LYN DI CIERO
Helen Turner, who officially opened Altered States at Mundaring Arts Centre with curator Sue Starcken and Stuart Elliott.
His former Claremont School of Art lecturer, Tony Jones OAM, describes Stuart Elliott as arguably the finest sculptor in Western Australia. “His art is characterised by a richness of detail and superb craft skills, allied with powerful narrative,” says Jones. Now audiences have an opportunity to explore Elliott’s practice through a long-awaited survey of 80-plus artworks at Mundaring Arts Centre consisting of new works alongside significant works loaned from public and private collections.
A respected artist, writer and lecturer, it’s been 40-odd years since Elliott first gained a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Sculpture) at the former WAIT, now Curtin University, after gaining a Diploma at Claremont School of Art in the late 1970s. It was during his time at Curtin he began to develop ‘Fakeology,’ long before America’s Trump and co called everything fake which didn’t fit their agenda. A mix of the words ‘fake’ and ‘archaeology,’ Elliott has ever since been drawn to construct an elaborate and mysterious fake world through his work, salaciously veering towards the known before diverging into an unknown world of ‘fakeological’ readings of symbols, altars, archaeological artefacts and rituals.
Aptly titled Altered States, and curated by Sue Starcken, the show is a Shire of Mundaring Acquisition Exhibition, an annual event with a rotating format of open, invitational and retrospective exhibitions which add immeasurably to the Shire’s collection through selected purchases. Starcken says Elliott’s multi-faceted and enduring arts practice has long been informed by immersive studies – both formal and self-driven in archaeology, anthropology, philosophy, and theories of art and iconography – amongst other arcane genres. “His creative space is akin to a ‘museum’ or powerhouse of largely idiosyncratic things,” she says. “Clustered objects and ephemera await a magical transformation through which lumbering jetsam burgeons into profoundly prepossessing artworks.”
Tongue in cheek, Elliott says the exhibition is the residue of nearly a half century of searching under both rock and couch, and has neatly categorised the show into four parts. “The parts all share concern for the notion of significant, unexpected change,” he says. “This change is looked at via aspects of pending, current and consequential.”
Indeed Part 1 consists of an assembly of enigmatic, fictitious altar works, a subject fascinating for Elliott, appearing in his work from 1980 to the present. Part 2 addresses the word ‘alter’ as a redefining change. The appearance of speeding comets or meteors establish the forthcoming ‘alterations’ as significant in scale. “The comet is intended to be an allegorical agent of change, much in the spirit of Halley’s Comet where its appearance over the beach at Hastings in 1066, as documented in the famous Bayou Tapestry, was regarded as the fulcrum of King Harald’s demise and William the Conqueror’s world-changing ascension,” says Elliott.
He describes Part 3 as a collection of museum-like fragments of earlier, personally significant endeavours. “These works, often retro-built and re-purposed now present as alien flotsam on a remote shore line. Crucially relevant once, they now reemerge as funerary items might; plundered then discarded by perplexed tomb robbers.”
Part 4, with horizontal installations reflect a mainstay of his work for much of the past five decades. He says chaotic cityscapes or lemming-like columns of vehicles have provided rich possibilities to push the relationship between the whole and the sum of the parts where space itself becomes a major player in any dialogue. “These installations, like any urban environment, consist of the active, dormant and the derelict,” he says.
Like a cryptic film, Elliott’s work continues to engage, his fictitious locations appearing to be placed on the brink of decay or on the verge of a strange new world order. Helen Turner, who officially opened the exhibition, says Elliott is no mainstream artist. “His work, rooted in the concept of Fakelogy, is a unique philosophy about making museum-like objects encoded with cross-cultural ideas. Inspired by urban decay, African fetishes, and mementos of power and beauty, Stuart succeeds in creating his own parallel world where the familiar becomes the unfamiliar – a fake archaeology.”
Stuart Elliott spent the formative periods of his career in the Perth Hills. After gaining a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Sculpture) in 1980, he went on to experience the transformative artistic and socio-political potential of puppet theatre through Spare Parts Puppet Theatre. In the mid-1980’s he travelled to the USA and Europe, gaining significant influences through ethnographic, military and toy museums. He continues to exhibit and educate locally and internationally, working on a range of public, private and corporate commissions. In 2010 he was honoured with an Artsource Lifetime Achievement Award and continues to make a significant contribution to WA’s visual arts sector. His sculptures and paintings are held in collections around the world.
Altered States is on show at Mundaring Arts Centre until 7 May. An Artist Talk scheduled for 15 April is booked out. To joint the wait list visit: https://mundaringartscentre.com.au/event-wait-list
Maelstrom, 2012, oil and acrylic on board by Stuart Elliott.
Cakes on the Lake, 2022, edition of 5, digital print on polished metal by Stuart Elliott.
ATRA ll, 2022, oil on canvas by Stuart Elliott.
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