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

Saturday, January 30, 2016

SPOT81 - Braddon Snape & Glenn Locklee

Ooh my first visit to SPOT81 in Chippendale where I walked through it’s rather tall and beautiful big wide ornately carved wooden doors and was welcomed by the gorgeous huge high wooden factory ceiling, stepped onto the wonderful enormous wooden tiled floor inviting you to do a twirl.  The space is an amazing temple to Art.

Felt I had to pucker up to Braddon Snape’s glossy steel sculptures as they were so so shiny and lip smackingly good although some of the work looked like they’d just had a hug as with ‘Single Act of Performed Materiality’ air formed welded steel, 80x60x35cm.  And with it’s larger version ‘Performed Materiality (The Lockup)’ 238x114x30cm on which lured guests and photographers to capture moments with it’s highly reflective surface (does my bum look big in this).

Down the other end of the gallery hangs work by Glenn Locklee, with landscapes showcasing the shimmering outer workings of factories and industrial sites.  ‘White Bay’ and ‘Indrustrial Landscape Enfield’ both oil on aluminium composite and 42.5x47.5cm are my 2 favourites, I love how the use of the surface is incorporated into the work allowing the aluminium to catch the light as you move past while studying it.  Giving the subjects a more fluid face and allowing the colours used to represent sun blistered building exteriors.

Excellent work young men!!

Fleur MacDonald

20th - 31st January 2016

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Newcastle Art Gallery - Kilgour Prize 2015

Well I’m back.  In what capacity only time will tell.  It’s the Kilgour Prize that’s lured me.  And perhaps a deep desire to get back to writing and acknowledge that I love art and its ability to inspire the seeking of an aesthetic, understanding that this too is an ever evolving part of me.

Yesterday I ventured into the Newcastle Art Gallery for the third time to see the Kilgour but this time to persuade my “financial backing” to part with some cash.  “Horseshoe Beach 2015” by Michael Bell was the bait.  Some smaller versions are available at Gallery 139 in Hamilton at the moment and owning one would be superb.  But alas…

However there was another reason to return to this worthy exhibition.  I was browsing through the Newcastle Herald on Saturday and came across an article about The People’s Choice Award for the 2015 Kilgour and I was astonished that I didn’t recognise the work as part of the exhibition.  Obviously I didn’t vote for it and obviously I peruse an exhibition seeking works I find aesthetically pleasing.  This work was clearly not visible to me though it is a beautifully rendered painting.  However I enjoyed reading the article about the inspiration and the layer hidden beneath the painting that without the artist’s insight would remain invisible to the viewer.  It’s a gentle reminder that every art work produced has value regardless of its visual appeal and the artists’ skill with materials and composition.

Today I’ve chosen three works from the exhibition that I was drawn to and hopefully can explain why. The first is of course Bell’s “Horseshoe Beach”.  I admit that when I began taking an interest in art many years ago I found Bell’s art ridiculous.  I was beginning my journey and admired only those works that fostered realism, showed talent with the brush and a clear understanding of visual representation.  In other words I wanted to see on canvas what I could see with my eye.  Forget acknowledging that there’s an imagination in there, a desire to delve into the depths (pardon the alliteration) and produce work with character, personality and quirk. I  didn’t get what the word “edgy[1]” meant and for that matter I did not want to.  These artist’s that spoke in their fancy shitty language annoyed me. They didn’t know what they were talking about.  Give me a painting that showed a perfect execution of a thing and I’d give you an artist.  I was still unaware that perhaps the artist had transcended realism.  Oh how knowledge and a good deal of art watching has changed me. 

Bell’s work successfully demonstrates the naive.  It’s the guileless antics of dogs so blissfully unaware of anything other than their own need at that one little moment to have fun.  It’s the microcosm of utopia, that place that does not exist but in the imagination.  A dog, a stick and a human to throw it is all that matters.  But although there is frenetic energy, bustle and crowding there is peace in this image, a meditative nod to the slow life movement.  Apart from the character of this work and the artist’s profound ability to see and impart that information, is the strength in regards to the application of paint. A careful look at the sand shows so many colour gradations.  Lighter hues are confidently used to highlight dog snouts and darker hues saturate beneath a person’s arm and between chin and shoulder bringing the head to the person to the foreground.  It’s an exercise in sureness.  Also wonderful are the outlined images.  These spontaneous drawings assist in breathing movement and validity to the impression of the work.

