In Our Imaginations

Artist Critique, Artwork Crtique, Blogs, Exhibition Critiques, Exhibitions

A Collaborative Exhibition at Track Gallery
47 Miller Crescent, Mount Waverley, Victoria

Barbra Vernon and Georgia Brain have collaborated to produce a creative and engaging exhibition at this intimate and highly suitable gallery space. The exhibition was officially opened by State MP for Mount Waverley Matt Fregon in a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Fregon appeared genuinely supportive of the efforts put in by both artists, and the need for local artists in the arts world, as it is these artists that often introduce the public to visual art in general, reinforcing their place in Australia’ culture. It is also the locality of such exhibitions outside the much touted cultural centres such as Melbourne CBD that make them important for local residents and their families to attend and enjoy.

What I noticed at this exhibition was how much both artists enjoy using found and natural materials in the creation of their artworks, combing sculptural and painting methods to invite viewers to explore colour, form and pattern. The colours are always vivid and complementary, adding to the feeling of “being right” from a visual artist’s perspective, and the imaginative use of materials build stories that any viewer would enjoy, making each artwork a wonderful asset for any home owner wanting a unique and beautiful piece of art to grace a feature wall. Not to be overlooked were also the imaginative craft pieces that included a beautifully made baby book, and a stunning floor lamp that I imagined gracing the bedroom of a little girl who loves pink, and a host of other items. All available to purchase at what I consider are very reasonable prices.

About the artists

Georgia was introduced to her current methods of art-making later in life, but that hasn’t deterred her from delving into a variety of materials and whilst her style is still developing, it was clear to me that she is well on her way, with some very distinctive pieces in this show. As she has said, “art is not afraid”, and this attitude is clearly seen in her choice of materials.

Barbra has been experimenting with mixed media for about five years, with previous experience as a seamstress and craftsperson in the performing arts sector. Her first solo was in 2019 and she has contributed to several group shows around Melbourne. Barbra says “I see colour in everything, I feel colour, and if I listen hard enough I can almost hear what the colour is trying to say,” indicating her total engagement with her materials and mediums.

As an artist and arts writer, I enjoy seeing women artists of any age exploring their creativity in the visual arts, proving that gender and age are no indicators of talent, dedication, or ability to make beautiful art that can engage and delight any viewer. What I know, is that putting your art out into the public sphere is, in a way, an act of bravery, because each piece holds a little of each artist’s heart and soul. So, while not many of us can afford to purchase a painting by a famous artist, something that would be found in a major public gallery, it behoves us to remember that every artist, even the very rich and famous, started somewhere small and intimate just as Barbra and Georgia have done. So when you find yourself in front of a lovely artwork made by a local artist, if it “speaks” to you, if you can imagine it in your home, on your walls, talk to the artist if you can, find out the story behind the art and the artist’s journey in making it and support Australian art art at the “grass-roots” level. Our living artists need your support so why not?

In Our Imaginations is open this week from June 4th to 12th (excluding Mondays and Tuesdays) from 11am-4pm weekdays and Sundays, and 11am-6pm Saturdays

A Little Birdie Told Me

Artist Critique, Artwork Crtique, Commentary, Exhibition Critiques, Exhibitions, Uncategorized

This week at the Malvern Art Society gallery

1297-1299 High Street, Malvern. Victoria

Rhonda Owen

It was my pleasure last night to attend the opening of Rhonda Owen’s solo exhibition at the Malvern Art Society gallery. Rhonda has a lifelong passion for all things feathers and furred, which is obvious in her beautifully detailed paintings.

Rhonda draws her inspiration from her photography and en plein air sketches of wildlife and domestic animals from around the world. As I spoke with her, she described how she uses her images for inspiration to create artworks with unique compositions by taking only the idea and rearranging her animals to reflect their characters and personalities. As an emerging artist, it is not always obvious to see a clear style, but this is not the case with Rhonda’s work. She has definitely indicated in this prolific exhibit of paintings that she is on track to an identifiable look that engages viewers. On close inspection of her work, another important aspect is the care she takes to ensure that the anatomy and features of every creature is correct to the smallest detail, which if you know a lot about a particular animal, makes her work so much more appealing.

Rhonda’s exhibition is only on this weekend, May 27th to 29th 2022, so I urge animal and art lovers to attend to check out, and purchase a piece to enhance your home or office. Artworks like these also make wonderful gifts if you know someone who has a passion for the world’s wild animals.

