Friday, May 25, 2007

King Shit

Newell Harry
Untitled (gift mat #X) No Point Being King Shit of Turd Island, 2007
Pandanus and dye, 126x203 cm (irregular)
Courtesy of Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery

You know how there can be periods of time in art gallery land when there's just nothing much worth seeing? Well that's not the case this month. Artswipe has basically been suffering from aesthetic overload. Especially on Thursday night when I did my usual string of 'opening night dog fights' - my term for when multiple openings happen on a single night. Which is exactly what happened on Thursday night when I bypassed the dull hodge-podge of abstraction in the group show Lion at Sarah Cottier Gallery for Newell Harry's View from the Couch at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.

Between the booze and schmooze at Roslyn Oxley9, Artswipe saw the future and it is called Newell Harry. (Maybe he will write that I said that on his CV?) Harry's work oscillates between slick neon text signs placed amidst things reeking of either rust or the rustic. A series of handcrafted 'gift mats' sporting slogans like No Point in Being King Shit of Turd Island and Stoned Cold Turkey Cape Flats Shacks are highlights, their presence in the polished whiteness of Roslyn Oxley9 suggesting a critique of how authenticity gets all wrapped up in the handmade. When Edward Norton sits on the toilet in
Fight Club ordering things from an IKEA catalogue for his uptight uber-white apartment, he professes to having even purchased things that had subtle imperfections and marks of the hand: "proof that they were crafted by the honest, simple and hardworking indigenous peoples of wherever". Whether it is meant to evoke this tension, seeing Harry's work in a slickly commercial enterprise like Roslyn's suggests a similar critique of how the codes and markings of 'otherness' are commodified through authenticity.

Vivienne Shark LeWitt
Australian Terrier with Provincial Lady, 2006
Acrylic on linen,77x61 cm
Courtesy of Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery

Interestingly, Newell Harry is set alongside Vivienne Shark LeWitt, an artist who has been showing with Roslyn Oxley9 since 1982. LeWitt has always been an artist whose na├»ve sensibility is not unlike two other women artists of the same generation and gallery stable: Jenny Watson and Linda Marrinon. Together LeWitt, Watson and Marrinon were big deal artists working (depending on your view) alongside or parallel to the eighties post-pop art scene and united by a supposed 'feminine sensibility', the painted stuff of the girlhood imagination – horses and storybook romance. Even a sailor or two. Linda Marrinon's 1980s painting I Sailed to Tahiti with an All-Girl Crew is an all time Artswipe favourite to this day. But the problem with LeWitt’s suite of new paintings in the smaller gallery is that they weren't simply overshadowed – they felt irrelevant. As if the moment had passed and a new one (see Newell Harry) already upon us.

Michelle Hanlin
Spirit Fingers, 2007
Acrylic on canvas, 101x101 cm
Courtesy of Gallery9

Michelle Hanlin
is another young artist whose work recalls the good old days of eighties girly-pop-painting (in fact she could be the new Linda Marrinon) but there’s something very now about her as well. Hanlin's show at Gallery 9, Rendered Unconscious by Spirits which I saw when it opened a week ago, is a solid and exciting collection of paintings and sculptures. Themed around the ideas and icons of spirituality (candles, churches, death, sainthood, etc) Hanlin has created a delightful body of work that teeters on being aesthetically nauseating – its pastel tones garish and kitschy, recalling bubble gum, rainbows and Care Bears. Maybe Hanlin likens spirituality to the same kind of palette as a teenager's bedroom: nebulous cloud-like confectionary composed of powder blues, Paris Hilton pinks and funeral blacks.

Drew Bickford
My Degenerates, 2007
Watercolour and ink on paper, 21x29 cm
Courtesy of MOP Projects

Geoff Overheu and Drew Bickford, exhibiting at MOP, there ain't nothing pretty in pink about this funeral. Don’t even think about wearing black, because the funeral was probably cancelled and/or televised. Maybe the circus was in town instead. Overheu and Bickford contaminate MOP with a pungent whiff of rotting abject flesh: Bickford through surreal illustrations of freakish human monstrosity, and Overheu through white plastic bovine sculptures either rotting on the floor or melting down the walls. I haven't seen a show in awhile that has been so visceral, yet oddly aware of restraint. It's as if it all could tip over into sheer madness (often the best thing about shows at artist-run spaces) but is instead held together by a keen, perhaps obsessive eye for presentation. Like a serial killer pinning down new spoil.

