TWO compelling works of art at Adamstown Uniting Church came down yesterday.
This church regularly shows artworks as part of a project by Reverend Dr Rod Pattenden to expand imaginative horizons for congregation and visitors and inculcate a sense of wonder.
Traditional Christian iconography inspired a virtual altarpiece by Andrew Finnie, featuring both the crucified Christ and the implication of the cross as tree of life, that ancient symbol of growth and renewal.
Fracturing everything except the pale, curiously androgynous figure on the cross into a grid of small square images allows birds, cobwebs, the cosmos and a sheep to form a rich visual tapestry in close-up, but sacrifices structure.
How much of this densely loaded detail exists in a long view? The peaceful, oddly flayed figure is only a fraction of the story.
- IN the narrow former porch area was a very different kind of artmaking. Environmentalist Penny Dunstan has used cascading rumpled paper before at the University Gallery.
The 110 variegated grey sheets here were originally a precise map of the contours and tracks of an Upper Hunter Valley now totally destroyed by the detritus from an open-cut coal mine. The death of a real landscape is rendered physically shocking by the floor to ceiling installation in this narrow civilised space, an object lesson in creative innovation and human folly.
- PENNY Dunstan is not the only exhibitor this week to live in a rural setting. At Back to Back Galleries until June 14 are three artists from the Arcadian surroundings of Dungog.
Lisa Battye is a visionary painter of a muscular landscape and its rhythmic random patterns. Hillsides heave with an organic presence, clouds are miraculously reflected in water in a horizon-less valley.
Renae Carlson's sumi ink drawings reflect her Japanese experience with condensed manic energy.
The third member of the group, ceramist Clare Tilyard, has shown her landscape-inspired pots here before; robustly shaped and atmospherically coloured.
- FROM Wollombi, another idyllic landscape, painter Julia Francis is showing for the first time in Newcastle at Nanshe.
She is yet another well-trained, serious artist we know too little about, with a keen sense of layered structure. Also at Nanshe until June 20 are the dramatic paintings of Jacqueline McCoy, isolating against a black background a range of glossy fruit and vegetables.
- AT Newcastle Art Space until June 14, a group of emerging artists is showing mainly graphics; prints, monotypes and collages. Stormwater drains prove a rewarding subject.
The exception is Lochlan Howard, whose cosy bygone caravans inhabit the driveways of cut-out house portraits in a gentle nostalgia for life on the road.
In the smaller gallery, Josh McGregor has a sequence of head studies, still expressively human, but treated as some artificial material. Foreheads and chins crack and crumble. Hair pulls whole faces upwards in molten distortion.
Are these exercises in human fragility, or the out-to-shock tactics of the surrealists? They achieve here a poetic melodrama due to Josh McGregor's drawing skills, particularly in dark, smudgy conte crayon.
- VARELLE Hardy's fantasy frocks are an interesting addition to the line-up of fibre artists who show at Timeless Textiles. Her nursery-rhyme dresses are constructed from chicken and mosquito wire, adorned with stiffened doilies and other found objects. Their rigid structure and obviously prickly textures increasingly subvert expectation in a surreal amalgam of security blanket and perversity.
- THE University of Newcastle continues to celebrate its first 50 years. A crowded exhibition at the Newcastle Museum purports to share the institution's diverse history and significant accomplishments with the wider Newcastle public, condensing half a century into a timeline and photomedia panels.
Also at the museum until August 30, is a well-presented exhibition devoted to Broughton Island off Port Stephens.
The university's unique course in natural history illustration organised a residency with six specialist artists documenting its coast and hinterland with sketchbook, camera and collecting box.
The resulting excellent exhibition presents the magic of this little-visited island, very much in the spirit of the scientists and illustrators who voyaged with Captain Cook and so many early explorers.