Around the galleries – August 2009

August 9, 2009 § Leave a comment

Published: The Age, A2, August 8, 2009.

Around the galleries Dan Rule

Phaptawan Suwwanakudt

WHAT Phaptawan Suwannakudt: Three Worlds
Arc One Gallery, 45 Flinders Lane, city, 9650 0589,

Phaptawan Suwannakudt hails from lineage of traditional Thai mural painters. Having served her apprenticeship under her father – the late, great Paiboon Phaptawan – the now Sydney-based artist practiced in the ancient art for upward of two decades. While contiguous to the tradition, her stunning new show at Arc One transcends its remarkably executed aesthetic. As its title alludes, Three Worlds seems to represent a collision and coalescence of Suwannakudt’s various life experiences and creative contexts. Themes of departure, place and identity resonate in these highly narrative works; traditional Thai motifs merge with signposts of migration and contemporary Australian suburban architecture, each veiled by passages from Traiphum Phra Ruang, a fourteenth century philosophical Buddhist text. Suwannakudt seems to cast herself in the role of the elephant – its vividness fading the further it ventures into Australian suburbia. Tues to Sat 11am–5pm, until August 22.

Peter Robertson

WHAT Peter Robertson: Land Marks
WHERE Helen Gory Galerie, 25 St Edmonds Road, Prahran, 9525 2808,

Our reading of landscape often rests in a kind of documentarian discourse. The artist or the photographer renders what lies in front of them, capturing and evidencing place and time with a certain solidity. The large-scale, oil-on-canvas works that comprise Peter Robertson’s Land Marks dismantle the dogmas of landscape painting from the ground up. Robertson’s vast building sites and cleared lots show a landscape in motion. The viewer is invited to imagine what these fluid and very much temporal scenes might become. Things are further complicated when it’s revealed that these paintings are retrospective and actually depict sites long ago developed. At the end of the show, we are invited to use the gallery computer to view the sites in their current states via Google Earth. The further we explore Land Marks, the more the surety of these landscapes buckles and shifts. Wed to Sat 11am–5pm, until August 15.

WHAT Kristin McIver: Sold
WHERE Shifted, Level 1, 15 Albert Street, Richmond, 9421 0884,

Showing alongside Jade Walsh’s This is an Art-Rage!, Kristin McIver’s Sold deals in the currency of architecture and the rise of housing-as-capital in contemporary Australia. Neon lighting – twisted into the phrases “ordinary” and “room to breathe” – draws us toward the domestic and architectural signifiers of her laser-cut acrylic sculptures. But the sculptures defy their neon messages. The central work depicts a set of dining room chairs symmetrically upturned, one after the other, in a perfect, albeit crowded row. The slogans of happy domestica are upended. Wed to Sat 11am–5pm, until August 15.

Ruark Lewis

WHAT Ruark Lewis: An Index of Kindness
WHERE The Narrows, Level 2, 141 Flinders Lane, city, 9654 1534,

Sydney artist and writer Ruark Lewis frames his new show at The Narrows in terms of a kind of textual cinema. An installation of black and red flags hang from the ceiling of, each adorned with a maxim; a snippet of language that, in context, might make some sense, but here is just a thread. Objects striped in red, white and black – a violin, three mallets, a globe and an oversized ball of wool – litter the space, peppering us with ultimately unfulfilled hints. It’s all little dizzying, prolix even. Lewis appears to be playing with ideas of engagement here, of our will for coherence and narrative. Among the flags, bits and bobs, we’re left grasping at straws. Wed to Fri noon–6pm, Sat noon–5pm, until August 15.

WHAT Len Lye: An Artist in Perpetual Motion
WHERE Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Federation Square, city, 8663 2200,

It’s hard to know where to begin with An Artist in Perpetual Motion, the most comprehensive exhibition of the work of legendary New Zealand artist Len Lye (1901–1980). Curated and presented in association with the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Zealand, the retrospective includes Lye’s incredible, early abstract films (in which he hand-painted imagery directly onto the film stock), his paintings and batiks (developed during stints living with the indigenous people of Samoa) and beauteous ‘scratch films’. Perhaps the most striking are Lye’s spectacular kinetic motion sculptures from the 60s, which juxtapose fluid, organic movement with their cold, steel exteriors. A thoroughly underrated figure. Daily 10am–6pm, until October 11.


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