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Tag Archives: illustrations

Fantastic Worlds

Art in children’s picture books is how most of us first experienced art and the current exhibition at the Counihan Gallery could be some children’s first experience of an art gallery. “Fantastic Worlds” is an exhibition of children’s book illustrations that has been specifically curated for children (aged 2 to 10 years old).

Ann Walker, Mr Huff soft sculpture, 2015

It is not just the subject of the exhibition that is designed for children. Low plinths allows easier viewing for children. Cushions and beanbags offer a place for children to relax. There is also an interactive work, Story-go-round by Cat Rabbit and Isobel Knowles, that was commissioned especially for the exhibition. And there are story-times, workshops and other events that are part of the exhibition.

Even if you are no longer a child there is plenty of appeal in this exhibition; emphasis on the word ‘plenty’, for unlike the minimalism of many contemporary art exhibitions with ten illustrators there is plenty to look at. Shaun Tan’s paintings and sculptures have their own power as art; the rough surface of the paint and the solidity of these imaginary places. Elise Hurst fantastic pen and ink illustration from Imagine a City (2014). Graeme Base’s intensely detailed watercolour and ink illustrations from Animalia (1986), The Sign of the Seahorse (1992) and Uno’s Garden (2006) — and much more.

Shaun Tan paintings installation view

What I didn’t expect was so much collage. Alison Lester’s figures are cut out and collaged onto a background; they stand out fresh and lively in the original (although it might not be as obvious in the print version). Tai Snaith does more obvious collage mixing cut paper and stoneware clay to create very three dimensional images for Slow Down World (2017). And then there is the digital collage and gothic cyberpunk styling of Lance Balchin’s mechanical insects, from his book Mechanica: a beginner’s field guide (2016).

“Fantastic Worlds” at Counihan Gallery in Brunswick was curated by Edwina Bartlem.

detail from Tai Snaith’s A cool shady place
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Collingwood Galleries – Civil & Ghostpatrol

It was a beautiful winter day to be exploring Collingwood galleries. The Keith Haring on the Collingwood TAFE wall has been carefully covered up in preparations for renovations. Lots of great street art and Civil was up a ladder spray-painting the wall of House of Bricks. He was up a ladder because the Council had said no to the scissor lift for some reason and because Civil is exhibiting at House of Bricks. Ghostpatrol has an exhibition at Backwoods Gallery.

Civil paints House of Bricks

Looks like Shini Pararajasingham got it right when she opened Off The Kerb on Johnston Street opposite the Tote. Back then I thought she had the wrong area, too far north, shows you how much I know about Collingwood. But then I rarely go to Collingwood and I don’t think I’d been in Collingwood for about a year.

Another shop front galley, Egg Gallery has opened up right next to Off The Kerb and in the small streets behind there are several galleries: House of Bricks and Backwoods Gallery and Lamington Drive. These are all warehouse spaces with studios and workshops attached. Not the greatest of spaces, make do kind of spaces with all those limitations.

So that is 3 or 4 galleries that I can tick off my list of Melbourne galleries – I have a hopeless ambition to visit all of the galleries in Melbourne. I have been to galleries in these Collingwood warehouses before; Backwoods Gallery is in the previous location for Utopian Stumps.

“Reboot” by Sharon McKenzie was the only exhibition of the three exhibitions at Off The Kerb that I enjoyed.  McKenzie’s drawings depict artefacts of modern world as if they were covered in lace doylies. It is a frighteningly beautiful vision destroying the clean modern design of computers, floppy disks, clocks, typewriters, headphones and Dictaphones, with lace decorations.

I suppose that was to be expected as Collingwood galleries have a reputation for showing contemporary illustration and drawing. There are more quality, contemporary, street-influenced illustration next door at Egg Gallery. “Sleep & Wake” is small exhibition of illustrations and a bit of an installation by Hollie M. Kelley and Ryan McGennisken. (See Invurt’s interview with Ryan McGennisken.) It is the current fashion for contemporary illustration exhibitions to combine a bit of an installation into the exhibition space, scatter some old stuff and a few dead leaves. Everyone is doing it, and not just the art galleries even the Collingwood furniture showrooms.

