Tag Archives: Victorian College of the Arts

Campy minimalism & the Minimalist camp

Two local contemporary artists start the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick’s program of exhibitions for 2014. At the exhibition opening on Thursday evening the older locals around the cheese board were all aghast. They felt alienated and annoyed by the two exhibitions. Maybe the opening remarks of Su Baker, Director of the Victorian College of the Arts might answer their many questions. I don’t know if it did, I wasn’t going to hang around just to find out. I’d seen the exhibitions; there isn’t that much to see but what is there isn’t bad.

In Gallery one is “Diagonals and Some More Tangents” by Laila Marie Costa. It is Latino campy minimalism and subtle amusement at the materials along with some less subtle fun with the whole game of consumer culture, mass production and football. I loved the display case of the revolving Playboy and Win lighter case in the vitrine You Spin Me Right Round (Like a Record), 2013, along with her minimalist tributes to Barry Humphries, Jules Verne, Robert Rauchenberg, Paul Klee and others. Some of the work was a little obvious in the visual puns, like Dipped Wick 2012-14.

Laila Marie Costa is a Melbourne based artist who last year was artist had a residence at Residencia Corazon, La Plata, Argentina (she has a photo blog about that which is worth a look and shows her visual humour). Also worth a look is Laila Marie Costa there is Jason Waterhouse’s blog post about exhibition at Stockroom Gallery in March last year.  She is described as a cartoonist/illustrator, a zine editor and she makes funky plastic rings (there were some plastic rings on an egg cartoon in the exhibition Untitled (for Jean Paul Gaultier) 2012.

In Gallery two there is “Social Resonance” by Ben Taranto. Most of the space is empty except when it is filled with the sound of the the large steel sheet reverberating like thunder. There are two video projections of water; one over a blue black lenticular triangular forms, like a bar graph of the resonance. The sonic waves are portrayed as the ripples on the water. A single spotlight on a done of slumped glass on a steel square creates shadows with chaotic edges. You can transition through the surface of the water, you can see through the glass and you can walk through the space. Carmen Reid has written an introduction explanation of Taranto’s installation on the room sheet but the locals at the cheese board were unlikely to read it. Lots of stuff about Buddhism and empty space…

Ben Taranto is a recent graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts, in sculpture and spatial practice who is focused on absence. This is his second solo exhibition although he has exhibited at the Counihan before as part of Moreland Summer Show, 2012. He has exhibited in places where I must have seen his work before including Brunswick Artspace 2013 Annual Open Entry Prize but I haven’t mentioned him before.

When a member of the cheese board jury declares that there was nothing to engage with in the exhibition I had to point out that the steel sheet made a sound when engaged. I wanted to add that if you can’t get mental laugh when looking at the work of Laila Marie Costa you either haven’t really looked or you don’t know enough about art history, football and what is unimportant in life but as the cheese board jury weren’t impressed with my first remark I kept it for you. Good selection on the cheese board, a good feta and a blue with bite – I didn’t try the brie or the hard cheese.


Nice Fans

“Who the hell’s this Margaret? Nice fans… more art…my shoes hurt. I shouldn’t have worn these shoes. Not today anyway.” I loved Oslo Davis artwork on the A4 card invite to “Margaret Seaworthy Gothic”. It is a great realist view of the gallery experience and the best exhibition invite that I’ve seen for ages.

“Margaret Seaworthy Gothic” is a group exhibition by five artists at the Margaret Lawrence Gallery at the Victorian College of the Arts.

Dane Mitchell’s signs made me pause before entering the gallery: “Do Not Enter” but rendered backwards. There wasn’t much else to see in the gallery, it looked almost empty apart from these signs… was the exhibition still being installed? Looking at the other side of the sign it was clear that this was art and not a prohibition. I explored further into the gallery.

A reporter once asked Salvador Dali; if the Prado was on fire and he could take one thing out of it, what would you take? “The air,” replied Dali. Nigel Lendon’s two fan works, “Maquettes for Invisible Sculptures” and “Untitled Invisible Work of Art”, play with the air in the gallery. Invisible unseen forces as a medium for sculpture sounds oxymoronic because how can you see them? You certainly notice Lendon’s sculptures when the motion sensors turn them on full force.

