“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.


About Mark Holsworth

Writer and artist Mark Holsworth is the author of two books, The Picasso Ransom and Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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