Backwoods Gallery

Ghostpatrol vs Civil, it is a battle of almost comic book proportions and a salutary lesson style and content. Civil and Ghostpatrol are legendary names from Melbourne’s streets. There is plenty of their work on the streets; more Civil now than Ghostpatrol, there are lots of new Civil pieces and I haven’t seen that many new Ghostpatrol pieces (maybe I just haven’t been in the right areas). Both Civil and Ghostpatrol have an appealing graphic style that translates well into a number of a media.

The problem for Ghostpatrol is that his pictures have nothing but a fading hint of magic. It was this nostalgia for a fading childish magic that gave Ghostpatrol’s work its charm. But this kind of charm is fleeting like childhood, and seems to limit Ghostpatrol’s growth as an artist. Childhood themes are so common; Ryan McGennisken was showing drawing with childhood themes too. Civil is working on firmer ground with people, politics and now nature as his themes. These things are timeless. And Civil has grown in both his themes and the range of media.

Ghostpatrol’s exhibition was over blown – the canvas’s were too big and there was nothing to them other than the scale and arrangement of his iconic images. There were only 5 large paintings and the installation in the middle looked like a post-minimalist sculpture from Ikea. The tiny addition in one piece of timber of a carved pond with a tiny kappa riding a carp could not take-away from this big ugly object.

In contrast Civil’s exhibition was understated and there were too many compromises with the warehouse space to allow it to really shine. Still there were plenty of small woodcuts and other pieces with an expanding repertoire of images and themes. The exhibition had the aesthetics of a shed and dead leaves, pinecones and other old things were scattered around. This was referred to in the old beer bottles that Civil had etched and the old wooden tabletops that he had carved.

It appears Ghostpatrol is stuck in the past magic whereas Civil has made preparations for the future. I’m sure others will have their own opinion on these exhibitions – what are your thoughts?


Artists who blog

A lot of artists write blogs. I even found a blog about artist’s blogs with interviews of artists about their blogging by an artist, Stephanie Levy. Artists Who Blog. Most of the artists are just photographing of their current art and posting that in a blog. I wish that more artist bloggers, especially the painters, would show something of their process and inspiration rather than simply spruiking their completed paintings for sale or advertising their next exhibition.

The Internet has exposed many crypto-artists, the secret artists, the part-time artists, and the artists who are outside of the art world circle. There are many blogs about the arts and crafts (see my post Contemporary Craft Politics & Blogs) and many more blogs about Melbourne’s street art (see my post Melbourne Street Art Blogs).

I’m surprised that zines have survived given the number of artists who are turning to blogs as their preferred media of publication but there will always be an appeal for the hand-made. Sticky Projects, in the Degreaves St. underpass at Flinders St. Station, is full of zines. I’m surprised at any print media surviving economically; the age of art magazines, like Art + Text, as a significant force in art is over.

Well this is a slack blog entry – I could be writing about who would win a death match cage fight (Jeff Koons vs Jackson Pollock) but instead I’m going to present a list of artist’s blogs. A decade ago I used to do these lists of websites for LookSmart, an international internet directory that no longer exists; so writing this entry feels a bit like my old job. I’m going to have a sandwich.

Blogos/HA HA by artist Peter Tyndall part of his meta-art work “A person Looks At A Work Of Art/ someone looks at something. Articles about recent issues and events in the arts along with notes and observations.

Self vs Selfby Sydney artist Hazel Dooney. Hazel writes regularly about her art, the process of making her art and her life.

Psalm, by the veteren Melbourne street artist of the same name. Psalm writes about street art and urban exploration and his blog features lots of photographs of derelict buildings.

Paul J. Kalemba describes himself as “an urban edible®evolutionary” and has regularly exhibited in Platform’s “Underground Garden”.

Hidden Archive by Melbourne artist Dylan Martorell, documentes his exhibitions and sound/music performances.

Earth Died Screaming by Ryan an illustrator living in Collingwood. Ryan writes about his art (showing working in progress), his inspiration and other things happening in Melbourne’s illustration scene.

Supermarketmonkey by a part-time street artist and illustrator. He has mentioned me several times in his blog and consistently sends me traffic, so I should return the favour. Supermarketmonkey writes about life and other art and the process of making art.

This Painting Life by South Australian artist Dianne Gall, writes about her art, thoughts and inspirations.

Six Hundred Degrees – Sophie Milne, ceramic artist who writes about her art practice and other ceramic and art related events. Sophie Milne used to run Pan Gallery in Brunswick.

