The Psychological Landscape of the Artist – Linda Adair reviews ‘Arthur Boyd: Landscape of the Soul’

Arthur Boyd: Landscape of the Soul Curated by Barry Pearce. National Art School, 10 January – 9 March 2019.

Rochford Street Review caught Barry Pearce’s curatorial introduction to the premier showing at the National Art School of the travelling exhibition Arthur Boyd: Landscape of the Soul which he has curated for the Bundanon Trust. An intimate survey of Boyd’s journey as an artist, the show will travel from 8 June 2019 through to September 2021 to regional galleries before returning to Bundanon. It is hoped it will return to a new purpose-built gallery which is to be constructed at the 1,100 hectare property that Yvonne and Arthur Boyd gifted to the Australian people in 1993. Twenty six years on from this generous bequest, Bundanon continues to operate as a centre for creative arts, education, scientific and environmental research and artist residencies.

Emeritus Curator of Australian Art at AGNSW, Pearce, began his talk playfully remarking “Don McLean nails it for Arthur Boyd” – a tongue in cheek  reference to The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh foregrounding that whilst still an adolescent Boyd was channelling the same spirit of the master, striving to create luminosity and light in paint  as evidenced in the Pastoral landscape,1936.

Pastoral landscape, 1936.

Lightness was interspersed with both painterly and spiritual darkness throughout  Boyd’s creative life, and he readily mastered the painterly techniques required to move from major to minor keys, as his imagination was triggered by the mythology he had heart discussed in his parents salon, and the classical albums he loved to play whilst painting.  As a young man, tone and light continued be abiding preoccupations, along with mythical figures and biblical scenes which figure in masterworks such as Nebuchadnezzar series and The Expulsion.

Red Nebuchadnezzar fallen in a forest with lion, 1968-69, oil on canvas.

Pearce curated the 1993 Art Gallery of NSW’s retrospective of Arthur Boyd’s astonishingly extensive oeuvre. By that time,  thousands upon thousands of works had been created, and Boyd kept suggesting more works to be included. In 1992, Pearce eventually explained to the artist that an exhibition was rather like a suitcase – only so much could be packed into if it were to work! If the 1993 show was, to use a musical analogy, an orchestrated complexity,  the current exhibition was more like a chamber concert.  And central to that sense of intimacy, the works chosen are exemplars of the major concerns of one of Australia’s most revered landscape artists.
In the catalogue Pearce writes:

‘And so we follow the progression of his landscape imagery from Mornington Peninsula, through bleached blonde reaches of Wimmera and Central Australia, to the tangled darkness of Gaffney’s Creek and verdant woods of Suffolk, to the final decades of his life at Shoalhaven, witnessing oscillations between night and day woven with disturbing glimpses of the human condition, this exhibition takes on the shape f an odyssey in which the protagonist finishes where he began, in the truth-giving glare of daylight.’

The passion, speed and sheer volume of Boyd’s paintings – many shrouded in darkness and focusing on mythic figures – may have been a kind of self-therapy to erase or “unsee” images which had troubled him since childhood. Boyd grew up in a family of prodigious artistic talent — his grandparents were accomplished painters, his uncle a celebrated author but his father, Merric, although a well-respected potter, suffered debilitating epileptic seizures in a time when the condition was little understood, barely managed and probably demonised.

Despite his unparalleled knowledge of Boyd’s work, Landscape of the Soul proved to be something of a revelation for Pearce who worked with the Bundanon Trust curators and conservators. As conservation drawers containing works were opened, he discovered treasures from Boyd’s youth that the artist had kept, but never shown him. These overlooked works yielded the impetus for Pearce’s exploration of the artistic lineage and the turning points in Boyd’s career.  Pearce also foregrounds the little known work of Doris Boyd, Arthur’s beloved mother, whose artistic drive was perhaps sublimated into her five children as she juggled her household, whilst supporting a husband with major health issues and managing the family’s pottery business at Open Country.

