Abstract & Figurative

I often wish that group exhibitions did not have a theme. Jenny Port Gallery is currently showing artists from its stockroom and I have no complaints about that. Sophie Gannon Gallery was also showing a group exhibition of “contemporary responses to architecture” (also work from their stockroom?). There were a variety of responses to architecture in a variety of media from marker pens to tapestry. Matthew Shannon’s curatorial notes didn’t help and eventually became waffle. Another gallery showing a group exhibition is Flinders Lane Gallery, with new abstract works by the gallery artists. The Flinders Lane Gallery’s group exhibition was the best of these group exhibitions because of the theme that focused on the art.

I was thinking about contemporary abstract and figurative painting before I even got to Flinders Lane Gallery. It is odd that about century ago art theorists assumed that either abstract art would dominate the future of art or it would just be a passing fad. And it turns out that neither is the case; both abstract and figurative art co-exist in the contemporary world without conflict, rivalry or separation. I was thinking about this as I looked at two galleries in Albert St.  John Buckley Gallery has “New Works” by op-artist Lesley Dumbrell and Lisa Roet is showing figurative work at Karen Woodbury Gallery.

Lesley Dumbrell’s paintings are intense; the colours, the geometric lines creating optical effects like watching laser lights at a rave. Good optical art creates not just an optical effect but also beauty and a trance-like revelry. And Dumbrell is a good op-artist, she has been painting op-art since the classic op-art era in the 1960s. This is the first exhibition from Dumbrell in a long time; one reason for this long absence from the galleries is that Dumbrell is now a Bali resident.

Lisa Roet’s exhibition of large-scale charcoal drawing and bronze sculpture at Karen Woodbury Gallery is impressive. It took my breath away when I first saw Roet’s monumental bronze fingers and feet of our close relative, chimpanzees. These are not mawkish or allegorical apes, but real and as individual as their fingerprints or chipped fingernails. Roet has made a career using apes as her models, their figures and fingers so close to and yet alien to our own.

To complete this small survey of figurative and abstract art with two more galleries on Albert St. one showing an exhibition of figurative art the other abstract.

Anita Traverso Gallery is showing Pamela Rataj paintings and sculptures titled “Greenwich Mean Time”. There is a surreal edge to Rataj’s paintings; the flat chequer board plane filled with people and exploded architecture is classic, but not stale with Rataj’s elegant illustrative style. I didn’t like Rataj’s sculptures, they were not as elegant as her paintings and the ideas were more obvious.

Alison Kelly Gallery, a gallery that specializes in aboriginal art, was closed. It was within the opening hours, maybe there were too many red dots for the dot paintings to be bothered to open.

About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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