Tag Archives: Brunswick Arts

Like This

On Friday evening I went to the opening of “You Like This – concerning love, life and FACEBOOK” curated by Vinisha Mulani and Alister Karl at Brunswick Arts. This is not the first exhibition about Facebook; last year there was an exhibition at Dark Horse, “Facebook project” but I didn’t get to that exhibition.

I liked the Brunswick Arts exhibition; each of the artists had their own wall, like in Facebook, except this was an actual gallery wall. Peter Davidson took this took this further and made an actual wall, instead of a virtual one, with a string time line, photos and index cards for each entry.

Jenna Corcoran “Facebook is a dirty word”, (blue wool and nails) 2012

I particularly like Jenna Corcoran’s “Facebook is a dirty word” (blue wool and nails). That is the problem, although most art is only looked at for a few seconds, Facebook is reducing everything to eye-candy and gossip.

Jamie Rawls video “like totally” was a montage of people using the word ‘like’. Like wow, man. “Like” is such a mild positive statement, it is also a simile drawing a comparison between two things, not an equivalence like a metaphor just a comparison. (Like Californians didn’t say like enough already before Facebook and, of course, everyone wants a dislike button on Facebook – a thumbs down to massacres, dictators and other ugly things.)

The rest of the exhibitors were not as focused on Facebook as the concept of liking which was explored by Vinisha Mulani with a series of photographs that visitors were to attach blue like stickers. Or internet stalking explored by Alister Karl with a creepy computer installation, “Stalkbook”.

Facebook is so ubiquitous that it is hard to sum up. In the past I used to see travelers in Internet cafes reading Hotmail, then it changed and every computer screen was on Facebook. The two most obvious ways that Facebook has changed art in Melbourne are Facebook events for exhibitions and Facebook entities. Facebook events allow the galleries a better idea of how many people might be attending and to communicate with those people intending to attend. This free alternative to advertising in publications like Art Almanac, InTrouble and other paid gallery listing. Brunswick Arts exhibition was put together and promoted through Facebook.

And Facebook provides a forum for artists and galleries to communicate directly with their patrons. As a forum, Facebook has lead to the creation of a kind of micro bloggers who post regular photos and other information.

It hasn’t been a dramatic change. Facebook has been a small influence on art, mostly street art. I “Like” the seepage between the internet and the street.

Peter Tyndall writes in his blog about the way that social media and the sculpt society. Art Business has a page of do’s and don’ts for social networking for artists. I have a Facebook page for myself as a public figure (art critic). You can “Like” Black Mark, Melbourne Art & Culture Critic’s Facebook page.

Like this on Facebook.


Micro-Reviews of this Week

Here are some micro reviews of current small exhibitions in small galleries. Some of galleries have only opened recently.

Gallery One Three only opened this year and is run by Joe Flynn; I first wrote Joseph Flynn’s too-cool-for-art-school attitude in a blog post back in 2009. Gallery One Three is a one-room art gallery downstairs from a fashion boutique – Joe says that it is a good mix.

“The Subtleties of Form” was a group exhibition by three artists. Pippa Makgill’s installation floor sculptures were deliberate and studied ugly; expanded foam, painted grey seriously ugly (but not as much fun as the ugly art of Valentina Palonen). Kimberly Denson’s series of small paintings were seriously beautiful in a contemporary minimalist way. And Simon Gardam’s three paintings, “The Bald Wanderer” parts 1-3, were somewhere in between the two – I liked the black one.

Kreisler Gallery is a very new gallery beside a kind of laneway café in Brunswick. It has one big well light white space with a high ceiling – it is still empty apart from open painting a taster for their exhibition next week. A corridor off this space is the Dirty Little Gallery, an “erotic fine art gallery” currently with “Polarudes” an exhibition found images by notable, Auckland based Pop artist, Paul Hartigan. Melbourne does need a dedicated erotic art gallery and the tight space will be an interesting and potentially erotic to navigate at a crowded exhibition opening.

Tinning Street Presents is two years old and to commemorate this is showing “Boabs & Boondies” by Joel Wynn Ress at Tinning Street Presents. Joel Wynn Ress was the first artists to exhibit at Tinning Street. “Boabs & Boondies” is a photography exhibition of objects – there is a selection of the objects on little shelves on the gallery wall. The objects are intended to refect Australia: a carved boab pod, a 1 dollar note, the boondies (slang for sand that has caked together). The photography looks too much like catalogue photography for my taste.

