Monthly Archives: September 2008

Sculpture Show

Finalists in the 2008 Ola Cohn Sculpture Award are on exhibition at City Library. Ten sculptures showing the diversity of contemporary sculpture from figurative to funky, fabric to kinetic.

The winner of the 2008 Ola Cohn Sculpture Award is Patrick Delbosc for his sculpture ‘Tween’, a bulbous bronze plated form on two stumpy legs. Patrick Delbosc is a former Diploma of Visual Arts student at CAE.

Patrick Delbosc says: “This work explores the nature of family and of reactions to society life. Full of life, ‘Tween’ engages in an emotional conversation about love and seduction, but also the changing loving relation between persons within a family. The warm copper materials, changing colour over time and light conditions aim at enhancing this expression of change, discovery, excitement and pleasure.”

Other sculptures on exhibition include Antonia Goodfellow’s “Wormhole” is a kaleidoscope-like creation playing with light, space and mirrors. Carl Scrase’s construction of super-balls and toothpicks; which I had seen when it was previously exhibited in Seventh Gallery April 2008, in the group show “We’ve Got a Love Like Electric Sound” (see entry Only Rock’n’Roll)

There were two of the sculptors were working with fabric. Catherine O’Leary covered telephones with material. And Kate Just created a knitted-fabric covered figure sinking in knitted brown mud watering a green carpet lawn ambiguously titled “Paradise”.

And my personal favorite James Cattell’s “The Vigilant Insomniac”, a very engaging kinetic sculpture. Everyone wanted to play with it and the “Please touch” sign gave permission. When the handle was cranked the sculpture rotated jerkily, bells rang and its many eyes winked and blinked. Cattell works in a number of media: ceramics, sculpture, wood and metal, painting, and does children’s book illustration. He created the Children’s Sculpture Garden at Linden Gallery, St Kilda and ceramic pavement inlays in the Bourke Street Mall. Cattell studied Fine Art at Elam School of Art, Auckland.

James Cattell says: “I live to do art and have practised this through painting and sculpture, as well as puppetry and illustration. I will attempt almost any medium or format, as long as I can use my hands to create the work.”

There are also sculptures by Christopher Bold, Katie Weedon, Natasha Frisch, Peter Rosman and, an old sandstone carving by Ola Cohn, herself (not an entry but a reminder).


Platform – September

Along with re-branding itself this year with a crest Platform has included a garden and a video cabinet. It is remarkable to have a garden underground in a subway but it is surviving. The video cabinet is right at the back of the subway beyond the stairs to Degraves Street.

Sample, Ilia Rosli, ‘I Have a Circular Driveway’ is a video with installation; the installation matching the colors on the video to fill the cabinet. It looks good and the only fault that I could find with it was the dense content of the video itself, the longer you look at it the less coherent it appears.

Vitrine, Katy Bowman, ‘Mending’ is an installation window display about healing full safety pins and red, white and manila colors. The installation refers to the practice of artists as shamanic healers, ecstatically manipulating images, trying to mend the body (or the world) by recreating it. Bowman uses nostalgic images from old first aid books to sugar coat her medicine.

Majorca, Marita Dyson and Kubota Fumikazu, Macro-Micro, are two large works on paper one by each of the artists but they were so different in style that they appear completely separate.

Platform, Catherine Sewell, ‘The Playground Project’, is a scatter-style installation made up readymade elements. Sewell’s cabinets play back, play with, play off, play down, play up and play around using sports equipment, toys, playing cards, clothes, wigs and artificial turf. It looks like a lot of fun. This kind of art appears to require no talent but is well organized and considered, making this very contemporary style of exhibition accessible to the general public who view Platform.

This exhibition is timely because Kevin Rudd’s mantra “working families” stands in contrast to Catherine Sewell’s exhibition on the diversity of play. Trades Hall and the Union movement divide work and play equally, 8 hours of each; but Rudd has forgotten about play because it is not economically important. Artists (and other people) are not so clear about the distinction between work and play.


Paintings of Folds

Terrie Fraser, Intimate Attachments, Upstairs Flinders

I found Terrie Fraser’s exhibition particularly interesting because of the extreme variety of my reaction to her 18 paintings. Some I loved, others I hated and others I was indifferent about. This is not because of the differing quality of painting because there are no drastic differences in technique and the quality remains consistent. Nor is it because of the different subject matter in the paintings because all of the 18 paintings depict cloth. I loved, hated and was indifferent to Fraser’s paintings because of the meaning of the paintings.

