News, Reviews, Visual arts

Nostalgia, critique… and footy

Review: Graham Miller, ‘playing the man’ ·
Turner Galleries ·
Review by Ted Snell ·

Local photographer Graham Miller is playing the man, quite literally! The joys, anguish, insecurity and wonder of childhood are revisited in his re-creation of the football cards he collected obsessively as a boy.

Born in Hong Kong, Miller arrived in Perth in 1977, aged 10. He desperately wanted to connect with his new community and the example of these heroic footy figures provided role models for belonging. Strong men, focused and determined men, members of a tribe, stoic and resilient. Like his fellow students at boarding school — all trying to fit in, to be liked and accepted — he gathered together his deck of heroes. They provided a template for behaviour, teaching him the rituals of passage toward manhood and guaranteeing that essential connectivity that formed bonds amongst his friendship group and lifetime links to his community.

Everybody wants to belong and in Australia that meant, and still means, belonging to the fraternity of footy. As I write this response to Miller’s wonderful exhibition at Turner Galleries, the radio, television and social media are proclaiming the sacred spectacle of Grand Final Weekend. The last Saturday in September is etched into our calendar as the annual tribal festival of belonging, when emotion is heightened, encouraged, and even celebrated. It is expected that raw emotions will be played out on the couch, in the backyard, and at the pub. This is the arena where men can love their heroes, weep for joy or explode in anger, and also the site where aggression, hatred and physical dominance are condoned. It is all part of the ritual of belonging, an essential alignment with what is expected of a man.

Graham Miller as David Dench, 1975.

In his new series of photographs, Miller becomes his heroes, adopting their mannerisms, absorbing their magical ethos, remaking himself into the man the community expected him to be. With mullet and moustache, steely gaze and hard body, dexterous and full of prowess he is transformed. A nickname appended and framed by a gaudy border emblazoned with the tribe’s name (Collingwood, Geelong, Richmond) he becomes the epitome of rugged masculinity. These footballers were “… hard men chasing an oval ball”, Miller explains, “It was tough to relate. These were the Aussie male heroes to aspire to. They didn’t look much like me”. Whether it is the determined grimace of Geelong’s Michael Turner or the gormless grin of Richmond’s Wayne Primmer, the wry smile of moustachioed “Lethal” Leigh Matthews or “the galloping gasometer” Mick Turner’s threatening glare, he embraces them all. Apart from “choppy” Les Fong, he may not have looked like them then, but he does now! The man looks back at his childhood, reconstructing his past and reflecting on his transition to adulthood.

Is this tongue-in-cheek critique or nostalgic reminiscence? Perhaps both. It is clearly a wistful affection for a period in his past when these garish images had significance and potency, yet these portraits cleverly mesh with a wry humour that acknowledges the simple, even comical representation of the subject’s iconic status. As a consequence, they help to undermine some of those ingrained ideals of Australian masculinity that many young men from diverse backgrounds have difficulty reconciling.

Miller is the quintessential chronicler of Australian suburban life, in all its richness and mundanity. This new body of work continues this project by exploiting the ambiguity of images, which, Robert Cook describes as “… the way that all photographs have elements of fabrication and truth-telling”. By mimicking the physical appearance of his childhood heroes, he reveals both the little boy’s awe and fascination for these men while concurrently interrogating how these tropes of masculinity have impacted on his adult self and those of his generation. The unsettling insight he presents to us in this body of work is that we may all be just playing the man we were conditioned to become.

Graham Miller’s ‘playing the man’ runs until October 19.

Pictured top: a selection of images from ‘playing the man’, by Graham Miller.

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News, Reviews, Visual arts

Intuition links three WA greats

Review: Kyle Hughes-Odgers, ‘Between the Earth and the Moon’/ Theo Koning, ‘The Latest Issue’/ Cathy Blanchflower, ‘Recent Paintings’ ·
Turner Galleries ·
Review by Claudia Minutillo ·

Floating somewhere amid the built and natural world or lived experience and inner subconscious, Turner Galleries presents three exhibitions which encourage the viewer to inhabit a space between these oppositions.

Curator Allison Archer thoughtfully brings together three celebrated Western Australian artists, Kyle Hughes-Odgers, Theo Koning and Cathy Blanchflower. To some extent, each artist’s practice materialises from a point of raw intuition and communicates with a well-developed, idiosyncratic artistic language.

