Thursday, November 24, 2011



“The male body is understood as phallic and impenetrable, as a war-body simultaneously armed and armoured, equipped for victory.”

-Catherine Waldby, 1995
Notions of acquired and inherent masculinity are constantly being played out in Julian Meagher’s work and the paintings in this exhibition are no exception. Staying loyal to his attraction to surface imagery, ongoing narrative and sourcing subject matter from both the natural and manufactured worlds, Meagher is using his art to apply naturalist examples to anthropological questions about human nature and society. With a painting style that adopts oil paints, and executes them as though they were watercolours, we are presented with field studies that create a portal through which we may contemplate instances of cultural reckoning in both intimate, personal chronicles and broader historical and environmental contexts.
Meagher presents his subjects removed from their diverse and complex histories, and amasses these specimens as isolated entities for our contemplation. Birds and portraits are equally atomised, like butterflies in a box. Blue Ribbon is a titular nod to Meagher’s favourite beer, Nastro Azzurro, but it has other resonances (the top quality ice-cream, a show ground bull, the Italian playing strip, and of course merely as a reference to the famous royal and celestial colour). The major pieces in this show, also called ‘Blue Ribbon’, question the place of alcohol and transgression in male rites. Within these “festivals” what does a particular brand mean; would John Howard ever have drunk chardonnay like Paul Keating?
Portraits this time are an important genre. All the men portrayed, besides Boonie, are friends and fellow team mates of Meagher. The “portrait of a young man” is a common genre, a mark of promotion in society, a calling card. All these men are in their early thirties, flushed with a certain youthful success, like Holbein’s thirty-something ambassadors. But can men be so certain of their role and position in society now?
The small heroes of this exhibition are undoubtedly the Birds of Paradise, the exuberant birds renowned for their colourful and excessive plumage and theatrical choreography that they employ in order to attract a mate. The superfluous, and potentially endangering, ornamentation of these creatures complies with Darwinian theories of ‘Sexual Selection’ whereby males develop alluring characteristics in order to achieve reproductive success. Essentially these birds are not only in competition with their peers and same-sex rivals; they are in competition with themselves, on a quest to “win the girl”.
Another genre that Meagher excels in is still-life. What have orchids to do with Boonie? Orchida- is the greek word for testicles and the flower was named that because to the ancients the roots resembled balls; they were ground down into goat’s milk (Satyr?) as an aphrodisiacal drink. As Norman Mailer points out, masculinity is not something given, but something gained. It is through Meagher’s work that these “small battles” are undertaken; they are a performance of masculinity, continued and pursued.
- Kat Sapera, 2011

Blue Ribbon, 2011, Oil on Linen, 150 x 180cm.

Blue Ribbon II, 2011, Oil on Linen, 150 x 180cm.
Tim (King of Saxony), 2011, Oil on Linen, 60 x 60cm.

Tim, 2011, Oil on Linen, 60 x 60cm.

Jason (Parotia Wahnesi), 2011, Oil on Linen, 60 x 60cm.

Jason, 2011, Oil on Linen, 60 x 60cm.

David (Seleucidis Melanoleuca), 2011, Oil on Linen, 60 x 60cm.

David, 2011, Oil on Linen, 60 x 60cm.
Oliver (Parotia Wahnesi), 2011, Oil on Linen, 60 x 60cm.

Oliver, 2011, Oil on Linen, 60 x 60cm.
Alex (Lophorina Superba), 2011, Oil on Linen, 60 x 60cm.

Alex, 2011, Oil on Linen, 60 x 60cm.

Any Old How, 2011, Oil on Linen, 71 x 51cm.

For Prime Minister, 2011, Oil on Linen, 71 x 51cm.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011




Christian Thompson, Howl For Your Troubles, 2011, c-type photograph, 100 x 100 cm.
Clifton Mack, Jarman Island Lighthouse I, 2010, Acrylic on Canvas, 91 x 94 cm



Blue Ribbon, 2011, Oil on Linen, 150 x 180 cm.

