UPSTAIRS in the Gallery we have a show called Viridity, a word meaning “the condition of being green” and Brenda Gray and Catherine Phillips have done a great job of choosing works from our permanent collection which burst with spring colours and look fabulous on the new wall colour.
Kermit the Frog might sing that “ it is not easy being green”, but he was wrong, wrong, wrong, as this show is easy peasey and looks fantastic! If you come to the gallery you can also pretend that it is the first warm day of Spring ... as we are toasty warm at present.
We have on show a really great large painting by Elizabeth Cummings you probably will not have seen, as well as a couple of superb pots by the late Alan Peascod recently donated by his old friend Alan Oldroyd of Bali.
Also showing are pictures by Brett Whiteley, John L Walker, Maclean Edwards, David Serisier, Euan Macleod, Dale Hickey and Rodney Pople.We have also included three pieces from our wearable art collection.
Viridity looks great, and let’s hope it is a harbinger of a lovely spring season here.
THIS is a large and fun show of work by 30 artist couples, where, in other words, both life partners are artists. Some collaborate on artworks, others keep their practices almost obsessively separate, and it is not easy to discern much mutual influence. However, it is an interesting idea, and the resulting show is lively and jolly good fun.
It contains a mix of very famous and relatively unknown artists, and has been very well curated by Joe Eisenberg and Kym Blunt of Maitland Regional Art Gallery, to hang together well and to show a wide range of the sort of art being made in Australia at present.
I do like large mixed shows, which for some reason are not done any more at the State Galleries. There is always something to like in this type of show, and also they fulfil the educational role of demonstrating a variety of art practice.
In(Two)Art contains quite a bit of sculpture, which also makes it an unusual touring exhibition, and today I want to concentrate on some of the sculptural pieces in this column.
The piece by Jacqueline Clayton “Fragile Dreams” 2012, is a remarkable take on one of those Victorian arrangements under a glass dome that are sometimes called parlour domes. The Victorian ones were often dried flowers, or colourful silk flowers, or perhaps formed of porcelain.
Here, the artist has given a sort of Vivisector take on the idea, by making her very delicate and beautiful flower s out of face powder and porcelain, giving an incredible beige patina. Her “domes” are in fact laboratory glassware and the whole rests on a cryogenic laboratory stainless tray.
It is as though John Brack had decided to make a sculptural installation, and because it evokes a lot more than the usual post-modernist “one idea” art, it is a very successful piece.
Christopher Hodges “Willy Willy” 2009 is a stainless steel standing cut our piece with dynamic flowing lines evoking the willy willy. It is however, rendered in quite a “hard” manner, a bit reminiscent of the sort of iconic geometric forms used by modernists such as Tucker and Coburn.
This somewhat “retro” feel is also present in Nola Jones’ “Sylvie” 2008, where a whole series of forms, derived from nature with a strong geometric bent, are carefully composed into a tower or totem like structure, the whole then unified by a vivid greeny blue painted surface with highlights of lilac. The partner of painter Alan Leach Jones, this is one case where it may be possible to discern mutual influence as some of the forms also occur in Leach Jones’s work.This is one of the first free standing sculptures Nola Jones has made, and I look forward to more from her hand.
Peter Vandermark has made a black metal sculpture which at first resembles a busy formalist sculpture, but then one becomes aware that it is composed of letters fabricated in common sheet metal. Joined together in a deliberately low tech manner with obvious welds and bolts, the piece takes some time to decipher and spells UNDERSTAND, which I suppose is quite a nice pun on the difficulty of coming to grips with some sculpture. It takes time and looking to work it out.
Juliet Ackery “Johnnies Journey” 2010, is a whimisical ceramic sculpture where a woman’s head and shoulders seem to provide sustenance for two pecking woodpeckers like epaulettes which are making holes in her bodice.She smiles a mysterious smile as her high piled hair becomes a staircase and nest for a magpie perched comfortably on her topknot.Don’t ask me what it is about, but the artist tells us in the catalogue that it refers to a friend’s migration from Italy.
There is also a successful post- modern work by Eleanor and James Avery entitled “Black Rainbow”. This work reminds me of Melbourne sculptor John Meade’s use of new tech window display materials, and it resembles somewhat an arched back cat with a fluffy acrylic tail. The “body” of the cat is made from some shiny vitreous material to resemble half a car tyre (as much as it looks like anything). It is an interesting work with multiple possible readings. The title I think comes from a line in Ted Hughes famous book wherein he refers to his anti-hero Crow as a black rainbow. This can be seen as the artist’s visual take on this phrase. A successful example of postmodern sculpture which cannot be accused of the standard “one idea” of a lot of contemporary art..
There is also a rather moving rough-hewn wooden sculpture by Stephen King; the subject is two parents both cradling an infant together, their heads joined in an arch over the infant. There is an ambiguity about the piece – is the baby deceased and are they about to bury the child? Or are they admiring their newborn? This ambiguity is a feature of King’s narrative figurative works, and it is helped by the spontaneous rough carving which adds to the expressive power like the multiple rough marks of a Kathe Kollwitz.
Work by Sean Cordeiro and Claire Healy has been seen here quite a bit in recent times, they are certainly one of the hottest young artist teams in Australia, with many Biennales and other international showings to their credit. In this show they have an amusing, if slightly upsetting, take on the myth of the Swagman and the Australian outdoors. Entitled “Once a Jolly Swagman” the piece consists of a large crate like suitacase on wheels, which unfolds to become a small plywood pyramid tent ..the swaggies cooking fire here replaced with a built in electric hotplate. Obviously making sharp satirical comment on the various outback myths in our overwhelmingly urban country, and also on the over engineered way we tend to go camping these days, this piece manages to annoy me through what appears to be a belittling of the various poems and writings of people like Patterson
I am old enough to remember swaggies walking the roads in the fifties, and they have been a presence in Australia from the beginning of the colony. Most swaggies were driven onto the road by economic depression, shell shock or other induced poverty, and this piece seems slightly too flippant, and does not indicate much understanding of real life.
Bob Jenyns Mark’s New Arm looks like a railway signal with a big hand on the end of the sign. This moveable arm sits on a highly over complex yellow base studded with what appear to be large bolts. I have no idea what it means...but it is a fun piece .
All in all In(Two)Art is a very enjoyable and unusual exhibition.