Monday, May 26, 2014

Newcastle Art Space - The Seven Painters

Jennifer Finnie, Michael Bateman, Patricia Williamz, Malcolm Sands, Sarah Knights, Neville Cottee, Andrew Finnie.

Commitment is the essential factor for an artist. Continuing to proceed regardless of the barriers faced is the key to success. And this seems to be the maxim held by a group of artists exhibiting at present at Newcastle Art Space. Having met initially through a course at the Newcastle TAFE they eventually acquired a studio at the Newcastle Community Art Centre. So began weekly sessions where art became integral.

In this their 9th exhibition as the “Seven Painters”, Sarah Knights is a newcomer. Her acrylic paintings realise the colour symmetry of Newcastle effortlessly. “Winter at The Baths” works particularly well.

Newcastle is also a much loved subject for Andrew Finnie and Michael Bateman. Bateman’s work has a tighter more precise execution happening while Finnie offers a scumbling effect leading to a looser finish. Finnie’s acrylic on canvas, “Coal Trains, Port Waratah” has a peculiar perspective but the form is expressed well and demonstrates his ability with the brush.

Abstraction is the focus of artist Patricia Williamz. Her large works suggest a microscopic insight into the shoreline particularly rock pools. Jennifer Finnie also captures the essence of nature. Her aptitude is admirable and the dense conglomerate of deliberate brush marks especially in “The Last Swim, Merewether, February 2014”, demonstrates an abstract quality. A close look at the figures shows how simple shapes can create motion. If these were arduously handled all spirit would be lost.

Neville Cottee has a tormented unease in his work. His art appeals in part through his conviction to step away from the safety of the familiar in subject matter. However on another level this body of work delves into the depths of the soul. White stark and rigid against a brilliant red sky in “White Tree” suggests a terrifying abandonment. The creepiness of the branch loitering is evil and anguished.

The subtle colour palette of “Summer at Maitland” by Malcolm Sands is serene and modest. In this complicated and increasingly busy world the relief of this tranquil painting makes for a relaxed transition. If the suggestion is true Maitland is a utopia idle in this manic culture.

Kerri Smith
Guest Reviewer

8th May - 25th May 2014

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Modern Art Projects

How selfish is it for the majority to consider that there is only landscape painter’s living in the Blue Mountains, well in the tradional sense that is, yes but there are also abstractionist’s, deconstructionist’s, minimalist’s, surrealist’s, installationist’s, multi media, multi interdisciplinarist’s and the list goes on. So there is no excuse is there..!

In 2012 I moved to Faulconbridge, middle Blue Mountains and discovered a whole varied salad of different Art practices, which I think has definitely influenced my own art practice. It all started when I was invited to attend the 1st demo run of Modern Art Projects ‘MAP’ on Monday 1st April 2013 at Billy Gruner and Sarah Keirgerhy’s ‘Beachcomber’ which they are restoring just around the corner from where I live.

Architect Nino Sydney designed ‘The Beachcomber’ as a project home for Lend Lease in 1961, the Mark II Beachcomber house built in 1963 perched on top of a rocky hill in Faulconbridge, Blue Mountains. This house is the perfect setting for a salon show of modern art, it’s open plan with lots of wall space, freedom to move, great air circulation and a relaxed atmosphere.

Also the coolest house I have been invited into, ever!

The 4 hour opening with three diverse artists, Arpad Forgo from Hungary, Riki Mijling from The Netherlands and Susan Andrews from Sydney. Arpad’s work is juicy with it’s layers of paint and grooved surface’s, the colours are vivid and vital and if you were one of the few who went to this then you were fortunate to go home with one of his little prints as a gift as I did.

Riki Mijiling from the Netherlands works with graphite, wood and metal, the images that prodomenate her work are interchangeable and have infinite possibilities, the small metal sculpture which I picked up and played with was something which has stayed with me since.

Susan Andrews geometric work expresses the need to follow each line to it’s hard edged alternative reality, it’s those blue’s and reds that are at opposite ends of the colour wheel that create an optical illusion and helps the work to jump out at you.

