Consuelo Cavaniglia’s works utilise industrial materials to produce sensory experiences that can be both beautiful and unsettling. The Perth-raised, Sydneybased artist spoke to ARTIST PROFILE about new insights formed on recent travels.
YOU’VE BEEN TRAVELLING FOR A FELLOWSHIP?
Yes, I was awarded the Create NSW Visual Arts Fellowship (Emerging) in 2016, which took me to New York and Milan to view specific collections and works, followed by time in Berlin to work with experimental musician Robin Hayward on a collaborative project that explores the relationship between sound, materials and colour. Being able to see things first-hand is a reminder of how limiting it is to only experience works through reproduction, whether that be online or in print. Seeing the work, its connection to space, lighting and an audience, gives you a different understanding of the aims, tactics and impact. For example seeing the work of Dan Flavin in the Flavin Art Institute, Dia Beacon and the Panza Collection allowed me to experience how he orchestrates perceptual shifts through the use of colour, light and the geometry of architectural spaces.
Your works strive to unsettle and confuse our perception of space; they have been called “psychologically charged”.
I’m interested in unsettling our sense of space, of suggesting that the structures that we inhabit and use habitually are not as dependable as we may think. I like to try to seemingly unhinge walls or create gaps between surfaces and cuts within architectural skins, dissolve walls, make things perceivably unstable or present a doubled or split view of a space. I often use materials and colours that have a seductive quality (in the sheen, smoothness or brightness) to try and find a point between allure and unease. In the work, spaces sit somewhere between reality and dream, between actual structures and illusions. I like to suggest that nothing is fixed and this state of flux in a space can be disorientating – in this place of uncertainty questions can be raised about the definition of a space, our position within it and how perception shapes this.
I shape installations to not have a single viewing point, but to encourage people to move around and through the space.
You see the viewer as an integral part of this process?
The viewer is essential to the work, in fact I don’t think the work is complete until a viewer steps into the space. I think this is a function of making so much use of reflective materials – the viewer is immediately implicated in the work, as they step into the reflective field of a mirror they are virtually in the work. The viewer animates the work and starts the exchange of glances that the work relies on. For example you need to be able to stand in front of ‘Untitled’ (2017, from the Between Time exhibition at Turner Galleries) to understand that the mirror is cut and angled and that you are both split and displaced in its reflection. I shape installations to not have a single viewing point, but to encourage people to move around and through the space in a kind of choreographed encounter with their own reflection and the work. This movement of the viewer is an important part of understanding the space as something that is active – the space is unfixed and the viewer is unfixed. I’m interested in developing this further and have been thinking about stages and stage sets in relation to my work, and how these behave as movable structures that actions are hinged on.
What is your process to start a new project?
I generally follow a train of thought that I develop through one exhibition and extend into the next, like a series of chapters that follow a general theme but individually shift focus to explore a specific aspect in more depth. I find out all that I can about the space the work is to be exhibited in. I start drawing, I research, I read, and go through a process in the studio of testing and experimentation. Sometimes this involves building models at different scales, other times it means going through sheets and sheets of paper in a new series of airbrushed drawings to understand shapes, spaces or colours.
Drawing is an important part of your process?
Everything starts with drawing for me – I think through drawing. This can be a series of quick sketches in the visual diary, more involved drawings on paper, or technical drawings to plan the logistical requirements of a work. I refer to my airbrushed works as drawings and these for me are essential to thinking through spaces, geometry, architecture and the effect of colour.
Your works utilise industrial materials to produce a beautiful sensory experience. What are the challenges in this?
To understand a material’s potential and limitations, I need to get to know the material well. I find the testing and exploration that is involved in this is very rewarding. I work closely with manufacturers, especially in the production of metal and acrylic works, and I really enjoy the exchange that establishes a point of compromise between creative idea and achievable solution. Travel to source new materials is also important because there are things that we don’t even know of or can’t source in Australia. My recent travel has allowed me to discover new materials and expand the reach of my work.
How have places impacted on your work?
Being exposed to certain sites has influenced my work. In 2016 I was invited by FORM to undertake a residency in the Pilbara, in the north of Western Australia, to study its extraordinary atmosphere. The light and colour conditions I witnessed are unique to that region, and they impacted my understanding of colour and how to develop installations in a gallery context that affect a whole atmosphere. In early 2018 I will travel to Iceland on a NES Artist Residency for a month of near darkness, as a contrasting experience to the brightness and high colouration of the Pilbara. I’m very excited to see what impact this experience will have on my work. Consuelo Cavaniglia is represented by Station Gallery, Melbourne, and Kronenberg Wright Artists Projects, Sydney
02 In the distance a pool of light was not what it seemed, 2015, installation view, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, photographer Alessandro Bianchetti 03 Untitled, 2016, pigment ink on archival paper, diptych, each 51.2 x 38.8cm 04 Untitled (atmospheres), 2017, acrylic paint on gallery wall, 110 x 420cm, installation view, FORM Gallery, Perth, photographer Bewley Shaylor 05 Untitled (two works), 2014, pigment ink on archival paper, 83 x 63cm each, photographer Consuelo Cavaniglia 05 55