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Category Archives: Art Galleries & Exhibitions

Motherhood is the new performance art

For every parent whose children use them as a climbing frame Tiffany Parbs has a portable climbing frame and a slide; with the mockingly dry formalist titles of structure and slope. Photographs of Parbs and her children demonstrate how the stainless steel structures enhances the parental play gym.

 

Parbs’s art is both fun and part of the serious thought in contemporary art of using the artist’s body the prime material for sculpture. Turning a woman’s body into an actual playground rather than a political one is fun for most of the family and very amusing for the gallery visitor. After seeing Tiffany Parbs’s exhibition Smother at Craft I thought: motherhood is the new performance art.

This is not the imaginary ‘motherhood’ of ‘motherhood statements’ or the ideal mother but the physical state of being a mother. Performance art is a theoretically elevated, actually denigrated, state. As such it is a metaphor for (artists and) mothers.

Being a mother is everything that performance art always wanted: treating the body as a sculptural object, use of bodily fluids and an emphasis on the sexual without being erotic. Performance art is about endurance and duration where the body is public rather than private.

Pharbs is Melbourne based “conceptual jeweller” whose work is exhibited nationally and internationally including in The Language of Things at The Dowse Art Museum in NZ (2018) and Masked at Holding House, Detroit (2017). And Craft is a great location for this solo exhibition, bringing in the perfect audience for Parbs exhibition.

Conceptual jewellery is a good way to describe the variety of media and crafts used to create the work. Photographs by Tobias Titz of Parbs and her two children document the performance elements. In attached (2018), they are attached with velcro to Pharbs garment. In fodder (2015) a baby sucks milk from a device that looks like a combination of a beer hat and fetish wear.

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Can we digitise a museum?

In the wake of the catastrophic fire at the National Museum of Brazil it has been suggested (in Wired and Sydney Business Insights) that a digital version of museums collections could replace the need for actual public access. This assumes that the fetichism of the original, a kind of contact magic, is the principle reason for the continued practice. As an atheist I do not believe in contact magic but I don’t go to museums for that reason.

NGV Ian Potter

Although the National Gallery of Victoria has described itself as “custodian of the richest treasury of visual arts in the southern hemisphere”. There are other reasons, aside from guarding the horde, for a state museum or art gallery.

Firstly, museums provide unmediated contact with an analogue item is a natural interface. We can look it closer or stand back without any digital interface or restrictions from the technology. The average museum visitor only spends a few seconds on average looking at an exhibit and this would quickly become exhausting if mediated by clicking or swiping.

Secondly, not all people going to a museum are there to contact the original. I am not always looking at the original. Be it Richard Hamilton’s replica of Duchamp’s Large Glass or a working replica of Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel that I could play with. The working replica of Bicycle Wheel was much better than any authorised edition because I could see the often mentioned op art effect of light through the rotating spokes as I turned the wheel.

Finally, it is not the object but the journey and it is not the object but the place. This makes the reasons for a museum much more complex than a storehouse. Museums, art galleries and libraries are public spaces, places where there is the possibility of all kinds of interactions that has to happen in an actual space. Not only that they are public spaces located in an actual and complex world; a world where destination architecture is also a local building.

For me, the best part of going to see the art of the Belgium Surrealists was not contact with the relics of that art movement (which is distinctly different from the French Surrealists). The best part was that it lead me to Mons and the Ducasse de Mons or Doudou festival; an accidental encounter with a parade, a dragon and street festival. It was a lot of fun straight out of Fraser’s The Golden Bough with lots of Belgium beer. (I must have been having fun all I have is a terrible shot of the parade and a photo of me and local drinking beer.)


Signing Off and Shouting Out

Word up on signing off and shouting out.

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I have been reading and collecting graffiti writer’s sign offs; that is the side comments near the outer edge of a piece of graffiti. If it is a name or a list of names it is called a ‘shout out’; as in when a DJ gives a shout out to a listener, a graff writer gives a shout out to a watcher. (Thanks Harry Nesmoht for clearing up ‘sign off’ and ‘shout out’ for me.) The names in shout-outs are often obscure but the sign offs can be an interesting read.

Written in a relatively clean and easy to read font; sign offs are a trace of pre-hip hop graffiti when words and slogans were all there was.

