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June 2010 @ Off the Kerb

There is a large brick chimney in the middle of the room and white smoke belches out of it filling the rest of the room. The smoke is lit from within the chimney with a yellow glow. This is real – I have just stepped off Johnston Street. I am right there in the thick of the smoke looking at the installation and thinking: “What new hell is this? It certainly is impressive and theatrical. Who is responsible?”

It is “Adding Coal to a Hoffman Kiln” by Gregg Humble and Hamish Munro. This is Off the Kerb’s Emerging Artist Exhibition. And Humble and Monro have dramatically emerged and then obscured their installation in all this smoke.

Is that all there is? Some bricks, lights and smoke machine. Are the artist’s expecting people to interpret it all as formal or expressive or symbolic? “To vent” is to express angry emotions – it is also what chimneys do and it is also what all animals do when they get rid of waste. Is this expressive art with the artist’s expression turning to smoke? Or is this about perceiving the form and obscuring the form of a construction of pale bricks. Perhaps it is all about the construction of bricks, as a Hoffmann kiln, is a continuous fired kiln commonly used for the production of bricks. “Adding Coal to a Hoffman Kiln” is about the continuous and pointless process, like taking coals to Newcastle, of making new contemporary art – even if, it is emerging artists dramatically venting.

Away from the smoke – there is a photography exhibition, with installation projection in the back gallery – “Toolangi” by Ashlee Hope. Having cups of tea and coffee is the projected image. The cast resin tea and cups that project the image are not functional, but in their shadows projected along with the photograph on the screen is just as the idea of cups of tea. Ashlee Hope’s idea of cups of tea at her new residence in Toolangi Road has not yet been full formed – neither had her exhibition, really.

Upstairs there is another photography exhibition, more urban photography some of the same areas that I had just been walking through in Collingwood and Fitzroy. It is “Other Places” by Terence Hogan. I like looking at these photographs of these functional urban areas makes me want to play detective with the scene: has it been modified? What changes have been made and in what order? The photographs transform the details. Hogan’s urban images are neutral; neither threatening, nor safe, neither dirty, nor clean. In “Other Places” some of these photographs have been repeated on the photographic same print, repeated so many times that the images formed their own patters of vertical and horizontal lines – it was very effective.

Off the Kerb is an artist-run space in Collingwood on Johnston Street that focuses on contemporary art. It has three white walled gallery spaces and two studios. Shini Pararajasingham, who started with the collective running Brunswick Arts moved on after a year there to start Off the Kerb. It is a converted shop and domestic space, out the back and upstairs, something that was typical of Collingwood and Fitzroy.

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About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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