Posts Tagged ‘Rick Amor

04
Aug
10

Group Exhibition @ Niagara Galleries

David Keeling - Memorial DriveWednesday, 4 August 2010

Dear Diary,

[Group Exhibitions – June/August 2010 – cont. from previous entry]

PPS: These group shows also reminded me of a recent sculpture exhibition at the Niagara Galleries, Can’t See the Wood for the Trees. The exhibition profiled the versatility of Niagara’s artists, who, apart from Robert Bridgewater, are predominantly associated with two- rather than three-dimensional artworks. While Bridgewater’s imposing, large-scale Midnight Special [$44,000] dominated the space (though I still prefer his earlier, finely chiselled works), the exhibition also included works by Angela Brennan, Jenny Christmann, Belinda Fox, Wolpa Wanambi, and Rick Amor, whose sculpture was recently profiled at a one-man-show at the McClelland Gallery [price range: $11,000-$13,200 for smaller-scale editioned bronzes]. The biggest surprise of the exhibition was reserved for a large work by David Keeling, which consisted of a row of white-washed trees. Numerous branches ended in finely-painted landscape miniatures, which are well-suited for the artist’s precise and meticulous style of painting. The dark subtext of the sculpture – as well as the meaning of the title, Memorial Drive – becomes apparent upon realisation that each miniature is shaped like a car mirror. The sculpture is a most imaginative and serene tribute to road fatalities; each miniature relates to the scenes of the accidents [$15,000].

Matt Calvert @ Werribee, 2005Having experienced a road fatality in my own family, I have not been moved so much by a work of art on this tragic subject since stumbling upon a sculpture by Matt Calvert at the Helen Lempriere Sculpture Award, Werribee Park, in 2005, which was composed of broken break-, indicator-, and headlights…

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

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22
Mar
10

Review of Portraits @ Menzies March 2010 Auction

Lot 26 - Brett Whiteley - John SingletonSunday, 21 March 2010

Dear Diary,

Given my interest in portraiture, I became more aware of portraits that appear in Australian auction rooms. Internationally, portraits by Old, Modern, and Contemporary masters at auctions form a very distinct group, and those by Rembrandt, van Dyck, Reynolds, Lawrence, Renoir, Picasso, Modigliani, van Gogh, Klimt (and my very own Winterhalter) have broken auction records and / or brought significant results.

The situation is dramatically different in Australia, where portraits at auctions are few and far between. This can be attributed in part to the fact, that the majority of portraits that appear in Australian auction rooms (but not all!!!) fail to progress from being a mere likeness of a person to that of a transcendent and sophisticated work of art of universal appeal. The former rarely make it to the market and largely continue lingering in artists’ studios or the homes of their sitters unless they are donated to public institutions or appear at lower-end art clearance sales. The latter however make their distinguished appearance at the upper end of the auction market, bringing good sales results, with some inspired bidding from both institutional and private collectors.

Lot 34 - Rupert Bunny - Portrait of Jeanne(Deutscher-)Menzies auction in December 2009 featured a number of interesting portraits. They had, for example, a striking in its originality portrait of John Singleton by Brett Whiteley (sold $55,000 hammer); a beautifully intimate portrait by Rupert Bunny of his wife, Jeanne (sold $396,000 hammer); a mask-like portrait of an African prince, Kininga Wunca, by Donald Friend (unsold); and William Dobell’s preparatory drawing for his celebrated portrait of Helena Rubenstein (sold $1,600 hammer).

The auction also had two remarkable self-portraits – a dark and brooding “Self-Portrait in a Country Town” by Rick Amor (unsold), and a rather irreverent in its larrikinism “Self Portrait (The Afternoon Walk, Dunmoochin)” by John Olsen (sold $70,000 hammer).

The portraits by Whiteley and Bunny, and the self-portrait by Olsen illustrate the point. All three are big-name artists; all three have produced portraits, which are very much in the style and manner these artists are famous and admired for; these works have brought accordingly good results. Admittedly, the paintings of female nudes by Whiteley and Bunny on a similar scale (or of frogs and giraffes by Olsen) would have brought more significant sums, but the universal appeal of these works speaks for itself and is reflected in their art market prices.

Lot 43 - Rick Amor - Self-PortraitHelena Rubenstein by William Dobell is a celebrated portrait in the annals of Australian art, so it is not surprising that it has found a buyer (not to mention at a very modest price). On the other hand, Donald Friend is perhaps more known for his watercolours of nude South-East Asian youths (and later still lifes which are also popular on the market). Hence a rather heavy, mask-like portrait failed to find a buyer.

