Exhibition: ‘The Navigators’ at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 5th May – 29th May 2010

Artists: Lionel Bawden, Penny Byrne, Nicholas Folland, Locust Jones, Rhys Lee, Rob McHaffie, Derek O’Connor, Alex Spremberg, Madonna Staunton



Lionel Bawden (Sydney, b. 1974) 'formless worlds move through me' 2010


Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
formless worlds move through me
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac
51.0 x 51.0 x 9.5cm



Some good work in this exhibition – especially the Staedtler hexagonal coloured pencil constructions by Lionel Bawden. Beautifully crafted by hand they remind me of ghosts, the ‘millefiori’ (thousand flowers) of Italian glass and the inside of caverns with their stalactites.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to the Karen Woodbury Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


Alex Spremberg (Australian, born Germany 1950) 'Inside skins' 2002


Alex Spremberg (Australian born Germany, b. 1950)
Inside skins



These artists have been selected for their interest in ideas of assemblage and re-use of pre-existing materials. Working across a range of media, each artist in the exhibition employs a process of manipulation to create completely different concepts and forms with their finished works. These works comprise of found objects and assembled from disparate elements, scavenged or foraged by the artists and juxtaposed in inventive ways. All works included in The Navigators take on their own form and imbue a new meaning to the original source materials.

Not originally intended as art materials, yet these artists have seen potential for a new idea in the materials; creating a new thought for the object. The original useful element of the preformed material thus comes under more aesthetic and creative significance. The impetus for such artistic practice is located in a desire by these artists to re-use, re-model, reshape and recycle within their practices. Despite an obvious interest and emphasis in the materiality of the works, the conceptual underpinning are the key motivation within these varying works and pose questions regarding the value of the objects within society. The artists included in The Navigators are continuously surveying and navigating their practice, allowing for deeper exploration in their work.

The exhibition will include various two and three-dimensional objects that interact with each other in unique ways. In the example of Lionel Bawden’s sculptures, his work exploits hexagonal coloured pencils as a sculptural material, reconfiguring and carving into amorphous shapes. Here the rich qualities of colour are explored as pencils are carved, shaped and fused together. Bawden explores themes of flux, transformation, rhythm and repetition as preconditions to our experience of the physical world. Bawden’s wall mounted works ‘the caverns of temporal suspension’ explore shapes within and outside the work as they hover ominously, melting, conjoined, growing, in transformation. These works are at the forefront of his current practice.

Penny Byrne’s work makes use of vintage porcelain sculptures that are adorned with a range of materials. Through this process, Byrne makes the base sculptures appear starkly different to that of the original, taking on new connotations that are often humorous and quirky but also convey political and social issues. In her work Mercury Rising. Hunted, Slaughtered, Eaten vintage porcelain dolphins and new plastic Manga figurines are employed to relate to the annual Japanese slaughter of tens of thousands dolphins as highlighted in the documentary ‘The Cove’. The Japanese eat the dolphins and then suffer mercury poisoning due to the high mercury levels in the dolphins flesh, leading to symptoms of madness.

Nicholas Folland’s Navigator sculptures are indicative Folland’s continued interest in utilising, modifying and experimenting with various sourced materials. These sculptures comprise of various upturned intricately detailed crystal objects that sit above a wood panelled shelf. These glass object are lit and act as beacons or floating satellite cities. Folland personifies the intrepid creative explorer via his navigation of various found materials.

Locust Jones’ three-dimensional globes are made from papier mache and pictorially and graphically convey global issues. These works sit on the floor and allow the viewer to orient themselves around the works allowing for a detached, objective perspective on contemporary societal issues. The quickly worked surfaces reflect a stream of consciousness in process. Imagery and themes are taken from various media such as the Internet, photojournalism, film culture and nightly news broadcasts.

The two sculptures in the exhibition by Rhys Lee imbue associations of debris and deal with found objects such as a money box, a dead bird and a clowns face. These trophy-like pieces are decorated by old, worn and found vintage materials that engage with the everyday. The intimate scale of these works do not account for the potency of symbolism and accumulation of collected ideas. The blistered silver patina and bronze sculptures allude to a dark gothic sentiment that extends beyond the morphing forms. The shapes have been smashed, manipulated and stuck back together again resulting in frozen miniature icons that represent a contemporary zest for defiance.

Rob McHaffie’s works comprise a pastiche of painted anonymous unrelated objects and shapes that somehow come together to create unlikely compositions and formations. The highly skilled execution of McHaffie’s paintings attracts the viewer, who is then faced with a banality in subject matter, often of depictions of clothing, crumpled paper, plants and disfigured creatures and figures. These perfectly rendered images of everyday objects are unsettling in their clarity and realism, which are then skewed, moulded and displaced in unlikely relationships. There is a sense of a deliberate haphazard nature to McHaffie’s work that draws upon a range of elements brought together to mimic something else. Humour surfaces through this stylistic creative process.

Derek O’Connor’s re-worked painting collages resemble distorted and fragmented realities and stories via the manipulation and playful technique of alteration and re-use of book covers and record album and EP covers. O’Connor’s characteristic gestural sweeping luscious brushstrokes are employed with precision yet allow for organic spontaneity. The old material takes on new meaning and are given new life via O’Connor’s creations.

Alex Spremberg’s work Inside Skins highlights the artist’s accidental processes at work. This sculptural piece was made as an ancillary to his broader practice – working with acrylic, enamel and varnish on board and canvas. These objects where literally created via chance – an after thought that was noticed to be a finished piece in its own right. Left to dry within their containers these ‘skins’ were extracted and proved to provide aesthetic attraction and conceptual ideas of the ready-made.

The mainstay of Madonna Staunton’s practice surrounds the physicality of assemblage. Essentially she is a collage artist. The components of her two- and three-dimensional assemblages are usually drawn from old, faded and battered discards such as frames and chairs that are carefully put together in new ways and given another life. A play between precision and randomness animates her work. Her sensitivity to tonal and formal arrangement always remains acute during this process and the results are austerely and chaotically beautiful.

Press release from the Karen Woodbury Gallery website [Online] Cited 20/05/2010 no longer available online


Nicholas Folland (Australian, b. 1967) 'Navigators 1' 2008


Nicholas Folland (Australian, b. 1967)
Navigators 1
Glassware, table and lightbox
25.0 x 110.0 x 87.0cm


Nicholas Folland (Australian, b. 1967) 'Navigators 2' 2008


Nicholas Folland (Australian, b. 1967)
Navigators 2
Glassware, table and lightbox
25.0 x 110.0 x 87.0cm



Karen Woodbury Gallery

This gallery has now closed.


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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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