The veteran of this group of galleries, Brunswick Arts Space currently has four artists currently exhibiting.

Heidi Tatchell had created almost invisible minimalist art with “Clear View”. Tatchell’s work is in the realm of the ultra-thin, applying clear tape and contact adhesive to the white gallery walls. The strips of tape create great, stripped images that you can almost see.

“Follow the Line” is an exhibition of four drawings where Cameron Hibbs takes a minimal approach to drawing the max. In two of the drawings a biro has drawn a series of densely packed lines millimetre by millimetre down the page. There is a hypnotic intensity to all of these lines.

Sarah Thomson’s exhibition, “Clean Break” is a series of paintings of words in acrylic paint on canvas. Big words against a black ground: “Kindness” “Without” “Sincerity”… And I didn’t think much of Dea Russo’s exhibition “Shaping Emptiness” in the Brunswick Arts Project Space.

Views of May Exhibitions

On Thursday I was looking galleries in Fitzroy and attended the opening of two exhibitions at the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick.

Dianne Tanzer Gallery has Michael Cook’s “The Mission” a beautiful series of photographs showing the role of the church missions in the genocide of Australian aborigines. The subject, narrative and staging of these photographs reminded me of the work of Tracey Moffat even though Michael Cook, a Bidjara man from southwest Queensland has his own style combining symbolism and antique photography.

In the front gallery and window of Gertrude Contemporary is Anastasia Klose “Can’t Stop Living” with her “Home Video” and suite of drawings of cats. Klose describes this as “everyday love”; the transfiguration of the commonplace into art doesn’t require deliberate eccentricity or challenging content. In the back gallery there is “Bellowing Echoes”, curated by Marcel Cooper and Bronwyn Bailey-Charteris that is part of the 2012 Next Wave Festival. Anna Kristensen’s “Indian Chamber” is an impressive and beautiful 360-degree cycloramic painting of the Jenolan Caves. The installation by the Slow Art Collective has a rich smell as the powdered spices vibrate in speaker cones turning sound into a visual and nasal experience. This is the best smelling art that I’ve ever encountered.

Also part of the Next Wave Festival is George Egerton-Warburton’s show “Living with Living” at the Sutton Gallery Project Space. The video was the best part of the show. The other parts: the tables as readymade chairs and the ugly piece with the saw, photograph, noodles and tar didn’t fit with the other work. “The exhibited works appear as chapters severed from their context” – that’s a nice way of say it is an incoherent exhibition.

I picked up the Next Wave Festival magazine; it is a satisfying and intelligent alternative to the ubiquitous festival program.

The Counihan Gallery has two exhibitions: “A Room for Ordering Memory” by photographer Melanie Jayne Taylor and “First and Last” by the committee from the Brunswick Arts Space, an artist-run-space. The committee from the Brunswick Arts Space regularly has exhibitions of their own work in other galleries. I particularly enjoyed the fun of Max Piantoni “The Descent of the Dodo: Part One”, Carmen Reid’s surreal altered furniture and Alister Karl’s mobile of a series of large drawings. (See my 2009 reviews of Carmen Reid @ Brunswick Arts and Alister Karl’s Drawings.)

Those are my views of these exhibitions – what did you think of them?

Fun to Funky @ Brunswick Arts

Brunswick Arts – Launch ’12 – Exhibition Opening

The exhibition is the best of all the arts graduate shows from the end of last year. I didn’t get to all of the arts graduate shows last year but Carmen Reid and Max Piantoni did and Launch ’12 at Brunswick Arts is their selection. (I can’t believe that I didn’t speak to Carmen Reid, I’ve enjoyed her art for years and I still haven’t met her – see Carmen Reid at Brunswick Arts. I ended up talking to Max Piantoni because he was talking with Alister Karl instead. It must have been the spectacle of the exhibition disorientating me.)

