Featured artist Zalehah Turner: Biographical note

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‘The light between’ (2013), photograph. Zalehah Turner.

Zalehah Turner is a Sydney based poet, photographer, cultural journalist, and Associate Editor of Rochford Street Review (RSR). Zalehah is currently working on a 30-page intermedia poetry collection entitled, Critical condition, focused on the interstitial threshold between life and death in medical crises based on personal experience. Zalehah holds a BA in Communication with a major in writing and cultural studies from the University of Technology, Sydney where she continues to pursue pushing the boundaries of poetry and multimedia in Honours (Communication- Creative Writing). Critical condition is her Honours Project and the Creative component of her degree at UTS.

'Reflections of Self' (2013), photographs, paper, QR Scan me codes. Mark and Remark, 107 Projects, Redfern. 'Reflections of Self' Zalehah Turner

“Reflections of Self’ (2013), photographs, paper, QR Scan me codes. Zalehah Turner. exhibited at Mark and Remark, 107 Projects, Redfern, 2013.

Zalehah loves the connection between poetry and images whether they be multimedia or photographic. Reflections of Self is series of poetry and photography that was first exhibited at 107 Projects, Redfern in 2013, and has since been published on the Writing Laboratory website, and displayed in Alice Springs and Moruya thanks to Australian Poetry Café poets Laurie May and Janette Dadd respectively. Interstices, a collection of five poems, one photograph, and two modified medical images, was published on the UTS website, Vertigo, in 2016. As a Featured Writer of Rochford Street Review, four of her poems and photographs connected by concepts of space were published in issue 21.

Zalehah’s poetry has also been projected onto the Federation Square Wall in Melbourne as part of the Overload Poetry Festivals, 2008 and 2009, printed on Salt and Pepper shakers, and published in Sotto (2013), Social Alternatives (2016), Vertigo (2016, 2017) and UTS’s The Empathy Poems Project in connection with Refugee Week this year.

She was co-judge of the New Shoots Poetry Prizes 2016 and published the winning and highly commended poems of the New Shoots Poetry Prize 2016 and the New Shoots Royal Botanic Garden, Poetry Prize 2016 in addition to interviewing the poets in Rochford Street Review.

She has curated many of the Featured Writers for RSR since July 2016, as well as, the artists in issue 20. She has reviewed a wide range of cultural events and interviewed poets for Rochford Street Review and Vertigo in addition to editing and publishing reviews and launch speeches as Associate Editor of RSR.

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‘Cast in shadow’ (2013), photograph. Zalehah Turner

Debra Adelaide, Associate Professor in Creative Writing at UTS expressed that ‘Hold on’ was “wonderful and moving”.

Award winning Irish poet, Patrick Deeley stated that he was “struck by the quietly impressed images and what you refer to as their ‘liminal loop’, as well as by your exploration of ‘internal space’. I also liked your photographs a lot – they really complement the poems.”

Untitled (Four poems) in Rochford Street Review (2017): https://rochfordstreetreview.com/2017/03/25/zalehah-turner-four-poems/
‘Hold on’ in Empathy Poems (2017): https://empathypoems.squarespace.com/blog/2017/6/2/hold-on
‘Interstices’ in Vertigo (2016): https://utsvertigo.com.au/webexclusives/poetry-feature-interstices/
Reflections of Self on the Writing Laboratory website: http://writinglab.patarmstrong.webfactional.com/portfolio/reflection-of-self/

 

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Zalehah Turner

 

Punctuated Into an Exclamation Mark: Lisa Sharp reviews ‘Play’, an exhibition by Michelle Le Dain

Michelle Le Dain – PLAY at Factory 49 , 49 Shepherd St, Marrickville. until 3rd December 2016

“Play becomes joy, joy becomes work, work becomes play.”
………………………………………………………..Johannes Itten

Michelle Le Dain, Upside down inside out, 2016 (detail). Image: Annelies Jahn

Michelle Le Dain, Upside down inside out, 2016 (detail). Image: Annelies Jahn

To play is to enter a realm of wonder and spontaneous activity, of open-ended
thinking, of chance and of discovery. It is to question, to turn upside-down, to
surprise – and it is uninhibitedly joyous. Yet to play is also to engage with the objects
in play, to work within a structure and to bounce against the rules – as in playing a
game or improvising musically. For visual artist Michelle Le Dain to play as an artist is
a mode of practice by which her installations enter, engage with and yes, absolutely
have fun with architectonic space.

For some time Le Dain has been working with and developing a signature vocabulary
of elemental geometric forms, bright colours, taped lines and placement of other
assemblages. These arise out of her research interest in theories of play (as
advanced by Froebel and the kindergarten movement) and their considerable
influence on the genesis of abstract art in the early 20th century. When these formal
elements enter a space as raw materials for installation, they seem to skip along the
floor, walls, ceiling, seeking out hidden nooks and cavorting with expected notions of
form and function. Playfully probing, discovering and exclaiming, Play raises some
very interesting questions about our expectations and perceptions of built spaces,
and in particular white spaces for the display of art.

As an installation within this factory-turned-gallery space Play picks up on its many
narratives as a functional interior space. Tripping along a seam in the concrete floor,
small wooden blocks tap out a rhythm of alternating colour and form. Picking up the
melody, a striped line ascends the white wall, almost but not quite to the top, before
meandering via a deviation in blue to an arrow-signalled descent, only to ascend
again. A faded yellow parking line is punctuated into an exclamation mark. Over to
the side, another up / down movement is articulated by horizontal and vertical notes
of colour placed on a stairway. These lead in to the percussive cadence of a work,
appropriately named “Xylophone”. On closer inspection, these ‘notes’ are actually
painted stretcher bars, suggesting a painting undone, dismantled and capable of
being fitted together again, like any tower of blocks.

