Category Archives: Art Galleries & Exhibitions

Science Friction @ Counihan Gallery

The Moreland Summer Show at the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick has the work by fifty-two artist who live, work or are otherwise connected to the area. The theme of the exhibition is “Science Friction” and that meant several flying saucers: Daniel Armstrong and Melinda Capp’s made of various found materials and Nadia Mercuri’s classic saucer in cast green lead crystal and blown glass.

UFOs are a barometer for the ignorant paranoid thinking about the idea of science and many of the artists in the exhibition were conflating the idea of science with industry and commerce. Moans and complaints about science do not generally make for good art or an engaging discourse. In his opening speech at the exhibition, senior curator of contemporary art at the NGV, Max Delany was kinder referring to the portrayal of the unthinkable and unsayable.


Frances Tapueluelu, Technological Colonisation

Maybe if the word “technology” was used instead of “science” then the artist would have been less confused. Artists are familiar with technology, old technology, new technology, pushing technologies and exploring technologies. Frances Tapueluelu provided more balance and beauty in looking at the impact of communications technology on Tonga culture. Technological Colonisation is a magnificent headdress made of old mobile phones, keyboard keys, wires and plugs.

Many of the artists in the exhibition use technologies, from ancient to new. There are several video works. Ben Taranto’s beautiful one minute video loop, Blue Space, that turns the floor into a small pond with fish. Jenny Loft combines both old and new technology in When Mary met Ada, with a glass sculpture, cast using the ancient lost wax technique, mounted on a digital print of a computer chip.

Alister Karl keeps on pushing drawing in surprising directions and graphite can conduct electricity. So Karl has hooked up two batteries to a mix media drawing of a rocket adding a circuit board element, two LED lights and a small speaker.

For me the work that best captured the theme of the exhibition was a small oil painting by Saffron Newey. Mashed Romantic is a beautiful but unreal landscape mixing images from the visionary American painter, Thomas Cole and other painters. This mashed image reminds the viewer that the artist’s, or other observer’s image of nature are always artificial constructs, mashes of ideas and impressions.

Openings and Closings: Brunswick Arts and Neon Parc

One gallery closes and another one opens: Brunswick Arts is closing and Neon Parc has opened a new second space.

Brunswick Arts is an artist run gallery that opened eleven years ago in a converted factory space built out the back of a suburban house. The factory space opened onto Little Breeze Street and served as an art gallery while various artists lived in the house, a key part of the gallery’s business model. However, recently building inspectors ruled it out the combination of a residence and gallery.


An opening at Brunswick Arts

“Burnt out” were two of the words used by Alister Karl, who has been on the committee running Brunswick Arts for at least a decade. To keep doing the same thing and hoping for different results is a sign of madness. You don’t have to keep on going, you can change.

The new Neon Parc second space on Tinning Street in Brunswick does not look like much from the outside, just another warehouse, but the detail of the name embossed door handle indicates of what is coming. Inside is an elegant white walled space for exhibiting contemporary art without compromise.


Dale Frank exhibition at Neon Parc

The current exhibition of sweet and shiny works by Dale Frank would have been impossible in Neon Parc’s small city space. Big and shiny, sweet and sticky are the aesthetics that Frank is playing with, or rigorously pursuing through variations. Basically what you can put, pour, smears, sticks and hangs in a camp parody of modernism on a shiny sheet of perspex. Complete with neo-baroque theatrical flourishes of the black frames and the white chocolate fountain.

Geoff Newton, the director of Neon Parc has lived in Brunswick for decades. Newton said that he was a bit worried about getting collectors in Melbourne’s south to cross the Yarra to see a gallery in Brunswick, instead he has collectors from Essendon visiting the gallery.

Neon Parc joins Tinning Street Presents… the first art gallery on the street along with artists studios and other creative endeavours. Tinning Street in Brunswick is becoming an artistic centre in Brunswick. Turning Tinning Street into a cul-de-sac by blocked off rail-crossing to cars has given some kind of character to the former industrial area dominated by two grain silos. The silos and Ilham Lane off Tinning Street are good street art and graffiti areas.

