Tag Archives: Arc One

Several March Exhibitions

On Friday I went into Melbourne to see some exhibitions and street art. With increasing isolation looming, firstly due to the closure of my train line for Sky Rail construction, and the prospect of further isolation due to the pandemic, it might be my last chance to see some exhibitions for a few months.

A walk along Flinders Lane leads to less galleries than it did a decade ago.

Arc One had an exhibition of furniture made of leather part of Melbourne Design Week 2020, it was more like a shop than a gallery. It was “Partu” (the Walmajarri word for skin) by Johnny Nargoodah and Trent Jansen. Most of the pieces looked awkward and you could see the steel armature underneath the leathery contortions.

Fortyfive Downstairs had “Between Horizons” haunting sculptures in the shape of boats by Jan Learmonth and, “Microcosmographia” a group exhibition about animals.

Turning off Flinders Lane I walked down Hosier Lane and although it was less crowded without the Chinese tourists, I was surprised at how many people were still there. I was looking for the aftermath of the great fire-extinguisher spray performance event. You could still see it, high up on the walls, if you knew what to look for and where to look for it. Most of it has been repainted. Local writers are keen to inform the public about the effect that the shop, Culture Kings, is having on the lane’s culture. Culture Kings are the main offender but there are other advertisers with stencils who were exploiting the traffic in the lane. Everything is not a platform to advertise your product; there are more important things.

My main objective was to see the “Japanese Modernism” exhibition at the NGV International and but while I was at there I looked at the art book fair, an up-market and quality zine fair for people who love book design.

“Japanese Modernism” is not a large exhibition, just a large room, with men’s fashion on one side and women’s fashion on the other side. It is mostly design, rather than art, with some great examples of ephemera in the form tourist maps, magazines, make-up and music scores for the popular modern instruments harmonica and ukulele.

There was no shock of the new for Japan as the land already shaken by the Great Kantō earthquake of 1923. And Japan adopted modernism with a confidence born from the fact that modernism was always a syncretic mix that included Japanese and European elements.

Magical Illusions

Walking between the art galleries on Flinders Lane and thinking about the uncanny nature of a thing that looks like another thing but is made out of completely different material. This uncanny illusion is a trick that many artists use, along with lots of other people from cake decorators to topiary gardeners. Illusions are only one trick and a good artist will use more than one trick. (Who wants a one trick pony?) Two exhibitions had spurred these thoughts.

Carly Fischer, Kangaroo Sign, 2014

Carly Fischer, Kangaroo Sign, 2014

Carly Fischer’s five installations, Magic Dirt in Gallery 1 of Craft Victoria look like arrangements of rubbish. But are all made from paper and foam core, even the plastic bags and barbed wire. The illusion is even more uncanny because paper is such a familiar material. However, the magic of the illusion is only part of the magic of this installation. Fischer reflects on Australia as an enormous rubbish dump; the outback is littered with empty cans, hubcaps and empty bags. The irony of the reuse and recycle labels on this packaging. Fischer reflects on the way that we arrange our detritus and the primitive magical thinking behind the piercing a KFC pack with sticks or the bullet holes in the kangaroo sign.

Peter Daverington

Peter Daverington

Peter Daverington’s exhibition Because Painting at Arc One is about illusions in paint. Daverington reflects on the tradition of these artistic illusion with references to illusionistic art in Western painting from the Bosch through to op-art. Geometric exploding planes combine with the baroque over the top drama of the illusions. Daverington is also interested in where the illusion breaks down on the edge of the canvas, where it becomes drips, scraped back or great spreads of solidified paint.

Because Painting is a home coming exhibition for Daverington who is Melbourne-born but now based in New York.

Connections – November Exhibitions

You would expect to find some connections between a random selection of current exhibitions on in Melbourne. One would hope to make connections that reveal something of the zeitgeist. One exhibition could just be the idiosyncratic interests of an individual artist – I did not expect to see 9 artists in two different galleries working with plastic vegetation to be one of those connections.

The plastic foliage, flowers and vegetables are the undead, the eternal zombie version of natural vegetation. I feel that I keep repeating, but the fact won’t go away, that plastic will last for thousands of years longer than the oil paintings that I saw. Beauty may be eternal but plastic lasts longer.

At Craft Victoria eight local jewelers create “unnatural Acts” spectacularly curated by Lauren Simeoni and Melinda Young. The “unnatural Acts” are jewellery made from artificial plants. There are bell jars, petri dishes and other scientific looking equipment on a trestle table in the gallery. On the wall a spectrum of necklaces move from green to deep red. The unnatural media of plastic foliage was escaping into cracks in the whitewashed bricks on the gallery wall.

And at Mailbox 141 Sarina Lirosi’s exhibition “Forevermore” each of the mailboxes contained a plastic flower taken from “the grave of people I knew.” The plastic flowers are daubed with varnish and sparkles to capture the light.

It is not that plastic vegetation was the only connection that I saw on my visits to galleries this week – artists should not throw out their paints. There were some powerful exhibitions of paintings at fortyfivedownstairs, Flinders Lane Gallery and Arc.

