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War and power on show at Samstag

by Melissa Norris

Sally Smart, Conversation piece art family 2010, mixed media, 198 x 196 cm, courtesy of the artist.  Photo: Christian Capurro.Sally Smart, Conversation piece art family 2010,
mixed media, 198 x 196 cm, courtesy of the artist.
Photo: Christian Capurro.

Beauty and drama will be pitted against intrigue and threat in a new exhibition at the Samstag Museum titled Your Move: Australian artists play chess.

The exhibition presents the work of 13 of Australia’s leading contemporary artists in a playful and thought-provoking exhibition that shows the ancient game of chess in a very modern light.

The artists have engaged with a range of current issues including climate change, environmental degradation, exploration of Australian icons, and the impact of colonisation.

Samstag Museum Director, Erica Green, says the modern take on an ancient game shows that even in the 21st century, chess has lost none of its inspirational power.

For many artists the game of chess is a metaphor for battles throughout history, such as in the work of 2006 Samstag Scholars Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro, who combine beer bottles and coasters on a scorched picnic table as a metaphor for the First World War.

The theme is continued in the works from Caroline Rothwell, Kate Rhode and Ken Yonetani, who examine battles around ecology and the effects of human-related pollution and climate change on the environment and ecology.

The exhibition was launched on October 15, along with an exhibition by distinguished artist and well-known contemporary photographer Bill Henson.

Bill Henson, Untitled #1, 2009/2010, CL SH655N16B, archival inkjet pigment paint, 127 x 180 cm, image courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.Bill Henson, Untitled #1, 2009/2010, CL SH655N16B, archival inkjet pigment paint, 127 x 180 cm, image courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.

Bill Henson: early work from the MGA Collection, with selected recent landscapes is the first exhibition dedicated to this artist’s work to be presented in Adelaide, with 29 photographs drawn from the Monash Gallery of Art’s collection.

Green says that the exhibition will give South Australians a unique opportunity to experience the power and beauty of Henson’s work, with images selected from his major series from the 1970s to the early 1990s.

“A particular highlight is the wonderfully atmospheric Paris Opera series of 1990 where Henson was commissioned to produce a body of work responding to the world-renowned Paris Opera,” she says.

“Henson chose to focus on the audience, photographing the faces of people, their features softly illuminated by the reflected glow of stage lighting.

“Their faces express the sublime sensuality of a musical experience.”

A selection of Henson’s recent landscape photographs will also be shown alongside the MGA Collection exhibition.

“These dark and monolithic landscapes of rocky outcrops, monoliths rising dramatically from the ocean and waterfalls captured in a blaze of light are works of compelling power,” Green says.

Bill Henson will also be ‘in conversation’ with Paul Grabowsky, Artistic Director of the 2012 Adelaide Festival, on Monday 21 November at 5.30pm at the UniSA City West campus to talk about his work in the exhibition.

Bookings are essential for this free event and can be made at the website.

Both exhibitions at the Samstag Museum are open to the public for free until Friday December 16.

Opening hours are Tuesday to Friday 11am to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday 2 to 5pm. The Samstag Museum is located at 55 North Terrace. For more details see their website.

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