November 30, 2009 § Leave a comment
Published: The Vine, November 29. 2009.
Despite his profuse two-decade-long recording career, Daniel Dumile (aka DOOM) has spent plenty of time in the creative wilderness. Between his early ’90s work with New York trio KMD as Zevlove X – including 1994’s notorious Black Bastards, which was pulled from most record stores soon after release – his 1999 debut as MF Doom Operation Doomsday, his definitive 2004 Madvillain collab with LA beat king Madlib and this year’s noise-skittled, positively bonkers Bukowski elegy Born Like This, the metal-masked couplet-crusher has spent ample time out of sight and out of mind.
New compile Unexpected Guests plots a clutch of DOOM’s guest appearances, re-workings, productions and collaborations from his relatively quiet times; many of which were in the four years between 2005’s Danger Doom project and Born Like This. It’s a telling concept, especially considering just how many verses such a master of MCing idiosyncrasies spits on non-DOOM projects. Indeed, while hardcore fans have probably come across this material in one form or another, a project like Unexpected Guests gives some kind of narrative to DOOM’s creative trajectory throughout otherwise quiet times.
There are any number of highlights here. Dumile’s all over the spiralling hook of ‘Rock Co. Kane Flow’ – his guest spot on De La Soul’s 2004 Grind Date – eating “rappers like part of a complete breakfast / whose rhymes aren’t worth weight of their cheap necklaces”, where ‘Sniper Elite’, from the never-to-be DillaDOOM project, has him spitting verbiage over the spacious guitar line and rocketing snare of a vintage Dilla hook. ‘?’, meanwhile, sees DOOM and Kurious trading razor-sharp verses atop a shimmering disco-funk chop.
It’s not all play; there is a hardness to the collection. Cuts like ‘All Outta Ale’ have the master villain at his brooding, booze-swilling best, replete with a lurking, bass-led dirge. ‘Bells of DOOM’ is a killer, with Dumile stringing a stomping beat and horn line through a diffuse field of church bells.
But while there are some great moments, Unexpected Guests tends to lack the kind of depth that Dumile owes both himself and his fans. We all know the swashbuckling super villain who can pull off such blips of rhyming peculiarity as “pure diamond” and “torn hymen”, “poor timin’” and “Paul Simon tourin’, I’m in”, but what makes DOOM such a master is his ability to drop vivid personal and political detail amongst the outward flippancy. Who can forget his vivid, blood-spattered renderings of a crooked legal system on ‘Absolutely’ or post-apocalyptic vistas on ‘Cellz’? And that’s just going back Born Like This. Listen to Madvillainy and you’ll witness an eccentric rap storyteller of the highest order.
As such, Unexpected Guests ends up occupying something of an uncomfortable middle ground. No doubt, it’ll give fans and fresh faces a good tickle. The problem is that it will only give them half the story.
DOOM may be in-demand for his madcap guest verses, but his best material resonates for its meticulous, slow-burn detail and mastery of the craft.
November 28, 2009 § Leave a comment
Published: The Age, A2, November 28, 2009.
Around the galleries Dan Rule
WHAT Sam Shmith: Synthetics
WHERE Arc One Gallery, 45 Flinders Lane, city, 9650 0589, arc1gallery.com
At a glance, the title of Sam Shmith’s new show at Arc One seems a misnomer. The rich, dramatic photographic landscapes and washed out desert vistas that comprise Synthetics veer so close to reality that they’re easily mistaken. But this is the precise terrain in which these striking works find their potency. Shmith frames his Synthetics in terms of “painting”; the fact that he renders his “paintings” using hundreds of cropped and digitally collaged photographs from his own collection barely seems to matter. It is he who is essentially creating and manipulating the image from scratch. But these highly constructed, meticulously finished works aren’t about the illusion perse. There are enough cues amid the glittering city lights of Synthetics #8, brooding mountainsides of Synthetics #4 and #5, and the flat shadows and opaque desert skies of Synthetics #1 and #2 to point you in the right direction. Shmith seems interested in contextual slippage; his works drift somewhere between referent, reality and complete orchestration, and whether intentional or not, Synthetics leads us to question not just the aesthetics, but the ethics of photography. In a time where digital images proliferate, these hyper-real panoramas sweep us up, only to cast us down with a thud. Photography’s privilege as a “truth teller” has never been so shaky. Tues to Sat 11am–5pm, until December 5.
