Light of Day

Uncategorized Oct 19, 2004 No Comments

Day Street has to be the most inaccessible street in Sydney right now. With the cross city tunnel tearing up the tarmac and plastic bollards all over the place, not to mention all the one way streets and road closures, getting to Mori Gallery is a major achievement. Finding a parking spot with a broken ticket machine made us feel like parking geniuses and on our stroll down to the gallery we strutted like cock o’ the walks.

One thing that hasn’t changed at Mori is the feeling that, once inside the door, you are entering a cave. Perhaps it’s the fact that the gallery is in a building at the bottom of a hill, or that the first gallery is very dark, or that Stephen Mori looks like Gimli The Dwarf, but going into Mori Gallery always feels like we’re entering an art cave. What treasures will we find? What gems await us?

Until October 23 is a 10 person group show featuring Danielle Freakley, Robert Pulie, Lara O’Reilly, Frances Peck, Ben Rowett, Dean Sewell, Craig Waddell, Marcela Ordonez, Simon Blau and Leah McPherson.

There’s no indication of who curated the show or whether this is a come-one-come-all affair but considering this is in a commercial space, we have to say we thought the installation and the selection of artists was particularly slap dash. With the focus of a commercial gallery (and its attendant audience), it does no one any favours to just throw a bunch of stuff together and hope for the best.

Mori Gallery has always had a relaxed attitude to this kind of show, but you would be hard pressed to recognise the work here as a group show in a commercial gallery as opposed to something you might see at an artist run space. That’s not to say that there isn’t good work in this show – there is – it’s just pushing things into corners and putting stuff up on walls does little to maximize the impact of Mori Gallery’s wide open white walls and high ceilings.

So what’s the beef? Craig Waddell’s installation combines some eye watering sculptures of dried paint blobs and paintings that look like an unholy alliance between Martin Kippenberger and Frank Auerbach in an installation work that is confused and colourful but screaming out for more space and more sympathetic lighting.

Similarly Frances Peck’s lead figurine play ground in the diagonally opposite corner needs breathing space while Simon Blau’s rather lovely stripes on paper are lost next to the wild swearing of a talking art work – Danielle Freakley (and what a great name she has!) has an installation where a kitsch painting of two ships in a harbour scene let loose with some Soprano-esque swearing that’s a bit De Niro and a whole lotta Dennis Hopper from Blue Velvet. A disembodied voice says things like “doncha fucken look at me” and “you don’t know what ya fucken’ lookin’ at” which, although amusing, is so strident it pretty much destroys the entire room. Leah McPherson’s video/performance/installation is the kind of thing that people think of when someone says “video art” and we’re not sure if she should be given a medal or damned for all eternity.

So what’s good? Dean Sewell’s photographs of doubles – puppies, ducks, girls, clouds and surfers – are so straight and simple by comparison to everything else in this show that they command the entire room. His photograph called Ducks has mystery and immense visual appeal and Two Dogs is both banal and beautiful. Marcela Ordonez’s Pink Candy Wall is like a giant lolly you want to suck and Robert Pulie’s acrylic on MDF works show why this guy is an assured hand.

Oddly, the works that really got to us were by Ben Rowett, three unassuming pictures displayed under a window ledge that were confusing, confronting and possibly awful, but were also maybe small indications that this guy could one day make masterpieces. A wild conjunction of images, we thought of a tumble of influences from kids like Rhys Lee and old masters like Richard Larter, to Kippenberger again, some Grunge, some street art, some unknowable blend of personal interests and influences. The works, one of which was called Lacks Conceptual Integrity, were an admixture of figurative and abstract, neat and messy, illustrative and expressionist, all bundled up in three frames.

This is the tragedy of shows like this – they’re samplers that just give you a hint of what might be possible if the artists were given free reign to do what they will in their own time and their own space. Samplers are ok, but they’re like Chinese meals – the whole thing leaves you full but you’re hard pressed to tell one dish from another. And 20 minutes later you’re hungry again.

The Art Life

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