Tag Archives: illustration

Desire Lines @ Brunswick Arts

On Friday night there was an opening at Brunswick Arts Space, an artist-run-space. In the main gallery there is a group exhibition, “Desire Lines” with thirty-five works by Jo Waite, Leon Van De Graaff, Alex Clark, Martin Nixon, Jess Parker, Sarah Howell, David Blumenstein, Michael Fikaris, and many other artists. ‘Desire lines’ are informal paths that people make to get where they want to go.

The exhibition was mix of contemporary art, psychogeography, illustration, comics and zines that all remember and record Brunswick. It might sound like an odd mix but the local details illustrations of the suburb in the pages of comic books are a rich vein of psychogeographical research. There is a whole wall of art work for comic books that illustrate this point, like Martin Nixon’s “The way to the entrance to the entry to Squishface” (Squishface is an open comic artists studio in Brunswick). Melbourne underground comics have a long tradition of mapping the city, going back to, as far as I can remember, Yell Olé! by Brendan Tolley and Bernard Caleo where the heroes battled the architecture of the city.

The most comprehensive and democratic map of Brunswick ever constructed.

The most comprehensive and democratic map of Brunswick ever constructed.

At the opening the focus of attention and discussion was an open collaboration on a wall sized map of the suburb: “The Most Comprehensive and Democratic Map of Brunswick Ever Constructed.” Everyone at the opening was writing and drawing on it, adding their landmarks and details. The local artists are aware how much Brunswick is changing as apartment blocks are built around the gallery in the former factory space.

It was good to see Victor Gris, the curator of the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick, at the opening, not just personally but also that he is engaged with the local art community.

In the upstairs gallery was Denise Hall’s series of five paintings “Creature”. Hall’s expressionist paintings with a limited palette have been torn apart and reassembled, like the butchered meat they depict.


Dark & Light

Two current exhibitions one dark and the other light.

RMIT First Site Gallery describes this exhibition as “probably the darkest show we have ever had…” on their Facebook page.  The trio of exhibitions at First Site are dark as in obscured rather than dark subject matter; obscured by lacunas, palimpsests and dark spaces. Lacunas and palimpsests were popular subjects at the height of post-modern in nineties because they referred to areas of uncertain and indeterminate meaning.

Eugenia Raftopoulos, Some things last a long time is a series of uncanny and subdued oil paintings that often featuring lacuna, a missing section, a hole in the illusion of the painting. Nicholas McGintity, Parallel, a 47 sec video loop features palimpsests, crossed out black and white pornographic images, shown sideways, out of focus and otherwise obscured as they rapidly click through the loop like a demented slide show.

Wilson Yeung, Trace, features 31 boxes with pinhole photographs using a monotype transfer process. In the darkness of the gallery, the blurry images of the faces are almost unrecognisable as the images in the back lit boxes pulse from light to dark.

No Vacancy’s exhibition Look Mum! couldn’t be more different, it is light like a child’s drawings on the fridge. Look Mum! is a group show featuring eight Melbourne-based illustrators: Eveline Tarunadjaja, Sean Morris, Fiona Lee, Gnashing Teeth, Stevie D, Sass Cocker, Jeremy Ley and Jospeh Keena. Each of the illustrators are showing their mature work next to drawings and toys from their childhood displayed on fridges, just as they were in childhood. Each of the fridges has the artist’s name displayed on it in magnetic letters. Beside each fridge there is a shelf of toys and other memorabilia from the artist’s childhood. The gallery has a domestic feel with a lounge area and a table with paper and crayons for doing your own drawings. It is a great look for an exhibition about illustration and I don’t know why I haven’t seen it before.


Sexy Girls, Girls, Girls

Yes, lots of young, beautiful, sexy girls with big round tits all over Melbourne.

Sofles & Deb in Hosier Lane. Photo by Kevin Anslow

Sofles & Deb in Hosier Lane. Photo by Kevin Anslow

Photo by Kevin Anslow.

Photo by Kevin Anslow.

Photo by Kevin Anslow.

Photo by Kevin Anslow.

Kevin Anslow, who created the Melbourne Street Art 86 site, sent me these photographs of the paste up dialogue attached to Sofles and Deb’s new piece on Hosier Lane. (Thankyou Kevin.)

“Hey babe does it worry you that exaggerated, big titted girls like us are saturating street art iconography these days?” the speech balloon puts these words in the mouth of Sofles girl.

And Deb’s girl replies “No silly. From Rone to Adnate to Herakut, empty portraits of young girls with big eyes are the best way to make it commercially. Think anime or porn culture or fashion photography; this is about rehashing the most palatable mainstream motif. It’s not about finding beauty in new ways, it’s about reconstructing beauty in the most standard and insipid way. So girlfriend, stop trying to use your brain and just look pretty. Tee-hee.”

