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Tag Archives: garden art

Platform – September 10

“The Resistance of Memory” by Paul J. Kalemba is a surreal underground garden is installed in the last vitrine at Platform (in the Degraves St. underpass at Flinders St. Station). Fruits preserved in jars holding the preserved memory of the last harvest. The peaches, pears and plums glow in the half buried wooden cabinet as moss and herbs, mostly thyme, grow around it. The wine bottle and glass are empty – the party has been over for some time. But how long? The broken clock, full of more thyme is dripping destroying part of the wooden base of the cabinet as the real and unreal merge. Kalemba has created a fantastic surreal garden capable that feeds the imagination images and ideas that confound each other. The title refers to Rene Magritte’s surrealist painting “The Persistence of Memory”.

Paul J. Kalemba describes himself as “an urban edible®evolutionary” and has exhibited in Platform’s “Underground Garden” before but this is his best garden yet.

In Platform’s main series of glass cabinets there are Kieran Stewart & Stone Lee. On one side there are Stone Lee papier-mâché versions of Australian animals. On the other side is Kieran Stewart exhibition of series of small sculptures made from wood, steel, glass and black powder. The wood and steel forms hold glass containers of black powder in a range of formal variations. These engaging sculptures reminded me of the functional elegance of machines used to demonstrate physics principles.

In the large “Vitrine” space there “Voyeurism” by Bernadette Burke combining figure painting and video with videos for faces. The combined images are very effective but I don’t think that they say anything about voyeurism as the figures all look as if they intend to be seen.

In “Sample” there is an exhibition by Merryn Lloyd, curated by Patrice Sharkey as part of Platform’s Emerging Curator mentorship program, which really needed more substance and interest.

In the cabinets at Majorca Building (out of the underpass, up Degraves St, across Flinders Lane and in Centre Place, with “Bellevue Jewellery” in gold letters above them) are two photographs by David Mutch – “The Tourists”. Previously exhibited at Seventh Gallery earlier this year, these two archival inkjet prints show a figure in bare, desolate landscapes; one landscape looks urban, the looks rural both were photographed on the banks of the Yarra River.

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Keith Wiltshire @ 69 Smith St.

I walked past a house in my neighbourhood of Coburg and noticed a carved stone amid the foliage in the front garden. The geometric form of the stone would have been a feature but it was a bit too small. At least it wasn’t kitsch, cast garden sculpture that they sell further up Sydney Road. What they needed is one of Keith Wiltshire’s sculptures.

I don’t see a lot of sculpture suitable for domestic garden settings on exhibition; most contemporary sculptures appear suitable only for indoor locations, preferably an art gallery. It is harder to make sculpture that can survive exposure to the weather. There is a demand for contemporary garden sculpture it; my mother was always asking me to make something for her garden but that is another story. People spend thousands of dollars buying other things for their house but when it comes to garden sculpture they are stingy.

Keith Wiltshire’s exhibition “Sacred Stones” is in the sculpture garden out the backyard of 69 Smith St. This location will give you an idea of what the sculptures would look in your own backyard. The prices range from $300 (for one of the “Tsukubai” a set of large bowls carved from local volcanic bluestone basalt) to $4700, for the impressive “Totem” of copper, steel and quartz.

“Stones have held great significance for humans and arte often invoked as facilitators for spiritual requirements.” Keith Wiltshire, artist statement, 2010

There are sacred stones in cultures around the world; the acropolis in Athens is built on one enormous sacred stone, the ancient Greek equivalent of Ayers Rock. In his exhibition Keith Wiltshire has found influences for his stones in many cultures, most obviously Japanese Zen. Wiltshire is exploring many sculptural techniques and styles in this exhibition; the sculptures are not highly original but they are elegant, tasteful and well made. The two cast bronze hands holding a split stone in his “Binary” is the most technically complex work in the exhibition.

If you want a standing stone for your garden you should consider the sculptures of Keith Wiltshire, the exhibition continues until the 19th of September.


March @ Platform

I always try to see the monthly exhibitions at Platform when I have a few minutes before my train at Flinders Street Station. It is a very accessible artist-run-imitative with several separate spaces in the subway going to Degraves Street from the station.

