Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Slab - Postcards from Laika

What a wonderful exhibition, perfect for the ‘Year of the Dog’ although a little sad regarding the theme for the show. ‘Postcards from Laika’ the first dog to go unwittingly into space and to have a heart attack before leaving Earth’s atmosphere. But forever remembered for her bravery!

23 Artists from the Blue Mountains and beyond were invited to contribute a work primarily A5 in size to go into a silent auction to raise funds for equipment for The Slab, a fledgling ARI based in Hazelbrook and run by Miriam Williamson & Brad Allen-Waters.

Contributing Artists are: Pam Vaughan, Judith Martinez Estrada, Chia Moan, Fiona Davies, Ian Milliss & Wendy Carlson, Fleur MacDonald, Sarah Breen Lovett, Billy Gruner, Caroline Wilde, Vivienne Dadour, Beata Geyer, Fi Kanera, Emma Rooney, Brad Allen-Waters, Graham Davis-King, John Prendergast, Jacquelene Drinkall, Anne Hughes, Miriam Williamson and Ivy Frechtling, Pearl Frechtling and Tallulah Costa.

The opening of this show was fabulous, with an amazing sound performance by Brad Allen-Waters and Jon Drummond, Brad on his hand made Aesthetiscope (a formal kinetic sculpture “The Aesthetiscope” expressing the physics of optics, the essence of early to mid 20th Century design and analogue electro mechanics) This thing blew my mind, Brad has made a unique piece of Sound Art out of found objects sourced from everywhere. It is a thing of mesmerizing beauty and if ever you get a chance to see it perform then do not hesitate to see it.

Oh there was cake too, Miriam is a fantastic cake maker, a Sputnik Cake and a CCCP Cake and they were Sooooo delicious!

The beauty of silent auctions is that you don’t know who did what, it’s also a great way to start a collection as these works are affordable. So many great and gorgeous works to choose from such as No.7 ‘Saint Laika, Patron Saint of Unwilling Martyrs’ mixed media, you can see it’s made with love with strings of pearls as stars in the sky and the surface of a planet, the tiny dog face peering out of the small window of the pressed and thin cut tin.

The painfully sad No.6 ‘Let Me Out’ it’s as if Laika was tearing at the inside of her ship to get out, demonstrated in the torn canvas. No.3 ‘USSR Dog in Space, clearly written here in painted Russian. No.1 ‘With Love to Laika’ Dry point etching oozes a love for all dogs. The woven work No.21 ‘Laika’s Dream’ made with stainless steel, silk, cotton, metallic thread and copper, it’s gorgeously luxurious. No.18 ‘signal in an Orange Universe’ watercolour, is a little ripper with it’s vibrant orange background and sensitive green.

No.15 ‘In space no one can hear you bark’ acrylic & pencil, a silent sensitive work in mainly black and white, dark sky, white dog quietly reflective. A cat amongst the dogs, No.12 ‘First Cat in Space’ sharing it’s true story in all it’s colourful glory. Oh to be a dog, No.11 ‘Doggie in Space’ watercolour, I think it’s title references that movie with Michael Hutchence, but the painting is oh so sweet.

If you need more information or want to see this show then hurry as it closes 20th February, the silent auction closes mid night 19th February and you can register to be a bidder via or message the Facebook page The Slab.  There are Rules as in minimum bid $20 with a minimum raise of $5.

I’m hoping I can come home with one so don’t miss out!

Fleur MacDonald
20th January - 20th February 2018

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Gallery 47 - Damian Castaldi

“Our Town” a collection of portraits of some of the inhabitants from Kandos and Rylstone, a cheeky look at the different characters that make up the two towns.  Damian took the happy snap approach, sometimes unawares but mostly with his recipients permission.  The portrait of ‘Deb No.14’ has the air of contempt, her eyes giving Damian that sly sideways look as if he is about to be roused on.  I remember the event well as it was a hot sunny day in the backyard of a Kandos local.

‘No.6 Bruce’ almost with an eerie quality, captured between blinks and before his passing, may he rest in peace.

Another Kandos local ‘No.5 Cowboy’ with his faithful dog has been given the painterly affect, the boldness of the red dirt enveloping the figure while the dog hides in the shadow, the gorgeous mountain basking under the wide blue sky.

‘No.1 Colleen & Caroline’ looking like two tourists snapped while holidaying on the French Riviera, but alas they are in Kandos and happy to be photographed by the wonderful Damian.

It was great turnout for the opening in Rylstone at the popular Gallery 47 with delicious wine from the local Naked Lady Winery.

