Spring 1883 VII: Neon Parc, Sarah Scout Presents, Caves.
‘They would have enjoyed their stay at The Windsor, creating a bit of frisson with their incongruous subversion.’
Neon Parc’s city space transformed into a Spring 1883 satellite booth to present the work of seven artists. Despite their enforced lockdown in a bright, unfurnished cubed gallery rather than the dusky intimacy of the Windsor’s nooks and furnishings, the artworks seem unfazed and quite content in position. If not curatorially intentional for this space, then instinctively the collection of work has an organic aesthetic relationship which make them very comfortable in each other’s presence, happily chatting amongst themselves with dramatic gesticulations of form and colour – whether speaking in 2 or 3-dimensional vernacular. There is a certain simpatico of rough-edged shapes, torn from wheresoever origin, collaged or montaged together in thread, brush, overlay, cement – a shared bricolage dialect most particularly evident in the work of Cat Fooks, Teelah George, Andrée van Schaik and Nabilah Nordin. They make for quite the colour festival – albeit more punk than funk and perhaps they would have enjoyed their stay at the Windsor, creating a bit of frisson with their incongruous subversion.
But classicism is not entirely rejected, there are calls to history for stability and contemporary relevance, not just rebellion. Irene Hanenbergh’s wild and brushy paintings brashly and deservedly demand the import attributed to anything in ornate gold frames (even Fooks is in on the frame game). Damiano Bertoli seduces with images of carved Roman profiles transforming to flesh: contemporary, sexy, elusive celebrities or gods evaporate and reappear in shifts of technology and, with imagination, so too shifts in time. Bertoli finds cohorts in Rob McLeish’s successfully restrained drawings of figures, also derived from classical sources.
The next city gallery repositioned as art fair satellite booth is Sarah Scout Presents who, along with Neon Parc, are aligned with the founding of the Spring 1883 art fair. The gallery location reveals their personal affinity for the city’s historical architecture. Their salon room is furnished for rest and conversation, a satisfying folly Windsor hotel suite. With nine artists work to present in this fair iteration the salon is where it all begins. Lisa Young’s textile works – hand woven tapestries of geometric compositions, modestly scaled images, vast in architectural reminiscences are a commanding presence. They are overtly connected to her architectural installations, while worlds apart in medium, process and scale they are clearly from the same mind that created Framework at the Geelong Art Gallery or Goldrush. Their compositions seemingly look to the past and the future simultaneously – a 21st century depiction of futuristic architecture through the lens of a Metropolis fanatic German expressionist – in tapestry. They are rather wonderful.
Artworks from familiar, accomplished practitioners are to be discovered in various rooms and corridors, whispers of the art fair atmosphere. Representation of the artists’ practice with groups, suites, or pairs of works from Tony Garifalakis, Bryan Spier, and Claire Lambe are presented plus individual examples from Kiron Robinson, Zilverster and a new 2021 work by Christian Thompson AO.
King Houndekpinkou’s ceramics appear as enthralling organisms. A Franco-Beninese Parisian artist his colourful, lumpy, spiky anthropomorphic vessels feel otherworldly or, more accurately, of this world but mysterious to me. A tantalising lesson that there are things of nature and the divine that exist, but we are yet to learn of them. Crackling glazes, sparkling golden rays, vug-like openings and interiors, drips and planes of matt and glossy surfaces, they are enlivening creatures, every one of them autonomously powerful.
With or without artist intention the work of Jake Preval was a noteworthy beat: an absurdist comedy, bizarre exhibition of intimacy, delightful intersection of various modes of making. Of particular interest are his monochromatic photographic prints of clay sculptures with reverse painted lime green text emblazoned across the glazing, interrupting our reading of the image: Yes Sir, You Need This, This Is About Love, Slap It Pig. When a sexual submissive phones their trusted dominatrix for instructions on making art, I’m not surprised to see a clay foot transpire. In fact, I’d like to see what happens next. I found them funny, fun, and completely unexpected. Exactly what one likes to experience at an art fair.
In the Nicholas building Caves presents Inside Mountains, a curated show of four artists: Bronte Stolz, Inbal Nissim, Ruby Brown and Noriko Nakamura. A few of the works I have seen before. One particularly compelling piece is by Nakamura Folding air and fire from 2019, a limestone carving of a hand with a tail of human hair extending from its base. Limestone is the preferred medium for the artist’s sculptural practice. Hair is a potent medium I have long said is underutilised. Being familiar with the tradition of human hair in mourning and sentimental jewellery of the 18th and 19th centuries, it is rather thrilling to see it when it occasionally appears as contemporary art material.
Ironically, considering the visceral themes and references within the presentation: the body, flesh, ritual, fertility – what I read as sacred communications of sex and life – the exhibition design is pared back. There is space and light, a quiet which could not have existed at the fair. Nissim’s work in particular fires my imagination as to how the artist might have presented it within the context of the Windsor. Her large loose paintings on fabric have an indefinable magnetism – a micro/macro dualism most often seen in the mysticism of nature.
The large concrete monument by Stolz sits centrally within the small gallery room. Cast shapes are joined together to create an odd creature of limbs and hand-feet, the segments identifiable, as if they could be pulled apart and reconfigured in other ways. Other works by the artist display an interest in diverse media including 3-dimensional forms in tin and a 2-dimensional wall work in velvet. Interspersed throughout are Brown’s relief wall pieces made of white gap filler and a very resolute wet finger, building landscapes of indented buds, lines, strokes and globs. The simplicity of description belies the array of directional movement achieved in these hybrid painting-sculptures. The four artists’ works have a delightful harmony.
Halfway through writing this the announcement was made that Melbourne begins Lockdown version 6.0. Satellite spaces open for visitation this weekend will be closed. Spring 1883 is now viewable on the digital platform Artsy only. The phoenix from the flames will rise again
Update: As of 8 pm Thursday 5th August Melbourne entered Covid-related Lockdown for at least 7 days. The Spring 1883 physical satellite booths have closed. Spring 1883 remains accessible online at ARTSY for the month of August. Some galleries might be planning to re-open the art fair presentations after the lockdown – visit the gallery websites directly for information regarding future accessibility.
Melbourne’s Lockdown 6.0 commenced on Thursday 5th August at 8 pm. Satellite booths have been closed. For the latest updates and information visit the respective gallery websites or online at Spring 1883.
Spring 1883 VII in totality has moved online with Artsy.
Images 1-3: Neon Parc, Melbourne
Images 4-7: Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne.
Images 8-9: Caves, Melbourne