WHAT Arlene TextaQueen: Naked Landscapes of Victoria
WHERE Gallerysmith, 170–174 Abbotsford Street, North Melbourne, 9329 1860, gallerysmith.com.au
Melbourne’s resident texta-wielding superhero, Arlene TextaQueen, has been building on her TextaNudes series for the best part of a decade now. While the premise might have grown a little tired by now, the fact that the Melbourne-based artist has managed to continually develop and refine her subject matter and technique has kept her happily wonky portraits of friends and fellow artists vital and fresh. Her new Naked Landscapes of Victoria series, which sees her naked female models pose as “nude re-interpretations of Australian cultural and historical identities”, features some of her largest and most intricately detailed works yet. While there’s an underlying spectre of activism to most of these works – The True History of the Kelly Gang, featuring fellow Melbourne artist Salote Tawale dressed in a skimpy version of Kelly’s armour, is offered as a an ode to Australian women forgotten by formal historical accounts – its TextaQueen’s intimate familiarity with her subjects, their humour and cheek(s) that gives this show life. Thurs to Fri 11am–6pm, Sat 11am–4pm, until December 12.
WHAT Oslo Davis: This Annoying Life
WHERE Lamington Drive, 86 George Street, Fitzroy, 8060 9745, lamingtondrive.com
The magic of Oslo Davis’s wonderfully economical ink-on-paper works is not just his ability summon the bizarre form the banal, but the inverse. The cult Melbourne cartoonist and illustrator’s debut solo exhibition, aptly titled This Annoying Life, takes in anything from warring couples at a ballroom dance – “Hey, this is OUR sexually transmitted disease!” growls one particularly disillusioned partner – to a series of Harry Potters in the Works, which sees the boy-wizard lumped with a series of increasingly unglamorous plot scenarios, such as Harry Potter Still on Dial-Up and Harry Potter in the Car while Dad get some Two-Stroke for the Mower. Featuring originals from various editorial commissions for The Age, New York Times, Meanjin and others, the exhibition not only reveals Davis’s development as an illustrator, but as a keenly perceptive humorist. A personal favourite – lifted from his famed Overheard column in M Magazine reveals a seemingly empty car park outside the Melbourne Zoo, save a blaring loudspeaker: “We’ve lost a boy here at the zoo. His name is Joseph, he’s four and is dressed as Gene Simmons (pause), from Kiss.” Wed to Fri 11am–6pm, Sat noon–5pm, until December 23.
WHAT John Olsen: Paintings & Drawings 2009
WHERE Metro Gallery, 1214 High Street, Armadale, 9500 8511, metrogallery.com.au
At 81 years young, John Olsen is one of Australia’s greats. This show of new works at Metro Gallery, which concludes tomorrow, suggests he still has plenty more to give. Comprising vivid large-scale oils (Dirt Roads is one of the picks), watercolours (see the stunning Wet Season) and kinetic mixed media sketches and portraits, these new works brim with Olsen’s singular perceptivity and almost explosive expressiveness. Nonetheless, it’s Olsen’s more unassuming pieces that really resonate here. His charcoal and crayon Studio Cat series and compact, muted, mixed media landscapes, including Floods Toward Lake Eyre II (pictured), are a joy. As ever, Olsen manages to capture so much with just a few strokes and squiggles. Today and tomorrow, 11am–5pm.
November 28, 2009 § Leave a comment
Published: The Age, A2, 48 Hours, November 28, 2009.
The title of this lulling piano miniature from Akira Kosemura is no mistake. Polaroid Piano draws as much on hazy, soft-lens atmosphere as petite piano phraseology. Across 10 compact sketches, the young composer weaves delicate threads of melody through textural undercurrents of field recordings – courtesy of Brisbane sound artist Lawrence English – and the hushed shuffle and clunk of the piano’s mechanism. The results are quietly stunning. Part of a generation of Japanese artists blurring the boundaries between contemporary classical and minimalist, understated pop music, Kosemura’s work doesn’t fixate on technique, clarity or minor details. Its resonance is one of whispered evocation, feeling and place.
November 27, 2009 § Leave a comment
Published: The Big Issue #343, November/December 2009.
