The incredulity of the painter: Lisa Sharp reviews Jordan Richardson’s exhibition, ‘Shadows on a cave wall’

Jordan Richardson: Shadows on a cave wall. 15 November to 2 December 2017. Michael Reid Sydney, Surry Hills.

Jordan Richardson paints from a place of incredulity and with this approach he appears to deliberately defy easy categorisation as a figurative painter. His practice embraces painting from many directions. The use of figuration, at which he is undeniably technically accomplished, is just one of the many vehicles for carrying the narrative of painting itself. Here is a painter as much committed to portraying the image of the body, as he is to plying the slippery matter of paint’s body. All the while, the paintings quote, reference and improvise the familiar tropes of art history from the canon of Western easel painting. The visual effect of these disparate elements is somewhat slippery too. As a viewer, one can’t help but feel slightly left out of what sometimes feels like the artist’s personal joke. Narrative is hinted at and frequently ambiguous. Paint slips from being unseen under a virtuosic likeness, to surface presentation as freshly squeezed lushness, and to anatomical dissection, as its mysterious workings are revealed as if through an x-ray. Titles hint at humour and mystery but are impenetrable. Richardson’s multiple perspectives are bound to the fluidity of what painting is and brought together in this exhibition of a new body of work at Michael Reid Sydney, appropriately titled Shadows on a Cave Wall.

Jordan Richardson The Robe 2017, oil on canvas

Jordan Richardson, The Robe, 2017, oil on canvas, 182.5 x 304.7 cm. photograph by Toby Meagher (2017)

Shadows and their tenuous connection to the forms that cast them, are interesting to consider conceptually as they apply to Richardson’s subjects and imagery. In this suite of works, as previously, there is a discernible melding of figuration, portraiture and biography. Richardson paints himself and those close to him into his works, creating a recognisable cast of characters. The king, the joker, the girl, and himself, appear over and again, donning a procession of costumes and personas. In addition, there are the painted images of drapery, flowers and poses, pictorial tropes from art history, suggesting dislocation and fracture from context. Positioning himself as painter-puppeteer, Richardson’s own painted avatar is almost but not definitively visible as The Colossus as much as he was once a Goya-esque corpse. In this, he very much inhabits his own paintings, commentating from within and without the canvas.

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Jordan Richardson, The Colossus, 2017, oil on canvas, 167.5 x 152 cm. photograph by Toby Meagher (2017)

Richardson describes this exhibition as ‘an exploration of storytelling through the medium of painting’. Paradoxically, it is painting’s failing at explicit storytelling, that creates such a fascinating, open-ended and shadowy parade of pictures. It is a technique that revels in the fallibility of painting as chronicler. Similarly, elusive is the tale of paint itself, and Richardson nominates this as a parallel concern. Obvious in his works is a deep joy and reverence for paint that is handled so knowingly as to reveal its physical traces, tactile qualities and slippages from opacity to transparency. Passages of pure colour burst forth in an accretion of brushstrokes that slip from depicting a petal to simply portraying the languid sweep of a loaded brush. If in painting the shift from illusion to abstraction was a shift from thinking of painting as window to surface, both are present here. The story Richardson tells is as much about didactic deployment of the medium as its place in art history and conservation.

So, the question of our contemporary art age, ‘why paint?’ is transmutated into ‘why painting?’, and this is why. Painting for Richardson is inquiry, into the personal, the material and the historical. Painting is to skilfully fabricate an illusion only to lift the surface and probe beneath, into its construction and past. Painting is subjective windows hung on walls. Painting is pigment bound in oil, solvent lapping at the edges between fluidity and paste. Painting is a history of painting, a weighty narrative collapsing from Giotto to the present. Painting is a flicker of expression on a well-known face. Painting is ritual, brushing downward daubs of ultramarine blue into the deep space of flat canvas, with the knowledge that this same blue was characterised by Kandinsky as having the soft texture of velvet, or by Klein as a dive into the void. Painting is a decision followed by a change of mind, doubt revealed in pentimento. So, this painter paints on, asking the questions and finding shadowy answers.

