Tag Archives: collage

Exhibitions – September & October

I have managed to see a few exhibitions on Flinders Lane (Arc One and forty-five downstairs) in the city and Albert St. in East Richmond (Karen Woodbury Gallery, John Buckley Gallery and Shifted) in between the many meetings, emails, phone calls and wrangling with the Melbourne Stencil Festival website.

David Ralph exhibition ‘Extension’ at Arc One’s small “and” gallery space is just a couple of small paintings but Ralph’s paintings are always worth seeing. David Ralph’s painting is a marvel of contemporary techniques, drips and scraps and squeegeed of paint scatter the canvas. The images appear to be cut into the surface of the paint. The eccentric temporary imaginary architecture, tree houses with a space shuttle built on the back, the caravan for which Ralph is becoming known. The scenes are like something from Wm Burroughs’s Naked Lunch. “…houses in trees and river boats, wood houses one hundred foot long sheltering entire tribes, house of boxes and corrugated iron where old men sit in rotten rags cooking down canned heat, great rusty iron racks rising two hundred feet into the air from swamps and rubbish with perilous partitions built on multi-levelled platforms, and hammocks swinging over the void.” (p.90) Ralph could have found his palette of iridescent and nitrous colours on the pages of the Naked Lunch too.

“Tiny Tunes for Wee Australians” is an exhibition of small works on paper by Mexican artist Roberto Márquez at forty-five downstairs in Flinders Lane. Roberto Márquez has created an exhibition of Mexican surreal comments on Australia in mixed media collages with added illustrations. His tiny paintings of skeletons on pressed tree leaves are very Mexican.

Megan Evans “The Fall” in the side gallery at forty-five downstairs was using more dried leaves arranging them in post-minimalist ways in wall pieces, a framed arrangement and in a DVD.

The AK44, the Blackwater AR15, the Saber Defense Elite 5.56 and the Patriot P414 (US$1,125 RRP) sounds like the catalogue of a gun show rather than a description of an art exhibition. eX de Medici exhibition, “sweet complicity” at Karen Woodbury Gallery features delicately drawn images of all of these weapons. The pictures are drawn in a mixture of ink and mica that creates a thick and glittery line. The machineguns are set amidst neo-Rocco tattoo influenced background and wrapped in garlands. The background luxuriates in an excess of detail, dragons and waves or swallows and stars, completely fill the large sheets of paper. eX de Medici is a tattoo and fine artist which explains the tattoo motifs and the ironic machismo of titles, including “American Sex/Funky Beat Machine”.

Janenne Eaton’s “Bella Vista” is a fun exhibition at John Buckley Gallery. Janenne Eaton is Head of Painting at the Victorian College of the Arts. I thought that I was going to get away from the Melbourne Stencil Festival but there was more stencil and enamel aerosol paint in this exhibition. In “Only sleep cures fatigue” (2009) Easton uses a real bamboo blind as a stencil for the image of a window blind. Eaton also uses vinyl and decal bullet hole decals, LED lights and even rhinestones in her paintings contributing to their fun.

Shifted had two exhibitions Paul Batt’s “Mountain Portrait Series” and Andrew Gutteridge’s “A Linear Collection”. Batt’s “Mountain Portrait Series” is a series of photographs of the back of different peoples heads as they looked out over a view. It is a study in looking at someone looking at a landscape. Andrew Gutteridge’s “A Linear Collection” is a scatter of minimalist sculptures and or paintings. And it was hard to tell the Gutteridge’s sculptures from his paintings, a canvas with a twisted corner or another with diagonal cut into the surface. Lots of vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines that Gutteridge has collected together and played with. Much of this play is about perspective and the illusion of three dimensions on a two dimensional plane.

