Reviews/Visual Art

Figurative art brings literal pleasure

1 December 2021

At once philosophical and playful, Art Collective WA’s final exhibition for 2021 delights Jaimi Wright.

‘Mimesis’, Various artists (full list at end) ·
Art Collective WA ·

The idea of mimesis lives at the core of what makes art, art.

Dating back to Ancient Greece, the term refers to the transformation of “reality” into art and literature. It’s this concept that makes Art Collective WA’s “Mimesis” exhibition so rich in its exploration.

Not only does the exhibition continue the evolution of figurative art – modern art that references the real world – by local artists, but its broad examination of the concept behind its title also interrogates art’s very nature.

Delightfully absurd: Judith Forrest, ‘Hornbills Three Ways’, 2021, oil on canvas, 76 x 102cm

In assembling “Mimesis”, curator Kevin Robertson has tapped into the word’s origins. Mimesis is derived from the Ancient Greek term mīmeisthai, “to imitate”, initially meaning to directly represent the beauty of the natural world, and eventually shifting to wider ideas such as self-representation.

In similar expansive fluidity, “Mimesis” is a collection of artworks spanning two and a half decades, from seventeen different artists. Like its philosophical namesake, it pushes outwards in fascinating ways, from literal to figurative, from representational to abstract.

Closest to the entrance is Marcus Beilby’s Good Fortune Duck House (2019). The work is an appropriate starting point for “Mimesis”, as Beilby’s astounding attention to detail in depicting the realism of this quotidian scene from the Victoria Park restaurant reflects mimesis’s aesthetic beginnings. The beauty of the everyday is made larger than life through Beilby’s use of light and texture in oils. Soft blues of the sky’s reflection in the window are contrasted by the crispy browns of the cooked ducks hanging below, and both are somehow exactly what you expect and more.

A mesmeric form of realism and hallucination: Andrew Nicholls, Gentry 2, 2021, archival pens and white ink on watercolour paper, 76 x 56cm

Two works by George Haynes, After Work (2021) and Cue Painting #2 (2021) are also representations of the everyday, elevated by Hayne’s astounding command of light, tone and shape. Painted in oils, After Work takes you to a fisherman’s jetty in dusky shades, while Cue Painting #2 (pictured top) depicts a rural street against an aquamarine sky in acrylic. Each setting is given such immense presence by Hayne’s depiction of light in the air and sky, the swirling brushstrokes conjuring a heady atmosphere.

“Mimesis” also considers the human form as a subject, with many artists in the exhibition embarking on portraiture’s persistent quest to capture human essence.

In his two oil on canvas works Kate (2021) and Music (2021), Kevin Robertson creates strong characters through warped proportions and perspectives. Andrew Nicholls’ Gentry 1 (2021) and Gentry 2 (2021) in archival ink pen and watercolour paper, as well as his series of works made from fired porcelain in collaboration with Sandra Black, take neoclassical characters to the point of absurdity. Their muscular figures, with insect wings or fauna growing out of their bodies, combine a mesmeric form of realism and hallucination.

Dark fever dreams: Antony Muia, ‘Sphere of the Moon’, 2020, mixed media on paper, 122 x 82cm

Within a glance of Nicholls and Black’s pieces are Anthony Muia’s The Cave (Mimesis II) (2021), The Sphere of the Moon (2020) and The Garden (Mimesis II). Each seems like a dark fever dream conjured from mixed media on paper; the naked protagonists who walk through its misty midst represent figurative journeys as much as literal ones.

Towards the abstract interpretation of “mimesis” are Jane Martin’s The Last Chord (2021) and Judith Forrest’s Hornbills Three Ways (2021), both painted in oils.

In Martin’s work, the waves of the people in the background mimic the waves upon the lid of the piano as well as the colours of the piano wire beneath, locking both the pianist and his audience in a moment of harmonious unity.

Forrest’s hornbills on the other hand have taken a turn for the delightfully absurd as they switch between simplistic and realistic forms and seem to morph into electrical equipment, proving that this exhibition’s brief doesn’t need to be taken too seriously.

“Mimesis” plays with art’s beating heart, while also understanding the richness and breadth of its core philosophy. It’s another strong show from the ever pensive Art Collective WA.

“Mimesis” continues at Art Collective WA until 18 December 2021.

Artists: Tom Alberts, Marcus Beilby, Merrick Belyea, Sandra Black, Tim Burns, Judith Forrest, George Haynes, Fiona Harman, Cecilia Klementson, Joanna Lamb, Mardi Crocker, Jane Martin, Antony Muia, Andrew Nicholls, Ellen Norrish, Kevin Robertson, Angela Stewart.

Pictured top: George Haynes, ‘Cue Painting #2’, oil and acrylic on canvas, 100 x 120cm

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Author —
Jaimi Wright

Jaimi Wright is your friendly neighbourhood art historian. She has just completed a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) at UWA and dabbles in curating, local arts writing, and 19th century French history. Her favourite piece of play equipment is the roundabout even though her stomach should know better.

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