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Tag Archives: Dianne Tanzer Gallery

Random Gertrude Street

A walk along Gertrude Street to look at the current exhibitions at Dianne Tanzer, Seventh and Gertrude Contemporary.

At Dianne Tanzer Paper Trails features new work by Victoria Reichelt and Carly Fischer. It is an exhibition of opposites, replicas of the paper products that have either, in Fischer’s work been casually transformed instead of normally thrown away, or, in Reichelt’s paintings, water damaged archived papers. A few weeks ago I’d seen Carly Fischer exhibition, Magic Dirt at Craft Victoria (see my review). Reichelt’s paintings depict the theme of archiving, files in shelves all with a heart sticker on them and its watery perils, split boxes of wet paper. I hope that Angy Labiris, who was exhibiting some very ordinary paintings at 69 Smith Street, ventures up around the corner and up Gertrude Street to see Reichelt’s great contemporary still life paintings. (I went into 69 Smith Street to see the recent renovations to the gallery, the art on exhibition was as ordinary as ever.)

I was about to go into Seventh Gallery when I was recognised. Diego Ramirez introduced himself, I had previously reviewed his exhibitions Happy Summer Tank and Radish. Ramirez has an exhibition A Primitive Movie in Gallery One and his studio is upstairs. A Primitive Movie is not a movie, it is an installation about a movie, Axolotl, another mutant creature from Ramirez imagination. It was a good idea for an exhibition, the movie poster projected onto the wall, a light box and a wooden kinescope screen but there wasn’t to the installation enough for my taste.

In Gallery Two Louise Meuwissen and Lotte Schwerdtfeger, Intense, Intents, In tents. Remember when you made tents with sheets and blankets in your house and how good it was? Intense, Intents, In tents is much better, it is beautiful, magical fun. Combining LED lights with embroidery works beautifully and reminded me of the artistic possibilities opened by this new technology allowing artists to work with light where previously this would have been a fire hazard. Louise Meuwissen was the winner of the Dumbo Feather Award at Craft’s Fresh! exhibition this year also an interview with her.

Gertrude Contemporary had a group exhibition from Gertrude Studios; a good opportunity to see eight artists working in Gertrude Studios. Installations, photographs, painting; Sean Peoples floor work intrigued me, the contrast between the artificial and the natural, and the connection to all the flower arrangements of art. It also reminded me of Duchamp’s Trebuchet, 1917. As an exhibition Gertrude Studios made as much sense as my random sample of exhibitions along Gertrude Street.

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“Last Laugh” Recent Acquisition

It is good to see that the National Gallery of Victoria has purchased “Last Laugh” from Juan Ford’s recent exhibition at the Dianne Tanzer Gallery. The NGV has given me several pleasant surprises recently and I am warming to its new director, Tony Ellwood (see: The Trojan Petition).

Juan Ford, Last Laugh, 2012 (oil on linen, 107 x 92 cm)

“Last Laugh” is a realist painting about painting, a painting of paint – modernists do not have a monopoly on uniting materials and subject. The red painted paint is marking and smothering the plant as the man-made smothers the planet. It not easy to paint something that comments on the slow destruction of the planet but this painting comes close. This is not exactly Henry Lawson’s “blood on the wattle” as it is paint and not blood, and the botanical specimen is a eucalypt not a wattle; there are twists and turns in the narrative of all of Ford’s paintings. It is not a joyous image even though the sky is still bright blue for Juan Ford is an intelligent man and understands what sciences forecasts. The last laugh is the longest but also bitter and twisted.

Juan Ford’s “Last Laugh” is representative of many of Ford’s recent paintings as it is part of a series of similar paintings in his current exhibition and is similar to several paintings featuring Australian plants in his last exhibition. And there is no doubt, after a long string of awards, grants, commissions and group institutional exhibitions that Juan Ford is an artist that should be included in the NGV’s collection

The oil painting will fit into NGV’s collection in several ways and continue its narrative into contemporary painting. The question of genre is raised by these paintings, are they still life or landscapes or portraits of the nation through its flora emblems? Genre is one of those great post-modern subjects and genre mixes are a feature of post-modern art. “Last Laugh” is so much of this time and yet it obviously has many lasting qualities that will serve the NGV’s collection well in future.

As a long time fan of Ford’s work I wish, like all fans do, that he did more like his early work with engrave anamorphic images. His ability to paint that once was great has improved so much since then. (See my earlier post on Juan Ford.) But I can see why the NGV decided to acquire this strange and beautiful painting.

See also “In the Studio with Juan Ford” on Vimeo. http://vimeo.com/46172316


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?


Scrase for Mayor

“My early sculptural work was about connecting ‘objects’ so they form beautiful structures. My current interest is making connecting ‘people’ so they form beautiful communities.” Carl Scrase

Carl Scrase is an emerging Melbourne sculptor, who inspired by Melbourne’s Occupy movement has announced his candidacy for Mayor.

I first encountered Carl Scrase work at Seventh Gallery years ago where I was amused by his sculpture made of super-balls and toothpicks. He moved on to working with bull nose paperclips and won the $5000 2010 Archangel Prize. Recently I saw his paper sculpture with a plinth made of tall stack of A4 paper at Dianne Tanzer Gallery.  Connecting ordinary objects as the small units into larger structures is the essence of Scrase’s sculptures. They made post-minimalism appear fun.

Is our empathy on the rise, image courtesy of Carl Scrase

I’ve also seen his “is our empathy on the rise?” paste-ups around the streets of Melbourne and Fitzroy. The blank space underneath the question and the arm high level of the paste-up invites responses and responses to responses. This is the kind of street dialogue that graffiti has always engaged in but Scrase has given it a paste-up forum.

