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Tag Archives: post-minimalism

Tethya & Public Art

Alex Goad’s Tethya is a new public sculpture on the corner of Fitzroy and Jackson streets in St. Kilda’s restaurant strip. Tethya is a biomorphic post-minimalist sculpture. Being biomorphic and post-minimalist actually work very well together because multi-cellular organisms, like sea sponges of the genus Tethya, are made of smaller units that are basically the same. This reference to sea sponges with the smell of the cool sea air blowing in from the bay connects the sculpture to its location.

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Alex Goad, Tethya, 2015

Alex Goad is a sculptor and industrial designer who knows both about post-minimalist sculptures and marine organisms. He has won an award for designing a modular artificial reef system, as well as, sculpture prizes.

Incorporating lighting into public sculpture has returned now that the new LED lights have allowed this to be done safely with minimum maintenance, unlike earlier modern art attempts/experiments. In daylight, without its purple LED lights, the 2.7 metre high sculpture is not that exciting but the sculpture of fibre-reinforced concrete is not intended to be monumental but public art to create a hub, to mark the intersection between two roads and potentially a meeting point.

How the public will use this sculpture may be different from its intended function. It is a bit too lumpy to sit comfortable on but it will certainly tempt some people to attempt to climb it and this was the only interaction that I observed at the sculpture. The round forms don’t allow enough surface in any direction to tempt many taggers. The many deep gaps in the surface may well attract people to stuff rubbish into them, known as ‘wedging’.

One of the worst things that the media can do with a new public art is report on how much the art cost. It is misleading to the public as a figure in dollar terms fails to explain the breakdown of costs involved: materials, transportation, equipment rental, etc. In thanking the whole team of people involved in Alex Goad had to note that he was the lowest paid worker on a per hour basis. This is not unusual for a sculptor, a hundred and fifty years ago Charles Summers had the same experience making the Burke and Wills Monument. (For more about why reporting the costs is misleading see my post about another public sculpture: Big Cat Controversy.)

Instead of reporting on the cost try telling the story of the sculptures development. This time last year, Tethya was just an idea that Goad was trying to design a submission for the sculpture commission. In February he was awarded the commission. Construction started in July and the sculpture was finished a week ago, although the LED lighting still needs some more work. On Saturday afternoon I was at Linden New Art in St. Kilda to celebrate the installation of Alex Goad’s sculpture. There was a design exhibition at Linden of mostly elegant light shades, reminding me of Tethya’s lighting design.

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Flexible sculptures @ Sutton and Seventh

On my way to Sutton Gallery on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, one of the problems of rigid sculptures was made brutally obvious to me. One of the legs on Peter Corlett’s Mr Poetry was broken, the rigid bronze shell was fractured and the leg was only attached by the greater strength and flexibility of steel armature. The plinth had also been damaged where it was hit by the leg. Serious damage, but probably not irreparable.

Damage to Mr Poetry

An alternative to the standard rigidity of sculptures in both materials and concept is demonstrated in two current post-minimalist exhibitions: established international artist, Peter Robinson’s Neologisms at Sutton Gallery and emerging artist, James Parkinson’s exhibition Free Time at Seventh Gallery.

New Zealand artist, Peter Robinson has cut pieces of black and yellow felt sculptures that are pinned to the wall, stacked in piles, place against the wall and laid out on the floor. Some parts suggested letterforms, the new words of the title like the embossed text of a plaque. Robinson uses both the positive and negative forms and there doesn’t appear to be any waste material – it is all present.

Peter Robinson’s Neologisms at Sutton Gallery

Neologisms appeared to be commenting on the history of modern sculpture. From Marcel Duchamp’s 1918 Sculpture for Traveling made of rubber and string with ad lib dimensions. The grid of modernism hangs on the wall distorting its rigid geometry, the cube of the minimalists is made of felt sheets stacked in a corner. There is even a playful piece of figuration while other forms looked like early Geoffrey Bartlett sculptures.

Peter Robinson’s Neologisms detail

Although flexible sculptures do not so much define a space, as they are defined by the space and the pull of gravity, Robinson’s Neologisms determined the viewer’s movement around the gallery. Clear paths are laid out between the blocks of forms, there are linked chains across part of the gallery blocking movement and a reference to Robinson’s earlier sculptures involving styrofoam chains.

