Robbie Karmel: Sitting Standing Turning | 5 APR – 8 JUN
Robbie Karmel, Tulpa Drawing 1 (2023) Image courtesy of the artist.

Robbie Karmel, Tulpa Drawing 1 (2023) Image courtesy of the artist.

EXHIBITION DATES: 5 April – 8 June, 2024

OFFICIAL OPENING: Friday 5 April, 6pm

Participatory Event: Saturday 20 April, 2:30 – 4:30pm

Panel Drawing Performance: Saturday 25 May, 2:30pm – 4:30pm

Sitting Standing Turning presents an eclectic range of work from the breadth of Robbie Karmel’s practice, including drawing, handmade furniture, printmaking, and performance. This exhibition presents two core elements of Karmel’s practice—an ongoing investigation into embodied drawing and making practices, and the making of art as a therapeutic practice.

The seed for this exhibition was the colourful Tulpa Drawings that Karmel started in 2021 during a period of severe mental illness exacerbated by the COVID-19 epidemic and the isolation of the lockdowns. The Tulpa Drawings were done with bright colour pencils in an attempt to reclaim joy and vibrancy in drawing. The term ‘tulpa’ is an esoteric spiritualist term appropriated from Tibetan philosophy that describes a figure or being generated from the mind that takes on its own agency. The figures in these drawings are simultaneously manifestations of stress, anxiety, and trauma, as well as being an evocation of joy, revelry in process, rest, and healing. These drawings play and experiment with figures and forms, proposing fantastical pieces of bodies and furniture, which inform the sculptural forms that follow.

The sculptural furniture works in Sitting Standing Turning are handmade — employing and maintaining hand tools and machines serves as a form of mindful activity, and as a means to keep oneself engaged and occupied with meaningful tasks. The acquisition of a lathe in 2023 focused this aspect of the practice and dramatically expanded the language of forms that could be made. Leading to works such as the Head Bowl series, turned wooden bowls that are worn on the head and drawn on by the wearers in individual or collective participatory performances or workshops. These objects provide a meditative space to observe, consider, and respond to perceptual experience—the shape and senses of the body, the weight of the bowl, interactions with others, and the tangled activity of drawing. These objects are an invitation for social production of drawings that are ambiguous in their subject, object, author, and viewer. These are also objects that are played with, drawn on, broken, fixed, modified, pulled apart and put together again. This social, collective activity aims to be a panacea to alienation and isolation.

The work in this show, from the initial drawings, to the making of the objects, and the activity of drawing with the apparatus are therapeutic responses to trauma, as attentive and behaviorally activating tasks that can facilitate a flow state and produce a work that celebrates the process of creation and as an opportunity and talisman for revelry and enjoyment. They also serve as a documentation of a process of recovery, from sitting, to standing, to turning.

Participatory Event

Join Robbie Karmel for a discussion about embodied drawing and making practices, then participate in performative drawing using the Head Bowls in the exhibition. Karmel’s investigation into the embodied aspect of drawing focuses heavily on proprioception (one’s sense of bodily position in space) and how tools expand the capacities and become extensions of the body. Drawing with studio apparatus such as the wearable Head Bowls invites participants to collectively experience a meditative space to observe, consider, and respond to perceptual experience—the shape and senses of the body, the weight of the bowl, interactions with others, and experience the tangled activity of drawing. After the drawing session participants will be able to take a monoprint of the collectively produced drawing by wrapping a piece of paper around the bowl and rubbing on the outside to make a print.

Click here to book for the Participatory Event

Panel Drawing Performance

Robbie Karmel aims to interrogate the role of the body in art-making through the challenging physical and collaborative process of “panel drawing”. Stay to discuss his practice over a cuppa.

Click here for the Panel Drawing Performance

About the Artist

Robbie Karmel completed his PhD at UNSW A+D and returned to Canberra in 2019 to establish Studio Studio in Mitchell with Richard Blackwell. His research and practice explore concepts of mimetic representation, phenomenological embodiment, perception, tool use, and representation through expanded drawing practices, extending into printmaking, sculptural and performative methods.

Working with charcoal, oilstick and graphite on paper or timber surfaces, Karmel maps out the body relying on the intermodal array of senses, challenging dominant opticentric modes of picture making. This work includes the production of studio furniture, apparatus, and tools to facilitate and interrupt solo and collaborative performative drawing processes. Karmel has had solo exhibitions in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Perth and has undertaken residencies nationally and internationally.

Robbie Karmel, Tulpa Drawing 1 (2023) Image courtesy of the artist.

Robbie Karmel, Tulpa Drawing 2 (2023) Image courtesy of the artist.