Posts Tagged ‘Sculpture


Day 326: Installations by Samantha Riegl and Kenny Pittock

Samantha Riegl

Day 326: This Item Belonged to My Boyfriend, by Samantha Riegl

A number of works in the current VCA Graduate Exhibition reflect that the artists are navigating the chirpy waters of artistic careers as well as personal relationships. Samantha Riegl’s installation of carefully arranged items on uniform white shelves is reminiscent at first of an arrangement from an upmarket clothing and lifestyle boutique. Only later the viewer’s eye pans over an inscription on the wall that explains how the objects relate to each other: “This item belonged to my boyfriend”, the sign proclaims in big black thick letters. The viewer is then invited to take a business card with an address of a web link leading the viewer to the online sale of the boyfriend’s effects… Revenge is a dish best served… online!

Kenny Pittock 1

Kenny Pittock 2

 Day 326 bis: Installation by Kenny Pittock

This subject matter is picked up in Kenny Pittock’s installation, where brand packaging for 60 metres of cling wrap is altered to proclaim ‘Clingy Ex-Boyfriend – 60 months’. This tongue-in-cheek recreation of a supermarket product forms a part of a large-scale installation where the artist had replicated, in a variety of media (wood, acrylic, ceramics, wax, etc), such items of our daily existence as fruit, chocolates, ice creams and other sugary treats, medicines, remote controls, and the ubiquitous laptops and flat-screen TV sets. However, he ‘doctored’ a number of brand names that now read Sadbury, Adjusted Juice, Nitpic, Kitsch-Kat, and Feelnum. A packet of condoms comes with a detailed explanation why they are branded as ‘regular’; and a large TV screen with the logo of Sky News shows… a picture of the sky.

Most objects within Pittock’s installation are arranged in a long continuous frieze along the wall, the aesthetics of which involuntarily bring to mind wall decorations and carvings of ancient Egypt. Indeed, if this installation was to be preserved for future generations, it will tell as much about our contemporary popular culture as excavated artefacts and hieroglyphs do about ancient civilisations.

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


Day 320: Reclining Angel, by John Perceval

John Perceval Reclining Angel

Day 320: Reclining Angel, by John Perceval

John Perceval’s Angels are among the most instantly recognisable works by the artist, and rare examples of recourse to sculpture and ceramics in the artist’s oeuvre. The series originated in the 1950s, when Perceval experimented with ceramics at the Boyd family pottery, and hence some of the early angels are slightly reminiscent of vaguely utilitarian teapots with squat bodies, spout- and handle-shaped limbs, and lid-like heads. Yet progressively, they have taken a life of their own as self-contained ceramic and bronze sculptures.

Perceval’s own children provided inspiration for poses and attitudes of the angels, and there are indeed a number of uncanny parallels between children’s appearance in the photographs and drawings of the period and flailing pudgy arms and chubby legs of his sculptured pieces. However, facial expressions of Perceval’s Angels are not necessarily or uniformly child-like. They are angels who have fallen from Heaven, and they stare at us with knowing, unsettling, and menacing grimaces.

John Perceval’s Reclining Angel (bronze, edition 3 of 6) features in Sotheby’s Australia auction of Important Australian Art (lot 42, est. AUD $15,000-$20,000) in Melbourne on November 20.

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


Day 307: The Stags, by Patricia Piccinini

Patricia Piccinini The Stags

Day 307: The Stags, by Patricia Piccinini

Patricia Piccinini’s The Stags (2008) stem from the artist’s twin fascination with the length some car and bike owners would go to in order to accessorise their vehicles as well as her interest in the inherent anthropomorphic potential of inanimate objects.

She reimagines the popular European Vespa motor scooters as a pair of young stags during the mating season, fighting for supremacy and attention of a doe. In a way, a clear parallel can be drawn between competitive efforts to ‘pimp up’ cars and bikes, and the inherent belief in the ‘pulling’ power of the hotted-up vehicles.

