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6-8pm Friday 2 September 2016, Culture at Work, Pyrmont.

Two years ago, I had the great fortune to work here, at Culture at Work, and saw this independent creative incubator in action - where art and science creatively intersect. Culture at Work is the brainchild of Sherryl Ryan – artist and visionary educator, who deserves special acknowledgement in making this special hub a reality. Apart from its formal residency and education programs, there are two studios – one is rented by musician Axel Singer and the other by artist Alan Spackman – where they can focus and refine their creative selves. Both are here tonight, and for a few minutes I will shine the light on Alan, before he takes the baton to shine a little light on his colleague.

I always loved roaming into Alan’s studio to see what he was up to – the elements of new work, the smell of paint, the paper mâché models, the eclectic books, magazines – and catch snippets of his vast knowledge of art. As Facebook friends we seem to like the same whacky things, like the mesmerising paper-clip making machine, some iconic music from the 70s & 80s and other curios. We share an interest in modernism – and he, particularly in abstraction. The name Kazimir Malevich often came up in conversation – the Russian constructivist/supremacist artist and pioneer of abstraction from the early 1900s who took the concept to its extreme, and completely abandoned depicting reality. He invented a new world of shapes and forms that belonged exclusively in the realm of art: to ‘free art from the dead weight of the real world’ (Tate retrospective)[1], and even colour when you consider the Black Cross series. It led the way for a whole new visual representation – which Alan explores here, and integrates with his own contemporary idiom.

One work includes a real hammer – which featured in a painting in his show last year - which pays tribute to his father’s love of woodwork and furniture-making; some works include small mirrored discs – tokens of the selfie era – introduced after recent travels to India; and six of the works are pairs, which continue his long-standing interest in binary logic - and the space between. The interest in binaries has been there from the start – black and white, yes and no, the portals in and out. There is also a love of things retro, of humble materials a la Arte Povera, and of the relationships of objects in space. There is a deep intent buried in these, an invitation to engage with visual puzzles, and to look and find.

Discussing the work with him last week, it was clear this series went beyond painting – into relief and freestanding 3D works. In his distinctly philosophical way Alan asked: ‘how far does something have to be away from the wall to be sculpture?’ Let him know what you think.

Above all, Alan is an artist, clearly likes the thinking and the tinkering, the creation and the construction, and probably most of all, sharing it. He’s been at it for 30 years, with the benefit of art education from a suite of institutions including TAFE, Sydney College of the Arts, and Sydney University where he did Museum Studies, and where he runs a monthly modernist public art tour of the works peppered around the campus. (just google Sydney Uni public art tour). He’s been a hairdresser, a photographer, writer, teacher, and is currently a very vocal activist for art education.

Alan’s gift is sharing his knowledge and experience, and staying true to his artistic north. For him, art is a language that everyone has, or should have access to, that opens doors to many inner and outer worlds. This is only the second show that I’ve seen in Alan’s 30-year continuum, which my accountant would say is a good thing. I’m in: I’m happy to live with a little piece of Alan’s good eye and thinking drawn from a disciplined life. And so can you. 

© Ivana Jirasek

Independent curator and writer



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