Michelle Le Dain, Play, 2016, (details). Installation at Factory 49 Images: Annelies Jahn

Michelle Le Dain, Play, 2016, (details).  Installation at Factory 49
Images: Annelies Jahn

From factory space to gallery space, the play is now with gallery conventions of
display and sale. Giant red dots sit beside works, humorously playing with the
tradition of announcing a sale. In this context, plinths become oversized toy blocks.
Paintings, stacked, stripped and deconstructed, are everywhere except hanging on
the walls as pictures to look at. Framing, like pointing, is used to focus on often
quirky details of wall or floor. Used as expressive punctuation within a piece of
music, other features of the Factory 49 space are accented. Here, in hot pink: a door,
over there in green: a gallery wall ends. In a corner, big buttons seem to be climbing
up and over the white wall, looking over the boundary between the site’s industrial
past and its almost-white-cube present.

The effect of Play is akin to recalling the strains of a rhyme you knew as a child, a
ditty you chanted, a haunting refrain, parts of a song. You might go to see art, but
you are nudged to think quite a bit more about how and why. It’s a little unsettling.
Play has transformed the known space and the expected conventions into a joyous,
whimsical interlude with an underlying seriousness of purpose in showing the work
that art is.

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Michelle Le Dain, Play, 2016, (details). Installation at Factory 49 Images: Annelies Jahn

 – Lisa Sharp
(all images by Annelies Jahn)

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Lisa Sharp is a Malaysian-born Australian artist, writer and curator currently living and
working in Sydney. Following an earlier career as a lawyer, she holds a Bachelor of Fine
Arts (Honours) from the National Art School. Lisa likes to write about art and artists and
her blog is at www.lisa-sharp.tumblr.com

More details of the exhibition Factory 49 are available at  http://factory49.blogspot.com.au/

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Featured Artist: Georgina Pollard Biographical Note

As energy, the paint does not restrict itself to my process, and our dialogue has turned to the form of a shared ecology—Georgina Pollard (Artist Statement, A-M Gallery)

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Georgina Pollard, Mistint (2014), acrylic house paint, 45cm x 60cm (each), Newtown; image courtesy of the artist.

Georgina Pollard is an artist who works with reclaimed house-paint as a weaving or sculpting material. With a background in theatre, Pollard finds a relationship between theatre philosophy and paint—in the way that paint can take on a life of its own in process—like an object or prop in a stage performance. When Pollard is responsive to paint in this way, the art-object she makes is a kind of record, or transcription, of the gestural dialogue she has shared with paint, in context of place and time. Pollard describes her work as highly self-aware. Gestures, action and reactions in drips, drops, lines and layers express subjects in process: paint becoming-subject and an identity in flux with/in a shared ecology.

Pollard is co-founder of Cementa Arts Festival, with artists Alex Wisser and Ann Finegin. Cementa is a contemporary visual arts festival held in Kandos, regional New South Wales (inland from Sydney, toward Mudgee). Since 2013, the festival has been held biannually, and has achieved giving regional and city-based practising artists the opportunity to experiment with their proposed material or text in a landscape very different to the urban experience. At the heart of Cementa is the idea that artist-shared spaces are naturally generative.

The festival facilitates bringing artists together, and making more things happen—especially in the region. Clandulla State Forest, for example, opened as Clandulla State Gallery to exhibit The Survey Show (2014), curated by Margaret Roberts. Along a winding track through the state forest, visitors experienced artworks made for the bush setting. Pollard exhibited in this group show with her work Chandelier for Ants (2014), a branch painted with toffee, made to disintegrate as ants swarmed and consumed the artwork.

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Georgina Pollard, Chandelier for Ants (2014), toffee and found branch, exhibited at The Survey Show (2014), Clandulla State Gallery; image courtesy of the artist. Photo credit: Alex Wisser.

Pollard’s collection of recent solo shows—Through Line (2011; A-M Gallery, Sydney), Through Line II (2012; At the Vanishing Point Gallery, Sydney) and Through Line III (2014; A-M Gallery)—are named after Stanislavsky’s description of characterisation. A ‘through line’, according to Stanislavsky, links character objectives, irreducible to the performance or narrative. Through lines can be interwoven with other through lines, including the ‘lines’ of props and other elements of stage design. The performance as a whole is a network of through lines, and, in the sense of being interwoven, like a fabric. So when we look at Pollard’s work, we are ‘reading’ a deeply personal nonverbal dialogue—as all conversations are at heart—between the artist and paint.

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Georgina Pollard, Song, Sung (2014), house paint and curtain fabric, 1.1m x 2.4m; image courtesy of the artist.

Pollard’s work is about being receptive to the paint, or, better, how it responds to her, in context of their shared environment. So, each work is a dialogue and index: gestures, weather, gravity, accidents, interruptions, and so on, are all recorded in the making until the performance comes to an end—the paint facilitates the action.

When Pollard talks about her relationship with paint she describes a dialogue that is full of stops and stops much like the fabric of inner thought: ‘sometimes the paint stops when I’m not ready for it to stop’; ‘it chooses different pathways’ to me; ‘it’s like watching a tear go down someone’s face’; ‘paint comes out more confused than you’d like it to’; ‘when it starts strong, I can determine the pattern’; ‘when it slows and deteriorates, it’s outside of my control’; ‘the wind blew it, and it stuck to itself, turning into this other being’. ‘We gesture more when we can’t find the words’ to express our inner thoughts.