From the Ground
Heather Woods Broderick
It may creep and echo, whisper and lilt, but From the Ground is a nonetheless prominent achievement from Portland, Oregon singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Heather Woods Broderick. The further it unfolds, the more this ostensibly skeletal folk-pop outing changes its spots.
Drawing on a clutch of fragile instrumentation (piano, guitar, celeste, flute, mandolin, glockenspiel and breath-like field recordings), not to mention the production smarts of Broderick’s brother and collaborator Peter, this record assumes shifting atmospheres, tonality and textures as much as it does traditional folk tropes. There’s a resonance and attention to production detail in vignettes like ‘Misty’ – with its processed cello and glittering, backlit vocal tones – that takes this record in far more evocative, almost cinematic directions.
The yearning strings of ‘Back Room’ and the glacial piano of ‘Left’ distil atmosphere, presence and place; ‘Cottonwood Bay’ is a stunning reflection on childhood, memory and connection to landscape.
Broderick’s voice is something of rare gift on its own. Luckily for us, her compositional vision has allowed for a record that will grow and complicate with every listen. From the Ground may be quiet and fleeting, but its shadow will remain.
November 22, 2009 § Leave a comment
Published: The Age, A2, November 21, 2009.
With design embedded in the Persian psyche, a vibrant visual culture thrives amid political upheaval and dogged censorship. Dan Rule meets some of those putting Iran in the picture.
A cloud of crudely printed, long-blade knives hangs ominously atop the cover of new monograph Morteza Momayez: Graphic Design, Photography, Painting, 1957–2005. They are poised to rain down, tips first.
The source of the image is a 1976 installation by the late Iranian artist – known in his homeland as “the father of Iranian graphic design” – in which a cluster of knives hangs, suspended, above an arrangement of pots, themselves sprouting steel blades. The implied violence of the cloud above, it seems, cultivates more of the same from below.
Over a career that stretched almost half a century before his death as a 70-year-old in 2005, Momayez created an often highly-political body of work either side of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Practicing across illustration, etching, painting and photography, his work was indicative of a visual culture in flux, channelling both the West and more traditional Persian aesthetic values.
“Iranian graphic design could be divided in two periods: before and after Morteza Momayez,” says Mahmoud Bahmanpour, founder of Nazar Art Publications, the small Tehran publishing house responsible for the Momayez and countless other Iranian monographs.
Such was Momayez’s influence that both pre and post 1979 governments commissioned his designs and expressed admiration for his contribution to culture. “He added new characters to Iranian visual elements and decreased the existing gap between the superior group of society and the common people,” Bahmanpour continues, speaking via his assistant and translator Fatemeh Kavandi. “He went his own way and he never gave any special endorsement to anybody.”
Nazar’s volumes on Momayez and his contemporaries offer a very different perspective to a country rarely considered for its visual communication. While mainstream Western discourses on Iran seldom shift beyond speculation surrounding the Ahmadinejad administration’s international policy objectives, the Tehran publisher has effectively forged an entrance to a side of Iran barely seen by those outside the country.
“We are the only publisher with a contemporary art tendency in Iran that has predestined and clear plan.” says the 44-year-old Bahmanpour. “We hope that we can introduce our artists and graphic designers to the world and that their efforts can be seen.”
Indeed. Founded in 1996, Nazar has issued upward of 150 titles covering design, contemporary art, photography and architecture, and become one of the defining international voices for the country’s rich visual culture. Recent titles to have been released in Australia via Amsterdam-based distributor IDEA Books include the aforementioned Momayez collection; a selection of posters by veteran graphic designer and art director Ghobad Shiva, titled From Years Ago up to the Present Time; a monograph on cutting edge designer, artist and filmmaker Ali Vazirian, which goes by the somewhat dry title of A Selection of Graphic Design by Ali Vazirian; and an extensive volume on Iranian type, Iranian Typography: 50 Years of Calligraphy and Typography in Iranian Graphic Design.
“I believe that every professional publisher that pursues art or literature has to be aggressively up-to-date,” offers Bahmanpour.
It’s a fair assertion. Perhaps the most immediately apparent quality that emerges from Nazar’s various collections is the multiplicity of aesthetic orientations. Indeed, those looking for a singular, staid Iranian vision will instead discover a palette characterised by cultural and stylistic slippage.
