Trevor Mein Cumulus

I first came across Trevor Mein’s sky photography at the interior design store Hub in Melbourne a few years back and have been haunted by those enormous, glossy vistas ever since. So I was delighted when I heard he had a solo coming up at fortyfivedownstairs. Mein’s ability to work with light is world famous. As a photographer of architecture he is know for orchestrating his photo shoots to maximise daylight – dawn, midday or twilight – to bring out the dramatic potential of a building. I can only wonder at the knowledge of filters, film and exposures this man must possess

It’s interesting to see someone with such a commercial profile turn toward the meditative subject of clouds. Sublime in their universality clouds offer a certain kind of essential experience – above the impinging constraints of human trappings. Time and location become blurred. Perhaps that’s exactly why – no matter age, class or background – staring into them is a transportive experience that takes us to the essence of things.

These new works, while not containing the same level of glorious light and crisp blue skies present in the works I first saw, are breathtaking none the less. There appears a clear decision here to focus on the more brooding elements of clouds – cumulus rather than strata. Printed at a vast scale of around 175 x 120cm each, the gallery walls are transformed by the sheer size of these works. When viewed from a distance, as a whole, they almost appear to be swirling like ink through water. Vertigo, and a slightly quavery feeling under foot, accompany the experience of standing in front of them, watching for some sense of movement within. But they’re not moving. They are fixed, caught forever in this moment of flux.

Throughout this series Mein’s palette remains for the most part within a range of sombre blues and greys. It’s all slightly foreboding as they are captured rumbling over head – full of rain, thunder and cold swirling winds. They remind me of Giorgione’s ambiguous painting The Tempest, that classical landscape of desire and vulnerability, a drama held together under the looming potential of a dark allegorical sky. On until 20 Augus

 

The concept of glass as a purely artistic object is not that new a concept. Glass has long been used by artists as a vehicle for poetic or conceptual expression – Marcel Duchamp’s Air de Paris (1919) probably led the way. As an exhibition MEDIA SPECIFIC has been developed for and by the Monash Glass department and it is evident that the opportunity to reiterate the new boundaries of glass as art over craft was appealing. It’s not that often that you get to see contemporary glass works brought together and in so saying, this exhibition was a delight. From pure and pared down poetic minimalism to the garish quality of assemblage, this exhibition managed to reflect a department that is certainly not limited in its vocabulary or in danger of going the way of cliche. A range of aesthetic and material concerns were presented and reinforced the multiplicity of creative imperatives that glass can accommodate.

Rosalind Piggoitt’s piece Mirror, mirror no 2 is especially beautiful and recalls the minimalist aesthetic of Ian Burn’s Mirror works of the 60s. We see a pale, golden semblance of our world, but all its edges have been softened by this “beguilingly elusive” material, as the artist states. This piece and Samantha Cuffe’s Warped Perceptions, best reflect the power of glass to capture our imagination. Like Narcissus staring into the pond, there is something about glasses ability to reflect our experiences that enchants and mesmerise our senses. 

Other highlights were the crystal shards of George Aslanis 3 Potentials. Glass chunks like onyx freshly dug from the ground and the sooty vases Michael John Joseph Untitled both spoke of an enlightenment fascination with material alchemy and the desire to possess seemingly precious objects. These two works perhaps edge closest to the craft dichotomy to which the exhibition’s catalogue text intended to speak, as does the interpretative quality of Kirstin Finlayson’s sculptural assemblage Childhood and other disasters. I’m not sure which component in this work was glass, but it was most likely aged and made to subdue its glistening quality to fit in with the pallid tone of the whole.

Procedural and intentional qualities, as it points out in the exhibition text, are integral to the practice of glass art. It is what makes this alchemical process so alluring and sensuous.  If this selection of work is a reflection of the department’s directions, we can be assured that rigorous and brave artists are at work here. On until May 14 

For anyone who has a bit of a taxonomy fetish this show, with all its catalogue systems, faded paper and old type text, will most certainly hit a spot. It’s not that often that Melbourne get to see works by such 60s and 70s conceptual heavy weights as Allan Kaprow, On Kawara or Joseph Kosuth (although there is a major show of his coming up at ACCA). To see the early work of these grandfathers of conceptual art makes real and immediate an art practice too often hidden in complex barriers to understanding.

