Wednesday, May 21, 2008

ON NOW- Eternal Life- Michael Staniak

"Eternal Life"
Michael Staniak
Metro 5 gallery
21 May- 08 June 2008


Skulls, still life flower arrangement, bust portraiture. All classical, painting, subject matter. These catergories of subject matter are in fact the earliest, simplest, building blocks of painted works subject matter. Artists would spend hours, capturing light, pattern, attempting to reproduce every possible iota of detail that they could seeof the real world and put it into their work. These artists relied on their eyes to see this visual data and their skilled hands to try and replicate it.

Skulls, floweral compositions, people; these are all classical examples of the temporal and fleetingly mortal nature of this world. Staniak is interested how the visual information of these objects and subjects can be stored as an image produced by the painter, existing long after the real representative of the sign on the canvas has died, withered or turned to dust.

This is compounded by the fact these images exist in a black void, which is either the unknown information of the environment that each object is within, or the negation of the information of the objects environment. They float in the black, ungrounded studies, egotistically, the only thing in existence within the picture plane.

These are not paintings that are in the business of storing information, they are only suggesting it. The images are not hyper-real, they contain the mark of the brush and the nuances of paint on canvas, another suggestion in the direction that the works are more about indicating how information can be captured with a painting rather than being actually paintings of captured information.

Lasers scan across the surfaces of the subjects, filling each minute crack they flash upon, picking up detail unseen by the human eye. Information so rich that it is incapable of being seen by even the most observant or of being produced by even the most skilled artists’ hand.

I can not help but feel that Staniak may be suggesting that painting is truly an inadequate and redundant method of representation or documentation in this contemporary world within which so many other and more efficient technological means for doing the same job, with greater ease, are available to us. This is okay though, the painting itself admits it and accepts it as it relays its own shortcomings in this area to the viewer. So where to now for painting and antiquated subject matter? Endless self analysis into the void no doubt, as places for it in this world are fast becoming scarce.

Artist's Statement at Metro 5 gallery:

ON NOW- Over Here, Over There- Bonnie Lane

"Over Here, Over There"
Bonnie Lane
BUS gallery
20 May- 07 June 2008


Bonnie Lane is becoming quite proficient at combining her minimalist video work with sculptural or installative elements within the gallery space. In an exhibition earlier this year at Seventh gallery, Lane projected a video of her bust onto a white bed which created a ghostly double of herself, composed of light and restricted to existence inside the bed. This poor soul can never feel the sweet release of sleep, instead she lays conscious, looking up at the ceiling and the viewer, eternally living the works title: “Sleepless”.

Both “Sleepless” and “Over Here, Over There” feature the play of very selective and specific video and installation. Lane seems to prefer to create video that encompasses a minimalist ideology in the sense that, at first, the videos appear to be static images until the viewer notices the subject move ever so slightly. Lane projects both herself and he partners faces, lying sideways in bed, on two walls that meet in a corner. The figures look at eachother across the gap of the corner, the audience also getting caught in the large width of the gaze, privelidged to be involved in such an intimate connection. The floorspace between the projections, is that of an oversized bed surface, doonas and pillows repeated like it an organic bedded growth protruding from the corner and mirroring in 'real-space' the beds that form the grounding element in the video component of the work that the lovers lie on.

Lane described the work as an exploration of “longing to be utterly and entirely connected to another person” and as predicted, Lane has focused on the more pure elements of an intimate relationship. The ‘gaze’ here is the unspoken connection, a shared understanding through presence without words. Findlay (seemingly more genuinely tired than Lane) looks forward, meeting the viewer and his partners eyes, despite his heavy eyelids, to be comforted in Lanes clam, large, doe eyes. Each are both lost in eachother, serene and inviting the viewer to share that connection with them.

Monday, May 19, 2008

ON NOW- Take the Long Way Home- Rus Kitchin

"Take the Long Way Home"
Rus Kitchin
Until Never gallery
14 May- 14 June 2008


"Throw off your shackles, slaves! We are no longer servants to this history, this economy, these laws, these false idols. Wage-less servitude is over, where’s our backpay b*****'s!?!"

