Exhibition News

Random Access and the Montalto Sculpture Prize.

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Published Thursday, March 9, 2006

If you're in Melbourne and enjoy sculpture then you're in luck.
This March in Melbourne is a great time to jump in the car and drive to the Mornington Peninsula one weekend to visit the McClelland Gallery and then on to Montalto. In between tasting wine and food that is or just going for a swim at Pt.Leo. Anyway, when you have done all that visit the McClelland Gallery to check out the Random Access exhibition of sculpture.

The curated exhibition at the McClelland Gallery provides a fast look at the work of:

  • James Angus,
  • Lionel Bawden,
  • Janet Burchill & Jennifer McCamley,
  • Emily Floyd,
  • Christian Froelich,
  • Shaun Gladwell,
  • Stephen Haley,
  • Sam Jinks,
  • Shaun Kirby,
  • Michael Parekowhai,
  • Caroline Rothwell
  • Tim Silver

The McClelland website has a brief introduction to the exhibition which promises to present us with a:

Sampling modern technology and contemporary sculptural practice, this exhibition presents some of the most exciting sculptors from Australasia.

Unfortunately, this promise is not fully realised in this exhibition - the exhibition does not present works that are radical or compelling in their use of high technology – an area that ACMI has successfully presented to the public over the past few years in a number of exhibitions – in particular the exhibition White Noise that ran there until October 2005 was more significant exploration of the use of technology in sculpture. Unfortunately, the significant failing of this exhibition has nothing to do with the participating sculptors and everything to do with a fuzzy curatorial selection criteria. I want to look in a little more detail at the works I enjoyed.

Two years ago (2004) James Angus created a very funny piece for the AGNSW – titled Truck Corridor- the work featured a Mac truck’s facade in an impossibly narrow corridor at the AGNSW – in this exhibition his small pieces such as the Basketball dropped from 35000 feet, Mosquito and Mountains, Valleys, Caves sit as small reminders of his technical facility with materials, much in the manner of Ricky Swallow.

On the opposite wall, there are two works by Sam Jinks - both show stoppers – the untitled work of a new born baby (is it possible that it is actually an image of a foetus in the womb)? Anyway, it is a startling piece, for the rendition of minuscule colour and detail, especially the downy black hair on the infants face and back. The baby is scaled at 3:1, and every tiny detail of this baby’s anatomy is revealed.

The second piece by Sam Jinks, Hanging Man, which was exhibited previously at West Space (Melbourne) late last year (2005) is an even more confronting piece which shares the irresistible detail, down to individual follicles of the subject’s beard and head. The detail is so stunning and the form so perfect that if it moved you’d feak. The hanging man is suspended by his arm pits and his head is slumped forward, but his fingers exert resistance against the surface, reflected in his form, creating an exquisite variation of contrapposto. It should be interesting to see where Jinks takes his sculpture over the coming years.

Another artist whose works are worth noting is Lionel Bawden, who creates small abstract forms that are all the more remarkable when you realise that the material he uses is carved coloured pencils that have been firmly glued together. The suite of pieces the monsters were first exhibited at GrantPirrie gallery in 2004. The artist describes his process in the following:

I began the sculpture by selecting the coloured pencils that I wanted to use and cutting them to the desired length. Then I glued the hexagonal pencils together, one pencil at a time, forming a block with a honeycomb structure. I wanted colour to move across the work, a subtle suggestion of the changing colours of a chameleon, suggesting adaptability. So I carefully placed each different coloured pencil, gradually changing from red, through orange, to yellow amongst the pink pencils. Next, I sanded and shaped the block using a dremel rotary tool with sanding and carving attachments. The most rewarding stage is sanding the form by hand with four grades of sandpaper, determining the final shape and smoothing the form. This is usually the slowest, but most enjoyable stage of the process.
(from the NGA web site http://www.nga.gov.au/Wolfensohn/bdetail/braincoral.htm)

The result of this work is a colourful honeycomb like effect except that the mass is solid. Nevertheless, it is an intriguing material, especially given the tonal range that is available from the coloured led pencil cores. montalto image

20 minutes drive from the McClelland gallery into the wine heartland of the Mornington Peninsula is the Montalto Sculpture Prize. This is held annually in the stunning grounds of the vineyards and olive groves that makeup the Montalto estate. Enjoy tasting some of the local produce and then amble through the sculpture park.

The sculpture this year seems to fit into works that compliment the environment including works by Chaco Kato, Caroline Graley or Ben Wrigley or those that celebrate a humanist condition – here I’m thinking of the works by Patrick Delbosc, Sally Duncan, Darren Turner, David Waters or Dean Bowen.

Montalto Sculpture Prize

The work A language of the forest by Chaco Kato displays a more confident and assertive homage to the underlying structure of vegetative matter in the forest. Chaco’s work is considerably larger than the piece Spider’s Whisper exhibited in last year’s exhibition. Chaco’s work is tied to the ground, like the stripped remains of an organic life form. I’ve seen a few exhibitions over the past three or four years by Chaco and have enjoyed the journey of watching her work and themes develop ( see our review of Chaco's exhibition from last year).

Anthea Williams’ work S3 is a crazy coloured line that runs around and around changing colours with every shift in direction and velocity. It shares a fleeting common idiom with John Olsen’s shifting lines that define the path of a thought through a landscape of ideas. The energy that charges through this work from both shifting colour and swishing line gives an impression of celebration.

Martin Shub, March 2006.

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