Ash Keating<br/>
Australia 1980–<br/>
West Park Proposition 2012 (production still)<br/>
three channel video installation<br/>
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne<br/>
Purchased, NGV Foundation, 2012<br/>
Photograph by Greta Costello<br/>
© Ash Keating, courtesy of the artist and Fehily Contemporary

Ash Keating & Steaphan Paton

Ash Keating
Australia 1980–

AK: In Melbourne Now, one half of your artwork, Cloaked Combat, hangs directly next to my video West Park Proposition, and it strikes me as a wonderful and unexpected connection and interplay.

It has been great learning more about the process behind your practice and specifically this artwork. You recently showed me a few videos that accompany the installation and some documentary of the making of the shields as well.

It was amazing to view the way you cut the bark off the high point of a tree trunk with an axe to make your shields, a cultural tradition within your family taught to you by your Gunai ancestors.

In one of the videos, these shields are then seen positioned vertically within the Gippsland landscape, and are subjected to a relentless attack of arrows, shot one by one by a figure dressed in head to toe military clothing, brandishing a modern bow.

These recorded actions are not only documentation of the process of making the sculptures but are actually part of the overall work. Therefore it is great to hear that the public will get a chance to view these videos in November 2014 at Kings artist run space here in Melbourne.

SP: I certainly think our works talk to each other. I first saw your work – a piece called A New Lifelong Landscape – with a friend at the Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts. I thought it was a really heartfelt piece. I have been following your work and have to say I am a big fan.

Your West Park Proposition work in Melbourne Now is a masterful and imposing intervention. Coupled with the way the imposing grey building eventually fades into the surrounding landscape, the work’s performative statement about our impact on the environment really shines.  The video is part documentation / part performance, and I feel this is integral to your process. Through our works we both talk the same process language.  Clad in grey, you are camouflaged against the drab concrete building and slowly, the surrounding landscape appears almost mystically, created by you. Only when the painting is almost finished does the grey figure stand out against the new landscape.

I think that there are some reoccurring themes in your practice and mine that really line up with each other, such as the human impact on the environment and the flow on effects to people and community.

I like the way you have performed this piece and I was impressed to hear that you hadn’t really tested the technique before and just did it. You display masterful skill with the control of your ‘brush’ (actually extinguishers and buckets) and a great understanding of colour.

AK: Yes, the reoccurring theme regarding the preservation of the natural environment is strong in both of our practices, and will continue to be I am sure.

We also have similar methods of art making too with these recent projects, with both of us involving ourselves through performance and both in camouflage costume – you in military to blend in to the natural environment, and me as you say in grey to blend into the building I then go about changing.

I believe that Cloaked Combat is a work that instigates dialogue, which is something that great works of art do. It has allowed me to step back and think more closely about technology, the constant change in society and indeed what impact that continually has on the culture of the first Australians.

The shields are a bold statement about paying respect to Aboriginal resistance to colonisation past and present, as the fight for Indigenous equality continues in countless ways today. The fluorescent fletching on the arrows highlights the fact that this struggle continues in the modern day.

You should feel very proud in having made an artwork which provides an equal balance of being both confronting and thought provoking that is also beautifully poetic.

SP: Great to share ideas and thoughts on each others work. I hope that we can continue the conversation, along with others who are interested in these concepts.