Dark Swan; Contemporary Tales of the Gothic Antipodes.  Opening Night Highlights. By Golden Light Photography. 2018.

Kelsey Ashe, 'The Swan Promise' Mixed Media, 2018.

Dark Swan Catalogue. Kelsey Ashe, 2018.  Cover image: Eva Fernandez, 'A rare bird in the Land', 2018.     *Please scroll left and right to see odd pages.

Curator, Artist

Curatorial Statement:

Dark Swan – Contemporary Tales of the Gothic Antipodes, curated by Kelsey Ashe, is a four-week exhibition providing artists and audiences an opportunity to examine an aesthetic of Australian Gothic Romanticism in relation to the real and imagined history, landscape and characters of Western Australia through art, film, costume and performance.
 

The title is both a referent to the Swan River Colony (now Perth) and the elegant nature and subtle beauty of WA's emblematic water-bird. The duality of the title re-inforces and hints at the exhibitions aims of exploring not only the darker realms of the gothic subconscious and the Victorian era in which WA emerged, but the stylised imaginary beauty promulgated by a contemporary International high art aesthetic.

 

The Antipodes was a world of reversals, the dark subconscious of Britain. It was, for all intents and purposes, “Gothic par excellence; the dungeon of the world”. (Turcotte, 1998) The colonies were a ghastly "Frankenstein" made up of degenerate parts that could only possibly make a terrible monster once whole. WA, with its brutal history of convict era penal colony and pioneering era of survival against all odds, has its own unique set of Gothic/Romantic tales, bizarre characters and ghost stories to unearth. Indeed, it is here in WA that the ancient saying that presumed black swans did not exist, was proof for all at home that Terra Nullius was indeed a place of darkest terror and foreboding.

 

2018 also marked the 200th Anniversary of the release of Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley, the seminal work of gothic literature considered one of the most influential and popular novels in the English language. Architect of the Fremantle Round House (b.1830) and early Swan Colony pioneer, Henry Willey Revelly, was raised for some time as a sibling of Mary Shelley in England (Oldham, 1967), in an environment of the most significant philosophers, poets and intellectual liberalism of the Romantic Period, indicating the extraordinary influences and ideas that may have been present in the minds of the earliest colonists of WA. Interest in the Romantic Gothic is piqued as Bi-centennial celebrations of Frankenstein worldwide are focused on multiple themes that have arisen from this seminal work, such as life and consciousness, appearance, sacrifice, secrecy, fate and free will.

 

The four-week program will provide a strong conceptual and atmospheric experience where performance, music, costume, visual arts and films  are paced throughout the duration of the exhibition.

 

Works have been selected from contemporary artists that have deliberately engaged with a sense of Australian Gothic or neo-Romanticism, of which Western Australia has many.  The Groundswell of interest in the theme can be attributed to Western Australia's complex colonial outpost in the Antipodes and the many stories that are wanting to be told.

 

Dark Swan activates “place” through localised investigations, inspiring a deeper understanding of the trials and tribulations of our colonial history, including our Aboriginal history, in a new captivating way, increasing cultural awareness and enhancing the cultural calendar of arts practice in WA. 

 

The Dark Swans include: Kelsey Ashe Giambazi, Kristie Rowe, Genrefonix, Fran Rhodes, Ross Potter, Rebecca Dagnall, Ben Crappsley, Eva Fernandez, Anna Nazzari, Ray Costarella, Caitlin Cassidy, Sharyn Egan and Sheree Dornan. 

Kelsey Ashe, 'Moon over Indian Ocean' Mixed Media, 2018.

Kelsey Ashe, 'Enso' Mixed Media, 2018.

Dark Swan; Contemporary Tales of the Gothic Antipodes, PS Art Space, 2018.

Gallery Install, Dark Swan; Contemporary Tales of the Gothic Antipodes, PS Art Space, 2018.

Dark Swan; Contemporary Tales of the Gothic Antipodes, PS Art Space, 2018.

Kelsey Ashe, 'Moon over Indian Ocean', Dark Swan; Contemporary Tales of the Gothic Antipodes, PS Art Space, 2018.

Kelsey Ashe, Detail, 'Moon over Indian Ocean', Dark Swan; Contemporary Tales of the Gothic Antipodes, PS Art Space, Mixed Media, 2018.

Kelsey Ashe, Detail, 'The Swan Promise', Dark Swan; Contemporary Tales of the Gothic Antipodes, PS Art Space, Mixed Media, 2018.

Artists Statement Kelsey Ashe:

Engaging with Neo Gothic Romanticism for ‘Dark Swan’ has allowed a space for narration of my connection with landscape

and the constant quest to reach for the boundless sublime.

I identify with the sense of heightened feeling and emotion the Romanticists accessed to make their great works, by channelling intuition and intellect in equal measure, to go beyond perception.

I am not concerned here with politicking or critiquing the worlds many issues. Rather I seek a seduction of the senses, a transcendence of the rational and speculation on the unknown – the tropes of Romanticism of centuries ago, re-imagined for a contemporary audience.

WA has always been an un-homely home to me.

Arriving as a young adult after living in Tasmania and New Zealand, the sand, wind and heat assaulted me, I missed the awe of the mountains, valleys and green

pastures of home terribly, but there was no going back. And besides, the

WA landscape has its own uniqueness; a kind of terrible beauty, that is parched and spiky, charcoaled and dusty. The bush

here has its own spiritual voice, that you can perceive when you listen.

In this way, I identify with the sensations that the early colonists may have experienced. The immense yearning to be in two places at once, missing home, missing family left behind over water.

My work ‘The Swan Promise’ therefore depicts a me and also an-other me or other-person, a lass of the early Swan Colony, perhaps a school teacher or maid. What did she dream of? When she travelled through the scrubby bush around Fremantle was it fear she felt or a sense of beauty? I imagine her as a free spirit with

her own thoughts. Did her heart go out to those poor nameless souls in the chain gangs up upon the hill at the Convict Establishment? As she paused to collect the strange wild flowers of this new land, did she stop to watch them, hundreds of them, shackled together sledging stone for the new asylum? And that handsome one that stared at her, the

one with the light still shining fiercely in his eyes... what did he dream of?

Dark Swan was exhibited at PS Artspace in  Fremantle  from 05/09 -08/10/18 and was proudly supported by The City of Fremantle and The Department of Local Sport and Cultural Industries.