Grace wears meringue cardigan by Issey Miyake ME and teal tie scarf by Pleats Please. Earrings worn throughout Grace's own.
Three years ago, in August of 2018, Cool Change Contemporary first opened the doors to its galleries, nestled on the first floor of the historic Bon Marche arcade on Barrack Street, Perth. Since then, Cool Change has quietly but purposefully been making its mark on Perth's arts landscape, fostering new and critical approaches to art and exhibition.
Serendipitously, Dilettante made the acquaintance of Grace Connors, one of Cool Change's founding members. We met Grace amongst the art occupying the space's bright, sunlit galleries to learn more about her work at the gallery and as an artist.
Dilettante: You work as an artist in your own right. How do your roles as artist and arts facilitator inform each other?
Grace: I studied visual art between two art schools where I received an Honours in 2016. I entered into this space not really having a distinct style or interest.
But more than seeing any particular purchase in my own visual language, I knew that I wanted to be around art, I wanted to talk about it, look at it, obsess over it. So studying for five years with the encouragement by the institution to self define as an artist felt really alien to me. I was seeing art, both online and in exhibitions, and art made by my peers said a lot towards what I was interested in, they really led the way for me.
So I feel like facilitation was an urge that came naturally out of this realisation, and that urge became wanting to hold space for this to happen for others. This relationship (and responsibility) is really important to me, a sympathy to the creative process as a facilitator creates a space for care and compassion, and I know that this is something I will be doing, and learning from for the rest of my life.
Grace wears the ribbed cotton kaftan and ribbed cotton skirt, both by Baserange. Grace wears her own shoes throughout.
In the gallery: Dr Leonie Ngahuia Mansbridge, “He Piko, He Taniwha, He Piko He Taniwha" “Middle of Nowhere but a Place of Somewhere”
You’ve been involved in several artist-run initiatives, galleries, and projects around Perth. Tell us about a few memorable experiences.
Coming out of University with this urge, I almost fell into working in Artist Run Initiatives (ARIs), as I had a few friends that had started a multi venue art space in the basement of the old Myer Building in Fremantle called Success Arts. From there I worked as Co-Director at Moana Project Space, which was an architectural feat built into the heritage listed Moana Chambers Building on Hay Street. It was here that I would meet the incredible people that I would continue to work with over the coming years.
Within this time the most notable experiences have been the ones that have been born out of late night scheming and planning, and projects that we never thought we could possibly bring to life but did anyway. I owe so much of these memorable experiences to the people that carried me through it. The ARI community here is so important for new ideas to grow and to be supported, there are so many talented creatives in Perth and seeing these artists and their ideas move through these spaces into bigger (wilder) things is really rewarding.
You were one of the founding members of Cool Change back in 2018. How and why did the project first come into being?
This project came to life when our time in the Moana Chambers building ended in November 2017. The team at the time, Jessica Boyce, Emma Buswell, Miranda Johnson, Matthew Siddall and myself came together with Melissa McGrath and Shoshana Rosenberg. We began searching for viable tenancies together over the coming many months and then found where we are now, on the first floor of the Bon Marche building, in May 2018. Cool Change established itself with many intentions, one of which was to be agile and responsive to what moves within it and around it, to listen to our audience and to each other. The project has grown in so many ways and team now includes Mayma Awaida, Aisyah Aaqil Sumito, Samuel Beilby, Paul Boyé, Jenn Garland, Nathan Lewis, Andrew Varano, and Miranda Johnson and myself, and we are all really eager to see where the project will go next.
Grace wears the classic sleeveless pleated dress and neon yellow Sprout top, both by Pleats Please.
In the gallery: Benjamin Barretto, "A finely tempered nature longs" from exhibition "The Turquoise".
What’s on the horizon for Cool Change?
We are currently working on establishing a shop space at Cool Change which stocks publications, artist books, jewellery and objects. We also have expressions of interest open to exhibit at Cool Change between August and December this year, they close on June 21st, so programming our next block is on the horizon, and I am very much looking forward to closing out the year with some new programming.
Your own practice as an artist often incorporates new media - video and the internet especially. How do you imagine the internet will shape the future of art and exhibition?
This doesn’t need to be imagined because it is already happening. The internet has been an integral way for me to explore new artworks and ideas. Only recently have we seen the way that both fashion and art presentation has moved to a virtual platform, with exhibitions moving to 3D walkthrough spaces, and avatars modelling clothes for fashion look books. I am really intrigued to see if this will continue to happen in the future, as I think it not only engages a range of different makers and creatives, but changes the way we think about fashion and art entirely.
Grace wears high-neck pleated dress and classic trousers by Pleats Please. Vintage Issey Miyake coat Grace's own.
In the gallery, left: Dr Leonie Ngahuia Mansbridge, “He Piko, He Taniwha, He Piko He Taniwha" “Middle of Nowhere but a Place of Somewhere”; and right: Clara Joyce, "Vitalise Surface, Clothing the Screen".
Do you think that fashion and art intersect?
My own observations see the line between art and fashion forever blurring, the incorporation of art objects into runway styling and collections excites me so much. It becomes wearable art, paintings become fluid and imprinted into textiles and ceramic sculptural elements become details such as buttons and beads, or accessories like papiermache become handbags. I love to see the way that designers are really leaning into this ever obscuring middle ground, it gives me a lot of hope for where this ever evolving boundary pushing relationship can go.
What informs your own style of dressing?
My body definitely informs the way that I dress, I play with interesting silhouettes, and respond to how certain shapes and fabrics work on my body. I have always had a curvy form to work with, and I have loved this call and response relationship that I have to my style of dressing because of this. It’s always elastic with the changes of my body, the changes in the weather, or certain trends that emerge. My style is fluid but hard edged, always leaning into colour blocking or dark colours, and an impractical handbag is essential. You will always see me carrying lots of things because my handbags are too small.
Cool Change Contemporary is located on the first floor of the Bon Marche arcade building, 74 Barrack Street, Perth. Exhibitions are open Wednesday-Saturday from 11am to 5pm.
Photography by Tülay Dinçel.