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Art meets architecture in gallery installation

Arts & Culture

Adelaidean Steven Cybulka is one of eight young Australian artists selected to showcase their work in a national exhibition that highlights how art can physically connect with those viewing it.

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Cybulka, a sculpture installation artist who started his working life as a carpenter, has created a large site-specific work titled Divisions that serves as the “skeleton” of the 2016 Primavera: Young Australian Artists exhibition, opening this week at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

At about 3.6m high and featuring four panels each up to 9m long, the installation takes up most of the gallery space and walks a line between sculpture and architecture.

“It’s made up of materials that are of the gallery space itself,” Cybulka says.

“So it’s got Gyprock walls, timber frames, and Gyprock plastered walls that are painted white – the same as the walls of the gallery.”

Exhibition visitors will walk in and see one large straight wall, which could be mistaken as part of the gallery itself, but as they move around it becomes overtly sculptural, and the walls begin to tilt and move.

“It’s working with some of the other pieces in the exhibition,” Cybulka says

One of these is a trapeze work that seeks to evoke feelings of anxiety and fear – “so as you move around the space and you look up at this performer on a trapeze, the whole wall next to you starts to lean over and fall towards you. There’s a vibe created through the works.”

Exhibition organisers say visitors will be encouraged to feel Primavera through their senses. Other exhibits include a “new world” encountered through a virtual-reality headset and an experience that invites viewers to breathe an air compound created by the artist.

Cybulka, who graduated from UniSA in 2015 with a Bachelor of Visual Arts and Applied Design (first-class honours), is the only South Australian chosen to show his work in the exhibition, which is intended to promote artists in the early stages of their career.

He made the switch from carpentry to studying arts after suffering a back injury, but says he was already drawing and painting even during his years as a tradie. He discovered his passion for sculpting while taking a mix of art classes at university.

“I fell in love with it, and it just evolved from there.”

Over the past two years, Cybulka has completed two public works, one at Adelaide Festival Centre for the SALA festival (2014), and another at the Ergo Apartments on Sturt Street (2015).

He was offered the opportunity to create a work for Primavera after meeting exhibition curator Emily Cormack early this year, and says he drew inspiration from the concept of the body and how people experience artwork and space.

“Part of my practice is seeing if we can take those really simple geometric, architectural shapes and, just by composition, enlist an emotional response from that. Not by just physically moving through the space, but changing the way people feel in the space.”

After Primavera, Cybulka is having a solo exhibition in Sydney in December.

As for the future, he is keen to continue working in different locations and with different-sized pieces.

“I haven’t got exhibitions locked in for next year, but I’m just currently putting in proposals, and will spend a bit of time making new work.

“I’ve also got travel plans for next year to travel to Indonesia, and possibly to America as well.”

The Primavera exhibition is at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney from September 29 until December 4.

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