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Grant Stevens: Art by Accident

Grant Stevens
The Sky, 2016
Film still
Image courtesy of the artist

In Art by Accident Grant Stevens brought moving representations of the natural environment to the accidental art spaces around the museum.

The exhibition brought together two moving image works, The Sun and The Sky, together with Waterfalls XXI, a large scale digital print, which explored endured questions about where and how we find meaning in our everyday lives.

Whether optimistic, nihilistic, or romantic, these works deliberately encouraged us to slow down to look, listen, think, and contemplate in more considered ways. Stevens’ works often use digital production processes, and these works were all digitally simulated or sampled the natural environment in some way to explore the ways that our lived experiences entangle with virtual and imagined realities. The seductive beauty of these works served to highlight the absence inherent in mediated experience.

In Stevens’ video The Sun (2016), which played on the outdoor screen, a male narrator described facts about the Sun while a virtual camera moved slowly towards a digitally animated solar mass. The narration charted the lifecycle of the Sun, from its formation through to its eventual destruction. As this narration developed, the virtual camera gradually approached the animated Sun, progressively consuming more of the screen. Borrowed from the formal language of nature documentaries, The Sun deliberately mixed awe and wonderment with hopelessness and nihilism. In this way, The Sun was as much about the logic of quantum physics, as the enduring human need to meditate on existential questions of life, death, and the paradox of our seemingly central but insignificant place in the universe.

Inside MAMA, Stevens’ mutli-channel video, Sky (2016), played across the screens in the museum foyer. In this work, a virtual camera floated across a panorama of endlessly generated digital clouds. Created with a single photograph as its starting point, Sky explored the possibilities for the proliferation of the digital image, while it also seeked to evoke a sense of quietude and contemplation. Sky’s panorama was deliberately without progression or climax. Instead, as a counterpoint to our ‘culture of distraction’, it offereda kind of meditation on the perpetual present; an ever-changing, yet consistent experience of the present moment.

About the Artist

Grant Stevens is an Australian artist based in Sydney. Working predominantly with moving image, text, photography, and sound, his works often merged the personal with the everyday to explore the emotional vacillations and quests for meaning that plague the 21st Century self. Stevens has exhibited regularly since the early 2000s, with numerous solo in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, as well as many group shows at public museums and contemporary art spaces nationally and internationally. Stevens is also Deputy Head of School (Art) at UNSW Art & Design, and is represented by Sullivan + Strumpf, Sydney.