Asked recently how he was spending his time during lockdown, Ben Quilty said he was working on a massive painting entitled 2020 ‘which is about the end of humanity as we know it and that is screaming off the wall.’
It depicts ‘a single figure lying on a table, a self-portrait about the way I feel, the way world politics is derailing a healthy future.’*
Screaming off the wall, 2020 reveals how the Black Summer fires and Coronavirus – back-to-back disasters – impacted on his making of one painting, turning what had begun as ‘notes on chaos’ into a monstrous and powerful portrayal of anger and suffering.
Watch the video of Ben Quilty in the studio with 2020 via YouTube.
*Nick Galvin, Kerrie O’Brien and Chloe Wolifson, Portraits of the artists in Isolation, The Sydney Morning Herald, May 29, 2020.
Benjamin Armstrong has eschewed paint for ink in a number of his works over the years. His first exhibition at Tolarno Galleries in 2007 included sets of linocuts printed in metallic pigments on hand dyed paper, framed under etched glass. A few years later, he showed Chinese ink and watercolour pictures.
Now there are large linocuts printed onto stretched polyester and his studio doubles as a showroom for this online exhibition. Under the Southern Sky comprises eight works. The images, as Quentin Sprague observes in his catalogue essay: Contact Images, are “Australian in character… not the quasi-mythical construction embodied by notions of ‘mateship’ and a ‘fair go’, but the more foundational character imparted upon us by this country’s history, by the shockwaves of colonisation.”
The compositions are partly inspired by tales of first contact – in particular, Bruce Pascoe’s story telling in Cape Otway: Coast of Secrets (co-authored with Lyn Harwood in 1997). Delving into the past, Benjamin Armstrong, in this powerful and captivating series, offers his imaginative take on the story of ‘first contact.’ It’s a very distinctive reading of cross-cultural junctures that leads into highly nuanced works. Chameleon pigments shift and change like shot silk; colours alter miraculously as light plays over their surfaces. “This is history as magic realism.”
Image: Benjamin Armstrong Inception I 2020. Linocut, pigments & binder on polyester, 133 x 102 x 3.5 cm
“We should remind ourselves, from time to time, that despite what goes on in the world, the best in art always recommends the truth and its sometimes complex and ambiguous nature. As Plato said ‘beauty is the splendor of truth.’ ” – Bill Henson, 1 May 2020
Visit the online viewing space to see three new works from Bill Henson.
Image: Bill Henson Untitled 2010-20 RC SH47 N32C (2010–20), archival inkjet pigment print, 127 x 180 cm (paper size)
Our online program continues with a new feature highlighting the distinctive voice of Amos Gebhardt and focusing on one project: Evanescence an expansive, ambitious video originally shown at the 2018 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Divided Worlds at Art Gallery of South Australia, and a photography series. These works are available for the first time. Click here for all the details, online until 28 May 2020.
“…while our eyes are trained to focus on the human form, sustained viewing of ‘Evanescence’ reveals an anti-hierarchical treatment of the bodies and the landscapes. The human forms are reduced in the composition, a tactic that disrupts the Anthropocentric belief in our significance. How small we are against the immensity of time, and of the natural world.” – Joanna Kitto, Associate Curator at Samstag Museum.
Image: Amos Gebhardt Evanescence 2018, 4 channel, 4K video installation with multi-channel sound, 34 minutes (loop). Installation shot by Saul Steed, courtesy 2018 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Divided Worlds, Art Gallery of South Australia.
Known for her luminous photographs, some made with a camera and some without (and some made with a combination of the two), Justine Varga premieres a new body of work available to view online in the Tolarno Galleries Viewing Space until 9 May.
Tachisme ruptures any clear distinction between photography and painting. The negatives from which these photographs derive were smeared and stained with pigment during their long exposures. When these negatives are then printed from, at large-scale in the darkroom, the latent inscriptions are revealed to intermingle with the distinctive signature of the artist’s fingertips, a trace of touching that is generally forbidden in the production of photographs.
Justine Varga has always seen her photography in these terms, as a drawing with light, or more literally as a light-sensitive substrate on which she makes marks or allows the world to leave its own marks. These photographs are therefore the making visible of an art practice that is at once physical and chemical, autobiographical and contingent, painterly and photographic. In doing so, Tachisme asks viewers to reflect on the activity of decipherment in relation to photographs, making this exhibition a critical rumination on inscription, meaning and knowledge.
…an art that is abject and yet strangely alluring. Infectious in every sense of the word, once seen, Justine Varga’s photographs are stains that cannot be removed from the mind’s eye, and for that very reason powerfully embody the anxieties and uncertainties that pervade our present moment. – Andrés Mario Zervigón, Professor of the History of Photography at Rutgers University, USA.
