Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Paul Williams: Confetti Solution

Paul Williams, Confetti Solution, 2011, enamel, oil and acrylic on synthetic leather and canvas, rubber, rope, tape and swivel hooks, dimensions variable. This project was made possible through the Firstdraft Emerging Artist Studio Residency Program and was supported by the Australia Council for the Arts.
Image: Kim Walker


Paul Williams
Confetti Solution
Firstdraft Gallery: May 18- June 5, 2011

Walking into Firstdraft Gallery was like waking up the morning after the night before. Confetti is scared throughout the front of the gallery space, a maze of shapes and colours to navigate through. Had I not visited Paul Williams’ studio prior to viewing the work I would have considered Confetti Solution to be careless, however, after speaking with the artist I realise there is method to the madness. Cutting up old paintings, Williams creates a memorial for his past work which he did not deem worth keeping. As I make my way through the sea of colour, dodging upside down helmets suspended from the ceiling, I find myself hesitant to step on the confetti, as if it is some way disrespectful.

It is this hesitancy and sense of doing something wrong, which I think Williams, was hoping to inspire. When discussing his work earlier that week we had dwelled heavily on how the work should be displayed. Notions of movement and segregation were thrown around and even the possibility of a ‘take away’ aspect to the show. We discussed how it would be the reaction of the audience which would prove most interesting, as most would be reluctant to tread directly on something that was deemed an ‘artwork’. With the remnants of Williams’ artistic past scattered throughout the space it is impossible not to leave a mark on the work as it blocks the entrance to the entire gallery. This was also a factor in the artist’s decision of display.

Williams has taken his previous work and remade it as a separate and unique work of art. There is juxtaposition between the ‘death of art’ connotations and the celebratory aspect of confetti. It is as if you are entering a wake of Williams’ artistic career where you are not mourning a loss but celebrating a beginning. By creating circles, stars, cars and streamers from old canvases the artist is giving work which he deemed a ‘failure’ a second chance to impress. So the real question is- does it? The satirical nature of the work is endearing and, like the artist himself, Confetti Solution does not take itself too seriously- it is a celebration after all.


Having spoken with the artist about his work which, when I first saw it, was divided into neat piles in his studio, I was surprised by his chosen method of display. There is a carelessness about the work which in no way reflects the calculated process behind it. However, there is simplicity as well and an effortlessness which embodies Williams as an artist. Behind this simplicity lie hours of manual labour, several pairs of scissors and a thumb which the artist fears he may never regain feeling in again.


Speaking with the artist post- opening night I am disappointed I missed it. In an effort to “keep the experience of ‘throwing the confetti’ alive for the people coming to the show” Williams made the decision to install “the ring of helmets/confetti heads” in an effort to encourage interaction between the viewer and the artwork. As he recalls, at the opening people began to bump into the helmets, swing them deliberately and subsequently began bashing them about with confetti exploding everywhere. “I wanted people to walk on them, trample them and forget they were there, or even start pocketing them- which they did.”


Williams notes that the grey concrete floor became like a canvas, the confetti like paint, bringing the work around full circle and reminding the artist of his painting roots. With such an interactive and energetic opening night it might have been a nice addition to have it filmed and the footage played in the space for the duration of the show. With so much emphasis placed on interaction with the work, as someone not present at the opening it would have been a lovely thing to see and would have presented a definitive link between the confetti and suspended helmets. Nonetheless, Confetti Solution is an exceptional work that is both humorous and nostalgic, celebratory and reverent, with an air of unpredictability- much like the artist himself.


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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Business cards have arrived!!!!

In the spirit of shameless self- promotion I have had some lovely little business cards made up for the near & the elsewhere. Enormous thanks to the very talented Sara Spence of Dubbleyou Designs for all her help & talent.



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Monday, 29 August 2011

Malcolm Whittaker: Me: Mine


Malcolm Whittaker
Me: Mine
Firstdraft Gallery: March 16- April 3, 2011

The latest work by Malcolm Whittaker is heavily embedded in ideas of ownership and place. This notion of exactly who owns what and what do we have rights to claim has always been a temperamental beast, one that Whittaker explores through his exhibition Me: Mine.

You, Yours: Them, Theirs consists of five A4 sheets of paper attached to the gallery wall. These letters are from the City of Sydney to residents outlining certain changes to the environment in which they exist. These letters are clearly fictional with such issues as ‘Sexually Transmitted Diseases’ in which the council asks residents to ‘...please remember to practice safe sex by always using barrier protection to avoid contact with contaminant agents.’ The Council end by reassuring residents there is a ‘containment strategy’ in place to uncover the source and stop its spread. Another letter addresses ‘Noise Pollution Effecting Local Birds’ which claims that excessive noise caused by residents is producing a bad reaction within the local bird community. Side effects of this excessive noise include ‘...driving otherwise faithful birds to adultery’ and if such activities continue the community is ‘...in danger of losing our familiar dawn chorus for good’.

