Categories: Art

Neoteric installation view, featuring Anna Horne. Photo: Sam Roberts

The artists are in charge: Anna Horne and Henry Jock Walker talk Neoteric

Hitting mid-career is hard – this is no secret. The plateau of hype and opportunity rolls in slowly, like cumulonimbus incoming across vast open land. Neoteric is an exhibition that breaks the tension. It is a deafening declaration: mid-career artists will be heard.

The survey exhibition, which has been devised, organised, and delivered by artists, brings together 20 South Australian mid-career artists and 20 South Australian writers. Taking over part of the historic Adelaide Railway Station until April 10, Neoteric is a themeless exhibition showing new work that explores, embodies, and investigates new ideas and encourages participation.

Developed and led by Ray Harris with Thom Buchanan, Julianne Pierce, Sarita Burnett and Fiona Borthwick, Neoteric is a ‘declaration of the importance of artists’.

Two such artists are sculptor Anna Horne and surfing culture artist Henry Jock Walker, who have each created four new works for the exhibition – a collection of abstract sculptures from Horne, and a set of painting-like objects using found second-hand wetsuits from Walker. 

Neoteric installation view, featuring Anna Horne. Photo: Sam Roberts

What can you tell us about your works in Neoteric?

Anna Horne: Foremost, these works Purple Haze, The Fog, Walking with Ouroboros and Stairs to Nowhere are abstract sculptures exploring elements of form, balance, texture, and colour. I approached these new works using the same process I use for all my pieces; to explore the materiality and limits of industrial items such as concrete and steel. I’m always interested in the tension created by material contradiction, which comes into play with the light and heavy, soft, and hard aspects of the work.

Each work has a different reference point; however, I don’t want the viewer to take these references too literally. These are starting points to influence and kickstart my process. For example, Walking with Ouroboros, references the ancient symbol of a snake eating its own tail symbolising rejuvenation and endless return. The work is made up of a stack of similar looking cast concrete forms. Each mould was sewn out of a textured snakeskin fabric. The laborious process of sewing the moulds, casting them, and creating a neat stack; felt like I was collating and controlling a sense of fear that came from lockdown periods during the pandemic. The yellow colour of the concrete is similar to snake venom. I tried to reframe this colour as something beautiful to add to the work. The work has a contrast of danger and beauty combined. 

In Stairs to Nowhere I was thinking about Plato’s philosophical conundrum The allegory of the Cave. This allegory has been an endless symbol for how we struggle with our interpretation of reality. In the work I used tablecloth plastic to sew a large mould for the ‘stairs’. The resulting cast concrete stairs appear soft and hard, leading up towards a hard black dead-end. This work references the journey in trying to understand our surroundings and reality. 

This answer is too long so you’ll just have to experience the other works on your own!     

Henry Jock Walker: 12/3=4 is four painting-like objects made from old wetsuit (neoprene) and a performance that will happen on opening night. I have been thinking and acting on the thought of becoming saltwater and I could keep going here for infinity, but I think Sera Waters has given a much better insight into this in written form in the Neoteric catalogue.

A unique aspect to this exhibition is that there are written responses to the work of the 20 artists. Did you engage with the writer’s response to your work? Knowing there would be a written response affect your creative process or make you think differently about your work? 

Anna Horne: Polly Dance and I had a few face-to-face chats in my studio before she wrote her piece. At that point my sculptures were barely finished but it was helpful to have a fluid discussion about what I thought the work was going to be. Polly had some great ideas about making the writing accessible to the viewer, and it being a tool in approaching my work and overall arts practice. I think it gave me confidence in making whatever I wanted to and that the writing would strengthen the experience of the work. 

Henry Jock Walker: It did! It was great to work with Sera Waters. She is a great artist and writer and this exchange happened early in the process of making the work for Neoteric. To explain the work and interrogate the process and thoughts and then have a piece of writing from such a guru before the work was finished was a great foundation and guiding map for the process. A nice way to dive deeper into the process in another form.

Neoteric installation view, featuring Anna Horne. Photo: Sam Roberts

Neoteric is a declaration of the importance of artists and is an artist-led exhibition that addresses the need for further career opportunities for mid-career artists. What is your experience working on this exhibition?

Anna Horne: I have only just accepted that I’ve entered the mid-career phase of my practice! It felt validating to be invited to take part in this exhibition as an established South Australian artist. I was thrilled by the opportunity to show alongside many artists that I admire. Since funding for the arts has been continually cut in the past 10 years, I have noticed a lack of opportunities I’m eligible for. It gets exhausting chasing funding and opportunities when there are not many to go around. This exhibition premise is refreshing and welcomed by the South Australian arts community. It makes me feel like we’re in it together.   

Henry Jock Walker: The opportunity to make work and it be presented in scale in a red-hot catalogue – and in such a professional manner in a very public space as part of an artist-initiated Adelaide Festival project – is incredible. A humongous hats off to the Neoteric Team: Ray Harris, Thom Buchanan, Julianne Pierce, and Fiona Borthwick for tirelessly working to make such a rad event in existence. 

Do you believe major artist-led exhibitions that work outside of major galleries are something we could (or should) see more of in Australia? 

Anna Horne: Definitely. Artist- and institutional-led galleries have a role to play, however, I strongly believe more funding should be directed towards artists to facilitate their own projects and practice. We need to support and trust artists to make good work. Less gatekeeping please!

Neoteric is not directed by a theme but instead focuses on each artist’s approach to creating insightful, poetic, critical and thoughtful work. Did this artistic freedom affect how you approached your work for the exhibition? 

Anna Horne: For me, this curatorial approach was freeing and took away the pressure to live up to a theme. We’re only just coming out of a hectic few years of a pandemic, so, in a way, all the artists had the same subjects/emotions to draw on. I felt making this work was cathartic; helping me re-enter the ‘norm’.  

Henry Jock Walker: Freedom is a great thing, living with covid has given us a new perspective in relation to physically moving around the country and world, something that has been a core part of my practice, so to have such freedom and support to produce this work at home has been excellent. 

Neoteric installation view, featuring Anna Horne. Photo: Sam Roberts

Neoteric is now showing at Adelaide Railway Station as part of Adelaide Festival until April 10 


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