Handpicked display aims to confront

November 12, 2023 BY

Depth: Sven 't Jolle in the studio working on 'out of touch' (not in exhibition), a series of sculptures inspired by makeshift mailboxes in the Australian countryside. Photo: SUPPLIED

THE La Trobe Art Institute will open a collection of work by several national and international artists that’s been designed to have a noticeably different focus.  

That’s according to Bala Starr, institute director and curator of Collecting Debt and Other Bad Moods. 

Starr said when coming up with an idea for an exhibition, she likes to get to know an artist and then build it around a selection of their work. 

The artist at the centre of the current display is Melbourne-based Sven ‘t Jolle, who’s originally from Belgium. 

“He’s an outstanding artist, and it’s really materially complex work involving welding, casting, all sorts of traditional sculptural techniques,” said Starr. 

“He’s really somebody also who’s had a longstanding interest in the state of inequality and inequity in terms of class, the haves and have nots, and how institutions such as governments and corporations interrelate.  

“In the case of Sven, I’m aware of the dire state of affairs that seem to be coming at us from every direction globally, but also locally. 

“It’s very hard to be optimistic at the moment, and this has been the state of affairs for some time now, certainly post-COVID, but maybe the last six months. 

“While this general climate is something that’s palpable, and I wanted to make an exhibition that confronted that directly, often exhibitions also have a positivist stance.” 

Starr said she wanted to “test” what an exhibition would look like from the opposite perspective. 

“It’s just a sense of the time, and the experiment to see what art can do in terms of expressing some of this sentiment,” she said. 

The title was inspired by two of the display pieces, Collecting Debt by ‘t Jolle and Nuisance Flows by Lauren Burrow. 

“That place makes fun of the idea of the young generation against the old generation, often the young generation will have to pay for the debt created by the boomers or whatever,” said ‘t Jolle. 

Of the several pieces of his work in the collection, is a metal sculpture of three birds perched on ledges one on top of the other called Trickle Down. 

‘t Jolle said it was a made as a tongue-in-cheek criticism of trickle-down economics and shows a bird on top with the lower two increasingly ugly and less looked after. 

“In general, there is always a social/economic background,” he said. 

Other artists with works featured include Janet Burchill and Jennifer McCamley, Fyerool Darma, George Egerton-Warburton, and Geoff Lowe. 

Collecting Debt and Other Bad Moods is free and will be open from 15 November to 11 February.