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Constance Critique no. 2

  • By admin

With bright and shiny stars in my eyes by Jessie Lumb

Words by Francisca Moenne [Kika Moen]


 […] and the stars that still sojourn, yet still move onward

 S. T. Coleridge (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner)


I spoke with South Australian artist Jessie Lumb on the afternoon of the opening of her solo exhibition entitled With bright and shiny stars in my eyes in the Main Space of Constance ARI in Hobart. From this conversation I could see how her engagement with the work went way beyond the worry of a personal success, and was instead a sincere engagement with her surrounding.

Having just completed a major public artwork for Arte Magra, from the Opaque, curated by Domenico de Clario and Mary Knights through the Australian Experimental Art Foundation in Adelaide, Lumb shared with me how she engages with spaces. “I am more interested in public interventions.” Lumb told me about how in Arte Magra she had spent days painting bubble-gum on the pavement of Hindley Street in Adelaide cities most seedy area. As if restoring the bubble-gum to its original vibrant glory in bright shades of pink, purple, green, blue and orange.

Lumb’s steadiness and installation, I admit, instantly threw me into a rollercoaster of thoughts. At first, I was not able to clearly read the significance of the work she had just completed for Constance ARI. As her work requires time and distance to truly come to terms with its broad and profound significance.

As an artist and curator myself, it took me time to realise that viewing With bright and shiny stars in my eyes had unlocked a personal urgency to reconsider the relationship between the artist and space, and the curator and viewer. Lumb’s work seems to consider everyone’s viewing experience as individual. Her practice is about an artistic gesture that slowly and gently draws the viewer into a deep spatial experience with unseen aspects of the world around us. The floorsheet accompanying the exhibition suggesting where to look and what to look for, listing: “glitter glue and cardboard filling ground and ceiling craters (gallery, car park and toilets)”. The viewing experience of With bright and shiny stars in my eyes takes you on a journey. The result is a silent and poetic show.

By filling the holes of the Main Space of Constance ARI’s floor and ceiling with blue glitter paint and cardboard, the artist not only redeems the history of the building but also urges the viewer to look for the unseen. This act of looking closely at the ground and at the ceiling is not a common gallery viewing experience and catches the viewer off-guard. By drawing your focus to the holes or remains left behind from years past, Lumb’s work also acts to highlights the present. As Lumb put it: “The imperfections and history in public spaces are usually left as they are. The perfect white wall of a gallery space can be terrifying! And their perfection doesn’t give me enough material to work with”.  Her work is almost a return or homage to minimalism: a conscious look at contemporary and social activism yet silent and poetic. Her work draws the viewer’s eyes to search for her work and see the world with a new perspective (perhaps with bright and shiny eyes in ones eyes?).

Throughout the first five years of her practice, Lumb has spent much time living and working with other cultures around the world. During her studies she undertook a student exchange to San Diego, in 2010 she participated in a six week residency in China and recently she has returned from twelve months in Ulaanbaatar as an Australian Young Ambassador for Development with the Arts Council of Mongolia. Now she is involved in a roaming art space called Tarpspace []. I wonder: is it the need for the artist to extend her surroundings? Or the need to look at different spaces? Or maybe the need to get away from todays man-made society?

Lumb’s overall arts practice seems to draw attention to the necessity to look closely at our everyday surroundings. As I have discovered by writing about this work a wider view comes hand in hand with a closer look. It was also highlighted to me that the arts need to be constantly restored and to be considered in the “here and now” knowing that “yesterday” may also have left remains behind, remains that might still need to be taken into consideration.

By using materials that are easily accessible (a trait that she might of picked up from her traveling?) it is obvious that the artists’ concerns are not material or consumer minded. Her real materials are her eyes – and this way of looking at the world around her. Her work is a process that not only considers a space but is also conscious of time. Along with this line of thinking, I can now see why her installation sent me into a rollercoaster of thoughts, and made me connect with what was then happening around me at the time.

With bright and shiny stars in my eyes resonates well with the current return to conceptual art making. It is almost as if conceptualism has not yet been fully explored and understood. Maybe this is because it hasn’t yet found a way to connect to the real sensations of our human world. Is this why we are still seeing much of Bruce Neuman’s work around the world but not really hearing his message “think think think”? Is it that we have not yet found a way to engage the conceptual with our contemporary world? Maybe we are still learning that the ultimate role of all experimental art is to contribute to the way in which we engage with the world around us.