LAKE Macquarie City Art Gallery is notable for the central role education plays in much of the gallery’s activity. From March 18 until April 24 the principal exhibition is of artmaking created by candidates for the 2015 HSC, sourced from schools in the Central Coast and Hunter. It is the eighth time this regional survey has been organised, with steadily rising numbers.
The exhibition is itself a learning experience. The student work receives full professional treatment: well lit, spaciously hung and furnished with a full catalogue. Some pieces stand up to this degree of scrutiny better than others. Often incisive examinations of self-identity include Aboriginal and African heritage. A new concentration on drawing techniques is obvious, though photographic processes are universally incorporated.
Another aspect of the gallery’s education program is the ongoing series of study collections from nationally significant artists.
This year, Judy Watson has much to offer as guide and influence. Widely noted for large-scale commissions and distinctive freely hanging paintings that call on the heritage of her Aboriginal grandmother, she is underrepresented in this area.
So it is valuable to have an opportunity to see a sequence of her delicate etchings (2009/10) of Heron Island finds. Combined with washes of her trademark fluidly unpredictable colour, they also reference environmental threats to the Barrier Reef.
Found and collected objects from many sources often provide her inspiration. A wall of facetted bronze pebbles is suffused with metaphorical points of light.
SIMONE DARCY is a Newcastle-based photographer who has received many awards. Who could forget her splendid portrait of Peter and Ahn in a bus shelter?
She has recently expanded her horizons with a residency in Iceland, soon to be followed by another at Red Gate Studios in Beijing. Her exhibition at Art Systems Wickham until tomorrow appears as a work in progress, hinting at a wealth of Icelandic experiences beyond the depiction of new friends in the haunting landscape. Of course they make interesting subjects, but explosions of boiling mud and a vast river flood plain fire our thirst for the narrative exotic, even the overwhelming sublime.
A row of tiny found snapshots is significantly framed in a cat’s cradle of threads. I hope Simone has time to work through her Icelandic experience before she is swallowed up by the visual overload of China.
Tension at Nanshe
THE current pair of exhibitions at Nanshe Gallery until April 23 sets up a palpable tension. On one side of the gallery are the idealised female nudes of Christina Frogley, barely compromised by coloured washes. On the other are a series of images of troubled young women, anything but titillating, with the incorporation of fractured collage underlining an expressionist dislocation.
We know Barb Nanshe as a dedicated jewellery maker and an inventive sculptor. Now she shows she can paint, balancing the complexities of composition with an eye for the colour of emotional intensity.
Gallery of landscape
GALLERY 139 has collected a wonderfully diverse catalogue of works inspired by the idea of landscape. Apart from Shelagh Lummis’s multi-part painting of an arcadian scene, there is little to suggest the conventions of view-capture.
Gavin Vitullo’s imposing modulated timber poles evoke the forest. Matthew Allam creates miniature landforms in moss-filled clay saucers. The paintings of John Barnes hanker for abstraction in canvas-filling constellations of circles. Sally Reynolds’s woodcuts continue to recreate the red cliffs of Central Australia’s MacDonnell Ranges.
Penny Dunstan reverts to the camera-less photography of her previous work in a series of sepia-toned details of growing leaves and plants. This solar-powered image-making brings us the natural world, but transformed into polarised pattern, with a mysterious new dimension.
FLANDERS fields will be further immortalised in September when a new memorial is set up near Ypres in Belgium by an international group of blacksmiths. Among them is Hunter resident Will Maguire.
He is inviting members of the community to a poppy forging event on May 17 at his Elderslie workshop. If you have always wanted to try your hand at working with red-hot steel, phone Will on 0423 289 648 or visit his website at willblacksmith.com.au