Erin Crouch, a young Melbourne artist showing her video work and paintings on her blog. (Now by invitation only.)


Gathering Intelligence @ Brunswick Arts

“Gathering Intelligence” is a group show at Brunswick Arts “aimed at showcasing the recent works of a selection of emerging artists from around the Brunswick area.” (curator’s website statement) On a warm Friday summer evening I bicycle down to Lt. Breeze St. to attend the exhibition opening and gather intelligence on local artists.

I buy a beer at the gallery bar – the gallery is partially funded by bar sales at openings. There is the usual exhibition crowd of young women, friends of the artists and artist’s parents. I start to make notes on the A4 photocopied “catalogue and pricing” list. The prices are all very reasonable; under $200 for most works that are for sale (a few are NFS – not for sale).

The exhibition is the usual contemporary art mix of video, manipulated photos, painting, and sculpture with some quirky drawings by Serena Susnjar. Susnjar draws deliberately kitsch celebrity portraits with naff titles like: “Arnie is so confident in speeches”. Illustrations like these are a change from all the formal and otherwise empty art, so they are now a regular feature of group exhibitions. I wonder why there is so much use of solarization in the photographs of both Julie Forster and Kalinda Vary (actually Kalinda Vary’s aren’t photographs but drawings – see the comments). I’m not impressed with Polly Stanton and Adele Smith’s videos even though they both reminds me slightly of the work of David Lynch. I think that Rylie J. Thomas painting’s should be larger because they look too timid. Then there is punk work of Chris Smith, a series of photocopied band posters and two framed assemblages of readymades – “Sick Blowfly with Ointment and Gauze” and “Slowly Undressing Razor with Comb”.

After surveying the exhibition I decide to talk to Chris Smith. I find him standing outside with the rest of the smokers. Chris Smith used to play guitar in various little punk bands. Although I didn’t know of any of the bands I had played at some of the same venues – the Punters Club and the Tote. We talk about his art, catharsis, photocopying band posters and the differences between analogue and digital photocopiers. Chris misses the old analogue photocopiers and the cheap analogue tricks you could do with them.

The sound installation was being set up as I was leaving. Brunswick Arts has long had an interest in sound, both art installations and the occasional performance by bands. Breeze St. has all these new apartment blocks – I wonder how many of the new inhabitants will discover this little artist-run gallery in their shadow.


Illustration Notes

The last show that I saw at No Vacancy was the “Wooden Foundation”. “Wooden Foundation” a fun group show of artists painting on wooden supports. Some of the wood is new but there are plenty of recycled supports Twoon even painting the underside of a card table. In this and many of the work the bare wooden support is fashionably visible in unpainted areas. Bonsi had created an attractive series of birds, with bare wooden support. Nails had a series of totem poles in different colors hanging from the ceiling. Bonsai, OH54, Nails, Twoon, who call themselves the “Wooden Foundation” describe it as “a small creative family with roots deep in illustration and hand drawn typography. We work individually and as a group to make things for your tired eyes.”

Illustration is blooming in Melbourne. There is a new respect for illustration in our graphic orientated world of computers and computer games. And comic books, graphic novels and manga have propelled the interest in illustration for both the audience and the artists. These new illustrators are popular with devoted, young audience of collectors who find their work attractive and affordable.

Illustration briefly converged with Melbourne’s bourgeoning street art scene, with artists like Ghostpatrol and Miso and galleries like Per Square Metre, 696, Gorker and No Vacancy. The convergence of illustration and street art added techniques to the illustrators and to the mix on the street. Street art is trending to more illustrations, moving from simple comic book characters through to the current billboard naturalism of movie characters. And street art added street cred to the illustrators.

Arty illustrations are fashionable and many galleries are exhibiting them. Yesterday I saw illustration art on exhibit at Brood Box and in Platform’s exhibition windows of Majorca Building where there is Carmel Seymour, “I Often Feel Strangers are Controlling My Thoughts”. Then I saw the Lin Onus exhibition of masterful illustrative prints at the Counihan Gallery.

The subject of many of these illustrations is fantasy, but not the swords and sorcery kind, but the whimsical fantasy of children’s illustrated books. But these illustrations are not illustrations of any text but illustration as art. It is if they are the maquettes for yet un-printed illustrations to yet unwritten text. They have yet to be mass-produced; these are originals work on exhibition (although No Vacancy and others have produced some limited edition books). But I wish that more of Melbourne’s emerging illustrators would actually illustrate existent texts or write their own book.


