Posts Tagged ‘TarraWarra Museum of Art


The Archibald Prize for Portraiture 2012 [Part II]

Storrier Self-Portrait Archibald 2012

Saturday, 7 July 2012

The Archibald Prize for Portraiture 2012 [Part II]

[ … continued from the previous post …]

For once, I fully agree with the judges’ choice, who awarded this year’s Prize, most deservedly, to Tim Storrier. In his self-portrait, The Historionic Wayfarer, Storrier truly extends the possibilities of portraiture and engages in the contemporary objectification debate. Though he shows us a disembodied figure in a safari suit, he endows it with enough attributes to conjure up an image of an artist (witness the stretched canvas, palette, brushes, painter’s box, etc). A mini-burning log at his feet and a hunk of meat in his hand are among Storrier’s most recognisable images; and just in case the viewer is still none the wiser about the exact identity of the person in the portrait, a chargé of the artist is traced on a piece of paper, flying through the air in the wake of his confident stride.

Apart from the clarity and excellence of the execution, which invariably accompanies his works, another reason for my admiration of Storrier’s self-portrait is the fact that he does not deviate from his usual metier to create this portrait. A number of artists in this and previous Archibald prizes, who usually work in other genres or stylistic movements, only too readily turn to portraiture or a human figure in order to have a shot at this prestigious prize. The insincerity of such approach becomes too obvious and their attempts are weak and unconvincing. Storrier on the other hand does not deviate from his usual oeuvre. This portrait fits among other disembodied garments that have been the mainstay of his artistic investigation over the last few years. Same faithfulness of approach can be observed in the portraits by Kate Beynon, Rhys Lee, Tim McMonagle, and a few others, who reinterpret either themselves or their sitters through the prism of their own aesthetic vision.

Tucker Higgins Archibald 2012

Witness, for example, the way in which Kate Tucker, who recently concentrated on abstracted explorations (and whose installations at the Linden Gallery were reviewed in these pages), inserts the portrait of Missy Higgins within her cacophonous explosion of multi-coloured, fractured bunting.

McMonangle Buxton Archibald 2012

While I might be critical of Tim McMonagle’s portrait of Michael Buxton for the lack of any supporting information about his sitter as a property developer and an art collector, I see it as one of the most admirable portraits in the exhibition precisely because it is instantly recognisable as a McMonagle re-interpretation of the human visage, where the artist’s typical textured blobs of paint are re-interpreted as sun spots and skin blemishes.

Behrens Self-Portrait Archibald 2012

A similar observation can be made about the portrait by Monika Behrens, who portrays herself arranging a mise-en-scène of objects that directly relates to her still-life paintings (which were reviewed within these pages), though perhaps the overall colour palette of this particular work is not as winsome as in her still-life compositions.

Fantauzzo Kimbra Archibald 2012

Among the paintings I most admire in the exhibition is Vincent Fantauzzo’s portrait of Kimbra. By titling it The Build Up, the artist lets us into the intimate world of the singer moments before her performance, as she gathers her strength and spirits in the process of overcoming whatever fears and insecurities she may have in order to assume her public persona. I am also taken by Fantauzzo’s depiction of the most poignant dichotomy between the public adulation and the most excruciating isolation, which performing artists and public figures face on an almost daily basis, and frequently discuss its repercussions in their interviews. The execution of the portrait is superb, and the colour balances are harmonious.

Callum Self-Portrait Archibald 2012

Another technically superb work is the self-portrait by Marcus Callum. It is not criarde like most of the portraits in the exhibition; its subdued colour palette demands quiet contemplation which can be a challenge within the context of this exhibition. The evocation of the Old Masters is palpable in the subdued colour palette; the concentrated gaze; the tonal neutrality of the indeterminate background that forces the viewer to concentrate on Callum’s visage; the elegant pose of the elbow; and the subtle indication of the artist’s metier through the careful placement of the pencil and sketchbook within the composition.

Quilty Archibald 2012

And last but not least, while Ben Quilty’s portrait suffers terribly from his increasing penchant for vacuous expanses of blank canvas, his idea to juxtapose within his portrait the heroic valour of the military commander with the fragile vulnerability of the male nude, in a recumbent pose of countless Sebastians, Leanders, Acteons and other fallen heroes of the classical world, is nothing short of a tour-de-force; the thick layering of paint and excruciating angles of foreshortened limbs, severed by the limits of the picture plane, evoke all to palpably the viscerality of war.

The portraits by Storrier, Fantauzzo, Callum, McMonagle, Quilty, and several others like Paul Newton or Jenny Sages, make the Archibald exhibition worth visiting. They stand out among the pervading mediocrity like gemstones in a crown of paste. Portraiture is my passion, and I look forward to the day when the Archibald Prize judges resume the trust they are invested with, and finally take their role seriously, in order to present the annual Archibald Prize as a showcase of the best artistic talent in the field of contemporary Australian portraiture (and we do have some amazing artists practicing in this genre, by Jove we do!!!), instead of a pitiful joke into which it has so deplorably descended.