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Jordan Richardson, Floromancy II, 2017, oil on canvas, 24 x 20 cm. photograph by Toby Meagher (2017)

The sense of keen inquiry is visible in the paintings. There are passages where the paint, deliciously blended, modulated and liquid as it describes a downcast gaze, stops suddenly on an upturned chin, becoming thin and fugitive as it bares the canvas textile and exposes quick movements of the brush. The titling of the smaller flower pieces as Floramancy, alludes to a mixture of mania and magic. Elsewhere, the sheer scale of works such as The Robe enables a wide-open expanse of pictorial space for the discourse between subject, story, paint and painting to unfold.

There’s a celebrated subject in art history, which has been painted many times. It relates an episode of incredulity in which a doubting disciple tests his scepticism by poking a gnarled and stubby finger into the open spear-wound of a resurrected messiah figure.[i] It is an oft-repeated image, a delicious, awful probing of painted flesh, and is appropriate for Richardson’s approach. This new suite of paintings, these Shadows on a Cave Wall, are located at an expansive moment of incredulity, the pause before faith. For incredulity, slipperiness and ambiguity not only underlie Richardson’s imagery, but also are present in his treatment of paint. His has an alchemical interest in animating the inanimate matter, the oil and stone, of painting. Technical knowledge and mastery mingle with smeared paint and visible moments of doubt. This is Jordan Richardson: the painter with incredulity cured as he touches the painted body.

-Lisa Sharp

[i] The Incredulity of St Thomas has been painted by Vasari, Caravaggio, Rubens and Rembrandt, among many others.

 

‘The incredulity of the painter’ by Lisa Sharp is the catalogue essay for Jordan Richardson’s exhibition ‘Shadows on a cave wall’ at the gallery, Michael Reid Sydney. It has been republished in Rochford Street Review with the permission of the author. Images courtesy the artist and Michael Reid Sydney and Berlin.

Exhibition details:
Jordan Richardson
: Shadows on a cave wall
15 November to 2 December 2017
Michael Reid Sydney
Standard House,
105 Kippax Street,
(enter from Waterloo Street)
Surry Hills, NSW, 2010

 


Lisa Sharp is a Malaysian-born Australian artist, writer, curator and co-gallery manager. Following an earlier career in law, she holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Honours in Painting from the National Art School. Lisa likes to write and muse about art, art making and artists. Her blog is www.lisa-sharp.tumblr.com 

 

The Absence of Painting: Lisa Sharp reviews ‘Joe Wilson Painting etc’ at STACKS PROJECTS

Joe Wilson Painting etc. catalogue essay. An exhibition at STACKS Projects artist run gallery and project space, 191 Victoria Rd, Potts Point, NSW runs from 21 September to 8 October, 2017.

So, what has happened when you go to an exhibition of paintings only to find that Painting has turned its back and left the room? This is a room you may find yourself in at one of Joe Wilson’s exhibitions and it is a provocative quandary when encountering his work. Left inside the room are a collection of objects, that point to the absence of Painting, much as a recent departure from the stage of a Big Personality. There is a sense of having just missed the main act, tempered by a little uncertainty about the objects left scattered on stage. The end-of concert announcement ‘Elvis has left the building’ comes to mind.

In this room, the works tell of painting through its absence. They do this by adopting its familiar form, referencing formalism, and by utilising a pseudo-materiality that is filled with insight and humour. Carefully assembled is a collection of objects that are associated with and which indubitably point to painting. They point to the imprimatur of painting and not, as one might expect, the well-mined arenas of painting activity as inspired spiritual process, its medium as skill-based, its output as an aesthetically valued product for lengthy gazing upon. The material elements of painting are not present but are recognisable in their absence, through references, substitution and word play. For Joe Wilson lays bare, as if on a stage the entire set of conventions that surround an exhibition of paintings. A Wilson exhibition is a work site and the works are exhibited as moveable and transitory artefacts of the exhibition apparatus – the making, staging, crating, transport and installation of painting.

