Tag Archives: installation art

Fantastic Space

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

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 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.


MoreArts & ArtLand

In a patch of grey blue gravel on a vacant lot beside the train tracks two sheep formed of growing green grass graze. If we are what we eat then sheep are grass. The grass and weeds along the fence-line frame this surreal sight. It is Candy Stevens’s “Landscape Gardeners” part of MoreArts.

Candy Stevens, “Landscape Gardeners”, 2011

Following up on my previous post, Paradigm Shift in Public Art, the annual MoreArts exhibition is a series of installations along in Moreland along the Upfield train-line between Jewell Station and Gowrie Station. There is a lot of wasteland that once was part of the light industrial area beside the tracks.

Many of the installations are site-specific. Tobias Hengeveld “Lookin’ Back Down the Line” used Brunswick stations old station office and ticket booth for the installation site. At the now un-staffed station the strains of American folk music echoed inside the disused station; from the ticket booth you could see warm orange light defused through a screen.

Many of the installations took advantage of the ubiquitous chain-link fences around these disused sites. Sansern (Zood) Rianthong’s “The Fence” used plastic straws to draw images on the fence. The chain-link fences also provided some security for the work. Michelle Robinson’s “Fugitive Piano” looked somewhat clichéd and by the time I photographed it the piano stool had become fugitive – so much for the effectiveness of the chain-link fence.

ArtLand at RMIT’s Brunswick campus was a geographically logical end for my ride to see MoreArts and many of RMIT’s students had wanted to participate (60 of them). But the result was poor quality art plonked everywhere around the campus with little consideration for the location; lots of stuff hanging from trees. Amongst this there were some gems, like Sharmiza Abu Hassan’s “Metamorphosis” where locally collected Kurrajong seedpods were painted with a Malay motif and attached in a pattern using Velcro strips to the trunk of a tree. Ricky Bhutta’s “Brunswick’s finest” had images on t-shirts that referred to the factories and graffiti opposite the carpark.

Sharmiza Abu Hassan, “Metamorphosis”, 2011

The most convenient way to see the exhibition is to walk or ride a bicycle along the bike track that runs parallel to the train tracks. And there were plenty of people walking and riding the trail to see the exhibition although many missed seeing all of the installations in MoreArt – I spoke to one couple who had only seen two installations between Brunswick and Moreland. There are a number of bicycle tours and walking tours of the exhibition.

Kallie Turner, "The Taste of Salt", 2011

MoreArt is an interesting exhibition for many reasons, one being because it is also in competition with the huge amount of street art on the walls along the railway line (contemporary art installations vs street art).


On Installation & Grief

Upstairs at the Napier is very quite on a weekday, I didn’t know what was on but I was glad that I paid it a visit. It is an artist run space, just a couple of rooms above the Napier Hotel in Fitzroy. I turned the lights in the gallery on and off myself (it felt interactive and very right for the environment). The white rooms gallery rooms have track lighting on the ceilings but do have some original art nouveau molded tin on the lower walls.

Anne-Marie Kuter has created a fairly standard piece of contemporary art – “Warped Intervention Installation”. A paper mold of a fireplace and ceiling rose, both lit from behind, represent the kind of architectural features that this room would have once had. Why the ceiling was painted green and hung with a multitude of pieces of folded paper was not clear but evocative. Anne-Marie Kuter is on the board of artists who run Upstairs at the Napier.

After this I had no expectations for the next room/gallery so I was surprised by the quality of “The Hankie Project” curated by Julie Barratt. 150 works by 100 artists from 12 countries focused on handkerchiefs as a symbol of grief. It is rare to see an art exhibition with works full of genuine, deep emotion. Of course, there were lots of embroidery and printing on handkerchiefs but Barratt did not allow the exhibition to become repetitive. It is a continuing unfolding experience, intimate, moving and certainly thought provoking about the culture of grief.

The difficulty of expressing profound grief in a culture that no longer deals with death with elaborate rituals and protocol, that in many ways denies death. What to do with the period of mourning? In part “The Hankie Project” is Julie Barratt and the artists expressing their personal grief for the loss of loved ones through creation of these small memorials. But these are not just private memorials but art that is expected to seen by strangers. The sensitivity of the Barratt’s curatorship is evident in the delicate balance of the exhibition creating the sense of not intruding on someone’s grief.


