Saturday, March 21, 2015

Gaffa Gallery - On The Horizon

Alexander Cooke, Amelia Toelke, Bridie Lander, Helen Mok, Jose Marin, Melinda Young, Rachel Timmins, Regina Middleton, Rhonda Dwyer, Teresa Milheiro.

This exhibition will put forward scenarios and propositions regarding possible futures.  It raises questions about how our bodies, our society and our environment will change as we continue to develop advanced technology.

In the past 50 years we have seen advances in technology that are incredible and previously unimaginable.  And in all likelihood we will see in the next 50 years a continuation of these advances. We move towards the use of cloning, genetic modification, nanotechnology, robotics, computer augmentation, environmental engineering and so on.  Some of these technologies are already being used or are very close to being implemented.  There may be other technologies afoot that are as yet unknown.

It is not clear yet whether the mood of this exhibition will be dark or light.  Perhaps it will be a combination of both.  Perhaps this uncertainty in mood is a reflection of the greater uncertainty that looms over us regarding what is going to happen during our life times and beyond.  We are often hearing tales of doom and gloom about the future, particularly with respect to climate change and environmental destruction, as well as weapons and conflict between nations.

Despite this, we continue with our lives and things seem to go along pretty well as normal.  As a crisis point is reached, will there be a motivation to transform the way that we live using transcendent and amazing solutions?  As time continues on, will we see disintegration and disaster OR new beginnings and ways of living?

Curated by Michelle Genders

Sponsored by: A & E Metals and Eckersley’s Art and Craft 

19th March – 30th March 2015

Forsight Gallery - Gina McDonald & Carolyn Phillips

Closing this weekend is an exhibition by two accomplished printmakers at Newcastle’s Forsight Gallery.  Both are graduates from the Newcastle Art School and both produce work sophisticated yet accessible.  The natural environment is sensitively portrayed in the show making contemplation imperative.

Reflection is central in Carolyn Phillips body of work.  The serenity emanating from the delicate landscapes is created with an abstracted quality.  Colour is central producing the softness and beauty inherent in the work.  Complimenting these artworks are Gina McDonald’s mesmerizing etchings.  The haunting delicacy of the nest is a study of isolation and uniqueness.  Not surprisingly her work was recently selected for the 43rd Muswellbrook Art Prize.  There is definitely a disarming complexity being explored at present in her practice.  An inclination for the punchy is generally my preference but as a visitor to this exhibition, aptly named “A Deeper Silence”, I have been made aware of the allure of stillness.

Kerri Smith
Guest Reviewer

6th March – 22nd March 2015

Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre - The 43rd Muswellbrook Art Prize

On Saturday I took a journey to the Upper Hunter enjoying the rural scenery occasionally dispersed amongst the great gaping bowls of dirt that at present are allowing our economy to limp along.  Despite my torpid reverie at the lengths humans will go to annihilate an environment I was very much anticipating the selection of fine art that would greet me at the 43rd Muswellbrook Art Prize.  And after the 2 hour drive disappointed I was not!

The three sections in the prize allow for a diverse exhibition which challenges the curator I would think. Works on paper hang easily beside paintings permitting a varied and stimulating show.  Ceramics are randomly placed throughout the space.  My only criticism would be that some works were hanging forward which certainly didn’t permit easy viewing.

To begin with I’ll explain that in an exhibition such as this making the cut is of significance so the artist is somewhat of a winner from the outset.  Some standouts though include artist Dorothy Wishney’s work on paper titled “Watagan Cliff”.  The dedication to detail in a medium so rewarding for its ability to create great loose drawings makes Wishney’s ability to subtly gradate charcoal acknowledging the varying tones in the natural environment a skill to be recognised.  Helen McCullagh’s oil on board titled “Fleuriste” demonstrates that beautiful and enviable quality paint, brush and a great quantity of talent can achieve regardless of the subject matter.  A simple vase of flowers is given freedom of movement and luscious colour exemplifying technique.  Kristen Lethem also intrigued with a very different style of painting using mixed media titled “Orange”.  In sepia tones the hillside is made an object of wonder. I achieved a similar sense of awe when viewing Joseph Rolella’s ink and charcoal on paper titled “Careel”.  The ceramic section had me admiring Anna Culliton’s “Blues in the bottle” however Vicki Hamilton’s “Party Animals” were tricky and humorous and I declared this piece the winner of the section.

