Wednesday, January 18, 2012

ABSTRACTION - "Snow Scud" by Philip Willey

Film for Painted Television by Mark Schmiedl

The collection of abstract works at Polychrome appears austere at first sight but an underlying vitality soon becomes apparent. They range from the expressive to the experimental, paintings to sculpture and combinations of the two. There are 13 artists in the show and it’s called Snow Scud…a climate thing said Mary Patterson. It’s a loose theme. Here in Victoria we try to stay ahead of real winters. In the window is ‘Transporter 3 (Flock)’ by Charles Campbell’s. He has incorporated cut and printed birdlike forms into a Buckminster Fuller type of geodesic ball which suggests circular migration. Also in the window are some small pieces by Tyler Hodgins. Magnetic tape embedded in plastic. Tyler’s more accessible work is gaining acceptance in Victoria as public art. He’s also part of ‘Show Down’ at AGGV later this month during which his latest public project, ‘Sleeping Bag’, can be seen at various locations throughout the city. Tar is a viscous tacky substance. Donna Eichel uses it in rhythmic strokes, along with other substances to create rich visceral‘… mindscapes with their own psychological or emotional geography.’ In the two paintings at Polychrome she employs oil paint on plexiglass to much the same effect. Her work has been described as “cave paintings from a distant past or possible future”.  As I’m musing on Caite Dheere’s vaguely Twomblyesque minimalisms glowing through layers of encaustic and thinking how they could easily grow on one over time, I can’t help noticing an old dude wandering around making notes on scraps of paper. Is he a critic? What’s a critic doing in Victoria? What sort of stuff does he write I wonder. Intellectual exegesis for academics? Snotty artspeak for the incrowd?  Short words and bad speling 4 twitter peeps? I have the same problem myself. Never quite sure what style to use. And these group shows are tricky. Don’t want to leave anybody out. It’s good to know that Karl Spreitz is still going strong. The works on display are from 1975, geometric forms that look surprisingly fresh and contemporary. Ingrid Mary Percy’s calligraphic charcoal shapes on paper may be related to the Spirograph forms I remember seeing at Deluge Gallery. Mark Schmiedl’s work is hard to get a handle on. That may well be his intention. There are suggestions of Kandinsky and Motherwell but not in a derivative sense. A statement on his website says his paintings ‘…aspire to be self-interupting.’ An unintentional slip but curiously apt somehow. The wonderfully titled ‘Film for Painted Televisions’ is a large painting where abstract forms almost, but not quite, become recognizable objects. Meanwhile Lance Olsen pauses his walkabout across the Australian outback with its Antipodean earth-tones and dreamtime tracks to show a brooding but strangely celebratory undated acrylic on paper work called ‘Death by Proxy # 3’. The show also features work by Cody Haight, David Gifford and PJ Kelly. Plus there’s another chance to see some of Shawn Shepherd’s sliced up hockey pucks. I’m not going to single anyone out for special attention. Some of the works spoke to me more than others but let’s not get into what John Luna calls the ‘autocritical mist’. I’m no Jerry Saltz and I want to go on living in Victoria. Artists want cheerleaders anyway, not critics. So think of this as a sort of prose poem. My version of Subterranean Homesick Blues with a quip or two tossed into the mix. Something to do on a cold but sunny Sunday. Kudos to Polychrome for putting together an interesting collection of artists. Apologies if I left anybody out. All I have to do now is sit back and wait for the usual barrage of comments. It’s snowing as I write which may be significant. One more thing. I was going to mention the Carmen Tisch school of art criticism. Carmen you may remember is the tattoo artist from Denver who got a little emotional at a Clyfford Still retrospective. She rubbed her bare bum against a canvas apparently causing $10,000 worth of damage (to the painting). I was going to say something about not seeing Carmen at Polychrome. A silly joke that suddenly doesn’t seem very amusing. I can’t say I knew Jamer Duderon well. Saw him around that’s all. But he was too young to die. It’s very sad.

Snow Scud
Jan. 15 to Feb. 2, 2012  
Polychrome Fine Arts 


  1. You always teach me something, Philip. And your quips always make me smile. Perhaps artists need your cheers, leading to those coveted warm feelings which hopefully generate more and better work. I know your cheering has been effective and look forward to continued rah-rahs from you. I had planned on attending this show, and with your insightful description, it promises intrigue. Thank you.

  2. Thanks Debora...and thanks to Efren for giving us a place to write.

    1. YES - Efren, and Exhibit-v is a godsend.