Archive for the 'Exhibitions' Category

Biennale of Sydney – MCA

A partial wander through the galleries of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Ciara Phillip

Ciara Phillips

In Ciara Phillip’s printing studio I felt flat and un-involved. Signage informed me that the artist has invited local community groups, is exploring the nature of collaboration, wants to connect with people and develop ideas together. Apparently as part of the audience I was meant to see work in production, interrupting the gallery convention of viewing a completed work of art. I saw: a print studio and associated paraphernalia; a gallery staff member making notes on a clip board – when I approached her to ask about the artist working in the studio she referred me to the information desk; later, a different gallery staff member striding across the space to tell someone not to touch the drying racks. I guess it’s more interesting as an idea or as a participant or as a audience to work actually in production.

Simryn Gill

Simryn Gill
Untitled (Interior) II


Five bronze sculptures, each contained on a plinth, fabulously delicate and complex. They were cast from fissures in dry dams and creeks during a long, severe drought in Australia. The void made visible. Lace-like, beauty from the hard and harsh. The more you look the more you see.

Lucio Fontana
Spatial Concept

Since then I’ve been thinking of Lucio Fontana and the pierced canvas, making apparent the threshold between materiality and immateriality (12-Jun-2016, and an image 21-Dec-2017).

John Olsen
Cooper’s Creek in flood

Of John Olsen, preoccupied with the littoral and the void (6-Apr-2017).

Resin samples

Of my cast resin samples from Mixed Media for Textiles, my glorious failures (14-Sep-2015). Thoughts are bubbling furiously.

Simryn Gill
Carbon Copy (detail)

Simryn Gill
Carbon Copy

Also by Simryn Gill is Carbon Copy. Frame after frame of typed text, varied, text that looks textural, textile-like. A strange mixture of precision, staggered repetition to form twill-like diagonals, and apparent carelessness, poorly typed, spelling and positional “errors”. Then you decipher some of the text and there’s a thudding, booming in your head, hateful words repeated ad nauseum until they almost lose impact and meaning, become part of the fabric of modern discourse.

Yvonne Koolmatrie

Yvonne Koolmatrie
Burial Baskets

Another series of works given additional presence and impact by repetition, variation, and thoughtful display. An expression of tradition, culture, community, country, the varying seasons. One was made ten years ago, the others commissioned for the Biennale. Tradition sustained and sustaining.

One of the things I value about basketry, enjoy being part of, is the sense of doing something fundamental to humanity, that connects people of widely separated times and places and cultures. Coiling, twining, looping… techniques subtly or strongly varied, made with differing or similar materials, with differing purposes and meaning, but creating connections.

Haegue Yang
That ubiquity is explored further in sculptures installed in a gallery of works by Haegue Yang in a series titled The Intermediate.

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Various types of ropes and twines, many synthetic but also natural materials, are combined with a range of objects using predominately basketry techniques in forms that raise ideas of effigies, folk rituals and menacing half-seen monsters.


Shown with a number of video works, bright lights moving in darkness, and installations of reflective surfaces and black venetian blinds, there is an unsettling beauty and sense of danger. The blinds in particular – so domestic, suburban, but hiding prying eyes and giving glimpses of private interiors…

Svay Sareth
There are quite a few video works in the exhibition – not usually a favoured medium for me. You generally walk in part way through, they make considerable time demands on the audience, it’s hard to use the technique of a quick reconnoiter followed by deeper consideration of the works that particularly attract one, and often I find them quite a passive experience.

Prendre les Mesures is documentary footage of a durational performance. Svay Sareth used a large sack needle to measure the length of the causeway at the entrance to the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia. 7315 needle lengths, eight hours’ duration.

The film is taken from different viewpoints, close and from a distance. Often the artist seemed in danger of being trampled by the weight of tourists visiting the site. It was hard to tell what he was doing.

The MCA website text includes “While Angkor Wat has been a spiritual location of great significance, Svay calls attention to the expropriation of the temple by varying powers over time, from the colonial-era establishment of an archaeological park, to more recent concessions of ticket sales to private companies, and the ever-present masses of tourists” (https://www.biennaleofsydney.art/artists/svay-sareth/). I didn’t understand that while viewing it, but it was absorbing to watch the focus and attention of the man in all that bustle, what appeared a quiet and gentle determination to continue his chosen task regardless of time, aching knees, the reactions of the other visitors to his presence and to the presence of the film cameras.

A sack needle was displayed on a black cushion on a plinth nearby. It’s fascinating the power of that presentation. Something so ordinary and utilitarian transformed.

Exhibitions: Steel for now; Recalibrate; Arcadia

Caroline Duffy and Ellenore Griffith Steel for now
This exhibition by sculptors Caroline Duffy and Ellenore Griffith is in its final week at Gallery Lane Cove. I’ve been fortunate to spend some quiet time with the exhibition, plus hear the artists speak about their work and their creative paths. The works felt familiar and exciting, inspirational… aspirational.