Peter Robinson’s Neologisms at Sutton Gallery

A few blocks away from Sutton Gallery at the shopfront artist-run-space of Seventh Gallery was another post-minimalist exhibition by an RMIT fine arts student, James Parkinson, Free Time. People kept on coming in from the street and asking: “What is this place?” Only to be told by the attendant that it was an art gallery and yes, you could play in the ball pit.

The main gallery at Seventh is filled with plastic balls of different colours, you have to wade through the balls to see the other rooms at Seventh. Parkinson calls his ball pit, ‘Prison’; the balls are in a prison, contained within the low walls at the front and back of the space. This prison gives freedom to enjoy the ball pit and playing in the ball pit is fun.

James Parkinson Prison Seventh Gallery

Free Time consists of a ball pit, a post-minimalist sculptures made of many plastic balls and four walls pieces, walls of plastic Lego blocks in uniform colours: grey, sky blue, orange and pink. (Where do you get Lego in those colours?) There is a fun contrast between lack of play in the rigid walls of Lego blocks and play of the ball pit contained with its rigid walls.

Post-minimalist adds a degree of play, levity and oxymorons to the serious formal rigidity of minimalism. This flexibility gives the sculptures freedom,  their flexible form has play in it, in that the materials have give and there is some slack.


Scrase for Mayor

“My early sculptural work was about connecting ‘objects’ so they form beautiful structures. My current interest is making connecting ‘people’ so they form beautiful communities.” Carl Scrase

Carl Scrase is an emerging Melbourne sculptor, who inspired by Melbourne’s Occupy movement has announced his candidacy for Mayor.

I first encountered Carl Scrase work at Seventh Gallery years ago where I was amused by his sculpture made of super-balls and toothpicks. He moved on to working with bull nose paperclips and won the $5000 2010 Archangel Prize. Recently I saw his paper sculpture with a plinth made of tall stack of A4 paper at Dianne Tanzer Gallery.  Connecting ordinary objects as the small units into larger structures is the essence of Scrase’s sculptures. They made post-minimalism appear fun.

Is our empathy on the rise, image courtesy of Carl Scrase

I’ve also seen his “is our empathy on the rise?” paste-ups around the streets of Melbourne and Fitzroy. The blank space underneath the question and the arm high level of the paste-up invites responses and responses to responses. This is the kind of street dialogue that graffiti has always engaged in but Scrase has given it a paste-up forum.

Following the script from the propaganda model for attacks on the Occupy movement, the current Mayor Robert Doyle has attacked Carl Scrase for receiving art award (that he richly deserves) and arts grants from the city of Melbourne. These attacks were amplified by the Herald Sun newspaper who ran the story: “Occupy Melbourne protester Carl Scrase takes the cash” by Anne Wright and Stephen Drill, December 06, 2011 (see my post: Newspaper Wreaks City). I don’t think that Mayor Doyle’s attack is motivated by any fear that Carl Scrase and his team will damage his re-election chances rather just another attacks on the Occupy movement, even if it is a ridiculous argument. Mayor Doyle’s argument exposes his idea that the reason for artist’s grants and prizes is to buy the loyalty of artists.

It is interesting to know that Occupy movement has inspired people, like Scrase and the people on the Council election ticket with him, to engage with the political process. Scrase believes in democracy and that “the age of professional politicians is over”. In contrast the main political parties have encourage popular disengagement and the political machine that have kept them in power.

The banker, Max Rothschild, wrote (regarding the Italian Futurists but consider it in the response to the Occupy movement) – “When there bursts froth from one mansion a song of youth and originality, even though harsh and discordant, it should be received not with howls of fury but with reasonable attention and criticism.”


November 2010 Exhibitions

Tim Sterling’s solo exhibition, “Metamaterials” at Michael Koro Galleries is a post-minimalist exercise in sculpture and drawing. Post-minimalism is like minimalism but with a lot more. Sterling’s sculptures use a lot and lots of paper clips held together with cable ties most impressively a small I-beam (17x73x80cm) supported between two perspex pillars. His drawings are made up of a many, many small marks with a pen, his drawing “Wall” is made up of repeated marker pen marks that form bricks in a wall.

At Mailbox 141 Tasmanian sculptor Ange Leech has a small solo exhibiting “Hand of the Composure”. Leech has carved small wooden puppets and masks along with collages that are pinned together. These collages are subject to alteration like the articulate joints of the puppets.

This time of year there are many exhibitions by graduates of art, design, photography and jewellery courses.

