Tag Archives: Brunswick Arts

Retro Style

Checking my mailbox there was an email from a publicist about five permanent larger-than-life original artworks by a Melbourne artist Steve Rosendale on the façade of the “YOU AND I” apartment precinct, a Collingwood residential development on the northern end of Smith Street. The name of the artist, Steve Rosendale, wasn’t initially familiar but on further research I found that I had reviewed an early exhibition, “Silhouettes” by Rosendale at Brunswick Arts in 2006 in my old blog. I had some vague memories of the exhibition and I was impressed at the targeting of the publicists email.

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It is always interesting to see how artists have developed over the years and Steve Rosendale’s painting technique has greatly improved. What I remember of his 2006 exhibition was the 60s pop style and cinematic style. Now Rosendale has developed this theme into a figurative retro style depicting scenes of 1950s Americana.

Orbit Architecture, the architect of the new development plan to incorporate Rosendale’s images in both perforated metal screens and an unusual technique of curing graphic concrete that will recreate one of Rosendale’s pieces in bas-relief.

Looking at Rosendale’s recent painting made me aware that there are a lot of retro artists around deliberately painting figurative images from the 1950s. Along with Steve Rosendale’s painting, there are Dianne Gall’s atmospheric 1950s interiors and Kathrin Longhurst’s sexed-up Soviet Realism. (Both Gall and Longhurst are represented by Catherine Asquith Gallery and Rosendale is represented by Libby Edwards Galleries.)

Retro styles have been a big feature of art, design, fashion, music and popular culture since the 1980s. The post-modern mix of kitsch, camp and conservative elements in these retro styles make me think that the baby boomers love the recreation and repetition of their history but also – what happened to the future?


Seven Exhibitions

The weather was perfect for a bicycle ride to Melbourne University today; I had various reasons to go including having another look at the sculptures on campus for a future blog post. I also saw a couple of galleries on the campus, the George Paton Gallery and Ian Potter Museum of Art and on the way back I stopped in to have a look at Brunswick Arts Space.

I thought that I might give George Paton Gallery a miss because the exhibition “Make it New” was just a student union photography competition and exhibition but as I was passing by the Melbourne Student Union building I felt that this reason was snobbish. I was glad that I saw the exhibition, the variety and quality was impressive; I had seen some of the photographs before in other exhibitions.

Ian Potter Museum had three exhibitions: Heat in the eyes, Colour Me Dead and Under the Sun.

“Heat in the eyes: new acquisitions 2010–13” has more than fifty works recently acquired through purchase and donation. This included works by some familiar names: Jenny Watson, Mike Kelly and Peter Tyndall. Trevor Nickolls’ exuberant painting “Gertrude Street, Fitzroy” is definitely worth acquiring for so many reasons.

“Under the sun” is exhibition for the Kate Challis RAKA Award 2013 is an annual award for Indigenous creative artists. The $25,000 award winner is Mabel Juli for her minimal painting “Garnkeny Ngarranggarni (Moon Dreaming)”. The artists on exhibition are Teresa Baker, Daniel Boyd, Hector Burton, Timothy Cook, Mabel Juli, Kunmarnanya Mitchell, Alick Tipoti, Garawan Wanambi and Regina Wilson. I was taking note on the fibreglass resin masks by Alick Tipoti from the Torres Strait Islands, Hector Burton’s paintings of the trees around the waterhole with their fantastic colours, and the woven patterns in Garawan Wanambi (NT) paintings when my pen ran out of ink and so did my notes at this point.

Philip Brophy’s exhibition “Colour Me Dead” is about “changing perceptions of the nude in art from Neoclassicism and Romanticism”. It sounds more like an art history thesis than an art exhibition but Brophy has created an attractive and clever multi-media exhibition from his research. There is a movie, works on paper, digital art, sounds, lights and plenty to cogitate on. And here was I with out a functioning pen.

