Government Street was occupied by the People’s Assembly of Victoria on Saturday and I had to pass through protestors to get to Madrona Gallery. Perhaps bankers are worried… as well they should be….but it’s hard to tell how the protests were resonating with the mainstream. The general public appeared sympathetic but it will take more than that for numbers to grow. Most people just seemed mildly curious.Inside the gallery no politics were in evidence. Michael Warren has mounted a show of young artists from Cape Dorset…..but it isn’t quite what you’d expect. Times have changed. The community still makes beautiful carvings and stone-block prints but younger Inuit artists are dealing with modern reality in their own unique way. They may be remote but they are far from unconnected. This is a chance to see fascinating work by a new generation. The challenge for them will be in preserving the mystique.
There is lots of interesting art at View Art Gallery. G.J. Pearson’s whimsical creations are the main feature but there’s work by other gallery artists and guests. It’s called the Toy show and it deserves a long review. I did make a few notes but with so many artists in the show I just didn’t feel up to it.
Then outside Winchester Galleries on Humbolt I spotted somebody who looked just like Luis Merino! Yep it was him alright…..same bushy hair and beard, same twinkle in the eye. I can report that he looks well and so does his recent work, mostly painted in Baja. Anyone familiar with Merino will recognize the elements immediately. There are no great artistic breakthroughs here…the chess pieces are new to me but the women, guitars, bottles are all reassuringly Merino. The colour and vitality are as strong as ever.
And up at the other Winchester Gallery are some dynamic landscapes by Tim Schumm. Dramatic composition and the way he balances light areas with dark give Schumm’s paintings a visual strength not often seen in the landscape genre.
Heather Keenan’s new work at Martin Bachelor Gallery is impressionistic at first sight but she also seems to be searching for the essence of things. In her statement she talks about ‘erasing and building until a storyline emerges’ as if allowing a subconscious almost metaphysical process to take over. There is clearly a debt to Turner here and French Symbolists like Redon and Moreau though Keenan is generally less specific in her subject matter, perhaps wanting to isolate the precise point where the impression becomes abstract much as Monet did in his later work. In one group of paintings, which reminded me of Dore’s illustrations for Dante, figures migrate and gather across the canvas against ethereal backgrounds reflecting what Keenan calls her ‘sense of the universal collective. Ultimately mysterious and unknowable.’ With these new paintings Keenan certainly seems to have struck a rich vein.
Lastly, suffering somewhat from art overload, I found my way into Xchanges where I was confronted by some distorted torsos impaled on chrome poles. A sort of Francis Bacon strip joint you could say. Definite sexual connotations here I thought…but it was probably just my dirty mind (smiley). Fortunately Sandra Doore was there to put me straight. Sandra is very articulate. She didn’t deny the sexuality of the work but that was by no means the whole story. She described the forms as props she uses to illustrate a concept.
Actually several concepts. The title of the show, Horizontal Desires, is inspired by tango dancing. The desire to free oneself from feelings of repression. She sees society as supine, horizontal, easily manipulated by the vertical i.e. the media. Then there’s the consumerism element and the way human sexuality is used to make people buy things. Sex sells. It can also bring down governments.
Doore likes juxtaposing opposites…the serious versus the ridiculous, ugliness versus beauty, pleasure versus pain. She also likes to make people think. From the manipulation of primal instincts to the stitching of weather-proof fabrics….there’s a lot going on here….far more than I can do justice to in a couple of paragraphs.