Harper’s Call

Michael Conole
Diena Georgetti
Bill Hawkins

21.04.2023 - 20.05.2023

The exhibition title Harper’s Call refers to a necromantic spell, where an individual must sacrifice their own life force in order to resurrect a single creature. It may only be performed by a member of the Harpers, a secret organisation of individuals dedicated to preserving historical lore and maintaining the balance between nature and civilisation.

Cosmism, the early 20th century philosophical cultural movement in Russia provides a curatorial framework for understanding this grouping of artworks. Russian orthodox Christian philosopher and futurologist Nikolai Fyodorov, one of cosmism's leading figures, advocated for radical life extension, physical immortality, and even resurrection of the dead, using scientific methods. Fellow cosmist Aleksander Bogdanov went so far as to experiment with blood transfusions in order to achieve eternal youth, or at least partial rejuvenation.

Current technological advancements bring this communist utopian idea closer to reality. Though tech billionaires such as Peter Thiel, chasing immortality through investments in companies such as the Methuselah Foundation, threaten to twist the philosophical dreams of Fyodorov whereby only the rich may live forever and ascend to the stars.

As we look at each of the artist's works in this exhibition, we begin to understand how this theme provides a key to unlocking the subconscious links that thread these works together. Drawing on the histories of European non-objective painting, Georgetti's resurrection of abstract images brings the spirit of modernism back to life. Conole’s wooden assemblages show how the artist has masterfully created life-like scenes from once living English Elm trees. Hawkin’s work on the other hand, feature material references to Arte Povera (lentils, wood, and felt), and depict images that echo the life of a proletariat.

Michael Conole (b. 1968 in Geelong, Victoria) has had two enduring interests since childhood: old buildings and the ways of people. After studying archaeology at La Trobe university, his interest in making things took over and he began building furniture and eventually fabricating works for high-profile artists. In the background, he made work of his own and photographed his world. He worked in Europe and America as a carving assistant before returning to Australia and exhibiting works at galleries such as Bus Projects, Kings, and the Ian Potter Centre. Conole’s work explores the theatrically of sculpture and its potential to animate thought and reverie. He has worked alongside many well-established artists such as David Noonan, Nick Mangan, Ricky Swallow, and Rafaat Ishak.

Diena Georgetti (b. 1966, Naarm/Melbourne) has been a significant figure in Australian contemporary art, making paintings that cut through expectation since the outset of her career in the late 1980s. Georgetti is a conceptual painter. Her works of recent years are composite pictures, collages of obscure fragments from communities of artist predecessors sourced from the margins of the internet archive. Georgetti’s work is currently included in The National: New Australian Art, curated by Jane Devery, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney. In 2021 she was awarded the Geelong Contemporary Art Prize and in 2020 she was included in Know My Name, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. In 2008, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, and the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, jointly presented a twenty-year survey exhibition of Georgetti’s work, Diena Georgetti - The Humanity of Abstract Painting 1988-2008, curated by Max Delany and Robert Leonard. Her work is included in significant major collections nationally, and many private collections.

Bill Hawkins (b. 1992 Naarm/Melbourne) completed a BFA in Drawing and Print Media at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2015 and completed an Honours year at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2018. Hawkins has exhibited at various galleries nationally including: West Space, Bus Projects, Hugo Michell Gallery, George Paton Gallery, Brett Whiteley Studios, Bundoorah Homestead and TCB. Hawkins is the recent major prize winner of the 2022 Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship which includes a three-month residency at the Cité internationale des arts, Paris. In 2019 he was a VCA First Commissions recipient and was a resident in the VCA’s Drawing and Printmaking department. In 2018 he was a recipient of the Stuart Black Memorial Scholarship and was awarded the Lowensteins Arts Management Prize. His work has been acquired by the Macquarie Bank collection and various private collections. He is the founder/director of the Melbourne School of Contemporary Art.

Diena Georgetti appears courtesy The Commercial, Sydney

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