Sunday, November 7, 2010

Things I Wish I'd Known- West Space

"Things I wish I’d known"
Ross Coulter, Melody Ellis, Brad Haylock, Veronica Kent, Sanné Mestrom, Lillian O’Neil, Patrick Pound, Ben Sheppard, Utako Shindo, Tai Snaith, Kieran Stewart and Dominic Redfern, with essays by Phip Murray and Kelly Fliedner
West Space
6 November - 28 November 2009

What would you do differently if you had your time over? Many people will say ‘nothing’ in defence of their impeccable past choices, but i think that it is okay to be wrong. ‘Things I Wish I’d Known’ is a group of works that hone in on this lament of hindsight.

Ross Coulters video work (above), ‘The 2007 VCA Graduation Video’ recalls a dream Coulter had in which an art mascot, or ‘the coach’, berates him, and in turn, the viewer with moral boosting affirmations, en masse, on loop.

Tai Snaiths collages meld short personal proverbs of advice ( ‘get over yourself’ and ‘go into yourself’) with a literal, visual translation of the phrase ‘double vision in hindsight’ by adding an extra pair of eyes to black and white fashion portrait photography from a past era, allowing the subject to see the future in colour, and supposedly twice as well.

Brad Haylock states that whatever you expect, will surely always end up coming to fruition, and resulting in disappointment, in his case, marching in the streets and getting nothing but a lousy placard.

Melody Ellis passes on her thoughts to the audience, in the form of small cards with a single instruction or piece of advice on each that the audience is invited to take. As opposed to having the cards printed, Ellis has typed them out herself using a typewriter onto the coloured card, thus reliving her own advice in the repetitious act of typing and also demanding she type it correctly; there is no room for error using a typewriter and coloured card.

This is the 'advice for those undertaking a BFA’ exhibition. Good luck in your future pursuits exhibiting artists, your past selves did okay knowing what they did.

James Callahan

James Callahan's work is the result of an outside fringe culture turned into advertising illustration, a decade after the fact. It is pure 1980’s skate culture aesthetic distilled into screen prints and fine lined drawings: pure barf (which is also the artists moniker), death, sex, violence, gross-out, ugliness, evil. The advantage of using the imagery, archetypes and icons long after the scene has changed and mutated aesthecially is that it can be viewed retrospectively and consequently, edited ruthlessly in the process of re-creation to formulate a newer, more defined and more potent version of the predecessors that it is climbing onto the shoulders of.

Callahan blends styles, a semi real illustrative tone of thick line-work is fused with the imagery of comic book sensibilities. Essentially everything is about failure on some level and to some degree. A tagline on the faux comic covers claims that it is ‘semi-sensationalish’. ‘Sensationalish’ is of course not a real word, its only half a word, an attempt at creating a word, a failure of a word, a semi-word.

The shocks are 90% nostalgia and tradition, like listening to Christmas carols in the month of March or rifling through boxes of Halloween paraphernalia or costumes mid-year for an out of season party or practical joke. His images depict the rotting corpses of cheerleaders play gridiron using a member of the teams dismembered head in lieu of the pigskin, in another a bat flies toward the viewer in a howling frenzy with two flick knives protruding from its chest, whilst in another picture plane anonymous and menacing figures wearing authorative hazchem suits are attacked by muscular mutants of a future toxic apocalypse in a style that pays tribute to Troma. Fail, fail, fail. Fail is cool. Again.

There are a few high brow references hidden within the imagery of the screenprints. In one small circular bordered area of a poster, prongs of a fork move in toward an open starring eye ball (see above), not unlike the infamous Dali eyeball slicing, except less professional and more punk, in the sense that the mutilation doesn’t come from a precise, determined and slow, methodic, purposeful movement using a pristine surgical scalpel, but from a presumably fast, aggressive, thrust with a common piece of cutlery that shares a likeness to the devils pitchfork.

Callahan wants to raise hell in his intricate line drawings but only to perfectly capture its shortcomings to make fun of it in the process, and, of all entrepreneurial pursuits that turn a dollar, drawing pictures of the gross and macabre seems better than most.

