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Tag Archives: Blindside

The great gallery joke

At first glance I thought that Blindside was completely empty. I looked around for the ‘closed for installation sign’; nothing. There was something hanging on the wall of the second gallery, so I went inside. It was only after I entered the gallery that I saw the paintings.

Jan Murray, Chute (Old Police Hospital) 1, oil on linen, 2017

Three paintings of air vents hung on one wall. There are more tromp l’oeil paintings of hatches, grilles, chutes and ceiling vents. Jan Murray exhibition “Unseen” at Blindside in October 2018; oil paintings of the overlooked architecture of the Nicholas Building and Old Police Hospital. It is the opposite of the old cartoon of the middle aged couple mistaking the gallery’s air vent for a work of art.

The Irish art critic, Brian O’Doherty wrote:  “The box, which I have called the white cube, is a curious piece of real estate […] However roughly treated, the white cube is like a straight man in a slapstick routine. No matter how repeatedly hit on the head, not matter how many pratfalls, up it springs, its seamless white smile unchanged, eager for more abuse. Brushed off, pampered, re-painted, it resumes in blankness.” — Brian O’Doherty, “Boxes, Cubes, Installation, Whiteness and Money” A Manual for the 21st Century Art Institution (2009)

The double act between the art gallery and the artist gives the art its comedic meta concepts. It is a double act as old as Dada. Consider all the art spawn from Duchamp’s readymades that require the gallery to be present. All the readymades, all the installations, all the interrogations of the gallery space from Tracey Emin’s Bed to tomorrow night’s contemporary art exhibition opening.

As in comedy this double act is an uneven relationship; the gallery has all the power but takes the comic artist’s jokes with good humour. This power relationship is questioned, ridiculed, knocked about is at the core of so much modern and contemporary art. Playing on the tension of does the artist or the gallery, the frame, the plinth make the art? The art gallery is the antithesis of the artist, a space without personality.

If the institution displaying the object removes itself from this double act and no longer accepts being the butt of jokes then it becomes a museum, a temple or a palace. In such an arrangement any authority that the artist had over the object is replaced by the authority of the institution and ‘by royal appointment…’ becomes a measure of quality. And both royal and popularity as authority expose the arbitrary and an-aesthetic aspects of such power.

And now I have explained the great gallery joke; a terrible thing to do to any joke.

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Nicholas Building Exhibitions

Three sentence reviews of four exhibitions in Melbourne’s Nicholas Building, where there is always more than you expect to find.

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In Response, Craft Cubed Festival, Cathedral Arcade

A video loop of a site-specific performance piece by two dancers, Briarna Longville and Elise Drinkwater using jewellery by jewellers Ruby Aitchison and Annie Gobel. One of the necklaces of made of metal strips is on exhibition along with the video. At times it looks like puppetry of necklaces, at times a fashion parade but the work does succeed at a hybrid event.

Alex Walker and Nick James Archer, Visible Absence, Blindside Gallery One, Level 7

The empty experience of missing the building next door which has been demolished to build the Metro tunnel. The absence is made visible by some sheets of acrylic with minimal images printed on them. Some of the sheets of obscure the window that looks out on the demotion site, one is on a trolley and another is out in the corridor.

Jeremy Bakker, Unfathoming, Blindside Gallery Two, Level 7

“Unfathoming” suggests a reduction in depth and this witty little works by a clever artist  plays on shallowness. In his Manifest density (2018) various glasses have been melted down and poured into a mould made from the negative space of the glass. I could have lived without so much text accompanying the exhibition; the work spoke to me more than the printed words.

Matlok Griffiths, Hole of Mirrors, Reading Room, Level 6

Painted bronze hanging on the wall, a high art materials meets slacker art attitude in a dull resolution. Dumb doodling with a square of wax that was then cast in bronze and then painted. The Reading Room is a beautiful gallery space occupying one corner of the sixth floor.

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A gallery crawl down Flinders Lane

I started my gallery crawl at the Spring Street end of Flinders Lane and worked my way down the hill to Elizabeth Street, having a look in the various art galleries. The art I saw varied from the beautiful, fun and engaging through to the why is this even being exhibited.

Lisa Seward “A thousand kisses deep”

Lisa Seward’s “A thousand kisses deep” at Forty-five Downstairs

Most of the commercial galleries were closed last Thursday for various reasons. Two, Arc One and Anna Schwartz were installing new exhibitions, Lesley Kehoe Galleries in 101 Collins Street was only open “by appointment” and it was too early in the day for Stephen McLaughlan Gallery to be open.

The only commercial gallery that I saw was FLG (Flinders Lane Gallery). It had two wall hanging sculpture exhibitions by the sculptors Richard Blackwell and Dion Horstmans. Blackwell’s curvy op-art sculptures are mesmerising and Horstmans’s look like the graffiti outlines with colour fades.

