Australian Fine Artist

Melbourne Now 2014

Exhibition of the Arts by the NGV

Sublime to the Rediculous
(A personal opinion – without prejudice)

The Melbourne Now Exhibition this year was held over the two galleries of the NGV in the city. As part of our training for Visual Arts at Chisholm, we spent the day at both venues to look at, discuss and evaluate the works on display and how we relate to them as emerging artists.

Since the students from the Diploma and Advanced Diploma courses range in age from late teens through to quite mature adults, the variety of material was bound to have something in there for nearly everyone. The trick is of course, getting around the two galleries in enough time to see everything  as well as taking time to stop and appreciate any particular item that might capture our attention. After all the idea is for us not to just browse or skip past, but to analyse and think about our reactions.

Having tutors with a good grounding in the arts scene in Australia is a bonus when doing this. At the Potter centre we were introduced to the exhibition by Philip Faulks. Philip has a creative and current arts practice, keeps up to date on what’s happening in the arts and also has a solid education in the arts. He gave us tips on various artists to look out for and why, making the process in that building easier.

In the St Kilda Road building, David Salter, tutor in Business Studies, Drawing, Arts Therapy and a previous regional gallery director introduced that part of the exhibition. David also has a deep grounding in the arts and very insightful comments. We talked about several of the works on display and how our reactions to such exhibitions inform us on our own sensibilities and possible directions we can head with our own work.

The idea behind the title and contents of the Melbourne Now Exhibition was to showcase the huge variety of cultures and creativity we have now compared to possibly twenty or thirty years ago. As a way of reaching and connecting with a wider audience I can see why this would work, even though personally as an artist, a lot of the pieces on display didn’t hold much appeal for me.

When confronted with an event like this I tend to return to my recently established practice of finding one or two positive things I can take away. I have chosen the two stand out pieces which were both in the Potter Centre.

  1. Possum Skin Cloak – Lorraine Connelly Nothey.
    A wall construction of rusty barbed wire and corrugated iron.
    This large wall piece even though sounding strange by using what farmers would normally toss, was beautifully designed. It flowed and had form, the shadows on the wall from the bent and circling wire made it more interesting and it captured my attention from the entrance.
  2. Methexical Countryscape – Brian Martin.
    Charcoal on paper. These very large pieces were made up of smaller pieces of paper making up one large scene. The bush settings were immediately attractive to me and the flowing mark making from one sheet of paper to the next pulled each drawing together creating a “whole” impression. The intimate nature of the work was in opposition to the large size, but still invited me in to investigate what was going on.
  3. A variety of works by historic artists such as George Stubbs included in a few of the installations

A lot of work at this exhibition was contemporary and “bleeding edge”. The video installations were a bit over the top for some of us, as they were not unlike advertising material, going for that 30 second grab before they lost your attention. A bit too much in your face for my liking as I have left that part of my life behind. If video and multi media is to be a new direction in art, I personally would like to see it taking the best of what has gone before and giving it a fine art edge rather than that of a 30 second ad on TV. I feel that there is a way to create multi media and video that has the same effect as looking at a painting by a master artist where you look at it and sigh “oh wow” rather than gasping “oh Sh$t”. That especially goes for the room with the interactive sound in the NGV which is so loud I feel that OH&S laws are being broken. (keep your small kids out of that one)

Some of the other installations were frankly for me and some others I spoke to, very uninteresting and some even poorly done. Considering that many of the artists represented had BAs, Honours, or even Doctorates, the standard of some pieces had us shaking our heads.

To restore my inner balance at the end of the exhibition I went off to the Impressionists, 18th-20th Century painting exhibitions and to the newly installed Antiquities sections. There I drank in the beauty and masterful techniques from what is clearly becoming my kind of art. My reward to self for going through the process of investigation and analysis in the Melbourne Now Exhibition. Well worth a visit but for me… for the most part, not my kind of art.

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