ACTease September 2014
by Courtney Symes
It was with a heavy heart that I put fingers to keyboard for this final ACTease instalment. I have thoroughly enjoyed compiling this column each month and have never been short of amazing exhibitions to cover. I am ashamed to admit that after writing the Melburnin’ column I was nervous about writing ACTease. After being spoilt for choice with Melbourne exhibitions each month, would there be enough exhibitions to write about in Canberra? After moving to Canberra, all of my fears were swiftly allayed. Of course there were enough exhibitions, in fact, there were too many!
One thing I’ve learned about Canberrans is that they have high expectations. And so they should – this is Australia’s Capital! In the same way that Canberrans expect good coffee, fine dining, high quality shops and leisure facilities in their city, the same can be said for art and culture. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed checking out the array of galleries in this evolving city – from established institutions that pull the ‘blockbuster’ shows, to the independent galleries that showcase the talented emerging artists. This city really has it all.
Canberra-based artist, Graham Eadie “explores the semiotics of painting, particularly the relationship between indexical and iconic elements” in his latest exhibition, Argonautica at ANCA this month. Eadie’s works tell the story of Jason and his boat, the Argo and his adventures of “seeking a golden prize in a distant land full of unknown challenges”. Throughout this journey, Eadie explores numerous themes such as relationships, pursuing something you’re passionate about, as well as death and despair. Runs until 7 Sept 2014 – anca.net.au
What do you get when you cross a visual artist and a writer? Find out this month at M16’s Wordsmith exhibition. Curated by Sarah Norris, this collaborative project “has brought together visual artists (Gina Wyatt, Jacklyn Peters, Julian Laffan, Ian Robertson, Caren Florance, and Sarah Rice) and writers (Nigel Featherstone, Sarah Rice, CJ Bowerbird, and Yolande Norris) in a creative interaction that explores the common ground between differing, but inextricably linked, mediums”. Runs until 7 September 2014. The exhibition will conclude with a special public event, A Thousand Words, where writers consider and discuss the artworks on display by calling upon their storytelling skills at 2pm on 7 September 2014.
Antarctica is a fascinating place. Its remote location and inhospitable surroundings make it a place that many of us will only dream of visiting. Mike MacGregor and Kerry McInnis were fortunate enough to visit the Antarctic Peninsula in November 2012. They travelled 1,100km via ship from Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, crossing Drake’s Passage. After arriving at the Peninsula, they “explored craggy shores of black granite and frazil ice” via use of zodiac craft, snowshoes and sea kayaks. The landscape they encountered was “unfamiliar and threatening – stark and magnificent”. The resulting M16 exhibition, Ice Floes and Growlers (Antarctica),showcases a collection of plein air sketches (made on site) as well as studio paintings and sculptures. “By presenting their interpretations of Antarctica, MacGregor and McInnis hope to enrich the public’s visual understanding of this wondrous place.” Runs from 11 – 28 September. Join guest speaker, Wendy Teakel, Head of Sculpture, School of Art, Australian National University, for the exhibition opening on Thursday 11 September at 6pm – m16artspace.com.au
This month Beaver Galleries present a couple of beautiful exhibitions, from Nick Wirdnam and Dianne Fogwell. Wirdnam’s studio glass exhibition, beliefs, focuses on “recurring symbols and motifs often associated with good fortune, hope and consolation” and more specifically, “the power we attribute to these objects”. Pieces featured in the exhibition have been created from hot sculpted and carved glass in an array of beautiful colours. In particular, bowl of plenty (gold) crafted from blown and hot sculpted glass showcases perfectly formed fruit and other types of food in stunning gold and amber tones.
Daily observations of Australian flora and fauna are the inspiration behind Dianne Fogwell’s latest exhibition, Inflorescence. This collection of paintings and works on paper “are a contemplation on the cycle of pollination, revealing the beauty of this natural choreography”. I am particularly taken by Fogwell’s skill in capturing the small details, such as the stamen of a flower or the pattern on an insect’s wing. Fogwell has a unique ability to create “almost hallucinatory and dreamlike imagery of often unnoticed elements in the landscape”. She is a true master of her subject matter. Both exhibitions run until 9 September – beavergalleries.com.au
Kabuki actors were the equivalent of movie stars during the 1920s and 30s in Japan. Artist Natori Shunsen (1886–1960) created a number of actor portraits throughout the 20s and 30s, which have been bought together in NGA exhibition, Stars of the Tokyo stage: Natori Shunsen’s kabuki actor prints. In addition to being flamboyant and dynamic, kabuki serves as a source of inspiration for artists because it reflects Japanese culture (folklore, literature and history), “, as well as violent, romantic and scandalous events”. “Shunsen’s prints provide a fascinating glimpse into this glamorous world, while demonstrating consummate mastery of traditional Japanese printmaking techniques.” In addition to this unique collection of prints, a selection of kabuki robes have also been included in the exhibition. This exhibition presents a special opportunity to view a collection of pieces exclusively from the NGA collection. Runs until 12 October 2014.
