Supernatural Light Affinity. ANCA Gallery, 1 Rosevear Place, Dickson. Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 5pm. Closes March 14.
The Supernatural Light Affinity exhibition brings together four artists - Yvette Hamilton, Ali Noble, Lisa Sammut and Helen Shelley - who engage with the process of the re-enchantment of art.
In their artistic statement they write, "These artists are brought together by a desire to harness a sense of the unintelligible and supernatural, through works that consider light, reflectivity, and sensuality. Their combined artistic chemistry asks that we reinstate the poetic; that inspiring awe is a valid political and personal strategy. It feels unfashionable or naive to conjure optimism, but perhaps collaboration, cooperation and glitter are a means to resistance and endurance."
Exactly 30 years ago, Suzi Gablik published her explosive text, The Reenchantment of Art. In it she rebelled against the bankruptcy of modernism as an ego-driven obsession that divorced art from society. She argued that artists needed a "sense of community, an ecological perspective, and a deeper understanding of the mystical and archetypal underpinnings of spiritual life." Art, according to Gablik, was meant to engage with society, to enrich it and to give it hope.
The four artists in this exhibition adopt different strategies to bring out the sense of 'otherness' in their practice.
Noble employs velveteen, felt and even steel to create a shimmering surface with enigmatic shapes suspended in space. Shelley, possibly the most accomplished of the four artists, works in mixed media on Perspex with her series Ode to trees and the striking dark paintings from Our late loved ones series.
Hamilton engages with new media and in her Dark Star video and related digital prints creates moody, slightly spooky imagery, while Sammut at the exhibition is represented by a single work, Radical sign, 2021, a short cloudy video that was made with the assistance from a Homefront Grant from artsACT that kept many artists going during the COVID lockdown.
Visual artists were traditionally associated with alchemy through their manufacture of precious pigments and with Romanticism were distinguished through social practices that did not conform to the norm and were popularly seen as possessing arcane knowledge.
There was a whole mythology of artists 'born under Saturn' who somehow belonged outside of society and frequently perished in the 'real world'. In more recent postmodern times there was an expressed desire to demystify the arts and to view artists as art workers engaged in cultural production.
It appears that the artists in this exhibition wish to tap into this earlier tradition of the artist as a shaman, the creator of magic and of illuminating objects that can have a beneficial impact on society.
Noble's banner-like two-metre-long image, Flag for a secret society: Hope Conjurors, 2020, sums up many of the aspirations of this exhibition. The shapes in felt and velveteen sewn onto a velveteen background appear as if mystical symbols contained within a broad feminine form.
The surface is shimmering and reflective, slightly ethereal but, at the same time, positive and whimsically joyous.
As a group exhibition, this one works remarkably well with coherence and a special atmosphere that it creates within the darkened premises.
It becomes almost a cave-like space where from all sides glisten, shine and glimmer strange enigmatic objects that radiate a positive energy.
At a time when the world appears to have lost its belief in progress and confidence in the present has been undermined while the future is uncertain, these four artists have banded together into a quartet of hope drawing on ancient truths that defy conventions of rationalism.