A long piece of string

  • Categories: Blog
  • Date: 28th May 2012
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Usually I try to weave a story for you, gentle reader, about the art that is out there during the week. This week it’s been hard to find the thread to pull it all together. So what follows is more a long piece of string, marking the trail of where I’ve been and what I’ve seen. 

First stop James Dorahy Project Space. Just opened: Annie Aitken’s Kaleidoscope exhibition of new pieces and the Project Wall, completely taken over by Thomas C Chung, with “Do you know where I am?”
This gallery tends towards representing a small number of artists, who are just beyond the beginning of their careers (not necessarily young or straight out of art school). Dorahy’s interest is in nurturing their careers in a very focussed way, to firmly establish worthy and solid trajectories; he is in it, with the artists, for the long haul. 
His artists’ works are diverse, interesting and generally nothing similar is to be found elsewhere. I’m thinking Sarah Newall and her delightful knitted bouquets; Sherna Teperson and her carved wooden everyday objects; Matt Glenn with his bullet holes through painted metal sheets; Ali Noble’s gloriously coloured felt collages or Antonia Radich with her lush rich abstract paintings (just to mention a few). www.jamesdorahy.com.au
To add spice to the mix, Dorahy invites other artists to present an exhibition on his “Project Wall”. It’s a nice way of supporting other careers and introducing new work to his clientele. A lot can be achieved in a small space on the first floor. 
Annie Aitken Kaleidoscope #6 2012polypropylene, nylon net, poly-raffia,
straw yarn, wire & acrylic rod
35 x 35 x 35cm
image courtesy the artist and
James Dorahy Project Space

Annie Aitken works with recycled materials. Not for any political reason and recycling does not necessarily underpin her work, it just reveals her modus operandi. She likes to knit, weave, stitch, plait and bind old vegetable/ fruit bags (the netted ones), strips from plastic sacks, bits of fluoro nylon ribbon, plastic raffia and string to create these bulbous, hollow shapes that “burst straight from the wall”. Each one has a rhythm of colour and fabric which becomes more complicated and detailed the closer you look. Beautifully crafted, they’re lovely pieces – light, fresh, airy explosions of colour (and very well priced). www.annieaitken.com.au

The Project Wall features Thomas C Chung whose work is a nice adjunct to Aitken’s. His is surely an homage to the layette. You know, old-fashioned wool (sometimes acrylic)fine ply, cloying colours, which old ladies love to knit into booties, bonnets and matinee jackets. But instead of clothing, here is knitted kiddies’ food, crockery, teapots even pencils and crayons. All carefully box-framed, they are delightful, a bit cheeky, with moments of harsh reality – a lovely box of choccies, with one missing; a cake carved into pieces, with one slice breaking free; lollipops with broken stems; flaccid coloured pencils and precious tea parties. Enjoy!
Then to Artspace down the road in The Gunnery on Cowper Wharf Rd, Woolloomooloo. Much more high brow and provocative, as it is meant to be. www.artspace.org.au The Other’s other – an exhibition with an interesting premis and interesting work but, for me, the sum did not equal the many parts. I think a well crafted exhibition brings artworks together which talk not only to the curatorial brief but to each other. The works themselves were particularly interesting but remained isolated and disengaged from each other. Perhaps it was the diversity of what was represented and cultural approaches but the feel was stilted and disjointed.
I had just seen Paul Capsis’ solo play Angela’s Kitchen in which he reveals the life of his adored grandmother, who had migrated from Malta, as he knew and loved her. (Griffin Theatre www.griffintheatre.com.au) What he brought to the surface about dislocation and cultural identity through the experiences of one woman was deeply moving. The Artspace exhibition sought to deal with similar issues but it wasn’t obvious: “multiple concepts of home and cultural belonging….how the memory… of cultural origin and involvement is configured and reconfigured from the perspective of living in estrangement from it.” curator Mark Feary, 2012. Artists included are Raafat Ishak, Sangeeta Sandrasegar, Newall Harry, Jun Yang and Dinh Q.Le
Raafat Ishak Nomination for the Presidency of the New Egypt 2012 installation view
image courtesy the artist, Artspace Sydney and Sutton Gallery, Melbourne