“Arthur Boyd: agony and ecstasy will showcase many works from Boyd’s great Gift to the National Gallery in 1975 among others, and will provide a rare opportunity to consider in depth works from diverse series,” says Deborah Hart, Senior Curator, Australian Painting and Sculpture at NGA. “In its totality across an array of media it is a chance to contemplate images of considerable daring and passion and to rediscover Boyd as you have never seen him before.”
Whilst this is a major exhibition of Boyd’s art (more than 100 works across a variety of media), this is not a retrospective. This show aims to showcase the ‘underdog’ pieces “that have never or rarely been previously exhibited”. Keep an eye out for works such as: Nebuchadnezzar making a cloud (1968); Self portrait in red shirt (1937), and the tapestry The lady and the unicorn: invocation (1974) – nga.gov.au
There’s something alluring about the ‘surfer lifestyle’ – the freedom, the refreshing salt water and ocean breezes, the exhilaration of catching the ‘perfect wave’. National Portrait Gallery exhibition, Arcadia Sound of the Sea offers a snapshot of Australian surf culture during the 1970s. Arcadia features photographs by John Witzig (co-founder of Tracks magazine and founder of SeaNotes), as well as drawings by Nicholas Harding and film footage by Albert Falzon.
In her exhibition introduction essay, Sarah Engledow explains that “the show isn’t a history of Australian surfing; there are key figures who aren’t in it, and minor figures who are. It’s not an exercise in where-are-they-now. It’s not a history of Australian self-sufficiency or cottage industry, or the urge to leave the cities for a more fundamental, healthy life. It’s not a social history of Australia in the seventies … If it’s about anything, Arcadia is about how it feels to be lean, male, strong, untrammeled and irresponsible: to be a slacker with immense discretionary energy.” Arcadia aims to capture the “sensual” aspect of this lifestyle – it isn’t simply about life by the beach and ocean. “The ocean may not appear in all of the images; in fact, it’s absent from at least half of them, as well as from most of the film footage; but you can hear it, as it were … The works in Arcadia have been brought together not so much to evoke ideas, as to evoke a sensual response: to salt and fresh water, wet and dry sand, dune vegetation, undergrowth, tent canvas, floors of vans and shacks, weatherboards, hand-knitted jumpers, thin old t-shirts, corduroy, spongy neoprene, stiff hair, dog fur, noses and claws, banksia pods, firewood, seaweed and rocks. If you can feel any of those textures, if you can smell or taste any of those odours – and if, senses sharpened, you can feel a seed of independence germinating within you – Arcadia lives in you,” says Engledow. Runs until 19 October – portrait.gov.au
J.W. Power is considered to be “one of Australia’s most successful and accomplished expatriate painters of the inter-war years”. The National Library of Australia and the University of Sydney are celebrating this talented artist with an exhibition of his work, Abstraction–Création. This is the first time Power’s paintings and sketchbooks have been exhibited together (the University of Sydney and the National Library are both custodians of Power’s collection). Power was born in Sydney in 1881 and trained as a Doctor. To further his studies, Power moved to Europe and then joined the Royal Army Medical Corps throughout the Great War. However, Power’s artistic calling was stronger than his medical career, which he abandoned to study art with Fernand Léger in his Académie Moderne in Paris. He then joined the international group of artists known as Abstraction-Création.
Power’s work was included in a number of exhibitions between 1921-1938 in London, Paris and Amsterdam as he forged a career as an avant-garde artist. Sadly, Power’s work is less known in Australia and he is perhaps better known as a benefactor to the University of Sydney. Hopefully this exhibition will introduce a new audience to Power’s unique contemporary style. Runs until 26 October at the National Library – nla.gov.au
Courtney Symes is a Canberra-based writer, small business owner, and mother. When she’s not writing, you will find her enjoying a run around one of Canberra’s beautiful parks and seeking out Canberra’s best coffee and cheesecake haunts with the family. Read more at alittlepinkbook.blogspot.com.au
Editor’s note: Due to a change in editorial direction this will be the last appearance of Melburnin’ & ACTease. Simon Gregg was the original writer of the Melburnin’ column (2005 to 2008). It was rested until Courtney Symes took over in May, 2010. When Courtney moved to Canberra and began contributing ACTease, feature writer Inga Walton commenced working on Melburnin’ in February, 2013. Both Inga and Courtney will continue to write feature editorials for Trouble on a regular basis.