Posts Tagged ‘Painting


Day 327: Michelle Molinari and Georgie Mattingley

Michelle Molinari 1

Michelle Molinari 2

Day 327: Mortality Observed, by Michelle Molinari

Some of the VCA students explore in their works the ever popular subject matter of animals in art – although in our day and age it has progressed far beyond the tableaux of such Old Masters of the genre as Jacob Jordaens, Melchior d’Hondecoeter or Rosa Bonheur. The way in which Michelle Molinari approaches taxidermy, for example, brings to mind Joseph Kosuth and his famous installations of a chair, a photo of the chair, and a copy of the dictionary definition of the chair.

The majority of Australian artists who are focusing on taxidermy in their oeuvre usually work within a single media – be it sculpture, painting, or photography. Molinari, on the other hand, works across various media by presenting within a single space taxidermy installations of animals, which are accompanied by paintings and lithographs that are derived from – or inspired by – these installations. Her painting technique is superb and meticulous; the ability to convey the textures of soft fabrics, cold glass domes, fox fur and bird feathers are outstanding. Accompanying lithographs show that Molinari can successfully convey the sensation of differing tactile textures across a number of mediums with great precision and accuracy.

Georgie Mattingley 1

Georgie Mattingley 2

Day 327 bis: White Anaesthesia, by Georgie Mattingley

Georgie Mattingley’s three channel video White Anaesthesia is truly mesmerising to behold. A white cat, a white mouse, and a white goldfish are slowly waking up from either a natural or chemically-induced slumber. The lazy way in which cats wake up by opening one eye, then the other, then carefully surveying their surroundings before finally deigning to lift their heads would be familiar to any of the cat lovers. The movements of the mouse – and especially of the goldfish that at the start of the video lies listlessly at the bottom of the aquarium – are more mysterious and more curious to observe.

One can easily read into this installation underlying subtexts of the hidden, of the subliminal, of the predator and the prey, and perhaps even ethical questions of science experiments and animal welfare. But what one truly takes away from this work is the most incredible aesthetic effect of the all-pervading, unifying, minimalist white.

Works by Michelle Molinari and Georgie Mattingley are on view at the Victorian College of the Arts until November 25.

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


Day 325: Dripping, by Kevin Chin, and Under the Sun by Thomas Gibbs

An amazing exhibition is currently taking place at Southbank – the 2012 Graduate Exhibition of Victorian College of the Arts’ students, which spans the entire Margaret Lawrence Gallery as well as the artists’ studios on the ground and upper levels and the outlying buildings of the college’s precinct. The exhibition visitor is well advised to set aside AT LEAST two hours to explore the exhibition spaces as well as literally hundreds upon hundreds of artworks by this year’s VCA graduate students in every conceivable media – painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, sculpture, video, installation, and (recordings of) performance art. I am slightly deviating from my format of an artwork per day to bring a selection of images from the exhibition.

Kevin Chin Dripping

Day 325: Dripping, by Kevin Chin

Landscape backgrounds in paintings by Kevin Chin are executed in a range of soft green, yellow, red, and ochre colours. Applied against the visible grain of raw canvas, they imbue the works with an autumnal feel. The run-offs that result from the diluted pigments create an impression of lush foliage. Some of the works feature foreground mise-en-scènes, which are painted with thicker pigments and therefore appear in a sharper focus compared with the rest of the composition. Their incidental nature, at times unrelated to the landscape backgrounds, allows for multiple interpretations of the scenes. In the image illustrated above, the title of the work, Dripping (2012), is used as a clever double-entendre that can refer either to the bather emerging from the lake, or the very nature of Chin’s painting technique and pigment application.

