Archive for the 'Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger' Category

06
Jan
10

Melbourne’s Magnificent Dozen 2009

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Here’s my pick of the twelve best exhibitions in Melbourne for 2009 that featured on the Art Blart blog (in no particular order) – and a few honorable mentions that very nearly made the list!

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1/ ‘The Water Hole’ by Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger at ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art)

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Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger. 'The Waterhole' 2009

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Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger
‘The Water Hole’
2009

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“The most effective bed has a small meteorite suspended in a net bag above it. The viewer slides underneath the ‘rock’ placing the meteorite about a foot or so above your face. The meteorite is brown, dark and heavy, swinging slightly above your ‘third eye’. You feel its weight pressing down on your energy, on your life force and you feel how old this object is, how far it has traveled, how fragile and mortal you are. It is a sobering and enlightening experience but what an experience it is!”

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This was a magical and poignant exhibition that was a joy for children and adults alike. Children love it running around exploring the environments. Adults love it for it’s magical, witty and intelligent response to the problems facing our planet and our lives. A truly enjoyable interplanetary collision.

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2/ ‘Ocean Without A Shore’ video installation by Bill Viola at The National Gallery of Victoria

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Bill Viola. 'Ocean Without A Shore' 2007 video still

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The resurrected are pensive, some wringing the hands, some staring into the light. One offers their hands to the viewer in supplication before the tips of the fingers touch the wall of water – the ends turning bright white as they push through the penumbrae of the interface. As they move forward the hands take on a stricken anguish, stretched out in rigor. Slowly the resurrected turn and return to the other side. We watch them as we watch our own mortality, life slipping away one day after another. Here is not the distraction of a commodified society, here is the fact of every human life: that we all pass.

The effect on the viewer is both sad but paradoxically uplifting. I cried …

These series of encounters at the intersection of life and death are worthy of the best work of this brilliant artist. He continues to astound with his prescience, addressing what is undeniable in the human condition. Long may he continue.

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3/ Rosalie Gascoigne at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

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Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Sweet lovers' 1990

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Rosalie Gascoigne
‘Sweet lovers’
1990

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This was a wonderful exhibition. Gascoigne rightly commands a place in the pantheon of Australian stars. She has left us with a legacy of music that evokes the rhythms, the air, the spaces and colours of our country. As she herself said,

“Look at what we have: Space, skies. You can never have too much of nothing.”

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Nothing more, nothing less.

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4/ The Big Black Bubble’ paintings by Dale Frank at Anna Schwartz Gallery

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Dale Frank. 'Ryan Gosling' (2008/2009)

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Dale Frank
‘Ryan Gosling’
2008/2009

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The artist offered the viewer the ability to generate their own resonances with the painting, to use the imagination of ‘equivalence’ to suggest what these paintings stand for – and also what else they stand for. States of being, of transformation, wonder and joy emerged in the playfulness of these works.

‘Ryan Gosling’ was a tour de force. With the poetic structure of an oil spill, the varnish forms intricate slick upon slick contours that are almost topographical in their mapping. The black oozes light, becomes ‘plastic’ black before your eyes, like the black of Rembrandt’s backgrounds, illusive, illuminative and hard to pin down – perpetually hanging there in two dripping rows, fixed but fluid at one and the same time (you can just see the suspensions in the photograph above).

This painting was one of the most overwhelming syntheses of art and nature, of universal forces that I have seen in recent contemporary art. This exhibition was an electric pulsating universe of life, landscape and transformation. Magnificent!

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5/ ‘So It Goes’ by Laith McGregor at Helen Gory Galerie

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Laith McGregor. 'The Last Bastion' 2009 (detail)

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Laith McGregor
‘The Last Bastion’ (detail)
2009

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Simply spectacular!

I had never seen such art made using a biro before: truly inspiring.
Inventive, funny, poignant and outrageous this was a must see show of 2009.

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6/ ‘triestement (more-is u thrill-o)’ by Domenico De Clario at John Buckley Gallery

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Domenico de Clario. 'o (la grande maison blanche – snow clouds massing)' 2008/09

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Domenico de Clario
‘o (la grande maison blanche – snow clouds massing)’
2008/09

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Painted in a limited colour palette of ochres, greys and blacks the works vibrate with energy. Cezanne like spatial representations are abstracted and the paint bleeds across the canvas forming a maze of buildings. Walls and hedges loom darkly over roadways, emanations of heads and figures float in the picture plane and the highlight white of snow hovers like a spectral figure above buildings. These are elemental paintings where the shadow has become light and the light is shadow, meanderings of the soul in space.

de Clario feels the fluid relationship between substance and appearance; he understands that Utrillo is embedded in the position of each building and stone, in the cadences and rhymes of the paintings of Montmarte. de Clario interprets this knowledge in a Zen like rendition of shadow substance in his paintings. Everything has it’s place without possession of here and there, dark and light.

