detail: Louise Haselton, born 1960, Untitled #2, correction fluid and butterfly wings on board. Courtesy of the artist and Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide

  

SALA Featured Artist - Louise HASELTON

    

Adelaide-based Louise Haselton has established an art practice in which no materials or concepts are off limits. Haselton performs a type of domestic alchemy that renders everyday and often overlooked materials curious. This act of making the familiar strange is indebted to the French surrealists, whose influence has prevailed well into the twenty-first century.

 

These two drawings are made using correction fluid (customarily used to conceal rather than reveal) and butterfly wings collected by the artist from her garden over several months. The resulting imagery recalls the eye balloons of French Symbolist painter Odilon Redon and the emotive contour drawing of Louise Bourgeois.

 

Nearby James Cant's still-life painting from 1935 shows the influence of surrealism and was made in the year he was included in an exhibition with Max Ernst, Paul Klee and Giorgio de Chirico. Cant succeeds in transforming an anodyne still-life subject into a suggestive image. As in Haselton's work, the central form seems ocular and the darkened, disquieting background suggests the abyss.

  

Louise Haselton, born 1960, Untitled #3, correction fluid and butterfly wings on board. Courtesy of the artist and Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide

  

The following is an extract from an interview between artist Louise Haselton and author Michael Newall. This interview was published on the occasion of the 2011 SALA exhibition Errand Workshop, a solo exhibition by Haselton held at the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia (CACSA), Adelaide.

 

Michael Newall: In The New New statement, you write: 'My work is a process of gathering prosaic materials and then sitting in the studio with them as they move around, group themselves, rearrange and settle into comfortable situations.' The idea of materials apparently grouping and rearranging themselves sounds at first like a figure of speech, but you also mention that you have an interest in animism, which in 2009 prompted you to visit Nagaland in India. That makes me think this is a phenomenon that you take seriously and have reflected on at length. I’m curious to know your views on it and what you feel you learnt about it in Nagaland.

  

Louise Haselton: Yes, the idea of materials grouping and arranging themselves is a figure of speech. But I do feel directed by the materials and objects that I gather and spend time with; they all have their own life and energy that I draw from. Maybe it’s a way of giving over some of the responsibility of the art-making process. It’s quite a solitary process: I don’t discuss the works much while they’re being made, the materials themselves become active in the process. Ideas of animism are at play here as well, I guess. You ask what I learnt about animism when visiting Nagaland recently – one thing that struck me (and this is something that’s occurred to me in various situations when I’ve visited India) is that there is somehow a lack of separation of things.

  

It makes me feel that I am preoccupied with separating or categorising my experience of the world and often in India things are thrown together – maybe what I’m seeing is another way of categorising, different to schemas I would see in my own world. Although in Nagaland and elsewhere in India there is an ongoing belief in animism, this often coincides with a belief in Hindu or Christian gods – a lack of separation that may be problematic elsewhere. An imbuing of natural objects, often trees and rocks, with spirit or force is one that seemed very palpable and kind of reassuring – I love the idea that rocks can animate and breed – a rock orgy. What a sight! Some communities believe rocks to be vehicles of fertility …

  

When I was in Nagaland it was foggy, the days were short and the sky was very close to the ground, it seemed right that the natural world was living its own life. There was a lack of separation between armature and ornament in many devotional objects that attracted me. Rocks had been, and were continuing to be, covered in silver leaf, paper, thread; trees were wrapped totally in woollen or cotton thread. The underlying object was often not visible at all but wholly smothered by the covering material. It did seem that the original tree or rock was revered but needed to be controlled as well. It was a total unification of elements, but also an annihilation of the underlying object. 

  

MN: Reappraising the cast-off and overlooked seems a kind of strategy in your work. Is that right? It seems at the root of many of the pleasurable surprises and uneasy moments your work delivers.

 

LH: Yes, re-presenting the overlooked is important in my work. I’m interested to see if the simple act of presenting something cast off can be restorative. It’s very satisfying to scrounge for unloved materials and objects and then resuscitate them. That can be simply through giving them new company, by combining a rock with some packaging, say, or some shells with chain; to point to another life or function something could hold. The potential of things can lie latent and be animated through a simple act.

  

Michael Newall is lecturer in History and Philosophy of Art at the University of Kent, Canterbury, UK. He is the author of What is a Picture? (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) and many articles on art and aesthetics. From 2001 to 2004 he was program co-ordinator at the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia.

    

detail: Louise Haselton
Australia, born 1960
Untitled #2
correction fluid and butterfly wings on board
On loan from the artist.
Reproduced courtesy of the artist and Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide
 
Louise Haselton
Australia, born 1960
Untitled #3
correction fluid and butterfly wings on board
On loan from the artist.
Reproduced courtesy of the artist and Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide