Perhaps somewhat recognisable as the face of this year’s Archibald Prize winning portrait, artist Agatha Gothe-Snape is making a permanent mark of her own on Sydney’s streets.
She has been awarded the second Sydney Biennale Legacy Artwork commission for a large text-based installation, titled Here, an Echo.
The giant lettering runs down the length of Wemyss Lane in Surry Hills and touches on the history and geography of the site.
“It’s a lane that is used, it’s a service laneway, there’s garages here there’s people sleeping here, a pub down there a hotel up there; and it’s a living laneway and I didn’t want to undermine that or impose anything on that,” she said.
“And I always want it to exist in that way. The bins, the grime, the dirt, the craziness of night time here… it’s all absorbed into the work.”
The text is printed on the lane using road marking materials and is part of the City of Sydney’s maintenance schedule.
“I guess I always wanted to think about public art as something that is in the world, in the city, that speaks in the city’s language. It’s really part of the fabric of the city.”
Gothe-Snape’s conceptual artworks include performance, workshops and even slideshow presentations which are attracting widespread recognition at home and overseas.
Artspace Sydney’s executive director Alexie Glass-Kantor said Gothe-Snape was redefining Australia’s contemporary art scene.
“She’s highly regarded by institutions, museums, biennials, collectors as a really extraordinary artist with a breadth of practice and one to watch,” Ms Glass-Kantor said.
Gothe-Snape and Cairns don’t compete
Gothe-Snape is the first Australian artist to have a curated solo work at the prestigious Mori Art Museum in Tokyo and a show coming up at the Frieze Art Show in London.
“She really has forged something of a unique path. She carries a huge amount of esteem and weight,” Glass-Kantor said.
“She’s someone who’s is highly regarded by artists and peers as a leader of contemporary art in Australia.”
Still shell-shocked after the attention she and her partner Mitch Cairns received after his painting of her won this year’s Archibald Prize, Gothe-Snape said she is not worried about her own practice being upstaged.
“I don’t feel threatened by it. We weren’t expecting to win and we weren’t expecting the full onslaught of attention,” she said.
“But really I just feel excited. It’s a real honour to be painted, to have all that time spent on an image of you.”
Despite their vastly different styles of art practice, the pair say they come from the same basic approach.
“Even though our works are completely different to the outside eye, kind of the same logic is used to make them both which I think is amazing,” Gothe-Snape said.
Cairns said: “Ultimately there’s a similar sense and goal in mind that you’re trying to crystallise something or that you’re trying to arrive at a point of clarity through all of the mess, and talk, and reference points.”
But they both stop short of using each other’s form of media to create art.
“Agatha works collaboratively with many, many people and I’m the person that wants to be in the room and shut the door,” Cairns said.
“I dipped my toe in that water and I think I realise that it wasn’t necessarily for me so much.”
“He’s not really a team player,” Agatha says.