I arrived at Brunswick Arts just as the toffee was about to touch the floor from Skye Kelly’s “Suspended Cubes”. The beautiful tendril of toffee stretched at a speed slightly slower than human vision but every time that I looked back it had changed. Four giant blocks of black toffee were suspended from the ceiling with cotton cords. One of the black cubes had lost its rigid geometry; it was melting faster than the others and was slowly dripping to the floor. The shiny texture of the toffee with a golden crust on top produced a beautiful two tones. Kelly must have timed the toffee melting for this moment. The suspended cubes of toffee make great sculptural forms and I hope to see more toffee sculpture from Skye Kelly. I saw Kelly’s “Creep”, 2011 with more of her toffee work last year at First Site.

It was an impressive beginning to an exhibition that ranged from fun to funky. There are very funky gibbons of Jemila MacEwan, made from recycled clothing, and the equally funky “Phantom Limb” by Emily Bour. The art is fun; none of the artists seemed to be taking it too seriously. It is also fun for the visitors, interacting with Isabelle Rudolph’s “Double Vanity”. This play tent/circus tent allows two visitors to interact in private, wearing masks, sitting back to back and taking photographs on a camera Rudoph provided.

Renuka Rajiv’s drawings and zine are very sexy. There is a Matisse influence to her work on paper especially the blue nude. Good erotic art is so rare. C asks me is there a parental advisory warning about these? Not at Brunswick Arts and anyway the half dozen children who are at the opening aren’t interested in Rajiv’s sexy drawings they are fascinated with spotting the strange creatures in the terrarium and the fan blown sytrofoam balls in the project space out the back of the gallery.

“Nothing astounds me more than the taste of the commonalty for dogs, cats, parrots, etc. For my part, a creature interests me only when its reactions become totally alien to me. The leech isn’t too bad, the starfish is quite an improvement. But slugs! Speak to me of slugs!” – Julien Torma (1902 -1933) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julien_Torma

Katherine MacIagan’s “Creature Series” consisted of slugs in a terrarium, magnificent slugs worthy of Julien Torma, sparkling “jewellery objects” of copper, enamel paint, silicone, fur and stainless steel, like nudibrake amidst the sticks and dead leaves.

By 7pm a large crowd was filling Brunswick Arts and the warehouse space was really heating up even with the efforts of the two portable air-con units. Outside in Little Breeze Street behind Alaysa’s – there are building sites everywhere, Brunswick Arts is about to be surrounded by 9 story apartment blocks – Winchester, the gallery cat was waiting for people to pat him as they left.

The Artist of Destruction

The blond young man with slicked backed hair told me he was an artist. “Another bullshit artist,” I thought; but then I had been drinking at yet another exhibition opening and when that was over moved on to the nearest bar.

I told him that I was an art critic, well, I write this blog. He claimed a vague familiarity with my work. Was he trying to get on my good side?

The artist, let’s call him that, I don’t think that he ever introduced himself, told me about the 20 years of his art practice and his thesis. Maybe I had underestimated him; he could expound on post-modern philosophy with a familiar distain. Next, I thought, he’ll want me to write about his project.

Instead the artist claimed that he was being persecuted in the popular press but I had been at the beach and hadn’t seen anything in weeks. He told me that his art practice involved destroying drawings by major Australian artists rather than creating more and there were people threatening to kill him. I looked around the bar – nobody appeared to be an art lover about to engage in psychopathic blood frenzy. I ordered another beer.

The artist pointed out the old A5 sheet of paper that he was using as a beer mat. “It is a genuine John Brack’s drawing, valued at $9,000. I’m testing its survivability in contemporary living conditions” I didn’t examine the smudges of graphite on the paper and failed to ask the artist if this was Australian or US dollars. The artist finished his beer and stuffed the now beer stained sheet of paper into his pocket.

The January weather has been capricious, rain was threatening. It was like winter. Next the artist took me into the laneway. We sheltered in a doorway and he pulled out a thin rolled paper artefact that he claimed was “a marijuana joint”. He also claimed that the cardboard “filter” was torn from Ricky Swallow drawing. I don’t know about either but I didn’t get high from smoking it.

The artist appeared to have got very high and was raving about Robert Rauschenberg erasing de Kooning. Quoting from Penny Rimbaud of CRASS on how to destroy art and the Futurists he had somehow got on to the symbolic castration of the father figure. Then he wanted to show me photographs on his cell phone of a Brett Whitely that he had showed up his ass and set on fire for his Masters. I declined, pointing out that I didn’t have my reading glasses with me and the screen was too small to make anything out.

