Going but not gone

  • Categories: Blog
  • Date: 16th October 2012
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Gallery Barry Keldoulis aka GBK, as a gallery, is closing. The art is still available, the artists are still active, the business of promoting and selling the artists goes on, but the gallery space will close. Soon.
Over the past couple of months Barry Keldoulis has been re-presenting small project shows from this stable of artists. Hitesh Natalwala‘s lastest body of work Kamikazi Wasabi continues to offer insights into his own life. He has lived across continents and cultures and tells his stories via beautiful works on paper

Hitesh Natalwala Cobra 2011
oil on digital print on paper, 82 x 117.5cm
image courtesy the artist and Gallery GBK

Joan Ross’ The Claiming of things – what a sensational video – was in residence recently too. Her devilish, saucy humour steers us through a witty colonial land- rights story, eked out by Glover meets Banksy meet fluoro, along the way. A wise person once said to me, “with video art, every frame has to count”. So true. In this work of Ross’, every frame is memorable. 

Joan Ross The naming of things (The Claiming of things) 2012
pigment print on paper, 43.5 x 75.5cm ed of 5
image courtesy the artist and GBK

Today you’ll come across new work by Sean Cordeiro and Claire Healey, Ignition. Their collaborative works never fail to disappoint. They are always a satisfying experience: conceptually consistent, technically and physically idiosyncratic. Inquiring, engaging and visually arresting. What more could you want?
Ignition is a series of small needlepoint works done by their own fair hands. They are slot views of well known explosive moments. Though pretty much abstracted and distorted, they are obviously explosions: 9/ 11, the all too familiar car bomb in the Middle East, Vietnam, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Mexican Gulf. To choose such a painstaking, time consuming, minutely rendered medium to describe such instantaneous and huge, destructive moments pushes for a new perspective. The gentle needlepoint deceptively draws us to closer, to pause and consider more deeply the impact of these violent, fiery moments. 
There are many intertwining conversations and intersecting thoughts with Healy and Cordeiro’s works. Theirs is not a noisy approach, rather a quiet, genuine protest and one which is continuous throughout their body of works: the used car toys are mapped out as delicate snowflakes (Autoflakes at GBK at the moment), the lego pieces tracing the still images of the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster, the unpacking of an entire caravan – wheels, windows, warts and all – and repackaged for air travel and the marvellous homages to IKEA and its worldwide impact on domestic design. 

Sean Cordeiro and Claire Healey T + 79_ black 2010
lego, 96 x 144cm
image courtesy the artists and GBK

The notion of home – what is the essence of the place of belonging? how is it achieved – financially and emotionally? What of consumption – in all its manifestations (such as food in the exhibition Are we there yet? at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC 2011) –  in a contemporary world? What sort of world will our children will inherit?

Other, older works can be seen in the very brief, far too edited down, survey show in the big downstairs room at the MCA. It is an honour for a major public institution to survey mid career artists. This pair, who are now well known and recognised internationally for their unique installations, are certainly deserving. There is the fabulous re-creation of a small plane, broken down into post-able packages and sent around the world, to land finally in the MCA inbox and then be laid out on the wall. As well the dinosaur fossil replica, entangled with IKEA bits and pieces. The old age fossil intertwined with new age disposable design. 
Sean Cordeiro and Claire Healey Future Remant 2011dinosaur fossil replica, cable binding, IKEA parts, 285x180x485cm
image courtesy the artists and GBK

I think the MCA could have done a bit more: a few more works, a little more analysis, a little more dynamism in the presentation. A real re-appraisal of their contribution to contemporary cultural discussion was lacking. The individual works hold their own but the exhibition is not a great example of curatorial endeavour. On until 2 December.
Just as an aside I notice IKEA crops up again as the basis for exploration by artists (other than Claire and Sean), with an exhibition at UTS Gallery: Swedish for Argument . How many break-ups start with the attempts to assemble the IKEA Malm drawers on a Saturday afternoon? Curated by Holly Williams, the press release begins with: In an age where one in 10 Europeans is conceived in a IKEA bed*, it is hardly surprising that the pervasive influence of this flatpack giant has found its way into the visual arts. Artists featured include: locals Gary Carsley, Emma White, Tony Schwenson & Jess Olivieri. It sounds fabulous and I’ll definitely aim to drop by. Opens 23 October.

Emma White Nice Try, DIY  2012
polymer clay, object modelled to scale. Photo: Emma White. 

Courtesy the artist and BREENSPACE, Sydney

But … to go back to the GBK which is closing. The activities of the gallery and artists continue. There is a line-up of international exhibitions in 2013, from Auckland (Claire and Sean), Vancouver, LA (Grant Stevens) to Moscow (Joan Ross, Jonathan Jones and Jess McNeill) to art fairs in Singapore, Hong Kong and later in Sydney. Keldoulis made his approach an international one from the outset. His artists now reap the rewards of exhibiting beyond their home frontiers, to engage with other collectors, curators/ critics and audiences. Theirs are global discussions. 
It is a measured risk, to close the space in which the work hangs but it should be possible. It requires considered thinking outside the square. The landscape is shifting on many levels – the art market, collector activity, international commercial and curatorial opportunities. Some dealers/ galleries are exploring a range of possibilities other than the singular space: a combination of pop up spaces, shared gallery venues, art fairs and cyberspace. 
There is ample room in cyberspace for the retail and promotion of contemporary art; to take command of the avenues into it and use it in an effective way. The force is already with us. We’re all adept at conversing and buying online while facebook/ tumblr/linked in/ pinterest/ instagram (and whatever else is next) only add more layers to communication and access.Though these digital tools need to be approached shrewdly and navigated with discipline to get the most out of them. Facebook can be used in a really effective and meaningful way to communicate with a community of clients, colleagues and fans. No-one really needs to know what you ate last night or where you went dancing but colleagues you meet, exhibitions you see, articles you read, all of which extends a base of knowledge and experience.
Twitter works even if the pace feels frenetic: 140 characters can get a message across that need not be banal. Iain Dawson tweets regularly and now, without a fixed street address, his gallery is alive and well on tumblrHe is a very active occupant and advocate of cyberspace as a real space in which to promote and sell art and every now and then he pops up somewhere with an exhibition. Next is a curated group exhibition Conversations, at Queen St Gallery, opening in November.  

Athi-Patra Ruga The Future White Woman Of Azania #1 from the forthcoming exhibition Conversationsdigital print image courtesy the aritst and Iain Dawson Gallery

Play around with Pinterest and post a key new work (Coo-ee Aboriginal Art Gallery is doing it – a fabulous Rover Thomas among many others was pinned only recently).  Put it out there. 

Rover Thomas Barramundi Dreaming
natural earth pigments on board 244 x 122 cm
image courtesy Coo-ee Art and the artist’s estate

Blog. I’ll read and subscribe.
Actually I think what is becoming increasingly difficult is how to escape it – how to tune out and turn off. There are few temptations to return to a closed building to see if anyone is waiting at the door; it is far harder to ignore the bleeping tweet that just came through.
Keldoulis and his artists have a solid reputation on which to build a new approach. His fan base has grown with him and he should be confident they will be keen to stay in touch and hear what he and his artists are up to. Every now and then though, it would be great to share a cheese biscuit and glass of prosecco whilst viewing a new work or 2 from one of his wonderful artists. 
I wish GBK well as it moves into a new phase.

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