This time last year (Dec 2011) I started at Stockroom in Kyneton, taking over as Gallery Director. Today, a full 12 months later, I’ve wrapped up my role there. Bookending my experience are the end of year open-entry shows that are fast becoming staple events for regional Victoria. Last year the gallery received 155 entries from 105 artists. And the quality of the work was impressive, especially considering the exhibition is completely open-entry. In those situations you really never know what you’re likely to get and there’s no quality control as every entrant is shown. But the depth of talent was overwhelming and the show was incredibly well received.
The theme for this year is SPAN: exploring connection, distance and the passage of time. This time around the gallery received 150 entries from 100 artists and the standard has kicked up a whole new notch. Maybe two notches. There’s an abundance of good art in the show and no shortage of really fine pieces. Here’s a little sampling of some of my favourite works.
Nicholas Ives (above) has got to be one of the Melbourne painters to watch. Wait, that sounds terrible. What is this – art investment hour? No. This is not art investment hour people. But, having said that, if you were so minded, you’d do well to fetch up yourself an Ives and watch as his prices ascend. Anyway, Nick can paint. He normally does portraits – dark, blurry, psychological portraits. They read as if the subject’s own sense of self is ebbing away, or transmogrifying. Just look at that eye (subject’s left, our right). Sad, tired, but searching. Looking out into the middle distance as if making out something just coming into focus. Not unlike the way the image of the subject appears to us on the canvas. The brushwork, the overlay of colours. Great. The enigmatic five circles on the shirt. Great and great.
Now this work was a joyous surprise. A surprise because I went to art school with Rachael Rose-Dillon and she was amazing. She’s been incredibly busy raising a family and working since then, and I hadn’t seen her recent art-making. But praise be! She’s back! Cacatua sulphurea depicts the skull of a yellow-crested cockatoo, overlaid by a gridded array of yellow dots. I can’t help but think about the nature of adornment, the excess of beauty in the service of sexual and natural selection. Stripped of its dominant identifying feature, the vivid mohawk of flashy yellow plummage, Rachael produces a filtered mesh of regulated yellow dots for us to navigate through in our eye’s search for the form of the subject. Set on a rich background, echoing the history of still-life painting, the skull becomes both collective representation for a species and solemn requiem for an individual.
Another pleasant surprise here. These works are by Jason Waterhouse. I’ve got to know Jason pretty well, he started Stockroom with his partner Magali Gentric and he’s now back running the gallery again. He happily calls me an art-wanker conceptualist and laughs at my seeming lack of technically refined craftsmanship as I cobble together my sculptures in his workshop using all the physical power afforded me by years of reading art theory. He’s an arsehole, frankly. Ha!! Take that grease-monkey boy! Nah, I’m just jealous coz he knows how to operate a metal foundry, rebuild entire cars and construct lighting, furniture and whip up cafe fitouts in a single weekend. One time, when I first started at Stockroom, we decided to put in a wall to separate out an office area. Once we decided where to put it, I went out the back to collect a measuring tape and by the time I came back the whole wall was already up, plastered and painted. He suffers no fools and just gets shit done.
These works extend on his underlying interest in mutation and force. But he’s taken it into a new area, delving into an organic terrain. The artificial elements on the sculpture, the apparent growths of colour bubbling out of the end of the branches, are made from car body filler (or bog) which echoes his oeuvre nicely, making a playful connection to his renowned work with cars, caravans and vehicles of transportation. The works brings to mind the idea that everything is natural. Our cars, for example, wrought from melted rocks and fossil forests, transverse the planet on a fuel of liquified conifer trees from pre-history. The branches here are totems of nature, and yet render up to us offerings of car bog, vibrantly coloured like the sexual parts of plants. Nature truly does fuck itself.
Emma Hamilton here with a collage suspended between two plates of resin, bound by large rubber bands. This piece had all of us captivated at the setup. There was something gravitational about it, that no photographic image is going to do justice to. We all just wanted to touch it and walk around it. Weird how that happens with some things. The combination of materials – rubber, resin, paper – is nicely balanced. It’s equal parts image and object. It harks back to a classic work of modern art, Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors Even, without being overtly deliberate about it. The reflected horizon line of ice formations, set afloat in a field of ‘nothing’ (or a scientific petri-dish connotation perhaps), held together by administrative bindings trigger a variety of topical notions about climate change and the bureaucratic failure to do little more than frame inverted opinions. Lovely stuff.
There’s so many more great works too (look out for Ross Taylor, Amelie Scalercio, Rhett D’Costa, James Murnane, Rod Gray) – this is but a tiny fraction of it, but hopefully it might whet your appetite and get you motivated to hit the highway and come check out the show. Well worth it on a sunny summer Saturday. It all kicks off at 430pm tomorrow (Dec 8, 2012).