While the bold, flat colours and strong textual motifs of much of Momayez’s work displays a strong Western influence – his paintings and illustrations seem to reference elements of both Cubism and Abstract Expressionism – many of Ghobad Shiva’s designs invoke the fine detail and elaborate, flourishing colouration that Western eyes might attribute to the Persian Miniature.
Shiva, 68, describes a design culture that finds its roots “deep in the Persian psyche” and draws on anything from the Miniature to Persian carpet design and architecture. “Contemporary editorial illustration is a creation of the Western world that arrived in Iran with printing press technology,” he says.
“Naturally, I was influenced by this during the earlier stages of my development, but in time I recognised the vast reservoir of our tradition in visual arts, which allowed me to create works that reflected this.”
The veteran designer, who has garnered particular acclaim for his music posters, points to the revolution and the resurgence of national identity as a catalyst for a more Iranian-minded interpretation of the graphic. “Following the revolution of 1979, the general populace became more aware of the art of graphic design, with the nation’s young generation showing a stronger desire to learn and study graphic design,” he posits.
“With the weakening of Western cultures’ influence on Persian graphic design, the artistic circles gravitated to the Persian influence.”
Vazirian (pictured), 48, is one of the key protagonists of a younger generation Iranian designers who have only worked in the post 1979 environment. His work resonates with fine, hand-painted detail and texture and strong contemporary typefaces and colour configurations.
“Graphic works are not created to be confined to stay in geographical boundaries or a single room,” he says. “The artist’s job is his awareness of his native culture and protection of it. We must not ignore the fact that the global movement, in the meantime, is irresistible and indivisible.”
While Vazirian’s work shows a strong national slant – his publisher Bahmanpour prefaces our conversation by describing Vazirian as a “radical revolutionary” who couldn’t bear the presence of Momayez and his like in tertiary institutions because of their more Western artistic tendencies – he understands his work as transcending political orientation.
“Political personalities can keep their thoughts hidden from people – say something and do something else – but the artist cannot act this way.”
That said, keeping oneself removed from the political sphere isn’t always subject for discussion. As Bahmanpour suggests, graphic design is hardly immune from the country’s stringent censorship laws.
“Difficulties exist in every kind of work and every country, but here, the biggest problem is censures,” he says. “Not only in text but also in images! We cannot publish most of the paintings and photographs in our books because of the rules that say they are unlawful.”
Nonetheless, Iranian graphic design is at a healthy stage of development. Five tertiary institutions – including Tehran University’s Faculty of Fine Arts – and six art schools offer courses in graphic design, while the influential Iranian Graphic Designers Society boasts a membership in the thousands.
“The graphic art belongs to the public,” offers Vazirian. “Not to elites.”
Adds Shiva: “From my youth I loved painting and art,” he says. “But in Iran, as in many other countries, art has usually been monopolised by a select minority.”
“When I realised that through graphic design I could communicate more directly with people, I was strongly drawn to it.”
For Bahmanpour, the challenges of publishing in Iran remain great, though that hardly acts as a disincentive. “Activity in publication ground in Iran is the same as walking in darkness!” he jokes. “But I love working in this ground. There is always the possibility of having new and interesting discoveries and experiences.”
Nazar publications are available in select bookstores via IDEA Books.
November 22, 2009 § Leave a comment
Published: UHH, November 21, 2009.
– words DAN RULE
Glaswegian lad and latest Warp Records glamour boy Hudson Mohawke (aka Rodd Birchard) has emerged as one of the key protagonists in the trans-Atlantic beat scene. Sharing stages and secrets with LA future hip-hop kids like Flying Lotus, Nosaj Thing and neo-soul funk-freak DaM Funk – as well as his own art collective LuckyMe – the 23-year-old savant is making some of the most crowded, skewed and thoroughly demented beats we’ve heard in some time.
While the chopped vocal samples and cutie-pie kiddie-hop of his debut EP Polyfolk Dance had anyone from Sa Ra, Goldie and Rihanna singing his praises, his first full-length Butter – released last week – has Hud Mo rocking anything from sex-charged neo-soul and glossy 90s RnB, to stuttered, synth-driven electronics.
But the affable Hud Mo frames his work in much simpler terms. On the eve of his inaugural Australian tour with the Stereosonic Festival, he reveals that his penchant isn’t for highbrow obscurity. In something of an affront to previous generations, he sees the mainstream as hive creative potential.
