Archive for the ‘Ghostpatrol’ Tag

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.

Space Invaders at the National Gallery of Australia

This is the first of two posts about the opening of the exhibition, Space Invaders, at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.

Exhibition entrance, with work by Ghostpatrol

I’ve just returned from two days there, enjoying the opening festivities.

On Friday night there was a preview of the show prior to its October 30th opening, with a party in the museum’s Gandel Hall and forecourt. I’m told that hundreds of people bought tickets to come to the party (hopefully they also went to see the exhibition). Works from the show were projected on to the museum walls; here’s a selection of some of my favourites:

Anthony Lister

The Yok

Ghostpatrol

Meanwhile, upstairs in the Project Gallery, was the exhibition: a number of rooms containing a selection of the National Gallery of Australia’s large collection of street art (it has purchased over 350 works). The works are displayed with imagination and intelligence, organised according to themes such as ‘Neo-Pop’, ‘Connecting Crews’, ‘Politics and the Press’ and ‘The Return of the Hand’. There’s a display of zines (some of which you are able to read, as well as examine others in glass cases), and surfaces for stickering, with many of the visiting artists taking the opportunity to add their stickers to the display.

The works are displayed in a manner which evokes the street, clustering images together and dispersing others more randomly, with some exhibited high up on the wall and others placed at ground level. The evocation of the street isn’t tackily done, thankfully: it would have been easy for the museum to have strained after some embarassing sense of street credibility, but instead it has retained the look and feel of a gallery space at the same time as showing awareness of how the works would originally have been displayed on the streets.

Other events included artist signings for the show catalogue, the Everfresh Blackbook, and Street/ Studio, plus an artists’ talk, with the curator of the exhibition Jaklyn Babington putting questions to Vexta and Neils Oeltjen about their work in the show and their careers on and off the street.

One of Vexta’s best-known works, Welcome to Australia, is featured in the exhibition:

She and the curator talked about how this work was originally a site-specific piece produced for a show several years ago in a warehouse space in Melbourne. The work was destroyed after the show, and has been recreated on paper as a result of the NGA exhibition. This prompted an interesting discussion about how the exhibition functions as a sneak preview of a time capsule: many of the NGA works were made in the heyday of the stencil art boom in Melbourne in 2003-2004, and purchased soon after; since these works have long since been buffed, painted over, gone over, or faded permanently from the streets, the NGA collection represents a significant archive of works that otherwise would exist only in coffee table books and as digital photographs.

The conversation with Niels Oeltjen brought other issues to the fore as well, such as the politics of street art and its role in ‘city-building’. Neils’s work (like that of some others in the show, such as Miso, Meggs, Ghostpatrol and Lister) also points towards some of the more contemporary directions in street art, using drawing, painting, paper cut-outs, and collages to create work for the streets. Neils was invited to create a work specifically for the exhibition, a glorious confection of colour and shape:

Outside, in the museum forecourt, Everfresh spent the day painting a wall, while a happy crowd of friends, fellow artists and interested visitors sat around on the museum grass and watched:

Rone, Reka and Makatron at work on the wall

In order to acknowledge the importance of zine culture to street art, the museum had also given over its huge Gandel Hall to a zine fair for the whole of Saturday; plus, a short film made by artist Anthony Lister was also screening continuously at the entry to the gallery. The result was a nicely dispersed and variegated set of locations staged throughout the museum: the Project Gallery displaying the artworks, the Gandel Hall with its zine fair, the gift shop selling its catalogues, T shirts and books on street art, the Lister film on a continuous loop, and the outdoor live painting by Everfresh, meaning that visitors moved from inside to outside and back again, as if traversing from the outdoor spaces of the street into the more rarefied space of the gallery and back again…

To end this post, I’ll simply say that the show is well worth seeing. It’s on in Canberra until late February 2011, and will tour to other cities after that. And there’s a beautifully produced catalogue too (in the interests of complete disclosure, I should let you know that I wrote an essay for the catalogue – I was thrilled and honoured to be asked to do so). More about Space Invaders in a subsequent post…..

New works in Fitzroy….

After a lot of travelling this year, it’s good to be home, and to be here to stay for a while (except for a weekend in Canberra that’s coming up, about which more later).

And it’s wonderful to be back in Fitzroy, where a lot of activity has been taking place on the streets.

Here are some of the things I’ve seen since returning:

Close up of a new work by Miso

Sticker by Miso

Ghostpatrol

There’s an interesting installation piece on Smith Street, involving boxes attached to poles, with text on mirrored surfaces:

As you can see, this one reads ‘thief'; there are others which read ‘liar’ and ‘loser’. Nice stuff. Since first posting about this, Vetti (of Live in Northcote) contacted me to let me know this installation is by Nick Ilton, and Nick himself has sent me a link to a little video which provides a nice summary of the guerilla sculptures he has been placing around Melbourne in recent weeks. Check it out here.

I’ve seen a lot of fresh paste-ups, such as these, outside the Sutton Gallery on Brunswick Street:

You can find these near Alimentari, where there’s been a lot of activity:

And this is pretty striking:

It’s nice to be home.

Street/Studio: the Place of Street Art in Melbourne

I’m really proud to announce my involvement in a book which is about to be published by Thames & Hudson Australia.

It’s called Street/Studio: the Place of Street Art in Melbourne.

Here’s what it’s about:

“Through a series of intimate conversations, Street/Studio offers an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how street art has entered the mainstream and become one of the most collectable new art forms. It offers an unparalleled insight into the work of ten of Australia’s most influential, dynamic and creative artists living in Melbourne.

Read about the adventures and challenges of the street as well as the demands of the studio and gallery as told by the artists themselves. Stylishly designed with extensive archival photographs, Street/Studio is an exceptional book written by artists about artists.”

Ghostpatrol, Miso, Timba and I have been working on this since last August, and it has been an amazing experience to put the material together. The book features ten different artists (or group of artists, in the case of Everfresh): Ash Keating, Al Stark, Tai Snaith, Miso, Ghostpatrol, Everfresh, Mic Porter, Twoone, Tom Sevil and Niels Oeltjen, and their work is explored through conversations about their work and some really amazing photographs… There’s also a long essay describing the evolution and distinctiveness of the street art scene in Melbourne.

There are a few events coming up to mark the book’s publication:

Friday, 4 June 7:00 pm
Official launch of Street/Studio at No Vacancy Gallery, Atrium, Federation Square

Sunday, 6 June 2:00 pm
ACMI Screening of Exit through the Gift Shop followed by panel discussion including Miso and myself
Book signing at 5pm with the authors

Saturday, 12 June 1:00 pm
Outre Gallery, CBD
Book signing with Miso, Ghostpatrol and me

Tuesday, 15 June 6:30 pm
Readings, Lygon St, Carlton
Signing and discussion with Miso, Ghostpatrol, myself, Niels and Meggs

Details about these events, the artists, and the authors can be found on the Street/Studio website.

The book should be available in all good bookstores, as they say, in Australia, or, soon, from Thames & Hudson’s own website. You can also order direct from Ghostpatrol.

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