The 2nd demo happened at the ‘Russell Jack’ house in Wahronga, NSW, Sunday 16th June the owner Annalisa Capurro is seen in the video talking about the design of the house. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the opening so sent the Sixtoeight camera off with Billy Gruner to film the event, also in attendence were my home made Chocolate Truffles for guests to enjoy. Watch the video!!

Watch the video!!  .. Sorry but no photo's!

2nd February 2014, the 1st official ‘Modern Art Project’ happened at the Kia Sulc House on Chapman Parade, Faulconbridge. Hand built in 1960 by the retired sculptor and ex art master of Springwood High and purchased in 1987 by Andy McDonald who is lovingly restoring it.

‘Interregnum’ curated by Lizzy Marshall, made good use of the spacious garden surrounds and rabbit warren pathways in and around this amazing house.

Naomi Oliver’s ‘Green Screen’, three Lenticular Prints were mesmirizing and to die for, movement within a photo. If I’d just woken from a 50 year coma I would think these works were a taste of the future or witchcraft trickery, but no they are from our past, takes me back to school with rulers and postcards and brought back to life through Performance Art.

Maybe I’ve been living under a rock or something.

Nicola Walkerden, a disc suspended from a tree, at first I thought I was looking at a reflection but couldn’t work it out that it was a fixed image allowing the light to pass through it, effective and also brilliant.

‘He said, she said and I don’t want to know’ by the sounds of it many noses were put out of joint .. But this is Art and for Art’s sake lets get on with it!!!

Leahlani Johnson had some very fragile but life like pieces inside one of the cottages made of porcelain, ceramic, plaster, acrylic paint, wood, metal, plant material, paper, cardboard and found objects. In the same cottage also an interesting work by Honi Ryan ‘Heartbeat Conversations’ where two people sat and listened to each other’s heartbeats. There was also ‘A Conversational Quadrant’ which unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to witness but lots of people talked about it so that’s a good thing.

There were also the Motel Sister’s, Paris and Tacky mooching around the grounds in there full makeup and insanely high heels commenting on such a lovely day it was and just looking incredibly gorgeous!

Sunday 6th April, Eco Spirit at Morton House, Woodford on the Blue Mountains for the 2nd official installment was a swirling swift event with military precision. A cast of thousands well not really but it felt like it, although think about it, you are having a party and you have invited 200 people and you don’t know any of them.

I am now officially a registered MAP Volunteer!!

Morton House built 1979 and some may know it as the ‘Cave House’ is made from mudbricks and has a famous overhanging Australian native roof garden that has a single file pathway and you will see it in the video, totally amazing.

‘Eco Spirit’ curated by Jacquelene Drinkall with a menagerie of artist’s that include Alex Wisser, Ben Denham, Beata Geyer/James Culkin, Bim Morton, Fiona Davies, Georgie Pollard, Gianni Wise, John A Douglas, Locust Jones, Paul Greedy/Tom Ellard, Sarah-Jane Norman, Sarah Keighery and Vicky Browne.

A wonderful collection of Artist’s, some I know and some I don’t, some I’ve written about before and some I haven’t. Loved all their work as there was a lot to look at, most of it made you think, some of it gave a sense of serenity, some a little bit of not sure what the hell I am looking at and some were just brilliant, well most of it was brilliant and fitted comfortably into the natural surroundings.

John A Douglas performed his site specific ‘Vitrine: Incursion #1 (damp)’ wearing a luminous green body suit and he graced, well slithered and sneaked around inside the glass lined courtyard which the house surrounded. He also had a piece inside the sauna dipicting his little green mould from a lightbox. This work represents his life on dialysis and since his kidney transplant after this event we can only guess what his new life will bring to him now, congratulations John A Douglas!

Fiona Davies’s ‘Blood on Silk; Turn, turn away’ packaging material and paint which hung just near the side door entrance and where I was positioned to direct guests down the pathway. It wafted and waved in the breeze and was protected from the encessant rain which almost put a dampener on the event.

This was my first real experience with Fiona’s work and I think it made my day.

Already a big fan of Alex Wisser, his work ‘Blank Canvas’ archival ink on cotton rag makes you want to check out every nook and cranny, do you see the grammaphone cabinet in the corner beside the fridge?

