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 ....

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