Around the galleries – December 2009

December 23, 2009 § Leave a comment

Published: The Age, A2, December 18-19, 2009.

Around the galleries Dan Rule

WHAT Rebecca Ann Hobbs: To Do
WHERE Sutton Gallery Project Space, 230 Young Street, Fitzroy, 9416 0727, suttongallery.com.au

Staircases, scaffolds, bridges, power lines and witches hats intervene in Rebecca Ann Hobbs’ otherwise lush naturescapes. Taken in New Zealand, her obviously staged photographs and video work establish a dichotomy between not only the synthetic and natural worlds, but memory and reality. None of these beautifully composed works – the strongest of which sees a worker’s scaffold set incongruously amongst an otherwise untouched forest setting – are digestible in one pass. We’re forced to re-evaluate, to double take, to question the scene’s credence and reason for being. The video work is somewhat elucidatory. A slow, panning camera captures a man singing to the tune on his headphones as waters a greenhouse garden. As the camera slowly shifts, we’re introduced to various, distinct fields of sound – the water hitting the leaves, the man’s voice singing to the music, just the music itself – effectively transporting us through the scene’s external and the protagonist’s internal reality. Indeed, Hobbs seems to be employing the manmade as a wider metaphor for the looseness and impermanence of memory and thought. Like our personal recollections and musings, the structures that appear in her photographs are unstable, moveable and impermanent in the great scale of things. Today and tomorrow 1pm–5pm.

WHAT Sophia Hewson: Solstice – City of the Godless
WHERE Lindberg Contemporary Art, 48 Cambridge Street, Collingwood, 0403 066 775, lindbergcontemporary.com.au

It’s impossible not to become enveloped in Sophia Hewson’s debut solo show. The young Melbourne artist’s opulent, neo-gothic, resin-coated oils hang in a gallery painted entirely black. Dimmed spotlights provide the only illumination – a spindly, skeletal vignette composed by Mia Salsjo the only sound. The setting is crucial, for Hewson’s Solstice feels very much like another world. Her beauteous female forms, rendered with near-photographic detail, are themselves isolated by darkness, suspended in moments of what might be ecstasy, pain, regret or calm. We are drawn close – it is a seduction – only to be confronted by our own image in the mirror-like resin surface. Other works – a butchered pig, a ribbon, an antler – offer a lingering tableau of carnal, feminine and exotic symbolism. The sexualised, voyeuristic gaze is subverted, deconstructed, turned in on itself. Wandering alone in the darkness, Hewson’s study of the female asks as many questions as it answer. Today and tomorrow 11am–5pm.

WHAT Record and Analysis
WHERE City Gallery, Melbourne Town Hall, 110 Swanston Street, city, 9658 9658, thatsmelbourne.com.au

Expertly curated by Melbourne-based British photographer Louis Porter, this wonderful show at City Gallery not only offers an idiosyncratic historical document of Melbourne’s built environment, but encourages a re-evaluation of the presumed role of photographer as author. Comprising photographs, books and various objects from the City of Melbourne’s Art and Heritage Collection, the records of the Engineering Branch and Porter’s own archive, the exhibition compiles decades worth of images created as a record of Melbourne’s growing and changing city scape. What makes the photographs so fascinating, however, is that Porter eschews them from context. Without such background, the photographs’ unusual (in some cases, downright bizarre) aesthetic and situational qualities come to fore, in effect destabilising their intended, evidentiary role. The show’s main series – 40 medium format photographs reprinted from an Engineering Branch archive created in the decade following 1956 Olympic Games – are particularly fascinating. Plucked from context and void of explanation, they take a life of their own, capturing the minute to and fro of life in Melbourne in the strangest, most obtuse and at times seemingly hilarious of ways. It’s this precise sense of malleability that makes Record and Analysis so engaging. As Porter puts it so succinctly in his catalogue essay: “A photograph is quite unaware of any singular intentions that its maker might have.” Mon 10am–2pm, Tues to Fri 11am–6pm, Sat 10am–4pm, until January 30.

WHAT Kit Wise: Summertime
WHERE ACCA @ Mirka, Tolarno Hotel, 42 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, 9697 9999, accaonline.org.au

There’s an unnerving quality to Kit Wise’s mirrored, screen-based works. In his Summertime series at ACCA’s satellite Mirka gallery, Wise presents his own digitally altered depictions of some of the world’s most famed resort cities and towns, including Rio de Janeiro, Marseille, Miami and our own St Kilda. Looping, mirroring and animating his video images, he effectively abstracts them. Any potential blemish or flaw is cropped out, leaving only the repeated idyllic image. Wise seems to be challenging us to reconsider these apparently ‘ideal’ interfaces between the urbanity and nature. Indeed, Wise’s process of duplication works as its own foil. In the attempt to replicate beauty or perfection of any kind, we create an ultimately alien outcome. Daily 10am–midnight, until February 28.

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