In an new series of blog posts, we are asking pairs of Melbourne Now artists to consider each others work. First up is Brendan Huntley and Jess Johnson.
Jess Johnson on Brendan Huntley
This year Brendan and I have been in three exhibitions together, often with our works sat side by side. I’ve pondered why it seems curators naturally want to position us together. All I can reason is that the interconnecting links of our friendship have some physical resonance in the work we make. But maybe that’s a self-evident thing.
When Brendan and I talk about our artwork we hardly ever talk of it directly. We talk around it. Of safe subjects like framing and colors and materials and brands of pens. The artworks themselves embody what I already know of him. Mostly its strangers who ask those uncomfortable questions and for me it always feels like a psychic invasion to grin and bear.
I like to imagine that artists evolve their art practices to suit their psychology. I’m most drawn to artwork that I can see the person within. Sometimes I only recognize art because it fits some homogeneous representation of what art is supposed to look like. But I don’t feel anything towards it. It’s art as stuff. I need to see the person in the work to have any emotional response. Brendan and his artwork are inextricably linked in my mind. I look at his sculptures and I see malformed voodoo Brendan looking back. Murky. Warm. Cognant. Clay imprinted with form and memory from the primordial swamp.
When I see our work in a gallery space together I get the disembodied sense of posing for a school photo. Brendan’s sculptures are of him but outside of him. There’s a sense of freedom in being able to put something out into the world for people to look at. It draws attention away from our own confused personhoods. If people were to peer so intently and directly into our eyes it would be very uncomfortable.
Brendan Huntley on Jess Johnson
Jess Johnson’s art is like a fantastically speckled rock chilling in a riverbed at the bottom of a mountain.
The kind of rock you would have picked up and rolled around in your hand and put in your pocket when you were a kid on the search for interesting things.
On closer inspection, perhaps when you got home, you would probably have noticed that the rock has grown, only a little bit but enough to leave you somewhat entranced and bewildered.
A week or so passes and the rock has doubled in size and the shelf is sagging from the weight.
It’s about 4am in the morning when you hear a loud crash and wake to find the shelf has completely collapsed. You fumble for the lampshade at the side of your bed and when you turn on the light there it is in all its beauty, speckled and sparkly with a slightly startled expression on its rock face. The rock has grown to the size of the bedroom, right there in front of you.
You say to the rock ‘I can take you back to the river if you’d like’, but the rock does not reply, you think for a moment … then you realise, it’s too awesome and excellent for the river, this rock needs to be admired from passing ships, seals, dolphins, scuba divers, surfers, fishermen, crabs …
At this moment the rock starts rolling, you yell to the rock as it crashes through your bedroom wall and out into the street … ‘Where are you going?’ and in a strong Kiwi accent you hear it reply with a smile in its voice ‘to the ocean.’
When you arrive at the ocean to visit the rock, now a boulder, you take a walk around it. When you get to the front of the rock it has become a cave and inside, on the cave walls and floor are the most incredible, most valuable jewels. On closer inspection you realise they are like not quite like any other jewels you have seen before. These jewels are tapping their feet and moving their hips.