RMIT Diploma of Photoimaging Graduates are exhibiting at First Site (“photoimaging” is a portmanteau word includes both photography and digital imaging technology). The reality that photography once implied has been replaced with fantasy and glamour. There is a lot of fantasy in this exhibition to the extent of visionary art, fashion and glamour model photography.

Box Hill Institute jewellery graduates their work at Guildford Lane Gallery. It is not just rings and necklaces there are wall pieces, cups, spoons, an hourglass of luminous sand and a wizard’s staff with a crystal ball. Some of the jewellery is inspired by Alice in Wonderland themes from a course assignment.

Guildford Lane Gallery is strange place to visit during on a weekday; they obviously don’t get a lot of visitors. It is an old factory/warehouse with a music space/bar on the ground floor. Whenever I go in someone asks if I’m here for some exhibition, I say yes and they tell me that it on the 2nd floor. They then follow me up the stairs to turn on the lights.

 


September 2010 @ Blindside

I’m thinking about how to write art reviews/criticism as I consider how to review the two exhibitions at Blindside: Amanda Airs “Beach Box Blue” and Jacque Drinkall “Weather Underwater”. Should I bother to review bad exhibitions when I could just use my energy to write about the ones that I liked? But if I were to only review one of the two exhibitions at Blindside it would imply that I didn’t like the other without exploring the reasons for this choice.

Karen Thompson, Melbourne Jeweller wrote in her blog: “I find I can be affected by reading other reviews and media before seeing or writing about an exhibition, such that my reaction can sometimes be unconsciously formed a little by what I read. I counter this by usually not reading anything before seeing the show and writing my initial response, to be sure I understand my own opinion, and then find it really interesting how that can change with further reading etc. So, I’ll write my initial response before doing any research into the exhibition, and then write more after doing some more reading.”

I agree with this approach; in doing further reading I will first try to find out what the artist has done before this exhibition. I will further investigate the ideas behind the art, where it fits into the history of art and what it means to a culture. I will then read other critics opinions on the artist. So where does reading the artist’s statement fit into this program?

Blindside has been providing single A4 sheet folded catalogues with all of their exhibitions this year. Along with a couple of colour images of the work and exhibition details there is always a statement by the artist in these catalogues.

Jacque Drinkall’s artist statement for “Weather Underwater” is pointless nonsense, as opposed to nonsense with a point, like satire, parody, Dada or Surrealist nonsense. It is mental diarrhea – incoherent and messy. Like her exhibition the initial attraction of the photographs, videos and sculptural objects quickly breaks down on realizing that there is little connections between them. It appears irrelevant, so why bother trying to read Jacque Drinkall’s mind when all indications suggest that it is scrabbled?

“The culture and aesthetics of telepathy and psychic life permeates the ‘everyday’. My art works creatively with telepathy to better understand and change the world.” – Jacque Drinkall (“Weather Underwater”, catalogue)

Amanda Airs exhibition statement for “Beach Box Blue” was both coherent and expanded on what was already visible in her exhibition. She has located her work within the history of art (Bridget Riley and op art), she has explained her technique (spatial distortion through colour and the illusion of movement “through the use of contrasting colour and repetition of line and angle”) and, finally, she has added her personal experience of optical effects.

“Beach Box Blue” is a post-minimal installation of colored threads creating optical effects. I have seen other artists in Melbourne using thread to divide up spaces but “Beach Box Blue” is the most intense and optically satisfying of these works due to Amanda Airs choice of colors and painting the gallery wall to emphasize the contrasting colors.

I don’t think that artist’s statement should be included as a matter of course for all the art exhibited. My advice to most artists is not to write artists statements. Artists are often not the best people to write about their own art – how many media do you expect them to master?


Laneway Galleries in July

Melbourne’s gallery scene is moving northwest, into the laneways off Elizabeth Street, away from Hosier Lane and the ‘Paris end’ of the city. The old blue-stone factories that once operated in these lanes have long closed and their large rough spaces are being turned into art galleries including: Brood Box, Utopian Stumps, 1000 Pound Bend and Guildford Lane Gallery. Many of these spaces also operate cafes and other function spaces in combinations with the galleries.

