Tuesday, 27 March 2012

William Kentridge: Five Themes

William Kentridge, Act III, Scene 9, from the portfolio of eight etchings Ubu Tells the Truth, 1996. Courtesy of ACMI.

William Kentridge
Five Themes
Australian Centre for the Moving Image
: March 8- May 27, 2012

William Kentridge: Five Themes is a survey of the artist's career divided into five primary themes that span across his extensive body of work. Kentridge is best known for dealing with the social and political issues of South Africa, his home, with colonial oppression and political conflict evident throughout this exhibition.

Separating the show into five distinct sections was a good idea given the sheer scale of the work involved and the fact that most audience members love to be guided as to how to view an exhibition. Far and away the most impressive work was housed under Theme Four: Sarastro and the Master's Voice: The Magic Flute. This section comprised of Kentridge's model theatres with a film projection of drawings and prints. Inspired by Mozart's opera The Magic Flute, Learning the Flute (2003)/ Preparing the Flute (2005) and Black Box/ Chambre Noire (2006) are exceptional.    

William Kentridge, History of the Main Complaint (still), 1996. Courtesy of ACMI.

The two stages are positioned at either end of a darkened room. It is the overhead lights which direct you as to which way to face as one of the stages is illuminated, ready for the show. Suddenly Kentridge's work is more than simply a still drawing or a film- it's a tangible performance. The work is captivating and incredibly skillful and while there is a lightness to the work, the issues which underpin the entire exhibition are not completely hidden here. In particular, Black Box/ Chambre Noire addresses theme's from Mozart's original opera of 'Enlightenment and the dangers of achieving rationalism, as embodied by colonialism in Africa.'[ACMI]  
William Kentridge, Invisible Mending (still), from 7 Fragments for Georges Méliès, 2003. Courtesy of ACMI.
William Kentridge: Five Themes is a beautiful exhibition, in particular the rooms set up with multi- screens are all at once overwhelming as they are interesting. To truly appreciate Kentridge's work a lot of time needs to be spent here, there is a great deal of work to see and with a subject matter so heavily steeped in social and political turbulence it's difficult not to emerge unmoved.

William Kentridge, Drawing for the opera The Magic Flute, 2004-5. Courtesy of ACMI.

William Kentridge, His Majesty, the Nose (still), from the installation I am not me, the horse is not mine, 2008. Courtesy of ACMI.
Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Pin This Share on Google Plus Share on Tumblr

Friday, 23 March 2012

How to waste a day...

This may just have become my new favourite thing... courtesy of artybollocks generator...

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Pin This Share on Google Plus Share on Tumblr

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Riding the Next Wave...

About two weeks ago I received word that I had been accepted into the Next Wave Festival Text Camp Program for Emerging Writers & last week I flew to Melbourne to attend the festival launch & the Text Camp intensive the following day where I would meet my mentor, Art Guide Editor Dylan Rainforth, & the other five participants.

The intensive was just that- intense- furious note- taking & an overwhelming sense of being in over my head ensued for most of the day. The day consisted of four (for want of a better word) talks from the mentors that focused on different areas within the field of art writing. We were shown how to deliver a good pitch, interview techniques & developing good relationships with Editors. My favourite talk was from Penny Modra & Melissa Loughnan who discussed Art Speak or 'Art Wank' as it affectionately became known. As the talk progressed I suddenly realised the mistakes I make in my writing. I use limp words like 'perhaps' far too much in an attempt to avoid owning my statement. The biggest question a writer needs to ask themselves is WHAT AM I TRYING TO SAY? It is better to cull your work than to attempt to fill out a word count. OWN your opinion. Be generous with your writing & get to your point in the first paragraph.

After the intensive we headed over to ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art) for the opening of New 12 & I was pleasantly surprised to see Kate Mitchell's work there (review on New 12 to follow). 

So now I need to decide what I want to write about. There are so many interesting works in the Next Wave Magazine it's going to be difficult to choose. From what I've seen so far BINGO Unit from Team MESS looks hilarious, whether I end up writing about it or not, I am looking forward to seeing more of this work.

Team MESS - BINGO Unit [Opening Theme] from Dara Gill on Vimeo.

