A Magic Picture Coming into Focus: Libby Barratt Reviews ‘Recent Paintings & Glassworks’ by Jeff Manning at The Shop Gallery Glebe

Recent Paintings and Glassworks by Jeff Manning at The Shop Gallery, 112 Glebe Point Road, Glebe until 14th April 2016


A packed rush hour bus churns up Glebe Point Road and all eyes turn in unison to the kaleidoscopic colour bursting out of the brightly lit Shop Gallery. Jeff Manning’s recent paintings and glass works are nothing if not colourful, a celebration of performing and carnival work and life.

The works chronicle the experience and observations of the artist who has worked as a performer in circus and cabaret for thirty-five years as well as for the last two decades as singer, songwriter and front man for the Northern Tablelands band “Plan 9 From Inner Space.” You can hear his song “What is Art?” on YouTube at plan9frominnerspace.


This colourful exhibition features whimsical pieces alongside inter-active side show inspired installations. But it’s not all bells and whistles. There’s a keen but subtle thread of social and cultural awareness embedded in the often black humour of these works. It takes a studied viewing to realize, like a magic picture coming into focus, the double entendre of the seven and a half meter triptych ‘Clown Funeral’. On a literal level, it is just that; a clown’s funeral but there is also a comedia del arte performance with all the tropes and tricks enacted through this lively cortege; the real cause of the sad faces. ‘Wicker Man’ recalls T.S.Eliot’s ‘The Hollow Men’; the sadness etched on the Kewpie Doll stall attendant’s face and the jarring design of her ill-chosen jumper contrast sharply with the fairy-like fantasy represented by the dolls; and “Shooting Gallery with Ducks” features a returned soldier in all his loneliness. There are happily observed artworks as well and one of my favourites is the simple, sunny portrait of a well- known landmark; Cunningham’s banana stall just south of Coff’s Harbour.

The glass works, designed and painted by Jeff Manning in collaboration with Greville Wilton of the Golden Wattle Glassworks in Glen Innes NSW (cutting and leading), deserve special praise.


Manning, self- taught in the art of staining and painting glass, has designed panels for church windows that venerate the saints but here he celebrates the secular; ordinary people going about their lives and work; noodle waitress, skipping girl and boy fishing. These works are superbly realized and crafted.


There was a merry crowd at the Opening on Friday 8th April. The show runs until Thursday 14th. Don’t miss it! It’s fun and there’s plenty to think about.

Plan 9 from Inner Space (plan9frominnerspace) live at the Platform Glen Innes.


 – Libby Barratt


 Libby Barrett is an English & Studies in Culture teacher and studied Media and Journalism at UTS. She has published reviews in many journals and newspapers including reviews of the London & Sydney punk music scene. She also performed as a tightrope artiste at the Adelaide Fringe Festival in the 80’s.

Further information at http://theshopgalleryglebe.blogspot.com.au/2016/03/recent-works-9-14-april-opens-630pm.html 

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