Piccinini’s The Stags from the collection of the QAG / GOMA was recently on view in the Sculpture Is Everything exhibition, which also included works by such prominent sculptors as Ai Weiwei, Martin Creed, Olaf Breuning, Thomas Demand, Lara Favaretto, Simryn Gill, Romuald Hazoumé, Gordon Hookey, Zilvinas Kempinas, Anish Kapoor, Gordon Matta-Clark, John Mawurndjul, Henrique Oliveira, Dennis Oppenheim, Michael Sailstorfer, Kathy Temin, Ken Thaiday Sr, Rachel Whiteread, Ah Xian, and numerous others.  /

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


National Gallery of Victoria – Australian Collections (Part IV)

Thursday, 12 January 2012

… continued from the previous entry …

National Gallery of Victoria – Australian Collections (Part IV) 

The Edwardian Rooms feature a number of flamboyant and large-scale creations by Rupert Bunny, Emanuel Phillips Fox, and George Lambert that celebrate the elegant and indolent lifestyle of the of the bourgeoisie, forever lounging by a seashore and taking endless cups of tea in the shade of their stately gardens. Noticeably absent from this vision of Arcadia is Norman Lindsay’s Spring Innocence, for which the National Gallery shelled out nearly half a million dollars about five or so years ago.

The art of Hugh Ramsey, that most promising Australian painter whose untimely death at the age of 29 is regretted by art historians to this day, is explored in some depth within the gallery, including his portrait of a student of the Latin Quarter. I always found it to be a covertly sexy picture, as even the thick woollen sweater and baggy pants cannot disguise the muscular armature underneath. The youthful determination is reflected in the strikingly handsome and masculine face with the prominent nose and square jaw; and yet there is also something elegantly romantic about his outstretched sinuous arm and a languorously limp long-fingered hand.

In a totally different spirit is George Lambert’s Hera. As most of Lambert’s female protagonists, she is posed coquettishly, twisting her body, with a hand on her hip, and a come hither tilt of her head. She is wearing a diaphanous bright pink dress; a blue shawl edged with golden fringe is thrown over her shoulders, and its rich patterning shimmers in the rays of light. Multi-coloured flowers, that favourite device of the artists who wish to further emphasise and emblematise the exuberance of youthful femininity, burst forth from a glass vase on the left hand side. There are no hints of struggle or privation as one can detect in the humble still life in the right foreground of the Ramsay portrait with its crumpled napkin, hunk of bread, and dusty pewter and glass ware: everything in Lambert’s portrait is about youth, exuberance, and joy.

The collection of the early 20th-Century Australian art is remarkably rich in sculpture. Bertram Mackennal’s life-size study for the Eton College’s War Memorial in the middle of the gallery bears shades of Leighton’s Sluggard, while Web Gilbert’s marble The Sun and the Earth is as close as one could possibly get to the spirit of Auguste Rodin. The sculpture encapsulates the essence of Art Nouveau with its flowing and sinuous lines; the embracing figures slowly emerge from the roughly hewn lump of marble; the tactile plasticity of their naked bodies visually defies the cold and firm sensation of the lifeless stone.

… to be continued… 

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


Angels-Demons by AES+F

Angels-Demons AES+F

Thursday, 20 October 2011 

For anyone riding down Swanston Street and St Kilda Road it would become apparent that a swarm of demon babies has descended upon Melbourne. Numbering seven in total, they stretch from the Melbourne Town Hall to the Arts Centre forecourt. These Angels-Demons, to give them their correct name, are a product of the talented and internationally renowned Russian collective, AES+F, and they are making their stop-over here for the duration of the Melbourne Festival.

Angels-Demons AES+F

These grand Neo-Baroque sculptures cannot be missed due to their sheer size and commanding presence. The attraction to them is instantaneous, as we are naturally drawn to anything that has to do with babies – if the multi-billion dollar baby industry and the increasing proliferation of baby photos on Facebook are anything to go by.

Angels-Demons AES+F

But the fascination is also borne by the innumerable visual dichotomies and psychological paradoxes contained within these sculptures. The very title of these works already points towards the inherent dualities with which the artists have imbued their works. Angels-Demons have no distinguishable gender or race; they are simultaneously playful yet threatening; unmistakeably human yet with atavistic dragon tails, bat wings, and horn protrusions; reminiscent of the innocent and harmlessly mischievous putti and yet so visibly demonic.

