Tag Archives: Anna Schwartz Gallery

A February Afternoon of Exhibitions

The Hare Krishnas were parading along Flinders St. this afternoon with drums, finger cymbals and chanting mixing with the peels of bells from St. Paul’s Cathedral further down the street. I haven’t seen Hare Krishnas on the street since the early 1980s.

I was in the city to look at galleries. Platform was the first, as I exited Flinders St. Station. The Sample cabinet with Rebecca Agnew’s stop motion animation and dead roses is well worth sampling. Carrie McGrath’s “Hitting the Jars” in Vitrine and People Collective in the main Platform cabinets are both a bit average.

I went to look at the NGV Studio, a glass fronted space in front of the NGV in right down the far end of Fed Square. Previously the space has been used for a design gallery and a children’s gallery but it has never really worked because of its location. This year the NGV Studio has been featuring a lot of work from Melbourne street artists. Behind the glass is a long partition wall painted with cut away letters spelling out “graffiti always wins”.

Shida painting

Across the road in Hosier Lane, Shida was up a ladder painting the wall at the entrance to Until Never. Upstairs in the gallery Shida’s exhibition “Crystals of the Colossus” is spectacular. Savage subjects and terrible beauty; Shida’s figures are all sharp teeth and claws. However, the fantastic subject matter is absorbed by Shida’s drawing technique. I was particularly enchanted by the mixed media paintings with the resin coating that looked like stain glass. Some of the works reminded me of Matisse or Wifredo Lam with the long arcing lines; Shida is definitely influenced by cubism. And unlike old-school street artists Shida has a light touch. Shida was still painting when I came downstairs, this time with a brush and very diluted acrylic paint, his sweeping curved lines repeating on the large wall. Street art, in entering the gallery, has become very mannerist. It is all about the artist’s particular style, their hand and their signature manner of creating images.

Shida painting

Detail of earlier Shida piece in Hosier Lane

Almost beyond the hand and the gestural is the abstract modern art of Dale Frank. Paint is what Frank’s paintings are all about; the waves of paint mix and interact for puddles of colours, flow down the canvas and drip across it. Dale Frank currently exhibiting at Anna Schwartz Gallery. The gallery has been specially decorated for the exhibition; the catalogue even mentioned the “oak-leaf green” gallery walls. It makes the gallery a calm dark space with the pale canvases lit like jewels.

Then at City Gallery in Melbourne Town Hall was “From Public Figures to Public Sculpture”. It is a great little exhibition; well worth a look if you are interested in public sculptures in Melbourne. All the maquette (models) of familiar Melbourne sculptures are there: “The Public Purse”, “The Echo”, “The Monument to Burke and Wills” and many others. Seeing the models made of plaster, balsa wood or other materials always makes sculpture appear less daunting than the large finished work made of bronze or stone.

Ian Burns “And then…”

The exhibition was so good that I had to turn around and go back into the gallery and look at it again. I don’t write this blog to gush about exhibitions but I feel compelled to write that this was the best exhibition that I’ve seen all year. I went back to Anna Schwartz Gallery the next day and saw it again. It is that good.

Why is it so fantastic? It has the charming aesthetics of bricolage combined with slightly banal illusions to a glamorous jet-setting life. Ian Burns combines video installation, sculptural assemblage and kinetic art. It moves. There is sound. It is a whole lot of fun. There are illusions and the magic behind the illusions is revealed. The three dimensional nature of these sculptural assemblages provides different information as you walk around them. On one side you see the video monitor with them image and on the other side you can see the image being created.

The way that they image is created is such a disappointment and so exciting at the same time. It is disappointing to realize that the images have been made so cheaply and exciting to see the effective ingenuity of how it was done. Simple camera and theatrical special effects have been employed.

The video illusions that Burns creates are comments on the superficial illusions of everyday life. Watching the sunset on a beach of golden sand while the waves gently roll in might look like paradise but the image is created from tiny video camera placed amongst a length of clear PVC pipe, a lightbulb and a mannequin holding a boogie-board posed like Botticelli Venus. Burns art asks if the image lives up to the bricolage of electronics, furniture, toys and other objects used to create it.

Burns combines his academic degrees in engineering and art. His use of materials is paradoxically both elegant in the solution and inelegant in the odd collection of ordinary household materials that his assemblages are made from.

Out of all Marcel Duchamp’s art that has been repeated and regurgitated by contemporary art, his very last posthumous work, has been not often been emulated. “Given: 1) the waterfall and 2) the illuminating gas” is a curious work. People hardly knew what to make of it, a diorama scene with a few illusions (the curators are surprised that the primitive motor driving the waterfall mechanism still works). To Duchamp’s “Given: 1) the waterfall and 2) the illuminating gas” Ian Burns adds “And then…”

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