A4 Art Australia 2017
at the Herring Island Gallery
18-19 & 25-26 MARCH
& 1-2, 8-9 & 15-17 APRIL
as part of the Herring Island Summer Arts Festival 2017
Review by April-Kaye Ikinci
It is always an adventure to go to Herring Island in the Yarra River, ferry jetty point at the bottom of Como Hill, near Alexander Avenue (walking distance from Chapel St South Yarra/Church St Richmond Bridge).
A Parks Vic ferry crosses to the island, now a longer journey circumnavigating due to the silting of the inner channel, with a final landing with a sense and sight of Melbourne CBD in silhouette down river. Then onto the quiet of the summer island, with its dried native plants, dirt tracks and environment sculpture to the Gallery sequestered in a far corner.
Robert Lee, president of CAS, the curators, welcomed people, gave thanks to VIC PARKS & CITY OF STONNINGTON for their ongoing support and sponsorship The exhibition was officially opened by Cr Marcia Griffin, North Ward Councillor for City of Stonnington on behalf of Mayor Cr Jami Klisaris, with acknowledgement of Country of the Traditional Land of the Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri people and culture, past & present. She also expressed appreciation of the Event, the wonderful works showing the talent of Australians, and the volunteers’ works mounting the show.
The sheer amount of art meant, for the viewer, “immersion” in the walls of black regular frames delineating edges of the works. Surprisingly it encourages focus, up close and personal seeing–understandings, though height on wall is sometimes a challenge. Given the limits of the space for the number the 435 works are displayed to ensure equal access as fairly as possible. Hung in Artist alphabet order, creating bodies of work that slow and satisfy the eye, builds understanding of the artists’ intent and results. I found the show full of verve, wit, and nuance.
Evelyne Upton’s (397) “the experiment” with its hazard suited-up scientists fronting a red mass, a mix of printmaking forms, is witty, as is Rosalind Gowans’s linocuts (180-183) of Barristers and Judge and her sloping huddle of little girls.
The nude was well represented. Kelly Veenstra’s (409-413) “evolving” series is peaked by a yellow-green standing nude shaped, defined by calligraphic scraped lines. Other delights are Diane Zaharis (433) and Heather Merritt’s (304) utilising flows and curves intrinsic in its form/subject.
*Archie Fard (131-2) B&W photographs of an archetypal Middle Eastern architonic corridor of ancient brick arch doorways and of an ancient door and wall, sets off musings and introspections of shared cultural meaning and the exquisiteness of particular cultural decorations.
* Rosie Michell (308) colour photo “night street Japan” with its long, fluctuating exposure capturing light from many sources, displaying impact, reflections, transparencies, the fullness of stability, the blur of movement, the flashes of change of the industrial lights. of utility and the prettiness of display lights, intrigues.
* Lana Blow (50-53) offers insightful b&w shots of Melbourne scenes: a dramatic edge-to-edge black skyscraper, white lines of delineation and decoration; a low-level less-than-glamourous shot of the Docklands Star showing its connection to the buildings that make Docklands; and a near-CBD cityscape of overhead electric lines and grids above low-rise buildings with corporate skyscraper horizon.
Quite a number of collages, scale ideally suited to the A4 and admass printmedia, still part of our daily living, come into their own:
Ray Leggott (260-263) uses European text magazines, tearing and cutting paper to make street/house scenes and a bus -one of the few motor vehicles images shown that impinges on and allows us our modern lives.
Karen Coull (105-7) creates story lines of cheerful quips using music-staves, fish, birds, butterflies, man and woman figures, and a romantic horoscope. Shifting layers of sensations and meanings abound.
Kirsten Hibbs (210) builds up contrasting and complementary layers of paper creating tree branches, balancing well the visual stimulation, while a keynote Magpie fronts it.
Several artists explore pattern, directly and indirectly, seeking rhythms, dynamics, beauty, coalescences:
Sean McDowell (296) creates fresh dissonant yet balanced paper shapes with checkered lines and columns in muted colours. James A. Bond’s (54) mundane but effective red/yellow/blue paper weaving with organic cut lines and boxing, results in jewel box compartmentalization. Robert Lee’s (256-259) Moiré series with its overlaid stencils differing size colour dots is subtly beautiful.
Sculpture, a minority form in this exhibition includes:
Jan Verouden (414) (collaborative piece with Monica Provano) is a fused-glass standing curve with branch lines and foliage specks, backlit by window light, evoking the delicacy of autumn evenings. Patrick Culshaw’s (110) carved jelutong speckled yellow wood bear, snuffling the ground alertly, is streamlined and full of presence. Bronwyn Culshaw (109) “Voluptuous” nude seems like a worn magic stone, in dark bronze, with interlocking curves of shoulder/breast/hip/tucked under legs. Bruce Norton’s (333-335) exploration in woods and the dynamics and aerodynamics of birds makes stereognostic fluctuating silhouettes. Judith Sammut (370) with her memento mori of 2 Victorianesque display bell jars and a tiny wooden shelter with skeleton bird within, “speaks” symbolically and metaphorically and poetically of capture, of freedom denied or not acted upon.
Gillian Ho (213) “in-between” portrait of a pink-haired skeleton with a beautiful face of two different tone eyes and pursed lips, foregrounds a universe-starred sky, is a disconcerting, challenging and poignant illustration.
Eva Molnar (313-4) uses solar plate prints, hand coloured, deceptively labeled “garden” & “flower’” shows separately a woman and a boy, reminiscent of beautiful illustrated folk tales.
