Monthly Archives: April 2009

David Bromley in magazines

David Bromley is a notable Australian pop artist, 3 times Archibald Prize finalist, whose paintings are in state and regional gallery collections. His paintings typically feature children by the seaside both from 1950s and ‘60s children’s book illustrations or bare breasted nymphets. His use of gold and silver leaf on the nudes adds more glamour. Bromley’s paintings are bland but attractive; easy looking pop art (or is that just interior design?). Pop art for Bromley is about designer nostalgia in a popular style.

There are other Melbourne-based pop artists, including Dennis Roper, Maria Kozic and many other lesser-known artists, but David Bromley works the publicity and marketing machine like Warhol. Smyth Gallery in Auckland notes, on their website, that “He has recently featured in articles in both Australian Vogue and Inside Out.” Australian Vogue and Inside Out do not have a reputation for art criticism or editorial independence; they are both fashion magazines. David Bromley has also featured in the free fashion magazine Attitude, according to my wife, Catherine who reads fashion and interior design magazines.

It was Catherine who pointed out that David Bromley is featured in an 11-page article in the March 2009 issue of Real Living. The article is part of the food section and has plenty of photographs of “David Bromley and his partner, designer Tori Dixon-Wittle” along with tuna carpaccio with black sesame seeds, fragrant her salad with fresh radish and chilli crab. David Bromley is photogenic, as is Tori. Along with the recipes, a short biography of David Bromley and promotion for his store, A Day on Earth. There is even a short entry on how to make “child-like artwork” like “Tori and David” in 8 steps.

There are a few other magazines that Bromley has appeared in that the galleries who represent him are not so keen to point out. In Feb 2006 there was an anonymous half page advert in Juxtapoz (v.13 n.2 p.103) featuring an obvious David Bromley-style image of children in a rowboat. The advert read: “Studio Assistant Wanted for Australian (Melbourne) based artists… I am looking for a very gifted and productive artist to help with every facet of daily studio grind. Someone whose talent outweighs their ego and is willing to contribute their skills & insight with respect & honesty.”


My Own Private Idealogue

Whose got the funk? Joanna Langford, Peter Madden, Rohan Wealleans, curated by Emily Cormack, have the funk. And they are not afraid to show it off in public. I mean, we all got that funky mish-mash of stuff. We’ve put it together, collected it and carefully arranged it. And we croon over its beauty; it is too precious to throw out, like a foil chocolate wrapper. Emily Cormack describes the exhibition as “a highly subjective language to describe personal mythologies.” But most of us don’t show off this funky stuff in public. A few boho-artist types do but mostly it looks like crazy junk.

Peter Madden and Rohan Wealleans are some of the exceptions along with and Bruce Conner and Bootsy Colins. It took me a few days to distillate my experience of the exhibition, My Own Private Idealogue at Gertrude Contemporary Art Space. In many ways it was similar to so many exhibitions that I’ve seen recently, artists creating their own miniature worlds full of tiny details. Scatter style with collages made found materials. But this had something more, more personal, more obsessive, more funk. Funk was first used to describe art in the 1960s in San Francisco (Peter Selz, Funk, University Art Museum, University of Calif., Berkeley, 1967).

Joanna Langford has The Before Lands (2009) in the front room. A huge tower supplied with power cables from small adjacent towers. There are lots of tiny stairways and ladders leading up the different levels of the tower. The whole thing is delicately constructed with recycled shopping bags, bamboo skewers and cardboard. The whole construction is lit with tiny 12-volt lights.

Peter Madden and Rohan Wealleans are in the main gallery. To enter the main gallery you pass through Rohan Wealleans’s Bead Curtain (2008) made from bits of dried acrylic paint with layers of different colours. And then things really got funky.

Peter Madden’s Sleep with Moths (2008) is a black skeleton with black twigs growing out of its bones turns into a bush covered in paper butterflies. Peter Madden also makes beautiful delicate collages that float on layers of perspex.

New Zealand artist Rohan Wealleans was the funkiest of the lot of them. Wealleans creates personal totems, ugly but arresting images. His Orange Shark Jaw Sculpture (2008) creates a round, orange-painted, fibreglass body for a shark jaw. It is like the funky animal creations of American funk ceramicist David Gilhooly. Others like the hieratic postured of Maid (2004) suggest so many stories and explanations.

There was so much of it, the mess, the excess, coming from all directions and I knew that it was good.


Art Market @ No Vacancy

On Friday night I was at the opening of No Vacancy’s Art Market. It was a mini-art street art fair with over a dozen little stalls. There was free entry, unlike at the major art fairs. There were photographs, stencil art, drawings, illustrations and prints of illustrations; custom toys, soft toys and sculptures; jewellery, badges, cards, packs of cards, t-shirts, skateboard decks, artists books and zines all by young emerging artists and designers. The range of merchandise that is being produced in this young art scene with its street art and illustration influences is amazing. This is not like the stuff on sale at some Sunday market’s craft stalls; it has been better organized than that, even, in a way, curated as there is a consistency of style.

