Blink and You’ll Miss It: Mark Roberts discovers ‘Eight Paintings in One Night’

Eight Paintings in One Night: Lauren Beasley, James Thomson, Blake Malone, Soop, Joel Easson, Matthys Gerber, Elmo Aoyama and James Aksman-Glosz at the Bevery, Holme Building , The University of Sydney. 6pm Thursday 15th October 2015.

8 paintings1 night

Blake Malone Composition Nasa (front), James Aksman-Glosz, Ares III: Living and Dying in Fear of the Naked Sun (middle), James Thomson Candyland (back). Photograph Mark Roberts.

Earlier this year a cafe shut down in Chatswood Plaza close to where I work (my day job that is). It has remained vacant ever since with a “to lease” sign stuck in the window. During the same period my local shopping centre has slowly shut down. Sometime over the next few months it will be demolished to make way for a new development. But by that time many of the shops and offices will have been empty for over a year. Surely these spaces could be put to some use during this period. They may not be economically viable for an ongoing commercial lease (or perhaps, in the case of the cafe in Chatswood, the rent is unsustainable, but couldn’t these spaces be repurposed for a few months?

As they are mostly retail spaces they are unsuitable for short term accommodation for the homeless (though there maybe other spaces that are suitable) but there are many other uses that these spaces could be put to in the short term that would return some value to the community. Two that spring to mind would be temporary gallery spaces and artists and writing studios.

Imagine that derelict building that has sat empty for a year because the developer went bankrupt full of artists studios and exhibition spaces – the building itself could become an artwork – a last burst of colour before it is knocked down. Such spaces would be, by definition temporary, transient spaces recorded on film, in words and in the artworks that were produced. Art as social history – who lived, worked and died in the building. There are lots of possibilities.

There are, of course, numerous roadblocks to such a vision – commercial, planning, regulatory, safety and the like – but surely there would also be numerous benefits.

An example of how easy it would be to set up a very temporary art exhibition space occurred last Thursday at Sydney University. A temporary exhibition of eight paintings by eight artists was set up in a room in the Holme Building, one of the Buildings operated by the University of Sydney Union. The exhibition was organised by a group called MASS which describes itself as “a nomadic gallery that make use of alternative spaces for exhibiting”. MASS appear to have grown out of Sydney College of the Arts and still have a close relationship to the University of Sydney – hence the use of aq room in the Holme building for their one night exhibition.  They do, however, state that they want to work “through shop-fronts, offices and warehouses and matching these to suitable artists to work with/in”, so perhaps we might hope to see some life in abandoned shop fronts yet.

An interesting part of the 8 Paintings in 1 Night exhibition was that it didn’t feel like a ‘proper’ art exhibition. Works were leant up against the wall or upturned tables were used to lean larger canvasses up against. The result was refreshingly informal, you could actually walk around the backs of many of the works and see the wooden frames, the stretched canvasses – things that are normally hidden in a gallery exhibition.

Each artist had a single work on display so there were eight works in all and as the works were spread throughout the room (ie not simply hung on walls) the space actually felt quite full.

Walking back through the Quadrangle I wondered is MASS had stumbled over a model that could breath some life into doomed spaces and provide access to studio and exhibition space to artists and writers struggling to find outlets. Possibly – lets see if they can expand off campus and into the suburbs.

Eight paintings in One Night. Photograph Mark Roberts

Eight paintings in One Night. Photograph Mark Roberts

 – Mark Roberts

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Mark Roberts is a Sydney based writer and critic. He currently edits Rochfors Street review and has a collection of poetry, Concrete Flamingos, due for publication in 2016.

MASS can be contacted through their face Book page  https://www.facebook.com/MASS.SYDNEY/

robbie add

 

The Psychological Effect of Real Experience: James Aksman-Glosz reviews ‘Video One Painting’ by Suzy Faiz

Video One Painting by Suzy Faiz Airspace Projects, 10 Junction Street Marrickville, 7th August to 23 August 2015

Suzy Faiz, Divider, oil on canvas, 2015, installation view. Photograph courtesy of the artist

Suzy Faiz, Divider, oil on canvas, 2015, installation view. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

In Sydney, during the 1980’s, the contemporary art scene was dramatically changing primarily through Paul Taylor’s Art and Text magazine and the artists that followed it. Art and Text, successfully turned the tide of cultural estrangement and introduced an intellectual discourse about art to Australian readers, it got people talking about art again. It also paved the way for the next generation of artists, in particular the artist group Various Artists Ltd (that included artists A.D.S Donaldson, Janet Burchill, and Lindy Lee) and the Netherland born painter Matthys Gerber who was exhibiting at the Yuill/Crowley gallery. This group of artists differed from their contemporaries, as they were producing cutting edge art, which challenged the role of authorship, disregarded Hegel’s version of abstraction for more contemporary ideas, and embraced the genre of Appropriation Art. They are significant ideas about art that has been lost to the latest generation of artists.