Galleries have opened and closed in Brunswick before; read my post A Hipster Conversion.

David Russell’s Street Photography

On Friday 13th of November at Blender Studio there was 32K, a one night only exhibition of David Russell’s photography.

David Russell's photograph

Russell’s first exhibition took his photography beyond simply documenting street art and graffiti to making his own art. Adopting the attitude of graffiti writers to the urban environment; the trains, getting up high and exploring the urban environment. Only Russell is using a camera rather than a spray can and painting with light and darkness. The photographs have the same chromatic intensity of aerosol paint. Not all of photographs had graffiti in it, three photographs at Flinders Street Station did not have even a sticker or tag in them but still had that attitude.

The exhibition brought out many people notable in Melbourne’s street art scene to support Russell. One wall of Blender Studio was covered with a wallpaper print produced by GT Sewell’s new business. Dean Sunshine supplied Mexican beers for the event. For although this was Russell’s first photography exhibition he is already highly respected in the scene.

Andrew King and David Russell

Andrew King and David Russell

Years ago when Facter first mentioned David Russell he said something like: “He looks like a cop; he isn’t, I’ve checked him out.” Graffiti writers and street artists have every reason to be suspicious of this short haired man with a big camera who was always hanging around watching them paint. Was he an undercover cop gathering evidence?

There are many photographer capturing the Melbourne’s street art and graffiti scene. I’ve done a bit of that myself and this is how it started for David Russell. However Russell was not just another photographer snapping shots of Melbourne’s walls. He was devoted to it, he was always there with his camera for as long as necessary. He was there for days in 2014 photographing Adnate paint his mural in Hosier Lane. This dedication led to Russell doing a long running series of monthly posting on Invurt blog; Through the Lens. His knowledge of the artists and scene lead to him to become more involved with various projects and doing street art tours.

Private Collection Public Exhibition

Walking past Ten Cubed you might think that it is another commercial gallery, it is a shop front art gallery, except that there are no price tags. You might also notice, if you regularly pass the shops along Malvern Road in Glen Iris that the exhibitions only change every three months. You would notice that Ten Cubed is a purpose built gallery with the usual grey concrete floor and white walls. Designed by Ron Unger Architects, the building sits on a narrow shopfront footprint, giving the six metre high front space has tall and narrow cathedral-like proportions.

 Ten Cubed

Its current exhibition is So Far… works from the Ten Cubed collection. For the gallery is a collection project of Dianne Gringlas with advice from her sister-in-law Ada Moshinsky. This is not a random collection of art, Ten Cubed has depth and rigour to its collection program. It is a ten year project to collect ten works by ten contemporary Australian and New Zealand artists represented by commercial galleries, like Arc One, Sutton or Murray White Room.

Ten Cubed is a private art collection on public exhibition, like MONA in Hobart but on a smaller scale and free for the public to visit. In this and other ways it is similar to small institutional art galleries, with its permanent staff and an education program. Private collections on public exhibition are a new feature of Australia’s art world; the Ten Cubed collection has only been going for five years but has only had a gallery for the last three. There are other small private galleries that are open to the public including Lyon Housemuseum in Melbourne and White Rabbit Gallery in Sydney.

What is the point of having an art collection if very few people see it? The art in some private collections are removed from the discourse of the art world and are therefore less significant. As Ten Cubed website states: “art should be shown, not stored.” Not that there isn’t art in storage at the gallery, as all of the art in the collection can’t be on exhibition at the gallery or the Gringlas’s home.

The artists that are currently on exhibition are Pat Brassington, Jonathan Delafield Cook, Alasdair McLuckie, Tim Silver, Anne-Marie May, David Rosetzky, Daniel von Sturmer and David Wadelton. There is no simple way to sum these contemporary artists up and Ten Cubed’s collection is not intended to make a statement (or even to be sensational like MONA). The mediums ranged from David Wadelton’s depiction of suburban glamour, now cockroach free with water on tap, in oil on canvas, Land of opportunity. To Anne-Marie May’s Untitled thermally folded acrylic sculpture hanging from the ceiling like an airburst of colour. To David Rosetzky’s video Half Brother that combines contemporary dance with work on paper.

