Lee Salomone
Fragments; a widening vision
Adelaide Contemporary Experimental

by Jane Llewellyn

Displayed on Adelaide Contemporary Experimental’s gallery floor in the form of a metaphorical garden, Lee Salomone’s exhibition Fragments; a widening vision is a collection of memories, personal histories and ancestral stories. The artist combines found objects and bronze casts to create sculptures infused with narrative.

This is Salomone’s first major institutional exhibition in more than a decade and was made possible through the Porter Street Commission. The $20,000 award has allowed the artist to work on a larger scale and expand his practice. He has surrounded himself with talented people who make his exhibitions possible, particularly Dawn Kanost, who assists with the installation of his work.

The installation process is an important part of Salomone’s practice, incorporating the negative space of the white cube into the layout. Fragments; a widening vision features table legs sprouting from the gallery floor, table tops thoughtfully arranged and scattered pieces of garden hose.

The exhibition encapsulates the artist’s personal history and explores ideas around identity and connection to place. Raised by his grandparents, Salomone sees the table as a place where stories are told and culture is passed on.

Sourcing found objects on road trips and field trips is organic and intuitive for Salomone. He can’t explain why he chooses certain table tops, table legs and other found objects; they simply speak to him. Over the last three decades of developing his artistic practice, he has learned to trust the process. He might not know at the time how the objects will be incorporated into his work but after ongoing contemplation, it eventually becomes clear.

One of the standout pieces in the exhibition is Lanimale/The animal. The beautifully crafted wooden table base features bronze xanthorrhoeas (grass trees) growing out of it. The recurring presence of the trees in Salomone’s work reflects the long history of the native plant, dating back to before colonisation. It also represents the artist’s commitment to caring for the land.

Installation view: Lee Salomone’s Fragments; a widening vision, including the works Ancestor Stools. Photo: Peter Fong

Another work on display, Ancestor Stools, features wooden stools that belonged to Salomone’s grandparents, demonstrating how his personal history is assimilated into his work. The stools again feature bronze xanthorrhoeas and each contains soil from various sources, including Salomone’s garden, his parents’ and his grandparents’ gardens. This work emphasises our connection to the land and highlights the artist’s interest in gardening, which was instilled by his Italian grandparents.

Also on display are works from the series Maps Without Coordinates. These are discarded pieces of sandpaper that have been framed and turned into abstract works of art. Each piece of sandpaper represents potential as it was once used to transform objects. Used sandpaper is often discarded but in these works, Salomone is repurposing it and highlighting its beauty.

Fragments; a widening vision is a culmination of 30 years of art-making and collecting found objects. Salomone invites the audience to wander through the garden and admire the beautiful pieces he has collected, and to also reflect on our relationship to nature.

Lee Salomone’s Fragments; a widening vision is at Adelaide Contemporary Experimental until August 10.