Blog

Art of the Skull: Bringing ideas to life

By: Amanda Teer, Category: At The Museum, Date: 02 Dec 2014

A blog series with stories from the artists, designers & illustrators involved in the contemporary pop up gallery in the Aztecs exhibition.

Art of the Skull Pop-Up Gallery

Art of the Skull Pop-Up Gallery
Photographer: Stuart Humphreys © Australian Museum

One thing I love to do is collaborate. As a Senior Graphic Designer at the Australian Museum, I work across print and exhibition graphics with many different departments. Outside my work at the Museum, I am a design educator, have worked with not for profit organisations on campaigns and even worked with a musician on a music video! Initiating and coordinating the 'Art of the Skull' Pop Up Gallery was a perfect fit.

The Aztecs project was an interesting one – beautiful sculptural artefacts and story telling imagery that illuminated these objects. There was much inspiration to draw on, as with many other stories and collections at the Museum.

Whilst working on ideas for the Marketing and Exhibition graphics, I searched for a visual link between the Aztecs, modern day Mexico and here, in Sydney, today, where we are showing this exhibition. Amongst the colours, patterns, symbols and meanings, the skull appeared to be one of the motifs that reoccured – from Aztec 'skull walls' and tombstone carvings, day of the dead sugar skulls and across art and fashion today.

The Aztecs exhibition follows a narrative that takes you from their very beginnings through to the Spanish conquest and beyond, to modern day Mexico at the end of the exhibition. It seemed a natural fit to further explore their relevance and legacy, with some local content. I invited creatives Lissa Barnum, a Mexican Sydney based friend and colleague to create a Day of the Dead display and a local Sydney based textile artist Emily Besser to create a small jewellery piece also.

Just past this contemporary section, the ‘Art of the Skull’ Pop Up Gallery appears in a dedicated space, within the Aztecs exhibition retail experience. The brief to the artists was kept simple – include or reference a skull, create a single work or series, and provide the works to be hung on a wall.

I was excited that when I initially floated the idea with a few creatives – the response was immediate and positive. The selection of the artists came about naturally and included screenprinters, illustrators, designers, photographers and painters. This is by no means a definitive survey of the skull as an idea or form, nor a comprehensive list of creatives, but just the start! As the works were delivered, it was like Christmas, unwrapping the 20 or so works and coordinating how they may work together within the space.

I always think of the Museum as a great source of inspiration. I often wonder how we could share the Museum with new audiences, how to look at things in a new light and provide a refreshing experience for the visitor. This was a great way of collaborating and sharing ideas.

All works are for sale, come in and take a look when you’re visiting the Aztecs exhibition, and I hope you’ll join me in supporting the creatives who helped bring this idea to life.

Participating artists include The Distillery; Elin Matilda Andersson; Evi Oetomo; Heath Killen; James King; Kate Banazi; Blacklist Studio; Paul Garbett; Roberto Duran; Steph Tsai; and, TMOD.

Some of Amanda’s work can be seen around the Museum and on her Instagram @amazingracer