At a bush residency west of Brisbane, six metropolitan photomedia artists gathered to explore the natural world. There were no plans to collaborate, though they saw themselves as like-minded practitioners. Guided by internationally-acclaimed mentor Marian Drew, they hoped to experiment, have fun, and drive themselves and their practices beyond their comfort zones.
Yet as they worked through the exercises Drew set, they found themselves brainstorming approaches and offering advice. It was an immediate melting pot of perspectives and creativity. Aesthetics began to blur as the group found a safe place to canvas opinions, drawing energy and inspiration from each other. While they remained committed to their individual practices, the group was excited by the creative force they were conjuring.
Artistic collaborations have been a staple of the creative scene since its very beginning, a fact that sits at odds with the idea of art as a solo endeavour. At its best, collaborative practice harnesses knowledge and experience to broaden horizons and enhance existing talents. Devoid of ego, the group can push themselves and each other to create something new, something different.
The synergy discovered during Verge Collective’s first residency has not dissipated with time or distance. It would be too naff to liken these women artists to a coven, yet there is something divine in their symbiosis. Though they may not have anticipated working so closely when they first came together, there was an instinctive need to connect with artistic peers and stave off the isolation that comes with an autonomous art practice. The organic nature of their collaboration and distinct lack of ego has summoned some very otherworldly visions.
The Collective’s shared works are ethereal and oblique responses to environment, memory and time, overlapping creative approaches and aesthetics so the audience never really knows who’s behind the lens. No single artist is given authorship of any collaborative work – an acknowledgement of the creative cooperation that goes into each piece. It is an extraordinary forgoing of individuality for such strong independent practitioners. Together they contemplate humanity and place, stewarded by Drew to focus on areas of convergence rather than difference.
This generosity extends to their consideration of the audience. Working across photography, video and sculptural forms, they actively seeks spectator engagement, physically pulling viewers into their world with their installations. We are encouraged to discover and traverse the work as they did the terrain that inspired it. They are as enthralled by our response to the work as we are by seeing it.
Verge Collective continues a long tradition of artistic collaboration. Through their partnership they explore their individual selves as artists, and the critical thinking and strategy of working together to resolve an artistic challenge. Their collaborations demonstrate the power of the individual, the evolution of an idea, and the unforeseen surprises that can unite disparate creative processes without sacrificing artistic integrity.
In their short time working together, Verge Collective have been awarded Highly Commended in the 2018 Clayton Utz Art Award, and named finalists in the 2019 Moreton Bay Regional Art Awards, the 2018 CLIP Awards at Perth Centre of Photography, and have successfully received funding from both Arts Queensland and Brisbane City Council’s Creative Sparks.
Verge Collective: Vanessa Bertagnole, Julia Scott Green, Christine Ko, Lisa Kurtz, Tamara Whyte and Emma Wright.
For more details, visit their website: Verge Collective