‘The Venation’ now in the best of care in the Collection of State Libraray of Victoria. It will be on display in the library's ‘World of the Book’ exhibition from mid-November 2019.
Shadow, scale and industrial waste in Kylie Stillman’s ‘Eucalypt’
The sculptures of Melbourne artist Kylie Stillman are a prime example of the way that art makes us question how we as individuals and as a species influence the world around us. Kylie’s pieces do not simply stand alone as human-made objects – rather, a sculpture may appear to alter the very atmosphere it resides in. It’s a feeling that changes depending on where you are standing to view the piece – surely a mark of truly engaging art. Notably, Kylie’s artworks challenge the relationship between natural and artificial materials and the way we humans both use and connect with nature. Now that we’re close to celebrating National Eucalypt Day, these thoughts are of particular importance.
Kylie is the inaugural recipient of the Eucalypt Commission for an outdoor sculpture currently installed outside the Castlemaine Art Museum as part of the Castlemaine State Festival. Remember The Wild spoke with Kylie about her past work, her ‘Eucalypt’ sculpture and the nature-based inspiration behind her art – in particular, the mighty eucalypt.
On your website, you state that both birds and plant life often find a place in your artwork. Why do you think this is?
In 2017 I had an exhibition titled ‘Opposite of Wild’ where I asked myself this very question, analysing the relationship I have with birds and plant life. To me the opposite of wild is to be calculated, something that artists and nature have in common. They both have a reputation for being wild, free and spontaneous, but they are (mostly!) calculated, planned and strategic workers – they have to be or they would not survive.
In that vein, the decisions I make in creating works are quite calculated whilst giving an impression of simplicity and immediacy, just like the imagery I represent: branches, leaf skeletons and birds in flight – formal arrangements that aid survival, quite the opposite of wild and quite calculated, and this relates to how I make things and how I enjoy thinking and planning.
In your work titled ‘Eucalypt Series’, you integrate objects such as books and reams of paper with carvings of eucalypt branches. What does this artwork represent?
I studied painting at RMIT and primarily produced works from found materials using domestic tools and methods, I struggled to be inspired by paint found in a tube and was more interested in finding materials and pigments from the ‘constructed world’ to create an artwork. I see these stacks of books and reams of paper as an extension of this way of working, I carve into objects and create shadow and tone as opposed to using a paintbrush or palette knife.
Primarily the works come to represent absence; in the ‘Eucalypt Series’ we see a collection of branches – in fact they are not branches at all, instead it is their absent form, and this absent form is not just a branch but a record of the movement of the sun; how each twist along the structure is a record of the direction of light and nutrient. Again, quite the opposite of wild and quite calculated.
This is a conundrum too, as the representation of trees is created by the removal of trees through paper manufacturing. This absence of the trees is not accidental, it is a lyrical prompt for the viewer to reconsider the origins of the materials we use and dispose of daily.
Explain the outdoor sculpture that you’ve created for the Castlemaine State Festival. What inspired you to create it and in what way does it celebrate the eucalypt?
The Eucalypt Commission ‘Eucalypt’ 2019 is a stack of recycled plastic HDPE sheeting that form on one side a solid and impenetrable wall and on the other side reveal the negative form of an iconic eucalypt silhouette. The form that is removed from the material, and the resultant shadow lines and revealed textures, create the pretence of a tree that is in fact not there at all.
‘Eucalypt’ is a chance for people to consider the importance of the natural world. The intention is to create an experience, an artwork that represents a recognisable tree form but presents it in an arresting way as the viewer is confronted with an absence – a void, not empty but filled with light and shadow creating an illusion of form. The dimensions of the work mirror the standard sizes of our constructed world. Building materials are commonly available in sizes of 2400 mm and 1200 mm; these sizes become regular occurrences in our built world environment, determining the heights of walls, sizes of rooms and doorways.
This notion of human scale, generous and accommodating when used internally (within the home), become surprisingly dwarfed when competing with nature’s own constraints and the awe-inspiring experience of being amongst trees, whose size is based on survival aids determined by the availability of light, water and the stretch of their root systems. In response to these concerns of scale ‘Eucalypt’ is presented on this site to draw contrast and reverence to the natural world and its proximity to ‘town’ life. The scaled-down eucalypt here reads as an ornamental folly alongside the monolithic specimens of eucalypt found in the area.
The materials selected too, whilst not wood as it may be read from a distance due to its light timber colouring and ‘plank-like’ building site formalism, have additional significance to the work and the role timber and plastics play in our daily lives. The environmental impact of the source material contributes to the reading of the work: created from recycled material, this plastic sheeting is produced from post-industrial waste. According to the plastics manufacturer, every 50 kilograms of this material represents the equivalent of 12,500 plastic packages that would have created 0.17 cubic metres of landfill.
