Tag Archives: fortyfive downstairs

Art Architecture @ fortyfivedownstairs

Stephen Nova “The Architectural Uncanny” and Dayne Trower “External Walls” at fortyfivedownstairs are two exhibitions that combine art and architecture. Art about architecture and architectural models as art are not unusual but that is because the subject is so important to us.

In the side gallery is Dayne Trower, a graduate of RMIT of Architectural Design, “External Walls”. “External Walls” is 24 almost identical plywood objects in wooden frames. I didn’t think at first that I would enjoy this minimalist work but Trower’s small models of external walls and stairs have methodical variations and alternatives to a defined site that work in a pleasing narrative sequence. “Put together as a whole, the sequence also presents an argument for an approach to architecture and a way of building.”

In the main gallery “The Architectural Uncanny” features five large works on paper in various media and seven large oil paintings on canvas by Stephen Nova.

The suburban house is a psychic icon, or as Nova describes them, in the title of one of his paintings, “The Memory Cathedral”. And Nova explores the inherent surrealism in these sombulist dormitory suburbs.

Nova depicts his architecture on a featureless tabletop or stage set, the atomistic nowhere of the suburbs. Combined with toys and other things Nova’s images are reassuring paintings of models of houses, often under construction and not inhabited. They are imaginary architectural models or architecture as child’s play.

The traditional imaginary home is surrounded by the white picket fence but what is underneath the artificial landscape of suburbia? Along with the comforting familiarity there is a threatening uncertain element to Nova’s images. In “House and Garden (See/Saw)” a diving board off the back porch leads to a trapeze bar, both suspended above a hedge maze. This hint of menace is part of the current tradition of the portrayals of uncanny suburbs.

(For more and photos of these two exhibitions see Habitus Living.)


Connections – November Exhibitions

You would expect to find some connections between a random selection of current exhibitions on in Melbourne. One would hope to make connections that reveal something of the zeitgeist. One exhibition could just be the idiosyncratic interests of an individual artist – I did not expect to see 9 artists in two different galleries working with plastic vegetation to be one of those connections.

The plastic foliage, flowers and vegetables are the undead, the eternal zombie version of natural vegetation. I feel that I keep repeating, but the fact won’t go away, that plastic will last for thousands of years longer than the oil paintings that I saw. Beauty may be eternal but plastic lasts longer.

At Craft Victoria eight local jewelers create “unnatural Acts” spectacularly curated by Lauren Simeoni and Melinda Young. The “unnatural Acts” are jewellery made from artificial plants. There are bell jars, petri dishes and other scientific looking equipment on a trestle table in the gallery. On the wall a spectrum of necklaces move from green to deep red. The unnatural media of plastic foliage was escaping into cracks in the whitewashed bricks on the gallery wall.

And at Mailbox 141 Sarina Lirosi’s exhibition “Forevermore” each of the mailboxes contained a plastic flower taken from “the grave of people I knew.” The plastic flowers are daubed with varnish and sparkles to capture the light.

It is not that plastic vegetation was the only connection that I saw on my visits to galleries this week – artists should not throw out their paints. There were some powerful exhibitions of paintings at fortyfivedownstairs, Flinders Lane Gallery and Arc.

I enjoyed seeing Graeme Altmann’s exhibition “Coastal Boy” at Fortyfivedownstairs. Altmann’s paintings are good but his model boats are fantastic. These research and industrial boats are not beautiful; they are made from found materials, brass and metal parts. Pulleys, cranes, funnels and other equipment fill their decks and hang from their sides. They reminded my of Hieronymus Bosch’s ship of fools. Altmann’s oil paintings range from atmospheric to surreal costal landscapes; his painting “Before we got there” was a powerful image of light, water, rocks and space.

Flinders Lane Gallery had the urban landscapes of Garry Pumfrey “Obres Noves” depicting Barcelona. The old city of Barcelona, like Melbourne, is known for its winding lane ways, back street bars and street art. Pumfrey’s paintings would be timeless except for the presence of graffiti, the pair of runners hanging on the telephone line.

Arc One had “Fallen Light 2012” paintings by notable, Sydney-based artist Robert Owen is old school abstract painting but deals like all of the paintings in the optics of light and dark. The exhibition in Arc One looks like a hard edge geometric version of Rothko’s chapel. The series of paintings is connected, at least in title, to Owen’s work at the new Hamer Hall. I wonder how the individual paintings would look as the effect of the exhibition is created by the connections between the paintings.