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artwork by Georgina Pollard (2013), house paint; image courtesy of the artist

Pollard has exhibited with Modern Arts Projects (MAP) in the group show, Eco-Spirit held at Morton House in the Blue Mountains, curated by Jaquelene Drinkall (2014). MAP open in venues chosen for their architectural history, making something more of the art experience by bringing to the fore place and design. Pollard has had work exhibited at INDEX., Factory 49, Kaleidoscope Gallery, ESP Gallery, Mary Place Gallery, Oxford Art Factory, among other places. She held the Newtown Art Seat 2013/2014. Other honours include: the Callen Art Prize (Highly Commended), Fisher’s Ghost Prize (Finalist), and Marrickville Contemporary Art Prize (Joint Winner). Pollard has held the position of co-director at INDEX. and At the Vanishing Point Gallery. At the former, she co-curated a retrospective for the artist Melanie E Khava in 2011. Following art residencies in Hill End and at Kandos Projects, Pollard moved into what is becoming a regional arts hub.

These kinds of regional hubs don’t happen overnight, and they can be difficult to sustain. After working on the inaugural Cementa, Pollard and Wisser opened Coffee Concrete, a café located in Rylstone’s community gallery, which is about local food and local art. They are dedicated to opening up spaces for artists, bringing artists together from all over, and bringing audiences to experience art in the Mudgee region. As part of the next Cementa Art Festival (2017), for example, Wisser is opening Future Lands, a new art residency, which is about making links between art and agriculture. When Pollard talks passionately about what artists can accomplish given the space—any kind of space—to materialise their ideas, or make links between art and other areas of thought, it’s easy to think of her artworks, which are about being receptive to the environment and responding with humility. ‘My network with the object is about an awareness of its capabilities’, and ‘we are capable of empathising with our environment, as it empathises with us’ its way, said Pollard. She shows us how paint can be receptive, promiscuous, reproductive, much like the process of coming to a new idea.

Whose afraid of Ellsworth Kelly is the working title for Pollard’s latest collection in process, drawing upon the concept of making art as an index of its environment.

 

– Ashley Haywood

Plastic is the Colour: Lisa Sharp Reviews ‘Fantastik Plastik’ by Anya Pesce at Factory 49

Fantastik Plastik, an Exhibition by Anya Pesce at Factory 49 (Marrickville NSW) –  ran from 31 March until 9th April

Fantastik Plastik, as the title suggests is an accented, heady celebration of the colour-form poised in swirling motion.  In this body of work created by Anya Pesce, rectilinear monochrome painting has left the wall, dressed itself up in its brightest and shiniest paint skins and entered the gallery space in a skirt-lifting dance. If painting were a skin, or drapery rippling over skin, these works celebrate the liquidity of paint spreading over a surface. It is a deliberately sensuous show, and in this seduction by formal norms of beauty, it gently coaxes the viewer from the position of gazer to that of consumer.
For here, surface, colour and form are united in plastic in an exhibition that plays with the idea of what contemporary painting is. We can say that it is abstract, non-objective, about colour and form and our perception of those things, but we live in an age of plastic, so much more baggage to look at paintings with.

 

Artist Anya Pesce with her works at Factory 49. Photograph by Jim Gurieff

Artist Anya Pesce with her works at Factory 49. Photograph by Jim Gurieff

Plastic is the colour. Anya works with ready-made colour, selecting those intense, saturated hues that evoke the aesthetics of the display counter or buy-me packaging. In the works, there is a tendency to replicate the colours of specifically female-targeted consumerism; of cosmetics, lipsticks and handbags. Or it could be that she just likes bright colour. And a lot of it is red. After all, she isn’t using actual red lipstick, as L.A. artist Rachel Lachowicz does, but perhaps she may as well be. The painting pouts.

Plastic is the process. Starting with a rectangular flat piece of heated plastic (poly methyl methacrylate), the warm, malleable substance is coaxed, manipulated and posed – much like paint – into rippling folds and waves, in which the process itself determines the composition. The result is that the formerly austere, flat monochrome planes have given way to theatrical gestures. Their forms now allude to draped fabric, maybe in homage to virtuosic painterly tradition, or the runway. The painting strikes a pose.

Plastic is the medium. The ultimate invention of the post-industrial technological age, it is the material of packaging, display and waste. Freed of the frame, plastic is, unlike paint, a skin that is brittle enough to provide its own support. It is strong and durable. It fills landfill and whale’s stomachs. Yet it is beautiful, repeatable, desirable and available in a full range of opaque and transparent colours. The painting is product; at once desirable and dangerous.

Plastic is the surface. In describing her research interests, Anya herself mentions a “finish fetish.” Like a video or mobile phone screen, the immaculate glossy surfaces reflect us back into itself. In a warped pastiche of another ancient mimetic function of painting the surface-as-screen becomes an “idea less of flow than of intensities”, an arena of “transmission rather than embodiment”. Paradoxically, this suggestion of dematerialisation is achieved through the very thing a screen can’t reproduce – the transmission site is a body of plastic. The object of transmission – the work – is resolutely a material thing.

Photograph by Anya Pesce

Photograph by Anya Pesce

What does this mean for contemporary painting? Is it, perhaps that the certainties of abstract monochrome paintings as the clean, minimal sign for painting has slipped, perhaps messily, into a world of commodification, of lipstick, whale stomach contents and selfie poses.

