Jason Wing’s “Intervention: Criminal” speaks powerfully. It is a giant paste-up photocopy of a photo of himself with the words “An Australian Government Initiative: Criminal” on a sign hung around his neck. The image has all the sympathy of a mugshot. In 2007 by act of federal legislation the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) legislation better known as “the intervention” removed the rights of the Aboriginal population in the NT. The Australian government gains political power by marginalizing and criminalizing minority groups.
Jason Wing’s image is the centre-piece image of the exhibition “Ghost Citizens: witnessing the intervention” at the Counihan Gallery and features on the exhibition flyer. (In 2009 I wrote about Jason Wing’s first solo exhibition of in this blog.)
My favorite images from the exhibition are Chips Mackinolty’s digital prints “National Emergency Next 1,347,525km” “…and there will be no dancing”; signpost the incredibly vast territory that as an emergency is absurd. I had seen Bindi Cole’s work at the NGV’s Studio space last year but her series of photos are well worth another look to see the absurdity of the idea of the standard image of aboriginal Australia.
The paintings of Dan Jones, Kylie Kemarre, Sally M. Mulda and Amy Napurulla provide a colorful accompaniment to the other works and the bleak subject of the exhibition. Fiona MacDonald’s woven archival print of the landscape of James Cook Island at Sylvania Waters in NSW provides the contrast and made me question who is need of an intervention. There is so much balance in this exhibition between the works of 8 Aboriginal and 5 non-Indigenous artists.
The excellent curatorial skills of Jo Holder and Djon Mundine OAM make this exhibition a powerful experience. The Counihan Gallery has done another great job at bringing together art and politics in this exhibition, a feature of their program this year.
The subject of the exhibition is extraordinarily important to Australia’s culture and its claim to be a civilized nation. Considering the up-coming federal election everyone should make an effort least see this exhibition and try to understand what is happening with the “Basic Card”, the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act in the NT and the “intervention”.
I often find sociological exhibitions in art galleries to be out of context and poor art but Phuong Ngo’s exhibition “My Dad the People Smuggler” at the Counihan Gallery is long overdue and worth a visit.
Currently in Australia the two major political parties compete to demonise ‘people smugglers’, the people who assist refugees to get to places of refuge, and to abuse those seeking refuge. The Australian government’s deliberately cruel, degrading and illegal policies on refugees (piracy is still a crime even if carried out by the Navy) have been going on for decades now.
But back in the early 1980s in Australian policy towards ‘people smugglers’ was very different. Although Australia has long had an immigration policy that expressed racist xenophobia, the results of the Vietnam War lead to a brief period when refugees were welcome in Australia. It was during this period that Phuong Ngo’s father assisted others to leave Vietnam and arrived in Australia. The evidence that such things happened is in photographs and videos, including his father’s talking about his experience in people smuggling.
Not that I expect that this exhibition will have any effect on Australia’s current policy on refugees; it is safely in an art gallery and will just contribute to the mixed messages that exist in our society.
Michelle Hamer’s exhibition of small tapestries “I send mixed messages” is in Gallery One of the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick. The mixed messages are everywhere, as the Situationists loved to point out, the billboards, signs, stencils and tags all contradict each other. “Stop the madness,” reads a stop sign (stop me if you have seen this before). Clement Greenberg argued that kitsch was the inappropriate translation of art to the wrong media; I wouldn’t say that Hamer’s work is kitsch but I don’t know if the media is appropriate. As tapestries, the focus and much of the detail of the original photographs has been lost. I last saw Hamer’s work at Bus in 2010 but the work seems very familiar as there are a lot of artists creating needlework tapestry of urban scenes in recent years including Catherine Tipping, who will be having an exhibition of tapestries at Tinning Street Presents… later this month.
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.
Counihan Gallery in Brunswick – The Miracles, Deborah Kelly – Drawn Out, Magda Cebokli
The Miracles by Sydney-based artist Deborah Kelly is both new and familar. “The works engage with ‘Old Master’ painting – the Holy Family of the European Renaissance becomes a contemporary emblem of art, science and sexual politics, for each photograph depicts the family of a child conceived through assisted reproductive technologies (ART), and posed as though for a Renaissance tondo.” (“Art, Irony and sexual politics: from Hey Hetro! To The Miracles” Prof. Pat Simons, Uni. of Michigan)
Families are dull subjects for photos but the Renaissance masters knew how to pose figures and the children obviously really got into the spirit of the image. Although the photos are modelled after Renaissance paintings these aren’t mawkish copies, Kelly’s images are referential, the contemporary world has not been removed. Kelly’s images are clearly from a different time.
I love post-modern art that engages with art history. Each of the photographs is titled after the Renaissance master that the photograph was based on and there was a slide show on the next wall of the paintings. I wished that a few of images were a bit larger, more the size of Renaissance painting paintings, as the round photos were only the size of plates (and I wanted a larger serve).