In the work ‘ Sectia Aurea – The Golden Section’ of Beata Geyer and James Culkin, I wished they had waterproofed this work as it would have glistened and gleaned in the drizzling rain while perched on the cliff, the hot pink made a bold statement against the greys and greens of the native landscape.

Sadly I missed the piece ‘Generation Loss (poetics of decay)’ live performance and video installation by Ben Denham while it was in action as I love the concept.

Another Artist who I am a big fan of is Georgina Pollard, her poured pattenered paint evokes a family connection, I can’t not look at her work and feel a connection to my families homeland of Scotland. It’s a tartan or plaid, patterns and colours given to each Clan to represent a family name. ‘Song, Sung’ house paint and curtain fabric, this work oozes volumes of strength but at the same time is so very fragile.

If you got to see ‘Spectres of the Spectrum II’ plastic medical models, computer wires by Gianni Wise bobbing around by the jets of water in the bathtub then you may realize that they were being ‘brain washed’ funny and wise stuff, love it. Liked also the jab at Transfield via the ‘Carrie’ poster in collabration with the show’s curator Jacquelene Drinkall. Good call!

This whole exhibition has been an education and within the environment of the interior of a modern house it’s certainly been a test to all involved.

Outside in the side garden Locust Jones has produced some amazing ceramic heads, an extention to his vast ink on paper works. They seem to be the heads from the images he works and each one would tell a different story.

Inside the spacious pantry is ‘Home Clavilux’ wood, metal, perspex, vinyl, silvered mylar, DC electric motors, rear projection, data projector, media player, video loop a visually beautiful hand made piece by Paul Greedy & Tom Ellard. Sadly but these things happen, the projector died while this piece was being set up. Sound through light, this piece is based on the original Clauvilux.

‘Hokum’ video performance piece by Sarah-Jane Norman is an odd piece for those unfamiliar to her work like me, at first glance the Artist is vomiting on camera, we look away but our curiosity makes us look back and keep looking. I’m still not sure !

If you got to follow that tiny pathway snaking over the roof then you probably got to see some of the work by Vicki Browne, ‘Five Stones’ black ceramic work which looks like coal and her intricate sculptured cutlery made of twigs which could be found in the kitchen and pantry.

Last but not least would have to be my ultimate favourite work from this entire exhibition. ‘Colour Code 555-Pure Lustre’ by Sarah Keighery. Placed in a semi circle on the cliff top inching to the edge of our known existence these works demonstrate her approach to building materials, using cement to create an existing edge in the shape of a dotted line, gold pigment to bring a golden lustre. I’ll have to be forgiven for suggesting that these pools could mean ‘your eyes are pools of loveliness’.

Fleur MacDonald
1st April 2013
16th June 2013
2nd February 2014
6th April 2014

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Lake Macquarie City Gallery - Janet Laurence

A curious installation at Lake Macquarie City Gallery is alive with provocative content quite in opposition to the theme.  And this is the destruction of delicate ecosystems in our midst!

While we’re thriving in a society packed with abundance most of us give little thought to the sacrifices other species in our midst are giving.  Australian artist Janet Laurence has perceptively built a commentary aiming to create awareness of the tragedy humans all too readily ignore.

Scientific knowledge seems an imperative for the artist and acknowledges the intellectual capacity required to promote an effective translation of concepts perceived.  This relationship manifests in a conglomerate of glass apparatus and visual images.   The hope of these academic installations is they break down barriers allowing easy access to those unaware of the fortuitous circumstances of our Western lifestyle being dependant on the destruction of another.  Our reliance on the degradation of another human society to allow the prosperous capitalist regime adopted by the West is not touched on in this exhibition.  Ruin of natural environment is the essence.

This is an exhibition requiring time and perhaps knowledge to comprehend the intricacies of the artist’s vision.  But it’s a welcome opportunity to acknowledge the solidity of the academic artist, a profession all too readily dismissed as irrelevant to our position as an “economy”.  Encouraging curiosity is paramount and this exhibition promotes this effectively.  Perhaps the first question to bubble to the surface is “Why as humans are we willing to sacrifice our natural environment in the quest for the accumulation of “stuff” that next week we’ll relegate to the garbage bin in an attempt to declutter?”

