Monday, June 29, 2015

Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre - Death and the Biggie Smalls

The taboo subject of death, the denial of its inevitability and the normalisation of its final play in the process of our mortal existence come into examination in Death and the Biggie Small at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre.

With death comes grief, fear and an awareness of our own mortality but also the revelation of its shocking ordinariness.  This show explores unique, at times innocent, humorous and quirky responses to the big full stop.  It preaches no answers to unlock the mysteries of the eternal unknowns but offers instead a creative acknowledgement of death not as an ominous dark shadow that we banish to the deepest recesses of our consciousness but as a normal part of our lives to be to be addressed, discussed and hence undemonised .

Hayley West presents us with a child symbolically burying a body, a mother?  By nonchalantly placing layers of material over her until she is covered.  The video ends with the child playing with cicada carcasses floating in the water. She is equally indifferent and arbitrary about both activities.  It is as if she has not learnt the fear and grief of death that comes with adulthood.  Similarly themed is Araya Rasdjarmream-sook’s continual work with cadavers after the death of her mother.

Helen Shelley has created sparkly celestial abstractions which are ponderings of the uncertain mysteries of death, an attempt to overcome her fear of it.  He resultant work is dazzling in execution and outcome.

Laurens Tan’s Vegas of Death installation presents poker machines/coffins, money boxes/ashes receptacles and a digital counter.  Drawing clever parallels between death and gambling, even to the extent of shared terminologies between the two, the kicker is the prizes offered in the pokies display are a range of funeral caskets from combustible pine boxes to gilded caskets.

An installation of Pukamani Poles adds some sombre cultural authenticity.  It is the centre of a spiritual memorial ceremony marking the transition from the living world to the spirit world.

Patrick Pound’s found photographs, including an apparent lifeless female tennis player mid court almost steals the show.

A room filled with ceramics, objects and paintings by various artists including Lyn Draper and Paul Williams make up the Biggie Small component of the exhibition.  These works show unexpected random visual modern cultural bites that are often playful, irreverent and evocative.

Glenn Locklee
Guest Reviewer

23rd May - 5th July 2015

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Curve Gallery - John Moroney

The Newcastle art scene is a thriving and bustling microcosm of energy.  I admit to not being able to see all that is happening out there but I try.  This week I was able to see the latest exhibition at Curve Gallery by the local artist John Moroney.  And I’m more than willing to say it is a fine and mostly infrequent example of the talent required to make it past the local art circuit.

Moroney not only shows work that delves deep, it is reflective, sensual and describes the subject’s soul. This achievement is a gift that allows painting to transcend from merely the decorative.   He displays a talent for perspective without the painstaking and arduousness often seen in this art genre.  And while he paints the recognised subject he still allows room for the brush to take possession producing free and curious manipulations with the medium.

Also to admire is the confronting grittiness of an artist with the confidence to get past the personal and produce a body of work that challenges emotion.  It’s an enviable accomplishment for this young artist still studying at The National Art School in Sydney.  Moroney’s achievements to date include winning the painting section of the Newcastle Emerging Art Prize (2014), being selected as semi-finalist for the Doug Moran Portrait Prize and a finalist in the Black swan Portraiture Prize in Perth.

Kerri Smith
Guest Reviewer

13th June - 4th July 2015

Friday, June 19, 2015

Depot II Gallery - Amy Clarke

Found myself swiftly delivered via public transport to see this show on a cold and windy day and it’s been awhile since I’d been to Danks st.  Depot II Gallery seems to be the best place to prop up interstate artist’s, to give them some time out of their comfort zones and to show off and air all their hard work.

This being the very first time I’ve been up close and personal to the lovely Amy Clarke’s work, relishing in the exuberant brush strokes and delicious colour palette.  Kinda caught me by surprise as have only really seen her works via Facebook, so I am greatly relieved and appreciative to be able to see this show.  An especially since Amy is also our Guest Reviewer from Queensland.

‘Fleeting’ oil on linen, 1200x1200mm is one I love and perfect as a donation to the St Vincent’s Curran Foundation Healing Arts Program.  It feels it has reflective qualities, urging memories to be remembered.  ‘Out There’ oil on linen, 1200x1200mm is another I fell for, tracing itself across a barren but colourful landscape, I kept coming back to this one.

‘The Unknown’ oil on linen, 1200x1200mm boldly reminds me to never be scared of the unknown, holding myself firmly in place with both feet on the ground.  ‘Beginnings’ oil on linen, 1050x1050mm is another of the bold kind and another I fell for, slapping me right dead smack in the face and then smothering me in it’s warm afterglow.

These works reassure us that the language of colour can be fleeting and should be allowed to grab us by the shoulders and force us into a comfortable chair to gaze upon them for eternity. 

Fleur MacDonald

10th June – 20th June 2015

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Gallery 139 - Helene Leane

Unaffected and charm are words that conjure images of the past.  It’s a simplistic picture we grasp for and one the commercial world is all too willing to encourage with enticing magazines showing rambling country homes decorated with checked tablecloths awash with glorious homemade cakes and the odd scone with jam and cream.  Those were the days of ample time and the luxury of sparsely populated roads.  Ah yes! Let’s pretend and yearn for yesteryear...

