‘Deeply intellectual’ works carry diverse meanings

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Angela Valamanesh, “Earthly Garden #12”, 2011, ceramic. Photo: Michal Kluvanek.

Craft / “Angela Valamanesh: About Being Here”, ANU School of Art & Design Gallery, Cnr Ellery Crescent & Liversidge Street, Acton, until March 12, Tuesdays to Fridays, 10.30am-3pm. Reviewed by MEREDITH HINCHLIFFE.

IN 2013, the JamFactory in Adelaide launched its annual “ICON” series of exhibitions to celebrate influential SA artists working in crafts-based media.

Each exhibition opens in Adelaide in conjunction with the South Australian Living Artists (SALA) festival before touring nationally.

Angela Valamanesh was the 2019 “ICON” exhibitor. This exhibition surveys her practice over the past two decades, which has evolved into a strongly research-based, contemporary art practice.

Angela Valamanesh, “InsectOrchid 11”, 2017, ceramic. Photo: Michal Kluvanek.

References to science, macro/microbiology and historical anatomical and botanical illustrations form a large part of the basis of this exhibition. There is also a strong link to poetry.

The medium Valamanesh has chosen is mostly clay, in earthy colours, although occasionally she uses glossy yellow or black. Many surfaces are heavily gouged, ridged or dimpled. There is a strong environmental concern associated with her work. These works come from a deeply intellectual base and carry numerous meanings.

The work “Earthly Garden #12” is an oval form with carved shapes, evocative of crystals. A glossy spot in the centre of each highlights their crystalline formation. It is one of six forms, all with different surfaces, with spots of glossy glaze.

This artist has undertaken a large range of residencies in numerous scientific institutions around the world. At one point she found a book by Dorothy Hodges describing the colours of pollen, which assists apiarists in discovering which plants their bees were gathering nectar from to make honey.

Angela Valamanesh, “Shades of Pollen: Yellow to Red, No. 2”, 2018. Ceramic, MDF, hessian, grouting compound. Photo: Michal Kluvanek.

Two watercolour works on paper illustrate these, and they’re also depicted in curved ceramic forms. “Shades of Pollen: Yellow to Red, No. 2” shows tiny grains of pollen through the lens of a microscope. The second works are titled “Shades of Pollen: Yellow to Green”.

In addition to the ceramic pieces, there are many works on paper. During the residencies, and particularly the work on her PhD, Valamanesh was drawn to the shapes of organisms through the lens of microscopes. Dr Mike Lee, an author of one of two essays in the accompanying catalogue, suggests this might have spurred her reversion to painting and drawing.

This is a serious exhibition showing the work of an artist who is comfortable working in diverse media. She is clearly deserving of the title “ICON”.

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