News, Reviews, Visual arts

Street smart

Review: Handbrake’s “Chaos Controlled” ·
35 Cheriton St, East Perth, Friday 9 March ·
Review by Belinda Hermawan ·

Near the disused East Perth power station, nestled amongst a cluster of industrial buildings, is the warehouse space in which Handbrake’s “Chaos Controlled” was held, the iridescent colours of his art works popping against the foreground of the street’s grey and rust.

“Chaos Controlled” was the perfect name for this short-lived show by street artist Handbrake (real name Hans Bruechle). Within a carefully curated space, it was both a showcase of the subversive and a celebration of the alternative. From the vividly painted vodka bottle skulls to the eye-catching sequence of skateboard decks, there was no shortage of visual stimuli. Video footage of Handbrake at work – projected on a screen hung from the warehouse ceiling – revealed a detailed process of design, planning and execution.

Handbrake’s trademark combination of quirky and vibrant came through in his use of colour, emphasised by the bright palettes used to bring the jumbled compositions to life. Several illustrated pieces that were exhibited feature drawn outlines in heavy black, almost like a colouring-in page, which are then paired with neon colour. This is not paint-by-numbers, but colour applied in freeform flow. There is something evocative about the space left uncoloured, as if reminding us that not everything needs to be treated and covered for full effect. The surfboards that were on display are drawn and painted on in a similar fashion, transforming a blank and practical object into art you’d want to take home and  show off to others. Turn around and there was even a motorcycle featuring detailed illustration on its panels – you can literally ride this graphic art!

A playful highlight was the triptych of Australian Playboy covers, real covers reimagined and given the “Handbrake” branding treatment in a street update on traditional pop art. Instead of the Ben-Day dots of a Lichtenstein, here we find hand-drawn tattoo motifs in black. Also tongue-in-cheek and wonderfully constructed were the sculpture pieces, spot on in their wit and observational humour, with a “Facebook like” button placed as bait on a metal spring trap (the dangers of social media) and a rotary dial phone with a built in lightbulb (“illuminating conversation”).

Had these pieces been displayed on spotless plinths in a silent, air-conditioned white gallery, would they have had the same effect? The art does speak for itself. But part of the joy of “Chaos Controlled” was its positioning as a proudly street-smart exhibition. With many in the high heels and expensive suits of a conventional opening, punters were more than comfortable weaving around a motorcycle and getting up and personal with a skateboard deck.

Accessible and just plain fun, Handbrake’s exhibition made for a great night out and I look forward to seeing more of his works.

Handbrake is pictured top, with his work.

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News, Reviews, Visual arts

Sparking dialogue

Review: “Silence”, Kyle Hughes-Odgers –
Turner Galleries, opening night 1 September –
Review by Belinda Hermawan –

‘diagrams of life part A’ 40cm x 30cm (12 squares per painting). Acrylic on board. Kyle Hughes-Odgers 2017.

In contrast with its title, the first minutes of the opening of Kyle Hughes-Odgers’ exhibition “Silence” were the only quiet ones of the night. This was the lull before the whirlwind of admirers came streaming into the Turner Galleries, when one could view the works of abstract whimsy with some degree of solitude.

But there was a palpable joy in being part of the crowd appreciating one of Perth’s best-known multi-disciplinary artists. Hughes-Odgers’ public street art has been commissioned globally, with large scale murals in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, London and Madrid. His art work is known to younger members of the community through his five children’s books and also Ten Tiny Things by Meg McKinlay.

Installed at the entrance of the gallery is the fifteen-minute film Ordered Chaos, a documentary about Hughes-Odgers’ projects made by Chad Peacock. Murmurs of recognition from viewers reflect how iconic Hughes-Odgers’ art works have become in our city. Perthites can see his distinctive style in projects at Perth Airport, Northbridge, Mt Lawley, Claremont, William St, Perth… The growing list is a collection as organic as the elements of nature so often depicted in his works.

In the paintings diagrams of life, parts A – M, Hughes-Odgers creates magic from the mundane, creating a multi-faceted grid of objects and figures in both warm and cool tones. These geometric patterns evoke a sense of nostalgia and comfort, of child-like wonder in ordinary objects. In depicting the everyday – mugs, books, plants, paint and people – the viewer is pulled into observing the small components of our lives, things we tend to take for granted.

‘a map to the horizon’ 153cm x 122cm Acrylic on canvas Kyle Hughes-Odgers 2017

Hughes-Odgers’ quirkiness is seen in the diptych A map to the horizon, where the use of colour and pattern unifies the man-made campsites with nature, portraying a symbiotic enjoyment of the outdoors. The work draws parallels to his “totem” series of ink drawings, in which characters and trees are stacked in unexpected ways; wonderful combinations of people and nature, emblematic of an ideal balance. Turn around to the impressive set of 43 vases and you see a sprawling display of framed segments of vases; a biomorphic construction.

In his artist statement, Hughes-Odgers explains that the title of exhibition ‘is based on the idea of paintings as static silent objects that can spark ideas, memory and create dialogue.’ The excited chatter in the gallery an hour into opening night proved his hypothesis correct. From a small piece of paper to four 35m grain silos in Merredin, Hughes-Odgers makes us think about and discuss creativity in all its shapes and sizes.

‘totem growth’ 19cm x 10cm (cut out) Archival ink on 300 gsm smooth acid free paper. Kyle Hughes-Odgers 2016

“Silence” by Kyle Hughes-Odgers is exhibiting at Turner Galleries in Northbridge until 30 September.

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