Tuesday, 24 July 2012

GUEST POST: Elizabeth Little reviews Eric Niebuhr

Eric Niebuhr, Hudson, 2009
Eric Niebuhr
The Devotionals
Damien Minton Gallery: July 17- August 4, 2012

The Devotionals is Eric Niebuhr’s second Australian show, and his first at Damien Minton Gallery. In the six months since his first show at MOP Projects, Niebuhr has been busy. The Devotionals consists of twenty three new paintings ranging from small gouaches on paper to large oil and acrylic on canvas.

Niebuhr has continued to work in a primarily abstract style with the application of glossy pooling paint on matt backgrounds. However, the figurative elements in several works are less ambiguous and easier to identify. This suite of paintings draws on objects of devotion, such as the Shroud of Turin, and images relating to death and disaster.  Niebuhr also pays tribute to artists that have inspired him including Cy Twombly, Mike Kelley, Georgio Morandi and Milton Avery.

Eric Niebuhr, Paddle Out (After Morandi) 2012

Eric Niebuhr
 A selection of small gouache on paper images provides some insight into the artist’s process. Images are abstracted and reduced to their compositional elements of shape, colour and texture, and then recreated in larger canvases. Funeral Fireworks (after Twombly) shows more subtle developments in Niebuhr’s style with the matt background showing subtle tonal shifts in colour, and the deliberate leaving of small areas of the canvas unpainted.

A series of paintings repeats a motif that includes irregular shapes against a blue background, which then resolve themselves into figures sitting in a circle in Paddle Out (After Morandi), Paddle Out and Paddle Out (After Morandi) 2012.
Eric Niebuhr, Paddle Out, 2012
 In Hudson 2009 an aeroplane dissolves into the blue background of what is possibly the eponymous river or a sky filled with clouds.  Funeral Fireworks (after Twombly) and Funeral Fireworks (after Twombly)II are full of flickering tactile colour.

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

Read Elizabeth's first review of Eric Niebuhr's work here.

All images supplied by the writer.

Eric Niebuhr, Funeral Fireworks (After Twombly) (detail)2012
Eric Niebuhr, Funeral Fireworks (After Twombly) 2012
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Saturday, 21 July 2012

18 BOS: Alec Finlay

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18 BOS: Tiffany Singh

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Thursday, 19 July 2012

18th Biennale of Sydney: my thoughts on Cockatoo Island

Phillip Beesley
The Near & The Elsewhere contributer Elizabeth Little has already presented her thoughts on the Biennale of Sydney at Cockatoo Island (read her review here) so I'm not going to go over it again. However, I did happen to find myself on the island last Sunday and there are just a few things I'd like to say.
Phillip Beesley, Hylozoic Series: Sibyl, 2012
 Firstly, a word of advice, never head to Cockatoo Island on 'Family Fun Day'. The lines were unbelievable and I don't believe it's an exaggeration when I say I spent half my day in a line- line for the ferry, line for the artwork (there were at least three that had over a 45 minute wait to even get close) and then the two hour long line to get off the island. I'm not saying this should deter you from going, just that you should prepare yourself- and take snacks.

While there were some exceptional works on the island, there were equally some very disappointing works. Again, to be expected with such a large exhibition. By far the most stunning and entirely sensational work was that of Phillip Beesley. Now, you will need to line up for this one- it was about 45 minutes the day I was there- but well worth it. His work integrates lightweight, digitally fabricated textile structures and interactive microprocessor technology (touch sensors, LEDs, shape-memory alloy). Translation: you walk through a veritable wonderland of light and textiles and as you move through, the structure begins to move and light up- it's brilliant.
Phillip Beesley

Tiffany Singh, Knock On The Sky Listen To The Sound, 2011
 Sadly when I was in Melbourne in May for the Next Wave Festival I unfortunately missed out on seeing the work of Tiffany Singh. I felt very lucky to be given the chance to see her beautiful sound piece here. This was an instance of the work perfectly suiting the surrounds as the wind chimes hang from the structure and move with the breeze. Again, it was like entering another world.

There is always a concern when showing works on Cockatoo Island that the actual island itself and the pre-existing buildings will over-shadow the work. In some instances this was the case- I actually saw people taking photos of the island and completely ignoring the art- this is not what a curator wants.

I have every intention of going back- but on a weekday- and I very much look forward to seeing what Pier 2/3, the MCA and Art Gallery of New South Wales have to offer.  

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Saturday, 14 July 2012

Gaffa: Creation/Destruction

Phillip Mylecharane, Facade, 2011
Various artists
Gaffa Gallery: July 12-23, 2012

Creation/Destruction at Gaffa Gallery claims to bring together artists from differing backgrounds, who are brought together by the 'destruction of their home planet'. They are 'joining forces' to present their interpretation of the relationship between creation and destruction.

