Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Excessive physical manifestations of quiet internal desires"

Yesterday the small guy and I paid a visit to the School of Fine Arts to see the annual sculpture exhibition, 'Heavy Pattern'. It's the eighteenth annual group show, and includes work by third and fourth year students and postgraduates. The sculpture lecturers are Neil Dawson, Rob Hood, Louise Palmer and Bronwyn Taylor.

We'd come by way of PaperPlus where we were buying a birthday card for the small guy's uncle, who is an academic with a PhD in English Lit. "This is perfect!" said the small guy, brandishing one with an off-colour joke about a naked 90-year-old man at a flower show.* "He'll LOVE it!" Then his attention was caught by the musical cards. There was one that played the Kung Fu Fighting music when you opened it. Another one barked. But the best one of all had a chubby-faced muscle-man on the front. When you opened it, the man flexed his bicep to the accompaniment of a wet raspberry kind of noise.

"MUM! LOOK AT THIS CARD! IT DOES ARM FARTS!" shouted the small guy across the shop, opening and closing the card at top speed to release a deafening volley of fart noises. "POO! That's revolting! Pfffft! PFFFT! Say pardon! Hahahaha!"

It took some time to detach the small guy from the card, and with wistful looks over the shoulder we were just about to go when he spotted a school friend who'd just come into the shop with his grandmother and little sisters. "Hang on, Mum," he said, scuttling back to the card display and taking out the musical muscle-man again. "This is important. Hey, Oscar, come over here and look at this! You won't believe what this card does ... ARM FARTS! Actual ARM FARTS! POO-WEE! Say pardon please! PFFFT! PFFFFFFT! HAHAHAHAHA!"

And thus another pleasant five minutes passed as I waited in the queue to be served, looking somewhere into the middle distance, while a running commentary punctuated by loud farting noises and raucous giggles filled the shop. Eventually a frowning young man in PaperPlus uniform came over and told them to knock it off. "You're running down the battery," he said severely. "I was just putting the card back," said Oscar untruthfully, and scampered off. "That's probably the funniest thing I've ever seen, Mum," said the small guy, still giggling in the car five minutes later. "Definitely worth getting told off for."

At the art school I expected things to be a little more sombre. The student who'd emailed me the invitation to view the show had said, half-apologetically, that there were no humorous works in it, so I had in mind some serious exploration into mass and form and volume and material properties and negative space and all that proper oldie-fash sculptural stuff. No narratives, no pop culture, no horsing about. The first room was, in fact, a bit like that: a diverse series of works beautifully fabricated and installed.

Among them we particularly liked this work, a wild tangle of tree roots on one side, with the still-attached tree-trunk carved into a rough obelisk on the other. We didn't have a catalogue to hand, there weren't labels, and in some cases the website is slightly enigmatic; so I'm not certain who it's by.

This work by Lucy Matthews was positioned in the foyer outside the gallery. The artist describes it as an "excessive physical manifestation of quiet internal desires".
It was quite large, and the small guy asked if he could get inside it. There was no one around, but I thought it best not.

This work (I think it's Joins by Steve Walsh) is positioned in the courtyard between buildings. It's a satisfyingly improbable object.

This is a view of the sculpture gallery at the art school, which they call The Fridge. We had to wander around the studios for some time to find it, which was no hardship. At centre is our favourite work in the show, Tim Middleton's Phallic Tantrum. It's a punching bag in cast plaster. You really, really want to punch it when you see it, but think better of it, with considerable regret.

This fascinating list was written on a white board at the far end of The Fridge. Is it a work? Disinformation? A teaching aid? An enigma code for art historians?

"The central issue is that ... That is not good enough." Keir Leslie. This is scribbled on the white board near the list of sculptors. I still have this enigmatic text in my head. (I always respond warmly to a slacker aesthetic combined with harsh self-criticism.)

Alissa Gilbert's work for the show is a shop selling handmade objects including soap, T shirts,  sew-on patches, 'tawdry frivolities' and 'contemplative aids'. Pictured above is a shelf of 'Deadwood Soap'. You could also take small free samples of the soap home, which was nice, and we did.

Gilbert has pasted up a poster around the art school which reads COME TO MY SHOP YOU FILTHY BITCHES. The small guy read this out loud with some satisfaction. When he saw the Divine poster pictured above hanging in her shop his enthusiasm knew no bounds. "Buy my sheeeee-it." He was still repeating the phrase under his breath an hour later. It was the second-best cultural highlight of his day. 

I suspect what he took from today's school holiday outings was the useful knowledge that what you get told off for doing in a chainstore is often quite acceptable at an art exhibition.

*Prize for "best dried arrangement".

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"This is about earthquakes"

Our three-year-old has recently become interested in titling her paintings and drawings. It's interesting watching her process of decision-making; sometimes her titles are informed by visual associations (a drawing with lots of circles might become "The rocks on Gran and Grandad's hill") and sometimes by images from stories that are currently on her mind. I like the simultaneous association/disassociation of her titles; they are narratives in their own right, which, like the painter Cy Twombly's titles, bear only a tangential reference to her mark-making but are spurred into life by the images.

She has also become interested in making little books, with a drawing on each page accompanied by words which she dictates to me. It's hard to keep up with the flow of ideas, and I have to write very quickly.

Here's a page from a recent book.

"This is about earthquakes. Eggs fall down. Houses fall down. A crane tries to rescue people. Churches fall down. You have to get under the table or mummy gets you in the doorway. We have to go through a dirty river and that's liquefaction."