‘A Study of Hair’ – Alexander Mitchell

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‘Oh Bondage’ – detail – Alexander Mitchell

This September, Backwoods Gallery is proud to present ‘A Study of Hair’, the third installment in what is to be a decade-long project.

The 2012 and 2013 exhibitions focused on two of the most important vectors of emotional communication: hands and eyes. This year’s theme, hair, is the most challenging of the series so far, and promises to generate an even more diverse range of interpretations.

This year’s artists will include C215, Dave Kinsey, Faith47, Inkie, Jonathan Guthmann, Mark Bode, Merda, Miso, ROA, Stephen Ives, Shohei Otomo, TwoOne, Usugrow, Yusk Imai and Alexander Mitchell.

In its completed form, the ‘A Study Of…’ project will document over 350 artworks from all corners of the globe. The curator’s (Alexander Mitchell) intent is to create an historical source with enough breadth to contextualize a generation of artists, many of whom work primarily outside the framework of established institutions.

Damo managed to catch curator and contributor Alexander Mitchell for the down low…

Damo:  You have taken on the ambitious ‘Study Of’ project, and when we spoke previously you mentioned that the goal is to create an archive of studies by some of the best artists in the world, creating a unique historical source as well as an inspiration for future artists over a period of a decade.  Here we are in year three of the project, can you tell us whet the brief you provided to artists was on this occasion?

AM: Each year it’s been the same brief with the theme and key dates swapped out. But whats cool is that after two shows everyone feels more comfortable taking a lateral approach, which was always my goal. The theme of this years exhibition is hair.

Damo:  Why hair?  What are you expecting to see from the artists based on your brief?

AM:  Starting out, I wanted to be able to communicate the concept behind the series, both to the artists and our audience. So I decided that the first few exhibitions should be anatomical studies. I started with hands and eyes, both are key symbols in visual art and pretty good metaphors for the creative process. I think both these shows established the concept behind the series reality well.

For the upcoming study show, we’ve chosen Hair which was Miso’s idea. Hair is still anatomical, however it’s open to a much more lateral interpretation. This means, in future exhibitions, we can follow with more abstract themes like color, form or movement and still have a sense of consistency running through the shows. I really looking forward to those shows and think it would be a cool way to involve abstract artists like SheOne, Mr Jago and KR.

Damo:  How do you go about selecting artists for the project?  You have some big names this year, including Roa, Faith 47 and C215.

AM: When selecting artist, I try to cover as many styles as possible. I’ve known most of the artists in for almost a decade but I’ve tried to add some fresh faces to the lineup, new artists that I’ve recently worked with or people whose work I just admire and reached out to cold.

The big trap, having curated shows for as long as I have is that you find yourself working with increasingly smaller clique of the same artists. I think is due to a combination of familiarity, nepotism and convenience and it’s a reductive mindset to get into. So I’m making a effort, both in group shows and at Backwoods Gallery to bring new artists into the community.

Damo:  You have included a personal piece in the exhibition, can you tell us a bit more about it?  What medium did you use and why?  Was it odd curating yourself in such a big group exhibition?

AM: It did feel a bit odd putting myself in the Hair show, but i’m happy with my contribution and it’s cool to be on the other side of the equation for a change. Right now I’m working in photo collages, the work is about rage.

Damo:  This is your first contribution to the ‘Study Of’ project.  What motivated you to partake now?

AM: I took a break from art in the early 2000’s in order to curate shows. Melbourne’s scene was peaking at that time and being it’s de facto curator become a full time job which eventually resulted in Backwoods Gallery. Now Backwoods is almost standing on it’s own two feet and I have time for my own projects. My studio and process is setup, so the timing was right.

Damo:  What can we expect to see from you in the next 18 months?  You have set up a studio in Tokyo, can we expect an exhibition soon?

AM: Yeah, I have no idea where this is all going.