Tag Archives: installation

Sublime to the Spooky

I saw a few exhibitions this week that ranged from the sublime to the spooky in some unusual locations and some of the usual locations.

Lucas Maddock, New Hypothetical Continents

Lucas Maddock, New Hypothetical Continents

Lucas Maddock’s New Hypothetical Continents is at Dome Gallery. Dome Gallery is at The Mission to Seafarers, one of the few old buildings in Docklands. Under the great domed space, the lights of Maddock’s new continent twinkle in the circular space. The continent’s scale matches the space and creates a beautiful spectacle in a location that resonates with sea transport. Maddock’s work references the modern fascination to discover or create a modern Atlantis. Maddock came public attention when he and Isaac Greener were part of the Melbourne Sculpture Prize in 2011 and his Apostle No.2 stood in Federation Square.

Like many people I went to see The Vivisector to see Andrew Delaney has sewn soft tissue sculptures; it was clearly a very popular little exhibition. It reminded me of soft versions of Damien Hirst, The Virgin Mother, 2005 as well as, what I know of the history of anatomical models. All the fabric hearts, arms and other body parts were very good and impressive but not brilliant. The work has a visual sensationalism with an instant appeal, of transferring anatomical models to fabric but after that what is left. It was a bit too slick, showing evidence of Delaney’s decade of work at Myer, as a visual merchandiser and stylist. It has a strange corny macabre aesthetic; the kind that does attractively present a fabric model of a foetus nestled in a broken down arm chair. I thought that the work looked better when I saw some of the work amidst all the clutter at his studio, Anno Domini Home at the back of Harold and Maude than in Edmund Pearce Gallery also on Level Two of the Nicholas Building.

Hidden Faces of the Archibald Exhibition, also known as ‘the Melbourne Salon de Refuses’, the best of the Victorian rejects from the Archibald Prize in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel. With the Archibald there are so many entries that these little side exhibitions have been going for decades, each with their own people’s choice prize. Looking at most of the portraits you can instantly see why they didn’t get into the Archibald: tired old techniques, awkward poses, really odd ideas (like, why is Ted Baillieu’s head on a tree?) or too obscure a subject for the Archibald’s idea of a notable Australian.

At Screen Space Patricia Piccinini Swell, 2000 made me feel slightly unbalanced watching the three screens of animated waves but I was more impressed with Leela Schauble’s Synthetic Species Motion Study No.7 because it was creepy and relevant to plastics in the ocean. However my preference for Schauble’s work may be influenced by the development of digital animation in the last 14 years.


Fun to Funky @ Brunswick Arts

Brunswick Arts – Launch ’12 – Exhibition Opening

The exhibition is the best of all the arts graduate shows from the end of last year. I didn’t get to all of the arts graduate shows last year but Carmen Reid and Max Piantoni did and Launch ’12 at Brunswick Arts is their selection. (I can’t believe that I didn’t speak to Carmen Reid, I’ve enjoyed her art for years and I still haven’t met her – see Carmen Reid at Brunswick Arts. I ended up talking to Max Piantoni because he was talking with Alister Karl instead. It must have been the spectacle of the exhibition disorientating me.)

I arrived at Brunswick Arts just as the toffee was about to touch the floor from Skye Kelly’s “Suspended Cubes”. The beautiful tendril of toffee stretched at a speed slightly slower than human vision but every time that I looked back it had changed. Four giant blocks of black toffee were suspended from the ceiling with cotton cords. One of the black cubes had lost its rigid geometry; it was melting faster than the others and was slowly dripping to the floor. The shiny texture of the toffee with a golden crust on top produced a beautiful two tones. Kelly must have timed the toffee melting for this moment. The suspended cubes of toffee make great sculptural forms and I hope to see more toffee sculpture from Skye Kelly. I saw Kelly’s “Creep”, 2011 with more of her toffee work last year at First Site.

It was an impressive beginning to an exhibition that ranged from fun to funky. There are very funky gibbons of Jemila MacEwan, made from recycled clothing, and the equally funky “Phantom Limb” by Emily Bour. The art is fun; none of the artists seemed to be taking it too seriously. It is also fun for the visitors, interacting with Isabelle Rudolph’s “Double Vanity”. This play tent/circus tent allows two visitors to interact in private, wearing masks, sitting back to back and taking photographs on a camera Rudoph provided.

