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UNLEASHED: FRESH MEET artist Hailey Atkins

UNLEASHED: FRESH MEET artist Hailey Atkins

Hailey Atkins – Brisbane – nominated by Cassandra Lehman, curator, artisan


Atkins’ practice employs a deliberate clumsiness to exude a faux modesty and a humility that bows to the form and materiality of her work. With humour and affection, she evades definition, raising serious questions about the seriousness of serious things. 

In Sol Le Witt’s famous 1965 letter to Eva Hesse, he responded to her creative struggles by suggesting she should deliberately make bad, ugly work, to find her way though:

 Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping,…Stop it and just DO!…

Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool. Make your own, your own world. If you fear, make it work for you – draw & paint your fear and anxiety…

You must practice being stupid, dumb, unthinking, empty. Then you will be able to DO!…

Try to do some BAD work – the worst you can think of and see what happens but mainly relax and let everything go to hell – you are not responsible for the world – you are only responsible for your work – so DO IT. And don’t think that your work has to conform to any preconceived form, idea or flavor. It can be anything you want it to be. I know that you (or anyone) can only work so much and the rest of the time you are left with your thoughts. But when you work or before your work you have to empty your mind and concentrate on what you are doing.  After you do something it is done and that’s that. After a while you can see some are better than others but also you can see what direction you are going. I’m sure you know all that. You also must know that you don’t have to justify your work – not even to yourself.

Link to letter in full:

In discussing the concepts behind her works, Hailey Atkins explained that she has made a conscious effort to avoid following anyone on social media:
“Our tendency is to strive for perfection, to try to reconcile the irreconcilable. The difficulty lies in not supressing the accidental or uncomfortable, and in finding a way to accept discomfort. Following will lead you to find what you like, and to the knowledge that what you like already exists, and that therefore you do not need to create it, or in fact, anything.”

 In Twofers, she responds to the materials. There is a discord between the two elements of the work, the paper, and the ceramic stand. The display base pieces are ceramic, a robust and more permanent medium than the flimsily fragile paper-pulp works they support. Deliberately placed in the window, the artist anticipates that, during the exhibition, the paper pulp will sag and fade through exposure to daylight. As the support outlasts the work itself, she is questioning the placement of value and offering a conceptual invitation to spontaneity.

The title Twofers refers to the fact that, while considered sculptures, these objects operate as if they were on a 2D plane. They have two faces or fronts rather than an intended back and front, in a 2-for-1 deal. The paired elements in Twofers are deliberately not fixed or committed to one another, they can easily be separated and rearranged. Atkins is deliberately inviting the potential for change and loss and an intentional quandary towards notions of ownership and precision.

 Collapsed Vase similarly investigates the perceived limits of sculpture. Atkins' question was how flat she could make something before it ‘disappears’ or can no longer be defined as a sculpture. This work is about presence; from one angle, the object has a substance and an authority that is strongly apparent, but from another angle, there’s almost nothing to perceive at all. 

IMAGE CAPTION (main image): Collapsed Vase, 2021. steel, paper, PVA, dimensions variable.

IMAGE CAPTION: Twofer Six, 2022. paper pulp with partially glazed earthenware stand.

Hailey Atkins Website: CLICK HERE