UHH – I wasn’t really familiar with your work prior to Polyfolk Dance, but to me Butter has a really different sensibility. It has a much harder edge than Polyfolk Dance, which had a real innocence and sweetness to it in a way.
HUD MO – Yeah, I think they definitely are different. I think the album is a bit more considered, whereas with the EP it was more just a one-off kind of introduction. Some of the tracks had already been finished and it was like a combination of older tracks and it wasn’t really made to be listened to start-to-finish. It was just a collection of tracks really.
But I think the album has been much more considered and just the overall vibe of it has been more thought-out.
UHH – Did most of these songs come out of a similar period in time? Were they sort of purpose-written or did they come from a collection of material that you had sort of set aside to use later on?
HUD MO – It was a bit of both, really. Most of it was done in the same period of time – between when Polyfolk Dance came out and about August this year. I think altogether, the majority of the tracks were put together in eight or nine months, but I had started already a while before that. But yeah, most of it was done in that period and it was just about trying to bring it all together and give it a bit more of a feel that it was one piece.
UHH – I don’t know if I’m reading too much into the promo cover art, but this record really feels like it’s got more of a sexuality to it, especially with the Olivier DaySoul and DaM Funk collabs. But yeah, the promo cover, with those weird, headless hip-hop girls…
HUD MO – Yeah, with the promo artwork we kind of consciously worked on giving it a kind of more romantic edge, I guess (laughs). I didn’t want to use it for the finished record, because I thought that it was an element of the record, but not the full picture basically. So with the final artwork on the gatefold vinyl, the front is just a kind of fantasy landscape, and I thought that that was one of the main kind of themes in the music – this fantasy, psychedelic, childlike kind of thing – but when you open the gatefold it’s just a mass of arse really (laughs). So I was tapering the inner snake in order to bring the romantic edge back into it (more laughter).
UHH – More like arse-mantic…
HUD MO – Yeah, that’s true! But yeah, it just sort of brought it all together. The promo artwork was cool, but it really wasn’t the full picture and I wanted to make it more fantasy basically. It could still have the kind of sexier edge to it, but I just wanted to make it more psychedelic basically.
UHH – Tell me a bit about the title Butter.
HUD MO – It came from a few places. Basically, a lot of it came from that word being used in a lot of, like, 90s hip-hop and RnB – this very sort of smooth sound – but it also came from the contrast between a block of butter and the idea of butter taking on different forms and melting and becoming an ingredient for any number of things. Also, just coming from Glasgow, which is just such a traditionally not very smooth or hip-hop place, again the contrast between a block of butter, which is kind of untreated and uncultured in a certain way, and melting and transforming into the music that I’m trying to make.
UHH – That’s a kind of cool metaphor, because with your work, it’s so sort of layered and insanely busy – it’s kind of rhythmically cluttered and there are lots of things going on – and I’ve always wondered where these tracks begin for you. What is the trigger or the guide that takes you through them?
HUD MO – Yeah, I never put it together with the aim of being difficult. I actually think it’s quite simple to me basically. It’s just that if I’m making music, I get bored if I can’t go off on these tangents and explore these other places. Like, just I hate making loop-based tracks and that’s also why a lot of the tracks are so short, because I get pissed off if I have to repeat myself. I like just going off in one direction for two or three minutes and then just letting it finish.
I don’t know, it’s just what comes out of my head basically. It doesn’t seem complicated to me, but I understand – and I’ve been told by many, many people – that it does come across as quite complicated. But it’s not supposed to be like IDM or anything like that. It was meant to be, consciously, a bit simpler than that.
UHH – There’s a lot going on, but at their core, the songs are really melodic and accessible. I guess there’s just a heap of data banging around in there.
HUD MO – Yeah, for sure.
UHH – How did the collabs with Olivier and DaM Funk come about?
HUD MO – Olivier has just been a friend of mine for a couple of years. He’s originally from Washington DC, but now he actually works as a scientist at Oxford University, so he’s a bit of a mad scientist character. I was introduced to him by a friend of mine – an MC called Odyssey – and we basically started to do some work together. He was more of a traditional sort of neo-soul kind of singer, but he also does these crazier – almost like Outkast – style tracks and I wanted to see how much further in that direction we could go. So we started doing that and we’ve got a lot more stuff on the go as well; a lot more stuff that’s going to be coming around before too long.