For my part it was my soul responding to the canvases. I was absorbed into their fabric. As in the dark night of the soul my outer shell gave way to an inner spirituality stripped of the distance between viewer and painting. I felt communion with this man, Utrillo, with this art, de Clario, that brought a sense of revelation in the immersion, like a baptism in the waters of dark light. For art this is a fantastic achievement.

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7/ ‘McLean Edwards: Songs from the Ghost Ship’ at Karen Woodury Gallery

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McLean Edwards. 'Venus' 2009

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McLean Edwards
‘Venus’
2009

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These heterogeneous paintings were a knockout with their wonderful, layered presence – they really command the viewer to look at them and celebrate the characters within them. Whimsical, ironic and full of humor these phantasmagorical images of creatures cast adrift with the night sky as background are fabulous assemblages of colour, form and storytelling.

My friend and I really enjoyed this exhibition. We were captivated by these songs, going back to the work again and again to tease out the details, to feel connection to the work. These are not lonely isolated figures but sublime emanations of inner states of being expertly rendered in glorious colour. And they made us laugh – what more could you ask for!

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8/ Tacita Dean at Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)

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Tacita Dean. 'Michael Hamburger' 2007

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Tacita Dean
‘Michael Hamburger [Still]‘
16mm colour anamorphic, optical sound
28 minutes
2007

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“One can see echoes of Sebald’s work in that of Tacita Dean  - the personal narratives accompanied by mythical and historical stories and pictures. The tactility of Hamburger’s voice and hands, his caressing of the apples with the summary justice of the tossing away of rotten apples to stop them ruining the rest of the crop is arresting and holds you transfixed. Old varieties and old hands mixed with the old technology of film make for a nostalgic combination … Dean implicitly understands how objects can be elegies for fleeting lives.”

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Tacita Dean is a fantastic artist whose work examines the measure of things, the vibrations of spirit in the FLUX of experience. Her work has a trance-like quality that is heavy with nostalgia and memory and reflects the machine-ations of contemporary life. In her languorous and dense work Dean teases out the significance of insignificant actions/events and imparts meaning and life to them. This is no small achievement!

As an exhibition this was an intense and moving experience.

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9/ ‘Ivy’ photographs by Jane Burton at Karen Woodbury Gallery

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Jane Burton. 'Ivy #2' 2009

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Jane Burton
‘Ivy #2′
2009

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I feel that in these photographs with their facelessness and the non-reflection of the mirror investigate notions of ‘Theoria’ – a Greek emphasis on the vision or contemplation of God where theoria is the lifting up of the individual out of time and space and created being and through contemplative prayer into the presence of God. In fact the whole series of photographs can be understood through this conceptualisation – not just remembrances of past time, not a blind contemplation on existence but a lifting up out of time and space into the an’other’ dark but enlightening presence.

The greatest wonder of this series is that the photographs magically reveal themselves again and again over time. Despite (or because of) the references to other artists, the beauty of Burton’s work is that she has made it her own. The photographs have her signature, her voice as an artist and it is an informed voice; this just makes the resonances, the vibrations of energy within the work all the more potent and absorbing. I loved them.

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10/ ‘Sweet Complicity’ by eX de Medici at Karen Woodbury Gallery

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eX de Medici. 'Tooth and claw' (detail) 2009

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eX de Medici
‘Tooth and claw’ (detail)
2009

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In other less skilled artist’s hands the subject matter could become cliched and trite but here de Medici balances the disparate elements in her compositions and brings the subject matter alive – sinuously jumping off the paper, entwining the viewer in their delicious ironies, all of us sweetly complicit in the terror war (send more meat, send more meat!), fighting tooth and nail to keep urban realities at arm’s length. The dark desires that these works contain possess an aesthetic beauty that swallows us up so that we, too, become ‘Barbarians All’.

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11/ ‘Emily Kame Kngwarreye: The Person and her Paintings’ at DACOU Aboriginal Art

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Emily Kame Kngwarreye
‘Wildflower’
1994

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The paintings were painted horizontally (like the painter Jackson Pollock who intuitively accessed the spiritual realm) and evidence a horizontal consciousness not a hierarchical one. Knowledge is not privileged over wisdom. There is a balance between knowledge and wisdom – the knowledge gained through a life well lived and the wisdom of ancient stories that represent the intimacy of living on this world. The patterns and diversities of life compliment each other, are in balance.

