I had seen the all white relief prints before in a group show of prints at Jenny Port Gallery but I hadn’t thought much of them. I’ve seen a lot of all white art. The prints appeared to be a thoughtless but playful print gesture; the white relief prints of Rorschach test patterns pressed into thick white paper made the content entirely the responsibility of the viewer. When I saw them again at Jenny Port Gallery’s “Summer Salon” along with the mobile “Submarine Psycho Nursery” – I took note of the artist’s name – Simon Perry.
Simon Perry is the creator of “The Public Purse” in the Bourke St. Mall, “Rolled Path” in Brunswick and “Threaded Field” at the <insert corporate logo here> stadium. He is a non-figurative sculptor who has received multiple commissions for public sculptures – a unique position in Melbourne. Perry has no recognizable style or medium to advertise his identity but his art always contains a sense of play.
Perry’s mobile, “Submarine Psycho Nursery” consists of lazar-cut aluminium in the shape of Rorschach’s blogs hanging over a pair of child-sized flippers cast in bronze. The relief prints were made from these aluminium versions of the symmetrical paper folded inkblots that now hung from the arms of the mobile. In this sculpture Perry is riffing on ideas about the unconscious; combination of the Rorschach blogs, references to childhood and undersea exploration. It is a very balanced, amusing and attractive unconscious for a psycho nursery.
There is a lot of variety in rest of the “Summer Salon” exhibition. Amongst the prints, ceramics, photographs and paintings there are post-minimalist sculptures by Lucy Irvine and Carmel Wallace. And following the trend for illustrative work there are Jazmina Cininas wolf girl print series or Sarah Gully’s drawings of hirsute girls and animals – more disturbing images for a psycho nursery.
I had to go to East Richmond on Friday to check the Sweet Streets PO box (formerly the Melbourne Stencil Festival but it is much more than just stencil art now). The snail mail PO box is necessary for legal and administrative reasons but we don’t get much mail.
While I was in East Richmond I had a look at the galleries on Albert St. There are always a lot to see at the Albert Street galleries. I saw “Five Ringed Circus” by photojournalist, Michael Coyne at Anita Traverso Gallery. “Five Ringed Circus” is a series of portraits marking the 10-year anniversary of the Sydney Olympics. Jenny Port Gallery was showing “Pressing Matters – Melbourne printmaking”. This group exhibition has a variety of printing techniques by a variety of Melbourne artists. The standout works of the show were the lycanthropy inspired reduction linocuts by Jazmina Cinnas. At John Buckley Gallery there were exhibitions by Hilarie Mais and Hamish Carr but the post-minimalist optical effects that both artists were engaged in really didn’t grabbed my attention.
On Friday there were several people in Sophie Gannon Gallery, more than I’ve seen in there before during the day. I haven’t reviewed Sophie Gannon Gallery in the past as it has always appears to have exhibitions of their stock rather than exhibitions of individual artists (I don’t often write about their exhibitions as reviewing stock exhibitions is uninspiring). I always enjoy seeing the latest Michael Zavros painting in this gallery, it is fantasy art for those who like good contemporary painting. This time I managed to see the second last day of a fantastic exhibition, Nightmare’s Plutonian Shore by Julia de Ville. Read the reviews of the exhibition by Marcus Bunyan, Melbourne Jeweler and many others. I should add that there was also work by sculptor Aly Aitken in the exhibition that fitted into the macabre taxidermy theme (I last reviewed her exhibition at Platform in October 2009).
There have been some changes amongst the Albert Street galleries, in Richmond. It is a change in commercial gallery practice that has become common in Melbourne – the separate stock room exhibition space. Normally gallery stock rooms are just that a room of stock; perhaps equipped with hanging racks or with paintings stacked against the walls. Now stock rooms have become exhibition spaces. There is the new JBG1 at #1 Albert St., a space formerly occupied by Alison Kelly Gallery that specialized in aboriginal art. Open stock rooms are becoming common in Melbourne’s commercial galleries; JBG1 is much smaller than the Australia Gallery stock room in Derby St. Collingwood. Karen Woodbury Gallery has a stockroom upstairs with a relaxed sitting room atmosphere, an alternative to their white cube gallery space. Shifted Gallery and Studios, the one artist run initiative on the block also appears to have closed. On the subject of changes to galleries, there is now a gallery within a gallery at Jenny Port Gallery, with the back gallery now called Ladner & Fell Gallery.
Catherine Asquith Gallery had ‘Allure’ an exhibition of paintings by Sydney artist, Catherine Abel. Abel’s paintings certainly have an allure; luxurious female nudes adorned with jewellery and draped with rich fabrics. Catherine Abel’s nudes are allegories of styles. Each painting imitates a different decorative style from the history of art deco, art noueveau and pre-Raphaelitism. The profusion of stylistic indicators are piled on from the background decoration to the foreground details. There are other references to art history in the titles of the paintings like Kiki of Montparnasse. Although Catherine Abel’s paintings are studies in style paradoxically they are all in Abel’s own clear style. The model is the same in all of the paintings with different hairstyles to suit the style.
Read an interview with Catherine Abel.
“Water” at Mailbox 141 by Thornbury artists Rebecca James is a series of drawings. However, Rebecca James used the small exhibition space with imagination creating more than just a series of small drawings. The installation of the drawings of a woman swimming transforms the lite glass-fronted mailboxes into windows looking into a swimming pool. It creates relaxing vision for the office workers and visitors to the small, art deco foyer of 141 Little Flinders Street.
‘Views from a Speeding Train’ by Amanda Van Gils at Jenny Port Gallery is another attempt by a painter to represent the fast moving perspective presented to a railway passenger. Painters have been struggling to depict this view for over a century, a common view that emphasises our relative position. Van Gils uses motion trails to represent this movement in paint. Van Gils has selected vistas from Mediterranean France and Spain make for attractive landscapes paintings. I’ve travelled by train through some of that area. And, although there are no obvious landmarks in Van Gils paintings, I felt the views in the painting were familiar before I read their titles that refer to locations.
Read an interview with Amanda Van Gils.
The readymade is, in an odd way, a part of the history of still life painting or photography. Duchamp’s readymades are best known through photographs reproduced in art history books. Duchamp’s readymades hardly exist, those that actually exist are mostly limited edition reproductions; this is of no importance because they are not ‘retinal’ works of art but ideas. The artist chooses an object and make it art; it really doesn’t matter if the object exists in a photograph or physically because ultimately it exists as art only in the mind of the viewer.
Maree Alexander’s exhibition of photographs, Behind Closed Doors at Jenny Port Gallery is a beautiful and surreal use of readymades. The relationship that Alexander creates in her photographs between readymade objects creates new Surreal meanings. Surrealism included Duchamp’s idea of the readymade in their repertoire of techniques. Surrealism is a way of understanding the world, a world charged with unexpected meanings from the unconsciousness. And the Surreal unconscious is, not surprisingly given their Freudian influences, a sexually charged world.
Alexander’s readymades, like Duchamp’s, frequently have sexual overtones. Alexander’s kitchen ceramic objects are animated. Lemon squeezers mate with each other, a jug and teapot kiss as honey runs along their lips, a round jug presses a curved glass into a corner. There is a masculine or feminine aspect to many of the objects that Alexander has used. A small ceramic bird begs for food from the leg of a larger upturned jug.
Duchamp’s readymades were frequently purchased in a hardware shops; Maree Alexander’s readymades are found in kitchens (sourced from friends, op-shops and garage sales)
Alexander’s photographs of these surreal readymades have pale tones and a cool gaze. But behind the closed cupboard doors Maree Alexander’s objects are passionate entities.