Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Burlesque Hour: 2 hours of my life I'll never get back

Finucane & Smith's Burlesque Hour: Glory Box Edition
Seymour Centre: November 15 - 24, 2012

I am probably the only person in Sydney, and possibly the world, who did not enjoy international sensation Finucane & Smith's Burlesque Hour: Glory Box Edition. In fact, I very strongly disliked it. Perhaps part of this was my own fault, I should have done my research into the shows history and realised they employed the original Victorian definition of Burlesque and not the 1930s Gypsy Rose Lee variety which tended more toward striptease. Burlesque is, by definition, a literary, dramatic or musical work intended to cause laughter by caricaturing the manner or spirit of serious works, or by ludicrous treatment of their subjects. Having said that I found nothing witty or humorous about this performance. It was not clever, it was crude.  

The stage was set well enough with red lanterns hung artfully around the runway and plush velvet curtains with table seating gave the room a Parisian atmosphere. As act after act came out to perform a routine it became quickly apparent The Burlesque Hour had more in common with a variety show than anything else and as the evening progressed the performances became even more tasteless. Simply put, it was vulgar with most acts displaying no  degree of skill whatsoever.

Pie essentially involved Co-Creator Moira Finucane becoming orgasmic whist eating a meat pie and Soup involved her eating and then spilling soup all over herself before getting naked. Both performed to contemporary musical selections. Both entirely un-sexy and un-sensual. Both left me wondering what the fuck I'd just seen.    

There were some beacons of light in a sea of bad taste. Guest star Meow Meow was fantastic, her powerful voice and quirky humour was a highlight. Anna Lumb was also brilliant on the trapeze - how she managed to do what she did in 8 inch heels still astounds me and her abilities with a hula hoop were also exceptional. That kind of evidential skill I can appreciate. It was entertaining. 

In particular I felt that Finucane's performance Get Wet for Art! was ridiculous. Implying the entrance to art was through her vagina, Finucane narrated a story about visiting the National Gallery of Victoria and having sex with someone against the water wall. As she describes the encounter water pours from the ceiling as she writhes on stage. Somewhere in there was a story of killing a bird with her bare hands, I'm not quite sure of the relevance but I thought that for most of the evening.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I'm one of the few who truly didn't enjoy the performance. Although I did notice that a great number of people did not return after the intermission. It's not that I'm prudish - I love a good filthy joke as much of the next person - but this wasn't clever or witty, it was smutty. Perhaps Meow Meow had it right when she commented she had heard it wrong and thought the theme was 'Gory' Box.   
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An owl flew into my office and told me to look for a Bear: Mylyn Nguyen

Mylyn Nguyen
An owl flew into my office and told me to loo for a Bear
Brenda May Gallery: November 13 - December 1, 2012

How the hell does she do that!? Was pretty much my first thought when I saw Mylyn Nguyen's exhibition, An owl flew into my office and told me to loo for a Bear. The artist has created a world of tiny people, a fantasy land of miniatures and paper boats. Using everyday utensils and manipulating them into grassy hills and forests, tiny snails made from ink on paper make their way across  a hill in a ice cream scoop. 

Just as amazing are the creatures made from dirt - octopuses, bears - it's truly extraordinary. I can't even begin to imagine the time and painstaking process it must take to create these other worlds. The tiny creature fishing in the dripping jar is genius. Nguyen's work is truly inspired. 

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Saturday, 24 November 2012

Somewhere in Between: Todd Fuller

Todd Fuller
Somewhere in Between
Brenda May Gallery: November 13 - December 1, 2012

Todd Fuller's work tells a narrative. There is the male protagonist who appears as a sad and lost figure, sailing the sea with his red balloon for company. This image is portrayed through beautiful collages and sculptural pieces as well as a short film of animated drawings. 
Todd Fuller, Cut Adrift, 2012
In Cut Adrift the figure appears desolate, his gaping eyes expressing a sense of despair, inside his open suitcase an animated drawing plays on an iPod. The way in which Fuller manages to capture so much emotion through his sculptural figures is exceptional. Even those with suitcases for heads embody an individual persona through their body language and stance.
Todd Fuller, adrift/ Somewhere in Between, 2011, hand drawn film