On my ride back I looked at the graffiti covered Upfield bike track (more research for future blog posts) and I stopped at Brunswick Arts Space. Where there were three good exhibitions. “I need a life, where can I download one? A drawing investigation by Alice Alva” fills two walls with drawings of debatable quality in a Barry McGee style hanging. Jess Kelly’s “Photosynthesis” has alchemical jars and life-size paper cut-outs of the lamppost growing leaves evoking a mysterious atmosphere. And Andy Robertson’s “Works, 2012” took a wry look at the documentation of contemporary art.


Brunswick Galleries by Bike

Black Dot Gallery – Brunswick Art Space – Tinning Street presents…

This week I’ve been riding my bike to a few galleries in Brunswick. It was fun to ride my bike to the Counihan Gallery last Sunday (see my review January @ Counihan). It is much better than using public transport to get to a gallery. Plus I got to see all of the graff along the Upfield bike path and around Brunswick. Lush has been bombing so many of his cats along the line. There were half a dozen people painting along the bike path on Sunday – they were only up to the outlines and blocking in – so there will be new pieces to see next time I ride that way.

Lush, Brunswick

Lush, Brunswick

I hadn’t been to Black Dot Gallery in Brunswick East before. There is a gift shop/office space in the front and then a separate long room with a wood floor, white walls and track lighting. Black Dot Gallery is an aboriginal artist-run gallery space with a regular program of exhibitions.

Their current exhibition “Dandy Boy” is part of the Midsumma festival’s visual arts program. It is a group exhibition so the quality of the work varies. I was impressed by Cecilia Kavara’s “Identity Negative’ a 9 min projection of a high contrast image of Kavara removing white tape that covers her body, slowly disappearing, right until the final moment when she walks off with a few scraps of tape still on her.

On Friday night there were two exhibition openings in Brunswick and at each all the poles around both of the galleries had bicycles chained to them.

At Brunswick Art Space, there was “Entry”, the 8th annual Brunswick Art Space Contemporary Art Prize. With 91 works on exhibition there was a lot to look at and some obvious trends. Art with text was a major feature of many of the better works, like Lesley O’Gorman “No Shoes” but art text has been a trend for a century. There was also a lot of good art that was raw, brutal and rough; the best of these was Courtney Wills “Internal Series: ILEUM”, a lumpy chunk of wax that was slowly bleeding something sticky and red onto its elegant glass and steel plinth.

Belinda Wiltshire "Bask" 1985 & 2013 at Tinning Street presents...

Belinda Wiltshire “Bask” 1985 & 2013 at Tinning Street presents…

Tinning Street Presents… had “Your Old Self” an exhibition of artists reinterpreting an artwork from their childhood. It is an excellent theme for an exhibition, the artist’s childhood artwork and a current artwork united in painted circles on the gallery’s wall. It takes Picasso’s remarks about painting like a child to a new level. The exhibition included works by notable artists Sam Leach and Shaun Tan. Tan did a painting based on a childhood drawing “Fighting a Monster”.

I was riding my bicycle because I’m tired of public transport as a way of getting to see galleries. Myki is getting me down (my card has broken down twice) on top of the decades of neglect and poor service; Melbourne public transport is simply not good value for money. So I’m going to try to see more local galleries for a while. I still haven’t been to Ceres small works gallery Synergy Gallery @ The Red Train. Last month I rode my bicycle to the Library Gallery; I missed the Ros Bandt performances but saw the installation of her instruments. There are plenty of galleries within easy riding distance from my house and when I get my fitness level up there will be more.


Gallery Cats

Winchester, the cat at Brunswick Arts died on the 10th of October. Originally from Toowoomba, Queensland, Winchester moved to Melbourne and pursued a career in artist management. He enjoyed a long and successful life supervising activities at the artist-run-gallery, eating and sleeping. He passed away suddenly early in the morning after enjoying life as usual the previous day. Early in 2012 Winchester went missing for a week after an exhibition opening. He had cancer and was receiving chemotherapy in mid 2012. Winchester was a male tabby and proud of it. He had his own Facebook page (I was one of his 175 friends). I will miss seeing him when I visit and he will be profoundly missed by his family at Brunswick Arts.

