Monthly Archives: February 2008

February 08 Exhibitions

Some galleries have taken advantage of the summer break to remodel their interiors including Arc One Gallery and, so I’ve heard has, Brunswick Arts. Arc One has lost one of its gallery spaces to office and stockroom, it appears from this an their upcoming calendar that they are changing from being another rental space gallery to a more professional commercial gallery.

And Arc One is off to a good start this year with David Ralph’s paintings about caravans. These are better paintings than most of last year’s exhibitions. Ralph has fun with both paint and the idea of mobile homes. On the subject of caravans Bob Jenyns has won the 2008 Helen Lempriere National Sculpture Award with metal Meccano style trailer. Strange; trailers must be, somehow, part of the current zeitgeist.

I’ve been climbing up lots of stairs to see some exhibitions in Melbourne. Christopher Koller’s exhibition, Trust, at Upstairs Flinders is worth climbing the stairs. Koller has created large, powerful and creative b&w portrait photographs of people in Melbourne’s art clique.

Everything’s A-OK by Kill Pixi at Until Never Gallery has a lot of publicity that Until Never normally generates. With a full page advert in Art Almanac and a photo and story in MXNews.  “Kill Pixi is Mark Walen” Until Never announces in Art Almanac, as the Sydney street artist comes out from behind his tag to establish his name in the galleries. I didn’t think much of his work. It has a deliberately awkward character to it, full of insignificant intense detail and simplified shapes.

Upstairs in the Nicholas Building, there are several galleries and I can take an elevator to the eighth floor and work my way down. At Stephen McLaughlan Gallery Jason Haufe’s compositions of painted iron oxide red squares on raw canvas are cool and funky in their irregular piles of odd angles. Down one floor at Blindside Yvette Coppersmith’s impressive Blue Series also uses the aesthetic of raw canvas but with figures. “Forever in Blue Jeans” is a series of seven canvases showing a rotation of views of a man in jeans and blue shirt. Down another floor to see the Museum of Modern Electricity’s a new installation in the door. And then, down several more floors to the Pigment Gallery, where there was a group exhibition Ephemeral Folds, an exhibition by three artists about fabric. At the start of last year the space occupied by Pigment Gallery was Tim Bruce’s Open Studio; it is a rental space gallery now. The Nicholas Building is still dynamic with small galleries opening and closing.

At Mahoneys Galleries I saw the paintings two more impressive figurative artists: Lucy Turnbull and Kelly Murphy. Turnbull and Murphy, and Coppersmith at Blindside, are all painting dramatic realist paintings of people with a love of both the subject and paint. Kelly Murphy’s paintings are very dramatic, showing alienated youths, sporting war paint and tattoos postcodes on their lips or mid-digits. Lucy Turnbull’s paintings of her younger brothers are less confronting but still dramatic.


Street Party & Street Art

On the way to Sydney Rd Street Party, at Brunswick Station I had a good look at the wall of the house that formally had the Alice and hookah smoking caterpillar. This fine but very old piece of street art was replaced with a few aerosol pieces in January. These new pieces have now been replaced with full wall mural featuring some large silver aerosol piece, a scroll, and a Cyclops with a marker pen. It is better than the collection of earlier aerosol pieces but not by much.

I also noticed that Divali was a new gallery on the Art Almanac’s map of Outer Melbourne but as there was no listing I had see for myself. There doesn’t look like there is much art in Divali, it is a gift shop with pretensions. “Body Space Art” is the shop’s slogan and that explains everything.

I saw a lot of people at the Sydney Rd Street Party that I have written about in my old blog. Hi to Joel Gailer, Francisus Henri, Pierre Lloga, all the people at the 696 stall and Pav Art. Pav Art was at the fashion parade. Pav has gone from street to high fashion. And Pav knows how to get noticed; he was carrying his silkscreen stencil of Johnny Depp around as a prop for the parade. His collaboration with Leeana Edward are spectacular, his prints were framed well by Edward’s cut and design. Their striking creations were the clearly the stars of the parade.

As well as the fashion parade, there was a great variety of music from around the world, rock, hip-hop, traditional. “Someone wanted East African music so I put some on.” One DJ remarked. There were food, drinks and the stalls for blocks and more street entertainers from punk tumblers to a black and white medieval juggler. There was a spectacular work of art by Les Futo who created a great spiral mandala out of different coloured old cigarette lighters. It is wonderful when something beautiful is created from rubbish. Les Futo has done this temporary art before at other festivals: “whenever I get the urge,” Les said.

