I’ve been curating Aboriginal art at Japingka for thirty years and in that time I’ve never had to explain to anyone what I’m doing.
The thing about paintings is, they react with one another. If you put two things together, the first thing doesn’t look the same once you move the second artwork in place. I’m constantly trying to get a balance that makes all the paintings appear at their best.
It’s a visual thing. I walk around. I constantly adjust. Sometimes I have a wall of very big works together. Sometimes I’ll put together a number of small works. After a while a wall becomes a complete artwork in its own right. I might have six different paintings on it.
There is a visual order in which things seem to fall into place. In other words, sometimes they need more contrast, or sometimes they need a balance of something similar. You’re just really putting things in place, relying on your intuition, or just your aesthetic reactions, and moving them around until you get the show that you want.
It is about composition, but it’s also about making paintings most at ease on the wall with the other paintings that are around them. An exhibition is, to some degree, a compromise, because there’s a lot of artworks in one space in the gallery. In our homes there might only be three or four artworks in a room.
My job is to give the artworks an environment which shows them at their best. It is intuitive and it’s visual. I need to consider the relationship between the two artworks. Do they visually work or do they conflict in some way?
It’s also about continuity. I want the viewer to comfortably move from one painting to the next and have some little aha moments where they say, “Oh, wow.” They’ve gone from this to this and then a surprise.