Visual Arts

BEATLES IN AUSTRALIA

Curator of the BEATLES IN AUSTRALIA exhibition Peter Cox. Pic Nikki Short. Source The Australian
Curator of the BEATLES IN AUSTRALIA exhibition Peter Cox.
Pic Nikki Short.
Source The Australian

‘Everybody was saying there are more people here than came to see the Queen. Well, she didn’t have any hit records.’ (George Harrison)

2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the world’s most famous band’s tour of Australia and Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum is celebrating their visit with a Beatles in Australia exhibition. The exhibition travels back in time and is an attempt to recreate the flavour of the sights and sounds of the total mayhem that was Beatlemania:- The screaming fans at the concerts…The press conferences and interviews…

Enticing and exciting this is a rather small exhibition that is jam packed with fascinating facts, memorabilia, newsreel footage and trivia, Did you know that Paul McCartney plays the guitar left handed? That Jimmie Nicol filled in for Ringo in Sydney as the drummer because Ringo had tonsillitis?

The exhibition is on Level 2 of the Powerhouse, well laid out and designed in the now retro style of the era.. We are back in the 1960’s, in June 1964 to be precise, and Beatlemania has hit Australia with a vengeance. The group was here in Australia for thirteen days and it was a whirlwind of mob insanity. Nothing had ever been seen like it as 300,000 screaming Adelaide fans would testify.

The Sydney arrival of the Fab Four was wet and windy but TV crews were there.

What is interesting is how the visit is put into context with the growth of ‘the teenager ‘, and a reminder of who else was high in the musical charts at the time, such as Lonnie Donnegan and Winifred Atwell plus bands like the Easybeats and the Twilights, and a group of ex-Brits in Brisbane called the Bee Gees who were also starting out. The exhibition also makes reference to the Beatles tour to New Zealand.

There is a marvellous collection of scrapbooks and newspaper clippings and a map of the tour. And there is a rare glimpse into the detailed planning that took place in the days and weeks leading up to The Beatles’ arrival in Australia.

Pick up a klunky old black telephone of the era and listen to interviews from a page boy who worked at one of the motels where the group stayed…an air hostess who worked with them…Johnny Chester who toured Australia with them …There are also interviews with Ken Brodziak their promoter and screenings of the TV interviews  .

There are stamps, plastic figurines, posters, record covers , tea sets , tea caddies, writing pads, curtain, wigs , combs, buttons/badges  .. you name it! As well as letters documenting the establishment of the Australian Beatles fan club.

A suit worn by John Lennon, on loan from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, is a  focus of the exhibition and links in with the examination of how fashions changed at the time,– men’s hair suddenly came forward, rather than sweeping back, and women’s hair came down, as they abandoned the bouffant styles of the previous decade. Shoes now became pointed, trousers became tighter, and the mod look – neat suits – almost became a uniform for young men.

 There is a wonderful section in the glitzy Kings Cinema where you can watch umpteen newsreels of the screaming crowds. And there is another section outside, with comfy cushions and headsets, where there is black and white footage of performances continually screening. Another section is arranged like an ice cream parlour of the period with a Beatles jukebox playing their hits. Towards the end of the exhibition there is a section where you can leave your impressions/memories of the tour and the Beatles.

Curated by Paul Cox , The Beatles in Australia exhibition will be at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney  until 16 February 2014 and then moves to Melbourne’s Art Centre from 8 March until 1 July 2014. For more information visit, – http://www.powerhousemuseum.com

FIGHT OR FLIGHT at the Salerno Gallery

FIGHT OR FLIGHT10

This is a small but exquisitely presented exhibition currently showing at the Salerno Gallery in Glebe.

Trina Collins, who works under the artistic nom de guerre ‘Poncho Army’ was named in June 2012 by ArtsHub as one of the top ten street artists in Australia. Her work is held in collections around the world including New York, Japan, London, Melbourne and Sydney.

Known for her detailed line work and signature splatter paint skies, she has appeared in numerous gallery shows, been a finalist in multiple art prizes, and exhibited alongside many leading urban and contemporary artists including Banksy, Kid Zoom, ROA, Vexta, Arthur Apanski and Anthony Lister.

From June 2012 to June 2013 Poncho Army was the artist in residence at Wollongong City Gallery and this exhibition has just finished showing there, moved to Glebe and then is  transferring to Melbourne in October . She is now involved with an art studio in Coniston, just outside Wollongong .

