Artist brings image of  Kandos art movement to life

As artist Madeleine Preston began to look around Kandos, she spotted signs of an unrecognised modernist art movement hidden in the town’s history.

In the architecture of the Kandos Bicentennial Museum, she saw a resemblance to the Mission San Juan Bautista featured in Hitchcock’s classic film, Vertigo.

In the design of the logo on the early cement bags, she saw signs of the constructivist functional art movement.

In the museum’s model of a house called Wyola on Donoghue Street, she found an echo of the constructivist habit of building scale models of their ideal buildings - although the constructivists never built their ideal structures.

“People have actually done what the constructivists wanted to do,” she said.

Ms Preston in fact lives in a house that Kandos built, in a Sydney apartment made from Kandos cement in 1929.

“This is such a modernist town,” she said.

“It’s not really a country town; it’s an industrial town.”

Ms Preston arrived in Kandos with preconceptions about the area and her upcoming project that were set aside as she learned about Kandos through the Bicentennial Museum’s collection.

“What I thought it would be and what it was were two different things,” she said.

“There were so many things in the museum that came together for me to make the artwork.”

Extrapolating from the modernist elements she had found, Ms Preston began to put together an image of a movement of modern art that might have existed in Kandos.

“I wanted to do something that talked about how museums create history,” she said.

“You could have a modern art movement, and it did exist and it didn’t exist.”

She filled a display cupboard with artefacts created on behalf of the possible art movement, including manifestos, artwork, objects, and a design for an ideal artist’s residence, which is a scale model of Ms Preston’s apartment.

Using a combination of invention and genuine Kandos artefacts, Ms Preston put together a collection that had many viewers wondering whether the movement represented was real or an invention.

She said museums wrote history through the choices made in their collections and the way items were labelled, whereas the Kandos collection was largely unlabelled and seemed to include everything from the model of Wyola decorated with shells, to a woman’s beautiful embroidery work, to a packet of PK gum.

“Here you've got everything, so everyone is remembered,” Ms Preston said.

Madeleine Preston with her work ‘Counter Intuitive’ at the Cementa_13 contemporary art festival.	030213/cementa/34

Madeleine Preston with her work ‘Counter Intuitive’ at the Cementa_13 contemporary art festival. 030213/cementa/34