Helene Leane’s first solo exhibition as a represented artist at Gallery 139 allows us to observe the inspiration of this bygone era in her richly textured body of work.  Helene was initially motivated by Meroogal Women’s Art Prize which asks for female artists across NSW to delve into the past and summon a response to the historic Meroogal House in Nowra.  Accepting this challenge allowed her to explore ideas and materials which eventually culminated in her work being selected for the prize in late 2014.  Enthused by this beautiful house in Meroogal Helene kept the creative endeavour going though ventured closer to home for her source of inspiration.  For this exhibition “Lino & Lace” Miss Porter’s House therefore became muse.  For those unaware of the existence of Miss Porter’s House, it’s a quaint little cottage in King st Newcastle worthy of exploration.  It allows a glimpse into the lives of two women who lived in an era prior to perpetual home renovating and the constant desire for new consumables.  And that in itself lets history reveal itself.  Old linoleum ambles unrestrained throughout and lace decorates tirelessly as the humble doily.  Helene has taken these outdated materials and renewed our acquaintance with them through her art.

Most of us are familiar with Helene’s monotype prints.  They are a wonderful layering of shape, texture and tone.  Her prints in this exhibition build on her knowledge of this medium and attractively depict the quality of lino, overlaying it with pattern.  This patterned effect also occurs in the acrylic paintings where lace doilies are stamped into swathes of paint and beeswax.  Also adopted very successfully in this show is a photo transfer technique.  Manipulation of the photograph is achieved through a building up of colour and surface via acrylic paint.  This delivers a fanciful reality that sneakily entices us into those desired realms of the past.

Helene’s first solo show with Ahn Well’s Gallery 139 is an attractive exploration of an era we will always adore because of its feminine beauty and perceived simplicity.

An unaffected charm is certainly displayed in this exhibition!  Ah now time for a scone with jam and cream.

But better put that load of wet washing through the mangle first.

Kerri Smith
Guest Reviewer

3rd June - 20th June 2015

Monday, June 8, 2015

Galerie Notre Dame - Dagmar Cyrulla

In Reflection, the latest body of work by Dagmar Cyrulla, the artist creates atmospheric mise-en-scènes that frame her exploration into intrinsic relationships that bind people together.  Relationships between men and women of a sexual nature, mothers and children, society and the individual, between the artist and herself – all undergo Cyrulla’s painterly interpretation of the emotional and psychological complexities contained therein. In doing so she evocatively renders a raw, intensely private reality that resonates with a deeply felt emotional truth.

In Cyrulla’s work the domestic space becomes a passive vessel for the longings and desires of its inhabitants, as the artist invites us in to witness the private lives of strangers.  Sometimes the moments she depicts are laced with an unsettling ambiguity.  Take the scene depicted in Privacy of My Backyard and The Washing, where a nude woman kneels alongside a seated man.  She turns toward him in a beseeching manner, hand resting suggestively on his mid-section as a toddler stands nearby.

In both versions the viewer is placed in a voyeuristic space as we watch the scene through a strongly delineated geometric barrier.  In Privacy of My Backyard, this occurs as lines that intersect the canvas at regular intervals through which the figures are viewed as if through a window blind.  While in The Washing the artist has introduced bold striped towels that partially obscure what occurs behind them.  In both the effect is the same – the viewer experiences the sensation that we are witnessing something we shouldn’t, and can only guess at what led to this moment, and what transpires next.

A sense of transgression is also explored in a series of pencil and gouache drawings that set up an interplay between the strictures of authority and tradition, and the messy, more lascivious aspects of human experience.  These works feature details of religious and historical sculptures, paintings, and the interior of churches that the artist drew on a recent trip to France.  Cyrulla invents fictional scenarios in the context of these elements, placing a young nude couple within the hallowed halls of church interior as seen in Influence III.  In Influence I a semi-nude woman bends over to pull down her pants, watched silently by a saintly sculpture.  While in Influence II another woman enacts the same movement in front of a group of male figures depicted within a painting, who seem to look down upon her with an air of superior judgement.

Of course there is an element of shock in these works that Cyrulla willfully injects to grab the viewers attention.  But underneath this initial impact is a comment on the gap between the version of ourselves we present to the world that conforms to widely held traditions and social expectations, and that which we keep private and perhaps long to express.  It’s the struggle to keep up appearances in the face of moral judgement and condemnation, an age-old paradigm expressed here in a surprising and effective manner.

Other works contain a direct and poignant expression of deeply felt sexual love, as seen in her major drawing Memory of Passion II.  Here a couple embrace, his hand on her buttock as the pair of them stand still and tall, immersed in one another.  Rendered in charcoal on paper the work has an almost sculptural quality, as the white form of her body emerges from the dark shadows and his arms.

As if filtered through a lens of memory, a melancholy air pervades this and other works in the exhibition.  Memory of Passion I and III, and Lost I and II all feature women alone in their bedroom rapt in quiet reverie, or perhaps despair.  In such works Cyrulla uses dynamic brushstrokes and an ever-shifting palette of glowing hues to capture a quick impression that nevertheless has a lasting emotive resonance.

While Cyrulla’s skill in draughtsmanship and painterly application are undisputed, where her work truly shines is in the convincing evocation of interior worlds where everyday dramas forever unfold.  Such images reveal the artist’s keen perception, imagination, and instinctive ability to convey the emotional gravitas contained within these small, passing moments.

Marguerite Brown

4rd April – 25th April 2015