By Dr Paul Uhlmann
Emerging out of a multidisciplinary history, including an ongoing relationship with the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), the School of Arts and Humanities at Edith Cowan University has shaped and honed a contemporary focus through actively defining the usefulness of art for today’s society whether that be through praxis or pedagogy or a hybrid of the two. The ethos of the school is to explore and experiment and to push back from pre-determined understandings – to collaborate, innovate and find solutions through a merging of making and theory often employing whatever is to hand.
Geographic isolation along with the multi-disciplinary environment in which we work drives a different way of approaching our teaching and research. The main focus of this creative constellation is Spectrum Project Space which offers a more refined viewing space for students to test their practice, often colliding with disciplines from Dance, Film, Photography, Jazz, Education, Fashion and Visual Arts. The School is based in Perth on the edge of the Indian ocean and takes advantage of its geographical location to work directly with universities in China and South East Asia. This international arena has afforded two year-long Colombo residencies to two of our students in China, resulting in ongoing internships for artists in a private art gallery in the French concession of Shanghai.
Special projects, launched through the ECU art collection and administered through the school, work with Cuban artists on residencies and collaborative workshops. Additionally the School works with local Noongar and Aboriginal people from the north west of Australia through residencies and special projects through Open Bite Australia which enables a cross fertilization of cultural understandings of benefit to the community of the university and to the visiting artists and beyond. Through these geographically specific opportunities, students and staff are able to critically develop and examine their own artistic voices to explore a hybrid of concerns revolving around questions of culture, society, materiality, embodiment, space and place, environment and much more. As the examples presented here highlight, we have many alumni who have gone on to have national and international careers as artists, designers and teachers and who are expanding their field well beyond traditional paradigms.
Danielle Freakley studied Drawing within the School and graduated with a BA in 2002. She has since gone on to expand her practice to include Performance, Sculpture, Interactive Installation, Drawing, Sound and Text and to gain international recognition. She came to national attention on the TV show ‘Enough Rope’ hosted by Andrew Denton where she performed her ‘quote generator’ answering every question with a culturally relevant reference. This stream of consciousness act where she became a living art gallery was a constant for her praxis over many years so that life and art merged as one. Her sense of humor which embraces the chaotic and the absurd has struck a cord and her work has recently been exhibited at the Tate Gallery London in 2016 where she was a first selection finalist for the Arsenale of Venice - Arte Laguna International Art Prize. She works out of Melbourne and Perth and has won many awards including a Andy Warhol Foundation supported New York Arts residency and arts residency in Performing Arts Forum in France.
Caitlin Yardley completed a Master of Visual Arts at ECU in 2007 where she developed an approach to painting which embraced installation practices so that the work was made in a manner sensitive to the nuances of architectural space. She furthered these aims embarking, with the assistance of several scholarships, on her international career studying at Goldsmiths in London from 2012. She has had many residencies In Britain and Europe and in 2014 was internationally recognized through the publication of 100 painters of tomorrow published by Thames and Hudson.
Yindjibarndi woman Katie West developed her art practice as an undergraduate and has since gone on to create powerful work that considers the effects of colonization. She has done this through her art practice with exhibitions but also through writing articles for the Guardian and being interviewed on Awaye! on Radio National. Part of the strength of her relational practice is to realize that one must work in many ways with community to educate and to actively construct a form of praxis which is subtle but strong.
Dr. Sarah Jane Pell graduated with a PhD from ECU after researching underwater performance with the view of developing art and performance environments in space. Sarah has forged a unique international career in the art/science nexus and is now an astronaut candidate for a suborbital aeronomy mission, an experienced Simulation Astronaut for undersea trials, and imagineer for a MoonVillage. She was awarded Best PhD Art & Science by Leonardo AS, MIT 2007 and TED Fellow 2010. The first artist to graduate from the International Space University and Singularity University, she serves as Co-Chair of the European Space Agency (ESA) Topical Team Arts & Science, Senior Space Art Consultant to Icarus Interstellar, and Senior Advisor Diving to the Maritime Union of Australia.
Paul Uhlmann strives to question and translate philosophies of impermanence and the unifying interconnectedness of all living beings in his work. He works experimentally across the mediums of painting, printmaking, drawing and artists’ books. Paul studied art in Australia, Germany and Holland. He has exhibited widely since 1983 and his work is held in many prominent collections. He has lectured for over twenty years in various institutions including the Australian National University and Monash University and is currently the Coordinator of Visual Arts at Edith Cowan University. His work will feature in an upcoming major exhibition at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery (UWA), which aims to reveal new perspectives through art and science of the Batavia shipwreck (1629). His solo exhibition exploring impermanence and painting will be at Art Collective WA this November.