‘COLOUR & FORM’ ESSAY BY SHARNE WOOLF

COLOUR AND FORM – HOME GALLERY, MARCH 2018

Sharne Wolff

On Wednesday 21st August 1968, Melbourne’s ‘The Age’ newspaper ran a small article tucked to one side of page two. Headlined, On Moon in 1969 ‘possible’. The brief snippet from Washington reported the growing probability of a manned Lunar landing by Apollo spacecraft the following year. The same day, splashed across the front page, an ostensibly more important domestic announcement heralded the opening of the new St Kilda Road premises of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV).[i]

Amidst much heady fanfare and the palpable optimism of the era, the inaugural exhibition named The Field welcomed crowds at the new NGV. The aptly titled display included works by forty young Australian artists – most of whom had been introduced to American ‘post-painterly abstraction’ by virtue of their overseas travels or via imported exhibitions. By means of The Field, this new generation of artists entered the mainstream with a selection of colour field and hard edge paintings, shaped canvases and sculptures.

Fifty years on The Field is still regarded by many as a ground-breaking show. Its lasting relevance is visible in Colour and Form – which forefronts the work of three of The Field’s original group of painters. Work by Michael Johnson, Sydney Ball and John Peart – the latter two artists having died in recent years– are accompanied by a larger party of next generation colourists namely, Ron Adams, Belle Blau, Angela Brennan, Celia Gullett, Saskia Leek, Sean Meilak, Jonny Niesche, Tomislav Nikolic, Madeleine Preston, Kate Rohde and Louise Tuckwell.

In the cosy confines of Home Gallery’s living room and hallways, Colour and Form’s intention mirrors that of The Field to, “make possible a considered judgement of the work of these artists seen in the company of their fellows and of stylistic principles they share”.[ii]. Curator Anthony Bautovich has juxtaposed the work of emerging artists with that of the three original artists, and grouped together unlikely old and new forms in shared spaces. Historical and mid-career painting and mixed-media works from Peart (1965) and Johnson (1987) respectively, are brought together with Ball’s duo of new-millennia screenprints from the 2003 Canto series (first developed in the mid-1960s), and over twenty recently-made paintings, sculptures and ceramic assemblages.

While five decades separate Colour and Form’s oldest and newest examples, the exhibition demonstrates the Australian artists ongoing regard for the international style originally evidenced in The Field. It modestly nods agreement with the proposition that art’s interest in unravelling the mysteries and potential of colour has never waned. At the same time, Colour and Form proposes contemporary means of exploiting and interpreting the genre.

Encouraging the idea of the movement’s continuum from its American beginnings Bautovich is interested in the parallels between Sydney Ball and American artist, Frank Stella. Favouring Stella’s reductionist style that represented a rejection of abstract expressionism – and drawn from the Canto series based on Ezra Pound’s epic series of poems of the same name, Ball’s Canto IX and Canto XXI are examples of this idea. While formally confined by the geometry of their respective circles, they shimmer with intense colour and a paradoxical sense of the shape’s symbolic infinity.

From the next generation of artists in Colour and Form, we can recognise homage to these pioneering artists being fuelled by the influence of contemporary culture. The transcendental effect of colour in Jonny Niesche’s immersive Personal Cosmos signals the work’s affinity with Mark Rothko’s painting of the 1940s and 50s. Rothko publicly insisted that he was attempting to find “a pictorial equivalent for man’s new knowledge and consciousness of his more complex inner self.”.[iii] On closer view – as Rothko himself preferred – the medium of Personal Cosmos is revealed as voile and acrylic mirror. This added dimension delivers a twist and endows the painting with savvy power to reflect the viewer in certain light, including when taking a selfie. Meanwhile Niesche’s zig zag adventures with Cadence Loop #10 (cyan to magenta) – constructed from steel and ‘flip flop’ auto paint that encourages angled viewing – suggest his ability to refresh and extend Rothko’s original concept as well as conserving it.

While it may seem obvious, it is worth noting that each of the artists in Colour and Form share a common and profound interest in colour and form, though each has their unique way exploring these elements in their art. Ranging from Adams’ pop-inspired painting and Preston’s politically-associated assemblages to Rohde’s exotic neo rococo sculptures, Colour and Form epitomises the expansion of the genre and the experimental attitude of the group as a whole.

Later this year The Field will be restaged in its entirety at the NGV. Though only a few will personally remember the heady optimism of Melbourne in 1968, it seems the possibilities for colour and form are increasingly timeless.

[i] The Age, 21 August 1968, 1–2, Melbourne, Google News Archive, 20 March 2018.

[ii] Finemore, Brian. and Stringer, John. The Field, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1969, 3.

[iii] Anfam, David, Ed. Abstract Expressionism. Royal Academy of Arts, 2016, 113.

