Brown Booze

Art Life , Reviews Jun 07, 2004 No Comments

There’s something incredibly desperate in that frozen moment when you think taking a schooner glass home from the pub is a “good idea”. It’s not like we don’t have enough glasses at home and hell, if we want more beer in one swig than we can fit in a glass, we can always dispense with the intermediary vessel and go straight to the bottle, right? But no, we open the cupboard and there is a middy glass from somewhere, a pony and a schooner from the Green Park or a pint glass from the Forresters, a blue anodized serving tray from god knows where. It’s a ghastly feeling, waking up in the morning with the schooner glass sitting there next to the bed smelling like old beer and you think, our lives have come to this?

There’s a show on at Francis Baker-Smith until June 19 that could serve as a timely warning for all incipient alcoholics and a wise admonition for the entire Biennale season. It’s called Girls Are Ugly When They Drink by the collaborative team Curious Little Beast but who are better known to their parents as Katherine Danks and Zoë Sadokieski. They have taken getting pissed as their theme for a series of drawings they’ve done on brown paper bags, the kind that you get from bottle shops for you bottles of wine or long necks, and bigger pieces of paper you could maybe use for wrapping up broken glass. We also compliment the artists and the gallery on supplying a decent drop at the opening and their consistent policy of affordable bar prices.

The art is cheap too. One ‘long neck’ is $35, a ‘double longy’ will set you back $40 and a drawing done on a bigger piece of paper goes for $160. And what very handsome pictures they are – girls in the nude balancing over a toilet bowls, other’s looking mighty tipsy and one drawing has a sequence where the subject goes from standing to crawling in three positions. Curious Little Beast say they design and produce books and are illustrators, and you can see it in the drawings – even when they are messy they are polite.

You could easily be forgiven for thinking the pictures are a piss-take on the whole Julian Ashton school of la-de-dah pencil drawings or are a collection of faux-girly scribblings like they were directed by Sophia Coppola with a soundtrack by Air – but in conjunction with the subject, there’s something very forceful about them. Anyone who has tied on one too many will recognise the abject pleasure in the drawings, a guilty reminder that girls might be ugly when they drink, but they’re kind of cute too. Booze says “Hi! I’m easy!” and then the hangover announces, like finger nails down a blackboard, “CONSEQUENCES!”

Curious Little Beast also supply a take-away option if you don’t have money for pictures- a free pamphlet that pulls together all the wisdom they’ve gained from their nights on the tiles:

Things we have brought home from the pub instead of men:

1 x “Honk for Public education” protest banner

7 x bruises from unidentified falls

1 x golf ball

19 x drink coasters with to-do list scribble

2 x white picture frames

1 x car door

3 x buckets of tears

6 x schooner glasses, hidden in handbags

0 x answers

In the front rooms of Francis Baker-Smith is a show by Nigel Milsom called Rollercoaster. Looking at this exhibition we were reminded of the words of Keith Richards on Mick Jagger where he said something like “he’s the nicest bunch of blokes you’re likely to meet.” Milsom seems equally schizophrenic in this collection of paintings that range from coloured square canvases to another with splattered eggs on a purple background, a scrappy roller coaster painted on plywood and yet another with two black frames with the words BIG BLACK painted on top in white. Now, we like any art that name checks quintessential post punk/industrial US rock bands, but scanning the work in this show made us more than a little confused.

There’s a visual appeal in these paintings and we like the fact that Mislom doesn’t seem afraid to ignore all the usual painterly concerns like texture, surface and design for an aesthetic that seems rude and willful. If you decide to go against the rules – and that’s what they’re there for – you have to have an ace up your sleeve. Milsom’s is colour – he knows how to combine his colours in ways that are immediately attractive and work well with the figurative and illustrative elements of the pictures.

Gallery Wren’s web site hasn’t been updated since January and the only pics of Milsom’s work we could find are from his solo MFA show at COFA’s Kudos Gallery – in 2003 – but you can kind of see what we mean. As we did a second and then a third turn around the gallery’s front rooms, the visual appeal we felt when we walked in started to wear off. He’s got chutzpah but he doesn’t have a lot else just yet. If you’re going to be throwaway, be truly throwaway, if you’re going to be nasty, get down on your belly and slither like a snake.

Andrew Frost

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