Tag Archives: abstract art

Of Colour and Light

Of Colour and Light – Women Abstract Artists Biennial” is an exhibition of fifty women abstract artists from the state of Victoria; not just any women but a curated selection of notable local artists, including established artists, Irene Barberis, Victoria Cattoni, and Wilma Tabacco.

Irene Barberis, Variations, St Mathew’s Passion 2

This is the third women abstract artist biennial Anna Prifti had curated and she has brought together a wide variety of abstract art. From the serious to fantastically frivolous. From painting to ceramics. From art as formal as pure mathematics or as informal as nature growing. From angelic purity to getting down to the nitty-gritty and celebrating the media.

Irene Barberis’s colourful Variations, St Mathew’s Passion 2 is a synaesthetic expression of J. S. Bach’s oratorio’s second movement. Although the viewer can’t read the overlapping lines of colours, painted on semi-transparent engineering film, the blocks of colours, show the music. For abstract art can be as accessible and easy to understand as music.

Abstract art doesn’t have to be pure spiritual thoughts; it can be strutting your funky stuff. And Pauline Hollyoak struts her funky stuff with Fanta Top. The day-glow orange oval rococo frame around a hard edge stripy abstract brings together two contrary forces with style.

Mandy Gunn takes the Concise Oxford Dictionary, rearranged it, making an ironic rectified readymade. She weaves pages into a single grey strip unfurling from the covers, after all, all words are abstract symbols. Like Barberis’s work, you can’t read it, but unlike Barberis Variations Gunn’s The Unconcise Oxford Dictionary is a dispassionate sculpture.

You could view this exhibition as a sample of the latest iterations of abstract art, a tradition or a genre of art. A genre that has existed for almost a century and a half, if you count those women, like Georgiana Houghton and Hilma af Klint, who did abstract paintings in the nineteenth century. For women have always been involved in abstract art, the most modern of visual genres.

Representational images exist in the Goldilocks zone that is just the right distance to see a picture. Somewhere between being too close and too far away. For both atomic distances shorter than the wavelength of visible light and the universe’s structure, images of the micro and the macro are abstract.

West End Art Space’s new permanent space in West Melbourne is a larger foyer space in a new multi-storey building. Plenty of room for the fifty works in this exhibition to be hung in keeping with the elegant minimalist look.

Stephania Leigh Partial Figure (RYB)

February Exhibitions @ Nicholas Building

Starting on the 8th floor Stephen McLaughlan Gallery is showing “Abstraction 2009”, a group show of abstractions. Once upon a time people believed that abstraction was the future of art and would lead to the salvation of humanity. Now abstraction is just another type of image often with symbolic mystical qualities. Most of the artists in this exhibition are from the last generation who could believe in the beneficent qualities of abstraction and their titles reflect thee mystical qualities. The exception is the work of the slightly younger artist, Shiau-Peng Chen. Made of wooden blocks Chen’s geometric abstractions exist in two states: assembled and with the coloured wooded blocks free of the frame and scattered on the table. This is contemporary re-examination of the structure of abstract art.

A floor down at Blindside there is “Debut V”, a group show curated by Natalya Mailer of nine fine art 2008 graduates. The sculptors are the stars of the show. Aly Aitken’s sculptures look like 3D versions of figures from a Francis Bacon nightmare. Aitken has used found materials and fabric to create coherent Surreal figures. Carl Scrase “Structure for the Accumulation of All Knowable Knowledge” follows the geometry of office folders linked with bulldog clips to its circular conclusion. It is yet another beautiful and colourful work by Scrase as he explores the logic and sculptural qualities of ordinary objects.

Natalya Mailer has written an extensive essay on the work in the exhibition and even proposed a theme for the exhibition however she provides no curatorial explanation for the inclusion of any of the artists. Or why her selection of recent graduates from Melbourne’s art school is different from “New Releases”, the selection of recent graduates on at Pigment Gallery, five floors lower down the building.

The difference between the two exhibitions is clear, although unstated; the graduates at Blindside are creating art for institutions, whereas the graduates at Pigment are, on the whole, creating for domestic environments. The differences between art for art institutions and art for domestic environments include the type of materials used, their maintenance and the physical requirements to exhibit them.

It is easy to imagine most of the art in “New Releasess” in someone’s home or office. “New Releases” has: oil paintings of hi-tech scenes by Michael Staniak, elegant etchings by Kristina Sundstrom, contemporary pop-cartoon-animal sculptures by Sarah Deed and the whimsical illustrations by Carmel Seymour, who creates images of a world full of domestic magic.

Both Blindside and Pigment Gallery have been enlarged. Pigment Gallery has two new spaces, a white room and a smaller black walled room. And Blindside now has a second room.

Mailbox 141, further along Flinders Lane, also has an exhibition of the work of jewellery graduates from Box Hill TAFE. Everyone’s exhibiting the recent graduates.


Toddler Art

The selection process in rental space galleries, like Brunswick Street Gallery (BSG), is primarily based on renting out the space and not artistic ability. So I was not surprised to read on the front page of The Age that BSG has found that they are exhibiting the paintings of Aelita Andre, a 2-year old girl.

Most of Melbourne’s galleries close for January so BSG must have been happy to find someone who wanted to rent a gallery so early in the year.

Mark Jamieson, the director of BSG has made the best of the situation securing front-page publicity for his gallery. Along with a review by the Age’s art critic, Robert Nelson of the artist’s work. Artists exhibiting at BSG rarely get reviewed. There was more media coverage from NineMSN and the Sydney Morning Herald. (And now I am writing about it.)

Years ago I made a similar mistake, prompted by the quality framing of a large abstract painting on paper that was hanging in a friend’s study. It resembled drawings by William de Kooning. I asked who the artist was only to be told that it was his daughter aged 2 or 3 years old.

I would recommend to parents of all 2 and 3 year olds to follow the example of Aelita’s mother, Kalashnikova, in part, renting gallery space is going a bit far. Buy a couple of large canvases (this way you don’t have to pay the expense of framing and mounting) and some artist’s acrylic paints. Paint a background colour onto the whole of the canvas; Indian Red (terracotta colour) works well. Then let your child paint. Do not write your child’s age on the front of the canvas, as it will only detract from the composition, recording it on the back is sufficient. Hang your favourite canvas on your wall; it will be a beautiful memento of your child’s early years.

I would recommend to all rental space galleries that either they improve their selection processes (actually meeting the artist might be a good first step), or to remember that all publicity is good publicity.

It would be a mistake to conclude that this episode demonstrates anything about the quality of abstract art in general. 


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