The second piece is the work by artist Tom Phillips titled “Between the clock and bed 4”.  I was drawn to this work purely owing to the bed.  This bed is drawn and painted so well I know I would be enticed even if it were the only character in the composition.  There is a distorted appeal to the way it has been sketched but it’s the vintage style that takes me back to holidays as a child in an old home by the beach. The lazy afternoons laying on the bed wiling away the time reading is a delightful nostalgic memory. The tonal quality of the entire painting is rich and wild with highlights of pure white and is extremely adventurous.  The paint is fiercely applied and mimics the anxiety of the work.  I admit to being attracted to strange looking dogs in work but oh how accomplished this painting is.

Lastly is the artist Diane Ingram with her work titled “Look here”.  Abstraction is the basis of the painting with delicate line work signifying to me our loss of power to the will of fate.  I find the notion powerful in the face of this subjection.  Any interference is just part of that fate.  Giving up to the universe and observing the consequence is a beauty so wonderful and shocking and in art sublime.  So in this piece it is a philosophy as well as the artist’s response to the materials that appealed.  The figure of the girl emerges seemingly by accident.  But its innocence is as fleeting as the will of the butterfly. Perhaps ascribing the sublime to this painting is a step too far but regardless there is so much to enjoy in this work.

Irrespective of whether this regional gallery gets a makeover it’s a peaceful space and I do so love the idea of observing art in this environment.  I hope you get to see the 2015 Kilgour Prize which is on exhibit until 7th February.

[1] Perhaps this word was overused a little.

Kerri Smith
Guest Reviewer

14th November 2015 - 7th February 2016

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Folonomo Gallery - Fleur MacDonald

Fleur MacDonald's "ECHO' at Folonomo reverberates through Bourke St. Surry Hills.

30 years of working on wood and paper, this 6-8 lass can certainly choose her palette.  The bowls acting as frames for pencils are little pools of pigment, wishing wells for the idea of drawing.

Solidified, practiced and still ready for the job, the pencils ( of the working class kind ) have settled in a blaze of colour, awaiting the twilight zone of retirement....or have they?  One can only speculate and be drawn into the heat of 'hot lips ' or 'yellow fever' and so on…

Then the bread boards, psychedelically optical demonstrations of the ART of home decoration, a complete set of inverse home entertainment, the sandwich of home truth and abstraction, the ever so subtle reference to the Bauhaus, always welcome in my books.

We swing across to the 50 colour plaques, interesting!  Can't work them out, start counting... 12 Green, 8 Carmine, 12 Yellow, 3 Orange, 5 Purple, 5 Black ( ish ), 2 Ochre, no Blue….

Enfin, the red dots, the penguin, all very finely tuned surreal intimations of the parellel existence.

To Fleur MacDonald, a very fine selection of 30 years of 'Living the Art', Congratulations and WELL DONE!

Jelle van den Berg
Guest Reviewer

6th October - 15th November 2015

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Metro Arts - Denise Reichenbach

'Challengers of the Unknown'

Born in 1980 in Wolfsbehringen, a small rural village in then still communist East Germany, artist Denise Reichenbach arrived in Australia in 2008.  After travelling the country for two years Reichenbach chose to settle.  The following five years she spent in Gladstone, Queensland, a formal requirement necessary to obtain her visa.  This period proved an exile of sorts and laid the ground for gestating new developments in her work.

Reichenbach speaks of her feelings then, of entrapment with regards to her painting.  Eventually crystallization occurred when her drive to create grew and her resolve strengthened.  In this exhibition we observe an emerging artist overthrowing the restrictions of the tradition of painting.  Reichenbach's contrasting histories inform her work.  The way in which she negotiates time and space is reminiscent of contemporary German painter Rauch.  Also Gaugin, particularly when he spent time in Martinique his paintings changed, as the light in Australia has changed everything for this artist.  Collage, comic books, drawing and mixed media convey graphic qualities in her new work; raw primitivism and the drive for looseness deliver semi figuration via abstract means.  The formal practice of painting comes with many rules in terms of doing things in specific ways.  There is immediacy which alternative materials and methods afford the artist to assist in breaking up the picture plane.  Reichenbach has consciously embarked on her journey utilizing techniques associated with working on paper as devises to renegotiate her original discipline of painting.  She takes an organic approach allowing the work to begin to make itself; the work and the process have become one.  Juxtaposing comic book references with remnants of the classical figure she refers to the 'layers of layers' and what can happen when the unknown is challenged.