What do you hope the public will take away from experiencing this sculpture?
My hope is that the viewer feels rewarded by the experience of standing in close proximity to the sculpture. That they can get up close and see the individual cuts that go into making the work and see the effect these cuts have on how daylight falls on the work.
Based on the inclusion of various natural elements in your work, would you call yourself an environmental artist?
I have not actively intended to create environmental art, I make the work that interests me using materials I find have integrity to the kinds of works I want to make. What I enjoy about art is how it has the ability to be different things to different people and I enjoy that my work addresses issues relating to the natural and urban environment.
When working on your sculptures, does your process involve any kind of immersion in the natural world? If so, can you describe this immersion?
I don’t seek out immersion in the natural world to any great extreme, I find it important to form observations for my artworks in everyday experiences with nature from urban to suburban environments. Walking in the natural world is my primary way of engaging with nature and not just a means of finding inspiration but of importance to me in maintaining physical and mental health.
Finally, do you have a favourite species of eucalypt?
I have a soft spot for River Red Gums that keep me company on my daily walk – they have served as muse for my artworks for many years.
Banner image: Kylie Stillman, ‘Eucalypt’ 2019, hand-cut recycled HDPE sheeting and steel 240 x 240 x 30 cm. Commissioned and created with the assistance of Eucalypt Australia, La Trobe Art Institute and Castlemaine State Festival. Photograph courtesy of the artist and Utopia Art Sydney.
Rachel Fetherston is currently a PhD candidate at Deakin University investigating the impact of Australian ecofiction on readers' environmental attitudes and behaviours. She is also a freelance writer and the publications manager at Remember The Wild.
Originally published, 21 March 2019:
First view of ‘Eucaypt Commission’ and preview of Castlemaine State Festival Visual Arts Program Saturday 16 March, 4pm at Castlemaine Art Musuem. Full program opens 22 March curated by Latrobe Art Institute so many artists so excited to be involved. castlemainefestival.com.au
On Sunday 24th February 2019, the Mitchell family were joined by fellow judging panelists, artists and guests on a picture-perfect Red Hill day for the announcement of the 2019 Montalto Sculpture Prize: ‘Moonah' by Kylie Stillman.
Moonah is a free-standing stack of hand-cut fence paling panels, an imposing work that continues Kylie’s use of working with everyday materials and follows her use of books and papers, to form the objects into which she carves. These often enigmatic ‘blocks' have a presence in themselves, and in this case, the stack of panels form on one side a solid and impenetrable wall and on the other side reveal the negative form of a coastal moonah tree, a dramatic ‘tortured wind-formed’ silhouette familiar to the area.
In a style familiar to her practice, the form is removed from the block, and it is the resultant shadow lines and revealed textures that create the pretence of a tree, that is in fact, not there at all. This absence of the tree and the scale of the block of material is not accidental, it is a lyrical prompt for the viewer to reconsider the origins of the matter we use to assemble our constructed world.
This year’s judges included John Mitchell (owner of Montalto), Peter Williams (architect behind Montalto’s iconic buildings, Williams Boag Architects), Phillip Doggett-Williams (artist and educator), Kelly Gelatly (Director of the Ian Potter Museum at the University of Melbourne) and Lisa Byrne (Director of McClelland Sculpture Park) who deliberated over a record number of entries from some spectacular Australian artists.
'Moonah' will join the previous prize winners as part of the Montalto permanent collection with the other 29 shortlisted sculptures staying on exhibition at Montalto for the next 6 months. While in situ, guests visiting Montalto can nominate their favourite sculpture for the People' Choice Award.
For more information about sculpture at Montalto website: https://montalto.com.au/sculpture
Castlemaine State Festival has announced a new partnership between philanthropic, educational and creative industries. Eucalypt Australia, La Trobe Art Institute and Castlemaine State Festival have worked together to create the Eucalypt Commission.
The Eucalypt Commission allows an artist to produce a new work that will be exhibited at the Castlemaine State Festival in March 2019. Eucalypt Australia is partnering with the Castlemaine State Festival to celebrate and promote the significance of the eucalypt. The Commission provides for the production of new artistic work that communicates the ecological, cultural and economic value of this most iconic Australian tree. The Castlemaine State Festival is pleased to partner with Eucalypt Australia in ways that serve mutually beneficial ends and this partnership is a perfect way to ensure the development of quality art for the Festival.
The Eucalypt Commission has been awarded to Kylie Stillman for an outdoor sculpture that symbolises the beauty of the eucalypt and the importance of 'light' to its very existence. In a nuanced balance of representation and abstraction, Stillman has proposed an evocative piece that also take into account the context of its setting, at the entrance forecourts of the Castlemaine Art Museum. The artist is highly regarded, with her work being regularly exhibited across commercial and public institutions. Layering materials and often cutting away to create forms in the void of absence, Stillman’s work reveals a skill of craft and a conceptual edge.