Drawn Out by Brunswick based artist Magda Cebokli is a drawn out minimalist experiment. “A simple theme. Four squares, on in each corner of a larger square. What are the possibilities?” (artist’s notes) Cebokli presents 24 possibilities, 15 mixed media on watercolour paper and 9 acrylic on linen. Most of the pieces are in greyscale with only a few colours introduced for dramatic effect in a few pieces. Minimalism can be boring but Cebokli saves us from that with intense optical effects in many of the pieces.
A community art exhibition doesn’t sound promising but this is an exception. The artistic strength of Moreland is such that it has residents like Sam Leach, the winner of 2010 Archibald and Wynne Prizes exhibiting. And Sam Leach’s two paintings were not the strongest works in the Moreland Summer Show, an exhibition of art by City of Moreland residents (Brunswick, Coburg and Fawkner) at the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick.
Located in the gallery’s vitrine Tony Adams’s installation of foraged natural materials, Circular Insect Hotel was impressively assembled in a neat circular architectural form. Ryan Lesley Cockburn’s Revolution series was outstanding; Cockburn cuts vinyl records into a variation of a zoetrope complete with a little torch to shine the rotating shadows on the wall. Tsvia Aran-Shapir’s biomorphic sculpture was beautiful and surreal especially with its black powder coating. Keith O’Donnells installation of 20 1:48 scale green W-class trams ran part of the length of the gallery. Peter Hannafford’s hand-cranked rotating mixed media sculpture of Australian politics going round and round was very popular. I have to mention Gabrielle Baker’s 66cm diameter pompom – a very large pompom. And Paul Toms’s elegant interpretation of the theme in a triptych using coffee on paper was simple and beautiful.
With 40 artists exhibiting the theme of the circle provided some unity amongst the diverse collection of works from paintings, prints, videos to hand-blown glass.
There was a huge turn out for the exhibition opening on a wonderful warm spring evening. And with all the local artists involved it is not surprising. Lots of people for me to say hello to – artists that I’ve previously written about in this blog, Alister Karl, Julian Di Martino, Liz Walker and Carmen Reid (who wasn’t exhibit but serving drinks at the bar). It was so crowded at the opening that someone stepped on one of Ria Green’s circle of crystalline shapes (woodgrain print, balsa wood, tape, paper).
The show replaces Moreland’s annual Women’s Salon (that I have both reported on and urged to abandon as redundant). Julian Di Martino said that it was the first chance that he has had to exhibit in the gallery since it opened in December 1999. Providing an annual exhibition where all residents, regardless of gender, can exhibit will give more of a focus to the strong artistic community in the area. This is community exhibition that is worth seeing for its strength and diversity.
“The Elaboratorium” by the Scale Free Network at the Counihan Gallery is an exhibition that attempts to unite art and science. To the puzzlement of many a science student, atheists and cultural commentators we don’t see enough art about science. (Except in the areas of scientific imaging – scientific imaging has become so much better and is producing amazing and beautiful images. There was a very brief time in the 19th century when painters were the best people to recreate ancient temples or prehistoric animals but now we don’t have to recreate the images, so where does this leave the artists?) The problem with art and science collaborations is that it often produces sterile mules; a fertile collaboration that will generate the next generation of artistic and scientific collaboration is difficult to produce.
The Scale Free Network (SFN) is a collaborative group of artists and scientists (a “scale free network” is a scientific way of say social network). “Combining the interdisciplinary skills of artist Briony Barr, microbiologist Dr Gregory Crocetti and art teacher Jacqueline Smith, SFN works with creative combinations of science and art to design participatory experiences for children and adults.” The strength and weakness of the exhibition is really aimed at all ages. I’d seen that kind of thing before as a child; as the son of a zoologist I went to see many science exhibitions and it did leave me with a strong impression about the quality of work in these exhibitions.
“The Elaboratorium” takes its name from a 17th century term to describe where chemical substances were made and ‘elaborated’ upon. The best parts of the exhibition are the digital projections they are impressive compared to the average art gallery video installation. Digital projections of water-life recorded at 100 -400x magnification along with the shadows cast by the lab equipment and the “suspended circles” of rotating drum skins. Accompanied with classical music looked like a theatrical version of science.
Some of the works like the “Particle Chamber”, a vitrine with polystyrene balls and a fan, failed to show anything exciting; you get that with science experiments – there is the real possibility of failure.
The viewing station parts of the exhibition are interactive but I can’t imagine that many people, except for children, who haven’t seen such images before. In keeping with the gallery setting there are samples of gallery dust and Ben Sheppard’s drawings from the exhibition in the next gallery space. There are other local elements to examine under the stereo-microscopes – I spent some time looking at the micro-cosmos of some local moss.
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?