Often they will tell you where the writers, if they aren’t local, are from. Brunswick and Coburg must have felt like home for the German speaking graffiti writers.

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Or what event, the wall was painted for, this one was for the Meeting of Styles in 2016.

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Interesting taste in music and it is not hip hop; it is a line from The Magnetic Fields “Papa Was A Rodeo” (from 69 Love Songs: Volume 2, 1999).

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Sometimes the writer is leaving a message for a wider public like Bailer explaining his position to a slasher. Ironically there are lots of messages to taggers to leave the wall alone.

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Or adding a political comment about the current state of Hosier Lane.

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That is so cold it is cool. Killing them with style.

Shout out to Rise for his shout out to me. Signing off this post: cheers!

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Tacit Art Galleries September 2018

Tacit Art Galleries in Collingwood is a well designed series of small to medium sized spaces. To avoid people’s minds become numb the gallery floors, walls and ceilings varied. Floors of wood, concrete and even a carpet. High ceilings with skylights and low ceilings with more artificial light. The carpet was in the black walled print room where in small individually lite niches where Mel Kerr was exhibiting digital drawings of menacing black birds. Aside from appreciating the design of the gallery amongst the dozen exhibitions that I saw at Tacit this week were:

Brenda Walsh

Brenda Walsh, Sad Clown

Brenda Walsh’s “The Ark” is a series of oil paintings that references to art history in a drowned world, the climate catastrophe for humans and animals. A polar bear dressed as the clown in Watteau’s Pierrot; Walsh chooses images from extinct art movements from French Rococo to German Romanticism. These catastrophic scenes, the lamb of god staying afloat with a yellow buoyancy vest replacing the halo, are so much deeper than Walsh’s earlier paintings with cats and dogs in parodies of famous paintings.

Eugene von Nagy

Eugene von Nagy, various still life paintings

Eugene von Nagy in “Painting IRL” is showing twenty-eight small canvases, mostly still life, in a practiced painterly technique. Brachiosaurus and flowers, watermelon with stegosaurus, T. Rex vs Pumpkin; perhaps the toy dinosaurs are a references the dinosaur tradition of traditional oil painting. The choice and arrangement of the readymade objects to include in still life paintings is not doomed to be only fruit and flowers. The juxtaposition of flowers, fruit, plates, toys, lamps, small brass statues of Shiva and liquorice all-sorts creates a poetry.

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Peter Ward, Industrial Heartland

Another artist working on a small scale is Peter Ward’s “Small Tunes”. It is an exhibition of linocut prints; Ward has been exhibiting prints since 1973 but in the last six years Ward has concentrated entirely on linocut printing. For an exhibition emphasising small I enjoyed Ward’s two large quilted prints, that assembled the tunes into a larger vision.


The Message at Yarra Sculpture Gallery

An exhibition of four installations that “transform language into visible and physical forms”, curated by Sarah Randal and the YSG. The curatorial conceit of transforming language into visible and physical forms is too easy, I’ve just done it myself with text. I doubt that half of the installations have anything to do with language.

There are other curatorial connections to be made in the exhibition; the four women artists have all transitioned between places with different dominate languages. And otherwise, the curators have made excellent use of the space.

Annette Chang, Shopping Net #3

Annette Chang, Shopping Net #3

 

In the largest of the YSG gallery spaces, Annette Chang, Shopping Net #3 hangs from the ceiling, flowing in and around itself, finally draping on the floor. Since 2012 Chang collects all her receipts folds them on to the net and taped closed. The paper flags recording her purchases as days go by.

In Senye Shen, Shifting Field #1 and #2, print installation of lino and relief prints, footprints and petals, cut from the prints, leads you through the space to the next space. Shen has been cutting many lines cut into lino to deploy the moiré effect; bubbling and rippling along her series of prints. (Sorry I forgot to photograph them.) Shen was gallery sitting on the day that I visited.

Anwar Anwar, Dancing Letters

Anwar Anwar, Dancing Letters

Anwar Anwar invites the viewer to carefully navigate around, Dancing Letters, the long hanging Arabic letters cut out of paper that almost fill YSG’s projection room. It is a delicate journey around them. Avan Anwar is a Kurdish artist who is referencing the Nalî, a 19th Century Kurdish poet and fellow exile.