Andrew Liversidge’s molten form of one-dollar coins is a bit obvious. But it fitted in with the tone of the exhibition and the nickel, copper and aluminum alloy blob looked attractively golden on the gallery floor. Also a bit obvious are Colin Duncan’s black silhouettes of Duchamp’s “In Advance of A Broken Arm”, Brancusi’s “Endless Column” and Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty” – but that’s the point of them. It is a demonstration of how recognizable these icons of modern art that they can be evoked in a silhouette.

The exhibition is an anti-thesis to “New 11”, the current exhibition across the road at ACCA, with its focus on materiality. “Matter is not banished in the world, but it does take on spooky properties – its scale and identity having been permanently displaced by the network of communications within which it exists.” Matthew Shannon wrote on exhibition invite. Matthew Shannon is an artist worth keeping your eye on (see my review of one of his installations).

“Margaret Seaworthy Gothic” is a clever exhibition, perhaps too clever, conceptual and insubstantial for some people, but I enjoyed it. It doesn’t it take itself too seriously from Oslo Davis’s invitation to Matthew Shannon own comic about the artist talking to the white paint on a gallery wall.

Nice fans. I can’t see all the art in this gallery but it is still there. My shoes don’t hurt.


Graduate Exhibition @ VCA

The VCA School of Art Graduate Exhibition 2009 is huge. Space after space filled with art: video installations, sculpture, paintings, drawings, printmaking, installations and things that defied classification, but were called “spatial practice” on the invite. If you are going to see this exhibition, and it is worth seeing, then give yourself over an hour to see it all. It is at the Margaret Lawrence Gallery (named after the Margaret Lawrence Bequest who supported the exhibition); which is all of the studio and workshop spaces at the VCA turned into a gallery.

The entrance is at 40 Dodds St., Southbank, it looked like there was a cue to get in when I arrived shortly after 6pm. It must have been the biggest thing happening in Melbourne’s art scene on that a mild Monday night. There were two long bars in the courtyard with a DJ and hundreds of people. Free wine or buy Mountain Goat beer (a strange kind of sponsorship). Young men with haircuts from 80s new wave bands, fashionably dressed young women, the artists, their parents, their friends, etc. There were thousands of people at the opening doing the gallery shuffle and demonstrating their “spatial practice” by not bumping into people after a few glasses of free wine.

Carmen Reid had sent me an invite to the exhibition (I wrote about her June exhibition at Brunswick Arts ) and I was pleased that I could find her exhibits. Her latest works continue to be enjoyable, the accordion doors “(Fidget) Neither Here Nor There” is like Looney Toons architecture made real. Unfortunately I did not get to talk to Carmen – I think that she was cleaning up broken bits of glass from her work “Limbo” that had been damaged by crowds of people.

Seeing the opening was like stumbling into an art fair, overpowering and diluted at the same time. It was hard to take in all the art because:

a)     there were so many people at the opening

b)    there were so many works of art (the invitation said over 1,000 works and I believe it).

c)     there were so much variety of quality art

The list of “School of Art Awards” ran to two sheets of paper – not that there was any information about the various awards beside the award-winning work.

All the current contemporary art moves are on show, the heat from lights, video projectors, art stirring up dust, plants trying to survive an art installation and visual puns from desperate art students. Although there is likely to be one or two very successful artists amongst this year’s graduating class. This doesn’t mean that they are doing great work now or that all the work in this exhibition is great. Much of the art is going down the plughole. Clare Scalan was painting studio plugholes prognosticating a future for so much paint and artist’s careers. I overheard someone in the crowd saying: “90% of video artists are rubbish.” It is probably true of all the arts graduates.

Still there is plenty of art to enjoy at this exhibition; I liked Graham Brindely’s sculptures. They are elegant, they are like physics experiments and drawing in 3 dimensions. In Brindely’s “Gravities” a plumb bob hangs over a circular pile of black sand.


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