Geoff Overheu
Nullarbor, 2007
Plastic, dimensions variable
Courtesy of MOP Projects

Monday, May 21, 2007

Lost Property

The Artswipe
The Global Village, 2007
Photograph (no print edition because we ran out of trees to make paper)

The Artswipe encountered this street sign today in a quaint suburban village in the western suburbs of Sydney and felt a surge of Public Sphere Pride. "Sustainability St: It's a village out there". This street sign really should have been in last year's Biennale of Sydney. It's the kind of text art Australia is crying out for. Speaking of art and the western suburbs, Artswipe popped into the Penrith Regional Gallery and the Lewers Bequest today to see the much anticipated Vivienne Binns retrospective. When I was at art school we all considered Ms Binns a legend. Binns is one of those artists who is really iconic for a couple of significant works, which unfortunately overshadows an art practice still going strong. Cases in point: Binns made a landmark community art project called Mothers Memories, Others Memories (1979-81) which was significant for the way it engaged a community of women in Blacktown, a suburb in Western Sydney. Binns also made iconic feminist paintings like Phallic Monument and Vag Dens in the 1960s. The latter features a big psychedelic vagina with teeth (luckily no orthodontic braces). It's 1970s second wave feminist art par excellence. You know, all anti-aesthetic and angry and political. If feminism was battery operated, you'd need D-size Duracel because making the personal political can require quite a bit of charge! It's a message that must be heard - a message about owning your vagina, owning your politics. Perhaps even your teeth as well. I've often dreamed about my teeth falling out: common dream stock I've heard. If I have that dream again, I'll check whether my teeth have fallen into my vagina, doubling probably as a Lost Property depot ("So that's that's where the remote control went!") Come to think of it, even though she's been regarded by critics and historians for works such as these, the rest of Vivienne Binns' oeuvre is kind of like art historical lost property. Fortunately this great show, curated thoughtfully by Merryn Gates, remedies that.

Vivienne Binns
Nylon over the Lachlan, 2006
Acrylic on canvas 130.3 x 165.3 cm
Courtesy of Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest

Friday, May 18, 2007

Secrets and Lies

The Artswipe
Pass the Salt, 2007
'Video art' still

At the end of 2006 I felt that there were just some topics that had been thoroughly exhausted in last year's Artswipe blog. I'm not mentioning any names but one starts with a Big O and I don't mean Roy Orbison, bless his heart.

OK, so admit it, I got sucked into
Oprah's special on this new age junk DVD called The Secret. The ads for Oprah's special featured soundgrabs from Oprah saying she'd found some "secret" from all the way from "down under". Nothing irks me more than the phrase Down Under. It is like that phrase is reserved for Americans - maybe because Australia sounds too much like Austria? Who fucken knows.

Anyway, the chick from Down Under who professes to have a bestselling secret is
Rhonda Byrne. Good old Rhonda, who sports this cute little bindi on her forehead, wrote a book about the so-called "science" of positive thinking. The book is now a best-selling DVD that instructs duped and desperate consumers how to make lots of cash, have lots of sex, have lots of fun, have lots, lots, lots, lot. Last time I checked there was this guy in the Old Testament called "Lot" and he had this wife who turned into a pillar of salt, as you do.

On the news this morning there was a story about how new research indicates that iodised salt is brain food, and that there are moves to put it in sliced bread so Australians will become a smarter people. Is it just me or was that news story implying that "Ossies" aren't too bright? Maybe we should all go "down under" with Lot's salty wife and get a bit smarter in the process? I lost a few brain cells this week watching TV so can someone pass the fucking salt?

Whatever the case,
The Secret is supposed to be a miracle drug that makes everything better. Success is measured by excess, so there's no wonder Oprah's eating it with a spoon. Oprah even claims that she knew the secret all along - she just didn't have the wisdom of "teachers" like Rhonda Byrne to articulate and package it. The Secret works like this: Buy the DVD and Paris Hilton might go to prison for more than a paltry 20something days. Read the book and George Bush might eat some salt. Watch Oprah and you may get a lifetime subscription to her magazine or bookclub. Goody!

A single mother was profiled on
Oprah talking about how The Secret helped her out of the downward spiral of debt. Another woman told how she hadn't had sex with her husband in a year. Now they're whorin' all over the goddamn place. What beautiful stories. Then an ad break came on. Belinda Emmett's album is out in case you didn't know.

I plan on buying
The Secret. As part of my positive thinking adventure I will envisage a world where bullshit new age culty propaganda does not exist and people eat more salt.

The Artswipe
Belinda, 2007
'Video art' still

Friday, May 11, 2007

Peripatetic Poems

The Artswipe
Public Service Announcements, 2007
Mobile phone art

Thanks to everyone for admiring my mobile phone photos. These are two taken in the last week. One of the pavement near my house. The other in the car park of the gym where I should probably have a life-time membership.

Together I think these photos tell a story.

I will be back with some writing within the next week. I'm not making a TV show like The Artlife so I don't have an excuse. But I've always believed that if you don't have anything to say that you should shut the fuck up (or take photos).

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Dry Me Kangaroo Down, Sport

The Artswipe
Dry Me Kangaroo Down, Sport, 2007
Another mobile phone moment

Welcome to the month of May, I have really nothing to say. So here's a picture I took yesterday in the toilets at work while drying my hands. It can be awkward enough finding yourself in the toilets with a colleague, making small talk and all. It can be harder to fathom when they come to work dressed as kangaroos and emus.

Mufti Days have never been my forte.