Then with DaM Funk it was just being a fan of him basically and then just getting in touch with him and finding out that he was a fan of mine as well, and just doing it basically. I’d been in touch with some of the Stones Throw guys for a while because we’d been talking about the possibility of me doing a release with them or something like that, so they put me in touch with him and just did it. I’m not sure yet, but I think we’re going to be doing some touring together early next year as well.
UHH – Do you feel a real kinship with the current LA scene? That Flying Lotus, Nosaj Thing, Gaslamp Killer kind of community are always name-checked in relation to you. Do you feel a creative connection personally?
HUD MO – Yeah, definitely. A lot of those guys are good friends of mine and, you know, I’ve been over there three times in the last year doing gigs and just hanging out over there. My dad’s actually from LA originally, but yeah, I hadn’t been there for years and years up until about a year ago. But yeah, anytime any of those guys are over this way we’ll always see each other, or I’ll go and see them over there and do gigs together.
I think it’s nice because even though their music is actually quite different, I think it still kind of comes from the same standpoint and that’s what’s sort of quite fresh about this scene that people keep talking about. Everybody’s kind of coming from the same mentality, but the music is completely different and everybody’s angle on it is completely different. I don’t think there are that many musical styles or genres where that’s the case. Generally, with electronic music, a scene is a bunch of people making the same music at the same temple with the same kind of sounds.
I think we’ve completely sort of branched away from that. I’m not really keen to be put in any sort of scene bracket, but I’m kind of happy to be put in with that because it’s completely undefined. Anybody could do anything; there are no rules about what the music has to be. It’s a pretty fresh angle on it really.
UHH – Yeah, it seems far more like a philosophical understanding rather than a stylistic lineage or whatever.
HUD MO – Yeah, totally.
UHH – When I spoke to Fly Lo last year, he was kind of speaking about being really unafraid of commercial music and how he kind of sees no delineation. It seems to me that your record and your music has a real kind of sheen and gloss to it that seems very much informed by mainstream music…
HUD MO – I agree and it’s basically because I don’t see a gap between commercial and underground music, especially in the UK, where we’ve had dubstep tracks in the top 40 and where the pop producers really look to the underground for inspiration and the production in the pop music – if you actually listen to it – is far more complex and the arrangements are far more well thought out than in most of what’s considered underground music.
So it’s an interesting avenue to explore, I think, because you can go in any direction you want and it opens up a whole new audience. I just don’t really see any great advantage these days in limiting yourself to being a strictly underground artist. I could see how there was an advantage to doing that maybe ten years ago or something like that, but these days I think everything is so intertwined, from the guys who are at the top of the charts, all the way down. Like, one of the guys from Warp was telling me last week about Jay-Z coming to a Grizzly Bear gig and Beyonce’s sister singing over a Boards of Canada track.
UHH – Nice…
HUD MO – Yeah, there just isn’t that gap anymore and it’s not necessary to emphasise a gap between two things when it’s not really all that relevant anymore.
UHH – On another topic, your music is very much deconstructive at its core. What originally opened your ears to working in that fashion, as opposed to using instruments and so forth?
HUD MO – Well, before I was really focussing on production I was really into turntablism, which is obviously scratching and beat-juggling and so on, and the whole thing is about dissecting tracks and taking an original track and seeing what you can mould it into by just using your hands and a cross-fader.
I think a lot of my music is really chopped up, but it’s not very process-heavy and not really laden with effects. It’s more sort of manually deconstructed, as you said, and I think it definitely comes from the turntablism background. I think that’s where the sort of more erratic sample chopping comes from.
UHH – So it really comes from that physical aspect of turntablism?
HUD MO – Yeah, I guess it’s just based on rhythms that I’ve been creating with my hands on cross-fader for years before I’d been chopping up samples in a sampler or a computer. I think those rhythms have sort of rubbed off into the production.
SOME MATTERS OF INTEREST
Butter is out now via Warp/Inertia
Hudson Mohawke tours Australia with the Stereosonic Festival later this month:
Sydney – Sun 29 Nov @ Stereosonic
Perth – Mon 30 Nov @ Stereosonic
Melbourne – Sun 6 Dec @ Stereosonic
Adelaide – Sun 6 Dec @ Stereosonic
Brisbane – Mon 7 Dec @ Stereosonic
November 22, 2009 § Leave a comment
Published: The Age, A2, November 21, 2009.
