Tag Archives: exhibition openings

Campy minimalism & the Minimalist camp

Two local contemporary artists start the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick’s program of exhibitions for 2014. At the exhibition opening on Thursday evening the older locals around the cheese board were all aghast. They felt alienated and annoyed by the two exhibitions. Maybe the opening remarks of Su Baker, Director of the Victorian College of the Arts might answer their many questions. I don’t know if it did, I wasn’t going to hang around just to find out. I’d seen the exhibitions; there isn’t that much to see but what is there isn’t bad.

In Gallery one is “Diagonals and Some More Tangents” by Laila Marie Costa. It is Latino campy minimalism and subtle amusement at the materials along with some less subtle fun with the whole game of consumer culture, mass production and football. I loved the display case of the revolving Playboy and Win lighter case in the vitrine You Spin Me Right Round (Like a Record), 2013, along with her minimalist tributes to Barry Humphries, Jules Verne, Robert Rauchenberg, Paul Klee and others. Some of the work was a little obvious in the visual puns, like Dipped Wick 2012-14.

Laila Marie Costa is a Melbourne based artist who last year was artist had a residence at Residencia Corazon, La Plata, Argentina (she has a photo blog about that which is worth a look and shows her visual humour). Also worth a look is Laila Marie Costa there is Jason Waterhouse’s blog post about exhibition at Stockroom Gallery in March last year.  She is described as a cartoonist/illustrator, a zine editor and she makes funky plastic rings (there were some plastic rings on an egg cartoon in the exhibition Untitled (for Jean Paul Gaultier) 2012.

In Gallery two there is “Social Resonance” by Ben Taranto. Most of the space is empty except when it is filled with the sound of the the large steel sheet reverberating like thunder. There are two video projections of water; one over a blue black lenticular triangular forms, like a bar graph of the resonance. The sonic waves are portrayed as the ripples on the water. A single spotlight on a done of slumped glass on a steel square creates shadows with chaotic edges. You can transition through the surface of the water, you can see through the glass and you can walk through the space. Carmen Reid has written an introduction explanation of Taranto’s installation on the room sheet but the locals at the cheese board were unlikely to read it. Lots of stuff about Buddhism and empty space…

Ben Taranto is a recent graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts, in sculpture and spatial practice who is focused on absence. This is his second solo exhibition although he has exhibited at the Counihan before as part of Moreland Summer Show, 2012. He has exhibited in places where I must have seen his work before including Brunswick Artspace 2013 Annual Open Entry Prize but I haven’t mentioned him before.

When a member of the cheese board jury declares that there was nothing to engage with in the exhibition I had to point out that the steel sheet made a sound when engaged. I wanted to add that if you can’t get mental laugh when looking at the work of Laila Marie Costa you either haven’t really looked or you don’t know enough about art history, football and what is unimportant in life but as the cheese board jury weren’t impressed with my first remark I kept it for you. Good selection on the cheese board, a good feta and a blue with bite – I didn’t try the brie or the hard cheese.


Blog Housekeeping

This not about my life as a house-husband but to draw attention to my addition of two new pages to this blog: Contact and Events.


Regarding contacting me. I don’t mind getting invitations to art exhibitions, but don’t expect to see me there. If you are an artist and I have told you to please invite me to your next exhibition I really do mean it. On the other hand I hate the pushy publicists who think that my blog is just another promotional platform for their message. I wish that this wasn’t the main reason that people contacted me.

I go to openings partially to look at the art, to schmooze and drink wine – in that order. It gets difficult to look at the art after awhile because there are so many people standing around drinking wine and talking. It is kind of pointless talking to the artist at an exhibition opening with so many people saying hello and congratulating them. My strategy is to arrive early and look at the art before most of the people arrive – the flaw to my strategy is that I left before the late arrivals.


The first event off the rack is a series of sculpture tours that might become a permanent event. As regular readers would know I write a lot about Melbourne’s public sculpture, now I have put together a tour of a selection of them. For more information see Events.

Other events will follow; talks, panel discussions and a book launch. If you want me for tours, panel discussions or other events see Contact.

Charles Web Gilbert, Matthew Flinders Memorial, Melbourne

Art Gallery Addict

I was an art gallery addict. I realized that I was an addict when I went to a market research group discussion about going to public art galleries.

It was the usual market research set up, an office meeting room with a group of 9 people, 6 women and 3 men, chips, orange juice and stale sandwiches and a researcher leading the discussion. All the subjects considered themselves to be regular visitor to public art galleries. There was another group for people who did not consider themselves to be regular visitors to public art galleries. The research was being conducted for the regional art galleries of Victoria.

We were asked how often we went to an art gallery. Most of these people said that visited one gallery every week or fortnight. I had to admit that I go to 3 – 4 galleries a week, sometimes more.

It must have been an odd group discussion because everyone was taking notes on things to do, names of galleries to visit and events to look forward to. I was in a room full of art gallery addicts trying to find their next gallery to hit.

