Annabelle Collett: Creator and catalyst

Annabelle Collett: Creator and catalyst
Kathie Muir
Wakefield Press

A photograph depicts a reclining female figure wearing a ‘wicked smile’ and an 80s chunky knit, its geometric print mirroring her surroundings – a prelude to the aesthetic explosion of colour, creativity, and pattern within the pages of this publication, detailing the artistic career of designer and artist, Annabelle Collett (1955-2019).

Collett blurred the lines separating art, design and craft; branding her as both creator and catalyst. This publication complements the recent retrospective exhibition at Signal Point Gallery at Goolwa, South Australia, curated by Eleanor Scicchitano. The show, and this book, feature work from each era of Collett’s artistic career including dramatic knitwear, contemporary pieces which articulate non-conformist and feminist themes, through to playful ‘plastic fantastic’ bodices that Madonna would envy.

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Kathie Muir’s words form a comprehensive view of Collett’s practice, divided into five sections, each dealing with an aspect of the artist’s practice. Firstly, we are introduced to Collett’s Ya Ya enterprise of commissioned fashion items, public art and interior design, notably Limbo nightclub in the early 1980s. The latter admired by architects who could not circumvent that ‘a chick did this’. A testament to Collett’s ability to produce quality work, remodel theories and practice of social norms and industry standards within a feminist perspective; ultimately redefining the male gaze. From the early 1990s, she made sculptural pieces about the human form and its coverings, focusing on the function and cultural meaning of attire regarding gender constructions. Her corsets representing the ‘predatory and corrosive impacts of the pressure to conform to particular ideals of beauty and sexuality,’ writes Muir.

Collett’s work was primarily political. By repurposing debris and discarded everyday items, she brought awareness to the effects of plastic waste through touring exhibitions and public programs, focusing on the ethics of overconsumption, while keeping learning fun. Muir continues to discuss the artist’s significant contribution to the art community; collaborating, organising and curating, as well as briefly touching on the artist’s investigations into camouflage, disguise and the disruption of pattern.

‘Annabelle Collett: Creator and catalyst’ styles the many layers of Collett’s creative legacy; appliquéd with an extensive gallery of images of artworks and photographs of the artist, and short interviews. While tributes from fellow artists, designers and curators salute Collett’s prolific practice and persistent nature; ‘She always had new ideas on the boil, new plans in the offing, new stitches to sew,’ recalls Julie Ewington.