Posts Tagged ‘Cowwarr Art Space


Frank Mesaric @ Latrobe Regional Art Gallery

Frank Mesaric - Loy Yang and 'The Triumph of Bacchus'Monday, 13 December 2010

Frank Mesaric: The Weight of Stone

We are used to absorbing the world around us at a single glance. We accept the incongruity of split images rushing past our eyes as we flick through glossy magazines, surf the ever-increasing number of television channels, or wade through the multitude of still and moving images on our computer screens. They compete with each other for our attention, and through the process of ocular attrition, we have learned to ignore this rapidly changing visual cacophony.

However, the new body of work by Frank Mesaric demands time and concentration. We need to leave the extraneous noise of the world at the gallery’s door, enter without rushing, take a deep breath, and abandon ourselves to contemplation. For it is only after careful consideration and inquisitive examination that semantic links between the seemingly disparate sets of images on the artist’s canvases begin to reveal themselves.

Frank Mesaric - Bridge at Tarraville and 'The Virgin Mourning Christ'Mesaric’s immediate environment in Myrtlebank and the surrounding environs of Gippsland provide the artist with a continuous source of inspiration. Townships and power stations, hospitals, outhouses and derelict buildings are all drawn from the artist’s surroundings. Even the fighter jet and the burning oil field were witnessed by the artist not in the Middle East but from the comfort of his living room couch, which also makes its appearance in one of the paintings in this exhibition.

The Old Masters are another important source of Mesaric’s inspiration. Their ghosts were ubiquitous in the artist’s earlier subject paintings and portraits, whether through a gesture, symbol, or connotative presence. However, for the first time this influence is being emphatically brought to the fore. Quotations from Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Velazquez, and others appear almost ephemerally, traced in a delicate shimmer of a white chinagraph.

Frank Mersaric - Couch and 'Judith Beheading Holofernes'Aesthetically and psychologically citizen of the world, yet physically and inextricably connected to Gippsland, Mesaric points out with these paintings that, in our global  egalitarian contemporaneity, everyone is as close to the renowned masterpieces of the world as they are to the nearest art book or computer screen. They posit Mesaric’s works somewhere between the celestial visions of saints in Old Master paintings and collaged social commentaries of James Rosenquist. They are metaphors for the higher aspirations of the artist and universal exemplars of achievements for his art students. More importantly, they are visual ‘thought bubbles’, providing running commentaries on Mesaric’s vignettes of contemporary life.

For example, the juxtaposition of the landscape with Loy Yang power station and Velazquez’s The Triumph of Bacchus could be read simultaneously as the celebration of earth’s bounty through his allegories of mining and viticulture; the critique of our culture of consumption through the depiction of the billowing power station and Bacchus’s feast; and the warning against the abuse of natural resources through his allusions to the prognosed environmental and climatic changes and the later depictions of the God of Wine as a dissipated and obese old man.

Frank Mesaric - Hospital Bed and 'The Anatomy Lesson'Multiple meanings similarly intertwine in Bridge at Tarraville and ‘The Virgin Mourning Christ’. Both images are those of quiet contemplation. At the same time, the sunset heralds the end of one day and foreshadows the beginning of another just like the death of Christ foreshadowed his resurrection. The empty road is lined with telegraph poles which are eerily reminiscent of crucifixes; and if we read the road as the site of fatalities, the image of the Virgin becomes a universal symbol of loss and mourning, and the overall message of the painting as that of rebirth, impermanence, and transcendence.

It is tempting to think that the painting Entry Door and ‘The Inspiration of Saint Matthew’ is self-referential. Opening your mind to inspiration is likened by the artist to leaving the door ajar and inviting that next step to the great unknown, the leap of faith, the feeling that Mesaric has experienced no doubt on numerous occasions when physically opening the door to his own studio or making that first brush mark on an empty canvas.