Fortunately being an art gallery addicts is cheap compared to many addictions. Most galleries and exhibition are free. Even better free wine and snacks at the opening, sometimes there is better quality finger food, sushi, smoked salmon, once I even had steamed crab. I used to go to a lot of the exhibition openings but these days they seem to fill the time with schmoozing rather than seeing more exhibitions.

Looking around at the crowd at an exhibition opening you have to wonder if they are collectors (unlikely), fellow artists (more likely), friends of the artist, just there for the free wine and cheese or are they art gallery addicts like me? I still see other art gallery addicts at these openings. Like Paul with his unruly hair and his single colour outfits, all blue one day and all orange the next, he is at every second exhibition opening that I go to.

I learnt something about myself from the other addicts at the market research session. Art gallery addicts are cheap and selfish. They are not snobs – they just want to keep this free pleasure and enjoyment just for themselves. They like the space and quiet of the galleries. They enjoy the chance to be alone with their thoughts and the simple pleasure of seeing something new.

Maybe I should set up an organization, AGAA (Art Gallery Addicts Anonymous) have a twelve-step program to ween myself off art galleries but I don’t think that I’ll kick the habit.

Containment Structure @ No No Gallery

The first exhibition opening that I’ve attended this year. I enter No No Gallery from a lane in North Melbourne, with the ubiquitous Drew Funk painting. There is a small banner above door and then down a short very pink corridor. It is like a small bar, with carpet and club chairs and low red lights. The bar was selling bottles of Dutch or German beer for a “$3 donation”. Up a short flight of polished wood stairs was the small wooden floor and white walls of the gallery space with exposed ceiling beams and brick wall.

On the mezzanine floor people were waiting there turn to listen to the headphones at two of the exhibits. Maybe I could get into Daniel Jenatsch’s “para- archaeology society”, it is amusing in a pataphysical way but it doesn’t really go anywhere.

At first everyone was drinking beer and reading the catalogue essay: “Containment Structure” by Robert Nelson. Then they were wearing pink moustaches, something to do with Clare McCracken’s “Megafaunna Mo”. More and more people arrive, there are about 40 people at the opening, and more pink moustaches are applied. Very amusing but you’d have to have been there.

Why am I concentrating on the scene of the exhibition opening rather than the art? There wasn’t that much to see really, there never is at No No Gallery. It is one of those contemporary galleries that believe in lots curatorial space between the art and it is not a large space. This time there were 5 artists and 11 pieces of art. Stephanie Hicks’s 5 woven collages of pages of rocks and minerals were possibly the best, beautiful in their rigid crystalline structures. Jessica Brent’s two photographs were competent but I didn’t see the point in the way they were hung.

I think I’ll have another beer. The exhibition was too insular, it was like the self-recording of Heidi Holmes that edits out everything but the “I”. It wasn’t a containment structure; it was just another excuse for a group exhibition.

Party @ Blender

They came together on a hot, humid November evening in Melbourne. There were young emerging artist – “aren’t that one of those twins that was on the ABC doco?”  There restless drunks clutching brown paper bags of take-away alcohol or sharing the silver plastic bag guts of a cask of wine; the beer had run out before I got there and the only thing that the very short barman was serving glasses of wine with every $2 donation to the gallery. They were no longer celebrating an exhibition opening but surviving another year in Melbourne’s art world.

There was an exhibition opening earlier in the night at Michael Koro Gallery: “Surface”, an exhibition about the painted surface. Only a few people were still in the gallery and most of those were queuing at the bar. Stephen Giblett was showing two paintings exploring the transition where the representational becomes abstract, as in his painting of paint on a painter’s overalls. He said that he was trying to be less tightly controlled with his brushwork with these paintings. Dan Sibley’s paintings of burning cars are very controlled; using a technique that appeared like Aboriginal dot painting or pointillism. Melbourne street artist, Frederick Fowler (aka NUROC) was exhibiting paintings of spontaneous aerosol single line drawings that filled the surface in his personal style. And, outside in the street, there were cowboys moving on the “Melbourne Propaganda Window”, two digital projectors on the papered upstairs windows of Michael Koro Gallery.

There were lots of exhibition openings on last Friday night in Melbourne. Outside the Yarra Sculpture Gallery there were lots of guys with mohawks and I could see another opening going on through the window of Per Square Metre as I passed by. I couldn’t go to them as I had other business to attend to; earlier in the evening I was at the Melbourne Stencil Festival AGM. I was elected secretary and the rest of the team that ran this years festival were all formally elected to run next year’s festival. I won’t bore you with any details of the meeting; we were trying not to bore ourselves and got through everything in under an hour.

When I arrive people’s attention had shifted to the studios and the alley that runs alongside Michael Koro Gallery and Blender Studios. Most of the studios had a few works on exhibition for the night. HaHa was sitting around in his studio upstairs with conspiracy theory videos running on the TV but no one was watching. A post-graduate social-anthropology student was trying to get 500 responses to a survey about attitudes to graffiti. A very quite techno music duo was playing with a singer wearing a showgirl style black costume with tassels made of garbage bag plastic. I asked Drew Funk what he was going to do now that he has painted the walls of so many bars, cafes and alleys in Melbourne. He told me is moving to Sydney.

