Tag Archives: jewellery

Taxidermy Spectacular

Julia deVille: Phantasmagoria and Leslie Rice: Bacchanalia at Sophie Gannon Gallery.

Julia deVilla, Rocking Alpaca

Julia deVille, Rocking Alpaca

After the dinning room theme of her installation, Degustation in Melbourne Now, deVille’s Phantasmagoria is more from the bedroom and the nursery. In Beatrix, a rabbit, wearing a black formal coat with tails, sits alert on an antique high chair. Rocking Alpaca has a white, baby alpaca standing on a rocking horse base. In other works a fawn and a rat lie in a crib and a piglet, decorated with antique lace, lies in an antique baby carriage. There are wind up keys in many of the taxidermy animals suggesting toys with a clockwork mechanism.

Julia deVille’s art is beautiful but it is the emotions that it causes, ranging from cloying sentimentality to mawkish horror, that amplify the charge this beauty. The spectacular sensationalism of her taxidermy installations give them a neo-baroque style. Her art makes it seem that aesthetics, like cute, horror, sentimental and nostalgia are more about emotions than beauty and that beauty is only another quality, added on top of an emotional response.

To concentrate on deVille’s taxidermy, especially the delicate work with the extremely tiny young animals, is to forget other aspects of the exhibition. The contemporary techniques of assemblage and installation, most notably in her jewellery work and the installation itself. Jewellery has always been a kind of assemblage technique, reusing old materials, resetting old stones but deVille makes it contemporary art. Her installation aspect combines with collecting antiques with contemporary art’s interest in the mechanics of display.

Although the installation of antique furniture that the work is displayed on does somewhat, alleviate the clinical white of the gallery. The paintings of Leslie Rice, dark bacchanal scenes painted in acrylic on black velvet, also help with the atmosphere. When I first saw Rice’s paintings I thought that they must have been bad ‘old master’ paintings with fugitive colours, that had been dug out as an accompaniment to deVille’s Degustation. Now that I am aware of them, I still have the same opinion; they seem stuck in the past and lack the contemporary sensibility that deVille brings to her assemblages of antiques.

It has been a couple of years since I have been to the galleries in Albert Street, East Richmond and things have changed. Where there were once half a dozen galleries now only two cling on (or three if we include the artist run space that was closed when I visited). Along with Sophie Gannon Gallery, Anita Traverso Gallery is still in Albert Street. It is not that they have all closed. John Buckley Gallery is now located in Prahran, Jenny Port Gallery is now in Collingwood and Karen Woodbury has moved to Flinders Lane.


The Spectacle of Art

I had a look at some art galleries at RMIT on Thursday: RMIT Gallery itself, First Site and the School of Art Gallery. I didn’t get to RMIT School of Art Project Space “Spare Room” in Cardigan Street, it would have completed the set but I didn’t want to walk to Carlton and back. Instead I walked around exploring the street art and graffiti in the laneways around Chinatown: Croft Alley, Heffernan Lane, Tattersalls Lane, Stevenson Lane and others. In the window of Villain at the QV Centre there was a display by Junky Projects. The contrast in the spectacle of Junky Project’s figures made of found bits of wood and junk and the manufactured customisable kits for sale in the shop made me stop and think.

Junky Projects in the window of Villian

Maybe it was the winter blues, I was not having a good day  – the reality of art reviewing, sometimes the reviewer is having a bad day. Maybe it was re-reading Stewart Home’s The Assault on Culture on the train. Reading about utopian post-WWII art movements put a kind of political edge to my dissatisfaction with what I was seeing in the galleries.

What I saw was all very nice, even the street art, but it really didn’t motivate me to want to writing about it. What was there to say? It was just more of the same. Yes, sure I could throw a few hundred words together about Marco Cher-Gibard and Caleb Shea exhibition at the School of Art Gallery. Both RMIT alumni have this untitled show. Cher-Gibard’s quadraphonic electronic sounds matched by Shea’s equally formal and synthetic sculpture. I’m sure that Shea’s sculpture would look great, maybe in a larger scale, out the front of or in the lobby of a corporate office block to add style while saying nothing.

The work of the gold and silver smithing students at First Site was very attractive, especially the work of Naoko Inuzuka, the winner of the 2011 Maggie Fairweather Undergraduate Award. It is hard to expect that jewellery would be relevant to anything but fashion – so, maybe my random selection of exhibitions didn’t fit my mood.

None of the art addressed anything of any relevance to where we are right here right now or the big issues of life and because of this it would never amount to anything. Maybe that doesn’t matter for the jewellery, maybe it should just as much as the sculpture which were basically jewellery on an architectural scale.