Several artists took flowers as their topic: Sylvia Barnes (31-34) painted exotics and Australian natives with their varied structures and qualities while Calvin Bell (42-44) paints traditionally, bargee gloriously, a full blown rose with sweep of stems and bud in 3 versions of red, white and yellow.
A painterly red monochrome pastel of a still-life of flowers in a vase by Lorraine Willcock (423) glows. Dinah Barton’s (35) “Garden of Eden” is exquisitely composed and embroidered in its Persian-feel.
For those who appreciate portraits of our fellow creatures who share our world, there were many from realist to caricature to absurdist: cats, dogs, chooks, roosters, horses.
Lilly Antoneavic (16-19) recalls the autonomy and curiousity of cats, Sally Ford’s chooks with fruit/veg (151-154) attracts attention and laughs, Neville McCuskey’s (288-289) loosely-drawn charging baby elephant and hatted frog jumping in rain are fun and fresh.
Empty drifting boats by Jamon Brewer (64-65) named “Izzy” and “Piggy” captures the essence of water and waiting.
Intuition and energy/chi in its various forms, abstract, symbolic, Rorsharck, brings resonance and sensation through art in its manifestation. Kathe Ostermark (340-343), through liquid paint scrape and spread, makes giant irregular half-polished opal-like shapes of respectively emerald, pink/blue, aqua/turquoise that glow from the wall.
Emma-Lace Murdoch (326-327) works smaller, double framing with soft brown mounting, postcard-size mixes and scrapings of gem paint of aqua, turquoise, pink, purple with texturing of gold leaf or paper, completing with completion.
Amanda Clover (88-90) “Palette of Port Santos 1/2/3” uses line, field and drip to form compositions of interest.
Laura Borgenicht’s (56-57) “morning sun”, ”untitled”, “Behind the rain” titles hint of and curtain-warm the viewing of several good pieces of abstraction.
Intuitive drawings in oil pastels, by Lynj James, (222-225) reproduced by laser, metamorphose between shapes and space, signs and symbols, metaphorical with metaphysics, recalling one’s own codes, pulls one into internal spaces and knowledge that is wordless but travelled by others, shared.
I found several Hidden Gems, not easy to perceive among brighter colours or more dramatic compositions or eye-catching boldnesses.
(139) Anita Faulkner’s nuanced painting, brown with white brushwork catching the canvas weave, is of a city night street scene with a seated watching woman.
Antoinette De Morton’s (115-6) “Parchment Relic” (etching), is like a subtle brown Rosetta Stone with her second “Relic” being a gray mysterious preciousness bundled. Larissa Macfarlane’s (280-282) Etchings: “Crossing the Werribee Plains”, “Managing The Day” & “The Port Authority Washing Line” are witty, thought-provoking and moving.
“Three characters”(156) by Cressida Fox, fantasy figures promotes humour and half-memories of archaic sculptures, with a modern disturbing edge. Gem green, silhouetted in a row, aware of each other with the added momentary tension of the cat-like creature reaching a paw gently to touch the nearby sitting woman-form.
The importance and significance of place play a role in many artists’ practice. Melbourne alleyways by Tony Broughton (68, 69) contrast and compare with his Venice Canal & Stockholm Lane, show narrow spaces of traverse and meaning with fine lines and soft clear watercolour.
Soft focus outback scenes of water tanks and glare (406-8). Art Vaughan’s delicate understated gouaches suggest the power of the heat and endurance of such places. There were many excellent Landscapes in different styles and mediums.
Nathan Paramanathan’s (344) “Deep Creek 1”, 3 bands of narrow sky, narrow water at bottom and wide middle section of muted greens. This is covered with calligraphic simple curve tree marks on the steep hill, evokes the plain, slightly monotonous beauty of the uncleared scrub of our countryside. Kien Lam’s photograph (250) in brown tones, delicately presents as a twisting tree in blossom, which reveals itself as a sinuous river from an aerial view. William Goodwin’s (169-172) Australian “big view” land pictures (delightful in watercolour and oil pastel) show layered escarpments and sky; river edge, plains/paddocks, sky; red steep deeply shadowed curved hill. Another image is of an older bloke sitting quietly holding a small-stick Australian flag. All unemphatically celebrating this land. The primacy of the maker’s mark, for its sense of immediacy and/or impact is intriguing.
Sharan Lambell’s (255) grey pencil drawing on black paper, detail by detail of a relaxed cat in a car window, is done by a relaxed skilled hand, with obvious enjoyment and an evaluating eye.
Elongated human forms, ink dark, gothic, as well as the simple tantalizingly mysterious upper -corner window images, by Peter Austen (26-29) are scratchy and poetic. Ezmeralda Guilan’s (188-9) “Boudicia the ice queen” and “the forgotten foot soldiers” (a horse) with its passionate and personal meaning is meeting idea and manifestation with pencil in hand.
Imagination, slanted angles and crisp drawing by Linkoin Guilan (190-193) of medieval characters situated unusually in relation to architecture are clever, interesting illustrations. Seriously underpriced at $75. Described as Digital Painting, presents to me as the old pen & ink and gouache fill-in, Danny Jarratt’s (226) “Flowers in Anzac: portrait of George Combo” is artistically and historically moving in its portraiture and context. Fayaz Assaf (23) “My balcony plant’” fascinates with its painterly loaded brush marks simultaneously creates the leaves and the space light that shapes it.
Other treasures are there, but time and space limit my choices to note.