“An Unlikely Attachment” was one of the paintings that I loved. The power and formal austerity of this painting comes from the combination of illusionism and hard edge abstraction.

Other of Fraser’s paintings that I like included a series of small paintings copying tightly cropped details of fabric in paintings by Leonardo, Caravaggio, Fetti and Rembrandt (although the Rembrandt study did not seem to work, it was still worth attempting).

I hated 3 of the paintings where the Fraser had sculpted the folds of the white fabric to resemble figures. They had a twee sentimentality about them often found in the art of spiritually driven fantasy artists.

All of the paintings have a neo-baroque quality from the dramatic, quotation of fabric from old master paintings to the metamorphosis of the fabric. And they all had the power to generate a very definite emotional response from me.

Art about fabric is a minor genre of still life, but not uncommon; earlier this year I saw a group exhibition, Ephemeral Folds, at Pigment Gallery and I paint them myself (see My Art).


Don’t Ban the Can II

I missed the opening of the Don’t Ban the Can exhibition at 696 because I was at the launch of ‘I Art Sydney Road’ (the exhibition title with the least grammar this year). 696 is also participating in the ‘I Art Sydney Road’ with two paintings in their window. I won’t be reviewing ‘I Art Sydney Road’ because I am participating in it; exhibiting a still life painting at Mia Moda, 179 Sydney Road.

At that launch of ‘I Art Sydney Road’ Mayor Joe Caputo of Moreland, was talking enthusiastic about graffiti. He was especially after briefly visiting the Don’t Ban the Can party. He told me that there was only one complaint about the party. “There is always one,” he said. This is in contrast to the media and police speculation about trouble before the event. (See my recent entries: Don’t Ban the Can and Chill.)

The Don’t Ban the Can exhibition in the gallery room at 696 features a large number of artists and art at affordable prices. There are some familiar artists in the exhibition, including Pierre Lloga, Maxcat and Phibs. The exhibition has a surprising variety of media and techniques, not just aerosol works and stencils. There are also photographs, drawings and paintings. I was particularly impressed with Kid Zoom’s painted crushed spray can with its crazy forms and impressive detail.

Many of the works feature sculptural elements. Happy created a deep framed painting combined with a sculptural, paint-sniffing spray-can character. The issue of huffing (paint and solvent sniffing) was on the mind of many of the artists in the exhibition. Huffing is a far more serious medical and social problem than petty vandalism and yet it is not being addressed with draconian legislation.

Much of the art in the exhibition included polemical political statements about Victoria’s anti-graffiti legislation. Braddock stated it clearly in his painting a simplified figure with mask and gloves says in a speech balloon: “You can’t ban culture”. Banning a culture is a crime against humanity.

On the way to the exhibition I stopped to talk to four guys busy painting a piece by the railway line in Coburg. I asked if they wanted anything to do a piece: “just permission” was their reply.


Don’t Ban The Can

There were four seasons in one Melbourne sky on Saturday, September 20th as heavy grey clouds raced across the sky above Clifton Park, Brunswick. How Jeremy Gaschk and his crew managed to keep their three billboard sized temporary walls erect in the wind was incredible. The Don’t Ban The Can event was several things: a cultural event, a community party and a political protest against the draconian Graffiti Prevention laws.

As a free community party Don’t Ban The Can had everything for the couple hundred people that came to the event. It was certainly family friendly event, fathers and sons, mothers with infants and lots of teenager boys. It was remarkably well organized with clearly identified volunteers providing an informal and fun atmosphere. Good music from a series of DJs that kept the mood mellow and relaxed. There was the Rotary Club doing a sausage sizzle: it was great to see the elder Rotary Club supporting the youth community. Two policemen had a look at the event but clearly felt alienated by the good vibes and kept their distance.

Although it was pleasant to just hang out in the Clifton Park with cool people the focus of Don’t Ban the Can was aerosol art. Watching the crews of graffiti artists demonstrating their art on the temporary walls was the main event. But as a cultural event Don’t Ban the Can was very successful because it had interactive elements. It was an art jam – there were two marquees with free art materials and tables made of old doors. They were filled, shoulder-to-shoulder, with people from 10-40 years old drawing. It also turned out to be a photography and documentary film-making event. The number of people with cameras of all kinds in their hands was remarkable; photography is a major art practice that the community is involved in.