 

Image details: Mark Rothko, White Center, 1950, oil on canvas (left) Jonny Niesche, ‘Cosmetic calculator (Picture this Pink)’, Voile and acrylic mirror.

Image courtesy of Station Gallery and the artist.

Jonny Niesche is represented by Sarah Cotter Gallery

 

TONY GARIFALAKIS WORK FEATURING IN HOME’S INVITATIONAL EXHIBITION

Home will be exhibiting a work by Tony Garifalakis in our Invitational show opening in early July. Pictured is Untitled #14, from the Mob Rule (Family Series), 2014, Enamel on C type print. This is one of six works from the collection of art consultant Kate Smith to feature in the exhibition alongside paintings by Sidney Nolan, Ricky Swallow and UK artist, Justin Mortimer.

“…Tony Garifalakis’ practice over the past two decades has constituted an examination of social relations and the semiotics of power. His work particularly engages the ways in which the meaning of signs, symbols and images might be ascribed, conveyed or transformed through culture, and how conventional notions of hierarchy and status might be undermined or subverted. Garifalakis interrogates social, political, artistic and religious systems of belief – as well as the institutions that uphold them – through a range of strategies that include amplification of the signifiers utilised by those institutions themselves; subversive juxtaposition of image and text; and the deployment of dark, incongruous humour. Previously, Garifalakis has utilised the imagery from various of his own subcultural interests to consider the ways in which such iconography infiltrates popular culture…”

Tony Garifalakis completed a Master of Fine Art (Painting) at RMIT University in 2000. Solo exhibitions include  Information Discharge Systems, Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne, 2018, Repertoires of Contention (with Joaquin Segura), curated by Ivan Muniz Reed, Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne  in 2017, Bloodline, Sarah Scout Presents, Auckland Art Fair, New Zealand in 2016, Mob Rule, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2014; Angels of the bottomless pit, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, 2014; Warlords, Hugo Michell Gallery, Adelaide, 2014; Affirmations, Daine Singer, Melbourne, 2012; The Misery of Philosophy, Curro Y Poncho, Guadalajara, Mexico and The Philosophy of Misery, Yautepec Gallery, Mexico City, both 2011.

His work has also been presented in a number of major curatorial projects and group exhibitions, including The Shape of Things to Come, Buxton Contemporary, Melbourne 2018, The Sunshine Suite, curated by Jon Campbell, Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney 2017, Pleasure and Reality, National Gallery of Victoria, 2015; Neverwhere, Gaia Gallery, Istanbul, 2015: Dark Heart, the Adelaide Biennial of Australian art, 2014; Whisper in my Mask, TarraWarra Biennial, TarraWarra Museum of Art, 2014; Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria, 2013; Theatre of the world, Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, 2012; Things Fall Apart, Artspace, Sydney and Negotiating this world: contemporary Australian art, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2012.

CURATORIAL EXPERIMENT

Three of my colleagues from the Contemporary Curating class at UNSW Art & Design, Astrid, Angie, Sophie and I will be conducting a curatorial experiment over the coming 2-3 weeks.

We will be interviewing a number of patrons viewing the Sydney Biennale exhibition at the MCA this coming Monday and recording their responses to a series of questions regarding how technology/social media has changed the way they engage with visual art. These recordings will be uploaded to encourage a response from our online audience.

We will also have a survey of the questions on our social media platforms we would love you all to take part in – this will provide a statistical component to our experiment. We are looking forward to your involvement.

Pictured is the shell work of artist Esme Timbery – part of the Sydney Biennale exhibition at the MCA.

“…Bidjigal elder Esme Timbery is recognised for her decorative shelled models and objects that range from depictions of Sydney attractions to small slippers, frames and boxes….with her sister, Rose Timbery, Esme learnt the skills for shellwork as a young girl, first collecting shells from local beaches on the NSW south coast, before creating her first brooches at the age of seven. Timbery and her sister began selling their shell works in the ‘50s, and Timbery’s pieces were first exhibited in a contemporary art context in 2000 as part of the exhibition ‘Djalarinji – Something that Belongs to Us’ at the Manly Regional Gallery and Museum. Since then, Timbery has been involved in several significant exhibitions and contemporary art projects, and was awarded the inaugural 2005 Parliament of NSW Indigenous Art Prize for two shell-worked depictions of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

MELBOURNE COMES TO SYDNEY EXHIBITION FEATURING KENNY PITTOCK

Home is pleased to announce will be exhibiting work by Kenny Pittock in our 2019 program. The exhibition – ‘Melbourne comes to Sydney’ – will feature ceramics by Kenny Pittock and artworks across a variety of mediums by a great group of Melbourne artists. Pictured is one of Kenny Pittock’s ceramic pieces currently featuring in ‘Suburbia’ showing at Cement Fondu in Paddington.

