Tag Archives: Brunswick

Campy minimalism & the Minimalist camp

Two local contemporary artists start the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick’s program of exhibitions for 2014. At the exhibition opening on Thursday evening the older locals around the cheese board were all aghast. They felt alienated and annoyed by the two exhibitions. Maybe the opening remarks of Su Baker, Director of the Victorian College of the Arts might answer their many questions. I don’t know if it did, I wasn’t going to hang around just to find out. I’d seen the exhibitions; there isn’t that much to see but what is there isn’t bad.

In Gallery one is “Diagonals and Some More Tangents” by Laila Marie Costa. It is Latino campy minimalism and subtle amusement at the materials along with some less subtle fun with the whole game of consumer culture, mass production and football. I loved the display case of the revolving Playboy and Win lighter case in the vitrine You Spin Me Right Round (Like a Record), 2013, along with her minimalist tributes to Barry Humphries, Jules Verne, Robert Rauchenberg, Paul Klee and others. Some of the work was a little obvious in the visual puns, like Dipped Wick 2012-14.

Laila Marie Costa is a Melbourne based artist who last year was artist had a residence at Residencia Corazon, La Plata, Argentina (she has a photo blog about that which is worth a look and shows her visual humour). Also worth a look is Laila Marie Costa there is Jason Waterhouse’s blog post about exhibition at Stockroom Gallery in March last year.  She is described as a cartoonist/illustrator, a zine editor and she makes funky plastic rings (there were some plastic rings on an egg cartoon in the exhibition Untitled (for Jean Paul Gaultier) 2012.

In Gallery two there is “Social Resonance” by Ben Taranto. Most of the space is empty except when it is filled with the sound of the the large steel sheet reverberating like thunder. There are two video projections of water; one over a blue black lenticular triangular forms, like a bar graph of the resonance. The sonic waves are portrayed as the ripples on the water. A single spotlight on a done of slumped glass on a steel square creates shadows with chaotic edges. You can transition through the surface of the water, you can see through the glass and you can walk through the space. Carmen Reid has written an introduction explanation of Taranto’s installation on the room sheet but the locals at the cheese board were unlikely to read it. Lots of stuff about Buddhism and empty space…

Ben Taranto is a recent graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts, in sculpture and spatial practice who is focused on absence. This is his second solo exhibition although he has exhibited at the Counihan before as part of Moreland Summer Show, 2012. He has exhibited in places where I must have seen his work before including Brunswick Artspace 2013 Annual Open Entry Prize but I haven’t mentioned him before.

When a member of the cheese board jury declares that there was nothing to engage with in the exhibition I had to point out that the steel sheet made a sound when engaged. I wanted to add that if you can’t get mental laugh when looking at the work of Laila Marie Costa you either haven’t really looked or you don’t know enough about art history, football and what is unimportant in life but as the cheese board jury weren’t impressed with my first remark I kept it for you. Good selection on the cheese board, a good feta and a blue with bite – I didn’t try the brie or the hard cheese.


Of cats, tourists and graffiti

Cats are a popular theme for Melbourne graffiti artists to agree on, especially when a Coburg cat boarding place gives permission to paint their wall, but cats are a popular theme. (I think the wall is by Slor and Danks, but forgive an old guy trying to read wildstyle.) Cats are a constant internet meme but it is also a graffiti meme, given all the cartoon cats: Felix, Tom, Scratchy… There was a huge wall in Collingwood full of cats in 2009 (also on the wall of a cat boarding place) and one in Prahran (not associated with cat boarding).

Coburg cats - Slor and a bit of Danks

Coburg cats – Slor and a bit of Danks

I’m only posting this because found a few new reasons to wander the streets of Melbourne looking for some new graffiti in the past two months. My LA bro and his family were in Melbourne, so I had to show them Hosier Lane when I showed them around the city. They loved it, lots of selfies taken; my brother said that it was the first time that my niece had got her actual camera out for the whole trip (not counting the camera in her phone).

I’ve never seen Hosier Lane so crowded; there were three tour groups in the lane, plus a lot of other people. I wasn’t surprised at all the tourists in Hosier Lane but I was surprised to spot a group of well dressed people with cameras photographing pieces along the train line at Macauly Station. There are some great pieces but the area is so drek.

