Recently South Australian JUMP mentoring artist, and First Class Honours graduate, Celeste Aldahn, travelled to Brisbane to meet with her mentor Mikala Dwyer. Celeste reflects on her time in Brisbane, and the craft of her practice.
Art is sometimes like good magic. You spend time and energy investing an idea into your work, in an attempt to cast a spell upon your audience. You lure them into understanding, believing, seeing, feeling, or experiencing- something. It’s this idea that bonds me to the work of my mentor, Sydney based visual artist Mikala Dwyer.
During my Honours year, my research surrounded the development of contemporary Western girl culture, focusing on the emergence of the teen-witch as a symbolic “Girl Power” icon in the late twentieth-century. While my research on witchcraft took a pop-culture perspective rather than spiritual approach, it was initially spurred by a very real involvement with the practice at a young age. Having said that, I doubt I was the only mid-90s teen taking cues from The Craft and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, calling the corners in a cubby-house-turned-coven.
With a background in theatre and performance, I now work primarily in sculpture, using craft and material based methods, paired with illustrative and video works within immersive installations. My magic is in play; my creations appear as makeshift relics of conjuring by way of bedroom culture. They stand in homage to my youth: colourful; lively; naïve; and fetishistic in nature, the possible paraphernalia of both teenage-girldom and witchcraft. The idea of the glamorous and magic metamorphosis is a central theme to my creations. Transformative processes (where materials are transformed through making), and those which reflects the artist’s hand (and are thus charged with ‘power’), are also central to my work. In addition, much of my work uses the material binary of natural and synthetic, pairing such things as earth, stone, clay and wood with hyper-colours, plastics, PVC, and mirror. My 2011 work featured interpretations of witches’ tools, artist made rope, paintings on tree-rounds, ceramic cats and candles, salt-crystal gardens, fake flower wreaths, resin crystals set within tree branches, and highly colourful animated graphics interchange format (GIF) videos.
When considering a mentor, I was naturally drawn to Mikala’s work, which is also fueled by the esoteric, using fetishist materials and ritualistic forms filtered through her own negotiations of popular culture. Her work appears on a much grander scale than mine; large totemic objects often stand gathered in circles and arcs; shrine-like arrangements charged with symbolism.
In early 2012 I traveled to Brisbane to meet Mikala for the first time. Here I would help install her survey show, Drawing Down the Moon, at the Institute of Modern Art (IMA). Being that Mikala is a nationally recognised and internationally acclaimed artist, naturally I was nervous, but I found upon meeting her this was without reason. She is incredibly down to earth and open, with no set belief in how one should approach their practice. She claims to work through organised chaos, a method that allows her the freedom to experiment from the initial inception of her ideas right through to their exhibition. This method gives her works a charge and they remain potent with possibility throughout their life.
Working with Mikala at the IMA gave me a fantastic physical introduction to her work and new ideas about my own practice and approach to making. Since returning to Adelaide, I have featured in the grand opening exhibition of Fontanelle gallery and am now working toward an exhibition in Tasmania’s Sawtooth ARI. This upcoming exhibition, Parallel Worlds, which opens in August, will feature individual works by fellow Adelaide artist Ray Harris and me. Our sculptural objects, videos and arrangements will surround the topic of parallel worlds and realities, as approached through psychology, popular culture and spirituality. They will be set within a transformed and participatory environment created collaboratively by Ray and myself. The gallery space will become a wholly immersive installation, involving a central cubby house structure with an unexpected interior, trees, grass and sky. Our collaboration acts as a spell, if you will, a lure or aid for our audience to truly experience another dimension.
Parallel Worlds opens 6:00pm Friday 10 August 2012, at Sawtooth ARI, First Floor, 160 Cimitiere Street, Launceston, Tasmania.
I am in the process of creating a professional website; for now more information and my CV can be found at www.grrrl-culture.tumblr.com
Other contact can be made directly through email@example.com
image: courtesy of the artist