My Own Private Idealogue

Whose got the funk? Joanna Langford, Peter Madden, Rohan Wealleans, curated by Emily Cormack, have the funk. And they are not afraid to show it off in public. I mean, we all got that funky mish-mash of stuff. We’ve put it together, collected it and carefully arranged it. And we croon over its beauty; it is too precious to throw out, like a foil chocolate wrapper. Emily Cormack describes the exhibition as “a highly subjective language to describe personal mythologies.” But most of us don’t show off this funky stuff in public. A few boho-artist types do but mostly it looks like crazy junk.

Peter Madden and Rohan Wealleans are some of the exceptions along with and Bruce Conner and Bootsy Colins. It took me a few days to distillate my experience of the exhibition, My Own Private Idealogue at Gertrude Contemporary Art Space. In many ways it was similar to so many exhibitions that I’ve seen recently, artists creating their own miniature worlds full of tiny details. Scatter style with collages made found materials. But this had something more, more personal, more obsessive, more funk. Funk was first used to describe art in the 1960s in San Francisco (Peter Selz, Funk, University Art Museum, University of Calif., Berkeley, 1967).

Joanna Langford has The Before Lands (2009) in the front room. A huge tower supplied with power cables from small adjacent towers. There are lots of tiny stairways and ladders leading up the different levels of the tower. The whole thing is delicately constructed with recycled shopping bags, bamboo skewers and cardboard. The whole construction is lit with tiny 12-volt lights.

Peter Madden and Rohan Wealleans are in the main gallery. To enter the main gallery you pass through Rohan Wealleans’s Bead Curtain (2008) made from bits of dried acrylic paint with layers of different colours. And then things really got funky.

Peter Madden’s Sleep with Moths (2008) is a black skeleton with black twigs growing out of its bones turns into a bush covered in paper butterflies. Peter Madden also makes beautiful delicate collages that float on layers of perspex.

New Zealand artist Rohan Wealleans was the funkiest of the lot of them. Wealleans creates personal totems, ugly but arresting images. His Orange Shark Jaw Sculpture (2008) creates a round, orange-painted, fibreglass body for a shark jaw. It is like the funky animal creations of American funk ceramicist David Gilhooly. Others like the hieratic postured of Maid (2004) suggest so many stories and explanations.

There was so much of it, the mess, the excess, coming from all directions and I knew that it was good.

More Street Artists on Exhibition

“The Clan MacLeod” sounds unified – a ‘clan’. It is a group exhibition with some notable names from Melbourne’s street art scene like HaHa and Happy, but the reality is disconnected art on walls joined together into a room above a pub on Highlander Lane. I don’t know if this strange disconnected group exhibition is due to uncritical mateship, commercial desperation or a deliberate agenda of extreme artistic diversity but the whole exhibition suffered from it.

Rus Kitchin’s “The Un-Familiar Series” was the small star of the small show; these digital C-prints are like Berlin Dadaist collages, their silvery blue colours making them appear like strange silver nitrate photographs. The series is the story of a European family’s photographs that include the un-familiar, African masked child of modernism. The European family’s identical faces are overlayed with occult patterns like the ritual scarification on the carved African mask, making the familiar un-familiar again.

Andy Murphy plays with patterns from tartans to zebra stripes but including the JEAN Symmonds (in punning denim) distracted from the quality of the rest of his work.

Matlok’s naïve painting style is as ugly, crude, colourful and brutal as the Melbourne streets that he depicts. His paintings are full of little details, word play and shops. He has a consistent artistic vision (that doesn’t appeal to me but that’s not a reason why someone else wouldn’t like it).

Happy is burning his bridges behind him before leaving the country. Happy was exhibiting photographs of burning one of his “Fame” paste-ups (along with the ashes in a jar) and the spray-can vandalism of his framed drawings (along with the results). This is a potlatch, the ceremonial destruction of value in an economy of excess. “We’ve come to wreck everything and ruin your life” is the title of a zine compilation of Happy’s part of the exhibition. It asks the question, in the ephemeral world of street art, are you happy with the creation and the destruction?

The worst was seeing RDKL shoot himself in the foot exhibiting a toilet seat figure, a demonstration of Arnold Rimmer level of taste of the most mundane and repetitive. The rest of his work is a rough and inarticulate psylocibin insipid drawings and computer graphics.

