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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Beats – December/January 2009-2010

December 30, 2009 § Leave a comment

Published: Music Australia Guide #72, December/January 2009-2010.

BEATS with Dan Rule

Blakroc
Blakroc
****

There are so many reasons why Blakroc shouldn’t work. Live rock and hip hop have made the most uncomfortable of bedfellows. But this collaboration between blues-rock wunderkinds The Black Keys, producer Damon Dash and a clutch of hip hop’s finest wordsmiths – think Mos Def, Q-Tip, RZA, Pharoahe Monch, Raekwon, NOE, Jim Jones and others – flips the script, and in a big way. The descriptor here is chemistry. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney’s rugged guitar/drums aesthetic just seems built for hip hop. Mos Def’s sprawling On the Vista and the slithering psych of RZA and Pharoahe’s Dallaz & Sense are classics in the making.

V2/Shock

Felt
Felt 3: A Tribute to Rosie Perez
***

There was a time when Rhymesayers were at rap’s cutting edge. The label roster’s characteristically bounce-laden production style and densely packed rhyme schemes set a new precedent for alternative hip hop. On Felt 3, the latest instalment in marquee artists Slug and Murs’ ‘romantic’ collaboration series, the aesthetic seems more dated than ever. Slug and Murs spit as tight as ever, but their rhymes take far too effort to unpack. Ring-in producer Aesop Rock, meanwhile, offers up some intense, floor-shaking beats but his production lacks light and shade. Fans will love Felt 3. Plenty of others – perhaps including Rosie Perez – will be left scratching their heads.

Rhymesayers/Shock

DJ Spooky
The Secret Song
***

For some, New York’s resident turntablist-author-academic DJ Spooky is a beacon of music’s progressive, postmodernist frontier. For others, his hoity, scholarly posture and penchant for berets grate to no end. His latest kaleidoscopic musical vision, The Secret Song, will do little to ease divisions. Drawing on electrified free jazz, dub, rock, hip hop and classical tropes, you have to give Spooky props for his points of reference. But as is often the case, he seems so hell bent on pinballing amongst his influences that he never quite succeeds in presenting a stylistic vision of his own. The jury is out on Spooky, yet again.

Thirsty Ear/Stomp

Jimi Tenor & Tony Allen
Inspiration Information
****

From the faux-sleaze freak-out of its first cut, this unlikely pairing of legendary Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen and Finnish cabaret/techno/lounge/jazz odd-sod Jimi Tenor comes up trumps. Jammed out over five days in Berlin, Inspiration Information brings out the best in both of its players. Allen is on point here, firing off his full inventory of kinetic African rhythms and multifarious drum patterns, while Tenor is his usual offbeat self, bleeding nuances of noir jazz, esoteric, psych-riddled lounge and his hilariously meek vocals into the swirling analogue brew. It’s a joy. “Lean against the wall,” squeaks Tenor. “I’ve got my tightest pants on.”

Strut/Inertia

Marina Rosenfeld
Plastic Materials
***1/2

Marina Rosenfeld’s arcane turntable and dub-plate excursions defy their very means. The visionary New York turntablist and composer creates sound worlds unbound from time, context and space; she pieces together instrumental recordings, deconstructed voices and sonic artefacts, only to recast them on hand-crafted dub-plates, replete with fields of underscored static, hiss and textural noise. While not for everyone, Plastic Materials makes for a fascinating, positively ethereal experience. Shimmering piano and electronic textures ring-out amid echoes movement, crackles of vinyl and decontextualised teenage voices, only to disappear into a gloomy void. It may be esoteric and obscure, but Plastic Materials is also thoroughly engaging.

Room40/Vitamin

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.

Around the galleries – Summer Preview

December 17, 2009 § Leave a comment

Published: The Age, A2, December 12, 2009.

Around the galleries Dan Rule

WHAT Ron Mueck
WHERE National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Road, city, 8620 2222, ngv.vic.gov.au

Ron Mueck deals in the currency of the human form and condition – warts, flab, stubble and all. The Melbourne-born, internationally celebrated artist’s gigantically scaled, intensely realistic sculptures not only amplify the physicality of the human body, but the individuality of personal experience. Impish childhood portrayals offset plaintive, psychologically and emotionally loaded explorations of later life; evidence of interaction is swallowed by an omnipresent isolation. In what NGV have billed as the “largest and most comprehensive” survey of Mueck’s work to be held in Australia, the exhibition will comprise 12 sculptures, including four works created especially for the show. Adult $15 / Concession $12 / Children $7.50. January 22 to April 18.

WHAT Jenny Holzer
WHERE Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, 111 Sturt Street, Southbank, 9697 9999, accaonline.org.au

“Lack of charisma can be fatal”, “Private property created crime”, “Sloppy thinking gets worse over time” – New York artist Jenny Holzer’s famed Truisms have been ruffling many a feather on various city streets since the late 70s. Projected onto buildings, walls and cars, or printed on anything from stickers and posters to condom wrappers, her equally playful and provocative public text works have mined the political sphere as much as our collective reserves of (often hilarious) everyday aphorisms. Holzer moves inside the gallery with her new show at ACCA, which features a new, constantly moving poetry projection, a series of paintings of recently declassified US government memos and an LED screen installation. December 17 to February 28.

