It was a beautiful winter day to be exploring Collingwood galleries. The Keith Haring on the Collingwood TAFE wall has been carefully covered up in preparations for renovations. Lots of great street art and Civil was up a ladder spray-painting the wall of House of Bricks. He was up a ladder because the Council had said no to the scissor lift for some reason and because Civil is exhibiting at House of Bricks. Ghostpatrol has an exhibition at Backwoods Gallery.
Looks like Shini Pararajasingham got it right when she opened Off The Kerb on Johnston Street opposite the Tote. Back then I thought she had the wrong area, too far north, shows you how much I know about Collingwood. But then I rarely go to Collingwood and I don’t think I’d been in Collingwood for about a year.
Another shop front galley, Egg Gallery has opened up right next to Off The Kerb and in the small streets behind there are several galleries: House of Bricks and Backwoods Gallery and Lamington Drive. These are all warehouse spaces with studios and workshops attached. Not the greatest of spaces, make do kind of spaces with all those limitations.
So that is 3 or 4 galleries that I can tick off my list of Melbourne galleries – I have a hopeless ambition to visit all of the galleries in Melbourne. I have been to galleries in these Collingwood warehouses before; Backwoods Gallery is in the previous location for Utopian Stumps.
“Reboot” by Sharon McKenzie was the only exhibition of the three exhibitions at Off The Kerb that I enjoyed. McKenzie’s drawings depict artefacts of modern world as if they were covered in lace doylies. It is a frighteningly beautiful vision destroying the clean modern design of computers, floppy disks, clocks, typewriters, headphones and Dictaphones, with lace decorations.
I suppose that was to be expected as Collingwood galleries have a reputation for showing contemporary illustration and drawing. There are more quality, contemporary, street-influenced illustration next door at Egg Gallery. “Sleep & Wake” is small exhibition of illustrations and a bit of an installation by Hollie M. Kelley and Ryan McGennisken. (See Invurt’s interview with Ryan McGennisken.) It is the current fashion for contemporary illustration exhibitions to combine a bit of an installation into the exhibition space, scatter some old stuff and a few dead leaves. Everyone is doing it, and not just the art galleries even the Collingwood furniture showrooms.
Ghostpatrol vs Civil, it is a battle of almost comic book proportions and a salutary lesson style and content. Civil and Ghostpatrol are legendary names from Melbourne’s streets. There is plenty of their work on the streets; more Civil now than Ghostpatrol, there are lots of new Civil pieces and I haven’t seen that many new Ghostpatrol pieces (maybe I just haven’t been in the right areas). Both Civil and Ghostpatrol have an appealing graphic style that translates well into a number of a media.
The problem for Ghostpatrol is that his pictures have nothing but a fading hint of magic. It was this nostalgia for a fading childish magic that gave Ghostpatrol’s work its charm. But this kind of charm is fleeting like childhood, and seems to limit Ghostpatrol’s growth as an artist. Childhood themes are so common; Ryan McGennisken was showing drawing with childhood themes too. Civil is working on firmer ground with people, politics and now nature as his themes. These things are timeless. And Civil has grown in both his themes and the range of media.
Ghostpatrol’s exhibition was over blown – the canvas’s were too big and there was nothing to them other than the scale and arrangement of his iconic images. There were only 5 large paintings and the installation in the middle looked like a post-minimalist sculpture from Ikea. The tiny addition in one piece of timber of a carved pond with a tiny kappa riding a carp could not take-away from this big ugly object.
In contrast Civil’s exhibition was understated and there were too many compromises with the warehouse space to allow it to really shine. Still there were plenty of small woodcuts and other pieces with an expanding repertoire of images and themes. The exhibition had the aesthetics of a shed and dead leaves, pinecones and other old things were scattered around. This was referred to in the old beer bottles that Civil had etched and the old wooden tabletops that he had carved.
It appears Ghostpatrol is stuck in the past magic whereas Civil has made preparations for the future. I’m sure others will have their own opinion on these exhibitions – what are your thoughts?