Around the galleries – February 2010

February 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

Published: The AgeA2, February 13, 2010.

WHAT Trish Morrissey: Photography & Videos
WHERE Centre for Contemporary Photography, 404 George Street, Fitzroy, 9417 459, ccp.org.au

There’s nothing passive about UK-based artist Trish Morrissey’s performative, humorous and ultimately affecting works. Featuring two videos and two series of photographs, this concise, nonetheless expounding survey adopts a series of formal, familial and historical tropes, only to pick them apart at the seams. The video work Ideas of Refinement, Principles of Taste references the story of a long-suffering Melbourne settler wife and artist Georgiana McCrae. We witness Morrissey calmly eat a sandwich, seemingly oblivious to the swarm of flies that crawl and buzz around her, eventually swallowing one without reaction. Seven Years, meanwhile, sees Morrissey and her elder sister recreate their family photos from the 70s and 80s in and around their former family home in Dublin. Perhaps most rewarding are the casual beach portraits of Front (pictured, above), in which Morrissey transplants herself into strangers’ family gatherings, posing in the role of the mother, whilst appointing the woman she replaced as the photographer. The series is almost disquieting in its believability. Indeed, what makes Morrissey’s work impressive and convincing is its multiplicity. She doesn’t just comment on family and femininity and photographic mode; she steps inside and embodies the formal and cultural archetypes. These are as much family portraits with Morrissey, a stranger, in them as the would be otherwise. Wed to Sat 11am–6pm, Sun 1pm–5pm, until March 14.

WHAT Bryan Spier: Expandable Paintings
WHERE Sarah Scout, Level 1, 1A Crossley Street, city, 9654 4429, sarahscoutpresents.com

The expansion to which the title of Bryan Spier’s new series of acrylic paintings alludes seems one of both technique and perception. What begin as vivid, perfectly linear, geometrical colour configurations and learned signifiers of space and depth are interrupted and extended via clumsy freehand adjuncts and connections. The effect is that of loosening the work from its starting point, of interrupting the mathematics with a little improvisation. As such, Spiers paintings almost exist between worlds; their combination precise and imprecise repetitions could be read as a commentary on the perfect, digital manipulations of the Photoshop and Illustrator generation. But this interpretation seems insufficient. Spier’s work suggests a new reading of accepted visual language. He breaks down the ocular into its building blocks – refracted light and colour and context-less shapes – only to imply that there may be much more. Thurs to Fri 11am–6pm, Sat noon–5pm, until February 27.

WHAT Vivian Cooper Smith: Wordless
WHERE C3 Contemporary Art Space, Abbotsford Convent, 1 St Heliers Street, Abbotsford, 9415 3600, abbotsfordconvent.com.au

Running alongside an odd hotchpotch of shows at C3, Melbourne photographer Vivian Cooper Smith’s latest series of works turns the lens back on himself, both literally and symbolically. A rumination on learning to negotiate life without faith or belief in God, Wordless sees Smith – the son of missionaries – recast the both himself and his surroundings in an almost alien light. What was once definite is brought into question; what was once concrete becomes loose, precarious, unhinged. He achieves this via a series of manipulations and interventions into process, some more successful than others. His landscapes are either under or brutally over-exposed, casting a synthetic, disorientating sheen over their otherwise natural referents. His cloud series, in which Smith has scrunched up and re-photographed images of the (perhaps once heavenly) sky, is particularly resonant. Smith’s self-portraits sit a little uncomfortably in the collection, their zombie-like signifiers almost distracting from the work’s otherwise poignant narrative. Wed to Sun 10am–5pm, until February 21.

WHAT Renee Cosgrave & Merryn Lloyd
WHERE The Narrows, Level 2, 141 Flinders Lane, city, 9654 1534, thenarrows.org

Showing concurrently at The Narrows, both Merryn Lloyd and Renee Cosgrave’s work echoes with a deceivingly naïve sensibility. While Lloyd’s small-scale wax and pigment paintings, abstract collages, crudely cut shapes, objects and artefacts appear positively childlike when viewed individually, their composition in the space is nothing if not meticulously planned and designed, each odd, wonky little work counterpoising or feeding off the next. Cosgrave’s sprawling wall painting, comprising a sea of (almost) symmetrical red flowers, is the real joy here. Refreshingly, there seems no affectation to a higher meaning here. It is merely a study into hand-drawn repetition, and a lovely one at that. Wed to Fri noon-6pm, Sat noon–5pm, until March 6.

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