EXHIBITION CURRENT 29 APRIL TO 21 MAY 2017
“Firth-Smith is an abstract painter of expansive mediations in space, shapes reminiscent of boats and shorelines and object on and around the littoral zone, remembering the edges of waves, their height, wide expanses of canvases: images and abstraction from the sea and sailing; line, edge, curve, balance. They suggest emotion and play with theory… With critical notice since 1961, commercial success, exhibitions nationally and internationally, he has won many prizes, he’s in every major national collection.”
extract from Judith Pugh “John Firth Smith: New Vision” in current Artist Profile issue 38
John Firth-Smith (1943) has held solo exhibitions since 1966 in Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and Western Australia. His work has been included in significant group exhibitions including ‘Twenty Years of Australian Painting’ London, 1972; ‘Biennale of Paris’, 1973; ‘Sydney Harbour Bridge 1932-82’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1982; ‘The Artists of Hill End’ Art Gallery of New South Wales and touring 1995, ‘MCA Unpacked’ at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney 2001. Firth-Smith trained at the National Art School, Sydney (1961) and was artist in residence at the University of Melbourne in 1983. He was commissioned to create a tapestry for Parliament House in Canberra in 1987. Monographs on Firth-Smith’s work were published in 1999 and 2006, and two documentaries by the ABC have been made on his work . Firth Smith was awarded the Georges Prize in 1972, the Sydney Morning Herald Art Prize in 1978 and the Broken Hill Art Prize in 1978. His work is in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, all state galleries, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; the Australian Government’s Artbank; as well as numerous regional and tertiary galleries.
DOWNLOAD FULL CV HERE
1 TO 23 APRIL 2017
After Nature explores the possibilities of contemporary Vanitas painting. Broaching themes of death and temporality, these works reflect on conditions of contemporary living, cultural contrivances and the nature of human existence. Positing a radically condensed synopsis of human civilisation, these painting mise-en-scènes draw on tragic-comic, personal and idiosyncratic motifs alongside appropriations from art history, in lieu of traditional iconography attributed to the genre.
After Nature should be read as a body of work in search of a secular Vanitas rather than a resolved idea set. The exhibition presents two tenets of recent work: the initial iterations explore the vanities of individualism and persuasion of cultural dictates, whereas later works deviate away from the individual towards the universal.
Provoked by the Vanitas dictum, Vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas (“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity), early paintings from this series such as Vanity Fair (2016), Life goals (2016) and Tension meter (2016) feature superimposed gymnasium apparatus, chains and metal poles over representations of 17th century Dutch still lifes. These impossible bouquets, a culturally constructed arrangement wherein the flora depicted cannot bloom simultaneously, allude to bourgeoning middle-class wealth and the first manifestations of market capitalism. In this body of work such bouquets act as a stand in for the absurdity and constructedness of cultural suppositions; namely measures of achievement attained by the individual, whether they ascribe to conventional beauty standards, competitive success or wealth aspirations. The inorganic punctuations formally bisecting the background vegetation allude to the impossibility of fulfilling contemporary cultural dictates with an irreverent tragicomic humour.
Works created in 2017 develop a language away from the myopia of individual experience contrarily adopting a hyperopic vision of human experience. Condensing past, present and future; nature, culture and universal death, motifs of circular voids, solar eclipses, celestial bodies and black holes punctuate these later works. Paintings such as The sense of an ending (2017), Deep space, small death (2017) and Eclipse (2017) present an atheistic Vanitas, with a quiet nihilist humour. Abridging the full spectrum of human experience in to three tenets, these works flout any reference to modernity and in doing so reflect on the absurdity of our current socio-cultural landscape and the temporality of our time.
Berlin based Karla Marchesi holds Bachelor of Fine Art (2004) and Honours in Fine Art (2007) degrees from the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, where she received the University Medal for academic excellence and the Honours Thesis Prize. Marchesi received the Philip Bacon Galleries Prize for Excellence in Drawing in 2003, enabling her to study for a semester at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, US. Marchesi has held solo exhibitions in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. In 2012 she undertook a studio residency at Atelierhaus Mengerzeile, Berlin that preceeded her first international solo exhibition at Kunsthalle M3, Berlin. She has subsequently participated in a number of international group exhibitions. Marchesi is a recipient of the 1st Prize in the Redland Art Awards (2010), the Wilson Visual Arts Award (2012) and an Australia Council for the Arts Early Career New Work Grant (2013). Her work is included in a number of public collections including The University of Queensland Art Musueum and several regional galleries.
WORKS ON PAPER
4 TO 26 FEBRUARY 2017
“I think of Guy Warren as a philosopher artist who uses landscape and the human figure to pose a question. Guy’s painterly language of solving the figure against the ground, the mystery of the figure in the jungle, hovering there in nature is a metaphor for a very important question about out future on planet Earth”
Emeritus Curator of Australian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales
extract from ABC Radio National Interview 2016
EXHIBITION TO BE OPENED BY GRAHAM FRANSELLA,
SATURDAY 4TH FEBRUARY 2017, 4 TO 6 PM
Guy Warren (1921) has exhibited regularly since 1955. Following war service with the AIF from 1941-46, Warren studied at the National Art School from 1947 to 1949 under the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Training Scheme and undertook further training in London during the 1950s. Warren is a recipient of the Archibald Prize (1985), the Medal of the Order of Australia (1999) and the Australia Medal (2013). Survey exhibitions of his work have been held at Newcastle Region Gallery (1977), Cairns Regional Art Gallery (2001), University of Wollongong (2002), Mosman Art Gallery (2003-4) and S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney (2016). Warren is represented in the collections of National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Parliament House Collection; Canberra; the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; the Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane; the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; the Art Gallery of Tasmania, Hobart; the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth; The British Museum, London; the Contemporary Art Society Collection, London and the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei.
