Gallery tours, talks, and wanderings

Today a quick memory jogger, rather than a gentle meander.

Rizzeria in the Kaldor Studio at AGNSW. The Rizzeria is “a Sydney based collective of self-publishers and printmakers with a Risograph stencil press that they make available for public use through open-print sessions”. Kaldor Studio is “a dynamic artist-led learning space, providing opportunities to interact and explore contemporary art practice through 50 years of Kaldor Public Art Projects”. Making art public: 50 years of Kaldor Public Art Projects is on at AGNSW until mid February. It’s a survey of “the rich history of Kaldor Public Art Projects using artworks, archival materials and reconstructions of past projects”.

Documentation of Tatzu Nishi War and Peace and in between project

To me the vitality of the Studio is a very clever inclusion to an exhibition which otherwise I find static and unappealing. Each past project is isolated in its own private white cubicle. I experienced some of the actual projects (see for example 13-Apr-2013 when I posted about my experience of the 13 Rooms exhibition). I remember walking into Tatzu Nishi’s project with my mother in 2009 or 2010 – in fact we quite often remind each other of it when walking up to AGNSW. The archival remnants now on exhibit felt sad and dusty – almost inevitable given the comparison to both the original event and our shared memories of the experience.

I booked into a demonstration of the Riso machine in the Studio. Good to know of the possibilities and availability of the Riso machine, for potential future projects. Also rather nice that I arrived early and had some unexpected time to wander, leading to…

Japan Supernatural. This is on until early March. I’d already been on a formal members only tour of the exhibition. I tend to avoid tours, wanting to go at my own pace, thinking my own thoughts, spending time with the works that particularly attract me. Time for a rethink, assuming I have time for both tour and solo. Having some extra context and familiarity allowed a more thoughtful second visit.

Tsukioka Yashitoshi

Above is a woodblock print from 1859, part of a triptych now in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. (side-note – no such thing as a quick post. I just spent more than a few happy moments searching for more information on their website. For this work click here).

Every culture has its stories, its demons. More wandering that day led to the survey exhibition Quilty.

Ben Quilty
The Last Supper 2017

This dark dream is a response to the election of Donald Trump. I struggle with this exhibition. One enormous canvas after another, full of emotion and outrage, visceral in subject matter and materiality… Turning away doesn’t seem an option, nor does simply standing witness, nor shouting into the wind. Escaping into a world of ideas and aesthetics, focusing on the minutia of living daily life “well” seems woefully inadequate to the times. And yet in one sense more real.

A different day, a different gallery tour, this time at the MCA, again with time to wander before the main event.

Primavera 2019: Young Australian Artists. This is the 28th edition of the Primavera series, which showcases young Australian artists.

Coen Young
mirror painting

An addition to my collection of non-selfie photos. This is me, reflected in one of Coen Young’s mirror paintings, which aim to dissolve the space between the artwork and the audience, shifting between abstraction and representation. The signage included “As reflective surfaces, Young’s paintings are both dependent upon, and a negation of the image. They refer to the history of the ‘monochrome’: a moment within the history of painting in which all pictorial content was reduced to a single field of colour.” Given my tendency to take things literally, the poor framing resulted from my determination to include the bright orange of my bag.

Aodhan Madden
Soluble Rectangles series

More puzzles for me. There are elements of comic books, of instructions, of a very conscious use of words and language in Aodhan Madden’s work – a series of drawings, plus an audio installation. The audio was a series of exercises and like learning a language. Plain english text was altered according to a series of rules, shifting vowel sounds, changing emphasis on syllables – all apparently intended to enhance communication on an emotional plane. For example “To express fright in the confusion between the transparent and the lucid”, one can “shift all long vowels to short vowels, and move all short vowels one higher position towards the front.” Even with printed instructions including “before” and “after” text, plus the carefully enunciated audio, I had no idea what was going on. Is that the point? A break down of language and communication?

Guan Wei: MCA Collection Two finger exercise includes 48 pictures – all with plump figures using the two fingered V sign associated with the pro-democracy movement. Apparently on the back of each is a short poetic text in Mandarin. A leaflet of english translations was available – so in this instance, language enhancing communication. Plus a link to earlier in this post, as a response to contemporary politics.

Guan Wei
Two-finger exercise no 21

Why are they hiding in there?
I’m not afraid. Giving the V-sign,
I’m prepared to face wind
and rain.

Guan Wei
Two-finger exercise no 23

How am I doing? How’s my
technique? I want to get this
position perfect!

And finally it was time for the most exciting of the recent tours – a Behind-the-scenes installer tour of the Cornelia Parker exhibition.
This was fascinating. Mark Brown, Installation & AV Manager at the MCA, took us through the exhibition, focusing on the four major multi-element installations. Many months of detailed discussion and planning including the use of 3D software to meticulously check spacing funneled into the controlled frenzy of a three-week installation period. For Subconscious of a Monument, thousands of lumps of excavated earth were carefully taken from trays, threaded one by one onto wires, and hung. Teams rotated frequently, and needed every minute of the available time. The silverware in Thirty Pieces of Silver had to be polished before it was hung. The team working on that piece used the original templates but developed new techniques to make the hanging process more efficient – all of course with ongoing dialogue with the artist and her team during both planning and installation. Some of the smaller elements of Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View were pre-threaded, but more had to be done on-site. Once she was satisfied with the process and approach of the installation team, Parker allowed them a lot of freedom in the detail of placement of elements.

There was discussion of lighting – very specific to the needs of each work, and often quite different to previous iterations of hanging the works given the windowless gallery spaces. Wires varied by work – for example reflective silver colour for Thirty Pieces of Silver, and an earthy rust for Subconscious of a Monument. Then there were the gossipy snippets, such as the the height of the “pools” of silverware in Thirty Pieces of Silver – not at all by coincidence, the height of a UK roll of toilet paper (rolls being used as supports during hanging of the original work). All of the MCA installation team – the small permanent group, the extended pool brought in as required – are artists themselves, providing a level of understanding not just of the importance of every detail for the artwork but also of the perspective of the artist herself and the experience of exhibiting.

Apparently somewhere there is time-lapse video of the installation process. I’ve searched the MCA website without result. If anyone comes across it, please let me know in the comments – I think it would be fascinating!

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