Sunday, 3 May 2015

Making Connections

In the last couple of weeks or so I've managed to get to see a handful of fabulous exhibitions locally.
First, I went to Woodbine Art in the lovely village of Malmsbury for the opening of Melinda Harper's exhibition of paintings, prints and embroideries. Some of the works actually combine painting and embroidery. She lives not too far from me in central Victoria and is a founding member (as am I) of Castlemaine Press, a printmaking collective, which was launched last year, not long after I moved to Castlemaine, and which will have its own studio in the next few months at Lot 19.
I've admired Harper's colourful abstract paintings for some years. In fact, you can see her influence in my series of paintings, From the Book of LC - Leonard Cohen lyrics set within coloured abstract fields.

There is also a link to the work of Vivienne Binns (the subject of my doctoral thesis). Her In Memory of the Unknown Artist paintings look like modernist abstract paintings, but they bare actually based upon what she calls 'domestic surfaces', including carpets, bathroom tiles, as well as knitted rugs she purchased in country op shops. One of Harper's painting/embroideries is based upon a piece of cross stitch that she found in a Castlemaine op shop. A tentative link perhaps, but these works certainly reference needlework, an art form not always considered 'art'.  There is to be a major retrospective of Harper's work, opening at Heide Museum of Modern Art in late June, which I'm looking forward to immensely. Here is some information about it.

I also went to Bendigo (for a job interview) and so dropped into the Bendigo Art Gallery for lunch (which was delicious) and to see Imagining Ned. There were a few familiar (from Heide) Nolan and Tucker works there, as well as some Kelly-inspired work by contemporary artists, including a fabulous linocut print - Self Portrait as Ned Kelly aged 50 - by Clayton Tremlett, another Castlemaine Press founding member!
There are a couple of tapestries of Nolan paintings, which are particularly beautiful.

There is an exhibition catalogue that can be viewed in pdf available here.
I also went across the road to LaTrobe University's Visual Arts Centre, which almost always has interesting exhibitions. I was happy to chance upon an exhibition of Denise Green's work - an Australian artist based in New York. There are a couple of small paintings by her in the Heide collection, which I do admire, currently hanging in the laundry in Heide II.

These earlier works have the simple forms that Green has used for much of her career.  The one on the right has the fan form which she still uses extensively, somewhat modified in the painting below, in the current exhibition.The inspiration for the fan shape came from two 19th century Chinese artists, Ju Chao and Ju Lian, whose paintings were made in the form of fans and album leafs.

Whistling Winds (for Mondrian) 2011  acrylic and pencil on canvas 203 x 306 cm

There are two works that directly reference colour theory and utilize colour swatches. The signature fan shape is a consistent element across the multiple small panels.  There is something scientific about these two works, in the systematic arrangement of panels that relates both to colour theory and to mathematics. There are multiple influences cited in the catalogue, one of the most important being
Philip Fisher's book, Wonder, the Rainbow and the Aesthetics of Rare Experience, in which he discusses Descartes theories on the passions and emphasizes wonder as the primary philosophic experience.  He further relates wonder to the experience of the rainbow. So in these two works Green uses the fan shape to stand for the rainbow.
Nine Points 2010-2011 45 silkscreened paper collages on panels, overall dimensions 123.5 x 325.5 cm.

In the most recent works photographs of waterholes around the Bendigo region are spliced together with sections of unrelated abstract studio-based drawings.
Bendigo: Trees 2015 one photograph and five drawings 45.7 x 66 cm
As you can see, quite a diverse exhibition!

In the second, smaller space is a very beautiful and moving exhibition by Maree Santilla, Desiring the Undesirable. On moving to rural Victoria a few years ago Santilla was profoundly affected by the everyday sight of roadkill. She collected broken and fragile carcasses of foxes and other animals, bound them in ceramic bandages and fired them in a kiln, so several of the works include both a crumbling ceramic cast of the body and skeletal remains after the firing. These artefacts/relics are laid out within items of domestic furniture from the post war soldier settlement period.  Lighting and reflections are used to emphasise their fragility. Worth seeing if you can.  I should take photos, I know, but there is more information and some images here.