Saturday, July 2, 2016

Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre - Glenn Locklee

The work of South West Sydney artist, Glenn Locklee, observes two societal phenomema: the increasing redundancy of small business and domestic manufacturing; and the proliferation of high-rise, high –density living as house and land ownership become increasingly unattainable.

The burgeoning demand and ease of access to imported commodities has governments and businesses scrambling to claim new expanses of riverside land for development.  Such voracity has resulted in an ever-changing physical environment and a desired lifestyle of material aspiration and human disconnect.

Such issues currently threaten Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre and it’s pristine surroundings.  Locklee presents three new commissioned works that contemplate the history and architectural character of the Casula powerhouse building and it’s capacity as an arts centre to recollect and respond to local stories in the rapidly growing region of South West Sydney.

Locklee’s paintings are not overtly political, nor do they carry an agenda of protest.  They stand as silent witnesses to change; evocative peripheral images that conjure up subliminal memories and reflection of the industrial environments of South West Sydney where the artist grew up.  This is evident not just in the subjects of these works, but also the poetic architecture and process of making these works.  The sparse geometric construction and layers of tertiary colours play off against the expressionist rendering of surface and portrayal of light.  The use of aluminium as a canvas – known to be a common building material – complements the surface texture, but also reveals the very material of our being.

3rd April - 3rd July 2016

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Monday, March 21, 2016

Artsite - Sydney Printmakers Celebrating 55 years

Printmaking, like drawing, is often seen as the poor cousin to painting and sculpture.  And I have as yet to work out exactly why that is.  With all it’s wonderful techniques and the endless richness of it’s textures and wonderful ‘surprises’ in execution, printmaking has given us some eye-popping artifacts over history.  Picasso loved it, so did Miro and Warhol.

The current show at Camperdown’s Artsite – Sydney Printmakers Celebrating 55 years – makes it even harder for me to understand the poor cousin attitude.  As part of the 2016 celebrations of the Australia Print Council’s Year of Print, curator Madeleine Tuckfield-Carrano has put together sixty works by Sydney artists that span the range of printmaking, conceptually and technically.

From Neilton Clarke’s lovely surreal ‘Agikawa Spinner (33rpm)’ through Prue Crabbe’s smoke-fragile ‘Sublunary Diversions II’ to the brusque rust textures of ‘Landfall 1’ and ‘Landfall2’ by Anthea Bosenburg, the range is breath-taking.  It is all I can do to not reach out and touch these works – print has that effect: the colours and textures, although aiming for the relatively flat, have a tactile, almost erotic attraction.  Faint indentations, raised shallow welts, creases and almost imperceptible waves across the surface all draw us in subtly.

Though, flat is not all – Laura Stark’s ‘Totems’ stand as printed paper cylinder’s, tracing paper squares lean out and threaten to fly off the surface of ‘The Space Between’ by Robyn Waghorn.   Tuckfield-Carrano’s ‘Autumn Rain’ has fabric stitches across the pigment.

The range of techniques – a couple had me groping for Google – is smartly covered here as well; it is one of the joys of printmaking that it’s techniques go from roughly stamping the paper with hard woodblocks through to gluing elements across the plate as in a collograph, or the relative caressing it with other approaches, such as aquatint.

Rew Hanks’ ‘Peaches and Cream’ (relief print) has that perfect graphic hard edge while the linocut ‘Scratching for Bugs’ by Joanne Gwatkin-Williams shows a charming vaguery of line. 

Poor cousin? Bah.  These pieces are all as exquisite as you will find, speaking with maybe a quieter poetry that their oil-painted relatives, but powerful poetry nonetheless.

John Hardaker
Guest Reviewer

5th March – 27th March 2016

Friday, March 18, 2016

Ben Roberts Gallery - Jane Lennon

I’m all for a bit of recycling and even better when it’s made into Art as there is more of a guarantee that it won’t go to landfill.  The process of making your own paper requires considerable patience and in Jane’s case years to half a lifetime to create her objects and sculptures.  One day when I visited her at her home I was fortunate to view inside of her studio, I was aghast at what laid before my eyes, floor to ceiling shelves stored tightly with works all made from paper making her studio an entire work in itself!

‘Biophilia’ at Ben Roberts Gallery in Lawson, Blue Mountains plays heavily on the organic whimsical, emanating like stars in our universe but at the same time keeping our feet firmly on the ground.

