What: ‘Songs for a Room’ – SALA Exhibition 2018 with ACE Open
Who: Gerry Wedd
When: 28 July – 15 September
Where: ACE Open Lion Arts Centre – North Terrace (West End) Kaurna Yarta, Adelaide
Opening Night: Friday 27 July, 5pm
Trading Hours: 11am-4pm Tue-Sat – Free entry
R: Hey Gerry! Its Rachel Wong, thanks so much for agreeing to discuss the upcoming exhibition. How have you been?
G: Yeah I’ve been good, really busy.
R: Yeah I know, this exhibition has 1000 pieces!?
G: More than that!
R: What, seriously?
G: Yeah at least eleven hundred tiles alone.
R: That’s crazy, how have you been going with that? Tell me about that process!
G: For the exhibition space I’m actually planning to tile all the walls and the floor of the space. The process of making the volume of tiles, has me rolling our large sheets of clay and then making tiles, like cookie cutting, but out of clay.
R: Obviously I haven’t seen the space yet, tell me about how the tiles are going to be presented.
G: I haven’t actually been there yet myself, it is still being prepared and painted at the moment. The whole space is still in progress. They are literally building a small room for me to showcase the work.
R: I was reading in the media release that you got your inspiration for this exhibition from Victor Hugo’s Hauteville House. I thought this was odd because when I google imaged the house the space is ‘dark’ and a lot of wooden furniture, which is a strong contrast to your bright works that you are so well known for.
G: In regards to the House, it was actually more just a wall in the house that I took inspiration from. I was so taken by the concept of the feature wall in the home which is what I based my idea off of.
R: I know you’ve travelled a bit for work and leisure, have you actually been to the Hauteville House?
G: I haven’t actually been there myself, I saw it in an amazing design magazine, its an incredible magazine that features beautiful buildings and interesting homes with conceptual designs and intriguing constructions. Throughout my travels I’ve gained inspiration from many cultures, particularly the Moroccan blue and white delft tiling.
R: For this exhibition, you’re mainly making tiles, rather than your usual mugs, vases and sculptures?
G: There will be some domestic things in the room too, because I really want it to be like a small dwelling. Made some bottles, a bucket, sink – you could almost live in it. An old fashioned jug and basin that people use to have, a vase, table and a stool. Essentially a kind of dwelling.
R: I cant wait to see the space!
G: I cant wait to see it either, I’m terrified.
R: How big is the room do you reckon?
G: The room is about 3 meters by 3 and half, it’s small, like a hut.
R: I wanted to discuss your thoughts on the mass creation and commercial operation aspect of creating this many pieces for an exhibition. Especially because of how conscious you are about the commodification of art and culture.
G: Well, honestly, it isn’t the upmost in my mind. I think my choice to hand-make everything does relate to that. Making things more slowly, using less technology, I’m just like an old hippy really. A lot of those old ideas are quite pertinent, and in the end this exhibition is an excuse for me to make whatever I want to make in the studio. It is just a much more condensed process because there is so much to do in a relatively short amount of time
R: How long have you been preparing for SALA?
G: I have been working on it for over 6 months. When I look at my pile of tiles, I can’t help but think that it isn’t that much work for all that time!
R: I’m sure its quite a spectacle, I am excited to see!
G: It’s funny, because I start out with a concept, and normally when I have an imagine in my mind, it is very considered. When I start I have it all worked out and have a good idea how it will be when I’m finished. But when I was given this opportunity I decided to leave it more open ended. I started this project as something I wanted to do, which was tile a room, but then I start to think about what that means, what it is, how does it relate to a work of art – all those kinds of things.
R: As the visitors, we will walk in to a heavily tiled dwelling, how do you want us to experience the space?
G: The tiles are decorated to an extent. There are lots of snippets of song lyrics on them, hundreds. I guess visitors will make of it what they will. I chose little bits of lyrics that to me are, almost like mottos, or slogans, a similar concept to those sorts of sayings that people have hanging up in their houses, like ‘home sweet home’, that kind of idea.
R: Do these song lyrics reference previous works of yours? I know you’ve been heavily influenced by musicians and bands in your work, does this tie back to that?
G: Yes very much so, it is like a giant playlist in a weird way!
R: I have a question unrelated to the exhibition. In relation to social media, I know you are quite active, you use to have a blog, and you have a sizeable Instagram following. How do you feel about pandering your work to be ‘social media worthy’? Do you have that in mind when you craft and post, what role foes social media have in exhibitions?
