Checking my mailbox there was an email from a publicist about five permanent larger-than-life original artworks by a Melbourne artist Steve Rosendale on the façade of the “YOU AND I” apartment precinct, a Collingwood residential development on the northern end of Smith Street. The name of the artist, Steve Rosendale, wasn’t initially familiar but on further research I found that I had reviewed an early exhibition, “Silhouettes” by Rosendale at Brunswick Arts in 2006 in my old blog. I had some vague memories of the exhibition and I was impressed at the targeting of the publicists email.
It is always interesting to see how artists have developed over the years and Steve Rosendale’s painting technique has greatly improved. What I remember of his 2006 exhibition was the 60s pop style and cinematic style. Now Rosendale has developed this theme into a figurative retro style depicting scenes of 1950s Americana.
Orbit Architecture, the architect of the new development plan to incorporate Rosendale’s images in both perforated metal screens and an unusual technique of curing graphic concrete that will recreate one of Rosendale’s pieces in bas-relief.
Looking at Rosendale’s recent painting made me aware that there are a lot of retro artists around deliberately painting figurative images from the 1950s. Along with Steve Rosendale’s painting, there are Dianne Gall’s atmospheric 1950s interiors and Kathrin Longhurst’s sexed-up Soviet Realism. (Both Gall and Longhurst are represented by Catherine Asquith Gallery and Rosendale is represented by Libby Edwards Galleries.)
Retro styles have been a big feature of art, design, fashion, music and popular culture since the 1980s. The post-modern mix of kitsch, camp and conservative elements in these retro styles make me think that the baby boomers love the recreation and repetition of their history but also – what happened to the future?
There is a Lynchian style to the paintings of Dianne Gall. It is a surreal film noir quality mixed with meticulous chosen design elements. Lush elements of American art deco or classic designs from the 1950s create a serene surface that suggests a dark, mysterious underneath.
Femme Noir at the Catherine Asquith Gallery is the exhibition of figurative oil paintings by Adelaide based artist, Dianne Gall. This is Gall’s first solo exhibition in Melbourne although she has been exhibiting in Adelaide and Canberra for years.
Many of Gall’s paintings remind me of David Lynch’s 2001 film, Mulholland Drive. Not that the images are from the film or even America, Gall has found locations and local fashions designers in Adelaide with the right ambience. Her earlier paintings on exhibition reminded me of film stills, their muted, almost monochrome, palette suggesting classic film noir images, but the more recent paintings in the exhibition are definitely Lynchian.
What is about these images that makes them Lynchian, mysterious and surreal? Disconnection seems to be the key. In one of Gall’s paintings, Disconnection, 2012, we see the back of a woman through a doorway looking at a painting in a room with geometric wallpaper. There have been a lot of “disconnects”, to use the newspeak of the US Army, in the international modern lifestyle. The modern world is disconnected from both time and place; it is international and atemporal, like an airport lounge bar. There is a disconnection between the material reality and the existential – who are these mysterious women in Gall’s paintings and Lynch’s movies?
It is the second time this week that I have been reminded of David Lynch. William Forsythe used the opening scene from Inland Empire (2006) as part of the text for his dance piece, I Don’t Believe In Outer Space. There were many disconnections in his dance piece, the dancers each doing their own thing with an electronic soundtrack and verbal soundtrack going in other directions.
Catherine Asquith Gallery had ‘Allure’ an exhibition of paintings by Sydney artist, Catherine Abel. Abel’s paintings certainly have an allure; luxurious female nudes adorned with jewellery and draped with rich fabrics. Catherine Abel’s nudes are allegories of styles. Each painting imitates a different decorative style from the history of art deco, art noueveau and pre-Raphaelitism. The profusion of stylistic indicators are piled on from the background decoration to the foreground details. There are other references to art history in the titles of the paintings like Kiki of Montparnasse. Although Catherine Abel’s paintings are studies in style paradoxically they are all in Abel’s own clear style. The model is the same in all of the paintings with different hairstyles to suit the style.
Read an interview with Catherine Abel.
“Water” at Mailbox 141 by Thornbury artists Rebecca James is a series of drawings. However, Rebecca James used the small exhibition space with imagination creating more than just a series of small drawings. The installation of the drawings of a woman swimming transforms the lite glass-fronted mailboxes into windows looking into a swimming pool. It creates relaxing vision for the office workers and visitors to the small, art deco foyer of 141 Little Flinders Street.
‘Views from a Speeding Train’ by Amanda Van Gils at Jenny Port Gallery is another attempt by a painter to represent the fast moving perspective presented to a railway passenger. Painters have been struggling to depict this view for over a century, a common view that emphasises our relative position. Van Gils uses motion trails to represent this movement in paint. Van Gils has selected vistas from Mediterranean France and Spain make for attractive landscapes paintings. I’ve travelled by train through some of that area. And, although there are no obvious landmarks in Van Gils paintings, I felt the views in the painting were familiar before I read their titles that refer to locations.
Read an interview with Amanda Van Gils.