QUT alumni join top visual arts graduates in Hatched 2020

We chat to QUT Visual Arts alumni Ella Callander and Keemon Williams about their inclusion in the Hatched National Graduate Show, how they've adapted their practice for a changing climate, and the learning opportunities when things don't go to plan.

Tell us about your pieces featuring in this year’s Hatched National Graduate Show.

Ella Callander: I’m lucky to have three works in Hatched 2020; firstly a two-channel video work, Underrepresented Ordinary (2019), which translates suburban anecdotes into a new symbolic language (decipherable using a key) to express the affective potential of banality. Square of Opposition (2019) which uses a vinyl diagram to represent the relationship between contradicting propositions with the prompt word “comforting”. And finally, If we were both home at the right time and the sky looked nice, then mum and I would take a drive to see the sunset (2019) which represents the full title of the work in mathematic variables and propositional logic.

Keemon Williams: The first piece I’ve got in the gallery is called Heritage Listed, which is an installation of 51 handmade plaster breezeblocks installed on the gallery wall. It’s an appropriation of suburban Australian architecture, embellished with indigenous design, imagining the reclamation of the spaces I grew up in, and embedding them with cultural meaning to create a sense of belonging.

My other work Sentinels actually broke on arrival!  But to be honest I’m really grateful for that because it allowed me to spend more time communicating with the gallery and working together to find solutions. There were many enlightening chats with Hatched Curatorial Fellow Miranda Johnson, who really helped me out so much with the whole process and instilled knowledge that I’ll be able to take with me to future shows as well! If things went smoothly I wouldn’t have gained as much experience with things like gallery operation, coordinating freight and sourcing assistance, especially during lockdown as I (attempted) to recreate the work in Rural Queensland. 

Image by Bo Wong.

What does it mean to you to be included in this exhibition?

EC: It is such an honour to be included in Hatched! Honestly I’m not sure it feels real yet. This exhibition is packed to the brim with so many amazing artists and it’s a shock to be included in that bunch! What a fantastic professional opportunity so early in my career as an artist! Thanks PICA!

KW: It’s an absolute honour to be included in such a highly regarded show! But more than that, it’s been an invaluable opportunity to get first hand experience exhibiting in a major gallery, sharing the space with fantastic emerging artists on a national level. The exhibition has been really inspiring for me; I’ve been absolutely blown away by the quality and power of the works on display, and together I think it paints a really striking image of the next generation of emerging artists.

Image by Daniel James Grant.

Were you able to travel to Perth in preparation for the exhibition? How did you collaborate with PICA remotely?

EC: Unfortunately I was not able to travel to Perth to see the exhibition! Originally there was hope for a possible closing event in mid-October, but as the pandemic situation has evolved we can’t see the WA borders opening any time soon. As an early career artist with only a few small exhibitions under my belt, I’ve never been in a scenario where I’m not present for the printing and installation of my work, let alone being unable to see it in the gallery space at all! I would be lying if I didn’t say it feels a bit weird – but it is 2020 and we are in a global pandemic after all, so I reckon that’s to be expected. Miranda Johnson (the lovely curator of Hatched this year) and I have been in contact via email, phone, and trusty Zoom calls. Luckily my works are relatively straightforward regarding install, so heavy involvement wasn’t too necessary from my end. Many thanks to the PICA team for all their hard work!

KW: I was not able to make it to Perth for Hatched 2020 due to border restrictions (bummer) but I still emerged from the metaphorical egg nonetheless! It’s been a process for sure, but it’s been an invaluable experience to learn about the transition from planning to final exhibition display. At every step, I was able to learn from and work with the team over phone and text, and participate in their social media marketing, creating interviews, timelapses and more to help promote the show and my own practice.

Wide view of an art exhibition.

Image by Bo Wong.

How have you adapted as an artist in this challenging climate? What’s next for you?

EC: As guilty as I feel admitting it (given that the pandemic caused so many people so much grief), I have somewhat enjoyed having this year to sit and ponder and learn new things, whether that be about my art practice or otherwise. Despite how stagnant much of 2020 was, it’s been a formative year and that’s always helpful for art-making! While in isolation I’ve been working to champion the experimental practices of other early career and emerging artists through Nextdoor Artist Run Initiative – a not-for-profit organisation I co-founded with some good friends after graduating from QUT at the end of 2019. Isolation definitely caused us, along with the rest of the world, to get creative and adapt our events and exhibitions to an online platform. I imagine we will take much of what this year has taught us and apply it to a Covid-free future. I also have hopeful plans to begin my Masters of Philosophy (Visual Arts) at the beginning of next year which is very exciting!

KW: I guess for me it’s about embracing the shifting tides, and allowing myself to let go of old plans to make space for newer, more adaptable ones. There’s so much that will need to be done differently, and rightfully so, I reckon, particularly for artists. Digital platforms have been further legitimized as the physical spaces we know and love had needed to lay dormant. Not everything needs to have ended because of COVID-19, or be left behind, it’s merely about changing the shape of what’s to come. Ironically, being an artist who primarily deals with sculptural installation, it’s been a challenge to conceive ideas and deliver existing works without a physical connection to viewers!

For things to move forward, I’ve got to really re-evaluate the crux of my practice, and perhaps how I can interrogate digital and commercial environments, which have proven to be very robust in these strange times. So, at the moment, I’m grappling with the uncanny prospect of sculpting through Blender and researching factories and makers to outsource some of the labour that’s been difficult for me to undertake during the pandemic. Fingers crossed it works out and I’ll be able to put out some interesting works in the not too distant future!

The Hatched National Graduate Show 2020 is open until 18 October at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts.  You can view the digital catalogue here

Check out one of the virtual walk-throughs, featuring Ellla’s work, below.