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Collections of You – online exhibition

‘Collections of You’ is a community exhibition featuring three artists’ visual responses to works from the Town Hall Gallery Collection. Artists HuaCun Chen, Liz Johnson, and Susan Lowe exhibit works that reinterpret a piece in the collection through their own lens.

HuaCun Chen takes inspiration from Matthew Sleeth’s large-format photography of human isolation to create pastel pieces that symbolise a sense of "pause state" in everyday life. Liz Johnson responds to Fred Williams’ spontaneous, minimalist approach to painting, creating landscapes and seascapes demonstrating simple, spontaneous, and joyful mark-making. Susan Lowe pays homage to Andrew Curtis’ highly tonal photography of prominent Boroondara buildings by reinterpreting these sites through printmaking and paintings.

‘Collections of You’ echoes the aims of the Town Hall Gallery Collection to nurture a sense of community and shared history by reflecting the lives of those who live in Boroondara.

Featuring: HuaCun Chen, Liz Johnson, and Susan Lowe.

Visit our Boroondara Arts shop website to purchase an artwork.

Image credit: Susan Lowe, ‘Habitat series #1’, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 76 x 76 cm, image courtesy of the artist.

HuaCun Chen

The medium of painting and drawing has become a way for HuaCun Chen to explore his work more comprehensively. Chen tries to find a way to harmoniously blend painting, drawing, and sculpture consciously, steadfastly, and repeatedly, to respond to a fast-paced world.

Chen’s art addresses the relationship between themes of history, society, and memory, and its visual presentation through painting, drawing, sculpture, and installation. Chen has created a new series of pastel pieces inspired by Matthew Sleeth’s large-format photo ‘Century Southern Tower Hotel [Tokyo]’ (2005). This image captures the isolation of human existence as an expression of time exposed. Chen was drawn to Sleeth’s ability to capture an isolated place to preserve memory and time.

During Melbourne's intermittent lockdowns, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to the community, individuals, families, and businesses. Chen’s works in ‘Collections of You’ keep a record of a "pause state" to capture the effects of these events. 

The isolated figures and emptied streets in Chen’s series seem like uncanny snapshots during the COVID-19 lockdowns. The prosperity and excitement of the past have instead become deserted and lonely. Behind every scene, something has disappeared. Chen offers viewers new insights into social experiences that can seem overwhelming and paralysing, highlighting traces of humanity that might appear suspended.

Liz Johnson

Liz Johnson makes sense of the world through creating art, especially when encountering experiences that are dislocating. Johnson continues to push her practice by exploring new techniques and using a variety of media. Stepping in and out of her home studio and often creating artworks outdoors, Johnson is continually inspired by what she sees around her in the natural world.

During her exploration of landscapes, Johnson’s focus over the last few years has been mark making. By employing a variety of media and tools, Johnson finds a simple joy in capturing the sense of a place, with minimal, spontaneous marks on paper. Johnson has moved from creating smaller pen and ink drawings on A5 postcards to working on large pieces of rice paper using brushes attached to long poles. The works created outdoors often inspire new works in the studio, as she explores ideas of deconstruction, reconstruction, and abstraction.

Johnson’s series of pen, ink, and wash-based pieces in ‘Collections of You’ responds to the landscape depicted in Fred Williams ‘Decorated Stoneware Plate’ (1967), with reference to his spontaneous, minimalist mark making. Johnson has gathered a selection of landscapes which similarly explore and demonstrate restraint, simple, instinctive, and joyful markings.

The exhibition features a selection of landscapes and seascapes that have been created over a number of years. There is a focus on a quick spontaneous capturing of a scene, adopting a 'less is more' approach. Each image is a snapshot in time, captured in best conditions, mostly plain air, before weather conditions changed.

Susan Lowe

Susan Lowe’s art practice revolves around the use of multiple mediums, though primarily in printmaking techniques and how it can be used to interpret the environment. Lowe has been making art since her childhood, following in her parent’s footsteps, who were recreational artists. Art materials were always available to her, and she found that making art would absorb her attention for hours.

Lowe’s process is usually direct, only taking one or two sketches before work commences. As printmaking is frequently process driven, the planning stages often require a more disciplined approach, although results can be unexpected and encourage additional exploration.

Within the Town Hall Gallery Collection there are 10 artworks by photographer, Andrew Curtis, from an exhibition in 2002. Lowe has revisited these images of prominent local buildings within the Boroondara area, including ‘Auburn Village’ (2002). Both Andrew’s black and white and coloured images demonstrate a strong awareness of light and shade. It is this tonal aspect of his practice that Lowe has explored through dry point etching, lino cut, and painting. Lowe has utilised the same sites that Curtis captured through his own lens, reflecting on his line of sight and re-interpreting it from different angles and viewpoints.

As a printmaker and artist, Lowe experiments with a range of printmaking mediums and materials. In this exhibition, audiences witness the diversity of approaches that can be taken with this sometimes under-utilised and often neglected medium.

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