Installed in the main gallery is Kyle Hughes-Odgers’s “Between the Earth and the Moon”, which is the Perth artist’s fifth exhibition at Turner Galleries. Widely known and loved for his large-scale street art locally and abroad, Hughes-Odgers’ work translates beautifully from the outside world to the inner sanctuary of the white-walled gallery. The Hughes-Odgers world is surreal, built on clear geometric patterning and cool colour combinations. Having recently returned from a residency in Iceland, this body of work seems to project a cool Scandinavian flare.

Hughes-Odgers’ large acrylic-on-canvas paintings collectively explore the way humans relate to each other and their environments, striking a balance between figuration and abstraction. The artist’s small Paper Studies series, 20 to 60, are a nice inclusion; a subconscious layering of colour and pattern, these works show freeing process which allows him to test colour and composition before they might be translated to larger works.

The exhibition also offers some 3D forms. Hughes-Odgers’ quirky sculpture Girl hints towards the artist’s interest in animation, lifting his characters out of the canvas and into life. The installation Feverdream brings a touch of light-hearted fun with shadow play and reflection.

Kyle Hughes-Odgers’ Girl, acrylic on board sculpture.

In engine room 1, Theo Koning’s “The Latest Issue” heightens this sense of play with his experimental practice led by pure intuition. This is suggested in the way the artist assembles, stacks, and (re)arranges his work on the floor and wall. Koning’s artist’s statement comes in the form of a home-made style zine. In it he asks, “How do you talk about your work when mostly it arrives intuitively?” For Koning, words come after the visual and how the sculptures are organised is like stringing together a sentence.

The artist’s sculptural forms are often dictated by the material itself; using found objects he then injects them with new life and energy by re-purposing or altering them with range of mediums such as acrylic, gesso, paper maché, and silicone. The sculptures are suggestive, spirited and mischievous, and play with spatial balance and informed movement, for example Olive or Tilted are tethered in a way that suggests they might fall – the space requires the viewer to be conscious of their physical relationship to the work.

Theo Koning’s works at Turner Galleries.

Cathy Blanchflower’s “Recent Paintings” in engine room 2 also forges a physical connection between viewer and work. It is perhaps the most visually stimulating show out of the three. Blanchflower’s medium to large-scale oil paintings are composed of opaque layers of paint in patterns that float over each other. Blues, greens, purples, and orange being the predominant colour palate, each vibrates with energy. Each painting shifts between a macro and micro world (they are almost cellular) but remain untethered to either orientation.

Significantly, Blanchflower’s painting Archz III marks a turn towards fluid organic patterning, reflecting her move from city living to the Blue Mountains. Previously, her paintings had reflected the density and energy of the city with grid-like structures, mathematical measurement and design. However, having been surrounded by nature, as Archz III shows, it becomes a way of life and a way of thinking through things. Blanchflower’s work is a direct response to her environment.

This set of exhibitions call attention to the ways we interact with our natural and urban world – a very timely subject in an age of environmental crisis. There is always room for art which encourages a shared ecological consciousness, makes us slow down and takes us away from the business of life.

The exhibition runs at Turner Galleries until August 10.

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Fast Art Talks
Calendar, Lectures and Talks, October 18

Lectures & Talks: Fast Art Talks

18 October @ King Street Arts Centre ·
Presented by Community Arts Network ·

CAN (Community Arts Network) presents
Fast Art Talks
Short / Sharp / Creative / Community / Art / Projects /
$10 // FREE for CAN members
Ticket includes drinks and nibbles.

Join us for a relaxed sundowner as we unpack three creative projects celebrating diverse voices in our communities. Find out about the process and practice driving these projects and the role of the creative producer to platform these voices.

King Street Arts Centre is at 357-365 Murray Street, Perth. Fast Art Talks is from 5pm-7pm.

Presenters: Caroline Wood, Director for Centre for Stories, on ‘Bright Lights, No City’ project. Ashley Yihsin Chang, Turner Galleries, on ‘Guanyin in the South West: A Portrait of Taiwan in Perth’ project and Jessica Wraight, CAN on ‘Clay Boodjar Exhibition’.

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Pictured: Fast Art Talks

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woman wearing heavily adorned mask
News, Reviews, Visual arts

A playful (and glittery) search for authenticity

Review: Nathan Beard, “Siamese Smize”
Turner Galleries ·
Review by Jess Boyce ·

Walking into one of Turner Galleries’ Engine Rooms to view Nathan Beard’s solo show, “Siamese Smize”, I suddenly feel uneasy, as though I am being watched by 22 pairs of eyes.