Aside from its obvious comic intent, You, Yours: Them, Theirs comments on that common occurrence within the community for resident outrage. Whether it is anger at the change of a street name or the native bird life- what is it that makes people assume sovereignty over the place where they reside? More importantly- do they have a right to it?

The video work Us, Ours:Them,Theirs cuts between different bush scenes through which the artist and his accomplice, dressed in jumpsuits with rather Victorian adornments, carry a totem over branches and rivers. While some scenes are close up, others show the artist as a mere spot in the distance- like a very artistic Where’s Wally. There is something fascinating about watching these figures struggle with their load over tree roots and rocky surfaces, the totem completely at odds with the natural environment that surrounds it. In this work the sense of place is completely disrupted. The only fault to be found is the films length. In such a time poor society, very few people have 52 minutes to spare to stand in an art gallery.

The strength of Books ‘305.8915 RUS’ through ‘306.409 TAY’ is in its concept. In the centre of the gallery is a bookshelf full of books. Upon closer inspection we see that this is no random selection- it is an entire section of Waverley Council Library- 210 books to be exact. Over the course of several weeks the artist enlisted the help of his friends to borrow a section from the library and transplant it into the gallery. Issues of ownership are evident as we question who really owns the books, if in fact they can be owned at all, and are they the property of the library or the people? While subtle in its execution, this work could have been enhanced through the incorporation of a large photographic print of the empty library shelf. While a small booklet was available to take home which did have such an image inside, it was displayed at such a distance from the work itself that it felt slightly disjointed.

Me: Mine
cleverly addresses issues of place and ownership through scenarios orchestrated by Whittaker. Fictional council letters, theatrical totem parades and borrowed libraries, each question who owns the rights, whether it be to a street name or a public book and perhaps more significantly- who decides?


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Saturday, 27 August 2011

In conversation with Melbourne artist Ben Byrne

Melbourne based artist Ben Byrne undertook the Firstdraft Gallery Studio Program in 2011 which culminated in an exhibition and the preview of his latest work Tumult. Dealing extensively with sound, Byrne’s work simulates the sound of waves during a storm. The swell of noise is all at once alarming and hypnotic, triggered by a motion sensor as the viewer enters the frame.

Byrne’s decision to pursue sound as a form of art occurred almost by accident when he discovered he could undertake a media production course at university. Prior to this the artist had ‘always approached music simply as something to ‘listen to and play for pleasure’; however this would change during his Media Arts degree which essentially ‘opened up a whole new world of work involving sound’ which would later inspire his own work.


While it is evident that sound shapes Byrne’s practice, the artist shies away from being labelled a sound artist, claiming it as an ‘unnecessary term’. He continues, ‘If I make a work to be shown in a gallery I just consider it art... I don’t see the reason... to define my work or indeed myself based on the fact I use sound.’ Fair enough. Byrne’s believes that the different and varied aspects of his life and work inform each other, making it impossible to pigeon hole the artist and his practice.


Being involved in the Firstdraft Studio Program has enabled Byrne to develop his installation practice and explore his interest in multiple speakers and video tracking. Having the space available to set up and perform tests has been an invaluable aspect of his growing practice. We can see the results in Byrne’s new work, Tumult, which incorporates a subwoofer in one corner of a white room and a video camera attached to the ceiling. A single spotlight is setup on the floor to cast a pool of light on the walls so that when a person enters the space the camera can detect shadows on the white walls and the sound element is activated. Depending on how long a person lingers in the space will trigger how loud the work swells and rumbles.


Tumult
uses computer generated pink noise, ‘which is the kind of noise which occurs frequently in the world, for example the waves of the ocean, traffic or a room filled with loud conversation.’ Inspired by the work of Michel Serres, in particular his book Genesis, the work explores the relationship between individuals and the noise around them. If Byrne’s had a goal, something he hoped to achieve through this work, it would possibly be to make the audience ‘more aware of their own presence’ while suggesting that sometimes the noises around you can be worth getting lost in every once in a while.


Despite Byrne’s success thus far and his abundance of knowledge in the field, the artist is humble about his work, commenting, ‘I still feel like I am learning about it and from it.’ Currently putting the finishing touches on his PhD while teaching at RMIT, Byrne’s practice will be put on hold, but only temporarily, one can’t help but feel as if we’ve only scratched the surface of all this artist has to offer.


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Emerging Art Writers Program

At the beginning of this year I was accepted into Firstdraft Gallery's Emerging Art Writers Mentorship Program. As part of the 3 month program I wrote several reviews and an interview focusing on Firstdraft's exhibition schedule. The following four entries are the pieces I produced during this time.

1. Ben Byrne interview
2. Malcolm Whittaker review
3. Paul Williams review
4. Spectacle/ Obstacle review

Enjoy!
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Friday, 26 August 2011

Motion/ Pictures



Daniel Askill, Jacob Ciocci, Daniel Jhnson, Anthony Lister, Andrew Long, Stefan Marx, James McCready, Tim Moore, Dan Moynihan, Mel O’Callaghan, Riley Payne, Sam Smith, Soda_Jerk

Motion/ Pictures

Gallery A.S.
: August 25- September 10, 2011

Located in the former Paramount Pictures Building, Gallery A. S. is an amazing space. While some of the original furnishings still remain, the front section of the building has been transformed into a warehouse style gallery space. With it's high ceilings and gritty interior it was the perfect venue for the performance and video based work which made up a portion of Motion/ Pictures.

