Adding it all up: Mark Roberts considers ‘Eight + One’ at The Shop Gallery

Eight + One. Featuring work by Lynne Barwick, Edwin Easydorchik, Nola Farman, Barbara, Halnan, Sahar Hosseinabadi, Kate Mackay, Bette Mifsud, Cecilia White, and Elke Wohlfarht. Curated by Dr Willian Seeto. The Shop Gallery, 112 Glebe Point Road Glebe NSW. Open 1-7pm Tuesday to Sunday from 27 February to 19 March 2015

Eight + One. Front Room - Week One. Photograph Dr William Seeto

Eight + One. Front Room – Week One. Photograph Dr William Seeto

The Shop Gallery is a new gallery on Glebe Point Road and is in a building that used to house The Cornstalk Bookshop and a bookbinder. Cornstalks Bookshop would be well knows to anyone familiar with Glebe during the 1980’s (I can remember a reading consisting of young poets who had been published in Neos Magazine being held in a very dusty upstairs room at the bookshop). Cornstalks continues as an online shop (http://cornstalk.com.au/). The bookbinder, Newbold and Collins which was also well-known now operates in Yagoona (http://www.bookbinders.com.au/).

The crowded space I remember has been transformed with two rooms opened up as exhibition spaces – a larger room fronting the street allowing a good view from two large windows each side of the door and a smaller room behind it with what looks like a working fire place. Curator William Seeto has taken full advantage of this space in the first major exhibition in the gallery (there was an earlier saloon type open exhibition to launch the space). Over the three weeks of the exhibition the nine different artists will circulate through the two rooms with a different grouping of three of sharing the larger front room each week. While this allows each artist to highlight their work in the larger space and to ‘call out’ to the passing foot traffic on Glebe  Point Road, it also sets up some exciting possibilities in the back room as the other works are forced into a closer relationship. Of course this relationship will change every week as the artists move in and out of the front room.

For the first week the front room contains work by Bette Mifsud, Nola Farman and Kate Mackay. The left wall of the room is dominated by Mifsud’s photographs derived from 1950 and 60s family slides. The images are familiar to anyone who grew up in 1950’s or 60’s Australia, beach scenes, the family house, lawn bowls all with that exaggerated colour that seemed to occur when kodachrome slides started to age. Mifsud has played with the images scanning, cropping , editing and and manipulating then to “create visual resemblances to impressionistic memories”. They recall a lost time, the myth of Menzies’  post-war white Australia. There is also a strong sense of family as the images reflect intimate glimpses of family – and it is no surprise to discover that the original slides were taken by  Mifsud’s late father-in-law, Doug Shearston who became a keen amateur photographer when he returned from World War Two. This family connection also creates a bridge through generations to the multicultural present as we can’t help reading the images of an imaged perfect past through a contemporary lens.

Kate Mackay’s constructions stand guard in the windows of the front room, one each side of the doorway. The larger one is a cube tower made of coloured cardboard wrapped in yarn. There is a simplicity to the structure which functions almost as a totem at the front of the exhibition. On the other side of the door is another cube construction. this time made of knitted yarn cubes formed into a larger cube. This is a playful piece, almost suggesting a children’s toy. This fascination with geometric shapes is continued in her other works which are also hanging in the front room during the first week. Rather than using space these works use the canvas as a space to spread patterns of squares, circles and triangles.

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Nola Farman takes us in a different direction with her work The Hermit’s Tablecloth. Based on a section of Eugene Ionesco’s only novel Farman’s work takes as it’s departure point a red wine stain on a tablecloth:

I stared as hard as I could at a red wine stain on the paper tablecloth. I had already tried that experiment and made it work before. It was all a question of looking at something until you no longer remember what it was. It was supposed not to be a wine stain any longer, it was supposed to become something, I don’t know what, on that other thing, the tablecloth, which was no longer a tablecloth, nor a white space, nor the site of a stain.

