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Murray White Room

Murray White Room | Murray White

Murray White Room has been lucky throughout the pandemic. We count our blessings daily and empathise with those who have been more affected. Murray White Room is alive and OK, and our modest staff remain employed. Nonetheless these have been very difficult times to navigate in terms of programming and exhibitions so we have gradually geared down over the past eighteen months to being 100% by appointment only and online. Murray White Room didn't exhibit publicly again until the Melbourne Art Fair in late February 2022.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the systemic marginalisation across many industries, however this was acutely recognised by me in the arts industry during the extremely brief transition from the catastrophic bushfires of 2019–20 to the ensuing pandemic since March 2020.

The philanthropic spirit of artists and art workers during the bushfires was extraordinary—the artists Murray White Room represents and many colleagues were called upon—and indeed initiated fundraising efforts to give and donate generously alongside performing artists, musicians and comedians in stellar form. It was heartbreaking to subsequently see our industry colleagues fall through the gaps in COVID-19 resilience support in a matter of weeks. I can only interpret this double standard as the bushfires impacted a relatively small contingent of the Australian population, whereas COIVD-19 had the potential to affect the entire Australian population—as it now has.

We’ve had some miraculous hits and some devastating misses since March 2020—and I am totally over the buzz terms ‘silver linings’, ‘pivot’, ‘agile’ and ‘unprecedented times‘—all of which we’ve necessarily taken in our stride. Just because you can go out, doesn’t mean you must go out. We learnt this the hard way since November 2020 and have invested significant resources in remote, isolated and logistically difficult times, so why change now? I cautiously reckon there are still more adverse affects to come on the horizon.

In commercial terms it’s been a fickle, nuanced time. There has been a marked increase in disposable income invested in visual art acquisitions due to the termination of first class world travel for almost two years. However conversely, launching new projects 'online only' in the sporadic periods of 'opening up’ has seen a marked decrease in commercial activity due to collectors being out and about, and no longer locked down and shopping online. 

I have invited Alasdair McLuckie and The Huxleys to contribute to this conversation because they both experienced various project hits and misses over the past eighteen months, but most notably, for their creative process and production of new work during the longest periods of lockdown globally. 

Postscript—Since Art + Australia invited Murray White Room to contribute to this conversation, my son contracted the Delta strain of the Coronavirus, which I subsequently tested positive for while in hospital for an unrelated routine procedure—so from the horse’s mouth, I can truly attest to the bravery, compassion and care of our under-rated health care professionals and front line workers who I now value equally with artists—and I surely praise God’s grandmother for vaccines...

Bored, Hysterical, Horny | The Huxleys
 + Babysitter Club  The Huxleys, 2020.  edition of 6 unframed. Giclée print . 56 x 84 cm.

Bored, Hysterical, Horny

We are based in Melbourne and have been marooned here for the last 18 months. COVID really wreaked havoc for us and decimated our work prospects. Being isolated and cut off from society and your friends and family makes you feel like you’re against some invisible barrier. Every day your emotional terrain can veer into wild landscapes. One minute you are utterly bored, hysterical, horny, terrified, or just exhausted.  

We decided the best way forward was just to keep busy making more work. Creativity was our saviour. We created a new body of work called Unbalanced, which was a wild response to the strict and controlled situation we found ourselves in. It was utter artistic chaos. And offered us a great sense of freedom and immediacy from our normal work which is often carefully choreographed and staged. It was a completely studio-based project which was like a visual exorcism of all the madness coming at us through the lockdown. 

 + A House Is Still a Home  The Huxleys, 2020. edition of 6 unframed. Giclée print . 56 x 84 cm.
 

If anything the COVID time enabled us more time to concentrate on our visual art practice as we were no longer able to perform. We were able to finish a body of work several years in the making that we are incredibly proud of. It is called Places of Worship and, after over a year of trying, we were able to have a physical show in a brief non-lockdown window in 2021.  We really appreciated how lucky we were to actually pull it off as it was such a hard time not just for us but for all artists across the country. It’s often hard to stay motivated but we just keep trying to make new work and new elaborate costumes, which are waiting for a date. You could say we are all dressed up with nowhere to go.

 + Moonage Daydream The Huxleys, 2021. Giclée Archival Print. 76x105cm.

 + Melting Moments The Huxleys, 2021. Giclée Archival Print. 76x105cm.

Alasdair Mcluckie | Alasdair McLuckie
 + The Knot / Your that for my this Alasdair McLuckie, 2020. acrylic and gouache on linen. 87 x 61.5 cm.

Alasdair McLuckie

All in all I think it would be hard for me to complain too much about how my life has been affected by COVID-19. Of course, there is the isolation and distance of family and friends, which has been particularly felt relative to the very youngest and very oldest members of my family, but my circumstances haven’t been fundamentally altered as I’m sure many others have.  

 + OK 8 Alasdair McLuckie, 2021. woven glass seed beads on linen. 31 x 51 cm.
 + OK 1 Alasdair McLuckie, 2021. woven glass seed beads on linen. 31 x 51 cm.

My studio is in my home and the pandemic and related lockdown restrictions have enabled more time for me to spend working in there. This luxury of time (luxury seems like a strange word to use!) as well as the real uncertainty of public outcomes (at best), or the absolute loss of public outcomes (at worst), of my work has liberated the studio and made the process of making a very present experience. The studio became not a space to produce an outcome, but a space where the act of making is the only part of my work that matters. As a result of this I spent a lot of this time introducing and experimenting with new materials and techniques to enable an expanse and growth that I can’t imagine having happened without the extraordinary months that this extreme experience has facilitated. 

With the generous and continued support of my gallery here in Australia, Murray White Room, through the pandemic we have made plans that were realised as virtual projects, made plans that pivoted to be virtual projects, and made plans that are still unable to be realised. All of this is what it has to be. In the meantime (for however long it continues to be) I am grateful and privileged to have had the studio to occupy these strange times.  

 + The Knot / Meet the Ripper Alasdair McLuckie, 2020. acrylic and gouache on linen. 76.5 x 56 cm.

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