by Poorvi Rajimwalé
Art has a sui generis ability of reaching across borders and connecting cultures. It plays a vital role in bridging the gap generated by distances, languages and customs and brings people together. With a similar desire of overcoming the obstacles posed by geographical limitations and building international artistic connections, an online exhibition named Sister City II_Change was recently launched at Praxis Art Space in Bowden, SA, Australia, pairing together women artists from four different countries. Twenty artists from India, Australia, USA and Canada worked alongside for over two years to create a space to express their ideas and form new collaborations. The project was the brainchild of Andrea Przygonski, a curator and artist herself by profession, who had worked on a similar project earlier. For Przygonski, the plan was to team up artists who had never met before and get them to work together.
The theme of "Change" was collectively decided upon by the participants. Even before Covid-19 emerged and upended our lives, it was clear that the artists wanted to explore the idea of change in relation to contemporary times. How prophetic the theme sounds now!
After working in a zoom-restricted world for nearly over two years, the artists still managed to forge deep connections with each other and went on to create innovative bodies of works. The subject matter of CHANGE acknowledges the gargantuan issues we face living in the Anthropocenic era– the deleterious impact of our actions on the ecosystems and our earnest desire to comprehend the situation in order to bring about much required changes. Many of the artists' projects discuss global warming issues, the degradations of our habitats and the urgent need to draw attention towards it. Other projects touched on topics like human resilience and relationship in the context of social uncertainty and precarious livelihoods.
Shantala Palat (India) paired up with Jackie Gorring (Australia) to create whimsical, witty human figures as a way of coping with these unusually difficult times. Using the method of "Exquisite Corpse" the artists would paint or print different body parts and share them with each other. They then joined the pieces and let them morph into beings of their own. The idea was to use humour and mischief as a way of staying resilient and keep moving forward.
Gotcha! by Shantala Palat and Jackie Gorring, 128 inches x 71 inches, 2021
Ursulaism by Shantala Palat and Jackie Gorring, 106 inches x 84 inches, 2021
Foolscape by Shantala Palat and Jackie Gorring, 76 inches x 34 inches, 2021
Jillian Ciemitis (Australia) teamed up with Linde Caughey (USA) to draw attention to the spectre of climate change. They worked individually and integrated their works digitally to produce the final outcome of engaging, ethereal compositions to draw attention to environmental loss.
Fire Escape by Jillian Ciemitis and Linde Caughey, 2021
Drowning Tree by Jillian Ciemitis and Linde Caughey, 2021
Blue hyphae by Hanah Williams and Sallie Ketcham, 2021
Hideaway by Hanah Williams and Sallie Ketcham, Digital print, 2021
Connection by Hanah Williams and Sallie Ketcham, 2021
Another thought-provoking set of works is by Hanah Williams (Australia) and Sallie Ketcham (USA) who focus on the interdependence between trees and microorganisms that enables nature to prosper. Using print and photography techniques, the artists draw concerns towards the future of the world's forests and woodlands.
Work by Louise Holmes and Alyssa Beech
Louise Holmes (Australia) and Alyssa Beech (USA) focus on the bonds of sisterhood and interpersonal connections using the meditative process of weaving and hand-coloured artworks. Bronwyn Rees (Australia) collaborated with Gwen Davies (Canada), piecing fiction together with images to come up with bold, new challenging ideas as a tool to define our current situation. Using the methods of lino print and hand stitching the artists' works come across like vivid graphic novels that aptly summarize these odd, tumultuous times.
Bronwyn Rees and Gwen Davies, 2021
Overall, it was an ingenious project with a novel approach that brought together artists across continents and produced some striking, engaging new works.
(Exhibition photographs from the gallery;
photos courtesy of Black Box Live)
(All images are courtesy of the curator and the respective artists, unless mentioned otherwise.)
Poorvi Rajimwalé is originally from Jodhpur, Rajasthan. She holds a Masters in English Literature. She is currently based in Delhi, works as a freelance artist and writes on art.