Exhibition Review – un:Seen

I recently visited the un:Seen exhibition with a friend and we came away with very different views on what we had seen.  It got me thinking about what I expect from exhibitions and what I take away from them.  Obviously I view things very differently from her, as our opinions were so opposed; so should the exhibiting artist(s) consider the viewer when creating works for public display and, possibly, commercial sale?

Jeffrey Smart, Bus Terminus, 1973

Visiting a solo-artist exhibition gives the viewer some expectation regarding content.
Most people will have an interest in that particular artist; their style, their stories and their method of interpretation, before venturing to a solo exhibition.

I recall discovering Jeffrey Smart and being drawn to the quiet, uncluttered, flat style of his paintings.  Nowadays I always search for his work in major galleries and I get the same buzz from each piece I see.  But I know others who scoff at this artist.  However, I own a tomb-stone sized book recording much of his life story and works and I take pleasure in turning the pages and following the progression of his work over many years.

But what about exhibitions where many artists come together with their own interpretation of a theme and exhibit together?  un:Seen falls into this category and, as textile artists, this creates a varied visual array.

The very theme itself ‘un:Seen‘ has one considering words such as: hidden, underground, covert.  In fact, the thesaurus gives us:




Not exactly a range of positive connotations.  So the viewer can, and should, expect some works depicting confronting and disturbing messages.

Personally, when visiting exhibitions, I scan the room and choose the pieces I would like a closer look at.  This idea was taught during my art studies courses and works well to avoid examining every piece in detail and coming away overwhelmed and without an appreciation of particular pieces.

I explore the visual aspect, then I read the artist statement when I’m satisfied with what I’ve seen.  Then I decide what to take away from the experience.

Brenda LivermoreCommon Ground
54 Vessels – Mulberry paper, paper string, paper casting, fringing

Artist statement (in part):
The imprint of memory on the landscape.
A shared experience over time.
Oral storytelling.
Many individual stories forming a whole history.
The essence of lives forever part of the landscape.

The artist has clearly indicated what she is interpreting in art and I both respect and understand that but the viewer will always arrive with their own background and baggage and may well take away something different from that intended by the artist.

That’s what I love about exhibitions.  No matter what is displayed it will never be seen in the same light by multiple viewers.  They will all enjoy, dislike, dismiss, engage in their own unique way – myself included.

Back to my original question: should the exhibiting artist(s) consider the viewer when creating works for public display and, possibly, commercial sale?
My view is a resounding NO.  An artist can never produce work that satisfies the vagaries of every person who should chance upon it.

Below are a few noteworthy pieces from the un:Seen exhibition with a summary of their artist’s statements, but first a range of their on-line advertising and postcards.  Each of the 20 artists had one of their pieces used for the publicity campaign.


Mandy McAlisterCore Memory
Purpose made circuit boards, beads, threads and fabric, hand and machine stitching

Artist statement:
Magnetic core memory, used in early computers, was the forerunner to modern semi-conductor memory.
These memory holding zones are unseen in our device controlled lives.  The memories essential to our core being are held in interlaced zones.
Strong, faded, fragmented, secret and shared memories of place, family, emotions and action exist in the seen and unseen.


Samantha TannousRamifications
Merino fibre, wet felted

Artist statement (in part):
A graphic score in response to the composition Ramifications written by Gyorgy Ligeti in 1968.
The graduation of warm colour and varying sizes of the ridges reflects the subtle tonal differences, the unique pulsing rhythms created and the tension between the players as they attempt to re-tune each to the other.


Katherine KachorChildren Who Come unto Me Suffer
Mulberry paper, fabric, rosary beads, perspex, collage, machine stitching

Artist statement (in part):
Numbers of people have used institutions as a front to camouflage their real identity and intentions towards children.
In this work sexual misconduct by the clergy is addressed.
Hiding in the shadow of the cross assuming the name of a Good Man, these individuals conduct their evil with impunity.  Protected by their status, remaining unseen, they prey on children of all ages.



Click here to see a review of other pieces in this exhibition posted on behalf of Primrose Paper Arts Inc.

http://www.untetheredfibreartists.com/ and Untethered facebook page


About Claire B

I am a passionate printmaker, paper maker and book artist. I'm a 'forever' student and frequently attend courses and workshops to extend and improve my creative skills.
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