Pearce’s empathetic selection of 60 key works that Boyd painted over more than half a century, strives to tease out the psychological landscape of the artist as much as the painted topography. The works on display range from recognised masterpieces on loan from major state art museums to the above-mentioned early works, as well as some 20 works on paper, letters and documents that reveal a very personal profile of the man behind some of the most iconic Australian landscape paintings.  The works are grouped around four distinct phases of Boyd’s life:

  • Inheritance (in the exhibition this is Prelude: works by Boyd’s parents and grandparents);
  • Genesis and inflexion – outlining the influences and experiences from when he began to paint as an adolescent until he left Australia in 1959 to live and work in England
  • Between Worlds – Boyd’s work in England during the 1960s
  • The Shoalhaven Years – from 1971, whenBoyd was again working with the Australian light,– until his death

It was beautiful to see these important works in the NAS Gallery space and intriguing to consider them in the context of the tale of Boyd’s journey to live with, and through, his art,which has been articulated by a personal and venerating friend, who understood well the residual traumas that plagued the artist. The result is part memoir by a personal friend and part incisive assessment of the work by an expert art curator who understands the influences and techniques that Boyd conjured with. This humanistic, common sense tone is fair enough given Arthur Boyd was born in 1920, when the meta-narratives of Modernism were in their ascendancy. The story Pearce tells embraces a lineal progression of the artist as an individual subject expressing and integrating the inner conflicts and joys of his life via the medium of painting. For this reviewer, the four sections used to convey the theme and sub-themes of the exhibition recall the classic essay structure of introduction/ thesis/antithesis/synthesis. Certainly, there is little problematising of the relationship between the writer and his subject.

And so, whilst Boyd passed away in 1999, his spirit is foregrounded in this concise exhibition. It is almost as if  the artist and curator (author) are two actors conversing in this exhibition’s (tale) until a third protagonist appears saviour-like in the last act and that saviour is the genius loci of  Bundanon on the Shoalhaven River; a landscape made iconic and hauntingly familiar to many Australians by way of the Shoalhaven series. According to Pearce, Boyd attained peace at the healing place of Bundanon, returning to plein air landscape and the luminous light which he excelled at rendering, and consolidating the tonal virtuosity he had precociously demonstrated as an innocent boy.

Peter’s fish and crucifixion, 1993, oil on canvas

At Bundanon, Boyd recalibrated after living in Britain where he had taken in the wealth of art and music available but had also wrestled for more than a decade with dark imagery and tragic archetypes following the death of Merric in 1959. To Pearce, the final act was a time of integrating these innermost struggles and shadowy elements with the artistry of capturing light that had inspired him since his boyhood. Interestingly, we were told, the artist wrote the cryptic words “I am held” on the back of each work he painted. The answer however as to who  — or what — held Boyd is something that not even Barry Pearce has dared answer despite its insights into his psyche.

 

 

 – Linda Adair

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Linda Adair is a Blue Mountains-based writer and critic and one half of Rochford Press.

Arthur Boyd: Landscape of the Soul will be to touring to the following galleries: Ipswich Art Gallery, Ipswich QLD  8 June – 1 August, 2019. Shepparton Art Museum, Shepparton VIC, 12 August – 24 November, 2019. Cairns Regional Art Gallery, Cairns QLD 3 April – 21 June, 2020. Glasshouse Regional Gallery Port Macquarie, NSW 3 July – 13 September, 2020. Tweed Regional Gallery Mullwillimbah, NSW, 11 December, 2020 – 28 February, 2021. Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, Katoomba, NSW 12 March 2021 – 2 May 2021. Lake Macquarie Art Gallery, Lake Macquarie, NSW, 24 July – 26 September, 2021

For further information on the exhibition visit https://bundanon.com.au/whats-on/arthur-boyd-landscape-of-the-soul/

‘Menindee Fish Kill’ – Bonita Ely and Melissa Williams-Brown

Having heard the sickening news of the fish kill in Menindee I drove there as soon as I could. Because of the current drought, high temperatures and long term bad, if not corrupt management, the lower Darling River was infected by blue/green algae (a pernicious growth that poisons warm, tepid water). Then a drop in temperature killed the toxic algae bloom. When it dies it decomposes and siphons oxygen from the water, suffocating the fish. It’s estimated a million fish died.

