“Of Colour and Light – Women Abstract Artists Biennial” is an exhibition of fifty women abstract artists from the state of Victoria; not just any women but a curated selection of notable local artists, including established artists, Irene Barberis, Victoria Cattoni, and Wilma Tabacco.
This is the third women abstract artist biennial Anna Prifti had curated and she has brought together a wide variety of abstract art. From the serious to fantastically frivolous. From painting to ceramics. From art as formal as pure mathematics or as informal as nature growing. From angelic purity to getting down to the nitty-gritty and celebrating the media.
Irene Barberis’s colourful Variations, St Mathew’s Passion 2 is a synaesthetic expression of J. S. Bach’s oratorio’s second movement. Although the viewer can’t read the overlapping lines of colours, painted on semi-transparent engineering film, the blocks of colours, show the music. For abstract art can be as accessible and easy to understand as music.
Abstract art doesn’t have to be pure spiritual thoughts; it can be strutting your funky stuff. And Pauline Hollyoak struts her funky stuff with Fanta Top. The day-glow orange oval rococo frame around a hard edge stripy abstract brings together two contrary forces with style.
Mandy Gunn takes the Concise Oxford Dictionary, rearranged it, making an ironic rectified readymade. She weaves pages into a single grey strip unfurling from the covers, after all, all words are abstract symbols. Like Barberis’s work, you can’t read it, but unlike Barberis Variations Gunn’s The Unconcise Oxford Dictionary is a dispassionate sculpture.
You could view this exhibition as a sample of the latest iterations of abstract art, a tradition or a genre of art. A genre that has existed for almost a century and a half, if you count those women, like Georgiana Houghton and Hilma af Klint, who did abstract paintings in the nineteenth century. For women have always been involved in abstract art, the most modern of visual genres.
Representational images exist in the Goldilocks zone that is just the right distance to see a picture. Somewhere between being too close and too far away. For both atomic distances shorter than the wavelength of visible light and the universe’s structure, images of the micro and the macro are abstract.
West End Art Space’s new permanent space in West Melbourne is a larger foyer space in a new multi-storey building. Plenty of room for the fifty works in this exhibition to be hung in keeping with the elegant minimalist look.