Awkward Beauty

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Awkward Beauty is curated and delivered by FORM, a Western Australian cultural not-for-profit which develops and advocates for excellence in creativity across communities, disciplines and sectors.

In 2010 and 2011 one of Europe’s most respected artisans, Helen Britton relocated from Munich, Germany to Perth, Western Australia for a three month artist-in-residence at FORM’s Midland Atelier creativity and design precinct. Working from the Atelier’s studios, situated in the heart of Midland’s century-old former railway workshops buildings, Britton explored Western Australia’s creative landscape: meeting people, travelling, working with local materials and devising new ideas and bodies of work.

Awkward Beauty is an interdisciplinary collaboration between Helen Britton, Perth garment designer Justine McKnight and Perth photographer Michelle Taylor. The exhibition takes the complex notion of ‘beauty’ and spins a multi-layered, multi-material narrative around this; a narrative which is imbedded within the vast physicality of a 17 hectare historic railway workshop site.

Awkward Beauty is the direct result of the dialogue between Britton, McKnight and Taylor.

Each artist has created a body of 10 works (jewellery, garments, photography) as a direct response to the work created by the others. The work of all three artists is informed and inspired by the aesthetics, spatiality and suggestions of identity encompassed within the space of urban abandonment and its re-generation.

The railway workshops are in themselves an awkward beauty: at once majestic, fragile, industrial and domestic. Largely untouched and unrenovated, the historic workshops are poised in a rare and fleeting space between a crumbling history and a tangible future. As a photographic artist Taylor has captured this space, creating a visual narrative through her placement of Britton’s jewellery and McKnight’s garments among walls, floors, cornices, windows, shadows and shafted sunlight.

A complex and dynamic dialogue has emerged from the direct and reflexive process of exchange that has been ongoing throughout the making of this work. This artistic response to one another’s work creates a layering of garment, jewellery, body, space, light and architecture, as textures are built up by the juxtapositions and contradictions between materials, surfaces and forms. Awkward Beauty is a quality that enters each artist’s practice and work at many levels, and as such has become a point of commonality and convergence.

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