Monday, August 1, 2011

Art On Legs 2011

Saturday 30 July 2011
By Kylie Eastley

ArtOnLegs began 10 years ago as Fashion Fantasia.   Hobart-based textile artist Rossy Roberts-Thomson wanted to provide textile artists and creative makers with the opportunity to showcase wearable art in Tasmania.
Its focus, as indicated on the website, is clear:

Fashion is taken to its limit into the area where the body is the canvas on which an installation, an idea, an aesthetic creation ….. is exhibited to an audience for their admiration, appreciation, inspiration and possible sale, whilst at the same time giving the maker/designer/creator an opportunity to make an impact as an artist in a legitimate sense. (

On Saturday night I attended the 10th Annual Awards, this time held at the Farrall Centre at Friends School. It was a perfect venue, providing ample opportunity to view the wearable art pieces. This competition brings together students, emerging and established designers, but it also attracts artists who would otherwise work in ceramics, textiles and other 2-dimensional pieces.

This was my second foray into the ArtOnLegs Wearable Art Awards. I attended it 4 years ago and remember being impressed with the quality of work paraded before us on the runway, but surprised at the number of empty seats and lack of support for the event. I was hopeful that this had changed.

For two hours the audience experiences designs that range from the classic and glamorous, to the crazy and confronting. This is followed by the award presentation, with the major award being the $2 000 acquisition prize. Tasmanian designer Sabrina Evans, recently named one of Australia’s top emerging designers, received this award and her winning garment will be profiled as the face of ArtOnLegs 2012. 

While the type of work presented ranges from conservative ‘ready to wear’ to more artistic creations, any suggestion that this isn’t art can immediately be dismissed, especially when you see the work of Bonnie Beck and Christine White. ‘Have a chat’ is an exquisitely designed and executed piece; cheeky, dynamic and interesting, it leaps out at the audience.

Maggie Wretham’s (QLD) ‘Silk to Junk Mail Kimono’ is exquisitely fashioned from catalogues, remnants of silk and cane matting, while Hannah Johnstone from Friends School amazed the audience with ‘Queen of Coke’, which included an aluminium coke can bustier and tiered skirt. Sustainability and recycling is encouraged and celebrated in this competition.

Kim Pen Pang provided much of the evening’s theatre and humour, especially with ‘My Breathing Apparatus’, which was part of the W’underwear category. Clad in medical tubing and catheters, he gyrated and thrust his way across the stage to the amusement of the audience.  This was one of a number of pieces he presented throughout the evening, but was without doubt the most memorable.

ArtOnLegs entries are inspired by just about anything; events such as the children overboard incident, convict history, global warming and the recent earthquake in Japan. Others look to a more humorous musing of contemporary culture, such as pop icon Lady Gaga. This year’s categories included Feral Wedding, Riches to Rags, Nautical Ball and Dreamtime and materials ranged from tanned cane toad skins, coke cans, hessian, plastic bags, junk mail, chicken wire as well as the more conventional fabrics.

It is clear that the organisers and designers are passionate about continuing ArtOnLegs. It is political, humorous and above all entertaining and interesting. It should be an event that packs the house and attracts more Tasmanian entrants, government support and corporate funds. I know I would have jumped at the chance as an art student to present work like this, which to me definitely embraces performance artists. So the question is after ten years, why is it still only attracting small audiences and limited sponsorship?

Next year I am going to book my ticket and get along to ArtOnLegs 2012 ; it’s a good night out. Maybe I’ll even make a piece, who knows.

See a snapshot of ArtOnLegs at

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