Thomas Gibbs Under the Sun 5

Day 325 bis: Under the Sun #5, by Thomas Gibbs

The suite of paintings by Thomas Gibbs, Under the Sun (2012), features male nudes within landscape setting. However, their fractured and contorted bodies indicate that we are witnessing something more sinister than a classic interpretation of the genre or a romantic communion with nature. The light, dusky tones of the paintings involuntarily bring to mind works by Fiona Lowry, whose seemingly innocuous loosely painted pastel-coloured studies of figures and landscapes stem from stories of crimes and homicide. A similar mood seems to pervade Gibbs’s paintings as we are witnessing men undergoing – or in the aftermath of – an intense physical and emotional pain. This feeling is further underscored by the fragility and vulnerability of their bodies, which strongly contrasts with the prevalent masculine archetypes.

Works by Kevin Chin and Thomas Gibbs are on view at the Victorian College of the Arts until November 25.

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


Day 324: Untitled, by Stanislaus Rapotec

Rapotec Mossgreen

Day 324: Untitled, by Stanislaus Rapotec

Stan Rapotec’s Untitled Abstract (1962) is another outstanding work featuring in the current Spring Auction Series at Mossgreen (lot 812, est AUD $10,000-15,000). It was displayed – as things at auctions frequently are – surrounded by paintings, furniture and decorative art objects from every possible era and country of origin. Yet among the ensuing cacophony of styles and colours, Rapotec’s painting stood out with the strength of its own laconic black-and-white starkness.

As Rapotec usually titled all his works, we can only assume that the original title of this work has been either forgotten or lost. Paintings by Rapotec, who was a Yugoslavian military hero during the Second World War, and who became one of the major exponents of Abstract Expressionism in Australia during the 1960s and 1970s, are frequently influenced by a strong religious feeling or express an emotion, sensation, or movement within his immediate environment.

Therefore, in Rapotec’s works of this period we frequently encounter the artist’s response to a religious edifice or a sacred text; or an ‘experience’ of a particular weather condition, season of the year, or place. The energy and the sensation of a forward surge contained within this painting suggest a possibility of it emanating from the latter sensibility.

Further research would undoubtedly uncover the original title and intent behind this striking composition; while a light conservational cleaning would bring back its majestic black-and-white crispness.

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


Day 323: Goldfish, by Charles Wheeler

Wheeler Mossgreen

Day 323: Goldfish, by Charles Wheeler

This elegant painting by Charles Wheeler from the turn of last century features in Mossgreen’s current Spring Auction Series (lot 397, est AUD $30,000-$40,000). It shows a studio model gazing with abandon into a spherical goldfish bowl. The composition, that appears to be so simple and elegant at first glance, is in fact quite complex. The whole action of the painting occurs within the left third of the canvas. The outline of the model’s head, her hand, the shape of the bowl, and even the movement of the goldfish in the bowl creates a constant elliptical movement, a vortex almost, from which the viewers are unable to extricate their gaze. It is also the vortex, from which all other elliptical shapes within the painting emanate, and we can see them echoed in the silhouette of the model’s body and the arrangement of her limbs.

Her body is, once again, confined to the upper third of the painting, leaving the central and lower-right-hand-side of the painting at the risk of appearing virtually empty and bland. And yet we do not have this sensation when looking at the picture. Wheeler is skilfully exercising the academic balance of the golden mean, where the action within the left and upper sides of the composition balance the calmness and inaction within the rest of the work, while the overall gamut – and especially the flashes of pinks and turquoises – further unite the disparate elements within the composition.

The model is so absorbed in the interplay of the goldfish that she is completely unaware of the viewer. As the result, the viewer becomes the voyeur. The subdued, dusty, pastel-like gamut of Charles Wheeler’s palette and the tight cropping of the composition further imbue the painting with the sense of intimacy and closeness.

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


Day 322: Studio, by Deirdre But-Husaim

Studio (collection desk) by Deirdre But-Husaim

Day 322: Studio (collection desk), by Deirdre But-Husaim

There is a puzzling trend among Australian artists at the moment to deny the existence of the outside world and retreat deeply within themselves. Walking around art galleries becomes akin to flicking through TV channels, which are filled with cooking, home renovation, and celebrity gossip shows. Similar interiority and insularity seems to reign across a number of exhibitions I had seen lately, as the artists disengage from the outside world and cocoon themselves within the escapist comfort of their homes and studios.

