Posts Tagged ‘ex de Medici

26
Jun
12

Controversy @ Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery

Max Dupain Doom of YouthTuesday, 26 June 2012

Controversy @ Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery

Controversy: The Power of Art at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery unites over a hundred works that reflect, inspire, or engage in a public debate and / or a controversial issue. The breadth and variety of works on display is quite astounding, and includes paintings, sculpture, works on paper, photography, installation, multimedia, and even fashion. Although by its very nature and the fact that most of the works come from Australian public and private collections, the exhibition is heavily weighted towards contemporary Australian art, it does encompass art from the sixteenth century to the present day, and includes works by Hans Baldung, Francisco Goya, Marcel Duchamp, Jackson Pollock, William Dobell, Ron Robertson-Swann, Steve Cox, Kristin Headlam, Tom Alberts, Brook Andrew, Huan Zhang, Juan Davila, Patricia Piccinini, Damian Hirst, and many, many others.

Norman Lindsay Pollice VersoAmong the works that drew my attention was an unusual photograph by Max Dupain, Doom of Youth (1937) featuring a male nude. While nude males are quite rare in Dupain’s photographs, they are usually engaged in a sporting feat. This image features a crucified beefcake, a very prescient image for 1937. Next to it is a rarely seen Norman Lindsay’s Pollice Verso (1907), a pen drawing of extraordinary dexterity. It shows a group of Greek and Roman deities turning their thumbs down at a scene of Crucifixion. The drawing laconically illustrates Norman Lindsay’s criticism of the restrictions imposed by the Church and State on cultural and intellectual freedom. The section devoted to female nudes include another Norman Lindsay; the monumental La Cigale by Jules Lefebvre; Bertram MacKennal’s Circe; and a full-length studio nude by Freda Robertshaw, which I never knew was a self-portrait, a quite astounding and liberating act for the era.

Angela Ellsworth’s Seer BonnetThere is a startling and revealing photographic double-portrait of topless Mike Parr and his wife – his with amputated arm; hers with drastic mastectomy. Lisa Roet is represented with one of the most touching and original works I had seen by this artist, Mother and Child, that combines her characteristic sculpture of a baby chimp resting in palms of its mother’s hands, situated against a stained glass window decorated with chimps and traditional religious motives, inveighing onto the Creation versus Evolution debate.

The recent controversy over childhood nudity in art is addressed through works by Sandy Edwards, Polixeni Papapetrou, Peter Kingston, and the most effervescent and joyous painting by Amie Swynterton, and obscure but most fitting find for this exhibition. Trans / sexuality is examined through the works by Nan Goldin and Robert Mapplethorpe; the inclusion of Barry Humphries’ alter ego, Dame Edna Everage, complete with a full-size gladioli gown, is most fitting within the context of this exhibition.

Anne Zahalka Girls II Cronula BeachHauntingly evocative Angela Ellsworth’s Seer Bonnet, which is decorated with pearls on the outside and pins on the inside is a embodiment of the oppression faced by women not only within the Mormon community, which it directly addresses, but, to me, is also illustrative of women’s oppression throughout history. The though-provoking photograph by Anne Zahalka, The Girls II, Cronula Beach makes one rethink the changing face of Australia’s beach culture. It is interesting to juxtapose it with Emma Phillips’s most striking photograph of Pauline Hanson, imagined as a 1950s house wife, an Australian Marianne, a national icon, a tough country woman, hand-washing a load of Australian flags…

Ex de MediciLast but not least I was arrested by a most detailed drawing from the talented pen of ex de Medici, the details of which become apparent once the eye sight becomes accustomed to the intricacies of her design. The work represents the intertwined Swastika and the Star of David, bringing forth multifarious, uncomfortable, problematic, and emotionally conflicting connotations.

The strength of the exhibition lies in the fact that the curator, Vivien Gaston, did not go down an easy route and populate the gallery with images of pornography or gratuitous violence, but rather with works that much more strongly reflect the subtitle of the exhibition: THE POWER OF ART. The sheer breadth and variety of works on display show an almost omniscient approach, which bears evidence of Gaston’s long-standing interest in the subject, breadth of knowledge, and painstaking research. Despite the wide heterogeneity of works on display, the exhibition keeps the momentum going, for each image is a revelation that evokes a memory of the associated event and / or provokes a fresh reaction from the viewer. As the result, Controversy: The Power of Art is erudite, visually challenging, memorable, and thought-provoking.

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2012; where applicable, images are courtesy of the artists and their galleries.]

