25.05.16 – [email protected]
In a museum, one generally has the luxury of space, and this effects how art is viewed. We can take a few generous steps backwards, casting our eye over the whole space, before stepping in again to examine details. By contrast, at [email protected], we get cosy with the art, experiencing it in a domestic habitat. Works dominate whole walls but also occupy nooks and crannies, catching our eye unexpectedly from strange angles as we move about the house. Different details reveal themselves at different points, as we find ourselves face to face with a work while ascending the stairs, or move to let another gallery visitor pass. The works in 25.05.15, while exploring quite different emotional landscapes, are each in their own way well suited to this environment. These seven artists each employ modest gestures, which reward the viewer who gets up close and personal.
The figures in Melbourne artist Darren McDonald’s paintings commune in the lounge room with the ceramic installation of Hiroo Shinozuka. McDonald’s figures are brought to life with purposeful, economic brush strokes. They occupy blank backgrounds, their lack of context encouraging the viewer’s imagination to seek answers in the expressions of the artist’s subjects. Their inward contemplation gives little away but this only encourages us to join in the pondering. Even in works such as Punters (2013), where the title conjures up a setting, we feel as though we are watching McDonald’s subjects from afar, our gaze reciprocated in their furtive glances.
Hiroo Shinozuka’s work Mono No Aware (2015) invites contemplation of how to go on in the face of destruction. The 11 ceramic plates which make up the work, were broken during the major 2011 earthquake. Shinozuka has repaired the plates using the Japanese technique of kintsugi, using gold to highlight the joins. At the centre of each plate is a circular, monochrome photograph of a natural or urban vignette, with the exception of one plate which belonged to the artist’s grandmother and features a traditional blue and white design. No longer functional, the plates have risen phoenix-like and now have a new occupation as treasured decorations, capturing the simultaneous power and fragility of nature.
1970s television series The Rockford Files is the premise behind The Rochford Files, a compilation of video works by artists and siblings Greer Rochford, Julia Rochford and Matte Rochford. Exhibited in the intimate surroundings of The Booth, [email protected]’s sub-staircase cinemateque, The Rochford Files is an overview of the differences and connections between the three artists’ works.
Matte Rochford’s System 100 Visualised TRF-001 (2016) serves as a title sequence for The Rochford Files. The work continues the artist’s investigation of VHS editing and dubbing, taking the title sequence of The Rockford Files as its starting point and introducing analogue visual and audio glitches. Scratchy textures and tracking combine with snippets of the television show in a retro melange.
Greer Rochford’s now something (self portrait) 2016 is an inversion of the artist’s ongoing photographic series #nowsomething, in which the artist contemplates & sometimes photographs a palm tree in her backyard. In this video work, the artist gazes at the tree, sometimes staring directly into the lens or at other times trailing off to follow a plane passing overhead. With photography now constituting an activity of the present rather than a documentation of the past, now something (self portrait) reprises the act of looking through the lenses in our heads rather than those in our phones.
Julia Rochford also invokes a ritualistic practice through her work Landscape performance #3 (remarking a centre) (2016). Part of a series of performances in various NSW landscapes, the work depicts the artist walking in a circle in sand dunes, her movements gradually describing a circle and by extension ascribing a central focal point in the vast landscape.
Upstairs, Pamela Pirovic’s photographs and Stephen Bird’s paintings and ceramics lurk around corners and down narrow corridors, waiting to unsettle the viewer. Pirovic’s Self-Portrait with Dogs (2015) feature the artist in various comfortable domestic settings, accompanied by pet dogs. Pirovic’s perennially bored expression lends a sense of unease to her quotidian surroundings. In the 2014 video work Predator, Pirovic is depicted walking through busy city streets, grabbing strangers on the bum as they pass. Her mounting score of conquests is recorded with a number flashing on screen accompanied by a loud ‘ding!’, before the footage resumes and the confused strangers are seen looking around in vain for the culprit.
Stephen Bird originally trained as a painter and his practice now extends not only to ceramics but also drawing, printmaking and digital animation, and his narrative compositions have a graphic arts flavour. In Bird’s small oil-on-board paintings, surreal scenes are inhabited by distorted figures engaged in vice. His ceramics invert the traditions of figurines, character jugs and Toby jugs. Some works, such as Toby eating a biscuit (2016) and Sitting man (2016) are restfully arranged in delicate glazes, while others such as the larger-scale Big Ralph walks again (2015) adopt a dynamic pose in vibrant colours.
Then it’s back down the stairs, brushing shoulders with other visitors, and discovering new gestures in the works we re-encounter along the way.