Foray into music, architecture
RIC SPENCER, The West Australian
September 10, 2010, 11:00 am
Many of the classical arts have been brought under the inquisitive gaze of painting in three shows around town.
Although all using very different approaches, Jarek Wojcik's Story Lines at Gallery East and Kevin Robertson's The Poet's Shooter at Galerie Dusseldorf both infiltrate music and architecture. Douglas Chambers' Goddesses and Other Themes, also at Galerie Dusseldorf, invokes mythology and its theatrical cohort, the tragedy.
Each of these exhibitions uses narrative but in different ways, showing the variety in which a series of works can be posited.
Wojcik's Story Lines creates an ambiguous narrative by painting, quite beautifully, soft and blurred backgrounds, which are interrupted in the foreground by often whimsical but finely painted renditions of musical instruments, boom gates or in one case a small dog. Like Gillian Warden's work, also exhibiting at Gallery East, the constructed paintings offer a type of pantomime, played out in the theatrical sets of the artist's imagination. For me the work is at its best when it builds an inner urban story based on sight, sound and texture, as if illustrating a chronological series of events discovered on a walk.
The painting technique of Wojcik, which also reminded me of Shaun Tan's work, lends itself to this idea of moments caught and remembered successfully. The pieces Lost in Barcelona, Moon Song, Moments Bienheureux, So Quiet and No Name Station piece together well like this. Less interesting is when an object is forced on us, floating upon an unrelated landscape as in 21 Songs - this is too literal a representation of the visuality of music.
At Galerie Dusseldorf Robertson takes another approach to visualising music in The Poet's Shooter: Observations of Architecture and Music. Constructed around two series of work, which as the title suggests, observe architecture and music, The Poet's Shooter is two different series but the two overlap, as a lyrical approach is taken to the architectural renderings and an architectural approach is taken to the drawings of music.
Robertson's WAVES A2D is a collection of drawings brought together as a long, horizontal book. The pages are turned as a form of low-tech animation in the accompanying DVD, which I enjoyed as a somehow real, or old school, approach to listening and developing an awareness of the world around you. The drawings in this case are of, among other things, geometric forms, a cassette (both in working and tangled order) being inserted into a player and a keyboard. All of this makes sense when you consider that Robertson, who is well known in the visual arts for his cityscapes, is also a member of Diode, an experimental indie live electronics band. In The Poet's Shooter the two worlds overlap, as they do at some of Diode's gigs. Meaningful collaboration between Perth's music and visual arts worlds is gaining momentum through artists like Robertson.
For The Poet's Shooter Robertson also gives us images of urban architectural icons, not those necessarily found in architectural museums but those that become owned by a community, that bring to mind a sense of knowing comfort through their recognition. Drawn and painted as if encountered by accident for the first time, Robertson brings a breath of fresh air to often visually neglected built environments. The artist has also spent time painting nightscapes from the upper level of the Central Park building which, when you view the paintings alongside the music animation makes you wonder just what's going on in the city tonight.
In a slightly less indie way but equally longing for mythology, Chambers' Goddesses and Other Themes searches for inspiration among history's plethora of goddess figures. Chambers' lyrical use of paint continues his works fascination with the motif in the landscape, utilising on this occasion a patterned approach to the female figure in our historical stories.
Like his contemporaries Hockney and Kitaj, Chambers' use of colour and line is not only enjoyable, it is essential in understanding life as a construction of cyclical and reciprocal patterns. The figures, though symbolic, always manifest a personal individuality and temperament. Here Chambers taps well into the different stylist periods of the goddess representation. Equally in Goddesses and Other Themes we see the goddess as our own creation but also as a key narrative figure, not only in developing our understanding of nature and the seasons, but in developing our need for a cathartic ethical role. After all mythological characters bare the brunt of our own failures.
Chambers' sometimes demure, sometimes robust goddesses are skilfully worked and the Fauvist-like use of colour, whether it be forming Aphrodite, Gaia, Eve or Blodeuwedd is at times overwhelming. In this sense Chambers' paintings of goddesses are pleasurable but they also manifest a psychological discomfort that their tales, and their place in our socio-history, usually contain.
Jarek Wojcik, Gallery East, North Fremantle, until September 19. Kevin Robertson and Douglas Chambers, at Galerie Dusseldorf, Mosman Park, until September 19.