January in Melbourne is full of strange art stories you can’t believe them all. Exhibitions of toddler’s paintings, the Prime Minister’s collection of photocopies of her breasts stolen by members of the opposition party and Dennis Hopper eating Sidney Nolan drawings for breakfast.

Hell Bent’s Twisted Celebrities

Celebrities are over-rated. Monique Barnett paints beautifully with technical skill and elegant design. Her large paintings are panoramic views of twisting images of beautiful people in dynamic swirls of flesh and fabric. I’m not sure that the background painting helps but it doesn’t hinder the paintings.

This is not more Pop Art about the celebrity image but the celebrity as a subject for moralizing. I don’t know who these people are, they look familiar, but the paintings are not about naming names rather about the archetypal roles that celebrities play in our lives. People may not know as much about Biblical or classical mythology anymore but they know more than they might want to about Paris Hilton and other celebrities. And it is from the stories of their lives that we create our own mythology, our own a moral theatre.

Monique Barnett writes the purpose of the images is “…not to glorify but to condemn.” (artist’s statement) The title of the exhibition, and one of the paintings, raises this moral voice – “hell bent”. This is both a reference to the physical distortion of their images in the paintings and voice of moral condemnation. The biblical references in the paintings include: “Creating Adam and Eve” and “Separation of light from darkness”. The Biblical references, the distortions, and the twisted movement all add to the baroque feel of the work.

Monique Barnett’s photographs, that are the source material for the paintings, are exhibited in the mezzanine gallery. These are made from cut out magazine images of celebrities, pinned, twisted, distorted and reflected on a model set. They are almost better than the paintings but they wouldn’t work on a larger scale like the paintings where all the pins, strings and scissor cuts would distract from the image. “Hell-bent” at Brunswick Art is close to being a great exhibition.

Gathering Intelligence @ Brunswick Arts

“Gathering Intelligence” is a group show at Brunswick Arts “aimed at showcasing the recent works of a selection of emerging artists from around the Brunswick area.” (curator’s website statement) On a warm Friday summer evening I bicycle down to Lt. Breeze St. to attend the exhibition opening and gather intelligence on local artists.

I buy a beer at the gallery bar – the gallery is partially funded by bar sales at openings. There is the usual exhibition crowd of young women, friends of the artists and artist’s parents. I start to make notes on the A4 photocopied “catalogue and pricing” list. The prices are all very reasonable; under $200 for most works that are for sale (a few are NFS – not for sale).

The exhibition is the usual contemporary art mix of video, manipulated photos, painting, and sculpture with some quirky drawings by Serena Susnjar. Susnjar draws deliberately kitsch celebrity portraits with naff titles like: “Arnie is so confident in speeches”. Illustrations like these are a change from all the formal and otherwise empty art, so they are now a regular feature of group exhibitions. I wonder why there is so much use of solarization in the photographs of both Julie Forster and Kalinda Vary (actually Kalinda Vary’s aren’t photographs but drawings – see the comments). I’m not impressed with Polly Stanton and Adele Smith’s videos even though they both reminds me slightly of the work of David Lynch. I think that Rylie J. Thomas painting’s should be larger because they look too timid. Then there is punk work of Chris Smith, a series of photocopied band posters and two framed assemblages of readymades – “Sick Blowfly with Ointment and Gauze” and “Slowly Undressing Razor with Comb”.

After surveying the exhibition I decide to talk to Chris Smith. I find him standing outside with the rest of the smokers. Chris Smith used to play guitar in various little punk bands. Although I didn’t know of any of the bands I had played at some of the same venues – the Punters Club and the Tote. We talk about his art, catharsis, photocopying band posters and the differences between analogue and digital photocopiers. Chris misses the old analogue photocopiers and the cheap analogue tricks you could do with them.

The sound installation was being set up as I was leaving. Brunswick Arts has long had an interest in sound, both art installations and the occasional performance by bands. Breeze St. has all these new apartment blocks – I wonder how many of the new inhabitants will discover this little artist-run gallery in their shadow.

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