Going places 

Simon Sieradzki’s paintings of his partner Janne Steinhardt (below), who is pictured above doing her performance/installation art.

SOME of the best art is borne out of adversity.

In September 2021, Perth artist Simon Sieradzki was due to return from his studio residency in Germany, when Australia’s borders slammed shut and he found himself stuck in Leipzig.

After scrambling to find somewhere to stay, he went along to the opening of an art exhibition and bumped into mixed-media artist Janne Steinhardt.

“As she entered the room our eyes were directly catching each other and we both describe it as being unable to miss each other’s presence in the room,” Sieradzki says. “Something fell into place at this moment, is how we would describe it, too.”

“We met on the day of her birthday. Although we took it slowly to begin, we consider it to be love at first sight.

“From the start we were practically inseparable and soon after began collaborating on artworks together in the studio.”

One thing led to another and when Australia’s borders reopened in March, Sieradzki returned to Perth with Steinhardt by his side.

The lovebirds are busy preparing for their debut joint exhibition Landing at the Shopfront Gallery in Northbridge.

A mix of Sieradzki’s oil paintings and Steinhardt’s installation art, the exhibition is an intense study of time, movement and place, with a nod here and there to the couple’s Polish heritage.

Stretching as far back as 2018, the paintings were mostly created during Sieradzki ’s lengthy trips to Germany, with a few from his time at Curtin University when he was doing his PhD.

“In each series of paintings, the studio itself has become a motif. I found each building I worked from unique, especially in East Germany, with an industrial aesthetic that I appreciate.” Sieradzki says.

“I also painted a series of drying flowers, inspired by the changing seasons that are more pronounced in Europe than Australia and life transitions. I also worked with paper planes.

“Perhaps from the influence of the approach of painters of the Alte Leipziger Schule (Old Leipzig School) and contemporary Leipzig painters such as Johannes Rochausen and Steven Black who continue the tradition of the Alte Leipziger Schule.”

If you saw a woman gathering sticks and leaves from your garden, it might just have been Steinhardt.

She’s been busy combing the suburban streets and parks for materials to use as twine in her art installation. 

“She began doing this in Germany, using locally found materials there and continues this theme using things found in Australia, relics or a trace of her journey, like a material-based journal,” Sieradzki says.

“There’s objects collected from the bush and beach near Point Peron in Rockingham, parks, gardens and suburban streets of West North Perth and Leederville.”

Landing’s preview night features a live performance by Steinhardt, a former professional dancer, as she “reacts” to her installations which include hand-painted ceramic sculptures. There will also be live music from the couple.

Having been in Perth for just over a month, Steinhardt says she is still getting used to the wide-open, endless blue skies and vibrant colours: “I think I will never want to get used to the trees and plants and blossoms and floral colours here, because living amongst them makes me feel like I am reborn daily to a new world of beauty. These sky colours are insane! I mean, I have never seen such colours in high definition above my head or down the horizon. The degree of saturation surely does something to my artwork here.” 

Landing is at the Shopfront Gallery, 149 Beaufort Street, from May 19 – 29, with the preview and performance on May 18 at 6pm.

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