You really need to take some time to engage with these works. Their value hinges on being read and puzzled out, but once you get the swing of there thinking it becomes joyfully and playfully clear that these artists, with their words and pieces of paper, were documenting a desire to engage directly and meaningfully with the world around them and with the very idea of experiencing  ‘living’. Days, clouds, clothes and chairs are observed for the great things they are. Archeology, meteorology, codes and topography each become measurable systems by which the artist tries to capture some essence of the moment.

Curator and publisher Seth Siegelaub’s letter requesting artists to create works for the artist book March 1 – 31 1969 captures this notion perfectly. Each artist was to write back telling him what they will do on the day allocated to them. Their replies included such intentions to climb the roof, to  take a series of  photos of the same view at allocated times, turn over rocks,or to  think about what the other artists are doing at that given time. These sentiments are both poetic and steadfastly practical in their creative, flexible and observant intentions.

In a way Rooney’s works appear secondary to the rigor of thought present within the work of his American counterparts  and in many instances he ends up sitting somewhere uncomfortably between obsessive and juvenile. Garments, 3 Dec. 1972 – 19 March 1973 lists each item of clothing worn over a period of months with almost reverential self interest, while Scorched Almonds Jul – Aug 1970, in which he measures the size and quantity of his nightly chocolate indulgence is just down right silly. As an Australian artist in relative isolation from the goings on of Europe and America you sense his longing to be ‘like’ his contemporary idols and the painful awkwardness of Australian cultural cringe. As a collector though, he is to be commended. Thanks to his writing fan letters and inquiries to his overseas counterparts Rooney managed to amass a wonderful and sensitive array of important conceptual works and enriched Melbourne’s arts community.

A small aside in the exhibition is the enjoyment of reading about Melbourne’s small contemporary art scene at that time. Pinacotheca is a name I have not heard for some years and it made me smile to image a quiet, kind of daggy and lonely Melbourne of 1970, dreaming of one day becoming an arts capital.

This is a must see annual event – and a chance to purchase works by the stars of tomorrow . Won’t know until we go, but perhaps some highlights will be…Kaori Kata’s origami paper sculptures and Mia Salslo’s digital videos. The show opens Monday and runs for a week.

I’ve never paid much attention to this artist’s works in the past and I feel a bit ashamed to admit it. Katherine Hattam’s new works display the skill and passion of a master artist and is an absolute treat for anyone that likes staring into that various parts that make up a well constructed image. You must stand in front of these works – an online viewing will not capture the wonder of the realities Hattam’s works capture. Loose paintwork slides alongside sincere grey lead outlines. These paintings afford us an opportunity to observe a painters sincere translation of a very normal world. The work of the Fauves springs to mind – pared back, bright surreal colour, the sectioning of landscape. Hattam’s flattened perspectives and quirky human observations gives a whole new reading to life in Melbourne. It’s not all grey and normal. To this artist it rings with interesting observational relationships. On until December 4 at John Buckley Gallery.

This latest body of work by painter Bernadette Curtin extends her interest in painterly observations of weather patterns and revels in the light that storms and twilight bring. Her small landscape studies are a delight to behold and transport the viewer into a tumultuous but ultimately invigorating and poetic connection with the elements. Forecast is on until the 6th of November at STILL@thecenter, Byron Bay.

I have been an admirer of Patrick Pounds work for many years and it’s wonderful to see that he has decided to show in Melbourne with Fehily Contemporary. This current show gives us the opportunity to riffle though some of Patrick’s photo files – what a treat – and also gives a great overview of his more recent work – grainy mobile phone black and whites is a highlight as is his collation of found photos collated into categories such as ‘people listening to music’ and ‘accidental photos’. The whole show is a delight and so is this new gallery space. Lisa Fehily has created a stylish, personal and intimate art space that makes one feel like they’ve ventured into a New York loft. Worth a visit!

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