Thursday, June 9, 2011

Take Me Back: Dylan Quirk at James st Festival

 If you didn't make it to the James St Festival to see Dylan Quirk you really missed out. 

Check out the interview with Dylan below. There's a lot of debate in the art industry at the moment in regards to whether the industry is favouring artists who are entertaining and interactive inorder to bring currency into the gallery. Dylan's work may seem superficial or just a bit of fun, but it's much more than that. He talks about wanting to take his art back to the action painters of Abstract Expressionism. And we see his work looking like the gestural aesthetics of Pollock. Rather than focusing on the finished product, Dylan focuses on the process of creation and that process as being the actual art work.

Check out the film, it's a really good insight into his work.

Thanks to Nine Lives for an amazing night last week.




Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Anti-Tourists: Geez and Travel Photography

When I went to thailand the trip made me realise how naive I was. I had pictured myself drinking cocktails on white sand beaches, in clear waters and brightly lit reefs, cliche I know. Well this was not exactly what I got. I mean you can have this to a certain extent, if you are willing to pay the right price and ignore the reality, but what I got was better. I loved the years of built up grime on the streets, the people, the traffic jams with no end in sight. But I guess what all this made me realise was that the tourism images I had been fed were pretty much fabrications of the truth, even manufactured to a certain extent.

 I swam in Maya Bay, in oil stained water along with 300 other people. I swam over the dead coral or what remained of it after the tsunami, and I watched the Japanese girl catch a Clown Fish in her hand and proudly  show her friends while it flapped around like some sort of forgotten trophy. 

My point here is, what if you were not shown these picturesque tourism images? What if you were shown this kind of thing? Would you still want to go?

I recently came across the work of Brisbane based photographer Geez, and I started to recognise that there was another type of Travel Photography going on, dramatically contrasting to the picturesque landscapes so commonly seen in the genre. It would be ignorant to suggest that Travel Photography is a completely new genre, we only have to look back to the ethnographic photographs of the colonial period to realise this.  However this style is not just another branch of exoticism, the photographs do not emphasise difference or cultural exclusivity, and we do not feel like we are being shown another exotic world. What we are shown is very much our world, but Geez's photographs emphasise that it is not the world we live in, each photograph seems like a new point of discovery.

 Westerners have this amazing ability to compartmentalise, even though we are aware of issues like poverty, slavery, economical downfall and disease among others, we ship these issues far off onto the edges of our brain and as long as we are not reminded of these issues we can deny their existence.

Geez's photographs are like the postcards that would have never been published, far too real for the currency driven tourism industry. Perhaps for some of us these images are too confronting or too reductive of the Disneyland aesthetic. They are simultaneously melancholic as they are beautiful but they are not an attempt to make us realise important social and economical issues that we deny. They act as evidence that there is something sort of magical in the places that we try and forget or don't know exist.  

Check out Geez's work below and visit his blog: It Could be Honolulu 


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pedro Ramos and Angus Mcdiarmid, 'Rocks & Water' @ Nine Lives Gallery

Pedro Ramos 

If you're lucky enough to be in Brisbane tonight don't miss the opening of Pedro Ramos and Angus Mcdiarmid's 'Rocks & Water' at Nine Lives Gallery. 

A selection of textual photographs based around the kaleidoscope patterns found in water and rocks. After a long period of mutual respect for the other’s work Pedro and Angus have come together to produce a series of photographs deeply embedded in a nature aesthetic. From sea scapes and rock formations to documenting the people around them engaging in the water that inspires them, both artists have strong ties to the natural world.

Pedro Ramos grew up on Madeira Island, off the coast of Portugal, he now lives and works in Sydney as a freelance photographer and tutor. Still finding the time to pursue his own work, over the last five years he has exhibited works in North American, Europe, Japan and Australasia. Having been featured in major publications such as The Journal, 'Sup, Dossier, Vice and Monster Children amongst others, Pedro returns to Nine Lives after exhibiting in last year’s sold out Semipermanent show. 

Angus Mcdiarmid

Angus Mcdiarmid currently lives and works between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. After producing the publication, The Shire he is about to embark on a South American hiatus. Inspired by National Geographic Magazine and printed press he has a specific fascination with the patterns that can be found within water and rocks. His photos are a simple account of what he and his friends encounter in everyday life.

Opening night 

Thursday May 12th
From 6pm
Nine Lives Gallery
5F Winn St
Fortitude Valley 


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Guide to Viewing Street Art in the White Cube: Space Invaders @ UQAM

Phibs, Derailed, 2003, stencil

I put off seeing Space Invaders at the University of Queensland Art Museum for a while, mostly because I knew what it was going to be and I didn’t think I was ready to see it, to me it was like stepping over some sort of finish line. Street Art in a major museum connotes a type of finality and I couldn’t help but think “what’s next?” Where do we go from here?”  My friends all saw it way before I did. “It’s cool” one of them said. “A bit too cool, if you know what I mean.”  I knew exactly what he meant.

It is beautiful, such a cliché way to describe it, but the high ceilings, the white walls, the polished timber floor, the way your footsteps echo when you walk through the museum, it’s romantic and I love that. But I couldn’t help and compare it to what it was not.  Sure it was nice not getting harassed by the junkies in Hosier Lane,  not having to strategically place a milk crate over the vomit that, bless its heart was in the perfect place to photograph the Reka piece.  But it just wasn't the same. Without those things, it was too clean, too pristine and it freaked me out to see Everfresh crew stickers inside a glass box. 

Meek, Begging for Change, 2004, Stencil

I was thinking of everything the museum had done wrong and seeing the stickers the installers had stuck on the wooden plinth, it struck me that now there was a middle man in Street Art. Then I realised it was not them, but me. They were doing what they had always done; finding an innovative, low brow art with the capacity to make money and turning it into high art within the museum walls. In fact if this was not the way the museum cannon worked none of us would have experienced art as we know it, and here I was hating them for it.

Really what did I expect? The very nature of Street Art is inherently commercial, paste-ups for example are predominantly reproduced over and over again. They are reproductions, material proof of Walter Benjamin’s theory of originality. The idea which was basically because these artworks are reproduced so many times we have no sense of the original, the aura of the work is lost. Who would be able to tell the difference between HA-HA’s first ever Ned Kelly paste-up and his fifty first? Maybe this is why it is so easy for advertisers to pick up on the Street Art aesthetic.  We see this everywhere, from tampon commercials, Toyota using paste-ups to envision the perfect urban environment for you to drive your Hybrid, to Fauxreel being commissioned to promote the new Vespa. So I guess now the question is, whether the establishment of Street Art into the Museum cannon will ultimately cause its death?

Fauxreel for Vespa via

DLUX! Dont be Scared it's only Street Art, 2003, Stencil

This of course is something that I cannot answer, I don’t know, maybe it will. There’s still the question of where to go from here and if we look back to the past once a low brow art was established within the museum the artists who were driving the movement moved on and took their art further, leaving the movement behind. Then on the other hand, is this a type of ‘fuck you’ to the establishment, by a genre that was so against the system making a statement on how easily if it wanted, could enter it?

The debate  around Street Art’s establishment within the museum will obviously continue, but for now I want to suggest a guide for viewing the Space Invaders exhibition. Recognise the works for what they are and where they are, recognise that this is not an in-situ exhibition and fundamentally recognise that these artists and their works want to be here. Don’t think your going to see a twin Miso guarding the doorway in a back alley in Melbourne, because you’re not.


Miso, paste-up, via theopeninghours

Space Invaders
University of Queensland Art Museum
Until June 5th

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Alex Kopps and Alex Knost: 'Peripheral' @ Nine Lives Gallery

You know those moments just outside your vision, just outside the moment; you're aware of them but simultaneously, you're not. They are the accidents you wish you documented.  'Peripheral' by  Californian surfer duo, Alex Kopps and Alex Knost picks up on this idea, taking those moments on the edge and putting them into the centre. 

Alex Kopps will be screening  an abstract analog video artwork, founded on reflections and optical tricks, Kopps manipulates  the glitches in point and shoot digital cameras. Alex Knost  will exhibit large optical prints of snap shot photography. With a handful of limited prints and drawings on show, it's going to be a good night....

Exhibition Opens tomorrow night (Thursday March 31st)
From 6pm
Nine Lives Gallery
5F Winn St
Fortitude Valley

Monday, March 28, 2011

Who is this Shida?

"You've probably seen his work before." I say to my friend on our way to Shida's latest exhibition at Melbourne Until Never Gallery. He's hard to miss, head down to the Valley or one of the usually sparse back street alleys of Brisbane and you're bound to see his work there. In Melbourne's Hoiser Lane, Shida's other worldly characters stand out amongst the outdoor gallery and tourist cameras that has become the lane way. 

We walk up a seemingly never ending staircase with no air conditioning, on a painfully hot Melbourne day to see Shida's newest exhibition, 'Crystals of the Colossus,' I swear to her it's going to be worth it. When we get there it's obvious why Shida with his clearly defined style is fast becoming one of Brisbane  street art's most recognisable names........ 

Art Collective: So how did Shida come about?

Shida: The pseudonym itself I came up with about 7 years ago looking for a "tag" to write graffiti with. Not to much thought went into it, i was 14 and just wanted something that sounded Japanese. 

AC: What does a typical day for Shida entail?

S: I wake up around 11am, check my emails, try do something proactive with my art whether its working on paintings, things for the street or just having a sketch. Go for a wonder, hangout with my girl friend, play video games. I think I pretty much have the easiest lifestyle possible.

AC: In your work we see these reoccurring eccentric, seemingly intergalactic characters. Who are they and where did they come from?

S: Stylistically my characters developed from using continuous lines and repetitive natural strokes, making them ideal for painting quickly on the street without plans. This evolved over time into what I do today. The characters themselves are all involved in a world of my own imagining. The more I paint the richer this world becomes. While I have narratives sometimes running through my mind and in the painting these are constantly changing.

AC: Can you explain Crystal of the Colossus?
S: The "Crystals of the Colossus" is one of the mythologies behind my world. You can see one telling of the story here:

 However it like everything else is just a small part of the whole picture.

AC: Your work must keep you busy , do you think your painting has become an extension of yourself?

S: Completely, I am Shida. When I work through my art on the streets and canvas I feel like I'm communicating with the world on a deeper level than in any other way in my life. 

Is there a distinction between your street works and gallery pieces?

S: There is definitely a distinction. The the street offers freedom of scale, and has no commercial over tones, while studio work has no time constraints and allows for a greater variety of mediums. I'm definitely illustrating the same world in both but the approach and intent are different.

AC: What part does  the space/ the environment play in designing a work for the street?

S: Well I prepare most my stickers and posters and then go out and just find some where they will fit. However when painting on the street I never approach a wall with a plan, that way I can make the best possible use of the environment.

AC: Favourite surface to work on?

S: Raw flat cement. 

AC: Best paste-up glue?

S: Pro Tip :)
Boil water and mix in flour, cooking till boil. Aim for the constancy of shampoo. Add sugar for stickiness and salt to deter slugs and to avoid freezing in colder climates. Add as much pva glue/ fabric medium/ gel medium as you can afford to salvage up, the higher the chemical content of the glue the lower chance the pasteup has of rotting in damp/dirty environments.

AC: If you could paint any wall, anywhere, where would it be?

S: Where ever the world's largest is. :)

Check out some more images from Shida's exhibition at Until Never Gallery. All photos by Devika Galardi 


Friday, March 18, 2011

Aussie Portraits from the NGA

 Australian Portraits 1880 – 1960 is a major touring exhibition of The National Gallery’s collection of portraits by Australian artists. The exhibition, consisting of 54 paintings by 34 artists, is in its last week at the University of Queensland Art Gallery finishing on the 27th of March.

This exhibition, despite the boring title, is fantastic. The calibre and range of artists is very impressive, boasting works by Frederick McCubbin, George Lambert, Margaret Preston, Grace Cossington-Smith, Albert Tucker, Sidney Noland, Russel Drysdale, William Dobell and many more. The figures in the portraits range from friends, family, artists and poets to persiennes, flappers, bushranger and serial killers, each portrait concealing and revealing certain aspects of the sitter.

The exhibition was broken up into four categories. The first two, ‘The Victorians 1880-1900’ and ‘The Edwardians 1900-1920’ were hung on rich red walls which complemented, and in a bizarre way authenticated, the viewing experience of these traditional paintings as it creates the feeling of an old world salon. The standouts for me in these first two sections were portraits by Tom Roberts & George W Lambert.

Tom Roberts, 'Study of Lena Brasch' c.1893, via NGA

Tom Roberts, Study of Lena Brasch c.1893 is an unfinished, vibrant portrait full or energy and excitement. Roberts captures the beauty and elegance of his sitter by portraying her as shy and demure with her eyes cast downward and face turned from the audience, as if she was hesitant to reveal too much of herself. Yet Roberts has given her life and personality through the use of thick bold lines, dramatic splashes of bright colour and rapid brushstrokes. This style so untypical of Roberts is only enhanced by the juxtaposition of some of his finished portraits such as An Australian Native 1888, which is a full-length portrait depicting life like realism.

Tom Roberts, 'An Australian Native' 1888 via NGA 

There are two George W Lambert portraits, Chesham St 1910 and Weighing the Fleece 1921, both show the incredible skill and attention to detail of the artist. Chesham St is a self-portrait of Lambert baring his chest in a brazen and unashamed way. This presentation of himself definitely reveals a lot of his personality and validates the claims that he was an extrovert and loved being the centre of attention.

George W Lambert, 'Chesham St' 1910 via NGA

George W Lambert, 'Weighing the Fleece' 1921 via NGA

The second half of the exhibition contains the sections ‘The Modernists 1920-40’ and ‘Forties and Fifties’. With the new outlook on Modern art in Australia came the new approaches to portraiture. This part of the exhibition hosts more female artists than any other section with works by Grace Crowley, Margaret Preston, Nora Heysen and Grace Cossington-Smith, suggesting that Australian Modernism flourished through females. 

The exhibition then finishes with the ‘Forties and Fifties’, which compared to ‘The Modernists 1920-40’ is a lot more male dominated with strong portraits exploring eternal questions. One of the more interesting portraits is Ian Fairweather’s, who depicts himself in his 1962 self-portrait not with paint but as paint, embodying the broad gestural brushstrokes as an expression of himself.

Ian Fairweather, 'Self Portrait' 1962 via NGA 

Lastly, and what I personally consider the best portrait present, is William Dobell’s Sketch Portrait of Dame Mary Gilmore. In this portrait Dobell does not just paint a person - he captures a character. The small painting of the famous Australian poet is a predecessor for the portrait of Dame Mary Gilmore that can be found on the Australian $10 note and won Dobell the 1943 Archibald.  The quick expressive strokes, muted colour scheme and elongated neck reveal the sitter’s dignity and character, which I believe is an essential element to a great portrait.

William Dobell, 'Sketch portrait of Dame Mary Gilmore' c.1956 via NGA

The best way to view this exhibition is with, as the curator Dr Anna Grey said, a reveal and conceal attitude. There is no such thing as an absolute portrait and many of the paintings present, especially the early ones, are constructs of how the sitter wished to be viewed. So go have a look at the exhibition before it moves on and make up your own opinions on the fantastic range of Australian portraits.

Ashleigh Clarke

More images below

Dusan Marek, 'My Wife' c.1952 via NGA

Margaret Preston, 'Flapper' 1925 via NGA

Agnes Goodsir, 'The Parisienne' 1924 via NGA

Grace Cossington-Smith, 'Study of Head: Self Portrait' 1916 via NGA

Albert Tucker, 'A Man's Head' 1946 via NGA