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Collingwood Galleries – Civil & Ghostpatrol

It was a beautiful winter day to be exploring Collingwood galleries. The Keith Haring on the Collingwood TAFE wall has been carefully covered up in preparations for renovations. Lots of great street art and Civil was up a ladder spray-painting the wall of House of Bricks. He was up a ladder because the Council had said no to the scissor lift for some reason and because Civil is exhibiting at House of Bricks. Ghostpatrol has an exhibition at Backwoods Gallery.

Civil paints House of Bricks

Looks like Shini Pararajasingham got it right when she opened Off The Kerb on Johnston Street opposite the Tote. Back then I thought she had the wrong area, too far north, shows you how much I know about Collingwood. But then I rarely go to Collingwood and I don’t think I’d been in Collingwood for about a year.

Another shop front galley, Egg Gallery has opened up right next to Off The Kerb and in the small streets behind there are several galleries: House of Bricks and Backwoods Gallery and Lamington Drive. These are all warehouse spaces with studios and workshops attached. Not the greatest of spaces, make do kind of spaces with all those limitations.

So that is 3 or 4 galleries that I can tick off my list of Melbourne galleries – I have a hopeless ambition to visit all of the galleries in Melbourne. I have been to galleries in these Collingwood warehouses before; Backwoods Gallery is in the previous location for Utopian Stumps.

“Reboot” by Sharon McKenzie was the only exhibition of the three exhibitions at Off The Kerb that I enjoyed.  McKenzie’s drawings depict artefacts of modern world as if they were covered in lace doylies. It is a frighteningly beautiful vision destroying the clean modern design of computers, floppy disks, clocks, typewriters, headphones and Dictaphones, with lace decorations.

I suppose that was to be expected as Collingwood galleries have a reputation for showing contemporary illustration and drawing. There are more quality, contemporary, street-influenced illustration next door at Egg Gallery. “Sleep & Wake” is small exhibition of illustrations and a bit of an installation by Hollie M. Kelley and Ryan McGennisken. (See Invurt’s interview with Ryan McGennisken.) It is the current fashion for contemporary illustration exhibitions to combine a bit of an installation into the exhibition space, scatter some old stuff and a few dead leaves. Everyone is doing it, and not just the art galleries even the Collingwood furniture showrooms.

Backwoods Gallery

Ghostpatrol vs Civil, it is a battle of almost comic book proportions and a salutary lesson style and content. Civil and Ghostpatrol are legendary names from Melbourne’s streets. There is plenty of their work on the streets; more Civil now than Ghostpatrol, there are lots of new Civil pieces and I haven’t seen that many new Ghostpatrol pieces (maybe I just haven’t been in the right areas). Both Civil and Ghostpatrol have an appealing graphic style that translates well into a number of a media.

The problem for Ghostpatrol is that his pictures have nothing but a fading hint of magic. It was this nostalgia for a fading childish magic that gave Ghostpatrol’s work its charm. But this kind of charm is fleeting like childhood, and seems to limit Ghostpatrol’s growth as an artist. Childhood themes are so common; Ryan McGennisken was showing drawing with childhood themes too. Civil is working on firmer ground with people, politics and now nature as his themes. These things are timeless. And Civil has grown in both his themes and the range of media.

Ghostpatrol’s exhibition was over blown – the canvas’s were too big and there was nothing to them other than the scale and arrangement of his iconic images. There were only 5 large paintings and the installation in the middle looked like a post-minimalist sculpture from Ikea. The tiny addition in one piece of timber of a carved pond with a tiny kappa riding a carp could not take-away from this big ugly object.

In contrast Civil’s exhibition was understated and there were too many compromises with the warehouse space to allow it to really shine. Still there were plenty of small woodcuts and other pieces with an expanding repertoire of images and themes. The exhibition had the aesthetics of a shed and dead leaves, pinecones and other old things were scattered around. This was referred to in the old beer bottles that Civil had etched and the old wooden tabletops that he had carved.

It appears Ghostpatrol is stuck in the past magic whereas Civil has made preparations for the future. I’m sure others will have their own opinion on these exhibitions – what are your thoughts?

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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

8 responses to “Collingwood Galleries – Civil & Ghostpatrol

  • Shini Pararajasingham

    Thanks Mark for some fabulously flattering words about me and Off the Kerb :)
    Shini

  • Ryan

    It’s a shame you didn’t get to see the installation as it was before the alteration. We altered it to allow for around 50 people to partake in a poetry reading night on Thursday. Here’s a photo of what it did look like.
    http://ryanmcgennisken.com/2012/05/31/sleep-and-wake-installation/

  • Phoenix

    I thought I would share my impressions of the Ghostpatrol and Civil shows.
    I was most impressed with both of them in quite different ways.

    I found myself able to look at Ghostpatrol’s large pictures for a long time – so much exquisitely-wrought technique and character development. To me there was an alchemic magic the works: a clear sense of the tens of thousands of hours of drawing and painting Ghostpatrol must have spent.

    I thought Tom Civil’s show worked the space beautifully: his striking golden carhood cowboy like the head of an arrow with a snaking shaft made up of smaller carefully-rendered prints, carvings, collages, and painted found objects. This was intertwined with a powerful exploration of life and death.

  • tim

    i think you totally missed the point with the ghostpatrol show
    the installation looked amazing at the opening here:
    http://backwoodsgallery.com/cosmic-scale-and-the-super-future-by-ghostpatrol-opening-review/
    there was plenty to read online about the themes behind the show.

    big canvases were a great change compared to his smaller delicate works.
    there seem to be few other artists in that field who can produce and sell large works in a collingwood back alley

    but yeah super great to see Civil back in town

    • Mark Holsworth

      I didn’t see the installation at its best but I had seen photos of the opening before I went, so I was aware of what it could look like. But apart from looking amazing at the opening I didn’t see any point in it.

  • thomas

    lame review
    you don’t see shows like a ghostpatrol anywhere else
    next level
    puts others to shame

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