Read more about Justine Varga in the Issue 49 Artist Profile cover story in 2019.
Image: Justine Varga Visage (2018-19). Chromogenic photograph, 146.2 x 111.5 cm (image size) / 161.2 x 122.5 cm (image including borders), edition of 5 + 2 AP
On view from 29 February at Art Gallery of South Australia is the 2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres curated by Leigh Robb.
Click here to view available Brent Harris works from Monster Theatres.
The exhibition features a large body of work by Brent Harris, including ten of Harris’ iconic Grotesquerie paintings and premiering several new paintings and prints including more (pictured).
Leigh Robb says, ‘Monsters ask us to interrogate our relationships with each other, the environment and technology. They force us to question our empathy towards difference across race, gender, sexuality and spirituality’.
2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres, 29 February – 8 June 2020. [Temporarily closed, check for updates].
Image: Brent Harris more 2019, oil on linen , 244 x 175 cm
#spreadartnotviruses is a creative campaign by Charlie Xiao, collector, curator and instigator, in response to the impact of coronavirus COVID-19.
Originally from Beijing, China, in September 2019 the now Melbourne-based Xiao acquired Colony – the whole-of-gallery sculpture installation of viruses and bacteria by Christopher Langton, with plans to exhibit the work in China.
Through Colony, Xiao met Theodore Wohng, the founder of ZOME AR, whose office is just metres from Tolarno Galleries on Melbourne’s Exhibition Street. In collaboration with Wohng and Langton, Xiao has now instigated #spreadartnotviruses as an open invitation to artists, writers and other creative minds to contribute to the movement online via Instagram and ZOME AR.
Inspired by the eerily prescient Colony – a hyperreal manifestation of Christopher Langton’s own experiences of life-threatening disease and infection – #spreadartnotviruses intends to show solidarity with those affected in Wuhan and around the world.
Together, artists can support those who are affected by the virus and turn the negative experiences into something positive.
Read more on the #spreadartnotviruses project from March 2020 in:
Tolarno Galleries is pleased to announce participation in Melbourne Design Week 2020, an initiative of the Victorian Government in collaboration with the National Gallery of Victoria, 12 – 22 March 2020.
A&A is the collaboration of two practitioners from completely different disciplines and cultures: Australian industrial designer Adam Goodrum (Rigg Design Prize winner 2015) and straw marquetry artisan Arthur Seigneur, a French émigré and one of an estimated 25 practitioners globally who maintain the 17th Century practice of straw marquetry.
A&A Exquisite Corpse / Cadavre Exquis is their debut solo exhibition premiering three new unique pieces: Talleo, a tallboy; Archant, a console; and Longbow, a credenza.
‘Exquisite Corpse’, the Surrealist parlour game, describes A&A’s process: Goodrum initiates the shape and pattern, and Seigneur finishes the works with hand-dyed straw in custom hues, and labour-intensive by-hand marquetry technique.
Read more at Wallpaper* magazine here and here, Australian Financial Review magazine, Art Guide, The Design Files, Vogue Living, Australian Design Review and AFR Life & Leisure. Not to mention Russian Architecture Digest and Newstrotteur France!
Exquisite Corpse / Cadavre Exquis is on view from 12–27 March 2020, by appointment.
Tolarno Galleries will host a special lunchtime talk by Ben Quilty entitled The Ferals from 12.30pm-1.30pm Wednesday 19 February 2020.
Quilty will discuss his latest body of work, 150 Years, with particular focus on the major new multi-panel work 150 Year, Rorschach.
Ben Quilty 150 Years exhibition is on view at Tolarno Galleries until 29 February 2020.
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org to register your attendance.
We are pleased to announce that between 1pm and 2pm, prior to the 150 Years exhibition opening on Saturday 8 February, Ben Quilty will be available for a book signing in the gallery.
Neighbourhood Books will be selling copies of the recent hardback book, Ben Quilty, celebrating two decades of his work.
Read more about the exhibition in The Age.
Through Quilty’s ominous and heterogeneous approach in 150 Years each work invites us to participate in a critical discussion. The same Quilty who explored the spiritual hollowness of contemporary masculinity in paintings of passed-out mates is present here, yet these themes are refracted through the decades since, through experience, a global and pervasive uncertainty, and a tangible level of disillusionment. In an age of authoritarian revival, Quilty’s decades-long interrogation of masculinity is gaining momentum. – Milena Stojanovska
Ben Quilty 150 Years is on view 8 – 29 February 2020.