I didn’t start this blog to write endless reviews about Melbourne exhibitions or to cheer at the latest piece by a fashionable street artist. This blog is not a celebration. I started this blog because there was a lack of critical discussion about Melbourne’s art and culture. I think that Melbourne’s culture is too complacent and comfortable. I want to shake up people and get them to think more about their culture rather than simply comment on the production of more of the same.


LMFF Culture Part 2 – or is it?

Wandered around the city on Saturday looking at elements in the L’Oréal Melbourne Fashion Festival (LMFF) Culture Program. As I was near RMIT Gallery I went there and found textiles exhibitions that are not part of the LMFF Cultural Program. The LMFF Cultural Program is so large that you would think that every fashion/ textile / jewellery related exhibition in Melbourne would be in it but you would be wrong. Just as if you imagined that every good window display in Melbourne was part of the LMFF’s “Windows by Design” but more on that later.

“1st Tamworth Textile Triennial
- Sensorial Loop” at RMIT gallery is an impressive exhibition. Most impressive is the relationship that two of the pieces make of video and performance and textiles. Martha McDonald’s “The Weeping Dress” is seen in a video of a performance and in the washed out relic from the performances of a once black Victorian style mourning dress stained with a fugitive dye. (It was part of last year’s LMFF – see Vetti’s post about it.) Carly Scoufos’s “Panels from the Interlaced Manuscript” also has a video and some of the panels, part of a wall from a shed, containing two doors, onto which Scoufos has embroided with woollen thread and nails. Amongst the exhibition there are also two impressive works of post minimalist sculpture Tania Spencer’s wire donut, “Would you like some cake”, and Lucy Ivine’s black, groovy and curvy, “Continuos Interruptions” made from irrigation pipe and cable ties.

“Joyaviva: Live Jewellery from across the Pacific” and “Double Happiness: Portrait of a Chinese Wedding” were also at RMIT Gallery. “Joyaviva” captured something of the personal, magical and interconnecting aspects of jewellery with its pin board style of exhibiting. “Double Happiness” is a set of contemporary Chinese wedding fashion for the whole family.

Nicholas Bastin’s “The Sleepless Hero” at Craft Victoria is part of the LMFF Cultural Program. Bastin’s funky mixed media jewellery is beautifully installed on diagrammatic depictions of partial figures. But Bastin’s jewellery is too “hyper-real”, too much in the realm of art for the magic of jewellery to be credible. Craft Victoria’s three exhibitions are typical of its avant-garde approach to craft; the other two are more contemporary art than craft.

The NGV at Federation Square has a fashion exhibition of the work of Australian designer, Linda Jackson that is part of the LMFF Cultural Program. Jackson’s designs are from a very foolhardy era of Australian fashion – the 1980s. Some might be kinder and say that these are ‘brave and bold’ designs but the kind of bravado seen in Jackson’s 80s fashion lacked any good sense.

Detail of Zambesi's window

In the windows of Zambesi we saw one of the LMFF “Windows by Design” by Marcos Davidson. The windows are full of a variety of pillars of readymade objects carefully arranged and curated. Between these pillars you can just make out some mannequins in fluorescent clothes. Shop window displays are an interesting aspect of culture. Almost every time I go past Aesop I have to remind myself that I’m not passing a contemporary art gallery but an up-market cosmetics shop. The design is so elegant and minimalist. What is the difference between a shop window display, especially those in the windows of Aesop or Alphaville, and an art installation? I always think about Walter Benjamin wrote about shop windows. For more about Walter Benjamin and shop window displays see “Speculative Windows text” by m-a-u-s-e-r (Mona Mahall and Asli Serbest). http://www.m-a-u-s-e-r.net/?p=4


Art Bloggers

Who are the other bloggers writing about the visual arts in Australia? What motivates them to do all this work creating original content for their blogs?

Ace Wagstaff – Dead Hare Melbourne Art Review (started May 2008). The title, Dead Hare is a reference to the Joseph Beuys work “Explaining art to a dead hare” (and also one work by his BFA teacher, Geoff Lowe as part ‘A Constructed World’ entitled ‘Explaining Art to Live Eels’). Ace Wagstaff wants “to document and share events and exhibitions that were and are almost invisible comparatively to the larger commercial and government galleries.” He focuses on Melbourne’s smaller gallery spaces, student spaces and ARI’s.

Steve Gray – Art Re-Sources (started Sept 2008) grew from an idea of a resource for Yr 11+ Visual Art Students. Art Re-Sources features many interviews with artists, as Steve Gray explained: “I wanted to offer students and artists a bit more than the usual fix of art magazine heroes and maybe/wannabees who were the flavour of the month. I had a few contacts and a bunch of questions to pose them in a question and answer format.”

Marcus Bunyan – Art Blart (started Nov 2008) reviews exhibitions in Melbourne and around the world. As a photographer Marcus Bunyan has a particular focus on photography exhibitions, he is often the official photographer for exhibitions and consequently his blog has some great photography along with exhibition reviews.