Frank Mesaric - Entry Door and 'The Inspiration of Saint Matthew'One can continue analysing these paintings ad infinitum. The Anatomy Lesson above a hospital bed is perhaps a simultaneous reference to the faith in the progress of science and the acceptance of the inevitability of death. Velazquez’s older gentleman next to the young boy in The Waterseller acquires menacing overtones placed beside the snapshot of a toilet with the imprints of sickness or blood. The eternal gender battle for domestic dominance is expressed subtly in phallic and vulvic indentations in the couch, and much more graphically in the quotation from Judith and Holofernes above.

At times the correlation between the corresponding images may appear to be tenuous, but the artist always leaves enough visual clues to engage the viewer in unlocking their hidden meanings, create parables of their own, and enrich their viewing experience in the process.

Frank Mesaric’s exhibition, The Weight of Stone, shows that his art is impossible to pigeon-hole. It does not slot easily into a convenient art movement, and cannot be branded with a fashionable ‘ism’. Yet it participates actively in the plurality of postmodernist vision which constitutes one of the cornerstones of contemporary Australian art, and engages the viewer in a discourse about the authorship, sense of place, and the universal aesthetic identity.

But in order to engage in this visual discourse with the artist, we need to leave the extraneous noise of the world at the gallery’s door, enter without rushing, take a deep breath and abandon ourselves to contemplation. I promise the experience will be a rewarding one, for we stand to learn infinitely more about these paintings, and, by osmosis, about ourselves.

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2010. This article is copyright, but the full or partial use is WELCOME with the full and proper acknowledgment.]


Clive Murray-White @ Cowwarr Art Space

Cowwarr Art Space, GippslandFriday, 11 February 2010

Dear Diary,

This weekend I have found a refuge in Cowwarr, home to the sculptor Clive Murray-White, and his partner, the gallery director and art entrepreneur Carolyn Crossley. The imposing 1920s butter factory was cleverly converted into a dwelling, a gallery, and a set of self-contained artists’ studios. Murray-White’s own studio – a small industrial shed – is located just across the courtyard from the gallery, which provides a perfect showroom for his many pieces.

Clive Murray-White - Senator - Installation ViewI have been familiar with Murray-White’s work for a number of years. He is one of the very few practitioners of figurative sculpture in Australia working in marble. Peter Schippernheyn is another. Vince Vozzo, though in a much more stylised, decorative vein, is the third.

The current body of work was formulated in the 1990s, when Murray-White set himself an ambitious and grandiose project to create nothing short of a new iconography for the Gods of the Southern Cross. He invented their names and their characters, gave them stories, and with his chisel materialised them exclusively from Australian marble.

Clive loves working with the stone. He respects the originality and the ancienty of the prehistoric monolith, its unique nature and character.  He skilfully incorporates its cracks, inclusions, and colour variations in his works. Each sculpture displays his ability to manipulate the marble’s surface – from highly polished and shiny to smooth and opaque; from roughly hewn to untouched, preserving the original design of nature.

Clive Murray-White - Recent SculptureIn his early sculptures, the faces of his gods emerged only partially. Their appearance was imbued with the mystery of excavated pieces of ancient Greek or Roman sculptures. Sometime only a cheek-bone, an eye socket, a forehead were distinguishable in his pieces; fragments of faces featured broken-off noses and disfigured chins. Over the years – and especially since the Felton Commission of 2004 – his faces have emerged more fully from the stone. From mere hints of a human visage, they are now fully recognisable faces. From highly abstracted likenesses, Murray-White’s sculptures are becoming more and more highly detailed and well-characterised portraits of people around him.

The artist must progress in his work. If he does not, his work stagnates. Throughout his career, Clive tried his hand in a variety of media, including wood, metal, and even smoke formations. The ‘romancing’ of the stone is yet another incarnation of his ever-searching artistic spirit. The progress from fragmented abstraction to a greater definition of physiognomic features in his sculpture is a part of the artist’s journey. One wonders if with the attainment of a greater naturalness in his sculpture came at the expense of the erstwhile sense of mystery. … (to be continued)

[© Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg 2010. This article is copyright, but the full or partial use is WELCOME with the full and proper acknowledgment]

Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg

April 2019
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