Exhibition – We Touch Art

Exhibition – We Touch Art

Held in the Long Gallery & TAEM Gallery Tuesday 9th to Wednesday 24th July 2019 Curator: Karen Cass & UOWAC

The staff at the University of Wollongong Art Collection unit (UOWAC) manage over 5000 artworks, ranging from large outdoor sculptures to paintings, prints, ceramics and drawings through to multi-media works and delicate basketry, barks and textiles.

Each day at least twenty artworks will move through our (gloved) hands as we catalogue, frame, de-frame, store, assess, clean, accession, crate, loan, transport, research, photograph, install and de-install artworks.

Our campuses are a richer environment for the Art that is displayed throughout buildings and in our grounds but the purpose of our Art Collection extends beyond this.

In acquiring and caring for these artworks, we are also building and maintaining an important social, cultural and historic resource which is of benefit not only for students and researchers but to regional galleries and the country as a whole, both now and into the future.

The 'We Touch Art' exhibition highlights the operational aspects of an Art Collection and reveals some of the meanings that Art has for the staff who handle and manage the artworks.

Our role is mostly ‘behind the scenes’, in the space in between the artist and the ‘audience’. Our view of art takes in aspects that are generally invisible; the verso of an artwork, its weight, the display mountings or the artwork as an operational concept such as its accession number, digital file or copyright permissions.

For the curation of this exhibition, each of the current UOWAC staff including casuals, were independently asked by the Collection Manager to select an artwork or artwork group that they had come into contact with as part of their job and answer the same three questions about it.

We have tried to remain true to the process and so, when two of the works selected were by the same artist, we included them both.

We have been struck that the process resulted in such a range of mediums with screenprints, sculptures, photography, textiles, painting and drawing all represented. It was also notable that nine of the artworks are donated pieces, perhaps a reflection of the caliber of our donations as well as the amount of time staff spend on overseeing donated artworks.

In this regard, Simon’s initial choice of one Klippel sculpture was quickly extended to three when the Art Collection was serendipitously and generously donated a further two sculptures, so giving us the rare opportunity to exhibit a collection of Klippel’s bronzes side by side.

As the arbiters of acquisition for the Art Collection, each UOWAC Director has helped shape its composition over the years and Amanda’s choice of Kreckler’s work, is a clear reflection of her long standing commitment to the Creative Arts at UOW as well as her role in guiding the shape and substance of the Collection.

The inclusion of the fake artworks was a bold choice by Janise but speaks to her role within the Art Collection where she is required to check, research and maintain provenance for the artworks.

Both India and Stephanie are early career artists whose selections can be seen to nod to their respective practices. India, who has been short-listed for the Archibald Prize, has chosen a figurative work while Stephanie whose practice is in textiles, has selected a complex indigenous batik.

The Cullen works were chosen by Karen as a way of highlighting the wider purpose for the Art Collection but they also expose the challenges facing Art more broadly where tastes, values, offense and defence are in constant flux. This is a multi-layered conversation and responsibility that the UOWAC engages with on a daily basis.

We Touch Art is an opportunity to also view us alongside the art objects we work with and perhaps see the works in a new way, as we proffer our unique perspectives.