Saturday, August 16, 2014

Venereal Architecture at Roslyn Oxley - 16 August

Hands up who wants to see some Lego® animals?  Thought so.  Full complement of my junior critics along for the gallery jaunt today plus a couple of nieces and nephews to inspect the creations of Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro.  With five junior critics aged 6 and under the standard warnings were emphasised: no touching, no running and no yelling. Waivers signed lets go see the show ...

I am going to open by stating the obvious.  This is a very family friendly show that is open for another two weekends.  Definitely get down and check it out.  The second point I will make is that I know Lego® is a pretty expensive toy, certainly if you see what Santa is bringing the Big Lamington HQ this Chrissy.  But I wasn't really expecting the sticker shock of this show, probably a price rise in the move from Gallery Barry Keldoulis to Roslyn Oxley.  Now I did wonder about why they teamed the Lego® sculptures with ikea furniture.  I know they've used both in the past, the ikea with dinosaur and the lego space shuttle portraits at their MCA retrospective.  But as was pointed out to me, at these prices they might've sprung for some decent furniture! Thankfully a pretty decent artist statement accompanied the exhibit:

"they are both objects of aspiration that require assembly. Lego, which we grew up with, represents the dreams and fantasies of a child; Ikea furniture, which has become so ubiquitous, represents the dreams and fantasies of an adult. By meshing these two objects together we can think about the gap between our fantastic dreams and our banal longings. Both products represent destruction and re-construction, which are concerns we revisit continually within our practice."

This is where they should've stopped.  After this the artists went on to compare a trip to ikea being all about sex.  Um, not really.  I try to avoid ikea like the plague, and I think most people popping in to Roslyn Oxley on a weekend wouldn't even know where the closest ikea is (and would be proud of the fact).  This sex thing is where the show got a little disjointed for me, as around on the walls were these Lego® brick portraits of porno screenshots of films where ikea furniture was used on the set.  Again, not being convinced of the original link, these works seem very out of place.  Thankfully they are not explicit and whilst I suspected it at the time you wouldn't notice from looking at them, and the junior critics didn't give the portraits a second glance.  Neither should you, the big stars are the animals.  Lions, deer, monkeys, penguins, snakes, sharks all imprisoned within a piece of ikea furniture.  I am not sure they made me think about the gap between fantastic dreams and banal longings but I did hear a lot of "wow", "cool", "awesome" and "hey daddy, take a photo of me in front of this".  And that is a good review in anyone's book.

Points: full participation on the points today.  My favourite was the deer, 3 points to the 8 pointed buck (top).  Most popular amongst the junior critics was the Lion (pictured middle), 2 points.  Another crowd favourite was the Manta Ray (above).  This will pick up the 1 point.  The final observation was that the kids were pretty impressed these were done without instructions.  Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro - master builders!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The 2014 John Fries Award at COFA Galleries - 9 August

So after a few weeks of getting to exhibitions on their last day I thought I'd change it up and actually score a scoop.  It's the first day of the John Fries Award on show at the Galleries at COFA.  I am so early that they haven't even awarded the prize yet!  So without sway from the professionals, who am I going to give the kiss of death to ...

The Fries Award is for emerging artists, a category I really enjoy exploring.  I've seen this a couple of times and obviously there is a massive change year to year just based on the sample size of artists that make the cut.  This year I felt a strong institutional feel running through the show, but maybe that was just because I recognised two artists from the MCA's last primavera.  Two of the judges are from Alaska Projects and Artspace and their respective spaces aesthetic also showed.  I mean, I wouldn't expect to see George Egerton-Warburton's dirty dishes sculpture at a commercial gallery or displayed in a home but I could see it at Artspace! As a collector I found a lot of the work challenging.  But even as a garden variety art lover I struggled with some more than others.  Heath Franco is one artist I just really don't get.  Every time I see his work (and thankfully this had headphones so you could tune in or tune out, and I did for the full 3 minutes and 12 seconds) I always wonder what he is on, because he's not just high on life.  A lot of the video had me tuning out actually, I had to read the catalogue to see what it was all about.  Some clever concepts, like Justin Balmain putting a Woody Allen movie dialogue into a text to voice program and animating it with twitter emoji's. But in the gallery I was irritated by this monotone within seconds.  I just couldn't watch it.  The empty Seinfeld set with just the laugh track is the one that might've grown on me.  My top picks had a bit more analog about them.  Sam Hodges photos were great (image second from bottom, sorry about the title, I grabbed the catalogue it is incomplete as to titles!), although I remember he was in this prize last year and even highly commended?  Maybe this is his year.  Kate Scardifield is right up there for me.  Her work, "Garland (Objects and new artefacts)" (pictured top), was a colourful piece that took up a lot of floor space.  There was video in there and these very shiny braided objects that had a primitive look to them.  I was excited to see Jason Wing's name in the catalogue (I had flicked through his new book at Artspace the other day) and his brick installation intrigued me (pictured bottom, Xucun Village).  I think this is one that is definitely better in the flesh as the gold leaf on the bricks creates a very delicate pattern. I'm guessing it is a map, and I like maps!  Other picks were the naive acrylic works of Mark Etherington (pictured second from top, right hand side). He had some mixed references, Wes Anderson movies, the Big Lebowski, NWA, Lionel Richie.  I can't believe he has painted the Darjeeling Limited and not referenced the luggage, my favourite thing in that movie.  Another cool work was from Hamishi Farah (pictured second from top, left hand side) - the stream of tweets appealed to the twitter tragic in me.  Hamishi's work, 'Apologies', has all these twitter apologies from companies he has obviously punked.  All printed on an overly long t-shirt.  Now that is an alternative aesthetic I can get into.  I could even see it in a commercial gallery!