 – Lisa Sharp

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Lisa Sharp is a Malaysian-born Australian artist, writer and independent curator. She
currently lives and works in Sydney.  After a career as a lawyer, Lisa recently graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours – painting). Lisa is travelling to Paris at the end of this month to exhibit her paintings at the Factory 49 Paris Pop Up Gallery. The exhibition “unmake / make / dénouer / nouer” will be open at 122 rue Amelot, 75011 Paris from 30 March – 23 April 2016. Lisa also likes to write about art and artists, and curate exhibitions. Her blog is at www.lisa-sharp.tumblr.com

For more information on Factory 49 visit http://factory49.blogspot.com.au/

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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 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 

Mechanical Symphonies and The Overview Effect: James Aksman-Glosz reviews Sophie Clague’s ‘Pointing Devices’ at the SCA Galleries

Pointing Devices by Sophie Clague is at the Graduate School Gallery, Sydney College of the Arts, until 30 April 2016

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Sophie Clague, Corrupt Diptych, acrylic paint on wall, 2016. (Photograph: courtesy of Fiona Grace McDonald)

Every week, in the media, we are reminded that we are living in a black cloud of conflict, uncertainty and swelling cynicism. In print, or online, we are bombarded with media articles about the lack of affordable rental housing, and how the middle class is being squeezed out of the housing market by generous tax concessions, and if Australia is the lucky country, its citizen’s fortune has faded, as many won’t have a place to call home. Overshadowing this is the constant threat of terrorism, some events are frighteningly real, (such as the Paris and Brussels attacks) although, in many cases, it boils down to just being shrouded sabre rattling, successful propaganda, which keeps Australia’s citizens in a constant state of anxiety and panic.

All these external threats have forced contemporary art, and the cynical culture of criticality that it brings, to take a back seat to escapism, a mirror image of the propagation of escapist culture during the Great Depression (1929-39). Instead of Life magazine and films such as Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936) that helped people endure the economic devastation of the 1930’s we have contemporary alternatives. Such as the popularity of big-budget superhero franchise films such as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) — nothing more than an adventure into adolescence — and the increasing profitability of the wellness industry, a feel-good distraction from real health problems. Acting as the counterculture to both the cynical nature of contemporary art and the empty distractions of popular culture is Sophie Clague’s latest exhibition Pointing Devices (2016). An exhibition that jettisons the conceptual baggage of hyphenated arts (art-and-capitalism, art-and-technology), and leaves the grim realities of our world behind, for more of an aesthetic experience, which visually explores the musicality of the cosmic universe placed in proximity with the image of faded memories of a childhood home.

Sophie Clague, Solar Flare Family Symphony, laser marked stainless steel, copper and brass, 2016, installation view. (Photograph: courtesy of Fiona Grace McDonald)

Sophie Clague, Solar Flare Family Symphony, laser marked stainless steel, copper and brass, 2016, installation view. (Photograph: courtesy of Fiona Grace McDonald)

One of the first impressions that I had when I walked into the commodious area of SCA Galleries, which houses Sophie Clague’s Pointed Devices, was more of a feeling, a sense of distance. A distance primarily created by the extended space between artworks that are on display. The closest artwork is ‘Corrupt Diptych’ (2016), a graphic acrylic wall painting, and the largest in the scale of all of the works. It depicts abstract geometrical shapes overlayed with mechanical-like ciphers, in a low-key palette, faded in colour and possibly a visual cue for corrupt memories. Light beige, charcoal grey, newspaper grey, lilac, and off-white, a colour scheme, which is used quite often in modern bathrooms and kitchens, and good enough reason to interpret this artwork as a faded memory of a childhood home.

and brass, 2016, detail view. (Photograph: courtesy of Fiona Grace McDonald)

Sophie Clague, Solar Flare Family Symphony, laser marked stainless steel, copper and brass, 2016, detail view. (Photograph: courtesy of Fiona Grace McDonald)

Perhaps my interpretation is biased, based on the fact that before coming to this exhibition, I read Sophie Clague’s honours thesis The Expected Ground: Entropy in Transmission (2012). In this thesis, the first chapter titled ‘Beginnings,’ is where Clague narrates a story about one of her earliest childhood memories of her parents building the house where she spent most of her life, near Bathurst in rural New South Wales. Clague states in the most honest and poignant prose “The house itself is situated on a hill of gravelly, granite-based rock. Hard pink gravel with a thin layer of topsoil…it stayed for many years and became known as The Dirt Hill…it was an epic mountain upon which endless stories were played out, and its scale could change as quickly as the wind.”

This testimony, with its heavy weight of childhood memories, has directly influenced my experience of ‘Corrupt Diptych’. I view it as an artwork less to do with the ideas evident in modernist abstraction, even though the deconstructed language of democracy and freedom (Neoplasticism) and a meditative and immersive void (Color Field Painting) hovers on the surface. In a similar vein, to her childhood recollections, this work strangely echoes temporal qualities. The faded surface of ‘Corrupt Diptych’ is haunting, like the distinct sensation of déjà vu, the dirt and gravel is metaphorical not material, moving this artwork away from hyphenated arts (art-and-environment) towards something more mysterious with its abstract lines that race past the corner of the gallery’s gyprock wall; themes of time and movement that have more in common with land art than abstract painting.

Sophie Clague, 'Unicorn', powder-coated steel, cast concrete, 2016.(Photograph: courtesy of Fiona Grace McDonald)

Sophie Clague, Unicorn, powder-coated steel, cast concrete, 2016.(Photograph: courtesy of Fiona Grace McDonald)

Across from this wall painting, lies a considerable expanse of space, which leads to ‘Solar Flare Family Symphony’ (2016), a collection of over seventy plates, of various sizes, made of stainless steel, copper and brass. Unlike the majority of contemporary art, this work’s presentation doesn’t conform to a clear-cut visual archive. Rather ambitiously, and from a distance, it resembles a star cluster, with the gallery lights illuminating the gleaming plates producing pinpoints of silver, gold, and orange flare in the distance. As the gap shortens between viewer and artwork, symbols on the plates begin to emerge, more mechanical-like ciphers, cropped or heavily edited diagrammatical images, perpetually enigmatic and devoid of any actual meaning. However, on closer examination, there are some subtle visual cues of repetition within these secret ciphers, not too dissimilar to the four-note opening bars in a symphony. Although the visual rhythm of this work remains at a steady tempo, a series of visually harmonic tones that never quite reach a high crescendo.