Renuka Rajiv’s drawings and zine are very sexy. There is a Matisse influence to her work on paper especially the blue nude. Good erotic art is so rare. C asks me is there a parental advisory warning about these? Not at Brunswick Arts and anyway the half dozen children who are at the opening aren’t interested in Rajiv’s sexy drawings they are fascinated with spotting the strange creatures in the terrarium and the fan blown sytrofoam balls in the project space out the back of the gallery.

“Nothing astounds me more than the taste of the commonalty for dogs, cats, parrots, etc. For my part, a creature interests me only when its reactions become totally alien to me. The leech isn’t too bad, the starfish is quite an improvement. But slugs! Speak to me of slugs!” – Julien Torma (1902 -1933) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julien_Torma

Katherine MacIagan’s “Creature Series” consisted of slugs in a terrarium, magnificent slugs worthy of Julien Torma, sparkling “jewellery objects” of copper, enamel paint, silicone, fur and stainless steel, like nudibrake amidst the sticks and dead leaves.

By 7pm a large crowd was filling Brunswick Arts and the warehouse space was really heating up even with the efforts of the two portable air-con units. Outside in Little Breeze Street behind Alaysa’s – there are building sites everywhere, Brunswick Arts is about to be surrounded by 9 story apartment blocks – Winchester, the gallery cat was waiting for people to pat him as they left.

@ 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.

Fractals @ Platform & Sutton

The beauty of fractal geometry is that it is naturally beautiful, as well as mathematical interesting. So it has a lot of appeal to artists, as well as, mathematicians and weather forecasters. Amongst the many artists currently attracted to fractal geometry is Brett Colquhoun, exhibiting at Sutton Gallery, and many of the artists exhibiting this May at Platform.

Colquhoun is an established Melbourne artist with a long had an interest in science and symbols. In his current exhibition at Sutton Gallery Colquhoun uses the fractal geometry of bifurcation is present in cracks, lighting and roots in a series of black and grey canvases. The field of paint on the surface becomes a surface to compare lighting and roots or simply to crack. Colquhoun’s flat paint appears methodical and cool. There are also paintings in the exhibition that explore the more complex fractal geometry in magnetic fields or flames but they don’t work as well.

At Platform New Zealand artist, Kate McIntyre’s Growth, uses cracks and roots as well, but they don’t work as well as Colquhoun’s. This is because the square roots are made from cubes of drawing paper and the cracks are made from chrome vinyl. This surreal installation plays with its location beneath Flinders Street and imagining the strange roots of the city.

In the Vitrine is a Brisbane-based textile artist Sue-Ching Lascelles installation I’m Lichen You a Lot. Lascelles uses multiple pieces of colored felt to create an artificial surface with the fractal beauty of a lichen-covered surface. It is a simple idea that has been beautifully executed.

There are fractals in the illustrations of the branching tree heads in the prints of Ness Flett’s A Pictorial Essay of Devolution. And there are natural fractals in the cracks of the brunt logs and grevillia leaves of Matt Shaw’s third underground garden. Shaw’s underground gardens are Melbourne’s smallest and most unusual and they are works of art. Shaw’s garden is the simplest, eloquent and life affirming of all the recent artistic references to Black Saturday bushfires that I have yet seen. Now that I’m looking for fractals I am seeing them everywhere.

Wonderland @ Blindside

Wouldn’t you like a bigger picture? Not just a bigger window rather a picture that is more like the way that you see the world. The Holy Grail of pictorial art is a picture that depicts the way we see. All kinds of technologies have been employed in the history of at to attempt this from advances in optics to the ironwork necessary to support very large canvases. There is a huge catalogue of attempts to create a bigger picture from cinema, cycloramic images, holograms, collages of multiple Polaroids, stereoscopes and many more.

Visual artist, Tim Webster’s exhibition “Wonderlands” at Blindside uses an installation of 40 LCD digital photo frames hanging from the ceiling to create a big picture, complete with soundtrack, of Rio’s famous landmark viewpoint. This impressive installation attempts to mimic eye movements. Each digital photo frame shows a short video, a still shot sometimes gently zooming in and out on an area. The installation is like a collage of multiple views. 

I met Tim Webster at the gallery as he was replacing one of the screens that had developed problems. He told me that this was, in a way, for a maquette for a larger work, with bigger screens, an even bigger picture.

