We Must Get Together Some Time

We-Must-Get-Together-Some-Time-Sharyn-Egan-recent-painting-on-boardSpanning two gallery spaces in Mandurah, We Must Get Together Some Time is an expansive exhibition featuring the works of eleven Western Australian creatives who form an artist collective of the same name.

The members of this multi-disciplinary group share an ethos of ‘slow making’, a process-driven practice that is sensitive to place, concerned with the long-term, and in the words of participating artist Nien Schwarz, ‘entangled with nature’.

In turn, their works call for viewers to perform the act of ‘slow looking’, to take the time to properly observe and consider what we see. Across both galleries we are encouraged to focus on process, materiality, and detail – seductive texture, subtle colour, tiny stitch – prompting a mindful experience which has almost become unfamiliar in the current climate.

It’s as if these works are reminding us to ‘come home’ to the present moment, to return to the local and tangible worlds of nature and the handmade.

As the title suggests, We Must Get Together Some Time is concerned with connections, exploring both natural and artistic ecologies; the relationship between these practitioners and their natural environment, the links between members of the collective, and the interconnectedness of an artist’s practice and their daily life.

In the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre, the exquisitely detailed fabric pages of Nandi Chinna (poet) and textile artist Jane Donlin are speared with fine twigs of spinifex, like a home-grown noticeboard, emerging from the wall as if they were planted there.

Annette Nykiel’s quilt-like works encompass the essence of a landscape through its colours, captured using natural dyes – the artist traversing the land in much the same way as her lines of stitches meander over the cloth.

Across the room, Nandi Chinna’s work Riverography literally grows as it accumulates the personal ‘river stories’ visitors are invited to write directly onto the wall, within an oversized map outlining the local waterways.

The irregular clay vessels of Nien Schwarz, which span both gallery spaces, evoke a similar sense of togetherness. Cast from the bodies of members from the artist collective, and crowded closely together in circles, it is easy to imagine these objects in your own hands, suggesting the act of sharing, and of collective nourishment.

Over in Contemporary Art Spaces Mandurah, Sharyn Egan has produced an engaging selection of small paintings, accompanied by a video in which she describes her techniques in collecting and using natural pigments and resins. It is fascinating to hear more about this evocative process in the artist’s own voice, as she emphasises the age and history of the materials she works with.

The poetry of nature is embraced as a sort of co-collaborator by many of the artists, from Michelle Slarke’s shelf of saltlake relics, which features desiccated creatures and plants as tiny found sculptures, to the dramatic lines of frozen movement captured in the suspended tree branch sculptures and the algae-assisted cyanotype of Perdita Phillips.

Multiple artists also work with a pleasing pairing of textile and stone, including Dianne Strahan’s Wrapped Rocks, and Jane Donlin’s miniature baskets and woven vessels, which incorporate piles of pebbles within dense webs of woven stitches.

Seemingly made to wear or to clutch in your palm, Donlin’s talismanic charms appear as travelling reminders of time spent on the land, endowed with meaning through the movements of their crafter.

Helen Coleman’s nearby woven work Joining Hands stretches from floor to ceiling, providing contrast through its scale and its evocation of multiple collaborating makers.

Curated by Annette Nykiel, Carolyn Marks and James Walker as a part of the inaugural Indian Ocean Craft Triennial, this is a dense exhibition which rewards viewers for spending time with each work, along with the thoughtful accompanying catalogue.

We Must Get Together Some Time surveys the collective’s ongoing and sustained critical thinking surrounding the act of responding to nature through craft. It delivers a timely reminder for us to contemplate the land we live on with a heightened sensitivity of our responsibilities towards the natural world.

We Must Get Together Some Time was presented at the Alcoa Mandurah Art Gallery and Contemporary Art Spaces Mandurah as part of the Indian Ocean Craft Triennial (IOTA21) from 17 October to 14 November 2021. For more information, visit: www.lethologicapress.org for details.

We Must Get Together Some Time will be presented at the Nexis Gallery Narrogin from 12 February to 12 March 2022 (Free entry). For more information, visit: www.artsnarrogin.com.au for details.

Image: Sharyn Egan, recent painting on board  (various titles) with materials including marri pigment, acrylic, balga resin, balga pigment, ochre, ink oil, oil pastel and emu feathers, 2021, courtesy and copyright Sharyn Egan – photo by Daniel Wilkins

Review: Jenny Scott