Tag Archives: Buddhist

Fehily Contemporary

When I arrived at Fehily Contemporary the guy behind the desk offered me a cup of coffee or tea; that was the first time that I’ve been greeted in such hospitality at a contemporary art gallery. However as it was the first destination in my day I declined. It was the first time that I’ve been to Fehily Contemporary, part of my plan to write about different Melbourne galleries.

Fehily Contemporary is a new commercial gallery located in the growing Collingwood gallery scene amidst the wholesale fashion warehouses around Wellington St. The gallery itself is a well-designed warehouse conversion with a main ground floor gallery and a small loft gallery above office/storage space.

The main gallery was still being set up on Wednesday for the Thursday opening of US artist, Angela Ellsworth’s “Training, Walking and Drawing”. Most of the drawings had been hung but the Ellsworth’s drawing equipment had barely been unpacked. The drawings were not impressive, fan scribbles, but they are only evidence, a record of the drawing action. Ellsworth has been drawing with pencils strapped on parts of her body, head, arms and legs and will be repeating these performances during the exhibition.

Upstairs, in the ‘loft’, there is a series of painted skulls and tapestries by Chen Fei and the Bhutanese Textile Project. Chinese artist, Chen Fei’s series of ceramic skulls decorated with acrylic paint reminded me that when I’m dead my skull will be just another surface to decorate or make into a musical instrument. But as a sign of mortality the skull is a cliché.

The work of 15 master weavers from Bhutan looked contemporary with figures covered in brightly colored images. These are the best textile works that I’ve seen all year; the silk embroidery is very fine but it is the intricate intensity of the images that give life to the work. Are those sunglasses or am I just interpreting these images from my own culture? No, there definitely are elements of contemporary images mixed in with traditional elements. You don’t need to understand the subtleties of Buddhist iconography or the concepts of “Sukha and Duhkha” (the title of the exhibition) to appreciate the work of the Bhutanese Textile Project.


Contemporary Religious Art

Sculptor David Tucker for ‘A Local Girl Comes Home’ won the 57th Blake Prize for Religious Art. Hindu fertility goddesses inspire Tucker’s sculpture. It reminded me that I have seen art and exhibitions this year (and last) that have been influenced by other religions: Islam, New Age and Buddhist, but not Christian.

Contemporary Christianity now longer has the money to influence artists like it once did. Christianity has also lost the spiritual/philosophical/religious influence on the arts that it once had. Science, political theories and other religions now have a greater influence on the contemporary visual arts in Australia than Christianity. For example, RMIT gallery exhibited the “New Scientist Eureka Price for Science Photography”.

At the same time RMIT gallery had “Black Robe White Mist”, the art of Ōtagaki Rengetsu (17911875), a Japanese Buddhist nun, an artist, poet, calligrapher and potter. And Stephen McLaughlan Gallery showed Josie Telfer exhibition titled “Nine Waves” inspired by Zen Buddhism. The double layers of Telfer’s photographic images condense space and time in an attractive manner. The round glow of the moon creates a spotlight for a wave on a beach.

In contemporary art crucifixions are mostly blasphemous, piss-taking, jokes. Christianity is not an inspiration for contemporary art but a cultural chain to an ancient past impeding and restricting, often violently, current practice. Gordon Morrison, the Director of the Art Gallery of Ballarat is quoted in ‘Trouble’ (Sept.) that nudity is still taboo because of “that all-pervessiveness of the Juedo-Christian ethics that completely dominates us, for all of Norman Lindsey and what have you.’ (p.12)

Australian politicians still claim that Australia is a Christian culture but that requires both sophistry and the manipulation of statistics. It is clear that Christianity still has political influence in Australia and that historically it dominated the colonial era and early 20th Century. If Australia is a currently a Christian culture is odd that this is not evident in contemporary visual arts.


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