I met some lovely and very talented people at the Next Wave Text Camp. In particular Adelaide theatre critic Jane Howard & I had some interesting conversations over amazing Chinese food that we ordered on an iPad menu (way of the future). Check out her blog No Plain Jane for insights into the world of theatre in Adelaide & beyond. I confess being surrounded by so many talented people was more than a little intimidating & I began to question my own ability. Am I any good? Will I ever get a regular writing gig? Will this ever become my full time career? I don't have the answers to these questions but I feel as if participating in the Text Camp brings me a step closer & equips me with at least some of the tools I need to get there.

Check out the work of other Text Campers...

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Pin This Share on Google Plus Share on Tumblr

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The politics of Art Criticism...

I came across a very interesting article the other day on the Artweeters website titled Call Yourself a Critic? by Sam Thorne. Thorne presents a bit of a background to art criticism & discuses how very few writers hold criticism as their sole source of employment. 

A very interesting article, one section in particular struck a cord- he comments on the fact that people tend to refer to themselves as 'art writers' and not art critics, "suggestive of creativity rather than sniping, opting for a stance- frictionless & mobile- over a critical position". The reason this jumped out at me is because I'm guilty of it.

I've been writing about art since 2007. Every so often I'd have something published- usually a review- but there was a part of me that assumed writing would always just be a hobby. Freelancing is not really a sustainable, secure form of income even if one day I want to do this full time. A while back at an exhibition opening I absently called myself an 'art critic' to a friend (a fellow art worker) & she suggested I don't call myself that. According to her it made it sound as if I thought I was someone important, someone with more experience, someone like Sydney Morning Herald critic John McDonald. Not wanting to be so presumtuous I haven't used the term since, instead calling myself an art writer.

But really- I am an art critic. 90% of this blog is reviews. I may not be an experienced art critic but does that mean I don't have the right to use the term? Then there is the arguement that the word 'critic' has negative connotations. This reminded me of an arguement I had with a man I had just met in a pub. Strange circumstances for a theoretical debate but so it was.

This man I had just met asked what I did. I told him I wrote about art. He asked if I reviewed shows, I said yes.

"So you criticise people. So you're a bitch" (Goes without saying he was a real charmer)

I emphasise that I use constructive criticism & that there is a big difference. He disagreed. We argue. I say that perhaps we should just agree to disagree- he said perhaps we should just agree he's right. It's at about this time I got up and walked away. Is this really people's view of criticism? Am I a bitch if I don't like someone's artwork? I guess it depends on how I explain it- hence my arguement about constructive criticism- there's a big difference between calling someone fat & suggesting they wear a longer skirt.

So I'll continue to call myself an art writer even if inside beats the heart of a critic. Would hate to be presumtuous or to offend. 
Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Pin This Share on Google Plus Share on Tumblr

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

A bit of a vent...

In the past I have shyed away from being overly critical on this blog as I often believe in focusing on the positive within the arts. I have rarely posted a negative review, choosing instead to highlight works that I think are exceptional. When I have been critical I've attempted to team it with a positive comment to somehow soften my words. At the end of the day- I'm not an artist & can well appreciate the effort & balls it takes to put a work out in the public domain to be judged. Generally I admire this about artists.


Yesterday I had the unpleasant experience of happening upon possibly the worst show I have ever seen. I will not name the artist here as I really do not wish to upset anyone but I really feel the need to express how upsetting their work was. When I say upsetting- the work wasn't controversial, wasn't obscene or derogatory- it was simply bad. It was almost offensive as it stood there and past itself off as art. The work was juvenile with no apparent skill or imagination. I have seen high school students produce better art & I was amazed how such work could wrangle itself a solo show. Of the numerous pieces on show there was not one redeeming feature.

What made this whole experience more painful was the attitude of the artist which, given the pitiful quality of the work, perhaps should have been more accomodating. This really brought up some questions- the main one being- who told this person they were any good? I'm not saying my opinion is the only opinion but I cannot comprehend how a person can progress so far without someone alerting them to the fact that they really do not have the talent to make it as a professional artist. 

Perhaps it's the critics fault. We exist in such a state of not wishing to offend anyone that we censor our real opinions and white wash the truth. I'm no better- by not revealing the artist or gallery I'm letting this person continue to believe they have real talent, lest I be labelled a critical b*tch. Yes, there are some amazing artists out there whose work challenges & inspires me & then there are artists who make me want to gouge my eyes out. People need to acknowledge both of these facets exist & the acknowledgement of this does not make a person an a$$hole. 

