Two Artists Come Together To Explore The Art Of Storytelling

‘We tell ourselves stories in order to live,’ wrote Joan Didion in 1979. It’s an oft misquoted line, used to validate the human connection to storytelling, rather than to critique the delusions we wittingly commit to.

Narrative is a knotty concept these days, filled with optimism and hope, but also with danger. In the wrong hands, stories can do damage.

This conflict is what drives a new exhibition from Charlotte Swiden and Bec Smith. The two painters have joined forces on ‘Lores’ to explore narrative, myth-making, creativity, and knowledge transfer through their separate abstract art practices, opening tomorrow at No Vacancy Gallery in Melbourne.

Sasha Gattermayr

Charlotte Swiden (left) and Bec Smith (right). Photo – Graham Alderton.

Charlotte with her works. Photo – Graham Alderton.

‘Woken by Song’ by Charlotte Swiden. Photo – Graham Alderton.

Left: ‘We Knew It All Along’ by Bec Smith. Right: ‘The Sky Opened Up And I Sae You For The First Time’ by Bec Smith. Photo – Graham Alderton.

Bec in the gallery. Photo – Graham Alderton.

‘I Thought It Was A Kite But You Were Merely Flag-Waving’ by Bec Smith. Photo – Graham Alderton.

Left: ‘Mother, Sister, Sister, Self I/Acorns’ by Bec Smith. Right: ‘Mother, Sister, Sister, Self II/Double-Take’ by Bec Smith. Photo – Graham Alderton.

‘Huldran’ by Charlotte Swiden. Photo – Graham Alderton.

Photo – Graham Alderton.

‘Tonight You Are Invited By The Fog To Dance’ by Charlotte Swiden. Photo – Graham Alderton.

‘Searching For Amber’ by Charlotte Swiden. Photo – Graham Alderton.

Together, these pieces tackle ancient myths and new ones. Photo – Graham Alderton.

Sasha Gattermayr
14th of February 2022

In late 2020, Charlotte Swiden and Bec Smith realised they had each been pondering bodies of work circling the same themes. In the midst of a great global stasis, these two artists had both been thinking about storytelling.

Charlotte was interested in mythology and symbology from her Scandinavian heritage, and Bec was researching the crossover between female archetypes in fairytales, with her own experience as an adult woman.

‘We began as a WhatsApp group sharing whatever we heard, read, watched or found,’ explains Bec, pointing to the process of the exhibition itself as an exercise in storytelling between artists.

Though stylistically different, both painters gravitated towards ancient forms of narrative – turning to palette, symbols and figures to represent their responses. Charlotte explores pagan tales of Mother Earth, who is a hero in Scandinavian myth and surrounds herself with nature spirits.

Notions of reverence, respect, ritual and fear circulate this mystical world, while Bec tackled concepts of morality and ethics in fairytales. Through shape and colour Bec confronts the binary dynamics that underpin these parables (unconscious and subconscious, good and bad, male and female etc.) to question the stability of ‘universal’ truths. Through symbol and pattern, deconstruction and reconstruction, Bec asks: Is it time to build new great narratives?

Weaving together similar themes through very different painting styles, the act of collaboration and co-exhibition enlivens and elevates this shared body of work.

‘I’d like to think this makes the works deeper and more meaningful,’ says Charlotte. ‘You know, our tales grew together with us.’

‘Lores’ opens on 15th February until 27th. No Vacancy Gallery is found at 34-40 Jane Bell Lane, Melbourne.

Recent Art