Tag Archives: prints

Submarine Psycho Nursery

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.


Lin Onus @ Counihan Gallery

Lin Onus: Meaning of Life at the Counihan Gallery is an exhibition of prints by Lin Onus. The exhibition also traces Lin Onus’s development, his “apprenticeship” in the Northern Territories, to when he had truly found his voice as an artist.

Onus’s voice is always humorous and graphically clear but when he started to combine “rarrk designs” with Western naturalism he found his unique style and vision. It is a vision that could be painting, sculpture, or prints.

The early linocuts are graphically clear and show that Onus had good design skills but they lack his unique voice. His screen-prints of animals, frogs, fish and turtles, are in his mature style. They are less intense powerful than his paintings but the subtle use of the limited colours makes them very attractive. Some of these prints are collaborations with Shaike Snir from Port Jackson Press. Then there are the full colour prints from the series: the adventures of Ray and X. These are images that will even appeal to small boys, or the child in each of us. They show that Onus was part of the contemporary world of comic books and graphic novels. Their mix of lo-brow art and high art is part of the post-modern mix.

I have enjoyed Lin Onus’ art for decades. And what is not to like about it? They are good paintings and sculptures without a didactic or preaching voice to them, but they are not without content. In the future I hope that his work will continue to grow in popularity and Onus will be seen as one of the great Australian artists of the late 20th Century.

Since the colonial establishment of mission stations for Aboriginal people, like Coranderrk, near Healesville, manufactured artefacts, like baskets, boomerangs and possum skin cloaks. Changes in European attitudes to the art of indigenous people in the 20th century slowly lead to an increased demand for Australian Aboriginal arts and craft. In the 1950s aboriginal activist, Bill Onus established a factory and shop, Aboriginal Enterprises, in Melbourne’s then outer suburb of Belgrave. Bill Onus not only established a significant shop but also set the conditions for his son to become a great contemporary artist.

McLintock Onus (Lin Onus) (1948 – 1996) was a Scottish-Aboriginal artist of Wiradjuri descent. He was in a perfect position to understand and depict a popular, post-colonial, post-modern world. A world with many view points rather than a single perspective. And he was in a perfect position to create post-colonial Aboriginal culture in contemporary media.

It is not an easy thing to be both post-modern and popular but Onus did it. His installation of fruit bats on a hills hoist is very popular, even amongst Australians who aren’t interested in either contemporary art or Aboriginal art. He found a way of interpreting traditional aboriginal art and stories into images that are popular and meaningful to the modern world.

Lin Onus: Meaning of Life is a touring exhibition by Maroondah Art Gallery that has been subtly and coherently curated by Damian Smith and Anthony Fitzpatrick. The exhibition is part of Moreland City Council’s celebration of NAIDOC week.


Joel Gailer & Printing

I first saw Joel Gailer’s art when he established Brunswick Arts in 2004. I didn’t think much of it at the time; back then he appeared to be searching for a direction, his own voice, for a style of image making that was his signature. Now he has found it in one of the most traditional of art forms – printing.

Joel Gailer’s style is conceptual, minimal and pushes on the boundaries of printmaking. Gailer isn’t attacking the boundaries of printing; he is not trying to escape the limits of printing. Gailer is pressing hard up against the boundary to get a good print of its relief; like one of his prints where 2 wooden beams print by pressing the sticky ink onto the heavy paper that the beams hold up against the wall.

Using the definition of boundaries to make prints on is both obvious and cheeky. There is no respect for the boundaries, as Gailer gets too close for respect. He boldly states the obvious in his titles. And this cheeky wit has won him awards including in 2008 the Fremantle Acquisitive Print Award for Hot Process, a page in Art Almanac that Gailer had paid to be included in the magazine.

Gailer’s solo exhibition, “Why buy when you can make your own” at Michael Koro Galleries is a bold statement of his style of printing. Many of the prints on exhibition are made using printmaking techniques that are not considered artistic: commercial offset lithograph printing in two art magazines, commercial sign writing, digital print, and photocopy. But these are all undeniably forms of printing; as are the two car tires (with white rims to match the overall colour scheme) that have been used to print phrases on the gallery floor.

It looked like Michael Koro Gallery had been painted specifically for this exhibition. The black floor, white walls and white plinths matched the black and white of Gailer’s printing. Of course, it is the other way around; Gailer’s printing is influenced by the aesthetics of the gallery space, the art magazines and the art world.

The title of the exhibition, “Why buy when you can make your own”, is a question that many people have about extremely minimalist art that requires few technical skills to produce. It is also a problem for emerging artists to sell this kind of work. Gailer has a solution for this sell the copyright of the piece, attractively mounted in a perspex tubes on perspex plinths ready for display.


Survey @ the Counihan

Surveying the Field at the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick is a survey exhibition from artists living or working in Moreland. There are a lot of artists living or working in the Moreland area and the exhibition. Moreland City has long been the residence of many artists and the location of many artists’ studios attracted by cheap rent and proximity to the city. (Those are the reasons why I moved here.) The Moreland Leader has recently reported that the area was becoming too expensive for artists; it has also reported that there were more professional musicians living in Brunswick than anywhere else in Melbourne (and I don’t feel qualified to comment on such demographics).