To paraphrase the press release – FIGHT or FLIGHT is a 13 piece linear series of work, fairy tale like, that tells the story of an old man whose home is about to be destroyed. As the aged man is left with no strength in his now withered body, two young girls take it upon themselves to help him win his battle.

The journey takes the girls from the city to the mountains, deep into the forest and out to the ocean. Along the way they cross paths with others who are also faced with the decision of whether to fight or take flight.

The series explores contrasts,–between urban and rural spaces, internal and external realities, joy and melancholy, old and young, win or loss, between freedom and confinement, and between humanity and the environment.

The works centre on themes such as feelings of claustrophobia in an increasingly controlled society, the nightmare of being forgotten and abandoned, and the relief of finding community and of being found. (Sounds like Chekov or Kafka perhaps ?) .

The exhibition is a combination of stencil art, screen prints and hand drawn illustrations, using ink and aerosol over up to 12 layers of a hand drawn illustration base to create the strong yet fragile and stirring works.

The series has a mysterious dreamlike quality about it in parts. It is bright bold and colourful, lyrical and soaring, yet also disturbing. There is a fabulous use of line and colour combined with dynamic composition.

The opening work, ‘Demolish This Past’, in dramatic, vibrant red and black, has dominant lines that tilt and lead the eye towards the centre of the page. ‘Let the tracks take us back’ is an eerie huge green steam train roaring towards us at night like the Hogwarts Express. Green is also used for the truck in the looming forest in ‘Who Do you Trust ?’ The two swan works (‘Fight or Flight’, which gives the exhibition its name, and ‘Out To Sea I Can See ‘) are haunting, beautifully drawn and multi-layered. You can feel the rush of their startled feathers and hear their hiss!

For most of the works the stars and light are very significant  , especially in ‘On the Hunt’ and ‘I know You’re There’ with the yellow scratched circles of light and the multilayered backdrops of scintillating stars as well as a sense of mystery and tension . The Key is a close up of one of the girls – almost like a spy story illustration- and again observe the circular composition in that work. ‘Tug of War’ is a glorious depiction of a boat at night in the harbour. You can feel the cold. The inky mysterious catch might perhaps change everything …

If you look closely you will notice that, “There is something in each work from the work previous to it to tie it all together” Poncho explains, “and if you go through all of the works it forms a landscape. In one of the last works, when a swan is flying above the landscape, ‘Out to Sea I can See’, you can actually pin point the locations of all of the other works from this aerial view.”

A vibrant, haunting and lyrical exhibition, well worth a look.

FIGHT OR FLIGHT is currently showing at the Salerno Gallery until September 22 then travels to Melbourne.

For more information visit the Gallery’s web link on,-http://www.salernogallery.com/exhibitions/fight-or-flight/. Alternatively, there is the artists’ own website on, -http://www.ponchoarmy.com

RENAISSANCE TO GOYA

RENAISSANCE TO GOYA

Coolly, elegantly presented there are unexpected hidden gems in this exhibition.

Curated by Mark McDonald of the British Museum this beautiful exhibition is of over 130 prints and drawings from the British Museum and is a rare chance to see them outside London. The Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney is the only Australian venue in an international tour which has included the Prado in Madrid.

Spanish prints and drawings are generally little known outside Spain, and it is usually assumed that these were rather marginal arts practised by few artists. The academic study and appreciation of Spanish old master prints and drawings has also lagged behind that of other European schools. However this exhibition offers a compelling re-evaluation, highlighting the exceptional quality and diversity of the graphic arts across the various distinctive regions of Spain .There is a terrific timeline provided taking us from 1561 to Goya’s death in 1828.

The exhibition is arranged roughly by region and chronologically, giving the observer a rich and detailed panorama of over 250 years of graphic art production in various techniques, taking us from the mid 16th century to the early 19th century. The exhibition also demonstrates how the art of drawing especially  was nourished and stimulated by the cultural links Spain enjoyed with other European countries, (notably in particular France)  while keeping an unmistakably patriotic Spanish character.

There are also lithographs etc and watercolours included and we learn about the changes and developments of the various techniques over this period.

