It was something of a relief to discover that Gow Langsford Gallery has remained open long enough for Matthys Gerber to have his show there. We felt bad for him and the rest of the former Sarah Cottier Gallery stable after that gallery closed a year ago but many of the artists have found new galleries while some have not – it’s a cruel art world out there – and it was good to know that Gerber had a new home. Then Gow Langsford announced they were closing and Art Life readers began to speculate whether it was Gerber who was the Jonah, but it’s hard to imagine that Gerber will have trouble because his art is so effortlessly cool.
The new show of Gerber’s is called Elasticum and it’s on until December 9. Perhaps one of the most ironic aspects of this artist’s work is how good it looks in reproduction. His mad use of geometric abstraction, crazed depth perceptions and layers of patterning seem tailor made for magazines and CD covers and some of the work in this show verges on Euro-Moderne design, a sort of post war European abstraction that meets Miffy in Ikea’s lighting section for a fight (and Miffy wins).
The epitome of this approach is Animal Magnet, a large painting of globular colours, reds and yellows and four speakers emitting music by Rik Rue, that stalwart of Sydney’s underground avant garde music scene, and it’s all burps and pops in a crazy musique concrete stylee. Measuring 1700 x 1700 x 110 mm. the work commands the room. Green Light features receding lines that are like a hypnotist’s wheel and Men’s Wing does a similar trick with layers and depths and monstrous black and white tentacles that reach out of the work. In an altered state of mind this kind of work could be damaging, so we advise to take only in the company of friends.
Gerber’s work is pretty entertaining and we like the fact that it could only have been achieved through a very deliberate series of choices. You can see that Gerber is an intelligent artist – there’s nothing hit or miss here – but the problem we have, however, is that Gerber’s painting skills have always appeared to us be rather rudimentary. He has a classy eye for composition and colour and makes all the wrong choices beautifully, it’s just a pity that the works never looks as good in real life as they do in reproduction. The lines seem too hesitant and the application of the paint is far too drab for our taste – if he got some art students in or employ some sign writers to get those surfaces glossy and hard edged, Gerber would probably rule the world. There is one work in this show that seems to say that Gerber can make that kind of art if he wanted to and it’s called Tight and Shiny. We think there might be a message there.