Black Dot Gallery – Brunswick Art Space – Tinning Street presents…
This week I’ve been riding my bike to a few galleries in Brunswick. It was fun to ride my bike to the Counihan Gallery last Sunday (see my review January @ Counihan). It is much better than using public transport to get to a gallery. Plus I got to see all of the graff along the Upfield bike path and around Brunswick. Lush has been bombing so many of his cats along the line. There were half a dozen people painting along the bike path on Sunday – they were only up to the outlines and blocking in – so there will be new pieces to see next time I ride that way.
I hadn’t been to Black Dot Gallery in Brunswick East before. There is a gift shop/office space in the front and then a separate long room with a wood floor, white walls and track lighting. Black Dot Gallery is an aboriginal artist-run gallery space with a regular program of exhibitions.
Their current exhibition “Dandy Boy” is part of the Midsumma festival’s visual arts program. It is a group exhibition so the quality of the work varies. I was impressed by Cecilia Kavara’s “Identity Negative’ a 9 min projection of a high contrast image of Kavara removing white tape that covers her body, slowly disappearing, right until the final moment when she walks off with a few scraps of tape still on her.
On Friday night there were two exhibition openings in Brunswick and at each all the poles around both of the galleries had bicycles chained to them.
At Brunswick Art Space, there was “Entry”, the 8th annual Brunswick Art Space Contemporary Art Prize. With 91 works on exhibition there was a lot to look at and some obvious trends. Art with text was a major feature of many of the better works, like Lesley O’Gorman “No Shoes” but art text has been a trend for a century. There was also a lot of good art that was raw, brutal and rough; the best of these was Courtney Wills “Internal Series: ILEUM”, a lumpy chunk of wax that was slowly bleeding something sticky and red onto its elegant glass and steel plinth.
Belinda Wiltshire “Bask” 1985 & 2013 at Tinning Street presents…
Tinning Street Presents… had “Your Old Self” an exhibition of artists reinterpreting an artwork from their childhood. It is an excellent theme for an exhibition, the artist’s childhood artwork and a current artwork united in painted circles on the gallery’s wall. It takes Picasso’s remarks about painting like a child to a new level. The exhibition included works by notable artists Sam Leach and Shaun Tan. Tan did a painting based on a childhood drawing “Fighting a Monster”.
I was riding my bicycle because I’m tired of public transport as a way of getting to see galleries. Myki is getting me down (my card has broken down twice) on top of the decades of neglect and poor service; Melbourne public transport is simply not good value for money. So I’m going to try to see more local galleries for a while. I still haven’t been to Ceres small works gallery Synergy Gallery @ The Red Train. Last month I rode my bicycle to the Library Gallery; I missed the Ros Bandt performances but saw the installation of her instruments. There are plenty of galleries within easy riding distance from my house and when I get my fitness level up there will be more.
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.
I’ve been busy in January; I’ve also been working on preparing for this year’s Melbourne Stencil Festival – yes, already. I have been to a few exhibitions and I’ve been keeping my eyes open on the streets. I ran into performance and video artist, Michael Meneghetti in the street moving lumber by bicycle; it is good to see an artist using a bicycle and not adding more pollution. He told me about the upcoming exhibition at Michael Koro Gallery where he curates the Melbourne propaganda window.
I walked down Flinders Lane even though most of the galleries weren’t open and I wasn’t impressed by most of what I saw. Mailbox 141 had a selection of drawings by artists from various commercial galleries. I finally saw Guildford Lane Gallery, a two-story gallery made from a converted factory; some of the machines are still there. I particularly enjoyed “Vessel” by Janet Carter because it was black, beautiful and made the vibrations of sound visible. Guildford was showing part of the Midsumma visual arts program that occupies most of the gallery spaces that are open in January – City Library, Platform 69, Smith St. and more.
I saw the Pigment exhibition “new release” of recent arts graduates; I meant to see the exhibition of recent graduates at Blindside but was busy on Thursday and was only in the city on Wednesday. The exhibition had an unsettling quality to it because the more the artist looked comfortable and confident with their media the more boring I found their art. The art on exhibition that I enjoyed was neither comfortable nor confident. Valentina Palonen’s centrepiece sculpture “Separation Anxiety” was the most powerful work in the exhibition but it was so funky ugly, kitsch ugly that I never felt comfortable looking at it. I described some of Palonen’s smaller sculptures in my notes as: “ugly kitsch blobs”. Melissa Grisancich’s pop meets Frida Karlo images were also unsettling and mysterious, as were Kate Winterton’s surreal photographs.
Then there was the truly bad art, not just the disturbingly ugly. Bad exhibitions are often shown in January when those galleries that are open are desperate to exhibit something. I went to Brood Box but quickly walked out again as Bill and Helen Kemp mixed media landscapes are horrible. Mixing painting with fabric art is often a recipe for bad art and this exhibition is not an exception.
In the end I didn’t get to the opening at Michael Koro Gallery on Thursday as I was being interviewed for yet another documentary about Melbourne’s street art until 7:15. Maybe I’ll get to see it in February.