Thinking about it during the long drive from Sydney, having recently re-read Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, I contemplated ways of embedding myself/us, white Australians, into the catastrophe. Maybe push my pale feet amongst the fish carcasses, into the mud and algae-infected water? My hands? Millais’ painting of drowning Ophelia popped into my head but how to photograph myself with no assistant or tripod? Fortunately I met photographer, Melissa Williams-Brown in Menindee who loved the idea immediately, and we worked together to stage and shoot the performance for camera, Menindee Fish Kill.

Synchronicity was the order of the day.

Ophelia’s pose and facial expression were a perfect quotation – chest heaving, she sinks into the water, her hands raised in helpless supplication. Her eyes gaze into the middle distance, her face in shock.  I’m immersed in gross toxic water, dead fish, maggots, a fly on my face. My garment’s paisley pattern – fish shapes/tear drops, but also signals colonial appropriation – the   pattern originated in the Middle East and India. The  Scottish town, Paisley, copied the pattern, claimed and named it.

This appallingly abject image powerfully evokes a complexity of feelings, a sharp reality, haptic, empathic.

 – Bonita Ely, Jan 2019, Menindee

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Australian artist, Bonita Ely’s cross-disciplinary artworks explore environmental and socio-political issues. From the 1970s she has forensically photographed the ecology of the Murray River and its environs, witnessing its decline.  Representing Australia in Documenta14, 2017, her installation in Athens, Plastikus Progressus, addresses the plastics pollution of water’s trans-ecology. In Kassel, Germany’s iteration, Interior Decoration, evokes the inter-generational effects of PTSD as an outcome of war.  Dr Ely is Honorary Associate Professor, Art & Design, University of New South Wales, Sydney. She is represented by Milani Gallery, Brisbane. https://bonitaely.com/

Melissa Williams-Brown (b 1970) is an Australian photographic artist and professional photographer specialising in portraiture, documentary and fine art photography. She has been a finalist in several prestigious Australian photographic art prizes.
2012:  (Semi-Finalist) Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize

  • 2015:  (Finalist) Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year (ANZANG)
  • 2015:  (Finalist) William and Winifred Bowness Prize
  • 2016:  (Finalist) William and Winifred Bowness Prize

https://melissawilliamsbrown.com/

A Biography of Place: The Unknown Craftsmen at Everglades c1932-35 #1-3 – Artist Statement

Vivienne Dadour: Biographical Note

A Biography of Place: The Unknown Craftsmen at Everglades c1934 #1-3.
Mixed medium- Digital prints on Hahnemuehle photo rag paper, collage, hand written text, photography by Vivienne Dadour, digital photographic reproductions from Harold Cazneaux 1933-36 photo album, Blue Mountains City Library collections and Paul Sorensen papers, Sydney Living Museums, Caroline Simpson Library collections.
Written Text #1
“During the depression of the 1930’s cheap labour was readily obtained…the number of men employed, or who the individuals were, is uncertain owing to a lack of information in the surviving time sheets…nor is it known where they came from” National Trust report c1963

 

The central component of A Biography of Place: The Unknown Craftsmen at Everglades c1932-35 #1-3 is to uncover and work with public and private archives concerning the complexities of the conditions and forces surrounding life during the Great Depression 1930-36 in the Blue Mountains. These art works  consider some of the social and political concerns that were pertinent then and remain so today- Identity, survival, resilience.

  • Who were the Craftsmen at the everglades c1932-35? Migrants, relief workers, unemployed, skilled or unskilled, age, address, family ties, religion?
  • How did they survive? What were their working conditions like?
  • What was required to keep working in the face of despair?

