Strange Embrace at Blue Mountains Cultural Centre

strange embrace for enews

By Blue Mountains Cultural Centre

Discover what the concept of Strange Embrace means to five artists working in a variety of art forms at a new exhibition at Blue Mountains Cultural Centre from May 30 to July 19.

Curated by Rilka Oakley, Strange Embrace showcases new works resulting from five artists working in art forms such as experimental, installation, action research, live art and photography to create artwork addressing the concept.

Finding ourselves in odd or unusual situations with another human being can often mean embarrassment, awkward silence, random exchanges or uncanny recognition. The works in Strange Embrace all explore the edges of what is comfortable with regard to social encounters. The exhibiting artists (Cath Barcan, Anne Graham, Astra Howard, Daniel Kojta and Honi Ryan) all interpret this in their own exceptional way.

This exhibition is particularly unique as the five artists jointly attended a seven day live-in residency at Bilpin International Ground for Creative Initiatives (BigCi) as part of the exhibition development. The intensive residency allowed them to gain understanding into each other’s practices and form collaborative and meaningful relationships while working towards a common exhibition.

Artist Astra Howard said: “My work is embracing the people, its embracing the town but because I am doing it in a slightly awkward way the normal rules of how you engage with someone are not quite the same.”

“I work in a slow immersive way and it was interesting to be around artists who are comfortable creating work in a moment that may only last for one minute,” Barcan said.

The artists are all making new work specifically for the Strange Embrace exhibition.

Barcan has been photographing visitors to the Blue Mountains City Art Gallery. A selection of the photographs will be printed life-sized and will incorporate a thread running through each photo linking the subjects together.

Daniel Kojta engages with the body and is creating a wrestling space where visitors are invited to wrestle with a life-sized dummy on a mat in front of a mirror.

Honi Ryan also references the body and personal relationships. One way Ryan does this is through a set of instructions for the viewer to take and perform outside of the gallery space.

Astra Howard has been out in the streets of the Blue Mountains engaging locals in conversations surrounding the idea of place. Howard is creating a text based work of collected stories, fragments of poetry and impressions of place from these encounters.

Anne Graham has created portraits of the four other artists – these are not traditional portraits – they are installations that represent the subject. Graham gets to know her subjects and intuitively selects objects to represent elements that stand out.

Strange Embrace will unfold before your eyes in the weeks leading up to the exhibition.

The opening of Strange Embrace will be held at Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, 30 Parke St, Katoomba, from 6pm to 8pm Friday, May 29. RSVP:

A Strange Embrace panel discussion will also be held from 5.30pm to 7.30pm on Thursday, June 11. Join us for an evening of conversation with Blue Mountains Cultural Centre curator Rilka Oakley, exhibiting artists Cath Barcan and Anne Graham, Sydney College of the Arts lecturer Nicholas Tsoutas and artist director Big Ci Rae Bolotin. In association with Bilpin International Ground for Creative Initiatives

The cultural centre is open from 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday and 10am to 2pm public holidays (closed Good Friday, Christmas Day). Admission $5 adults, $3 concession, members and under-16 free. Details: (02) 4780 5410 or


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