And there was only one HaHa, a black on white stencil “Ned Kelly”.

Cue the bagpipes and march to the exit.

Just off the streets

I don’t know what is happening with Until Never; Paul McNeil’s Lonely Sea is still on exhibition.  Until Never continues with the wacky and off beat selection of young artists of dubious, debatable quality. The quality of the art is deliberately debatable in a punk street sense as is effort of walking up those stairs.

Paul McNeil’s surfing inspired art is humours, crude but effective. McNeil, the surfboard artist for Sea Surfboards, uses familiar materials fibreglass, resin tint and resin in his art. Some of his resin fibreglass paintings art looks a bit like a surfboards but mostly it doesn’t. There are acrylic paintings on canvas banners and round resin mounds. There are some fun images and dumb slacker jokes, like “Hate Ashbury” and “Prey for Surf”, in the Lonely Sea but is there anything more to the art of Paul McNeil?

In the shopfront gallery space at 69 Smith St. Kristin McIver is exhibiting Dreamscapes, a look at 1970s suburban architecture using two-colour aerosol stencils. It looks like a side project by the ghost of Howard Arkely, the old master of spray paint suburbia; only McIver’s paintings don’t have Arkely’s intense colours or patterns. This is what happens when a fine art student takes up stencil art: there are artful drips running consistently from the bottom of the stencil, the stencils are a bit crude with over spray leaking on the edges and they come in a range of smooth tasteful background colours.

At Neon Parc Alasdair McLuckie is exhibiting some of his beaded totems along with collages by Alexander Oucthtomsky and Alex Vivian’s camp adolescent scatter style installation. Alexander Oucthtomsky’s collages are fantastic, full colour combinations of floral, zoological and ethnographical elements; they rival the best of Max Ernst’s collages. Set in oval frames these 15 elegant figures look like illustrations of elaborate costumes from an alien civilization. Alex Vivian’s installation rocks with a camp metal, Dungeons and Dragons, pathetic aesthetic. It may look half-arsed but it did speak to me.

Rosalie Gascoigne

Some people froth at the mouth at the mention of Duchamp, I know as my master’s thesis was about Duchamp’s readymades and I have been on the receiving end of their vitriol. Marcel Duchamp is still seen by them as the ultimate slap in the face to their idealization of art. Other people, like Rosalie Gascoigne, find Duchamp’s readymades as an inspiring liberation.

The Rosalie Gascoigne retrospective exhibition at the NGV shows how from a starting point of Duchamp’s “Bicycle Wheel”, along with training in Sogetsu ikebana. Gascoigne developed her own unique style of formal abstract collage with found wood and corrugated iron. Gascoigne’s style is so clearly defined that a few years ago I saw some fake Gascoigne’s (not forgeries since there was no claim of authenticity) on sale in a trendy Fitzroy furniture store.

The NGV was encouraging the children to this exhibition to imitate Gascoigne’s style. Tables and chairs had been set up in the third floor foyer outside the Rosalie Gascoigne exhibition with glue sticks and exhibition promotion material to cut up and collage. It was school holidays and the chairs were packed with children, parents and grandparents all making Gascoigne style collages.

Art always starts with imitation and Rosalie Gascoigne started her artistic career imitating Joseph Cornell’s boxes of collaged material. Aside from the boxes with an obvious Australian references, like “Pub” (1974), or her use of local materials, like Toohey’s Flag Ale beer cans, Gascoigne’s early boxes are very similar to Cornell’s. Gascoigne, like Cornell, would include references to European art in her boxes and early assemblages, including a bicycle wheel for Duchamp. Imitation is a learning experience and after successfully imitating Cornell Gascoigne found her own style.

Gascoigne then recognized what was different about her boxes from Cornell’s. Her materials were more weathered by the harsh Australian environment than Cornell’s American materials. Gascoigne was familiar with the wabi-sabi of Japanese aesthetic from ikebana and looked for it in the materials she selected.