Tim - King of Saxony, 2011, Oil on Linen, 60 x 60 cm.

Friday, November 4, 2011





The exhibition 'Gardenesque' represents an overview of the Gary Carsley's recent practice, specifically configured for the CACSA gallery. As a central focus of his pratice, the artist creates large scale digital photographic works created by scanning wood grain laminates which are then used to create highly textured composite images of public gardens and parks. The artist terms the resultant images Draguerrotypes, referencing both the nineteenth-century photographic technique as well as the garden as a drag performance: a site of constant negotiation between nature and culture. Other more recent works include the presence of a black, painterly silhouette in the foreground of these photographic collages. In this series of works the absence of the statue figure relates directly to postcolonialist ideals, addressing the unique position of Australia in relation to European history and our position within the Asia-Pacific region. 

Alongside the work of Gary Carsley, Gardenesque will feature a specially commissioned audio guide by Chalkie's very own Sydney-based artists/theorists Tim Gregoy and Oliver Watts, downloadable here.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


On the 31st of October, 2011, Clifton Mack won the 2011 Royal Bank of Scotland Emerging Artist Award for his acrylic on canvas Jarman Island Sunset III. Mack received a $10,000 cash prize, a round-the-world airline ticket and also a place in an international development program.

Macks work uses a Pilbara sytle to render a coastal environment in warm, natural colours. It's one of a number of recent works that depict the Jarman Island Lighthouse. Mack’s choice of subject matter reflects both his ties to the local community and the area’s colonial history – the lighthouse is a symbol of navigation and trade, but also of strategic mapping and ownership. 

Clifton Mack, Jarman Island Sunset III, 2010, Acrylic on canvas, 76 x 122 cm.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011




2 - 20 NOVEMBER, 2011

“Newton was not the first of the age of reason: He was the last of the magicians.” 
- John Maynard Keynes

There is no general curatorial intent for this show. All the artists: Boyce/Brehaut, Robert Hood and James Oram, hail from New Zealand and Christchurch in particular, the town flattened by earthquake. The rebuilding has begun in the city and there has been support and gifting from the State and beyond; part of this help includes cultural endowments and this has helped our travelling exiles.

Although then not curated together as such, the contents of this exhibition share an oscillation between the material and the ideal; the socially embedded and the fantastical. They are on the cusp of reason and the irrational. Everything here works through a kind of image magic. What also connects them is a knowing interrogation of the place of art in the society. There is playful humour and satirical edge to the works.

Robert Hood regularly annexes his practice to prominent (and/or arcane) cultural artefacts and art genres. His works characteristically exist in a sort of symbiosis with hosts that are robust enough to bear a bit of good-natured parasitism. In ‘Broken Kilometre’, a master work shown recently elsewhere Hood apes Walter de Maria’s ‘Broken Kilometre’, now set up in the de Maria’s New York studio. Hood’s installations are in fact ‘broken’ road markers. The high seriousness of minimalism is countered in a neo-minimalist inversion. In ‘Untitled (Bucket on a pole, mop & towel)’’, is minimalism again to be seen? Or is it perhaps an obelisk declassed? No doubt what functions in Hood’s work is the tension between the grand and the silly. Like interrogative words attached to declarative text Hood’s objects hijack their subject’s established intent and divert a portion of its ‘substance’ toward confounding and revelatory ends.

In Roger Boyce and Marie-Claire Brehaut’s ‘Nature Morte’ the artist’s studio is conflated with a bedroom methamphetamine laboratory; the alchemy of paint is connected provocatively to the chemistry of transgressive drug manufacture. But weren’t the first artistic studios also alchemical studios? Painters would distil and mix their own colours from chemical powders, cutting and mixing certain hues together. The magic of creation also suggests the process of the alembic. Another strange transformation has occurred, more materially: in New Zealand the work was considered a ‘P-Lab’ (Vitamin P?) whereas here, in Australia it metamorphoses subtly into an ‘Ice-Lab’ which also has new poetic resonances. The painting series ‘The Illustrated History of Painting’ by Boyce, recently acquired by Christchurch Art Gallery, also relates to these questions of the ontology of art and the processes in the studio.

