The Art of Installation

  • photo of projected video into a blue green reflected pool of water installed in a gallery space

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    Ella Barclay, Ebb, 2012

    Acrylic, water, electronics, looped video, 20cm x 55cm x 175cm. Image courtesy Artspace Visual Arts Centre.

  • Photo of a tall pine table with Evian water bottles below. A panorama of the sea runs horizontally around the gallery walls

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    JD Reforma, Fountain

    Installation view; DAR pine, found image printed on adhesive vinyl, 24 bottles of Evian water, 90 × 150 × 240cm, 2013. Photo: Michael Randall. Image courtesy Artspace Visual Arts ...

  • Photo of two rough shaped bowls with thick rims and pock marked sides placed on the floor of a gallery

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    Jamie North, Untitled (Slag Bowl I and II), 2013

    Fibre, reinforced concrete (portland cement, sand, blast furnace slag, iron oxide), moss. Image courtesy Artspace Visual Arts Centre.

  • Photo of exhibition installation

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    Installation view

    Installation view, NSW Visual Arts Fellowship for Emerging Artists Exhibition, 2013, Artspace, Sydney. Photo: silversalt photography.

  • Photo of exhibition installation

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    Installation view

    NSW Visual Arts Fellowship for Emerging Artists Exhibition, 2013, Artspace, Sydney. Photo: silversalt photography.

The installation and presentation of art exhibitions is an area that can be easily overlooked by visitors as they make a beeline straight for the art.

Having worked in exhibition installation I am inclined to notice such things and would like to take a moment to give appropriate kudos to those ‘behind-the-scenes’ at the NSW Visual Arts Fellowship for Emerging Artists on show at Artspace. That is, the planning and strategic layout of the exhibition, re-design and renovation of the gallery space, complex installation of the artworks and finishing touches such as appropriate lighting. 

Contemporary art, in particular, has pushed the boundaries of the display and presentation of artworks. In a case of ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg?’ contemporary artists no longer feel restricted by the limitations of the gallery space, experimenting with multiple media and creating often technologically challenging installations. Similarly, galleries such as Artspace have been contemporary art freedom fighters; relaxing rules, encouraging creative innovation and equipping their installation staff with the skills and experience to respect and implement the demands of the artwork. 

Artspace have been contemporary art freedom fighters; relaxing rules, encouraging creative innovation and equipping their installation staff with the skills and experience to respect and implement the demands of the artwork.

This harmonisation is exemplified in their current exhibition where the skilful team at Artspace have paved a seamless path for viewers to negotiate the works, while allowing each artwork to shine and demand the individual attention it deserves.

One side of the gallery features a darkened space, where Ella Barclay’s Ebb gurgles a luminous fountain of water and softly billowing clouds of mist. In installation reality, this is a complex mechanical structure involving a tank of water suspended from the ceiling and film projection – none of which is evident in the finished ethereal and effortless presentation of the work.

To the left are Jamie North’s winning rock formations inhabited by moss and plants, intentionally dimly lit to feel sci-fi and other-worldly – highly appropriate after we learn that the sculptures are composed of slag (a by-product of steel manufacturing) with an indigenous plant species growing onto it. The behind-the-scenes care for this winning body of work includes a daily watering regime and specially directed lighting to feed these living sculptures.

On the opposite side of the gallery are Jonny Niesche’s glittering installations reminiscent of flattened disco balls, strategically spot lit to emphasise their sparkle and geometric fractions of light. JD Reforma’s nearby ‘infinity pool’ installation of Evian water bottles comments on our consumer society and the attachment of social status to even the most basic element of water. Cleverly placed, Reforma’s empty plastic sculpture stands in almost direct contrast to Ebb - in terms of location in the gallery space, meaning and visual presentation.

Drop in today to appreciate the art behind the art.

Lillian Lim

Acting Gallery and Touring Programs Manager

In this article

Artspace

Sydney

Museums & Galleries of NSW helps museums, galleries and Aboriginal cultural centres of NSW create exciting and inspiring experiences for visitors and strong, thriving local communities. We develop their skills, connect them with others in the industry, provide funding, point visitors their way, and give them access to ground-breaking exhibitions.

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