The La Trobe Art Institute’s new exhibition Collaboratory highlights the practice of artists working together to produce artwork.
LAI senior curator Kent Wilson said it was the first in a series of biennial exhibitions at the institute that would focus on the power of collaborative practice.
“We’re interested in collaborative practice and there’s more of that happening in the arts,” Dr Wilson said.
“It gives us an opportunity to dedicate a particular exhibition to this idea.
“Artists are more frequently working with each other to create artwork, also with other industries and other people from outside of the art-field.”
He said in recent times there’s been a move towards people realising that artists are part of a broader network of connections with people and other artists.
“More people are interested in this idea and are working with other people to create art,” Dr Wilson said.
One part of the exhibition includes paintings completed by established artist Jon Cattapan and young emerging artist Ben Aitken.
“It’s like the apprentice and the master working together,” Dr Wilson said.
“Painting together is an unusual collaborative practice. When most people work together they generally do it for performance or video but a painting is not so easy to work together on.”
Jon Cattapan is a professor and director of the Victorian College of the Arts, which is part of the University of Melbourne, and said the collaboration was an exciting and challenging experience.
“Ben is at a different stage of his progress as an artist, he works with great fluidity and he is quite changeable in the way he goes about things, where as I have more of a known style,” Professor Cattapan said.
“The best way to describe it would be there was real productive tension between the two ways of working.
“Ben had this idea, he had started a picture and thought it would great if I wanted to do something over the top of it.”
The first collaboration was meant to be a ‘one off casual thing’ but they decided to keep the paint flowing and create more artworks.
“He really liked what he saw and so did I and something really clicked between the looseness and the rawness of his approach and my overlays so we decided it would be good to try a few more,” Professor Cattapan said.
“One of the great things about our collaboration was that it was very organic, it started off as a trial and we ended up producing a series of work.”
The process of creating the paintings was described as a ‘creative version of pass the parcel’ as each artist would complete an element of the painting and then the other would continue before passing it back.
Artist Ben Aitken said the pair first met at an art course in Ballarat and from there the collaboration was born.
Despite the difference in experience between the two, Ben did not feel there was a hierarchy and the creative process between the pair was equal as they were both intuitive painters.
“We agreed on most things and would definitely collaborate again in the future,” Mr Aitken said.
The second part of the exhibition showcases a work produced by sisters Pip and Natalie Ryan.
“We wanted to make a work that was about collaboration directly, so we thought an interesting take on it would be looking at how people collaborate to talk to the dead in a séance,” the Ryan sisters said.
“We used to do séances when we were kids and we grew up on a diet of horror films so it really impacted the way we both work.”
The artwork depicts a series of hands around a table in a dark room which are modelled directly from the hands of the sisters.
“We have always helped each other in the studio with our own work, it just sort of evolved that we started doing work together beyond our solo practices,” the Ryan sisters said.
“It’s a really fluid process for us because we have always been so close.”
Dr Wilson said the exhibition is a very strong visual arts show with lots of colour, fun and interesting things to look at.
“For people that visit the exhibition it’s an opportunity to think about what it’s like working with someone else and what it might mean for their own world and how it can translate to all collaborations in everyday life,” Dr Wilson said.