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A year (or two) in the manse

Both talented young artists feel that being artist-in-residence has offered them an invaluable experience.

Jovana says that the program helped her immensely both professionally and personally. She was “fresh off the boat” at the time (2012). She didn’t know anybody, people didn’t know her, and having someone put their trust in her and give her a chance to show who she was and what she could do was exactly what she needed. She built lasting friendships and connections during her time in the manse studio in Redfern, met some truly special people and gained a solid base from which to expand her experience.

Starting life anew is a uniquely challenging task that few people can truly relate to, and Jovana feels lucky to have found herself in the right company. It also gave her an opportunity, she adds, to be there for other people. She is still involved in the Redfern community through art classes and other events and she sees this community as her true Australian home.

Alex feels that the program has given him the opportunity to engage in a range of artistic experiences. Throughout 2015 he participated in and taught community-based art classes. He introduced the South Sydney Art Group to the technique of stencil making and the use of spray paint, neither of which he believes the participants had encountered prior to his classes. Alex found that the students, most of them several decades older than he, were eager to absorb and apply their newfound skill.

During this time he also contributed illustrations to the South Sydney Herald, an endeavor appealing to his interest in issue-based artwork. For example, his year in the manse enabled him to observe first hand the ongoing gentrification of Redfern-Waterloo and to use his art as a means of critiquing the effects of this process on the area and its long-term residents.

His solo exhibition was the crowning achievement of the residency, and while he found it a frightening prospect – he was concerned that others would not enjoy looking at his art as much as he enjoyed making it – the outcome was most reassuring.

Alex chose the title, A Year in the Manse, for his exhibition as he thought it appropriate to the mix of different ideas and experiences he had had throughout his year’s residency. He felt that his work had no central theme but Jovana thought differently. As she says, Alex’s “eye for the world around him and critique of his subjects is something precious, as is his bravery in speaking about unpopular subjects”.

After talking with Alex about his ideas and motivation she selected and presented the artworks with the aim of creating a coherent narrative and contextualising the content. Alex was impressed in turn by Jovana’s success in bringing out unifying themes.

Jovana felt the exhibition had been a resounding achievement as it not only deeply impacted on the viewers but also sold well. For Alex success lay in discovering that his work was appreciated and valued by others.

It is evident that the artist-in-residence program offered both young artists a great opportunity to broaden their artistic experiences within a supportive community. But what lies ahead for them?

Alex is not too keen on looking into the future. He hopes that in 10 years time, he will still be making art that critiques and resists and that he will still have a connection with the South Sydney community.

Jovana dreams of creating an art colony/community/school/exhibition space where creative, thinking and willing people can gather and share ideas, inspire each other and build something good and powerful. She sees it situated somewhere outside Sydney in a beautiful bush setting. In other words, Jovana hopes to make a difference, to help the song be heard amid all the shouting.

We wish them well.

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