The West

For some Australians, an appreciation for art and an appreciation for sport might be viewed as two mutually exclusive things. There's a misconception among some that if you are creative, you can't be sporty; that the physical and the intellectual are rarely to be found cohabiting in the same body.

But it is misguided to suggest that artists beaver away in their rarefied ivory towers (or, more appropriately, their underfunded studios), disconnected from and uninterested in something as popular - and as physical - as sport.

As a new exhibition shows, sport and art are not always such strange bedfellows. Indeed, the two endeavours share a focus on technique, discipline, commitment and awareness of the body that suggests they have more in common than you might initially think.

"I know a lot of artists that partake of sport in some way," says Inside Running: The Sport of Art's co-curator Ric Spencer, a practising artist who also happens to be an avid sports-lover. "And like playing sport, making art is something that we learn, something that we constantly practise.

"All of the artists in this show are kind of obsessed with sport in different ways, but the show as a whole looks at the way their time spent in sport has come across into their art, in terms of practice and training, but also just the obsessive nature of the two things."

The idea came up when Spencer was talking to boxing aficionado Richard Lewer, artist-in-residence at Fremantle Arts Centre and a co-curator of the exhibition.

Like many of the artists included in this exhibition, Lewer is particularly interested in the physical side of art-making, the way artists are involved through the movement of their bodies in the making of their work.

His work shares one major similarity with many of the others on display, many of which have been commissioned for this exhibition. It creates an immersive, interactive environment within the gallery space. "Richard is drawing a boxing gym in the gallery; we'll have a boxing bag hanging down, and audio sounds of the gym, so that sort of immersive environment comes into play," Spencer explains.

"The charcoal that he works with becomes part of the drawing; it's a messy environment, it's involved and sweaty - that's the way he works."

WA artist Erin Coates is a video artist and climber who participates both in bouldering - climbing short routes without ropes - and "buildering", climbing on urban structures and buildings. Her video work, which is built into a replica climbing wall, refers to the discipline and forward planning that is required of both passions.

Other interactive works include Victorian diver and artist Sarah Jane Pell's helmets with inbuilt audio-video works that visitors can stick their head into; Victorian twins Gabriella and Silvana Mangano's two-channel video, which explores the movement of the body in space in disciplines such as the Chinese martial art of qigong; and basketballer Nick Selenitsch's large tactile installation that you can throw balls at (and they stick).

"The exhibition is kind of fun, but it also looks at the formal aspects of making art," Spencer says. "As usual, we're being ambitious. All of the works have been given plenty of space to be their own work, and they all have their own particularities in the way they need to be displayed. The video installations interact with other works, and the more participatory parts are given a bit more space."

This isn't to say it's one of those noisy, sensory-assault exhibitions. There are "quiet" works as well, such as those of Patrick Pound. The artist runs or walks around Melbourne's Princes Park - home of the Carlton Football Club - each morning, collecting things on the way, such as posters, newspaper clippings and photographs.

"Patrick's a self-confessed sports tragic," Spencer says. "He plays tennis, he plays rugby. He very much enjoys building a mythology around his life and how he might have been immersed in sport in a different way, in a different life."

Inside Running, opening as part of the Perth International Arts Festival, includes two different artists who explore an affinity with water. Simon Horsburgh has made a "still, calm and yet very tense" sculpture about the physicality of surfing and the motion of being carried by the wave. Then there's Todd McMillan's video and photographic work, which captures his several failed attempts to cross the English Channel.

"It's a narrative of not quite making it," Spencer says. "He's driven by what you might call a romantic narrative. But there's some humour in his work as well, and throughout the rest of the exhibition. That's what makes it accessible."

The West Australian

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