Moving on to the rest of the rest of rooms of the Rosalie Gascoigne exhibition at the NGV there were some curatorial problems. The narrative of the retrospective was occasionally confused by a work that chronologically belonged in the previous gallery. There was only one short didactic panel explaining the exhibition but did not even note her death a decade ago.

Cocker Alley & Nicholas Building

Cocker Alley at the back of the Nicholas Building has been largely untouched by street artists, except for a stencil work of a diving helmeted figure (by Banksy?) preserved under plexiglass, at the corner. The rest of the ally is used to store rubbish bins. Perpetually in shadow and stinking, Cocker Alley is not a welcoming place, and drawing attention to it with the Laneway Commission can only help.

“Welcome to Cocker Alley” by Bianca Faye and Tim Spicer is part of the City of Melbourne’s Laneway Commissions 08. “Welcome to Cocker Alley” imitates the external pipes of Paris’s Centre George Pompidou in an ephemeral work, the gold leaf is expected to dissolve completely over the course of the year. The pipes covered in gold are all sewer pipes coming from the toilets on that side of the Nicholas Building so there is an obvious psychological interpretation – shit is gold.

The Nicholas Building was once a modern office building; consider all the modern conduits of communication in the building, the elevator, the no longer functional mail slide that runs from the top floor to the ground. It is now a bohemian haunt, from the boutique fashion stores in the arcade with its leadlight roof, to the elevator operators and the artists, jewellery makers and fashion designers that have their studios in the building. The building also houses is also the Victorian Writers offices and three art galleries: Blindside, Pigment and Stephen McLaughlan Gallery.

When I was last in Stephen McLaughlan Gallery there were a trio of musicians rehearsing and contributing to the pleasant ambience. Laurel McKenzie was exhibiting a series of digital prints of a collage of a field of textures with figures roughly torn from the same textured surface. It creates an intense visual effect recognizing the camouflaged forms. And in the south facing part of gallery, Craig Barrett was exhibiting a series of drawings of central Australian landscapes.

A floor lower at Blindside Artist-Run Space was showing Prohibition by Pamela See. See’s contemporary paper-cut work expand this delicate traditional art to floor pieces and steel sculpture. Cutting falling leaves from old Chinese propaganda images creates a strange, ambivalent nostalgic mood.

The studios at the back of Blindside are being cleared out in preparation to create another gallery space. The Nicholas Building continues to change and evolve.

First Recycled Art Materials

There is a lot of interest in the art world about sustainable art practice. I know this from the search engine terms that find my blog. On search engine terms that found my blog was “who was the first artist to use recycled” (materials)?

The question is not an easy one. It does need to be refined a little because due to the nature of art materials, some like bronze or gold are bound to be recycled. Architects have recycled building materials since ancient times. Supports for paintings are also frequently recycled with new paintings painted over the old one; I have even seen a Murillo painted on the face of a South American obsidian carved mirror. In this last example the South American carving was preserved as Murillo used the smooth mirror face as a support for his oil painting, recycling it by repainting. I will presume that the question implies that the use of recycled materials is apparent in the finished art.

Perhaps Medieval reliques with recycled Roman seals cut from semi precious stones would be the answer to the question except these are work of anonymous craftsmen. I will probably ignore a lot anonymous or obscure people who used recycled materials in art or crafts. And I have ignored non-Western artists.

So for the dead white male art history answer: I am tempted to say Duchamp, Picasso or Braque between 1912-14. Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel 1913 but I don’t know that the materials were recycled; in later readymades Duchamp purchased the objects from hardware shops. Nor do I know if any of Picasso or Braque’s materials used in their early Cubist collages of 1912-14 were definitely recycled. But it is very likely that one of these artists was the first. By 1917 the Dadaists had made collage and montage part of their artistic practice and by 1920 recycled materials in art were part of the media of art, or at least, anti-art.

There is no photo finish to consult to answer this type of questions. As Epicurus used to say: “Here are some answers, choose one.”

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