There were two exhibitions at Forty Five Downstairs. Mike Nicholls exhibition “Bird as totem” features both his wood carvings and works on paper; Melbourne sculptor Nicholls was a founding member of Melbourne’s first ARI, Roar Studios. And Lisa Seward’s “A thousand kisses deep”, an exhibition paintings, etching and installations. The only problem with Seward’s exhibition was that with 58 works it was a bit too much, too obsessive repeating a whimsical surreal thought about parachutes and jellyfish.

At Blindside, Majed Fayad “Fly, Sky High … Dubai” explores the neutral space aesthetic of airport passenger lounges with their bland aesthetics and complete surrender to international commercial interests. In Blindside’s second gallery there is a neon work, “Shift (corner)” by Meagan Streader and Genevieve Felix Reynolds painting on curved aluminium looks like a badly hung poster. There was also a video work, “I’m a steamroller baby” by Kray Chen from Singapore.

Miranda Jill Millen solo exhibition of paintings and ceramic sculptures My Kath & Kim was all boganfreude (a word coined by Brigid Delaney of the Guardian meaning “meaning the thrill you get from reading about bogans behaving badly”). The images based on the tv series Kath and Kim are so close to a copyright violation that only the legal fees are separating it. I think that the City Library can and has a responsibility to do better than simply having a publicly owned space for hire on a monthly basis that doesn’t take commission.

The ceramic cigarettes in Millen’s exhibition were similar to the textile versions of objects in Pimento Mori: Life and Desk Lunch by Chloe Smith at Mailbox Art Space at 141 Flinders Lane. However, unlike Millen’s work, Smith’s fantastic little exhibition is not laughing at outer suburban bogans, like Kath and Kim, but at everyone who has ever eaten at their desk. Smith’s round pimento shaped and coloured invitations were a perfect added detail.

And that concluded my gallery crawl down Flinders Lane and I wanted sushi for lunch.


Exhibitions @ Blindside & First Site

Blindside

Jacqui Gordon, Re-building Our Flat-pack Aspirations, 2015

Jacqui Gordon, Re-building Our Flat-pack Aspirations, 2015

Quarter Acre is a group exhibition of six artists about suburbia but in the end the two rooms at Blindside was not simply not big enough. Even Jessie Scott’s four and a half minute video of brick houses and shops, The Coburg Plan, made from original 35mm slides of with faded colours, wasn’t enough. It is hard to comprehend or to depict the vast suburban spread without resorting to cliches.

The curators of Quarter Acre, Adriane and Verity Hayward did well with what they had with the space and art. Videos by Penelope Hunt, sculptures by Adrian Doyle, paintings by Eugenia Raftopoloulos, installation by Jacqui Gordon, and the photographs of Eva Heiky Olga Ebbinga. Earlier this year I wrote about the suburbs and Adrian Doyle’s art.

First Site

detail of Oliver Hutchison, Reflex, 2015

detail of Oliver Hutchison, Reflex, 2015

Prue Stevenson’s Neuroambiguous exhibition is not as it appears. Something is vibrating and moving under a homemade knitted woollen blanket. Using her foot and black paint Stevenson has systematically painted eight metres of the gallery wall. Over a metre up the wall the marks of her toes and the ball her foot are clearly visible.

Frances Cannon’s Paper Queens was eighty drawings of naked women. Some of the drawings are erotic, some humorous and all attempt a different style of drawing.

Melbourne based artist, Oliver Hutchison’s exhibition is great slacker art. So slack that he has a robot to do a large doodle on the wall, a hole in a portrait is filled in with a mirror and now it is a portrait of everyone. Hutchison has a background in jewellery, print making and carpentry, so he knows finishing but in this exhibition, Reflex he is channelling his slacker instincts in his art.

What do I mean by ‘slacker art’? I mean art that acknowledges the slack, un-rigorous, half-joking, un-finished, couldn’t be bothered nature in art. It is not the most glorious aspect of humanity but it is there and it would be dishonest not to acknowledge it. (Isn’t all glory dishonest?)


Zombie Artists

It is an ugly scene, something out of a horror movie, going on in gallery after gallery. Zombie artists slowly staggering blindly around banging their heads against the walls. As the blood and brains run down the walls the impeccably dressed gallerista numbers and each catalogues mark while a freelance curator provides a commentary about truth in materials in these futile gestures.

Vittoria Di Stefano, A certain kind of failure, 2015 (photo courtesy of Tinning Street)

Vittoria Di Stefano, A certain kind of failure, 2015 (photo courtesy of Tinning Street)

Of course, after a life time of study and a future teaching high school students in order to pay off your huge student debt, you too might want to bash your brains out on the next brick wall. The subtext of their ‘artist statements’ is clear: “brain, brains, brains…”

The aquariums used as transparent glass plinths were the best part of Vittoria Di Stefano’s “Alien Artefacts” at Tinning Street. Soap, plaster, brass, plasticine, PVC tubes, concrete, wax are amongst the materials that Di Stefano works and reworks.