Around the galleries Dan Rule
WHAT Simryn Gill: Inland
WHERE Centre for Contemporary Photography, 404 George Street, Fitzroy, 9417 1549, ccp.org.au
The work of Malaysian-Australian artist Simryn Gill toes a line between presence and absence, intimacy and emptiness. Across a number of the bodies of work that comprise this extensive survey at CCP, she ascribes significance and meaning to what might otherwise seem mundane domestica. In 260-strong 2001 series Dalam and her 2003 artist book Distance, she photographs the nondescript interiors – countless lounge rooms and living spaces in Dalam and the inside of her Marrickville home in Distance – while new series Inland features piles of loose photographs that take in Australian homes and their humble surrounds. Gill’s work seems about imprint and identity. The majority of her photographs may be void of the human form, but the mark is unavoidable. Personalities, lives, habits, tastes and routines are evidenced in these spaces. They are anything but empty. Wed to Sat 11am–6pm, Sun 1pm–5pm, until December 13.
WHAT Matthew Johnson: Auroral
WHERE Block Projects, Level 4, 289 Flinders Lane, city, 9662 9148, blockprojects.com
The title of Matthew Johnson’s alluring new series of paintings at Block Projects is no mistake. Auroral sees the Melbourne-based artist deal in the currency of sheer luminosity, colour and hue. Across a series of 10 large canvasses, he explores grid-like formations of softened squares of colour, effecting light and darkness. Where much of his previous work sees undulating patterns and ripples of field, Auroral possesses a distinctly horizon-like quality. His symmetrical configurations of pigment shift from blurred, darkened foreground, to a vivid, almost modular middle distance, to the shimmering, hazy white of what might be taken as a distant sky. Whilst non-figurative, Johnson’s work has a strong resonance to ocean and landscape – an Australianness – but any reference would be amiss. Johnson has deconstructed light and tonality into its building blocks; its shimmering pixels of coalescing colour. Wed to Fri, 11am–6pm, Sat 11am–4pm, until November 28.
WHERE ACGA Gallery, The Atrium, Federation Square, city, 9662 2209, acga.com.au
While its premise might be a little dry, this group show in the compact ACGA space offers plenty of highlights. Concisely curated by Dickerson Gallery’s David Hagger, Reductive offers a survey of artists stripping their practice to its core elements. While some of the more spatially oriented works – Louise Blyton’s right-angled canvas The Most Secret Heart, which connects the wall and floor of the space, and Giles Ryder’s multileveled, mirrored perspex work Here Comes the Sound of Colours – would have benefited from a larger gallery space, the smaller and medium sized canvasses and flat-panel works prove the strongest in this context. Justin Andrews’ tangled, geometric shards of colour – Acid Yellow #4 (pictured) – recalls early 2000s UK digital artists like Alex Rutterford, while David Milne’s The Golden Glow… has an almost totemic quality. A fascinating piece is Alex Spremberg’s CPS Painting No.4, in which the artist has poured paint directly into the centre of the canvas, resulting in a highly organic and fluid bloom of whites an greys on glossy black. Tues to Sun 10am–5pm, until November 29.
WHERE Anna Pappas Gallery, 2-4 Carlton Street, Prahran, 8598 9915, annapappasgallery.com
Curated by Simon Gregg of Gippsland Art Gallery, this six-artist-strong show takes a dualistic glimpse at the notion of the interior, attributing the idea with both a physical and psychological significance. While it’s a joy to see works from photo-artist Clare Rae’s Climbing the Walls and Other Actions series (previously covered in this column) in the ground floor space – not to mention a pair of stunning, elegiac video works by British artist Eloise Calandre – the two standouts here use text as their foil. In her Little Histories series, Jane Dyer reappropriates and recasts yellowed pages of books via collage, elegantly imposing her own personalised, internal narrative onto the found texts. Anna Gilby’s equally fragile and imposing sculptural work, on the other hand, offers something of a spatial and perceptive dichotomy. Comprises a huge, parachute-like structure sewn from the pages of books, her Inflated work (pictured) has both architectural and physiological qualities, as it literally breathes and reacts the changing conditions of the gallery space. Tues to Fri 10am–6pm, Sat noon–6pm, until November 28.