Saturday, 19 February 2011

Perth: Land of Public Art

Having never been to Perth I had very few expectations of the art scene of our west coast brothers. The National gallery of Western Australia was lovely- everything you would come to expect from a National Gallery. Smaller than the Art Gallery of New South Wales- with several sections closed off on my visit- and I don’t know that there is an abundance of commercial galleries in Perth CBD area. However I was surprised and overwhelmed by the amount of public art around the city. From public monuments to actual public sculpture- it was everywhere. Perhaps even more surprising- it wasn’t half bad. I’m a bit of a sceptic when it comes to public art. Does it enhance the city, engage the community or is it just a very public and often ugly means of self- expression? While I find public art in Sydney often rather in-your-face and purposefully controversial, Perth has found that unique blend between creative freedom and individuality and subtle integration. Perhaps because Perth is still growing- the sculpture has been amalgamated with the city- while Sydney has attempted to insert art into an already fixed landscape. Perhaps what was most interesting was how the art was a home next to office buildings down one of the main streets in the CBD. From the absurd (giant kangaroos) to the abstract (random red swirl). Perth had it all. Who needs a sculpture park when the whole city is one.

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Wednesday, 16 February 2011


Helen Shelley, Life Insurance No. 1

Firstdraft is one of the longest running ARI in Sydney. This accolade, however, does not give them permission to become complacent when putting on exhibitions. If anything, there is a degree of expectation attached to their openings that before us is something exceptional and truly innovative. The current show, which opened February 2nd, is just that.

The Otherings by Karena Keys and Hellen Shelley is by far the strongest work in the gallery. The delicate and aesthetically beautiful sculptural pieces which rise from the concrete floor and descend from the ceiling combine found objects such as sticks and river rocks with artificial materials like nylon, wire and acrylic paint. The works which line the walls and accompany the work are like drug- induced hallucinations, a glittery bonanza and utterly fabulous.

Tye McBride’s work 149597870 encompasses wall work and installation. His strongest piece is Cluster (Fly Agaric Series) which has the semblance of red toad stools amongst a sea of white pine needles. Very Brothers Grim/ Little Red Riding Hood. While they appear innocent there is a sinister edge to them. Of something left unsaid, a secret untold. Sprinkle is also a very strong piece, dominating the far wall.

Not overly familiar with sound work, I’m unsure what to say about Ben Byrne’s piece. On my first turn around the gallery I completely missed it. I mistakenly thought it was simply a spotlight in the back room. Part of me knew it was an art work but I just didn’t know what I was looking at or, in this case, listening for. Tumult, as the room sheet explains, is ‘a swell of noise, like that of the waves of the ocean in a storm...’ Although unsure, I think the work is sensor activated- hence my unawareness earlier- I simply did not stand close enough. However, even after I saw the work in its full glory I’m not sure what to say. While undeniably an interesting work I feel it’s unclear. Or perhaps I’m trying to read more into what is simply there.

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