Sadly, the same can be said of Rick Amor’s work. I deeply admire his self-portraits, which encapsulate the inner, psychological darkness that is so prevalent in his landscapes. However, it appears that the art buying public is able to take more easily to his landscapes, the physiological loading of which can be read ambiguously (or perhaps completely ignored by a certain cross-section of buyers). Not so with the self-portraits, which are more often than not direct, confronting, and uncompromising. It is sad – though not surprising – that this portrait did not find a buyer on the auction night.

Lot 142 - Artist Unknown - Portrait of a GirlI do acknowledge that the line-up of artworks is largely dependent on what an auction house is able to consign from its vendors, so chasing an impressive selection of portraits (or indeed any such “curatorial” agenda) would be far from the auctioneers’ mind – unless they strike a golden vein and develop the market and / or collectors’ following in this genre.

Therefore, I am saying the following as an observation rather than a recrimination or criticism – the representation of portraits in Menzies’ forthcoming auction is much thinner on the ground as compared to the previous auction of December 2009. In fact, it is limited to a charmingly naïve watercolour portrait of a girl by an unknown 19th-Century Australian artist (lot 142; est. $900-1,200). While the childish cherubic face is wonderfully, even sweetly resolved, the head is bizarrely out the proportion with the rest of the body. There is a beautiful lively glint in the girl’s eyes, but it does little to compensate for the inadequacy in the drawing of the rest of the figure.

Lot 35 - Norman Lindsay - Portrait of Rita(An argument can be raised that Norman Lindsay’s portrait of Rita (lot 35, est. $40,000-50,000), and Richard Larter’s innumerable depictions of his wife (for example, lot 110, est. $10,000-15,000) can be also treated and examined as portraits. However, the relationship between the artist and the model is quite different to that of the artist and the sitter. While the artists capture the general appearance, pose, and attitude of the models, their personalities and identities are more often than not sublimated (or even indeed sacrificed) in favour of the artists’ aesthetic approach and visual codification.)

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

11
Feb
10

Rick Amor Sculpture @ McClelland Gallery

Rick Amor Walking Man 1998Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Dear Diary,

Another artist whose foray into the third dimension has been recently profiled in an exhibition is Rick Amor, though his engagement with sculpture is more consistent rather than Firth-Smith’s episodic approach.

The exhibition at the McClelland Gallery concentrates on this well known, yet perhaps little examined aspect of the artist’s oeuvre. His sculpture is very much an extension of his paintings, and Amor continues his exploration of landscape and the human condition in his three-dimensional works.

Therefore, we see the proliferation of dark tree trunks, which are of pivotal compositional importance in his landscape paintings; shadowy figure of a running man, which makes a fleeting but memorable appearance in his paintings and drawings; and the figure of a stocky businessman, whose pensive tilt of the head and heavy sloping shoulders seemed to be weighed down by the problems of the entire world as well as by his own psychological dilemmas. The configuration of objects within the exhibition space likewise recreates the motives and narratives of his paintings.

Rick Amor Relic 2006There are also various representations of dogs, which seem to have sprung forth directly from the canvasses, where they appear standing, sleeping, or chasing their tails. Amor’s canine gallery is supplemented by the artist’s exploration of the metamorphosis between man and dog, which emphatically recalls ancient Egyptian artefacts.

The sculptures are executed in black patinated bronze from clay or alabaster moulds. The artist’s finger marks, as he pushed and shaped the malleable medium, have been preserved in the casts. In this sense, the ghost of Auguste Rodin haunts this gallery, though some of his human and canine figures approach the attenuated silhouettes of Alberto Giacometti.

The sculptures are displayed in a darkened room, setting the pensive, meditative mood for the exhibition, which also includes two giant drawings on the scale one normally would not see at Melbourne’s  Niagara Galleries. The Dog and The Runner, both of 1990, correspond semantically to the sculpted three-dimensional figures in the exhibition. They are drawn in charcoal with the enviable sense of verve, energy, and artistic confidence, representing Amor as the undoubted master of the black and white medium.

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

20
Jan
10

Master Landscapes @ the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery

Eugene von Guerard - Castle RockWednesday, 20 January 2010

Dear Diary,

I came to this exhibition with a negative preconception – not another boring landscape exhibition! However, I must admit that I have enjoyed Master Landscapes of the Mornington Peninsula: 1800 to the Present at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery more than I expected, to a point. The exhibition encompasses works from the early 19th century to the present day. Each work is accompanied by a wall panel with the map of the Peninsula, with the red dot indicating where each artwork has been produced, or (in the case of studio painters like von Guérard) which area it is depicting. This shows the depth of curatorial research as opposed to a more relaxed attitude of including a random selection of works with a vague coastal theme that might or might not be of this particular area. These little maps were certainly a hit with the locals, who were crowding the exhibition space, attempting to recognise or pointing out familiar spots and preserved landmarks.

