Art | Gallery 139's show of strength | Jill Stowell

GALLERY 139 embarks on its third year of operations with a real show of strength (closing Sunday).

Fifty-two artists contributed three necessarily small works, which amazingly are coherently accommodated.

There are new names, like Nina Battley, and old friends, including most of the gallery’s regulars.

Some are trying new things: Anne-Maree Hunter has discovered the possibilities of crochet, Susan Ryman the power of the single image.

Some works are serious CV material, like Nicola Bolton’s graphite clouds or Dan Nelson’s moons.

There are readily recognisable pieces from Peter Lankas, Robyn Werkhoven and the Finnies. There are no poppies from Jill Orr.

Equally unexpected are Katherine Heinrich’s exquisite knitting and Paul Maher’s iPad drawings.

Simone Patterson has sent three tiny miniatures from Virginia.

There are bizarre little sculptures from Peter Read and Giselle Penn and there are pure pleasures in Lisa Pollard’s painted and incised timber panel interiors and the brooding pinhole photographs of Iceland by Chris Byrnes.

Gallery 139 can face the future with confidence.


ACRUX is also starting the year with a strong show until tomorrow, enhancing its focus on ceramics.

Sharon Taylor explores her forest themes in vertical vessels, large and small. The cut-out tree trunks work dramatically against the solid crowns of the trees with organic suggestions of the natural world.

Clay works also come from Laura Jefferson and Helen Dunkerley. Her thick earthenware tiles bear effectively screen-printed images by Linda Swinfield who continues to mine her family archives for multimedia works.

The gallery is developing a list of regular artists, including always interesting Margaret McBride. Her white flaked and layered plywood reliefs bring new life to Nobbys as well as to old tea chests.

Exciting, too, is Jane Blackall’s white peacock, whose spread tail is built up of cut out paper feathers in an old art form spectacularly revived.


CERAMICS remain the raison d’être of Back to Back Galleries.

For the year’s first exhibition, it is showing until February 5 a multitude of works from a class regularly held in the workshop studio behind the gallery.

It is probably not surprising that elaborate decorative treatments outweigh a concern for form. A year is not long to master techniques that may take a lifetime to perfect.

My attention was caught by the number of hand-moulded plates and platters with their organic ambience and real functionality; Peter Llewinski’s dark stoneware is notable.

Elegantly designed slab work appears in the red hexagonal hanging pots of Jen Bates.

Janet Steele’s forest vases in celadon porcelain recall the art nouveau. Jacinta Delprado finds insects a fruitful subject.

Jen Denzin as usual sets her own eccentric agenda.


TIMELESS Textiles builds on its substantial reputation in two new exhibitions until February 12.

A room of pictorial machine embroidery is the work of Tanya Matas. She translates photographs of familiar Newcastle scenes and a passing parade of characters into sketchy linear drawings in black thread. Here is yet another virtuoso on the sewing machine from our area.

The other exhibition features diverse work by Kelcie Bryant-Duguid and her daughters, Keziah and Mckenzie Duguid. Obviously a family with a strong creative urge.

The range of this gallery is expanding. The current exhibition at Newcastle Art Gallery, curated by Anne Kempton, indicates her reach into textile practice well beyond Australia, with one of the artists represented in ‘Holding’ commissioned to conduct community workshops here as he does in Europe. This gallery has underlined how art textiles inspire many creative imaginations.


I UNDERSTAND that fibre techniques will continue to be offered to students enrolled in the new ‘Creative Industry’ degree course at the University of Newcastle.

Everywhere I go I meet people anxious to learn more about the requirements for this degree, seen as part of a nationwide trend towards finding a new framework for traditional art school training in the visual arts.

With only a month before term starts, there are still many questions to be answered about the composition of the new course and the staffing required to deliver it. John Barnes may well have more to report here next week.

Meanwhile, I hear that enrolments at Newcastle Art School of TAFE are increasing.

INTERIOR: Lisa Pollard Words and Pictures. Mixed media on board.

INTERIOR: Lisa Pollard Words and Pictures. Mixed media on board.

DETAIL: Jennifer Finnie.

DETAIL: Jennifer Finnie.