Where: First Site Gallery 344 Swanston Street
There were no deadly poisoned tunics ready to melt the skin from your very bones in this years showcase of graduate RMIT students which speaks well of the selection committee involved in choosing design students. They must have a ‘’No Medeas’’ policy. Though it would be interesting to figure out how exactly they could ascertain whether or not a student had a vengeful nature.
They hung from the ceiling like apparitions moving infinite nano inches from the breeze made from the air conditioning. This added to the allure of what was a very enjoyable and eye opening ode to sustainable forms of fashion. A waist coat made of growing grass hung on a limbless mannequin. It brought to mind a more army styled outfit that the first man, Adam himself would have worn had he been more creative and had more time in the garden of Eden before being distracted by illicit fruit. As I wandered the gallery quite spell bound, a gallery attendant sprayed water from a small spray bottle all over the green grass waistcoat in order to keep it lush. A cropped knitted jumper hung from a coat hanger with sleeves resembling wings and complete with plumage each tiny plume a different bright colour. I would have worn that quite happily. It would go so well with black leggings and ….
But I digress.
It is this kind of digression that made the whole exhibition so enjoyable. A blue dress made from garbage bags and a tutu skirt that included six strips of malleable metal curving around the flare of the skirt, adding a sense of resilience to another otherwise feathered friend inspired item. It is a dress for the environmentally conscious girl with a steely determination to succeed. How often do you by items of clothing because they are cheap and wear them once only to throw away soon after because they fall apart?
This exhibition is not just a flimsy excuse to look at pretty items of original clothing. It is an excuse to raise questions about consumption and excess in our day to day. Clothes become ladfill just as easily as take away coffee recepticles and plastic plates. We need to redefine how we think about clothes and fashion. This is not to say we must not enjoy it and take pleasure in a well fitted and flattering item but to simply be more mindful of how much we buy and dispose off over time. The talented students of RMIT should be proud of their accomplishment as its breadth is far wider than the confines of the gallery it inhabits.
By Jessica Knight
When I go looking at art galleries, I am looking for something really marvellous, simply being good and competent works of art is not enough for me. Sometimes I’m disappointed even after visiting multiple galleries. Today I was not disappointed, if Rosalind Atkins collaborating with Ex De Medici in an exhibition of prints and a large watercolour featuring gasmasks, bullets and birds at Australian Galleries wasn’t fantastic enough to make my head spin there was Neon Parc at Gertrude Contemporary.
Dan Moynihan, Lost in Space, 2013
What am I talking about? Neon Parc is a small alternative commercial gallery on Bourke Street. What is it doing in Gertrude Contemporary? It is Melbourne artist Dan Moynihan’s “Lost in Space”. It was two third scale replica of the outside and interior of the gallery built in the front gallery space at Gertrude Contemporary.
In 2011 I saw Moynihan’s installation “The Warm Memorial: The Dan Moynihan Experience”, part of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art NEW11 exhibition. If you saw the exhibition you would remember the large installation of fake palm trees and skeleton wearing a Walkman on a beach.
Moynihan creates immerse environments; you could go inside Neon Parc and feel what it was like inside. You couldn’t forget that this was in another gallery as one of the walls was the window of Gertrude Contemporary. You could look out the window on to Gertrude Street and see a different space.
The view from Gertrude Street
The building that houses the actual Neon Parc looks like a symbol of failure on so many levels, like the failed little businesses underneath with their old advertising. It is a red brick failure of a little rectangular modern building built in a failing location next to a multi-story carpark. (The possibility of failure is something that should be close to contemporary art.)
People in Melbourne’s gallery scene often talk about the aesthetics of a gallery space. Neon Parc does not have any, from the terrazzo floor to the fluoro strip lighting; it is an anaesthetic kind of space. I have climbed the stairs to Neon Parc too many times to count but I’ve never climbed them in two-thirds scale, the feeling was uncanny. There is no art in the replica gallery space but there on the wall just inside the door where Neon Parc always has the information sheet is Dan Moynihan’s panel. The detail is spooky – except the office space with its old green lino floor is empty except for the air-conditioner. I am lost in a replica of a familiar space in an Alice in Wonderland moment as the world shrank or I had grown – a marvellous experience enough to make my head spin.
I saw a few exhibitions this week that united art, architecture and fashion: “Transitions” at No Vacancy and the combination of Denise Wray’s “Compartments” and Jake Preval’s “Costumes for the Ark” at the George Paton Gallery. This seems an odd remark because I rarely see exhibitions that unite art, architecture and fashion and yet what is the difference between them?
“Transitions” by Make Shift Concepts: Armando Chant, Donna Sgro and Oliver Solente is part of the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival’s cultural program. “At first glance it will look like just a video and some sculptures.” Oliver Solente (from the exhibition paper.) It did look like that but the suspended dresses and video of the dress worn on the catwalk reminded me that this was a fashion exhibition. The suspended dresses were not hung to suggest a human form but hung to show potentials in their architectural form, much like the angular architectural forms of the sculptures.
