Wednesday, December 3, 2008

ON NOW- Lonely Sea- Paul McNeil

"Lonely Sea"
Paul McNeil
19 November- 20 December 2008


We've all picked up a shell, put it to our ear, and heard a simulation of ocean noise coming from within. We act out this little, clichéd performance to momentarily be alive in the moment, a free spirit, a hippy, a beach bum, for a fleeting moment, listening to sound sound of an endless ocean coming from deep within a tiny shell, we are no longer ourselves but higher beings, beach-Buddhists, free of worry or anxiety, completely at one with the sand, the shore and the universe. Unfortunately it’s a pile of fishcrap: we know its not true, but we delude ourselves for a moment because of the perceived inner peace it brings. We aren’t surf-shamans, we're escapists and malcontents searching for a deep, holier connection, but after we've taken the shell away from our ear and wiped the stupid grin from our face, we're back in the "real world", the depressing reality we know all too well. We trudge back to our hotel rooms, perhaps eat a meal in a restaurant, and give little thought to the small, saved fortune we're spending on decadent luxuries that would ordinarily be out of the question when working the 9 to 5 and catching overcrowded, poor public transport in order to make the most of every cent. We realise there’s plastic and rubbish on the beach but we only notice for the first time when the shell has been moved far enough away to not hear the impossible ocean within it anymore.

Sad but true.

McNeil taps into the spirit of the sea but not in the pseudo-truistic way already mentioned. He taps into the whoooooole thing: the ocean in the shell, the plastic rubbish strewn in the sand, the rhythm of the universe, the commercial nature of the culture, the beautiful melding of human being and mother nature, and the immature drug humour of the surfers. Psychic, cognitive eel-like tentacles reach out from McNeils consciousness, absorbing the collective mind space of surfer, jellyfish, great white, seadog, tourist, lout and barnacle alike, channelling them all at maximum volume simultaneously. As a surf-shaman McNeil also uses the power of icons and symbols, sometimes doubling or tripling their inherent visual power by combining them to form a single more powerful image (swastikas combine with anchors and marijuana leaves, another anchor has two eyes added to it so that it becomes a nose and a grin with hooked ends). Similarly he does the same with words and text: two old words create a new one, words of opposite meanings take on a new one when placed next to each other- McNeils insight to the specific and surprisingly adaptable meanings of these words comes from an intimate knowledge, use and familiarity of them.

What McNeil is NOT doing is: clinically observing and replicating for the viewer. He is very much involved in the subject matter, it’s a personal diary of pictures that tells a history, in both text and image, of danger, euphoria, materialism, land developers, great times, death, commercialism, big hits and near misses. Not all the information of all the stories and indeed the nuances they hold will be immediately accessible, but like the seashell with the impossible ocean, spend time with the work, get into lazy holiday mode, let your eyes wander slowly over the anthology and listen to the soft roar of the sea.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

ON NOW- B-sides- Blindside Gallery

Daniel Dorall, Ruth Fleishman, Cecilia Fogelberg and Tim Silver
Blindside Gallery
27 November- 13 December 2008


Blindside invited past exhibitors Daniel Dorall, Ruth Fleishman, Cecilia Fogelberg and Tim Silver, back to the gallery and asked the participating artists to create "B-side" work from their current practice. Traditionally, when a band released a single on a vinyl record, long before the advent of file sharing and peer-to-peer, one side of the record contained the then smash hit single and the opposite side, the b-side, often had an instrumental version, maybe a a novelty polka rendition or perhaps other songs the band deemed werent worthy for release on their own.

B-side conjures ideas of failure and novelty, often viewed as not being serious and lacking of emotional or intellectual investment from the creative mind responsible, so why explore the b-side when by its very nature is is to be fundimentally lacking? Perhaps the answer to this can best be answered by detailing the work of a couple of the exhibiting artists.

Daniel Dorall whom usually reserves his work to using 1:100 scale miniature people and mazes made out of card enlarged his small, almost hand held sculptural work a hundred fold, creating an actual maze in the space that gallery visitors were forced to interact with and traverse as soon as they entered the door. The maze though larger was still made out of Dorall's maze construction material of choice, cardboard, but we the figures interacting with the maze changed how his work is usually experienced. In this case it becomes a social work of spatial-navigation as opposed to looking down on the work, being above it quite literally, and removed. In fact I was lucky enough to witness a poor soul trying to leave the gallery on the opening night, making his way back through Doralls maze to the exit, only to come up against a group of friends standing within it blocking his escape and because of a few opening night drinks, abusing their new found power as gatekeepers with cheeky requests for a password and claims that he'd have to go back the way he came when that clearly wasnt an option.

Another artist in the show, Ruth Fleishman, whose work ordinarily consists of the generation of digital environments but given the opportunity in this show, she constructed an installative work composed of mostly readymade, common, plastic objects. The commercially avialable objects allow her to have seemingly cloned objects in the work, existing in different places of the bright, coloured, little world but more importantly needing a barrier to keep the small ground based objects and their pecarious positions in relation to eachother safe and undisturbed from viewers potentially clumsy feet. This barrier is a real boundry between the punter and the work, the inticingly playful work looks back at the viewer, safe from being upset by the viewer whilst still inticing the viewer to interact because of its implied sense of fun, albeit static appearence.

Both works possess a sort of power over the viewer that the artists ordinary practice does not. They exude a certain type of control over, or at least, denial to the viewer. The works are b-side, they are a secondary preference for the artist, an unused strand of thought or materiality and it is somewhat aware of this as it desperatly bites back at the viewer, having nothing left to lose. In short: dont trust the b-side. It may be a failed form but in being so it inherits a certain amount of forcefulness, almost a kind of defence mechanism thats synonymous with novelty and difference, in order to protect itself from being forgotton.