Todd Fuller, Untitled (adrift 2) 2012
The miniature boat that sits in the centre of the gallery sees the male protagonist sitting in contemplation, his red balloon trailing behind him. This is the physical amalgamation of the collage pieces. The contrast of the red against the browns and blacks emphasises its importance and significance. What is this balloon to the man - his friend, his family or perhaps his sense of self. Fuller's work encapsulates a sense of uncertainty and a longing to fit in, to belong somewhere. Somewhere in Between is a gorgeous exhibition and Fuller continues to impress with his skill and meaningful narrative.
Todd Fuller, 2012

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Sunday, 18 November 2012

NAS: Postgraduate exhibition 2012

Mary Soumaher

National Art School Postgraduate Exhibition: November 2 - 10, 2012

I've been really reluctant to write this review about the National Art School Postgraduate Exhibition and I couldn't for the life of me understand why. Today I realised it was simply because I just didn't know where to start. The sheer scale of the exhibition and the amount of exceptional works was overwhelming. So, here goes, my attempt to sum up how freakin' amazing the NAS Postgraduate show really was.

Ceramics and sculptural installations really stood out as being exceptional. To give this piece some semblance of order (and so I don't miss out on anyone) I'll be listing some of my favourites (in no particular order).

Mary Soumaher: the delicate patterns on these beautiful vessels are stunning. I love the high gloss finish and the colour palette utilises deep hues and amazing tones.
Federico Vivarelli Colonna
Federico Vivarelli Colonna: creates amazing wall pieces with nails hammered a wall mount and completely painted. What is great about these works is that they appear completely different when viewed from the side than when viewed front on. The three dimensional aspect sets it apart and I respect the time consuming nature of such a work.
Kiata Mason

Rhys Davis
Rhys Davis: these fantastical creations are out of this world. These mythical creatures are slightly unnerving and remind me slightly of Patricia Piccinini. 
Gabriella Hirst

Gabriella Hirst

Gabriella Hirst
Gabriella Hirst:this bio-chemistry looking colourful cloud is brilliant. It's made up of tiny coloured trees growing out of petri dishes. The structure is strategically lit by a spotlight, accentuating the varying colours and shadows. Quite simply, this work is absolutely stunning.
Amanda Seddon
Amanda Seddon: her sea-themed rooms are strangely appealing and oddly inviting. The sea creature portraits reminded me of the Ben H. Winters' book, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters - they had a Victorian feel to them. The attention to detail in the rooms was fantastic and there was a part of me that really wanted to redecorate. 

Amanda Seddon

Kate Alstergren
Kate Alstergren: her exceptionally delicate oil on board paintings really have to be seen to be believed - photographs do not do them justice. Primarily white, Alstergren selects a colour to be the standout and uses it to highlight an aspect of the image - the women's eyes, the background of a bubble gum balloon... words aren't enough to adequately explain just how gorgeous these paintings are.   

Kate Astergren
Celina Stang
Ok, so I'm sure I'm missing people out and I have only highlighted a select few that really stood out to me, it's hard as there was so much exceptional talent. Suffice to say, I was fairly impressed and I'm not someone who's easily impressed.

To see more photos of the works I thought were standouts check out the Facebook photo album

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Friday, 16 November 2012

Swiss Art Expo 2012

Hugo Kretz
Every year the Swiss Australian Cultural Association presents an exhibition at the Bondi Pavilion Art Gallery that contains work by members of the Swiss Australian Community. My interest in this exhibition steams from the fact that my uncle is Swiss and my cousin, Hugo Kretz, was exhibiting. 

The standard of work was quite high, with impressive pieces by Michele Heibel, Ulric Steiner and Marlyse Carroll. It was nice to see work by Sandra Landolt who, way back in 2007, was the first artist interview I ever had published. I still love her kinetic work and the intricacy of construction. 
Sandra Landolt

Sandra Landolt
 Arguably the strongest work in the show was Michele Heibel's series of etchings. The sheer detail is astounding with the framing perfectly complimenting and accentuating each individual piece. 

