Category Archives: Art Galleries & Exhibitions

Mainstream & Alternative

On Gertrude Street the passing tram displays an advertisement on its side; the image of the street artist, Rone modelling for the fashion label Uniqlo. Now lets talk about mainstream and alternative culture or, at least, read Paul Harrison’s article “We are all sheep: what Uniqlo and H&M tell us about Australian retail”.

Rone advert for Uniqlo

I can’t remember the last time that I wandered around Fitzroy and Collingwood looking at the streets, the street art and the art galleries. It has been over a year since I last reviewed a gallery in Fitzroy.

I used to regard the area around Gertrude Street and Brunswick Street the alternative cultural centre of Melbourne and although never a resident I used to be a frequent visitor. It has definitely been awhile, things have definitely changed but fortunately other things remain reassuringly familiar. I always pass a street artist up a ladder painting a wall on perambulations of Fitzroy or Collingwood.

Fitzroy is such a mix between the discount and the designer, between the socially vulnerable and affluent and between the mundane and the marvellous. A scruffy guy scuffs twice with his foot at a two dollar coin that some prankster had glued to the pavement and then moves on. How many different Fitzroys are there?

Keith Haring

In Collingwood I was glad to see the Haring mural fully restored and complete with information panels for the public (although the little service hatch door is not the original). It is a major change since I first wrote about it on this blog.

On my walk I managed to see exhibitions. Fitzroy and Collingwood’s art scene of little galleries is another world.

Off the Kerb’s group exhibition of creatures provided enough focus for such a disparate group of artists. This was better than BSG ungainly hanging and mix around their group show, creating a something that was less than the sum of its parts. ‘Body Sex’ was the theme of BSG group show but Off the Kerb’s broader theme of ‘Creature’ made a more unified exhibition. Off the Kerb’s exhibition also had the benefit of Dan Dealy who curated the show. (More taxidermy art at Off the Kerb by Lucia Mocnay and Tul Suwannakit, see my earlier post on Contemporary Art and Taxidermy.)

Next door to Off the Kerb, at Fawn Gallery, ’Analogue Re-Mission’ by Tansy McNally is an exhibition of paintings based on digital television distortions that creates random abstract of the image. The translation of this source material into paint actually did work, like post-impressionism for the digital age.

At Seventh there was Travis John’s FaceSplitter Lauren McCartney’s The Hula Hooping Project and  is described as a “composition, performance and installation existing somewhere between destruction and creation”. It looks like something out of Mythbusters. McCartney had used ppaint filled hula hoops. I’ve seen this idea before executed better by No Mi Che’s Oroborus in 2007 as she could really spin a hula hoop and wasn’t afraid of being covered in paint. McCartney’s paint splattered ‘gallery two’ with the prints and impressions of the artists feet reminded me of the work of Japanese art movement, Gutai because of the expression of primal energy.

 


Performprint Spectacular

“Extreme printmaking and macho ritual fuel Performprint – a ten-hour exploration of masculinity, live art and print reproduction in the 21st century.” Publicity promised a spectacular event from 9am to 7pm at the Arts House/Meat Market as part of the Festival of Live Art on Sunday March 23rd in Melbourne, Australia.

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The first question that I asked Joel Gailer, when I saw him a weeks ago. Joel looked relaxed, he was leaning on the cast iron lace railing of his terrace house veranda. “Are you in training for Performprint?”

“Yes, I did some training earlier today,” Joel replied. He had been in training. A few days later he and Michael Meneghetti, painted silver and orange, staggering through the Bourke Street Mall, in the centre of Melbourne with very large BBQs strapped to the backs. The ‘Stations of the BBQ’ was a live performance in the lead up Performprint. The masculine domain of the BBQ are locally believed to be quintessentially Australian; “throw another prawn on the barbie” comedian Paul Hogan would say in old Australian tourism advertisements.

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At Performprint, in the historic setting of the old Melbourne Meat Market printer, Joel Gailer and his old friend and collaborator, performance artist, Michael Meneghetti were both in sunglasses, t-shirts, black jeans and boots. They were constantly working with a silent concentrated intensity for the ten hour event except when Gailer would, megaphone in hand, would climb to the top of a ziggurat of half finished copies of Warhol’s Brillo Box to announce his print manifesto and laugh at painters. Gailer proclaimed that “the truth is a copy”, “the copy is primary” and “Warhol is our god”.

