Saturday, June 28, 2008

June exhibitons in Hobart: 6a, Inflight, CAST

It seems appropriate that this blog is born in a great month of art in Hobart.

At 6a Gallery, Trudi Brinkman's show On the Other Side of the Mountain is a strangely amusing combination of video, installation and self-contained sculptural works.

The mountainous wood and plastic construction positioned in the entrance to the gallery, features in the video piece, which shows the artist taking it for a ‘walk’ around the streets surrounding the gallery. The usually busy North Hobart restaurant strip is eerily dark and devoid of cars, which is convenient as the plastic mound is nearly the width of the traffic lane. The image of the artist solemnly leading around the large, but evidently fragile, structure has a ridiculousness that cannot be ignored, and I found myself chuckling as I watched the projected image.

Other works included a heavy-looking plaster mountain hung from the ceiling by large leather straps. In the crater-like hole at the top of the mountain, a tiny wooden chair is nestled, and like the video work, I found this work quaintly humorous. Nearby, another work uses a tiny chair, which is both incorporated into and suspended from the end of a bended wooden stick. The work is easy to miss as it’s above normal head height, however the stick is brutally attached to the wall with a couple of pieces of gaffer tape, which I suspect have been carefully placed. Trudi’s love of hands-on making is obvious in this show, and despite the fact that most of the works vary dramatically in medium and aesthetic, On the Other Side of the Mountain is a beautifully unified show.

The other Hobart ARI, Inflight, has two exhibitions on at the moment. One is a joint exhibition called Out of Home by photographers Shea Bresnehan and Nicole Robson, and the other is Revue des Deux Mondes by sculptor Lucy Bleach. Shea and Nicole both completed honours in Photography last year at RMIT and the Tasmanian School of Art, respectively, and their work is united by the domestic, although in very different ways. Shea’s work includes morbid scenes of abandoned furniture and shadowed houses, creating dark moods through her manipulation of light. Nicole’s lightboxes on the other hand, show multiple images of the same small bedroom, although in each image the bedroom has been altered in its decoration. It seems incomprehendable that someone would go to the trouble of changing the decor of a room, from the wallpaper and curtains to the bedspread and ornaments, just for a single photo; yet with the exception of the bed and side-table, this is exactly what Nicole has done. As a result, each room has a different personality, and you could almost imagine the person who might have chosen that ghastly blue and white striped wallpaper with matching curtains, or the kitsch horse print above the bed, the frilled lampshade or the psychedelically patterned bedspread. At the same time however, the images seem highly constructed – Nicole’s taste veers towards the kitsch, and with some of the rooms it is hard to image that anyone could have such bad taste. I suspect that it is the embrace of the kitsch, the artificiality and incredible amount of labour invested in creating these images that actually attracts me to Nicole’s photographs.

As adjoining exhibitions, Out of Home and Revue des Deux Mondes work well together. The freestanding wall that Lucy has built in the centre of the gallery is approached from the edge, so that the viewer has to choose which side to examine first. I choose to walk around to the left, and am confronted with layers of hard packed clay in various earthy colours. The other side is made up of lightboxes which show shelves of old journals, one of which is called Revue des Deux Mondes. The scale of the texts, and the nature of the lightbox made the books look too real, similar to the uncanny feeling I got looking at Nicole and Shea’s work.

The other show I want to quickly note is Companion Planting, which just finished at CAST. Curated by Jack Robins, it features the work of Dean Chatwin, Amanda Shone, Lucy Bleach (again), Raef Sawford and Michelle Cangiano. I’m getting a bit sleepy so I’ll just mention Dean’s work, which stands out from the rest. On massive slab of concrete in the centre of the gallery, a hose and a battered-looking bubbler sits spilling out water, which flows away off the slightly tilted slab seemingly to nowhere. The topical work comes at a time of increasing water shortages and restrictions in Australia, and reminds me of my childhood when many people regularly hosed their concrete driveways to get rid of fallen leaves, seemingly oblivious to the fact that concrete doesn’t grow – no matter how much you water it!

Phew! In the future, I probably won’t be commenting on three exhibitions at once, as I think short and sweet is probably adequate. It was only because of all these great exhibitions being on at once, that made me want to write about Hobart art and thus inspired this blog. Hopefully local art will continue to be as inspiring.

Oh and I’m sorry if I have grammatical or spelling errors, in the interests of more, quick posts, you might have to put up with a few typos! Cheers, E