Tag Archives: glass art

Wunderkammer

The lighting in the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick was subdued and dramatic for “Wunderkammer: The Museum of Lost and Forgotten Objects” by Nadia Mercuri and Sarah Field and “Epitaph: Bird Specimens and the Culture of Collecting” by Bianca Durrant.

DSC09330

The two exhibitions, both with lots of wonderful boxes and vitrines of objects are good but they could have been great. On seeing them I wish that these separate exhibitions had been completely combined, their themes and style are so close.

Guest speaker, Dr. Michael Vale, lecture in Fine Art at Monash University gave an excellent speech at the Thursday evening opening about the wunderkammer and the politics of display. Vale spoke about the way collections dislocate their objects, the currency of the exotic and the power relationship between the collector and the objects. He pointed out that each of the exhibitions subverted the idea of the collection turning wonders to laments.

There really are three exhibitions for although Nadia Mercuri and Sarah Field are exhibiting under the same exhibition title there are no collaborative works and the work has separate themes.

Nadia Mercuri presents her collection of glass from the Australian Studio Glass Movement of the early 1970s through to contemporary glass work. She examines disappearance of glass blowing techniques in Australia. The old movie of the glass tea pot being made projected on the wall with the actual glass tea pot underneath is perfect. This is one of the best exhibitions of glass that I’ve ever seen. Her collections of objects is fascinating because it covers the whole range of glass making from the decorative to the scientific, from finished work to the raw materials (the great box of rods of coloured glass). The rusting glass making tools contrasting the pristine glass. There are even moments of humour with metal spoons suspended in furnace glass.

DSC09332

Fields works polemically examines violence against women. Although this fits in with the wonderkammer aspect, with the large glass tubes of human hair and the power relationship of collecting. Field’s braiding of human hair is of exceptional quality; Mourning Pieces, 2013-14. However, Fields’s polemic wasn’t that clear in her work; the white ceramic feathers reminded me of the white feather’s that women would send conscientious objectors in WWI and the vitrine of fur, fabric with fur print and white flesh made me first think of the violence against animals for fashion.

Bianca Durrant brings together works in many different media with a focus on the Bird of Paradise. I wondered why there wasn’t a sound aspect to this exhibition as Durrant is the general manager of Liquid Architecture, the National Festival of Sound Art, maybe Bird’s of Paradise are only about the visual. Durrant’s works are mixed, her specimen drawings from the natural history collections of the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin are beautifully presented in contemporary style paintings. There is a fantastic beaded feather in a vitrine (Specimen Sculpture – Astrapia stephanie duclais, tail feather, Ernst Mayr) however her beaded Birds of Paradise were a bit of a let down.

Collecting exotic birds returns to the theme of the wonderkammer. Cabinet of curiosities are part of the development of science and precursors to museums. They showed the magic of the natural world but lack the categorical boundaries that divide and organise. They are shrines to wonders and reliquaries for scientific treasures. As the modern scientific world replaced the wonderkammer there has been a resurgence of artistic interest in them.


Exhibitions This Week

I saw some of the galleries in Albert Street, East Richmond this week: Shifted, Anita Treverso and Karen Woodbury.

Why overlay images? Ian Bunn, who is exhibiting at Shifted thinks that overlaid images are essentially contemporary. His overlayed images have the intense colours of a cathode ray tube. See one of the videos on exhibition at this link. At Anita Treverso Gallery the exhibition by Tanmaya, uses overlaid images to suggest a person over time. This effect creates surreal images of pregnant children and trans-generational portraits. The amalgamation of images is finely rendered in colour pencil. At Karen Woodbury Gallery, Locust Jones doesn’t overlay images; they are brutally piled up until they fill the large sheet of paper in a deliberately crude but effective style. Locust Jones is creating images about some of the big ugly issues of our time: global warming and toxic debt.

Back to Shifted, where in the second gallery and the office Ede Horton is exhibiting “Perspective”. Glass hands and feet become creatures with glass eyes; the foot with toothy jaw and pointy ear is particularly menacing. Rows of kiln-cast black-glass small faces float in rows of meditation. Only one work, the “Gumnut Offering” was a little too sweet for my taste.

Later in the week I saw the “The Endless Garment” at RMIT gallery. On exhibition were endless machine knitted garments. Amongst the silly (anyone would look silly wearing these garments) or conceptual works in the exhibition there are some elegant knitted numbers. But it is a fun exhibition; even the two boys who came with their parents, while I was there, thought many of pieces were fun, even funny. Aside from being a bit of fun the exhibition did feel like a promotion for the “Wholegarment ®”.

Looking at Belgium designer Walter Van Beirendonck’s skinKing collection that featured knitted hood veils; both my wife and I thoughts turned to the French parliamentary commission recommending laws banning the burqa. Would the wearing of these endless knitted garments also contravene the proposed laws, because the face was covered? Even though there was both a male and female garments. And the craziness of the French passing fashion laws hits me like a wet Gaultier bustier. There are so many veils in this exhibition; but who is going to censor a fashion designer when the objective of the French laws is to attack Muslims. And what about the whole knitted body suits of UK designer Freddie Robins? From head to toes endless knits with no holes anywhere.

Finally at Platform and Sticky they were celebrating zines with “The Festival of the Photocopier”. “The Undiscovered Press” exhibition at Platform is curated by Melissa Reidy features a selection of zines from around Australia. The artwork and printing of zines are slicker than ever.

In Vitrine at Platform I also admired Jessica Herrington’s “A particular excess”, the thick layers of black paint solidified on an un-stretched canvas, the excess of paint dripping down and wrinkles as the skin dries. It is an excess of paint.


%d bloggers like this: