Brisbane Galleries: Glenn Morgan/Raquel Ormella/Madeleine Kelly

Global Warming Painting, Black & White Drawings: Glenn Morgan Woolloongabba Gallery, Brisbane 3–28 September 2013; New Constellation: Raquel Ormella, Milani Gallery 12 September – 28 October 2013; The Surface of Language: Madeleine Kelly Webb Gallery, Queensland College of Art 10–21 September 2013.

The benefit of visiting a few galleries at once is that, almost subconsciously, you draw ties between the exhibitions and even the institutions. The following review traces three recent exhibitions all within walking distance in Brisbane. The Woolloongabba Art Gallery boasts three gallery spaces each of which are intimate in size which gives the impression of getting “up close and personal” with the works on display. This worked in Glenn Morgan’s favour with his exhibition Global Warming Painting, Black & White Drawings. Morgan draws on his own experience and human drama, making works such as Uncle Jack’s Kitchen and The Night We Were Called Into The Hospital at 4:00am. Ba Ba Pulled Through very immediate. The familiarity felt throughout the whole exhibition comes from a naive style of drawing, borrowing from cartoons and building up layers in a sensitive way. Morgan ties his intimate stories to global issues, exploring them through the ordinary language of the everyday. His ten-metre-long Global Warming painting combines elements of humour, parody and an unpretentious openness. This colourful, panoramic narrative portrays shifting points of view that engage the viewer for the entire length of the work.

A few blocks down is Milani Gallery where the open exhibiting space gives breathing room to the works on show. Its sleek contemporary interior provided the perfect foil for Raquel Ormella’s exhibition New Constellation. Ormella’s practice explores the relationship between humans and the natural environment. With a particular focus on urban expansion and forest activism, she has consistently sought to emphasise the connectedness between the two. This new exhibition includes different flags that have been altered to reveal text and overlapping patterns. Ormella used incense sticks as a small, direct source of heat, to burn delicate holes into the tactile nylon flags. She plays with elements of propaganda, signage, humour and communication to reveal issues of nationalism. Overlapping different flags with alternating patterns and text keeps viewers interested in both the concepts and the details presented in the works.

Further down towards South Bank the Webb Centre Gallery at the Queensland College of Art showcased the work of Madeleine Kelly in an exhibition titled The Surface of Language. With a range of mediums including painting, rocks inscribed with text and collages assembled from a range of collected items, Kelly reflects on the interconnectivity between seemingly inadequate objects, humans and the fragmentation of home. Drawing on inspiration from early German fairytales, biology, world events and personal history, Kelly’s paintings provide whimsical, dreamlike images of landscapes, and are spaced around the room at differing heights. This method of hanging provides constant interruptions between works where interconnections are invited in terms of an almost rhythmical pattern of viewing.

The collections of rocks displayed all include fault lines of quartz that act as a suggestion of objects and representations of visual speech. In this circumstance, Kelly works not only as an artist, but also as curator of her exhibition. With an eclectic mix of subjects and mediums, she creates constant dialogue that invites viewers to understand each individual work in conversation with the other works displayed.

While all three galleries provided different viewing experiences, conceptual threads that include issues of nationalism and cultural identity, politics in the environment, the power of language and strongly autobiographical themes weave between them. Gallery-hopping can be a great experience through which to weave such comparisons, and in Brisbane it’s still possible to take the time to check out a few of these smaller, but important, galleries.

Hayley McFarlane studies at the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, and previously worked at Gympie Regional Gallery.

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