Words by Seren Bell
We’ve hand-picked some shiny art-show nuggets to help you nice people traverse the lush landscape of lady art that is FRANfest, a sprawling and diverse festival of women in art that’s already in full swing. Here is the first glimpse of gold, a chat with the ever talented Alice Potter, curator and participating artist in I like you, your eyes are full of language opening tomorrow night at the Light Square Gallery.
Alice and Lucy Potter are loading the tray of a ute, Alice is securing it with a ratchet strap while her daughter holds onto her leg like that baby koala from the internet. I am staring at them with the characteristic intensity that has lost me so many would-be friends. These are some cool women. I must learn to use a ratchet strap. I must buy a ute. I must get a child.
Alice and Lucy are two of the contributing artists in I like you, your eyes are full of language which opens this Thursday night at Light Square Gallery as part of this veritable galaxy of woman-brilliance. After everyone agrees that the contents of the ute will not fly off and kill anyone, Alice and I head up to the metal studio at the Jam Factory where she works part-time as production manager, to talk about this third iteration in a series of exhibitions looking at concepts of worth and subjective-value. Alice has been curating the series since 2010 and this year, the exhibition takes on the additional concept of language and communication. This was prompted by photographer, writer, and participating artist Lara Merrington, who came across a letter by the poet Anne Sexton ,from which the exhibition now takes its name. The concept took hold with all of the contributing artists, some of whom are bilingual, some who have recently experienced trauma, and some who are dealing with ongoing internal struggles. Alice says that communication and all of its associated complexities resonated with her, as much of what she might want to say could only be said visually.
“I personally can say some stuff with my work that I can’t say out loud. Even when I tried to put into words what it was that I was trying to say, I felt really intimidated. I couldn’t actually say the words because I knew that people would get offended, I knew that some people would get quite angry with what I was trying to say but I’m hoping the work itself will very subtly say what I want to say.”
Alice explains that the inclusion of language and communication through the visual has also helped her to focus her thought on the ways in which we construct a selfhood based on values we want to be seen to have. This has manifested in a series of masks, one body of work Alice has contributed to the exhibition.
“Masks always represent, for me, a façade of bravado. I always think about Twelfth Night and that huge juxtaposition of who you really are and what you really want versus who you’re portraying, and other people thinking you’re someone else…It’s also about truth and lies and how your lies can become this sort of face, but then the truth is always what’s underneath. And it’s actually really hard to –no matter if you’re wearing a mask- it’s really hard to hide that truth.”
Though Alice is known as a jeweller, and has also included jewellery in the exhibition, the presence of her textile work points to the show’s diversity of mediums. Alice feels this is one the most interesting aspects of the show, as well as diverse interpretations of the concept. This, Alice says, means that the show “really speaks to a lot of different people in a lot of different ways. So, if you’re into ceramics –and you might come for Sophia Nuske’s work- and you’ll go ‘wow, I didn’t realise printmaking could be like this!’ seeing Lucy Potter’s work”.
When I ask Alice about FRANfest, she’s very clear and articulate in her response. The most important thing to her about FRANfest is “the fact that it’s all female. We’re really looking at… themes of being an artist and being a woman”. Motherhood is also a theme Alice has seen across many of the FRANfest shows and events, and one she says is being examined not only by women who have children, but also by women who don’t. “[B]eing a woman that isn’t a mother…sometimes I think that you’re defined by ‘you’ve got kids or you don’t have kids, so why isn’t your career taking off?’. I think that there’s a lot of expectations that we put on ourselves or society puts on us, so to talk about that stuff through art, I think, is really important.” She goes on to say that FRANfest is creating solidarity between women artists in South Australia, as it gives voice to the fears and struggles so many women artists, and women in general, feel they’re experiencing alone.
I like you, your eyes are full of language opens tomorrow 7th September at Light Square Gallery from 6pm and runs until September 29.
Curated by Alice Potter, includes the work of: Nic Brown, Zoe Freney, Lara Merrington, Alice Potter, Lucy Potter, Sophia Nuske, and Talia Wignall