Consequently, becoming a visual symphony experienced at a distance, this is a valid concept and brings to mind an article I read a few years ago, about astronauts who change their perceptions of the world when they view the planet Earth from space. This unique experience is called The Overview Effect, and it’s the acknowledgment that divisions — creating conflict on the surface of our planet — begin to dissolve when we can view our world at a distance. If visual art is to take the front seat in people’s minds again, it needs a changed trajectory, to move away from the cynical criticality of the past, towards a future where we can embrace a more meaningful culture instead of wanting to escape from it. Maybe ‘distance’ is the key, keeping visual arts an arm’s length away from rational discourse, so it can begin to grow again in more imaginative terrain. Providing affirmation that Sophie Clague’s exhibition Pointing Devices is heading in the right direction.

– James Aksman-Glosz

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James Aksman-Glosz is an arts writer and a practising artist whose work places emphasis on painting, drawing and printmedia. He holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Painting) from Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney. Previously he studied at Kunstakadamie Düsseldorf. With further study at the Sydney Gallery School and at the NADC (Nepean Arts and Design Centre). More recently he was the Master Printer for Matthys Gerber with the works being exhibited in Hot Art—Cold Market (2012), Institute of Contemporary Art Newtown (I.C.A.N), Sydney.

 

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without / within – a self portrait of the world: Lisa Sharp reviews “Alone Together: In the company of strangers” by Jo Meisner

Alone and Together by Jo Meisner (was onsite at 1 Margaret Street, Sydney 8-9 March)

On a busy city corner at One Margaret Street Sydney art in a glass-walled corporate foyer reflects, barely contains and displays the herd of people moving through the city. In a visually subtle, site-specific spectacle, the reality of the moving crowd without is echoed by the evocative imagery within, in a photographic installation created by artist Jo Meisner. Placed within and among the actual surge of human movement, the glass wall comes to life. Reflected legs merge with the strides and steps of people coming and going. It is at once integrated and illusory. The work melds, almost but not quite fusing with the world it depicts. And it is those parts that don’t quite fit which make it such an intriguing, uncanny experience.

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The relentless, restless movement of people outside the building is repeated inside the building by the work, Alone Together: In the company of strangers. Consisting of a strip of photographically printed transparencies, located on a waist-height horizon line, the imagery is of truncated bodies. Legs stride, feet hit the pavement and colour is bleached away in a frozen moment.

Read literally as an urban street scene it conveys (but cropped to a lower register only) the repetition, monotony and movement of commuting much in the vein of that iconic John Brack painting, Collins Street, 5pm.[i] Yet on closer inspection the images have been photographed in situ – according to Jo, just days before, so that at any moment the owner of the depicted legs could walk into and through the image in a strange conflation of time, object and subject. This brings the work to immediate, vivacious life. Wrapped on the inside of these public-facing windows then, is an inward-looking idea; that of the self within the crowd. The static, black and white imagery stands as metaphor for an idea that Jo has been exploring for some time now – the alienation of the individual and particularly, its manifestation in our highly digitised, social media and device-aware contemporaneity.

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Jo ascribes her initial concept to the childhood matching game of tops and tails, but this is different. While John Brack gave his commuters highly individualised features, these legs and feet are anonymous. They are yours, or mine. Identity comes from the interaction that occurs when any individual walks into the reflection and becomes part of the work – and it is a fleeting, ephemeral moment.

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There is an immediacy about the process of making this work, also only made possible with digitisation and rendering in plastic film. What was seen only last week is now enlarged and printed with the ubiquitous media of our age. There it is, multiplied, a rectangular reflective screen within which to see ourselves. One of Jo’s influences is Michelangelo Pistoletto and his mirror paintings. This legacy is apparent, but here it is taken out of the gallery and onto a particular street corner, creating a specific “self portrait of the world”.[ii]

Can we be lonely while in a crowd? The sense of separation is familiar but uncomfortable.  It is all around us – on a train, a bus stop, commuting to work, as a group we move as Jo observes, with “heads looking downwards, not outwards.” Our mutual alienation commodified on a building wall. See it, look and walk through it.

The exhibition was part of in’habit , the Spectrum Now festival and was supported by Dexus property group http://spectrumnow.com.au/events/%C9%AAn%CB%88hab%C9%AAt-presented-by-dexus-property-group/.

** **

All images courtesy of the artist.

[i] John Brack, Collins St, 5pm, 1955, oil on canvas, 114.8 x 162.8 cms, National Gallery of Victoria

[ii] Michelangelo Pistoletto, www.pistoletto.it

 – Lisa Sharp

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Lisa Sharp is a Malaysian-born Australian artist, writer and independent curator. She
currently lives and works in Sydney.  After a career as a lawyer, Lisa recently graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours – painting). Lisa is travelling to Paris at the end of this month to exhibit her paintings at the Factory 49 Paris Pop Up Gallery. The exhibition “unmake / make / dénouer / nouer” will be open at 122 rue Amelot, 75011 Paris from 30 March – 23 April 2016. Lisa also likes to write about art and artists, and curate exhibitions. Her blog is at www.lisa-sharp.tumblr.com

Jo Meisner has a website http://jomeisner.com.au/

A New Milestone in Artistic Freedom: James Aksman-Glosz reviews Matthys Gerber at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

Matthys Gerber 2015 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney from 22 September to 6 December 2015.

Matthys Gerber, 2015, installation view Picture: courtesy of Liam Kesteven Photography

Matthys Gerber, Matthys Gerber, 2015, installation view. Picture: courtesy of Liam Kesteven Photography

For decades, in the contemporary art world, painting has been under siege. Art theorists have attacked painting for the myth that surrounds it, bombarded painting with claims that it has lost its seductive qualities and the ability to persuade. And even its illustrious history has been under fire with predictions that it’s no longer relevant. Nevertheless, painting has endured through its many iterations. With many of those versions explored in virtuoso painter Matthys Gerber’s thirty-five-year career, on show in the survey exhibition Matthys Gerber (2015) at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA).

