Tag Archives: video

Not Just Two New Galleries

Lots of galleries open and close each year in Melbourne but the opening of two new galleries in Melbourne this year is worthy of note: Screen Space and Rtist. They are worth noting because of the type of art that each gallery is focused on and how they mark the establishment of these art forms. Screen Space specializes in video art. Rtist specializes in street art.

Screen Space on the ground level of 30 Guildford Lane, specializing in video art. It is not that other galleries aren’t showing video art but a gallery focused on presenting video art is notable step. On the floor above Screen Space there is another new gallery Beam Contemporary, a pleasant converted warehouse space typical of many of Melbourne’s galleries. I was not surprised to find that there are more galleries now on Guildford Lane, clustering along this small inner city lane, as Melbourne galleries tend to develop in clusters. First there was Guildford Lane Gallery then Utopian Stumps joined them, moving into the city from Collingwood at the end of 2009.

Screen Space has two rooms, a lit reception gallery with a large screen tv and a unlit second gallery with a video projector, all presented with an elegant uncompromised minimalist design. The difference between video art and art movies is that you can sit down and watch an art movie in a conventional cinema whereas you see video art standing up in a gallery – so in keeping with many contemporary galleries there are no chairs.

On Friday night, April 1st, I went to the “unofficial opening” at Rtist gallery in Parhran. Another cluster of galleries developing in Parhran with Helen Gory Gallery a few doors further along St. Edmonds Road from Rtist. Although Rtist is not the first gallery to specialize in street art in Melbourne it is a further indication that street art has become part of the establishment. The gallery space with its polished cement floor and attractive entrance area is beautifully designed. There is even space for some live spray painting on an outside wall along the side of the gallery.

The “unofficial opening” was a packaged spectacle like the exhibition of street artists. There were plenty of the usual suspects drinking at the opening and hanging on the walls – piece by Jason Jacenko, Sofles, Slicer, Shida, Numskull, Beastman, Amelia Lackman, Gimiks Born, Adnate & Ojae, Deams, Itch, Vans the Omega, Johnny Duel, Urban Cake Lady, Rone, Stabs, Phibske, Lucy Lucy, Roachy and Marko Maglaic. Like the gallery, the art on exhibition are equally well presented on quality mounts and framed, well-crafted versions of the pieces on the street – repeatable, recognizable, high quality souvenirs of the spectacle of Melbourne street art.

Spud Rokk

Graff Hunters are fun series of online videos about graffiti. The presenter and lead Graff Hunter is Spud Rokk. In his sunglasses, hat and single glove Spud Rokk is exploring and hunting through the urban wilderness for graffiti. He is like an urban version of Steve Irwin, the crocodile hunter and other the wild wilderness-men TV presenters. But he is a graffiti art critic.

Spud Rokk - image courtesy of Graff Hunters

Spud Rokk - image courtesy of Graff Hunters

Spud is a high-energy presenter; he runs down streets, climbs walls and leaps over storm water drains in a single bound. His cameraman struggles to keep up with him. Spud is always excited by the art that he discovers on the street and the excitement is contagious to the audience. His commentary is also high-energy and well informed about street artists and graffiti technique. His style of criticism is mostly about pointing out the quality in the graffiti piece. His hands and body still dance as he explains the movement and composition of graffiti pieces. Watching a Graff Hunters video is an education in the elements that make up a good piece of graffiti.

Spud is sometimes joined on his graffiti hunting Australia wide expedition by his sidekick Juzzo, sometime Spud interviews artists, but mostly he has a dialogue with the cameraman. He swears a lot more than any TV presenter (certainly more than any art presenter) but that is the street and the advantage of presenting his videos are online.

Spud Rokk - image courtesy of Graff Hunters

In reality Spud Rokk is a character created by Spencer; the blue eyes behind the trademark sunglasses. There are lots of fictional comic presenters from Norman Gunston to Ali G; these clowns are no less artificial than many glossy TV presenters but are perhaps more honest about their fictions. Spencer says that by the fictional VJ, Max Headroom inspired him to uses scratch j-j-j-j-jumps in his videos. In real life Spencer is just as full of energy, he laughs more and swears a lot less. He is motivated by his love of art and his passion energizes and motivates him. Spencer told me has done about 30 Graff Hunters videos but only some are currently on the website – he puts them up and if they don’t get good hits then he takes them down.

Spencer started off as a b-boy and break-dancing; then he saw the writing on the wall and became interested in graffiti. His old catalogue of hip-hop music has now becomes the soundtrack for the videos. He started making videos about Melbourne’s graffiti in the mid-90s and then started editing in the 2000. In 2000 he produced documentary for indi hip-hop group Curse ov Dialect who he also collaborated with musically. Editing the videos became easier after he won an ABC mini-documentary competition that lead to Graff Hunters being sponsored by NMG in Footscray. He is also working with Oriel Guthrie making a feature length documentary about Melbourne’s graffiti scene: Hello My Name Is…. Spencer plans on expanding his range of videos with Spud Rokk exploring cooking, bicycles and others passions.

I’m glad to have met Spencer as he really inspired to do more with the Sweet Streets festival film night that I ran this year that featured both an episode of Graff Hunters and the preview of Hello My Name Is…. The episode of Graff Hunters warmed up the capacity house and got them laughing – see for yourself.

Basil Sellers Art Prize

Challenging the relationship of art and sport.

The challenger: The bi-annual Basil Sellers Art Prize, the biggest art prize in Australia, weighing in at a massive 100,000 dollars (twice the size of the 50,000 Archibald Prize). The contenders have been narrowed down from over 350 entries to 14 artists.