The highlight of this month’s exhibitions at Platform is Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman “Patient” – a feasting vignette, commission for the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2010 (there is always some kind of arts festival on in Melbourne, often more than one). It is a small attractive, mouth watering, combination of sculpture and gardens. Even the drip-feed intravenous drip system and the blue hospital sheet doesn’t put me off the garden fresh vegetables on display. Lettuce, chili bushes, basil, chives, and thyme – a full salad is growing in form of the patient. Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman is a set designer, illustrator, photographer, puppeteer and installation artist. She has created an ice clock room in the famous Ice Hotel in Sweden and helped plant the vertical garden in Melbourne Central. This is not her first garden exhibition at Platform, in 2008 she had “Eat the City”. (See my entry on Artist-Gardeners for more about this growing art movement.)

Lucy Farmer, a performance artist, visual artist and jewellery designer, is exhibiting “Review” at Platform. Her statement about the exhibition reads: “What you see is quite clearly fake yet the constant surveillance of a public space is now visible and remembered, not half forgotten through a camera lens. Who is critiquing whom? Review is a site-specific exhibition created to challenge psychological and social readings of value, class, status, control and power through portraiture, installation and a heightened awareness of the physicality of the audience in relation to the work and their necessary participation with the work.” It is a bit much of an explanation for a series of portraits and I don’t see where the surveillance cameras come in. I kept on thinking: should I know these people? The theatricality of the red backgrounds, the gold frames and dark portraits all created out of paper taped together, made me think about the superficial nature of self-image.

Emma Anna combines sculpture, installations and printmaker at Vitrine. Her installations are always appealing but I can never really get into them. I’m not sure why, but they feel thin, as if to examine them to closely might just poke holes through the paper. As if to make up for the paper-thin content there is a lot to look at in the installation ranging from Surrealism to post-minimalist printmaking – her USB fitted flying ducks have an inescapable and appealing logic to them but why are they not connected?

Kim Summer and Clea Chiller have a great installation at Sample. The intensity of examining another person’s living room/bedroom along with the reality of homelessness makes this a successful installation. It has been composed with great care. The TV flickers across empty channels, there is a pin-board of photos, a mirror, books, toiletries – some of basic aesthetics necessary for survival. The figure of the sleeping occupant transforms this stuff into a portrait of a life in need of shelter.


@ Kings ARI

Tidal River by Mark Rodda is a beautiful, graceful and fantastic video. Rodda has created another world, an alien planet of floating islands of a mirror dark lake under a starless sky. Combining the arts of landscapes, gardening and video Tidal River is mysterious, enchanting and beautiful.

The floating islands are gardens; the rocky-looking islands are planted with carefully arranged greenery. The trees and shrubs on these islands are actually small plants or parts of larger plants, the ends of a branch as a fractal version of the whole tree. These are gardens in a beautiful extension of the Japanese tradition of “bonkei” (or “bonseki”) miniature gardens. This is not the first time that Rodda has used video with plant life; his Zombie Garden was a finalist The One Minutes Awards at Paradiso Amsterdam 2006.

In Rodda’s video the islands move slowly in a parade of graceful beauty, propelled by unknown forces across the still water. They move out to the horizon where they are out of focus and achieve a kaleidoscopic beauty in their mirror reflection. Then the islands move back, closer to the camera’s position, and into tight focus, creating a 12-minute loop of action.

I saw Tidal River at the AV gallery in Kings Artist Run Initiative on King St. in Melbourne. Also at Kings ARI are two installations: Potential Energy by Jordana Maisie and Widow’s Walk by Sky Kennewell.

Potential Energy is fun, in a ghost house automated way. A series of metal chains hang from ceiling to floor creating a corridor around two walls of the gallery. A series of infrared sensors along the wall that activate a device that shakes the chains as the visitor walks along the corridor. The sound of the potential energy moving along the chains as a visitor walks along has a great rhythmic pattern. Unlike a ghost house there are not secrets, the devices that trigger this reaction are all exposed, a multicolored spaghetti of wires and circuit boards lie on the gallery floor.

Widow’s Walk is a failure; it has no mystery, no fun, no beauty and no interest. A series of good timber frames have been arranged into a useless combination and within this unsuccessful construction a temporary shelter has been created for an imaginary inhabitant who looks at pictures of successful arrangements of timber frames. Why this imaginary inhabitant hasn’t used the timber to create a better shelter is obvious because it is just something installed in a gallery.


Artist-Gardeners

Horizon scanning trends in contemporary art and artist-gardeners are becoming a more common feature. Until recently gardening in European art, even great gardens, was considered a branch of architecture and design. What has made gardening contemporary art?