The two artists met at a National Art School class in welded sculpture around 11 years ago – basically the same class I took last year (22-Jan-2017). They have since worked independently and collaboratively. In the talks they went into quite a bit of detail about the methods and challenges of welding, with some really helpful discussion and generous tips about managing safety concerns. Their assessment was the same as mine – welding, grinding etc are serious things with clear dangers, not something you can do casually in a domestic environment. However they had a few suggestions about how to create other possibilities, find other environments, which gives me a bit more optimism for the future.

Steel for now installation view
Caroline Duffy


As well as her work in steel Caroline Duffy showed a number of collage works. I had an immediate and very strong positive response. At a deep level these works resonated with me. It’s a response to material and form, which seems to be the way in which Duffy herself views her work. In her talk she explained that the material leads. She adds material – “stuff” – then takes away stuff. Process, the sheer fun of the work, is the thing and it’s never outsourced.

Caroline Duffy
KYLIX

Duffy’s work is named with meaningless groupings of letters. There is no narrative in her work. In fact if by chance something literal is suggested, say a bird, then she will remove or change that area.

Germination II


I felt like a fellow traveler, maybe a younger sibling. More resonance or suggestion than specific. For example the general form, the repeated elements, the material of KYLIX had me thinking of Germination II (30-Jun-2017). Mine looks fussy by comparison, but that textile sensibility, the threadlike basketry elements, is important to me and something I feel I should focus on.

Ellenore Griffith
Paper Plane

Ellenore Griffith discussed the experimental approach she takes with her work, putting elements together then taking days or weeks looking at them, adjusting in minor or major ways, until she is satisfied and proceeds to welding.

Like Duffy, Griffith is not narrative in her work. She states “My hope is that these sculptures can be appreciated on an aesthetic and imaginative level rather than allowing environmental or social issues to take over the narrative.” However she is happy to accept titles suggested by others, accepting to some level the seeking for meaning or known points of reference that we often bring when looking at an artwork.

Ellenore Griffith
Sheer Red

I find it refreshing, perhaps liberating, to hear such strong statements treating material, form, aesthetic response as the purpose and reason for art. So many people choose to use their art as a means of bringing attention to social, environmental or other issues that concern them. I don’t in any way reject or question that meaning and purpose. If an artist has strongly held beliefs or wants to bring attention to a cause then using their art to publicise and express that can be an important contribution to social discourse. It’s more that I personally don’t have such drivers, and it feels good, validating, to be reminded that that is one option among many, none more nor less legitimate than others.

Tracy Stirzaker Recalibrate
Tracy Stirzaker’s exhibition Recalibrate is also in its last week at Gallery Lane Cove.

Stirzaker uses textile collage, embroidery, installation and soft sculpture in this exhibition, which stems from a recent 3-month artist residency.

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The themes of the work revolve around mental health, the emotional body, and the concept of being overwhelmed in the everyday. I thought the works were very effective in expressing these ideas.

One more technical aspect I particularly appreciated was the coherence of the works. A limited palette of fabrics was used, basically a blue and white kitchen towel material and a number of black and white fabrics. Forms and images were repeated – the straight jacket in different materials; a series of silhouettes in collage and stitch; the straight jacket presented as an installation, in a series of photographs taken in the streets nearby, in a video of a silhouetted, straight-jacketed body struggling for freedom. The repetition made for a more compelling exhibition, but also was expressive of the themes being explored.

Ewa Pachucka Arcadia: landscape and bodies
This installation can currently be seen at the Art Gallery of NSW.

Ewa Pachucka

Ewa Pachucka

It is fascinating on a number of levels to see this multi-part installation Arcadia: landscape and bodies (1972-77). It was created within the context of 1970s fibre art, and first exhibited at the Gallery in 1978.

There are references to classical art (and world) history, notions of collectivism, feminism and environmentalism. Most importantly there is the elevation of textile traditions and craft into the privileged realm of fine art.

What’s had me thinking is a recent incident in a group installation, part of a larger exhibition. It’s not one I’ve written about, and I won’t go into detail because quite possibly the story has been distorted in the telling (something that could be interesting in its own right). In any case, the story I’ve heard is that the group, all women, prepared a number of elements as part of the installation. Included was a large piece that deliberately evoked the look of a patchwork quilt. That element was rejected by the curator of the exhibition as “too crafty”. It was displayed, folded up, partially covered by other material, in a way to minimize its presence.

Was the curator simply exercising her (note gender) role, effectively excluding work she didn’t see as appropriate in some quality? Given it was a very conscious, deliberate evocation of the domestic by the artists, does it show a lack of understanding by the curator? Do we need to fight yet again for the place of the domestic, the place of textile traditions and craft, in the realm of art? Does it make a difference that it wasn’t actually a textile in traditional terms?


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