The new and exciting exhibition at Watt Space Gallery draws together work by established and less-known artists from this area. It lives up to its title: Ordinary Intricacies, by reminding the viewer that works of art involve much more than subject matter.
Here paintings and ceramics explore surface textures and the power of materials and techniques, ranging across graphite drawings, acrylic and oil paint, glazes and inscribed porcelain to arrangements of bark, twigs and leaves.
A room of Chris Capper's well-known flower pieces emphasises the importance of human scale. Thoughtful compositions reveal apparently casual vases and blooms in strongly geometric armatures. The edge of a windowpane or curtain, a horizontal shelf or table top serve to anchor the flowers in a domestic environment, increasing their formal celebratory role.
There are pale and lyrical works, but many use a challenging palette with strongly angled shapes in bright orange and severe red offset by dark, passive green. Also new to me are small paintings of the rural landscape and an interwoven view of the Maud Street bridge, reminding us that it has been several years since we last saw a substantial body of work by this dedicated professional painter.
Sharing the large room is a table of John Heaney's dramatic layered black slabs, clay but with the texture of oil.
The next room investigates the medium as message. Mojgan Habibi's china plates bear quotations from the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They suggest that human dignity should be as basic a need as food. On the opposite wall, Ari Chand's exuberant and highly detailed graphite drawings create instant cultural history, bringing together witty and often surreal borrowings from the Old Masters with the modern world. The act of drawing obviously imposes its own meditative discipline.
Such obsessive love of detail carries through to the following room where Lezlie Tilley is showing a group of closely worked painted grids. There is a strong sense of densely woven fabric, a revisiting of several series of textile-based works which occupied this always inventive artist some 40 years ago. Few artists are able to so consistently involve the viewer in a world of abstract patterning.
Sharing this room are many ceramic pieces by Sue Jones. Her pale celadon glazes and smooth raw porcelain vessels perfectly share the minimalist but sensuous aesthetic of the paintings on the walls.
The remaining pair of artists contrasts the man-made with objects from the bush. Brett Piva is inspired by Japanese cultural tradition to make paint brushes as art objects, using twigs, bark and leaves, some charred from last year's fires. Ranged in a row along the walls, these refugees from the familiar natural world have a powerful dramatic presence.
In total contrast, Maddyson Hatton has constructed tiny, intricate ceramic versions of electrical components, meaningless without a context, mysterious and self-contained.
This is a rewarding exhibition featuring a rich variety of local talent, an ideal occasional project for a public gallery with a visionary curator.
The Lock-Up regularly displays inventive projects from the world of science. At present 20 selected artists are filling the atmospheric spaces with works involving many flashing lights, dramatic installations and curiosities such as segments of tape worms enshrined in Perspex. Extensive wall texts presumably give context, but are often hard to read.
Highlights include an engaging video featuring two robots. Despite their entirely mechanical physique, spasmodic gestures and mask-like faces, they are surprisingly human, even emotionally charged in their desire to communicate.
John Gollings is one of Australia's most celebrated photographers with 50 years of depicting, indeed often interpreting, the built environment. Trained as an architect, he has spent his life bringing buildings, ancient and modern, to dramatic life.
The exhibition John Gollings: the history of the built world has been touring for three years and will be at the Newcastle Museum until October 31. It could equally well have been shown at Newcastle Art Gallery.
The spectacular prints range from Roman ruins in North Africa to skyscrapers on the Gold Coast and bizarre monumental buildings in modern China, all presented as sculptural objects, theatrically lit and devoid of human presence.
Three images reveal the remarkable Aboriginal site of Nawala Gabarnmang on the Arnhem Land escarpment, rediscovered in 2006. It is a huge rock shelter supported on columns partly hewn from the natural sandstone, with a ceiling of painted images, some of them 35,000 years old. John Gollings truly captures the dawn of architecture.
# Ordinary Intricacies, Watt Space Gallery, until August 8
# Experimenta Life Forms, The Lock-Up, until August 22
# John Gollings: the history of the built world, Newcastle Museum, until August 31