Of course, it goes without saying, Hugo Kretz's beautifully designed lamp, one of a series, was fantastic - but then I am his cousin.

I admit I was pleasantly surprised by the professionalism of the show. While the space perhaps felt slightly cramped and some of the wire hung works had some ends showing and weren't entirely straight (my time as a Gallery Manager rearing it's ugly head) all in all it was a well presented, diverse group of artists.
Michele Heibel

Michele Heibel

Michele Heibel

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Saturday, 10 November 2012

Exile's Lament: Siân McIntyre

Photos: Catherine McElhone

Siân McIntyre
Exiles's Lament
Kudos Gallery: October 30- November 3, 2012

They say the grass is always greener on the other side. What they don't tell you is how you'll feel once you get there. For five days Kudos Gallery was transformed into a grassy haven far removed from the busy streets of Paddington, the entire floor of the gallery laid with turf. Punctuating this were several video pieces of a 1969 ABC documentary The Restless Years in which people sung convict songs about land lost. These songs are haunting and add a slightly surreal quality to the space. Standing inside while seemingly feeling like you're outside while hearing songs of exile and loss was deeply unsettling. Siân McIntyre, in an interview with Kelly Doley, comments on this "The songs themselves speak of a homeland ripped away, family lost and dreams shattered. They speak of isolation, depression and regret. They speak with a longing for something else, the rolling hills of their home, the glossy hair of their lover, a place and time gone forever. I find it very interesting that the colonisers of this land, the people who displaced and decimated entire tribes and took land for their own, were also displaced and removed."  
Photos: Catherine McElhone

Evidently a comment on clonisation and the idea of displacement, McIntyre, comments "Australia was colonised with the understanding that to ‘improve’ land or work, fence, build and harvest on land - constitutes ownership. To exist on land is not enough – a real claim is formed when the ground is altered – when you have left your mark." It is an interesting thought that this need and drive we have to own a piece of land, to buy a house, to have that apparent level of security, could all be seen as originating with the colonisation of Australia. It does not seem to be enough to simply live on the land, there is this desperate need to 'own' it. This, along with notions of loss and isolation, appear to be at the heart of McIntyre's work. The artist comments, "I think it is interesting that land was taken and re-distributed on the basis of ‘improvement’ with the Government determining rights to land based on the inhabitants desire to alter the landscape. I am thinking of this exhibition as my own ‘improvement’ harnessing my ancestors actions of land claim (clearing, planting, harvesting) in a contemporary context."

At the end of the exhibition McIntyre invited people to come to the gallery and take their own little piece of land to call their own. This haven that the artist created has been disseminated across Sydney, you could even say distributed on the basis of 'improvement'. While many visitors perhaps did not see beyond the novelty of having grass in a gallery, for those who did, Exile's Lament was a hauntingly beautiful reminder of what has come before.

Photos: Catherine McElhone

Photos: Catherine McElhone

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Monday, 5 November 2012

GUEST POST: Elizabeth Little does Sculpture by the Sea

Sculpture By the Sea 2012:  18 October – 4 November, 2012

It’s that time of year again. Spring in Sydney. The jacaranda is in bloom and sculpture is again taking over the coast. This year is Sculpture by the Sea’s 15th outing in its home base of Bondi. Eastern suburb locals are being joined by art lovers, day trippers, families and the merely curious, all jostling with the joggers for space on the narrow path leading from Bondi to Tamarama. This year there are 113 sculptures ranging from the whimsical to the seriously modernist, from emerging artists and the well established.

