Around the galleries – July 2009

July 14, 2009 § 1 Comment

Published: The Age, A2, July 11, 2009.

Around the galleries Dan Rule

Richard Lewer

WHAT Richard Lewer: Nobody Likes a Show Off
WHERE Monash University Museum of Art, Building 55, Monash University, Wellington Road, Clayton, 9905 4217, monash.edu.au/muma

Richard Lewer’s mutterings of the soul are as absurd as they are astute in this major survey of recent work. Via “subjective encounters” with sport, crime, religion and culture, the Melbourne-based New Zealander’s wonky paintings, peg-board text works, charcoals and performative videos function as a hilarious, warts-and-all unveiling of ethics (or lack thereof). While the fragmentary, found text and re-imagined storyboards of his True Stories: Australian Crime installation makes for fascinating, sinister viewing, it’s Lewer’s Pegboard Confessions that are the real joy here. “I use the C-word a lot” reads one piece; “I will lie to your face” offers another. Whilst droll, these works transcend mere belly laughs. This is about social convention, denial and our collective moral reality. Tues to Fri: 10am–5pm, Sat: 2pm–5pm, until September 5.

David Hempenstall

WHAT David Hempenstall: Camp Slayer
WHERE Monash Gallery of Art, 680 Ferntree Gully Road, Wheelers Hill, 9562 1569, mga.org.au

Davide Hempenstall proffers a very different perspective of the Iraq war in this incisive Polaroid exhibition at MGA. Hired by the US State Department to photograph mass gravesites from 2005 to 2006, Hempenstall spent his spare time recording the surrounds of Camp Slayer, the US military base where he was stationed on the outskirts of Baghdad. Eschewing the politicisation and dramatism of war photography, these tightly framed photographs capture mere snippets of the pragmatic, everyday details: tyre prints in dust, a fuel drum, the rusted wall of a shipping container. But what makes them so effective is what they choose not to disclose. A crudely laid concrete path leads to nowhere; the entrance to a nylon tent remains securely zipped. These snapshots, crops and abstractions act as evidence of something much greater and more sinister. Tues to Fri: 10am–5pm, Sat to Sun: noon–5pm, until August 2.

Bindi Cole

WHAT Troy-Anthony Bayliss, Bindi Cole, Clinton Nain, Duncan Robinson: Just Can’t Get Enough
WHERE Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts, 26 Acland Street, St Kilda, 9209 6794, lindenarts.org

There’s no denying Bindi Cole’s commitment to the confessional. Showing alongside three fellow young Indigenous artists – the acrylic and bitumen paintings of Clinton Nain, the queered craft of Troy-Anthony Bayliss and the static-based audiovisual work of Duncan Robinson – Cole’s exhibition (dubbed Unboxing Bindi) is raw confrontation and catharsis. Unearthing childhood diaries, soft toys and photographs that she had hurriedly packed away before moving to Melbourne following the death of her mother, Cole’s video, photo-collage and object-based installation traces her re-engagement with both her personal and artistic past. In the video piece, we see Cole scouring her old diaries and calendars. She keeps only some, running the remainder through a paper shredder. An affecting and genuinely courageous work. Tues to Fri: 1pm–5pm, Sat to Sun: 11am–5pm, until August 2.

Peter Daverington

WHAT Peter Daverington, Alex Gibson, Bernhard Sachs: Langscapes
WHERE Conical Inc., Lvl 1, 3 Rochester Street, Fitzroy, 9415 6958, conical.org.au

Comprising a video piece by Alex Gibson, two paintings by Peter Daverington and a reconfigured version of Bernhard Sachs’ wall-sized 2001 work Mytho-Poetic Federation Painting…, Langscapes approaches landscape as a form of discourse, and offers a post-colonialist, globalised rethinking of landscape’s place in an Australian narrative. Sachs’ work implies the constructed, edited nature of Australian mythology and hollow celebration that was the 100th anniversary of Federation, while Daverington’s paintings offset landscape against its virtual successor. Gibson, meanwhile, reduces landscape to a solitary architectural space at a particular moment in time, offering a three-dimensional animation of Conical itself. Wed to Sat: 11am–5pm, until July 18.

WHAT Sarah Smuts-Kennedy: Pretty, as a Picture
WHERE Sophie Gannon Gallery, 2 Albert Street, Richmond, 9421 0857, sophiegannongallery.com.au

There’s a wraithlike sensibility to Sarah Smuts–Kennedy’s washed out oils. They capture the skeletal ruins of where forests once lay; smoking tree stumps and pillaged landscapes are all that remain. Including paintings, sculptures and video, the New Zealand artist’s new show Pretty, as a Picture wears its politics on its sleeve. Her video works see a montage of lush forest imagery; the soundtrack juxtaposes the gentle burbling of a creek with harrowing field recordings of forestry workers violently intimidating environmental activists. But whilst arresting, Smuts-Kennedy’s work sets up such a stark polarity between good and bad that there’s almost no where to go with these works. The message of environmental respect and responsibility is strong, but it doesn’t seem to resonate with the necessary complexities. Tues to Sat: 11am–5pm, until July 25.

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