The art market also had a 2nd hand book stall and a stall selling clothes. On Friday night a one-man band was entertaining the hundreds of people making good use looping on a digital delay.

Many young people are participating in an affordable democratic art market. That people are choosing to buy art and fashion from local practicing artists rather than the mass marketed images or picking up the crumbs from the high-end art market. Rock’n’roll, punk and hip-hop have all played their part in forging resilient independent tastes. People know what art is and they know what they like. And the Art Market at No Vacancy gives them the opportunity to buy it.

I didn’t go to the The Weekend Australian Art Melbourne 09 at the Royal Exhibition Building. I’ve been to previously when it was known as the Affordable Art Fair and I’ve been told me not much has changed. I wouldn’t go unless they paid me; I can go to several of these galleries for free four or five days any week, why do I need to pay to go to The Weekend Australian Art Melbourne 09? Art Asia Pacific (#60. Sep/Oct 2008) reported on the proliferation of mega-exhibitions in “Biennials Gone Wild”; where art fairs have grown in budgets and visitor numbers into the millions. The effects of the current economic depression have yet to impact on these events although Art Brisbane 09 has been cancelled. I enjoyed No Vacancy’s Art Market as it is more alternative and more affordable.


New Sculpture @ Michael Koro

On Friday night I went to the opening of Obecjkt (new sculpture) at Michael Koro Galleries. Adrian Doyle and Joel Gailer curated the exhibition; selecting a wide variety of contemporary sculptures from notable sculptors ranging from the monolithic to the street.

The opening was worth attending not just to drink the wine and to talk to the curators and artists. I was shown work in progress in Blender Studios out the back, watched Michael Meneghetti’s performance and the live spraying in the laneway. I almost forgot to look at the Melbourne Propaganda Window by video artist Pip Ryan; this is the first time I’ve been there after dark.

Michael Meneghetti "Vixen"

Michael Meneghetti "Vixen"

 

Michael Meneghetti did a performance of “Vixen”; body art is another type of contemporary sculpture. The leather and pine wood harness that Meneghetti uses in his performance are displayed vestigial remnants propped up against the gallery wall. The actual performance was impressive for the modification of human movement and Meneghetti’s half-hour endurance. Meneghetti did not restrict his performance to the art gallery; he dodging traffic crossing Franklin Street and wandered around. The performance incorporated sado-masochistic references in the saddle and headwear and also the idea of objectifying the body.

I had seen Natalie Ryan flocked animals earlier in the year at her solo exhibition at Diane Tanzer Gallery. Combining the kitsch aesthetics of flock covered toys and taxidermy Ryan has produced uncanny sculptures – a pink fox, a white skunk and a black hare. Taxidermy only preserves the skin of the animal, the eyes, the tongue and the form of the animal underneath the skin is artificial. Ryan has replaced the skin with synthetic flock fibers. The viewer might want to stroke the flocked covered animal forms but is stopped by the artificially unremittingly gaze of their lidless prosthetic eyes.

Ben Fasham has been a finalist in the Helen Lempriere National Sculpture Award 2008 and the Montalto Sculpture Prize (2009). His elegant formal geometric sculpture is exhibited in a study maquette and in monolithic scale in white painted aluminum. His “Unexpected interruption” is a geometric phallic erection.

There were three of the bent skateboards of Jason Waterhouse from the Federation Square Skateboard Series. The worn decks had been carefully sawn up and reassembled so that the plywood decks bent around corners.

English culture-jammer street-artist, D*Face Big Mouth Project was previously on exhibition at Lunar Park. It had been moved to the end of the laneway adjacent to Blender Studios. Big Mouth is a large open mouth. This is an old take on an old image: the mouth as a gate, like the mouth of Hell in medieval mystery plays or Melbourne’s own Lunar Park entrance. It is crude but effective.

D*Face Big Mouth

D*Face Big Mouth

 

I was un-impressed by Tim Sterling post-minimal assemblages of white paper clips, black cable ties and colored pins form rectilinear areas on the wall particularly as I had seen many better works by him. I also felt indifferent towards Andrew Gutteridge’s basic sculptures; in  “Twisted Ink” the dynamic ribbon of twisted aluminum spans two points.


Deconstructed Books

Back in 2006 when I started blogging I was seeing a lot of art made from old books. And there is still a lot of it around; in this entry I will mention four Melbourne artists making art made from books.

Art made from old books has become a new genre. It emerged from Duchamp’s experiment Unhappy Readymade (1919), a geometry book destroyed by the Parisian weather, and has been repeated with variation until it become a genre. In recent years old books have been stacked, folded and cut into new works of art. Art made from books is return of literature as the subject for art, not in the form of illustrations, as it was in the 19th century, but as deconstructed books. The 19th century virtue of saving printed matter has become a vice in the 21st century. There are too many books, too many redundant books, too many ordinary books, too many books to save. Legal deposit libraries that try to collect all printed matter, like State Library of Victoria, are growing exponentially. Where the content of the book is unloved the love of books is being transferred to a love of the material that makes books.

