Joanna Kitto: Tender Thing

Joanna Kitto is the latest curator to take the reins of the Emerging Curators Program at the Adelaide Town Hall galleries.

To celebrate the Town Hall’s 150th birthday this year, Kitto’s first exhibition, Tender Thing, delves into the Adelaide City Council’s archives to present a number of historical items alongside contemporary artworks that explore notions around memory. Tender Thing looks at keepsakes and the idea that the act of memory is something purposely undertaken. Looking through the archives Kitto was struck by the unusual objects that have been kept such as a lock of Colonel William Light’s hair, nails and a brick from his house, a piece of timber from Charles Sturt’s ship, and a dress worn by Queen Adelaide. “I started thinking about what we do to hang onto the memories of people and places,” Kito says. “I started thinking about how transportive a lock of hair can be. It’s the body and the home that holds this transportive power of memory.” The exhibition delves into what we decide to keep and why. It looks at the mementoes that stand the test of time, like the lock of hair that symbolises eternal life. Kitto explains: “A lock of hair is quite strange but the more you look at it and the more you think about it the more powerful it is to have that piece of that person that is long gone.” For Kitto, Trent Parke was an obvious inclusion in Tender Thing. After seeing the Black Rose exhibition she was particularly struck by his image Mum’s hair, a photograph on a white background of a single hair from his mother. “It’s just sitting there, it’s so beautiful,” Kitto says. “It sits like a flat horizon line, I was also thinking it resembles a heart monitor when it stops.” Also drawing on memories of his mother is Hossein Valamanesh’s In My Mother’s Hands. The photo of Valamanesh as a young baby shows just his mum’s hands holding him up. He has digitally manipulated the photograph, adding in colour to emphasise her hands. “It’s a lovely metaphor for his mum looking after him and there is also a connection to homeland and motherland,” Kitto says. In a similar vein to Parke’s memorial to his mother, Madeline Reece has painted her late father’s shed. “He would sit in the shed everyday so she looks at the space and sees him,” Kitto says. “It’s her portrait of him.” Also included in the exhibition are objects by Julie Blyfield, which are a nod to the Victorian era where locks of hair were incorporated into jewellery, and works by Sarah crowEST, Madeline Isakson, Michelle Nikou, Jenna Pippett and Deborah Prior. Tender Thing explores ideas that everyone can relate to. We all have keepsakes and mementoes; they might be strange or serve no purpose but the object reminds us of a particular person or a point in time. By holding onto the object we are in turn holding onto the memory.

Tender Thing Adelaide Town Hall Gallery Until February 7, 2016 adelaidetownhall.com.au/art-music/public-art-gallery

Images 1. Waiting with Edith

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