Around the galleries – October 2009

October 21, 2009 § Leave a comment

Published: The Age , A2, October 17, 2009.

Around the galleries Dan Rule

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WHAT Shelter: On Kindness
WHERE RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street, city, 9925 1717, rmit.edu.au/rmitgallery

Starring legendary Japanese architect Professor Terunobu Fujimori, this major group exhibition at RMIT gallery gathers upwards of 50 architects, artists, writers and philosophers to reflect upon and creatively respond to the concepts of shelter and kindness. The results are astounding. The show’s centrepiece, Fujimori’s wondrous Black Tea House (pictured) is constructed using timbers charred in the Black Saturday bushfires and acts as a touching, nonetheless functional memorial. Other highlights include March Studio’s awe-inspiring 4”x2” Nest – which utilises three kilometres of recycled 4”x2” planks to create an extraordinary shelter – and Pip Stokes and Gregory Burgess’s Sense, a curved installation constructed using 400 nine-kilogram blocks of beeswax. But to individualise would cheapen this show, which draws on the writings of British psychoanalyst Adam Philips for its brief. From sculptures to photo-media installations to historical artefacts, Shelter: On Kindness will inspire wonder, empathy and great joy in adults and children alike. This isn’t just about structure, but the personal, familial and communal interaction it facilitates. Mon to Fri 11am–5pm, Sat noon–5pm, until October 25.

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WHAT Liz Grieb: Hearts and Minds – the way to Herat and beyond
WHERE Foyer Gallery, Gasworks Arts Park, 21 Graham Street, Albert Park, 8606 4200, gasworks.org.au

Although half a century old, this series of documentary photographs from Liz Grieb’s travels throughout Afghanistan, Iran, India, Pakistan and Turkey in 1959 holds genuine relevance today. While somewhat limited by the space – 30 of these stunning works are jammed whichever way they will fit into the Gasworks foyer and a crowded, shadow and glare filled hallway – Heart and Minds offers a perceptive, refreshingly non-political exploration of the Islamic world. The show’s title is significant, whether or not a deliberate play on George W. Bush’s 2005 mantra. Grieb’s rich, beautifully composed landscapes, architectural studies, street scenes and portraits bypass exoticism to put a human face to peoples and places otherwise subject to the West’s political and theological ruminations. By removing the Middle East from the current context, this striking collection shifts and recasts our gaze. Indeed, Grieb’s 50-year-old photographs tell us a lot more about these people and places than the majority contemporary representations. Daily 9am–5pm, until October 25.

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WHAT eX de Medici: Sweet Complicity
WHERE Karen Woodbury Gallery, 4 Albert Street, Richmond, 9421 2500, kwgallery.com

Beauty and brutality have a way of merging. The history of art, film and all manner of cultural production is littered with stylised, outwardly alluring depictions of means, processes and effects of violence. The latest in a string of outstanding shows at Karen Woodbury Gallery sees Canberra artist and tattooist eX de Medici explore such an ambit in equally enthralling, attractive and disturbing scope. Taking AK 47s and various assault rifles her central subject, Medici’s colossally scaled, overwhelmingly detailed pen, ink and mica works are awash with counteracting symbolism and stylisation. In the five-metre-long Tooth and claw, two gigantic weapons (propped up on human skeletons) find themselves enveloped by blue birds, ribbons, flowers and stars; in American Sex/Funky Beat Sex Machine, a cascade of chrysanthemums and human skulls entwine a pair of criss-crossing rifles; in Send More Meat, a weapon floats atop a boiling sea, writhing with Chinese Imperial dragons. Indeed, Medici pushes beyond mere polarity. These major works follow trails of cause and effect, of political and social implication and of various aesthetic traditions. Violence, power, culture and femininity enfold in flux. Wed to Sat 11am–5pm, until October 24.

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WHAT Masahiko Tsubota
WHERE Niagara Galleries, 245 Punt Road, Richmond, 9429 3666, niagara-galleries.com.au

Masahiko Tsubota’s minimalist oils take abstraction to its quiet, understated extremes. In his second show at Niagara Galleries, the noted Japanese artist’s new works prove a study in linear gesture, geometrical dot patterns, subtle textures and tones. Even his vividly coloured works are unobtrusive; their detail and changeability is so minute and discreet that it shifts and hones the focus, softening what might otherwise be considered a brash palette. His more muted works – rendered in off-whites, greys and blacks – are punctuated by tiny bleeds of watercolour, delicate lines, Braille-like wax dot configurations and subtle tonal shifts, giving the works an almost meditative sensibility. They are also perhaps his strongest. Tsubota has reduced his art to the very act of painting. His works’ titles refer directly to the elements and processes employed in their creation. Piece by piece, he guides us through the beauty of simplicity. Tues 11am–8pm, Wed to Sat 11am–6pm, until October 24.

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