Australian Art

JOAN BRASSIL

Joan Brassil at work.
Joan Brassil at work.

AKA: Joan Brassil

Born: 1919 Sydney
  • Conceptual
  • Contemporary
  • Installation
  • Mixed Media
  • Established
Creative Tension III - Cell Di
Creative Tension III - Cell Di

Joan Brassil was in her early fifties when she began her full time career. After teaching art for 20 years, mainly at Campbelltown High School, she renewed her studies in 1969 at the Power Institute of Fine Arts. During this time she was working on her first trilogy of installations entitled Sound Beyond Hearing - Light Beyond Seeing - Memory Beyond Recall (1969 - 1974). These were basically black, glass-fronted boxes in a darkened space. The contents were minimal and their visibility was mediated to a certain extent by the reflection of the viewer in the glass. She has said that the main influence on her work at this time was the Russian artist Kasimir Malevich (1878 - 1935) who from 1913 reduced his paintings to pure abstracts with limited geometrical shapes.

About this same time she won the Mosman Art Prize (1973) for a shaped and textile augmented canvas entitled Creative Tension III - Cell Division. This excursion on to canvas seems to be short lived as from this time onward she worked almost totally in the installation format, with emphasis on the temporal and experiential aspects of process in nature, sculpture and vision.

She was concerned with phenomenology, both as subject and mode of enquiry. The artist has explained this concept in Anna Voigt’s book entitled New visions, new perspectives: Voices of contemporary Australian woman artists. “Phenomenology is a study of what is already there in existence, and is also a study of essences. Commencing with maxims on the twentieth century visions of space, time and energy, I have approached the phenomenology of landscape by exploring these unseen energies together with existing codes that affect the nature of consciousness and perception. In the interaction between these aspects, it was hoped to inspire wonder and reflection in the observer.”

Brassil’s work can be divided into two strands: The first deals with unseen phenomena and processes of science and the natural world, such as time and energy, and the second with European perception and memory in the primal Australian landscape.

Her interest in living cells continued and in1982 she produced her first video sculpture entitled The Energy of the Life Game is all in the Membrane, Y’know. This interest came from her viewing mitochondria, the energy producing structures of a cell, through an electron microscope which uses a video monitor to display the images. Until at least 1988 she continued to explore the medium of video images often reflected on to shaped Perspex forms.

The second strand of Brassil’s work, landscape and memory, is introduced in Stranger in the Landscape (1983) then developed through two sets of trilogies, all of which take the form of video installations. Like most of the artist’s work this epic quest of landscape and memory was inspired by an actual experience - in this case her discovery of letters her great-aunt wrote to her great-grandmother in Hobart in the early 1830s.

A later development in her work was sound sculpture. She took sound from a lighting strike and processed it to create a sound sculpture that inscribes space at the entry to her installation called Where Yesterday may be Tomorrow (1997). Another sound sculpture by Joan Brassil is A Tether of Time, a permanent feature of the sculpture garden at the Campbelltown City Bicentennial Art Gallery.
Randomly Now and Then.
Randomly Now and Then.

1974
Group exhibition, Bonython Gallery, Sydney.
1975
Solo exhibition, Bonython Gallery, Sydney.
1976
Solo exhibition, Sculpture Centre, Sydney.
1977
Solo exhibition, Sculpture Centre, Sydney.
1978
Solo exhibition, Sculpture Centre, Sydney.
1979
Group exhibition, Festival of Sydney.
Group exhibition, Orange Festival of Arts.
1980
Group exhibition, Sculpture Centre, Sydney.
1981
Group exhibition, First Australian Sculpture Triennale.
1982
Solo exhibition, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.
1983
Solo exhibition, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.
Group exhibition, A.U.S.T.R.A.L.I.A., Zona Gallery, Florence, Italy.
Group exhibition, ‘Paretaio’, Tuscany, Italy.
1984
Solo exhibition, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.
Group exhibition, Adelaide Festival of Arts, South Australia.
Group exhibition, Second Australian Sculpture Triennial, Melbourne.
1985
Solo exhibition, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.
Solo exhibition, Wollongong City Art Gallery.
Group exhibition, Glass Artists’ Gallery, Sydney.
Group exhibition - Art Works Glass Craft Council of Australia, Sydney.
Group exhibition Perspecta Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney.
Group exhibition, Scanlight, Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney.
Group exhibition, Q.BO. Theatre, Bologna, Italy.
1986
Solo exhibition, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.
Group exhibition, Sound Factory, Tokyo, Japan.
Group exhibition, Scan Video Gallery, Tokyo, Japan.
Group exhibition, Orange Regional Gallery, Orange.
Group exhibition entitled Origins, Originality, Beyond. 6th Sydney Biennale, Pier 2, Sydney. Video sculpture exhibited: Consider the Fungi at the Interface.
Group exhibition entitled Australian Video Festival. Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney.
Group exhibition, Wollongong Regional Gallery, Wollongong.
1987
Solo exhibition, Araluen Art Centre, Alice Springs.
Group exhibition entitled Chaos. Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.
Group exhibition, Broken Hill Regional Gallery, Broken Hill.
Group exhibition, Riddoch Art Gallery, Mount Gambier, South Australia.
Group exhibition, Contemporary Art Gallery, Adelaide.
1988
Solo exhibition, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.
Group exhibition, “Experimenta”, City Gallery, Melbourne.
Group exhibition entitled “The Cocktail Party”. Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.
Group exhibition - The 3rd Australian Video Festival. Work was video sculpture Time Warp Reflections. Powerhouse Museum, Sydney.
Group exhibition entitled “Structures of Necessity”. Work was video installation Kimberley Stranger Gazing. First Draft, Sydney and Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria.
1990 & 1991
Retrospective exhibition entitled “The Resonant Image.” 4th Australian Sculpture Triennial at the Australian Centre of Contemporary Art, Melbourne and Campbelltown City Bicentennial Art Gallery, Campbelltown.
1991
Group exhibition, INLAND, Australian Centre of Contemporary Art, Melbourne.
1992
Solo exhibition, Installation entitled Writers in Recital. Art Gallery of NSW.
Work entitled Pond Light in Two Phases by artist and Ross Edwards. Art Gallery on NSW.
1993
5th Australian Sculpture Triennial, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Exhibited Sine Waves/Harbour Waves.
Light and Movement group exhibition, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.
Identities: Art from Australia exhibition, Fine Arts Museum, Taipei Taiwan.
Luminaries group exhibition, Monash University gallery, Melbourne.
1994
25 Years of Performance Art in Australia Ivan Dougherty Gallery and Performance Space, Sydney.
1995
Sound in Space exhibition. Work exhibited: Randomly - Now and Then. Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.
Interventions…and yet. Art Space, Sydney.
1996
New Music Tasmania, International Festival of Music, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.
1997
A installation and sound scape entitled Where Yesterday may be Tomorrow. Campbelltown City Bicentennial Art Gallery, Campbelltown. Part of Australian Perspecta - Between Art and Nature.
1998
Somewhere between light and reflection - a film on the artist’s work. Domain Theatre, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney.
1999
Solo exhibition entitled The Breath of Psyche. Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney. Group exhibition. Exhibited Gondwana and the Cosmos - Listening to the Dead Stars Singing. Australian National University, Canberra.

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