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


jade said...

i must say im a big fan of the king shit turd mountain tapestry, anything to do with crappy craft and im there love it!!!!!!

Gwenda Goodhope said...

King Shit?

"I am da kiiiing...da junkyard kiiiing..." - Nick Cave

Comes to mind.

mayhem said...

I love you artswipe
you remind me that sydney art is still important and amazing and worth engaging with critically and passionately