The Commission was an open call out and received a significant volume of entries from across the country. The judging panel consisted of key industry people, including the Director of Shepparton Art Museum Dr Rebecca Coates and Associate Professor Jacqueline Millner from La Trobe University. The Eucalypt Commission artwork will be presented as part of the visual arts program at the Castlemaine State Festival and will form part of a hub of activity and interest centred around the Castlemaine Art Museum.
Opening this week ‘Trace’ at Bunjil Place Gallery
24 November 2018 to 24 February 2019
Artists: Joyce Hinterding, Laith McGregor, Cameron Robbins, Sandra Selig, Kylie Stillman, Gosia Wlodarczak
Looking beyond the traditional definitions of drawing, this exhibition acknowledges the work of six contemporary Australian artists who utilise principles of drawing whilst expanding upon what the definition of drawing can be.
Recognising the unexpected and illuminating ways these artists have shaped the medium, Trace features 40 new and recent works. These include pencil and ink drawings by artist and machine, hand sewn drawings on paper, a mesmerizing thread installation that spans across space and walls through to intricately carved books, and sound producing induction drawings.
‘I like presenting ideas that show how marks on a page can show both the immediacy in expressing an idea and also be a complex planned drawing that is laborious and time consuming. Many of my works also explore ways of showing three-dimensional forms on a two dimensional plane. This interest is directly connected to my background in domestic craft and having learnt to sew and construct garments from a young age, laying out fabric flat and working with a pattern to construct something that forms to the contours of the body.’
Big thanks to Sydney Contemporary for including my large scale work ‘Scape’ in ‘Installation Contemporary’ program at this year’s Fair.
Curated by Nina Miall, Installation Contemporary presents Australian and international artists, whose innovative and often site-specific installations range from the handcrafted to the digital. The program includes Kylie Stillman's Scape, a free-standing stack of over 200 hand-cut plywood panels.
Sydney Contemporary 13 - 16 September 2018, Carriageworks: 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh
Parliament House Canberra
16 August – 21 October 2018
Curated for the 30th anniversary of Australian Parliament House (APH) this exhibition features artworks inspired by the architecture of APH and in particular the ‘façade’ of the building. Over the past 30 years the façade of APH has become a recognizable symbol of democracy and government throughout Australia and it has been appropriated and celebrated by many contemporary artists.
Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery Podcast
Kylie Stillman - art as defiance.
Kylie talks to curator Danny Lacy about the defiance of creativity, the genesis of her book carvings and the idea behind her National Works on Paper piece 'Just C'.
Curated by Penelope Davis 'Staying Power' is an exhibition showcasing selected works from established women artists.
Artists include: A.A, Megan Evans, Kate Just, Chaco Kato, Jennifer Mills, Allison Rose, Kylie Stillman.
Roger Averill's 'Relatively Famous' published by Transit Lounge
The forest is a key trope within the fairy tale lexicon and is symbolic of both possibility and adventure, but also death and a sense of foreboding.
All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed curator Samantha Comte talks about how Kylie Stillman, Tracey Moffatt and Polixeni Papapetrou represent the forest in their work and the important role it plays within the fairy tale cannon.
For the full length video, see Ian Potter Museum of Art Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ian.potter.museum.of.art/videos/10155110267931594/
Image: Installation view of Kylie Stillman's 'Scape' 2017 courtesy of the artist and Utopia Art Sydney
Delighted to be exhibiting alongside these artists in the Adelaide Perry Prize for Drawing:
Tim Allen, Tony Ameneiro, Andrew Antoniou, Carol Archer, Stephen Bird, John Bokor, Nicola Bolton, Chris Bond, Damian Broomhead, Tom Carment, Michelle Cawthorn, Serena Christie, Adam Cusack, Dagmar Cyrulla, Amy Dynan, Helen Eager, Robert Ewing, David Fairbairn, Garry Foye, Todd, Jane Grealy, Nicci Haynes, Paul Heppell, Kendal Heyes, Eamonn Jackson, Melody Jones, Krystyna Katsouri, Jennifer Keeler-Milne, Matthew Kentmann, Martin King, Ceara Metlikovec, Damian Moss, Catherine O'Donnell, Becc Ország, Claire Primrose, Evan Salmon, Andrew Seward, Peter Sharp, Mike Staniford, Kylie Stillman, Craig Waddell, Anna Warren, Stuart Watters and Peter Wegner.
The Adelaide Perry Prize for Drawing
3 to 29 March.
Adelaide Perry Gallery
Corner Hennessy and College Streets Croydon Sydney NSW
Text in high places: from Courts to Parliament
Extract from Gina Fairley 'Text me babe' published 13 October, Arts Hub.com.au
Using found text is a recurrent method across this genre, but a new exhibition of commissioned work at Parliament House in Canberra adds a twist to the source.