 

A Biography of Place: The Unknown Craftsmen at Everglades c1934 #1-3.
Mixed medium- Digital prints on Hahnemuehle photo rag paper, collage, hand written text, photography by Vivienne Dadour, digital photographic reproductions from Harold Cazneaux 1933-36 photo album, Blue Mountains City Library collections and Paul Sorensen papers, Sydney Living Museums, Caroline Simpson Library collections.
Written Text #2
“The dry- packed ironstone walls were built from specially selected and hand shaped stones, most of which were the locally collected iron rich sandstone. The walls exhibit an extremely high quality of workmanship: in their massive stability, the skillful introduction of tubular stone foundations and in their aesthetic result. The physical labour required to create the walls and planting was daunting. Fortunately for the Everglades, the depression was at its height and manpower was readily available.” National Trust report c1963

Reports from the National Trust archives Everglades booklet, 1963 states that ‘The Unknown Craftsmen at Everglades’ hired by Van de Velde during the Depression to work on his house and garden came from cheap labour that was readily obtainable, from the large number of unemployed… the number of men employed, or who the individuals were, is uncertain owing to a lack of information in the surviving time sheets and to the possibility of Van de Velde having paid some of them cash in hand…nor is it known where they came from…

A Biography of Place: The Unknown Craftsmen at Everglades c1932-35 #1-3 aligns with the political sub-texts often found in my artwork where I incorporate documents, photographic archives and contextual materials to reveal important social and political issues that may be obliterated, ignored, hidden or obscured by the passage of time.

 

A Biography of Place: The Unknown Craftsmen at Everglades c1934 #1-3.
Mixed medium- Digital prints on Hahnemuehle photo rag paper, collage, hand written text, photography by Vivienne Dadour, digital photographic reproductions from Harold Cazneaux 1933-36 photo album, Blue Mountains City Library collections and Paul Sorensen papers, Sydney Living Museums, Caroline Simpson Library collections.
Written Text #3
“A team of 14 Scottish master stonemasons constructed the exterior stonework under Paul Sorensen’s supervision, a French tradesman manufactured the wrought iron onsite, piano makers were engaged for the house joinery, and as many as 15 or 20 labourers were employed at any one time in the gardens.” National Trust Report c1963

 – Vivienne Dadour

 

Vivienne Dadour: Biographical Note

A Biography of Place: – Artist Statement

Vivienne Dadour’s art practice since 1992 has investigated issues that confront political and social issues concerning the complexities of identity and cultural difference. This has led her to seek interpretive strategies that consider ethical alternatives that challenge aspects of mainstream political discourse while encouraging dialogue and fostering tolerance of religious and cultural diversity. In her practice she focuses on specific communities and often works collaboratively with other artists.

Dadour conducted ethnographic and archival research for contemporary art exhibition projects that combined images and text in- Projectdocument : Resilience in Times of Adversity c1939-50 Blue Mountains, Blue Mountains Cultural Centre August 2019; A Biography of Place: The Unknown Craftsmen at Everglades c1932-35 #1-3, Everglades, Leura, NSW, 2018; Correspondence: The War Illustrated c1939-1950 Woodford Academy, Woodford, NSW, 2018; Illustrated: Women, Work and War WW2, Explorers exhibition, Woodford Academy, Woodford, NSW, 2017; Blown Away Articulate Project Space, Leichardt, NSW, 2016; Connections-a Community Project Articulate Project Space, Leichardt, NSW, 2015; Displaced-Greta Migrant Camp, NSW 1949-60, commissioned by Maitland Regional Art Gallery 2014; Instincts, Traditions, Usages: The Syrian Quarter in Redfern, NSW circa 1920, commissioned by the Australian Lebanese Historical Society, Parliament House Sydney, 2010; Invisible Realm: The Syrian Quarter in Redfern, NSW, The Cross Art Projects, Kings Cross, NSW, 2004.

Dadour has exhibited her work nationally and internationally being included in many public and private collections including Australian War Memorial Museum, Campbelltown Arts Centre, New England Regional Art Gallery, Maitland Regional Art Gallery and NSW University Art Collection.

http://www.viviennedadour.com/

Dogs and their Spirits: Mark Roberts Reviews Louise Kerr’s ‘Faithful and Wild’

Faithful and Wild, an exhibition by Louise Kerr at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, 30 Parke Street Katoomba until 13 January 2019.

