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Three Exhibitions in Brunswick

“Rosencrantz: Whatever became of the moment when one first knew about death? There must have been one. A moment. In childhood. When it first occurred to you that you don’t go on forever. Must have been shattering. Stamped into one’s memory. And yet, I can’t remember it.” (Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guilderstern are Dead)

There are currently two dark exhibitions on at the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick: “Exhume” by Clare Humphries and “An Apprehension of Mortality” by Bruce Dickson. ‘Dark’ in both their colours and in the theme of mortality.

There is often an element of memento mori in the genre of still life but Humphries emphasises it by using personal objects of her deceased family members. The hand-burnishing of the linocuts softens the usual hard edges of the print allowing for subtle gradation of light to dark. The objects that Humphries depicts glow against the blackness of the paper.

Anyone complaining that art students don’t know how to draw doesn’t know that there are lecturers like Humphries. Clare Humphries lectures in Drawing and Printmedia at the VCA and the technical skill in these prints is amazing.

Of course, anyone complaining about today’s art students would point at Bruce Dickson’s exhibition at the Counihan. Dickson has more light than dark but it is a slack light, vaguely suggesting something. There are only three works in the exhibition, an “installation/sculpture” called “threshold”, where some paper that had been dipped in pigment hangs in sculptural manner, and two loops of video of some gauze-like material blowing around. Even when I appreciated the existential vibrations, in Dickson’s video loop “towards stillness,” I found the actual video annoying because of the inelegant arrangement of the three pieces of cloth kept distracting me.

Further along Sydney Road at Soma Gallery, a shopfront gallery is “Bush Nighmarez” by Lou Herrod. Demons with gum leaf horns and a “Bogan Dream Cather” hung with VB can and shotgun cartridges. In her bold and brutal paintings the iconic Australian gum leaf bush becomes a place of horror for Herrod. I haven’t seen art that so excoriates the thin skin of the Australian bush dream since an early Paul Yore exhibition, “Monument to the Republic” at Gertrude Contemporary.

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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

2 responses to “Three Exhibitions in Brunswick

  • artandarchitecturemainly

    I want to think about “dark” being both the colours chosen for the art and for the theme of mortality.

    I have been watching long running television programmes that have become increasing dark (eg Vera, Shetland). Yes they are set in northern climes and are not liking to be filled with blazing sunshine. But the darkness seems to be evocative of mortality, terrorism, fear etc, even when the films’ themes are not depicting death or terrorism.

    • Mark Holsworth

      The colour chosen for mourning becomes a symbol of mortality. It used to symbolise obscurity, hence ‘the dark ages’ and ‘Heraclitus, the dark’. Now it is also the dark obscurity of the unconscious, as well as, mortality.
      The best darks in these exhibitions were in Humphries beautiful and peaceful prints, whereas Herrod choose bright colours for her Australian nightmares.

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