I really do not like being overly critical but in this instance I feel it is completely justified. The work was ridiculous & the behaviour of the artist equalled it in its atrocity. 
Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Pin This Share on Google Plus Share on Tumblr

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Next Wave Text Camp 2012

Last week I received a lovely phone call from Next Wave. A few weeks ago I had applied to the Text Camp for emerging art writers & it seems my application was successful. This Thursday I am off to Melbourne for the program launch & a one day intensive where I'll meet my mentor & partcipate in discussions & activities. 

Next Wave is Australia’s leading festival for young emerging artists and arts workers. Established in 1984, Next Wave has remained at the forefront of presenting a broad range of contemporary art practices to a national audience. Next Wave is a biennial festival and artist development organisation, presenting genre-busting new work by the next wave of Australian artists.

This is a great opportunity for me & I'm very much looking forward to meeting other writers & being involved in the Next Wave Festival.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes and post some photos along the way. I'm hoping to head to some galleries while I'm there as well so things will a bit manic over the next week! 

For more info on Next Wave check out their website.
Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Pin This Share on Google Plus Share on Tumblr

Monday, 12 March 2012

Galerie pompom

Last week saw the opening of a new gallery space in Chippendale, Galerie pompom. This new space is the initiative of Ron and George Adams who for 10 years have run the artist run initiative MOP Projects. Aiming to "develop some of the brightest and best of Sydney’s artists and to nurture their creative enterprise in a dedicated commercial venture," the inagural exhibition held last week highlighted some interesting and diverse work.

Rochelle Haley, Gems, 2011, watercolour on paper, 30 x 30 cm. Image courtesy of Galerie pompom & the artist.
In particular I loved the work of Rochelle Haley. Her watercolour works on paper are stunning and demonstrate an exceptional amount of skill with a medium that can be quite difficult to master. There is an intense depth to her work & the colour variation, while subtle, is beautiful.

Other works of note are Vicky Browne, Heath Franco, Sarah Mosca & Nana Ohnesorge.

The space itself is small- particularly when filled with people and sculptural works on plinths, so moving around at the opening was a little difficult & I'm afraid I may have missed seeing a few works. Nevertheless it is a great new addition to the ARI scene in Sydney & I have to say, I love the name.
Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Pin This Share on Google Plus Share on Tumblr

Thursday, 8 March 2012

5 Questions With... New Gallery He Made She Made

He Made She MadePhoto: Head of Red Photography and Design

So who are the brains behind He Made She Made & how did the gallery come about?

Laura Kepreotis, Maaike Pullar, Bent Patterson and Patrick Chambers. Some of us know each other from University, High school or working together and we joined forces looking for studio space late last year. We found the EOI from the CoS for creative studio space and applied for the shopfront on a whim. Initially we were just wanting somewhere to make and design objects and installations. With the opportunity of a retail shopfront our thoughts quickly turned to sharing with other designers who were in the same situation as us, and needed exposure on the Sydney Design Scene.

You officially opened your doors on January 31st- what has been the response like so far?

We have had an incredible response, both from designers and artists who have provided their works to the general public walking by and coming in to visit us. We have had people from Melbourne and Canberra provide pieces for our show with nothing more than an email. I think that really shows the need for a gallery like He Made She Made. People are beginning to really appreciate hand crafted/designed works and we are pleased with the enthusiastic response from everyone. The whole experience has been very rewarding.

What type of work do you exhibit?

We have a focus on work which has been designed and produced in Australia. We accept prototypes, one-offs and production pieces which aren't made for the mass market. A lot of the first showcase is made up from University projects which designers and artists are hoping to produce. Others have been developed in the designers and artists living rooms or backyard sheds. We hope that by providing some exposure with a physical location we are able to help them get their name out there and be able to extend their collection into the market.

What do you hope to achieve?

We hope to make a name for ourselves, and those creatives that we feature, as being a place to get wholesome unique designs and quality made furniture, lighting or artworks. We truly believe in Quality over Quantity and for those that want something a little more special, which you know 1000 other Sydney-siders won't have.

Describe He Made She Made in 5 words.


