While many galleries are preparing installations for a mammoth March, there are still plenty of opportunities to indulge in some great art in the Inner North in the week ahead. Headlining Fitzroy’s Brunswick Street Gallery until February 23rd is Tarkine: Ancient, Wild, Threatened, a group piece that features a selection of works from artists who participated in Tarkine In Motion, an annual retreat organized by the Bob Brown Foundation. Bravely venturing into the North Western Tasmania wilderness, this intrepid group of artists renders the natural beauty of the region like never before. An arrangement comprised predominantly of wildlife and nature photography, the exhibition also features several acrylics on canvas, of which Chloe Wolsey’s Moon, Water, Story, Song, a piercingly somber yet dignified portrait of a young Aboriginal man is a highlight. At once majestic and compelling, these pieces collectively function as an important reminder of the splendiferous vistas our country has to offer and the importance of protecting a region still very much endangered by big mining.
At the opposite end of the gallery, Anthony Ziella’s Short Term Memory Loss a tribute to the late, great David Bowie features a noteworthy set of watercolour sketches of the Starman in his various incarnations. The exhibition also includes interactive art piece Post-It Thought Fragments, a floor to ceiling feature wall of fluorescent post-it notes that invites its audience to both take and leave messages. A thought provoking rumination on the increasing amount of fragmented information the modern human brain process every day, the piece is intelligently cast against the backdrop of Bowie, who informed so many of so much and will continue to do so even in death. Upstairs, Melbourne-based artist Freÿa Black’s Passing Place: The Threshold of Edges also impresses. A four-channel video and audio work consisting of separate projections Land, Sea, Sky and projected diegetic sound, the piece was filmed on the Western Isles of Scotland and depicts rhythmic images of intersectionality: where ocean meets sky and where waves lap upon the shore. Depicting images of nature in a constant state of flux, it is primarily concerned with the transient and impermanent nature of space and time and the axis at which these impact art, artist and viewer alike. With Passing Place, Black announces herself as a local artist to watch out for in the future.
Over at Collingwood’s Port Jackson Press, a boutique gallery that doubles as a shop front for affordable, high-quality art prints, Voices: Three identities in Contemporary Printmaking features works by David Fairbairn, Milan Milojevic and Jenny Paterson and runs until February 26. Recipient of the Dobell Drawing Prize (1999), the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize (2002), the Kedumba Drawing Award (2009) and the Mosman Art prize (2012), Fairbairn is truly one of Australia’s most well-respected living portraitists. Featuring a survey of recent drawings, etches and mixed media works Fairbairn’s Portrait of FS No. 2, comprised of acrylic, gouache, pastel and charcoal on paper, is a standout. Drawn, erased and then re-drawn multiple times, Fairbairn’s sketches build upon the remnants of previous attempts, creating a layered effect that captures the vitality of his subject. Fairbairn’s lines infer both somatic and psychic movement, the former an excavation of the intricate and manifold stratums that lie beneath our physiological exteriors and the latter capturing the ever-transitory nature of the space and time that we must all pass through. A psychic topography of sorts, the overlapping lines that occupy the face of Fairbairn’s elderly subject Fiona are also a very literal representation of wrinkles, the material traces of a life substantively lived. It is intricate and manifold details such as this that elevates Fairbairn’s sketches beyond stasis, towards a moving image propelled by personal velocity – a rare and distinctive achievement in the art of portraiture.
At Counihan Gallery, a compact space tucked away on the first level of Brunswick Town Hall, also be sure the check out their Unhidden Exhibition featured in Gallery 1 until March 5. Curated by Kali Michailidis, the exhibition features artists Martina Copely, Nickk Hertzog, Kouichi Okamoto, Lynette Smith, Naomi Troski and Elke Varga whose works offer responses to the complex global network of communication and transmission of information in the digital age. Upon entering the exhibit one is immediately confronted with Troski’s Colour of our actions, a sculpture that sits at the very heart of the gallery. An orbicular tangle of wires that hangs suspended from the ceiling and encasing a moldering slab sandstone (the work’s only naturally occurring element) it is illuminated by florid, neon tube lamps from both ends. An evocation of the increasingly tenuous link between the natural and technological, the piece reflects the uneasiness of a world in transition. A thought-provoking construct, it strikes one that these cables have the capacity to convey more information than any other object throughout human history and so facilitate our digitalised lives on a daily basis. That said, they are also not so that dissimilar to the ‘nonpareil structures’ of history. Like the Colosseum, for which the sandstone stands as microcosm, these plastic cords will also inevitably fall into decay and dereliction in the wake of further industrial advancements, perhaps frighteningly sooner than we may think.
Only showing for a limited time, each of these shows present thought-provoking works of the highest caliber, that are sure to reward your time, patience and curiosity.