MCA senior curator Natasha Bullock has marked this exhibition’s design with her distinct curatorial layout and planning. Through her design concepts that incorporate cinematic film techniques with contemporary survey methodologies. Following a similar direction evident in Bullock’s past curatorial projects such as Parallel Collisions: 2012 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art (co-curated with Alexie Glass-Kantor). Where they utilised the concept of the tracking shot filmmaking technique, which is made clear in how they created a complex dialogue between artworks, while still maintaining a visual rhythm that accelerates at a steady pace. This concept is reminiscent of the long tracking shot in Orson Welles’s classic noir film Touch of Evil (1958). A three-minute excursion through a town in Mexico, and at the same time weaving together the added complexities of a newly married couple walking towards the country’s border and an impending car bomb explosion. The visual tension of the scene is unnerving and was created through the use of multiple perspectives and the extended duration of the tracking shot. Both of these things (multiple perspectives and duration or time) became valuable curatorial tools in making Parallel Collisions (2012) a success. It also proved to be a fertile testing ground for Bullock in meeting the perplexing demands of planning a survey show of Matthys Gerber’s historically dense and stylistically complex oeuvre.

When I think back to other contemporary painting exhibitions I have seen, it conjures up an image of an austere presentation. Possibly a hangover from the aesthetics of minimalism and post-minimalism, and is a strong contrast to Bullock’s risky venture of visual overload in the survey exhibition Matthys Gerber (2015). There are twenty-five medium and large-scale paintings in this exhibition, with an equal mix of landscape and portraiture formats. Matthys Gerber’s paintings have been presented in a capacious exhibition space — and the ‘tracking shot’ concept makes a welcome return — with the viewer’s eyes acting as a steadicam, panning across large abstract paintings. Visually moving in and out of monochromatic space, and snaking across abstract lyrical lines of saturated colour in the painting Jetmaster (2008). And then abruptly panning up above eye level to view the figurative paintings Figure 1 (1990) and Black Painting: Evander Holyfield (1992) with their penetrating male gaze a safe distance away. The exhibition area has been divided by the insertion of a square plywood partition, with the straight grains of the wood redolent of pine stretcher frames — the framework support of a painting. The ‘pine stretcher’ reference is an obvious indicator that Bullock is merging the characteristics of painting with the curatorial design. Further supported by the fact that this large collection of paintings is not presented in any chronological order or arranged by theme or genre. Instead, it’s simulating Gerber’s broad combination of historical visual cues in his paintings, which doesn’t conform to the rules of a progressive timeline.

MCA senior curator Natasha Bullock and virtuoso painter Matthys Gerber Picture: courtesy of Liam Kesteven Photography

MCA senior curator Natasha Bullock and virtuoso painter Matthys Gerber
Picture: courtesy of Liam Kesteven Photography

Particularly evident in Gerber’s oil painting L ’Origine du Monde #1 (1992), a generic European landscape scene, depicting a twin waterfall and faded alpine mountains in the background, painted in a mid-key, cool dominant colour scheme, and structured using a vanishing-point perspective. At first glance, this painting appears to reflect the style of 17th-century Dutch landscape painting, except that the dramatic cloud formations (a trademark signature of that style) are replaced by a flat azure blue sky. More strongly related to the effects of photography than En Plein Air painting, and has a mismatched title that references Courbet’s modern art icon and alludes to Magritte’s inquiry into linguistic signs. These factors serve as an anchor for L ’Origine du Monde #1 (1992) securing it to four separate events in art history: Dutch Golden Age painting (1665), Early Modernism (1866), Surrealism (1929), and Photorealism (1969), making it resistant to the older generation of artists and their pursuit of a singular style such as Pop art, Op art, Conceptual art and Minimalism.

Looking back at Australian art history — there was a schism with the past — that occurred alongside the literary work of the Australian writer, curator and publisher Paul Taylor (1957-1992) who was promoting a dramatic shift away from singular styles. He also championed ‘new wave and the second degree’ a practice of quoting artistic styles of the past, which signified a decline in historical significance for more contemporary meaning. There were artists who aligned themselves with Taylor’s cultural and artistic vision, yet Gerber wasn’t so much interested in quoting other artistic styles, instead displayed the ambition to challenge traditional conventions of painting. Consequently, affiliating his actions more closely with modernists like Marcel Duchamp, who had little reverence for the sacred, and treated all art as a promissory note. For Duchamp, the visual arts can be broken down to living ideas indebted to dead cultural objects that are waiting patiently to be challenged.

Painting within the framework of modernist abstraction presents its own unique set of challenges. One such challenge is when artists reinvent artistic styles of the past, and continually reinvent it, as far as the principle design of the artistic style begins to erode or fragment, until nothing is left. As a way of bypassing this problem, Gerber focuses on modifying the flaws or limitations of a particular artistic style. In his large-scale oil painting Mother Tongue (2013), a hybrid geometric and gestural abstract work, Gerber has been informed by French lyrical abstraction, more precisely the calligraphic style of the German born painter Hans Hartung (1904-1989). An accurate way of describing Hartung’s calligraphic gestural style would be to label it as something visceral, visually loud, although it’s static, a frozen crescendo in time. With Gerber’s version it’s agile and rapid, holding a high visual pitch and often appears out of place. Reminiscent of the heavy vibrato guitar riffs and odd time signatures produced by the guitarist Buzz Osborne from the hard-core punk/drone metal band The Melvins.