Defending the perception of sport is a team of popular opinions and stereotypes. In school I learnt that there are two types of people: arty and sporty and that it had been that way forever. I wasn’t taught this in the classroom, but in the playground, on the sports field and in the extra school activities. For most of my life I have lived with the division between people interested in the arts and people interested in sport.

How and when did this happen? This contemporary division could not be more pronounced but it was not always the case. Sport was seen as a physical art; in ancient Greek sports the athletes displayed their ‘arête’. Sculpture in ancient Greece celebrated the athlete and was created to commemorate their triumph. The ancient Olympic games combined both sports and artistic activities.

The Basil Sellers Art Prize aspires to recreate a relationship between art and sport, to legitimise the topic in art, not all at once but as the prize gain momentum over the year. They even have an ambassador to the sporting world, sports media personality Samantha Lane – the division is so extensive it is like another country.

Maybe it is another country, maybe there are two Australia’s geographically identical but with complete different populations that never interact, like two alternate worlds. You would think that if you were told that sports dominated Australian culture and you then visited the NGV to find no images of sport. It is this cultural disconnect, the absence of sport in Australian art that inspired Basil Sellers to fund this art prize. There is no planned outcome, just a series of prizes designed to develop a connection over a generation of artists. Basil Sellers says, “ My hope is that this prize will take lovers of sport and art into what may be unchartered, but ultimately reward territory leading to an engagement that will enhance their enjoyment of each other’s loves”. Can the challenger defeat the current perception of sports and the arts through the use of visual arts?

Nobody is taking any bets. Nobody is taking any bets either on who will be the winner tomorrow night; unlike the Archibald Prize there is no bookmaker giving the odds on the Basil Sellers Art Prize.

The media preview was a chance to look at the art without the prize-winning status hanging over the work. So what are we looking at with art about sport? Cricket, running, football, gymnastics, netball, cycling, surfing and boxing are all represented in the exhibition. The art deals with issues beyond sport of identity, gender, corporate branding, celebrity and movement.

Dr Chris McAuliffe pointing out a change to Eric Bridgeman’s Wilma Jr. ("Blacky"), 2009

Surveying the field:

Eric Bridgeman’s life sized footballer installation. Ponch Hawkes has staged photographs of female athletes in a series addressing gender, violence, power and alcohol. Philip George’s surfboard installation mixes Islamic art with surfing culture. Glenn Morgan’s automated diorama tableaus have a folksy charm recording sporting history. Noel McKenna’s is exhibiting three paintings of sporting celebrity profiles. Richard Lewer is showing hand drawn animation of ordinary sporting tragedies. Vernon Ah Kee has both a video installation and photographs of an all-Indigenous cricket team from north Queensland. Juan Ford has five images using anamorphosis. Grant Hobson’s large digital photographs depict surf culture and the environment. David Jolly with two glass paintings of cyclists in the Tour de France. Pilar Mata Dupont & Tarryn Gill present a video with a tongue-in-cheek look at fascist-style aesthetic present in Australian’s sporting culture’s history. David Ray’s trophy made from witty ceramics in a vitrine. Gareth Sansom’s painting about spin bowling. Tony Schwensen’s video documents the artist watching of sport.

What is the ground, track conditions etc. like? Four gallery spaces on two floors in the Ian Potter  Museum of Art at Melbourne University giving the art a home ground advantage.

What are the rules? Art in all media is allowed and the selected artists are all paid a $3,000 participation fee and may present one or more works in the exhibition. The winner gets $100,000 and Basil Sellers goes home with a prize-winning work of art.

The winner will be announced tonight (see my entry And the winner is… ). Then there is the $5,000 People’s Choice Award that you can judge for yourself.

Some Other September Exhibitions

I haven’t been to Brunswick Street Gallery (BSG) for a while; it has changed a lot since I wrote my last review in my old blog. It now occupies two stories above Brunswick Street with numerous white walled gallery spaces, track lighting and dark wood.

The “first Brunswick Street Gallery Picture This 08 Prize” exhibition filled BSG’s galleries and it stairwells, hung salon style to fit in more photographs. There are some 900 photographs by about 300 photographers in this exhibition – far too many to make individual comments. I did recognize Matthew Harding’s photographs because I had seen them only last month in a larger format at RMIT’s 1st Site gallery. There is great variety of photographic techniques in this exhibition from duotones, b&w, color, and digital manipulated. And the subjects of the photographs are even more varied. The handwritten gallery cards with titles and prices are a bit shabby and some of the artists printed their own.

Not surprisingly with so many exhibitors and the sunny spring Saturday on Brunswick St. there were lots of people in BSG when I visited. And Brunswick St. remains the trend-setting, cultural heartland of Melbourne with its bars, cafés, restaurants and bookshops.

Slide in Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces doorway Tim Hillier’s video “Shackle me not”. The video features two men on a beach wearing a double hoodie, two hoodies sewn together along one side, like a garment for co-joined twins. The video is fun combining avant-garde body sculpture traditions from the 1970s with popular romantic images of running on the beach.

Seventh’s gallery two has “sonance”, a work of sonic and sculptural art by Miles Brown, Monica Zanchetta and Craig Love. It is beautiful and strange with musical influences from LaMonte Young and Luigi Russolo. I don’t know if the three white card pipes and horns contributed much acoustically, apart from allowing the listener to separate the sounds, but they looked the part magnificently.

At 696 artist and gardener Bernadettte Trench-Thiedeman had a small exhibition “Archeology” of pen and ink drawings. What is remarkable about this exhibition is its installation-like hanging. The whimsical drawings are on small linen kites that have become stuck in a tree, their strings trailing down.  Bernadettte Trench-Thiedeman has been busy this year; she had the exhibition “Eat the City” at Platform and helped plant vertical garden at Melbourne Central. So the use of the tree branches for the installation is part of Trench-Thiedeman botanically influenced art practice.

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