Starting on the 8th floor Stephen McLaughlan Gallery is showing “Abstraction 2009”, a group show of abstractions. Once upon a time people believed that abstraction was the future of art and would lead to the salvation of humanity. Now abstraction is just another type of image often with symbolic mystical qualities. Most of the artists in this exhibition are from the last generation who could believe in the beneficent qualities of abstraction and their titles reflect thee mystical qualities. The exception is the work of the slightly younger artist, Shiau-Peng Chen. Made of wooden blocks Chen’s geometric abstractions exist in two states: assembled and with the coloured wooded blocks free of the frame and scattered on the table. This is contemporary re-examination of the structure of abstract art.
A floor down at Blindside there is “Debut V”, a group show curated by Natalya Mailer of nine fine art 2008 graduates. The sculptors are the stars of the show. Aly Aitken’s sculptures look like 3D versions of figures from a Francis Bacon nightmare. Aitken has used found materials and fabric to create coherent Surreal figures. Carl Scrase “Structure for the Accumulation of All Knowable Knowledge” follows the geometry of office folders linked with bulldog clips to its circular conclusion. It is yet another beautiful and colourful work by Scrase as he explores the logic and sculptural qualities of ordinary objects.
Natalya Mailer has written an extensive essay on the work in the exhibition and even proposed a theme for the exhibition however she provides no curatorial explanation for the inclusion of any of the artists. Or why her selection of recent graduates from Melbourne’s art school is different from “New Releases”, the selection of recent graduates on at Pigment Gallery, five floors lower down the building.
The difference between the two exhibitions is clear, although unstated; the graduates at Blindside are creating art for institutions, whereas the graduates at Pigment are, on the whole, creating for domestic environments. The differences between art for art institutions and art for domestic environments include the type of materials used, their maintenance and the physical requirements to exhibit them.
It is easy to imagine most of the art in “New Releasess” in someone’s home or office. “New Releases” has: oil paintings of hi-tech scenes by Michael Staniak, elegant etchings by Kristina Sundstrom, contemporary pop-cartoon-animal sculptures by Sarah Deed and the whimsical illustrations by Carmel Seymour, who creates images of a world full of domestic magic.
Both Blindside and Pigment Gallery have been enlarged. Pigment Gallery has two new spaces, a white room and a smaller black walled room. And Blindside now has a second room.
Mailbox 141, further along Flinders Lane, also has an exhibition of the work of jewellery graduates from Box Hill TAFE. Everyone’s exhibiting the recent graduates.