Chairs, tables, mirror’s and a coffin, yes that’s right a ‘coffin’ ‘Carrying conviction-Six Feet Under’ paper and acrylic, 60x176x62centimeters of recycled paper.  A pink coffin supported with 6 dark red feet, a perfect gift for that person with everything or one that just wants something a bit different to go out in.

Even the 3 tiered food stand was made from paper but thankfully not the really yummy home made dip. Adding to the whimsy were scattered around the top of the table and on top of the coffin were a series of ‘Rodents’ and not all the same, they helped infuse the humour and seriousness of what this work was all about.

Fleur MacDonald

5th – 17th March 2016
Ben Roberts Gallery, 10 Benang Street, Lawson, Blue Mountains

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Chrissie Cotter Gallery - Dirk Kruithof

Q&A – Dirk Kruithof
Dirk Kruithof is a Sydney artist whose work really zinged my eye the first time I saw it.  I was struck by the raw emotion coming off the, I loved their Punk skin.  There was a directness which lay over (or under) the layers of possibly poetry's in the works – a directness that called for a response by city dwellers to their urban environment, just as Kruithof responds to his.  It was real.

Prior to Kruithof’s first solo show in a while – ‘City of Illusion’ at Chrissie Cotter Gallery on April 6, I asked him six questions.

John Hardaker: Dirk, your work strikes me as being highly reflective of your environment, with signs and buildings and graffiti-like scrawls, the urban environment.

Dirk Kruithof: That’s a pretty accurate reading - A big part of my work has that urban environment theme going on: I go for walks around my area (Darlinghurst) and surrounding suburbs and get ideas for paintings - sometimes I’ll take a photo or 2 to remember ideas, or I just see things and keep it in my mind ‘til I get back home to paint.  Something as simple as liking the combination of textures and colours on a wall that’s been graffitied, or seeing a real-estate sign with ludicrous text like: ‘Exclusive authentic warehouse living, only $900,000.’  This sparks many ideas for me.  I take this everyday imagery which I then recycle and recombine in my paintings.  If I wanted to sound more pretentious I could describe myself as a Flaneur, wandering poetically around the city getting inspired.  I ofter find physical material on these walks too, boards, paint, canvases etc on the street which I take home to use. So thematically and physically it all comes from the street, images and materials, which is a neat little circle.  Hey I may even get a grant going with that angle.

The other element to the work (which still relates to the urban environment) is that I use consumerist symbols - (bar-codes, QR codes) and icons from online and social media.  They all become architectural elements I use to ‘build’ the painting.

JH: Would you say it has a Pop sensibility - are you heavily influenced by Pop artists past and present – or are you reacting as an individual set of eyes, ears and nerve endings?

DK: I’ve described my work as Abstract-Pop/Post-grunge/Signwriter Expressionism (!!) and yes I owe quite a debt to Pop Art.  Perhaps the more messy or anarchic American and European pop artist have influenced me: Kippenberger and Polke, Rauschenberg, Wool, Basquiat and earlier artists like Schwitters.  I share the same love-hate relationship to culture and advertising that Pop has, plus the use of text.  The collage technique of taking things from here and there – hoarding and re-combining images is a classic Pop technique, all the way.

I feel like I’m increasingly ‘commenting’ in the work now, analysing or critiquing these things that I’m taking from here and there.

JH: There seems to be anger among the playfulness in your work. What makes you angry?

DK: The anger in my work and in particular in this show ‘City of Illusion’ is mostly to do with the stresses and frustrations of daily city life, often related to how expensive or restrictive things are (that’s Sydney for you).  Perhaps my heckling, griping or gonzo commenting is more a quizzical or bemused confused anger than rage.  To give an idea: in this show there’s a painting called ‘Big bad rent tiem’ (pretty self-explanatory really!).  Another that has ‘Billion dollar sunset over re-development city’ written on it, and another ‘Connect, complain, entertain’ which is like an inspirational/motivational quote for cynics.

Another piece ‘Welcome to Sydney’ is an oblique comment on the anti-culture sentiment Sydney seems to be undergoing - lock out laws and noise complaints.  In that painting I’ve used beer-bottle tops for a frame.