Liberty Skull - Footscray

Liberty Skull – Footscray

Footscray wall with another cat

Footscray wall with another cat

I also had a couple of reason to go out to Footscray and there are a lot of good stuff around the train station and shopping strip. Yes, some skulls and more cats. On the subject of the popularity of cats in Melbourne’s graffiti world – there is Lush.

Lush, Brunswick

Lush, Brunswick


Moreland and Art

Moreland Summer Show, the last show in this year’s season of exhibitions at the Counihan Gallery is an exhibition of 40 artists who live and work in Moreland. Don’t fear the community art show; there is no bad café art in this exhibition. None of the art is so terrible that it never should have been exhibited. Most of the works are in traditional media, oils, acrylics, photography, etc. Charlotte Watson’s hard edge abstraction Sans Two in cutaway layers coloured wax showed that innovation in media is not absent. Elwyn Murray used the Oxford English dictionary’s new word of the year #selfie for a backlight outline of a figure taking a selfie on their cell phone etched on mirror; a motion sensor switched off the light showing the viewer their own image. Julian Di Martino had a painting and reference sheet tallying various types of people, 2013 with references. One albino a summer does not make; as the Surrealist proverb goes.

Julian Di Martino, 2013 with references with Julian Di Martino in front making a reference.

Julian Di Martino, 2013 with references with Julian Di Martino in front making a reference.

Good ideas; I mean that, but nothing exceptional in the final analysis but I don’t want to write a boring blog post reviewing the Summer Show piece by piece. That’s not the point of the exhibition. This is not a display of talent/contest demonstrating the glory of Moreland’s artists. This is not about the being biggest, the best or the most innovative.

If we want to get into hyperbole… the opening of Summer Show on Thursday night was one of the most important cultural events in the northern suburbs this month, maybe even this spring. The arts in the northern suburbs art are saving it from becoming a post-industrial wasteland zombie dormitory. As I’ve said it thousands of times (quoting Gregor Muir) – artists are the storm troopers of real estate in transforming urban areas.

There were plenty of artists at the opening meeting up, not just artists in the show, lots of local artists, all networking, catching-up, and general chitchat talking. People kept on starting friendly conversations with strangers asking: “Are you one of the artists?” This is important; it makes the local art world go round.

I was working the room too; glass of red in one hand, pen and gallery list in another. Julian Di Martino was laughing telling me: “The theme of current tendencies is one of the broadest themes for a group show that I’ve seen in a long time.” I talk to the curator, Victor Griss; check that I’ve spelt his name right because I want to give him credit for a good exhibition hanging given the diverse variety of artists and styles.

Where did Benjamin Sheppard go? He was just talking to someone in front of his drawing. I wanted to talk to him because I’ve already written about a hundred words written about his last solo exhibition at the Counihan before I ran out of steam. His very large drawings with multi coloured biros on paper are a great take on ideas about high and low art; the whole idea of illustration and of art media and non-art media, that sort of thing.

See you the same time next year.


MoreArt 2013

This is the fourth year of MoreArt 2013 Moreland City Council’s annual public art show. I enjoy the transformation of my regular bike path along the Upfield line. There are installations in Jewell, Brunswick, Anstey, Moreland and Gowrie. The unused ticket booths of these formally manned train stations have been turned into spaces. Phil Soliman uses a locked seating area at Moreland for his The Great Pyramid; a model of the three pyramids at Giza made of fava beans on a commercial prayer mat along with some stones (stone throwing is optional).

Phil Soliman, The Great Pyramind, Moreland Station

Phil Soliman, The Great Pyramind, Moreland Station

The best locations in this exhibition are in some neglected urban spaces between Moreland Road and Tinning Street as they are completely desolate and already surrounded by chain link fences. I talked with artist Liz Walker about the attraction of these vacant spaces at the opening. “You see things in the ordinary that you wouldn’t notice before.” Liz Walker told me.

Liz Walker, Estate, Moreland

Liz Walker, Estate, Moreland

Lots of people were appreciating and using Bush Projects Soft Infrastructure at the Mechanics Institute. The large purple tubes (100% recycled P.E.T. felt, stuffed with straw) surrounded the garden and trees and made comfortable and warm seating for the large crowd of people at the official opening. The idea of soft infrastructure of recycled material for events like the MoreArt show opening.