 


Works on & works from paper

This week I saw two exhibitions of work with paper; at Flinders Lane Gallery there is work on paper and fortyfive downstairs has “Unfold: works from paper.”

In the main exhibition space at Flinders Lane Gallery “Silent Yesterday” by Mami Yamanaka is mostly works on Arches paper (with the exception of two paintings on canvas). In some of the pieces Yamanaka has overlayed two sheets of paper mixing the cut out shapes of birds or butterflies on one sheet with her intense, hypnotic, floral patterns behind it. (In the interest of full disclosure Mami Yamanaka’s partner, Adam Nash was a former colleague of mine at LookSmart.)

In “The Paper Room” at Flinders Lane Gallery there are works on paper by various artists printing or painting on paper. It is not that exciting except for the two etchings depicting twigs and their shadows by Christine Wilcocks where the handmade paper resembles a sandy ground. I didn’t like Marise Maass’s series of paintings on paper as they looked like small versions of Jenny Watson paintings – more crudely painted horses.

At fortyfive downstairs the artists were using paper not simply as a support for the art but as the medium for the art. Curator, Sally McKittrick has done a great job at bringing together 10 artists who make art from paper. The artists have animated, cut, carved, bent, folded, knitted, punched and woven paper. I was particularly taken by the music boxes by Adam Simmons where the punched paper rolls are both elegant sculptural forms and information storage.

The connection between plants and paper features in this exhibition as paper is often made from plant fibre pulp. Lan Nguyen Hoan has a made field of paper grass and has animated it in a video. Claudia Gleave and Sara Nothrop construct imaginary paper plants in glass jars. And Alana Sivell also created plants from paper.

This is just the work on and from paper in two of Melbourne’s galleries. The paperless office may still be a long way off but the paperless art world isn’t even a vision of the future.


Monsters, Divers and More on the Street

Walking around Melbourne on Thursday I saw a variety of art on the streets from street art to public art, along with some art in an art gallery that referred to the street.

In Federation Square Theo Jansen’s “Strandbeest” were walking around delighting young and old. The two walking machines made of PVC pipes held together with cable ties are a combination of art and mechanical engineering. Although the larger one is meant to wind powered, that was in short supply on Thursday and pneumatic power was being used instead.

Another, and in my opinion the best yet, tribute to the destroyed Banksy’s Little Diver has been placed in Cocker Alley where the Banksy once was. This is stencil piece contains many references to Melbourne street art including Ha-Ha’s Ned Kelly, Phib’s hand with an eye, Hugh Dunnit’s Pinocchico, and the infamous CTCV capping.

I spotted a couple more of Steaphan Paton’s Urban Doolagahls prowling around the laneways and drinking coffee. (For more on Steaphan Paton’s “Urban Doolagahl” see my recent post: An aboriginal art walk.)

There were fashion shoots in both Duckboard Place and AC/DC Lane; given the use that Melbourne’s fashion industry (along with the wedding industry) makes of Melbourne’s graffiti covered lanes it makes me wonder if they are doing anything to support the street art scene or if they are just exploiting it. I assume that Melbourne City Council charges for the right to close down the lane for a photo shoot (more exploitation of street art).

Further up Flinders Lane I saw Pamela See’s exhibition “White Wash” at fortyfivedownstairs. “White Wash” refers to buffing in Beijing and Brisbane. Brisbane based artist, Pamela See has made paper cuts and cut stainless steel versions of the white brush marks used to cover up unauthorized material on the street. The paper cuts of the brush marks complete with cut paper drips reminded me of Roy Lichtenstein’s enlarged abstract expressionist brush strokes.


Looking for a story on Flinders Lane

Looking for something to write about for a blog post I looked at the galleries along Flinders Lane.

When I went into Arc One I knew that I could write a blog entry about Lyndell Brown and Charles Green’s “The Dark Wood”. Their exhibition is a critical wet dream – I can tell my notebook: “collaboration…war artists…background field of green and browns…the paper sky has been wrinkled, the landscape becomes paper…the contradictions in Aust. foreign policy.” However, I have already reviewed their 2009 exhibition at Arc One.

