New exhibition pulls focus on skulls and artistry

PIRATES AHOY: Sally Smart installs her 8m x 4m pirate ship artwork for the art gallery's Romancing the Skull exhibition. Picture: Kate Healy
PIRATES AHOY: Sally Smart installs her 8m x 4m pirate ship artwork for the art gallery's Romancing the Skull exhibition. Picture: Kate Healy

At first glance skulls might be a little macabre and creepy but they hold an important place in many cultures.

PASTED SKULLS: City of Ballarat's B’You Youth Development team joined with youth and local artists to brighten the city’s streets and promote Romancing the Skull.

PASTED SKULLS: City of Ballarat's B’You Youth Development team joined with youth and local artists to brighten the city’s streets and promote Romancing the Skull.

And in art they have come to the forefront with the Romancing the Skull exhibition celebrating the artistic value of this important skeletal component.

The exhibition looks at the depiction of the skull in art and examines why we are enamoured with the iconic symbol, while exploring a range of themes including the skull as a reminder of mortality, the use of the skull in addressing social and political issues, and the skull and crossbones as a symbol of piracy and rebellion.

Sally Smart’s massive pirate ship artwork falls in to the latter category.

A skeleton takes pride of place on her 8m by 4m artwork, which has taken her around the world many times at dozens of exhibitions across the globe.

Her fascination with pirates, and in particular female pirates, came after she took her young son to an animated pirate movie and she wondered whether there were any female pirates.

She researched the topic and her artworks began to take on a more high-seas flavour which have culminated in the installation at the Art Gallery of Ballarat.

Each time the pirate ship is shown at another gallery there are different touches added, with traces of gold in the new installation paying tribute to Ballarat’s goldrush past, and a piece of a Eureka Stockade flag artwork she previously used has been recycled in to the latest work.

The ship has crows nests, skeletons and lots of different items embedded in it.

“It’s the kind of art you’ll see different things each time you look at it,” Ms Smart said.

“It looks like it’s got three dimensions to it, and then from another angle it looks two dimensional, and it’s on the wall with a grid giving the idea of a globe or world.”

With final installations being put in place before Romancing the Skull opens at the Art Gallery of Ballarat on Saturday, the City of Ballarat’s B’You Youth Development team, young people and local artists created a series of paste ups to coincide with the exhibition and promote it around town.

Youths aged 14 to 25 took part in a two day workshop to explore different techniques, develop their artistic skills and design paste-ups which were installed in Police Lane, FedUni’s Arts Academy campus, and the Hop Temple Lane.