Phillip Myclecharane's work presents a disjointed portrait. I overheard one person describe it as 'venetian blinds' and it does bare some resemblance. There is a sense that you are standing on the outside looking in. These images are not calm or peaceful but edgy and unsettling.

The work of Clare O'Brien is delicate and beautiful. Her use of colour is precise and does not detract from the detail of the intricate ink work. With work that references Australian bush land and native flora I feel her work lends itself more to the creation side of this exhibition.   
Clare O'Brien, Bush Spontaneity, 2012
Von Rox's series is overwhelming. The vibrant use of colour and the combinations of colour are startling. Perhaps imbuing both creation and destruction, the oil paintings have some fairly creative titles such as Octopus Love and Chameleon of my dreams. While I can't exactly put my finger on why these painting appeal to me- they do. They're interesting and that's sometimes harder to find than you would think.
Von Rox, Acid Monster mouth reworked, 2012
I was really impressed by the work of Li Ka Leung. I'm of the assumption the artist is a jewellery designer, based on the work on display. Ruin Series displayed six sterling silver, black rhodium plated rings amongst debris. The rings, with their rough edges, are perfectly complimented by the chosen display and are not swamped as I would have expected. The necklaces in Beehive Series are stunning and incredibly intricate. The beeswax charms fashioned into honeycomb are gold plated and adorned with silver chains. Again, the mode of display is creative and oddly appropriate. I'm not entirely sure how this work fits within the exhibition premise- perhaps the rings are destruction, the reference to bees and honey, the creation- but for me this work was a definite highlight.
Li Ka Leung, Ruin Series, 2012

Li Ka Leung, Beehive Series, 2012

Li Ka Leung, Beehive Series (detail) 2012

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Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Fortynine Studio Launch

Friday night saw the launch of The Fortynine's new design studio on Oxford Street. A big supporter of the design collective, I interviewed two of its members back in November 2011 (read it here) so I was thrilled when I got the invite to check out their new home.

The Fortynine is Ben Elbourne, Lauren Austin, Carly Hush, Harriet Watts and Sarah Spackman. Recently Elbourne and Austin were in Melbourne to produce a collaborative work with Ehsan Khoshsima, a Sydney based architecture graduate. The Light Shed was constructed in Federation Square and remained there for three weeks during which the public were encouraged to interact with the work. Discussing the work with Elbourne he mentioned that one of the great moments was the second they removed the barriers. Suddenly a child was there cheerfully stomping all over the work with his father slightly more hesitant. During the launch of the new studio a video of this work was screened along with other projects.

The space itself is quirky and clean. The work on display is fantastic and I left wishing I had bought more than one item in the room. Products produced by The Fortynine will be sold through the design concept store He Made She Made and Oxford Street Design Store just a few doors down. Spaces are shared with other designers and there is a real sense of collaboration which had good friend and ex- The Paper Mill Director Si├ón McIntyre saying "I wish I was in The Fortynine- they're so nice!" And she's right- they really are the nicest people. Perhaps that will be the secret to their success. That, and the fact they're bloody good at what they do.

Speeches with Ben Elbourne 

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Saturday, 7 July 2012

Juliet Rosser & Brad Lay: InneRestraint

Juliet Rosser & Brad Lay, InneRestraint
Juliet Rosser & Brad Lay
Mils Gallery: June 29- July 22, 2012

A collaborative work between Juliet Rosser and Brad Lay, InneRestraint explores inner polarities and how they express themselves to the outside world. The feature work is comprised of used bed sheets and completely dominates the space. The work is incredible tactile and strangely beautiful, with more than one person being overheard saying they'd love it in their house.

The digital prints which show figures with the mound of material over their face, engulfing their heads, reminds me of Simryn Gill's 1999-2000 series A Small Town at the Turn of the Century which was shown at the 2002 Biennale of Sydney (The World May Be) Fantastic. Apparently these photographs by Rosser and Lay are meant to suggest states of "non-zen being" which I don't entirely get but ok. Essentially the main reason I like this show-and it goes against every critical writing bone in my being- is simply because it is aesthetically pleasing. Yes it has a concept but one I don't necessarily buy into and feels slightly contrived. It's all about the Ego and the subconscious and unconscious languages-which is great-but sometimes a work does have the ability to just speak for itself-that's what makes it a great work of art.    
Juliet Rosser & Brad Lay, Wave Data 1

Juliet Rosser & Brad Lay, InneRestraint #3- 4

Juliet Rosser & Brad Lay, InneRestraint
Juliet Rosser & Brad Lay, InneRestraint

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Friday, 6 July 2012

Firstdraft: Will French, Fernando do Campo & CY NORMAN

Will French, Forever, 2012
Will French, Fernando do Campo & CY NORMAN
Firstdraft Gallery: June 27- July 14, 2012

