Exhibition review Masters Exhibitions 1996 12-28 September: Greg Geraghty, Johnathon Dady, Paul Dryga, Namchou Chitma 10-26 October: Rhonda Wheatland, Amanda Poland, Helen Stacey, Elizabeth Abbott, Brian Lynch 7- 23 November: Greg Fullerton, Danielle O'Brien, Julia McGuire, Harekrishna Bag, University of SA Museum, Adelaide SA
The Masters Exhibitions of recent graduates from the University of South Australia were held as three consecutive exhibitions at the Art Museum. The division of the thirteen graduates into separate exhibitions of four to five artists rather than a single blockbuster of too many works and not enough space, was an effective solution to a recurrent problem. The group of exhibitions were accompanied by an inventively packaged catalogue in postcard format.
Although the work in each exhibition was not entirely wall-based there seemed a definite reluctance to move far from it. Only Jonathan Dady's conical three-dimensional paper work or large-scale 'drawing' and Amanda Poland's somewhat theatrical mauve chaise-longue installation approached the perhaps daunting central expanse of the gallery.
The back wall acted as a focal point for two of the three exhibitions with, for example, the viewer being struck immediately by the physically confident wall-based object installation by Greg Fullerton – reminiscent of the work of Tony Cragg or by the force of Dady's large-scale drawings. Fullerton's The attached indicator changes colour from yellow to red during gamma ray irradiation instructions above a red dot and an image of a tank made direct references to warfare and radiation, conjoined with the use of the star, the flag, and popular culture icons, including Mickey Mouse and the predominance of three primary colours. I found its appeal operating more within a level of visual familiarity than ideative innovation.
Paul Dryga's large, tubular, muted felt forms, with their unmistakable Beuysian reference, branches, unevenly dyed flags and coarsely tied 'reject' tags, hovered near the far wall. Dryga's The calicivirus disaster of 1995, the end of rabbits ears under a starry sky 1996 suggests strong political convictions.
Greg Geraghty furthered his explorations into painting, extending the work from his solo exhibition at Greenaway Art Gallery and Masters and Postgraduate exhibition, Art Museum, UNISA 1994. Geraghty's work here reflects his rapid development away from standard painting formats. The quirkiness and quiet humour of No. 6 Flowers of Water and No. 9 Flowers of Oxygen playfully suggest the schools of scientific education and experimentation, helium bombs and globules.
The investigative drawings of Dady were effectively hung on the back wall, slightly ajar. These densely worked representations of basic three-dimensional forms explore the notions of saturation, erasure and perhaps denial.
His blank three-dimensional conical form on the floor made from heavy weight 300gsm watercolour paper managed to flirtatiously liaise with his more traditional large scale drawings. This form was placed in front of the blackened wall drawings, suggesting a direct paradox ie a three-dimensional form created out of 'blank' mono-surfaced drawing paper, with three-dimensional forms 'drawn' onto a two-dimensional surface, yet hung in shallow space. The heavily worked erasure technique is often inescapably sensuous and beautiful and Dady's painterly drawings avoid the potential heaviness of dense working - instead a pressure seems to have built within the blackened surfaces.
Rhonda Wheatland presented an amusing Persistent Advance, six purplish but luscious semi-geometric paintings and a lengthy wall object edges, which I found the more intriguing work with its varied concerns of scale and order and the almost obsessional incorporation within these frameworks of minor details, alterations and irregularities. It suggests purposeful and highly sophisticated filing systems that you can only dream about with envy.
The Revisited catalogue, a laminated nova-jet print pinned to the wall, documented Amanda Poland's site-specific installation at The Myrtles, Medindie 1995. An ambitious project, in scale and intent, it addressed memory, loss, reality and illusion. The documentation of this work (never exhibited for public viewing) became the installation. I couldn't help but think it would have been more convincing if it was possible to take away one of the catalogues to closely read Alison Main's evocative, odoriferous text thus allowing the exhibition an extended life, and reinforcing the illusion. The chaise longue, underlit amidst a bed of salt (don't look back) suggested the work of Annette Messager. Although arresting, I found Poland's work a little too crowded with associations of artistic tradition and Romanticism, but look forward to her future work.
The numerous works by Helen Stacey, including Cabinet of Revisitation and Icon on Remembrance, were, as outlined in the artist's statement, an attempt to re-view and rediscover her archaeological roots, cultural history, origins, traditions and convictions. Many of the works consisted of found objects, cupboards, photo/text books that were almost diaries of family stories and narratives. An image in the Cupboard of Arcadia Passed of two apples placed upon a farmyard kitchen windowsill, was powerful, and by long extension in the spirit of Gonzales-Torres, dealing with loss, remembrance and things past. However, these delicacies were lost within the proliferation of objects.
Elizabeth Abbott's digitally manipulated images on canvas of a woman in a foetal position, presented with varying degrees of physical interference and damage, called to mind her earlier work dealing with women, invasion, obstetrics and gynaecology.
A decorative plaster drawing that worked successfully on the wooden parquetry floor was presented by Harekrishna Bag. This element of the installation was more powerful than the numerous heads, pseudo-spot-lit-shrine and surrounding 'spiritual' rich paraphernalia – perhaps a searching of his cultural identity, according to the text on the far wall:
"...I know not what I am looking for...". As with Stacey's work, more potency may have been achieved with less information.
The large scale bobbins and cushions, made entirely from plastic bags by Danielle O'Brien, were physically and technically extraordinary. While there was disbelief that all the materials used were plastic bags, the final curious but intriguing comment Greetings from Adelaide still taking things so personally imitated yet pushed beyond the look of decorative floral op shop wall-hangings.
Julia McGuire's ersatz-documentation of an around the world trip consisted of black and white portraits of the artist collaged onto pre-packaged postcards. Had this fusion been physically more discreet I think the illusion could have been more wittily entertaining.
Because of the limitations of space, and the number of Masters' graduates, it is impossibleto address all of the work. For any emerging artist, the realities of continuing a practice becomes a central concern, especially in times of intense economic rationalism. As Paullina Simons suggests in Tully p.484, it is just a matter of hanging in there, if you can handle the heat.
Boomerang smiled. 'Mom taught me that. She said, be...reasonable...and keep on. Sooner or later, they'll give in or lose their temper. Either way you win.'