Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics RoomLog 5 Trans-Tasman
Log 5 Trans-Tasman

Adelaide Roundup
Christopher Chapman


Last night there were three openings on but I only got to two. I kept thinking that 'everyone' must be at the other one - only partly true. At the North Adelaide School of Art Gallery, Tony Waite, Angela Valamanesh and Katie Moore had works that were all organic in some way. Waite's pink and white plaster donut-things sort of swarmed on the floor. Valamanesh had a group of drawings based on plant forms and body parts, one transposed into a rubber shape on another wall, like a spore starting to spread. Moore's various butter and concrete 'constructions' or 'paintings' had an appealing tactility, more interesting than the simple dualism of the materials might suggest. One big brick of butter pierced by a concrete 'handle' was like a mad sledge-hammer. The concrete had the effect of making the butter brick appear harder than butter is. Moore's works flirt with transience (foam coffee cups stuck with birdseed), but these works were strangely hard edged.

I hitched a ride to Greenaway Art Gallery with Sarah and noticed that Daryl Austin's precisely illusionistic paintings were selling very well. Studio views with stretchers and canvases hanging from the walls, painted on canvases with trompe-l'oeil stretchers and paintings on them. I sensed an affinity with the precision of modernist John Brack's paintings (on view at the Art Gallery of South Australia). There was even a bright and sharp pencil in an Austin painting that could have been plucked (literally) from a Brack painting. Deborah Paauwe's sumptuous photographs in the rear gallery weren't doing badly in the red dot stakes either. They are evocative-one image of the back of a woman's head was particularly arresting. Back in Matt's car to North Adelaide just in time to catch everyone heading out for pizza.

Katie Moore's use of concrete is decidedly crisp in comparison to Brisbane artist Rodney Spooner's lava-flows of the stuff at the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia. At the front door and in the hallway, big slurries of cement make little viewing platforms from which to survey the gallery and his painted architectural detailing: slabs of muted blues and greys painted in relation to doorways and to the slate insets where fireplaces used to be. Warren Vance's excursion into the crystalline nature of things in the back gallery was a nice foil to Spooner's redecorating in the front. Vance possesses a unique take on things, so bright it reads as true faith: the sun shining through autumn leaves, twinkling stars seen on a clear night. My favourite work from this show was a found image of a male deer standing in a wintry forest, the photo mounted on a sheet of polystyrene as crisp and sparkly as hard-packed snow.

While finishing touches are being made to the new University of South Australia Art Museum, the high-visibility streetfront windows have hosted a series of installations by local artists. Bronwyn Platten's painting of the sky seen through curled 'finger eyes' was boldly cartoonish enough for Matt to suggest that they looked like circles of cows' butts, Gary Larson-like. They also suggested the spidery appearance of neurons, as well as signalling a certain kind of playful joy-like looking up at the sky through finger-binoculars. Platten's work has the happy capacity to evoke a range of interpretations and to invite surprising responses. Around the corner on the new University campus Craige Andrae has parked his Caravan in the courtyard infront of the Experimental Art Foundation. It's been fitted out as a mobile 'white cube' and the first and third exhibitions were equally disorienting and pleasurable: foam and vaseline teddy bears by Leith Elder; a comical photo self-portrait fixed to a little wooden cabinet by Micheal Grimm; a foam 'mattress' with inset specimen jars and a burnt fruitcake by Andrae. For the third showing Steven Giles filled the window cavities with popcorn and Nicholas Folland stuck coloured 'Twister' spots all over the interior. Carnivalesque.

Cleanskin installation view Nicholas Folland
installation view Cleanskin
Experimental Art Foundation

Inside at the Experimental Art Foundation, is the exhibition Cleanskin curated by Samantha Small. The four artists in this show are recent graduates or masters students at the University of South Australia South Australian School of Art. The show is fresh and sharp, and everyone thinks it's 'savvy'. Nicholas Folland has made 'paintings' from astroturf with golf holes, and an olive-green reclining lounge chair is fixed to the wall on a metal bracket. The thing suggests rolling hills and reminded me of the green hilled semi-abstract landscapes of Colin McCahon. Samuel Wilde had made plywood ramps and suspended boxes whose comedy was only revealed when you stood beneath the boxes to see they each spelled 'APPLAUSE'. The whole thing became a model of schematic TV studio seating facing the rest of the show. Hayley Arjona's big paintings show the artist in various poses with hand-gun, roped figure, against a dream-landscape of diners, tract homes, pop-concert billboards and a 747. They don't actually look like James Rosenquist paintings, but they evoke the energy, irony and impact of his classic works. Samantha Small's exercise in perspective was a chequerboard floor in the gallery foyer that extended into the gallery space with a pair of severed wooden clogs resting at the end for the Dutch painting reference. It was a nice way of making the entire building a part of the exhibition (Samantha Small's 'entry' mirrored Sam Wilde's studio 'seating'). 'Pop' isn't the right word to describe this show which represents a real break and a new vitality in the Adelaide scene. It's great.

Meanwhile at the Art Gallery of South Australia is a selection of contemporary works from the collection by South Australian artists, part of the first South Australian Living Artist Week festival, of which many of the above shows form a part. My last gig at the gallery before I started at the Experimental Art Foundation as Director in August was a modest display of work by the Cuban born American artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres: a version of his 'curtain' piece Untitled (Loverboy), refabricated specially for the window in the contemporary galleries, and some print works. This work really is beautiful and on my last day I spent some time with it just to think about stuff. It helped.

On the way home tonight I called in to the local shopping centre where the Australian Marsupial Association had wallabies and wombats for the school-holiday kids to pat. The wallaby nestled in a little blanket was pretty cute. Apparently Adelaide has the country's fastest ageing population, but it seems that there really is the potential for a new sense of energy to take hold. The city is promoting the 'seedy' West End as a new arts precinct and even planting palm trees around the area. Already there are new groovy venues. The late night loungebar Supermild is a success and today at lunchtime the new Lion Bar and Cafe was bristling with students, artists and arts professionals from all over town. All great signs that fab things are happening.

Christopher Chapman
Spring 1998


Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics Room