Installation shot. Photo: Head of Red Photography and Design
Installation shot. Photo: Head of Red Photography and Design

For more information on He Made She Made check out their website.

Or visit them at 70 Oxford Street Darlinghurst, Tues, Wed, Fri 11-6pm, Thurs 11-9pm, Sat- Sun 11-4pm.  
Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Pin This Share on Google Plus Share on Tumblr

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

GUEST WRITER: Elizabeth Little heads to Scenic World

Sculpture at Scenic World, Katoomba: Feb 16 – March 11, 2012    

Scenic World in the Blue Mountains is the latest to join the outdoor public sculpture exhibition circuit with its new $20,000 acquisitive prize.  In an interesting twist on most outdoor sculpture shows around, this one is only free if you are prepared to face the giant staircases and descend into the Blue Mountains valley floor on foot. I decided that I wanted to do the complete tourist experience, so I paid for a ticket on the world’s steepest railway and later ascended in a cable car.
The exhibition has been installed in the ancient rainforest floor surrounding the Lillipilli Link boardwalk. There are 26 sculptures in total, with some seeming to respond directly to their immediate environment while others comment on wider concerns.
Some of the works that caught my eye were Dale Miles’ Converted, a golden chandelier hanging between trees and crowned with what looked like melted rectangular candles, but were actually wooden birdhouses. Bronwyn Berman’s Geolog Pod Forms II  were woven basket forms made of stone and copper wire that could have been the chrysalis of some prehistoric  insect, while Henryk Topolnicki’s Hunger provided a emu sized steel bird metaphorically screaming for its supper.

In the cool green damp of the rainforest it was the more colourful works that remained in my mind after my visit, including Julianne Smallwood and Judy Paddison BlueM carpet of blue and orange clay flowers.  Todd Fuller’s three small men in a boat, The Journey, was an unexpected delight  that  brought to mind the early explorers and their quest to find the mythic inland sea, classic nursery rhymes and the question of just why the figure in the front of the boat was dressed in a pink flocked bunny suit.  At first glance Deidre Robb’s  Flight or Flight  seemed to be oversized ‘butterflies’ suspended amongst the trees, but these  were really mirror imaged female cartoon heroines including Catwoman, Bat Girl, Wonder Woman and Betty Boop, with feminist slogans on their backs questioning the lives and expectations placed upon women in today’s busy world.
Kayo Yokoyama’s Homeland – Miners’ Huts  gave us 154 tiny glass huts, each containing a solitary figure,  sitting in clusters on the forest floor. This work was inspired by the area’s heritage as a coal mine and the experiences of the 154 miners who lived here in 1892. While made in molds each glass hut has been individually etched. Dr Lisa Anderson’s Heaven on a Stick also used the idea of the multiple and utilised 300 domestic glass jars, each trapping a gold cloud within that glinted in the dappled rainforest light. Nearby was Harrie Fasher’s A Sculptor’s Portrait , two three-dimensional  figures made of red steel rods that somehow were also drawings. Fasher’s work often features a horse motif, and in this instance one of the figures combined the body of a man with a horse head mask, while the second figure struggled to remove the box that covered his head and shoulders.  

The winner of the $20 000 prize was Greer Taylor’s Distant Time. This work consists of two pyramid like shapes, made of red wool wrapped around a steel frame. The second being a smaller version of the first and was placed further into the forest , almost like an echo of the original. I enjoyed its simplicity and the way the forest was almost colonising it, as leaves and twigs were beginning to become trapped in its frame. The red also proved to be a lovely contrast to the green of the forest – although not so much for my colour blind companion.
The installation of the exhibition is as interesting as the works themselves. Everything, sculptures and installation equipment, had to be brought into the rainforest via the cable car. And then installed in a manner that would cause minimal disturbance to the ecology of the rainforest. Two short videos of this can be seen on YouTube.
As part of the exhibition the curators have scheduled a range of public programs to enhance the experience including free evening lectures, guided tours and artist talks. Sculpture at Scenic World is a  welcome addition to the Blue Mountains cultural landscape and a fantastic way to interact with the rainforest.

Elizabeth Little has a B. Art Theory (Hons)and M Art Admin, COFA UNSW. She lives and works in Sydney.

All images supplied by the writer. 