I enjoyed seeing Graeme Altmann’s exhibition “Coastal Boy” at Fortyfivedownstairs. Altmann’s paintings are good but his model boats are fantastic. These research and industrial boats are not beautiful; they are made from found materials, brass and metal parts. Pulleys, cranes, funnels and other equipment fill their decks and hang from their sides. They reminded my of Hieronymus Bosch’s ship of fools. Altmann’s oil paintings range from atmospheric to surreal costal landscapes; his painting “Before we got there” was a powerful image of light, water, rocks and space.

Flinders Lane Gallery had the urban landscapes of Garry Pumfrey “Obres Noves” depicting Barcelona. The old city of Barcelona, like Melbourne, is known for its winding lane ways, back street bars and street art. Pumfrey’s paintings would be timeless except for the presence of graffiti, the pair of runners hanging on the telephone line.

Arc One had “Fallen Light 2012” paintings by notable, Sydney-based artist Robert Owen is old school abstract painting but deals like all of the paintings in the optics of light and dark. The exhibition in Arc One looks like a hard edge geometric version of Rothko’s chapel. The series of paintings is connected, at least in title, to Owen’s work at the new Hamer Hall. I wonder how the individual paintings would look as the effect of the exhibition is created by the connections between the paintings.


Thursday Research

There wasn’t much to many of the exhibitions at the galleries on Flinders Lane except for Craft Victoria and Robbie Rowlands’ exhibition “The Gardner” at Arc One. Even Robbie Rowlands’ art appeared a little limited in vision; a series of curved limp version of familiar objects with a title that is a bit of a joke or pun like a totem tennis pole titled “totem”. All the objects have a series of repetitive cuts along one edge allowing them to be bent. The selection of an-aesthetic objects from around the garden: the edge trimmers, the ubiquitous Hills Hoist, the wheelbarrow, chairs and a table. Basically it is the soft objects of Claus Oldenburg meeting Duchamp’s readymades in a garden shed.

Robbie Rowlands, "A New Low", 2011, aluminium ladder (image courtesy of the artist)

I have put some time aside on Thursdays to visit galleries, wander, photograph and do other research for this blog. Thursday is a good day for visiting galleries in Melbourne, as most of them are open. I can see a lot of galleries on a 2-hour public transport ticket and then write a post before the weekend. I write this to explain my blog writing practice.

This week I gave a short interview for a journalism studies student, Natasha from Monash University about urban problems like pigeons, rats and graffiti (see my post: Coo-burg). As I was in Hosier Lane I continued up the hill along Flinders Lane looking at the galleries. I have been trying to visit new galleries this year – it is too easy for a critic to visit and write about the same galleries over and over again. I still visit many of the same galleries simply because they are convenient but I want to try to keep a variety in the posts that I write about.

After the usual suspects on Flinders Lane I did get to a gallery that I haven’t visited or written about before. Warburton Lane Exhibits is a converted warehouse loft apartment combined with a gallery – there are always few of these types of galleries around the city. The gallery is a small elegant and intimate space with a balcony overlooking the lane. Joseph Flynn is exhibiting a dozen paintings – “Animal Spirit” Flynn’s art has changed since I first wrote about him (see my post: Fine Arts Education). There is an animal spirit in the exhibition; the paintings are punk and raw with paint mixing around on their metal supports. And there is a clear street art influence in Flynn’s painting, with lots of aerosol spray on the background.

Science as Art

Enlarged models of penises anatomically correct in every detail are part of Maria Fernanda Cardoso’s exhibition “It’s Not Size That Matters It Is Shape” at Arc One. The exhibition examines the shapes of the penises and intromitent organs of various species of Harvestmen, those little spiders with the very long legs that are commonly found in a corner of the ceiling. These little spiders have strange shaped penises complete with folds and spikes. In the exhibition there are resin models of these elaborate organs mounted on steel bases in glass tubes, like a giant dildo display for spiders, along with prints of electronmicroscopic scans and digital models. Each of the images and sculptures are carefully labeled with the full Latin name of each species.

In the cellars of the Donkey Wheel House Elizabeth van Herwaarden’s “Sentinel Island Project” is exhibiting dried pressed plant specimens with cyanotype blueprints of each specimen. The specific nature of the project is art but the approach has been borrowed from science. It is a mix of artistic and scientific techniques; a video projected on the opposite wall shows the plant’s rocky habitat. Each specimen has been carefully identified, labeled, pressed, dried and mounted.

At fortyfive downstairs Megan Evans “To bee” is about bees and honey; long glass flasks like huge drips are filled, each displaying a different type of honey from a different part of Australia. The different colors of the honey from orange blossoms in Millawa, Redgums in Taggerty or Mango from Kuranda Nth Queensland can clearly be seen. Accompanying this display there are also photographs of bees mounted in clear acrylic with a similar texture to the flasks of honey.

Considering three exhibitions in Melbourne that show scientific techniques I think that contemporary art is replacing the old exhibitions of natural history museums. The variations in the moths or stick insects are replaced by variations in the artist’s series. Currently museum displays are for children, or adults who aspire to be children; the reverse is true in the contemporary art gallery. The scientific methodology of close examination, of recording and understanding the variety is not exclusive to scientists; it is also an important feature of art.

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