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Shaun Gladwell's largest survey exhibition opens at the MCA Australia
Shaun Gladwell, installation view, Shaun Gladwell: Pacific Undertow, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, 2019, image courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne © the artist, photograph: Anna Kucera.

SYDNEY.- The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia officially opened Shaun Gladwell: Pacific Undertow, a solo exhibition by one of Australia’s most influential video artists. Pacific Undertow is Gladwell’s largest survey show, spanning two decades of his art, from early works through to more recent explorations into AR and VR.

Co-curated by Natasha Bullock and Blair French, Shaun Gladwell: Pacific Undertow, presents a range of media including paintings, photographs, prints, drawings and videos. Gladwell’s works often focus on a single performer, using various film techniques to picture the body in motion, and the connections between places and people.

Skateboarders, BMX bike riders, soldiers and surfers on land or water feature prominently in many of Gladwell’s works. The exhibition title, Pacific Undertow (2010), is drawn from a major video work by the artist. Presented in signature slow motion, a man floats upside down on a surfboard in the ocean. This piece is placed in relation to the artist’s first major video work, Storm Sequence (2000), which shows the artist skateboarding in slow-motion as a storm approaches Bondi Beach.

Gladwell has had a long fascination with Australia’s landscape and many of his works have a strong connection to the geographical location where the works were made. Other significant video works include: Woolloomooloo Night (2004), featuring a lone performer filmed at a service station in the early hours of Sydney’s Woolloomooloo; Approach to Mundi Mundi (2007), a motorcyclist riding down a highway into the vast Australian landscape of the Mundi Mundi plains near Broken Hill; and Double Field/Viewfinder (Tarin Kowt) (2009-10), filmed in Afghanistan where Gladwell travelled as the official war artist commissioned by the Australian War Memorial.

The exhibition also features three new works: a series of six prints Gladwell has produced with the Australian Print Workshop; a new augmented reality (AR) work Reversed Readymade (2019), filmed inside the MCA’s Level 3 galleries and available for viewing on your iPhone; and Electronic Monuments (2019), a new virtual reality (VR) work commissioned for the exhibition.

MCA Director, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE, said “Shaun Gladwell has had a long association with the MCA. From his inclusion in the Primavera exhibition of young Australian artists in 2003 through to the substantial holdings of his work in the MCA Collection, including his extraordinary video Storm Sequence that truly announced him as a major figure in the Australian art scene some years ago.”

The exhibition has been a close collaboration between the artist and the exhibition co-curators, Natasha Bullock and Blair French, who have both worked with Gladwell for close to twenty years.

Co-curators, Natasha Bullock and Blair French, added: “It’s always a great pleasure to follow an artist’s career closely over a long period of time, and then have the opportunity to look back over their work. We’ve captured something of that experience in the exhibition, drawing connections across different media, that highlight the deep intelligence coupled with an aesthetic joy that underpins Shaun’s work.”

Since the early 2000s, Gladwell has developed an international reputation for his work. His works have been shown in major national and international exhibitions, including the Sao Paulo, Busan, Taipei and Sydney Biennales and Yokohama Triennale. He has undertaken residencies and commissions in Europe, Asia and the Americas, was awarded an Australia Council fellowship in 2006. He represented Australia at the Venice Biennale in 2009 and in the same year he went to Afghanistan as Australia’s Official War Artist.

Shaun Gladwell: Pacific Undertow is accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue with essays by co-curators Blair French and Natasha Bullock and a commissioned text by arts writer and academic Denise Thwaites. A limited edition vinyl album featuring mixes of Kazumichi Grime’s soundtracks to Shaun Gladwell’s video works has been produced in association with the exhibition and is available in the MCA Store.

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