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Tag Archives: textile art

Barry Keldoulis is Fucked

Last week Geoff Newton had a small exhibition of Paul Yore’s textile work at his Melbourne gallery, Neon Parc. Yore’s work reminded me of the art of English Turner Prize-winning artist, Chris Ofili for there is the same intensity, insanity and psychedelic intensity of both of their vision complete with sequins and vibrant colours. It was a chance for Melbourne to see it before the work was due to go up to Sydney for the Sydney Contemporary, Sydney’s new international art fair.

Paul Yore, "Fountain of Knowledge", 2013

Paul Yore, “Fountain of Knowledge”, 2013

Then a few hours before its VIP preview Sydney Contemporary announced that it would not be showing Paul Yore’s work. Sydney Contemporary’s Director Barry Keldoulis made the following statement: “Sydney Contemporary supports artists and their practice, but we respect and work within the laws of the jurisdiction. Our decision with regard to the installation is a about the law of the land and they are on the wrong side of it. When we saw the work we recognised the issues and sought legal advice which confirmed the work offends various relevant provisions in the Crimes Act Legislation in NSW. We regret having had to make the decision but have no doubt it’s in the best interests of all the artists and galleries showing at Sydney Contemporary 13.”

Keldoulis’s statement is overly definite (“no doubt”, “they are on the wrong side of it”) and at the same time vague (“various relevant provisions”). It implies that nobody at Sydney Contemporary had seen Paul Yore’s work before (very unlikely) and that censorship is “in the best interests of all the artists and galleries showing” (again very unlikely). We don’t know what issues Keldoulis “recognized” and why these same issues were not recognized when Paul Yore exhibited the some of the same work at Neon Parc, Ballart Art Gallery or the Melbourne Art Fair.Paul Yore, "Fountain of Knowledge", 2013 detail

The Crimes Act in NSW does refer to “blasphemous libel” but that was last successfully prosecuted in 1871. Blasphemy is not in the Crimes Act of Victoria and this might explain why there was no police raid on Neon Parc or the Ballart Art Gallery when one of the works removed from Sydney Contemporary was exhibited there. (Not that the Victoria Police regularly attend art galleries to check – they only do that when prompted by right wing scum.) I’m sure that Paul Yore’s work “Fountain of Knowledge” could be regarded as blasphemous libel (if you wanted to) but that would need to be proven in court. Keldoulis is libellous in claiming that there is “no doubt” that Paul Yore’s art is criminal.

P.S. (20/9/13) Subsequent to publishing this blog post Keldoulis provided some degree of clarification as to what part of Crimes Act he was referring to. NSW has laws about the depiction of children. Arts Law website states: “As at 1 March 2013, genuine artistic purpose is no longer a defence to the offences of production, dissemination, and possession of material that depicts children pornographically.” Under this yet untested law “pornographically” is defined very broadly as “in a sexual context”.

P.S. (29/9/13) Keldoulis and his legal team also removed the work of Queensland artist Tyza Stewart. Do the directors of art fairs normally tour the yet to be opened fair with a barrister to check if the art is legal? Or is Australia or Keldoulis abnormal?

P.S. (2/12/15) To be fair to Keldoulis you can read his response my questions in a blog post: Censorship, Barry Keldoulis and Paul Yore. To be fair to Paul Yore in 2013 the Australian Classification Board classified Yore’s  installation, Everything is Fucked as “Classification 1, Restricted, suitable for people over the age of 18” meaning that it is definitely not as Keldoulis maintained illegal.

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Australian Tapestry Workshop

Catherine and I went to see the Australian Tapestry Workshop. Catherine is more interested in textile arts than I am; textile arts still dominated by women and most of the people working on the workshop floor are women.

The Australian Tapestry Workshop was formerly the Victorian Tapestry Workshop; the name changed in 2010 and the V logo of the Victorian Tapestry Workshop has been turned upside down to form an A. It is still located in the same 19th century building in South Melbourne that once held a knitting mill. The large work floor has become the tapestry workshop. Lace ironwork pillars support a saw tooth roof over the main floor. South Melbourne once had many textiles works and carpet factories; it now has restaurants, boutiques and media companies.

An observation deck allows visitors to watch the tapestries being made on the four large looms on the main floor. Scattered around the main floor are pin-board dividers with samples, b&w and colour images of the art for the tapestries. When Catherine and I visited they were working on John Young’s “The Navigator” (2.3 x3.02m.) for the National Library of Australia. The weavers work in teams across large tapestries. Watching the one of the weavers mixing strands from half a dozen colours to create exactly the right blend of colour.

The observation deck also allows the visitor to observe the yarn dyed in the small colour laboratory safely from behind glass. The workshop produces a 366 standard colour range of wools for sale at their shop and also dye their own wool specifically for certain projects.

The Australian Tapestry Workshop has a shop and two gallery spaces exhibiting work for sale. I was particularly impressed with Merrin Eirth “Black Tomato’s Fleshy Heart” 2003, a tapestry in the shape of a kimono.

Translating images from one media to another is not a simple task; woven wool is a very different material than paint. (Goya’s painting style always reminded me of tapestries and I was not surprised to learn that he had started painting the designs for tapestries.) The weavers at the Australian/Victorian Tapestry Workshop interpret the source artwork and the workshop has a reputation for translating contemporary art.

Tapestries became popular in the Renaissance, as they were capable of covering the massive stonewalls of palaces dampening the echoes and they still serve this function in contemporary architecture. Over the 30 years of its operation, the Victorian Tapestry Workshop has made most of the large tapestries that currently hang in Australian public buildings.


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.


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