Winchester the cat at Brunswick Arts opening 2012

Another gallery cat in Melbourne is Milly at Brunswick Street Gallery Milly a white short-haired cat is very affectionate; she was following me around the gallery trying to get petted when I was last there.

In observing cats you will notice that cats enjoy geometry of the designed environment; they place themselves in a manner in harmony with the space. Gallery cats appreciate the gallery space like many of the human visitors. Gallery cats must wonder why humans often walk half way across a room and then suddenly stop and stares at the wall for a minute before continuing walking in their original direction.

“When I play with my cat, who knows whether she is not amusing herself with me more than I with her.” Michel de Montaigne


Like This

On Friday evening I went to the opening of “You Like This – concerning love, life and FACEBOOK” curated by Vinisha Mulani and Alister Karl at Brunswick Arts. This is not the first exhibition about Facebook; last year there was an exhibition at Dark Horse, “Facebook project” but I didn’t get to that exhibition.

I liked the Brunswick Arts exhibition; each of the artists had their own wall, like in Facebook, except this was an actual gallery wall. Peter Davidson took this took this further and made an actual wall, instead of a virtual one, with a string time line, photos and index cards for each entry.

Jenna Corcoran “Facebook is a dirty word”, (blue wool and nails) 2012

I particularly like Jenna Corcoran’s “Facebook is a dirty word” (blue wool and nails). That is the problem, although most art is only looked at for a few seconds, Facebook is reducing everything to eye-candy and gossip.

Jamie Rawls video “like totally” was a montage of people using the word ‘like’. Like wow, man. “Like” is such a mild positive statement, it is also a simile drawing a comparison between two things, not an equivalence like a metaphor just a comparison. (Like Californians didn’t say like enough already before Facebook and, of course, everyone wants a dislike button on Facebook – a thumbs down to massacres, dictators and other ugly things.)

The rest of the exhibitors were not as focused on Facebook as the concept of liking which was explored by Vinisha Mulani with a series of photographs that visitors were to attach blue like stickers. Or internet stalking explored by Alister Karl with a creepy computer installation, “Stalkbook”.

Facebook is so ubiquitous that it is hard to sum up. In the past I used to see travelers in Internet cafes reading Hotmail, then it changed and every computer screen was on Facebook. The two most obvious ways that Facebook has changed art in Melbourne are Facebook events for exhibitions and Facebook entities. Facebook events allow the galleries a better idea of how many people might be attending and to communicate with those people intending to attend. This free alternative to advertising in publications like Art Almanac, InTrouble and other paid gallery listing. Brunswick Arts exhibition was put together and promoted through Facebook.

And Facebook provides a forum for artists and galleries to communicate directly with their patrons. As a forum, Facebook has lead to the creation of a kind of micro bloggers who post regular photos and other information.

It hasn’t been a dramatic change. Facebook has been a small influence on art, mostly street art. I “Like” the seepage between the internet and the street.

Peter Tyndall writes in his blog about the way that social media and the sculpt society. Art Business has a page of do’s and don’ts for social networking for artists. I have a Facebook page for myself as a public figure (art critic). You can “Like” Black Mark, Melbourne Art & Culture Critic’s Facebook page.

Like this on Facebook.


Micro-Reviews of this Week

Here are some micro reviews of current small exhibitions in small galleries. Some of galleries have only opened recently.

Gallery One Three only opened this year and is run by Joe Flynn; I first wrote Joseph Flynn’s too-cool-for-art-school attitude in a blog post back in 2009. Gallery One Three is a one-room art gallery downstairs from a fashion boutique – Joe says that it is a good mix.

“The Subtleties of Form” was a group exhibition by three artists. Pippa Makgill’s installation floor sculptures were deliberate and studied ugly; expanded foam, painted grey seriously ugly (but not as much fun as the ugly art of Valentina Palonen). Kimberly Denson’s series of small paintings were seriously beautiful in a contemporary minimalist way. And Simon Gardam’s three paintings, “The Bald Wanderer” parts 1-3, were somewhere in between the two – I liked the black one.