Suzy Faiz’s latest exhibition Video One Painting, reveals she is resurrecting some of these ideas and introducing them to a new audience. In this exhibition, there are two works, a large-scale oil painting and a video work, with the gallery space thoughtfully divided, so the viewer can experience both separately. The curatorial aspects of this exhibition creates an atmosphere of self-reflection and mediation that supports the artwork’s contrasting themes about isolation, fabricated experiences, the role of authorship, and an investigation into stylistic constraints within the framework and history of painting.

Painting has an extensive history and a tradition of breaking away from stylistic constraints. Faiz continues this tradition with her large-scale oil painting ‘Divider’ (2015), by combining post-painterly abstraction with Albert Oehlen’s version of abstract art, an aversion away from recognisable forms. The painting exhibits a predominately warm-cool contrast in colour, with irregular sequencing, consequently producing a jarring visual effect. Dominating the right side of the canvas is a bright cadmium yellow circle, surrounding by blue organic lines, its strange shape possibly signifying a deadly parasite seen underneath a microscope or a massive sun with penetrating rays. On the right mid-ground of this painting there appears to be an abstract body, headless, misshapen and grotesque, reminiscent of Francis Bacon’s brutal treatment of the human body. A painting technique that bypasses the intellect, and is devoid of emotional expressiveness, coming straight from the central nervous system, it is as visually raw as it can get.

On the left side of the painting, Faiz displays artistic restraint through the placement of abstract shapes, washed out of colour underneath a prominent modernist grid.Well documented within the history of painting is the modernist grid, as an aesthetic object and as a symbol for democratic freedom, a freedom, which got consumed by the visual language of commercial design. The grid also symbolises a cage, a metaphorical prison that has engulfed a large majority of the painters from Faiz’s generation. Because the austerity and sacredness of the grid has been replaced with insincerity and cynicism, evident in the lack of artistic style to react against or any ideas worth proving to be true. Also a sense of authorship (art is a combination of other artist’s ideas) no longer exists, and her generation of artists are only left with the monetary value of painting, a quality significant enough to inspire them.

Suzy Faiz, Apartment, 6-channel video, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist

Suzy Faiz, Apartment, 6-channel video, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist.

Faiz’s video art debut follows a similar philosophical path to her painting. This is evident by the fact that her Cartesian sense of subjective expression or personal authorship has been replaced by a growing cynicism, through creating art by the means of a mechanical-like archiving of factual data. Following the artistic tradition of using video as a visual archiving tool; Faiz’s six-channel video work, ‘Apartment’ (2014) documents her domestic living experience while living abroad in Vienna, Austria. The video footage varies in content; there is a scene with her in a kitchen cutting up vegetables, another with her anxiously flipping through a book, most likely a sign of boredom, and her lying in bed, eyes wide open or looking out a window, patiently waiting for someone who never arrives.

Her video art presents us with the isolation and mundaneness in routine that is experienced living overseas, a more common occurrence in our global society. Conceived through video footage, with frankness, and a claustrophobic-style direction, which is both objective and impersonal. The video footage has the visual characteristics that suggest a certain degree of rawness and realism, especially when we compare it with other imagery we frequently view, such as the imagery produced from the image sharing technology Instagram. Even though Faiz’s video artwork has six different sets of footage playing at the same time, with much repetitiveness, it is easily digestible, and very much a normalised viewing experience.

Through our use of Instagram, we digest a plethora of imagery from different users, from different countries, and different time zones. A grand puzzle of visual communication with few textual footnotes, a temporal montage of images, consumed as a series of fleeting moments that are easily forgotten. Fleeting moments of disassociated images that doesn’t have anything to do with our own personal lives, a sign of voyeurism; images of a snow capped mountain taken by a friend during their last holiday or images of a street market in a foreign city, followed by a multitude of selfies of people we scarcely recognise. However, in Faiz’s video work, there is a sign of shared experiences, in the way the video footage is deconstructed through repetition, a critical discourse on the original versus fabricated, and first and second degree replicated experiences, a psychological effect of real experience, which conveys the feeling of the surreal moment.

One of the many interesting things about this exhibition is that it mirrors the repeated and cyclic nature of challenges that art faces to remain relevant. Paul Taylor and Art and Text looked to the future, through intellectual discourse, to meet these challenges, while Suzy Faiz’s Video One Painting is reflecting on the past, attempting to reinvent past successes to meet the demands of the future of art, not yet determined.

– 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 obtaining an Advanced Diploma of Fine Arts (printmaking), and at the NADC (Nepean Arts and Design Centre) obtaining a Diploma of Fine Arts (painting and printmaking). 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.

Airspace Projects can be found at http://airspaceprojects.com/

Suzy Faiz can be found at http://www.suzyfaiz.com/

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