Karen Thompson – Melbourne Jeweller (started March 2009) has a special focus on jewellery exhibitions in Melbourne. Karen Thomspon started the blog with advice and encouragement from Brian Ward who writes Fitzroyalty. Thompson wanted to write her blog: “to document exhibitions (for future interest, and for others outside of Melbourne to read), explore my own reactions, to expand my language and visual ‘well / bank’, and to open up discussion to invite others to give their opinions (not just on exhibitions but also on topical issues).”

Stephanie Pohlman and Ashleigh Clarke – Brisbane Art Collective (started Aug 2010) write their blog because they “felt in Brisbane especially, a city that supposedly is a ‘cultural wasteland’ in comparison to Melbourne and Sydney there was a lack of critical feedback in regards to the art scene. I guess, fundamentally what we wanted to do was to show people that there is an amazing art scene in Brisbane and offer people a forum in which they could read about it.” The Brisbane Art Collective writes about more than just exhibitions, their posts range across a variety of topics including: street art, silence in the gallery and art history.

All of these people write because they are interested in the subject and the by writing a blog they can connect with the subject and other people with that interest. Writing is an outlet for their curiosity. For Ace Wagstaff and Karen Thompson it is a return to the kind of thinking that they missed after graduating. Karen Thompson notes: “the public readership gave me a framework and a kind of discipline I may have not developed without that framework.”

Karen Thompson, Ace Wagstaff and Marcus Bunyan all balance their own art practices with blog writing. Marcus Bunyan commented about this balance:

“… one practice informs the other, they are not mutually exclusive. I usually make 2-3 bodies of works each year, so that when I am not working on my artwork I am studying for Uni (I am studying a Master of Art Curatorship part-time), reading, working on reviews for the blog. All of these things interweave, are intertextual, one informing the other.”

So why write about art exhibitions? Many of these bloggers want to supplement the meagre coverage of the many art exhibitions. The Brisbane Art Collective put it this way: “basically we write art criticism because we want to give people an objective outlook to the art industry, we aren’t publicists and we aren’t interested in just talking about pretty pictures.” Steve Gray is motivated by his own experience: “I have looked at hundreds of shows over a 30 year period, some years more than others. I would see reviews, see the show and agree or disagree. I would also see shows which had not had an ounce of media attention. There was a chance to chat about some of these things and explore it further.”

When I asked the bloggers “who inspires you?” I was surprised to find how many other bloggers are an inspiration to them.

One point that I was relief for me to know – it might also be a relief for artists too – most of bloggers selection of exhibitions to be reviewed is largely random and personal. Only Melbourne Jeweller is so focused that finding out about exhibitions require searching via reader suggestions, gallery websites and internet searches.

It does take encouragement to start a blog and to keep it going. I wish that more people would write blogs about the visual arts in Australia and that more readers would comment on the posts. When Ace Wagstaff considered his doubts and insecurities about writing a blog he then noted:

“I’m reminded of how few people do write about the work that I’m writing about, and how good it is to start dialogues and how affirming it is as an artist to receive feedback, so I swallow my ego and try not to think about whether I am going to embarrass myself with my writing or whether or not I am going to finally expose myself as an art-scene poser, and channel one portion of punk cajones and one part Nike slogan and just do it.”

(Thanks to all the bloggers mentioned for their help in writing this post. There are more bloggers writing about the visual arts in Australia – see my blogroll at the bottom of this page.)


November 2010 Exhibitions

Tim Sterling’s solo exhibition, “Metamaterials” at Michael Koro Galleries is a post-minimalist exercise in sculpture and drawing. Post-minimalism is like minimalism but with a lot more. Sterling’s sculptures use a lot and lots of paper clips held together with cable ties most impressively a small I-beam (17x73x80cm) supported between two perspex pillars. His drawings are made up of a many, many small marks with a pen, his drawing “Wall” is made up of repeated marker pen marks that form bricks in a wall.

At Mailbox 141 Tasmanian sculptor Ange Leech has a small solo exhibiting “Hand of the Composure”. Leech has carved small wooden puppets and masks along with collages that are pinned together. These collages are subject to alteration like the articulate joints of the puppets.

This time of year there are many exhibitions by graduates of art, design, photography and jewellery courses.

RMIT Diploma of Photoimaging Graduates are exhibiting at First Site (“photoimaging” is a portmanteau word includes both photography and digital imaging technology). The reality that photography once implied has been replaced with fantasy and glamour. There is a lot of fantasy in this exhibition to the extent of visionary art, fashion and glamour model photography.

Box Hill Institute jewellery graduates their work at Guildford Lane Gallery. It is not just rings and necklaces there are wall pieces, cups, spoons, an hourglass of luminous sand and a wizard’s staff with a crystal ball. Some of the jewellery is inspired by Alice in Wonderland themes from a course assignment.