Les Futo's spiral of lighters

My enjoyment of the street party came to an end when I found an idiot had locked his bike to mine. But the full story of that particular idiot will have to be told another time.

Zines @ Platform

“Secrets of the Photocopier” in the Degraves Subway is a combined exhibition of Sticky and Platform, “exposing Australia’s Underground Zine Culture”. It is a very good exhibition doing exactly what it says it intends. It is exposing Melbourne’s commuters to an attractively displayed and curated exhibition of contemporary zines. The curators deserve to be congratulated. The exhibition is also noteworthy because of the sponsorship of the City of Melbourne and the Australia Council for the Arts indicates that zines are clearly being recognized as art.

Classically a ‘zine’ is a small run photocopy magazine but it can also include any self-published material. I have been part of and observing the zine scene for decades. It started when I was at Bendigo Senior High School. My old friend, Paul Leech produced a lot of zines. He always had good access to photocopiers in the student union or the defence department. Zines are often the art of the office worker, and unknowingly funded by the photocopy budget of many an office. Without the secret use of photocopiers zines are uneconomical.

I now have several magazine boxes of zines; the ones that I have contributed to, the anarchist publications, and the rest. One of my favourites has a green cardboard cover with a toy American flag and the title “NAM”. It looks like the scribbled notes of a crazed Vietnam vet but juxtapositions of statements, the obsession with Vietnam war movies and the inclusion of quotes from Euripedes makes it a strange work of post-modern literature.

Zines emerged as part of the do-it-yourself (d.i.y.) punk attitudes in the 1970s. There have always been small publications but the punk attitude of don’t worry about the quality opened it up to everyone. This attitude, combined with the underground mail art scene of the 1970s that had grown out of Fluxus and the art history basics of Dadaist publications, to create a form that straddles art, publishing and media. I am surprised that zines have survived the growth of the internet, but there is still an appeal to tangible rather than the virtual. And many zines have built on this tangible appeal with their handmade, even handwritten, construction.

If you want to find out more, I recommend reading, Zines v.1 ed. V. Vale (V/Search, 1996, San Francisco) is an excellent read for anyone interested in the diversity of US zines and finding out more about their creators.

Faster Pussycat

Friday, 8th February, eight graffiti artists are painting the grey sidewall of Faster Pussycat, on the corner of Lt. Napier St. and Gertrude St. Fitzroy. The artists were hard at work spray painting the very large wall. Some are up ladders, others are on the street and one is up on the awning writing the name of the shop.  This is a legal piece being painted in daylight with a few spectators, like myself watching.

It must have been a bit like this in the Renaissance churches and palaces as people watched the master and his apprentices up ladders working on frescos. Frescos are, like aerosol spray-paint, a fast medium as the artist has to finish painting the section before the plaster dries. So it would have been exciting to watch the paint going on and the image emerging. Except at Faster Pussycat on Friday, there were eight masters and no apprentices. And, unlike, the Renaissance there were two women artists painting as equals with the men.

Eight masters on the one wall might sound like a clash of the titans but there is a harmony, amongst the diverse styles in the use of green as the main color. And there is a diversity of styles, from the rocker and tattoo through to comic book and freestyle graffiti.

I went back a week later to see the finished work and to make enquires to whom to give credit for this great work.  I asked at Faster Pussycat and was told that Caleb from Tattoo Magic was behind it; I asked at Tattoo Magic but Caleb wasn’t in. It reminded me again of the Renaissance. Vasari writes “…one day he (Michelangelo) went along to where the statue (the Pieta) was and found a crowd of strangers from Lombardy singing its praises; then one of them asked another who had made it, only to be told: ‘Our Gobbo from Milan’.”

The wall of Faster Pussycat is now a magnificent work of street art, our equivalent of the frescoed walls of a Renaissance cathedral. But it is not unique; there are many such excellent pieces around Fitzroy and Collingwood. As I was walking around I saw another very large piece on the side of a garage in Sackville St. Collingwood.

In the city I saw some odd and un-attributed street art in Donaldson Lane large, very professionally painted on shaped MDF and screwed onto the wall. These are homage tributes to illustrators and comic books as varied as Dr. Seuss to Frank Miller’s Sin City. The Sin City one has a fun operational peephole camera attached.

In a side note to the commercial value of street art, a shot of graffiti in Melbourne’s Hosier Lane is used in the 2008 Mazada Two TV advertisement. So we know that, in the opinion of Mazada’s Australian marketing, graffiti helps sells cars.

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