With an artistic career that has spanned 40 years, prominent WA artist Stuart Elliott will have lots to talk about in his Artist Talk on Sat 7 Sep. We recently caught up with Elliott to find out more about his practice and his works on display in our current exhibition Fremantle 1988.
Hi Stuart, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your art practice?
I was born in Midland Junction in 1953. After completing an apprenticeship in electrical fitting I went on to study at Claremont School of Art and Curtin University. My professional art career began in 1981. In total, I’ve had 21 major solo exhibitions, and numerous group shows and commissions. In 2006 I was awarded a prestigious Arts WA Fellowship (a once a lifetime award) and an Artsource Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. I’m also represented in most major private and public collections across WA.
The exhibition is deeply engrained with ‘Fakeology’. What does the term mean? And how has it influenced your work?
Fakeology literally means ‘fake archaeology’. Pre-dating Trump, Fakeology gestated in 1980 during my degree at Curtin University. I was drawn to German Expressionism and hence to African art. I became quite struck by many of the motivations of African work and the similarities with my own motivations – the fears, concerns and material obsessions. The African work seemed rarely illustrative or self-evident. It was often socially encoded but in such enigmatic ways like Egyptian art and hieroglyphics. Its meaning may be obscure but that meaning must have existed because of the work’s beauty and complexity. So I set out to try and cross-reference my own social concerns into work that leaned to the obtuse or even paradoxical. Always issue-driven, the work, however, most often develops its own internal logic and fault lines. The forms and figures, surfaces and appliances are inevitably imbued with layers, surfaces that allude to arcane industrial or ritual contexts beyond the actual situation(s) of the potential viewer. In short, like fictional museum exhibits, they should allude to a larger, but perhaps unknowable reality beyond themselves and their current situation.
What is Fremantle 19888 and how did you develop the idea behind it?
Fremantle 1988 was a commission intended to respond to Australia’s Bicentennial. Spare Parts Puppet Theatre asked me to respond to the theme with a special reference to Fremantle. The work developed from my experience of working and living in Fremantle over a number of years and different sets of circumstances. I drew on elements of popular history, anecdotes and family history. I drew heavily too on my own recent practice, particularly a couple of gallery shows which were themselves informed by maritime matters, through working with Spare Parts and my global journey from North Perth (1984) to South Perth (1987) via Roebuck, St Kilda, and San Francisco Bays.
You’re conducting an artist talk at Fremantle Arts Centre on Sat 7 Sep. What will you discuss?
I suppose the best place to start the talk would be the work itself. Why it took the form it did, what much of the contents were developed from and where it sat then and now in the scheme of my practice. I’ll also bring in some small, recent structures to give an indication of where this process is heading now.