The exhibition starts with works by Renaissance artists working in and around Madrid at the time when the city was designated as the new capital in 1561. This section includes important drawings by Alonso Berruguete,( His exquisite ‘ Assumption of the Virgin’ is floating and delicate) and the Italian Pellegrino Tibaldi who was working on the decoration of Philip II’s monastery at El Escorial.

A large component of the exhibition is devoted to the what is referred to as the Golden Age of Spanish drawing. 17th-century Madrid is represented by artists such as Vincente Carducho, Francisco Camilo, Alonso Cano and Francisco Rizi. Drawings in this period were executed in a variety of techniques and served many purposes, being a testament to the increasing importance of the role of drawing in artistic creation.

Next, moving through the exhibition rooms to 17th-century Seville (where commissions came mainly from the church and private patrons rather than the court) the observer will discover beautiful works by such celebrated figures as Francisco de Zurbarán and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. Murillo established the Seville drawing academy in 1660 and was hugely influential. The great Diego Velázquez trained in Seville, and he went on to have a brilliant career in Madrid. We are privileged to see some of his very rare and beautiful drawings of horses

José de Ribera – one of the outstanding draughtsmen and printmakers of his time – left his native Valencia to spend most of his career in (Spanish) Naples. So there are lots of heavy, swirling Baroque pieces , martyrdoms of Saints , designs for the interiors of churches , altar pieces scattered throughout the exhibition but also landscapes and court costume sketches.

Some preparatory drawings are on show,– such as Carducho’s Adoration of the Magi for Algete parish church – which are typically small, well-planned and divided into squares for easy transfer.

The exhibition concludes with the dominating figure of 18th-century Spanish art, Francisco de Goya, an artist richly represented in the British Museum collections. A major highlight, the exhibition offers a rare opportunity to view a broad spectrum of Goya’s extraordinary prints and drawings in relation to those of his forerunners and contemporaries working in Madrid during the 18th and early 19th centuries.

There is almost an entire room devoted to several series of Goya’s prints which are represented ,including the disturbing ‘Disasters of War ‘,’ The Disparates ‘and ‘Los Caprichios ‘. They are quite nightmarish, bizarre and horrific works. Included as well is Goya’s largest print ‘The Blind Guitarist’. Also of note and in complete contrast is his marvellous 1812 vivid red chalk drawing of Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington .And we mustn’t forget the bullfights! There is also the enchanting anonymous ‘after’ Goya ‘portrait of a she ant bear ‘ (anteater ). Printmaking and drawing greatly increased during this period, forever changing the artistic landscape of Spain.

An accompanying lavish catalogue has been published by the British Museum Press. Written by Mark McDonald, the curator of Renaissance to Goya: prints and drawings from Spain, it is a beautiful and comprehensive publication that examines the rich history of more than 400 years of drawing and printmaking in Spain.

There are also talks as listed on the Gallery website. RENAISSANCE TO GOYA runs at the Art Gallery of NSW  until November 24 2013. The exhibition is located in the upper level Rudy Komon Gallery.  For more information,-  http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/.

JURASSIC LOUNGE

Kee Kee from Laurel and Hector Vintage Clothing on opening night of Jurassic Lounge Season 6. Pic Damon- Diabolique Photography
Kee Kee from Laurel and Hector Vintage Clothing on opening night of Jurassic Lounge Season 6. Pic Damon- Diabolique Photography

Dinosaurs may have been extinct for over 65 million years, but at least for the past three of those their spirit has been kept alive at Jurassic Lounge.

Set in the Australian Museum, this Festivalists led event showcases music, performance art, comedy and workshops in the atmospheric surrounds of both temporary and permanent exhibition spaces.  Unfortunately, and like all good things, it must come to an end, with a final season guaranteed to ensure it goes out with a bang.

Starting on Tuesday 3rd September and running for ten weeks, the weekly themed nights include, ‘Cowboy night’, ‘Tutti Frutti’ and ‘Dads’ night,’ all leading up to the big extinction party.

My top choice for the opening weeks is the ‘Film and Photography’ night on September 10th, hosted in partnership with Kino Sydney. Local filmmakers will lead a series of workshops in which participants can recreate scenes from Jurassic Park. There will also be Hollywood- inspired burlesque performances and the usual mix of music and fun.