I went downstairs to Fortyfive Downstairs and there was another possible story. Not the bland plywood architectural influenced work of Dayne Trower – the title says it all “Slow Decline”. But Mike Hewson’s “Under Standing Loss” could make a good story. Mike Hewson is a New Zealand artist whose studio was destroyed in this year’s Christchurch earthquake. He has even tried to recreate his studio in the backroom as well as framing a drawing pinned to the plaster studio wall that he sawed out before the building was demolished. Unfortunately I couldn’t get excited about Hewson’s paintings.

At Mailbox 141 Owen Hammond has a fun exhibition – “The Wonderful House”. Lots of fun with the simple form of a house: “Newton’s House” hangs in a series of pendulums, “Muybridge’s House” rotates on the dark time lapse photography grid, “Barb’s house” is a barbed wire house frame. It’s not substantial enough for a full blog post, and I’d get tired of the puns, but certainly worth looking at.

Flinders Lane Gallery was showing a surreal couple of exhibitions: Jon Eiseman’s quirky sculptures “Ships of the Night” and Juli Haas “Visions after Midnight”. Ann Schwartz Gallery had monumental video work by Gabriella and Silvana Mangano in the main gallery but upstairs Laresa Kosloff had a fun exhibition collecting artist’s signatures on her leg cast at the Biennale de Venezia, 2011. Charles Green and Lyndell Brown signed the cast along with Stuart Ringholt and about 17 other artists. Lots of Duchamp references could be made about this work but that means regurgitating my Master’s thesis, not a fun prospect.

Gingerbread Arts Centre

Later in the day I looked at a gingerbread city at the City Gallery at Melbourne’s Town Hall, very seasonal story, but not really as the Art Centre is shown with icing snow. The RMIT BA Gold & Silversmith Graduate Show, “It Was Like A Fever” at No Vacancy is also seasonal story – ‘tis the season student exhibitions.

When you look at a number of Melbourne galleries chances are one of them will be closed installing an exhibition. This time I was out of luck and two were installing: Craft Victoria and Until Never. While I was at Craft Victoria, I picked up a copy of Das Super Paper. I was looking for this month’s InTrouble to see if my article was in the print edition or just in the online copy. Anyway Das Super Paper is a great read, lots of excellent articles about art.

There are millions of stories in this city and hundreds of them are visual arts stories and these are some of them.


Science as Art

Enlarged models of penises anatomically correct in every detail are part of Maria Fernanda Cardoso’s exhibition “It’s Not Size That Matters It Is Shape” at Arc One. The exhibition examines the shapes of the penises and intromitent organs of various species of Harvestmen, those little spiders with the very long legs that are commonly found in a corner of the ceiling. These little spiders have strange shaped penises complete with folds and spikes. In the exhibition there are resin models of these elaborate organs mounted on steel bases in glass tubes, like a giant dildo display for spiders, along with prints of electronmicroscopic scans and digital models. Each of the images and sculptures are carefully labeled with the full Latin name of each species.

In the cellars of the Donkey Wheel House Elizabeth van Herwaarden’s “Sentinel Island Project” is exhibiting dried pressed plant specimens with cyanotype blueprints of each specimen. The specific nature of the project is art but the approach has been borrowed from science. It is a mix of artistic and scientific techniques; a video projected on the opposite wall shows the plant’s rocky habitat. Each specimen has been carefully identified, labeled, pressed, dried and mounted.

At fortyfive downstairs Megan Evans “To bee” is about bees and honey; long glass flasks like huge drips are filled, each displaying a different type of honey from a different part of Australia. The different colors of the honey from orange blossoms in Millawa, Redgums in Taggerty or Mango from Kuranda Nth Queensland can clearly be seen. Accompanying this display there are also photographs of bees mounted in clear acrylic with a similar texture to the flasks of honey.

Considering three exhibitions in Melbourne that show scientific techniques I think that contemporary art is replacing the old exhibitions of natural history museums. The variations in the moths or stick insects are replaced by variations in the artist’s series. Currently museum displays are for children, or adults who aspire to be children; the reverse is true in the contemporary art gallery. The scientific methodology of close examination, of recording and understanding the variety is not exclusive to scientists; it is also an important feature of art.


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