As a political protest it didn’t really happen. There were no speeches; Don’t Ban the Can was propaganda by deed. Those who attended saw what street artists mean by a responsibility to the community. And Victoria’s politicians will ignore it – the can has already been banned.


Fitzroy Graffiti

Fitzroy is an example about how bad and how good it can get with graffiti. There is tagging everywhere in Fitzroy and the names of some major street artists appear amongst them, like Happy and Phibs. Not that business is suffering due to the tags, there are plenty of customers on Brunswick St. and Smith St. and none of them seem disturbed by the graffiti. Indeed many business on these streets appear to try attract customers with the quality of street art decorations on their building. If Fitzroy is as bad as graffiti can get it can then it is actually less of a threat than noxious weeds.

Along with the tagging there are some magnificent and beautiful works of street art that contribute to Fitzroy’s trendy, artistic and dynamic image. Not all of the street art in Fitzroy is aerosol art. Paste-ups are getting bigger and better; there are some good paste-ups near the corner of Gertrude and Victoria Parade, along with some aerosol work by A1one from Tehran. Further along Gertrude St. there is a tree with its truck and branches covered with croqueted dollies. The lace covering appears almost natural and very beautiful. It is obviously the work of the shop that it is in front of, Cottage Industry.

In Fishers Lane there is a lot of great street art, it is mostly aerosol pieces but also some quality paste-ups and stencils. Without the color street art the car park in Fisher’s Lane would be a very ugly urban location.

One of the best works in Fishers Lane is the “The Banality of Evil” is a great series of paste-ups. Prints of watercolor monotone paintings of a masked man doing the shopping, laundry, cooking and gardening. It is important to remember in these times that the most evil, cruel people in this world are living ordinary suburban lives. And it is important for this message to be on the street rather than preaching to the converted in art galleries.

Another great little location is Little Smith St. is basically an alley but it is also a gallery of famous Melbourne stencils artists including Optic, Psalm and HaHa. Little Smith features a very good version of HaHa’s Ned Kelly stencil in block of Warhol-like repetition.

There are so many good locations in Fitzroy and so many quality work of street art along with all the tagging. This is just a sample.

Ha Ha 'Ned Kelly'

Ha Ha


Some Other September Exhibitions

I haven’t been to Brunswick Street Gallery (BSG) for a while; it has changed a lot since I wrote my last review in my old blog. It now occupies two stories above Brunswick Street with numerous white walled gallery spaces, track lighting and dark wood.

The “first Brunswick Street Gallery Picture This 08 Prize” exhibition filled BSG’s galleries and it stairwells, hung salon style to fit in more photographs. There are some 900 photographs by about 300 photographers in this exhibition – far too many to make individual comments. I did recognize Matthew Harding’s photographs because I had seen them only last month in a larger format at RMIT’s 1st Site gallery. There is great variety of photographic techniques in this exhibition from duotones, b&w, color, and digital manipulated. And the subjects of the photographs are even more varied. The handwritten gallery cards with titles and prices are a bit shabby and some of the artists printed their own.

Not surprisingly with so many exhibitors and the sunny spring Saturday on Brunswick St. there were lots of people in BSG when I visited. And Brunswick St. remains the trend-setting, cultural heartland of Melbourne with its bars, cafés, restaurants and bookshops.

Slide in Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces doorway Tim Hillier’s video “Shackle me not”. The video features two men on a beach wearing a double hoodie, two hoodies sewn together along one side, like a garment for co-joined twins. The video is fun combining avant-garde body sculpture traditions from the 1970s with popular romantic images of running on the beach.

Seventh’s gallery two has “sonance”, a work of sonic and sculptural art by Miles Brown, Monica Zanchetta and Craig Love. It is beautiful and strange with musical influences from LaMonte Young and Luigi Russolo. I don’t know if the three white card pipes and horns contributed much acoustically, apart from allowing the listener to separate the sounds, but they looked the part magnificently.

At 696 artist and gardener Bernadettte Trench-Thiedeman had a small exhibition “Archeology” of pen and ink drawings. What is remarkable about this exhibition is its installation-like hanging. The whimsical drawings are on small linen kites that have become stuck in a tree, their strings trailing down.  Bernadettte Trench-Thiedeman has been busy this year; she had the exhibition “Eat the City” at Platform and helped plant vertical garden at Melbourne Central. So the use of the tree branches for the installation is part of Trench-Thiedeman botanically influenced art practice.


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