Information and bookings for Jurassic Lounge can be found on http://www.jurassiclounge.com/

 

ALAN STREETS SOLO EXHIBITION

Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge at Sunset. (c) Alan Streets
Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge at Sunset. (c) Alan Streets

The current featured exhibition at the Raglan Gallery in Manly is that of Alan Streets, a UK artist whose work we are seeing solo for the first time in Australia.

A brief bio of this troubled artist might be of interest,- as stated in the press release, now based in London again, Alan Streets painted as a ‘Plein Air’ artist (ie painting in the outdoors) in New York City for a decade . His popular and well-known canvases include landscapes and imaginary scenes.

Born of middle class parents in London, 1969; Alan attended Epsom College Public School and managed to obtain a place at London´s prestigious St Martins School of Art. He was, however, not without a history of rebellion which led to drug and alcohol abuse and his rejection of mainstream society. He dropped out of College and at the tender age of 19, he made a decision to leave for New York on his own.

Over the next 10 years Streets lived in New York, he obtained a celebrity status and became well known to art galleries and art museum curators. Whilst there, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and continued to work while being treated. He was eventually approached by a film company who were fascinated by his story and he became the subject of an award winning documentary, “My Name Is Alan and I Paint Pictures”, which covered six years of his life. The film won ‘Best Documentary’ at the Monaco Film Festival in 2007 and won the Founder´s Choice Award for Best Documentary, at the New York Independent Film Festival, in the same year.

The exhibition of seventeen paintings is in 3 sections: American landscapes, Sydney paintings and scenes from the UK , all in his distinctive swirling, jittery style. Streets surrealistic dreamlike figurative work was not part of this particular exhibition.

In some ways Streets’ work could be said to be similar to that of Van Gogh, with the tempestuous swirling clouds and explosively powerful use of line and colour. (It is now thought that Van Gogh had bi polar disorder or epilepsy rather than schizophrenia, however famous Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinksy was diagnosed with schizophrenia).

Street’s medium to large paintings are all acrylic , but look almost as if painted in enamel . (The New York Christmas tree scene full of tiny detail glitters). The bold, vigorous lines entice you in. His views are often tilted/distorted, usually ‘falling’ inwards. In some of the works there is almost a ‘cartoonish’ feel in style and design.

Most of the works shown here seem to have been painted at sunrise/sunset to catch the spectacular light. Street’s use of colour is exciting, ranging from vivid turquoise to soft, delicate pinks. In the painting of Donnington Castle ( Lancashire UK) you can feel the Spring green grass contrasted with the cold dark stone .There is wonderful attention to detail, for example, in the brickwork, and an exciting use of texture. We get the claustrophobic feel of some of the alleyways of New York and/or London.

In the American paintings, amongst other things, we are presented with several crowded Brooklyn street-scenes and the Brooklyn Bridge is swirling into the centre of the canvas. There is an exciting painting of a rugged Thames ferry (‘ View with Tower Bridge’) and other wonderful UK landscapes . The vivid Sydney scenes are bold and vibrantly coloured with, for example, a thrilling red Harbour Bridge.

An exciting, bold and colourful exhibition, Alan Streets exhibition is at the Raglan Gallery, 57 Pittwater Road, Manly  from August 15 to September 5, 2013. For more information visit the official website, www.raglangallery.com.au

 

 

 

UNDERBELLY ARTS FESTIVAL

Cockatoo Island
A beautiful sunset seen from Cockatoo Island

The 2013 Underbelly Arts Festival was held at the fabulous location of Cockatoo Island, a jewel in Sydney’s magnificent harbour. Cockatoo Island has its industrial shipbuilding heritage, historical convict era buildings and striking natural beauty. There are many atmospheric spaces in which to locate artworks, installations and performances.

Underbelly Arts started in 2007 as a response to artists working out of their bedrooms and in warehouses. It sought to bring all those artists under the one roof and expose them to one another, and to new audiences.

This year’s festival involved 100 artists working on 30 projects. These are emerging and potentially Australia’s next great artists. These emerging artists take risks and are innovative. The results are both breathtaking and confounding. Art can be something more than aesthetically pleasing and many of the artists participating in the Underbelly Arts Festival achieved this level of engagement. There was a wide variety of art at the Festival to contemplate and relate to. There was performance art, visual displays, sound and light installations and you could even have your brainwaves mapped.

One project, ART WORKS, had the artists building the installation, which poses questions of whether the art is about the process, the thought behind its inception, the finished product or its relationship with its audience.