The speech balloon dialogue caps Sofles and Deb in the best possible way because it improves the work and opens up an interaction that wouldn’t be allowed in art galleries. The paste-ups are a wonderful piece of Situationalist provocation detouring and subverting the cartoon images. The dialogue is not puritanical; I enjoy porn and fashion photography but I wouldn’t want to look at them all day (I hate anime but this involves a reaction caused by an over-exposure to anime). Like me the dialogue is worried about “saturating” with over-exposure and not about the images themselves. It is calling for more progressive street art and attacking the conservatism of commercial art (the old school tattoo, comic book and fantasy art the influences street art). It is also a challenge to think about the issues of gender and commercial art.

Looking for the vocabulary to write about street art illustration work like Rone, Sofles and Deb, I turned to Japanese art and find bijinga (beautiful-girl picture). I was happy to find the word for there is little else to these bijinga pictures except for a beautiful girl. They are just, in the words of the speech balloon, “rehashing the most palatable mainstream motif” with different themes and in different styles. As art these bijinga pictures are simply eye candy and the artists who create them will enjoy ephemeral fame.

But what are the consequences of this abundance of images of wide-eyed buxom girls? Will people become bored with them and cause an opposite reaction in images?  Will girls follow their example?

P.S. Later the speech balloons were revealed to be the work of Melbourne street artist CDH, see his webpage for more about it.


Snotrag @ Brunswick Bound

Tea and cakes with Snotrag makes for a pleasant afternoon.

The small gallery upstairs at Brunswick Bound bookshop is crowded on Saturday afternoon for the opening of Snotrag’s exhibition “Ear”.  Amongst the crowd are the artists HaHa, Junky Projects, Arlene TextaQueen and Pierre Lloga. DJ Tuffy mixing tracks with some radical but relaxed sounds including a Phillip Glass track.

Snotrag is a punk street artist based in Melbourne making art for the street and gallery. She is not only active in decorating the streets of Melbourne and Jogjakarta but organizing and networking (hence the turn out for her exhibition opening). She is involved in the Inter-Location Project building a DIY arts bridge between Melbourne and Jogjakarta.

At the exhibition a large wall painting fills the front wall of the gallery, decorative elements in a frieze runs across the top with two figures in Snotrag’s distinctive style below. There is a wall of black bandanas and t-shirts with images of faces and birds. Her images of birds in drawings and t-shirts would be ordinary were it not for her totemic decorative details. These decorative details that were developed through doodling and looking at architectural details, remind me of elements of calligraphic ornamental borders.

On the other wall are framed mixed media drawings, most impressively her Skull and Dust series. I wish that there were more narrative elements or cheeky intelligence in her drawings, as in her crossed hammer and vibrator drawing – DIY. It is Snotrag’s 2nd exhibition and it looks like she is still developing/expanding her style. The works are all reasonably priced and work was selling quickly at the opening. There is even a painting free for the best cop story and a box to post the stories in.

Talk at the opening was punctuated by “Yeah yeah” from all New Zealand artists; it is like listening to the antipodeans equivalent of Dada (“yeah yeah” in Romanian).

It looks like her work on the street

Snotrag piece in Brunswick


January 2011 Exhibitions

Not that there are a lot of art exhibitions on in Melbourne at the moment as most of the galleries are closed in January but I did get to see a couple of other exhibitions (besides Reframed @ Counihan Gallery).

“Look! – the art of Australian picture books today” at the State Library of Victoria features the original artwork for picture books by some of Australia’s best illustrators including Graeme Base, Shaun Tan, Jane Tanner and many other  artists. Amongst all the art there are a few exhibits that show the development of artwork including one from Graeme Base showing the progress from photographs, pencils drawings to the finished illustration with a blank frame for text. This exhibition is not only well timed for the school holidays but also for the new audience for illustration in Melbourne that grew out of the street art scene. There was plenty for the kids to do at this exhibition and some of the exhibits were designed specially for them but this is not an exhibition that is just for children.

Phil Soliman’s best photographs are grids of close up details. Spread across one whole wall of Hogan Gallery in Collingwood is a grid of images of male skin. So many individual hairs, spots recorded in the photographs that Soliman (?) describes as “between the erotic and clinical”.  This series of 7 photographs, “Surface Data” gives its title to the exhibition and is by far the best work in the show. There are also several good close up photographs of the male body but the rest of the photographs in the exhibition are more ordinary but competent images of male nudes. The DVD projection part of the exhibition was not on when I visited during the week. The exhibition is part of the arts programme of the Midsumma Festival – see my reviews of exhibitions in Midsumma Festival in previous years.

