Saturday, April 21, 2007

Reviews from the Crypt #1: Read My Lips

Whilst sifting through some age yellowed files I found some reviews that I wrote for On Dit and the Adelaide Advertiser over a decade ago.

Today I'm feeling a bit fluey, so decided to type them up in between medicinal hot toddies. They are probably only interesting to me and possibly the artists who I reviewed. Anyways, here's #1 ...

Story title: These lips were made for walking
Artist: Various
Exhibition: Read my lips
Where: Union Gallery, Adelaide Uni
When: Sometime in 1994

A bunch of Melbournian artistes have invaded our humble harbour of harmony with some of the best work my jaded eyes have seen in the longest time. Read My Lips consists of 14 artistes’ diverse responses to the exploration of language.

Out of the 34 works on show, the following, in no particular order, stood out:

Damiano Bertolli provided four collages for the exhibition entitled Stappease: Rings of Ion. Number 2 conjures up an image of a Marlowe case in sleazy 40s LA. The pure cerebral fuck of raw jazz seems to drip from the gaudy wallpaper. Two beautiful, sinister women stand with their backs to some poor Joe, who is sprawled dead on the ground. Meanwhile scenes from Africa, Asia, America, and the mind are juxtaposed, and are seen through arched windows that frame the two indifferent murderers.

It is a very small collage that has been inconveniently hung about two inches from the ground, therefore forcing your drunken art correspondent down to the floor. However, the annoyance that is experienced on the journey down soon dissipates when you discover the Dali/Kahloesque piece that awaits you. It is made up of a Victorian portrait of a woman with a large blue eye instead of a head, as well as a bunch of chicken eggs instead of a stomach. Surrealism so good you can scramble it and put it on toast.

Kate Benyon’s Characters is an installation that demands to be noticed. It is a felt alphabet connected to the wall and sums up the whole exhibition’s emphasis on language. In addition there are fluffy, floating, felt things hanging from the ceiling. This use of the air is nicely contrasted by Wai-Ling Lai’s use of the ground in Supermarket Calligraphy, in which lentils have been neatly laid and symbols moulded by clay have been placed on top. Not quite sure what it all meant, but it tasted good and was good for me.

Susan Fereday contributed a series of doorknobs, all labelled with titles like Organic, Dreaming, Spiritual, Materialist. They are door knobs without a door, therefore lead to nowhere; the words hint at direction but are empty, meaningless symbols of the unobtainable. Heavy? Or glib? I can’t decide, but I like ‘em.

Anna Nervegna’s Signature (Picasso/ Monet/ Cezanne) is a large canvas with three spray painted copies of the famous artists’ signatures. They boom out at the viewer like glaring neon, saying the name is more important than the work, so fuck off you narrow minded lovers of sanitized old art. The works are reminiscent of one of the luminaries of Dadaist anti-art, Picabia. In his L’oeil Cacodylate he got many of his artistic and literary chums to sign their names on a large canvas.

Lazlo Romer’s Tongue Tied Yet Lucid intrigued me. I hated it at first; its canvas seemed to be tortured by washes and drips of paint. However, the triumph of this work is in its complexity, it is so confusingly busy that it takes a prolonged viewing for the aptness of the title to gradually emerge. Lucidity does indeed spring out in this clever piece, because calligraphy stands erect in a sea of incomprehensibility.

Polexeni Papetrou’s E.L.V.I.S I love you comprises three large photos with my favourite fat-arsed, burger-eating icon. Graffitied declarations of love are given to the modern, jump-suited Lazarus.

I loved Werner Hammerstingl’s The Difference Between Art and Craft. It is two welcome mats, one is on the ground, the other is on the wall adorned by a gold frame; therefore transforming a simple product of craft into a masterpiece that belongs to the heady realm of art. Simply profound? Profoundly simple? What is art? What is language? What is the language of art? Blah, blah, blah.

Good stuff!

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