Bush Projects, Soft Infrastructure, Mechanics Institute, Brunswick

Bush Projects, Soft Infrastructure, Mechanics Institute, Brunswick

It was a typical Moreland Council opening with Red Brigade Band marching in followed by some folk music and a cue at the bar. I was keeping a weather eye open, the grey clouds had been threatening all day and the wind was freezing my ears. Right on cue as the speeches started there was a light drizzle but it didn’t last long.

Red Brigade at the Mechanics Institute

Red Brigade at the Mechanics Institute

Then there was the usual round of speeches from a Wurundjeri elder, the Mayor, curator and judges.

Michael Carolan Hey You Try Me a sound and video installation that really used its location of the old ticket booth won Indoor Award. Phil Soliman received a honourable mention for his installation.

Michael Carolan Hey You Try Me, Jewell Station

Michael Carolan Hey You Try Me, Jewell Station

The Outdoor Award was won by Alica Bryson Haynes The Shape of Things to Come at Coburg Mall for its multi-cultural community engagement.

Alica Bryson Haynes The Shape of Things to Come

Alica Bryson Haynes The Shape of Things to Come

Riza Manalo won the Brunswick Station Gallery Award for an artist to curate a program of art at the stations along the Upfield Line for her work The Visitor.  (No photo available as it is a projection on the Mechanic’s Institute.)

Riza Manalo, The Visitor

Aaron James McGarry, I adopted a Koala, called: third draw down


From Russia with Stamps

The video shows the image of Roger Moore strangling a blond woman with her bikini top projected onto the back and thighs of a lingerie clad woman. Jenna Corcoran created the video and is tells me about her marathon of watching Bond films to find these strange misogynistic images amongst the early films; thankfully diminished by the 1970s. “Goldmember,” Jenna says and then realizing her Freudian slip, “I keep saying that.” Easy to do the Bond films are one gigantic Freudian slip, the id projected onto a giant Cinemascope screen.

On Friday night Brunswick Art Space opened two group exhibitions: “Bond Song” and “Posted from Nowhere (Or, What Have You Done For Me Philately?)” advertised the Fringe Festival Guide.

Sorocuk, Ive Sorocuk

Sorocuk, Ive Sorocuk

Dapper Ive Sorocuk, a committee member at Brunswick Art Space had art in both exhibitions and was dressed for the Bond theme. His video played with the iconic opening credits with the gun barrel viewpoint. Brunswick Art Space has several comix artists on its committee, an unusual artistic direction for Melbourne’s art run spaces.

“Bond Song” features art by Monique Barnett, The Chaotic Order, The Dark Carnival Dolls, Alister Karl, Max Piantoni, Genevieve Piko, Ive Sorocuk, and Jamie Rawls. Curator Alister Karl’s theme of the songs Bond movie franchise inspired lots of video art and even some music videos like The Chaotic Order’s take on Peter Gabriel’s song “Sledgehammer” as a Bond theme. Genevieve Piko’s video installation “The Sun Ain’t Shinning No More” showed the influenced of both Bruce Nauman’s “Good Boy Bad Boy” (1985) with the two video monitors with heads and the vacuity of the Bond movie dialogue.

(There is a sideshow or teaser for this exhibition in the window space at the Edinburgh Castle but that looks a bit weak with an awkward installation of a TV set and other bits.)

“Posted from Nowhere (Or, What Have You Done For Me Philately?)” is an exhibition of comix artist showing a series of stamps issued by the postal system from utopia/dystopia/parallel universes. Curated by comix artist, Jo Waite, the exhibition looks great. The tight theme for this exhibition is great as postage stamps are evidence of the collective consciousness, the official image of the country, some of the best of these retelling Australian history presenting alternative cultural icons. There is philatelic focused art by Neale Blanden, David Blumenstein, Bernard Caleo, Alex Clark, Maude Farrugia, Michael W. Hawkins, Greg Holfeld, Peter Jetnikoff, Mandy Ord, and Ive Sorocuk.


In the Public Interest

“Benway’s first act was to abolish concentration camps, mass arrest and, except under limited and special circumstances, the use of torture. ‘I deplore brutality,’ he said. “It’s not efficient. On the other hand, prolonged mistreatment, short of physical violence gives rise, when skilfully applied, to anxiety and a feeling of special guilt.” (Wm. Burroughs, Naked Lunch p. 31).

