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Daily Archives: January 21, 2011

January 2011 Exhibitions

Not that there are a lot of art exhibitions on in Melbourne at the moment as most of the galleries are closed in January but I did get to see a couple of other exhibitions (besides Reframed @ Counihan Gallery).

“Look! – the art of Australian picture books today” at the State Library of Victoria features the original artwork for picture books by some of Australia’s best illustrators including Graeme Base, Shaun Tan, Jane Tanner and many other  artists. Amongst all the art there are a few exhibits that show the development of artwork including one from Graeme Base showing the progress from photographs, pencils drawings to the finished illustration with a blank frame for text. This exhibition is not only well timed for the school holidays but also for the new audience for illustration in Melbourne that grew out of the street art scene. There was plenty for the kids to do at this exhibition and some of the exhibits were designed specially for them but this is not an exhibition that is just for children.

Phil Soliman’s best photographs are grids of close up details. Spread across one whole wall of Hogan Gallery in Collingwood is a grid of images of male skin. So many individual hairs, spots recorded in the photographs that Soliman (?) describes as “between the erotic and clinical”.  This series of 7 photographs, “Surface Data” gives its title to the exhibition and is by far the best work in the show. There are also several good close up photographs of the male body but the rest of the photographs in the exhibition are more ordinary but competent images of male nudes. The DVD projection part of the exhibition was not on when I visited during the week. The exhibition is part of the arts programme of the Midsumma Festival – see my reviews of exhibitions in Midsumma Festival in previous years.

Hogan Gallery has comfortable suede benches to sit and contemplate the images. There was jazz playing on a sound system along with the thwack of the staple gun from the frame making business at the back of the gallery.

 

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Reframed @ Counihan Gallery

“Reframed” is an exhibition of art from the Moreland Art Collection on exhibition at the Counihan Gallery. It is post-modern collection because of its post-colonial view and its inclusion of naïve artists. Although much of the work is in traditional media – the one installation in the exhibition by Kirsten McFarlane is a charming reminder of Sydney Rd’s vaudeville history – this is itself a feature of post-modernism.

The collection is based on the work of Noel Counihan who “never received the recognition afforded their rival Angry Penguin Associates.” (Trudi Allen, Cross Currents in Contemporary Australian Art, 2001, p.53) Counihan was more interested in socialist realism than the Angry Penguins’ expressionist Australian modernism. The Counihan Gallery received a substantial donation of works by Noel Counihan from art historian, Robert Smith. The exhibition has prints from the “Noel Counihan Tribute Folio” on the back wall of the gallery, like a base to the structure of the exhibition. Not that the exhibition (or even the tribute folio) is full of socialist realism but it is alternative starting point in art history for the collection. The collection shows that art and the understanding of political issues have developed from socialist realism to include wider issues, like the environment, and a variety of cultural vocabularies.

The exhibition’s narrative starts with a substantial and diverse collection aboriginal art and moves to more art exploring themes of identity, culture and place. Curator, Edwina Bartlem has organized the exhibition into several block that highlight themes in the collection: the environment, feminism, multi-cultural Australia and Moreland’s recent history.

One of the standout works of the show, for me, is by Turkish artist Füsun Çağlayan of a Turkish-Australian wedding. This powerful realist painting with its somber colors, the patterned border top and bottom with yellow photos of Turkish-Australian life on the top border. William (Bill) Kelly’s bronze Tiananmen Square Monument using the image of the man in front of the tank had a suitably vast base. I also enjoyed seeing Nusra Latif Qureshi’s “Balancing Act II” again, this time I noticed the way that flowers permeate the borders and outlines in her paintings.

The City of Moreland’s art collection shows what can be done over 20 years with a $10,000 annual budget and some good curatorial advice. It is not the perfect collection and Cr Alice Pryor speech admitted that mistakes that had been made; she regretted passing over a painting by Sam Leach before he won the Archibald. Some of the collection has been purchased from previous exhibitions at the Counihan Gallery; regular visitors to the gallery will recognize some of the art on exhibition. Unfortunately the exhibition did not include the dates of acquisition of the works so that visitors could see how the collection developed.

On Thursday evening local city councillors launched exhibition and the 2011 program at the Counihan Gallery with catering by local business, Poplars Café. It was a beautiful evening and as I ride my bicycle home I couldn’t help but notice the local art that wasn’t represented in the exhibition – all the anarchic street art beside the bicycle path.


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