Order and Beauty

Artist Critique, Blogs, Commentary, Exhibition Critiques, Exhibitions

Isaac Newton once asked “Whence arises all that order and beauty we see in the world?” Something that has been debated by philosophers and artists for generations. Each, in their own way finds various ways to interpret and express their understanding of beauty, what it is, and why it is that that we all see it so differently. Visual artists in particular have historcially expressed beauty as it is seen in the physical world around them, but this interpretation deals mainly with the phsyical manifestions around us, and how the artist’s perspective alters that “reality” creatively.

As art entered the 20th century, artists such as the Surrealists searched for what lay under the surface of our physical reality, and how the human mind and creative energy could be brought into the visual realm. The ephemral and the illusive, the spiritual or cognitive all became expressions of the creative’s output bringing viewers into a “new reality” where the laws of physics often gave way to those of the imagination.

Artist Diane Williamson’s art takes the familiar world around us and looks further, looking both inward and beyond the physical to that “something more” that the Surrealists explored. Her art is inspired by music and a concept of an eternal reality, similar to the thoughts of Plato who posited our physical existance and the objects of our endeavours as flawed copies of archetypes of eternal perfection that we aim for but can never fully achieve. Thus, her work takes viewers on journeys of exploration and discovery as the tempo and notes of music, and the symbolism of the physical and spiritual are brought together using the medium of paint.

Diane has been painting for over 20 years after working and supporting her family as a single parent. Her husband John, also a painter of a different genre encouraged her to begin exhibiting after they met via a newspaper dating service. It was the meeting of like-minded souls. John paints in a more traditional “realist” style, reflecting (literally) the beauty of the landscape and the lifeblood of water within it. Both Diane and John have as a goal, a singlular ambition of bringing beauty into the lives of the viewers of their works, and it is interesting how they approach it from such different perspectives.

Diane’s spirituality comes alive in her most recent work where she looks beyond the physical representation of the environment we live in on the Mornington Peninsula, by bring the ethereal nature of music into the “eternal” of our existance and our part in the cycles of the universe. As Diane says “For me, art is about Love and about looking beyond the outward physical sense of things … to see the spiritual qualities that these things symbolise in order to see added meaning, as material life without spiritual depth is meaningless to me. Our mental environment affects our physical environment so it’s essential to look beyond the outward physical sense of things towards ideas instead”.

Looking into the work by each of these artists creates invitations to explore and find the little “notes” and highlights that help the viewer to build a unique story, personal and changing as new aspects reveal themselves. The opportunity to listen to the motivation and passion behind each painting also frames a special and unique moment that many art enthusiasts miss out on when buying online or from a commercial gallery, making the Peninsula Studio Trail open studios event that much more special.

John and Diane are currently exhibiting their works as part of the Weekend Open Studios event. After its completion art collectors, buyers and patrons are most welcome to book viewings from 10am to 5pm most days. To make an appointment to visit follow the contact details below.

Phone: 0416 126 962



Consider the Source

Artist Critique, Blogs, Commentary, Exhibition Critiques

Despite my desire to move on to another topic this month, the controversy over Hunter Biden’s artworks continues. What prompted me to address it again was the remark by Berlin-based art dealer Georges Bergès organiser of Hunter Biden’s debut exhibition, who said that Biden’s work would make him “a great artist” of the 21st century. As a practising painter and art academic, I found this statement incredulous and maddening, as well as financially self-serving on his part.

I still have doubts and concerns regarding the “emerging artist” status of Biden, and his “discovery” and subsequent exhibition and sale of his work for such high prices. Whether Biden has been painting most of his life or not, my concern lies with the fact that there are many emerging artists, and struggling professional artists, especially during the COVID pandemic, who have never made such high prices or been so well represented. Many are living under the poverty line despite dedicating years to their profession, having formal qualifications, and obvious expertise in their field. So, what is the difference? I would argue that it is not so much what an artist can do, the struggles they have overcome, or how well they do what they do, but who they know or are related to.

I stand by my previous remarks that Biden’s work is in my opinion, not bad art, and in the examples I have seen, not unlike the work produced by many art students at TAFEs and universities. What I still contend is that there has to be more to the underlying reasons for the prices being asked, and the fact the art is selling for that much, for an “emerging artist”.

