As the winners were announced on Sunday, I realized that I had not chosen many of the winners to write about, and in fact none of the top four prize winners were among those of which I gave my appreciation. This is to take nothing from those works I did write about – I admire them all intensely – but I felt it was important for me to take another look at the winning four works, at least, and as a result I will give a short appreciation of each of those pieces.
In preparation, this evening I roamed the platform photographing the pieces for myself – I am coming to enjoy that process as I try to capture the best angle and lighting, though I don’t claim that I achieve the best possible result. What I did discover, though, is that the top four winners this month were all extremely challenging to photograph effectively, because of motion of various kinds which is intrinsic to the work in each case. I shall comment on this as part of each appreciation. I am also finding at the moment that sunset seems to be a good time to photograph these pieces, though that might be simply because I am quite unskilled in the use of software to manipulate lighting effects of still images; and so my photographs are at this stage presented unretouched, as taken.
So, turning now to the four works in question:
1st Prize: FLY WITH THE WIND by Josina Burgess
This piece is so ethereal and insubstantial (materially, not conceptually) that it is extremely difficult to apprehend intellectually, to identify in regard to form and space. It is clouds, it is feathers, it is the moon, it is tree limbs in a ghostly forest… it is there, you reach out to grasp it, and it is gone, fleeing from all your senses as it whirls and cycles and pulsates with living energy. You cower back a little as a smoky tendril curls towards you, and then a flow of cumulus overwhelms you momentarily and when it clears you are almost alone, a hazy moon shimmering at an indeterminate distance. This piece is sheer visual poetry.
Josina Burgess Fly With the Wind
2nd Prize: FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE by Miso Susanowa
This work I recall being quite confused by, on the first occasion on which I approached it. I did not take it for one of the pieces at all, but as some piece of signposting – but then, the signage disappeared as I approached, to reveal a simple abstract metal sculpture within the guard ropes. I have chosen to photograph this work with the signage in invisible mode, the polished metal surfaces of the comparatively conventional sculpture glinting in the evening glow. But of course, it is the signage which makes the artist’s statement most clearly, as this piece is in fact a commentary on the very experience of viewing art in a gallery context. The velvet guard ropes stand in protection of the piece from the marauding hands of the viewer, and the signage speaks of many aspects of the traditional gallery visit. Prohibitions of many kinds adorn one face, while another lists a range of artistic forms and personalities, while at the corners are listed various groups and phenomena which are often associated with the art gallery experience in cliché, from ‘grandma’ and ‘homosexuals’ to ‘Beatniks’ and the mysterious ‘cubicles’. Clearly ‘art’ is for minorities who will talk softly, obey the rules and enjoy what they are ‘supposed’ to enjoy. This work is both subtlely caustic and whimsical, but many a gallery manager would do well to consider the degree to which the artist intends their work to be ‘protected’ from the viewer.
Miso Susanowa For Your Viewing Pleasure
3rd Prize: Joint: LAZER BALLS by Betty Tureaud
One approaches this work, having seen a photograph previously, wondering where it has gone. Then one sees the invitation to step upon it – the curator of Miso’s imaginary gallery would coil back in horror! Emboldened, though, by the participatory nature of so much of what is on display at UWA in SL, you advance upon the platform, and the work suddenly springs to life. Standing close to the work, the first impression is as of a simple laser light show in a club or concert venue. But when one steps back to evaluate the scale of the work, two things take place. Firstly, you are awed by the whirling circles of laser balls, moving so fast and in such quantity that they blend to form continual bands of intense green light. And then you are stunned as the work starts to disintegrate before your eyes, the balls falling from their cycle and the whole piece disintegrating in a matter of seconds. Not only is this a participatory piece, but participation is compulsory. You will not step on her work? Then the artist will not let you see it. In a sense, this piece stands as a corollary to our 2nd prize winner, mocking the concept of art as something to be viewed from a distance. I have only begun to become familiar with Betty’s work, but what I have seen suggests that the involvement of the viewer is key to her intent.
Betty Tureaud Lazer Balls
3rd Prize: Joint: THE GLOWING SERPENT by Ginger Alsop
It seems that in new releases of SL viewers we should become accustomed to ‘Ginger’ no longer being ‘red’, and so I have termed her here without the end portion of her name. I hope she doesn’t mind! Her ‘Glowing Serpent’ was challenging to photograph in that the main impact of the work, the serpent itself, continually circulates a central pillar of light, making if very difficult to pin down. In the end, the best approach was to position the camera at a point of view into which the serpent would move after some seconds had passed. Like most of the winning four works (Miso’s being the exception) this one changes form and perspective continually, confusing the brain as to which part is near to the viewer and which part is diminishing into the distance. You have no clear idea as to whether the coloured cubes are all the same size, or whether the size of the cubes is even constant. Sometimes you are not even sure that the components remain cubes at all times. I would want to stand and watch this work for a considerable time before I could be sure what I was seeing. In some theologies, the serpent is an agent of deception, and this work is no less serpentine for that. One’s vision is continually challenged and deceived, yet one is also entranced by the endless whirling cycle of colour, the serpent cobra-like in its hypnotic impact.
Ginger Alsop The Glowing Serpent
I would love to have written an appreciation of more pieces, but this is an extremely busy time for me in the ‘other world’ and in fact I will be largely missing from SL for a few days, until Saturday, popping in only quite briefly, and perhaps working a little on my own blog. I want to thank people who have made positive comments about what I have written so far, and continually invite constructive criticism. Thankyou also to those artists who have spoken to me personally or invited friendship – I am humbled and honoured. The week started with an unexpected blow to my pride, and I have been encouraged by the kindness of so many. Thankyou again to Jayjay and FreeWee for allowing me space for these musings.