I would love to tell you that the performance by James McCready was fantastic- and I'm sure I would- had I only been able to actually see it. With hundreds of people filling the space and blocking the staircase it was practically impossible to see anything except the back of the man in front of me. If the smell of gasoline and glimpses of fire were anything to go by, Odessa (James) Stuntman Becoming, was an impressive sight to behold.

It was lovely to see Sam Smith's Video Camera [HDW-F900/3] again, having seen it after its inception in 2007. American artist Jacob Ciocci's film Dark Green was also incredibly entertaining, creating a mash- up of different clips to techno music that appeared to be a satirical comment of the earth and our attempts to save it. Was vaguely reminiscent of the video work of Soda_Jerk who use audiovisual samples to create a narrative. While Soda_Jerk were involved in Motion/ Pictures, they did not screen one of their films in this exhibition, opting instead for a clever installation piece.

At least I assumed it was Soda_Jerk's work. While there was a comprehensive list of works, the works themselves did not appear to be number, therefore rendering the list fairly pointless. As someone not familiar with ever artist in the show the night became some-what of a guessing game. Overall however, the work was innovative and engaging, reflecting the history of the space while commenting on current advancements of the moving image.

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Monday, 22 August 2011

Sam Smith: Objects & Slides




Sam Smith
Objects and Slides
Grantpirrie: July 28- August 20. 2011

Objects and Slides at Grantpirrie is a beautifully curated show with the twenty- three sculptural pieces individually lit, appearing more like a museum display than an art exhibition. The cast sculptures of different camera lenses and accompanying slides are directly related to Smith's work Cameraman that was shown recently at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. There is something incredibly tangible about the objects and the urge to touch them is strong. The lenses are of varying sizes and shapes and while beautiful, are irrevocably flawed. It is these cracks, this distortion of the lens and the way we see things, that makes the work so evocative.

The accompanying slides, Time Lapse, show the primary sculpture from Cameraman in various states of disrepair. There is a sense that as the slides painstakingly click over one by one, that time itself is slipping away. Perhaps as a result of the slightly subdued lighting, perhaps due to the eroding sculptures in front of me, but I am overcome with a wave of sadness, of things lost. There is a beautiful melancholy around Smith's work and a re- evaluation of the idea of watching.
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Friday, 19 August 2011

Steven Harvey: Aziluth - The Night Bird Propheciies

Steven Harvey, Drama for Venus, 2011. Courtesy of Liverpool Street Gallery & the artist.

Steven Harvey
Aziluth - The Night Bird Prophecies
Liverpool Street Gallery: August 13- September 8, 2011

It was on a wet and weary Wednesday night that I decided to attend the opening of Steven Harvey's show at Liverpool Street Gallery. It's always difficult to really appreciate or, in fact, actually see the artwork during an opening- and this was a particularly busy one. From what I could see, the well curated work was interesting. Now, when most people say interesting it's just a nice word for terrible but I use it now with no hint of irony. The overwhelming texture of the work ensured that often more was gained from standing close than stepping back and the vibrant colours were beautiful and a direct contract to the stormy night just outside.


What was most intriguing about the work were the titles. Even the title of the exhibition itself, Aziluth - The Night Bird Prophecies, left me scratching my chin and making a mental note to google it later. Which I did. All I could really discern was that it in some way related to the Tree of Life, however this did nothing to enhance my understanding of the work. What this exhibition did achieve, however, was a desire to know more about the artist and his practice. While I may not necessarily want Drama for Venus hanging in my lounge room I would like to know the relevance behind it and why Venus resembles a baby grand piano.
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Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Not what I expected..

Last Wednesday I headed out wit the intention of seeing Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted at Chalk Horse. In particular I was interested in the work of Kate Mitchell as I had seen her video pieces previously and have found them humorous and inventive. It was with great disappointment that I was told the show had been taken down early and the next show, work by Adam Cullen, put up in its place. Apparently the Sydney Morning Herald was coming to the gallery to interview the artist and see the work so for just that one day the show I wanted to review wouldn't be up.

As I chatted to the two lovely guys who work at Chalk Horse my disappoint quickly receded as the guys endeavoured to show me around and even give me a sneak peek at the next show which opens tomorrow night (Thursday, August 18th).

I may not have seen what I went for but as a result of how it was handled I'd definately head back to the gallery. It just goes to show that you may have a great space and great artists but at the end of the day people will keep coming back because of the experience they had there and the attitudes of the people who work there. Had these guys just said sorry and shown me the door I would have been unbelievably pissed off and never set foot in the space again- unless it was to write a scathing review. As someone who had never been to Chalk Horse before I'd recommend it- it's a great space. And from what I saw of Adam Cullen's new work, the next show is going to be a great one- and I got to see it before the SMH.
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