in the galleries

since the gates of deadline city shut on me last monday, i have had some unexpected time to check out exhibitions, catch up with people i had to ignore over the last couple of months, and, in some cases, combine the two. actually, it’s been quite delightful to spend so much time in galleries and not feel guilty about all the work i’m not doing. sigh.

here are some recent shows i got to pop my head in and check out.

NGV: rennie ellis

owen and i went to this, at the recommendation of my flatmate who is knee-deep in the photography biz. unfortunately neither owen or i, both photo majors, really liked this show at all. which was kind of a shame.

granted, most of ellis’ work was intended for publication and, in print, would have been quite powerful. but as it was, 8 x 10 prints in hardwood frames in a gallery painted in bright, bright colours – lame. i felt like i was seeing the happysnaps of a drunk suburban hippy sleazebag, rather than any kind of insight into australian social history. i think the works would have been much more powerful if they were enlarged and edited. yes, less is more. still. they could have had a slideshow of works running in the gallery, a few really hot shots (like the temper twisters, or whatever they were called – priceless!) and a great catalogue to browse through. maybe the ellis estate demanded that every fucking work he every produced was displayed (which i understand happens sometimes), but after the first room and a bit, we was bored. and left.

which is really saying something ‘cos even though i have a harsh opinion about many things, i always see a show ’til the end, just in case there’s a point of redemption. the point of redemption for this show? the great title and the ace chandelier in the middle of the 2nd gallery. that was hot.

Gorker Galler: Drewfunk

as the sky was dumping its guts on us on saturday afternoon, i rode past this gallery and doubled back to simultaneously catch the show and hide from the downpour. i was shocked because i had never seen this space before and i ride down kerr st in fitzroy all the time. the gallery is pretty cool – quite simple, open, white rectangle, roller door, modernist white-brick building. clean and lovely. the show inside was well-designed too: featuring loads of bamboo, which actually looked OK rather than dumb and twee. the work – cutified illustrations influenced by his malaysian heritage are on wooden blocks and are pretty solid. solid in terms of weight, but also authentic, well-crafted and a nice tone. their nothing outrageous or death-defying, but soft and shiny, the title of the show, pretty much sums it up.

Seventh Gallery: Hyper-Realities (Alyshia Boddenberg, Beth Conway, Lily Feng, Rebecca Delange), Helen Johnson, Mary-Jane Caswell

and speaking of dumping guts, the first impression you get when you walk into the current show at Seventh is that someone took too much acid, swallowed a 24-pack of crayolas and vomited. everywhere. these works fit right into the nouveau-baroque thang that’s going around at the moment: much colour (too much for my liking mostly), much busy-ness, warped and distorted aspects and references, and did i mention colour? the little sea-creature-esque works were OK, as were the series of photos of people looking up, on the roof/high up on the wall – looking up at looking up was neat. the rest of it was a little, well. yeah, ok i guess.

helen johnson’s video in the project space er brecht, wir brechen (he breaks, we break) was quite different to anything i’ve seen of hers previously. hence the project space, freddie. although it didn’t stick in my mind as much as mary-jane craswell’s vid did.

pinky-red ambiguous liquid seeping out of ambiguous flesh-space, was disturbing in its ambiguity. was it a wound in pain? was it an orifice in ecstasy? neither? i had to keep watching but only because i couldn’t look away. it’s perfect match would be anything by monika tichacek.

Utopian Slumps: Go Grow Wild

Curated by Dell Stewart and Adam Cruickshank, this show is fantastic. I think any show in which you love 80% of the works gets a high-distinction from me (like Intimacy at ACCA did recently). I love a show that links works to a theme, without shoving it down your throat. Adam’s work was probably my favourite – both his wild man reflecting on the future and his house and gardens, motherfucker sculpture had the right amount of humour, balance and aesthetic goodness. Dell’s tent was ace to begin with, then after the opening I got to see the animations, which were super-cool and reminded me of logo turtle days. Nathan Gray‘s drawing machine was simple, if not so clean and a great take on going ‘wild’, and although the form of his dreamcatcher-windchime shebang didn’t really float my boat, the fact that it jangled each time gallery staff went through the rear door tickled my fancy. Cheeky. Natasha Frisch‘s ‘sprouts’ along the window sills of the gallery went unnoticed by me, until the second visit. and then i loved them long time. i’m always endeared by subtle interventions into space.

And the catalogue is great too. bring back the $2 catalogue i say. all of us noticed the ‘artist funded’ logo on the collateral and i have to say, as an artist, i kind of like the idea of bringing to attention the fact that so many artists fund their own exhibitions here. hell, if the government can get kudos for putting money into an exhibition, so can the artist. i like it.

Gertrude: Studio Show (inc. Nick Mangan Studio 12)

I didn’t get to see a whole lot of this show ‘cos it was heading towards closing time very quickly, but we scooted up to see Nick Mangan‘s work in Studio 12 – which was a small installation, relating to his fabricated archaelogical digs works, which have recently appeared in Santa Fe.

From the main show, I’ll be going back to have a proper look at new work by Kate Just, whose work i’ve always loved, and spending some more time with Simon Pererich’s How to Hack The World You Tube devices – he made 4 objects from instructional videos available on You Tube, and the videos to go with them – including a phone charger from something weird like lemon and lucozade, a device that makes an ATM spit money out at you, a ‘coin’ that gives you free access to public transport (methinks that works in NYC, not so much in downtown Melbs) and another object I can’t remember. As i said, i just rushed in before they shut, so i’ll be heading back to give it some more time before it closes on saturday.

image credits:

rennie ellis, sharpies. image from
drew yeoh, soft and shiny. image from gorkergallery,com
mary-jane caswell, bombshell. image from
go wild installation shot. image from
kate just, garden of interior delights, gertrude studio show.
nick mangan, misplaced/displaced mass-A1 southwest stone, studio 12. images from

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