Monday, August 30, 2010

Can you see it?

Rhys Lee, Sanstone Cherry Smack, 2010.
Image via
Internet Work 

Being an art history student I always seem to link the present with the past, referring to the previously mentioned theory which argues art always refers to its history.  I can’t help but try to obsessively search for clues to prove this theory and I think I may have found one in Jan Murphy’s current exhibition of Rhys Lee.

Rhys Lee is a Melbourne based artist, originally focused on street art he has moved on towards figuration abstraction. In Lee’s work we see a mutilation of figuration, resulting in grotesque forms which seem to be of another world.  The figure in Truth 2010, with its angular, animal like face  resembles primitive figuration of Picasso’s African movement, most commonly articulated in his Les Demoiselles d'Avignon 1907. The use of colour blocking by varying colours and shades to create depth and multiple perspectives in Picasso’s work, has been played with in Truth to create a sense of flatness.  
Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907.
Image: Google Images

Rhys Lee, Truth, 2010.
Image via
Internet Work

Not only does his work play on the pops of colour so commonly found in street art, it is of equal importance in its referral to fauvism. The movement arose in the early 1900’s exemplified in the work of French artist, Henry Matisse and later Francis Bacon. The work of ‘Les fauves’ was articulated through sickenly bright colours and “spontaneity and roughness of execution” (Perez-Tibi). Paint was originally executed raw however, here Lee manipulates the technique through the use of significantly duller acrylics.   

Henri Matisse, Portrait of Andre Derain, 1905.
Image: Google Image

Francis Bacon,  After Muybridge-Study of the Human Figure in Motion-Woman Emptying a Bowl of Water and Paralytic Child on all Fours, 1965.

Standing only inches away from Lee’s work I saw this Fauvian spontaneity, evident through brush hairs left behind on the canvas and  his visible rushed brush work. It is interesting to see how artists like Rhys Lee take stylistic movements from the past and evolve and adapt them.

 Although Jan Murphy Gallery is limited in space, thus the exhibition layout is predictable and bares no surprises; Rhys Lee’s work is defiantly worth seeing. If not for my theorized links with art history then for his ghost like figures that attempt to create another worldly reality.

Rhys Lee is on at Jan Murphy Gallery until the 4th of September.

Bonne journée


Friday, August 27, 2010

Hans Heysen

Currently at the Queensland Art Gallery is a major retrospective celebrating one of Australia’s most respected and influential landscape artists, Hans Heysen. The exhibition spanning his entire career includes 80 odd works and presents not only the depictions of ‘Iconic Gums’ that canonized him in the realm of Australian art but also includes paintings of his lesser-known themes.

Image: Google Image

The huge canvases of the famous gums, composed of loose brushstrokes with a myriad of different colours render such a truthful and honest depiction of the South Australian landscapes. These landscapes are a direct product of his early years as a young artist in Europe. A beautiful example of his innate ability to accurately capture the emotional experience and sensations of a landscape is seen in the exhibition’s central paintings, The Three Gums 1915-20 and Mystic Morn 1904. These paintings situated beside each other are overwhelming. Not just in size but in accuracy of the emotions and sensations of the land. Words cannot do these paintings justice; harmonious and poetic they really need to be experienced to be appreciated.

Spending most of his early years in Venice and Paris, it is obvious through the array of different styles and subject matter of the paintings that this time of experimentation was integral in developing the style Heysen became famous for. His exposure to French art is clearly seen in these primary works which pay close attention to the effects of light and atmosphere. Influences from the Impressionists, Realists and Barbizon School are not just evident in these early works but are apparent throughout the whole exhibition.

Two great examples of the influence Europe had on his career later in life is seen in both of the lesser-known themes of the exhibition ‘Toileries of the Land’ and ‘Still-Life and Domestic Life’. In ‘Toileries of the Land’ the four smaller paintings of the repeated motif of horse and plough exult agricultural life and labour much the same way as works such as, The Stonebreakers by French Realist artist Courbet. Again in ‘Still-Life and Domestic Life’ the painting Sewing (the artist’s wife) 1913 is a depiction of his wife at a sewing desk looking out a window. The loose brushwork, harmonious composition and filtered light through the lace curtains celebrates the style of Impressionism and really illustrates the importance these early years had on his career.

The exhibition finishes with a collection of Heysen’s study of the Flinders Rangers. Painted later in his life he is one of the first artists to illustrate this area. His visits mostly coinciding with the drought season have resulted in large spacious compositions with more simplified forms and vibrant colour. This approach is significantly more modern and is really typified in the watercolour painting Aroona 1939.

