Saturday, October 18, 2014

Icons in Ballarat

The exhibition EIKON: Icons of the Orthodox Christian World has just opened at the Art Gallery of Ballarat.  This is another ground-breaking "Made in Ballarat" exhibition, and has come about because the Gallery's Director, Gordon Morrison, has long had a passionate interest in icons, transmitted from his Polish grandmother.  I understand it is the first exhibition of Orthodox icons in Australia.  Many of the icons have come from the collection of retired Australian diplomat John McCarthy in Sydney, though some have come from the National Gallery of Victoria and the Temple Gallery in London.  There is a splendid catalogue, also produced by the Art Gallery of Ballarat.

The icons do not function as artworks in the way that we normally understand; rather they are aids to prayer and devotion, "windows on heaven" according to the exhibition text.  The aesthetic qualities, although at times striking, are secondary.

Yesterday was a special day at the Gallery.  As well as the exhibition there were two ancillary events, the first of which was a talk by Sir Richard Temple, icon expert and founder and director of the Temple Gallery, a specialist dealer in icons.  He had come to Ballarat for the opening of the exhibition.  Sir Richard gave an introduction to icons, going back to their pre-history in the days when Christianity was a underground movement in the Roman Empire; a fascinating exposition.  The icons follow strict rules as to subject matter and composition, and the characteristics of the prophets and saints and their associated symbolism; changes have occurred over time, but the continuity of the tradition is remarkable.

The second event was the showing of a film, Living Prayer in Christianity, a documentary about the life of Orthodox Christian monasteries in locations including Egypt, Mount Athos and Russia.  Sir Richard Temple was a consultant on the film, and icons and the practice of painting icons featured in the the film, not surprisingly, as icons are so important in Orthodox worship.  General release of the film has been held up, but thanks to Sir Richard we were able to have what amounted to a private screening.

The exhibition continues until 26th January.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Art binge - Part 2 (of 2)

At the end of my last post I was looking at the Incinerator Gallery at Moonee Ponds.  At Screen Space I had been told that they had curated a video program at the Art Fair, including a video by Peter Daverington.  I had looked briefly at the videos at the Art Fair and not seen any that interested me, but I then realised that there were several video sessions and the one I would be interested in was on in the afternoon.  So I went back to the Art Fair.

Back to the Art Fair

I did see the Daverington video.  It starts off in a very abstract-geometric fashion and eventually introduces synthetic scenery (which seems to be a theme of today).  I have seen it before, but it was well worth a second look.

Presentation: most of the videos were shown on flat-panel displays with headphones; one was projected at a large scale with sound through speakers.  Unfortunately the sound for this video included quite loud synthetic noises meant to represent the clucking of a hen, which made it hard to hear any subtle sounds that might be coming through the headphones.

There was also a space set up as a proper theatrette, showing (in the afternoon) a video by Baden Pailthorpe  about drone warfare in Afghanistan.  Certainly the darker space, seats, a proper screen and multi-channel sound system made a difference (though one of the speakers had a problem).  The bare mountain scenery in Pailthorpe ’s video also appeared to be synthetic, but unlike the Piccinini piece the whole thing was an overt techno-fantasy about something that ought to be a techno-fantasy but is all too real.

Globelight at the Abbotsford Convent

The last instalment of my weekend art binge was a visit to Abbotsford Convent, in the opposite direction from Moonee Ponds (and a moderate hike from Victoria Park station).  By now it was dark, so I was able to see the various works to best advantage, especially the outdoor sculptures.

Outdoor sculpture by Sean Diamond


Among the outdoor works an  intriguing piece was a pendulum by James Tapscott, the organiser of the festival.  This was a globe that swung freely over a satellite dish,  The colour of the light inside the globe could be controlled and affected a sensor hidden in the dish, which controlled the generation of sounds.

Among the works inside buildings the most spectacular was Orb, a large disk with lights forming vertical stripes that turned on and off in various patterns.  There was a sonic component to this work also.

There were a couple of interesting video projection ideas.  One work had two projectors aimed at a considerable number of hanging gauze panels; not a new idea, but well done.  Another had what must have been a small screen at the bottom of a long triangular tube: looking down it produced a dazzling kaleidoscope effect.  Kaleidoscopes were a sub-theme of the weekend: apart from the Perpetual Light Machine there was a work in the Art Fair that made a similar use of mirrors, though it didn’t have a screen inside it.

A projection by Kate Geck
The last thing I saw was the audio-visual performance by Abre Ojos (Scott Baker).  This used three video projectors: as well as the main screen there were two more pointing at the ceiling showing a separate video feed, all being controlled in real time by Scott.

Globelight has another major component , a month-long exhibition at Anita Traverso Gallery in Richmond, which I had seen on an earlier visit to Melbourne.

