Saturday, August 3, 2013

Alyce and Allana - or What does it mean to be Human?

 What does it mean to be human? Allana Blizzard-Jones at Nolan Art Gallery in the Salamanca Arts Centre and Alyce Bailey, next door at Handmark Gallery, utilise relationships between man and beast to raise quite different questions about what it means to be human. Both artists create meticulous, hard-edged figures with minimal suggestion of solid form. There are no distracting backgrounds and the flattened picture space forces the viewer to engage with the image.
Bellicose by Alyce Bailey;  pen, ink, watercolour
and shot gun holes on canvas; 92cm x 61cm

Alyce Bailey builds up intricate textures with her pen, creating exquisite anthropomorphic beasts isolated on pristine white canvases. Watercolour washes add a restrained touch of colour.

Having empathised with her vaguely bewildered animals with their odd, awkward, human hands, I admire the precise and delicate drawing set off by not-at-all-accidental dribbles and runs of paint, and the way occasional random patterns of holes in the canvas introduce a third dimension.

These are such gentle, sensitive works it comes as a shock to discover Bailey blazes away at her pictures with a shotgun!

There is nothing subtle or understated about the violence in Allana Blizzard-Jones' paintings – it's all there in raw, bleeding detail.
Scream by Allana Blizzard-Jones;
acrylic and latex on canvas
51cm x 40.5cm
A regular participant in "zombie walks", Blizzard-Jones is experienced in using make-up to simulate suppurating, rotting flesh. Now she has employed various three-dimensional materials to create realistic-looking lesions on portraits of herself and friends, and the result is startling, to say the least.
There is a serious message beyond the initial shock; she is asking us to imagine what would happen if the Facial Tumour Disease threatening the Tasmanian Devil skipped species and infected humans. What if it created a population of hideous un-dead victims to attack the rest of us, passing on the infection?
Following the conventions of horror movies and comic books, Blizzard-Jones' agonised, afflicted figures are calculated to repel – and they do. These are supposedly real people losing their humanity, reverting to something beyond bestial, but we react with alarm and disgust rather than sorrow. The artist is obviously having fun, and the only sympathetic "portrait" in the show is of a placid, healthy Tasmanian Devil.

Bailey's animals, on the other hand, are her "responses to various experiences", reflecting her emotions and engaging ours. Her sad lion , uncertain cat , ambitious mouse  and tentative bison  are fragile animals trying so hard to become human, despite small daily disasters – and the odd shotgun blast.

Gauche by Alyce Bailey; pen, ink and watercolour on canvas;
110.0 x 152.0cm


The Others – drawings by Alyce Bailey; Handmark Gallery, Hobart. 2 – 20 August 2013

Infection – paintings by Allana Blizzard-Jones; Nolan Art Gallery and School, Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart. 2 – 31 August 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013

BLITZ - A Night in The Bunker

Kettering Hall, Saturday 20 July 2013

Lucy Wilson

Through heavy rain on a cold winters night locals gathered, wide-eyed, to fill the Kettering Hall to see Blitz - A Night in The Bunker by Claire Dawson aka SiSi. Such an enthusiastic turn out must be proof of Dawson’s singing and the reputation of her one-woman show, a story of heartache and optimism, based on her Liverpudlian grandmother’s life during WWII in London.

I bought a piece of “war cake and a cuppa tea” and nestled into the community hall-style-theatre turned “safe bunker”, to be absorbed in a rollicking tale of rags to riches (or so it seemed), then real love, which the uncertainty of war then separated.

Blitz is purely and simply about the power of song. And Dawson can certainly sing, not just with passion, enthusiasm and authenticity, but she also embodies the life force with which wartime era songs were written. One after another, over a dozen songs rolled out touching hearts and raising spirits.

War songs, along with musical theatre and show tunes were woven together with a simple story using a simple set, lighting and accompanying recorded music. Dawson’s connection with her audience, her clever and witty quips, comic timing and pizzazz match the energy of the songs to make this an all-round talented show. Dawson is funny and an incredibly generous performer. Her costumes included period wartime uniforms and tasteful sassy outfits. Her performance style is to ‘see, hear and feel’ her created world, so her audience can easily engage with the emotional journey.

While singing Someone To Watch Over Me, Dawson seemed to subtly break into another genre of music... was it a Queen song? I’m not sure, but it was enthralling..., and then just as artfully returned to the former tune. In the quieter and sadder songs, while Dawson certainly conveyed hardship and heartache, she could have let go of her ‘show-biz’ singing style even more to expose herself and be more vulnerable.

There was something heart warming about seeing a show with phenomenally high energy and low technology in a community hall. The energy comes from Dawson and her vigorous spirit to virtually single-handedly devise, write, direct, choreograph, design and perform Blitz. She has a loyal team of friends who support her with sound, lighting and Front of House including Ian Clare, Dennis Clare, MC Naomi Edwards, Guy Roberts, and Cameron Bridge.

Resonant and appreciative moans and rumbles could be heard in the audience at the end of songs. In the final number, We’ll Meet Again, one of the most famous songs of the Second World War era, the audience were encouraged to sing along. The elderly couple sitting next to me, hand in hand, sang along with their eyes closed and there was even a tear rolling down a cheek.

Blitz toured Tasmania in 2012 and this 2013 version, commissioned by The Festival of Voices, is set to tour nationally next year.