An extraordinary exhibition of the life and art of such an inspirational and remarkable Australian it is no wonder Heysen is still being celebrated after his death. Broken into five key themes the range of subject matter and sheer talent of the artist will keep you constantly enthralled. Making Hans Heysen an exhibition not to be missed.

Open until the 24th of October check it out at


Thursday, August 26, 2010


Image: Google images

So unless you have been living under a rock for the last month and haven’t seen the many, buses, bus stops, billboards and numerous other advertisements, you would be aware there is a Valentino exhibition on at The Queensland Gallery of Modern art.

  Of course this exhibition is bound to bring up the age old debate as to whether fashion is art. For me it depends on the designer or in this case the design house. Alexander Wang, designer? Yes, artist? No. What about the recently deceased Alexander McQueen? Personally I would call McQueen’s nightmarish work art, but Valentino? Certainly there is a place for him within the design cannon; however I’m not entirely convinced as to whether his work belongs in GOMA. Regardless, it is, and rather than continuing this debate I’m just going to review the exhibition.

The clothes, of course are gorgeous, there are those which make me cringe to think they were ‘in’ at the time and others which made me join the chorus of “sighs” around me. Mostly I was just in awe of the intricate detail; the beading, the feathers, the runching, and of course Valentino’s famous pleating.

 However what I found most intriguing about the exhibition was the space that hosted it. In true GOMA style the exhibition is not organised chronically, rather it seems the garments have been grouped according to style and influence. They are displayed under elaborate Roman style columns, obviously an attempt to recreate the hierarchical style photo shoots that usually accompany his advertising campaigns.

Image: Google images

 The whole exhibition really shows off the great space GOMA has to work with. They are lucky enough to not only have this space but also the budget and they really have gone all out for this exhibition. Walking through from the first catwalk style gallery you enter a sleek resource lounge and cafe, complete with fashion magazines and runway footage installations. Finally in the last gallery, after inspecting the silver mannequins which host the Valentino designed garments, you come to the five golden mannequins, courtesy of the new designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli. For me this was the highlight and I was disappointed there were so few of the ‘new’ Valentino designs, mostly because this is the Valentino I know.

As always with block buster exhibitions expect to wait in line, not only to purchase the ticket but also to actually see the garments. If you feel the need, fight your way through middle aged ladies with handbags and join a tour group for some background knowledge on the design house and which celebrity wore what. This is the first time this survey of Valentino’s work has been shown outside of Paris so it is to be expected the exhibition is packed, but it is well worth it to see the garments close up and without their usual glass enclosures.  

Valentino Retrospective: Past/Present/Future. Until November 14 at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art,

Bonne Journée


Thursday, August 19, 2010

It has been well over 100 years since The Impressionists went up against the Salon; in a war where palettes of violet blood spilled in a bid to challenge the brown and bitumen tones of convention. Yet now we seem to be seeing a re-emergence of bitumen tones, differing however from their traditional academic use and lingering towards neo gothic undertones in artwork.
In April Jan Murphy Gallery exhibited Richard Dunlop, a body of work displaying deep brown tones highlighted by Rubensque brights. His Lake of False Gods, 2009, ignites visions of creation through this drastic tonal juxtaposition. Combined with haunted figuration, you are given the impression something more sinister lurks beneath the paint. Dunlop has previously said in his work there is a “presence of something that could disrupt or destroy order.” It is precisely that, his work always seems like we have caught it in the precise moment which decides its destruction, if it goes one way or the other, the calm before the storm.
This unsettling feeling arises from the tangled, scratched mass of vegetation in Heartland, 2010. The mass of bright red and green foliage seems out of place lurking over a sickly blood red and brown botanic wasteland, almost like heaven and hell. Dunlop pushes the paint further, scratching, smudging and erasing it, like the expressionists before him, he attempts to create a sense of order in the chaos. The work is visually chaotic and perplexing, the eye moves vigorously over the canvas trying to make sense of the neo gothic botanics. Regardless of this, the paradoxical combination of life and death still seems to haunt us.
To be clichéd, someone once told me that now, in this time art does not develop, it does not progress, it simply recycles, refers to and reinvents previous styles. To me Richard Dunlop’s work is evidence of this theory. It is steeped in art historical tradition and convention, and I cannot help look at it without thinking of what came before it. Check out for more information on Richard Dunlop’s work.
Bonne journée
As art history students we felt in Brisbane there was a real lack of art blogging and with some gentle nudging from lecturers we decided we were going to fill the void ourselves. One of the things we love about art is that it is read differently by everyone. So please feel free to comment and give us your opinion!

Stephanie and Ashleigh