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. 


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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