– Eugene Ionesco, The Hermit, Trans., Richard Seaver,

In her work the redness has become much more than a red wine stain, though it is, of course, still possible to understand the source. We have a series of works spread across a wall of the gallery, different ‘splashes’, Pollock like hakiu abstractions, a single colour on a small canvas. Up closer however the notion of a stain, accidental or otherwise, disappear. These works are carefully constructed, layered and crafted. Complex hakius , no longer a table cloth, a white space or the site of a stain.

Photograph - Nola Farman

The Hermit’s Tablecloth – Photograph Nola Farman

Moving into the back room we are confronted with at what first appears as a delicious confusion. The other six artists in the exhibition are crowded into this smaller space with little space to spare. Boundaries are not respected but it all seems to work.

Unsurprisingly given my writing background I was immediately drawn to the two artists who incorporate words and letters in their work. Words are central to Lynne Barwick’s work in the past she has covered a Marrickville Garage in text – Marrickville Garage, ‘Like A Structured Language’, May 2014 (http://lynnebarwick.blogspot.com.au/2014/05/marrickville-garage-like-structured_22.html). Here her works are more manageable in the small space with a number of concrete poems painted onto wooden bases.

Cecilia White has three installations vying for space in the small room. ‘make them space’, the most expansive, stretches across the original fire place and consists of over 200 drawings, two sculptural wordworks and small objects. The title of the work ‘make them space’ is taken from Italo Calvino’s novella Invisible CIties and, like Calviino, White is seeking to explores the “manifestation of space between the seen and unseen of everyday urban landscapes” It is an intricate work covering the space above the fire place, the mantelpiece and the space above the actual fireplace.

'make them space' 2015 Detail - Photograph Cecilia White

‘make them space’ 2015 Detail – Photograph Cecilia White

The dynamic of the exhibition will, of course change dramatically as the work moves in and out of the front room over the three weeks of the exhibition and  multiple visits will be required to comprehend the full scope of the works.

Speaking to the curator Dr William Seeto after the opening I became aware of how Eight + One fits into a larger strategy. Seeto is looking to establish a series of curated exhibitions combined with an online artist database. In the first phase, the emphasis will be on curated exhibitions in a primary location; and in the second phase, the focus will move to the artist database to promote artists and their work. The database will assist in forming ongoing links with artists to promote their work and will also assist in presenting work; assisting with grant applications and to facilitate new opportunities and possibilities for showing work in Australia and overseas. Remuneration from sales and projects associated with exhibitions and database would attract a small commission.

It will be interesting to see how this concept develops in an Australian context. In any case the work in Eight + One suggests that Seeto has a firm foundation on which to develop this concept.

Considering Bette Mifsud's images at the opening of Eight + One - Photograph Dr WIlliam Seeto

Considering Bette Mifsud’s images at the opening of Eight + One – Photograph Dr WIlliam Seeto

Exhibition Website:
http://onepluseight.blogspot.com.au/

Artists Websites:
*  Lynne Barwick http://lynnebarwick.blogspot.com/
*  Nola Farman http://www.nolafarman1.com/
*  Barbara Halnan http://bhalnan.blogspot.com.au/
*  Sahar Hosseinabadi http://saharhoss.weebly.com/
*  Kate Mackay http://kate-mackay.blogspot.com.au/
*  Bette Mifsud www.bette-mifsud-artist.com.au
*  Cecilia White http://ceciliawhite.com/
A review of Cecilia White’s chapbook, N THING IS SET IN ST NE, appeared  in an earlier issue of Rochford Street Review (https://rochfordstreetreview.com/2012/06/07/torn-papyrus-and-weathered-stone-mark-roberts-reviews-n-thing-is-set-in-st-ne-by-cecilia-white/).

– Mark Roberts

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Mark Roberts is a Sydney based writer and critic. He currently edits Rochford Street Review and P76 Magazine. He also has a number of manuscripts looking for a publisher.

The Shop Gallery can be contacted through its website: http://theshopgalleryglebe.com/#!/home

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2 thoughts on “Adding it all up: Mark Roberts considers ‘Eight + One’ at The Shop Gallery

  1. Pingback: Issue 13 October 2014 – March 2015 (Special Double Issue) | Rochford Street Review

  2. Pingback: Cecilia White: ‘the grass is greener’ | Rochford Street Review

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