Fleur MacDonald

6th - 29th January 2018

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Noosa Regional Gallery - Nicola Moss

Nicola Moss’ exhibition, ‘Life on the edge’ at Noosa Regional Gallery sets the tone for the region’s Floating Land Festival which celebrates the natural beauty of Noosa, the river foreshore and surrounds.

The show ponders the question, ‘What value does a healthy environment have for you?’ and Noosa’s Biosphere Reserve presents a unique ecology for the artist to work within. She sees the region as being dedicated to people and place where lifestyle balances environment, economy and social well-being. With this in mind Nicola Moss set out to explore the value of healthy environment to local communities and visitors to the region.

The dedication of volunteer bush carers; numerous energetic lifestyle activities and the forest symphony of birds resonate strongly with this artist. Her own experiences in the region, including walking in nature reserves, sitting beside creeks painting, quiet observation along National Park trails, hugging giant hoop pines, sailing across Lake Cootharaba and visiting tree farms have contributed to reflections on place in the featured artworks.

Over the year of creating work for ‘Life on the edge’, a theme developed highlighting relationships between trees and water, and how these contribute to healthy ecosystems. Clean waters are a key quality throughout the Noosa Biosphere Reserve, from hinterland creeks to Noosa Spit dog beaches it is evident.

‘Life on the edge’ presents the results of papers carried on site to be stained with tree bark rubbings, charcoal burnishing or adorned with tiny individual brush drops of watercolour. These are melded with numerous conversations and observations. She has also created in the studio with layering processes of cutting, interweaving and collaging of elements. The resulting artworks harbour countless stories of place, identity and human interaction.

Floating Land is a five-week arts festival of exhibitions, events and workshops in nature about nature, the highlight of which are the sculptures created in outdoor natural settings. Its aim is to leave no mark on the environment but only to make an impression on the people who visit.

Nicola’s show and the festival continue until 15 October.

Nicola will also be running workshops at the Gallery. For more information go to

Guest Reviewer
Amy Clarke

8th September - 15th October 2017

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Fleur's Q & A for Cementa Co-Directors 2017

1. Can you outline how the Cementa festival has had a positive effect on the town of Kandos over the years since its inception?

In terms of a festival, the four years of our operation is a very small time frame and it is a little premature to make pronouncements about the ‘positive effect’ we have had on the town.  The effect of a festival that occupies only four days over two years, will not really be known for a number of years yet.   I can say anecdotally that at least nine people have moved up.  How many have bought? ……. people have and bought houses in Kandos and Rylstone as a direct result of Cementa. I do also think that the festival has put Kandos on the map for a lot of people in Sydney and has promoted the natural beauty of our area as great reason to visit and even settle here. We have begun to shift perceptions about Kandos and given a lot of people a reason to come up and pay us a visit.

2. A key element of the festival is the invitation for the Artists to spend time in Kandos on a residency.  However the word ‘Artist’ can be difficult to define for some members of the community.. How has Cementa engaged with the local residents to help break down any preconceived ideas?

I don’t think ‘artist’ is difficult for people to define.   For people who aren’t used to contemporary art, it can come as a bit of a surprise to see installation, sound or video art when your concept of art prior to that is painting and sculpture.  It will always come as a bit of a shock, but it’s really not that large of a leap and people here, like anywhere else, have made it easily.  That doesn’t mean they are going to immediately like the new art, and they certainly don’t have to. 

I think this kind of engagement can be the most interesting – at times yielding responses that are far more significant than the well rehearsed repetitions that circulate in the art world.  An artist at the first festival reported my favourite anecdote.  The artist had asked an older gentleman what he thought of the art.  His reply was that he didn’t like the art very much, but he loved the ideas.  It’s a response you just would not get out of the art world.  Perhaps the other side of this question is to ask, how will the challenge of addressing art to a non-art audience change how we think about and make art?

Not to avoid the question, we have thought a bit about this.  Asking artists to visit the town and make work that addresses the social, historical, cultural and environmental context of Kandos is central to our strategy for engaging the local and regional audience.  It occurred to us that even if this audience is not familiar with the language of contemporary art, if the work addresses the town as its subject matter, this gives them a position from which to approach it.  It gives them a way into the work, from an understanding and familiarity with the subject matter that means they do not need to depend on a familiarity with the conventions of contemporary art in order to feel comfortable or confident about their own experience of a work.

We have also hosted a number of art works that engaged directly with locals, like Karen Therese’s “The District” in Cementa15, which was a conversation between locals from different backgrounds that festival visitors could participate in.   Cementa15 also hosted 3 projects that directly involved engagements from high schools.  We have also hosted a number of workshops in the practices of visiting artists to local kids and as a part of the development of Cementa17 we had an exciting engagement between two artists with disabilities and kids from the special education unit at Kandos High School. 

