Friday, 16 December 2011

Vivienne Binns at Sutton

It's the very last day of the Vivienne Binns exhibition at Sutton Gallery in Fitzroy, so I wanted to write a brief post about the work.  The most striking first impression is the diversity of the work - all paintings, but figurative and colourful ordered geometric abstraction as well as a couple of reworked earlier paintings.  This diversity is a hallmark of Binns' exhibitions and career generally.  Continuing the broad concept of her In Memory of the Unknown Artist series, the two figurative works are based upon poscards - Requiem to a postcard, auric symbols and romantic yearning1988-2009, composed of three painted versions, one the size of the original and two larger works on canvas.  All the works are painted in acrylic, but Binns' experimentation with the materiality of the medium is one of the most striking aspects of the work on closer inspection. The second postcard work, for example, Transposed Image, portrait of a postcard 2011, uses a watercolour-like wash and splatter, but the most interesting are the two gridded works, on each of which Binns was using up all the paint in her studio, playing with the individual materiality of each.  Some colours on the quaintly titled EMMA SAYS you talk about colours like my dad talks about his cows 2010, she pointed out to me as lumpy and gluggy as the paint was old.   I was most fascinated by the surface of Minding Square 2011.  In places it looked as though some sort of plastic tape (used for painting the myriad of small squares of colour) had been left on the surface, however, very close inspection revealed that it was that the paint had been used with a gel medium.  These works too, then relate back to Binns' ongoing series, In memory of the Unknown artist - paintings based upon a range of domestic surfaces - lino, wallpaper, knitted and woven objects.  Many of those paintings have a textured surface, combed or slick, like plastic, which suggests the surface of the domestic subject.   These two new paintings have a similar interest in surface treatment as well as bringing to mind fabric design. 
If you do not manage to see the exhibition, images are available here

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Heather Shimmen, Vivienne Binns and Paper Scissors Rock

Had a terrific afternoon of exhibitions today, mostly avoiding the rain. 
First, I went to Australian Galleries, Smith Street to see Heather Shimmen's fabulous linocut prints...fabulous being an appropriate adjective here, pretty much, with all sorts of imagery juxaposed, overlaid and brought together (like the chance encounter of an umbrella and a sewing machine on an operating table). Her prints have a painterly richness, due to the fragmention and doubling of imagery, overlaid and slightly out of register, the combination of a graphic line that seems to derive from historic newspaper sources perhaps, with silhouettes, drippy inkspots and subtle watercolouring.
There are three very large, multi-panel works - for me the highlight being Swamp Maiden, more than 2 1/2 metres tall, a full length female figure of Margaret (or Jeanie?) Clement, impoverished society sisters who lived in reclusive destitution on their water;logged property Tullaree at Tarwin Lower in South Gippsland. I was also greatly attracted to the many small works - details from the larger works printed on felt,  as well as a group of oval-shaped prints with a central female silhouette, including Swamp Stories 2, three from an edition of 10, with variations, in painterly watercolour and ghostly overprinting.
I would highly recommend seeing this exhibition - The swamp maiden's tale -  before it finishes on 11 December.
Gallery details here.
and some of the works can be seen here

Then, I walked along Gertrude Street to Dianne Tanzer to see Paper Scissors Rock, curated by Vincent Alessi, working with the idea that sculpture and works on paper seem to be curatoral opposites, or have been until fairly recently perhaps.  The artists in the exhibition all work with paper in a sculptural forms. Fiona Cabassi's three intricately detailed works are both painting and sculpture - meticulously cut and constructed into fragile three-dimensional dreamlike worlds of possibility.
I should point out that I work with Fiona, but, as you can see below, the works are fabulous!

Wandering between the Clouds 2009

Lemon Whirls 2008

At the other end of the spectrum, in terms of colour and subject are Natasha Frisch's sculptures constructed from tracing paper - so as colourless as possible, except for a scrawl of red grafitti on From the series; Nasty little piece of work: Angel is a slut 2004.  (It doesn't reproduce very well, especially as my camera seems to be on a stting that give a blue cast to everything.  Sorry about that.)

Another of her works, Stabbing at the Station, has a similarly mundane subject, with dark overtones - a long stretch of railway line with a small deserted station at the end.

Kylie Stillman carves out negative forms from books and stacks of retail sale signs.

Maiden Hair 2009

Finally I went to Sutton Gallery on Brunswick Street for the opening of Viviennne Binns' exhibition.    She is a Canberra-based artist, and is the subject of my PhD thesis.  This is another exhibition well-worth seeing...but the hour is late and I will write more about this very soon.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

A couple more recent works

Still trying to find my way around as a blogger...  Pleased to have been able to add a list of blogs I read. Let's see what happens if I...
These are two linocut prints from the series, From the Book of LC, using fragments of leonard Cohen lyrics...most are essentially a sort of concrete poetry.  The are two playful variations that incorporate a bird (as a pictogram)...instead of the word.
This is the first of the series, in which the words take the form of the image.
from Undertow, on Dear Heather.

Sunday, 16 October 2011


A very tardy post about highlights of the Impact7  printmaking conference at Monash University.
The conference was full-on, lots to see and hear – very stimulating but exhausting. 
Some of my highlights – a paper by Macushla Robinson about Bea Maddock’s Being and Nothingness, a work in which Maddock transcribed part of Sartre’s text as homage.  She referred to Benjamin who talked of reading a text as like flying over a landscape, but transcribing it like walking through the landscape; coming to know it through the action of the body (phenomenologically).
Paul Coldwell’s keynote discussion of the folio of prints as a means of exploration of the series, sequence and variation…particularly fascinating were Henry Moore’s Elephant Skull and Paula Rego’s Nursery Rhymes.
Mike Parr wasn’t able to appear but a video of him working on huge etching plates nailed to the wall with an angle grinder was pretty amazing and his printer, John Loane,  talked about their collaboration over the years.
I was looking forward to Johanna Drucker’s talk, but the skype was a bit problematic and her focus was on ephemeral, online, performance/hybrid/new media works which wasn't really what I was hoping for.
Listened to Sarah Bodman speak twice – once at the State Library on the night before the conference and she was interesting – gave an overview of the range of artists’ book practice internationally rather than anything terribly challenging or theoretical.  She is very enthusiastic and active.
Found lots to inspire and incite.
There was also lots of work to look at – lots of exhibitions on campus as well as open folio presentations each day…besides all the exhibitions around Melbourne.   Familiar Unfamiliar, curated by Rona Green, at C3  was a highlight.

Friday, 30 September 2011


I am an art historian, arts writer, printmaker and artist's book maker.  Sometimes I think I should focus on just writing or just making but I prefer to try to follow the excellent advice to 'bite of more than you can chew'!

For the last four days I've been at the Impact7 Printmaking conference at Monash University. Enjoyed the papers, the exhibitions and meeting lots of interesting people.
To coincide with the conference printmakers all over Victoria and further were encouraged to hold exhibitions of their work in the Month of Print. 
I have a solo exhibition at Synergy Gallery in Northcote, which runs for just two more days.  It was a struggle to get it up and not everything is quite as I would have hoped.  There are several related bodies of work, some of which didn't get as far as I had planned, but I'm pleased with the overall look of the exhibition.

Here are a few images.
The first is  a series of linocut works called Nude as Wallpaper. Text from Kenneth Clark's The Nude is overlayed with a nude from Art History, simplified and repeated.
Then a series of monoprints with collaged silhouettes of female figures from Art History cut from linocut prints of knitted textures.
And finally a group of playful collaborations.