ART: Immerse yourself in a wild world

THE new exhibition at Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery until July 31 brings together some novel, deliberately provocative, experiences. Visitors can take a ticket to play traditional board games with Benjamin Gallagher’s exquisitely handmade pieces. They can watch the landscape of Mars, simulated in Utah, in a video by Valentina Karga. They will recognise Izabela Pluta’s archival photographs of the site and building of the present gallery. They are invited to go outside the building to forage for edible weeds in a plot of unmown lawn with Diego Bonetto.

What links these diverse and maybe unexpected works, brought together by young and visionary guest curator Ineka Dane, is an undriven sense of time, an invitation to stand and stare, subversive in the modern world of programmed lives.

ORIGINS: Glenn Barkley's themorningcantcomesoonenough(itsalrightimalrightimalright) (installation detail), 2016.

ORIGINS: Glenn Barkley's themorningcantcomesoonenough(itsalrightimalrightimalright) (installation detail), 2016.

PAPER: Detail of Brett McMahon's drawings from ‘After nature’ 2013.

PAPER: Detail of Brett McMahon's drawings from ‘After nature’ 2013.

The title of the exhibition, Watching Clouds pass the Moon, reinforces the alternative values of living non-commercially, of turning an airport into a garden or treasuring the ceramic objects of Glenn Barkley, which have surprising inscriptions embedded in their elaborate decoration that can take us right back to the origins of civilisation.

Likewise, Nicole Monks contributes her aboriginal sense of country and its redolent earth.

Perhaps the strangest, most hypnotic, images come from filmed performances by Eiko Otake, sometimes with Takashi Koma, in which slow human movements are given mythic energy by costume and setting.

Each of these works demands and rewards solemn contemplation. There is a lot to experience, much of it immersive. The artists come from Japan, Greece, Italy, and Germany, as well as from Australia, creating a worldwide context, in itself significant, for this wild unexpected exhibition. But what a shame it could not have been exhibited more spaciously.

Also in the gallery are minimal but evocative works from the permanent collection, including a group of the extraordinary paper panels with which Brett McMahon explores the properties of his environment. The sheets are crumpled to invoke rock, pierced to suggest limpets or blotched like bark in what was a highlight of last year’s comprehensive exhibition at Newcastle Art Gallery.

Works by Jonathan Jones contribute a further edge to a show of real strength.

Drawing at 139

ANOTHER rewarding exhibition is Fine Drawing at Gallery 139 until June 25. It covers a varied field, from the obsessive detail of Greg Slevin’s fish and Vanessa Lewis’s oak tree to the computerised drawing machine programmed by Matthew Tome, producing delicate, virtually invisible tracery, unnerving messages from the spirit world.

Robyn Werkhoven draws her quirky figures with characteristic assurance. Tony Amidy’s life drawings deploy expressive charcoal. Tanya Matas draws with the sewing machine. Surrealism lives again for Susan Ryman. Jay Muldoon’s ink fantasies grow organically. Melissa Bull applies botanical illustration to clay pots. And there is more.

Take in the landscape

ACROSS the road, Nanshe has landscape paintings from many artists. We can escape into Libby Cusack’s romantic visions and Nicola Bolton’s careful observations. Shelagh Lummis and Sarah Knights create vivid impressions. Robert Loughran has an individual voice. It’s yet another strong show.

Cessnock in print

PRINTMAKING reached a peak of popularity in the 1970s and 80s. Many painters were attracted to the possibility of multiples through editions of their works and the particular qualities involved in printing.

Charles Blackman, Donald Friend, Arthur Boyd, Judy Cassab and David Boyd all experimented with etching. John Peart made at least one series of monoprints, which involved close co-operation with the specialist printmaker James Whitington.

It is James Whitington’s professional workshop, Crown Street Press, which is the source for the exhibition at Cessnock Regional Art Gallery until July 24, with all the artists mentioned above represented by prints from editions James printed for them between 1980 and 1995.

In this distinguished collection, the Peart monoprints are the stars, though Donald Friend’s fluent expressive line is well represented. James Whitington is himself an artist and a group of his own prints demonstrates his range. Now resident in the Cessnock area, he has offered this chance to purchase a fine work. It’s well worth a visit.

IN other news, Patricia Wilson-Adams has a solo show at Weswal Gallery in Tamworth, June 25 to July 24.

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