At Gallery Wren the group show Ninja consists of 11 artists’ work in a space barely big enough to swing a cat. Although the gallery gave up the spacious downstairs area for a no doubt more manageable smaller gallery upstairs, the restricted dimensions have not stopped the group show phenomena. To be perfectly frank, and at risk of offending our recently patched up relationship with the gallery, Ninja is just way too light and frothy to really offer substantial thrills.
That’s not to say there aren’t good works in the show – there are – it just feels like a thrown together group show on a fun theme. (It’s entirely possible that there’s a burgeoning underground scene of artists examining Ninja culture – and we’d certainly love to see a full scale reassessment of the relationship between The Phantom Agents and contemporary art – so if a star knife fight breaks out in Taylor Square, we’ll know why). Sheninja by Matthew Paul Warren is a sumptuous video still from a ninja related cartoon and proves that there’s nothing so beautiful as a huge, glossy print with all the pixels in sharp, hyper real focus. Matthew Hopkins two tiny drawings Ninja Battle and Ninja Riding A Horse at the Olympics are fantastic scribbly things and Claire Van Vuuren small paintings of ninjas are wonderful.
Gallery Wren curator Vicki Papageorgopoulos and Christopher Hanrahan have a sculpture/installation thing in the middle of the room and has a title which is also a truthful and accurate description of what you see:
“Jonathon Richman somewhat reprises his role as the troubadour from the film ‘There’s Something About Mary’ except now he performs as the white ninja, in a dual against a black Greek ninja.”
In the front room of the gallery is a video installation by Jen Bell, one of the directors of Phatspace Gallery, called Metamorphic Indulgence. We were wondering if Vicki and Melody Wren would be having a show at Phatspace, or if they’d go to MOP or if the First Draft directors would go to The Performance Space, or Liz Ann Macgregor would take over the AGNSW while Edmund Capon came and lived at the bottom of our garden? Why not – anything is possible? The clue to why Bell chose to show at Wren is in the video – a slow motion backwards 22 minute 58 second record of the artist peeling off some sort of gooey rubbery skin off a wall, except since the video is going backwards, it looks as if she’s sticking it back on the wall. We didn’t bother to watch the whole video, we got the idea right away – the indulgence of peeling off the rubber is rather like bubble wrap, one pop and you’re hooked.