Exhibition review: Bridget Currie – Message from the Meadow, ACE Open, Adelaide

The clay pieces are noted as being organic, abstract forms made intuitively by the artist and described as 'things that exist to ask a question'.

South Australian artist Bridget Currie incorporates sculpture, furniture, film, and sound in this minimalist exhibition to explore the representation of abstract states of being and systems of thought.

But don’t let the title of this show fool you: there is nothing green to be seen here. There is no long grass to roll in, no happy sheep, and no rays of sunshine. Instead, viewers find a coolly considered and understated installation artwork. 

Currie is the inaugural recipient of the $20,000 annual Porter Street Commission. The monies for this come from the 2016 sale of the old Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia (CACSA) Gallery at the time when the Experimental Art Foundation and CACSA merged. The new entity became ACE Open and took up residence on Adelaide’s North Terrace, close to the adjoining Jam Factory and Samstag Museum of Art. Interestingly, this installation work would have been right at home in the leafy surrounds of the old Porter Street Gallery. 

Back in 2011, Currie was awarded the prestigious Anne & Gordon Samstag Visual Arts Scholarship which enabled her to undertake postgraduate studies at Kunglia Konsthogskolan, the Swedish Royal Institute of Art, in Stockholm. She has exhibited widely in Australia and has undertaken a range of artist-in-residence opportunities across Asia and Europe.

The exhibition features a collection of handmade clay objects, some cast in bronze, that are displayed on two custom-made pine tables and on shelves in a hinged shipping crate. These were made in collaboration with Dean Toepfer of Adelaide’s Mixed Goods Studio. 

Read: Exhibition review: Jacobus Capone, Beating Heart, Fremantle Arts Centre

The clay pieces are noted as being organic, abstract forms made intuitively by the artist and described as ‘things that exist to ask a question’. Indeed, these appeared to be non-referential and certainly do not look like anything I’ve encountered in a meadow.  It is this very quality of ambiguity that makes them interesting.  

Accompanying sound works are experienced on audio devices with headphones. These were written and read by Currie and others: Bridget Currie – Message from the meadow; Teri Hoskin – Ex tending; Julia McInerney – (Untitled); Maria Zagala – The silence of plants. These would have perhaps worked better presented as an ambient soundscape in the gallery. Two chaise longues are placed in the gallery as part of the installation. These are functional, not just decorative. They are intended for the audience to sit on as they contemplate the work. Unfortunately, they are really not very comfortable and the sensation of reclining and gazing up at the gallery spotlights might remind you of a visit to the dentist.

The gallery space and the work is almost without colour. This monochromatic feeling continues with a smart circular video-viewing space enclosed with floor-to-ceiling white velvet drapes. Inside the viewing space is a semi-circular white fur bench facing the video screen. The film, soft insides, might best be described as an awkward non-narrative work. On the screen we see multiple images including slugs crawling over the objects shown in the installation, a baby sucking at its mother’s breast, more slugs being slugs, and even some random feet.  

Message from the Meadow is intended to be experienced sensually. It is not art that requires intellectual engagement per se; it offers ideas to stimulate some quiet meditation. Viewers who are willing to embrace the work with a generous spirit might be richly rewarded. 

In an interesting addition to the exhibition, the artist is hosting two guided meditation sessions in the gallery. Currie will lead participants through a mediation, involving elements of storytelling, poetry and breathing exercises as a group. The sessions will include a tactile tour, allowing the participants to interact in a hands-on way with selected sculptural works, holding them, touching them, and exploring them. 

And next time you go to the gallery, you might enquire as to what ‘ACE’ in the gallery name actually stands for. They will likely tell you ACE is an open acronym that can stand for whatever you think. Really? Surely acronyms have to stand for something? Then again, it is a gallery and the cliché ‘it can mean whatever you think it means’ is one much-loved by artists.

Bridget Currie, Message from the meadow
ACE Open (Adelaide)

On display to 4 September 2021

Stephen Richardson is a visual artist based in Adelaide. He has a poly-hyphenate art practice and has exhibited locally and internationally. Stephen is the Honorary Ambassador in Australia for the European Academy of Sciences, Arts, & Letters (EASAL) and is currently completing a PhD in visual art with La Trobe University.