Art + Design

Artbank Exhibition “Counter Compositions”

Artbank Exhibition “Counter Compositions”

By Kate Cole

Artbank describes its current exhibition Counter Compositions as “a call and response between artist and institution” as emerging artists Kate Vassallo and James Lieutenant create visual responses to a collection of ten pieces by renowned artists from the Artbank collection.

Artbank is a federal government initiative that has been acquiring and hiring out Australian artworks for more than 30 years. It now has over 10,000 pieces in its collection, and sought to make an exhibition that engaged Vassallo and Lieutenant in “a discussion in art”, by taking works from the Artbank collection and contextualising them within Vassallo and Lieutenant’s wall-based colour compositions.

Vassallo focuses on live performance, video, drawing and installation, while Lieutenant works predominantly in painting and screen-printing. Working together since 2012, they create large-scale, abstract wall paintings that are responsive to the site.



The exhibition features a diverse array of work including; a suspended steel and glass kinetic sculpture from Sarah Smuts-Kennedy. A small enamel and steel abstract sculpture from Inge King, who has been at the forefront of the development of non-figurative sculpture in Australia since the early 1960s. Many of her large-scale works are found in public spaces across Australia. She was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1984, and turned 100 this year, still an active participant in the Australian art scene.


Left // Sarah Smuts-Kennedy ‘Ten Parts Whole, Three’ (2014) and Kate Vassallo & James Lieutenant wall painting.

Coen Young contributed a reflective interpretation of a daguerreotype. Young applied gesso, marble dust and enamel onto a sheet of cotton paper before coating it in silver nitrate, which is applied, fixed and washed like a sheet of photographic paper. Young is fascinated by daguerreotypes; the primitive nature of the technology created unreal images which were sometimes interpreted as “mystical”.

The Kingpins contributed ‘Spider Nanny’, the first video artwork to be commissioned by Artbank, the content of which is described as, ”A neon-pink inflatable pop monster, incarnating both a money spider and a piggy savings bank, referencing Artbank’s function as a creative director”. ”It’s great that Artbank is commissioning and supporting young, emerging artists” says Kingpin member Emma Price. “Giving us complete artistic licence like this is very rare in Australia”.

Ms&Mr are also video artists who contributed a futuristic artwork featuring footage of the first day they met (they’ve now been together as a couple for twenty odd years).

Counter Compositions features many playful artworks, such as that of Nicole Breedon, a mixed media artist who often visual puns or play on words in her pop culture inspired work. Breedon contributed a sign, ‘Let’s Get Metaphysical’, written in neon.

Jon Campbell is also inspired by pop culture and language, particularly Australian vernacular. Campbell creates artwork with titles such as, ‘Piss Farting Around’, celebrating Australian lexicon as a mode of cultural expression.

Kiron Robinson also contrasts the mundane and domestic with glamour. His images of domesticity aim to deflate the grandeur of manufactured beauty, with deprecating titles like, ‘We Told Ourselves We Need Separate Beds to Sleep’ and, ‘I Don’t Know, Really I Don’t’.

The exhibition featured a variety of sculptors, including Marley Dawson, a kinetic and situational sculptor, whose sculpture was made from raw building materials but had a serene, elegant quality to its regular rotations.

Roh Singh’s sculpture also focuses on movement, this time of the vocal chords. His sculptures in his recent show ‘Tell them I said something’ are visual representations of sound recordings of the famous last words of celebrities.

Counter Compositions is one of the many exhibition Artbank runs on an annual basis, and as with all their exhibitions, all artwork are available to be rented and displayed in private homes or public spaces. Artbank are passionate about supporting and promoting the work of Australian contemporary artists through these rentals, exhibitions, publishing and temporary projects in order to “democratise access to the arts for all Australians”.

Exhibition Details //
Counter Compositions (installation view), 21.01.16 – 16.04.16
Artbank Gallery
222 Young Street, Waterloo NSW 2011