Angels-Demons AES+F

The babies’ pink and puffy skin has been replaced here by hard, black, cold and gleaming surfaces, which reflect everything around them. By gazing at these sculptures, we involuntarily end up seeing our own reflection perhaps recognising in the process the aspects of inherent multiplicities within ourselves.

Angels-Demons AES+F

Angels-Demons AES+F

Angels-Demons AES+F

Angels-Demons AES+F

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2011]


Australian and International Fine Art @ Menzies

Arthur LoureiroMonday, 14 March 2011

Australian and International Fine Art @ Menzies

For their first auction of the 2011 season, which takes place in Sydney on March 24, Menzies pulled together a tight (only 100 lots) but strong group of paintings, works on paper, sculptures, and photography. Although the collection lacks significant 18th, 19th, and early 20th Century works (the market for which is dominated by Sotheby’s at the upper end and Leonard Joel at the lower end), the only notable exception is perhaps the lyrical Art Nouveau female nude by Arthur Loureiro (est $8-12,000), a rare and therefore institutionally significant work.

Brett WhiteleyIt is undoubtedly within the Modern masters that Menzies has its strengths, and the March offering is replete with representative selection of works by Arthur Boyd, John Brack, Russel Drysdale, Sydney Nolan, Jeffrey Smart, Albert Tucker, Brett Whiteley, and Fred Williams. As the catalogue meticulously indicates, a number of works by the above-mentioned artists have been around the block a few times, having frequently appeared on the art market within the last decade. However, the auction contains a number of outstanding items which are fresh to the market, and which according to the auction staff, have been extremely popular at the Melbourne preview: the market can smell fresh meat!

Fred WilliamsThese include an outstanding beach nude by Brett Whiteley from 1985, Washing Out the Salt (est $1,250,000-1,750,000); a strong work by Albert Tucker, Gamblers and Parrots from 1968 (est $180-240,000), featuring his iconic Etruscan-inspired heads and abounding with colourful darting parrots; and a very extensive collection of sculptures by Robert Klippel, from early, small, delicately whimsical construction pieces (est $30-36,000), to later large-scale edition bronzes ($110-160,000). I also must mention another two pieces by Brett Whiteley, both relatively ‘fresh’ to the market that (if nothing else) are likewise worthy of a closer look: his brightly coloured Feeding the Doves from 1979, constructed along the dominant contrasts of purples and oranges (est $450-550,000); and a slightly earlier Bondi, which is remarkable for the shapes of houses deliciously blocked out in thick, square slabs of rich impastos ($85-100,000).

Garry SheadThere is plenty for more contemporary-focused art collectors to feast their eyes on, including at least two significant works by Garry Shead, both of which haven’t seen the market since they were purchased from their respective galleries: Revelation (Royal Suite), from 1997, remarkable for its sheer size and compositional simplicity (est $250-320,000); and Artist and Muse (Velazquez), 2000, an exceptional and dreamlike composition from an important series of artist’s works (est $80-120,000). There are also strong representative pieces by Jon Cattapan, Aida Tomescu, and Ken Whisson.

Tim McMonagleThose with a taste for younger artists might equally be drawn to paintings and photographs by Julia Ciccarone, Alexander McKenzie, Tim McMonagle, Darren Sylvester, and David Wadelton. None of them are offered at bargain basement prices, but the works are still offered below their retail value. Exceptional among them are perhaps Tim McMonagle’s Princess Park (est $8-12,000) and David Wadelton’s Move on Up (est $10-15,000), very strong pieces by worthy contemporary artists.

As always, should I have been blessed with an unlimited bank account, my three picks for the auction would be the above-mentioned Brett Whiteley beach nude; a very important early Arthur Boyd’s Death of a Husband, painted in 1958 and belonging to an important group of paintings with comparable examples in public collections (est $650-850,000); and a sharp, engaging, and brightly coloured with yellows, purples, and accents of reds, yet minimalist in its aesthetics Lysterfield Hillside II by Fred Williams from 1974, a representative work from the artist’s important period (est $400-500,000). The last two works have been bandied about the auction rooms all too frequently, so there’s a hope that with this auction these worthy paintings would acquire a ‘more’ permanent home.