NATIONAL ART SCHOOL GRADUATE NUAN HO EXHIBITING AT HOME

Home is pleased to announce we will exhibiting work by Nuan Ho in our 2018 program. One of the exceptional new artists in this year’s line-up, Nuan is currently completing his Masters at the National Art School.

“…Nuan Ho is a Sydney based painter working within the tradition of figurative painting. Guided by a longstanding interest in the portrait, his practice engages with the depiction of the human figure. His work reveals an ongoing fascination with uncovering the unspeakable aspects of the human psyche. By casting a light onto historical archives his works urge viewers to confront the harrowing side of humanity that resides in all of us…”

Pictured is ‘86’ 2016, oil and acrylic on canvas.

NEW WORK BY MADELEINE PRESTON

This sculptural installation by Madeleine Preston will be showing in the Clay Date exhibition at 541 Art Space – in Art Month. The show also features work by a number of the kil.n.it artists including Mechelle Bounpraseuth, Caitlyn Hurley, Rachael McCallum and Luke O’Connor. Come along to the opening drinks this Friday from 6-8pm – Level 1/541 Kent St, Sydney.

“…Ancient modernism is a response to seeing some of the key works of modernism in a recent residency in Paris. Often the works in the major galleries would show their age with some paintings yellowing, fading or cracking. I wanted to make work that reflected a sense of modernisms antiquity through hand built forms and broken surface treatment. The forms do not manifest the precision of pure geometry and the surfaces with their faded glaze and obscured patterns speak more of decoration than revolution. The wall works create the illusion of form through colour…” photo by docqment

VANESSA BERRY REVIEWS ‘COLOUR & FORM’

Many thanks to writer Vanessa Berry for her compelling piece ‘Internal Logic’ for the ‘Colour & Form’ show.

 

At the end of the hallway at the entrance to the gallery hangs a screenprint by Sydney Ball. Canto XXI is a radiant orange square, which frames a circle of a softer orange, which further frames a stripe of ultramarine. The colours are arresting, their incandescence constrained by the stillness of the precise, geometric forms. It is a distillation of planetary energy, perhaps, or a pattern underlying a mathematical process: one of the gifts of abstraction being the openness of interpretation it bestows on the viewer.

Ball’s Cantos series, initially produced in New York in the 1960s, are landmark works of abstract painting. They were named after an epic poem by Ezra Pound which the poet worked on for more than fifty years. It is fitting for them to be a reference point for these works by Ball, for Ball’s Cantos also set the trajectory of his life’s work: his preoccupation with colour and form.

The two screenprints from the Cantos, produced by Ball in 2003, are something of a lynchpin for the Colour and Form exhibition. The exhibition combines works from Australian abstract artists of the 1960s – Sydney Ball, Michael Johnson, and John Peart – with contemporary artists working with abstraction in painting and sculpture. The three 1960s artists introduce a range of forms of abstraction, from the formal geometry of Ball’s Cantos, to the textured and organic shapes and colours of John Peart’s 1965 acrylic work Untitled #982, and the dynamism of Michael Johnson’s Collins Street #4 and its dashes and drips of colour.

In counterpoint to the historical precedent of representational painting that preceded it, abstract art offers no “window on the world”. It is an opaque viewing experience, an opportunity to look at the materiality of the artwork rather than through it. Nonetheless, abstraction suggests an internal logic: within the boundaries of the work viewers navigate form and colour in sensory and associative ways.

Jonny Niesche’s Personal Cosmos builds on the immersive, floating effect of a colour field painting, using the reflective and shimmering surfaces of mirrors and voile. The viewer is reflected in the work, shadowed within the pink cosmos, visually becoming a part of it and moving within it. Niesche’s sculptural work Cadence loop #10 shares this shimmering quality. The zigzag strip of steel has been painted an iridescent purple-blue which changes in hue as you move past it, and the light angles differently on its surface.

Other works invite a different method of navigation. Sean Meilak’s sculpture series Arrangements, six collections of geometric and architectural shapes, plays with scale so the viewer, too, feels a telescopic shift in perspective. These could be models of ruins or monuments. Or they could be the elements of a visual alphabet, and each arrangement a phrase or a sentence: Meilak’s process is to cast the elements individually, and to compose the arrangements during installation. Each arrangement has the sense of a light touch, of elements drawn together in the moment.

Intuition was also an important part of the process for Celia Gullett’s painting Geometric Abstraction XXI. Gullett uses layers of oil paint to build up a luminous surface, inspired by medieval works on wood. Her use of colour is often intuitive, developing as the work progresses and one colour leads to another. Here she uses a geometric motif of simple, slightly-overlapping shapes. At the overlapping edges the colours change, and the forms seem to embody the shape of a quiet thought.