On Sunday I went home!

Art organisations

My little art binge of a day and a bit sampled quite a few types of art organisation.  One high-end public gallery - ACCA.  One municipal gallery, with its brief to show local artists and to bring art from other places to the local populace  - Moonee Ponds Incinerator Gallery.  One very commercial Art Fair, though to its credit it did offer a bit of space to non-profits and the like.  One not-for-profit space, which I assume survives on grants and voluntary labour - Screen Space.  And one festival, which has come about largely because of the vision, energy and huge personal input of one person, James Tapscott – Globelight.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Art binge – Part 1

Recently I went down to Melbourne on the weekend for a bit of an art binge.  I wanted to see some of the things associated with the Globelight festival, and I was looking for ideas concerning the presentation of video and screen-based work.  And it was Melbourne Art Week (not to be confused with Melbourne White Night, Melbourne Nite Art, the Melbourne Festival, or whatever).

Australian Centre for Contemporary Art

On the Friday night the Australian Centre for ContemporaryArt (ACCA) had an open night.  There were two shows, Christian Capurro’s work Slave in one room and Optical Mix, a range of works exploring light, colour and perception, in the other.

Slave consists of videos, apparently shot on a mobile phone, of some of Dan Flavin’s fluorescent light works.  It came across to me as another introverted art-world piece, art-about-art-and-its–conditions-of-presentation-and-reception.  The presentation was very well done and the scale was impressive.

Christian Capurro's Slave

The works in Optical Mix were very varied, including a colourful Bridget Riley, a hypnotic circular piece by Ugo Rondinone and another circular piece by Jean-Pierre Yvaral, a kind of optical illusion that played with two and three dimensions.  The most visually dominant was by Cake Industries, consisting of two towers of rapidly changing coloured lights, intended to be considered as pixels.

The Melbourne Art Fair

On the Saturday morning I went to the Melbourne Art Fair, in the Exhibition Buildings in Carlton Gardens.  I suppose I went to get a sense of the commercial end of the Zeitgeist.  Certainly there were a lot of things to see: a lot of large things, a lot of brightly coloured things, a lot of large brightly coloured things.  A very large and brightly coloured work by Del Kathryn Barton pretty much summed it up for me. Of course it wasn’t all like that: a stark contrast was provided by some beautiful, and beautifully understated, ceramic pieces shown by Yamaki Art Gallery from Osaka, Japan.
I only tried to talk to one gallerist, and when she found out that I was an artist she very quickly said “Sorry, I don’t have time to talk to artists.”  Telling it like it is, but it made the pecking order of the Art Fair very clear.

Overview of the Art Fair

Screen Space

After that I went to Screen Space in Guildford Lane in the city.  They have a “small screen” ( a flat-panel monitor in the foyer area), a downstairs gallery, which is a dark room with projectors, and have just recently expanded into an upstairs gallery.  I went partly because Magda Cebokli, whom I know, currently has some of her geometric paintings in the upstairs gallery, in company with some largely geometric works by Peter Daverington and others.

In the gallery downstairs was a three-channel video work (three simultaneous projections) by Patricia Piccinini.  It showed views of rolling ocean waves, which on inspection were clearly synthetic, as the general shape and distribution of the waves wasn’t convincing.  The piece was made in 2000 and is perhaps showing its age, as such near-photo-realistic synthetic scenery is no longer a novelty.

The piece on the small screen, by Leela Schauble, was more interesting to me.  It showed an imaginary marine creature, translucent and pulsating, supposed to have evolved from the plastic bags that now litter the world’s oceans.

Leela Schauble, Synthetic Species Motion Study No.7

The Incinerator Gallery at Moonee Ponds

After Screen Space I went to a place I had not previously visited, the Incinerator Gallery at Moonee Ponds (a moderate hike from Moonee Ponds station).  The building was designed by Burley Griffin as a municipal incinerator; it is now an art space of the City of Moonee Valley.  There was a component of Globelight here, the installation The nature of things, is that even the strong will want to fall by Sam Mitchell-Fin.  This consisted of a number of coloured fluorescent tubes (much thinner than Dan Flavin’s) arranged at various angles.  I suspect this piece is better seen at night.

There was an unexpected bonus here in terms of presentation, in the form of the Perpetual Light Machine by Autonomous Black (Paul Irving and Chip Wardale).  Inside were six enclosures, each of which had portholes that revealed a screen and mirrors arranged to give a kaleidoscope effect; very well done.  I am less certain about the aesthetic content, but that’s another story.  The whole structure also functions as a stage for musical performances by Autonomous Black.

Autonomous Black, Perpetual Light Machine (external view)

To be continued ....

