Resistance! Paintings as Provisional Realities. M16 Artspace (Gallery 2). 21 Blaxland Crescent, Griffith. Wednesday - Sunday 12-5pm. Until July 3.
This is a small exhibition (eight works) in a small space (M16's Gallery 2) that visually argues the continuing viability and relevance of painting in a world used to "the daily avalanche of algorithms". The four artists each shows two works. Each artist has a mature and informed aesthetic and the selected works are confident exemplars of this. The purposeful limitations of the exhibition conversely create an immersive and interrogative visual, aesthetic and philosophical experience.
Paul Uhlmann's Ladder (smoke) uses a dense and glossy black ground to highlight the confronting owl perched on a ladder that is the work's central image. In saying this, one should note that the black ground is not background but central to both image and concept. The white owl is surrounded by vaporous transparent veils that imbue an ambiguous tone in their elegant inchoateness. The owl emerges from or merges into the black density that surrounds it. There is a stilled quality to this work that sees the owl as both metaphor and reality, a furthered layered ambiguity found in the dark but embracing presence of black. bird (smoke) employs a similarly dense, glossy black as partner to the almost ethereal, wispy forms floating on or through it. The artist's use of ambiguity is simultaneously telling and interrogative.
Ruth Waller's two works - Pink creeper and bright rocks and Sombre Flora - continue her engagement with the flora of her immediate (and wider) environments, allied to a deep interest in art history and in the philosophical and intellectual basis of creating two-dimensional objects that embrace three-dimensional (and beyond) experiences. Hers is an art about art as much as it is about the subjects and themes that provide her immediate impetus. Both pictures work with an essentially "muddy" palette (browns, greens, khaki). The starting point is the natural world (plants). This is subsumed into painterly amalgamations whose original identities are alluded to rather than delineated.
Waller incorporates painterly abstraction in both geometric and lyrical forms but there is never a severance from the reality that is her source. Groups of small, variously painted balsa accretions added to the surface see the artist playing with spatial depth and its illusion. Her pictorialisations are visually attractive and conceptually seductive. These groupings also contribute to stabilising the very active surface, the latter as materialised, for example, in the opaque, almost transparent layering of paint, the action of which is clearly and deliberately delineated.
Stephen Pleban's Soundscape Ecology I and Soundscape Ecology II are super-real landscapes/dreamscapes. Through atmospheric yet unnatural colour combinations he creates a world of dissonance where his protagonists question the relationship between humanity and the environment. His very physical paintings play with (some of) the tropes of traditional landscape painting such as deep space and figures at the front of the picture plane. These are subverted by his vivid palette and sliding application of paint in images that portray a world of uncertainty and (again) questioning.
Derek O'Connor's Strike Zone and Odesa continue his explorations of art (painting) enmeshed in its (recent) history and the history of the contemporary world from which it emerges. It is also a continuing paean to the insistent presence of painting in a contemporary practice that avers the hegemony of the digital over the painterly. His works clearly identify the artist's modes of making - marks, layering, erasures, etcetera - and in the doing of this present as assured and accomplished. There is always present an intellectual edge that while requiring prolonged viewer engagement is as equally rewarding as aesthetic delectation.
This exhibition is a carefully crafted visual argument with an underlying intellectual and philosophical premise beautifully realised by the four artists.
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