Karen Annett-Thomas. Photo: BRENDAN McCARTHY


The La Trobe Art Institute is hosting a series of art events and exhibitions on the theme of collaborations – hence the title Collaboratory.

The two exhibitions are distinguished by a sense of fun and intrigue.

In the North Gallery, there’s the highly regarded artist and professor of the Victorian College of the Arts, Jon Cattapan, along with self-taught wunderkind, Ben Aitken.

Their works aren’t sitting side by side, but are the result of a process where the artists, using oil and acrylic, have shared the same canvas.

Public programs coordinator Karen Annett-Thomas said`the two artists literally swapped the canvases between them.

“John would paint something on the canvas and then Ben would respond to John’s work,” she said.

“The canvas would go back and forwards between the two artists until they came to a mutual resolution.”

Ms Annett-Thomas said she has tried to pick the elements which were characteristic of each of the artist’s work but was unable to do so.

“I thought I had them picked when I went for the dots,” she laughed.

“Jon often employs them. But I realised Ben was responding with his own dots.”

That inability to pull apart the two artists’ works is in fact a successful outcome.

By their powers combined, they have achieved a series of striking artworks, distinguished by strong colours and a certain air of playfulness.

In the South Gallery the tone shifts as dark velvet curtains are pulled aside to reveal a sinister, illuminated work at the heart of a dark room.

Artists Pip Ryan and Natalie Ryan work individually and as the duo the Ryan Sisters.

In this instance they’ve created the setting for a seance where a central table is bordered by a series of hands (which have been taken from moulds of the sisters’ hands) and is lit from above by striated lighting.

Not only is the result a nicely scary tableau, but the Ryan sisters have created an installation which possesses an innate sense of balance.

– Dianne Dempsey