There are many ways in which books are turned into art but generally the book is destroyed in the process. I saw a good sculpture from made from a book without damaging the book, “Evil” (2005) by Peter Madden at Gertrude Contemporary Art. The book, a small dictionary, was held together with 3 G-claps and all these illustrations of snakes were curling out from between the pages. A little knowledge, and it is “The Little Oxford English Dictionary”, is a dangerous thing.

Rosie Miller cuts the book’s pages free from binding and rebinds them into the curve of a wave. Rosie Miller exhibited her unbound curved sculptural books in a wood cabinet with shelves, in April 2009 at Platform. I also saw her “Untitled” (2008) wave of paper at Lindberg Gallery earlier in the year. It is ironic that Miller who studied printmaking at the VCA is now making sculpture from printed matter.

Katherine Hattam used paper pasted with the title and dedication pages of Penguin paperbacks as the support for a series of still life paintings. Some of the books in these still life images have the collaged real spines of real paperbacks. I saw her painting “The Divided Self” (2006) and other paintings at Australian Galleries.

“In Memorium” (2008) by Samantha Harris a book forms plinth for a small scene made from paper and twigs. The twigs are wrapped in ribbons of paper cut from book pages. Harris’s scenes are literary in that they recreate the way we construct stories about our own home.


Exhibitions on Smith St.

There are a few rental space galleries on Smith St. But, as I found, often the better art on Smith St. isn’t in the galleries but alternative exhibition spaces in cafes and shops.

Sekure D’s Daylight Hallucinations is an exhibition of custom sneakers, skateboard decks and paintings on canvas at Hogan Gallery. There are 27 colourful Nike and Globe sneakers, 3 decks and Sekure D’s robot illustrations. These are hardly ‘daylight hallucinations’; the work is competent but unimpressive. I have seen more psychedelic images in Greer Honeywill’s current exhibition at Flinders Lane Gallery. Sekure D’s whimsical paintings are full of arty drips and splatters. His cyclopedia robots play at pop culture references, or simply play. This is lowbrow illustration fun but nothing to get excited about.

Collingwood Gallery has an exhibition of Alan Gemmell’s naïve-style landscapes; the red center of Australia features prominently. And the best that I can say about Gemmell’s paintings is that they are not over priced.

Further down Smith St. at 69 Smith St. there is an even more horrible exhibition. I thought that Ronnie Woods had the monopoly on overblown paintings of Keith Richards. But as if there weren’t enough of them the ground floor of 69 Smith St. was full of more by Hans Erftemeyer. Erftemeyer seem to take Ronnie Woods’s art as an inspiration. If only it wasn’t all Keith Richards I might have been able to endure more than a glance.

The Sculpture Garden at the back of 69 Smith St. was in use again with work by various members of the gallery in blocks of Hebel stone. I helped build the sculpture garden and it is good to see that it was getting some use. Upstairs there was a group exhibition of art by members of the gallery; 69 Smith St. is an artist run gallery. This exhibition, with its red, yellow and green theme, had more variety and originality than anything that I had seen so far on Smith St.

The best art that I saw on my walk down Smith St. in Collingwood was not in an art gallery. It was in Smart Alec’s, a men’s hat shop. If 50s retro sci-fi robots and rocket ships are your style then you must see the objet d’art of Graeme Shaw. Graeme Shaw’s sculptures of rocket ships are made of found metal materials, retro chrome and brassware that perfectly suit their style. There is even a ray gun by Shaw behind the counter.

Graeme Shaw rocket ship

Graeme Shaw rocket ship


Match Box Projects

Curators are always looking for interesting formats to unite community-based group exhibitions. The familiar dimensions of a matchbox have been used before, for example in 1996, World in a Matchbox, at Grand Central Gallery, Melbourne. The matchbox is small, easily packed, and transported for international travel. Leanne Shedlezki and Naomi Shedlezki’s Match Box Projects has been running since 2006 with the help of various grants.

As I looking at Match Box Projects’s current installation in Vitrine at Platform I was approached by one of the Shedlezki sisters. She asked if I would like to take part in Match Box Projects. She also asked a mother with two children if they would like to take part. We all agreed and were given empty matchboxes. Like all contemporary art projects there is plenty of digital documentation, photographs, numbers and details of all the people involved. We were told to do something that represented Melbourne to fit in the matchbox. It could be 2D or 3D. We could put anything non-organic in the matchbox, as the boxes to pass through customs.

The Shedlezki sisters have created elegant Perspex briefcases to transport and exhibit the matchboxes. Along with specially printed matchboxes featuring the project logo, URL and a color photo of the Shedlezki sisters with Perspex briefcases with the Sydney Harbor Bridge in the background. The project is partially aimed at an international (Japanese) audience and this explains/excuses to its corny aesthetics. And besides the objective of the project is more about communication and interaction than aesthetics.

I returned my matchboxto Vitrine today. Inside I’d added a small panoramic drawing of Melbourne.


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