Friday, November 5, 2010

art crush- Oliver Laric

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Faux Thrills is a curious title for Greatest Hits exhibition, kind of a self-depreciating joke that beats the harsh critic to the punch, or punch-line, the title ‘fesses up to its own shortcomings before you’ve seen the show and come to your own conclusion.

Faux Thrills is also a pretty good summary of where art ranks in the entertainment stakes of modern culture today, it kind of falls short in comparison to all the other facets of our lives that bombard us with activity or amusement. It’s no wonder that painting, and by extension: ‘art’, is repeatedly declared dead, gallery attendance numbers have fallen, patronage of the visual arts has declined because as opposed to the days of olde when salon shows were blockbuster crowd summmoners, we can get our fill of amusement and entertainment from pocket sized personal video media or gaming devices, (I’m looking at you Nintendo DS and iProducts), or movies at the cinema which are feature entirely new imagined worlds in all the glory of the gimmicky 3-D, and let’s not forget to mention all the time-eating, internet platforms like chatroulette which can instantly connect you to a live streaming video conversation with a complete stranger from anywhere in the world. How can art compete with these attention grabbing fixtures of our daily life? To engage with art seems laborious in comparison, when instant gratification is a click away in the form of gaming, video clips, music, movies or websites designed as tools of procrastination.

“I know what he’s talking about, its all, like, there’s so much to do, yeah? And so like, people have just forgotten about art, yeah?”
“yeah, like, just painting and shit is boring now, it’s all-”
“-yeah like painting, is just like something to look at, and like, but like, even if I’m at the tram stop I’m checking my email or like playing games and shit on my phone, yeah?”

This sense of failure, or potential failure is a recurring element in Greatest Hits work, an example of this is the way that often there will be components of their exhibitions that are constructed haphazardly, as if they were constructed, or deconstructed, without thought or care, and other components which juxtapose this seemingly slap-dash work ethic which are finely crafted, well made and represent a considerable amount of time or skill, or both, in their construction.

This way of working has usually been directly employed in making some kind of intervention with the exhibition space itself. Upon entering CCP, from the first step, the Viewer is inadvertedly interacting with one aspect of the artists’ intervention with the gallery environment, because they’ve ended up carpeting Gallery 1, so there’s no way around ‘touching the art’ so to speak, the ‘art’ being the carpet added by Greatest Hits, because you’re in fact walking on it, the audience is literally walking all over the artists action. The carpet is very much noticeable as so few galleries or exhibition spaces are carpeted, and it’s not a terribly great carpet either which only adds to your attention being drawn to it. It in itself is a kind of failure of carpet, if carpets were able to fail, then this carpet would be.

“Dude do you remember those carpets at your Mums?”
“when we were kids yeah?”
“And they were all sticky and shit?”
“Yeah like you’d get your burger and shit and you couldnt even walk to your table”
“hahaha, oh yeah, classic.”
“hahahahaha, oh yeah man, gotta love it huh?”

The second element is more constructed: It’s a wall, like any other gallery wall at first, centered in the space so that foot traffic entering the gallery have to split and pass around it, and as soon as you do pass it, you realise that it isn’t a temporary wall that the gallery have installed in the space because its only half-built, the side facing the inside of the gallery doesn’t have plasterboard covering the cross beams, it’s just a fake, or unfinished, probably the later because there’s a glass of cola sitting on the floor. Even on its finished display side, the side that you see as you enter the space, doesn’t have work hanging on it or a TV bracketed to it, its potential is intentionally underutilised and features a ripped-out magazine page.

It’s a joke on exhibition presentation, but not in malice because they’ve gone to the effort to emulate, it’s more of a joke between friends, if it is possible to be friends with something abstract, like the concepts of exhibition installation. This denial of the spaces’ use reminded me of their work in an exhibition at Platform in which they’d spray painted the glass panel of the window box, essentially making it redundant.