Overall, there is something subversively degenerate about Kitchin's "Take the Long Road Home". He doesnt make images for his work, he takes them. He doesnt pay homage to or elevate their respected status, he desecrates them. Expressionistic, visceral, paint-dripped lines, trap the image behind its suggested bars of imprisonment. Energetic, frenzied, unfamiliar icons, signs and symbols are drawn over the top of the authoritarian images of power: idols of gods, statues of holy men, photo's of shamans and instructional diagrams for life preserving procedures.

The exhibitions title work, "take the long road home", features only a few figures across the picture plane, seperated by empty space and hidden in a rain of vertical paint lines. There's a paranoia associated with the unknown figures, their identities almost knowingly obscured, in hiding amongst the bright, psychedelic, linear distortion. If only the information concealed in the lines could be read, maybe something could be gleaned in order to have an advantage in the bright but periless landscape, but these are not seperated or ordered like that of a barcode, these are frenzy-coloured, kineticly layered and dangerously unpredictable. Whatever information that could be deciphered has the potential to be fatally incorrect, making any effort quite futile.

Within the four canvases along the opposite wall, Kitchin has enslaved once powerful icons and god's of ancient cultures in the sterile unforgiving prison of the white surface. Futhermore, once entrapped they are stripped of their power and humiliated by being worked over, degraded. Their once fear inspiring image and names, forgotton and reduced to a print in a magazine or a book, and now, stolen by Kitchin for the canvas.

Kitchin has been busy indeed and will be showing in the upcoming "Graphein" curated by Peter Daverington at Lindberg Contemporary Art and Ash Keating's "2020?" a large-scale, evolving installation at the Meat Market. In the mean time however, get a glimpse at these ultra-slick, resin coated gallery works, fortunately on show for a month thanks to Until Never's generous exhibition lengths.

Until Never Gallery:
2nd flr 3-5 Hosier Lane, (Enter from Rutledge Lane), Melbourne CBD
Gallery hours: Wednesday to Saturday 12-6pm

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

ISSUE- Censorship, 'The Puma, The Stranger and The Mountain’

Censorship is always a heated topic of discussion as people can feel very passionately one way or another. In the case of Cecilia Fogelberg and Trevor Flinn’s work ‘The Puma, The Stranger and The Mountain’ vs. a single crictic and Melbourne City Council, I cant come to a concrete decision, one way or the other.

One point to be raised, in regard to this instance, is of the specific spatial nuances of the subway area that the 'offending' images were displayed. That subway space is a very public area and I doubt that most of the multitude that use it to get from point A to point B would not necessarily consider it a 'platform' to display art, but more of a thoroughfare.

“Piss-Christ” (Andres Serrano's controversial photograph of a plastic crucific submerged in a container of the artists urine) was physically attacked with a hammer whilst on display at the NGV in 1997. This attack by zealots I feel is unjustified because of the works anchoring within an institution, coming from a strong idea base and an area of research and development for the artist. Even publicly known Catholic Nun and art critic, Sister Wendy Beckett said in an interview that she didn’t find the work blasphemous but more of a social comment on "what we (modern society) have done to Christ". I have more respect for Serrano and his work within a cultual placement than that of a guerrilla street artist who works with explicit imagery or text and places their work without any sensitivity to possible viewers in the public environment (ie: children, the elderly et cetera).

I am not pro-controversy but I am in no way advocating censorship, just personal and situational appropriateness. Perhaps Melbourne City Council has in this case reacted rashly and prematurely; a simple, discreet warning (so as not to attract additional attention to the offending images) would have sufficed, as it would have been noticed by anyone purposefully viewing as opposed to the legions that walk through the space without issuing a glance sideways. I can also appreciate and sympathise with the fact that those that do find the images offensive and take a route past them daily should not have to be subjected to their presence or feel so uncomfortable as to have to adjust their pathway at their own inconvenience.

Censorship is always rocky territory and differences of opinion will always remain. Neither viewpoint, the culturally open-minded or those of a more moralistically stringent disposition, are necessarily more right or wrong than the other as times, trends and viewers continue to change. Regardless of who wins the battle of the ‘now’, if we were able to develop a live and let live policy, neither would be subjected to a choice against their will or bear the burden of subjugating their view on an unwilling party.