Along with the installation there is a series of colour still photographs on exhibition in the Blindside’s second gallery space, however these were unimpressive compared to the installation. And what is there to “Wonderland” aside from the technology and installation of a bigger picture? The subject matter of Christian tourists at a clichéd viewpoint above the city of Rio is less wonderland and more Disneyland.

Indonesian Art @ Bus

Having seen “Kompilasi: A survey of contemporary Indonesian art” at Bus I would have to conclude that contemporary art in Indonesia includes a lot of performance elements. Having missed the opening of the exhibition I was mostly looking at the ghosts of the performances in the galleries, ghosts captured in photographs and videos.

The star of the show is Jompet Kuswidananto’s “Java – the ghost warrior”, a video installation. It is instantly engaging and entrancing, the slow motion dancer on the video and the figure made from empty helmet, drum and boots. And then I realized that Jompet has done something amazing; the ghostly drummer beats his drum in time with the video. Having made such an impressive impact I was well prepared to meditate on Jompet’s post-colonial themes.

Attending artist Tintin Wulia’s wall painting map “Terra Incognito etcetera” was the remains of a performance, with its trays of flags and wine glasses with dried paint. Bambang ‘Toko’ Witjksono’s installation and performance “Future House” felt as ghostly as an empty real estate office in a new suburb. The table of colour printed and die-cut cardboard box houses looked like McHappy Meal boxes.

Angki Purbandono’s “Anonymous project” and “The Indonesian Wedding Photo Ritual” looks at the ordinary performance of ordinary people in photographs, like wedding photographs. Angki Purbandono playfully examines the structure of Indonesian pre-wedding, during wedding and post-wedding photographs. The inclusion of a mock Gilbert and George performance in “The Indonesian Wedding Photo Ritual” series is more insightful than a simple homage.

The Taring Padi collective have 2 large woodblock prints on canvas banners in the exhibition. In 2002 I first encountered the art of Taring Padi in a small exhibition of posters, publications, banners and videos of their performance at Irene Warehouse in Brunswick. At that time the Taring Padi collective had been working for 4 years, now they are over 10 years old. 10 years later Taring Padi’s people art style is still recognizable and is even more intense.

Curators Kritis Monfries, Tim O’Donoghue and Georgie Sedgwick have made an excellent selection of contemporary Indonesian art. The exhibition fills the whole of Bus gallery including the stairs and in a painting on the front wall of the gallery. The selection of contemporary Indonesian art is fun and engaging without any loss of serious content. Not having a lot of knowledge of contemporary Indonesian art I don’t know if “Kompilasi” is representative survey but it is a good exhibition.

Current Hippy Art

Last year in July Matthew Watts exhibited in Off the Kerb’s back room now he is exhibiting more hippy inspired images at Shifted. “What Time is Love” is a strange scene that looks like it could be from the late 1960s when Matthew Watts was a child. Actually the mix of figurative ink paintings and op art along with an installation and neo-dada plaques would not have occurred in the late 1960s but it looks like it could have.

Op art circles create empty spaces where the faces of the hippies would have been. Watts combines romantically painted in ink or drawn in graphite with hard edge abstraction. The subtle faces drawn in the rock of dolman in “Om Station #1” is approaching kitsch but the geometric image above it goes off in a different direction. And Watts’ work keeps on going off in different directions with the work in the exhibition. Framed plaques with “Eternity Ltd.”, “Utopia Inc.”, and “Freedom Corporation” are amusing ideas. And “Ampwood”, the installation of white mattress, white shoes, white stereo speakers and white wooden blocks amongst reddish brown leaves took the exhibition in another direction. The exhibition gives no clues about if Matthew Watts is doing. Is it a re-examination or a continuation of the hippy subculture?

Penelope Aitken’s exhibition at West Space’s Gallery 3, “You seem so settle for one that doesn’t belong” is in a similar aesthetic to Matthew Watts. The exhibition is lit exclusively with an ultraviolet light and reminded me of the day-glo sixties. The ultraviolet light makes the white lace dollies glow. The white circular dollies are like sixties spirograph images in their geometric intricacy. The white dollies reminded me of the growth of lichen on rocks, reinforced by the installation of a large glowing boulder in the gallery. Along with the installation Aitken is showing paintings of the boulder with dollies.

I feel ambivalent about both of these exhibitions even although both of them are fun to look at. There is something uncertain about both of these exhibitions or maybe that is just my attitude to hippy art. In 1980s ‘hippy’ became an insult, a word that meant a naïve optimists who will soon betray their ideals. 

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