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


Tapestries @ TarraWarra Museum of Art

TWMA Wolseley TapestryThursday, 28 April 2011

Tapestries @ TarraWarra Museum of Art

Artworks to Tapestry is an exhibition at the TarraWarra Museum of Art, profiling the work of the Victorian Tapestry Workshop (VTW) in South Melbourne – or more precisely the collaboration of their weavers with modern and contemporary Australian artists. One of the unique and original aspects of this exhibition is the fact that tapestries are displayed alongside the artworks on which they are based – or rather the ones that they interpret in a different medium. They cover a wide gamut of Australian art – from John Coburn, John Olsen, and Gareth Sansom, to contemporary artists Song Ling, Yvonne Todd and Angela Brennan among others. This is a testament that the gifted weavers of the VTW are game to tackle anything from strictly figurative works such as photography of Yvonne Todd and comics-inspired painting by Song Ling; delicate ruminations on flora and fauna by John Wolseley; precise abstraction of John Coburn; or delicate and elusive colour variations of pigment washes in works by Angela Brennan and John Olsen. It was also quite an amazing experience, that at a first (and very cursory!!!) glance, paintings by Sansom and Brennan were virtually indistinguishable from their woven interpretations.

The exhibition does not have a particular theme or a curatorial direction – apart from the obvious medium-based focus – and therefore can appear as a marketing and promotional exercise for the Victorian Tapestry Workshop. Nevertheless, the exhibition is still infinitely worth visiting for the sheer experience of marvelling in quiet awe at the infinitely complex and exquisitely delicate craft of Victorian tapestry weavers.

PS: TWMA’s strict policy against any kind of photography precluded me from capturing beautiful and elegant installation views of the exhibition.

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


Rosslynd Piggott @ TarraWarra

PIGGOTT Air of flower clouds etched glass tube and card boxWednesday, 27 April 2011

Rosslynd Piggott @ TarraWarra Museum of Art

One of the advantages of being intimately involved with Australian art world for the last twenty years is an ability to follow, compare, contrast, analyse and consider the development of careers of Australian artists. I am writing this as I am looking at Rosslynd Piggott’s exhibition Dividing Infinity: A Room for Painting at the TarraWarra Museum of Art. I would readily describe Piggott as one of Australia’s most imaginative and thought-provoking conceptual and installation artists. Her solo exhibition, Suspended Breath, at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1998, is still indelibly imprinted in my memory as one of my major revelations in contemporary Australian art; and a concurrent realisation and confirmation that conceptual and installation art are legitimate forms of art and artistic expression in the pluralistic context of contemporary art.

PIGGOTT_Double bough_2007_alteredHer current exhibition at the TWMA gives a glimpse, an echo of the works that so impressed me at that exhibition. Air of Flower Clouds of 2002 is an elegant glass vessel, with an etched inscription telling us that it contains air, collected under a cherry blossom tree in Japan. Whether or not this is indeed the fact is perhaps beyond the point, and this is virtually impossible to verify: the air would escape and evaporate the moment we open this delicate-looking vial. However, the very evocation, the very idea of preserving a scent of air (no doubt influenced by Marcel Duchamp’s efforts to bottle Parisian air for a French expatriate millionaire who claimed to have everything money could buy), is inspiring, thought-provoking, and strangely uplifting – as is the sublime idea itself of collecting air as a memory of sites and places you visited rather than more ubiquitous photo shots.

PIGGOTT_Void blossom_2007-8_alteredPiggott’s exhibition at the NGV was filled with imaginative and clever marvels of this kind. The current show at the TWMA, on the other hand, is dominated by recent painting. They are likewise sublime, meditative and beautiful, feminine even, covered with skeins upon skeins of delicate washes and glazes; their floating masses anchored by stronger compositional elements of design work. Although these paintings are perhaps interpretations in paint of the ‘bottled air’ concept (they are indeed breath-taking upon a closer and prolonged contemplation), I guess purely because they are paintings, such a traditional medium, they lacked for me the originality and inventiveness of her conceptual installations and three-dimensional objects.

PIGGOTT_Night blossom & double black holes_2007-8_alteredFurthermore – and this sentiment recurs throughout these pages – it is a pity that an artist of such undoubted talent chose to exhibit in a public gallery space works that would be just as ‘at home’ on the walls of a commercial gallery. I always feel that when artists basically clear out their (or their galleries’) stock room in order to whip out a show in a public gallery, they miss out on a rare and privileged opportunity to create something unique, special, and non-commercial, that – like the amazing exhibition of 1998 – would stay in minds of gallery visitors forever, as opposed to blending in with any other countless exhibition the artist might have had in her respective commercial spaces.

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

Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg

August 2020


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