Ted Snell, director of the University of Western Australia’s Cultural Precinct, reviews the WA artists to watch.


Jacobus Capone is a poet of space and time. He presents his highly focused and intense encounters with the world as a series of objects or videos or photographs. Whether walking across the country on a marathon journey of almost six months to deliver water from the Indian Ocean into the Pacific, or standing all night on a building in New York to capture the moon in a mirror held to his chest and then reflect it back out onto the city below, his encounters are pushed to the extremity by a deep desire to be at one with his environment. 

These projects examine the world as a series of experiences in ‘durational time’, which the French philosopher Henri Bergson described as time as we experience it – the lived time of concentrated engagement with the world. For Bergson, although it may appear as a seamless narrative, our experiences are like stills or frames in a strip of film that creates the illusion of continuity and integration when projected. It is the intensity of those moments of encounter that Capone brings to our attention. 

During the five-and-a-half-month journey across the country for his work To love, he undertook daily rituals to mark time and document his passage. As a result, his record of his intense engagement with the landscape presents as a form of unification or absorption, “acknowledging the self as being entwined within the landscape, and not merely in coexistence with it,” he explains.

For the New York work The Hallucination in Common, an 11-hour performance from moonrise on the August 20 until moonset on August 21, 2013, he held a mirror to his chest while standing on the clock tower plaza in Long Island City and for the duration of its passage across the sky reflected its light out onto the city below as a form of direct communion with the process of illumination.

The poetry of these actions lies not only in the beauty and simplicity of their presentation but in the access they provide to understanding that seems beyond our everyday circumstance. This comprehension is revealed by Capone through a process of unknowing and unlearning in order to recover a clearer relationship to objects in the world. For the performance of for now forever, for the time being forever, while this last forever, undertaken during a residency at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, he listened intently to his father’s heartbeat for a day. The following day, he invited his father to listen to his heart to “seek a more holistic sense of engagement devoid of direct intellectualisation”.

Capone works internationally from Perth. Since 2011, he has exhibited or performed in Berlin, Helsinki, Taipei and New York, as well as within Australia. This year sees residencies in Japan and Alaska, one of his works screening as part of the Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival in Chicago, and, in Sydney, work in the Freedman Foundation Scholarship exhibition and a group exhibition at M Contemporary in July. Next year, he is working toward a major exhibition at Packenham Street Art Space in Fremantle, and his work will feature in New York’s HEREart.


Some of Australia’s best-known artists have gone to war as part of the Official War Art Scheme, initiated during the First World War and continued to this day. Arthur Streeton, George Lambert, Will Longstaff, Nora Heysen and Donald Friend during the First and Second World Wars, and more recently, in Afghanistan, Shaun Gladwell and Ben Quilty, have all joined military forces overseas to record the hell of combat, the boredom of waiting, and the routine of daily life.

Shaun Gladwell documented the ordinary soldiers in the extreme conditions of Afghanistan when he was assigned there as part of the scheme in 2009. The first war artist to use video, he created evocative meditations of the role of technology in modern warfare, and powerful portraits of the soldiers, their backs to us, standing witness to the action.

Two years later, Ben Quilty describes Afghanistan as “a very emotional place.
It exposes the basics of humanity right there in your face: matters of life and
death, the biggest themes an artist could ever imagine.” Recorded in works created on his tour in 2011 and in 21 large studio paintings completed on his return, he dramatically captured the fragile humanity of the soldiers, twisted and buckled by their experiences.

Together their response is a vibrant and emotionally charged chronicle of Australian’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan.
John Curtin Gallery, Curtin University, August 1-September 14.


Looking at the world and describing accurately the beauty, the ugliness and the commonplace radicalised a group of young Western Australian painters in the 1970s. In the wake of a popular tide of abstraction and non-representational art practices, three young artists rebelled by paying attention to the urban life around them. From their shared studio in High Street Fremantle, Ray Beattie, Marcus Beilby and Ken Wadrop painted the port and the buildings of the city, the life they saw around them, the signs and their lurid juxtaposition against the boring monotony of suburbia.

Tagged as a group early on and given the name High Street Realists, they were responding to an international trend of hyperrealism or photorealism that viewed the world through the lens of a camera and then translated that image onto canvas through the traditional skills of picture making. It was about ‘here’, and for many locals the return to art that was intelligible, local and current was thrilling. 

In 1980, the Art Gallery of Western Australia formalised their group status by curating an exhibition titled High Street Studio Realists, and after a popular run at the Gallery, the show toured to the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the National Gallery of Victoria.

The current exhibition, Fremantle Realists, brings the story up to date by showing work from that early period alongside contemporary work created by all three artists. It offers an enthralling overview of the re-emergence of interest
in realism three decades ago and its continuing presence in Western Australian art practice.
Fremantle Arts Centre, until July 17.

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