Hogan Gallery has comfortable suede benches to sit and contemplate the images. There was jazz playing on a sound system along with the thwack of the staple gun from the frame making business at the back of the gallery.

 


Sweet Streets – Week 1

This week at the Sweet Streets festival of urban and street art there was the exhibition opening at Brunswick Street Gallery. My mind was on preparations for the Thursday film night for most of the week. Organizing the film night has been my public bit of the festival, aside from all the secretarial duties and other little things. (My interest in the Sweet Streets festival has been stated.) I have only heard about the workshops and the live spraying events going on during the festival.

On Wednesday at 1000 Pound Bend a large temporary wall was being undercoated in preparations were being made for Secret Wars.  Secret Wars, for those who don’t know, is two street artists covering several square metres of black wall in competition with each other and in front of a paying audience. It was not officially part of the Sweet Streets festival but 1000 Pound Bend had booked it in for Wednesday night anyway.

Bandos Earthling at Brunswick Street Gallery

Wednesday night was also the opening of Sweet Streets exhibition on the top floor of Brunswick Street Gallery. It was part of their “Urban Art” series of exhibitions (see my review of previous exhibition in the series). Although Tessa Yee curated both the Sweets Streets exhibitions at 1000 Pound Bend and Brunswick Street Gallery the exhibitions are a distinctly different. Under the broader category of “urban art” this exhibition has more illustration, comic book, photography and stencil art. It is a broad category that includes everything from Heesco’s fantasy illustrations to Debs aerosol paintings. But the street was not far away, even in, Jo Waite’s paintings of four panel comic strips that showed a vision of Melbourne with Spanish instead of English graffiti in the background. Bandos Earthling made an appearance in costume, carrying a large blank speech bubble made of cardboard and posing for photographs (I’m meant to catch up with him sometime during the festival). There were also some small Ben Howe’s stencils at the foot of the stairs at Brunswick Street Gallery. Last year Howe was highly commended emerging artist in the 2009 Melbourne Stencil Festival’s award exhibition.

Besides my own biased view you can read what other bloggers wrote about Sweet Streets. James Donald writes a long thoughtful researched review of the Award exhibition and The Earth Died Screaming has some bad iphone photos of the Award exhibition opening. Images to Live By wrote about Dscreet’s film “Dots” at the festival’s Thursday Film night. And Invurt wrote about Sweet Streets@BSG & Secret Wars.


Sexhibitionist @ Collingwood Gallery

“Art has treated erotic themes at almost all periods, because eroticism lies at the root of all human life.” – Eduard Fuche

Erotic art exhibition group shows are something that everyone thinks are a great idea at the time and often regrets after the event. It is not always to everyone’s taste. It wasn’t as wonderful as they expected. The regrets are often there… for the exhibitors and the viewers… I have regretted seeing some of them.

I didn’t have any regrets viewing “Sexhibitionist – 10 exhibitionists, 1 art exhibition, 0 inhibition” at Collingwood Gallery. I had just wandered in from the street and I wasn’t expecting much from another erotic art exhibition by a group of unknown artists in a rental space gallery … I just hoped that it wasn’t going to be embarrassingly awful. It wasn’t; it is attractive and even, beautiful. It is just an average group exhibition otherwise but the erotic theme worked (affordable prices too).

Photography is a great media for the erotic and both of the photographers in this exhibition, Simon O’Shea and Christian Were, used it well. Were’s photographs have a sophisticated eroticism with a popcorn cheek to them.

Many of the drawings and paintings in the exhibition are influenced by manga and other comic book illustration styles. Comic book illustration has given erotic art back a style and with style comes more feelings, something more than just the erotic, a sense of elegance, of nostalgia, and even of humour. Amy Longhurst’s drawings of feral nymphs and animals are pretty and Matt Tingate’s painting “On the Corner” is a great display of liner style, simple and effective.

One of the surprisingly good features of this group exhibition is that it is a group exhibition. So if an artist’s view of the erotic is not to the viewers taste, or their art isn’t – the double jeopardy of erotic art, then there is other artist’s art to look at. It is not all photography and illustration there is the usual painting. Kyra Wood exhibits 3 beautiful paintings, of figures gently entwined or caressing arty with lots of drips, a lot of style and expression – 3 studies for “gently”.

Many of the exhibiting artists work Madman Entertainment, who sponsored the exhibition. Madman is an employer who cares about their employee’s creative life enough to sponsor the exhibition. (This is not the first art exhibition that I have seen presented by work colleagues and sponsored by their employer – but it is the most daring theme). Madman had a small display of their classic erotic DVDs for sale at the exhibition, as well as, the usual sponsorship logos.

We need to be more good erotic art exhibitions like this one. So that people can see more ordinary erotic art exhibitions with beauty, style and fun, without regrets.


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