Active participant or passive observer? These are the traditional constructs of the art experience. However, contemporary art is blurring these boundaries and regional centres in both Australia and around the world are poised to harness this change.
The tradition of the ‘white cube’ is a contemporary reinvention of the musty walls of the Paris art salon and the Royal Academic traditions of Europe, dating back to the seventeenth century. It is a setting that closely aligns with the church; a quiet space for contemplation, and while these spaces play an important role in our current manic, social media-frenzied world, new audiences are being drawn into less intimidating and more engaging art spaces.
When the Gippsland Art Gallery opened in the Port of Sale in January this year, first-time visitors walked through the doors and filled the cloakroom with not just the expected bags and coats, but skateboards and scooters as well. Perhaps this should not have come as such a surprise as a major feature of the redevelopment project was the skate park, a facility that holds a strong place in the Sale community. This meeting of worlds is the inspiration of the upcoming On Board Skate Deck Art Competition.
Skate decks (left to right): All That Glitters Isn’t Gold, Tayla Clavarino; Hembra Fuerte, Emmah Hellings; Walk in the Park, Grace Ware; Bored-Aid, Tilly Korbman.
The skate scene is a way of life. It points to the dizzying heights of grunge when Nirvana played in every backyard each weekend, flannel ruled, cords were the formal version of jeans and skate shoes (preferably Vans) were worn whether you had ever attempted a heelflip or not. The beauty of skating is that it doesn’t discriminate. Gender, background, age and class are irrelevant. There is an unspoken etiquette: the calling in of BMX bikes, the words of encouragement from more experienced skaters and the fashion that brings fun and the absurd to the forefront. Most importantly for voyeurs like myself, you don’t have to skate to identify with this movement.
Skate culture is strongly aligned with the thriving street art scene where artists like Banksy, Blek le Rat, Matt Adnate, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, ROA and many more have been elevated into and beyond the fine art world. The rules around ownership, market value, access and protocol appeared to collapse overnight with the emergence of street art. Contemporary and avant-garde have long held this subversion tradition, and it can only be represented in part because of the walls of the white cube.
Jeremy Kasper, a local skater and artist who also runs Kurb Skateboard Shop with his partner Vicki Kasper, describes skate art as a tongue-in-cheek ‘appropriation of pop culture’. It is little wonder that the subversion of mainstream culture and the development of a unique narrative is alive and thriving in regional Victoria. While the epicentre of the street art scene may appear to lie in the alleyways of Melbourne, Gippsland and other regional communities have and continue to harbour the perfect conditions for the freedom embodied in street and skate art culture.
Skate decks (left to right): Untitled, Cal Wood; Skating with Style, Eden Levchenko; 99 Loser, Luke Page-Cook; The Pineapple of My Eye, Serena Savage.
This freedom is a throwback to a time in Australia of simple pleasures: evenings playing in the street until dark, climbing trees, grabbing a drink from the hose before meeting up with the neighbours for one last round of 40-40. While the pre-Internet innocence will never be fully reclaimed, it does still live, and one might argue, it is more tangibly accessible in regional communities than our city centres. It is ironic that we attempt to encapsulate the artist spirit in the construct of the ‘white cube’. This spirit is alive on the street and strengthened every time a young person goes into their room with pen, paper, paint and designs swimming in their head – creativity in need of an outlet.
On Board will showcase artworks on skateboards by artists aged 12-25 years old. Prizes include a Regional Arts Victoria Membership, vouchers from Kurb Skateboard Shop, a backpack from Stobies Land and Surf shop Maffra, and custom-designed boards by East Gippsland artist Alan Solomon and renowned Melbourne artists Lucy Lucy and Tom Gerrard, introduced to the gallery by Belinda Collins (The Social Crew, Melbourne).
The Gippsland Art Gallery, Sale Library, Wellington Shire Youth Council and Wellington’s FReeZA group Propellor are hosting an opening event on Saturday, 1st of September, 2018, at 6.00pm at the Port of Sale to launch the On Board Skate Deck Art Competition. The exhibition will run until Saturday, 28th of October, 2018 – can’t wait to see you there!
Skate decks (left to right): Untitled, Alana Speight; Be Unique, Regina Cannon; Vogue, Jessica Jackson (Overall Winner); Space, Caitlin Bolitho.
An amazing prize donated by the renowned artist, Lucy Lucy.