Woman whose face is obscured by a glittering mask
The masks flatten the faces of people in the portraits into coloured or patterned shapes. Nathan Beard, Figure 3. ‘Siamese Smile’, Thailand 1970-75

The eyes belong to the people in a collection of photographs found in Beard’s mother’s abandoned home in Thailand, the faces of which have been masked with glittering Swarovski crystals, leaving only their eyes exposed. Their lips hover in front of the image, printed on the acrylic face of the frame.

The masks flatten the faces of people in the portraits into coloured or patterned shapes. Whilst this uncanny shift is slightly discomforting, the expressions on the faces still appear pleasant and calm; as if this visage can be deciphered solely from the eyes. The word “smize”, referenced in the title of the show, is slang for “smiling with the eyes”. It’s used here in amalgamation with “Siamese Smile”, a phrase adopted by Thai tourism industry in the late 1980s which fetishized and simplified “Thainess” for a Western audience.

The statement from Beard that accompanies the show goes on to explain that there are “at least 13 different expressions for smiles” in the Thai language. In contrast, Beard has used mostly staged portraits of similar expression and body language. This unoffending body language changes as one moves past each image. As the floating lips position in relation to the face shifts, so too does our interpretation of the wearers’ smile, from pleasant to bizarre.

The kitschy crystal embellishments reference both a contemporary South-East Asian aesthetic of clothes and accessories, adorned with crystals and pop culture, and traditional Thai patterns found on ceramics and silks. Through their value, and painstaking application, the crystals also memorialise the subjects of the portraits, honouring Beard’s relation to them as family and as a connection to his own Thai heritage.

Yet another highly polished (and glittering) body of work from Beard, the portraits in “Siamese Smize” successfully balance the viewer between uneasiness and familiarity. Asking what is truly behind a smile, or a perceived national identity, this exhibition is a playful search for authenticity as Beard explores his Thai-Australian heritage.

Nathan Beard’s “Siamese Smize” is one of four solo shows at Turner Galleries until October 13. 

Pictured top: Detail from Nathan Beard, “Haltribe Sawatdee Thailand” digital print, printed acrylic, swarovski elements, 52.8 x 72.8 x 4cm, 2018.

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still from Jacobus Capone video, of rocky landscape
News, Reviews, Visual arts

Minute actions and grand journeys

Review: Jacobus Capone, “Passage” ·
Turner Galleries ·
Review by Jess Boyce ·

Local artist Jacobus Capone’s latest exhibition “Passage”, at Turner Galleries, presents a body of work produced over two years and three journeys between Tasmania and the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, during which the artist exchanged a single drop of water between the two locations.

The centre of the exhibition is a masterfully produced 26 minute, five channel video. The scene changes from grand white glaciers, rocky mountain faces and dark caves, to lush green bushland and flowing rivers. The artist is present in almost all of the scenes; his figure sometimes dwarfed by the grandness of the landscape, other times, a large presence in the vulnerable environment. A calm contemplation of the work is encouraged by the soundtrack; a slow rhythm of water drops and heartbeats.

Flanking the video on either side of the gallery is a series of paintings, light on one side, dark on the other. These studies of glacial scarring are unassuming when viewed from a distance, but closer inspection reveals that they are made up of a series of minute, delicate marks on paper, white on white or black on black. As well as the paintings there are two large inkjet prints on either side of the back wall, though these lack the crisp imagery of the video work.

Forest scene
Lush green bushland. Pictured: Jacobus Capone, video stills, Double Enigma.5 channel HD video.

The room is broken up into north and south (though not reflecting the gallery’s actual orientation) with the white paintings representing south and the black, north. The reasoning for the assigned colours is unclear but it echoes a recurring theme of oppositions – north and south, water and ice – while, conversely, interrupting the use of symmetry and reflection in the installation of the exhibition and the video work itself.

“Passage” mourns Tasmania’s once glaciated landscape – juxtaposing it with Svalbard’s current icy terrain – and reflects on the ever-changing state on the environment, the break in symmetry alluding, perhaps, to the fact that these now opposing landscapes weren’t always so different. The futility of trying to reconcile the two bodies of water also seems to reference current attempts to slow climate change.

