Atelier Paris: the Power Studio

1 February 2013

ADS Donaldson, 'Untitled (for J.W. Power)' 2002-09, oil on linen 67 x 49 cm, © the artist
ADS Donaldson, 'Untitled (for J.W. Power)' 2002-09, oil on linen 67 x 49 cm, © the artist

An exhibition of 'Paris works' by major contemporary Australian artists opens this week at the University of Sydney Art Gallery.

Atelier Paris: The Power Studio brings together five artists - Barbara Campbell, ADS Donaldson, Alex Gawronski, Michelle Nikou and Tony Schwensen - who have each held a residency at the Cité Internationale des Art in Paris over the last decade. This first international studio for Australian artists was established by the University's Power Foundation in 1967, giving them a unique opportunity to live and work in the heart of Paris.

Each year four artists and art writers are selected for a three-month stint at the Power Studio in Marais.

When the Power Foundation first bought the studio in 1967, some derided it as a display of cultural cringe. "Must our cultural traffic be one way?" the Sydney Morning Herald asked at the time.

In fact the purchase proved to be one of the most inspired uses of JW Power's 1962 bequest to the University; since then more than 100 artists and art writers have taken up residence at the Power Studio.

"Unlike the ordinary tourist, the extended studio time makes it possible for artists to reflect upon their encounters and put them to work," says curator and a former writer-in-resident Ann Stephen.

"Today I don't think you'd find anyone who wouldn't see it as a wonderful opportunity."

Works by the five artists reveal how they respond to living in the midst of such a metropolitan culture, "sometimes estranged and at other times embracing its cosmopolitan possibilities," according to Stephen.

Alex Gawronski spent his time in Paris revisiting sites captured by renowned French photographer Eugene Atget. "I aimed to confront exactly how much had changed in locations Atget had captured... to attempt to indicate the altered mood of these sites," he says in the exhibition catalogue.

For Barbara Campbell, living in Paris was a once in a lifetime opportunity but not without its difficulties. With her energy focused on the development and launch of her digital performance work 1001 nights cast, Campbell encountered hurdles trying to establish telecommunications as well as communicate face-to-face.

"My own level of French was pretty basic, rarely moving outside of the present tense," she says. "Despite this I found it a great language to perform, and kept the locals amused with pronouncements like 'Look at me' rather than 'I'm just looking' at patisseries."

Exhibition details

What: Atelier Paris: The Power Studio

When: 2 February to 26 April. Opening hours Monday-Friday, 10am-4.30pm; first Saturday of the month, 12pm-4pm; closed Sundays and public holidays.

Where: University Art Gallery, War Memorial Arch, northern end of the Quadrangle, Camperdown Campus

Contact: 02 9351 6883

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