“Oh yeah, yeah, I saw that show man.”
“Yeah it was good, huh?”
“Yeah i think I seen that movie at the same time yeah?”
“that zombie one man, with uh, Woody Harrellson”
“it wasn’t out then, was it?”
“Nah, man Jas downloaded it and burnt it for me”

The show-grabber was an object installed on two metal braces or stands. It appears to be a roughly cut or chiseled block of ice with a Hawaiian shirt frozen inside. Two separate people after the show admitted that they thought the sculpture was actually real ice, frozen water and were briefly perplexed as to why it wasn’t melting. It’s preservation of bad-taste: today’s fine weather is tomorrows ice age and our cultural and aesthetically embarrassing, mass produced, commercial items of today will be tomorrows fossils. Who knows, in a thousand years time, when the fragile, delicate artworks don’t survive, maybe the crazy frog ringtones, talking Andy Millman dolls and Happy Meal Toys will be elevated from common, crappy landfill to a useable resource commodity like oil, or worse, from our point of view, they’ll be collected and treasured as ancient oddities of a time long gone. Machine made, plastic molded novelties may sit alongside handmade relics and artifacts. Why wait a thousand years for that discrepancy to evaporate?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Outre is contemporary cool. Cool for cats.

"Outre is contemporary cool. Cool for cats."

The Outres collection of prints and artifacts is the epitome of cool. It's difficult not to biblically covet every single image and object in their commercial collection: cooler than frost on an Eskimos’ ice-cream and hotter than a chili cookout on the surface of the sun. They are the dealers of contemporary pop and we are the addicts of slick aesthetics.

Derek Yanigers beat generation inspired paintings on wood panels. Using the wood grain as a warm background each work uses a minimal colour scheme and painted super flat, which only adds to the crisp cool taste of the work. He must have a secret stash of sweat from the endless finger-clicking that ‘niks would have bopped along to in the ‘60’s whilst listening to avant-garde minimalist jazz, ‘cause I cant think of any other inducible substance that’d transport ones mind to a realm as hip as images he produces,

‘Incarnation’ by Mark Ryden was a showstopper at Melbourne Art 2010, perhaps made popular in part by a Youtube timelapse video showing the artist working on the painting, but even without knowing of the creative process, theres no denying Ryden credit as a master of his craft when face to face with the finished image. Incarnations flesh is porcelain and sickly pure, her gown is lush, fatty protein filled flesh. Even a middle-aged accountant whose last contact with any kind of academic arts training was over 20 years ago in the form of ‘Arts and Craft’ classes during high school was able articulate the nauseating juxtaposition of the pale, white figure and her fleshy, bloody gown.

There was nothing but love-love-love at the outré stand/stall/booth during Art Melbourne 2010 and with the application of liquor people’s nerves, eyes and souls were satisfied. There was a communal state of bliss generated by the amount of people interested in the same thing being in the same place all together. One of the most common actions by the public was ‘pointing and smiling’. There was some great original works as well: hand painted bongos by Yaniger, super-superbly crafted paper silhouettes by Beci Orpin, a gorgeous orange clucker by the king’o’kool 50’s styling SHAG (Josh Agyle) and Angelique Houtkamp with her tattoo styled tattooed ladies.

The collaborative team Friends with You received a fair share of attention with their minimal anthropomorphized works. Their works are celebrations of colour and shape, similar to the minimalist colourfield paintings except given cute oval eyes and smiles, making them so much friendlier, particularly Plasma Eyes and Friendship Flag. It’s this melding of a homage to a serious part of art history with the fun child-like instinct of personifying everything with a smiley-face that is both cheekily amusingly clever , and . A war directed by the FwY would be a colourful onslaught of bright chaos, water balloons and waterpistols filled with paint would be standard issue, as opposed to rifles and grenades.

Thankyou Outre for scouring the earth
(earth = pop culture magazines)
and gathering together some of the coolest looking prints this side of the afterlife.

