I’ve always loved sport and art. I was the girl who wanted to be both, an Olympic Athlete and Andy Warhol. What I love about sport is the competing against self, trying to attain a ‘personal best’. I love the feeling of discipline; an slight change might result in the incremental betterment of a certain shot or faster time on the clock.
So, strange as it may seem, I never really thought about how I could combine my love of sport and art.
Last week I had some time between work meetings, so I popped into the Samstag Gallery at the University of South Australia. Showing was the Basil Sellers Art Prize exhibition, and as it turned out, a bit of an “a-ha” moment for me.
With an unfortunate sense of history repeating, the work ‘Once upon a time…” (2013- 2014) by Tony Albert is made up of small, portrait style illustrations of St Kilda footballer Nicky Winmar, holding up his football jumper to point proudly at his black skin. The work also features Sydney footballer Adam Goodes, referencing the incident when he was called an 'ape' by a young fan. The tragic timing of me seeing this exhibition was due to yet another incident with Goodes, this time booed by the crowd for his post-goal kicking celebration dance.This ugly, racist side of the AFL – a game I love to watch, doesn’t sit comfortably with me. And nor should it. Football is made better by the indigenous footballers who have shown their skills on the field; Gavin Wanganeen, Shaun Burgoyne, Peter Burgoyne, Chad Wingard, Brendon Ah Chee, Jarman Impey, Jake Neade, Karl Amon (and these are just current and ex Port players).
The power of this work by Albert is that it uses victorious images we are used to with sport, and then throws them back in the viewers face by showing the racism that has become an unfortunate part of the game.
"Once upon a time..." Tony Albert, (2013-2014)
The abstract photographs by Zoe Croggan were another stand out for me in this exhibition. The colours were instantly recognisable as those of the tennis court, the basketball court. Arms, legs, glimpses of a ball, sport abstracted to it's elements and looking Modernist. Reading about the work in the exhibition catalogue, I was surprised that Croggon uses images from magazines and catalogues as I had imagined the images were photographs taken from unusual vantage points.
"Both flesh and not #2" Zoe Croggon, 2014
The video work ‘Wonderland’ by Khaled Sasabi was quite confronting. Playing on two screens, the viewer stands between to experience the chanting by fans of the Sydney Wanderers Football Club. Staring intently is someone who appears to be the leader of the chant, while other fans wait intently for the call of ‘1, 2, 3’ before they shout ‘Sydney’. As someone who is usually part of the performance (when Port Power run onto the ground), it was interesting experience for me to be on the other side. It is passionate, but there is also an element that feels rehearsed. There is little room for the individual, and perhaps that is the power in the group chant. While the club, the sport is the focus, belonging and showing this through singing songs, chanting and cheering helps the feeling of belonging and inclusion.
The Basil Sellers Art Prize exhibition ends on the 3rd July – try and get along to see it in Adelaide at the Samstag Gallery, 55 North Terrace