Following the script from the propaganda model for attacks on the Occupy movement, the current Mayor Robert Doyle has attacked Carl Scrase for receiving art award (that he richly deserves) and arts grants from the city of Melbourne. These attacks were amplified by the Herald Sun newspaper who ran the story: “Occupy Melbourne protester Carl Scrase takes the cash” by Anne Wright and Stephen Drill, December 06, 2011 (see my post: Newspaper Wreaks City). I don’t think that Mayor Doyle’s attack is motivated by any fear that Carl Scrase and his team will damage his re-election chances rather just another attacks on the Occupy movement, even if it is a ridiculous argument. Mayor Doyle’s argument exposes his idea that the reason for artist’s grants and prizes is to buy the loyalty of artists.

It is interesting to know that Occupy movement has inspired people, like Scrase and the people on the Council election ticket with him, to engage with the political process. Scrase believes in democracy and that “the age of professional politicians is over”. In contrast the main political parties have encourage popular disengagement and the political machine that have kept them in power.

The banker, Max Rothschild, wrote (regarding the Italian Futurists but consider it in the response to the Occupy movement) – “When there bursts froth from one mansion a song of youth and originality, even though harsh and discordant, it should be received not with howls of fury but with reasonable attention and criticism.”


Rennie + Ryan @ Dianne Tanzer

Cold, grey and damp, the winter sky over Fitzroy was as dull as the art that I was seeing that day. Then I entered Dianne Tanzer’s gallery and saw the combined exhibition of Natalie Ryan and Reko Rennie. And it wasn’t just the bright colours of the art that raised my spirits. Natalie Ryan and Reko Rennie are both artists who have become notable this year. Reko Rennie is a Aboriginal artist with a stencil street art background; he is now presenting on the ABC’s Art Nation. And there is a video about Natalie Ryan’s work from the ABC’s Art Nation. Animals are the subject for both of these artists and this brings this exhibition together.

Natalie Ryan creates flock-covered sculptures of animals but there is more to the work than just this unique visual identity. There are art and decorative references in Ryan’s sculptures the game hunter’s trophies and the still life gaming pieces. What was once considered a noble sport has now become kitsch and disturbing. And this change of value is reversed with Ryan’s use of the kitsch flock to create high quality art. In the final space there is a covered flock form glowing with the ultraviolet intensity of Yves Klein International Blue.

I remember visiting the large taxidermy works when I was a child living in Kenya. The smell of the tanning hides is my strongest memory. Then there were all the sculpted moulded forms, for all the big game animals being prepared for museum dioramas. Taxidermy animals are not stuffed; the animal’s skin is stretched over the form, providing the muscles, soft tissues and skeletal structure except for the ears and tails. Natalie Ryan doesn’t use many real parts from the animals, sometimes teeth or horns; it is the artificial parts, the glass eyes etc. used to create these stuffed animals with the flock replaces the real animal skin.

In this exhibition Reko Rennie is taking spray paint stencil art back to its decorative and architectural origins. Stencils were commonly used to paint decorations on walls in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. The red and yellow geometric pattern painted wall by Rennie are hung with a row of Ryan’s pink flock covered animal heads. Another wall has large gum leaf and flower stencils is hung with Rennie’s aerosol stencil paintings of Australian birds.

Dianne Tanzer Gallery + Projects has changed; the white cube has gone, the narrow entrance gallery has gone and the space has opened up. It no longer pretending to be just an space containing art. What once was previously hidden behind walls, like the office space, has been revealed; there is a table and chairs in the front window. It looks like there is more life in the place.


Ephemeral & Street Art

On Gertrude St. sidewalk, in an ironic reference to Arthur Stace, the “Eternity” man, someone had stencilled in yellow chalk powder, in a copperplate font, “Optimism”. Chalk was Stace’s medium and it will be washed away with the next rain. An irony that Stace seemed to miss – his eternity was only temporary.

Optimism on Gertrude St.

Optimism on Gertrude St.

Across the road in Dianne Tanzer Gallery there are two exhibitions with a close relation to street art. Dianne Tanzer Gallery is an established commercial gallery, so this is clear evidence of how street art techniques have influenced the contemporary art. Matthew Hunt’s “Pure Gut Feeling”, in Dianne Tanzer’s ‘Project Space’, has a punk street art feel. Statements like “Odd Ball” and “Solid Gold Turd” are statements drawn in crude blockbuster style on paper. Hunt is recreating the aesthetics of adolescent art, the kind of drawings that are done on the cover of a school notebook, a feeling close to many young street artists.

In the main gallery there is Hannah Bertram “Now They Are Gone”. The main gallery looks empty but on the polished concrete floor are 2 very large stencils in water and ash. Bertram specializes in transfiguration of the commonplace materials into art. The stencils are neo-barque roundels with a variety of floral motifs from carpets or wallpaper. Or are they mandalas, like the Tibetan Buddhist sand mandalas that are destroyed after completion to symbolize the transitory nature of life. Using ashes as the medium is also symbolic of all that is left after death and destruction. When I visited the gallery a few footprints had damaged the edge of one of these ephemeral works. At the end of the exhibition they will be gone, washed away.

Art was once believed to be for eternity, for the future; it seems a strange belief now. Street art is full of deliberate ephemeral words and deeds. The point is to say something with style. To write something to relieve the boredom, to state that ‘I was here’ even though, ironically, I have already moved on. The ephemeral nature of street art aspires brief attention, “instant fame” as Happy says in his paste-ups, and not eternity. Street art is not forever – it is for now.


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