Joe Wilson, ‘Half Arsed’, 2017. Acrylic and timber, 42 x 42 x 7 cm
(Image courtesy the artist)

As a mere viewer you will be caught up in this staging, as your role in the gallery is assessed. Within the exhibition space of Painting etc, you may find that your entry is facilitated but your spectating can be confounded by the transitory narrative conveyed by the works. The shop-like window of the gallery displays a blue painting bespoke-packed in an orange suitcase. On entry, The Hand, 2017 a hand-rail painted in safety yellow seems to escort, support and guide you in your viewing journey. Then you see paintings in various stages of installation – wrapped for travel, leaning on a wall, hung. Usually white monochromes, they resist being seen again whenever, they remain resolutely crated and unpacked. Occasionally mounted plinth-like on white pallets these works take on a monumental, if slightly absurdist quality. The packing pallet, with its irresistible homophonic reference to a painter’s palette is a recurring Wilson motif, and a gently satirical dig at the paraphernalia, the etcetera of painting, that is the subject of the exhibition.

Clearly at home in the gallery, and fluent in the non-objective vernacular, the works are clean-lined, restrained, well-crafted objects presented in an elegant and reductive vocabulary. You see timber frames, flat colours, monochromatic surfaces, geometric compositions, ready-mades and rectilinearity. It is familiar, and almost too well -done. There is a tension in the room, and it’s a tension created from flawless execution undercut by absence. In a strange inversion of their objecthood, the works resemble – maybe even mimic – images, functioning as reflections, understudies and surrogates of painting. In doing so, the works take on the appearance, semblance, expectation, the simulacra of art, as if what we know and have come to expect of painting has been held up to a mirror, and reproduced.

Situating himself as a painter, Joe Wilson, who also works as an art installer and art school studio technician, is broadly concerned with “elements, situational and compositional, beyond the confines of the painter’s canvas”. Indeed his recent research for his Masters of Fine Art posited painting as Dislocated Object and examined Mobility and Transfer in the Presentation of Painting. And when painting is transient, on the move, or just passing through, then its absence becomes very much a concept explored within each exhibition. Absence is instigated, and then perpetuated by the works’ consideration of the marginalia of roles and agencies that take place behind and beyond the surface of painting. In talking to Joe, he elaborates on a theory he has about the object-image dichotomy, (a central tenet dating from the birth of non-objective painting), seeing it rather as an object-image collusion. This is a co-dependant relationship specific to our contemporary age of ubiquitous media, where the image can not only extend the reach of the object, but also become a work in its own right.

Joe Wilson, ‘Digital collage 3 (thinker)’, 2017. Image courtesy the artist

Another, instance of painting turning its back on a room was Wilson’s earlier exhibition Verso (February 2017, Rayner Hoff Space, National Art School). A verso is a technical term for the reverse side of a painting and in considering painting’s verso we are looking at its back. In that show, the physical site had been renovated to preserve multiple layers of the building’s prosaically utilitarian use, and this facilitated the presentation of painting’s absence in utilitarian disguise. A dolly, a ramp, crates, ladders and flights of steps were interwoven with the presentation of paintings on the walls, suggesting movement, transition and production. In several works, with disarming conceptual perspicacity, Wilson uses chroma-key paint as well as textiles as canvas. A chroma- key is not only a ready-made colour monochrome but is blue / green colour keyed to ‘disappear’ digitally,

The use of a disappearing colour for an exhibition of absent paintings recalls a tale from early painting mythology. The ancient Greek myth of Zeuxis and Parrhasios had two renowned painters in a contest. While Zeuxis produced a painting superior in illusion (birds flew down to taste the painted grapes) it was Parrrhasios who won, for his painting of a curtain which had deceived everyone. The point of the story was not that the curtain was particularly well painted, but that the viewers didn’t see it as painting because they didn’t expect to see it. Instead, the viewers placed all their hope and anticipation in painting that was not there, but was absent.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Painting has left the building. Thank you and goodnight.

 – Lisa Sharp

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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 in the law, she recently attained a Bachelor of Fine Arts (with Honours in Painting) at the National Art School. Lisa likes to write and muse about art, art making and artists and blogs at www.lisa-sharp.tumblr.com 

Details of the exhibition can be found at http://www.stacksprojects.com/

Featured Artist: Issue 21 Luciano Prisco – Biographical Note

Luciano Prisco ‘Buio’, 2016, oil on canvas

Luciano Prisco ‘Buio’, 2016, oil on canvas

Luciano Prisco was born in Melbourne in 1955 where he has mostly lived and worked. He gained a Diploma in Fine Art from Phillip Institute of Technology in 1982 studying under Dale Hickey and Peter Booth.

