Emma Beer: Zooper Dooper. ANU Drill Hall Gallery, Kingsley Street, Acton. Until April 10. dhg.anu.edu.au.
Emma Beer, in the publicity issued by the ANU Drill Hall Gallery is heralded as "the youngest artist to have a major exhibition at the Drill Hall Gallery".
If this is correct, Beer who is about 34 or 35, is not that young and the statement may highlight the conservativism of this particular university gallery.
The underlying niggling doubt in such a pronouncement is whether this artist is worthy of such an honour ahead of a sizeable catalogue of ANU art school alumni who have not been bestowed this recognition.
In recent years at this gallery there have been numerous exhibitions of artists from interstate, especially from Sydney, and local talent has been less fortunate.
The Beer Zooper Dooper show certainly has a buzz of excitement and is bursting with energy.
To put it in a rather simple manner, Beer, in this exhibition of new work, is drawn to the armature of geometric abstraction for the basic structure of her paintings.
But at the same time, she does not want to give up on the "sexy tactility" of gestural painting with its fluid masses of colour applied in glazes.
Beer limits, especially in the acrylic paintings on canvas, incidents or episodes in the paint and adheres to fairly minimalist structures of hard-edge patterns.
Her glazes of colour sometimes show elements of resistance - blobs, drips and tactile surfaces - that provoke a dialogue with the cool, elegant overall conception.
Whereas artists frequently establish a ground colour and then a whole network of shapes is built on top, in many of Beer's paintings, when you stop to analyse them, it is the ground that seems to float on top of the rest of the composition.
This is a strategy that prevails in many of the paintings, in some including Borrowing, repeating, responding, undoing (2021), Happy hour (2021) and The luxury of not having it written in stone (2021) to considerable effect, but in others less successfully.
It is a very large exhibition and one that embraces the light-filled cage of the Drill Hall building.
But there are signs of haste throughout and a process of more judicious editing could have been entertained.
Despite the breezing confidence and sureness of touch that appears throughout the exhibition, quite a number of the canvases appear laboured and that is not in keeping with the apparent energy of the show.
Beer is a cerebral painter who appears to attack her paintings with a battle plan in mind and with the colour strategies resolved in the planning stages.
Then the battle with the "beast" unfolds as strategies change and develop.
In some of her earlier work that I have seen in other exhibitions, the battle to resolve a painting appears as a very long, hard fought and protracted conflict. On occasion there was no plan B and the show had to go on.
Beer's paintings at the exhibition largely hold their own but the works on paper in the adjoining side-gallery are less accomplished and somewhat detract from the show.
These works are in gouache, some date back to 2019, and they add little to the overall conception of the show whether they be studies for as yet unrealised pieces or sketches after completed work.
The idea of giving an emerging artist a break may only be applauded. In 2014 the Drill Hall held an early survey show of another Canberra graduate, the sculptor Kensuke Todo, who was also in his 30s.
My only suggestion would be to include in a side gallery some of the artist's earlier work to both guide the viewer on the artist's development as well as to demonstrate the evidence that led the curators to have such confidence in this artist.
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