Exhibition review: Bolder

Drawings and paintings are taken to new realms with Augmented Reality (AR) to make the viewer see in different ways.

One of the areas in which Australia leads the world is in the accessibility of its arts and by making its arts accessible to a range of different stakeholders.

In creating stylish, accessible community lead arts programming, Footscray Community Arts is leading the sector with signature style. In conjunction with the Big Anxiety Festival, a mental-health themed arts festival held in partnership with the University of New South Wales and RMIT culture, the centre has launched its spring exhibition, which features the work of neuro-diverse artist Steven Tran working with a team of designers and the Victoria University Hive Lab. 

The exhibition takes place in the Roslyn Smorgon Gallery of Footscray Community Arts’ sprawling suburban venue and features acrylic paintings and pencil drawings based on a variety of geometric shapes executed by hand by Tran. These paintings and drawings then went on to form the basis of animations with mixed reality and 3D components. 

Exhibition viewers can scan the drawings the iPads provided or on their own phones to see the shapes in the paintings and drawings come to life through animations, or scan codes on the floor to arrange the geometric shapes in the form of a game.

The mixture of traditional media with technological content makes the exhibition accessible to a wide range of community participants who may not come from a traditional ‘high art’ perspective.

Timed to overlap with the school holidays, the exhibition is a particularly good introduction to families in a model of community-led and community-driven artistic practice. 

Tran has risen to prominence through Footscray Community Arts’ ArtLife program, which allows artists registered with the National Disability Insurance Scheme to work with them on creating an exhibition with a range of industry professionals. Tran has been a particularly successful exponent of this program, with Bolder being his fourth gallery show and his first to receive a prestigious and competitive Australia Council Grant. 

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The bold colours and playful shapes in a range of digital and print context make this an engaging and memorable exhibition. But the policies behind the exhibition is at least as intriguing as the work of the artist and designers. It shows the important and effective work Footscray Community Arts is fostering as a centre of social inclusion. 

Bolder is open at Footscray Community Arts will be exhibited until 30 October 2022. 

Vanessa Francesca is a writer who has worked in independent theatre. Her work has appeared in The Age, The Australian and Meanjin