Yarn Bombing

Maddy Costa in The Guardian reports on more yarn bombing in London. Her article, “Knit and purl your own installation” advances the argument that yarn bombing takes knitting from craft into art. The surrealist artist Dorathea Tanning already made the move from craft to art installation in her late career knitted fabric installations. Her partially knitted installation in the Pompidou Centre is a truly surreal vision of people being absorbed into the fabric.

Yarn bombing knitted butterfly in Brunswick

I have seen the odd piece of yarn bombing on the streets of Brunswick and Fitzroy in the last year. In order to learn more about Melbourne’s yarn bombing I have been exchanging emails with Yarn Wrap. I saw here shopping trolley at the Sweet Streets exhibition at the Yarra Sculpture Gallery. After the exhibition she ‘gifted’ the shopping trolley to Knit and Purl in Dandendong whose owner, Freda loves yarn bombing.

On the streets Yarn Wrap tags ugly objects urban objects, like the sign poles, with colorful wool. She comes from a family of crafters and creators and has knitted all her life. Then two years ago she saw an American documentary by Fathye Levine called Handmade Nation which shows lots of indie craft makers. She was “blown away by the Knitta crews and the footage of them tagging poles in the middle of the night. I had seen there work on the net and started to create my own pieces and did a few tags around Melbourne.”

Yarn bombing occurs at irregular intervals in Melbourne’s street art scene often connected to festivals like Sweet Streets or the Big West Festival.  Sweet Streets wanted to have more yarn bombing in the festival – many festivals want to have yarn bombing, it must be the most media and local government friendly forms of street art to have hit the streets. There isn’t a crew (or should that be “knitting circle”) of yarn bombers in Melbourne. Yarn Wrap and I both want to know where are yarn bombers in Melbourne.


Platform – September 10

“The Resistance of Memory” by Paul J. Kalemba is a surreal underground garden is installed in the last vitrine at Platform (in the Degraves St. underpass at Flinders St. Station). Fruits preserved in jars holding the preserved memory of the last harvest. The peaches, pears and plums glow in the half buried wooden cabinet as moss and herbs, mostly thyme, grow around it. The wine bottle and glass are empty – the party has been over for some time. But how long? The broken clock, full of more thyme is dripping destroying part of the wooden base of the cabinet as the real and unreal merge. Kalemba has created a fantastic surreal garden capable that feeds the imagination images and ideas that confound each other. The title refers to Rene Magritte’s surrealist painting “The Persistence of Memory”.

Paul J. Kalemba describes himself as “an urban edible®evolutionary” and has exhibited in Platform’s “Underground Garden” before but this is his best garden yet.

In Platform’s main series of glass cabinets there are Kieran Stewart & Stone Lee. On one side there are Stone Lee papier-mâché versions of Australian animals. On the other side is Kieran Stewart exhibition of series of small sculptures made from wood, steel, glass and black powder. The wood and steel forms hold glass containers of black powder in a range of formal variations. These engaging sculptures reminded me of the functional elegance of machines used to demonstrate physics principles.

In the large “Vitrine” space there “Voyeurism” by Bernadette Burke combining figure painting and video with videos for faces. The combined images are very effective but I don’t think that they say anything about voyeurism as the figures all look as if they intend to be seen.

In “Sample” there is an exhibition by Merryn Lloyd, curated by Patrice Sharkey as part of Platform’s Emerging Curator mentorship program, which really needed more substance and interest.

In the cabinets at Majorca Building (out of the underpass, up Degraves St, across Flinders Lane and in Centre Place, with “Bellevue Jewellery” in gold letters above them) are two photographs by David Mutch – “The Tourists”. Previously exhibited at Seventh Gallery earlier this year, these two archival inkjet prints show a figure in bare, desolate landscapes; one landscape looks urban, the looks rural both were photographed on the banks of the Yarra River.


Goodbye Bus

A post-minimalist jellybean on pin installation, “one jel-ly bean, two” by Natalie McQuade, covering all the wall space in Bus’s foyer. It was so beautiful, so minimal and so fun with the red and orange jellybeans pinned in a modernist grid.

