art and architecture’ presentation positions art at the core of all creative industries.

But architecture is art.

Understandably, the artists don’t see it this way. What’s more, the public doesn’t generally discriminate between building and architecture either, despite a subtle yet important distinction between the two. It was Arne Jacobsen who rightly said: “If a building becomes architecture, then it is art.”

It is true that architecture is bound by function and therefore perceived as disconnected from the arts. Perhaps mistakenly, the foundation of our profession is a Bachelor of Science in Architecture instead of a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Architecture. Establishing this difference, Art Month talk ‘In Situ: Intersections between Contemporary Art and Architecture’ began with a quote from artist Donald Judd, “Art and architecture… do not have to exist in isolation.”

The Pecha Kucha format (20 slides in 20 seconds style of presentation) gave seven contributors a platform to present their work, but little time for discussion around the theme. A full house at Tusculum (fortunately for one speaker, “art lovers and not grumpy and critical architects”) could draw their own intersections and parallels between a group of practitioners who are clearly blurring the boundaries between their respective fields.

Beginning with the classic architect and artist, Michelangelo, the well-travelled Philip Arnold presented 20 works that have inspired his practice. Broadly speaking, the examples were inhabitable works of art, brought about by a cross-pollination of ideas and shared influence. In fact, Arnold was inspired to become an architect by Aldo Van Eyck, who sought walls made of roses for his church at Deventer.

An obvious parallel was that of a shared process. Whereby an idea germinates and is rigorously tested, assessed, altered and tested again. Stephanie Flaubert spoke of the truth of physical models as an essential part of the process of ‘metal manipulation’ for Korban/Flaubert. Its sculptural objects create a moment of dense focus within a space, a sense of fluidity and constrained energy that is heightened through model-making.

Sam Marshall instead takes the architectural model and objectifies it, like art in a gallery, in an effort to further public awareness of the profession. Unlike an exhibition of architectural drawings or perspectives, his Supermodels exhibition made architectural representation of form, space and materials accessible to a broader audience.

“Two steps forward, one back” was the refrain of Dion Horstmans’ presentation, which chronicled his process of experimentation with shadow and cellular structures. Horstmans acknowledges the influence of tribal motif and graffiti on his art that is increasingly approaching architecture in its own right. His earlier work can be described as parasitic, heavily dependent on walls and ceilings from which they hang. In a recent architectural collaboration the scale was expanded to what can only be described as an F18 fighter plane cum civic awning. The collaboration highlights the shifting modes of practice where traditional, solitary studios are less prevalent.

Archrival and Tomahawk Studios are working across both disciplines simultaneously, using small-scale art and design projects to test ideas, engage and create social exchange. Likewise, artist Richard Goodwin concerns himself with social exchange, but at the city scale. For him, the city is a wounded body, a healing project for artists. His interventions including Mine and 7m Bar existed as commentary on the ownership of public space, a theme that continues to occupy Goodwin in his propositions.

Shared influences, shared process and shared goals for public engagement unite those working in art as artists and/or architects in an increasingly collaborative way. At a time when the art world is collapsing in the face of commerce, it may develop even further parallels with architecture. After all, it is the first of the arts to navigate the punishing demands of industry.



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