The Aesthetica Art Prize 2015

Owen Waterhouse, finalist in the Three Dimensional Design & Sculpture category caught our attention with Möbius 1.00. A designer, silversmith and artist, his work features in both public and private collections ranging from English Heritage to Doncaster Racecourse.

To mark the 100th anniversary of Harry Brearley’s discovery of stainless steel in Sheffield, Galvanzie Sheffield and Outokumpu commissioned the artist to create Möbius 1.00 to celebrate the city’s unique heritage, and to look to the future. This work features one hundred water jets cut in profile to create an elegant, skeletal form. Innovative and futuristic in design and fabrication, Waterhouse’s circular form references the recyclable nature of this metal and the intricate pattern suggests the microstructure of austenite stainless steel.

Working with Outokumpu, the artist had ‘exceptional access to industrial process’ and has revealed that he could never have attempted to realise his vision alone. However, although the design evolved from a computer (CAD), and was developed through prototypes, each part was refined by hand and took him ‘two weeks of fitting and teasing all the parts into place.’ Waterhouse discusses the experience of making public art, ‘This piece was very hands-on in the making. In contrast the creation of public art can be carried out by specialist fabricators and overseen by the artist.’ He explains, ‘With larger public commissions I like to make sure that there is an element of the artist-made. I relish the variety and challenges that working on both types of project bring. Waterhouse responds to David Pye’s idea that craftsmanship is worksmanship, stating ‘… I would say that craftsmanship can be the enabler that allows the artist to realise their concept’.

Julian Day was also a finalist in the Three Dimensional Design & Sculpture category with Requiem, 2012. He creates simple yet evocative works encompassing installation, video, sound, text and performance. Much of his work is site-specific and collaborative, using dispersed homogeneous sound to explore the acoustic, architectural and relational properties of such varied spaces as railway sheds, marketplaces, laneways, parks and galleries. Day performs as An Infinity Room (AIR) and co-directs Super Critical Mass, a large-scale participatory project in public places. His work has featured at Whitechapel Gallery, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney Opera House and the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane among other spaces. He has worked with such musicians as Lisa Moore, TILT Brass, Third Angle Ensemble and Synergy. Day is also a writer and broadcaster, and has presented programmes for BBC Radio 3 and regularly hosted New Music Up Late on ABCClassic FM. His interviewees include Vito Acconci, Janet Cardiff and Steve Reich.

A sculptural-sound intervention, Requiemfeatures site-responsive synthesisers which are playfully choreographed to connect with their surrounding architectural space. Propped between parallel surfaces, the vintage instruments are pinned apart by static metal rods. This act of resistance prompts a series of persistent tones that flood the work’s immediate environment. Through the refashioning of these inanimate objects, we confront our own spatial presence within a collective soundscape. Day explains the importance of sound in his work, ‘I am obsessed with sound’ and discusses how it affects our experience of an artwork ‘visuals tells you what is in front of you…but sound tells you what is behind you…it’s important in locating where you are in the space.’

Among the other finalists who caught our eye was Jasmine Targett , an interdisciplinary artist whose practice aims to conceptually and visually explore the ‘blind spots’ in perception surrounding nature, reality and existence. Investigating the tension between visibility and awareness, her work is a ‘vision quest’ alluding to the unseen and overlooked. Explaining her entry, What the eyes do not see, Targett said, ‘At night when I look through my telescope I often wonder if there could be another person looking back at me…when thinking about observation, I sense there is a greater connection between object and observer.’

Targett is fascinated by Quantum Entanglement Theory which implies that the observer and subject become molecularly entangled during observation. She is an Australian artist, raised in New York and currently living in Melbourne. Recognised nationally and internationally, Targett was awarded the Senini Prize from McClelland Art Gallery in 2014 and is currently completing the City of Melbourne’s first artist in residence at Carlton Connect studios as part of Art + Climate = Change 2015.

Finalist Sanitas Pradittasnee also interested us. He studied landscape architecture in Thailand before his MA at Chelsea College of Arts. Discussing his work Khao Mo (Mythical Escapism) he relates, ‘I have become fascinated by sculptural spaces and how they might involve human interaction. I see art as a way to communicate and provoke people’s consciousness. My passions for art and landscape architecture have driven me to explore the boundary between art and the built environment.’ 

Pradittasnee won the international competition for an art installation at The Sea Art Festival, Busan, South Korea in 2013, and last year won The International Architecture Award. He is influenced by Buddhism, particularly the idea of ‘the impermanence of things’ and the form of nothingness. Indeed the artist explains how experiencing Khao mo(a form of Thai art from the Ayutthaya period) is designed to encourage both interaction and reflection, and ‘The inside…which is a sanctuary, actually transpires as emptiness. It is the start point of not-having and having, which is essentially the root of all things.’ This work was shown at the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre in 2013, and in 2014 was relocated to Siam Square by Chulalong University in Bangkok.

Main image: Aesthetica Art Prize Exhibition installation view, Möbius 1.00, 2014, by Owen Waterhouse in foreground (photo: courtesy of Jim Poyner and Aesthetica Art Prize)

Aurora Corio