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Flanagan Art Prize, Ballarat

I have a piece in the Flanagan Art Prize, held at St Patrick's College, Ballarat. The exhibition is to be held in the Old Collegians' Pavilion at the rear of the College, 1431 Sturt St, Ballarat.

Opening: Friday August 22nd, 7pm. Entry by ticket obtainable for the college, or (03) 5331 1688.
Exhibition: August 24, 25, 30 and 31, 11am - 4pm.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

"Birds, Beasts and Blossoms" - correct time!

Apologies - I got the time of the "Birds, Beasts and Blossoms" opening wrong in my previous post (now corrected).  The  opening starts at 2pm.

"Birds, Beasts and Blossoms" - more than a dozen artists from the Ballarat region, works addressing this theme.  They range from hyper-realistic to abstract (mine is at the abstract end, not surprisingly).

UPDATE: Opening event: Saturday 2nd August 2014, 2-4 pm.
Exhibition dates: 1-3 and 7-10 August (Thurs - Sun), 12-4pm.

Backspace Gallery is at the rear of the Art Gallery of Ballarat in Huyghue House. It can be reached from Lydiard Street by walking down Police Lane at the side of the Art Gallery of Ballarat, or from Camp Street (between Sturt and Mair Streets).

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"Birds, Beasts and Blossoms" at Ballarat

UPDATE: I previously had the wrong time for the opening.  It is from 2 to 4pm.

I have work in a group show "Birds, Beasts and Blossoms" in Backspace Gallery in Ballarat. I have called my creatures "Colonial Organisms". They are highly abstracted, more blossoms than beasts, generated from random "DNA" with symmetry operations applied.

Backspace Gallery is at the rear of the Art Gallery of Ballarat in Huyghue House. It can be reached from Lydiard Street by walking down Police Lane at the side of the Art Gallery of Ballarat, or from Camp Street (between Sturt and Mair Streets).

UPDATE: Opening event: Saturday 2nd August 2014, 2-4 pm.
Exhibition dates: 1-3 and 7-10 August (Thurs - Sun), 12-4pm.

Some information on the space:

Friday, March 7, 2014

Transfield withdraws from Biennale of Sydney

I have just seen the news that Transfield have withdrawn as the major partners of the Biennale of Sydney and that Luca Belgiorno-Nettis of Transfield has resigned from the Board of the Biennale.  This has happened because Transfield has been involved with offshore detention centres and has recently won a contract worth over $1 billion to operate the detention centre on Manus Island.  A number of artists involved with the Biennale were planning to withdraw from it because of this issue.

I was just having an email conversation touching on the influence of big donors on the boards of museums and public galleries.  The Biennale Board have had the courage not to let the piper call the tune on this occasion.  It is sad because the Belgiorno-Nettis family have supported the Biennale very generously since its inception, but this time it is impossible to ignore the source of the money.  Tobacco sponsorship of sport and art has long been unacceptable in Australia, so the principle of looking at where the money originates is not new.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Melbourne White Night 2014

Melbourne put on a great party on Saturday night/ Sunday morning.  Half a million people flooded into the CBD, and everybody seemed to be having a good time - including me!  Projections were a dominant theme in what I saw, but it was impossible to see everything.

Swanston Street early in the evening

The projected beating heart in the Forum Theatre

Princes Bridge 

Spotlights behind Princes Bridge

Part of a projection in Flinders Lane

Some of the projection inside the La Trobe Reading Room of the State Library, curling round the bookcases on the upper levels

Looking up at the dome of the reading room, or just flaked out?

The dome

It was quite extraordinary to see a large queue of people waiting outside the State Library at midnight to get in to see this.  This was the only thing I queued for, but there were substantial queues for some of the other venues too.  Since I was there I also took in the exhibition of Piranesi prints.

Not long after this I went off to bed.  The party continued until 7 am.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Artist talks at Anita Traverso Gallery

To go go with the Salon2 program at Anita Traverso Gallery there will be some artist talks (floor talks) on Saturday 22nd February, starting at 2.30 pm. I will be talking about my evolutionary artwork on display.

Anita Traverso Gallery
7 Albert Street Richmond, Melbourne, VIC 3121 (off Church St, a little south of Swan Street)
Tel +61 3 9428 7557 


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Salon Squared at Anita Traverso Gallery

Anita Traverso is launching a new program under than name Salon2 at her gallery in Richmond. I am in the inaugural season—fourteen artists, in a range of styles, including a healthy dose of abstract and semi-abstract work, and varied media including painting, digital prints, photography and sculpture.

The works are on display from 5th February.  Launch event 13th February.

Anita Traverso Gallery
7 Albert Street Richmond, Melbourne, VIC 3121 (off Church St, a little south of Swan Street)
Tel +61 3 9428 7557