3 Sculptors: 3 Spaces. Strathnairn Woolshed Gallery, 90 Stockdill Drive, Holt. Closes July 14.
Funky ceramics, painted steel non-figurative sculptures and idiosyncratic three-dimensional inventions have little in common. Shaun Hayes, Michael Le Grand and Peter Vandermark, all Canberra-based artists, have been brought together by a grand old woolshed that they share for this exhibition, albeit with some flimsy demarcations breaking up the space.
Le Grand occupies the main central space, as well as having a number of pieces outside the woolshed; Hayes is in the space to the left as you enter; and Vandermark to the right. The gallery is not heavy on signage, hence this explanatory note.
Hayes is the youngest and least known of the three. He is a ceramicist, who graduated from the local school of art in 2013 and has been producing a form of funky ceramics ever since. His visits to Jingdezhen in China in 2011 and 2013 brought into focus the strange combination of ancient and serene traditions of pottery and the lifestyle of a disposable society with ever-mounting piles of waste.
In his ceramics, Hayes grafts onto venerated traditional forms of vessels, drawn from Chinese and Greco-Roman models, slip cast disposable parts taken from plastic toys, drink bottles and toy weapons. It is an aesthetic of laughing through tears, whereas we marvel at the beautifully resolved glazed stoneware, but are aware of the disturbing imagery incorporated behind the shiny surface. Another Canberra artist, eX de Medici in her practice has patented this aesthetic - in her case, also with the realisation that the patron society is too stupid to realise what she is actually saying behind her immaculate surfaces.
In beautifully resolved pieces such as Stages (2019), Hayes creates what I find to be deeply disturbing works commenting on a society obsessed by a disposable present, war and violence and oblivious of the consequences of its actions.
Le Grand is a veteran of the sculpture scene in Australia and, having studied at Saint Martin's School of Art, London, brought back to Australia the tradition of geometric steel sculpture associated with Anthony Caro internationally and with Ron Robertson-Swann in Australia. He is a sculptor who has improved and matured with age and who has created some of his finest work since retiring from teaching at the art school in 2007.
The selection of 10 pieces at this exhibition spans a period of 25 years with the larger pieces outside and the table-size works within the gallery space. Although his sculptures are primarily non-figurative, in that it is pointless to recognize in the forms a primitive headrest or a temple gateway, the final pieces create a new tangible reality that operates along its own laws and with its own natural order.
Vibe (2013) is a gorgeous painted steel piece of considerable size and presence and is one of the stand-out pieces at this exhibition. It works from all angles and has a tantalisingly sensuous quality with the highly reflective surface of automobile metallic paint.
Vandermark is the master of the enigmatic object - one that is beautifully and immaculately finished, but oddly functionless and in a way 'impossible'.
It is a celebration of the free reign of the imagination with each of his four exhibits a little meditation on design, function and urban realities.
Chateaux d'eau (2017) - literally meaning water towers - when reduced to miniatures and realised in cast glass and cast concrete, become small beacons like inflated chess pieces.
Vandermark invites you to contemplate many competing realities through his polished miniatures.
All three artists invite us to question and reimagine what constitutes reality.