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Joel Gailer is an experimental printer; he presses hard up against the boundary of the definition of printing to get a good print of its relief. He has printed in many different processes from etching to commercial printing in art magazines for which he won the the Fremantle Acquisitive Print Award for Hot Process, a page of paid advertising in Art Almanac magazine. Action printing was the next logical step; the LPG gas fire in an iron grill for branding on slabs of pig skin. Branding is a form of print making.

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Gailer and Meneghetti were using many different printing processes from the traditional cast iron printing press to using a lawn roller to make giant prints with large plywood letters. Printing on a giant scale you need a casking gun of tar for ink and a line of rope strung across rigging.

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Meneghetti’s performance art a lot of stilt walking while wearing masks; see his YouTube page. As well as, assisting Gailer with the printing Meneghetti was occasionally walking around in several different versions of the stilts including one made crutches and broken surfboards. There was a video loop of two of his four legged creatures walking around on the rocks of the tidal zone as the water slowly came in.

Other looping videos showed Indonesian fighting cocks being prepared for battle, a man with a spectrum of coloured underpants and a hand holding sprigs of wattle flowers above a flame. The wattle is a reference to both the right-wing nationalist, Australia Natives Association’s ‘Wattle Day’, as a symbol of Australia, and Monty Python’s parody in their Bruce Sketch. Together Gailer and Meneghetti have refined and redefined ideas about Australia and country boy machismo into masochistic endurance performance art. Machismo and masochism are very close.

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There was skateboarding on two ramps at your own risk, with t-shirts printed with legal waivers for the event. The skateboard wheels were carved with letters and the ramps were covered with the printed word. There were many carved wheels and tires that Gailer and Meneghetti pushed around printing words onto the bluestone cobbled floor.

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It was somewhere between print making and rock’n’roll; smoke machines, spot lights, multiple TV sets, video projectors and Harley-Davidsons. This was an event with a bar, a coffee bar and a catering van.

At the end there was the cacophony of competing bands, MY ‘Michael Yule’ Band and Coffin Wolf, and the human branding. At 7:59pm Michael Meneghetti that night posted a photo on Facebook of Joel Gailer at the emergency ward. Gailer went to hospital on Arts House staff advice worried about alcohol poisoning after he consumed a bottle of gin too quickly during and post branding. He sat around for a while and then left before being examined.

A video of a 2013 outdoor version of Performprint.

A video on UStream of the Meat Market event that will make you head spin.

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DAMP @ Neon Parc

Why break ceramic objects (vases, plates, statues, a bathroom sink)? Why paint them with acrylic paint with references to the whole of art history (ancient Greeks to modern masters, including Picasso’s Weeping Woman) and then glue them back together again with polymer adhesive (as best as possible, given that some pieces might go missing in the process)?

Why? I was just re-reading an essay by Arthur Danto on this very subject; “Fine art and functional objects” (Danto, Embodied Meanings, critical essays and aesthetic meditations, 1994). Danto looks at an ancient Greek krater from the sixth century BCE, by the potter Euxitheos, decorated with red-figure paintings by Euphronius and considers the way that the art is now seen, as it is on exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as separate from the function. Danto points out that until the eighteenth century, “the distinction between painting and decoration was all bout nonexistent, and pictures were thought of as functional objects as well”. (p.300)

Danto concludes that the distinction between fine art and functionality is “historically contingent and constantly under negotiation.” (p.303) Clearly for this exhibition negotiations had broken down. In negotiating the functionality of the ceramic objects DAMP had broken them to remove their functionality. However, attempting to separate the art from its support is impossible.

Breaking the ceramics reduces their value to almost nothing, they are then transformed into art; a routine practiced by Japanese Buddhist monks, as well as, DAMP.

I walked two or three times around the “Harrison Collection” of painted ceramics by DAMP in the small single room of Neon Parc, chuckling to myself. There were plenty of details to keep looking. DAMP is a Melbourne-based art collective with a fluid membership that started in 1995.


Marblephilia

The immense, almost two metres long, polished, muscled torso turning at the waist, made of the white marble is Peter Schipperheyn’s most recent sculpture, River God. It refers back to figures one of the figures on the Parthenon’s tympanum (you know, that triangular bit filled with carved figures under the pitched roof).