For me the work of Will French was the stand-out of the three exhibitions on display. In particular A Million Pieces was especially beautiful. The container held saltwater and sand from Mona Vale Beach with his grandmothers false teeth and an antique Venetian Hotel key ring that was his grandfathers. The sense of nostalgia and family was palpable and I feel the driving force behind this work and what makes it so exceptional. I never would have thought false teeth could be beautiful but in this context they add a personal dimension to the work and a human element. 
Will French, A Million Pieces (detail) 2012

Will French, Quite Cavalier, 2012
What I like most about the Quite Cavalier is the description on the room sheet.

Scale replica of 'A Cavalier', a 17th-century Dutch by Frans van Mieris, formally of the Art Gallery of NSW Collection. Current whereabouts is unknown. NFS- Will trade for Volkswagon Van or Livable Yacht.

While the work itself, in isolation, is quite unremarkable, it is the text that gives it character and is what made me take a second look. The insinuation that this is some sort of stolen, precious painting that cannot be sold for anything less than a livable yacht is clever and slightly ingenious.
I still don't know what to think of CY NORMAN's work. Someone told me that he is a sound artist and this work differed from previous in that only that artist could hear the sound being produced. As amusing as it was to see a man lying on the floor with his head in a box I left feeling slightly unfulfilled. Based on the information on the room sheet I think perhaps at certain times the audience is invited to participate and perhaps it was just at the opening that the artist took centre stage. You check it out for yourself here.  
Fernando do Campo, Anagram I, 2011

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Thursday, 5 July 2012

GUEST POST: Elizabeth Little checks out BOS18 at Cockatoo Island

Fujiko Nakaya

18th Biennale of Sydney: June 27- September 16, 2012

Using Cockatoo Island as a site for contemporary art has always seemed a risky business to me. The Island and its legacy of its industrial and convict pasts can often overwhelm or distract from the art. This year however the Biennale of Sydney more than holds its own. A first glimpse of what is being shown as part of the All Our Relations revealed an exhibition that is full of creativity, skill, wonder, whimsy and thought.  And white. While I didn’t get to see everything on the island, much of what I saw was white. Some artworks made me smile and laugh in delight, some puzzled me, and some I literally struggled to see – as in I saw a label for an artwork but couldn’t figure out where the accompanying artwork was. Much of the artwork is experiential. Viewers are invited to touch and participate, and many were enjoying the chance to interact with the art as well as just look – and take photographs.

Some of the highlights were Fujiko Nakaya’s installation which created a blanket of fog just outside the entrance to the turbine hall. The fog was thick enough to obscure vision and people disappeared and reappeared as they moved through it. With the sun shining brightly their silhouettes created a distinct dark contrast.

Philip Beasley, Hylozic Series

Philip Beasley, Hylozic Series

Philip Beasley’s installation Hylozic Series (2011) was worth queuing and waiting to experience up close. An incredible hanging installation created from glass, light, finely cut feathered plastic, yellow globes and other elements, viewers were invited to move through and interact with the installation. Parts of the artwork were activated by gently touching filaments or by moving your hands in front of motion sensors, causing lights to glow and parts of the work to vibrate. The work has a larger underlying intellectual concept relating to renewable energy, but most of the viewers I observed seemed to be happily entranced with the magical experience of the work. The delicate elements and interactive nature of the installation has meant that it can be easily damaged. Even this early in the exhibition Biennale staff were overheard commenting that if the work continues to be damaged then access will be restricted, which would be a shame.

One of my favourite artworks was also one that I can’t identify. Located in the industrial zone near the Philip Beesley was a projection onto the concrete floor of a pair of hands playing with a cat’s cradle. Simple enough, yet I found myself mimicking the hand movements and wishing for a piece of string so I could play along.   Also in this area was Monika Grzymala’s collaboration with the Indigenous Australian group, Euraba Artists and Papermakers, the  hanging white installation The River. Ed Pien with Tanya Tagaq’s spiral maze, made of large white paper walls with cut outs and hanging ropes to walk through. At the centre of the maze was a large paper column with ‘worm holes’ cut through it at different levels that offered glimpses into other imagined worlds.
Ewa Partum

Magic and whimsy, and artistic skill was also evident in Cal Lane’s sand rugs and iron lace shipping container, and Alec Finlay’s bee nests hanging in a tree in the Bee Library. Peter Robinson’s construction of white oversized and undersized chain links is awe inspiring in its construction and conception, and relates well to the island’s industrial past. It is also very white. Jonathon Jones’s midden of oyster shells and teacups speaks to the island’s indigenous heritage. Ewa Partum’s white paper letters were scattered in the courtyard of the convict precinct, and visitors were using them to create words, phrases and snatches of poetry. Nadia Myre invites visitors to stitch their own stories in the Scar Project. Small square canvases and wool are provided, and participants sit down and share their stories through images and words. Some of the canvases covered the wall of one room, while others are collected in piles. Jin Nu’s Exuviate 2 – Where have all the children gone (2005) is a ghostly installation of diaphanous children’s dresses in the historic residence precinct.