It was these angular architectural forms that reminded me of the structure of the masks in Jake Preval’s “Costumes for the Ark”. Preveal’s exhibition isn’t in the fashion festival’s cultural program but it should be, it is like the queer alternative. The exhibition is basically a series of photographs of queer couples wearing only black underpants and Preveal’s cardboard masks. The architecture of the couple’s bodies as they posed together is what made the photographs. Love the scattered black underwear around the room, suggesting that the couples from the photographs had stripped off their costumes and left the ark.
Denise Wray’s “Compartments” definitely united art, architecture and fashion. If art and architecture is about filling or not filling a space than Wray’s four works did that, with stitched zips, acrylic on canvas, polyester twine and leather strips. It looked like Wray gone mad after reading too much Greenberg and books on Duchamp and had raided a leather garment factory’s bins to make ‘art’. I liked it is ironic in punk deconstructionist way.
I wouldn’t say that I’m a big fashion, design or architecture fan; it is too cool for me. I want passionately engage – this why I’m very interested in sculpture and I enjoy writing about it. It is odd because sculpture and architecture are so similar – it is often difficult to distinguish where one begins and the other ends – visually it is often difficult to distinguish them, they might be indistinguishable. But what is the difference between sculpture and architectural or fashion forms? Function appears to be too simple an explanation as sculptures are also functional (see my post on the Uses of Public Art). Given that I can’t clearly distinguish between sculpture and architecture I don’t know why I feel differently about them.
The difference between sculpture and architectural forms is not an insubstantial issue and can have legal, as well as, aesthetic implications. The Copyright Website reports that in the case of Leicester vs. Warner Bros. the Los Angeles “district court found that the towers (Andrew Leicester’s sculpture Zanja Madre), although containing artistic elements, were actually part of the architectural work of the building.”
Curiously, I don’t think that I’ve seen an exhibition of figure drawings for a few years until today; it was once a prominent feature of art exhibitions. “Swallow Flex and Wither” is a series of figure drawings by Emma Michaelis at Tinning Street Presents. Emma was gallery sitting when I visited so I took the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her drawings. Emma Michaelis is based in Melbourne and a recent graduate of the Australian Academy of Design.
Emma Michaelis @ Tinning Street Presents…
All her drawings in the exhibition are done with coloured pencils. The most obvious thing about this series of drawings is the different colour of each of the drawings. There is a series within this series of self-portraits exploring the different colours; three primary colour heads (the yellow is almost invisible), secondary colour feet and hands, and finally tertiary colour drawings of less significant parts of the body, like the backs of legs.
There are three beautiful, blue female nudes, sitting, standing and lying, drawn on vast sheets of paper. There are no backgrounds in any of Michaelis’ drawings; the place where the drapery or bathtub would has been left blank, keeping the focus on the flesh of the figures.
Two orange “golden” mirror image male nude figures with prominent foot stretched out to the viewer. There are a lot of drawings of feet in this exhibition, lots of small drawings of feet that Emma Michaelis jokingly calls it her “hoof and claw” series. Her drawings are technically very good; the mood of her drawings is calm, almost romantic with the focus slightly softened.
Tinning Street Presents is part of an interesting area of Brunswick. The light industrial area by the closed railway crossing around Tinning Street and Ilham Lane has become a creative hub with street art, artist’s studios and other creative enterprises.
Will Coles “I Fucking <3 Melbourne” at Dark Horse Experiment; Coles is being ironic with the title of the exhibition – he is based in Sydney. And Coles’s exhibition has a cement mixer sized load of irony.
I have to declare a conflict of interests in writing about Coles’s exhibition because Catherine and I bought two of his small works at the exhibition. Coles cast concrete objects made me laugh (really), it made me cry (not really, but there was some sentimentality in some of the works) and it made want to buy. It made a lot of people want to buy; there was a queue of buyers at the desk. Will Coles was also giving away 40 prints to the early birds along with 1 trillion dollar bills with a portrait of him smoking a cigar, so lots of people at the exhibition were going home with some of his art.
Will Coles “Might Is Right” and small works
As this was Will Coles’s first exhibition in Melbourne it was a bit of a mini retrospective with a sample of his well known works from the crushed cans to the TV sets. The small work, the cans, phones, remote controls, etc. were grouped around “Might is Right”, a large gold Buddha holding a gold Kalashnikov. The “Memorial to the Unknown Armchair General”, an armchair and pouffe cast in concrete, provided another focal point. His gallery editions are cast various colours of resin and cement. I hadn’t seen Coles culture jamming prints before but although competent and ironically funny, they aren’t as good as his sculpture.
Memorial to the Unknown Armchair General
You can read my article about Will Coles in Trouble magazine about Coles work in relation to Jasper Johns and the history of sculpture. For more images see Land of Sunshine “Will Coles Hits Melbourne”. And there are still more of Coles works to find on the streets of the Melbourne.