'Challengers of the Unknown' is Reichenbach's considered attempt to extract her work from the German painting tradition.  She acknowledges this profound influence, 'If I look at what the Germans did there was always a presence of a higher force, without sounding cheesy.  It's like they tapped into that, they talked about 'the nature' of something'.  Reichenbach engages stream of consciousness as a means to undertake her work, she is not interested in what's fashionable right now in art circles, she is more interested in her own possible perceptions.  It is this process which has led her to rediscover her own connection to nature; her own spirituality in a contemporary context.

After a residency at Bigci situated just outside of Sydney in the Blue Mountains in March this year Reichenbach became immersed in nature.  In the Australian bush she made the connection between formal constructs and a personal journey.  One of the defining aspects of the female artist is the struggle with the public and private.  Reichenbach is looking at human relationships, sexuality, and ambivalence by focusing on the figure, the power of the body and how we relate to one another.  Energy sensations and auric vision have come into play where she uses the figure as a narrative devise to convey otherworldly experiences.  Here, within all the figurative work, there is a relationship to the higher being or guide and the notion that every character in the dream is a facet of the self.

The strangeness of new places can often generate an overwhelming sense of self, as Reichenbach in her own words stipulates ‘When the father leaves the room, the child steps up’.

Meaghan Shelton
Guest Reviewer

19th November - 21st November 2015

Gympie Regional Gallery - Artists of the Atelier

If identity is found through desire then the work of artist Charmaine Lyons, a self taught fine art photographer, explores this journey to the letter.  ‘Artists of the Atelier’ is Lyons first solo show, marking a pinnacle in her professional career.  This exhibition presents her most recent body of work undertaken over the period of the past twelve months.  Her work for Artists of the Atelier is testament to the integrity of her project.  Lyons views the world through the lens of the female photographer. Meticulous in her attention to detail she seeks to understand and embrace her own identity as an artist through the observation and immersion in the processes of her peers.

Lyons has specifically chosen the word ‘atelier’ over ‘studio’ for its allusion to a sense of mystery and the intrigue we hold for the artists’ work space; the inner sanctum.  The experience of viewing an artists work, particularly those we are moved by often inspires awe and fascination… the wish to know more. This artist’s intrigue for other artists has led to her invitation to enter the private space of the studio of each of her muses to document their inner worlds.  The collage components of the work portray the individual artist’s unique approach to their practice.  It is the uniqueness and difference of each artist and their atelier which is the focus of Lyons' work.

As a photographer Lyons struggles with day-to-day portraiture and emphasises there must be an underlying, gutsy reason to take a photograph.  She looks for a message behind everything she does, to take the work beyond the personal to the universal.  Her focus on the process allows for the evolution in the work to show itself, rather than fixating on the outcome.  It is most apparent this project has been undertaken with the utmost care and respect for her fellow artists.  The honour for her subject, which this artist holds, is evident in the open countenance of each of her subjects.  Be assured the artists involved would never have opened their doors as widely if this had not been the case.  There is a special unspoken language between artists; much is communicated between them with just a glance. We as viewers are invited to enter this private domain.

At the outset of the project twenty-two artists were approached and photographed, Lyons’ criteria being artists who are based in the region.  This artist’s intensely undertaken dedication to producing a body of work of the level of excellence presented here, has been developed via a long period of engagement. Lyons' expertise allows her to transform gruelling technical skills for editing and selecting purposes. Her use of light and attention to the formal constructs of her images at times lends an almost painterly element to the work.

Her process has resulted in the paring down of material and the honing of her concept.  The language of which has been revealed to her only through her absolute surrender to her investigation.  As we come face to face with the artists presented in ‘Artists of the Atelier’, intrigue leads us to wonder at the intimacy and immediacy portrayed here.  Perhaps it is the artist herself made visible through her own desire for identity?

Meaghan Shelton
Guest Reviewer

17th November 2015 - 2nd January 2016