Around the galleries – December 2009

December 6, 2009 § Leave a comment

Published: The Age, A2, December 5, 2009.

Around the galleries Dan Rule

WHAT Vin Ryan: tree game
WHERE Monash Gallery of Art, 860 Ferntree Gully Road, Wheelers Hill, 9562 1569,

Closing tomorrow, Vin Ryan’s superbly rendered tree drawings offer a very different, surprisingly beautiful commentary on human intervention in the environment. Part of a four-year documentation of his home suburb of Sunshine in Melbourne’s west, the large-scale works – drawn in monochromatic red, blue and black respectively – capture street-side trees that have been dramatically pruned and sculpted by council or power company workers to allow for powerlines or other inorganic structures. The fascinating aspect about tree game though, is that the cause of their malformation has been removed, leaving only the effect. The results become all the more stark and anomalous. That said, Ryan’s work doesn’t translate as some kind of shock tactic. His commentary is tempered by an unassuming, diaristic quality, as if he is merely charting his neighbourhood surrounds and airing some of our dirty laundry. In tree game, he invokes our want for a natural setting, though only on our own terms. Running alongside the William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize. Today and tomorrow noon-5pm.

WHAT Anna Finlayson: Extension
WHERE Sarah Scout, Level 1, 1A Crossley Street, city, 9654 4429,

In another wonderfully quiet, understated exhibition at new city space Sarah Scout, Anna Finlayson’s Extension seems to allude to process and form. Comprising nine faint, intricately technical pencil, gouache and pen works and one sculptural piece fashioned via endless coils of pink extension cords, the show offers something of a slow reveal. Nothing is quite as it seems. Finlayson’s drawings are particularly interesting. What at first seems rooted in geometrical, almost scientific patterns and tropes opens out into a flowing, layered, almost organic architecture. The more energy we expend on each of the works, the more rewarding they become; tier upon tier divulges new dimensions and qualities and resonances, effectively offering cues to the artist’s creative course. It’s brilliant. Finlayson’s work may draw from almost endless, slightly modified repetitions, it’s precisely those variations – those moments, those glitches in schema – that set the work off in new directions. They are Finlayson’s Extension. Thurs to Sat 11am–6pm, until December 19.

WHAT Mandy Gunn: re-source, Leanne Cole: I want, therefore I need
WHERE Counihan Gallery, 233 Sydney Road, Brunswick, 9389 8622,

Each of these concurrent shows at Brunswick’s Counihan Gallery wear their politics on their sleaves. The recycled paper sculptures, assemblages and textiles of Mandy Gunn’s re-source and the ceramic consumables of Leanne Cole’s I want, therefore I need both summon human consumption and waste as a central motif. The materials used in Gunn’s works are barely recognisable at first glance, but with proximity their true nature emerges. Her prodigiously scaled TEXT-ile and Scroll 2 works are particularly impressive. Constructed from woven shredded pages of the Bible and a Local Blue Pages respectively, these works destabilise their texts, effectively recasting them in their purely material form. Cole’s white ceramic consumer junk – a litter of disposable coffee cups, remote controls, discarded mobile phones, dolls heads, books, old cameras and various detritus – is presented piled in Perspex and cardboard boxes. While the presumed metaphor of the box as the home is a little clunky, Cole’s works are nonetheless effective. Void of colour and usability, yet true to scale physical detail, these consumables become just that. Hollow and inert, they merely fill and clutter space. Wed to Sat 11am–5pm, Sun 1pm–5pm, until December 20.

WHAT Gertrude Studios 2009
WHERE Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, 200 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, 9419 3406,

As you would at least hope was the case, Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces end-of-year studio artist show proves keenly dynamic. Drawing on Gertrude’s 15 in-house artists – including Ash Keating, DAMP collective, Geff Newton, Ardi Gunawan, Kate Just among others – the show traverses painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, video, found objects and installation, with some thrilling results. Belle Bassin’s vast, geometrical graphite-on-paper drawing the eye and the flame, Richard Lewer’s wonderfully wonky paintings of sporting disappointments and Jackson Slattery’s brilliant watercolour series, Great White Hypes: New Minorities – which features portraits of white American former basketball players – and Nathan Gray’s trans-space assemblage Permeation are some particular highlights. It’s a refreshingly immediate show to close out an at times abstruse exhibition calendar. Tues to Fri 11am–5:30pm, Sat 11am–4:30pm, until December 12.

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