Bergès organiser of Hunter Biden’s debut exhibition in the gallery that he owns states that Biden “worked at this and that” spending 20% of his time painting, which considering his previous extremely high salary, is more than most if not nearly all people get for doing a bit of “temp work”. He then goes on to say that he was in a cheap motel as an addict, which as the son of a then senator, seems strange, and leads me to ask how he continued painting whilst under those circumstances.

More incredulous is the following statement made by Bergés, “In the long-term, I’m thinking about museum acquisitions and who I’m going to target, because —  mark my words — I believe that he’s going to be considered a great artist of this century. His father will be known, of course, as a US president, but most importantly as the father of a great artist.” Firstly, in response to this statement, consider the source, because as Biden’s manager and curator/gallery owner, a hefty amount goes to this person out of each sale, so promotion, fuelled by controversy (often used by contemporary artists and their managers and curators) fills his pockets. Secondly, we are only in the early years of this century, so a little early to speculate on who will be remembered as a “great artist”, as these things tend to rely on future art historians. Lastly, I will reiterate my objection to an “emerging artist” with influential contacts being touted as an historically significant great artist and linking that with astronomically high sale prices. 

This is all underpinned by what the Art Newspaper says about the turnout, saying “Several outlets have also reported that turnout to the show has been dismal so far” and that few collectors were likely to brave the crowds of paparazzi in front of the gallery, especially considering that buyers are remaining anonymous. Rolling Stone has also voiced ethics concerns in this regard, confirming that the art market is not regulated enough to prevent or even monitor the prospect of buyers expecting “favours” from the White House after purchasing Biden’s work.

The attention that this is getting from major news outlets, no matter the result, I worry, is that it will only do what controversy has done for artists in the past, and that is to raise more interest, and increase sales, even if they are outrageously priced. This can only take attention away from artists who don’t have the connections and sway that Biden has in the media, who may continue to be ignored because they can’t break into the high end of the market.

This is not only of concern to the American and other overseas art markets, but to Australia as well. This is because as long as controversy and connections can make or break an artist’s career we will never have open and fair opportunities for them to be successful, or at least have a reasonable standard of living based on a remunerative arts practice, that makes significant contributions to our culture and appreciation of art long term.


A different direction for Australian landscape painting

Artist Critique, Artwork Crtique, Blogs

Lessons from Australian Impressionism taking to lines and abstract application

Anyone looking at this artist’s work roughly a decade ago, would have predcited a safe journey through the well-trodden path of traditional Australian Impressionist painting. This is not to say that it doesn’t have a place in contemporary Australia, because the number of artists inspired by this genre proves that there is a market for paintings produced usng the same topics and methods as they were over a century ago.

The regular high profile exhibitions at galleries like the NGV in Melbourne also prove that the public wants to see such works, especially by the high profile artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There is a however coming though, and that is that whilst an artist may be drawn to and inspired by the Heidelberg School artists and their often overlook peers (another blog about that some other time), there is more than emulating that can be used as homage and inspiration.

As a recent example, the artist in question (who shall remain nameless for this story) has taken lessons from the Australian and French Impressionists and gradually worked their way from emulating, to homaging, to an exploration of the “bare bones” of the Australian landscape, using what they have learnt to underpin their new work, but not govern it. I will give an example. The palette is similar but not copied from various women Impressionist artists, the topic of the Australian landscape is the same, but these and other methods are taken in a new direction, to look under the surface and explore what it is that draws a viewer’s eye into and around a painting.

Rather than form and familiar shapes, abstract lines using tone, temperature and understanding of colour theory to describe in a new way the contours that make up a scene. Not like Fred Williams exactly, but also inspired by his reduction of the landscape, and not quite like John Wolseley who uses line, colour and form along with abstract washes of paint, this artist has endeavoured to take her art from the familiar to the unknown in an effort to “see” the land and her art from a new perspective.

In these early steps, the work can easily be criticised for a certain amount of hesitancy and lack of distinct direction, but I consider that normal as any artist takes on experimental and challenging forms of expressing their aesthetic sensibilities. I will, therefore, leave it open for others to praise or refute as they see fit, with my final thought that the direction taken by this artist is challenging and unique, indicating what I think is lost in a lot of Postmodernist visual art, a degree of originality.