Tag Archives: stencil techniques

Exhibitions – September & October

I have managed to see a few exhibitions on Flinders Lane (Arc One and forty-five downstairs) in the city and Albert St. in East Richmond (Karen Woodbury Gallery, John Buckley Gallery and Shifted) in between the many meetings, emails, phone calls and wrangling with the Melbourne Stencil Festival website.

David Ralph exhibition ‘Extension’ at Arc One’s small “and” gallery space is just a couple of small paintings but Ralph’s paintings are always worth seeing. David Ralph’s painting is a marvel of contemporary techniques, drips and scraps and squeegeed of paint scatter the canvas. The images appear to be cut into the surface of the paint. The eccentric temporary imaginary architecture, tree houses with a space shuttle built on the back, the caravan for which Ralph is becoming known. The scenes are like something from Wm Burroughs’s Naked Lunch. “…houses in trees and river boats, wood houses one hundred foot long sheltering entire tribes, house of boxes and corrugated iron where old men sit in rotten rags cooking down canned heat, great rusty iron racks rising two hundred feet into the air from swamps and rubbish with perilous partitions built on multi-levelled platforms, and hammocks swinging over the void.” (p.90) Ralph could have found his palette of iridescent and nitrous colours on the pages of the Naked Lunch too.

“Tiny Tunes for Wee Australians” is an exhibition of small works on paper by Mexican artist Roberto Márquez at forty-five downstairs in Flinders Lane. Roberto Márquez has created an exhibition of Mexican surreal comments on Australia in mixed media collages with added illustrations. His tiny paintings of skeletons on pressed tree leaves are very Mexican.

Megan Evans “The Fall” in the side gallery at forty-five downstairs was using more dried leaves arranging them in post-minimalist ways in wall pieces, a framed arrangement and in a DVD.

The AK44, the Blackwater AR15, the Saber Defense Elite 5.56 and the Patriot P414 (US$1,125 RRP) sounds like the catalogue of a gun show rather than a description of an art exhibition. eX de Medici exhibition, “sweet complicity” at Karen Woodbury Gallery features delicately drawn images of all of these weapons. The pictures are drawn in a mixture of ink and mica that creates a thick and glittery line. The machineguns are set amidst neo-Rocco tattoo influenced background and wrapped in garlands. The background luxuriates in an excess of detail, dragons and waves or swallows and stars, completely fill the large sheets of paper. eX de Medici is a tattoo and fine artist which explains the tattoo motifs and the ironic machismo of titles, including “American Sex/Funky Beat Machine”.

Janenne Eaton’s “Bella Vista” is a fun exhibition at John Buckley Gallery. Janenne Eaton is Head of Painting at the Victorian College of the Arts. I thought that I was going to get away from the Melbourne Stencil Festival but there was more stencil and enamel aerosol paint in this exhibition. In “Only sleep cures fatigue” (2009) Easton uses a real bamboo blind as a stencil for the image of a window blind. Eaton also uses vinyl and decal bullet hole decals, LED lights and even rhinestones in her paintings contributing to their fun.

Shifted had two exhibitions Paul Batt’s “Mountain Portrait Series” and Andrew Gutteridge’s “A Linear Collection”. Batt’s “Mountain Portrait Series” is a series of photographs of the back of different peoples heads as they looked out over a view. It is a study in looking at someone looking at a landscape. Andrew Gutteridge’s “A Linear Collection” is a scatter of minimalist sculptures and or paintings. And it was hard to tell the Gutteridge’s sculptures from his paintings, a canvas with a twisted corner or another with diagonal cut into the surface. Lots of vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines that Gutteridge has collected together and played with. Much of this play is about perspective and the illusion of three dimensions on a two dimensional plane.

São Paulo Artists in Melbourne

It was a beautiful summer Sunday in Melbourne and my idea of a good time was to take the tram to Victoria Market. Eat some bratwurst and have a wander around looking at market: everything from meat and vegetables to crystal balls can be found at Victoria Market. And then walk up the street to see Poesia Urbana, an exhibition of works by ten street artists from São Paulo, at Famous When Dead Gallery.

