Around the galleries – August 2009

August 22, 2009 § Leave a comment

Published: The Age, A2, August 22, 2009.

Around the galleries Dan Rule

Rod Moss

WHAT Rod Moss: Agony in the Garden; The Diagnosis of Dr Goldenberg
WHERE Anna Pappas Gallery (formerly Uber Gallery), 2–4 Carlton Street, Prahran, 8598 9915, ubergallery.com

There’s a particular tension to the synthetic polymer and graphite works that comprise Rod Moss’s latest series of works. His vibrant, highly textural renderings of the people and sites of his adopted hometown of Alice Springs skirt both Aboriginal and Western painting aesthetics – both realism and theatre – alluding to discourses as various as colonialism, place, domestic violence, police brutality and disadvantage. Whilst littered with stylistic and historical references (Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, Goya and Bruegel for three) these scenes’ real resonance is in the collision and coalescence of black and white. The show’s title piece reveals Melbourne GP, author and kindred spirit Dr Howard Goldenberg – who launches new book Raft tomorrow at the Melbourne Writers Festival Club at ACMI – tiptoeing about a setting of glowing red rocks and shrubs while his Aboriginal accomplices look on bemusedly. It’s a lovely play on a white man’s otherness in the desert. Interestingly, in all these works Moss renders black skin using graphite, though paints all else using synthetic polymer materials. This seems an admission of separation. He may live in the desert and paint its hues and textures, but his understanding and connection can only stretch so far. Tues to Fri 10am–6pm, Sat to Sun noon–6pm, until August 30.

Sally Smart

WHAT Sally Smart: Performatives
WHERE Block Projects, Level 4, 289 Flinders Lane, 9662 9148, blockprojects.com

You can witness evidence of Sally Smart’s fragmented, rough-torn collage aesthetic in the work of a generation of illustrators and designers 20 years her junior. The South Australian-born artist’s attention to gesture, texture and tactility echoes throughout the work of artists like Kat Macleod. But where Macleod’s work takes femininity and beauty as its cue, the 100 figures that make up Smart’s Performatives wear their troubles, neuroses and back-stories on their sleeves. Every tear, cut and reconstitution seems evidence an experience; the body becomes a compilation, a patchwork. It’s a striking, if not overwhelming collection. Smart’s slew of deconstructed and recontextualised body parts act as signifiers for all that humans affect and are affected by. Wed to Fri 11am–6pm, Sat 11am–4pm, until August 29.

Monika Behrens

WHAT Monika Behrens: Have your cake and eat it too
WHERE Gallery Smith, 170–174 Abbotsford Street, North Melbourne, 9329 1860, gallerysmith.com.au

There’s a lot more to Monika Behrens’ feast of garishly playful paintings than meets the palate. Indeed, on closer inspection, her flamboyantly coloured animal cupcakes, biscuits and deserts unveil an activist intent. Each of Behrens’ sweet treats – whether they be Hopping Mouse Party Cakes, Toolache Wallaby Honey Biscuits, Brooding Frog Cupcakes or a White Gallinule Pavlova – depict extinct Australian species and meditate the conditions of consumerism that have contributed to their demise. While the subjects of these works seem stickily sweet, the realities of their consumption leave you sick to the stomach. Thurs to Fri 11am–6pm, Sat 11am–4pm, until August 29.

Clare Rae

WHAT Clare Rae: Climbing the Walls and Other Actions
WHERE Centre for Contemporary Photography, 404 George Street, Fitzroy, 9417 1549, ccp.org.au

There’s a dualistic quality to Clare Rae’s new series of highly gestural self-portraits. Showing alongside this year’s CCP Documentary Photography Award, as well as Tracey Moffatt’s new series First Jobs, Rae’s works pulse with both movement and inactivity, her half-dressed body frozen during various states of action. In one photograph, she balances perilously on an upturned drinking glass; in another she literally climbs the walls. It’s as if she’s a tree-scaling child, consciously testing her own limits. But no matter how far she climbs, how she contorts herself or whereabouts she perches, Rae – who frames the series as a response to her discomfort within traditional representations of femininity – is still stuck in a room, by a window. We’re left with a distinct feeling of tension. The figure is capable of so much more than her setting and context allow. Wed to Sat 11am–6pm, Sun 1pm–5pm, until September 27.

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