THE Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Melbourne is presenting Painting, More Painting, its first major exhibition of contemporary painting in 10 years. After a decade of installation, digital and performance dominance in metropolitan contemporary art spaces the centre has brought together over 70 artists in an exhibition that re-assesses the position of painting in contemporary art practice.
Three generations of painters who are at different stages of their professional careers have worked individually and collaboratively to produce a formal and conceptually diverse exhibition that asserts the continuing relevance of painting and the art object in a digital world.
Artists argue that the reasons for the long absence of painting from these spaces is the galleries’ lack of engagement with the practice, seemingly being more interested in novelty and technology. The galleries, of course take a different position, believing that there have not been the paintings produced for them to exhibit, which makes one wonder where all these painters have suddenly sprung from.
Despite academic argument as to its relevance, all of Newcastle’s galleries have remained committed to the practice of painting, including our most contemporary focused space, The Lock-Up, which regularly mixes painting with new media, installations, performance and sound-based work. Indicative of this broad reaching outlook is The Lock-Up’s much-anticipated multi-media exhibition from Archibald Prize winner, Nigel Milsom, of Newcastle, which opens on August 19.
One of the major reason galleries have continued to support local painters is because there has been a steady stream of quality, disciplined artists graduating from the Newcastle Art School and the University of Newcastle. What effect the closure of Fine Art at the university and the compacting of courses at Hunter Street will have on this flow is hard to gauge, but if the representation of graduates in current exhibitions is any indicator, it will be significant.
In Abstract at Gallery 139 the simple, organic, blackened, wooden forms from prolific sculptor Joanna O’Toole are set against the paintings of six artists whose individual interpretations of abstraction have combined to produce an engaging, bright and colourful exhibition. In his first exhibition in several years John Sorby has pared down his harbour references to confident, gestural marks using an effective, limited palette in small paintings that sit comfortably alongside Julia Flanagan’s loosely patterned, playful works and Lisa Pollard’s more formally arranged pieces. Toni Amidy’s bold and expressive sweeps of thick paint and Justin Lees’ high energy celebrations are calmed by Eira Chidgey’s landscape-inspired soft fields of bleeding colour in this well considered and balanced exhibition. (Last day today)
Across Beaumont Street, Nanshe Gallery presents its final exhibition, Landscape as Pattern by popular Newcastle painter Mal Cannon. The landscape in question is a largely unpopulated, timeless urban landscape but seen from different perspectives and reduced to delineated swatches of colour in a meandering grid that creates an impression of embroidery and quilting.
Pop Tart at Newcastle Art Space brings together six young artists whose paintings and multimedia pieces are also full of energy, colour and fun but of a rawer, more irreverent punk variety. Digitised pin-up girls and postcards share some other time and place with cigarette- smoking suburban femmes fatale for a post-Pop adventure in retroland, complete with fake fluoro fur and some seriously unsettling, fetishist sculptures.
Newcastle Art School graduate Ellie Kaufmann assembled former fellow students Jack Barnes and Patrick Mavety and Wollongong artists Katelyn Slyer, Lauren Horwood and Cecily Lomax to produce this zany, risky and provocative exhibition. Exhibitions like this show the need for artist-run spaces.
Art Systems Wickham presents A State to Endure, the first solo exhibition from young painter, Josh Macgregor. With confident and consistent technique he merges the surrealism of artists such as Magritte with fantasy illustration, sci-fi and romanticism to create a world where disconnected bodies inhabit a post-apocalyptic landscape of ruins and natural regeneration.
The predominance of painting in all these exhibitions would seem fair evidence of its continuing relevance in a digital world of expanded artistic possibilities.
Apology: The July 30 art column carried the incorrect byline of Jim Kellar. The column was written by John Barnes.