Continuing the fun there was a kitsch over-load of plastics and cleaning products of  “The Lodge” by Bree Dalton, Sarah Lynch, Cherelyn Brearley, Sarah Oldham in the Skinny Space. Not all of the artists seemed to be on board with this eccentric program and the paper cuts works didn’t work with the rest of the installation.

Then there is the blackness of “The Garment-Body” by Sarah Berners in the Main Space. “The Garment-Body” is part of the fashion festival, part PVA sculpture, part photography, part ugly, part stupid and all fun. Black is used with playful and magical effect; in one photograph the model’s legs are the only things visible amidst the blackness. I loved it partially because I wear black a lot of the time.

“Days Of Our Lives” by Melanie Chilianes is a quadraphonic soundscape, a condensed version of the TV soap opera. It is installed elegantly in the Sound Space with a single small tapestry of a man’s face by Michelle Hamer pinned to the wall. It didn’t really do much for me but I was impressed with the quadraphonic effects.

This is the last show for Bus Projects, “an independent art space”; I will miss the space, whatever it is called: “gallery”, “projects”, “art space” or “artist run initiative”. I’m not going to gush that I loved all their shows; sometimes I was disappointed after hiking over to the boring northeast side of the city, walking along Little Lonsdale Street and climbing up the wooden stairs. It wasn’t the best space for art, but they fitted in as many exhibitions as they could with all the various spaces and there is a surplus of exhibition space in Melbourne. I started this blog because I thought that there were exhibitions in spaces like Bus that were worth reviewing – good or bad. One of my favorite recent exhibitions at Bus was an exhibition of Indonesian art (Indonesian Art @ Bus); Bus may have been a small gallery but it had a vision of its place in the world.

Goodbye Bus.


March @ Platform

I always try to see the monthly exhibitions at Platform when I have a few minutes before my train at Flinders Street Station. It is a very accessible artist-run-imitative with several separate spaces in the subway going to Degraves Street from the station.

The highlight of this month’s exhibitions at Platform is Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman “Patient” – a feasting vignette, commission for the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2010 (there is always some kind of arts festival on in Melbourne, often more than one). It is a small attractive, mouth watering, combination of sculpture and gardens. Even the drip-feed intravenous drip system and the blue hospital sheet doesn’t put me off the garden fresh vegetables on display. Lettuce, chili bushes, basil, chives, and thyme – a full salad is growing in form of the patient. Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman is a set designer, illustrator, photographer, puppeteer and installation artist. She has created an ice clock room in the famous Ice Hotel in Sweden and helped plant the vertical garden in Melbourne Central. This is not her first garden exhibition at Platform, in 2008 she had “Eat the City”. (See my entry on Artist-Gardeners for more about this growing art movement.)

Lucy Farmer, a performance artist, visual artist and jewellery designer, is exhibiting “Review” at Platform. Her statement about the exhibition reads: “What you see is quite clearly fake yet the constant surveillance of a public space is now visible and remembered, not half forgotten through a camera lens. Who is critiquing whom? Review is a site-specific exhibition created to challenge psychological and social readings of value, class, status, control and power through portraiture, installation and a heightened awareness of the physicality of the audience in relation to the work and their necessary participation with the work.” It is a bit much of an explanation for a series of portraits and I don’t see where the surveillance cameras come in. I kept on thinking: should I know these people? The theatricality of the red backgrounds, the gold frames and dark portraits all created out of paper taped together, made me think about the superficial nature of self-image.

Emma Anna combines sculpture, installations and printmaker at Vitrine. Her installations are always appealing but I can never really get into them. I’m not sure why, but they feel thin, as if to examine them to closely might just poke holes through the paper. As if to make up for the paper-thin content there is a lot to look at in the installation ranging from Surrealism to post-minimalist printmaking – her USB fitted flying ducks have an inescapable and appealing logic to them but why are they not connected?

Kim Summer and Clea Chiller have a great installation at Sample. The intensity of examining another person’s living room/bedroom along with the reality of homelessness makes this a successful installation. It has been composed with great care. The TV flickers across empty channels, there is a pin-board of photos, a mirror, books, toiletries – some of basic aesthetics necessary for survival. The figure of the sleeping occupant transforms this stuff into a portrait of a life in need of shelter.


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