The exhibition begins with hand-coloured prints by Louis August de Saison and watercolour sketches by Georgiana McRae from the 1830s. These are followed by a delightful sketchbook and several drawings by Eugène von Guérard, as well as three of his romantic landscapes of the area. The second one, Castle Rock (1865) shows most delicate effects of setting sun on the bay and nearby rock faces. Schapper Point (1870) is representative of his “portraits” of sprawling colonial estates, and shows how carefully he traced tree branches and foliage, and meticulously recorded the details of the landscape.

Only two years separate this painting and Nicholas Chevalier’s Cape Schank of 1872. Yet Chevalier appears by far more “modern” by comparison in terms of atmospheric effects and looser painterly technique, which is especially evident in his handling of water sprays breaking over the edges of the cliffs.

Louis Buvelot’s painterly technique is closer in spirit to Chevalier than to von Guérard. His Mt Martha of 1877 shows that merely ten years after his arrival in Australia he no longer interpreted this country through the European palette (as can be seen in her earlier paintings at the National Gallery of Victoria), but adapted his colours to capture the peculiar Australian summer hues of yellows and muted greens.

There is a charming Henry James Johnstone’s Swamp near Dromana of c.1875. It is very similar to his large-scale compositions, seen once again in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria as well as numerous art auctions, and features his trademark foreground tree stump with reflecting pool of water in the middle ground. Given the miniature scale of this painting, these details appear endearing rather than imposing.

Ambrose Patterson - Bathing BoxesAmbrose Patterson’s Bathing Boxes, Mornington, of 1913, became a virtual carte-de-visite of the exhibition, perhaps due to a distant relation of the painter to the gallery’s acting director, Jane Alexander. There is little to be added about it beyond what has been written already in numerous articles and press-releases. The painting is fresh and well-executed; the artist’s rapid brushwork captures effects of the sunlight on gaily dressed bathers, white sand, and foliage, very much in the tradition of Impressionism (albeit more than forty year after the Impressionist movement first appeared in Europe). Otherwise it is quite mundane, improving little on the Diana-with-her-bathing-maidens prototype by Boucher and his Rococo milieu.

I always preferred later paintings by Arthur Streeton to his earlier Heidelberg era pieces, which were painted when the artist was barely 20 years old. His View from Barnett’s Point of 1921 is a good example of the artist’s mature style. These later works display a greater confidence in building a solid composition, and more assured approach the handling of colour, enhanced with superb effects of sunlight and shadow. The painting is literally flooded with light.

Penleigh Boyd’s contemporaneous Portsea of 1920 is a more meditative exercise. The artist concentrates on capturing the delicate colour effects of the bay – as opposed to Streeton’s sparkling painterly bravura. The subtle gradations from purples through blues and greens to the lightest hues of azure are superb and effectively contrasted against the darkened greens and browns of the shoreline.

Eric Thake - Bathing BoxesThe inclusion of two works by Eric Thake is interesting, surprising, and refreshing in the context of such a traditional exhibition. His elegantly constructivist Bathing Boxes of 1930 is fresh and colourful, while the later Bass and Flinders of 1943, in a surrealist / metaphysical vein, sums up the region conceptually in terms of history, geology, and fauna, and is perhaps the only work in the exhibition without obvious references to the landscape tradition.

Australian moderns – Arthur Boyd, John Perceval, Albert Tucker, and Fred Williams – are given a large chunk of the gallery’s exhibition space. This is in part due to the fact that the Boyd family were a conspicuous presence on the Peninsula as demonstrated in this exhibition by works by Penleigh, Emma Minnie, and Arthur Boyd, and Arthur’s portrait of Merric Boyd sketching; as well as the fact that the Boyd and McCulloch residences on the Peninsula were a welcome retreat to a number of artists who used the opportunity to portray different aspects of the region.

There is a striking early Arthur Boyd’s Swan Flying through the Orchard of 1959, with deliciously thick blobs of pigment to denote the orchard ripe with apples, colourful clothing of fruit gatherers, and a white lightning flash of a swan dashing through the picture plane.

Albert Tucker’s Blairgowrie of c. 1970, which is otherwise one of his most lyrical compositions of bathers near a rock pool, is remarkable for its inclusion of three circular crater-like cave formations, which are reminiscent of the trademark craters that puncture his heavily-textured paintings.