WHAT Cubism & Australian Art
WHERE Heide Museum of Modern Art, 7 Templestowe Road, Bulleen, 9850 1500, heide.com.au

It’s hip to be square. Cubed? I’m not so sure. Well, the people at Heide think so and they’ve amassed what must be one the largest collections of Australian cubist art to ever be exhibited. Curated by Sue Cramer and Leslie Harding, the survey features upwards of 80 artists, from the adoption of early cubist principles by Grace Crowley and Anne Dangar in the 1920s, through to contemporary moving image works by artists such as John Dunkley-Smith and Daniel Crooks. Not to be missed. Adult $12 / Senior $10 / Concession $8. Until April 8.

WHAT GAYME
WHERE Counihan Gallery, 233 Sydney Road, Brunswick, 9389 8622, moreland.vic.gov.au

Curated by Edwina Bartlem and Ben McKeown as part of the Midsumma Festival, GAYME will feature the work of some of Australia’s most exciting queer and Indigenous artists. Drawing on the ‘queered craft’ of Troy-Anthony Baylis, the performative photo-media work of Dianne Jones, Gary Lee, Clinton Nain and several others, the exhibition will traverse painting, photography, textile, sculpture and video installation. January 22 to February 21.

WHAT Adam Cruickshank: Reverse Cargo
WHERE Craft Victoria, 31 Flinders Lane, city, 9650 7775, craftvic.asn.au

A visit to IKEA may have acted as the trigger point for many a long and increasingly spiteful “debate” between spouses, but luckily for us, Adam Cruickshank’s upcoming exhibition of reconfigured IKEA objects will represent something of a different kind of exchange. Drawing on craft processes informed by the traditional techniques of various Papua New Guinean tribes, Reverse Cargo will recast mass-produced objects as beauteous one-off totems and charms, effectively creating an interface between magical and industrial modes. The show runs alongside Christopher Headley and Darren McGinn’s exhibition of ceramic installations Divertissement. January 21 to March 6.

WHAT Trish Morrissey: Photography & Video
WHERE Centre for Contemporary Photography, 404 George Street, Fitzroy, 9417 1549, ccp.org.au

The notion of family acts as muse for UK photographer Trish Morrissey. In a career that has stretched over two decades and seen her exhibit throughout Europe and the US, Morrissey’s performance-based portraits and video have worked to deconstruct and expound photographic archetypes. Her first exhibition in Australia will feature her brilliant 2002–2004 work Seven Years, which sees the artist meticulously reconstruct a series of staged non-smiling family photos. Directed, photographed and acted by Morrissey herself, the series reveals the spectre of self-consciousness and tension between family members, dismantling the cliché family portrait in the process. The exhibition will also include photographic series Front and video works Eighteen and Forty-Five and Ideas of Refinement, Principles of Taste. January 22 to March 14.

WHAT Paul Dunn: Imagined Communities
WHERE Monash Gallery of Art, 860 Ferntree Gully Road, Wheelers Hill, 9562 1569, mga.org.au

In a time when advertising dollars rule public space, the contemporary cityscape has become a canvas for the projected ambitions and cultural definitions of a select few. It’s a notion that permeates the work of photographer Paul Dunn. In his new show at MGA – running beside a superb survey of the collaborative work of photographer Max Dupain and architect Harry Seidler – Dunn charts the representations of community portrayed via the vast real estate billboards that pepper the soon-to-be developed lots of Australia’s suburban fringe. But as Dunn’s work so succinctly elucidates, such Imagined Communities are world away from the diverse and complex realities of contemporary Australian communities. The billboards’ mono-cultural, nuclear family sheen is, in effect, a whiteout. December 17 to February 7.

WHAT Julie Squires: The Gathering Garden – The Making
WHERE Gasworks Arts Park, 21 Graham Street, Albert Park, 8606 4204, gasworks.org.au

Featuring documentary photographs and painted designs, this exhibition explores the two-year-long process behind Melbourne artist Julie Squire’s collaborative public installation work in Alice Springs, dubbed The Gathering Garden. During the project, Squires worked with Indigenous artists from nine different local communities – Marcia Alice, April Campbell, Emma Daniels, Marie Elena Ellis, Roseanne Ellis, Tina Malbunka, Michael Nelsen, Thomas Rice, June Smith and MK Turner – to create a series of sculptures, which were later installed as part of a public garden. The Making, gives a rare personal and cultural insight into this fantastic meeting of minds. Until January 10.

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, mga.org.au

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, sarahscoutpresents.com

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, moreland.vic.gov.au

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, gertrude.org.au

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.

Around the galleries – November 2009

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.

Around the galleries – November 2009

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.

WHAT Reductive
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.

WHAT Interiors
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.

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