Surveying the Field at the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick is a survey exhibition from artists living or working in Moreland. There are a lot of artists living or working in the Moreland area and the exhibition. Moreland City has long been the residence of many artists and the location of many artists’ studios attracted by cheap rent and proximity to the city. (Those are the reasons why I moved here.) The Moreland Leader has recently reported that the area was becoming too expensive for artists; it has also reported that there were more professional musicians living in Brunswick than anywhere else in Melbourne (and I don’t feel qualified to comment on such demographics).
Surveying the Field is an emergency exhibition, not an exhaustive survey of Moreland’s artists. The cancellation of Robert Smith’s exhibition due to illness meant that the curator Edwina Bartlem assembled the exhibition at short notice. So no great conclusions about the state of Moreland’s artists are warranted. The quality of the artists that Bartlem managed to assemble in a short time is impressive as is the variety: sculpture, painting, photography, video installation and prints.
Dan Wollmering’s wooden sculptures have a formal character to them that combines a natural chaos to its form. In a completely different aesthetic direction the hyper-realist sculptures of Sam Jinks are like the British artist Ron Muerk. In Floral a hyper-realist face appears tattooed, or shadowed, with floral patterns. The larger than life sized male and female faces are intimately and perfectly detailed to every pore and eyelash.
Sam Leach’s paintings with their dark chiaroscuro neo-baroque style are full of half-forgotten symbolism. His large painting, Peacock observes Sputnik combines ancient and modern mythologies of the heavens. His small paintings of dead and alive birds are equally symbolic and are covered with a glossy layer of epoxy resin.
Continuing the survey the aesthetic variety of Moreland artists Wilma Tobacco’s op-art paintings on shaped canvases are cool and beautiful.
Photographer Alison Bennett exhibits a series of panoramic images of caves. These evocative and symbolic womb-like spaces are seen from the inside, the bright light of the cave’s entrance is visible. Humans have modified some of the caves photographed by Bennett; graffiti covers the walls of one and in others dry stonewalls have been constructed at the mouth.
Owen Leong’s Milk Ring is a dual screen video installation, it is engaging and strange science-fiction scenario that loops endlessly. An alien tries to work a hardware-wetware interface in an exhausting and futile attempt to escape the repetition. The dual screens different views create endless choices for the viewers attention as well as expanding the scenario.
My lack of Italian is one reason that I can’t get into the hand-painted linocut prints of Angela Cavalieri’s text based art. However, many people in Moreland are fluent in Italian, so I’m sure that there will be more receptive viewers.
As usual for the Counihan Gallery there were excellent cheese/fruit platters and wine at the opening; a good way of getting value from your rates dollars. It is also a good opportunity to meet the artists and other local people interested in the arts. I met Sam Leach at the gallery, for the first time after exchanging emails with him. The speeches by curator, Edwina Bartlem and Moreland Mayor, Lambros Tapinos were short and efficient.