Matthys Gerber, Black Painting (Evander Holyfield), 1992, acrylic on canvas. Picture courtesy of Liam Kesteven Photography

Matthys Gerber, Black Painting (Evander Holyfield), 1992, acrylic on canvas. Picture courtesy of Liam Kesteven Photography

The influence of music is a constant influence in Matthys Gerber’s paintings. His oil painting Holy War II (1994) depicts a generic wide-angle seascape with strong visual cues quoting Baroque Classicism, German Expressionism (and its emphasis on colour and shape), and the biblical reference Crossing of the Red Sea. Even with the cross-sectional visual prompts, there is still conventional use of colour in this painting. However, the execution of the colour combinations is discordant and strange, suggestive of virtuosity in music, possibly a visual interpretation of guitarist Steve Vai’s work with post-punk band Public Image Ltd. It’s made apparent by Vai’s intense arpeggio rhythm and circular vibrato guitar riffs, which crosses over through Gerber’s extended tint of chromatic yellow and isolation of colour (facilitated through circular sequencing). Its difficult for me not be moved by the striking use of colour, yet the mirror imaging effect overshadows it in this work. Inspired by the Rorschach inkblot test, and resolves the long-held dispute between painting and the decorative arts, by pushing imagery towards something much more psychological.

Matthys Gerber’s self-titled survey exhibition declares —in a rather subtle manner— that he has reached a new milestone in artistic freedom. By his paintings, in how they acknowledge the historical significance of art, through multiple perspectives, not ever connecting to a specific era, which provides his imagery with a degree of timelessness. Paintings created twenty years ago seem that Gerber could have produced them yesterday. And the freedom gained by not being chained down to a specific genre or type, representational or abstract, has its charm. It’s the reason Jackson Pollock’s action painting was so significant, as it expressed more freedom than what came before it. And it explains the popularity of the Underbelly television series, the characters in the show do whatever they like without fear of the consequences; lawless actions that are part wish fulfilment to the people viewing the show. And Matthys Gerber has given painting a much-needed sense of purpose, something few have achieved, although many have dreamt about doing it.

Matthys Gerber, Matthys Gerber, 2015, installation view. Picture courtesy of Liam Kesteven Photography

Matthys Gerber, Matthys Gerber, 2015, installation view. Picture courtesy of Liam Kesteven Photography

 – James Aksman-Glosz

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James Aksman-Glosz is an arts writer and a practising artist whose work places emphasis on painting, drawing and printmedia. He holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Painting) from Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney. Previously he studied at Kunstakadamie Düsseldorf. With further study at the Sydney Gallery School and at the NADC (Nepean Arts and Design Centre). More recently he was the Master Printer for Matthys Gerber with the works being exhibited in Hot Art—Cold Market (2012), Institute of Contemporary Art Newtown (I.C.A.N), Sydney.

Exhibition website http://www.mca.com.au/exhibition/matthys-gerber/

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Two of a Kind: Mishko Desovski Reviews One & One, exhibition of artworks by Denis Mizzi and Irene Schell

One & One, an exhibition of artworks by Denis Mizzi and Irene Schell 7-11 October 2015, The Shop Gallery, 112 Glebe Point Road Glebe.

Denis Mizzi at the Shop Gallery, Glebe

Denis Mizzi at the Shop Gallery, Glebe

The Shop Gallery in Glebe is not exclusive, is not pushing a particular line, it’s open to anyone who wants to rent it. They’re as happy with a video installation as they are with conventional painting. One artist next year will have a show of millinery, one group this year will have a show of animé and manga art. They’re open, but have a criteria that works should not be racist or homophobic. The current exhibition of works by Denis Mizzi and Irene Schell is mostly of abstract paintings but are produced using a wide variety of techniques from digital prints to pigmented ink on canvas.

Irene Schell - At the gallery Shop, Geleb

Irene Schell – At the gallery Shop, Glebe

One & One is a very interesting and visually stimulating exhibition in a number of different ways. Both artists in fact deal with color primarily, but they also think conceptually. In the Shop’s front room, Denis Mizzi’s works are as grey as they could possibly be, but his greys and blacks work as intense colour too. He is well known amongst friends as a conceptual thinker. Those who know Mizzi, are familiar with the artist books that he has been producing for decades. There is a kind of conceptual nihilism in his work, and within that frame he is most creative visually, and his work reduces to a kind of minimalism.

 Denis Mizzi at The Shop Gallery Glelbe

Denis Mizzi

Irene Schell’s work occupies the 2nd room of the gallery and, whilst most of her works are abstract, her approach is wildly different from Mizzi’s work. It is very colourful and has an almost innocent excitement. But as soon as you move through the gallery and look at her work a little bit longer, very quickly you realize that Irene is a wise and sensitive artist. Her wisdom is reflected in her abstract composition and the sensitiveness of her treatment of color and tonality, the mark of a mature artist.
It was a visual pleasure to see these two artists of different kinds.

Irene Schell

Irene Schell

 – Mishko Desovski

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Mishko Desovski has taught Visual Art in Malaysia and other countries and was the editor of the Sydney art magazine Wogart in the early 2000’s.

The Shop Gallery’s blog can be found at http://theshopgalleryglebe.blogspot.com.au/

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Rich, Rewarding & Complex : Mark Roberts Reviews Aleks Danko ‘My Fellow Aus-Tra-Aliens’

Aleks Danko My Fellow Aus-Tra-Aliens at the Museum of Contemporary Art until 18th October and the Heide Museum of Modern Art Melbourne 17th November 2015 to 21st February 2016. Curated by Glenn Barkley and Lesley Harding.