Blue Girl with Yellow Dog, Louise Kerr, 2016. Soft Sculpture

I have been surrounded by dogs for most of my adult life, most of them strays or rescue dogs and all unquestionably faithful with just a touch of wildness occasionally showing through. But the dogs in Louise Kerr’s exhibition, Faithful and Wild, at first seem completely unrelated to the old small, blind dog resting silently on the coolness of the wooden floor as I write this. Kerr’s dogs appear almost as extra’s from a Mad Max movie – post-apocalyptic canines if you like.

In her essay in the exhibition catalogue, Kerr hints at a possible source of this almost shamanistic view of dogs. She writes of being fascinated as a child by “small exotic sculptures”. Interestingly her father, a trader, brought home small carved wood sculptures and woven baskets from Papua New Guinea, Fiji and the Solomon Islands.  These images obviously had a great influence on the form Kerr’s work would take. But while this may explain my initial reaction to the exhibition there is something deeper running through Kerr’s work as it is firmly rooted in the landscape of the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.

The Warrigal or Dingo have lived and co-existed with humans in the plateaus and valleys of the Blue Mountains for thousands of years and the presence of the dingo runs through this exhibition. In many of the individual pieces, the ‘heads’ and ‘figures’, the dog takes on human characteristics. They become almost “spirit dogs” with names like “Dog Gods”, “Bone Keeper” and “Dog Ghost. In other pieces, such as ‘Blue Girl with Yellow Dog, and ‘Dog Owner’ the relationship between humans and dogs are explored.

The exhibition can be divided into three main groupings: The individual pieces which include the ‘Heads’, “Figures and ‘Packs’, The Drawings, which are almost mechanical at times, hinting at the possibility of a robot dog future and the Landscapes (or dogscapes) in which local Blue Mountain landmarks are redefined in terms of the dogs, and their spirits, which have inhabited them over time.

For me these ‘dogscapes’ were the most impressive part of the exhibition. ‘Howling Dog Ridge’, for example suggests an alternative coat of arms, ‘Mount Warrigal Landscape’ with its hidden and, possibly, spirit dogs and, my favourite of the exhibition, ‘Wild Dog Mountains Map’, a large three dimensional piece which evokes a sense of place and implies a complexity not apparent in conventional maps.

Faithful and Wild is an evocative exhibition which takes what seems a simple relationship between humans and dogs imagines an alternative reality of spirit and ghost dogs, landscapes defined by gathering of dreaming dogs.

Dingo with Heart, Louise Kerr 2018, Pencil on Stonehenge Paper

 – Mark Roberts

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Mark Roberts is a founding editor of Rochford Street Review and lives in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. His latest collection of poetry, Concrete Flamingos, was published by Island Press in 2016

Faithful and Wild, an exhibition by Louise Kerr, can be seen at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, 30 Parke Street Katoomba, until 13 January 2019. http://bluemountainsculturalcentre.com.au/

Subverting the Machined Paradigms of Life: Linda Adair reviews ‘Imperceptible Resistances’ -Modern Art Project Blue Mountains

IMPERCEPTIBLE RESISTANCES — Modern Art Project Blue Mountains (MAP BM). At the Everglades Gallery daily 11.00 am until 3.00 pm until the Sunday 23 December at 3.pm. http://www.nationaltrust.org.au/event/everglades-gallery-imperceptible-resistances

Rochford Street Review recommend that any lovers of modern art in the mountains this week visit the Everglades Gallery, Leura, (pictured) to catch the final days of Imperceptible Resistances the first annual exhibition at this world famous site by MAP BM (Modern Art Projects Blue Mountains).

Curator Lizzy Marshall invited MAP BM artists to produce works which would demonstrate the resilience of the human spirit and subvert the networked or machined paradigms of life. In response to this call for works to be displayed in the Gallery within the world-renown Everglades National Trust site, 16 artists worked within their preferred mediums, to create imperceptible resistances to politics, conservation, personal freedom, and public spaces. This has resulted in a thematically coherent yet diverse body of work by the following featured artists: Vivienne Dadour, Frank Davey & Tess Rapa, Fiona Davies, Beata Geyer, Anne Graham, Danica Knezevic, Tom Loveday, Fleur MacDonald, Paul Mosig, Sean O’Keeffe, Naomi Oliver, Ebony Secombe, Rebecca Waterstone, and Gianni Wise.