Please also see Mark Holsworth’s culture notes on the same article:

The original article:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

ON NOW- Playheads- Alliance Fracaise Gallery

Santina Amato, Ross Coulter, Amelia Johannes, Kiera Brew Kurec, Ben Millar
Alliance Francaise gallery
08 May -04 June 2008


“Playheads” is a group exhibition of artist’s producing video art selected from the 2007 VCA graduate exhibition. Their treatment of video as a medium varies greatly between them and “the artists have each developed a distinctive language, and the coexistance of their work in the same space is an experience in itself” (Patrice Pauc 2008).

The video work can act as a recording device, evidence of objects in space and time. Ben Millar’s work examines this but extends on this concept further by employing more objects into the ‘real space’ in which the video is being shown, thus creating more folds and dialogues between both the real objects in real space and those captured within the recording.

Amelia Johannes puts the focus on a number of different forms of video utilising the projection of stills and running film with both the superior, digital, video projectors and their out-dated, predecessors, the humble slide projectors. She incorporates objects into the work but unlike Ben Millar’s almost field-study type arrangement of objects, Amelia uses more emotive objects: old, wooden drawers, overturned cupboards and broken, obsolete TV set’s.

The drama of the common television set is Ross Coulter’s medium for his own self-stared video work. We follow Coulter from scene to scene in which he is always on the phone, informing the unknown caller of his current (and soon to change) location. Through the power of editing the journey we only see him at a destination, forever being chased by the caller, never meeting.

Live drama played out s performance to accompany video saw Kiera Brew-Kurec wearing white fabric dress continually washing and hanging indescript laundry in a viscous pepetual cycle of the mundane chore outside the window of the gallery space. Her work erring in-between a space of being of either a suggestive nature or a little disturbing. In one of the two, she washes herself from a bowl with soap, performing directly in front of the camera, before attempting to eat the soap with water whilst singing in an operatic style. The result, her gargled singing and inevitable spewing forth a thick soapy mess seems to bare an uncomfortable connection to the torturous nature of niche, oral-sex pornography.

Santina Amato’s, work draws the view into the drama that can be produced with video and the employment of the space. To view Amato’s work the view must engage with it by viewing through a keyhole, forcing the audience to physically enact a popular action of curiosity repeated throughout film history. With this kind of limited view space, the audience has a unique and personal connection to the work, being one-on-one, one-at-a-time, even though everyone see’s the same thing.

The show with the variety of works succeeds at not being just another “screen-show” and legitimately explores the possibility of video art highlighting considerations of display scale, method or medium of display, viewer interactivity, and the combination of accompanying theatrical elements such as props (objects) and live performance. Seeing “playheads” is made very easy as the gallery’s opening hours are generous (Mon-Thur: 9:00am-8:30pm, Fri: 9:00am-6:00pm and Sat: 9:00am-4:30pm) as opposed to the limited opening hours of some volunteer-dependent ARI’s and student galleries.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

SOON- Over Here Over There- Bonnie Lane

“Over Here Over There”
Bonnie Lane
BUS117 gallery
20 May -7 June 2008


Bonnie Lane graduated from the VCA (painting department of the Art school) at the end of last year and proving there is life after 'art school' she has been in a number of exhibitions and competitions, exploring personal and relational qualities within her own life. Bonnie walks a fine line between being, in essence, an installative artist and a sculpture/object maker. He work focuses closely in on one of three people orientated subjects: herself, her boyfriend Matthew Findlay and/or their relationship together.

Her work in the graduate show was a timber, boxlike structure, in which life size photo’s of the walls of Matthew’s home were hung to give the impression of being in their space. It was personalised further with an audio component: a recording of ‘live’ homely conversations between the two. Some of his furniture also included in the space and a pile of their laundry next to the couch, gave the impression it had been pushed aside, evidently unfolded.

