Tag Archives: Metro Gallery

March Exhibition Reviews

For me the exhibition of the week was Concrete Poetry Now! at Melbourne City Library in Flinders Lane. This little group exhibition of visual poetry curated by Ashley J Higgs really spoke to me about what is art/poetry/music/photography. The poetry of life in letters/signs of all kinds. It is a fun and thought provoking growing exhibition that left me wanting more and made me aware of more.

I also saw the exhibitions at Blindside. Todd Johnson’s Evidence shows evidence of impacts on ordinary objects like the bonnet of a Holden. More taxidermy in art; this time a beautiful fox hanging from the ceiling (see my post Taxidermy & Contemporary Art). Did it impact with the Holden?

Also at Blindside, Kieran Stewart A Highly Unadvisable Undertaking is about his attempt to build a parachute. Stewart describes his art as incorporating “a wide range of construction and building techniques that are constantly developing as part of my multi-disciplinary arts practice.”

On the second floor of the Nicholas Building the two exhibitions at Edmund Pearce Gallery made me think about the staging of photographs; when and why a viewer might suspend their disbelief in the photographic evidence. Daniel Sponiar’s series of portraits of Melbourne chefs, Yes Chef! has many dramatic images that are obviously staged but that only adds to showing the character of the subject. However, in Rebecca Dagnall’s In Tenebris series of dark Australian gothic bush scenes the more that I noticed the staging the photograph the less convincing I found the photograph.

On the way to my train I had a brief look at Platform but found Andrea Eckersley’s painting too subtle for the space; a underpass is not conducive to contemplation. Maybe this might work at a gallery. Metro Gallery had an exhibition of paintings by Kathleen Kngale the soft and delicate colours in intense fields of dots almost completely cover the dark underpainting. Beautiful and relaxing like a soporific drug but they wouldn’t be effective in an underpass either.

Metro Art Award 2011

On Tuesday, 26 July Jeff Kennett will announce the winner of the Metro Art Award. 25 artists aged 35 and younger are in the running for the award for painting. I went ahead of the announcement to see the exhibition of the selected paintings.

Ben Smith, The Influence, oil on board

There are plenty of paintings with over blown hyperbole, dramatic images showing-off the painter’s technical skills. There are paintings that are too ordinary or too sentimental. It felt so conservative, all these young artists painting studiously but often without any purpose other than attracting attention. Ben Smith’s “The Influence (Leonard Cohen Consoles Nick Cave)” has odd proportions and in the future, when Cohen and Cave are no longer well known, the painting will just look odd.

Vincent Fantauzzo, The Creek, oil on canvas

Vincent Fantauzzo “The Creek” looking like a Caravaggio, with a baroque drama created from working with film director, Baz Luhrmann. Vincent Fantauzzo would be the favorite having previously won the 2011 Archibald Packing Room Prize winner and Metro Art Award’s People’s Choice Prize Winner in 2009 and 2008. The wild card entry would be Matto Lucas “Daruma” who has painted on a photograph of a painted face.

I think that winner might be Michael Brennan “Right Place, Wrong Time” with the intense surface of wrinkled dried paint. Or one of the artists who emerged from Melbourne’s stencil art scene: Luke Cornish (aka E.L.K.) “Untitled, Self Portrait” a multiple layered stencil his legs climbing a ladder, a familiar exercise for artists. In the past I’ve dismissed E.L.K.’s work as technically proficient let down by the content but “Untitled, Self Portrait” combines technique with powerful but restrained image. Or Ben Howe, who was a highly commended emerging artist at the Melbourne Stencil Festival 2009.  Howe’s “Time and the Elastic” is an intense, dynamic and unusual image of multiple people in multiple layers. Metro Gallery represents several local and international street artists; a framed Banksy currently hangs in the window by the gallery entrance.

“The Metro Art Award previously consisted of a Judges’ Choice Prize of $40,000 and a People’s Choice Prize of $10,000.  In 2011, the People’s Choice Prize has been eliminated and the $10,000 has been added to the Judges’ Choice Prize, which is now $50,000.” (Metro’s media release) Dropping the People’s Choice Award is a good move; there are too many of these polls and the results are too easily manipulated. Popular opinion is well represented by the selection panel itself that comprises “the Hon Jeff Kennett AC former Victorian Premier and Arts Minister (Chair); with Fenella Kernebone, Presenter of the ABC TV’s Art Nation Program; the Rev Dr Arthur Bridge AM, founder of Ars Musica Australis, a charitable foundation supporting the creative arts; and human rights advocate Julian Burnside AO QC”. 

See my review of Metro Art Award 2009.

P.S. The Metro Art Award 2011 was won by Vincent Fantauzzo with “The Creek” – I told you he was the favorite to win.