John Perceval’s Broken Tree and Frog of 1968 comes from one of the most remarkably creative periods in the artist’s career. The paint-laden brushstrokes outline gnarled tree trunks and tall grasses swaying in the wind; the darkness of the foreground is effectively contrasted against the light-filled paddocks in the middle distance.

There is also a striking triptych by Fred Williams, Sorrento Beachscape II of 1971. It is a magnificent creation, a minimalist concoction of aerial bay views in muted colours. They are possibly paintings of the same spot seen from several vantage points, a Cubist approach to landscape painting in Williams’ practice as pointed out in the Cubism exhibition at Heide.

The “contemporary” section of the exhibition (i.e. the works produced within the last twenty years) is limited to barely seven paintings, three of which are by Rick Amor – not that I am complaining! The artist grew up in the area, and the region features prominently in his paintings. His The Rock and the Sea of 1990 is powerful and menacing, threatening the shadowy silhouette of a man on a jetty with the giant looming rock formation and the unbridled force of the stormy sea.

On the Beach of 2002, with its desolate wind-swept foreshore and brooding skies provides an interesting contrast to Stewart MacFarlane’s fresh and sunlit The Last Days of Summer of 1993, which is saturated with bright blues, pinks, yellows, lime greens, and purples. It is a characteristic ‘still’ from an unknown suspense drama or a movie thriller, the narrative of which was concocted in MacFarlane’s wild imagination.

Rick Amor - The FortAmor’s The Fort of 2004, with its bent tree trunks and sinuous branches (and with the inevitable emotional drama played out in the darkened side margins of the painting) sharply contrasts with Ken Smith’s almost sterile in its painterly crispness Road to Sea 7, of 2008. The painting is anchored compositionally by a strong geometric pattern of a bridge which crosses the width of the painting; the sense of stillness is heightened by the symmetrical reflections in the water.

The exhibition concludes with Lynn Boyd’s dreamy and meditative Azimuth of 2004, a fitting inclusion which allowed me to rest my eyes in its abstracted depths of blues and greys before stepping into the silvery-grey abstraction of a rainy Sunday afternoon.

As I drove home along the highway in traffic through the seemingly endless suburbia, a gnawing feeling arose at the back of my mind. The exhibition was certainly “nice”, but is this enough for a public gallery exhibition? Over the last twenty or so years, the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery has assumed the role to protect and uphold the artistic heritage of the area. This has been reflected in a number of exhibitions, the examples of such exhibitions are numerous. The ones that immediately come to mind are “The Artists’ Retreat” of 1999, “The Artists’ Journey” of 2004, “Aspendale Beach” of 2007 and “Out of the Square” of 2009, not to mention the numerous solo exhibitions focusing on works by the artists produced on or about the Peninsula.

It was definitely no mean feat for Rodney James, the exhibition’s curator, to choose the works for this instalment of a region-themed exhibition without doubling up on previous efforts, and he has succeeded well in terms of the breadth and quality of works on display. I certainly enjoyed the meticulously painted von Guérards, the sparkling Streeton, the minimalst Williams, and the brooding Amors. And while I would have liked to see more contemporary works in display, and perhaps a greater variety of media, such as photography or video projections and installations, this is purely my own aesthetic preference, which I acknowledge might be at odds with those of James.

However, the critical, art historical, and analytical discourse on the Australian landscape tradition has undergone dramatic shifts and developments within the last twenty years. The post-colonial legacy, the meaning of the place, the contemporary dichotomies between the urban and rural, private property and public space, belonging and non-conformity, personal vision and national symbolism (not to mention the recent pressing environmental issues) continue shaping the post-modern dialogue on the meaning and significance of Australian landscape painting to the present day.

So, it is puzzling why the curator chose to ignore these contemporary trends, and decided to present yet another “nice”, uncontroversial, pretty exhibition. Even the exhibition brochure, which could have been a perfect arena for reflecting upon some of the issues mentioned above, once again contained stylised and disengaged “commissioned essays”. Such old-fashioned, traditional approach to displays of art is understandable in a commercial setting, and as such the Master Landscapes exhibition has a lot more in common with similar landscape-orientated displays at the Charles Nodrum Gallery or Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, not to mention regular auction offerings, which would feature comparable artworks and catalogue essays.

So, I would conclude with a question. Is it enough in our day and age for a public gallery to curate an old-fashioned, parochial exhibition which is simply “nice and pleasing”, or is it fair to demand a greater international-level awareness of contemporary issues and analytical dialogues, if not in the exhibition space itself, then, at the very least, on the pages of the accompanying exhibition booklet?




Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg

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