Algorithms of Art at Caloundra Regional Gallery

Image source: IN Noosa Magazine

As new technologies shape self-expression, Caloundra Regional Gallery keeps our collective stories, identities and issues at the heart of visual arts, as Georgia Beard discovers. 

Emerging technologies have forever altered the artistic landscape; an evolution that unfolded imperceptibly slow until it became instantaneous and unstoppable. 

The advent of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), generative AI and digitally owned non-fungible tokens (NFTs) shakes up centuries of trusted artistic traditions. 

Communities of artists have tended to keep it at arm’s length, afraid of new media disrupting or replacing their crucial role in our culture. 

But to make art is to be human. With authentic creativity at the heart of their mission, Caloundra Regional Gallery is embracing technology as a tool to empower rather than intimidate. 

From 18 August until 15 October, the Sunshine Coast Art Prize 2023 marks this shift as artists amongst the 40 finalists integrate new media into their innovative and thought-provoking submissions. 

Whether finalists use digital or physical artforms, the essence of the Art Prize remains – diverse portrayals that confront, celebrate, enlighten and engage. 

“As always there are lots of paintings, both acrylic and oils, but there were less abstraction works this year with artists leaning towards realism and expressive modes of making,” Caloundra Regional Gallery Director Jo Duke said.

This year’s exhibition reflects our reality with unapologetic yet profound interpretations. While the most pressing issues of today clamour to be heard, the ordinary beauty of our community is just as striking.  

From the lingering trauma of COVID-19 in Dagmar Cyrulla’s Life to the warm intensity of suburban summer memories in Sebastian Toast’s Paddle Pool, each work captures experiences alive in both the artist’s life and the collective lives of the Sunshine Coast.

The same can be said for artworks generated from new media. With a single channel video of a pokies machine, Michelle Hamer’s Wheel of Fortune highlights the lottery of protest language where we win depending on the media we consume. 

In the face of habitat and species loss, Donna Davis’s digital print IMplant_008 depicts a human-flora-fungi implant awaiting a mutually beneficial host.

Gubbi Gubbi Visual Artist Shauna Hill and Digital Artist Brian Keayes, A.K.A. Möbius, have also collaborated to celebrate the oral history of the Glass House Mountains through a digital landscape. 

Glass Lines tells the story of Tibrogargan, who watched the sea levels rapidly rise from the east and alerted his family to the danger. Tears for the loved ones left behind formed the rivers present today.

After Brian commissioned the work, Shauna experimented with a new style of indigenous artmaking to develop the silhouette of the Glass House Mountains.

“The top section of the painting represents the meeting place known for breathtaking sunsets, and the bottom section speaks to the waterways and the footprints from her ancestors running from the rising water, as spoken of in the dreamtime,” Brian says.

“With this foundation I could overlay the animated visual algorithms, which created a work combining ancient stories with new technology.”

Brian’s visual equations were inspired by divine geometry, the scientific evidence of climate change and the sustainable planetary limits we are approaching as a species. 

“My fascination with ancient wisdom and artificial intelligence are all consuming,” he says.

“AI is rapidly changing digital art across the globe, allowing more people to express ideas and belief than the traditional crafts. 

“It is a completely different skillset, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold value as art.”

Caloundra Regional Gallery’s NAIDOC: For Our Elders also celebrates continual connection to culture and country while confronting us with the reality of environmental damage. 

Two exhibitions remember and retell indigenous stories handed down for generations. As Jo Duke explains, the gallery worked with local and national First Nations artists to show their stories from a traditional aesthetic through to contemporary commentary.

“Aunty Hope O’Chin’s Saltwater Dreaming links her People’s story of the first surfer – the Dolphin – to the current – the board surfers of the waves, and how both co-inhabit on the shores of her Country,” she says.

Ghost Net Sculpture from Pormpuraaw celebrates six artists from the community of Pormpuraaw which lies on the west coast of the Cape York Peninsula.

“Celebrating totems linked to their Creation Stories, the sculptures utilise recycled materials – in particular, fishing nets that have been dumped by commercial fishing boats which causing significant environmental harm.”

In tandem, the Maroochydore Library Artspace will display 20 years of previous NAIDOC posters while showcasing Together We Stand.

First Nations creatives from the Regional Arts Services Network (RASN) in Southeast Queensland North (SEQN) developed this interconnected art project to connect and improve their emotional wellbeing during COVID-19’s uncertainty and isolation.

Technological advancement isn’t destructive. With new media in our hands, we have the power to uplift the stories of those who came before and those who forge ahead. 

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