MOVING FORWARDS, LOOKING BACK
A SURVEY 1969 – 2016
17 TO 23 DECEMBER 2016 / 14 TO 29 JANUARY 2017
Suzanne Archer was born in Surrey, UK and trained at the Sutton School of Art (1964). She arrived in Australia in 1965 and is based in the Wedderburn region of New South Wales. Archer has exhibited regularly since the late 1960s and is a recipient of the Wynne Prize (1994), the Dobell Prize (2010) and the Kedumba Drawing Prize (2010). She has undertaken residencies at Greene Street Studio, New York; Power Studio at Cite Internationale, Paris and Redgate Residency, Beijing. A career survey was held in 2016 at the Macquarie University Art Museum, Sydney. Archer’s work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Artbank as well as significant regional and tertiary institutions.
LINK TO ‘ARTIST PROFILE’ EXHIBITION PREVIEW HERE
LINK TO ‘ART GUIDE AUSTRALIA’ EXHIBITION PREVIEW HERE
LINK TO REX BUTLER ‘MEMO’ EXHIBITION REVIEW HERE
LINK TO SALLY BAILLIEU & NICHOLAS THOMPSON EXHIBITION DISCUSSION ON RPP FM’S ‘ARTS ABOUT’ HERE
THE DEFINITE AND EPHEMERAL
“It is a process of elimination and addition, constructed of the definite and ephemeral” wrote a twenty-four year old Suzanne Archer in Mervyn Horton’s seminal 1969 survey Present Day Art in Australia. (1) ‘Definite and ephemeral’ is arguably one of the most suitable descriptions of Archer’s near fifty year practice. From her collage works of the 1960s and 1970s to her imposing landscapes of the 1980s and 1990s to the meditations on mortality of the 2000s and 2010s – a handwriting of abstracted line has formed the ephemeral connective tissue that supports the definite assembled forms of letters, numbers, flora, fauna and figure.
This exhibition ‘Moving Forwards, Looking Back’ is a small survey of the last forty-five years of Archer’s career, specifically her two dimensional work, predominately her painting. In a 2002 Art and Australia article on the painters of the Wedderburn, Sydney region, Peter Pinson observed that ‘Paul Klee spoke of taking a line for a walk, Archer takes a line on a reckless, intoxicated spree’. (2) Archer’s ephemeral, abstracted line similarly links the works in this exhibition. Its genesis can be seen in the small black painted curve in the top right of the smallest and earliest work Win a trip (1969) and threads and expands through the subsequent works of 1970s and 1980s, reaching its abstracted zenith in the landscape works of the 1990s before receding as Archer’s concerns of the 2000s and 2010s became increasingly figurative. The abstracted line nevertheless endures in these later meditations, revealing an ephemeral support and process driven scaffolding containing the definite representations of mortality and identity. The idea of the perpetual motion of the line is similarly important, the most recent work Bluesu (2016) is less than a year old. Archer’s practice remains continual, constant and compelling.
In an assessment of modernist abstract painting, Rosalind Krauss argued that the most successful works operate ‘through a structure of oppositions: line as opposed to colour, contour as opposed to field, matter as opposed to the incorporeal’. (3) What emerges is the ‘provisional unity of the identity of opposites. Line becomes colour, contour becomes field, matter becomes light’. Pollock described this result as ‘memories arrested in space’, especially prevalent in the binary opposition of figure/non figure, as image is absorbed into structure. (4) I would argue that comparable relationships reveal themselves in the tensions and harmonies of the ‘definite and ephemeral’ oppositions of Archer’s practice, where letters, marks and skeletons sit in dense, painterly and ambiguous territories.
As part of the 1982 Festival of Sydney, celebrated Australian author Patrick White selected twenty works from the Art Gallery of New South Wales for an exhibition titled Patrick White’s Choice. Included in the selection was Suzanne Archer’s Kites (1978). White commented that Archer’s works are ‘not inaccessible to those prepared to merge with them’. (5) I hope this small survey of Suzanne Archer’s work will provide much for the viewer to merge with, much as her definite figures merge into their ephemeral webs.
1 Horton, M ed. Present Day Art in Australia, Ure Smith, North Sydney, 1969, p.14
2 Pinson, P. ‘Common ground: Four Wedderburn Painters’ in Art and Australia Vol 40 No 2 Summer 2002, p.275
3 Krauss, R. ‘Reading Jackson Pollock, Abstractly’ in The Originality of the Avant Garde and other Modernist Myths, MIT Press, Massachusetts, 1985, p.239
5 Verity Hewitt, H. ‘Patrick White’s choice’ in Art and Australia Vol 36 No 2 Summer 1998, p.2469