Exhibitions @ Blindside & First Site


Jacqui Gordon, Re-building Our Flat-pack Aspirations, 2015

Jacqui Gordon, Re-building Our Flat-pack Aspirations, 2015

Quarter Acre is a group exhibition of six artists about suburbia but in the end the two rooms at Blindside was not simply not big enough. Even Jessie Scott’s four and a half minute video of brick houses and shops, The Coburg Plan, made from original 35mm slides of with faded colours, wasn’t enough. It is hard to comprehend or to depict the vast suburban spread without resorting to cliches.

The curators of Quarter Acre, Adriane and Verity Hayward did well with what they had with the space and art. Videos by Penelope Hunt, sculptures by Adrian Doyle, paintings by Eugenia Raftopoloulos, installation by Jacqui Gordon, and the photographs of Eva Heiky Olga Ebbinga. Earlier this year I wrote about the suburbs and Adrian Doyle’s art.

First Site

detail of Oliver Hutchison, Reflex, 2015

detail of Oliver Hutchison, Reflex, 2015

Prue Stevenson’s Neuroambiguous exhibition is not as it appears. Something is vibrating and moving under a homemade knitted woollen blanket. Using her foot and black paint Stevenson has systematically painted eight metres of the gallery wall. Over a metre up the wall the marks of her toes and the ball her foot are clearly visible.

Frances Cannon’s Paper Queens was eighty drawings of naked women. Some of the drawings are erotic, some humorous and all attempt a different style of drawing.

Melbourne based artist, Oliver Hutchison’s exhibition is great slacker art. So slack that he has a robot to do a large doodle on the wall, a hole in a portrait is filled in with a mirror and now it is a portrait of everyone. Hutchison has a background in jewellery, print making and carpentry, so he knows finishing but in this exhibition, Reflex he is channelling his slacker instincts in his art.

What do I mean by ‘slacker art’? I mean art that acknowledges the slack, un-rigorous, half-joking, un-finished, couldn’t be bothered nature in art. It is not the most glorious aspect of humanity but it is there and it would be dishonest not to acknowledge it. (Isn’t all glory dishonest?)

Lurid Beauty and Australian Surrealism

Although the island of Australia is included in the 1929 Surrealist map of the world, this is probably due to Australia’s aboriginal population rather than its artists. It is shown as smaller than New Guinea and about the same size as Borneo.


What surrealism created by Australian artists was mostly an off-shoot of English surrealism. England being that black dot on the map between Ireland and Germany. Importing surrealism directly from the European mainland, in the case of the Marek brothers, was not well received. Surrealism in Australia was, like international art speak, poorly translated from French texts.

Lurid Beauty, Australian Surrealism and its Echoes at the NGV Australia is an awkward exhibition as most of the art in the exhibition is not surrealism. Lurid Beauty fails in distinguishing between being the current style trend and being old-school or hardcore, like James Gleeson or Eric Thake. These are important distinctions to make when you are considering something between an arts association and trend. Roy de Maistre painted in at least three other modern styles and his involvement in surrealism is like Picasso’s pieces working in the current trend and the exhibition’s mix of modern art with contemporary art is not resolved well.

Every generation needs a look back at surrealism in Australia and each time that they do the same small set of paintings are exhibited. Almost all the older work was last exhibited together in the 1993 Australian National Gallery exhibition Surrealism Revolution by Night section of Australian art. Lurid Beauty does include some great new James Gleeson paintings but only the series of Clifford Bayliss drawings have not been regular features of previous exhibitions of Australian surrealism.