The most dramatic change in the visual arts, in the last century, has been in the media and medium: from a limited range of ‘artistic materials’ to unlimited choice including ephemeral, readymade and conceptual. This expansion of artistic materials has changed art history and brought contemporary art closer to gardening. Combined with increased environmental awareness and the urgent need for a more sustainable way of living artist-gardeners are both aesthetically and politically relevant.

There are artists already working in this direction most notably the French artist and botanist Patrick Blanc. Blanc is the creator of “les murs vegetal” (vertical gardens) whose works include the vertical garden at Melbourne Central in Melbourne, Australia, 2008. And NSW artist Ken Yanetoni’s “Sweet Barrier Reef” is a Zen garden made entirely of sugar, raked sugar and icing sugar coral formations. “Sweet Barrier Reef” may not have any plants but it does involve environmental themes and eating cake covered in icing. Ken Yanetoni has been chosen to represent Australia in the satellite exhibition to be held in conjunction with the 2009 Venice Biennale.

There are also many local artist-gardeners: Dylan Martorell, Penny Algar (Orr St. Garden), Matt Shaw’s underground gardens at Platform and Patrick Jones blog Garden of Self Defence.

Artist-gardners have resonances and traces in art history that include Jeff Koon’s Puppy; the English Surrealist, Edward James’s sculpture garden Las Pozas (“the Pools”) near the village of Xilitla, Mexico; Antoni Gaudi’s art neuevaue architectural Park Güell in Barcelona; Monet’s garden at Giverny; and, further back, the famous English garden designer Capability Brown. Street art has also had an influence on the artist-gardeners with New York’s guerrilla gardeners and also in Toronto, Canada and the UK. and Eyeteeth reports on guerrilla flowerboxes by Toronto, street artist Posterchild.

The artist-gardener combines installation art, process art, sculpture, and site-specific work. They could also include, performance art and culinary arts. The future of artist-gardeners is full of great possibilities to create beauty (both natural and artificial) and a better environment. The artist-gardener combines environmental awareness with artistic exploration of new syncretic combinations of traditional and contemporary ways of living.

Combining the interest and necessity for a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle, a love of gardens and food makes the artist-gardener economically sustainable. Artist-gardeners have access to multiple, meagre income streams from commissions to create public and private gardens, to art and plant product sales. There could be garden restaurants serving food grown and cooked on site. There are art materials that could be produced in a garden and manufactured in the kitchen. But I’m just throwing ideas up in the air now – I should be getting back to work on some unfinished projects in my garden.


Midsumma @ Platform

*UQ/Midsumma Queer City at Platform Artist Group, curated by the Art Pimp (aka Din Heagney), is a fun exhibition. The artists selected by the Art Pimp are playful, even trivial rather than serious. (“Life is too important to be taken seriously” Oscar Wilde) And there is enough variety in the art for the viewer to find something that appeals to them from photographer Linsey Gosper’s installation in Vitrine to Sam Wallman’s comic illustrations in the Majorca building cabinets.

Frame cabinet has an exhibition of records and flip animation books by the artists involved in TAPR Tape Projects. Neither music records nor flip animation books for a good exhibition in a glass case, so two videos display these works in operation.

The Underground Garden by Matt Shaw is a miniature cityscape at night. The succulents planted in a black pebble ground are trees next to the metal grates that form skyscrapers. Matt Shaw is the garden artist for Collective Melbourne, a craft/art/garden/coffee-shop in St. Kilda.

In the Platform cabinets there is, from the USA, Jombi Supastar’s extravagant multi-media drawings have the intensity and primitive power of an outsider artist. And from NZ, Jason Lingard’s elegant erotic idols are the thinking person’s eye candy. For me local artist, Freddie Jackson’s digital print morphing a mirror-ball and the death-star is one of the stars of the show; Star Wars is such high camp.

Hannah Raisin’s “Suger Mumma” in Sample is an installation that uses a lot of Fruit Loops, the brightly coloured breakfast cereal. Mounting the Fruit Loops on cling-wrap she made a one piece bathing costume and bathing cap. Then she takes a milk bath by the sea. This is all recorded on video and photos and displayed in the Sample cabinet. The sickly sweet Fruit Loops provided a counterpoint to the excitation.

Platform and the Art Pimp do not appear to be suffering any chill effect from the censorship by the City of Melbourne last year of the nude photographs in exhibition, ‘The Puma, The Stranger and The Mountain’, by Cecilia Fogelberg and Trevor Flinn. The work in *UQ are fun, erotic and sexy.


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