Wisdom comes from the Indo-European root verb weid, “to see,” the same root from which words like vision come. In this sense these are “Vedic” paintings in that they are ancient, sacred teachings, Veda meaning literally “I have seen.”

On this day I saw. I felt.

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12/ ‘Unforced Intimacies’ by Patricia Piccinini at Tolarno Galleries

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Patricia Piccinini. 'Doubting Thomas' (detail) 2008

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Patricia Piccinini
‘Doubting Thomas’ (detail)
2008

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Patricia Piccinini. 'Doubting Thomas' 2008

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Patricia Piccinini
‘Doubting Thomas’
Silicone, fibreglass, human hair, clothing, chair
2008

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The terrains the Piccinini interrogates (nature and artifice, biogenetics, cloning, stem cell research, consumer culture) are a rematerialisation of the actual world through morphological ‘mapping’ onto the genomes of the future. Morphogenetic fields seem to surround the work with an intense aura; surrounded by this aura the animals and children become more spiritual in their silence. Experiencing this new world promotes an evolution in the way in which we conceive the future possibilities of life on this earth, this brave but mutably surreal new world.

This was truly one of the best exhibitions of the year in Melbourne.

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Honorable Mentions

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  • ‘Climbing the Walls and Other Actions’ by Clare Rae at the Centre for Contemporary Photography
    In these photographs action is opposed with stillness, danger opposed with suspension; the boundaries of space, both of the body and the environment, the interior and the exterior, memory and dream, are changed.
  • ‘Johannes Kuhnen: a survey of innovation’ at RMIT Gallery
    We stood transfixed before this work, peering closely at it and gasping in appreciation of the beauty, technical proficiency and pure poetry of the pieces.
  • ‘Double Infinitives’ by Marco Fusinato at Anna Schwartz Gallery
    The images are literally ripped from the matrix of time and space and become the dot dot dot of the addendum. What Fusinato does so excellently is to make us pause and stare, to recognize the flatness of these figures and the quietness of violence that surrounds us.
  • ‘all about … blooming’ by JUNKO GO at Gallery 101
    Go’s musings on the existential nature of our being are both full and empty at one and the same time and help us contemplate the link to the breath of the sublime.
  • ‘Mood Bomb’ by Louise Paramor at Nellie Castan Gallery
    They are dream states that allow the viewer to create their own narrative with the title of the works offering gentle guides along the way. These are wonderfully evocative paintings.
  • ‘New 09′ at Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)
    Finally you sit on the aluminium benches and contemplate in silence all that has come before and wonder what just hit you in a tidal wave of feelings, immediacies and emotions. The Doing and Undoing of Things.
  • ‘My Jesus Lets Me Rub His Belly’ by Martin Smith at Sophie Gannon Gallery
    At the end of days, when all is said and done, the funny diatribes with their ambiguous photographs are homily and heretic and together form a more inclusive body of bliss: ‘And also with you and you and you and you’

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24
Jan
09

Review: ‘The Water Hole’ exhibition by Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger at ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art), Melbourne

“Warning. Watch your step while gazing at distant view.”

Sign at entrance to the exhibition. 

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger. Entrance to 'The Waterhole' exhibition at ACCA, Melbourne, 2009

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger
Entrance to ‘The Water Hole’ exhibition at ACCA, Melbourne
2009

 

A cave like entrance presents itself to the visitor as they enter the exhibition leading to a long winding tunnel that is lined with silver insulation foil and tree branches, lit by floor mounted electric light bulbs. The foil moves with the natural movement of air causing not a rustling of leaves but of artificial surfaces.

At the end of the tunnel the viewer enters a large installation space, confronted with a effusive pop art Garden of Eden, a Magic Forest. It takes a while to work out what is going on, there are so many elements to the sculptural piece. The main elements are buckets, toilets, basins and drainage pipes, plumbing fittings that all lead to a bed with a drying dam in the centre of a satin bedspread: the ‘waterhole’ of the exhibition title. The waterhole is fed by water dripping from a medical bag suspended high in the air above the dam, a nice touch. The rest of the forest and pipes are dry. The installation comments on our water supplies and the ‘technologies of production’ (Foucault) that permit us to produce, transform or manipulate things. We might install rainwater tanks to catch water but if there is no water to catch in the first place then we are in trouble: we make our bed and have to lie in it, the empty basins like our catchment areas, dry and bleak. 

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger. 'The Waterhole' 2009

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger
‘The Water Hole’
2009

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger. 'The Waterhole' 2009

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger
‘The Water Hole’
2009

 

Other elements of the forest have an environmental theme, the installation developed by the artists in response to the extensive drought most of Australia (and it particular Melbourne) is experiencing. Here are spiders with hairy legs and mobile phones for bodies infesting the installation, plumbing fittings with natural seeds sprouting from their ends, brightly coloured crystal forms fed each day with water by gallery staff so that they grow. An upside down umbrella with Polar bear images printed on it’s material has imaginary water draining down a bamboo pipe into a bucket; empty water bottles form a large nest with broken eggs inside; artificial plants, bones, crabs, seaweed and flying stuffed owls are form some of the other elements in the installation.

 

 Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger. 'The Waterhole' 2009

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger
‘The Water Hole’
2009

 

Climbing a few steps we enter a ‘bird’ watching gallery replete with binoculars to observe the humans in the forest as much as the forest itself. A water cooler sits incongruously in this watching space, silent and somehow complicit in its ironical presence.

The viewer then moves to another room. 4 video projectors display another water themed installation on the gallery walls, the videos meeting in the middle of the walls and reflecting each other. Ambient music accompanies images of rain!, spurting water, owls and plastic pipes, plastic flowers and plastic horses as the viewer relaxes on a waterbed in the middle of the space. The effect of the music and images is quite meditative when combined with the gentle rocking of the waterbed, the projections of the video forming kaleidoscopic ‘Northern lights’ on the ceiling of the gallery. This room is an extension of the themes of the large installation.

 

 Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger. Installation view of waterbed at 'The Waterhole' exhibition at ACCA, 2009

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger
Installation view of waterbed at ‘The Water Hole’ exhibition at ACCA, Melbourne
2009

 

 

Moving forward the viewer enters another room – the meditation room. This room is most effective in encouraging contemplation of the different planes of our existence and our orientation in (environmental) space.

Three beds are present – one suspended from the ceiling by four metal rods. Climbing onto this bed the movement from side to side caused by your weight makes you feel seasick and slightly disorientated. Above the second table is a wonderful mobile made of twigs, branches, dried leaves, plastic flowers, beads, plastic bags, baby dummies and jewellery moving gently in the breeze. Lying on the table with the mobile about a foot above your head things drift in and out of view as you change the focus of your eyes – close, mid, far and then onto the moving shadows on the ceiling.

The most effective bed has a small meteorite suspended in a net bag above it. The viewer slides underneath the ‘rock’ placing the meteorite about a foot or so above your face. The meteorite is brown, dark and heavy, swinging slightly above your ‘third eye’. You feel its weight pressing down on your energy, on your life force and you feel how old this object is, how far it has traveled, how fragile and mortal you are. It is a sobering and enlightening experience but what an experience it is! 

Entering the final room small colour photos of people being hugged from behind and lifted into the air, laughing, line the gallery walls. These are the weakest elements of the exhibition and seem to bear no relation to all that has passed before.

Running off of this gallery is an alcove that is a dead end, a full stop to the exhibition with an installation ‘Desalination plant for tears’. 

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger. Installation view of 'Desalination plant for tears' from 'The Water Hole' exhibition at ACCA, Melbourne, 2009


Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger. Installation view of 'Desalination plant for tears'  (detail) from 'The Water Hole' exhibition at ACCA, Melbourne, 2009

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger
Installation view of ‘Desalination plant for tears’ from ‘The Water Hole’ exhibition at ACCA, Melbourne
2009

 

A cheap Formica desk sits at the end of the space. Perched above the desk is a tv showing live black and white images of the earlier bird watching gallery – the watcher now the watched. On the desk itself is a microscope (with slide of human tears), pencil, a candle for heat under a glass flask of water (looking like a spider  from the large installation!) and various glass test tubes and vials. A diagram explains the working of a ‘Desalination plant for tears’ an analogous reference to the desalination plant earmarked for Wonthaggi, south-east of Melbourne.

Irony is again present in the ‘2 leaves grown at Singapore Airport by desalinated water (2008)’, two framed, brown dead leaves, and in the ‘Tear system’ diagram where glands have turned into forests and the eye into a lake (see below).

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger. Diagram from 'Desalination plant for tears' from the exhibition 'The Water Hole' at ACCA, Melbourne, 2009

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger
Diagram from ‘Desalination plant for tears’ from the exhibition ‘The Water Hole’ at ACCA, Melbourne
2009

 

This is a magical and poignant exhibition that is a joy for children and adults alike. Children love it running around exploring the environments. Adults love it for it’s magical, witty and intelligent response to the problems facing our planet and our lives. Go and enjoy this interplanetary collision. Highly recommended!

 

 

Exhibition dates: 23 December 2008 – 1 March 2009 

More information on the ACCA website

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger website 




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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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