Emma Phillips Pauline Hanson

08
Mar
11

Freehand @ Heide MoMA

ex de Medici Tooth-and-claw

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Freehand @ Heide MoMA

ex de Medici Tooth-and-claw

The exhibition Freehand at Heidi focuses on contemporary Australian works on paper. The visitor to the exhibition is greeted by the giant Tooth and Claw by ex de Medici. Her watercolours are always remarkable for the high quality of execution and superb draughtsmanship, and this large-scale work on paper is no exception. It depicts two skeletons, one of which is supporting on its shoulder a giant gun, while the other is being crushed by the weight of the second gun. The weapons are surrounded by darting swallows and garlands of carnations. Soviet-style five-pointed stars are interspersed throughout the intricate background design of the watercolour, and they also appear etched on the barrel of one of the guns, alongside the Stars of David. One would have wished to learn more about the intricate and complex narrative of this superb watercolour, but the information provided in the catalogue is rather meagre. While the multi-layered semantics of guns and skeletons are almost self-explanatory, as are carnations, which are symbolic of fallen soldiers, I am rather intrigued by the Jewish and Soviet references, which will remain a mystery for the time being (unless the artist, or someone who is well-versed in her iconography would care to contact me).

Mira Gojak

As one steps back to admire the large de Medici, one literally stumbles across a long trestle table supporting a work by Greg Creek. It is very similar to what the artist has been producing over the last ten years, and comparable examples had been shown in numerous locations, including Creek’s one-man-show at the ACCA. It represents a collection of seemingly unrelated images, executed by the artist over a period of time, and, knowing Greg Creek, it is quite possible that some of the figures and squiggles may have been ‘contributed’ by chance visitors to his studio. The work includes a beautiful glimpse of the Merri Creek Bridge; a highly competent from architectural and perspective points of view vista of Melbourne; and a silhouette from Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer skilfully disguised as a pink blob at the bottom of the page. Greg Creek’s skills and abilities are self-evident in this picture, but after roughly a decade of seeing “clever” works in unfinished state, one almost wishes to rest the eye on a completed piece.

Three works by Mira Gojak create a very strong statement. I must confess that the first time I saw her non-objective abstract pieces at the Murray White Rooms, I did dismiss them as being somewhat on the decorative side. But the more I see them (and one can’t miss a huge Gojak reproduced on a billboard on the corner of Chapel St and Alexandra Ave), the more I am growing appreciative of Gojak’s varied pigment applications; bold balancing of positive and negative spaces within the composition; and pulsating and rhythmical movements of her spiralling and undulating curves.

Del Kathryn Barton Freehand Heide

Another artist who leaves an unforgettable impression is Sandra Selig, whose works I saw for the first time a few years ago at an exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia. In essence, her pieces consist of spider webs, tinted with spay paint and adhesed to a black background. No doubt quite intricate and labour intensive to produce, they create delicate and evocative designs. While the concept is quite ingenious, given the context of this exhibition, these works did make me ponder, that they owe more to the wonder of nature than to the artist’s hand.

One of the artists who manages to produce works of consistent quality is Del Kathryn Barton, who is profiled quite extensively in this exhibition with a large number of works on display. Her drawings are superbly imaginative and disturbingly visceral, a visual chronicle of the artist’s innermost feelings and fears, and while a number of works continue the artist’s mediation on the female body, there are also cryptic references to the masculine fear of castration.

Gosia Wlodarczak DustCovers@Heide

And of course, one cannot go past the quirky madness that is Gosia Wlodarczak’s work. Depending on the direction of your exhibition perambulations, it is either the first or – as in my case – the last work to be seen in the show. Even though the surface of the work is assiduously covered with calligraphic scribbles, and figurative elements disappear under the ever-increasing layers of over-drawing, it retains the ghostly apparition of a car, which it originally covered, and on which the drawing was executed as a staged performance piece over a three-day period. It is interesting that Wlodarczak’s large-scale drawing is exhibited across the archway from the watercolour by ex de Medici, so the two works can be seen simultaneously from a single viewpoint. While Wlodarczak and de Medici’s works could not have been less alike, they converge at the pure joy elicited by both artists at the very act of drawing and picture making, and covering with markings almost every inch of the available surface.

Sandra SeligIn spite of the presence of a number of figurative artists mentioned above (including a selection of works by such ‘elder statesmen’ of Australian art as Peter Booth and Ken Whisson), the exhibition seems to be weighted more heavily towards abstraction as represented in works by Mario Fusinato, Dom de Clario, Robert McPherson, Eugene Carchesio, Aida Tomescu, and numerous others. Apart from a couple of artists, Freehand seems to overlook contemporary practitioners of traditional figuration, the likes of which one would have encountered, say, in the A.M.E. Bale Scholarship exhibition or on the walls of the Australian Galleries. However, I do accept that this is a strictly curatorial choice, which perhaps eschewed a well-rounded and all-inclusive survey of contemporary drawing in favour of representing recent developments and trends in present-day Australian art. In this the exhibition has fully succeeded by bringing together a representative selection of artists who draw in a variety of media, styles, and genres, and demonstrate in their works a thought-provoking plurality of artistic (self-)expression.

[PS: The photography within the gallery – even without flash – is strictly forbidden. I am relying on images of artists’ comparable works found elsewhere on the net.]

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2011. This article is copyright, but the full or partial use is WELCOME with the full and proper acknowledgment]




Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg

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