Wednesday, July 16, 2008

An everything-is-opening-at-once night. aka don't you wish you hadn't made a vow not to drink tonight...

Last Friday was a bit of a bonza opening-wise. I only made it to four, but I think that’s a pretty good effort.

First off was Bill Hart’s PhD submission at the Plimsoll Gallery, which includes some of the best new media art I’ve seen in a long time. Bill uses text to create images that change and evolve. The text is often minute and in many of the works, the resulting image looks like it has been hand drawn with pastels or crayons. The handcrafted aesthetic seems completely oppositional to the way in which these images are created, as Bill uses complex computer programming to make his art. Many of the televisions are positioned behind white-painted frames, so that only the screen is visible to the viewer. This seems an interesting and deliberate decision, an attempt to avoid the connotations of the LCD screen, which are all too commonplace in galleries today. The frames additionally complement the ‘drawn’ effect of the images, and while the frames might have seemed a tad clich├ęd and over the top if they had surrounded a regular drawing, the very physicality of the painted wood somehow seems to enhance the glowing images contained within.

I find Bill’s work hypnotic. Words weave their way across multiple screens and for some reason I am reminded of the sperm scene in Look Who’s Talking. Others consist of words coming together to form vaguely familiar forms, one of which looks like the artist’s own head. Near by, ancient-looking script morphs into various hand tools – spanners, nails and hammers; and an adjacent screen, instead of using letters to create images, uses pale crescent-shaped forms, which look suspiciously like toe nail clippings. Etch.

It’s a shame that Bill’s submission is only open to the public over the weekend, and I hope that he has another opportunity to exhibit this body of work so that more people can see it.

The next opening on my trail is at Despard Gallery. The ‘Winter Show’ I think it’s called. It includes a number of emerging artists that Despard is considering representing. The reason why I don’t really want to dwell on this exhibition was that it only includes one female artist out of (if I recall correctly) six participants. I know that the art world is still predominantly a ‘boy’s club’ even though it’s a bit uncool to broach the subject, however when you visit ‘up and coming’ exhibitions such as this, where there is a blatant disproportion of men to women, it’s a reminder that equal opportunity does not exist in the visual arts. I’m considering starting a gallery watch – tallying up the number of women and men artists by some of the more high-profile Hobart galleries.

Trudging up Elizabeth Street to Bett gallery now... I can’t remember the name of the artist, and barely remember the photographs on exhibition, as they are quite frankly that unremarkable. So I’ll move onto the next gallery: the ARI 6a.

Amy Spiers’ Cubby consists of massive number of boxes and sheets stacked and arranged to create an adult sized cubby. 6a’s unconventional shape is an asset to works such as this. The entire gallery space has been turned into a cardboard environment with narrow hallways and low ceilings formed out of draped sheets. I feel myself regressing and have a strange compulsion to curl up in a foetal position in a secluded corner.

There are no children there when I visit (which is pretty late in the evening) and I suspect that they’d be a bit disappointed by this watered down version of an exciting concept. There just aren’t enough tunnels, nooks and crannies, narrow pathways and opportunities to get lost. It’s truly an adult cubby.

Outside 6a, the usual bbq and beer is served, but instead of setting up the barbie alongside the ancient but beautiful abandoned shed, it’s set up on the flat ground on which the building used to stand. Unfortunately, instead of trying to save it, the authorities apparently decided to knock the structure down. Nevertheless, the 6a crew have made good use of the new space, setting up a projector on the side of the gallery for a Singstar competition. It’s amusing to see something so daggy as a karaoke sing-off at Hobart’s (value judgement warning) ‘coolest’ gallery.