G: This is a complex and rich question, I’ve seen art works that are made to be on Instagram. Today people are going to look at exhibitions on Instagram and if they don’t photograph well then you wont get as much traction. It’s a weird thing, because of course you want your work to be seen, otherwise you would just sit in your studio all day and hide, I suppose once your work is out in the world it doesn’t matter what you want or don’t want in terms of reproducing and handing it on.
R: Do you think there are many people who commission a certain artist because it will get a lot of traction on social media, or are there people that advise an artist to cater to that kind of audience?
G: I’m not sure about that second part because I haven’t experienced that. I made sure that when I was dealing with Liz at ACE that she was happy with me posting stuff beforehand. Previously I was asked to be a part of something in Sydney and the gallery director said I could not post anything on social media before it opens. I thought this was interesting because obviously if you have a certain amount of followers then it will spark some kind of interest. On the other hand, a photographer friend of mind in Sydney went to a job interview, and they weren’t interested in his portfolio but his Instagram presence, which is frightening.
R: It foreshadows the shifting nature of your profession? How do you adapt or stay true to what you want, rather than pandering to an audience like that?
G: This is an interesting thing you’ve brought up because there is a lot of philosophical ideas around this too. The use of smart phones is all about reproduction and there is the idea that the more times a ‘thing’ is reproduced physically, the quality drops. Like the more times you hear a song you enjoy the first time, it wears away as time goes, to a point that if something is oversaturated it loses value to you. I know this is a tangent, but technology can rob meaning from things, make things shallower, and when you know that someone has made an artwork that is considerate and successful, then goes on social media, and the only response is ‘awesome’, there is a slight dumbing down of things to do with that democratisation of things, and the idea of popularism. Everyone is an ‘expert’ now too, people who were never interested in art before now follow them on social media.
R: People wanting to create an artistic/cultured image or persona perhaps?
G: Yeah, sure! All of a sudden your audience has the power. Now I just sound paranoid. I started my blog because I was doing my MA, and I had a whole bunch of writing that I thought was okay and knew people were interested to read it. When I finished studying I could see the blog was becoming a self-promotion thing, which I did not think was appropriate for a blog, and then Instagram came along and it’s a dumbed down version of my blog. I never write much on Instagram because I know people don’t want to read.
R: Thanks for discussing that with me, I’ll let you go soon. Is there anything else you want to say about the exhibition?
G: Just that I am very thankful to the gallery for asking me, because I see my career as – I’m over 60, so I don’t expect to be asked. It is an honour to be asked to be a part of their program.
R: You’re great!
G: Nahh, it’s because I kind of work in the art area, but I always see myself as a crafts person. I hardly ever move away from ceramics, because thats the thing I am intrigued by. Particularly the history of ceramics, and all my work is referential to history. I’m not trying to ‘break ground,’ which I think is the role of the visual arts. So, it’s kind of weird, but I use the visual language of art, and in the end I end up somewhere between the two if that makes sense?
R: Yes absolutely! Thanks again Gerry.
G: No worries, see you at the opening! I’m terrified because there is a lot to still pull together. I’m amazed that I’ve got this much done, but now I have to make it all work because it’s not just one object, there is a different way of working with it.
One final thing, my friend said something interesting to me on Facebook. I posted a picture of one of my pots, he commented, “Gerry Wedd’s pots are funny because they are full on the outside and empty on the inside”. Meaning that all the information is on the outside, but with this project for SALA there is going to be nothing on the outside, but everything on the inside of this dwelling. Which I thought was a cute way of looking at it. Okay, I better get back to it.
Gerry Wedd (born 1957) is one Australia’s most celebrated ceramicists. Having studying jewellery, painting, and drawing, Wedd obtained a Masters in Fine Art from the University of South Australia in 2005. Early on in his career, Wedd became a graphic artist for quintessential Australian design company Mambo, where he continued to design for them until 2006. Wedd has exhibited extensively in Australia and internationally, including Havana Bienal, JamFactory, Ian Potter Museum of Art and Victoria and Albert Museum. He has received numerous awards including the Hobart Art Prize in 2010 and the 1998 Sidney Myer Fund International Ceramics Award and is represented in public collections around the country including the Art Gallery of South Australia, Powerhouse Museum – Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Shepparton Art Museum and Queensland