As technology has changed, so too has the delivery of information. Known as Hansard, the transcripts of parliamentary proceedings are rarely printed and bound today, instead they are predominately viewed as electronic entities.
So what do you do with 120 years of bound parliamentary recordings? Give them to artists.
‘The artists will explore both the properties of the physical source material as well as the history documented within the volumes,’ explained co-curators of the Parliamentary exhibition, Justine van Mourik and Aimee Frodsham. They commissioned nine artists to enliven, reinterpret, reuse and recycle the leather bound volumes that date back to 1901.
The artists are Michael Eather, Simryn Gill, Katherine Hattam, Pam Langdon, Archie Moore, Elvis Richardson, Kylie Stillman, Imants Tillers and Hossein Valamanesh. You can catch Boundless Volumes from 30 November 2017 to 11 February 2018.
Extract from Gina Fairley 'Text me babe' published 13 October, Arts Hub.com.au
Six small book sculptures have been created under the title of Note specifically commissioned for exhibition by City of Yarra for North Fitzroy library.
The inception for Note came from seeing the space – an informal area at the entrance to City of Yarra’s Bargoonga Nganjin building, ideally suited for small works that have an immediacy and intimacy in content and scale.
On exhibition from 9 October - 3 December 2017
North Fitzroy Library, 182 St Georges Road, North Fitzroy Melbourne
Article by Nadiah Abdulrahim for Art Guide Australia
Although Kylie Stillman studied painting at RMIT in the 1990s, her practice has always leaned towards the more conceptual side of things. Her work defies categorisation: it encompasses sculpture, mark-making and embroidery. Stillman exclusively uses found materials, particularly books. “I struggle with a blank canvas, and need an existing start point, something to respond to,” she says.
Stillman’s work addresses big issues, such as the environment, in an intricate, delicate way. Her work is an invitation to pause, interact and reflect on our relationship with nature. It’s an invitation that is championed by CLIMARTE, organisers of the annual ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE festival, who have included The Opposite of Wild in the 2017 program.
Stillman’s meditations on nature are exercises in mediation themselves: she laboriously cuts into individual pages of books by hand, using tools like scalpels, needles, jigsaws and drills to achieve the deft, nuanced impressions in her work. These sculptures take many months to complete: the three works in this exhibition took a year to produce.
According to Stillman, the exhibition title is a reflection of this calculated strategy and methodology. “The opposite of wild is something that artists and nature have in common,” she says. “They both have a reputation for being wild, free and spontaneous but they are (mostly!) calculated, planned and strategic workers. They have to be, or they would not survive.”
Viewers will marvel at the feats of engineering in her sculptures. Although the sculpture bases and external structures are visible (Stillman repurposes ladders and saw horses as makeshift plinths) there are internal rods and frames in place. In Masking the Seam, 2017, layers of thick plywood are sandwiched between stacks of books. Camouflaged by layers of paper, the wood is only visible through the Spirograph pattern cut into the pages.
The Opposite of Wild also includes one of her most ambitious works to date: Local Branch, 2016, a sculpture commissioned by the Hawkesbury Regional Gallery, made with decommissioned books donated by the Hawkesbury Library. In this work, and indeed, in many of her previous works, nature comes full circle, going from tree to book and back to tree (branch) again.
But the branch in the work, of course, is really an absence of a branch, hollowed out from book pages. The branch, as the artist points out, is a record of the movement of the sun: each twist in its structure is a reaction to the source of light and nutrients. It is yet another example of how nature is more calculated than we give it credit for.
Light is an important element for the third work in this exhibition, Morning Pages, 2017, an installation of ten embroidered books, covers flipped so they are facing away from the viewer, on musical stands. The books that make up the work were selected based on their cover designs, not their titles, In this work Stillman utilises embroidery, a technique she has used in recent years, to create intricate patterns that come to life through light and, inversely, shadow. Although the titles of the books themselves don’t dictate the embroidered designs, she says, “the books and the stitched components all depict systems, calculations, or patterns.” As is the case with many of her other works, the patterns here are representations of structures that aid survival in one way or another, they are the opposite of wild.
The Opposite of Wild
Linden New Art
27 May – 6 August 2017
Published article Art Guide Australia website http://artguide.com.au/kylie-stillman-the-opposite-of-wild
Visit to Town Hall Gallery today, to see the Fred Williams plate they have in their collection, a starting point for new work to be created for the exhibition “Another Look: Contemporary Artists and The Collection” from October.
'Flinders Ranges' has been awarded the People’s Choice Award for the Fleurieu Art Prize. Thank you to all who voted!
Thanks Hawkesbury Regional Gallery for the 'weeded' library books, excited to be making new work commissioned for a show at the gallery later this year.