Arthur Boyd

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


NGV Old Master Portraits: Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Bernini, Batoni

NGV - Van Dyck - Countess of SouthamptonMonday, 3 January 2011

NGV Old Master Portraits: Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Bernini, Batoni

Among the treasures of the National Gallery of Victoria are a number of remarkable Old Master Portraits. The Gallery’s collection policy did not favour portraits over other genres. Rather, it acquired representative portraits by those artists who were renowned and acknowledged specialist of the genre, and who were able to transcend the limitations of a mere likeness to create a work of art of universal appeal.

A number of portraits are rightfully considered masterpieces, and given the amount of literature that has been written on these works already, it is unnecessary to tire out the muse. It would suffice to mention albeit briefly the breath-taking portrait by Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) of Rachel, Countess of Southampton, floating on a cloud, with her hand resting on a glass sphere, her foot on a skull, with a drapery fold of her dress romantically flapping in the wind. Another remarkable work in the same category and of equal stature is Rembrandt’s (1606-1669) portrait of an unknown man, reputedly one of the last paintings by the artist. The work is dominated by the sober black of the sitter’s dress and the subdued tones of browns and reds in the background. A strong light source illuminates the face of the sitter, which is framed with a mane of white hair; his lively, penetrating eyes inquisitively gaze at the viewer.

NGV - Bernini - Cardinal de RichelieuThe National Gallery also must be proud to have a bronze version of the magnificent bust by Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini (1589-1680) of Cardinal de Richelieu, of c.1640-41, the marble original of which is at the Louvre in Paris. Bernini is one of the most important sculptors of the Italian Baroque, best known for his multi-figure marble fountains which adorn Rome’s main squares, rising upwards in an unbroken spiral movement. He was also renowned for his marble portrait sculpture, and counted Pope Urban VIII among his most important patrons. The Pope is believed to have been behind the commission of Cardinal de Richelieu’s portrait (1585-1642). Richelieu was the chief minister of King Louis XIII of France and one of the most important and influential figures in French society and politics at the time. As the cardinal was unwilling to travel to Rome to sit to the sculptor, renowned painter Philippe de Champaigne was commissioned to execute a triple portrait of the Cardinal full face, in profile, and in a three quarter turn, which was sent to Rome, and on which Bernini based his portrait bust (de Champaigne’s portrait is preserved today at the National Portrait Gallery in London). Bernini expertly models the Cardinal’s distinctive face; effectively sculpts the folds of his clothing, and faithfully reproduces the Order of Saint-Espit on his chest.

NGV - Batoni - Sir Sampson Gideon and CompanionAnother important portrait which is infinitely worth mentioning is Pompeo Girolamo Batoni’s (1708-1787) Sir Sampson Gideon with an Unknown Companion, of 1767. Batoni’s career is remarkable not only for the number of outstanding paintings on religious, historical, and mythological subject matter, which encapsulate the spirit of the Italian baroque with the elements of Continental rococo, or the brilliant portraits of Popes, monarchs, and European aristocrats of the era, but also for the fact that he left one of the most complete iconographic records of British aristocracy and upper classes… without having ever set foot in England! His celebrity status was such that English aristocrats travelling to Italy on the Grand Tour considered their journey incomplete without a visit to Batoni’s studio and the obligatory sitting for a portrait from the hand of the great Italian master.

The portrait in the National Gallery’s collection illustrates this tradition. Two upper-class gentlemen in brightly-coloured suits decorated with rich embroidery, wearing powdered wigs and sporting diamond-encrusted buckles on their shoes, are placed within a palatial interior and situated between the bust of Minevra on the table and the ruins of an ancient temple in the background, both indicative of the objects the British flocked to Italy to see on the Grand Tour. The young Sir Gideon shows his companion a portrait miniature of a lady, presumably of his betrothed in the distant homeland. The little dog on the left hand side, raising its head and paw in the direction of the miniature doubtlessly represents the male desire and the imminent nuptials of the main protagonist of the picture.

[© 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

December 2019
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