ACTease by Courtney Symes
The talk of the town in Canberra this month has been Patricia Piccinini’s Skywhale hot-air balloon. This unidentifiable half bird/half beast has Canberrans divided. Ian Warden of the Canberra Times eloquently summaries Canberra’s bewilderment: “Now whole classes of Canberrans (like, say, the Summernats classes, and their children) who know and care nothing about art and who don’t want to have anything to do with the centenary or any deep analysis, have a right to be disappointed by Skywhale … Perhaps in thinking of the best balloon for the centenary messrs Archer and Piccinini should have done the demanding work of imagining something that had mass appeal, that gave delight rather than a challenge.” FM104.7’s Scotty and Nige recently questioned if it would be such a bad thing if the world’s biggest set of airborne boobs put Canberra on the map. If Piccinini’s intention was to prompt a reaction (good or bad), I’d say she’s succeeded with all the flying colours of her Skywhale. We’d love your thoughts – ‘love’ or ‘hate’?
I’ve been counting down the months until National Gallery of Australia exhibition, Turner from the Tate: The Making of a Master commences this month. Britain’s Tate has an extensive and diverse collection of J.M.W Turner’s work, highlighting this Romantic artist’s mastery. Turner (1775-1851) is renowned for his distinctive watercolours with “experimental character”. The exhibition features 40 oils and 70 works on paper – from intimate sketches through to large, iconic watercolours. Highlights include Buttermere Lake, with part of Cromackwater 1798 – an impressive early work featuring a moody scene from the Lake District, broken by a nearly colourless rainbow. The fall of an avalanche in the Grisons 1810 features the dramatic scene of a powerful avalanche, decimating an alpine landscape. Other notable works include Venice, the Bridge of Sighs 1840, the tragic A disaster at sea c.1835, Peace – Burial at sea 1842 and War. The exile and the rock limpet 1842. Canberra – you’re in for a treat this June. Runs from 1 June – 8 September.
“When things move, I get interested,” photographer Garry Winogrand once remarked. This is one of the reasons why the dynamic landscape of cities offers photographers a world of possibility and inspiration. Progress in technology e.g. improved plate sensitivity to low light levels combined with shorter exposure time meant that the streets became the new ‘studios’ of the twentieth century. Certain aspects of consumer culture, such as highways, billboards and other forms of advertising became popular themes. People, parking lots, signs, and shops are just some of the scenes of popular culture featured in NGA’s fascinating exhibition, American Street: seventy years of a photographic tradition. Viewers will be drawn into the lives of the subjects featured in these images. Don’t miss this one before it finishes up on 23 June. www.nga.gov.au
Beaver Galleries welcomes four talented artists throughout June, with exhibitions from Sophia Szilagyi, Dean Bowen, Marc Rambeau and Nicole Ayliffe. Szilagyi’s Water studies consists of pieces created from photography and digital manipulation. Specialising in digital printmaking, Szilagyi’s work explores “the relationship between fiction and non-fiction in our perceptions of reality and recollection of our past”. Frequently drawing inspiration from the coast and the sea, as well as light and dark, Szilagyi “seamlessly combines and layers the collected imagery and manipulates her work through the use of computer technology”. Szilagyi hales from Melbourne, and after graduating with First Class Honours from RMIT’s School of Art and Culture in 2000, she has been involved in numerous solo and group shows throughout Australia. Szilagyi’s works have been acquired by Burnie Regional Art Museum, La Trobe Regional Art Gallery, Wagga Wagga Art Gallery, Queensland University of Technology, and State Library of Victoria.
Cluster, Dean Bowen’s latest exhibition, features a collection of sculptures and paintings which “are characterised by vibrant colour, environmental symbolism and dynamic composition”. Pieces included in this exhibition reflect Bowen’s “quirky and infectious sense of humour whilst also reminding us of our common struggles and triumphs” through his interpretations of people, animals, insects and objects. Bowen’s work can currently be found in the National Gallery of Australia, Australian War Memorial, Bibliothèque Nationale (Paris) and Contemporary Art and Culture Centre (Japan).
A trip to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia was the inspiration behind Marc Rambeau’s latest exhibition, Encounters. Encounters consists of paintings and works on paper that explore “the dramatic changes of light and the different perspectives of the landscape forms”.
Rambeau develops his works by collaging rice paper sheets that are adhered to linen. “Marc Rambeau is known for his landscapes that radiate vivid colour with paint thickly and texturally applied,” so viewers can expect movement, vibrancy, and a heightened colour palette throughout this dynamic collection of work. This is a must-see exhibition from a veteran artist who has exhibited extensively nationally and internationally for over twenty years.
An exploration of “the reflection and refraction of light between the exterior and interior surfaces” of her glass works forms the basis for Nicole Ayliffe’s latest exhibition, studio glass. Drawing inspiration from the natural world, Ayliffe focuses on the “optical qualities” of the glass she hand-blows and cuts and polishes to create these unique pieces. “The solidity of the glass and the suspension of an internal bubble, create the optical illusion of space, distortion and movement”. It’s like Ayliffe has captured a miniature world or ecosystem within each piece – frozen in time for us to observe. Ayliffe’s work can also be found in the Parliament House Art Collection, National Glass Collection (Wagga Wagga Art Gallery) and the Northeast University College of Fine Arts (Changchun, China).Sophia Szilagyi’s and Dean Bowen’s exhibitions run from 23 May – 10 June. Marc Rambeau’s and Nicole Ayliffe’s exhibitions follow from 13 June – 2 July 2013. www.beavergalleries.com.au
Ralph Tikerpae is proof that every artist works in different ways and draws inspiration from different things. Whilst some artists thrive on the hustle and bustle of the bright lights and loud noises of a big city, Tikerpae removed himself from the city early in his career. A desire to “develop his art away from the tyranny of other influences and the stresses of the urban environment” attracted Tikerpae to the fringe of the Mallee country in regional NSW. Here he has space (headspace and physical space) to create his sculptures and paintings in large studios. Tikerpae’s latest exhibition, Drawing in Metal – Ralph Tikerpae is on at Belconnen Arts Centre until 16 June. Meet Tikerpae in person on Saturday 1 June from 11am. www.belconnenartscentre.com.au
Inhabit – Living in design and Re-forestation: how to make a tree from a chair are Craft ACT’s latest exhibitions from the Designing a Capital: Crafting a Nation program. The exhibition, Inhabit explores how “objects that inhabit our homes shape the spaces we live in” through an exhibition that features pieces from Australian craft practitioners and designers. Runs until 6 June.
Re-forestation artist, Ashley Eriksmoen is an internationally renowned future designer who aims to help form relationships between people and their personal spaces. Eriksmoen “describes her practice as domesticating wood into objects; taking wood from its wild, natural state to one that will behave indoors without losing its living spirit”. The exhibition introduces viewers to the fun side of furniture, whilst raising the issue of deforestation. What would we use as an alternative if a medium as beautiful and versatile as wood wasn’t available? Runs until 22 June. www.craftact.org.au