Points:  drum roll please.  My pick for the John Fries is Kate Scardifield, 3 points for you.  Runner up, and 2 points will go to Hamishi Farah.  The 1 point is tough, and coaches call I am going to give one to a couple of players that I couldn't split. Samuel Hodge and Jason Wing, 1 point each.  Now if I don't get a winner out of 4 picks I am going to be amazed.  Well, not really, as most awards are a bit of coin toss in the first place.  I'll come back in a couple of days with a postscript of the official winners*.

*Winner announced Tuesday 12 August.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Curtain Breathed Deeply at Artspace - 7 August

Last week for this Justene Williams show at Artspace.  I'd heard some good word of mouth so I popped by after lunch to quickly check it out.  Lucky I didn't really have any expectations, because this wouldn't have been within the scope of my imagination to invent.  If you need a three word review then "Just. Plain. Nuts" will have to do.

I really didn't know what to think, this was a case of stroll around and then read the room sheet later to see what gives.  I liked the random owls she had made (pictured below). And the red video room down one end was pretty cool (image above).  Although it was bordering a little on PG-13 or more. I took it as these were meant to be the artists fantasies so left wondering 'crazy in the head, crazy in the bed'?  What else? I thought the white falcon ute at the entrance a novel way of presenting video works (image top), although I think she would've had a lot more street cred if it was a holden, particularly a WB ute.  Back at base and after misplacing the room sheet logged on to Artspace's site to try and make sense of it all.  The text does use words like 'chaotic', 'sensory overload' and 'dazzling theatrical environments' to suggest that my experience was as intended, even typical of the average punter coming in to check out the gallery after taking down a Tiger at Harry's across the road. Whilst I didn't really inhale what the curtain was breathing I am happy that there are places like Artspace that are going well out on a limb with non-traditional work like this.  I don't expect to like everything I see here, but I do appreciate the effort that they put in.

Points:  despite utter confusion I will give Assisted Performance Sculpture (the owls, above) 3 points.  2 points to the red room, aka 'The Joy of Life' and 1 point to the random wishing well, again also known as 'Assisted Performance Sculpture (relics)'.  This had coins in the bottom of an inflatable pool and I am not sure if it was the artist or random punters who'd thrown the coins in. Maybe she had visited the State Library for them.  Now that would be some powerful art.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

ENGAGE at .M Contemporary - 2 August

So I thought this was the last day of the group show of emerging artists at .M contemporary, despite the wall text proclaiming it would run to the 24th.  Turns out that we are both correct.  The show is closing in the main space and the last few weeks will be upstairs, and if something has sold it might not be transferred up.  Even Liz Ann Macgregor was confused, as her assistant had noted this show as 'last day' in her calendar.  Now as an aside, there is something the MCA should promote, what commercial shows is their Director off to see. I'd be interested.  But enough of the intro, lets get on with the show ...

I'm always excited to see some emerging artists, more so if I see a familiar name.  Eloise Cato took the 2 points at the National Art School grad show last year so I was keen to see more of her work.  And I also recognised the name of an artist that complained bitterly on twitter about a Big Lamington reference, so we won't mention them again!  First up was a random looking installation (image above).  Turns out this was the end state of a performance called 'The Arrangement' by Adrian Clement.  All those little balls are pink and blue bubble gum that started out mixed in the middle perspex vessel and Adrian's performance sorted them.  Well, I'd probably be more impressed if they were from Bubble O'Bill's but this was still a clever little concept.  It made more sense when I got home and had a look at the catalogue online and saw the 'before' shot (see image bottom).  I also like that Adrian is merchandising this performance through a video (set of 5), although I didn't get to see this as the technology was on the fritz.  Very zen and in my mind I can link the performance here to the Marina Abromivic documentary where I remember seeing the artist get her volunteers to 'get in the zone' by sorting out different coloured rice grains.  Moving through to the back you come up against a giant framed silver survival blanket.  This was a memento attaching to another video work, this time by Jacobus Capone (Dark Learning, image below).  To me this evoked a Warhol factory look.  The framed silver blanket that is.  The video, which ran for a little over 8 minutes, didn't seem to have all that much action in it.  That's likely the point, and whilst it does force you to slow down to try to appreciate it you are left wondering what the artists intent was.  Looks like it is back to the catalogue, and boy is this artist statement a doozy: " 'Dark Learning' is an ongoing process attempting to integrate all action into the wholeness of one lived experience utilising certain experimental gestures that earnestly strive for the sublime." Maybe.  I kind of like the one word artist statement I had imagined before reading the catalogue.  Contemplative.  I recognised Eloise's work next.  The resin/polyethylene/charcoal mix is quite a unique signature (image top, Untidaled Artithesis). I think I heard the Director of the MCA describe this work as very 'tactile', no wonder she gets paid the big bucks.  I only remember her resin finished works from before, but in this show she has contrasted those with some very matte finished pieces.  Still all Johnny Cash in feel, that is all black, they look very good in a gallery setting against a white wall.

Points:  3 points goes to the bubble gum performance of Adrian Clement. This is a bit of a leap of faith as I hadn't actually seen the performance, and the video wasn't working.  But thanks to the before and after photos and a little bit of imagination I think this would've been cool (note: if I do ever see the video, and if it sucked, then I might reverse the points!). Nevertheless a great concept and quite a decorative outcome.  Eloise will pick up another 2 points.  I do like the effect she gets with resin.  Very shiny, tactile even!  Also, I think Eloise was the pick of Liz Ann, based on observed iphone photography! 1 point will go to Jacobus Capone for Dark Learning, I did like the merchandising here, with the 'special collectors edition' of the video coming with the framed survival blanket.  Keep up the good work.