Unliveable Melbourne

This is not a review of Metro Gallery’s exhibition of Mrs Bennett’s (Nyurapayia Nampitjinpa) paintings because I couldn’t get to see it due to Melbourne’s public transport. From one of the world’s most liveable cities (but that was only if you were a senior executive) Melbourne is fast becoming unliveable due to a serious neglect in infrastructure. Melbourne has a lack of drinking water, public transport and other basic items needed for a metropolis of approximately 4 million people. Infrastructure problems have also led to power brownouts and blackouts especially in hot weather. Many of Melbourne’s suburbs like Coburg, are built without adequate public toilets, purpose built libraries and other amenities.

There has been decades of neglect and I mean decades. I frequently review exhibitions at Platform in the Degraves St. subway at Flinders Street; the subway was completed in time for the Melbourne Olympics and hasn’t been renovated since.

The 19th Century colonial vision of Melbourne was for a European city with wide boulevards of trees with trams running up the middle and suburbs connected by a network of trains. However, post-war Melbourne grew to a vast size as a huge suburban sprawl encircled the city. Flying over Melbourne you realize how flat the architecture is; there are very few buildings over two stories high and the suburbs spread out to the horizon.

The lack of a functional public transport system (actually it is not a “system” and the operators use the term “network” to describe the mess), bicycle paths, pedestrian areas and a sprawling car-based post-war metropolitan geography has created other problems for Melbourne. The cars, along with a primary reliance on coal fired power stations to provide electricity, contribute to the greenhouse effect and more extreme weather, as if Melbourne didn’t have enough variety of weather conditions.

This is might appear beyond the scope of this blog’s culture focus (‘get back to writing about art exhibitions’). But the culture of Melbourne includes its infrastructure and the political culture that has allowed the decades of neglect. It is the reason why you aren’t reading a review of an exhibition. If you would have preferred to read an art review instead of this entry then this is yet another reason for you to stop voting for the ALP and Liberal Party that have and will continue to neglect the city’s infrastructure and ruin its environment.


Metro Art Award 2009

I went to see the 2009 Metro Art Award exhibition at Metro Gallery in Armadale. It is an exhibition that has some of the best painters under 35 and given the age of the entrants this exhibition is an indication of the future of painting. And the quality of the paintings in this exhibition is magnificent. I had seen some of the entries in the last year and I knew some of the artists (Stephen Giblett and Grant Nimmo were both involved with the gallery, No Vacancy, where I had my last exhibition).

Most of the paintings in the exhibition are self-portraits, tromp l’oeil and dark images and some of the best paintings combining all three elements. Gold Coast artist Victoria Riechelt’s “Self Portrait – A Stack Of Books Crowded In A Bookshelf” was the People’s Choice winner. It is a grid of a bookcase containing Riechelt’s books. If we are what we have read then this is a portrait of Riechelt including many art/text references and “French Phrases for Dummies”,

There were so many self-portraits: Dane Lovett (highly commended), Julian Smith, and Michael Brennan’s “Me at the (Circle, Triangles & Squares)”. Michael Brennan’s triptych depicts his residence in Tokyo. Katherine Edney “Self Portrait (Time & Time Again)” has four images of her hands holding fabric gesturing towards the almost as many tromp l’oeil paintings.

Peter Tankey’s “Gregor’s Metamorphis” is the contents of a recycling bin: bottles, cans and boxes. The pile of beautiful, glistening objects is a treasure trove in a Kafkaesque world. Tully Moore’s diptych “Double Debris” plays with tromp l’oeil painting depicting paper and masking-tape. Stevan Jacks’s painting “Family Tree” is like a proverb: origami birds playing with matches against a slick dark background.

And so many dark scenes, obscure uncertain landscapes and images. The gathering darkness is evident in Vincent Fantauzzo’s scene “Out of the Dark” has two women in the white dresses at the edge of a suggested grave. The paintings of Grant Nimmo’s and Andre Piguet are full of black paint. Is the darkness in these paintings a sense of mystery or a desire for obscurity?

There is an odd kind allegory or moral voice in many of the paintings, not a pedantic Victorian depiction of virtue and vices, but a subjective and introspective reflection. Stephen Giblett’s painting “Walk On By” contains an allegory on gossip in a seaside setting typical of Giblett’s paintings. In the background the Norman Rockwell style images of the man and woman on the beach shack doors along with the rowboat named ‘gossip’. What is there left to say about the sexy girl in a swimsuit in the foreground? Likewise in Julian Meager’s “Aon (Gimmie a Chance)”, a portrait of a tattoo torso with the tattoo slogan on his chest, appeals for a chance not to be judged on appearances. Are these paintings speaking about the judging of the exhibition and the rush to judgment in the contemporary life.

There were only two abstract paintings by Fiona Halse and Ry David Bradley. The winner was, of course, nothing like the majority of the exhibition a small, pale, monotone watercolor of men praying at Mecca Our Plastic Everything is Broken by Jackson Slattery.

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