Will Coles Crushed Can on Melbourne street.
Will Coles mask in Rutledge Lane
Platform, Blindside & Mailbox 141
I saw some exhibitions in the city that I would give on average two stars. The problem of writing a three star review that I mentioned in my last post has come back minus one star. Two stars would indicates that it is less than average, that I am not recommending it to anyone and that I didn’t like it. But unlike films, music, and restaurants visual arts reviewers generally don’t use stars or any other comparative rating measurement. It is hard on the art and the artists to be summed up in a couple of symbols; a few nuanced words might be kinder to the artists but I’m not writing this for the artists but for their potential audience.
I know that I recently praised “raw, brutal and rough” art in my review of Brunswick Arts February exhibition but I didn’t like what I saw in the vitrines at Platform. Perhaps because it was just more of the same or that there was so much of it. “House me within a geometric quality” a group exhibition curated by Patrice Sharkey was a crude but systematic exploration of ways to fill the vitrines, either by covering the glass or putting objects inside. There are lots of plates of glass with interesting textures along with other lumpy things in the cabinets. (I can’t remember the exhibition of the same title from 2011 also at Platform and also curated by Patrice Sharkey but Dead Hare has a review of it.)
In Blindside’s Gallery One Jon Hewitt’s “Feel The Confidence” was just boring, the same photo of the top of Hewitt’s balding head over and over again along with repetitious name-dropping of contemporary artists. If it has any quality it probably went over most heads.
Sarah Bunting’s “Incessant Ruthlessness” in Blindside’s Gallery Two are a series of bad painting, not awful but not working either. Buntings painting are ugly crude and lumpy but they do have an unsettling sci-fi dystopian atmosphere. There is hope I’ve seen artists who painted as badly but after years of practice are now painting well and are successful.
Sue-Ching Lascelles @ Mailbox 141
A passing woman summed up Brisbane-based artist Sue-Ching Lascelles exhibition at Mailbox 141 with one word: “cute” but I can’t sum up an exhibition in a single word, I have to explain myself. Mailbox 141 is a difficult space to fill; the fifteen small glass fronted former mailboxes in the tiled foyer of 141 Flinders Lane are not easy for artists. Sue-Ching Lascelles filled each of the mailboxes with a cute animal, bird and fish painted heads on bodies of un-worked rock crystals. The exhibition was titled: “Cabinet of Cities. Invisible Curiosities” and I could see that there were two problems with the title.
Sound and Vision @ Counihan Gallery – One + Two = 12 @ Black Dot
Sound and Vision by Sarah Duyshart, Emma Lashmar and Ross Manning, is an exhibition of visions of sound. Curated by Lauren Simmonds the vision of this exhibition was impressive. The gallery was divided into three sections, so each of the works occupied the entirety of their section, as is the want of contemporary art.
The first space had a number of suspended droplet columns of glass balls and fishing line hanging from the ceiling. It is Emma Lahmar’s “Field Theory-/-Bodies” 2013. The glass balls are open at the top and partially filled with water. The fishing line pierces the glass balls; sometimes there are also tubes of glass running through the water. They looked like drops of dew on spider webs. Solenoids activated by microphones responding to ambient sounds would vibrate the lines; it looked like it should produce sound but it was very quiet. Vibrations were a major theme of the exhibition (and things hanging from the ceiling).
Sarah Dyshart’s vibrating sieve (hanging from the ceiling) “Sift” 2013 vibrated in response to a soundtrack of local field recordings sending showers of bakers flour and leaving a deposit on the black sheet beneath. It looked particularly impressive with the small sprinkle of flour following each sound of a ticking clock.
Ross Manning’s “Binary Star” 2013 is a simple but highly effective light show occupies the third space. Coloured dots randomly appear on the wall based on a rotating loop of perforated paper hanging (from the ceiling) in front of a digital projector set on a test pattern.
The exhibition left me wanting to see and hear more art about sound.
At Black Dot Gallery there is, One + Two = 12 an exhibition of paintings by four artists from South America. The exhibition was meant to be about “on questioning long-held Latin American stereotypes”; I don’t know what South American stereotypes the exhibition hoped to challenge. I didn’t have any expectations; South America is one of the two continents that I’ve never been.
The four artists exhibiting did not have much in common apart from being from South American. Their art ranged from digital deconstruction to street art, sentimentalism to surrealism. Isidoro Adatto Mandowsky’s two large paintings deconstruct the digital image, breaking it down as a subject to paint. Ignacio Rojas, worked with a variety of stencil techniques including strip stencil and dot stencils; I could see why he was a finalist in the Australian Stencil Art Prize 2012. (I wish that I was seeing his work on Melbourne’s streets – maybe I have but didn’t know it.) The colour bars over paintings of children from war zones by Julian Clavijo were well done but too sentimental for my taste. And María Esther Peña three paintings are surreal landscapes populated with what Peña calls, “bodies in transit”, faceless figures who have lost their identity.