A day at AGNSW

Today I let my body and mind roam around the Art Gallery of NSW for a few hours. Going to what caught my attention, following my own train of thought rather than an artist’s intention, joyous and refreshing.

Loribelle Spirovski
John Bell at home

First the Archibald, and Loribelle Spirovski’s John Bell at home

I love the wonderful and free lines of the chair, and in contrast the heavy, thick, colourful paint of the flesh.

Loribelle Spirovski (detail)

There is such a strong sense of the person, the physical man. Such confidence, sense of self, commanding the large canvas. And a strong sense of light and space, the beautiful colour of the arm and hand in what may be window-light. Sitting in his space, this painting reminded me of The sock knitter by Grace Cossington Smith.

William Mackinnon
Landscape as self-portrait

In the Wynne, Landscape as self-portrait by William Mackinnon caught my eye. This was partly due to last weekend’s visit to houses by Harry Seidler (yet to be blogged), plus beautiful, beautiful colour, wonderful textures and pattern, a little glitter, and a sense of familiarity – of recognition and truth. For the artist it may be his emotional states, for me it triggered the senses – I could smell the salt, my hair sticky from a swim, the bitumen road hot under my bare feet, a cooling breeze… Home, arrival, anticipation.

Alexandra Standen
Relics from romantic attachments

Also in the Wynne, Alexandra Standen’s Relics from romantic attachments seemed quirky and fragile and almost like a little clique, clustered together in a corner. The artist writes of the meanings of collecting objects, nostalgia, “turning memories into delicate things”. Brittle but defiant, standing tall but delicately inclined, related but carefully individual.

Gregory Hodge

Mime by Gregory Hodge is in the Sulman exhibition. Lightness and movement – that thin vertical up from the bottom that everything dances around. It’s apparently based on a suspended construction – from life and photographs. What a great way for me to explore and extend my explorations with mobiles. Look at those flickering “shadows” that Hodge has created!

It reminded me of some recent reading – an exhibition review by Susan Noble of John Piper: The Fabric of Modernism, published in Textile, Volume 15, Issue 3. The show included preliminary collages and paintings, not reproduced but informing tapestry design. “The move from drawing, painting and collage to print, and weave in particular, means every instinctive response is reevaluated and reconsidered as the design process develops and transforms the original source… Textiles transform gesture to object, gesture to entity; accident and serendipity become deliberateness and consideration.” I love, love, love this idea of opening up to chance, the unexpected, and then distilling that, maybe a blast furnace of intellect and experience and all those qualities of the individual who is the artist. Moving back and forward between those states…

Mikala Dwyer: a shape of thought
The main event of the day. Four large spaces given over to the artist to transform. Five really, given the hovering silver balloons over the escalators.

Square cloud compound was filled with sewn cubes of fabric, lashed to the gallery itself with pantyhose, coloured posts holding nick-nacks, suspending reflectors and shapes. To me it was a wonderful playground, walking right into the installation, surrounded by colour and textile. The signage mentioned time spent by the artist on Cockatoo Island, which had me thinking of Erin Manning’s suspended fabrics in 2012, the 18th Biennale of Sydney (some detail 29-Jun-2015).

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I looked carefully at the lamp posts, thinking there could be a mobile, but no … until the next gallery with A weight of space. Apparently Dwyer calls these mobiles “earrings for ceilings” which raised a smile. Look at the way the suspended plastic almost, so very nearly, touches the floor, distorting light, weightless space.

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Next the great circle of Divisions and subtractions. Standing within the circle felt wonderful, right – a participant, in conversation with the work. My scrawled notes:
weight & gravity. balance. internal/external. see-through, reflection. geometric shapes and organic. correspondence. repetition. transformation or raw state of material.
I was entranced, totally engaged in the experience, breathing, listening, finding fresh and exciting links and contrasts, again the play with gravity and weightlessness, work gently hovering or suspended…

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Finally in to a gallery with a series of works under the grouped name The letterbox Marys. More colour, textile – the whole series of rooms were linked by repeated materials, use of colour, play of ideas around gravity. (I know it’s different and there’s a lot more in the artist’s intent, but after briefly reading on-line I’ve decided that this day was about the impact of art on me, my experience, my little nuggets of joy).

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To finish, and also in that final gallery, Backdrop for Saint Jude. A final link for me – given my name, my brothers liked to remind me St Jude was patron saint of hopeless cases. I prefer the description I just found, Patron Saint of Hope and impossible causes. I’ve been known to tilt at some windmills in my time.

Mikala Dwyer
Backdrop For Saint Jude

Rebecca Baumann
Mixed feelings

And onward still, turning corners on a whim to see what I would see. In Out of the ordinary there was Mixed feelings by Rebecca Baumann. It’s the work on the ground in the photo to the right. On the wall behind can be seen Torpedo by Sara Hughes. At first I thought the idea might be around the different impact of a work on the floor rather than the wall. Then I realised it was loose pieces of paper and wondered it referred to waste. Then I read the signage and discovered there is a printer suspended from the ceiling, every 3 minutes feeding out two pieces of paper that float to the ground, generally landing on the raised platform.

Rebecca Baumann
action shot

The action shot may give an impression of movement, if no detail 🙂

Does that make it more interesting? I obediently experienced mixed emotions. If you’re going to have a printer, I really want it to print. Imagine that with bits of text, disjointed. A story or random? Something intriguing, teasing, revealed and concealed…

One piece of paper fluttered down and missed the platform. It sat there. I looked at it. Then turned my back and wandered to look at other works. Later it had moved … well, more properly I suspect I should write it had been moved.

Ambivalent, I moved on.

Rashid Johnson
Colour men

I came to Something living, in particular Colour men by Rashid Johnson. Materials include ceramic tile, black soap, wax (and enamel paint? my photo of the wall sign is blurry).

The detail on the left may show the lumpy texture on the surface.

The mark making is energetic, exciting, revealing colour. I was fascinated by the way the line changed colour as it crossed from tile to tile. Still, I don’t think you can get away from the idea of it looking like excrement smeared over the walls of a public toilet block. Scratching through to find the person. Graffiti. Urban decay. So I see unhappy men, grimacing, perhaps trapped and constrained in their actions by a hostile society. I expected it to smell. It was colourful, but not joyful.

I wandered upstairs. Quickly into Victorian watercolours for a photo (for another post that’s been part-written for a while. I’ve decided to keep up with the new and catch up on exhibitions seen over recent months when I can). And then to a fairly recent acquisition of work by Inge King – Captive.

My notes again: we carry our prisons with us. tapering shapes, ribs, fingers. block for head. What little we need to perceive the figure, the space around (here enclosing, containing).

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I looked at the welding, then scurried down for a final photo of Mikala Dwyer’s work.

It really isn’t the point, but I feel much happier about my welding. I need to get back to that – there is a Plan, but more medium term.

A really refreshing, inspiring, happy day. So lucky.

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August 2017

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