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Next Wave Festival

Monday, 5 May, 2014

Live paints, micro dance parties, large-scale video art. This and much more was on display at the Next Wave Festival 2014 Launch Party at Testing Grounds last month. Tucked away behind the Arts Centre, art-enthusiasts gathered in the open-air space to kick-off the 30th anniversary of Australia’s Next Wave Festival (NWF). Running every two years, NWF is a month long celebration of emerging Australian artists. Works are exhibited throughout the major cities, in public and private venues.

Henry Jock Walker and Brienna Macnish—VCA and Melbourne graduates respectively—are amongst the artists exhibiting at NWF.

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Henry Jock Walker’s work Henry’s Mobile Studio features the paintings, sculptures and videos that were the product of his nine-month tour of Australia last year in a Toyota Hiace. In addition to this, the VCA graduate has been driving his van to various sites in Melbourne to conduct live paints throughout NWF.

“I enjoy playing between lots of different mediums and forms of making”, Walker says about his epic undertaking. “I am very interested in happenings all around the country in and out of the art world, so this first big mission was aiming to see and do as much as possible.”

The idea of an open studio first came to Walker in his Honors year at VCA, where he was situated in the painting department. However his works were not contained to the canvas. Walker combined painting with performance in Tarp Surf Painting (painting while tarp surfing) and completed his open studio work Beach Studio. “Waves, weather and the raw outdoors were contributing elements to the studio process. The process was documented by surf photographers and I displayed the outcomes in the form of glossy pull out surf posters blue tacked to the gallery wall.”

Following VCA, Walker has significantly collaborated with other emerging Australian artists. This remains crucial to his practice in Henry’s Mobile Studio. Walker reflects on his contact with Trevor Jenkins “The Rubbish Warrior”, a radical artist living homeless in Darwin. “He truly combines his ideas and lifestyle, and creates thousands of amazing ephemeral sculptures out of found foliage and rubbish—making a spectacle out of discarded forms of our culture.” Jenkins may join Walker in West Space as part of NWF.

Walker’s work is immediately identifiable from his continued use of the colours blue and orange. “I think the energy of orange and blue combined is attractive”. His distinctive colour palette works, on one level, as a means of marketing himself. However its use goes beyond purely aesthetic purposes in his practice, “act[ing] as a medium between many ideas, forms and processes.”

Henry’s Mobile Studio is an exciting display of painting, performance and collaboration. In future, Walker states that he will possibly do similar state based projects.

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Former Arts student at Melbourne, Brienna Macnish works solely in the theatre/performance medium. She presents HOME as part of NWF, an immersive experience in which one person at a time walks through the residence of a Kensington grandmother.

HOME is inspired by my experience watching my grandparents age and move into a nursing home,” Macnish explains, “The slow loss of independence which my grandfather in particular railed against was confusing and distressing for our family.”

Her work is further intended to address the lack of political will in Australia to improve conditions for the elderly. Macnish advocates for a society that “values, respects and supports all older people to be active and engaged within their communities for as long as possible.”

HOME is one of many significant and various theatre art projects that Macnish has been involved in. She realized her passion for theatre as an art form when she begun a Film and Television degree prior to studying at Melbourne. “Working in that medium that relies so heavily on technology and teams of people with very specific skill sets highlighted to me what is so attractive about theatre, namely its immediacy. When you work in theatre all you need is a room, some people, an idea and the will to create.”

Though she graduated from Melbourne “perfectly qualified to write Dan Brown novels”—Macnish jokes upon revealing her major in Art History, minor in Criminology and passion for creative writing—, she was actively involved in student theatre. This spans from her independent projects, as well as those with St Martins Youth Arts Centre and as part of Melbourne Fringe Festival. A personal highlight was being in the cast of the performance piece Transmute a Cabaret/Butoh. “I got to wear a bunny outfit, pop balloons and scream a lot—need I say more!”

Macnish talks with the same enthusiasm about NWF. “There’s always a lot of excitement and anticipation in the lead up. I’m looking forward to taking time off and immersing myself in everything the festival has to offer.”

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Next Wave Festival runs from 16 April to 11 May throughout Australia.

Henry’s Mobile Studio is running for the entire festival at West Space and various sites. Visit henrysmobilestudio.com to see footage of Henry’s trip.

HOME is open daily (10am-10pm) from 1 to 11 May at a private residence in Kensington. Bookings essential. Visit www.stepintomyhome.com for bookings and further information.