Daily Archives: June 27, 2008

Anthology

“Anthology” at Gallery 101 is a group exhibition of “artist books, journals, objects and two-dimensional work on paper and canvas” according to the entry in Art Almanac. But it is a lot more than that. There is so much to see in this exhibition and this short entry will mention only a small fraction of it.

I frequently complain about empty vacuous exhibitions lacking in content. This is not the case with Anthology. An exhibition with the theme of books has a lot of content. Even the list of works runs to 5 double-sided A4 pages. There is so much to look at in each of the nine artist’s installation. Each artist displays art and “resource materials’; the resource materials are often as aesthetically appealing as the art.

There has long been an interest in artist’s books, there is was even a trend two years ago of using old books as material for art, but this exhibition has more. Painter and mathematician, Peter James Smith’s paintings combine the beauty of nature with the chalkboard scientific diagrams. In adding antique objects – the ship’s brass compass, “the metal box containing 12 historical, scientific and literary texts” – the circle of aesthetics is completed.

Other artists also showed their inspiration in books and notebooks. Judy Holding shows the process from the reference material through to the completed work Diver Duck, a wall installation. Jan Learmonth eight travel journals are the book part of the exhibition along with her sculpture inspired by boat and river forms. (For a review of a previous exhibition by Learmonth at Gallery 101 see my entry The Trouble With Girls.)

For many of the artists (Angela Cavalieri, Mary Newsome, Carmel Wallace and Kate Derum) it was their artist’s books that were the focus of the exhibition, even if their display of resource material vied for attention. Printmaker Heather Shimmen’s display of resource material was so delicate with glass dome, coral, teapots with threads running between all of them.

The use of recycled material in the work some of the artists is a response to the plethorea of artifacts in the contemporary world. Carmel Wallace’s art practice has contemporary environmental sympathies. Her impressive net of “beach-found plastic objects and cable ties” – Red Sea 10: An Octopus’s Garden.  Kate Derum boxed tablaux, “The Gift Horse,” is a 3-dimensional collage of found material.

Pink dominates sculptor Stanley Farley’s part of the exhibition except for the large blue ‘Poetbureau’. The ‘Poetbureau’ is a large blue wooden cabinet in the shape of a Grecian urn with labelled draws in which to keep the work of poets.

I particularly enjoyed Mary Newsome in a “Box of Fragile Words” cutting up packing tape with the word Fragile printed on it to form other words: Rig, Rifle, Ear etc.

The exhibition looks like contemporary museum exhibitions rather than sparse art gallery installation. The art is not left in isolation on a white wall, the displays resource material completing the story. The curator, Dianna Gold, and installation team, along with the artists, should be congratulated for this approach.


Spin, Persephone, Homepage & Emu Feathers

David Wadelton’s paintings of contemporary pop idols are stunning. Pop art is not a movement that is confined to the history books as demonstrated by David Wadelton’s exhibition Spin at Tolarno Galleries. Pop art is about a love of popular art techniques (mass production, Ben Day dots) and the love of popular art (pop stars, movie stars and superheroes). Wadelton’s large canvases are an expression of love and adulation for these pop stars.

The eight large oil paintings in the exhibition depict the faces of pop stars have titles that refer to lyrics by the pop star. The faces look like they have all been shrink-wrapt (a filter on Photoshop) the highlights are so shiny. Packaged pop icons. The larger-than-life faces have been beautifully painted with lurid colours and photorealist styling. The backgrounds are carefully painted faux giant expressionist brushstrokes in different combinations of colours. In combining the pop and the expressionist elements in the paintings Wadelton is recreating the conflict at the genesis of pop art.

 

At Mailbox 141 is “Your Homepage” by Nada Poljski, a fine little exhibition. Poliski’s small delicate cut paper prints combine text and images. Each work folds into a little book cover. It is a series about meeting people online: the pokes, the fantasy, the reality and the homepage. It is odd to combine the virtual world with paper prints. The exhibition is perfect content to fill each of the glass-fronted mailboxes (that sounds like a metaphor for email). Poljski has an additional vitrine of slightly larger work above the mailboxes to add a bit more space to this very small artist-run exhibition space.

 

At Arc there is an exhibition by Maria Frenanda Cardoso, Cardoso’s arrangement of a standard material, in this case emu feathers, into poles and “flags” is formalist. There is no other content. The various arrangements of emu feathers is programmatic almost an index of variations. I find it interesting that the term ‘formalism’ is considered acceptable in mathematics and contemporary art but in ethics and aesthetics it denotes an invalid position. If you enjoy emu feather arrangement this exhibition is a must-see.

 

“Palimpsest: Persephone and the Underworld” by Robbie Harmsworth at 45 Downstairs explores an ancient Greek mythic theme. In a beautiful series of large prints with hand colouring and marbling Harmsworth tells part of the story of Hades and Persephone. It is only part of the story because the archaic story is incomplete; there is the palimpsest, the part erased by Zeus and the part erased by Hecate. For neither Zeus nor Hecate told Ceres, the mother Persephone that she was in the underworld.

The design of the prints successfully unites several styles from ancient to contemporary and clearly tells the mythic story. The bare trees in Ceres searching for her daughter are particularly evocative and effective.

Along with the prints Harmsworth is exhibiting oil paintings and other objects. His paintings with their outlines of details, rough backgrounds and the great mythic theme reminded me of the half finished paintings in the Paris studio, now a museum, of Gustave Moreau.

Not all of the work in Harmsworth’s exhibition is successful; the hanging figures of blackware ceramics and the samples of dried jacaranda flowers on muslin in vitrines appear like empty after thoughts. The pomegranate that Persephone ate is considered to symbolic of eternal life because they do not decay. Remarkably Harmsworth has managed to get a bowl of pomegranates at the exhibition to rot. 


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