Antonia Aitken: Walking Entanglements. ANCA Gallery, 1 Rosevear Place, Dickson. Until December 2.
Antonia Aitken moved from Canberra to Tasmania in 2014 and, as one strategy to come to grips with her new environment, she took to walking as a way to explore, map and own her new space. This ‘walking methodology’ came to serve as a key for her doctoral studies in Hobart and is the basis for this exhibition.
Each person walks differently, notices different things, and carries their peculiar combination of intellectual and physical baggage. This exhibition could be subtitled ‘walk a mile in my shoes by Antonia Aitken and the way I expressed it in my art’. The artist observes her environment from a mobile perspective and, possibly drawing on the thinking of Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger, she argues that her perception of the landscape brings together a combination of the known and perceived realities.
Aitken notes, “Through a methodology that engages walking, drawing, printmaking, sound, video and digital fabrication, I am attempting to gather a language in which to interpret an embodied engagement with the places I walk".
In an ambitious exhibition, Aitken combines sound, video, digital technologies, drawings, relief sculptures, stencil prints and woodcuts in a busy holistic installation within a fairly unsympathetic space. It is an exhibition where the individual parts are stronger than the whole and the parts that I felt worked best were the laser cut plywood reliefs, which became like a printmaker’s matrices, and their realisation as a stencilled charcoal drawing or a relief print.
The beauty of Aitken’s work lies in part in its exquisite technical finish and, in part, because of its broader cultural resonance. Her plywood panels with their intricate carved details are quite striking aesthetic objects in their own right, as well as serving the role of printing blocks for further images.
The leitmotifs in this exhibition are the holdfast from giant kelp found on Bruny Island and the stick shelters, in the form of nests, which she encountered in the Knocklofty Reserve when ascending Mount Wellington. They present a strange polarity of the natural and the constructed shapes, of sharp and spikey elements and rounded organic forms. They are like two sides of the same complex and multitiered environment.
Aitken has now completed her PhD and while this exhibition breathes of academic underpinnings that are deemed mandatory for that university exercise, her practice as a printmaker has been enriched and in her art she is in the process of absorbing the theory into her practice.
There is a basic honesty and integrity in her approach to art making that is combined with a strong skills base that should ensure that this printmaker from Canberra will remain a challenging and creative artist for the long term.
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