It was yet another time that I had left my camera at home – every time I do I miss photo opportunities. The truth is that I still haven’t adjusted to the demand that a blogger is also a photojournalist. Not that I even had my notebook on this occasion, just a backpack full of stencil festival files. So this cannot be taken as an accurate record, it is just my distorted memory.

Reality & Art Criticism

People have been asking me: “are you going to see the Dali exhibition at the NGV?” It is a fair question, particularly as I have been interested in Dali ever since reading his Unspeakable Confessions in my high school library. However, I really don’t know if I will and if I do I will probably not write a blog entry about it because blockbuster exhibitions are not the focus of this blog and so much has already been written about Dali. Art Blart managed to write and photograph  the exhibition before any of the other blogs (kudos to Marcus Bunyan). And Melbourne Jeweller also reviewed the exhibition.

The reality is that I get asked if I’m going to see a lot of exhibitions. I welcome all invitations to attend art exhibitions and other events however, I can’t promise to attend or write about the exhibition. The reality of my visits to art galleries and other events is dependant on a large number of factors that have nothing to do with the exhibition. It depends on so many things: my wife, my friends, Melbourne’s extreme weather and the location.

The location of the gallery does play a part. The gallery’s proximity both to me and to other galleries will influence my decision to visit. Trying to explore the numerous aspects of Melbourne’s art world is like an urban orienteering adventure. And although I am fond of urban exploration and I do want to write about new galleries I have to take into consideration the time it takes to find a new gallery in a strange location which may means that I don’t have time to see other exhibitions. Melbourne’s poor public transport system makes it difficult for me to get to some galleries, even some of those in the inner north, like Northcote. I have also neglected to write anything about the galleries in Armadale, Ivanhoe, Hawthorn, Prahran, and St. Kilda for the same reason. I do try to rotate the galleries that I write about along with the variety of types of art that I write about from sculpture to street art.

Sometimes I go to exhibition openings but mostly I don’t; I’ve been to many in the past. Attending art exhibition opening is useful and fun to drink and talk with the artists and other people. However, I can only attend one or two openings in a day or night and the exhibition is sometimes difficult to see the art because of all the people.

Sometimes I see an exhibition and for a variety of reasons that may have nothing to do with the quality of the exhibition I don’t end up writing about it. I may try writing about it and fail to find the right words. Another story may be more news worthy and so another story never gets written. Sometimes a gallery is inexplicably closed when I visit so I never get to see the exhibition.

Today I went to East Richmond, photographed the aerosol art in around the train carpark and looked at most of the galleries on Albert St. I was delighted to see Tracy Potts exhibiting at Anita Traverso Gallery because she was one of the first artists that I reviewed in my first blog entry in my old blog. I am currently reading Will Self’s novel Great Apes so Lisa Roet’s latest exhibition at Karen Woodbury Gallery had additional resonances. (See Art Blart’s review of her opening). I talked with Daniel Doral at John Buckley Gallery and looked at the paintings by Gareth Sansom there.

These maybe the only exhibitions that I get to see all week – I check my diary and the weekend is looking busy with family. I will have to do more research and writing before I publish anything about what I saw today.

These are some of the realities of art criticism.

The Yard

Yard Shows are one-night only art exhibitions at 696 held fortnightly from November to April. The fact that exhibitions openings are when most people come to galleries in Melbourne has been taken to its logical extreme – just the opening. And there are the other advantages of exhibition openings for the artist: the feedback and networking opportunities. This works at 696 because they are able to later rotate the work in the front shop space, so that people are still able to purchase the work after the show.

The Yard, 696, Brunswick

The Yard, 696, Brunswick

The Yard, the backyard at 696 is a small urban wonderland of defunct architecture, strange signs and street art. There is a small platform stage covered in astroturf to emphasise the gravel ground. And plenty of wall space to hang pictures.

I’ve been to two show in the Yard this year. The first was the “Ill Rubber Ducky” show – “a character building experience”. For a young artist an exhibition can be a character building experience. For an aspiring character animation artist it has a double meaning. “Ill Rubber Ducky” is inspired by the lean angular figures of Peter Kunshik Chung’s animations. That night the art was being sold by a silent auction, a way of selling art that is becoming increasingly popular in Melbourne.

Ill Rubber Ducky

Ill Rubber Ducky

The second Yard show I went to was Clogged by studio mates Simon Gardam and Rhen Dodd. This time the art was hung inside 696 because it looked like it might rain. It didn’t rain and it was wonderful hanging out in the Yard having a beer and talking with some of Melbourne’s prominent street artists. Conversations that evening in the Yard were peppered with “Yair, Yair”. It reminded me that almost a century ago and half way around the world at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich the Romanian artists kept on saying “Da Da” (Yes Yes). The Yard has a great atmosphere.

Simon Gardam and Rhen Dodd share a studio space in Hope St. but their styles are completely different. Dodd is a stencil artist whose work, notably the man sleeping on a park bench, can be seen on the streets. Gardam is a savage painter who wants to depict “thought processes rather than things”. Regardless of the vast differences in their styles Gardam and Dodd were exhibiting two collaborative works in the show.



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