The titles of Di Stefano work are inter-changeable and read like a cut-up art student essay. “The object becomes a prompt. A hazardous experience. That shape is impossible without those connotations. It needs that desire. The process of thinking.”

Where Di Stefano art this going after the gallery? To another gallery; I guess that I don’t need to see Di Stefano’s up coming exhibition at Blindside. But in the long run where is her art going and why should I care? Should I mindlessly celebrate the great continuum of art and creativity as a mystical experience? Should I studiously tick boxes in a pedagogical critical appraisal?

This is not personal and I don’t hate Di Stefano’s art, it didn’t even particularly bore me. This is not about her studied anaesthetics. I felt nothing when I saw her Alien Artefacts, she had managed to perfectly alienate me. Di Stefano’s art is not unique. It is typical of an existential crisis in post-industrial economies, a pointless activity in a professional cycle of consumption and debt.


March Exhibition Reviews

For me the exhibition of the week was Concrete Poetry Now! at Melbourne City Library in Flinders Lane. This little group exhibition of visual poetry curated by Ashley J Higgs really spoke to me about what is art/poetry/music/photography. The poetry of life in letters/signs of all kinds. It is a fun and thought provoking growing exhibition that left me wanting more and made me aware of more.

I also saw the exhibitions at Blindside. Todd Johnson’s Evidence shows evidence of impacts on ordinary objects like the bonnet of a Holden. More taxidermy in art; this time a beautiful fox hanging from the ceiling (see my post Taxidermy & Contemporary Art). Did it impact with the Holden?

Also at Blindside, Kieran Stewart A Highly Unadvisable Undertaking is about his attempt to build a parachute. Stewart describes his art as incorporating “a wide range of construction and building techniques that are constantly developing as part of my multi-disciplinary arts practice.”

On the second floor of the Nicholas Building the two exhibitions at Edmund Pearce Gallery made me think about the staging of photographs; when and why a viewer might suspend their disbelief in the photographic evidence. Daniel Sponiar’s series of portraits of Melbourne chefs, Yes Chef! has many dramatic images that are obviously staged but that only adds to showing the character of the subject. However, in Rebecca Dagnall’s In Tenebris series of dark Australian gothic bush scenes the more that I noticed the staging the photograph the less convincing I found the photograph.

On the way to my train I had a brief look at Platform but found Andrea Eckersley’s painting too subtle for the space; a underpass is not conducive to contemplation. Maybe this might work at a gallery. Metro Gallery had an exhibition of paintings by Kathleen Kngale the soft and delicate colours in intense fields of dots almost completely cover the dark underpainting. Beautiful and relaxing like a soporific drug but they wouldn’t be effective in an underpass either.


On the Blindside

“Happy Summer Tank” by Diego Ramirez is a great little exhibition about cosplay and issues of dressing-up in trans gender and race characters. These are a serious issues; culturally there are off-limits in dressing up as a different gender or race. It leads to another issue: are the culturally acceptable trans gender and race issues different for Australia or the USA or Japan? Does a country’s history change what is culturally acceptable? These issues could be heavy and confronting but they are not in this exhibition because the cosplay is so beautiful and fun.

The cosplay is excellent; the costumes were perfect. The cosplayers who are interviewed are shown as be intelligent, thoughtful people who take the issues seriously and who love dressing up.

Ramirez has paid attention to detail in the installation of his videos at Blindside. This is something that initially attracted me to his work when I saw his video installation Radish at Seventh Gallery in August last year. The walls at Blindside match with the backgrounds of two of the videos and there was a long table of mock ups of tangible/virtual products, reimagined with the cosplayers. I can make sense of the mixing of Red Dead Redemption and Assassin’s Creed in the games packaging on the table but what was the pile of dirt about?

The other exhibition at Blindside, “FAB(ricated) LYF” by Emma Collard, Cherie Peele and Natalie Turnbull didn’t work for me. I could see what they were trying to do mediating between art and life – maybe I was put off by their Gen-Y optimistic solutions, maybe I was the wrong gender.

It was the first time that I had used to new lift in the Nicholas Building. I miss the old lift operators and their decorated lifts but the new lift is a lot faster at reaching the seventh floor where Blindside is located. It is always enjoyable to be inside the Nicholas Building with all its faded gold rush marvellous Melbourne optimism. Outside on the back of the building the gold leaf that Bianca Faye and Tim Spicer applied in 2008 as part of the Laneways Commissions Welcome to Cocker Alley… continues to cling to the external pipes.

 


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