Detail from Songs of Australia Volume 16 - Shhh, Go Back to Sleep. Photograph Mark Roberts

Detail from Songs of Australia Volume 16 – Shhh, Go Back to Sleep. Photograph Mark Roberts

I’m sitting on a couch in a large hall on level 3 of the MCA in the Aleks Danko exhibition My Fellow Aus-tra-aliens. On the two long walls of the hall there are 220 sheets of paper. Each sheet has a printed image of a red house, a single opening on the bottom level representing a door and two white space window on a second level. A peaked roof points to the next sheet immediately above it. On each sheet there is a short text, many of which are familiar to anyone who has followed Australian politics over the last decade or so. Thiswork, ‘Songs of Australia Volume 16 – SHHH, Go Back To Sleep’, was created in 2004 so many of the quotes are by or about the Howard government, but it depressing just how many of them still resonate to us today:

Anti-
Terror
Fridge
Magnet

Weapons
of
Mass
Seduction

Denial
is a
River
In Egypt

The
Politics
Of Fear

You’re
Either
With Us
or
Against Us

Fearless
Protector
Of The
Borders

Dumbed
Dulled
And
Numbed
Down

While you walk the hall reading the texts you hear each one read aloud by the familiar voice of Robbie McGregor, the former ‘King Wally Otto” on Roy and H. G, This Sporting Life’. On one of the two shorter walls of the hall there is the text of Catherine Deveny’s Australian CItizenship Test on the other wall is Song of Australia Vol 14/2 (Here We Turn Everything Into Fun to Kill Time). In this work Danko’s red houses are once again at the centre, but they are text free in this work and tumble across the sheets – on the last sheet the white doors and windows are replaced by blackness. The effect of the combination of works in the hall is hypnotic and disconcerting – the texts are so familiar, many of them have seemingly become part of our subconscious and reflect a way the country has lurched to the right.

While the creation of this particular space is, of course, unique to the MCA and it may well take on a slightly different perspective when it moves to the Heide Museum of Modern Art, the work in this wall highlights the complexity of much of Danko’s work. There is a strong sense of theatre, of creating a statement by almost overwhelming the viewer – this is, after all, a cathedral like space. There is the visual aspect, the colours and text printed on paper and hung. There are the words that demand the view stands in the front of the work and work their way through the work, and then there is the god like voice booming through the hall.  But Danko’s god is a god of wit and parody and I suspect most viewers leave the hall with a sense of the ‘alienness’ of the Australia that relies on the few word slogan for its sense of who it is.

This work highlights two of Danko’s recurring themes through much of his more recent work, the use of words and the symbolism of the Australian suburbs. I was more than a little surprised to see pages of one of my favourite Australian poetry anthologies, Applestealers (Robert Kenny & Colin Talbot – eds Outback Press 1974) reproduced in the exhibition’s catalogue. The pages reproduced are Robyn Ravlich’s ‘The Path of Poetry’ – a piece that was performed by Ravlich, Danko and Julie Ewington at the Project Show, Contemporary Art Society in Sydney in 1973 and re-performed latter that year at the Watters Gallery for Soft Riots, Danko’s joint exhibition with poet and artist Richard Tipping.

Much of Danko’s work moves backwards and forwards between art and visual or concrete poetry. In an early work from 1970 ‘Poetic Suicide’ he has removed the letters that make up his last name from the alphabet. Jump forward to 2008 and we have It’s such a Thin Line Between Clever and Stupid, a mirror engraved with those lines so that the viewer, standing in front of the work, becomes the object.

Detail of Poetic Suicide 1970. Photograph Mark Roberts

Detail of Poetic Suicide 1970. Photograph Mark Roberts

The house as an image of suburbia also swirls through Danko’s work and a starting point might be another piece of written art Day In Day Out 1991-96. This work is based on a quote from his father: “as you know we are pensioners, day in day out, twenty four hours closer to death”. The enclosed house becomes a symbol of this waiting (for death, for a lottery win for Godot?) and perhaps refers back to his parents experience as post war refugees/migrants at the Woodside Army Camp and Migrant Hostel in South Australia. Indeed a later version of Day In Day Out consists of small uniform silver houses arranged in lines, all perfectly in line. In he MCA installation the work is lit by a revolving light which mimics night and day and throws the shadows of the houses on the wall of the exhibition room. One thinks of the rows of suburban houses at night, quiet and at sleep – but the repetition also provokes an image of prison, and while there is no obvious fence around the houses one begins to feel that it indeed exists, if only in the imagination.

your eyes are dark at night and clear as the day 2006. From the series Some Cultural Meditations 1949-2015

your eyes are dark at night and clear as the day 2006. From the series Some Cultural Meditations 1949-2015

One of the most moving parts of the exhibition relates to images of his mother’s embroidery – much of it done while she was waiting in the migrant hostels. Once again there is a sense of alienness about these images – they are different, Un-Australian images from a distant culture. Danko took these images as central to his work Some Cultural Mediations – working the designs his mother and her friends embroidered onto cushion covers while in the migrant hostel, he translated the designs, rendering them on paper. A motif emerged in the work – that of the centre, the core – a powerful image for Danko which, one senses, has provided a basis for much of his work.

Danko’s retrospective is a rich and rewarding one for the viewer. There is much here that is accessible and playful, but much of the work also questions us. There are difficult questions here for both our culture and the broader society in which that culture operates. In one of the great ironies of anti-art a number of his earliest pieces, which were designed to undermine the establishment by being able to be picked up and manipulated are now important art objects, handled by curators wearing white gloves, with only grainy super 8 footage to remind us of Danko’s original intention.

 – Mark Roberts

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Mark Roberts is a Sydney based writer and critic. He is the editor of Rochford Street Review.

Exhibition website MCA http://www.mca.com.au/exhibition/aleks-danko-my-fellow-aus-tra-aliens/

Exhibition website Heide Museum of Modern Art https://www.heide.com.au/exhibitions/aleks-danko-my-fellow-aus-tra-aliens

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