Last Week

Thinking back over the last week and trying to make a blog entry out of it.

I finally saw No Vacancy’s new location on the other side of the QV centre (I do try to vary the galleries that I visit). No Vacancy has also slightly changed artistic direction, moving away from street art and is now exhibiting more illustrations. This is a move that other galleries associated with street art have also made as illustrations are more saleable. The illustrations on exhibition at No Vacancy when I visited were by Eveline Tarunadjaja, and full of detailed long hair, hence the exhibition’s title: “Dandruff”. Tarunadjaja’s illustrations are influenced by art neuvueau right down to the fonts and the use of gold ink on details.

On Saturday afternoon Federation Square was crowded with young women on Saturday attracted by the free catwalk shows, DJs, hip-hop dancers and other features of this fashion fairground, it was still more of the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival. (See my other entry on exhibitions in the festival) Catherine and I are still looking at fashion festival associated exhibitions. E.G. Etal had a good exhibition, Figment, curated magnificently by Fleur Watson. The jewelery was displayed on old overhead projectors. You could look at the piece back-lit on the projector or look at its shadow projected on the wall. (See Melbourne Jeweller’s review of this exhibition.)

Until Never also had an exhibition associated with the fashion festival. “The World of Kmossed” is exhibition by Rosie Kavanavoch with photographs from the limited edition book. The exhibition poked fun at the fashion festival, label bags and stupid, celebrity models, ripping the glamour to shreds with satire. In 2005 Kate Moss’s contract with Chanel was not renewed due to her reprobate behavior and Kavanavoch doesn’t hold back poking fun at this – and why shouldn’t she?

I had a look at Hosier Lane and there were plenty of people doing the same on Saturday. And Catherine and I went on the Giant Sky Wheel at Birrarung Marr (not the broken white elephant of a giant wheel in the Docklands). It afforded some unique and pleasant views of the city and the Yarra River and I was happy to be going around in a big circle.


Triforce Advances @ Gorker

“The triforce advance team promise to deliver a set of new work to help you hyper-teleport to other dimensions. 
As well as a new set of individual new work form each artist there will be a set of unseen collaborative pieces set amongst large treehouse installations.” – Quoted from Ghostpatrol’s email.

They were still washing the glasses from the wine tasting the night before when I visited Gorker on Thursday afternoon. On the black walls of Gorker’s main gallery there were over 60 small images along with three wooden “treehouses”. There was a crash of glass coming from the kitchen. In the white kitchen there were more works.

Triforce Advance are playing their exhibition, “The Neverending Masterquest” like a video game with a “Bonus Level” along with a wine tasting on Wednesday night. The “Bonus Level” is another new set of watercolor collaborations by Acorn, Nior and Ghostpatrol, works by the newly formed “Forest Force collective” (Acorn, Alpha-ray and Ghostpatrol) and a triptych by Sean Wheelan and Ghostpatrol. Collaboration is a very important feature of their creative process, a street art process that Ghostpatrol has successfully brought into the gallery.

Ghostpatrol, Acorn and others spent the last two weeks out in the country collaborating and creating these new works. There is real depth to all of the collaborations in the exhibition. The artists play with each other’s images; the hand-shadow puppets and other images unite the exhibition. I am not familiar with his collaborators but I have been seeing Ghostpatrol’s work on the street for many years. And Ghostpatrol is the uniting force behind both “Triforce Advance” and the “Forest Force collective”.

Like Ghostpatrol, Acorn and Noir are both skilled illustrators. Acorn creates landscapes with techno-savage child inhabitants. And Noir specializes in depicting animals along with geometric forms.  Their individual styles are clear in their collaborations but a shared childhood aesthetic unites their efforts. This not a cute childhood vision but something closer to savagery of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.

The “treehouses”, cubby houses, the childhood forts are symbols of the temporary autonomous zones of children. It is this wild-child freedom is the inspiration for Acorn and Ghostpatrol’s aesthetic – Ghostpatrol has named his studio “Mitten Fortress”. The “treehouses” have pitched roofs and are beautifully constructed from old wood and other found material. They contain all the equipment, the collections, the weapons, and the trophies, the drawings needed for life of freedom and art. One of the tree houses contained an animated digital picture of Ghostpatrol’s drawings.


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