Gallery hop thru Waterloo.
16th June 2018
My my how times have changed, on Saturday I took an old friend with me to check out three galleries in and around Waterloo. We reminisced as we drove, remembering the illegal rave parties I’d been too in the 90s, squats, visits to dealers and cheap rentals.
We remembered the isolation of the suburb, how we used its once quiet roads as a quick track to the centre of the CBD. Or as a hurried escape route out of Surry Hills to head south to soak up the beach. Recollecting spaces and memory cells now demolished and replaced.
She, a health professional, recalled sex workers, addicts, homeless and locals. It seemed as if each corner held a memory, an association, a forgotten moment in our timeline. And the art we saw rang true to that theme. Memory, associations and history.
I get a funky sexy feeling when I interact with other artists concepts and construction, it's titillating. Alas many members of my clan just don't get that. The strength of their personal history, memories and associations lie elsewhere. So it was with trepidation I took my dearest friend, because just like when she first met my partner, I needed them to get on. To like each other because I loved them both and I didn't want to have to choose between them.
First stop was Sullivan + Strumpf Sydney. Striding through the doors we were hit with the stark white of the space contrasting against Glenn Barkleys brightly coloured ceramics and collages. The show dominated by a huge back wall covered in post-up colour and text. My friends intake of breath spoke volumes, she wondered what she had gotten herself in for.
While my non arty buddy struggled to find joy, my engagement was immediate. I could see, feel and understand the ancient art histories at play. I revelled in the collage, ceramic forms, pastel fluorescent colours and mark making.
She was annoyed with the colour choice and the lack of ‘beauty.’ I felt as if I was viewing ancient treasures recently found off the coast of a mediterranean country, a long lost Atlantis. The ceramic vessels looked like they had been occupied by sea creatures which had modified and embellished the exterior with porous mollusc like coral.
For me they were beautiful, I felt like I was viewing living things, outrageous colourful distortions from the past. Just like that ugly boyfriend I had in high school whose personality and character made him really sexy and desirable.
Next stop was Stella Downer Fine Art Gallery for a group show. This small space was packed with people, making it hard to move around. Luckily the intimacy of the space wasn't too challenging for my novice gallery hound so coupled with a lovely glass of wine we wove through the people and got up close and personal with the art.
The shows themes of memory, history and the march of time once again called us to delve into our private repertoire of knowledge. Here my mate could connect with Deirdre Bean’s perfect watercolor reproductions and marvell at the artists photorealistic skill. She could ‘get with’ Rod Holdaway’s parisian inspired cityscapes but most of all she was intrigued by Di Holdsworth and Tanya Chaitow’s work.
She loved Di’s automated assemblages, she gushed over the precision and care taken in their production, she recognised elements of 20th century design and identified with the reconfigured vintage trinkets. Di’s miniature spaces were nostalgic and filled with modernist plastic iconology. Your eyes roved hungrily taking in the tiny perfections. You wanted to touch, to play, to interact. Emboldened by the wine we wound up the pieces, sipped and enjoyed the unfolding animated view.
I was immediately besotted with Tanya Chaitow’s baroque inspired Family Matters Series which captured the quality of light the master painters were famous for. The erasure and sublimation of key figures initially stymied my association with the original works by Vermeer, Goya, Metsu and De Hooch. Chaitow triggered my synapses making me rifle through the attic like status of my mind recalling the original paintings, combing through my memory banks grasping at artists names, periods and dates.
My friend also enjoyed the painted images and was intrigued by the reconfigured people, with their cartoon like animal heads. She asked questions and I struggled to explain, naturally assuming she knew Velazquez Las meninas or Goya’s girl on the swing. Images that have been a part of my visual history since forever, I just assumed they would be a part of her visual culture too.
An assumption that was met with mirth. She stopped my pathetic explanations with, ‘I know three old paintings; the Mona Lisa, that one of the girl with the blue headband and that one of the twelve apostles.‘ We dissolved into giggles and moved towards to door. Later that night I proceeded to text her images of the originals trying to jog her memory but to no avail. A lost cause.
Lastly we headed off to find Rod McHaffie’s work at Darren Knight’s gallery. The whole exhibition was a trip down memory lane, McHaffies’s colourful flashbacks gave you so much to look at, to discern. The paintings were like personal photographs loaded with emotional references and full-colour dream like recollections. I felt like a voyeur pouring over the details, enjoying the humor and swooning over the colour pallet.
Paul Weller and The Jams music swelled around in my middle ear as I wandered around these colourful, fun, entertaining documents. One day these images, like my CD collection, will be a historical recount of the artist’s life, interests, friends and observations.
From the lycra clad walkers, overflowing beach parties, modernist homes, references to shampoo and Tilde Swinbourne my travelling companion found Robs work excitingly full of narrative, allowing her to dive in. She didn’t need an art history background to get the nuances or to discover hidden signals, she could freely associate with her own experience and interests. As a keen photographer she enjoyed the bold colours, crisp lines and minute intricate details. A perfect show to end our little jaunt together.
You can tell a wella woman
Historical recollections be they my own or from art history enabled an intimate connection with the work I viewed. Just like my friendship with its roots in high school there is nothing quite like being with someone who knows you well, gets you. That knowing gave me stimulating comfort, like an erotic memory of a lover who got under your skin. The one who left a mark, sometimes in the form of a luscious love bite or a whispered exhale in your ear.
So when it comes down to making a decision about which works I would purchase with my fictional riches I’m a little spoilt for choice. Chaitow’s paintings were lovely and I’d want to own all of them so I could create my own Académie des Beaux-Arts salon.
McHaffie’s entertaining intricate paintings were so fun and inviting, a new embellished historical record. I couldn’t think of anyone who wouldn’t enjoy them, comment on them or study them.
But to my own surprise it was Glenn Barkley’s pieces which have stayed with me all week. The more I look at them the prettier they become. I'm still turning the show over in my head and the more I do the more I like it. I'm surprised I want those ones but I do.
Sullivan and Stump Sydney.
799 Elizabeth st, Zetland
Tues-Sat 10am - 5pm
Stella Downer Fine Arts
1/24 Wellington st, Waterloo
Tues–Fri 10am–5pm, Sat 11am–5pm
Darren Knight gallery
840 Elizabeth st, Waterloo
Tues-Sat 10am - 5pm