Archive for February 12th, 2009


Review: ‘Bowerhouse Blues’ exhibition by Mary Newsome, Gallery 101, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 3rd February – 21st February 2009


Mary Newsome. 'Bowerhouse Blues' installation photograph with 'The Bowerhouse' centre


Mary Newsome (Australian, b. 1936)
Bowerhouse Blues installation photograph with The Bowerhouse centre



This is a slight bouffant of an exhibition by Mary Newsome at Gallery 101, Collins St., Melbourne.

“The exhibition consists of separate collections to do with blue, centring on the Bowerhouse with its beckoning light. The ideas came from several different directions.” And what directions they are.

Firstly, the idea of the lonely male bowerbird at the Museum of Victoria, given blue biros as solace after killing his last mate. Secondly, Oscar Wilde trying to live with his blue china toying with Yves Klein and his uber-dimensionality, the invisible blue becoming visible. Then we have finger painting as a child upgraded to paste painting “which is finger painting under a more adult name”; and more – poetry, yes! by famous poets, sandwiched with shells and cans and bits of glass and plastic and pottery and pegs all offered up to the god of the azure.

Artefacts litter the floor around the edge of the gallery, media wash across the walls. A silkscreen here and a painting of blue and white china there, watercolours of a view out of a blue curtained Cornish cottage, a blue seascape, the “royal-ness” of a blue tampons collage, three-dimensional objects, acrylics, crayon, pencil, oils and stencils. The Bowerhouse itself, like a blue ‘red light’ house with flashing blue light inside and heart on top. And so it goes.

There are some interesting small single-pigment blue acrylics that have geometric and anamorphic shapes painted upon them with stencilled names of the colour along the spine of the canvases. There are also a couple of competent oils and silkscreens of tea sets in a dresser with cups hanging from hooks.

The works date from 1980 to the present day – and “without fully realising it” the artist has looked through her work over the past 30 years and come across lots and lots of blue. Any artist worth their salt knows their oevure indelibly from front to back. It seems inconceivable to me that this epiphany has occurred without the artist not fully understanding the importance of the colour blue to their art practice before now.

Recently I have been reading a book called Distraction (Damon Young. Distraction: A Philosopher’s Guide to Being Free. Melbourne: Melbourne University Publishing, 2008). The book surmises that distraction is often a matter of what one values in the world. The book demonstrates that the opposite of a life of distraction is one of grateful appreciation, based on patient, sensitive, and thoughtful attention to the world. In this exhibition we have a perfect example of distraction: the noise of the collective work has subsumed its individual charms. The work seems forced into a conceptualisation not of it’s making. Everything seems laboured to the point where all the fun has been squeezed from it and, in the end, it just left me feeling the blues.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Photographs by Tim Gresham
Images courtesy of Gallery 101


Mary Newsome. 'Blue Colours' 2008


Mary Newsome (Australian, b. 1936)
Blue Colours


Mary Newsome. 'Bowerhouse Blues' installation photograph 2009


Mary Newsome (Australian, b. 1936)
Bowerhouse Blues
Installation photograph


Mary Newsome. 'Bathroom Sink' 1992


Mary Newsome (Australian, b. 1936)
Bathroom Sink


Mary Newsome. 'What Bliss There is in Blueness' 2009


Mary Newsome (Australian, b. 1936)
What Bliss There is in Blueness
Extract from Laughter in the Dark, 1989 by Vladimir Nabokov


Mary Newsome. 'Royal Tampons' collage


Mary Newsome (Australian, b. 1936)
Royal Tampons



Gallery 101

This gallery is no longer open.


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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