Artists can be either dismissive or overly precious with geography whether it be where they work or where they came from.
The word based attached to an artist’s location suggests impermanence, that the artist is on the move to better things and may soon be off to become New York, or Paris-based. This claim to mobility implies authenticity, earnestness of practice. They don’t actually live here.
Equally, an exotic from can be leveraged to give the illusion of cultural capital.
Elisa was born in Poland and moved to Germany in 1981 at the age of 16 with her family. Although unconsciously at the time, Poland was deep in her bones and with this move, she was confronted with the stress of a new country, language and social system at a critical time in her personal development.
In 2011, she returned to the country of her birth for the first time in 30 years. Over the course of three weeks, she travelled over 3,500kms from the northern border city of Szczecin through Gdańsk, Toruń, Warsawa, Kraków and down to the south.
Contemporary Poland is a land of contradictions which contrasted vividly with Markes-Young’s romanticised memories of this country. In some ways, this trip was a sobering experience.
That said, Markes-Young ultimately recovered her past in sights, sounds and smells, and this revisit, however problematic, forms the basis of The Original Place.
Christopher was born in small-town New Zealand and moved to Germany in 1996. Isolation is a recurring theme in his life and work. The remoteness of growing up in semi-rural New Zealand, the loneliness of living in Germany as a poor German speaker and lately the seclusion of life in Perth, have all coloured his artistic practice.
Revisited for the first time in 27 years (2012) and made within a few square kilometres, Small Town is an intimate look at a rural community where he spent his first ten years.
The work was made in the depths of winter on the North Island. He looked at both his experience as a child and in 2012. By revisiting places as well as engaging sections of the community, he hoped to replicate the sensations, colours and smells he’d previously experienced.
Markes-Young and Young moved to Perth in 2002. As with other moves, it has proven tainted by feelings of ideological and geographic isolation.
Added to this, both artists often feel on the outside looking in, not belonging, not understanding and not understood.
In this collective loneliness, they seek some form of comfort. Art making has always been critical to their well-being, yet producing work has been a constant battle against pragmatism and reason.
It is a language that they both utilise in the search for their own understanding as well as attempting to communicate and connect with others.
Both bodies of work have their grounding in a search for some form of origin story in the artists’ pasts. They are projects that look intimately at utopian ideals and how they contrast with reality. The artists are aware that the places they look for don’t exist anymore yet they remained precious and mystical in their minds.
Improbable Returns as a collective title highlights this. The presentation of this work is also a direct challenge for the audience to engage with something outside their personal space and to see the world through the eyes of the ‘other’.
Equally, it was impossible for the artists to ‘return’ but the experiences – while confronting and challenging – have nonetheless been reinvigorating and fruitful.
Heathcote Museum & Gallery.
Swan House, 58 Duncraig Road, Applecross.
Tuesday to Friday, 10.00am to 3.00pm; Saturday and Sunday, 12.00pm to 4.00pm; Closed on Mondays.
Elisa Markes-Young, The Original Place #36 (detail)
Christopher Young, Seven #21
Phone: 0421 974 329 (Chris)
Email: write to us!