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Tag Archives: Gallery Smith

Submerged @ Gallery Smith

The underwater views of a lily pond are fantastic, new world’s waiting to be discovered like alien planets. They are Catherine Nelson’s Submerged at Gallery Smith in North Melbourne.

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Catherine Nelson, Unstill Life #02, 2016 (courtesy of Gallery Smith)

In the neo-baroque spirals of her underwater flower arrangements fish replace the insects and lizards that inhabit the baroque bouquets of Dutch still life paintings. The spectacle of dramatic point of view, often looking up to the surface of the water, exist to astonish the viewer.

Of course they aren’t real but then neither were the baroque paintings of flowers. Catherine Nelson’s artfully digitally manipulates photographs, assembled from cutting and pasting many photographs, the way that you might assemble a flower arrangement cutting and placing the flowers. Nelson has extensive experience working in visual effects photography for films including 300, Moulin Rouge and Harry Potter.

Time is compressed in Nelson’s underwater worlds: everything is budding, flowering and decaying simultaneously.

The baroque never died, its demise was contrived for the purposes of progress in art history. Now the baroque has returned with Nelson’s photographs and there are many examples of other Australian neo-baroque artists including Juan Davila, Vincent Fantauzzo, William Eicholtz, Bill Henson, eX de Medici, Sam Leech, and Sophia Hewson.

For more on the Neo-Baroque as an international trend read Angela Ndalianis Neo-Baroque Aesthetics and Contemporary Entertainment (MIT Press 2004) and Gregg Lambert The Return of the Baroque in Modern Culture (Continuum, 2004, London).

There are similarities between the 17th and 18th centuries and the contemporary times. Both are from a time without a clear direction that knew that massive worldwide change is inevitable and immanent. This gives the baroque sense of movement and transformation. And both the artists of the baroque and the contemporary did not have a word that defined their period; the word ‘baroque’ was only applied later by art historians. (I hope that later art historians will find a better word than ‘contemporary’.)

Gallery Smith is in an art deco brick building on a quiet street in North Melbourne with the main gallery spaces on the ground floor and a project space on the first floor. Louise Gresswell’s exhibition, Imprint in the project space is a series of loose, informal, abstract mixed-media paintings, not large enough to be impressive, not ugly enough to be interesting.

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North Melbourne Galleries

Gallery Smith and Purgatory Artspace occupy the same old brick warehouse on Abbotsford St. in North Melbourne. Gallery Smith is a large commercial gallery with two exhibition spaces and “the lounge” with a selection from their stock room. Upstairs in the loft the “project space’ of Purgatory Artspace is more Spartan affair, a minimal white cube space. While I was in North Melbourne I also stopped by No No Gallery but it was closed before an exhibition opening that night.

At Gallery Smith the British-born Brisbane-based artist, Ian Friend was exhibiting a series of oil paintings in the main Gallery 1. I sat on the comfortable white lounge in the gallery enjoying the calm ambience of the paintings. Friend’s cool, pale paintings are inspired by the poetry of English poet Edward Thomas (1878-1917) and the English landscape of the Southern chalk downs. Yellow, blue and grey dots float on a background of pale bands. One of the paintings, “Here love ends” provided a counterpoint to the series with a darker background, slightly rougher brush strokes and red tones. In Gallery 2 Valerie Sparks has a series of color photographs of taxidermy birds: “Little Bird, Big History”. The stuffed birds looked old but not as old as they actually were: they had been collected in the mid 18th century. The Yellow Tail Black Cockatoo was collected on Matthew Flinders’s second voyage to Australia. There were also some Eric Brigeman’s photographs stacked near the entrance of Gallery Smith; I recognized his work from last year’s Basil Sellers Art Prize exhibition.

Upstairs at Purgatory Artspace there was a remarkable exhibition of 3D painting by another Brisbane-based artist, Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox’s “Paradise”. I have never viewed a whole exhibition of paintings through polarized glasses. The paintings are not some purely technical exercise in creating 3D effects – the artist only discovered that her paintings worked this way by accident rather than design. The 3D effects are not mind blowing but very effective in their own right as parts of the paintings appear to float a centimeter above the background. Were it not for the 3D effects the mystical cosmic subjects of these paintings would have been a bit ordinary and superficial.

There aren’t many galleries in North Melbourne but there are more than there were only 5 years ago. I predict that there will be more in the near future as there are plenty of warehouses to convert in the area.


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