It is a simile that expands beyond the formal, dimensional and pictorial mimicry of sprawling bottles and tubes - which characterise both set-ups - hinting at an overlap of art, science and psychotropic substance. The artists describe the work as a tableau mort, referencing the stasis and opulence of Victorian tableau vivant, but entertaining both dead and deadly subject matter. The artifice of the Ice-Lab apparatus is exposed through its mirroring on canvas and vanity as a perverse sort of still life. In turn, the artists present us with a contemporary memento mori.

James Oram has a ‘bad’ habit of setting-up (existential) situations wherein a hapless ‘actor’ (often the artist himself) is bound to fail. The audience for his staged failures looks helplessly on - like voyeuristic (and cringing) motorists slowing past a series of personally embarrassing ‘pileups.’ The video work ‘Game Face’, 2O1O, puts us uncomfortably close to a performance of a set of ‘I AM’ self-affirmations. There is a sense of the endless struggle in a futile battle, as the oral stumbling block of a mouthguard becomes a constant obstacle in the recital process. The statements, as is the case in the lists from which which they were taken (internet self help websites), begin with basic self belief/ confidence/ relationship improvement and work their way towards building you up to dominating your peers, achieving wealth, career success, and so on. The mirrored profile of the mandible/maxilla as each affirmation is made creates a ripple effect from the significance of the words, to their oration, to the spit that forms a fervent slather.

In ‘Meeting’ a similar repetitive loop is played out, of handshakes filmed in slow motion, making visible the subtle re-grippings, power plays, tender finger draggings and the often overlooked tensions between the white knuckles of the assertive gripper and the crushed fingers of the meek. Through its isolated presentation the most universal of all greetings takes on a new gravitas and the subtleties of difference that are highlighted speak to wider concerns.

Oram’s work acts out a clear oscillation that allows for a rupture between everyday nothingness and the profound. Small actions (breathing, reciting, greeting) become signifiers of macrocosmic forces outside the gallery: of activity and failure; hope and despair; creation and destruction. Working heterogeneously across time-based media, objects, drawings and installation his varied working methods rely, for consistency, on painstaking (and pain giving) conceptual reiteration. Oram’s gimlet-eyed social commentary provides a punishing blow-by-blow commentary on the inevitably lost battles of human existence.

A way of looking and interacting connects the works in this show rather than any curatorial intent. Although all good art has this binary of the material and the ideal, these artists have a practice that demands a poetic moment of re-imagining. The viewer needs to resize, re-conceptualise (temporally and spatially), re-construct historically, revisit, in relation to the work but beyond it.

Boyce/Brehaut, Nature Morte, 2010, Mixed media. (Installation shot)
James Oran, Game Face, 2010, Film Still. 
Robert Hood, Untitled (Bucket on a pole, mop & towel), 2011. (Installation shot)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Julian Meagher Recent Press

Julian Meagher was recently featured on Andrew Frost's blog The Art Life, showcasing some of the work from his exhibition 'The King of Good Times', 2011, at Edwina Corlette Gallery, Brisbane. 

Meagher was also recently reviewed by Sallie Don in The Australian on the 17th of October, 2011. See image below.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011



“Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees.”

- Victor Hugo, Les Miserables: Chapter IV, 1862

Sophia Hewson’s adoption of her subjects enables re-enactments of past histories and mythologies, which in turn offer an updated iconography. Highly finished paintings and sculptures succeed in conjuring the religious and mytho- logical, but on the other hand speak directly to an unmistakable Pop aesthetic. A dichotomy is being played out: the seriousness of the content is carried through the titles, yet they are also being confused by a kitsch presentation. I can feel myself forming (my borrowed rib), But like a slug I am mighty to men gives us a naked and crying Virgin Mary wearing a synthetic polymer veil, a fluffy halo and a plastic flashing heart around her neck, uncannily realistic in its rendering this character could well play a part in one of LaChapelle’s tableaux.