More recently she took out the 2008 Moreland Sculpture Show Ephemeral Award by reconstructing a lounge room again, this time it was one that focused on the objects within by not including walls and placing the furniture within an invisible floor plan in the outside area of The Coburg Leisure Centre. The work also hints at sustainability as all the suggestively personal items were collected from street side hard rubbish.

Bonnie describes “Over Here Over There” as being: “a video installation that creates a multi-sensory experience of sight, sound and touch that explores the longing to be utterly and entirely connected to another person”. Whilst “entirely connected to another person” sounds a lot like she’s suggesting intimate, sexual closeness, don’t be disappointed if there is nothing in any way sexual when the work is revealed. Bonnie has a penchant for exalting the more sweet, pure and demure aspects of a loving relationship rather than the cheapness of the act itself.

ON NOW- Rules- Brian Spier

Bryan SpierSeventh Gallery
06-17 May 2008


Bryan Spier presents a series of hard edge, colourful, abstract paintings… Look Closer. The paintings come into being through an intuitive process as opposed to the strict, authoritarian rules of “art as art” that our favourite abstract art-fanatic, Ad Reinhardt, laid down as commandments back in the Old Testament days of abstract painting. However, Spier’s work, whilst unplanned to begin with, is formed via intuition. As the title suggests, ‘rules’ permeate the free-process in which he works.

Arbitrary guidelines and frameworks come into play, considerations happen instinctively, decisions made automatically, flying under the radar of the censoring mind. Each colour used, each form created on the picture plane informs what will be put down next. Even though these processes happen outside of a planned awareness, the finished product authenticates that the end result in Spiers case is the same. The work is harmonic, balanced and excels in fulfilling appropriate use of other aesthetic elements even though they were not purposeful employed.

Spier hasn’t gone out of his way to prepare, plan and develop forms which follow the principles and elements of art but he has indirectly adhered to them through his own innate, naturally-instilled, aesthetic considertory processes.

ON NOW- The Myth of Sisyphus- George Paton Gallery

“The Myth of Sisyphus”
Tyrone Renton (curator), Makiko Yamamoto, Mutsumi Nozaki, Ayako Oshima, Tess McKenzie, Darren Munce, Lucy McNamara.
George Paton Gallery
06-16 May 2008


Camus recognised that as humans our life experiences can mirror Sisyphus and his terrible task. We, ourselves in this modern world, often also get stuck in uncomfortable endless cycles: bad relationships, dead end jobs, grocery shopping, the mundane, the ordinary. Within The Myth of Sisyphus (curated by Tyrone Renton), each of the artists invited to explore the banality of existence and the crux of the sisyphian concept, embrace the cruel nature of repetition as experienced by a conscious entity.

Mutsumi Nozaki technologically imprisons “Mr Hopeful” within the screens of the common television set. Even though Mr Hopefully circles from one screen to another (very much like a goldfish) looking for a way out, it soon becomes obvious that there is no escape, only the search for escape. I couldn’t help but recall the few times in the last year in which I’ve sat down hoping to watch television but in vain have been ‘captured’ by the screen, channel surfing continually, looking for a good program, an escape from banality, but not finding one. Mr Hopeful’s imprisonment is also reinforced in the way the TV’s are composed in the space, facing each other so that the spatial area inbetween the four screens becomes akin to the inside of a box.

Tess McKenzie’s “Rock’n’Roll” emphasises repetition in a number of different ways within the one work. McKenzie’s “Rock’n’Roll” is a polycarbonite record containing 4 different “rolling stone” songs from popular music history that have been edited in a John Cage fashion by eliminating any audio that does not quote Sisyphus’s “rolling stone”. Subject matter and lyrics within popular music are repeated and regurgitated ad infinitum, the spinning nature of the record when being played physically mirrors a rolling stone and the records, like a lot of collateral from the 60’s is fashionably cool again. Even if the record where to falter and start skipping during the course of the exhibition, the work would still be operating within a Sisyphian context.

One conclusion I reached from the artwork which acts as research into Sisyphus’s punishment is that the repetition really isn’t that bad, that it is not quite the punishment we expect it to be, because as Camus stresses: as human beings are incredibly adept at adapting, the punishment is in the stopping.

Do not stop and you will be fine.