That said, we are aware that we are only scratching the surface and are working to further deepen our relationship and engagement with community.  Community engagement will be a focus of Cementa19 and we are already planning a number of activities to better involve a larger section of the community but also to examine community engagement as an artistic practice.   I think we have an exciting opportunity to look honestly at the role that community engaged art can take.

3. The number of Artists for each festival seems to be growing and growing and for 2017, includes an exchange program with artists in New York, but are local artists being invited or overlooked? 

We have included as many local artists who have been willing to participate by hosting a local painting salon.   We give this exhibition our prime venue at Kandos Projects and even host it with its own opening.  This is a great event for us because it is where all the local artists and visiting artists get to meet and hang out on the first evening of the festival.  We also have a number of local artists that have participated by contributing work to the general festival every year that it is on.  We also endeavor to bring in as many regional artists as possible.  Engaging regional artists is a priority for Cementa, which gives opportunities to artists living across regional NSW an opportunity to participate in a major, mainstream art event.   This is one of the chief challenges that any artist living in the regions faces and we are proud to have helped so many brilliant regional artists connect to the broader arts community.

Beyond this, we have welcomed and promoted local ceramicist Debbie Stone to host her ceramics event, Ceramica at every festival and also the local painting group exhibition at the CWA.

4. Cementa is a free four-day cultural event and festivals like these cannot function without major financial support. Can you give us a little insight on where this festivals funding goes?

As you say, the festival is free.  We don’t charge money for entry, and frankly we aren’t really sure how it would go if we attempted to charge entry into a town, which is what we would have to do since the festival is held across the town.  Thankfully, we live in a country where the arts are supported and the public funding we receive allows us to offer a vibrant contemporary arts festival in Kandos that is open to everyone, regardless of their economic situation.   90% of Cementa funding comes from State and Federal arts funding.  This funding is earmarked for the arts and distributed through a highly competitive process of selection.  It predominantly goes to the cities.  Cementa brings some of this funding to our area.  We endeavor to hire locals and use local services wherever possible.  We also require artists to complete a residency at Kandos in order to make their work, which also means that all the artists contributing to the local economy while they are here.

We have recently begun to attract private funding contributions and are working to grow this part of our support base.  In addition to these forms of support, over the last four years Cementa staff and artists have contributed in unpaid labour, almost as much as we have received in funding.

Thank you to Ann Finegan, Christine McMillan and Alex Wisser

Fleur MacDonald

6th - 9th April 2017

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Wollongong Art Gallery - Visions of Utopia

Currently showing at the Wollongong Art Gallery is Visions of Utopia curated by long time artist, educator and commentator Andrew Christofides.  The show comprises of work spanning over sixty years of Australian non objective art incorporating inspired and unexpected inclusions.  The show bursts with the sense of purpose and commitment to exploring the formal elements of picture making orchestrating the aspects of abstract visual phenomena to create a purity of image that is evocative and poetic without the limitations of drawing reference from the physical world.

Colour, composition, pattern and texture all come into play as vital ends in their own right where decisions are made through a predefined process and/or an instinctive in the moment response the last mark made.

This show asserts that there is precedent and tradition within the chronology and a reverence to their historical predecessors.

From Ralph Balson, a stunning Grace Crowley and a scene stealing Hector Gilliard right through to an array of current non objective and reductive artists of varying profiles each work has a standard that showcases the form in an exceptional light individually and collectively.  The breadth of the show illustrates the infinite options of visual elements that have been explored over the last half century.

Within the flow of the show works by Louise Blyton, Susan Andrew and Chris Firmstone are hung together to illustrate the possibilities of shapes as the works rather than just shapes within the work. John Aslanidis, William Rose and Leonard Crawford are grouped as works that have a sonic or musical /auditory premise.  David Serisier and Suzie Idiens sit alongside each other emphasizing contrasting approaches to surface, density and application and along with Blyton’s the intense expression of pure colour.

The essential thing here is to approach this show with an open mind.  Allow the visual interplays to engage you as you would an evocative piece of music.  To feel and absorb the deliciousness of the orchestration of colour, tone, texture, shape and rhythm in an almost subconscious state of mind is as rewarding as art viewing can be.

A good selection of other currently practicing artists that I’ve known and followed over the years is here.  Lynne Eastaway, Sandra Curry, Stephen Wickham, Virginia Coventry, Syd Ball whose practice links the generations from the sixties to the present and of course Andrew Christofides himself .

Visions of Utopia is currently showing at Wollongong Art Gallery till the 20th November before travelling to the Penrith Regional Gallery.

Glenn Locklee

3rd September - 20th November 2016