Monday, April 26, 2010

You’ll be the Death of Me: Bridie Lunnney and Meredith Turnbull

"You’ll be the Death of Me"
Bridie Lunney and Meredith Turnbull

In the Degreaves St subway, (commonly known as the Flinders Street Station subway for those of us who have trouble remembering the multitude of alleys and laneways in Melbourne) exists the Platform exhibition space. The Platform space is a series of window boxes set into the wall of the underground thorough fare, an expressway for commuters exiting and entering the train station. Ordinarily these window boxes contain the artworks that are being exhibited (objects, images), so that passers-by, if they have enough time to throw a passing glance during their busy commute, may be visually appeased by some artifact of some aesthetic value, made by one of the many artists that belong to the plague that is choking or city with creativity and culture.

Bridie Lunney and Meredith Turnbull have proposed something a little more bold: a concept (heaven forbid, I can already see our major selling newspaper, the rag newssheet for the common man, crying out that artists are gobbling up our tax dollars with their superfluous existence and needless, functionless arts practices). As opposed to a constructed object or image, like a sculpture or a painting, what they have done is physically change the space: the duo have painted a coat of mid-grey onto the outside of the glass, so that the window boxes now appear to just be flat grey panels exhibited on the wall, as opposed to three dimensional enclosures within the wall.

The grey shares multiple commonalities: it reflects Melbourne’s drear weather, the cities mass of concrete and bluestone, and even the average commuter, the common people, anonymous in the peak hour, grey-men. It almost appears to be the same colour used by city councils to buff (paint over) graffitied walls, which in a way is exactly what they have done; they’ve buffed out, or over, erased a physical three dimensional space used for exhibiting art. Ordinarily this action would mean that they’ve erased an opportunity to display.

What Lunney and Turnbull have done is provided a space for people to exhibit their own work or words by encouraging the public that pass through the area to graffiti the painted glass by scratching the paint off, thus revealing the negative space, both pictorially and literally, because as the paint is scratched off in letters and words or shapes, a peephole is created to look into the empty space of the unused window box behind the grey façade.

The irony is that usually audience participation and interaction is seen as a positive force of collaborative creativity, yet the more the public create, the more they destroy the result of the initial action and efforts of the artists to facilitate such an opportunity. The line between the creative act and the destructive act disintegrates when we realize that the only action a public participant can execute without destroying anymore of the artists original glass painting, would be to refurbish, or repaint the glass as well, essentially an act of graffiti because it would destroy what others have done, yet it would also adhere to the artists initial intentions.

The works title, “You’ll be the Death of Me”, is a great summary of this creative-destructive dichotomy and a chance for the work to speak to the Audience, the participators, not in condemnation but merely alert them to the truth of the relationship that they have together.

A work that destroys itself is perfect in this push and produce world. If you’re going to bring anything new into the world, it should be this: action.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Alain Declercq, Tony Garifalakis, Joaquin Segura, Jeanne Susplugas, Ewoud Van Rijn
Margaret Lawrence Gallery

Omega: two sides to every story

Fight the power[1], fight for your right to party[2], stand up for your rights[3], because this is it, this is ground zero[4]. You can’t trust anyone, not your government, megalomaniacal corporate companies with political sway and all important sponsor money; they’re all out to get you. The people that “Serve and Protect” you and your country are the same idealist fanatics that were extremist right/left wing nutters patriotic well intentioned morally upright members of society that fell into proudly took an oath to enter into a militaristic institutions the armed forces because they are simple, easily led and lack any self direction they believe in the ideals of their country and the just causes it stands for and represents.

One man’s passion is another man’s parody.

Its only when things get serious that we’re able to see how much of a joke they are that we must take action. The UN and EU are little more than selfishly, violent, provincial, marauding motorcycle gangs and frauds. Governments are whores to capitalist payouts, built on business that promotes the gluttony of excess and instant gratification and inducing a state of constant paranoia and fear are just and righteous pillars of global peace and order.

Terrorism is a means to an end is a nice excuse for governments to gain the power totalitarian police state whilst maintaining the illusion of an independent, free, democratic nation terrible blight which more often than not affects the innocent of the perpetrators own country rather than those that they’re opposed to.

The end is nigh. Only chaos is real[5]. It will be alright[6].