Peter Daverington, The Hanging Gardens of Nineveh, 2014 (courtesy of Arc One)

Peter Daverington, The Hanging Gardens of Nineveh, 2014 (courtesy of Arc One)

There are plenty of great works of art to see in the exhibition but my question is did we need to see them all together? Did surrealism transform or have that much of an impact on Australian art? The relationship between the artists that would identify as surrealists and the contemporary artists influenced by surrealism is tenuous. For example, Peter Daverington’s The Hanging Gardens of Nineveh 2014 looks surreal but has so many other references to all of art history in this painting from Renaissance landscapes to modernism in the drips along the lower edge. For the surrealists there was only Freudian psychology but now there is a multiplicity of psychological theories.

There is no cross over between the old school surrealists and the contemporary artists because there were so few hardcore surrealists in Australia. Erik Thake’s Accidental Animal 1967-68 series of photographs of found paint splatters is as close as it gets.

The curators of Lurid Beauty only hint at the conservative Australian art world; the NGV, Australia and surrealism were all very different places then. Blink and you would have missed the important progressive role of the Contemporary Art Society (CAS).

It was CAS that advanced modern art in Australia in response to then Prime Minister, Robert Gordon Menzies reactionary attack on modernism at the opening of the Victorian Artists’ Society show in April 1937. The evidence for the CAS transforming Melbourne’s art world is there, the first to exhibit photography as art in Melbourne and if you look carefully at the frame of Gleeson’s We inhabit the corrosive littoral of habit 1940 you will see that it is “presented anonymously through the Contemporary Art Society.” (For more on the history of CAS in Australian art see my post on their 70th anniversary).

Comparing Modern Art Oxford

On a recent visit to Oxford I went to the city’s contemporary art gallery Modern Art Oxford (MAO). MAO and my local gallery, the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick are similar kinds of art galleries and yet very different and differences shows the impact of both local and national arts funding priorities on a small contemporary art gallery. Prior to my visit to Oxford I had seen a DVD from my local library about MAO.

Both of galleries are on property owned by the local city councils and city councils have roughly the same population; the population of the city and non-metropolitan district of Oxford is 157,997 (2014) and the City of Moreland has a population of 147,241 (2011). MAO was established decades earlier in 1966, has a larger staff and is much better funded Arts Council England. It does not benefit from the international tourism in Oxford; the tourists are there to see old Oxford and not contemporary art.

Josh Kline, detail of Freedom exhibition

Josh Kline, detail of Freedom exhibition

A major difference why MAO is far better gallery is that it is bigger. It has almost twice the size of galleries as the Counihan, plus other spaces over three floors. There is a bookshop, a basement performance space, a cafe (with kitchen) and a community access space for other exhibitions and events. It is in an old repurposed building that has been refitted for purpose.

The new entrance way to MAO makes a clear statement about its existence and purpose, unlike the entrance to the Counihan which is inside the foyer of the Brunswick Town Hall, past the stairs and beside the window where you pay licenses and fines. This is typical of Moreland City Council and following long established practice of using some other building (‘temporarily’ for decades) as a gallery or a library.

Both MAO and the Counihan show a program of free exhibitions. Due to its larger space Modern Art Oxford presents unique exhibitions from international contemporary artists, whereas the Counihan is more limited in its choice of artists. When I visited MAO there were two exhibitions on: Josh Kline Freedom and Kiki Kogelnik Fly Me To the Moon.

Josh Kline, Police States, 2015

Josh Kline, Police States, 2015

Josh Kline’s Freedom was enjoyable on many levels. Healing post-9/11 America will require the fantastic vision of telly tubbies in full riot gear. It will require cops to unhand-cuff  themselves from their obscene donuts of stereotypes. I really felt deeply satisfied at seeing digitally altered George Bush and his co-conspirators saying sorry for all that they had done. (If John Howard had been amongst the digitally altered figures it would have been very difficult to believe him saying sorry for anything).

Kiki Kogelnik’s art felt very dated especially in comparison to Kline’s exhibition. Kogelnik’s bright vinyl human figures  hang limply on clothes racks. Kogelnik who was part of an early and desperate revival of figuration died in 1997; we no longer go to the moon.


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