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Reframed @ Counihan Gallery

“Reframed” is an exhibition of art from the Moreland Art Collection on exhibition at the Counihan Gallery. It is post-modern collection because of its post-colonial view and its inclusion of naïve artists. Although much of the work is in traditional media – the one installation in the exhibition by Kirsten McFarlane is a charming reminder of Sydney Rd’s vaudeville history – this is itself a feature of post-modernism.

The collection is based on the work of Noel Counihan who “never received the recognition afforded their rival Angry Penguin Associates.” (Trudi Allen, Cross Currents in Contemporary Australian Art, 2001, p.53) Counihan was more interested in socialist realism than the Angry Penguins’ expressionist Australian modernism. The Counihan Gallery received a substantial donation of works by Noel Counihan from art historian, Robert Smith. The exhibition has prints from the “Noel Counihan Tribute Folio” on the back wall of the gallery, like a base to the structure of the exhibition. Not that the exhibition (or even the tribute folio) is full of socialist realism but it is alternative starting point in art history for the collection. The collection shows that art and the understanding of political issues have developed from socialist realism to include wider issues, like the environment, and a variety of cultural vocabularies.

The exhibition’s narrative starts with a substantial and diverse collection aboriginal art and moves to more art exploring themes of identity, culture and place. Curator, Edwina Bartlem has organized the exhibition into several block that highlight themes in the collection: the environment, feminism, multi-cultural Australia and Moreland’s recent history.

One of the standout works of the show, for me, is by Turkish artist Füsun Çağlayan of a Turkish-Australian wedding. This powerful realist painting with its somber colors, the patterned border top and bottom with yellow photos of Turkish-Australian life on the top border. William (Bill) Kelly’s bronze Tiananmen Square Monument using the image of the man in front of the tank had a suitably vast base. I also enjoyed seeing Nusra Latif Qureshi’s “Balancing Act II” again, this time I noticed the way that flowers permeate the borders and outlines in her paintings.

The City of Moreland’s art collection shows what can be done over 20 years with a $10,000 annual budget and some good curatorial advice. It is not the perfect collection and Cr Alice Pryor speech admitted that mistakes that had been made; she regretted passing over a painting by Sam Leach before he won the Archibald. Some of the collection has been purchased from previous exhibitions at the Counihan Gallery; regular visitors to the gallery will recognize some of the art on exhibition. Unfortunately the exhibition did not include the dates of acquisition of the works so that visitors could see how the collection developed.

On Thursday evening local city councillors launched exhibition and the 2011 program at the Counihan Gallery with catering by local business, Poplars Café. It was a beautiful evening and as I ride my bicycle home I couldn’t help but notice the local art that wasn’t represented in the exhibition – all the anarchic street art beside the bicycle path.

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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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