IS this the first time Watt Space has been given over to the work of a single student? PhD candidate Shan Turner-Carroll effortlessly fills the gallery with multimedia works, including an enormous raft-like construction nearly filling the main room with its menacing suggestion of refugee desperation.
It links his past, with childhood adventures on the family dam, to a recent journey to the unknown and a possible nomadic future; an example of this young artist’s ability to find in the creative play of childhood a deeper myth making.
A bush cubbyhouse evolves into a universal scavenged shelter, just as dressing-up and role-playing evolved into the spectacular photographs of fantastic headdresses we saw in earlier exhibitions. Their shamanistic power won Shan Turner-Carroll many awards and prizes between 2012 and 2014.
In all these works, both installations and photographs, the use of found and reinvented materials is fundamental. The past is invoked, but there is a very real sense of a desolate future, camping in the ruins of civilisation, though this is Mad Max without the soundtrack or the mechanics.
In all these works, both installations and photographs, the use of found and reinvented materials is fundamental.
The journey metaphor has clarified since Turner-Carroll’s recent studies at Parsons School of Design in New York. Performance has become increasingly important.
The current Watt Space exhibition documents a sacred landscape, but also creates a pilgrimage project. A traveller figure is almost obliterated by the well-used survival materials he carries, even a few plants he plans to take into the future. Will this cultural baggage prove too heavy a burden?
An ambiguous photographic sequence depicts the wayfarer engulfed in atavistic hair, which is shed in a rite of passage.
Another powerful visual metaphor for time and travel are the two photographs from a New York event in which the artist carried across Manhattan a circular mirror reflecting the passage of the winter sun across the sky; the individual as catalyst for the universe, a sun worshipper from the dawn of civilisation.
Where will this inventive and dedicated young artist go next? Is there life beyond the art school? So far he has been supported with many exhibitions by the University of Newcastle, while enhancing its stature with the principal award at the 2013 National Tertiary Art Prize in Perth.
With the university’s new course structure, will there be a place for such visionaries in a degree in “creative industries”.
When less is more
GEORGE Pazar, at Art Systems Wickham until April 3, continues to refine his aesthetic. By restricting his palette to black, white and grey, with a vocabulary of lines rectangles and circles, he appears to court total abstraction.
However, closer study and the catalogue reveal that his subjects are human dramas, figures with circular forms for heads and contorted geometrical bodies inhabiting urban spaces.
Enamel paint rather robs the surfaces of the vitality of oils. There is more life in a series of graphite works on paper, where the quality of the drawn line creates a range of interiors, including, I think, a school classroom, where individuals are reduced to a range of impersonal ciphers. Is this an inverted humanism?
There is an interesting parallel with the current mini-survey of John Peart paintings and graphics from the collection of Newcastle Art Gallery. Peart was one of Australia’s most dedicated and successful abstract artists, with a wide vocabulary of non-representational imagery.
Close study reveals that the human figure is often the basis for his works.For instance, the large painting Dream of Thebes has seated figures of gods and kings we recognise from dynastic sculpture and wall painting. Could there also be figures with little white feet lurking in the dense detail of the newly presented tapestry, enigmatic layered presences?
Figures are not the main story, but for Peart a largely hidden source of inspiration. Is abstract art ever completely free of references to the world of appearances?