I’m railing against what appears to be the increasing attempt to tame this cities vibrancy.  I think we should have an event called ‘Art Year’, art all year round, every year.  One viewer said of my work ‘It’s political but I’m not sure what It’s saying’.  I like that ambiguity too.  I hope I’m not preaching too much in the work.  Ultimately the painting has to work as an interesting image, regardless of my intentions of meaning.  The anger is a bit of a front or persona I like to exploit in my work too, I’d like to be the Mark E Smith of painting.

JH: You told me that someone viewing your work once said you should have been a signwriter. Why the text?

DK: Ha ha, yes that’s right!  Some of the work in this show I’ve stripped right back to painting just text and nothing else so they are kind of ‘signs’.  Why text?  Well I can’t be the ONLY contemporary painter not using text!!!  But I’m allowed to because I invented text-art back in the year 2000 at art school.  Seriously though, being a huge fan of serial texters Basquiat and Christopher Wool really influenced my work.  Also whilst studying I became interested in the work of Adam Cullen who would often have bits of text sprayed alongside the creepy figures in his paintings - seemingly unrelated text and image that you’d then create your own connection between.

Sometimes he’d use a quote or a song lyric or title, something out of context against the image.  I really liked this strange collage-like effect, it was kind of like the text was a separate disembodied voice commenting on the image at times.  These influences as well as advertising and now increasingly social media, where you get bombarded with things like a picture of a sunset or rainbow with some inane inspirational/motivational quote over the top.  This combination of things has got me hooked on persevering with making my own word pictures.

JH: Dirk, is your show at Chrissie Cotter a significant one for you?

DK: Yes this show is significant for me, it’ll be my biggest show to date. I ’m really looking forward to getting my new work out there and getting everyone’s feedback.  I’m building on artistic themes and momentum that has been slowly gathering for me over the past 5 years or so.  I participated in ‘The Other Art Fair’ in Sept last year and this is my first show since then, and my first solo show in 2 and ½ years so I’m rearing to go.

Chrissie Cotter is a great gallery because it’s a large community-minded space and is not probititively expensive like so many art galleries in inner Sydney.

JH: What can we expect to see at CITY OF ILLUSION at Chrissie Cotter?

DK: ‘City of Illusion’ is the culmination of several years’ work exploring the theme of the urban environment, about 25 mixed media paintings in all, many of them using recycled/reclaimed for found materials.  A few of the works feature the use of textas/markers but mostly acrylic paint, oils and enamels are the mediums used.  A large number of the works feature extensive use of words and bright colours.  There will be a short live music performance on opening night, and drinks.  All works for sale reasonably priced.  Everyone welcome.  Mention ‘Art Month’ and you can pay double for any artwork.

John Hardacker
Guest Reviewer

6th April - 17th April 2016
Chrissy Cotter Gallery, Pidcock Street, Camperdown
Gallery Hours: 11am - 4pm Thursday to Sunday

Friday, February 26, 2016

Grafton Regional Gallery - Highlights

A long way from Sydney, in a regional gallery not near you.

The eminent ebullient Wendy Sharpe opened this show with a lively dialogue on women in art and society.

The highs and lows.  The reasons why it’s easy to be a woman artist working in obscurity, the brilliance of the Gorilla Girls and the resilience of woman artists.  Who wouldn’t be a woman artist when there is such inspiration to just keep going!

The Postcard show, a little gem on a few walls exposing a nice array small beguiling works!  I’d go for the GW Bot, Ken Done and Wendy Sharpe of course but it’s a silent auction so don’t tell anyone.  It’s only a phone call away to place a silent bid and assist in fundraising for the marvellous Jada sssshhhhh !

Photography meets feminism with the outstanding Carol Jerrems and her intimate and iconic photographs.  I can never get enough of her enigmatic photos of everyday people in a decade she has defined.  Pat Brassington is another wonder for me!  I have only mentioned two photographers to get this little article out there.  Many of the works are drawn from the MGSs national collection of Australian photographers.

Check them out!

Bernadette Trela
Guest Reviewer

3rd February - 12th March 2016

Friday, February 12, 2016

Art Gallery of New South Wales - The Greats

When was the last time you saw a great painting, especially one that was painted way before you were born.  A painting which viewed for the very first time in a fleeting moment then realising you have to stand firmly in front of it studying it’s every detail.

