MJ RYAN BENNETT, ARTIST
WORDS: MAIN PHOTO:
Scientists may have already unlocked some of life’s greatest mysteries, but there’s still one question no one’s been able to answer: where do ideas come from?
For Townsville artist, MJ Ryan Bennett, inspiration can strike at the most random times and in the most bizarre ways. Such was the case for her iconic Strand Ephemera sculpture A New Face.
“I woke up one morning and just thought ‘I want to work with chairs!’ It’s a bit odd, artists’ minds and how they work,” she laughs.
Despite the randomness of the initial concept, the striking archway of red chairs that resulted became a big hit at our sculpture festival in 2015.
So much so that it’s being exhibited for the next week at SWELL Sculpture Festival at Currumbin; the Gold Coast’s annual version of Strand Ephemera featuring works by more than 50 artists from all over the world.
Bennett’s piece was chosen out of a large pool of applicants for the festival.
“The more I speak to people, especially people from the Gold Coast, they’re saying to me that it’s really, really hard to get into,” she said.
“So I felt really fortunate to be chosen and a little bit anxious and scared about having to do back-to-back exhibitions because we’ve just brought down Strand Ephemera and now this one’s having to go up. It’s the first time I’ve had to do that back-to-back.”
Logistically speaking, getting the work down to the Gold Coast for the event has provided a few challenges.
When Bennett spoke with Townsville Eye she was in the process of writing instructions for taking down the work; a process that was proving more complicated than expected.
“It was originally created for Strand Ephemera so it was just a matter of getting it from my house to the beach,” she said.
“They’re very lengthy instructions. When you do it yourself it seems very straightforward but when you’ve actually got to convey that to a third party you realise all of the details you have to tell them about.
“Being a semipermanent piece means you can’t concrete it into the ground so it had to be something that could go into the ground and then be brought up quite easily without machinery on the beach.”
Setting up the archway provides quite the spectacle for passers-by though. Once all the chairs are attached to the frame, the whole thing is lifted as one by rope, ancient Egyptian style.
Bennett is hoping the piece is welcomed as enthusiastically by SWELL festival crowds as it was by Townsvillians who came up with interesting and unexpected ways to interact with it.
“I got lots of really, really great comments about how interactive it was. People would go down and sit underneath it and jump through. I’ve got a few photographs of people playing ukuleles underneath it. There were people doing yoga jumps through it,” she said.
“I always hope people see it as an interactive piece. I’m not really into the idea that art should just be viewed behind glass. I get a big kick out of watching people being around my artwork and seeing what they do with it. It makes the piece more than it is.”