Guildford Lane Gallery is strange place to visit during on a weekday; they obviously don’t get a lot of visitors. It is an old factory/warehouse with a music space/bar on the ground floor. Whenever I go in someone asks if I’m here for some exhibition, I say yes and they tell me that it on the 2nd floor. They then follow me up the stairs to turn on the lights.

 


Fashion Exhibitions

There is a museum of textiles in Lyon, a museum of fashion in Brussels, in Antwerp there is a gallery of fashion with a very contemporary style, and in Bath another museum of fashion. In Melbourne the National Gallery of Victoria on St. Kilda Road and at Federation Square both have galleries devoted to fashion. They are not a large spaces considering Melbourne’s fashion industry but the NGV does strive to put on a varied program of exciting temporary exhibitions on fashion.

Melbourne also has many fashion and textiles students who regularly exhibit their work, generally at the end of the year exhibitions. I often see exhibitions by RMIT fashion and textiles students, especially at First Site gallery at RMIT. Fashion photography is another way in which fashion enters the art gallery and exhibitions of fashion photography are common – I must see one or two a year without searching them out.

Galleries in Melbourne often have exhibitions where art, jewellery and textiles meet, especially during Melbourne Fashion Festival and Melbourne Spring Fashion Week. Every year both fashion festivals have a program of associated events that takes fashion into the art galleries and exhibitions into fashion boutiques and other venues. There is often has several fashion photography or jewellery exhibitions along with other fashion associated art.

This year the programme of exhibitions associated with the Spring Fashion Week has included exhibitions at the NGV and State Library. There is an exhibition by The Age, “The Age of Fashion” in the square at the QV centre featuring fashion photographs from The Age’s archives and 5 mannequins displaying designer labels. It is an elaborate temporary exhibition made up of plinths, vitrines and platforms. On a different scale of exhibition and funding are the exhibitions: “Sue Barnes Studio” and “Black: an Exhibition”. “Sue Barnes Studio” is a small display of 8 photographs of fashion images, advertising and logos on the street at the Journal Bar viewing space, a vitrine near the café’s door. “Black: an exhibition” is contemporary all black jewellery by Vikki Kassioras and black ink drawings by Katherine Bowman. The temporary cardboard gallery space created for the exhibition in the Nicholas Building was elegant and functional. (See Melbourne Jeweler for a review of Black: an exhibition).

Considering all of these temporary exhibitions and temporary exhibitions spaces, the regular fashion exhibitions in Melbourne both at the annual fashion festival and during the rest of the year, it appears that Melbourne needs its own gallery of fashion and textiles with room for both permanent and temporary exhibition a gallery devoted to fashion. This would bring Melbourne in to step with other fashion capitals and add to the city’s cultural attractions.


Last Week

Thinking back over the last week and trying to make a blog entry out of it.

I finally saw No Vacancy’s new location on the other side of the QV centre (I do try to vary the galleries that I visit). No Vacancy has also slightly changed artistic direction, moving away from street art and is now exhibiting more illustrations. This is a move that other galleries associated with street art have also made as illustrations are more saleable. The illustrations on exhibition at No Vacancy when I visited were by Eveline Tarunadjaja, and full of detailed long hair, hence the exhibition’s title: “Dandruff”. Tarunadjaja’s illustrations are influenced by art neuvueau right down to the fonts and the use of gold ink on details.

On Saturday afternoon Federation Square was crowded with young women on Saturday attracted by the free catwalk shows, DJs, hip-hop dancers and other features of this fashion fairground, it was still more of the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival. (See my other entry on exhibitions in the festival) Catherine and I are still looking at fashion festival associated exhibitions. E.G. Etal had a good exhibition, Figment, curated magnificently by Fleur Watson. The jewelery was displayed on old overhead projectors. You could look at the piece back-lit on the projector or look at its shadow projected on the wall. (See Melbourne Jeweller’s review of this exhibition.)

Until Never also had an exhibition associated with the fashion festival. “The World of Kmossed” is exhibition by Rosie Kavanavoch with photographs from the limited edition book. The exhibition poked fun at the fashion festival, label bags and stupid, celebrity models, ripping the glamour to shreds with satire. In 2005 Kate Moss’s contract with Chanel was not renewed due to her reprobate behavior and Kavanavoch doesn’t hold back poking fun at this – and why shouldn’t she?

I had a look at Hosier Lane and there were plenty of people doing the same on Saturday. And Catherine and I went on the Giant Sky Wheel at Birrarung Marr (not the broken white elephant of a giant wheel in the Docklands). It afforded some unique and pleasant views of the city and the Yarra River and I was happy to be going around in a big circle.


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