Raafat Ishak, Egyptian born, now based in Melbourne, has a practice which is invariably about home and a sense of belonging. His work is quiet and subtle, eloquently combining his Arabic heritage, his architectural knowledge and a delicate painterly style. His 3D piece in Artspace reminded me of a cardboard polling booth reconfigured as an elaborate and elegant political statement in itself – I guess because I saw it on the first day of polling in Egypt, the first time in 5,000 years (incredible!). Ishak shows with Sutton Gallery in Melbourne www.suttongallery.com.au.

Sangeeta Sandresagar is another whose quiet approach is commanding. She recently completed a residency in Bangelore (southern) India – courtesy of the Australia Council – and her contribution here addresses what she researched. Eucalypts were introduced to this region as trees best suited for local use as scaffold supports. As with most introduced species, the eucalypts have had a devastating affect on the local ecosytem. Sandrasegar has cast several scaffold lengths of the timbers and imported them back into Australia. The message is as much environmental as it is political and economic. Their installation in the gallery is informal and seemingly random – sort of left on the edges, in the shadows, almost forgotten. Check out her great blog  – www.sangeetasandresagar.blogspot.com
They lead into a room with 2 very recognisable films running simultaneously – Martin Sheen in Apocalpyse Now alongside Platoon featuring his son Charlie Sheen. Both are Hollywood films about what is known in Vietnam as the “American War” but elsewhere, the “Vietnam War”. This is a clever piece by Dinh Q.Le a Vietnamese artist who is interested to pursue how his country and culture has been defined by popular foreign cinema. Both films are suitably edited to sit alongside one another, establishing their own dialogue between the films and the actors (father and son). The piece is called From father to son: a rite of passage. It was pretty enthralling and has prompted me to revisit Apocalypse Now. That’s this week’s treat.
Stefan Thiel Prada handbag 2012
101.7 cm x 81.5 cm, paper cut-out
image courtesy the artist and
Dominik Mersch Gallery, Sydney

Next stop Danks St to Dominik Mersch‘s gallery, which always has an interesting mix of local and European based artists. Currently showing Stefan Thiel, a Berlin-based artist, whose cutout silhouettes are decidedly racy. A warning at the door about explicit images should draw the crowd in. Titled There is always something better Thiel uses cutout silhouettes to explore his theme of fetish and vanity. Cutting and slicing shadow and form from digital images on paper reveal incredible b&w silhouettes of designer handbags and provocatively posed gay men. The cutout technique is so refined, the textures of the skin handbag versus the patent leather are easily discerned under gallery lights. Quite amazing. www.dominikmersch.com.au
Then onto Darren Knight Gallery, Waterloo. www.darrenknightgallery.com 
Showing at the moment is Patrick Hartigan and NZ photographer Laurence Aberhart. As with much of what is shown here, the works are quiet, subtle, beautifully crafted, intelligent and enduring. Aberhart’s photographs are something else in this day and age. Taken with an 8×10″ camera, they are contact prints formed on silver gelatin, gold selenium and platinum papers. So out of the norm is this now that he is having difficulty sourcing papers and chemicals. His is a photography that is based on truth to reality, to the image and truth to the craft. He is not interested in any manipulation, rather capturing an image in b&w as it stands. The exhibition is based on his ongoing engagement with monuments, revisiting this theme over and over in his travels. There is a great interview with him on youtube – www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVdgKLCX1DI. It’s well worth listening to.

Laurence Aberhart Madonna of the Eternal Snows,
McMurdo Station, Ross Island, Antarctica, 29 November 2010printed 2010 silver gelatin, gold and selenium toned  19.4×24.5cm
image courtesy the artist and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney 
I think the string is sufficiently stretched this week. Onto next week’s search ….

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