Now in its sixth year the annual women’s salon has become an institution at the Counihan gallery. It is generally the largest opening of the year because it has the most participating artists. This year the official opening, with a performance by the Brunswick Women’s Choir, attracted hundreds of people, filling the gallery, foyer and spilling out into the street.
With so many artists exhibiting it is impossible to comment on all the work, or even on the many styles, media and trends in the work. Instead I will mention a few favourites.
Sharon West’s digital print ‘A Monument Erected to The Great White Mother of The Empire’, 2008. I have seen and enjoyed West’s art for many years; this work continues her theme of retrospective recreation of Australian history but without all the paint and the mess of dioramas that she previously used. The digital print includes images of a diorama by West, but putting it all together in a digital print makes both the idea and image clearer.
Kate Hodgett’s video Dancer has many classic features of video art without being stale. There is the performance art element of the legs of a dancer trying to stand on the arms of a broken chair. There is an element of humour in the content; the impossible task and impending failure engage the audience. The static framing that makes the video a picture that moves; also makes the impossible dance possible.
Mateja Simenko’s beautiful still life paintings of balloons, stockings, and light bulbs tenderly, coyly and humorously refer to male and female bodies. The objects are elegantly and accurately depicted against the raw wood supports (part of a current trend in art that I have written about in my entry: Recent Art Trends). Painting still lifes that refer to the body rather than figures remove pathos or sentimentality without becoming cold.
I enjoyed Meyet Falduto small drypoint, We Bleed, because of its elegant minimalism. And also, Melissa Main’s illustration style painting with text; Main makes a point with an attractive style and humour. Of all the jewellery, knitting, shoes and works in other craft techniques that was in the exhibition I especially enjoyed the gypsy style apron of recycled material by Mish Cahill. Cahill was wearing a similar garment to the opening and why not when it looks so exotic and impressive.
What detracted from the exhibition was all of the artist’s statements on the didactic panels. These artist’s statements generally confuse rather than enlighten, patronize the viewer and distract from the actual art. Frequently the statements appear to be a desperate attempt to explain the art in terms of the ‘theme’ of the exhibition. Both the artists’ statements and the theme are attempting to add more meaning to the exhibition, as if this would improve its quality.