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Pin This Share on Google Plus Share on Tumblr

Monday, 5 March 2012

Mike Parr: Brain Coral

Mike Parr, Cartesain Corpse, 2009.

Mike Parr
Brain Coral
National Art School: February 24- April 14, 2012

I admit that it was with a degree of anticipation that I attended Mike Parr's exhibition at the National Art School. Having learnt about his work at university I had never actually seen one of his shows. I remember being enthralled by stories of him hacking at his prosthetic arm which he filled with fake blood and minced meat, many audience members unaware the arm is not real. How fantastic. While I was familiar with his performance work I was ignorant of his extensive printmaking practice and was pleasantly surprised to discover that he also excelled at this medium.

In particualr I loved the text based work, such as Monologue and Read Dread. Of the latter a friend and I debated its context- she insisted his was the word 'read' over and over while I (having read, ironically, the wall text) knew it to be 'red dread'. I would like to think this good natured squabbling between friends illustrated the works premise.

Mike Parr, Monologue, 1970.
Mike Parr, Red Dread, 1970.
The video work Breathless was cleverly & ingeniously situated on the spiral stair case of the gallery. This was the perfect location for it as it allowed the darknes needed and the sound required which would have disrupted the other works had it been contained in the main gallery space. The work itself is a tale of endurance, as is a common theme throughout all Parr's performance works. Parr presents a physical feat by blowing his paper work at the camera in a continuous movement. It is strangely hypnotic, both the image and the sound, and the sense of fatigue becomes evident near the end of the performance.

I loved how the second floor of the NAS Gallery was curated. At one end of the long room was a makeshift wall set up in a square 'c' shape, the walls filled with prints. These works were smaller than others and would have become lost if placed on the main walls with the remainder of the show. This set up presented a more intimate viewing and gave the works the attention they deserved.

Brain Coral is a well curated and exceptional exhibition. It was a perfect blend of Parr's performance work and his print practice. Although a part of me was sad not to see the artist himself hack at his arm- now that would have made my year.
Mike Parr, The Will to Power, 1993- 2011.

Mike Parr, Breathless, 2008.
Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Pin This Share on Google Plus Share on Tumblr

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Does this mean I need to re-brand...?

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Pin This Share on Google Plus Share on Tumblr

Thursday, 1 March 2012

My Week With Marilyn

My Week With Marilyn

Director: Simon Curtis
Writer: Adrian Hodges
Stars: Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne and Judi Dench

I admit I had my reservations about this film. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was one of my favourite films growing up and despite the critics raving about Michelle Williams' performance I really couldn't get it out of my head that she was the chick from Dawson's Creek. I went in wanting to love it and pushed all prejudices from my mind.

In a word, My Week with Marilyn was enchanting. Williams is captivating as Monroe & is the best portrayl I've seen. Essentially no one is ever going to be the blonde bombshell so all you can hope for is that they come close- this is pretty damn close. I think whenever making any type of film about Marilyn Monroe there is a danger of portraying her as overtly sexual, promiscuous & a complete ditz. No one's saying she wasn't partly those things but that's not all she was & this film tends to focus more on her vulnerabilities.  

At the end of the day can anyone say they knew what Monroe was really like? Did she ever allow anyone to get that close to her? My Week with Marilyn is perfectly cast, in particular Judi Dench as Dame Sybil Thorndike was exceptional. Dench dominates any scene she's in and creates the perfect balance of humour & empathy. 

In one scene we see Monroe locked in her bedroom apparently sick & several of the people in her life- her acting coach & her business partner- fight over who knows her better & is able to look after her. You get this impression they are all vying for a piece of the Monroe pie & that underneath it all she is just a commodity to them. The same question constanly arises- who in her life genuinely cares about her?

While you go in knowing how it will end there is a part of me that can't help hoping she will listen to the protagonist Colin's (Eddie Redmayne) pleas to leave showbiz behind & be with him- the only person in the film who does not appear to have a hidden agenda. Of course she doesn't- being 'Marilyn Monroe' is the only life she knows & without that who is she. My Week with Marilyn is a beautiful film that deals with the life of one of the worlds most famous movie stars in what appears to be a more accurate fashion than previous attempts. 

More reviews can be found here:

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Pin This Share on Google Plus Share on Tumblr