Peter Schipperheyn, River God, 2012/13

Peter Schipperheyn, River God, 2012/13  (photograph courtesy of Mossgreen Gallery)

Peter Schipperheyn loves carving marble, particularly Carrara marble. Marble is a metamorphosed limestone, the crystals in the white stone is vary in size and occasionally mixed with tiny specks of mica. The white marble can be naturally stained with yellow with iron oxide or green with copper oxide. The block of marble is then under goes a second metamorphosis when it is carved.

Schipperheyn wants to be part of the marble carving tradition around Carrara. Marble has been quarried in Carrara since the Roman Empire. Quarrying and carving marble in Carrara is a tradition that might appear conservative but it also includes a tradition of anarchist radicals since the 19th century.

Peter Schipperheyn was first inspired by the large marble, stainless steel, silver bronze, nickel-plated steel sculpture in the NGV, Jean-Robert Ipoustéguy’s Death of the father (La Mort du père) 1967-1968. I always wondered what influence this macabre installation like an exploded medieval tomb of a bishop would have on Melbourne’s art. Schipperheyn understood the power and the instinctual desire to touch that that polished surfaces of Ipoustéguy’s sculpture generated. This desire to touch is expressed in several of Schipperheyn’s sculpture including Erotica, 2009.

Ipoustéguy had other resonances in Schipperheyn’s life. Eric Westbrook, the director of the NGV who had acquired Death of the Father also wrote a letter of reference for Peter that helped get his first trip to Italy where discovered his love for carving marble. Years later Schipperheyn managed to meet Ipoustéguy in Choise La Roi, on the outskirts of Paris.

Peter Schipperheyn carving the River God (photograph courtesy of Mossgreen Gallery)

Peter Schipperheyn carving the River God (photograph courtesy of Mossgreen Gallery)

I met Peter Schipperheyn at an exhibition of his ten of his recent works in marble and bronze at Mossgreen Gallery. Peter was wearing a bright orange linen suit and plain t-shirt. His marble carving tools, still with marble dust on them, are on exhibition in the built in vitrines at Mossgreen Gallery. He is happy and relaxed, he is on a hiatus after a lot of hard work, at the same time he is keen to get back to work.


Warehouse vs ARI

Daniel Lynch posted on Facebook today. “If you have ever been helped out by the warehouse. If u ever crashed there while u found your way. If u ever painted the walls. If you shot a film here or even just came to party, well come hang out today. I got a garage sale all day and I will be working around the place ripping the old beast down.”

Will Coles, cellphone flower, wall of Good Times Studios

Will Coles, cellphone flower, wall of Good Things Studios

I was looking at Facebook as I was thinking about how to reply to an email from an artist about volunteering at 69 Smith Street. The combination started me thinking about arts warehouses vs ARI; so instead of going to hang out one last time as Daniel ripped the studio walls down I thought that I’d write a blog post. I’d been to Good Things Studio on Coco Jackson Lane in Brunswick a couple of times for various reasons since Daniel established it in 2011. (In a 2012 post I call it Coco Jackson Studios I don’t know if it has changed its name or I just misnamed it with its address.)

There are some important art warehouses in Melbourne arts scene: Irene’s Community Arts Warehouse (where I first met some of the Indonesian artists involved in Taring Padi) and Blender Studios.

So how does this compare to ARI? ARI (artist run spaces) emerged in the 1980s; in 1982 Roar Studios in Fitzroy was Melbourne’s first ARI. Aiming to be bridge between the art school and major art galleries, ARI’s became part of the institution of art exhibiting. They look the same as the major galleries only the white walled spaces are smaller. But perhaps they have run their course especially as exhibiting in a gallery space is no longer essential to contemporary art and when even commercial galleries are opening what they call “project space” or dropping the word “gallery” from their name.

Warehouses combining artists studios and other events have been around since the 1990s. Warehouse parties, Warhol’s Factory and the old mystique of the artist’s studio all contribute to the warehouse vibe. The flexible warehouse space provides better matches contemporary art that might be seen on the street or a site-specific location. It allows for both artists who exhibit in galleries and those who don’t. It mixes the arts; musicians, film-makers and visual artists mixed at Good Things Studio. The community of artists working at the warehouse has a more direct influence on the work of the artist’s involved than the opportunity to exhibit.