In the early 1980s he exhibited at Roar Studios, Christine Abrahams Gallery and Young Originals. He later exhibited works at Goya Gallery and Maroondah Gallery and from 2002 to 2013 he exhibited works in both solo and group exhibitions at Jackman Gallery and Tilt Contemporary Space. Works have also been included in Mornington Peninsula Works on Paper exhibition. He has also taught drawing for Arts Project Australia.

Luciano has spent considerable time drawing and painting in remote areas of Australia and he now lives on Phillip Island where he has both the physical, environmental and emotional peace and space to devote to his work.”

His latest exhibition, Luciano Prisco – New Works, Poems from Christopher Barnett, was a collaboration with the writer Christopher Barnett and ran from 10 September to 9 October 2016 at the Langford 120 Gallery in Melbourne (http://www.langford120.com.au/16-luciano-prisco-new-works-poems-from-christopher-barnett.html).

Luiano Prisco’Gates the New Jerusalem’, 2016 oil on canvas

Luiano Prisco’Gates the New Jerusalem’, 2016 oil on canvas

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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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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An echo of how we live: James Aksman-Glosz reviews ‘The Original of Laura’ by Chelsea Lehmann

The Original of Laura by Chelsea Lehmann Interlude Gallery 11/131-145 Glebe Point Road, Glebe NSW 13th August — 22 August 2015

Chelsea Lehmann, Sondage, oil and enamel on linen, 2015. Picture courtesy of the artist

Chelsea Lehmann, Sondage, oil and enamel on linen, 2015. Picture courtesy of the artist

Everyone understands the language of cinema, more so than they understand the language of painting, even though painting (as an art form) has been part of Western culture for over five hundred years. In recent times, cultural history has taken a back seat, overridden by technological advancements of the moving image, and the improved accessibility of cinema. Contemporary cinema, particularly the films that are coming out of Hollywood, deliver imagery of action sequences at break neck speed, often bewildering, and is accompanied by a fragmented narrative, which clearly lacks the cleverness of Tarantino’s surprise twist in Pulp Fiction. Clearly a state of atrophy in film making, although a sign of the times we are now living in.

Good contemporary art contains an echo of how we live and what is important to us. And in Chelsea Lehmann’s latest exhibition The Original of Laura (2015), she captures the shared feeling that the ‘bombardment of imagery for cheap thrills’ is sabotaging our relationship with cultural history, and devaluing pertinent social values. Presented to us in a framework of ‘the iconoclastic gesture’, a mostly forgotten era of political upheaval and image destruction, not too dissimilar from our own.

The Original of Laura is a contemporary painting exhibition, and is an extended body of work that uses the ‘iconoclastic gesture’ as its central theme. The iconoclastic gesture refers not only to image destruction, as it acts as a metaphor for the life and death of images within painting, both in its history and more recent contexts. Painting as a medium has a different process to other artistic mediums (such as photography and video art) in the manner, which the artist can trace his or her steps, and identifies the development of an idea, in small increments. And the larger the body of work, the clearer the idea becomes. To clarify this analysis; its my view that a series of paintings possesses shared characteristics with the serial narrative of contemporary television. For example the American crime drama television series Breaking Bad, is more meaningful and profound as five seasons rather than as a handful of episodes, the same goes with painting, its visual potency is strengthened through revisiting themes.

In this exhibition, Chelsea Lehmann extensively revisits the theme of the iconoclastic gesture through the presentation of eight medium sized oil paintings that are in a portrait format. They are all figurative paintings (with the exception of one portrait painting) of young women, with most of them dressed in 17th-18th Century couture, rendered with an emphasis on realism, contrasted with dramatic elements of abstraction. The forces of realism and abstraction in relation to aesthetics are like competing atoms in the theories of modern physics, initially separating then fusing together sometime later. A significant aspect of aesthetics; qualities of past paintings influencing art in the future has always been an important part of painting, now more easily identified, through the increased book collections in the art sections of university libraries and more efficient search engines via the internet. When viewing Chelsea Lehmann’s paintings, an initial thought for many, would be the influence of the 16th century High Renaissance painter, Michelangelo Merisi Da Caravaggio. This is evident by the hazy backgrounds in her paintings, figures illuminated by candlelight and a reduced colour palette.

