Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Mothballing this blog

I am mothballing this blog, as it has ceased to be useful.

Most functions of occasional blogs such as this one have been taken over by social media, and I have recently started a Facebook artist page (http://www.facebook.com/GordonMonroArtist) and an Instagram page (http://www.instagram.com/gordonmonroartist/).

What social media does not readily provide is a place for article-style posts of a few hundred words. In future, if I write these I will post them as notes on my website at http://gommog.com/.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Abstraction 18

“Abstraction 18” is a massive group exhibition across several galleries, curated by Stephen Wickham and Wilma Tabacco. It is timed to coincide with the recreation of the exhibition “The Field” from 1968 in the National Gallery of Victoria. I have a work in this show in the Stephen McLaughlan Gallery - the image is part of my piece.
Detail of Alogos: Hexagonal
Where: Stephen McLaughlan Gallery, Level 8 Room 16 The Nicholas Building, 37 Swanston Street Melbourne (on the corner with Flinders Lane), http://www.stephenmclaughlangallery.com.au/
Opening event: Saturday 28th April, 2 pm - 4 pm.
Exhibition dates: April 25 - May 26, 2018.  
Gallery hours: Wednesday to Friday 1 pm - 5 pm and Saturday 11 am - 5 pm.
There are also two other openings that weekend for other parts of the exhibition: at Five Walls (Footscray) on Friday April 27, 6pm - 9pm, and Langford 120 (North Melbourne) on Sunday 29th, 2pm - 4pm. See http://fivewalls.com.au/ and http://www.langford120.com.au/.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Other Art Fair and Interior Decorating

I was an exhibitor at The Other Art Fair, Sydney, held on 22-25 March in the exhibition hall of the Advanced Technology Park near Redfern station. The organiser is Saatchi Art, an organisation that now has no connection with Charles Saatchi, though he was involved early on; later he sued them to stop them using his name. The point of difference of The Other Art Fair is that there are no gallerists or dealers in the stands, only artists showing their own works.

There was an application process for the fair; I could not get any sense of how rigorous the selection was. I looked at a few CVs, and from what I could see the artists selected were reasonably established in terms of holding solo exhibitions and being finalists in prizes. The publicity for the fair had a relentlessly young and funky vibe, and many of the artists were youngish, but I certainly wasn't the only one there with grey (or white) hair, so the selection wasn't too dependent on age.

The Fair brought home to me just how much the art world is part of the interior decoration industry, both domestic and corporate. I thought about a spectrum of artists and artistic endeavour. At one end are the artists who are exploring, extending their practice, engaged in what I think of as a conversation with the history of art and with a wide range of influences from within the artworld and outside it. I call this the exploratory end of the spectrum. At the other extreme is the purely commercial end, where the artist develops a formula that isn't going to upset anyone (stylised landscapes, swoopy abstracts, cute figures, soft-focus nudes), sticks to the formula and produces in quantity. Some artists have two practices at different places on the spectrum: for example, a ceramicist might produce a line of simple pieces for sale as well as making more "difficult" experimental works.

The art fair made me realise that the artists I have met have generally been near the exploratory end of the spectrum, which is not surprising considering that I have been studying in a postgraduate University environment. There was a range at the art fair, including quite a lot of very formulaic work as well as some that was more towards the exploratory end.

There were many large works at the fair, which surprised me, as the visitors were largely people looking to buy things for their houses. I was naughtily reminded of the supposed art-school graffito: "If it isn't working, make it BIG! If it still isn't working, make it RED!" But quite a few big paintings sold, so maybe people have big walls.

I wasn't the only person exhibiting computer-generated work: Grant Stewart showed work made by a drawing machine he had constructed that is controlled by a small computer (an Arduino), and he had the machine there and in action as well.

I have never participated in an art fair before, and I didn't know what to expect. For me it wasn't a success: it cost me quite a lot in time, money and effort, and I sold very little. Apparently some gallerists and curators visited the fair, but none made themselves known to me. However, some of the other artists at the fair sold well, and I don't blame Saatchi Art for my lack of success. But I don't expect to do it again.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Wyndham Art Prize

I have a work in this year's Wyndham Art Prize.