The Counihan Gallery had some excellent exhibitions this year with pertinent political themes like the intervention in the Northern Territory (see my review) and the people smuggling (see my review) but “In the Public Interest” is not one of them. “In the Public Interest” is too vague and stupid; in “celebrating activism, public protest and free speech” the exhibition is pandering to political delusions that Australia is a liberal democracy with free speech and that the government tolerates political dissent and protest.

At the entrance to the Counihan Gallery there is a banner stating that the Moreland City Council welcomes “refugees and asylum seekers”. What is the word for people who want to distract attention from the malefactions through rhetoric and tokenism rather than disassociate themselves from the criminal organization abusing the human rights of refugees? Hypocrites, charlatans and frauds are too weak a collection of words to describe such despicable behaviour.

Simon Perry, 1994, Brunswick

Simon Perry, 1994, Brunswick

Across the road from the Counihan Gallery outside of the Mechanics Institute on the corner of Sydney Road and Glenlyon is a 1994 sculpture by Simon Perry. A plaque provides a strange explanation for the sculpture that appears to be a cage being veiled by a dove. The plaque reads (in part): “…to commemorate the free speech campaign of the 1930s…” Consider the definition of the verb commemorate:

1.            to honor the memory of somebody or something in a ceremony

2.            to serve as a memorial to something

Noel Counihan’s free speech campaign did not accomplished or changed anything – he didn’t have free speech, he was in a fucking cage! The sculpture honours the memory of his failed campaign for the fundamental human right of free speech. For the pedants out there who might point to a High Court decision recognizing freedom of political speech in Australia, I would reply: how has this protected the speech of Albert Langer, the editors of Rabelais (La Trobe student newspaper), Bill Henson, Paul Yore or anyone else? For freedom of speech to be effective in Australia it would have to protect the rights of people other than those in the major political parties who form government.

I want to make it clear that I regard the so-called Australian government as a criminal organization without any moral, political or legal legitimacy what so ever.

Australia is full of bigots with no regard for the human rights of the indigenous population, refugees…. basically any minority that these popularist politicians want to attack. When confronted with these facts Australian bigots will scream that others have committed more crimes than they have. They will point to China, Russia, France and the Spanish Inquisition and say: “look at them, don’t accuse us”; as if someone else committing crimes makes these shit-heads less guilty of the horrendous crimes that they are committing. In this exhibition, this exceedingly stupid attitude is represented in works by Wendy Black, Penny Byrne, Nick Devilin and William Kelly (and the curators Leon Van De Graaff and Victor Griss who choose to include those works).

The worst work in the exhibition goes to George Matoulas who has created a shallow and unpoetic painting, the visually vacuous equivalent of a poem by Rick from the Young Ones – BOMB.

There is some good art in this exhibition, both aesthetically and conceptually but given the confused and stupid politics of the exhibition’s theme I preferred seeing that art when it was in other exhibitions.


Meditation on Songlines

“Songlines” is an installation by visual artist Kallie Turner and composer Joel Ritchie at Tinning Street Presents. It is both simple and elegant. In the middle of the gallery sits a very large cone of iron oxide red powder with a woven bag suspended above it.

It is like Anish Kapoor meets aboriginal culture; the title, “songlines” refers to the Australian aboriginal tradition of mapping routes in songs. Perhaps the powder is red ochre, an earth pigment that is widely used by Australian aborigines in a variety of traditional practices including painting and decoration.

The cone of red powder is well lite in the blacked out gallery, the shadows of the cone and bag are projected onto the gallery wall. The colour and texture of the powder stands out in sharp contrast to the darkness.

Ritchie’s powerful soundtrack of rolling deep brass lines and taping sticks makes this installation a total sensory experience; all that was lacking was a smell. The soundtrack also invited the visitors to stay longer and meditate on the cone of ochre.

Kallie Turner is a local artist; I’ve seen her work before in MoreArts 2011 (see my blog post) and, like this time, it was an impressive work.

Impressive but nothing really new for contemporary art and the documentation describing it as “a meditation on the process of renewal, transition, and illusion of life, along with a poem on the room sheet instead of the usual documentation for an exhibition is a little overblown and over directed. The artists need to be more confident that their work can communicate more than words and the mystical is often ineffable.


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