Kempken & Shiels @ Famous When Dead

Ralf Kempken‘s  current exhibition Now Screening is at Famous When Dead. In this exhibition Kempken’s explores the eye, cinema images and perception with his amazing hand-cut paper and canvases. By removing thin slices of canvas he can create whole images from subtle variations in the width of the slice. Up close you can see only ribbons of stretched canvas but stand on the other of the gallery and the images are revealed.

There are lots of images of eyes in this exhibition because, as Ralf Kempken explains in his artist statement, this is “an exploration of the process of perception…that all incoming sense perceptions are filtered or screened according to our own individual life experiences.” The cunning play between the screening of perceptions, the cinema screen and Kempken’s canvas screens of vertical stripes further adds to their meaning.

This play on the visual screen allows Kempken to do a little bit more than the usual Pop Art appropriation and translation images into another media. There are many images from the cinema: from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Dziga Vertov’s Man with Movie Camera, Luis Bruuel’s The Andalusian Dog along with images of Marylin Monroe and Andy Warhol. A long dissolve from Man with a Movie Camera featuring both the cameraman and the audience forms the image for the largest work in the exhibition. This double image is a display of Kempken’s mastery of his technique.

This is not the first time that I’ve seen Ralf Kempken’s amazing spaghetti stencil technique, it has been shown before at Famous When Dead and at last year’s Melbourne Stencil Festival. For the last two years he has been refining this approach to stenciling and in this latest exhibition he continues to develop his technique. He has moved away from the all black canvas, there are also red and rusted iron finishes to some of his canvases. He has also created double screens with intense optical color effects from the diffusion effects.

There are more works by Ralf Kempken currently in a group exhibition: I’m Here: Stencil + Street Inspired Art at Ochre Gallery in Collingwood. This exhibition has more of Kempken’s spaghetti stencil work along with a few of his earlier aerosol stencil paintings of modern Melbourne buildings.

Also at Famous When Dead, in the small backroom gallery, is an exhibition of photographs by Julie Shiels “Writing in the street”. Street art is an ephemeral art form and by documenting her ephemeral street sculpture pieces with photographs has created something that can be hung in a gallery and enjoyed at home. Using abandoned furniture and cardboard boxes found on the street with the addition of spray painted slogans. The slogans: “I’d rather be somewhere else”, “The last thing”, “All that remains” and “Will you catch me when I fall?” are similar to those of Barbara Kruger or Jenny Holzer with their provocative, truthful, statements to the reader. Julie Shiels in this series of photographs has given a melancholy voice to the detritus of a culture that has been abandoned on the street.

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About Mark Holsworth

Arts administrator, artist, musician, philosopher and writer. Writes Black Mark - Melbourne Art and Culture Critic. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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