The São Paulo artists exhibiting were: Alto Contraste, Bete Nóbrega, Celso Gitahy, Cena7, Ceson, Daniel Melim, Emol, Highraff, Ozi and Sprays Poéticos. It would be foolish of me to try and sum up São Paulo’s famous street art scene from a single exhibition. Remarkably there is frequent contact and exchange between Melbourne and São Paulo street-artists so I am becoming more familiar with some São Paulo street-artists. I had seen Celso Gitahy’s work before this year at the “Spray The Word” exhibition at The Library Artspace in August and at Famous When Dead Gallery in April.  Bete Nóbrega had also exhibited work in Spray the Word. Her sweet folk style stencils of horses and birds with text were instantly recognizable.

Celso Gitahy, Emol and Cena7 were meant to be in attendance for live spraying and artist talks. But as it was only Celso Gitahy was there spraying away with his dredlocked manager on a table out the front of the gallery. I was interested in watching Celso spray but I was about the only one there. Celso uses stencils with plastic netting that held isolated islands of the stencil in place and he uses different bright colors on parts of the same stencil.

JD Mittmann, the director of Famous When Dead, said that he’d last seen Emol and Cena7 having a good time at Blender Studios and maybe they were still there partying. Hanging out in Blender Studios is an essential experience for every visiting international street artist (and more fun than a quiet Sunday at Famous When Dead, so I don’t blame them for not turning up). I must write more about Blender Studios as it is a dynamic place with both street-artist and contemporary artists working there.

Emol and Cena7 had received a grant from the Brazilian Ministry of Culture to come to Melbourne for the exhibition. Celso Gitahy and his manager had paid their own way (was this the reason why he was busy spraying more work?).

Celso Gitahy explained his art to me. His images are concerned with the duality of the spiritual/natural with the material/artificial. His images were evolving from humans with car heads to giraffes with electronic heads.

A couple of the São Paulo artists work showed an interest in fashion. OZI had made a pig shaped work, “Fashion Pig – Luis Vitao”, with a Louis Vuitton pattern. Alto Contraste had used paper-sewing patterns for supports for the “Fashion Freak” series. And Celso Gitahy’s “Solidao” features a stylish jacket emblazoned with bright images.

Poesia Urbana only occupied the front gallery-space of Famous When Dead, the back space was filled with a selection of work from the stock room. It was meant to be the last day that Famous When Dead Gallery would be open for the year but JD said he was going to keep it open for a few more days.

Stencil Art 1930s

Here are a few details about stencil art techniques in 1930s gleamed from the letters of Marcel Duchamp. At that time stencils were used as an alternative to expensive color printing processes to produce add colors at an affordable price. Duchamp was using professional stencil men in 1934 preparing a stencil reproduction of the Large Glass for his Green Box and, in 1937, to arrange printing of Katherine Dreier’s 40 Variations.

To Henri-Pierre Roché, Paris, 18 May 1934 “…with my stencil man. We’re having a lot of trouble and I have to make him another tracing of all the stencils he’s to make in order hopefully to achieve a result.” (p.189)

To Katherine Dreier, Paris 25 June 1937 “The news are good but slow – Naturally the printing in black of the lithograph was finished long ago – and the 3200 prints taken to the ‘colorist’ who expected to finish in a month. I called him up yesterday and I am to see, in a few days, half of the whole work cut our and ready for color-brushing. This means that his main work consists of cutting out in the zinc foil the areas for each color – The actual brushing of the color does not take much time. Anyway we will have to wait until August before his work is finished.” (p.212)

It seems safe to assume that a “colorist” and a “stencil man” (“homme du pochoir”) are the same. The use of “zinc foil” for the stencils makes sense given the number of prints to stencil and plastics were still being invented. The color is brushed through the stencil and not sprayed because aerosol paint cans were not invented until 1949.

All quotes are from Affectionately, Marcel – the selected correspondence of Marcel Duchamp, edited by Francis M. Naumann and Hector Obalk (Ludion Press, 2000)

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