Practice in Motion: Interview with Huw Lewis and Georgia Cranko18 September 2012 Naomi Gall
Practice in Motion is a showcase of Australian solo and collective artists with a disability. With a focus on artistic process, featured artists include Georgia Cranko, Peter Hughes, Huw Lewis, Joceline Lee, Back to Back Theatre, Restless Dance Theatre, Amplified Elephants and Rudly Interrupted.
Artery spoke with two of the exhibiting atists, Huw Lewis and Georgia Cranko, about what inspires them and why this exhibition is important.
Artery: As an artist, you are interested in exploring and broadening society’s definition of ability. How does your work in this exhibition achieve that?
Georgia Cranko: Well, I would like to think that my video work, Just Because confronts the viewer with the common misconception that having a disability is comparable with having inability in all areas of life – that you can’t do most things, let alone contribute to your community in a meaningful way. By having it literally in black and white, I hope it forces them to reevaluate that premise and realise it’s not necessarily the case. The repetition of the line ‘just because I can’t speak…’ implores the viewer to overlook my disability again and again, to realise that I can actually live out my life in a relatively normal way.
A: What attitudes would you like to develop/change through your artistic endeavours?
GC: I am always a bit lost for words when faced with this question, because although I obviously have an invested interest in disability advocacy, I also have a passion for many other social justice causes, like gender inequality, gay rights and mental health. But in general, I would like to create artworks that challenge many people’s concept of what it means to be human and thus try to get people to treat others with more respect.
A: What are the common misconceptions people have about people who are non-verbal.
GC: Ahh you know that we are all deaf, we can’t communicate for ourselves, we are less intelligent than your average Joe Blow and we certainly can’t go out by ourselves, and the list goes on and on. The amount of times that I have been congratulated by complete strangers for just going out in public alone is laughable.
A: What has participation in this exhibition meant to you?
GC: The response to Just Because has been extraordinary, it says something so personal to me, but it obviously has resonated with quite lot of others. It has been incorporated into a program for communication access run by a disability group, Scope in Victoria. Also, this participation in the exhibition means a lot to me, it implies that I have something valuable to share
A: Who is your favourite artists/artistic group and why?
GC: Lately I have been getting into spoken word poetry, I have been loving an American poet, Andrea Gibson I have had her poems on repeat for days. Her use of language is beautiful and intricate, and she expresses so much about gender, race and relationships, which are all things I am passionate about. And more close to home, I am always interested in the work of Restless Dance Company that is in Adelaide. Their performances are beautiful, they make disability seem more like an asset and less like a disadvantage.
A: Why should people come and see the exhibition?
GC: Well, firstly there are some amazing artworks to see, which will be such a shame to miss out on. And secondly, it shows disability doesn’t always mean inability.
A: Your performance is in the style of Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues; how did this come about?
GC: I fully credit my friend and filmmaker, Michelle Dennis for the placard format. We talked about how to convey a clear and a concise message, and she was working on music videos at the time, so it seemed like a good option. Also we had to think about what I could manage to do, so a flipchart was natural progression
A: Future projects in the pipeline?
GC: I wish I had an answer for you, I wish I was plotting something spectacular, but sadly not. I have barely had time to do anything else than uni work, but hopefully in the Christmas break, I will be able to start working on something.
Artery: Describe your work in this exhibition: who are these rather endearing textile creations and what do they represent?
Huw Lewis: The work in this exhibition grew from keeping a diary of my dreams and trying to let my imagination run away with me . I have used materials that I don’t really know how to use , so it’s a learning process for me and I hope the viewer will find their own meaning in the work, if they are interested in it.
A: If you were a figurative textile, what would you be called and what would you look like?
HL: If I were a figurative soft sculpture -I would like to be ‘MR HUEY’ -An aging threadbare brown teddy bear
A: Who is your favourite artists/artistic group and why?
HL: I feel a resonance with the images made by many Outsider / Art Brut artists. I am also interested in world indigenous culture, symbols, myths and rituals and in the work of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell .
A: You have had an interest in drawing, painting and sculpting since a young age but it wasn’t until 2006, you undertook some formal training. Tell us about this opportunity and how you developed as an artist.
HL: I have always tried to make art but I was restless and unfocused when I was young. As a mature age student through Art studies at TAFE I got a chance to study at The National Art School. Being part of that community helped me connect with others working in the arts and has gave me a stronger sense of purpose.
A: Part of your creativity is drawn from comic books and cartoons. If you could be any comic character who would it be and why?
HL: I would be happy to be a character in a Michael Leunig or a Bruce Petty cartoon because I love the drawings, humour and moral vision.
Practice in Motion is presented by the Australia Council for the Arts in partnership with Accessible Arts.
Image Credit: Top to bottom: Georgia Cranko, Just Because, video still, Huw Lewis, The Boxer