Consuelo Cavaniglia: seeing through you

Consuelo Cavaniglia: seeing through you , 2024, hand blown glass, acrylic, court
Consuelo Cavaniglia: seeing through you , 2024, hand blown glass, acrylic, courtesy of the artist and STATION. Photo by: David James.
Sydney College of the Arts alumna shifts the experience of architecture in new exhibition For the first time, an artist has been invited to respond to the spectacular internal architecture of the University of Sydney’s Chau Chak Wing Museum.

The latest instalment of the museum’s Contemporary Art Project introduces new works by Sydney-based artist Consuelo Cavaniglia, including a sitewide installation responding to the building’s interior.

The Contemporary Art Project is an ongoing series commissioning contemporary artists to create new works inspired by the museum’s vast collections of art, antiquities, natural history, ethnography, science and historic photography. 

Previous editions of the project have been exhibited in its dedicated space, the Penelope Gallery. But in seeing through you, opening on Saturday this week, Sydney College of the Arts alumna Cavaniglia was asked to extend her works across the entire museum.

Her site-specific installation will see the museum’s lantern ceiling transformed with yellow fabric, subtly shifting the light filtering through the building’s multilevel atrium. On the glass surfaces within the museum, including windows, doors and balustrades, coloured vinyl works shift the experience of the architecture. 

In the Penelope Gallery, new handmade glass works by Cavaniglia have been created in response to objects from the museum’s collections, including ancient glass from the Mediterranean. Cavaniglia will also include artworks by two women artists in the centenary of their birth - Lily Greenham’s mixed media collage Study in visual perception (1962-67), Martha Boto’s light and kinetic work Labyrinthe diagonal (1965) - and a selection of instruments from the museum’s scientific collection.

A third component consists of responses from the museum’s women and gender diverse staff, who were invited by Cavaniglia to speak of their perspective on the museum and their role within it. These stories will feature through the museum as wall labels.

"These responses create alternative narratives to the museum’s more formal voice, reframing the museum," said Cavaniglia. 

seeing through you builds on Cavaniglia’s longstanding interest in how space is structured and perceived.

"I’m interested in how space is structured through its architecture, and through the intangible qualities that shape it, such as hierarchies and politics."

Optical instruments chosen by Cavaniglia to sit alongside her colourful glass works extend what the human eye can see. With lenses and prisms that bend and filter light, they perform literally what Cavaniglia’s work does metaphorically. 

"They play to my ideas around perception, where you’re looking from, how we see things."

Cavaniglia said she felt privileged to have the opportunity to respond to the museum’s collections.

"It has been great to access artwork and objects through conversations with various curators who have shared their knowledge, insights and expertise.

"The project has allowed me to return to Canberra Glassworks and take my initial engagement with handmade glass, in 2022, further, testing unexpected and unconventional approaches."

"It’s been fantastic to see Consuelo work on a project of this scale," said Michael Dagostino, Director of the Chau Chak Wing Museum. "Her expansive work across the museum is spectacular. We’re also invigorated by her amplification of authorship through the involvement of museum staff who are often in the public eye but not heard."

Cavaniglia has held solo exhibitions at Perth Institute for Contemporary Arts, Perth/Boorloo; Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne/Narrm; and University of NSW Galleries, Sydney/Gadigal land. In 2019 she was included in the inaugural Macfarlane Commissions exhibition at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. She studied at the University of Western Australia followed by Curtin University. In 2017, she received a Master of Fine Arts, from the Sydney College of the Arts. 

Hero image:  , 2024, hand blown glass, acrylic, courtesy of the artist and STATION. Photo by: David James.

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