​Other works subtly draw on the shifting terrains of individual and community memories and experiences of ‘place’ as a locus of social, cultural and physical meaning.

James Newitt, Saturday Nights, 2007, HDV, Image courtesy and the artist, Commissioned as part of the Port Arthur Project, Ten Days on the Island 2007

James Newitt

James Newitt is part of a generation of emerging artists whose practice is informed by an ethos of social engagement or as he prefers, a kind of situational aesthetics. Based in Hobart and having completed doctoral research drawing on relational aesthetics theory, Newitt’s practice uses documentary strategies and incorporates a variety of media – photography, video, sound and installation – to critically investigate social and cultural relationship to place.

His aspiration to be part of a global network of like–minded, inter–disciplinary practitioners has been encouraged through being awarded the Qantas Foundation Encouragement of Contemporary Art in 2009, aimed specifically at ‘artists for whom travel, engaging with new places and situations is important in the development of their practice’. In 2008, he was awarded the Australia Council’s Los Angeles studio residency for three months. The creation of new work such as Dreams in LA, the screening of some of his Australian works in Berlin, and his forthcoming Australia Council residency in Liverpool have further fuelled his desire to build on these international connections and exchanges. 

In an interview discussing his work, Passive Aggressive (2009) shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s exhibition, In the balance: Art for a changing world, Newitt stressed that the work was not motivated by polemical activism, but rather was more a meditation on environmental conflict seen through the strategies of the communities implicated; activist groups and forestry contractors. Other works using doco–style video modes such as Unstable Ground (2007), Saturday Night (2007) and If They Fall (2010) subtly draw on the shifting terrains of individual and community memories and experiences of ‘place’ as a locus of social, cultural and physical meaning. As he has observed: ‘I feel that the balance lies in the production of fragile, poetic work, which has a fluidity of meaning and may hold deep resonance with the viewer outside of the context of its production, but is the result of in–depth engagement with a place or situation.’

Text by Dr Anne Sanders, freelance art historian and writer based near Canberra, who writes regularly for art magazines, journals and exhibition catalogues.

2012 Anne & Gordon Samstag International Visual Arts Scholarship
2012 Research Student, Maumaus Escola de Artes Visuais, Lisbon, Portugal 
2007 PhD, Fine Arts, University of Tasmania
2003 Bachelor of Fine Arts (First Class Honours), University of Tasmania
2001 Bachelor of Fine Arts, University of Tasmania  

Artist's website: www.jnewitt.com 


Samstag Museum of Art, University of South Australia, acknowledges the Kaurna people as traditional custodians of the land upon which the Museum stands.