Kreisler Gallery is a very new gallery beside a kind of laneway café in Brunswick. It has one big well light white space with a high ceiling – it is still empty apart from open painting a taster for their exhibition next week. A corridor off this space is the Dirty Little Gallery, an “erotic fine art gallery” currently with “Polarudes” an exhibition found images by notable, Auckland based Pop artist, Paul Hartigan. Melbourne does need a dedicated erotic art gallery and the tight space will be an interesting and potentially erotic to navigate at a crowded exhibition opening.

Tinning Street Presents is two years old and to commemorate this is showing “Boabs & Boondies” by Joel Wynn Ress at Tinning Street Presents. Joel Wynn Ress was the first artists to exhibit at Tinning Street. “Boabs & Boondies” is a photography exhibition of objects – there is a selection of the objects on little shelves on the gallery wall. The objects are intended to refect Australia: a carved boab pod, a 1 dollar note, the boondies (slang for sand that has caked together). The photography looks too much like catalogue photography for my taste.

The veteran of this group of galleries, Brunswick Arts Space currently has four artists currently exhibiting.

Heidi Tatchell had created almost invisible minimalist art with “Clear View”. Tatchell’s work is in the realm of the ultra-thin, applying clear tape and contact adhesive to the white gallery walls. The strips of tape create great, stripped images that you can almost see.

“Follow the Line” is an exhibition of four drawings where Cameron Hibbs takes a minimal approach to drawing the max. In two of the drawings a biro has drawn a series of densely packed lines millimetre by millimetre down the page. There is a hypnotic intensity to all of these lines.

Sarah Thomson’s exhibition, “Clean Break” is a series of paintings of words in acrylic paint on canvas. Big words against a black ground: “Kindness” “Without” “Sincerity”… And I didn’t think much of Dea Russo’s exhibition “Shaping Emptiness” in the Brunswick Arts Project Space.


Views of May Exhibitions

On Thursday I was looking galleries in Fitzroy and attended the opening of two exhibitions at the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick.

Dianne Tanzer Gallery has Michael Cook’s “The Mission” a beautiful series of photographs showing the role of the church missions in the genocide of Australian aborigines. The subject, narrative and staging of these photographs reminded me of the work of Tracey Moffat even though Michael Cook, a Bidjara man from southwest Queensland has his own style combining symbolism and antique photography.

In the front gallery and window of Gertrude Contemporary is Anastasia Klose “Can’t Stop Living” with her “Home Video” and suite of drawings of cats. Klose describes this as “everyday love”; the transfiguration of the commonplace into art doesn’t require deliberate eccentricity or challenging content. In the back gallery there is “Bellowing Echoes”, curated by Marcel Cooper and Bronwyn Bailey-Charteris that is part of the 2012 Next Wave Festival. Anna Kristensen’s “Indian Chamber” is an impressive and beautiful 360-degree cycloramic painting of the Jenolan Caves. The installation by the Slow Art Collective has a rich smell as the powdered spices vibrate in speaker cones turning sound into a visual and nasal experience. This is the best smelling art that I’ve ever encountered.

Also part of the Next Wave Festival is George Egerton-Warburton’s show “Living with Living” at the Sutton Gallery Project Space. The video was the best part of the show. The other parts: the tables as readymade chairs and the ugly piece with the saw, photograph, noodles and tar didn’t fit with the other work. “The exhibited works appear as chapters severed from their context” – that’s a nice way of say it is an incoherent exhibition.

I picked up the Next Wave Festival magazine; it is a satisfying and intelligent alternative to the ubiquitous festival program.

The Counihan Gallery has two exhibitions: “A Room for Ordering Memory” by photographer Melanie Jayne Taylor and “First and Last” by the committee from the Brunswick Arts Space, an artist-run-space. The committee from the Brunswick Arts Space regularly has exhibitions of their own work in other galleries. I particularly enjoyed the fun of Max Piantoni “The Descent of the Dodo: Part One”, Carmen Reid’s surreal altered furniture and Alister Karl’s mobile of a series of large drawings. (See my 2009 reviews of Carmen Reid @ Brunswick Arts and Alister Karl’s Drawings.)

Those are my views of these exhibitions – what did you think of them?


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