Arts / Young curator poses the question: ‘Why?’

A detail from Jeremy Brown’s “Repose In Solitude”, 2018, American white oak and wool felt.

IT’S one thing to be a talented artist creating beautiful or provocative work, but it’s quite another to get work seen by the viewing public in a cogent, comprehensible exhibition – you need a curator.

Angus (“Gus”) McGrath… curating an exhibition highlighting the talent of young graduate artists. Photo by Helen Musa

With this in mind, the Capital Arts Patrons’ Organisation has, for the fourth year running, awarded an art history and curatorship graduate from the ANU the chance to curate an exhibition highlighting the talent of young graduate artists, one of whom will win a $500 cash prize donated by CAPO and judged by Peter Jones and Alex Martinis Roe.

Angus (“Gus”) McGrath is the latest curator-recipient and he has plenty of street cred. By the time he graduated with “firsts” in art history and curatorship from the ANU School of Art late last year, he’d chalked up an impressive list of shows, curating “We Collapse, We Build New Cities” at ANCA, “Beat” at Tributary Projects with Peter Maloney and “Styling the Distributed Body” at Canberra Contemporary Art Space, Manuka.

He’d also written a swag of catalogue essays, volunteered at the NGA and been an intern at PhotoAccess. And he’s won another graduate prize, the EASS Canberra Grammar School Curatorial Award.

After years of hard work, McGrath heard he’d won CAPO’s Curatorial Internship Award in December, so enjoyed a bit of a breather over Christmas to work out what the parameters might be and to ask himself: “What am I doing?”

“I’m young but I’m not super-young,” McGrath tells “CityNews”.

“It’s hard to get work after a degree.”

It’s hardly surprising to learn that the title of his coming CAPO exhibition of work by six emerging artists (Jeremy Brown, Dean Cross, Bryan Foong, Alex Hobba, Skye Jamieson and Nyx Mathews) is “Why?”

“As it’s an emerging curator’s prize you’d expect most of the artists to be emerging, but actually I picked the artists I wanted, a mix of graduates and emerging artists,” he says.

“Interposed”, 2018, glass, by Nyx Mathews.

And no, they’re not all his best mates. In fact he met lots of new people in the process.

A well-curated show, he believes, “gives people access, creates ambiguity, and gives spaces to people.

“I might enjoy theory but I understand that most people don’t, there’s a physical, practical aspect to curating, you have to select, you’ve got to have an eye.”

The six artists he’s selected explore a range of materials, but McGrath hasn’t forced an overarching theme on the show.

Jeremy Brown is a furniture-maker known for his “meditative” benches, but they interact with textiles. Dean Cross is an indigenous artist, best-known here as a dancer, who nowadays challenges notions of painting. Bryan Foong’s paintings are deeply romantic yet non-pictorial. Alex Hobba works across a huge range of media but also in text/poems hung on walls. Skye Jamieson’s “blue” drawings are “very ethereal, but so resolved, they exist in this weird space”. And Nyx Mathews, who studied in gold and silver, creates “super-small, intricate works, like sculptures, set on plinths”.

“Why?” the 2018 CAPO Emerging Artists’ Prize, Foyer Gallery, ANU School of Art and Design, July 20-31.Opening by Prof Denise Ferris, 6pm, Friday, July 20, all welcome.

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