That painting for me is ‘Reverent Robert Walker Skating on Duddinton Loch’ Medium oil on canvas, 76.2x63.5cm by Sir Henry Raeburn c1795.  Although I know some of you may have thought I would have chosen a more flouncy floral type of work but hell no this is the one that gave me goosebumps on my forearms and the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up, this is the one that struck me with a lightning force and sent my eyes into a mad scurry searching for detail.

The slight of hand detail around the knees and upper thighs to the off white cravat, the blade scarred ice set against a soft turneresque background.  The steadfast stare to the effortless pose.  The serenity relaxes the viewer into submission.

The perfect end to a perfect exhibition.

Fleur MacDonald

24th October 2015 - 14th February 2016

Monday, February 1, 2016

Casual Powerhouse & Hazelhurst Regional Gallery

A couple of summer holiday shows on at two Sydney regional galleries well worth a visit.  Patternation at Hazelhurst and Outer Space at the Casula Powerhouse are substantial but very differently curated exhibitions.  One explores the formal aesthetic and conceptual possibilities presented by the largely abstract device of pattern making.  The other addresses the phenomena of technology and the zeitgeist effect each event had on our culture eg space travel, satellite images…

Patternation at Hazelhurst,  John Aslanidis, Cathy Blanchflower, Mark Booth, Gary Carsley, Helen Eager, Sophia Egarchos, Benjamin Forster, Heath Franco, Rochelle Haley, Natalya Hughes, Eveline Kotai, Melinda Le Guay, Al Munro, Brian Robinson, Liz Shreeve, Jason Sims and Djirrirra Wunungmurra.

Patternation, curated by Carrie Kibble, is a vibrant show that draws attention to the perception of art as something of a higher purpose as opposed to being purely decorative.  In this show we are presented with works that undertake a deeper investigation of the concept of pattern.  Pattern in this context becomes the structure that binds the scientific, natural and aesthetic world.  It is the invisible phenomenon that forms our cellular structure and the engineering that holds our skyscrapers together.  It is also the most potent device used in great art, music, poetry and prose whether it be figurative or abstract.  So we are informed by this show that pattern is not merely ornamental but is an inspiration of mathematical movement and rhythms that reflect the building blocks of life itself.

The space allows for ambitious large scale works that at times overwhelm.  John Aslandis’s amazing sprawling work takes on a slightly different interpretation in each venue it is exhibited, the last at Gallery 9 earlier in 2015.  Liz Shreeve’s delicate paper cut piece is spectacular in its uncharacteristically huge format and Natalya Hughes’s Panic Room is an installation that buzzes with anxious discord that is unsettling but compelling.  Wunungmurras’ indigenous pieces bring a quiet spiritual evocation of living symbiotically with the earth and video work from Pompom artists Heath Franco and Rochelle Haley provide a less formal and more conceptual utilisation of the exhibition’s parameters.

Outerspace at Casula Powerhouse, Anotinette J. Citizen, David Haines & Joyce Hinterding, Peter Hennessey, Christina Lissman, Alasdair Macintyre, Adam Norton, Liam O’Brien, Mira Oosterweghel Sylvia Schwenk, Vernon Treweeke, Liam O’Brien, Wanderlust.

Outerspace addresses space, the void between the earth’s atmosphere and the planets and stars.  The pondering of space as positive rather than negative is an endeavour of artists metaphysically and compositionally – the space between.  This show showcases installation, performance art, paintings and video traversing science fiction, popular culture and space technology as a vehicle to express the complexity of the human condition and it’s revaluation in the context of constant change to our terrestrial and extraterrestrial environment.  The impact I felt was strangely nostalgic, a reminder of the eventfulness of every technological advancement from man walking on the moon to the mind bending special effects of Star Wars compared to the current day where we seem to be desensitised to the wave after wave of technology and media.

Also there is an opportunity to pay homage to the late Vernon Treweeke with a selection of works.

Finally emerging artist Veronica Habib’s show Tracking Security is occupying the Marsden Gallery. This thoughtful work is an extension of her graduate work started in 2012 that explores the perception of safety and compliance in contemporary city living.  The themes are prophetically more relevant now than perhaps at their inception.

Both shows close February 7th.

Much of this show looks at technological advancement and popular culture during the era of the space race and its jettisoned aftermath.  It has been covered by paintings, installations, video and performance.

Glenn Locklee
Guest Reviewer

5th December 2015 - 7th February 2016
12th December 2015 - 7th February 2016