Last year in July Matthew Watts exhibited in Off the Kerb’s back room now he is exhibiting more hippy inspired images at Shifted. “What Time is Love” is a strange scene that looks like it could be from the late 1960s when Matthew Watts was a child. Actually the mix of figurative ink paintings and op art along with an installation and neo-dada plaques would not have occurred in the late 1960s but it looks like it could have.
Op art circles create empty spaces where the faces of the hippies would have been. Watts combines romantically painted in ink or drawn in graphite with hard edge abstraction. The subtle faces drawn in the rock of dolman in “Om Station #1” is approaching kitsch but the geometric image above it goes off in a different direction. And Watts’ work keeps on going off in different directions with the work in the exhibition. Framed plaques with “Eternity Ltd.”, “Utopia Inc.”, and “Freedom Corporation” are amusing ideas. And “Ampwood”, the installation of white mattress, white shoes, white stereo speakers and white wooden blocks amongst reddish brown leaves took the exhibition in another direction. The exhibition gives no clues about if Matthew Watts is doing. Is it a re-examination or a continuation of the hippy subculture?
Penelope Aitken’s exhibition at West Space’s Gallery 3, “You seem so settle for one that doesn’t belong” is in a similar aesthetic to Matthew Watts. The exhibition is lit exclusively with an ultraviolet light and reminded me of the day-glo sixties. The ultraviolet light makes the white lace dollies glow. The white circular dollies are like sixties spirograph images in their geometric intricacy. The white dollies reminded me of the growth of lichen on rocks, reinforced by the installation of a large glowing boulder in the gallery. Along with the installation Aitken is showing paintings of the boulder with dollies.
I feel ambivalent about both of these exhibitions even although both of them are fun to look at. There is something uncertain about both of these exhibitions or maybe that is just my attitude to hippy art. In 1980s ‘hippy’ became an insult, a word that meant a naïve optimists who will soon betray their ideals.