Abstract forms heighten contemplation, and can suggest a way of thinking as much as a discrete thought. This way of thinking can be playful and indeterminate. In Tomislav Nikolic’s I don’t intend to understand, fields of delicate pastel tones resolve into lines of darker colour within the bright blue of the painted frame. This balance of nebulousness and resolution hints at a thought-state where ideas float, sometimes coalescing, other times drifting. This thought-state contrasts with those suggested by more defined geometry, such as Belle Blau’s Whole Unto Itself, where strong lines create clear boundaries within the space of the canvas, as they open it up into an illusory depth.

Another work of tight geometric composition is Ron Adams’ Lucky Strike for Nicola. Adams’ work takes shape from influences and relationships: in this case the box of matches that is emblematic of his friendship with the artist Nicola Smith. The rows of pale stripes with black tips are interrupted by one varying segment of red, the one unspent match. The red glows with potential, tempting the eye in the same way one’s fingers would reach for the last remaining good match in the box.

The influences that shape abstract work often remain only as the lightness of resonances, but can provide a rewarding insight into the works’ intentions. In Smoker Series – After Guston, Madeleine Preston uses shapes from, and the lung-like pink and black colour palette, of Phillip Guston’s Nixon-era paintings. This establishes a visual connection between two eras of American politics: the Watergate crisis of the 1970s, and the contemporary American political situation of the Trump administration.

The resin sculptures of Kate Rohde also engage with the idea of corruption, taking influence from Adolf Loos’ argument, in the 1913 essay “Ornament and Crime”, that excess in design can have a corruptive influence on society. Rohde’s florid bowls and vases have a gleaming, scampering vitality. Each vessel seems to burst forth with ornamentation, a challenge to the neat boundaries of the object.

For all their variations in style, artists who work with abstraction use colour and form to play on our associations, transposing our thoughts and perceptions. Sometimes this is an immersive and quiet experience, and other times an exuberant one, and often our engagement is one of transcendence. The works in Colour and Form carry us into their internal worlds, as they are drawn into connection, across the decades.

VANESSA STOCKARD EXHIBITING IN 2018 INVITATIONAL

Home is pleased to announce we will be exhibiting work by Vanessa Stockard in our 2018 Invitational exhibition opening in June.

“…twenty years of introspection and experimentation, ranging over a number of media, have forged Vanessa’s style and craft, enabling her to reveal complex misdemeanours, while simultaneously demanding the viewer’s self-reflection. She deals with isolation and sadness with intimate care and attention…the deceptive everyday nature of her subject matter belies hidden depths of relationship, feeling and emotion. One could describe her process as absence of thought, a freedom of construct, not unlike the stream of consciousness associated with authors such as Hemmingway and Thomas Wolfe…these works are more like innocent and delicate poems, whispering untold truths with an economy of words…”

Vanessa’s work will be exhibited in our upstairs gallery alongside works by Justin Mortimer, Yvette Coppersmith, Ricky Swallow, Chelsea Lehmann, Nuan Ho, Tony Garifalakis and Natasha Walsh.

Pictured is self portrait as bust (detail), oil on birch, 50x50cm

‘COLOUR & FORM’ IN BELLE MAGAZINE

Big thanks to Belle Magazine for including the wonderful Angela Brennan sculptural works from our ‘Colour & Form’ show in their current issue.

Angela Brennan is represented by Roslyn Oxley Gallery, Sydney.

OPENING TONIGHT

I hope you can join us tonight for Home’s ‘Colour & Form’ exhibition opening. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to curate artworks by 14 exceptional artists.

‘Colour & Form’ includes artworks by Sydney Ball, John Peart and Michael Johnson – three of the artists involved in the seminal 1968 ‘The Field’ exhibition at the NGV – showing alongside some of Australia’s finest contemporary practitioners of non-objective and hard edge abstraction in two and three-dimensional forms.

Thanks to all the artists and galleries involved with in the show with a special thanks to Kate Smith for loaning us the wonderful Tomislav Nikolic work, Darren Knight for the painting by New Zealand artist Saskia Leek and Damien Minton and Watters Gallery for loaning us an exceptional John Peart painting from 1965.

Come along for opening drinks from 6-8pm – 735 Bourke Street in Redfern – kick off your Art Month night at Home!

Cheers, Anthony

SCULPTURAL ARRANGEMENTS BY SEAN MEILAK

One of six stunning sculptural installations by Melbourne artist Sean Meilak showing in Home’s ‘Colour & Form’ exhibition. Join us for opening drinks tomorrow night from 6-8pm for the Redfern/Chippendale precinct night for Art Month.

“… Sean is interested in the psychology of space and his work references the architecture of ancient Rome, film set design as well as modern and postmodern art and design movements. He is particularly influenced by Surrealism, Italian furniture design and the theatrical environments created by filmmakers such as Michelangelo Antonioni and Reiner Werner Fassbinder…”

Pictured is Arrangement 1, 2018, plaster and plied pigment.

Sean Meilak is represented by Niagara Galleries.