Surveying the Field is an emergency exhibition, not an exhaustive survey of Moreland’s artists. The cancellation of Robert Smith’s exhibition due to illness meant that the curator Edwina Bartlem assembled the exhibition at short notice. So no great conclusions about the state of Moreland’s artists are warranted. The quality of the artists that Bartlem managed to assemble in a short time is impressive as is the variety: sculpture, painting, photography, video installation and prints.

Dan Wollmering’s wooden sculptures have a formal character to them that combines a natural chaos to its form. In a completely different aesthetic direction the hyper-realist sculptures of Sam Jinks are like the British artist Ron Muerk. In Floral a hyper-realist face appears tattooed, or shadowed, with floral patterns. The larger than life sized male and female faces are intimately and perfectly detailed to every pore and eyelash.

Sam Leach’s paintings with their dark chiaroscuro neo-baroque style are full of half-forgotten symbolism. His large painting, Peacock observes Sputnik combines ancient and modern mythologies of the heavens. His small paintings of dead and alive birds are equally symbolic and are covered with a glossy layer of epoxy resin.

Continuing the survey the aesthetic variety of Moreland artists Wilma Tobacco’s op-art paintings on shaped canvases are cool and beautiful.

Photographer Alison Bennett exhibits a series of panoramic images of caves. These evocative and symbolic womb-like spaces are seen from the inside, the bright light of the cave’s entrance is visible. Humans have modified some of the caves photographed by Bennett; graffiti covers the walls of one and in others dry stonewalls have been constructed at the mouth.

Owen Leong’s Milk Ring is a dual screen video installation, it is engaging and strange science-fiction scenario that loops endlessly. An alien tries to work a hardware-wetware interface in an exhausting and futile attempt to escape the repetition. The dual screens different views create endless choices for the viewers attention as well as expanding the scenario.

My lack of Italian is one reason that I can’t get into the hand-painted linocut prints of Angela Cavalieri’s text based art. However, many people in Moreland are fluent in Italian, so I’m sure that there will be more receptive viewers.

As usual for the Counihan Gallery there were excellent cheese/fruit platters and wine at the opening; a good way of getting value from your rates dollars. It is also a good opportunity to meet the artists and other local people interested in the arts. I met Sam Leach at the gallery, for the first time after exchanging emails with him. The speeches by curator, Edwina Bartlem and Moreland Mayor, Lambros Tapinos were short and efficient.


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.


Spin, Persephone, Homepage & Emu Feathers

David Wadelton’s paintings of contemporary pop idols are stunning. Pop art is not a movement that is confined to the history books as demonstrated by David Wadelton’s exhibition Spin at Tolarno Galleries. Pop art is about a love of popular art techniques (mass production, Ben Day dots) and the love of popular art (pop stars, movie stars and superheroes). Wadelton’s large canvases are an expression of love and adulation for these pop stars.

The eight large oil paintings in the exhibition depict the faces of pop stars have titles that refer to lyrics by the pop star. The faces look like they have all been shrink-wrapt (a filter on Photoshop) the highlights are so shiny. Packaged pop icons. The larger-than-life faces have been beautifully painted with lurid colours and photorealist styling. The backgrounds are carefully painted faux giant expressionist brushstrokes in different combinations of colours. In combining the pop and the expressionist elements in the paintings Wadelton is recreating the conflict at the genesis of pop art.

 

At Mailbox 141 is “Your Homepage” by Nada Poljski, a fine little exhibition. Poliski’s small delicate cut paper prints combine text and images. Each work folds into a little book cover. It is a series about meeting people online: the pokes, the fantasy, the reality and the homepage. It is odd to combine the virtual world with paper prints. The exhibition is perfect content to fill each of the glass-fronted mailboxes (that sounds like a metaphor for email). Poljski has an additional vitrine of slightly larger work above the mailboxes to add a bit more space to this very small artist-run exhibition space.

 

At Arc there is an exhibition by Maria Frenanda Cardoso, Cardoso’s arrangement of a standard material, in this case emu feathers, into poles and “flags” is formalist. There is no other content. The various arrangements of emu feathers is programmatic almost an index of variations. I find it interesting that the term ‘formalism’ is considered acceptable in mathematics and contemporary art but in ethics and aesthetics it denotes an invalid position. If you enjoy emu feather arrangement this exhibition is a must-see.

 

“Palimpsest: Persephone and the Underworld” by Robbie Harmsworth at 45 Downstairs explores an ancient Greek mythic theme. In a beautiful series of large prints with hand colouring and marbling Harmsworth tells part of the story of Hades and Persephone. It is only part of the story because the archaic story is incomplete; there is the palimpsest, the part erased by Zeus and the part erased by Hecate. For neither Zeus nor Hecate told Ceres, the mother Persephone that she was in the underworld.

The design of the prints successfully unites several styles from ancient to contemporary and clearly tells the mythic story. The bare trees in Ceres searching for her daughter are particularly evocative and effective.

Along with the prints Harmsworth is exhibiting oil paintings and other objects. His paintings with their outlines of details, rough backgrounds and the great mythic theme reminded me of the half finished paintings in the Paris studio, now a museum, of Gustave Moreau.

Not all of the work in Harmsworth’s exhibition is successful; the hanging figures of blackware ceramics and the samples of dried jacaranda flowers on muslin in vitrines appear like empty after thoughts. The pomegranate that Persephone ate is considered to symbolic of eternal life because they do not decay. Remarkably Harmsworth has managed to get a bowl of pomegranates at the exhibition to rot. 


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