These selected exhibitions are a platform for recognition and for the viewer such as me a means for discovering new talent and watching careers progress.  The choice of finding that one exceptional talent is an unenviable task but to choose a winner is necessary.  Especially when capitalism prevails and money in this industry is of the slim picking variety.

The 43rd Muswellbrook Art Prize is on exhibit until the 19th of April.

Just as an aside and not at all related to art I thought I’d add there is a great restaurant located up the road a bit in Denman called “Gerrard’s Place” Yum!

Kerri Smith
Guest Reviewer

1st March - 19th April 2015

Friday, March 13, 2015

A-M Gallery - Sallie Moffatt

Sallie Moffatt’s latest show The Loaded Line is currently on view at A-M Gallery in Newtown.

This beautiful show is an assertion that the best things result from simplicity.  There is nothing superfluous in these drawn observations where every mark exists for a reason.  Armed with just paper and traditional drawing materials Moffatt leaves herself nothing to hide behind but her substantial intuitive abilities to observe and draw.

What’s evident in this work is a highly evolved combination of intense observation and a visual language of marks and lines that evokes rather than illustrates the natural environment.  To isolate a portion in each work you would find an unrecognisable section of abstraction.  As a whole the landscape is clearly on view.  The result is a more sensory experience of the landscape that elevates it beyond pictorial mimicry.  For me these drawings succeed first and foremost as considered cohesive works of art implementing the landscape as their vehicle of expression.

The Loaded Line is on until the 28th March at A-M Gallery - 191 Wilson St Newtown

Glenn Locklee
Guest Reviewer

3rd March - 28th March 2015

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Art Gallery of Ballarat - Vignettes

The exquisite attention to detail displayed by the four artists in Vignettes at the Art Gallery of Ballarat is nothing short of extraordinary.  Their meticulous observation of their subject matter fits strongly within the tradition of natural history illustration, however these are more than merely beautifully crafted botanical or scientific studies.  They move beyond a literal interpretation into more metaphysical territory, reflecting upon themes of fragility, transience, growth and decay.

Amanda Ahmed’s ghostly leaf studies in graphite are tinged with melancholy.  Deliberately off-centre, creating a certain dynamism between the subject and the negative space, and giving a sense of floating or falling.  Her titles – Of Memory, Of Solitude, Of Anticipation – are inspired by the musings contained within Martin Farquhar Tupper’s Proverbial Philosophy, a book published in 1836 which once belonged to her great-great-grandfather.  The humble, ubiquitous leaf, dried, twisted, and isolated from the tree whence it came, becomes a metaphor for the human condition and the transitory nature of perception.

Mali Moir’s studies are more empirical.  Arising directly from her participation in field expeditions to locations including Wilson’s Promontory, New Guinea, and the Australian desert, they transport us into the minute world of barnacles, crustaceans and seabirds.  Working with pencil and watercolour on vellum, Moir adheres to a centuries-old tradition that is the very antithesis of high-resolution macro photography, and yet one could argue that it actually offers a greater immediacy and intimacy than the latter more instantaneous medium.  The time and care taken to record a specimen with accuracy, the commitment to absolute verisimilitude, and the extraordinary ability to convey the delicacy of a subject matter that can only be properly observed under a magnifying lens offers us a privileged connection with the artist that a camera cannot possibly convey.

John Pastoriza-Piñol also works on vellum, which brings a lushness and translucency to his fine watercolours.  His work explores the delicate shift between permanence and impermanence, a juxtaposition of seemingly disparate elements: constructed social identity and botanical documentation. His portrays selected plants in their growth stages progressing from late summer to autumn, a time when that which has once bloomed radiant now slowly withers and fades, the shadows grow longer, and twilight comes sooner.  Emerging beneath the superbly painted botanical studies are images derived from tattoos, and the male names attached to the works give them a poignant intimacy, revealing a private symbolism, the significance of which is only known to the artist and the individuals to whom they refer.  The age of the vellum itself plays a role, as the series begins with younger and smoother skin, and ends with more thickened, mottled skin, the clarity of the tattoos slowly diminishing until they can barely be seen at all.