Chelsea Lehmann, Litera, oil on linen on board, 2013-2015. Picture courtesy of the artist

Chelsea Lehmann, Litera, oil on linen on board, 2013-2015. Picture courtesy of the artist

For Caravaggio, the lack of a detailed background (sacrificing a sense of location for shadows), was a form of ‘tromp l’oeil’ an illusory visual trick, which is designed to persuade the viewer of his painting to believe that a fictional scene is actually occurring right in front of them. However, in 2015, the same painting trick, has a different context, and diverges from its original function. For instance, in Chelsea Lehnmann’s painting, ‘Sondage’ (2015), there is very little doubt, that the dark hazy background is not a visual trick, rather an effort to challenge the instant gratification and gimmicks of post art (it has been previously mentioned, Martin Creed’s Turner prize winning work, an empty room in which a light is turned on and off is a prime example). Her painting challenges post art through its ambition to be eternal, devoid of time and place, something out of human reach, something intangible; it is a type of art that exists outside our commercial society, and has more to do with the darker aspects of the human psyche.

In Chelsea Lehmann’s paintings, the soft candlelight illuminating the young women who are the central focus of her work, follow a similar trajectory (in regards to challenging post art) as her inclusion of dark hazy backgrounds. In the High Renaissance and Baroque eras, the refined chiaroscuro painting technique inspired by candlelight was used to provoke an emotional merging with spiritual belief. Post analysis of the paintings in The Original of Laura confirms successful use of the chiaroscuro technique, except that its ability to evoke spiritual belief in the viewer is long gone. Yet what these painting appear to do is produce the correct ambience, an atmosphere that fractures our own desensitisation with imagery; gone is the banality of post art replaced with glimpses of beauty, obscured by abstract layering, which acts like the combination of the rapid frame rate of a Hollywood action sequence with the withered pages in an old history textbook; Chelsea Lehmann is not questioning what art is, she is asking what art means. The imagery does mean something to us; it is familiar, yet strange, allowing us to be reacquainted with our own cultural history at a safe distance, not exactly an arduous history lesson, neither is it a fleeting memory of a museum visit. It has the unpredictability of a Hollywood remake; it is not exactly what we expected to see yet this time it is better than the original.

– 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.

Chelsea Lehmann can be found at http://www.chelseajlehmann.com/

For further information on gallery times visit http://www.interludegallery.com/

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Vale Rod Milgate

milgatepoem

Rodney Milgate  Poem 1970.

Artist, poet, playwright, academic and teacher Rodney Milgate died last Friday age 80.

I meet Rod in 1989 when I got a job in the Student Administration Office at City Art Institute (later to become the College of Fine Arts, UNSW). At that time he was in charge of the School of Studio Arts and was one of the college leaders who took the Institute into a new partnership with the University of NSW in 1990. While working together on the administrative tasks of the college, as well as the added burden of managing the merger with the much larger institution down the road, we began to discuss art and poetry. Indeed it was with some excitement I remembering him telling me “ah but I’m not just a painter your see.” The next day I found a copy of his 1979 poetry collection Pictures at an Exhibition (Elizabethan Press, Sydney 1979) on my desk together with an invitation to have lunch and let him know what I thought of it. On another occasions I had shown him a draft of an article I was writing for Island Magazine called ‘Towards a New Diversity: Martin Johnston and the New Australian Poetry’ (http://printedshadows.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/towards-a-new-diversity-martin-johnston-and-the-new-australian-poetry/). This time I received a copy of his 1983 chapbook Wordscapes (which had accompanied an exhibition of his paintings at the Barry Stern Exhibiting Gallery during November 1983). This time there was a yellow post-it note on the front pointing out that he was writing “trail blazing” poetry “pre ’68 and Tranter”!

Milgate noteMilgate won the Blake Prize for Religious Art on three occasions (1966, 1975 and 1977) and held numerous solo exhibitions. He wrote a series of plays and scripts starting in 1966 as well as publishing a number of collections of poetry.

A memorial will be held for Rod in October.

Milgate3– Mark Roberts