It’s almost too easy to poke fun at authority, to undermine the current order of society and politics. With great power comes great responsibility comes great risk and great opportunity to inadvertently (perhaps inevitably) fuck everything up. The good guys are the bad guys are the good guys…

[1] Public Enemy, “Fight the power”, Fear of a Black Planet, 1989
[2] Beastie Boys, “Fight for your right to party”, Licensed to Ill [Album], 1986
[3] Bob Marley, “Get up, Stand up”, Burnin [Album], 1973
[4] Chuck Palahnuik, “Fight Club”, 1996
[5] Ewoud Van Rijn, “Only Chaos is Real” [acrylics ink on paper, 220 x 150 cm], 2006
[6] Ewoud Van Rijn, “Alright” [acrylic paper, 250 x 170], 2009

Friday, April 23, 2010

PlaneStars: Ross Coulters 'Prelude'

"PlaneStars: Ross Coulters 'Prelude'"

Large seemingly scientific white structural models hang from the ceiling, a video work of a melting aeroplane made out of ice flies through an unidentifiable sky, and a concrete totem sits in the centre of the exhibition like an anchor, especially when compared to the apparently intricate paper models and projected video work. These three components create the trinity that was Ross Coulters ‘Prelude’ Seventh gallery. Each portion, a different medium, size, but all virtually crying out a in chorused unison of a common ideal and all linked in their usage of one form: the humble paper plane.

The paper plane is perhaps one of the simplest most popularly known forms of paper folding that also has a function: flight.[1] This function is removed from the hundreds of actual folded paper planes in the exhibition though, instead, they’ve been taped together, all noses pointing inward, in spherical hives or cocoons of paper planes, all cluster-fucking in groups of origami orgies. Plane stars. There’s a punk, DIY immediacy of the sculptural forms suggested construction that attests to the crass interpretation of their gathering. Even their ability to be used, thrown, folded or unfolded (deconstructed/destroyed) is negated by their proximity of closeness to each other.

There seems two groups of planes within each cluster: one group seems to all be pushing towards the center with equal force to every other, and the others are pushing away from the center, heading out at every angle, all aiming for the same indiscriminate point in three dimensional space, simultaneous black hole implosion and explosion of paper planes. Their collective honing in, or racing away from this one point is suicidal for the individual as they become functionless, all simultaneously denying each other the non-existent Iliad they’re aiming for, making each ones effort a negation of anothers effort.[2]

The paper plane motif is repeated in the video work, except the paper plane in the video is made entirely of ice. Impossibly, it flies across a sky-scape, melting continuously, the further it flies, the less it exists. It’s a bittersweet existential prank bequeathed on/to it by its creator. To carry out its natural function, to fly, leads to its inevitable slow melting destruction.

Ice plane exists in a state of perpetual forward motion and continual demise. There’s no Sisyphean[3] commute, it’s all one way, but to the same ends. Smooth sailing in unknown skies, ice-planes location on this functionless flight is never revealed, all sky looks the same, with no markers, landmarks, no progress can be made or measured. Existence and actions are purposeless, it’s just a journey, details are superfluous and passed fleetingly.

Surrounded by the exploding/imploding plane stars is a concrete totem: an abstract pillar form with cubic sections, a mold. It is not a plane, but in the top most section are two planes flying into each side of it, their noses caught midflight, trapped in the stone. Its materiality is a stark contrast to the planes, weighted, hard, serious. The planes have not crashed into the stone because crashing implies an event of a temporary nature, whilst the union of planes and cement looks frozen, a moment in time caught and held.

Amusement. Boredom. Pranks. These are the states that usually precede a paper planes creation. They’re simple, cheap, functional, and inherently temporary and not the most robust construction. Coulter knows this, each work parodies it, or more correctly, the parody of itself, its own being is bought to the fore, and we realize “it’s a joke about a joke, like a joke trying to make another joke laugh”[4]

[1] Charlton Heston, “Planet of the Apes”, 1968

[2] Homer, “Odyssey”

[3] Albert Camus, “Myth of Sisyphus”, 1942

[4] Modest Mouse, “Steam Engenius”, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank [Album], 2005-2006