Finally, Sandra Severgnini’s watercolours focus on form and structure.  Her compositions, somewhat unconventional in more traditional botanical art, convey a thorough understanding of nature’s complex architecture.  But they also stimulate the other senses beyond the visual, the way things feel, smell and even taste – a walnut, dissected down to its lumpy, gnarled anatomy, has me anticipating the tasty harvest to come from my tree in another month or two.  Texture and hardness, moisture and sweetness, fragility and decay are portrayed – another particular favourite of mine is Network, a delicate interweaving of spider’s eggs and bird excrement; an unlikely but perfect collaboration.

The painstaking care that every artist displays extends beyond the artwork itself.  Everything about Vignettes demonstrates a depth of thought and a clarity of vision – from the consistent size and number of the works from each artist, to the interrelatedness of the themes each one explores, to the design and layout of the exhibition (including the stunning wall colour!)  It all combines to bring together one of the most cohesive and carefully considered group exhibitions I’ve seen in a long time.  Stepping into the subdued light of the gallery with its dark blue walls is like being transported into another world; a quiet, secret, almost reverential space that invites contemplation and close-up examination of the work. One needs to spend time not only to appreciate the detail, but also to uncover the many layers of meaning that reside within.

The exceptional skill and care take one back to a time before digital technology and the short attention span spawned by social media, it forces us to slow down and take joy in the extraordinary process that takes place between eye, hand, brush and page.  Conceptual art, with its smugly obscure intent, and instagram with its special filters transforming everything mundane into an “artwork” appear clumsy and hopelessly amateur by comparison.  It is heartening to know that there is still a place for “slow art”, and that patience, dedication and technical skill still exists.

I leave the show with the lines from William Blake’s lines from the Auguries of Innocence running through my mind:

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”

Kim Anderson
Guest Reviewer

31st January - 15th March 2015

Newcastle Art Scene

Newcastle Gallery Collective Inaugural Exhibition 2015 Artists: Kelly Barlin, Michelle Brodie. Mal Cannon, Frances Fussell, Jackie Gooring, Paul Maher, Barbara Nanshe, Jill Orr, Joanna O’Toole, Matthew Tome, Ahn Wells, Meredith Woolnough.

A hot Sunday afternoon is not the ideal time to wander through the many galleries about Newcastle but I’m happy I made the effort. Yesterday was the final day to see Small Medium Large, an exhibition incorporating the efforts of 12 local artists and 4 local galleries.  The energy required to coordinate an exhibition so extensive is to be commended. But more importantly witnessing small galleries working collaboratively is beneficial to the art community of Newcastle who tend to go a long way in supporting one another.  This is an extension of that social cohesion.

I began the hop at Nanshe Gallery in Beaumont St.  The premise of the exhibition where the artist was to present small, medium and large works to the four galleries worked well in this small gallery.  Many large works were hung thoughtfully but I must admit my attention was diverted to a work by Michelle Brodie.  Previously documented is Brodie’s exploration into imagery representing her imagined self. And further studies are evident in this suite of paintings.  More appealing for me however was the enticing application of paint. Subject matter seemed superfluous.  On to Newcastle Art Space where large acrylic paintings by Joanna O’Toole on the back wall of Gallery 2 became evident.  With titles such as “Cast into the ocean” and “Jellyfish” it is apparent where the inspiration for these abstract paintings comes from.  In Gallery 1 artist Paul Maher used thick oil paint in high key to represent the path along Scenic Drive.  Roughly painted the gesture is quick, deliberate and intriguing.

Next stop C Studios in Hunter St where again I had my favourite.  This time the artist Ahn Well’s captured my attention with wonderful colour and shape.  Line and form appeared quite masterful in its abstract quality.  Also Kelly Barlin’s amazing photograph’s on glass bricks were captivating.

And last but certainly not least is Four Point Gallery.  What can only be described as a stunning painting by Frances Fussell greeted me on arrival.  Although works such as this are generally not my preference I must acknowledge the beauty and wonderment that an image such as “Pink Orchids” holds.  The work of Matthew Tome toward the rear of the gallery was my highlight however.  These small oil on canvas paintings seem simple in structure and technique but the complexity of layering and contrast is evident. 

For all the art enthusiasts in Newcastle this collaborative exhibition can only be described as a treat. Wandering from one gallery to the next, anticipating what will be discovered and how the works progress and inform is new and hopefully going to recur for many years to come.

Kerri Smith
Guest Reviewer