The finished works play with, and subvert notions of, historical narrative and ownership, memory and power and, to paraphrase the invitation to the launch, posit heritage sites as places of resistance and change. Many works interrogate economies of oppression in surprising ways, creating beautiful or delicately unsettling pieces of art is the case with works by Fiona Davies, Anne Graham and Vivienne Dadour:

Fiona Davies continues her critique of the healthcare industry and its use of blood and plasma with another facet of the Blood and Silk Series Blood Farming/The Producers . (http://www.fionadavies.com.au/default4.asp)

Fiona Davies Blood on Silk: Blood Farming/The Producers, 2018

Anne Graham’s piece (part of a larger series) beautifully explores notions of music, instruments, nationalism and warfare using a bricolage of elements including a pianola roll of the Blue Danube waltz, a keyboard and the delicately arranged pendants that prove to be on closer inspection the gleaming shell casings of bullets. In this silent piece, Graham renders an iconic musical piece as a visual rather than aural experience, whilst summoning associations in the mixed media of the punch card technology of IG Farben’s Hollerith numbers which, via the Nazi  Holocaust fed into IBM and ultimately shaped the world we live in today.

Anne Graham System Hopping, 2018

Three of the Vivienne Dadour works in this show are site specific explorations of the Everglades itself, after much detailed research of the National Trust archive.The works foreground the magnificent and undervalued contribution made by the unknown craftsmen who worked on creating the terraces, walls and vistas that form the grand hard landscaping of this wonderful design by the acclaimed landscape gardener by Paul Sorensen.

Vivienne Dadour A Biography of Place: The — Unknown Craftsmen at Everglades c1932-35

The other works are of uniformly high standard and there are some wonderful pieces that would make great Christmas presents for yourself or someone you love a lot.

Imperceptible resistances builds on the successes of two other shows involving MAP BM artists: Explorers: narratives of site and Kiosk 3×6 projects. As Rochford Press is now based in the Blue Mountains, we were delighted to encounter MAP BM and to learn that it has a great 2019 planned under the guidance of President Fiona Davies, with the support of Vice-President Ian Milliss, Treasurer Beata Geyer and Secretary Alex Gooding with committee members Vivienne Dadour, Naomi Oliver and Rebecca Waterstone.

 – Linda Adair


Linda Adair is a Blue Mountains based writer and critic and one half of Rochford Press.

Contact details for Modern Art Projects – Blue Mountains can be found at https://www.modernartprojects.org/

Featured Artist Anna Couani: Biographical Note

Anna Couani

Anna Couani is a writer and visual artist who worked as a Visual Art and ESL teacher in Intensive English Centres and secondary schools for more than 30 years. She now runs an art gallery called The Shop Gallery in Glebe with her husband, sculptor Hilik Mirankar. She started out as a painter in the 70’s but more recently has focused on printmaking. She has exhibited her artwork in group shows and has published several books of experimental prose and poetry. Her most recent book is Thinking Process, 2017 Owl Press, consisting of poems about making art. These poems were first published in Project 366, a group poetry publishing project http://project365plus.blogspot.com.au

Anna Counai, ‘the back door’, reduction block print

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: Julie Manning Biographical Details

Julie Manning ‘Boundary fence New England’ 2016 – oil, charcoal on canvas

Julie Manning; is an Australian painter currently living and working in Victoria. She was born in Sydney and grew up in northern NSW, and the landscape of New England and the Northern Rivers coastline of NSW has inspired much of her work to date. She studied painting at the National Art School, and Fine Arts at the University of Queensland, as well as having degrees, and working in, both Science and Law.

Prior to moving to Melbourne early this year, she held successful exhibitions at galleries in Brisbane in both solo and group shows up to 2007. After a break from art she resumed painting, drawing and printmaking three years ago. She has a studio in Brunswick, Melbourne and is compiling a number of works for a major showing in 2018.

