Saturday, August 11, 2012

MCA Gallery

by Kylie Eastley

When viewing so much art it is difficult not to be seduced by the next big thing and lose the feelings that were evoked from the previous exhibition. There is little doubt that certain works resonate stronger, connect deeper or hit harder, but there is also worth in those other works that initially may seem a little more subdued, but on closer inspection or if you spend some time with them, can take on a whole new appearance.

Aluminium liquor bottles and copper wire are used by El Anatsui to make an amorphous wall mounted sculpture titled Anonymous Creature 2009

The works in the MCA are about 'bringing together disparate elements' and reconstruction. This Nigerian artist has demonstrated this beautifully. Rather than sitting flush against the white gallery wall, the decorative panelling ripples, writhes and creates a a moving topography that appears to fall from the wall.Something reminiscent of a samurai warriors coat of arms, it is a sprawling and undulating arrangement of flattened out aluminium whisky bottle caps bound together with copper wire.
Perhaps this is about reconstructing from the destructive. Taking control of those things that control us, or communities? Either way, this piece works beautifully. There is an irony about utilising the very items that can cause such destruction. Introduced by western culture, alcohol, along with other disposable products have impacted on the cultural, social and environmental life of communities. Likewise the binding together of the useless with a valuable wire hints to the consumerism of western society that is desired throughout the world, but brings its own failures.

Light Painting 2011 is a digital projection on glass by Nyapanyapa Yunupingu. This is a beautiful work, which seems again to explore narrative, landscape and community. It is a computer generated serious of paintings that have come from 110 original black and white paintings produced at the Yirrkala Art Centre. They were then programmed and randomly a program selects paintings to overlay. This creates an endless series of changeable art that are created through light. Mark making; lines, spheres and dots that create a narrative and atmosphere; a sense of time.
There is so much intention in works such as Yunupingu's. Whereas the meaning or placement of others is less visible. Zoe Keramea's moths are hung sporadically throughout the gallery in and around other pieces. Made from black and white folded paper; the first viewing is quite intriguing and beckon the viewer to touch; which we of course have to resist. These origami 3D triangles connect to make moth-like creatures that are not only in the gallery but also used as a major image on the Biennale promotional banners. The placement of these moths doesn't seem to have been as thought through as other decisions in the gallery which impacts of the effect they have. While it presents a crisp, clean structure that presents a functional graphic, these works seem a little out of place.
Many works are worthy of being written about, but it is just not possible. The Way Things Are 2010 by Tim Johnson is a beautiful and cohesive work that incorporates icons and decorative elements from Asian, European and Aboriginal cultures. Rather than contextualising, this work seems to intentionally avoid trying to marry the meaning of each image, preferring to let them sit indepently. And it works.
Where Are You 2012 by Liu Zhuoquan is an immense work that is housed in a gallery at the end of a long hallway. The viewer is met by hundreds of inky black painted glass bottles. They evoke a viseral response in me; these bottles that appear as pecimen bottles filled with snakes or serpents. What is incredible is they have been painted on the inside. Not on paper or material and inserted; this is a technique where the artists use a curved brush to apply the oil paint to the inside glass of the bottles. The effect is multi-dimensional, luscious and quite amazing, particularly when you see the mass collection of them.
Positioned next to this is an understated 2 dimensional painting that many people would miss. Precious Objects 2007 by Gade, a Tibetan artist, gives the appearance of an old faded ornate painting. Something you would find in a dusty corner of an asian museum. On closer inspection the work is made up of small iconic images from contemporary culture placed within 300 lotus thrones. Precious deities have been replaced with western cultural symbols and everyday objects such as cigarettes, socks, vibrators and even Marcel Duchamp's Fountain. This is a humourous and interesting work. But it has the sting in the tail and plays with the way contemporary society idolises commodoties and consumables; objects that we derive pleasure from. Is this illuding to our western desire for instant gratification, rather than some life long dedication towards a belief or practice that is not built around material objects? This is a subtle work that presents a clear message.

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