Sunday, 31 July 2011

Sam Smith: Cameraman

Sam Smith
Art Gallery of New South Wales: May 21- August 14, 2011

I was first introduced to the work of Sam Smith, and to Sam Smith himself, when I interviewed him after he won the Helen Lempriere Travelling Art Scholarship in 2007. I found Smith to be a quiet and unassuming individual whose passion for what he does was only surpassed by his passion for the Ghost Busters series. While I listened to him explain the method behind his recent work (Video Camera [HDW-F900/3] and Video Lens [HJ11x4.7B]) I may not have entirely understood it but I knew one thing for sure- I wanted to know more.

Since then I have taken a keen interest in Smith’s work and in 2009 I had the pleasure of working with the artist on his first UK solo exhibition. I was living in Birmingham and had helped establish an artist run initiative called TROVE. Smith had just completed a residency in New York and recently finished his latest work, Into the Void, which was derived from his time there. It had never been seen before and Birmingham was to be its debut. Smith was the first international artist to be exhibited by TROVE and after many months of planning his work was shown at the old Birmingham Science Museum which had been empty since its closure in 1997.

So it was with great expectations and a sense of familiarity that I entered the new Contemporary Projects Space at the Art Gallery of New South Wales to view Smith’s latest work, Cameraman. Shot on location in Berlin, this two-channel video installation presented a ‘curious sequence of events that take place between a film set, a cameraman’s apartment and an artist’s studio, involving a camera lens imbued with mystical qualities’. Under different circumstances the continuous jumping between screens and shots would be cause for confusion but somehow Smith makes it work. The haunting music is perfectly suited to the other- worldly quality of the film and I can see elements of his earlier work creep in at the seams. The moving images ability to manipulate an audience and the fictitious quality of film are features Smith has always highlighted in his work and which are present here. As always the artist takes you on a journey and his ability to merge realities is faultless.
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Friday, 22 July 2011

Deborah Williams: Picturing the Dog

Deborah Williams, Dialogue of the dog, 2009, etching, roulette & drypoint intaglio, 20.5x58cm. Edition 15.

Deborah Williams
Picturing the Dog
National Art School: July 20- 22, 2011

Sometimes the best shows are the ones you stumble upon accidentally. Last night I met a friend at the National Art School where she works with the plan of heading out for dinner. There was an opening of Deborah William's Master of Fine Art Exhibition so we decided to check it out before heading off.

At first glance William's prints appear to be fairly standard images of a dog. From her artist statement we learn that the exhibition examines the representation of the dog in contemporary culture. It is only upon closer inspection that the true beauty of the work is revealed through the subtle lines and amazing detail of the dogs features. Instantly withdrawing my initial opinion, I was astounded at how the artist managed to achieve such detail with such subtlety. In particular A point of view, Ruby, I can hear you breathe and Dialogue of the dog were exceptional. Pictures will never do this show justice- it must be seen up close and personal.
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Wednesday, 20 July 2011

How To Discipline a Tree

Derek Kreckler
How to discipline a tree
The Paper Mill: June 28th - July 16th 2011

How to discipline a tree is separated into two parts- on one side there is the impressive large scale installation and on the other is the equally impressive photographs of China. While I did genuinely like the images I would prefer to focus on the sculptural piece as it was clearly the heart and soul of the exhibition. How to discipline a tree was conceived 22 years ago in 1989, the same year the Berlin Wall came down. This is no coincidence. Also at this time in Sydney there was a riot at a Metallica concert, U2 performed and the Romanian Revolution occurred.

The Sydney Morning Herald ran numerous stories about each of these events, in particular about the reunification of Germany with such heading as ‘New Germany’ and ‘Democracy Wins’. These storied are literally embedded within the bricks of How to discipline a tree and a work which apparently began as a comment about the environment ultimately encompassed a great deal more than the artist intended. Kreckler created what he calls a ‘time capsule’. If you look closely at the man- made bricks an occasional word jumps out at you. In isolation this word means little but when taken in the context of the work it becomes loaded with meaning.

How to discipline a tree is a beautiful work. Elements of the environment, sustainability and history are all present within the foundations of the installation. It is rather ironic that a work that references the coming down of the Berlin Wall is, in itself, a man- made brick wall. 22 years in the making and well worth the wait.
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Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Une Collection de Parties Décadents

Penelope Benton
Une Collection de Parties Décadents
Firstdraft Gallery: June 8- 26th 2011

I was first introduced to the work of Penelope Benton at the beginning of this year through the exhibition Une Fete dans le Papier at The Paper Mill. Une Fete was an exceptional show so it was with high expectations that I went to view Benton’s latest offering at Firstdraft Gallery. Une Collection de Parties Décadents presents a series of photographs, each documenting a dinner party scene. However this is no ordinary dinner party. Each of the guests is presented in elaborate dress, including the artist herself as her alter ego ‘Lady Penelope’, enjoying all the trappings of over indulgence- cakes, wine, fruit- all beautifully presented on fine bone china.

The viewer becomes the voyeur when looking upon such theatrical and staged images, the theme of decadence clearly apparent. It would be easy to see the work as purely a romanticized idea of wealth and the over indulgence of the socially privileged but look deeper and you will find a sinister and perverse quality cleverly masked behind the bright colours and fanciful faces.

The cherry on this sickeningly sweet cake is the table and chair set up in the gallery space. It is elaborately decorated with a tea set complete with cakes, including one that is half eaten- one can only assume by Lady Penelope herself. The display reflects the photographs and gives a degree of authenticity to the images and the people in them. It is the perfect accompaniment and effectively turns a two dimensional exhibition into one that is beautifully 3D.

Une Collection de Parties Décadents did not disappoint.
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