By Stella Rosa McDonald…
Over four months this year, the artist Zanny Begg took the train out West to meet with four teenage boys housed inside a maximum-security jail, the Reiby Juvenile Justice Centre. After seeing the grey rooms that the boys slept in, Begg worked with them on oversized drawings that became wallpaper for the bare cells. Later, in weekly one-hour workshops, they made the video Doing Time, which articulates the altered perception of time behind bars. The numerous limitations of the boys’ incarceration (including no pencils while alone in their rooms and no internet access) meant that Begg herself had to take on much of the work of translating their visions into the practical sourcing of materials and costumes that the boys would later use in the film.
Begg is one of twelve artists showing in The List at Campbeltown Arts Centre, an exhibition that aims to portray the youth culture of Western Sydney. The project vitally underscores the empathy and surrender necessary for both artist and subject in the pursuit of a truthful portrait. If not direct collaborations, then many of the works in The List explore a type of reciprocity that suits the nature of portraiture, including Tom Polo’s series of painted billboards between Ingleburn and Minto stations. ALL I KNOW, is a guilty pleasure writ large; the painted panels gradually spell out a phrase the artist has collected by eavesdropping on the conversations of kids on the Western train line. The work is one of many nuanced interpretations of a curatorial brief that, in the wrong hands, could have swayed dangerously close to being heavily sentimental. The List features new works made by established and emerging artists and their subjects, including Kate Blackmore, Sean Gladwell and the British, Turner Prize nominated name chameleon Marvin Gaye Chetwynd.
Until October 12th
Campbelltown Arts Centre, Campbelltown
Pic: Shaun Gladwell, Still in Campbelltown, 2014 Single channel video courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery Sydney.