Pimpisa Tinpalit, Silence is like an illustration of an unknown, unspoken sutra. The ladder of linked arms reaches to the heavens or at least the ceiling. The gold leaf applied to the hands emphasising their importance to the lesson that we can only imagine. To indulge in language for a moment; the word ‘sutra’ comes from Sanskrit sūtra ‘thread, rule’, from siv ‘sew’, like the black rope that ties the arms together.

Pimpisa Tinpalit, Silence

Pimpisa Tinpalit, Silence

 


Friday Night in Docklands

It may surprise you but I’m glad that I went to Warf Street, a shopping mall in Melbourne’s failing Docklands on a cold Friday night. The first Friday of every month is like a small art fair there with multiple galleries opening exhibitions.

The manufactured inner city suburb of Docklands failure to create a liveable space without adequate public transport nor any good reason to even go there meant that much of the shopping mall on the pedestrian zone of Warf Street was unoccupied.

Last year a plan based on the successful Renew Newcastle project offered over a thousand square metre of rent free space to “makers, creators, artists, and local enterprises.” The result was that art galleries and others moved in and given the place a bit of attraction and life on a Friday night.

The largest of these, Blender Studios and Dark Horse Experiment had three exhibitions and an open studios that night. Downstairs at Dark Horse Experiment there was Cultural Candy – Taiwanese Artist Residency / Exhibition, a group exhibition of fine arts students from the National Taipei University of Education, Taiwan who were at a one month residency at Blender Studios. Upstairs there were gallery exhibitions by two street artists, Sunfigo and Astral Nadir. Whereas the Sunfigo exhibition managed the jump from the street to the gallery unfortunately for Astral Nadir those same patterns done on the street did not have the impact when on small canvases.

Crowther Contemporary had an exhibition of photography and video installations; One hand washes the other by Madeline Bishop. Bishop was exploring the borders of intimacy in friendship in an awkward suburban aesthetic: how close would you get? Could you carry your friend?

The Australian Cartoon Museum had its “Footy Finals Spectacular”, a topical exhibition featuring cartoons by HarvTime (Paul Harvey), Mark Knight and a dozen other cartoonists.

Resident artist Malini Maunsell had a dull solo exhibition of 15 almost identical blue monotypes At Current Gallery and Studios. There were more exhibitions because other studios were open and shops like Dodgy Paper, that sells handmade papers, had a small Dodgy Staff exhibition of work on their papers by Chehehe and Nathan CCP amongst the product displays. Loose Print, a shop selling printed fabric had an art exhibition of paintings hanging on one wall. Tree Paper Comics is an independent, publisher and printer of Australasian graphic novels and comics also had original work for sale. It seemed that only Magnet Galleries that specialises in photography didn’t have an exhibition opening that night.


Nicholas Building Exhibitions

Three sentence reviews of four exhibitions in Melbourne’s Nicholas Building, where there is always more than you expect to find.

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In Response, Craft Cubed Festival, Cathedral Arcade

A video loop of a site-specific performance piece by two dancers, Briarna Longville and Elise Drinkwater using jewellery by jewellers Ruby Aitchison and Annie Gobel. One of the necklaces of made of metal strips is on exhibition along with the video. At times it looks like puppetry of necklaces, at times a fashion parade but the work does succeed at a hybrid event.

Alex Walker and Nick James Archer, Visible Absence, Blindside Gallery One, Level 7

The empty experience of missing the building next door which has been demolished to build the Metro tunnel. The absence is made visible by some sheets of acrylic with minimal images printed on them. Some of the sheets of obscure the window that looks out on the demotion site, one is on a trolley and another is out in the corridor.

Jeremy Bakker, Unfathoming, Blindside Gallery Two, Level 7

“Unfathoming” suggests a reduction in depth and this witty little works by a clever artist  plays on shallowness. In his Manifest density (2018) various glasses have been melted down and poured into a mould made from the negative space of the glass. I could have lived without so much text accompanying the exhibition; the work spoke to me more than the printed words.

Matlok Griffiths, Hole of Mirrors, Reading Room, Level 6

Painted bronze hanging on the wall, a high art materials meets slacker art attitude in a dull resolution. Dumb doodling with a square of wax that was then cast in bronze and then painted. The Reading Room is a beautiful gallery space occupying one corner of the sixth floor.

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