New Adelaide grooves

Chris Reid

Emerging artists and new venues are making an impact in Adelaide. Shop_70 is a new gallery, run by James Dodd and Josh 2K in a converted shop in Marlborough Street, Henley Beach. Specialising in new and experimental work, Shop_70 provides an alternative outlet for emerging artists. Its first exhibition Hot Dog with the Lot, opening in June, includes work by Katrina Simmons, Peter Franov, Alan Houghton, James Lillecrapp, James Crabb, Andrew Best and Store.

Dodd, Josh 2K and Store held an exhibition of painting, Shoes, in the Shed at the Contemporary Art Centre South Australia (CACSA) in February. They painted the Shed’s spacious interior walls with Manga-influenced cartoons, where fashion jogging shoes are fetishised objects of teenage sexual play, highlighting the consumerism in pop culture.

Dodd participated in Gleam, a show of emerging artists at the Experimental Art Foundation last October. Gleam tours to The Physics Room in Christchurch, New Zealand, in June. Dodd was also in the group show Endzone at Brisbane’s IMA last December-January. His wall-paintings for Gleam and Endzone are abstract forms painted gigantically, suggesting a mural, graffiti or a disco backdrop, emblems for the 21st century.

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Graduating Victorian Michael Kutschbach won a residency at Adelaide Central School of Art in 1997 and is now a lecturer in painting there. His recent work comprises spray paint or photographs on boards of various sizes. On these surfaces, he draws a single line, a misshapen circle, either with paint or by removing the still wet under-paint with a fingertip.

In his December exhibition Roundhouse at 220 Hindley Street, Kutschbach painted the wall purple and then covered it with small, repeated forms. These forms, recalling fruit or coloured bubbles, become wallpaper, mocking that disdainful description of bad painting. They are traced from an original ‘blob’ painting he made by squashing paint with the palm of his hand against a ceramic tile, the ultimate gestural stroke. By tracing the blob over the top of other paint or photographs, the motif becomes a symbol for painting. The unbroken wiggly line also symbolises endless, circular rumination. By using the forms on a wall, on small and large boards and to permeate the boundaries of these boards, this musing appears portable, infecting all surfaces and display forums, unconfined by painting’s conventions. Kutschbach has also made ceramic blobs, painted white, or chromed to cast strange reflections. He is exhibiting at the Riddoch Gallery, Mt Gambier, from May 25 and at the Greenaway Gallery, Kent Town, from late June.

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Realism, unpopular in recent years, is James Cochran’s language and he is making an impression with it. His exhibition at BMG Gallery North Adelaide in May dwells on the themes of the lonely, alienated individual, temptation, revelation, and the religious parable. In Francis in Ecstasy, a young man lies supine on a disco floor, eyes closed, surrounded by dancers oblivious to his condition. A friend cradles his head. Is he overcome by substances or experiencing a vision? Cochran nicely establishes the ambiguity, posing crucial questions about religion and contemporary (youth) culture. In Revelations, 7 young people in everyday clothes sit at a table. Before them are a hamburger bun and some beers. The central figure has a Christ-like demeanour, but are they (and we) listening? Hindley St and the Temptation of Anthony is a self-portrait in which the artist navigates a seedy world of sex, drugs and hopelessness. Cochran’s work is strong, committed and developing in interesting directions.

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Renate Nisi and Roy Ananda, 4th year students at Adelaide Central School of Art, exhibited at Flightpath in March. Nisi’s most striking works are those in which she has taken wire or a branch and bound it tightly in cloth to create a form resembling a tortured, mummified human. These ambiguous figures seem like moths trapped in their chrysalises. In another work, pieces of black rubber tubing sprout from a tall frame, suggesting a tree of industrial materials. Though simple, these forms are carefully made and highly resolved, creating a dark poetic.

Ananda’s work often employs the outline of the momentary splash of an inkblot. His Template, in the Helpmann Academy’s 2001 Graduate Exhibition, is a 2.4m x 2.4m bright yellow room divider, hinged down the middle, with a metre-wide splash-shaped hole in the centre. Ananda is also interested in the record groove which contains much (musical) information. He cuts a groove through a series of objects, such as bricks, and threads through a string steeped in a coloured oxide, to make “master disks.” At clubs such as the Minke Bar, he draws abstract shapes on a large sheet of paper while the DJ performs, producing gestural works that reflect the mood of the music.

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The Minke Bar is a new venue crowded with artists, filmmakers and musicians. Movies are shown while DJs perform. There are art exhibitions and the attraction of artists drawing live. Joe Novosel draws here. He and Ananda use a 2.5 x 2.5m piece of heavy paper taped to the wall (with a small rectangle cut in it to leave exposed the goldfish tank embedded in the wall). The energy and the intelligent discussion here promise artistic revitalisation.

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At CACSA’s Shed in May-June is a group show of installations by 2 recent graduates and a student. Kate Benda’s Still comprises 3 mesh-covered frames, on stands, with objects suspended inside the mesh. Naomi Williamson’s What makes you think you can start with a clean slate is a stack of cardboard file-boxes forming a mountain, with tiny ladders cut from the sides to enable the ascent of a minuscule figure. Emma Northey’s sensuous She felt he felt comprises 2 tall, tubular forms covered in pink felt, like figures interacting.

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An exhibition entitled The Land of Milk and Honey: Emerging Victorian Artists at Adelaide Central Gallery is a survey of work by 11 Victorians, all recent graduates. The exhibition provided the setting for a debate on the proposition That the Artistic Grass is Greener on the Eastern Seaboard. Though pitched as an entertaining panel game, the debate had a serious theme—that artists fare better there than here. While the Debating Society awarded the affirmative team the prize, audience sentiment was with the negative. The audience may be right. New venues for emerging artists, like the Shed, Shop_70 and the Minke Bar, are encouraging artistic development, and we’re seeing significant new work.

RealTime issue #43 June-July 2001 pg.

© Chris Reid; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 June 2001