Witness, for example, Deirdre But-Husaim’s current exhibition at Helen Gory, of which Studio (collection desk), is a representative example. There is no denial that this large-scale work is capably executed; the brushwork is exciting and painterly; and the colour palette and overall gamut of the composition is capably and expertly managed. The minute insight that the artist provides into her studio environment is invaluable as we learn about her studio organisation, creative processes, and her sources of influence and inspiration.

But one does wonder if there is truly nothing else that is happening around the world, near or far, that would excite the imagination of this truly capable and talented artist beyond the confines of her own studio walls. The exciting, memorable, mysterious and psychologically challenging work, The Painting, which the artist had submitted to this year’s Sulman Prize and which was inspired by her recent trip to Russia, begs to differ (see; and I personally look forward to seeing more works of this magnitude from the brush of this truly gifted and technically brilliant artist.

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


Day 319: Male Nude in Psychoscape, by James Gleeson

Male Nude in Psychoscape (Variation on the Titan Theme VII), by James Gleeson

Day 319: Male Nude in Psychoscape (Variation on the Titan Theme VII), by James Gleeson

James Gleeson’s series of miniature paintings, mostly not exceeding 6 inches, are believed to have been created during the 1960s and 1970s, when Gleeson worked full-time as an advisor for the future collection of the National Gallery of Australia and as an art critic for a number of leading Australian periodicals. The weekends were the only time Gleeson had left for painting, and his goal was to create artworks that would take him no longer than a single weekend to complete.

Works produced during this time include paintings, works on paper, and mixed media collages. They all feature a prominent male nude or two, at the height of their physical perfection. The paintings are frequently referred to as ‘Frankies’, based on the belief that the male nudes represent Gleeson’s life-long partner, Frank O’Keefe. We shall not dispute these claims, but the comparison between the paintings and collages of the period show that Gleeson also richly drew upon the inspiration provided by fitness magazines of the era that featured the ubiquitous ‘American beefcake.’

The nudes are invariably placed against imagined, phantasmagorical backgrounds, usually referred to as psychoscapes. Their surrealism provides an important link between Gleeson’s early works of the 1940s and 1950s, and his much later grandiloquent large-scale visions of the 1980s and 1990s.

The subject matter of these works featuring prominent male nudes appears confronting to some. This is a pity, as it stops so many from admiring Gleeson’s meticulous painting technique and attention to detail, as well dexterity in managing complex pigments and colour schemes that make surfaces of these miniature paintings sparkle like precious, multi-coloured, richly enamelled jewels.

Variation on the Titan Theme VII James Gleeson (1915-2008) features in Deutscher and Hackett’s forthcoming auction of Important Australian and International Art (lot 61, est AUD $4,000-6,000), taking place in Melbourne on November 28.

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


Day 310: Hazel, by Natasha Bieniek

Natasha Bieniek Hazel 2012

Day 310: Hazel, by Natasha Bieniek

At first glance, Natasha Bieniek’s technical abilities cannot be faulted. Her exquisite miniature oil on wood creations, which do not exceed but a few inches in size, are executed with tiniest implements in smooth, barely perceptible brushstrokes. Every eyelash, strands of hair, intricate designs of draperies and the delicate stitching of embroideries are painstakingly depicted in minute detail.  The preference for subtle pastel tones is pleasing to the eye, and the glossy sheen of silks and satins is conveyed with great aplomb.

However, the matte softness of skin tones eludes her. This is arguably due to the fact that her works appear to be painted from photographs, and, as the result, most objects within the composition acquire a near-uniform waxy glow. The sheer banality of her pictures is also disappointing, as seemingly little effort or discernment goes into the process of posing and directing her uniformly expressionless models.

In this sense, Hazel (2012) is one of the stand-outs in the exhibition, as the fractured contours of the body and the crumpled sheet with which the model is covering her face suggest a modicum of emotional involvement between the artist and her subject. It is also a rare instance of the artist’s effort to offer her audience a psychological insight into the women she portrays, as we ponder and contemplate the emotional state of the young model.

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

Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg

April 2019
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