Julie is also vitally interested in reading and writing poetry, and her work is beginning to appear in Australian literary journals.

Her art draws inspiration from the Australian landscape and its birds and animals. She is particularly influenced by Australian painters from the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, and the American abstract expressionists of the same period. More works can be found at her website www.visualartist.info/juliemanning.

Julie Manning ‘Gorge Country’ 2016 charcoal oil wash on paper

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Nests in Everyday Things: Lisa Sharp Reviews ‘Found & Made’ a Group Exhibition including Annelies Jahn

The exhibition FOUND and MADE, including Annelies Jahn, Pollyxenia Joannou, Joe Wilson and Michael Bennett and curated by Amber Hearn, is on at Stacks Projects, 191 Victoria St. Potts Point until Sunday 12 March 2017.

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“ The mind sees and continues to see objects,
while the spirit finds the nest of immensity in an object.”

Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas (Boston: Beacon Press, 1958), 190

With a discerning sensitivity, artist Annelies Jahn seeks out the potential for moments of poetry embedded within, even disguised as, the everyday. These may consist of seemingly mundane objects, apparently discarded things, the measured and drawn space occupied by her works, her studio or her body. Carefully selected (found), then made (or re-made) and presented as art works these objects or sites are re-presented, and in this re-enactment an unanticipated encounter presents itself. The familiar, the known and the disposable become unfamiliar, unknown and fixed in the mind; a poetic space.

In her consistent exploration and evocation of space as a finite container of infinite possibility, Jahn evokes the idea, so well described by Bachelard, of space as having a quality of intimate immensity. We look and with our minds we see the work and it is a familiar object. As we look longer, we begin to perceive more; prompted by a whisper of memory or a moment of deeper recognition. Jahn’s work, this art object, whether a made, found or a repurposed thing, is often small, deceptively simple, frequently provisional, yet it has been made visible by selection, vulnerable by display, and the encounter invites a falling into a reverie of meditation. This is the nest of immensity; the warmth of contemplative discovery which Bachelard described as a species of daydreaming.

Compressed Measure, Silver foil wash tape housed in found acrylic box, 17.5 x 6.5 x 3 cm

The group exhibition Found and Made includes three pieces, found and made by Jahn. There is ‘Flatpack’, a cardboard piece of disarming humility. There, the usual container for space, a box, is flattened, excluding physical space from its planar form. Then there are two related works; ‘A resting Measure’ and ‘Compressed Measure’. The first is a clear, manufactured rectangular acrylic prism, placed horizontally on the floor. The second is a carefully coiled bundle of silver wash tape, housed within an open, clear acrylic box. One shape is formed and derived from the artist’s body measurements, the other from a de-installation of a wall drawing, yet both are sealed, finite containers of physical space – whereas the space they evoke is not. The Bachelardian idea of a nest within the object perfectly captures that daydream of space as an unseen presence that expands and contracts, like breathing.

Flatpack and A resting measure, Cardboard 130 x 92 x 20 cm and Clear acrylic 25 x 162.5 x 25 cm

While dream-like, these encounters arise out of rational systems of visual-spatial representation that always underlie Jahn’s work. Attention is drawn to the geometry of forms, composition, balance and location in space. There is an absence of gesture, drama, scale and permanence. Instead there is stillness, exact placement, intense observation, nuance, care and ephemerality. We are left to ponder how, (yes how) such rectlinearity so welcomes human complexity.(Stilgoe, John R. Foreword to Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas (Boston: Beacon Press, 1958)

And so we see and we ponder … could the slivers of a modulated conversation be wound tight and contained in a roll of used tape? Is a crumpled relationship mapped by the soft sagging of flattened cardboard? And can an artist’s footprint cascade into a crisp-edged clarity of light, precise planes and right angles …

 – Lisa Sharp

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(All images courtesy of the artist, Annelies Jahn)

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 her blog is at www.lisa-sharp.tumblr.com

Exhibition details are available at http://www.stacksprojects.com/