Aligning itself nicely with the Hyperreal of the 198O’s & 9O’s, Hewson’s painting presents the subject in a way that distances the object from the artist. Authorship is confounded, the ‘hand of the artist’ is not represented by a gestural brushstroke, and a thick layer of resin serves to further create a barrier between the signi- fier and the signified. Bound in a thick, syrupy resin, like prehistoric insects in amber, Hewson’s subjects are perpetually suspended, preserved and distanced. But almost paradoxically through this shiny surface, and iconicity, the Sublime and spiritual seem to be suggested.

Both the content and process embodied in these works pushes towards a cathartic redemption from an inexplicable, omnipresent, malady. Hewson attempts to find a means of genuine salvation and spiritual elation, and through doing so simultaneously captures the sadness or mourning that is embedded within the inevitable inability to find such fulfillment. This ‘longing’ is present in the show’s title which pays homage to a small planet thought to have been discovered by a French mathematician in the 19th Century. The planet, named Vulcan, was soon disproved to exist. This hypothetical world whose life was so short speaks of an ontological yearning for something that has not truly been lost but has left a void regardless.

It could be argued that in our secular and multicultural society shared values as outlined by the codex have dissipated and been replaced by the popular, the common, the everyday. Is Sophia Hewson’s art calling for a contemporary reading of religion and universal, traditional values? Or is it all surface, where Madonna is more likely to conjure the pop icon rather than the religious? Neanderthal Christ, suspended in a structureless crucifixion, carries the gravitas of Renaissance art history yet also taps into a shared knowledge: that of hundreds & thousands on fairy bread, or cupcakes, an ingredient that can be sourced from any supermarket.

Similar is her approach to Help me Saint Teresa of Avila, with the saint presented as a Renaissance-like tondo sculpture, carved by hand and then cast. St. Teresa, a Carmelite nun and Spanish mystic, is famed for the religious ecstasy she experienced during a bout of feverish illness. Outlined in her own writings, St. Teresa claimed four stages in the path to achieve union with God. These steps to ascent followed moments of increased intensity in mental prayer, culminating in “the devotion of ecstasy”, a climactic state involving the loss of consciousness to divine intoxication. Teresa claimed to have been visited by a seraph armed with a gold spear headed by a small fire, which he used to pierce her body numerous times, drawing out her entrails and leaving her in a state where “the pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is now satisfied with nothing less”1.

It would seem that in the experience of the ‘unmanifested’, through sexual/spiritual ecstasy from tactile/cognitive sources, there is a reoccurring conjuncture with something darker that lurks beneath the surface. Perhaps it is the uncertainty of the experience, or the subconscious implications: the proximity between “la petite mort” and actual death, between pornographic orgasm and divine rapture. As Bataille says, “the bond between life and death has many aspects. It can be felt equally in sexual and mystical experience”2.

There is a tension in Hewson’s work between high seriousness and Pop, between pastiche and true experience. The work takes everything equally seriously, from the fashion photo to hagiography; as our contemporary experience takes in such a disorienting breadth. Hewson’s paintings and sculptures act as aides to help us understand and confirm the challenges of our late capitalist existence where we are often just set adrift, with little to hold onto.

[1. St Teresa of Avila: El Castillo Interior, 1577
2. Georges Bataille: Death & Sensuality, 1986]

I can feel myself forming (my borrowed rib), But like a slug I am to mighty men, 2011, Oil & resin on board, 19O x 14Ocm.

Help Me Saint Teresa of Avila, 2011, Hand-carved polyurethane, hundreds & thousands, resin, 7O x 7O cm.

Neanderthal Christ, 2O11, Hand-carved polyurethane, hundreds & thousands, resin, 14O x 19O cm.