Exhibitions – the bad and the good

Driving home from the Sensorial Loop exhibition we diverted to Newcastle to see TOUCH The Portraiture of Dani Marti. It was a calculated risk given it was the last few hours of the exhibition, but leaving it so late was in large part because the gallery wasn’t accessible for weeks due to a long-running local dispute around removal of fig trees.

Unfortunately the risk didn’t pay off. I arrived to find the gallery in semi-darkness, large parts of the exhibition already removed and other sections roped off, apparently due to the de-installation work (although no activity was apparent – this was a sunday afternoon, and I wonder when they started dismantling things). The woman at the entrance desk gave a brief, formulaic apology as people arrived (not many of us!), but was more interested in promoting the upcoming exhibition. Well, she’d had a pretty nasty few weeks or months – police and protesters at the door, unable to get to work…

There were no catalogues, fliers, postcards, or any other information from the desk and frustratingly little in the signage still accessible. I gather (more from his website than the sad remains of the exhibition) that Marti creates portraits using weaving (he refers to them as “paintings”), with video an equally important part of his work and exhibited with it – or not, in this instance. The weavings were large scale, varied in materials, colour, form, texture and structure. Unfortunately without help I couldn’t get beyond the trivial in interpreting the pieces – a teenage girl likes pink, a woman glitters in a controlled, minimalist black dress, is a man portrayed in a cube of lively yellows a “colourful identity”? The disappointment was topped off by a truely frightening drive back to Sydney – light rain causing slippery conditions, heavy fast traffic, and some “eager”? “creative”? “deathwish”? drivers.

Yesterday was a much happier experience – Elemental Reckoning: The art of Tim Storrier 1981-2011 at the S.H. Ervin Gallery on Sydney’s Observatory Hill. The volunteer staff (this is a National Trust venue) were friendly and happy to be there. The gallery is spacious and light with white painted walls. The intended exhibition was all there!! We had a lovely lunch at the attached cafe (important point to refuel me for a second round of the exhibition) and I enjoyed reading the curator’s (Gavin Wilson) essay in the catalogue last night. All of which has little to do with the paintings, except for helping me to focus on them. The one negative was that with such large canvases the lighting tended to be uneven over the work. Storrier is a master of light and shadow and the additional venue lighting could be confusing and contradictory.

It’s wonderful to see a collection of an artist’s work covering such a long period. On our first round we were fairly orderly, proceeding through the works. Energised by lunch we buzzed around finding links, themes and developments. This link goes to some images – I can’t describe them. They are variously theatrical, staged, melancholy, beautiful, menacing, self-obsessed… With current preoccupations from the OCA assignment I was very aware of Storrier’s use of colour. Normally I would find The carcass (1993) challenging – in fact impossible – but supported by the quote “Some people find it odd that one is interested in painting meat. I like it because it contains the whole spectrum of red. Red is a very emotive colour.”* I could look closely and appreciate at least elements of it. The flickers of colour in sky and fires in many of the paintings were amazing. The back corridor has some studies and pages from notebooks – very interesting insights to methods and a reminder that what OCA is teaching is real – not just learning about stuff but learning processes and habits that can support ongoing work.

* Tim Storrier interviewed by William Wright, 2004, quoted in the exhibition catalogue, Wilson, G. (2011) Elemental Reckoning: the art of Tim Sotrrier 1981 – 2011, Jam Press (p.34).

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Fabulous figure sculpting workshop with Kassandra Bossell!

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