New Work: Fiona Veikkanen in Material World

Yesterday I trundled over to ANCA to catch current exhibition Material World. Curated by Martine Peters and Narelle Phillips, the small group show features locals Ampersand Duck, Ruth Hingston, Tony Steel and Fiona Veikkanen alongside interstaters Tracey Deep, Mandy Gunn, Ro Murray and Flossie Peitsch.

The show was touted as “an exhibition of site specific installations in the gallery and surrounds, exploring environmentalism through the use of recycled and found materials.” I would disagree with the site specific tag here – each work could easily have existed in any other exhibition space or surrounding – but overall the show acted as a great showcase of sculpture and installation works exhibiting a stellar use of, as the blurb notes, reclaimed, recycled and found materials. The only odd addition was G is for Gallery by Flossie Peitsch, which requested the viewer to download a QR code scanner to one’s smartphone in order to correctly view the work. Apologising in advance for my lack of patience and luddite nature in the deciphering of this process I confess the work went over my head. It certainly required a very different headspace to that of the other works exhibited, and, enjoying the tactility of the these I found I was unable to make the leap.

My encounter with the exhibition was also hugely skewed by the inclusion of an incredible new work by Fiona Veikkanen. A long, heavy, enclosed leather sack suspended from the ceiling, Sag Bag is immediately reminiscent of an old-world punching bag, but for its exaggerated dimensions, which hint at other, stranger possibilities. The distended form rests its weight wearily and defeated upon the floor, suggesting a great tiredness, sickness, or some unfortunate misunderstanding. The apparently useless object has obviously once been heavily used, its time-worn surface telling a thousand tales, thanks to Veikkanen’s clever use of reclaimed leather. For such a simple form Sag Bag is wildly emotive, and powerfully holds attention within the gallery as if it were a living, breathing creature. For me, it felt as though this could have been the only artwork in the room.

All images courtesy of Fiona Veikkanen

Recent graduate Veikkanen has been increasingly prolific of late. While Sag Bag is a much of a continuation in the approach, materials and subject for which she is most well known, I feel the work is also an important marker of a career that has drastically changed gears, now operating smoothly on entirely another level of artistic maturity. Indeed, Sag Bag would have felt just as at home and held its space just as powerfully in the contemporary collection of a major gallery or national institution as it does at ANCA. I realise now more than ever that this is an artist to watch.

Material World closes on April 8th, so get in to ANCA quick if you want to see this piece for yourself.

Images of Sag Bag taken from Fiona Veikkanen’s site, head there to check on upcoming projects and see more of her recent work.

Fiona Veikkanen’s solo exhibition Creature Comforts opens at Canberra Contemporary Art Space Manuka on Thursday April 12th.

2 Comments

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  1. It was a gorgeous piece, wasn’t it? I loved that bag.

    I just wanted to say in my defence, that my piece was completely site-specific as it was custom-made to fit that particular ANCA girder. Each book had to be cut to the right depth and height, and there were exactly the right amount for the space. It couldn’t have even moved to either of the other girders and definitely would look wrong on a mere shelf. I will be working with those particular books again, but only photographically.

    Thanks for looking at the show, though, much appreciated.

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    • Ah now I wish I could go take another look! I missed the level of detail, most probably due to my bloody eyesight (it’s high time for some new glasses). Thanks for filling me in!

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