Tiny, tender marks on paper represent millions of years of glacial movement and single drops of water traversing the globe. It’s these minute actions and grand journeys that are typical of Capone’s work.

“Passage” successfully encourages a consideration of one’s own place in the world whilst capturing the dramatic beauty of these two landscapes.

Jacobus Capone’s “Passage” is one of four solo shows by local artists at Turner Galleries until October 13. 

Pictured top: Jacobus Capone, video stills 8, Double Enigma.5 channel HD video.

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Sump System II Frontier
Features, Mixed media, News, Painting, Reviews, Visual arts

Dystopian by design

Review: Richard Giblett, “Frontier” ·
Turner Galleries ·
Review by Miranda Johnson ·

Richard Giblett’s exhibition “Frontier”, at Turner Galleries, showcases the artist’s ongoing investigations into space, architecture and global branding. Giblett’s works are displayed sparsely and evenly throughout the front room of Turner Galleries; the industrial concrete-and-white space playing nicely against his canvases and lightboxes, which involve clean geometric shapes amid finely detailed lines.

A centrepiece to the exhibition is a Perspex miniature warehouse, emblazoned with the Chanel logo and lit from the inside, making its architectural lines glow like an unearthly, alien object. Luxury branding also appears as a recurring motif in Giblett’s gouache and collage canvases, with the Chanel logo again appearing in Sump System II (Frontier). Similarly, YSL System IV and V features collages of artistically slumped models woven throughout geometric, interlocking rectangular shapes – YSL referring to, presumably, Yves Saint Laurent.

'Enclosed System 4 refinery', gouache on card on found photograph, 65x80cm, 2018.
‘Enclosed System 4 refinery’, gouache on card on found photograph, 65x80cm, 2018.

The branding of these works contrasts somewhat with Bauhaus de Stijl block, the second sculpture in the exhibition, which is made from a number of steel set squares, layered on top of one another to form a structure and lit from underneath, adding another eerie glow to the work. It’s an interesting use of an architectural tool used for making straight lines; in this case, the lines themselves are formed by the square, and the humble, everyday tool transformed into an art object in itself.

The central piece, Sump System II (Frontier), forms the largest and most intricate work. Comprised of four canvases, the work shows a dense system of factories, homes and urban environments; some resemble ancient pyramids whilst others are as humble as a suburban swimming pool. Throughout the work, instantly recognisable global company logos top buildings: Shell, Esso, Xerox. The buildings float against a black background, interconnected by a system of pipes and tubes, many of which ooze slick, black oil. From this work, it’s clear that the artist’s interests lie within graphic design and his childhood years in Hong Kong; the patterns are futuristic yet industrial, suggesting built environments and concrete jungles.

Although the artist’s statement claims that his use of luxury branding, consumerist motifs and industrial pollution is not necessarily a critique, but is used to simply draw attention to the impact these have upon our lives, it’s hard not to view these works as critique. The images of corporate greed are so pervasive in Sump System II (Frontier) that, when combined with the geometric industrial pipes, angular, sullen models and corporate factories, the world created seems to me to be more dystopian than simply design-oriented. As a whole, the exhibition reflects to us our most greedy and corporate selves, holding up a mirror to our reliance on global energy companies and luxury capitalism. Giblett may not intend to critique this reality but, by reflecting it through his intricate, geometric works, he makes us realise that it necessitates critiquing.

“Frontier” shows at Turner Galleries until 4 August.

Pictured top: Richard Giblett ‘Sump System II Frontier’, gouache on paper 100x200cmx4, bottom left panel, 2018.

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Richard Giblett
August 18, Calendar, July 18, Painting, Sculpture, Visual arts

Visual art: Richard Giblett solo exhibition: Frontier

6 July – 4 August @ Turner Galleries ·
Presented by Turner Galleries ·

Opening 6pm Friday 6 July.
Artist talks 3pm Saturday 7 July.
Exhibition closes Saturday 4 August

Frontier, by Melbourne based artist Richard Giblett, is a suite of new and recent artworks consisting of meticulously hand painted works on paper and two sculptures. Drawing inspiration from advertising, luxury goods, architecture, city lights, refineries and urban networks, the artist both questions and pays homage to the needs of our city based lives.

More info:

Pictured: Richard Giblett, Sump System (Frontier), gouache on paper, 100 x 200cm x 4 (bottom right panel), 2018.

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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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