Wendy Abel Campbell is undertaking a PhD at Sydney College of the Arts (SCA), University of Sydney, where she is a recipient of the Australian Postgraduate Award. She completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts at SCA in 2011 where she received First Class Honours. Wendy works across painting, sculpture and drawing.
"I'm interested in the legacy and ongoing potential of ‘play’ in contemporary painting. Georges Bataille compellingly shows (in Lascaux, or the Birth of Art), that when Paleolithic man became aware of his unique place in the world, he was free to indulge in the excess of play. In the case of the Lascaux cave paintings, this ‘play’ was a visual expression of something beyond mere physical survival. Johan Huizinga’s discussion of play in Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture influenced many twentieth century artists who saw play as going to the very heart of what makes life worth living.
The ludic aspect of art has consistently reappeared in relation to the avant-garde, and continues to appear in much contemporary art. Play is not only about the Art Brut connotations of children’s art, championed by artists such as Kandinsky, Dubuffet and Klee, the nonsense of Dada or the impossible games of Fluxus. It is also about the way we apprehend and are touched by art, with a shudder or momentary displacement that transports us to a place before knowledge. Theodor Adorno calls this the primacy of experience, a state of childhood wonder – the consolation of art.
My research considers whether the freedom of play in art is still possible in a feverishly mediated world. Is it possible for the play element in contemporary painting to create its own freedom, in a world that tells us we are already playing all of the time? I suspect that ‘play’ in art, is less about the easy pleasures of popular culture and more about a celebration of life."
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