GAME ON was a very popular project. Based on the 1970s sci-fi film FUTUREWORLD, the audience controlled, via giant joysticks and electrodes, a boxing match between two performers.

MUSSELS was a playful display of mussels opening, closing and clicking across a large expanse of driftwood. Nature is recreated and aligned with modern technology in this thoughtful work of art.

TABLEAU VIVANT- Artists Penelope Benton and Alexandra Clapham
TABLEAU VIVANT- Artists Penelope Benton and Alexandra Clapham

TABLEAU VIVANT on first appearance seemed to be kitsch sculptures. On closer examination when one realises that they are all made from confectionary, there is an urge to touch feel and even lick them, while thoughts of childhood come flooding back. The artists have cleverly appealed to multiple senses as well as recollections on place and time.

One of the more thoughtful installations was I MET YOU IN A CITY THAT ISN’T ON THE MAP. The scenario is that the city is being destroyed and is about to end, and asks what would you do. Would you try to re-build, observe or become destructive? This was an example of relational art at its best.

Cockatoo Island is worth visiting on any excuse. An arts festival that appeals to various senses makes the journey to this delightful island even more interesting.

 

TONY WOODS: ARCHIVE

Leading Australian artist Tony Woods
Leading Australian artist Tony Woods

A blend of autobiography, lavishly illustrated coffee table, catalogue and retrospective this is a stunning book that is so pleasing to the eye.

There is a great introduction / early autobiography by Woods himself and then the book moves chronologically in a series of short essays through his dramatic life. An ‘artist’s artist ‘, born in Hobart in 1940 Anthony (Tony) David Woods developed an interest in the visual very early on. Initially focusing on watercolour landscapes of Hobart he became interested in figurative work.

In 1968 Woods was awarded a Harkness Fellowship, which allowed him to live and work for two years in New York City where he developed an interest in abstraction. Following the destruction of his New York studio by a major fire, Woods returned desolately to Australia, at first to Sydney.

The early 1970’s saw the expansion of his friendship with Brett Whitely and Martin Sharp leading to a major exhibition in Melbourne and then a move to Melbourne in 1971 where he has remained ever since , living in Fitzroy since the 1980s. Woods recommenced painting – as it says in Palmer’s essay ‘ Over the next decade Tony turned his attention to the still life, portraiture , a continuing fascination with potted plants and a return to shadows and light sources ‘. and in later years developed an interest in super 8 video and sound recording.

Same chair changed light- In Oil
Same chair changed light- In Oil

Since 1962 Woods has staged many solo exhibitions around Australia and he has featured in numerous group exhibitions. He is represented in major institutional, public and private collections both in Australia and internationally.

Alex Selenitsch has written a fascinating analysis of Wood’s actual painting technique, his use of light, line, shape and form. Phil Edwards essay ‘Tony Woods – The Field Recordings’  briefly looks at Woods long involvement in those areas of his work , an extension of his keen artist’s eye and ear. Lesley Chow provides a thrilling short essay on Wood’s ‘Light’ series of paintings and his film work.

There is a very handy fold out chronology at the back of the book and a well researched time line as well as starkly detailed photographic portraits of Wood. But mostly it is the glorious works of art – paintings, drawings, prints that are lavishly featured in this superb book. They are generally  vibrant ,bold and colourful .You can see a Picasso , Van Gough and Coburn influence in certain works and his change from early figurative to abstraction . Some of the ‘light’ series are fragile, delicate and shimmering, others vividly leap out at the viewer.

Included with the book is a fascinating DVD, featuring a 55 min documentary ‘Work for the eyes to do ‘, about Wood’s life and career . It has a number of interviews with Woods himself as well as several of those who have contributed to the book – Stephen Walker, Nick Lyon, Vivian Smith, Terry Whelan, Sue Backhouse, Jon Cattapan, Godwin Bradbeer , George Davis , Max Angus, Nick Selenitsch and John Aslandis among others.

cover

TONY WOODS: ARCHIVE (ISBN978-1-925-003-14-7), edited by Andrew Gaynor, published by artinfo.com.au and distributed by Australian Scholarly Publishing (ASP), is to be launched at Black Projects in Melbourne on Sunday August 18 and will be available at all good bookstores retailing at $79.95.