Fremantle Arts Centre’s 2021 Perth Festival exhibition, A Forest of Hooks and Nails, sees the organisation’s install team, a crew of talented multidisciplinary artists juggling casual work while establishing their own practices, step into the spotlight and present new works which explore FAC’s galleries, iconic building and colourful history with their unique insider knowledge.
Opening 6:30pm Wednesday 3 February, A Forest of Hooks and Nails is curated by FAC Install Coordinator Tom Freeman and features ten WA artists working across a variety of media including screenprinting, largescale installation, video and audio work, interactive displays, small sculpture, photography, painting and animation.
It is a quirk of all arts institutions that the people who work frenetically to create the polished, sophisticated exhibition experiences unveiled to the public are often unseen and transient, but they’re also the most intimately acquainted with the artworks and spaces.
A Forest of Hooks and Nails, a title which pays tribute to the constellation of hardware, nails and screws hiding behind artworks and peppering gallery ceilings, is unique in bringing these artists to the fore for a major exhibition which investigates Fremantle Arts Centre itself.
Some artists will shine a light on their favourite nooks, crannies and architectural features; others respond to past artworks they’ve had a hand in installing and to the materials and processes commonly used to construct, hang, display and light an exhibition.
Other will delve into the economy of work and labour in the arts industry while some investigate the building’s history and relationship with the Fremantle community.
Curator Tom Freeman conceived A Forest of Hooks and Nails during FAC’s 2020 shutdown as a means of supporting the team through a period of significant financial uncertainty.
“Each and every one of our install crew has a creative practice they’re deeply passionate about,” he said. “Conversations during tea breaks always circle back to our latest artistic pursuits and they reveal the depth of consideration the install staff give to each of the artworks and artists they work with here.”
“It’s inspiring and energising to have such close-contact experiences in the gallery and I’m excited to see how the artists channel that energy into their respective creative outputs to explore their relationship to the building itself, its history and FAC’s place in the community.”
“This Festival is an important moment to celebrate and to deepen understanding of all facets of creative work, especially in light of gallery shutdowns during 2020, which had serious impacts for casual arts workers – so many of whom are artists,” said Perth Festival Visual Arts Program Associate Gemma Weston.
“An exhibition is the tip of an iceberg of work that’s often invisible to the general public, and I think this project will be both a fascinating peek ‘behind the scenes’ and a very interesting look at the day to day realities of building a career as an artist.”
A Forest of Hooks and Nails features works by Dan Bourke, Phoebe Clarke, Angela Ferolla, Rob Kettels, Maxxi Minaxi May, Hugh Thomson, Phoebe Tran, Tyrown Waigana, Zev Weinstein and Hansdieter Zeh.
About the Works
Dan Bourke works as both an install and gallery officer at FAC and as such, he oversees the full run of an exhibition. He has created a video work which reflects on the data collected daily in galleries. His work provides a visualisation of the ways architecture and attendance statistics can influence the way exhibitions are presented.
Phoebe Clarke draws attention to particular architectural features at FAC and what they reveal of the building’s different uses over time. Selecting staircases, fireplaces and windows, Clarke’s textile interventions honour the simple and enduring silhouettes of the Gothic landmark. Gently moving, they are also a subtle reminder of the changes still to come.
Angela Ferolla is a long-term textiles tutor and install technician at FAC. Considering the humble work of clearing away the mess of process to present audiences with finished exhibitions and the historic parallels resulting from colonisation, Ferolla will screenprint the floor in one of FAC’s corridors with a carpet of plants which used to be endemic in Fremantle.
Rob Kettels’ works is in-part a response to a 2017 artwork by Andrew Sunley-Smith called Carbon Supremacy, which Kettels installed during his first stint at FAC. Sunley-Smith filled the gallery with charred objects in a critique of global consumption of fossil fuels. By filling the gallery with salt, Kettels’ focus is more local. The work reflects on the ways the WA minerals industry subjugates our landscape.
Maxxi Minaxi May takes one of the simplest tools in the install arsenal – the ruler – and aesthetically sizes up the gallery. Her small sculptures will be arranged in geometric patterns and lit to refract colour and shape around the galleries in a nod to the shifting nature of the building.
Hugh Thomson will construct large forms made of common install materials arranged in fastidious patterns. Visitors can create unique and random soundscapes by dropping ball bearings through the structures. Celebrating the moment when everything functions in harmony, Thomson allows both the outcome and the process to take pride of place.
Phoebe Tran blends her skills in textile manipulation and electronic music making, gathering moss and snippets of sound from around FAC to produce a multi-sensory installation which captures the peaceful moments before the action of install begins.
Tyrown Waigana will position paintings, sculpture and animations in inconsequential spaces and hidden nooks and crannies where private install moments take place, humorously reflecting on the stereotypical characters found in galleries.
Zev Weinstein will explore a family connection to Fremantle’s Rajneesh community, which was the focus of a 2017 FAC exhibition Orange: Sannyas in Fremantle. Weinstein combines photography, archive material and found objects in this personal installation.
Hansdieter Zeh’s largescale paper works, created using the process of decollage, will be pasted directly onto the gallery walls. Exploring the ways FAC’s architecture was originally designed to intimidate, Zeh proposes wiping the slate clean by making something from a space that’s been cleared.
*Perth curator and writer Melissa McGrath was commissioned to write about each artist’s works for the A Forest of Hooks and Nails exhibition catalogue. These excerpts have been adapted from her writing.
A Forest of Hooks and Nails is open daily from Thursday 4 February until Sunday 14 March and is presented in association with Perth Festival.