Li Hongbo, Ocean of Flower
Li Hongbo, Ocean of Flower

Li Hongbo’s Ocean of Flowers is a riot of coloured paper sculptures that created a miniature fantasy cityscape, constructed from shaped concertina-ed paper that when fanned out made a 3-D object. Sample paper objects were placed at the end of this artwork for the viewers who felt the need to touch. The underlying shape of many pieces was that of a machine gun, which was not evident until the end of the installation.

Jin Nu, Exuviate 2 – Where have all the children gone

Eva Kotakova’s Theatre of Speaking Objects is a multi-part installation and performance piece that includes a stage with props including a wardrobe and wooden wheelchair, a room of books (some stamped City of Sydney Public Library), recorded spoken word, flat metal shapes protruding out of a wall, and dozens of intriguing collages. Audience members are invited to be part of the performances that are happening on a regular basis throughout the exhibition.

Despite being officially open, some of the art still seems to be being installed. Ladders, cherry pickers and even signs saying ‘closed for installation’ were still evident. Some of this strikes me as an OH&S issue, but no doubt will be sorted fairly soon. A comprehensive catalogue of the Biennale is available. Sadly it is self consciously ‘arty’. Obviously the traditional book format wasn’t seen as being enough, and someone decided that cutting the pages in half horizontally would make it more ‘hip’. Sigh.  All this does is make the book hard to read, and easy to damage. 

Even though I didn’t manage to see all of the artworks, Cockatoo Island has set a high standard for the rest of the Biennale at sites including the MCA and Art Gallery of NSW. With the art on display until 16 September there is plenty of time to go back and explore some more.
Jonathon Jones

Jonathon Jones

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.

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Tuesday, 3 July 2012

SafARI at ALASKA Projects

Dara Gill, Instrument of Darkness #1 (Microphone Feedback), 2012
ALASKA Projects: June 22- July 15, 2012

When friends told me that I would find ALASKA Projects in a section of a car park in Kings Cross I thought they were being facetious. They weren't. ALASKA is in fact located in an old mechanics office and car bay on the second level of a car park in the Cross- this I haven't seen before. It was with a great deal of curiosity that I headed there with the intention of seeing part of SafARI, the unofficial fringe event to the Sydney Biennale that presents emerging and unrepresented artists.

The old mechanics office is home to Dara Gill's interactive work Instrument of Darkness #1 (Microphone Feedback) and two accompanying photographs, Untitled (Microphone Feedback Portraits: Emma)Untitled (Microphone Feedback Portraits: Adam). On first glance it appears harmless enough but in the realm of art nothing is ever as it seems and as I entered the space my ears were accosted by the most piercing sound- microphone feedback. My instinctive reaction is to cover my ears and as I look up I see two portraits staring back at me mimicking that very movement. It is difficult to stay in the room for any length of time so while I liked the work, it is difficult to say I enjoyed it. It maintained a certain humourous edge I've come to expect from Gill's work.

Dara Gill (L-R), Untitled (Microphone Feedback Portraits: Emma)Untitled (Microphone Feedback Portraits: Adam) 2012

Drew Pettifer, Untitled (Billboard #4) ("Act Up") 2012
The intelligence of Drew Pettifer's work can be found in its words. To revolt is to break away or rise against constituted authority, to rebel, to cast of allegiance. However it can also mean to disgust, to feel horror or aversion. In Pettifer's work Untitled (Billboard #4) ("Act Up") we see a protest and people fighting for sexual equality. The text on the poster, 'Still Revolting' has a double edged meaning- on the one hand it makes the comment that even today people are still struggling with queer politics and on the other hand it reflects the opinions of those who fight back against them. A very powerful & meaningful work.

What I found most interesting about Chris Bennie's film The Western Field was the way in which the film and the surrounding car park setting complimented and added to one another. The film shows a car moving around a car park and as the sounds of actual cars moving about filters down it gives the work an unexpected three dimensional quality. It actually reminds me of the shooting video games I used to play as a child where you adopted the position of the person/ car moving about. Also the idea of sitting in a car park watching a film about a car park had a certain irony to it that I found appealing. 

Chris Bennie, The Western Field, 2012

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