Around the galleries – October 2009

October 31, 2009 § Leave a comment

Published: The Age, A2, October 31, 2009.

Around the galleries Dan Rule

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WHAT Ricky Swallow: The Bricoleur
WHERE The Ian Potter Centre, NGV Australia, Federation Square, city, 8620 2222, ngv.vic.gov.au

Ricky Swallow’s wood and bronze sculptures possess a rare presence. On the one level, the joys of this wonderful survey of the South Gippsland boy-turned international art star’s recent sculptures and watercolours are in its invocation of chronology and process. Grounded in the 17th Century Dutch Still Life tradition, every groove and contour, every elegant mark of the hand and tool speaks of hours and days and months. Works like the English Limewood Fig. 1, which depicts a baby’s skull wrapped loosely in paper, the puffed rucksack of Fig. 2 and bronze-cast, barnacle encrusted balloons of Caravan defy their materials with a breath-like weightlessness. But while there’s a real enchantment to Swallow’s form and almost freakish craftsmanship, where his work truly resonates is in its personal foundations. His pairing of human skeletons, dead animals and barnacles with everyday objects and material possessions is neither a mistake nor an aesthetic contrivance; it is a solemn marker of the nature of time and loss, memory and connection. Indeed, Swallow’s works not only deal with the life-cycle of the body, but attribute meaning and gravity to the objects we acquire and relationships we establish. When we pass, our memory is stored in our materials. For our loved ones, we live on in our objects and clothes and furniture – in our books and bones. Tues to Sun, 10am–5pm, $10 (adult) $7 (concession)$5 (child) until February 28.

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WHAT Kat Macleod: Slight Inclusions
WHERE Lamington Drive, 89 George Street, Fitzroy, 8060 9745, lamingtondrive.com

The title of cult Melbourne artist and Michi Girl illustrator Kat Macleod’s second solo exhibition is a telling one. The “inclusions” it speaks of refer to the natural imperfections and blemishes that give a diamond its singularity, the flaws that make something truly beautiful. Comprising an extensive series of Macleod’s original, untreated pencil, watercolour and collage illustrations from she and writer Jane Rocca’s hugely popular 2005 book The Cocktail and various editorial commissions for Vogue Entertainment + Travel, Real Simple magazine and others, this survey reveals the tactility and mechanics of some of Macleod’s most widely recognised works. The meticulous mess of folds and stiches, the economy of line and lightness of hand, the colour tests and eraser marks are all left in plain view, elucidating both the complexity and looseness of her process. The show also includes a new, four-part series of large, hand-pulled screen prints – the first time Macleod has worked at such a scale. Suffice to say, her beauteous, gestural female forms become all the more cogent. Wed to Fri 11am–6pm, Sat to Sun noon–5pm, until November 15.

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WHAT Marie-Jeanne Hoffner & Stephen Garrett: After the Goldrush
WHERE Conical, Level 1, 3 Rochester Street, Fitzroy, 9415 6958, conical.org.au

The notion of capturing and depicting a moment, person or place isn’t always so cut and dry. With their new show at Conical, Parisian artist Marie-Jeanne Hoffner and Melbournian Stephen Garrett challenge us to rethink representation itself. Part of a long-term, intercontinental collaboration, After the Goldrush, in effect, exemplifies different ways of seeing. These seemingly abstract works – a split-screen, mirror-image video, a snaking neon light sculpture, a wall-sized photographic work and a spectacularly intricate and fragile balsawood sculpture that hangs from the ceiling – are apparently representative of places, structures and forms, only to be deconstructed and reconstituted through a series of processes between the artists. Hoffner and Garrett seem interested in slippage, in the elasticity between representation and referent and the possibilities it affords. We’re left with a series of allusions and echoes, meticulous and definite in detail, but unrestricted in form. Wed to Sat noon–5pm, until November 7.

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WHAT Callum Morton: Smokescreen
WHERE Anna Schwartz Gallery, 185 Flinders Lane, city, 9654 6131, annaschwartzgallery.com

Callum Morton’s new, prodigiously-scaled sculptural installation Smokescreen casts itself not merely as a spatial intervention, but a cultural one. Spanning almost the entire width of Anna Schwartz Gallery, the towering work repels the viewer’s gaze at almost every vantage. Comprising a galvanized steel frame and a screen made of reflective stainless steel panels, the work throws a distorted mirror-image of the space back on itself. The only clarity is in a series of small fissures, through which we can spy the remainder of gallery space beyond. Morton, who frames the work as a reaction to a contemporary condition awash with distraction, has certainly made an unambiguous statement here. Whether or not Smokescreen offers a convincing strategy as to how we combat such a cultural mire is, unfortunately, not so clear. Tues to Fri noon–6pm, Sat 1pm–5pm, until November 7.

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