On Friday I was walking around these laneways looking at several exhibitions and the street art in the laneways. Graham Brindley had invited me to an opening at Guildford Lane Gallery the night before, but I couldn’t make it due to a meeting for Sweet Streets (the re-branded Melbourne Stencil Festival). Graham Brindley had invited me after I reviewed some of his work in 09 VCA Grad Show. It was a group exhibition called “Substance” at the top floor of Guildford Lane Gallery. The show proposes to explore “materiality through process”. Veronica Cavern Aldous did this wonderfully with her “Speed and stillness 5”, a LED light box mounted behind a larger block semi transparent yellow Perspex. It looks like a small, animated Rothko as the colours subtly changed. Graham Brindley’s work, “Counterpoint” was one of the strongest works in the show and deserving the centre of the gallery. The white and lead grey paint boxes stood dramatically opposite each other, the positive and the negative, the materials determining the process of creation and exhibition.

“Discreet Objects”, a group exhibition at Utopian Stumps (also in Guildford Lane) was worth a look to see Lauren Berkowitz’s “Installation #04”. It is post minimalist curtain of pages from a telephone book is impressive and beautiful. Her “White Residue” made of thread and leather cricket ball off-cuts was not as successful because it lacked the geometric order of her “Installation #04”. Alex Martinis Roe’s glass and steel sculpture is minimalist and coherent. Sriwhana Spong’s two silk (dyed with coca cola) pockets were a clever adaptation of the formal square of material support with the images and objects contained in the pocket rather than applied to the surface.

At Brood Box I talked with Justin Garnsworthy, the artists behind “Recipe for disaster”, the current exhibition. He is currently doing his Masters in Fine Art at Monash. The exhibition is a bit like Basquiat meets Schwitters. Bread is the central theme for this exhibition by Garnsworthy. Bread is the basis of civilization and the scavenging birds become the symbolic enemy. The recipe for bread becomes the recipe for the current disaster of civilization. Garnsworthy has used bread in a number of ways in his art: as a mask for aerosol painting, creating brick like patterns in the background of some paintings and casts of bread in aluminium.

“Hey Joe, where are you going with that paint brush in your hand?” I also saw Joe at Brood Box, he was cleaning things up from the previous exhibition that he’d run there and was also preparing for an opening at Warburton Lane Gallery that night. I’d seen him in the MX News (8/7/10) the day before – but we hadn’t spoken on that occasion. I first got to know Joe when I interviewed him about his approach to artistic training and education – see my blog entry about that.

Visiting the laneways off Elizabeth Street is a must for any Melbourne urban explorer interested in contemporary art or just a cup of coffee.


Goodbye Bus

A post-minimalist jellybean on pin installation, “one jel-ly bean, two” by Natalie McQuade, covering all the wall space in Bus’s foyer. It was so beautiful, so minimal and so fun with the red and orange jellybeans pinned in a modernist grid.

Continuing the fun there was a kitsch over-load of plastics and cleaning products of  “The Lodge” by Bree Dalton, Sarah Lynch, Cherelyn Brearley, Sarah Oldham in the Skinny Space. Not all of the artists seemed to be on board with this eccentric program and the paper cuts works didn’t work with the rest of the installation.

Then there is the blackness of “The Garment-Body” by Sarah Berners in the Main Space. “The Garment-Body” is part of the fashion festival, part PVA sculpture, part photography, part ugly, part stupid and all fun. Black is used with playful and magical effect; in one photograph the model’s legs are the only things visible amidst the blackness. I loved it partially because I wear black a lot of the time.

“Days Of Our Lives” by Melanie Chilianes is a quadraphonic soundscape, a condensed version of the TV soap opera. It is installed elegantly in the Sound Space with a single small tapestry of a man’s face by Michelle Hamer pinned to the wall. It didn’t really do much for me but I was impressed with the quadraphonic effects.

This is the last show for Bus Projects, “an independent art space”; I will miss the space, whatever it is called: “gallery”, “projects”, “art space” or “artist run initiative”. I’m not going to gush that I loved all their shows; sometimes I was disappointed after hiking over to the boring northeast side of the city, walking along Little Lonsdale Street and climbing up the wooden stairs. It wasn’t the best space for art, but they fitted in as many exhibitions as they could with all the various spaces and there is a surplus of exhibition space in Melbourne. I started this blog because I thought that there were exhibitions in spaces like Bus that were worth reviewing – good or bad. One of my favorite recent exhibitions at Bus was an exhibition of Indonesian art (Indonesian Art @ Bus); Bus may have been a small gallery but it had a vision of its place in the world.

Goodbye Bus.


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