For a young or emerging artist in Melbourne establishing an arts warehouse is more artistically significant than establishing an ARI.


March Exhibition Reviews

For me the exhibition of the week was Concrete Poetry Now! at Melbourne City Library in Flinders Lane. This little group exhibition of visual poetry curated by Ashley J Higgs really spoke to me about what is art/poetry/music/photography. The poetry of life in letters/signs of all kinds. It is a fun and thought provoking growing exhibition that left me wanting more and made me aware of more.

I also saw the exhibitions at Blindside. Todd Johnson’s Evidence shows evidence of impacts on ordinary objects like the bonnet of a Holden. More taxidermy in art; this time a beautiful fox hanging from the ceiling (see my post Taxidermy & Contemporary Art). Did it impact with the Holden?

Also at Blindside, Kieran Stewart A Highly Unadvisable Undertaking is about his attempt to build a parachute. Stewart describes his art as incorporating “a wide range of construction and building techniques that are constantly developing as part of my multi-disciplinary arts practice.”

On the second floor of the Nicholas Building the two exhibitions at Edmund Pearce Gallery made me think about the staging of photographs; when and why a viewer might suspend their disbelief in the photographic evidence. Daniel Sponiar’s series of portraits of Melbourne chefs, Yes Chef! has many dramatic images that are obviously staged but that only adds to showing the character of the subject. However, in Rebecca Dagnall’s In Tenebris series of dark Australian gothic bush scenes the more that I noticed the staging the photograph the less convincing I found the photograph.

On the way to my train I had a brief look at Platform but found Andrea Eckersley’s painting too subtle for the space; a underpass is not conducive to contemplation. Maybe this might work at a gallery. Metro Gallery had an exhibition of paintings by Kathleen Kngale the soft and delicate colours in intense fields of dots almost completely cover the dark underpainting. Beautiful and relaxing like a soporific drug but they wouldn’t be effective in an underpass either.


Melbourne Future @ Brunswick Art Space

What ever happened to Troy Innocent? In the mid 1990s Troy Innocent’s computer art was the talk of the town, or at least amongst the people I was spending time with, Melbourne’s Clan Analogue and one of my housemates. His art was on the cover of World Art #12 magazine in 1997 and the article inside started by noting him as “one of the most acclaimed and internationally recognised artists working in his medium.”

I didn’t expect to find the answer at Brunswick Art Space but more on Troy Innocent later. I went to Brunswick Arts on Friday night to see the opening of two exhibitions; Melbourne Future and Metsä Pako that are both part of the Brunswick Music Festival. The converted factory space on Little Breeze street is now almost surrounded by new construction, except for the back of Alasya Restaurant.

Metsä Pako is an “immersive environment file with ambient, experimental sound”. It didn’t help that the neither pair of headphones were working and the ambient music from the two speakers could barely be heard. It wasn’t that immersive, just two video projectors and some clay leaves hanging from the ceiling.

It is hard to be that immersive when in the next room there is a virtual reality experience; Roger Essig’s North South East West that is far more spectacular especially as it was my first VR experience. Not that all of the art in Melbourne Future is all that great, some of it, like Essig’s virtual reality or Pierre Proske’s Voiceprint, voice activated custom software is still in a beta version. If the future was fully realised then it would present but the exhibits are fun and worth considering.

What is not a beta version but has been completely realised and looks and plays spectacularly is Benjamin Kolaitis and Troy Innocent’s interactive installation Play Parameters. The large sandbox on which the game is projected is surrounded by a wooden fence with wire stretched around it that the two players, in opposite corners tap on with metal bars. It is an amazing and fun creation… lights flash, the game is on… So this is what Troy Innocent is doing now, as well as, being the Senior Lecturer in Games and Interactivity in the Faculty of Life and Social Sciences at Swinburne University and represented by Hugo Michell Gallery in South Australia.

Melbourne Future is a reference to Melbourne Now at the NGV but it is not just a prediction about the future of art but also “borrowing from the successful format of the ‘Melbourne Now’ program we will be running a mix of exhibited works along with engaging the public with free talks and workshops.” (See their Facebook page for details on the talks and workshops, a must for all artists working with technology in Melbourne).

What the future of art will look and sound like? Will the future of art look like a computer game? Will we still even recognise it as art?


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