Opening: The opening is on the 29th March from 6.30 to 8.30pm. All welcome!

Where: The Wyndham Art Gallery, 177 Watton Street Werribee. (In the Wyndham Cultural Centre building.)

Exhibition dates and hours: 29th March to 11th June. Gallery hours Mon - Fri 9 - 5, weekends and public holidays 11 - 4.

White Night Ballarat

On Saturday (18th March) I went to see White Night Ballarat. This is the second time it has come to my home town; the first time was last year. Before then Victorian white nights were only in Melbourne. 

This year was a success by all accounts, with an estimate of 60,000 visitors, impressive for a city of only 100,000 people, and more than came last year. Some of the works were imported from the Melbourne White Night a few weeks ago, but by no means all (and I didn't see the Melbourne White night this year, so I'm not making comparisons; I also saw only about half of the Ballarat event). It was a very windy night in Ballarat, and this caused a couple of things to be cancelled, including the chandeliers by Debra Goldsmith, but otherwise things seemed go very smoothly. There was a good atmosphere, with people of all ages simply having a good time. Central Ballarat suits White Night well, with plenty of historic fa├žades for projections and several suitable venues for indoor events, all compactly located in two or three blocks.

What sort of work succeeds at a White Night? The audience consists of all ages, including young children, and there are large crowds moving through the streets and the venues. So, colour and movement is a big plus, "adult" themes are problematic, and a duration of five minutes or less is good. And a surprise twist of some kind is an asset.

I felt that certain things have become close to routine at these events, and I have seen a number of White-Night-like events in several cities in the last few years. Firstly, projections onto historic buildings. The technology has matured: in Ballarat the images were bright and clear, and the precision with which windows, columns and other architectural features were outlined and made use of was remarkable. Unfortunately, I have tended not to pay much attention to the content. The only projection that has really stuck in my mind was from a Melbourne White Night a few years ago, in the State Library: it showed various viruses, including the HIV virus, at enormous scale.

Secondly, illuminated sculptures, which move or are interactive. Not so evident in Ballarat this time, though the work Metamorphosis, by Indirect Object and A Blanck Canvas, provided an example. This is a group of interconnected cocoon-like shapes, which respond with sound and colour when touched (or thumped by small children). A work I found more appealing was Enlightened Disciples by Skunk Control, a large collection of flower-like objects (with several prominent thistles), illuminated with changing colours.

Thirdly, works that move through the streets, including performers on stilts and mobile sculptures. The White Night Messenger was in Ballarat this year, an engaging work, part of whose appeal is that the puppeteers who control the work are out in the open. I am sorry that I missed Utility Kinetic Insect.

And fourthly, music and dance stages, providing a festival within a festival.

There are certainly many events outside these four categories. As some examples, in Ballarat the Art Gallery of Ballarat, the Post Office Gallery (Federation University) and the Lost Ones Gallery showed the various exhibitions they currently have on display. There were events related to the Eureka Stockade rebellion, a defining moment in Ballarat history. And among the many events I missed was the blitz chess tournament (very fast play) at the Ballaarat Mechanics Institute. ("Ballaarat" is an older spelling of the city's name.)

I'll close by mentioning two works that have strong Ballarat connections, one out in the streets, one inside (in a small theatre space). The first was Bunjil, consisting of 48 sculptures of a flying eagle. These lit up in quick succession, providing a kind of stop-motion animation. The reference is to the creator spirit Bunjil who is prominent in the Indigenous culture of central and Western Victoria; the Indigenous artist consultants for the work were the prominent Ballarat artists Marlene Gilson and Deanne Gilson. This work was in Sturt Street in the centre of Ballarat and was impressive, simple and effective; good White Night material.

The second work was Random Number Generator by Christine Tammer and Erin McCuskey, two active local creators. This is a three channel video, which I thought was the most interesting thing I saw on the night, but was not good White Night material. It was too long, too complex, and it needed a hint: this is the world as seen through the eyes of a poker machine. Fortunately I knew the hint (from the White Night website), and I found the work engrossing, but most of the audience evidently found the work mystifying and boring.

So Ballarat's White Night was a great success and a good event all round, but not surprisingly there \are definite limits to the sort of work that will go well in a White Night environment,