I’VE had some catching up to do.
The show at Curve, which closes tomorrow, features two artists who work on paper, but arrive there by very different routes.
Vanessa Lewis is studying towards a PhD, investigating some archaic art materials. She has won several awards for drawing, balancing detailed botanical images with the use of tempera, the egg-based pigments of Italian Renaissance frescoes. I didn’t know this could be used as a drawing medium on paper.
One of her floral wreathes here deploys several metals suspended in glue size for webs of fine lines with a glint of lustre. It is hard to decide whether or not the pictorial strength of the precisely structured decorative images diverts the viewer’s attention from the extraordinarily laborious process of creating them.
Lewis carries the use of precious materials into an installation of three glass jars, contrasting raw Afghanistan-sourced lapis lazuli and its pulverised pigment with pure man-made aquamarine. How strange that the artificial pigment is by far the most brilliant.
Fellow exhibitor Michael Langley has a background making stained-glass windows. His landscape drawings have obvious links to that tradition of strongly patterned simplified areas and bold outlines.
At Cooks Hill
AT Cooks Hill Galleries until June 20 are the distinctive paintings of Tracey Smith. She builds up layers of colour and bold linear structures, then partially sands off portions of the surface, revealing hidden details below. But for a viewer, does the process really represent an act of emotional liberation, as it does for the artist?
ALONG Bull Street at Back to Back Galleries until Monday is work by three artists using clay to make specific political statements. Morgan Habibi uses her Persian heritage to affirm basic human interactions. A wall work of movable tiles with dramatic Arabic script embodies an ancient poem celebrating brotherhood, along with its translation into English. A grouping of vessels, whose blue echoes the famous mosque tiles, impersonates hidden female powers, containers of light.
Sharon Ridsdale’s imposing installation represents the skeletal remains of bleached corals, using various innovative techniques. She has perfected a form of miniature clay explosions, powerfully suggesting in shiny white glaze an organic response to extreme pressures. Another Sydney exhibitor in this harmoniously proportioned building is Dawn Perry. Her concerns are the extent to which technological advances compromise our human abilities to feel and interact, using a series of allegorical tableaux.
Repair and restore
AT Newcastle Art Space until tomorrow is abundant evidence of the important role played by artmaking in repairing and re-empowering damaged people. ‘Bounceback’ is an enormous exhibition, a regular and invaluable event in the socially aware program of this valuable institution. Given the variety of artmaking, and the inevitably variable standard, it may seem invidious to single out any individual, but the small sculptures of Glenda Mears are remarkable for their invention and instinctive sense of appropriate decoration.
There is still the threat hanging over the Community Art Centre of the loss of its familiar building, but maybe it is not so immediate as originally feared and there are other exciting plans.
Watt on the move
WATT SPACE until tomorrow has been dense with suspended cardboard models of boats. There are Viking ships, clippers, a skiff, dinghies, even a car ferry.
They conjure exhibitors on the move, with collected works commemorating a busy student trip to New York and Los Angeles and also snowy celebrations in Iceland. Is travel in itself an education for artists, with an involuntary expanding of horizon? Only time will tell for these young people.
The other exhibitions are much quieter. Eloise Genner plays dreamlike tricks with the corniced ceilings of old houses. Clare Weeks once again bases her photographic images on her debilitating illness and the rigorous daily programme of breathing exercises and meditation with which she manages her symptoms. It is not obvious what the amorphous images represent, but combined with infinitely slow video sequences of the artists meditating, they impressively continue to document this courageous artist’s journey.