It’s an irony bitter and bewildering bringing to mind the line by Lilly Allen from her song The Fear, “I am a weapon of massive consumption.  And it’s not my fault it’s how I’m programmed to function”.

Kerri Smith
Guest Reviewer for Newcastlae

Until July 20th 2014

Newcastle Regional Gallery - New To Video

The time required to look, decipher and respond is important when observing all mediums in art. There is a need to allot a specified amount of minutes to view video art.  And with the speedy way in which contemporary life is lived more often than not viewing art seems relegated to the cursory glance which does not bode well for the video.   Having said that it is often more readily embraced by those tattooed youngsters that appear cooler than their older counterparts.  Maybe they “get it” having been raised on a diet of continually improving technology. 

But it’s worth slowing down to check out the “New To Video” exhibition at Newcastle Regional Gallery until 27th April.

Two video artists in particular capture attention. One being artist Todd Fuller with One and Only 2012 and the other being artist Sarah Smuts Kennedy with Another Day in Paradise 2009.  Fuller uses gallery wall space to create drawings in charcoal, filming these drawings than erasing them to produce an elongated story.  The premise is akin to the animated works of South African artist William Kentridge who’s beautifully executed charcoal stills are rubbed and erased to produce message and meaning.  Perhaps the reason Fuller’s video tempts the traditional viewer is due to the witnessing of a tangible skill in action, drawing being the real genesis of the video.

But despite this there is beauty through melancholy in the journey of the fluttering heart, searching for a place to flourish that is the essence of the short story.

New Zealand artist Sarah Smuts Kennedy produces a peculiar video.  There is nostalgia in the disjointed jerky movement of a digital video on infinite loop.  The hazy perimeter is intentionally artificial designed to inspire wistful reflection.   A passing parade of unaffected humanity provokes thoughts on our temporary fleeting moment, quickly passed and quickly forgotten.

Time is needed to watch and absorb these videos otherwise a swift glance becomes relegated to those all too common moments of waste where the rush rush has no meaning. For myself a second viewing is mandatory.

Kerri Smith
Guest Reviewer for Newcastle 

8th March - 27th April 2014

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery - Kate Murphy

Prayers of a Mother  - This video installation evokes notably individual responses in reaction to the ritualistic aspect of the care and protection as exhibited in motherhood.

The viewers insights into family interactions are from the limited perspective of a video trained on the hands of the mother, the audio being her recitations and explanations of the some of the prayers given up for her children.  Other simultaneous video frames are trained on the visual responses of her children.  The prayers of the mother and the reactions of her children are viewed simultaneously.

It is a very personal glance into dimensions existing between and within the mother and her children. Elementally and ultimately it reveals the divisions and individuality of those involved.  Dualistically it also shows the family as a holistic entity which also encircles and ties.

Faith, it’s impact and the integration into the individual and collective psyche of the family is demonstrated in a visual manner.

The installation has a dynamic which challenges the viewer to examine their own views toward the expression of familial love and care.  The added dimension of faith and belief only serves to deepen the reflective pool upon which the viewer may choose to dwell.

REGIONAL ARTISTS RESPOND - Responses from 11 local artists were diverse and backed by personal evocations.   One of these was Warwick Gilbert whom I interviewed briefly.

Gilbert’s piece shows a pregnant woman within a harsh environment.  He says the image came to him as an immediate response and he asked his wife to pose for the linear effect of the pose in his artwork. His gritty description of his response is that “motherhood is a force of nature” and that nothing would seem to come between the mother and child response, and even in harsh circumstances, this force is present.  His work seems to show a primal landscape evoking the deep archetypal role of the mother in our collective psyche.

Other Artworks from the Gallery’s Collection were exhibited, including those of Helen Geier, which took the main gallery space.  Helen’s work, although strong and bold, evoked emotion on an interior level and sat well in a contemplative space.

Tammy Mills-Thom
Guest Reviewer

22nd March - 3rd May 2014
Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery