Archive for June, 2011|Monthly archive page

From street to gallery and back again…

Instead of making it to opening nights, recently I’ve been lucky if I’ve made it to the last day of an exhibition…. Today I finally got to see Rone’s solo show, L’Inconnue de la Rue, at Backwoods Gallery in Collingwood, Melbourne.

Rone has been a really important figure in the Melbourne street art scene for a long time now. His collaborative work with Meggs and as part of Everfresh has contributed enormously to the streetscapes around Fitzroy and Collingwood. So it’s great to see him having a solo show (and a hugely successful one at that, with all works sold even before opening night). You can find pictures from the opening night hereand read more about the show on the Everfresh site here.

To coincide with the show, Rone put up some street pieces at one of his favourite sites, just off Brunswick Street (and I know some other local bloggers have been complaining recently that many artists don’t put up street work except when they have a show on – so that the street works function as a kind of advertising for the show – but I don’t think anyone could ever seriously lay that charge at the feet of any of the Everfresh members):

These new street works have a bit of a Warhol-ish feel to them, and seem to me to work in this space in a really satisfying way. I had imagined that the gallery pieces would be very similar to these, and they are, in some ways, but Rone has worked the gallery images to a new level of complexity:

The images are constructed through multiple layers of printed posters, which Rone has then ripped and torn back. The images have depth, just as walls on the street build up layers of posters, flyers, stickers and so on:

They also made me think of how sometimes street artworks are torn by cleaning crews, or by acquisitive fans, trying to take a work from public space for themselves. Like this remnant of a Swoon paste-up, forlornly clinging to a wall, the main body of the artwork torn down:

Just as a fragment of Swoon’s subject gazes out from the wall, so do the women in Rone’s images gaze out from the layers of ripped posters – the textures and experiences of the street transported into the gallery.

New worlds

Some of the best art transports you out of the world you live in and into somewhere new. Sometimes that sense of transportation arises from an encounter with the vertiginous sublime that resides in an artwork of great beauty; sometimes it arises from a sense of submergence in the artwork as you gaze at it. And sometimes an artwork literally seems to offer an entry into another world, by depicting credible or coherent glimpses into somewhere else – glimpses that make visual sense, and that invite you to step into a hitherto hidden space.

I often get this sense from the artworks of Ghostpatrol.* His sketches, paintings and installations are populated with strange, wonderful creatures (such as animals whose limbs are operated by children hidden inside them) and are located in places that may or may not be part of this world or the world of fairy tales and myths.

Ghostpatrol’s skill in creating these otherwordly spaces and characters was on display recently in a solo show at Backwoods Gallery in Melbourne, ‘If We Are Going, Then Let’s Go’.

The images evoked illustrations from long lost children’s books, sometimes inflected with slightly disturbing touches, as in the figures composed of tiny fir trees, so that the works don’t veer into cuteness but retain an uncanny edge.

As with all Ghostpatrol’s shows, the gallery space itself became incorporated into the exhibition. Almost all of the works were displayed on one wall at the end of the gallery, with cushions laid out in front of them.

They could be viewed at a distance, or from up close, but to approach them, the spectator had to crouch and walk through a fragile tunnel created from black filaments extending, web-like, from the walls and the ceiling to the floor, at times only semi-visible against the black-painted gallery walls. The effect was a concentration of the gaze upon the artworks and a heightening of the sense for the spectator that in viewing these artworks one passes from the world of the everyday into another space and time. You can see shots from the opening night, along with some images of individual works, here.

And for me, some of the long lost children’s stories that were evoked by these images are the Moomin stories by Tove Jansson. Two large images were placed outside of the display of small artworks on the single gallery wall, hanging instead at the room’s entryway. These works represent a new direction for Ghostpatrol: they are much larger than the majority of his works and utilise brightly coloured dots of paint (in possible homage to pointillism or to Aboriginal dot painting). One of these features a figure that reminded me of Snufkin, in the Moomin stories: the character who lives in a tent, who hates fences and boundaries, smokes a pipe, and plays the harmonica. Here is Snufkin, as drawn in Tove jansson’s novels:

Image courtesy of bluefat.com

And here is the artwork that brought back memories of Snufkin for me:

As a child, I loved the idea of Snufkin, and it was a delight to be reminded of him through the images displayed in this show. It’s also great to see the expansion of Ghostpatrol’s techniques, as represented in these large paintings, and I’m looking forward to seeing where this path takes his work.

*Full disclosure: I co-wrote a book in 2010 called Street/Studio with Ghostpatrol, Miso and Timba Smits.

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