Categories: Art

Sarah crowEST: Examining the Relationship Between Art and Sustainability.

In his article, Why Stories Matter (2009), Harvard Kennedy School lecturer and author, Marshall Ganz, discusses the role of activism and intentional living. Ganz suggests, when we offer a public account of who we are, why we do what we do, and where we hope the world will go, we invigorate within others a “fierce urgency” to act now.

Echoing Ganz’ sentiments, Australian artist, Sarah crowEST, offers a visual platform to re-create and re-imagine our future.  Sanguinely examining the relationship between art and sustainability, crowEST approaches her installation, textile and canvas works with an endearing optimism. Her methodology – foregrounded in environmentalism, feminism and diversity – allows her to develop existing forms and mould them into enduring emblems of hope.

In crowEST’s latest project, #ITALDUBFREIGHT, this modus operandi is emphasised. Printing linen cloth with geometric, De Stijl inflected typography, monetary symbols and block colours, #ITALDUBFREIGHT prompts us to question the value we inherently place on objects. The original impetus for this work arose in 2019, when crowEST made a decision no longer to acquire new art materials, rather to recycle all objects she had accumulated in her studio. As crowEST explains (in an email chain,) “Obviously, environmental imperatives and anxieties about too much stuff was behind this decision.” More than depicting this burgeoning angst in #ITALDUBFREIGHT, crowEST seeks to expand ideas of wealth generation and distribution, and circular and sharing economies to show how the lifespan of material and product can transform from ephemeral to interminable.

Moreover, #ITALDUBFREIGHT considers the multifunctional aspects of fabric within and outside the artistic setting. It could be interpreted as a washer, hankie, studio-rag, floorcloth, napkin, gym towel, duster or as a traditional painting. CrowEST specifically states, “it comes with a renovation guarantee of 30 years (or until I die). It can be washed. And it might change.” #ITALDUBFREIGHT thereby prompts us to question, ‘where do things/objects come from?’, ‘where do objects go/ end up?’, ‘why are objects here?’ and ‘will objects evolve?’ This mode of thinking not only expands the limitations of apparel but also encourages consumers to keep themselves reflexively open to the unexpected trajectory of the art object.

CrowEST explores these notions further in her painting practice. She investigates how the value of art is ascribed, developed and nurtured within commercial art systems. CrowEST includes a detailed provenance description on the back of each painting, which tracks what it is made of, where it has been exhibited, how much it costs at a particular time, and whether it has been re-worked.  By specifying this information, crowEST provides transparency around the creation and volatility of contemporary art. Similarly, her strap-on paintings extend the notion of transparency even further. These works can either hang on a wall, in a more traditional exposition, or, can be tied to the body as an apron. Most notably, the strap-on paintings can be returned for alterations or renovations. This circular structure of artmaking is crowEST’s attempt to insert herself in the life of the art objects by “offering continued care and repair for the rest of my capable life.”

From crowEST’s expansive oeuvre, it can be said that her work prompts those viewing, participating in and purchasing, to act responsibility and acknowledge the continuously evolving lifespan of the art object. By presenting a public account of where her work comes from, how it evolves and what her hopes for the world are, crowEST revives and revitalizes our “fierce urgency” not only to act, but also to change and grow.

PACE by Sarah crowEST opens at LON Gallery in June 2021

Works Cited:

Ganz, Marshall. ‘Why Stories Matter.’ Sojourners Magazine. March 2009.

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