This, in no particular order, are some of the ones that caught my eye and stayed in my memory, the ones that I have been talking about with my friends.
Elyssa Sykes Smith, Weight pulls me down, strength pulls me up

Elyssa Sykes Smith, Weight pulls me down, strength pulls me up
Elyssa Sykes Smith – Weight pulls me down, strength pulls me up. Sykes-Smith is a recipient of the Clitheroe Foundation Emerging Artists Mentor Program . Made of dozens of timber off-cuts the wooden figure hangs from the edge of the Bondi cliff, its natural colouring blending with the sandstone. Rachel Couper & Ivana Kuzmanovska  piece Mirador  is a  timber dome  situated on the point of the Bondi headland, and resembles a wooden igloo or geodesic dome. Viewers were walking in and around the dome which seemed to bridge the line between sculpture and architecture.
Rachel Couper and Ivana Kuzmanovska, Mirador

Rachel Couper and Ivana Kuzmanovska, Mirador
A couple of the works have strong political messages behind them  including Cave Urban’s Mengenang (memory) and Warwick, Ben & Sam Orme’s Where do the children play?

Located at the edge of St Mark’s park Mengenang (memory) consists of 222 bamboo poles with whirling ends. Like a large wind chime these ‘bird scarers’ have been tuned to D Minor. Visitors are encouraged to walk through the piece, which the catalogue notes began as a reflection on the loss of life in the 2002 Bali bombings. There is one pole for every life lost.
Mengenang (memory)

Mengenang (memory)
The Orme family’s work is a fun piece with a serious question behind it, based on the children’s querying about the lives of refugee children in detention. It consists of 100 toys placed behind bars in the tiny spaces of the honeycomb weathering rocks of the south Bondi headland.

Alex Goad’s work bridges the line between sculpture and nature with his invasive colonisation imitating insect nests hanging from the branches of trees. It’s a vaguely unsettling work that plays on the fear of the unknown, as the viewer wonders just what is hatching within these white nests.
Alex Goad, invasive colonisation

Alex Goad, invasive colonisation

Gaye Jurisich ‘s Playpen  is another work that hangs from the trees. This however is a benign piece made of coloured satin ribbons that gracefully move with the wind.
Gaye Jurisich, Playpen

David Horton – Chardin’s table (after the attributes of civilian music) is a sculptural response to the paintings of the French artist Jean Baptiste Chardin and his quiet scenes of everyday life in the mid 1800s. Horton plays with the idea and actuality of the table form, creating both the table and the objects on it in mild steel that has developed a deep rust red patina, which helps fuse both table and objects into one united piece.
David Horton, Chardin’s table (after the attributes of civilian music)

In balance with energies Keld Moselhelm provides a whimsical comment on contemporary life. This is a figurative sculpture in which a bronze figure of a woman balances precariously on a ball that is itself balanced on a stylised wave form, that sits a top a granite base.
Keld Moselhelm, balance with energies 

Alex Ritchie’s Kaleidoscope cube was proving to be a hit with the kids on the beach at Tamarama. Consisting of sixteen polished aluminium columns set up in a 4 x 4 configuration it had just enough space between each column for a 7 year old to play hide and seek, disappearing between columns while being reflected in others and reappearing behind yet another. The kids were also having fun with Sandy Bliim’s giant baby doll head, Clytie, leaning into her hollow eyes and yelling, listening to the echoing sound in the metal sculpture. Bliim normally works in a much smaller scale, so it was good to see her (possibly literally) stretching herself and creating a much larger piece.
Alex Ritchie, Kaleidoscope cube

Overlooking the fun on the beach was Anagram’s Colony, dozens of brightly coloured painted timber artist mannequins sitting on the café roof at Tamarama, chatting amongst themselves, practicing their surfing moves and playfully mimicking the crowds.
Anagram, Colony

Elaine Clocherty’s together is a subtle piece that lies along the edge of the park at Tamarama, just underneath the cliff face. A  site specific work it is made of found natural materials including pine cones, seeds and what looked like slices of bottle brush flowers. And yet again the former Tamarama Wonderland City Amusement Park is referenced, this year in Rod McRae’s Tent of Wonders – a side show alley installation of disappearing wildlife, and none too subtle comment of the Western European tradition of removing exotic beasts from their natural habitat for display in zoos or killed, stuffed and mounted as the trophies of ‘intrepid’ game hunters.
Elaine Clocherty, together
Rod McRae, Tent of Wonders

Rod McRae, Tent of Wonders

As with previous Sculpture by Sea exhibitions this year there is much to provoke thought, to amuse and delight, as well to marvel at the skill of the artist and their imagination.

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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