The Life Aquatic

Uncategorized Apr 28, 2005 No Comments

There’s also a lot of talk about Nigel Milsom. He’s being watched by some very influential people, and unbeknownst to us, he’s already been supported by some well heeled collectors and curators who believe in his talent. Every once in awhile someone comes along who has real promise and it is said that painter is Milsom. After liking his show at Gallery Wren last year we were keen to see what he would come up with for his current show at Phatspace.

Called Vaseline/Gasoline, the show is just seven works – albeit one with nine panels, and another with four – that are brief and to the point. Last year’s show was a huge collection of images done in a variety of styles, but Vaseline/Gasoline is more coherent, opting for a consistent dauby paint on canvas approach that’s so close to being officially described as “Bad Art” it aint funny.

The nine panel monster is called Untitled (Test) and features a uniform green background with cricketers painted on in a rudimentary way that’s very considered but also calls into question the illusionistic qualities of paint. Milsom may paint a head or a body, but he’ll smear it or make it absurdly blocky or rectangular, so as you look at the work, the illusion of the image quickly falls apart. He tries the same thing again with Untitled (Jump), a four panel work with a blue background and similarly rendered skydivers giving the whole piece an uncomfortable feel of 70s action TV a la The Six Million Dollar Man. Other single panel works such as Untitled (1975) and Untitled (Ejaculation) are paintings of churches that have been smeared and dripped so instead of houses of worship, they look like DNA samples, if you see where we’re coming from.

The disturbing element of this show is how boldly it skirts with out and out bad taste. Milsom’s paintings of pigeons and his skydivers, given the right frames, could just as easily be for sale at Circular Quay. All he needs to do is switch to blue and get some business cards printed. But you can tell that the artist is someone with a great deal of intelligence who is approaching painting in an individual way and with enough time to evolve out of the limelight, he may yet turn into a painter of greatness. The problem of course is making a living and so the best advice anyone could give him would be to quit his day job, go into the studio with a few slabs of beer and don’t come out for, say, three years.

We didn’t know what to expect in the next room of Phatspace. Actually, we kind of expected some magazine cut outs sticky taped to the walls or a bucket or something in the middle of the room and a crappy record player, or maybe a video projector. What we didn’t expect to see was a full scale replica of a coral reef rendered in sugar.

Ken Yonetani has produced a floor sculpture called Underwater featuring seven individual sculptures on a Zen garden of sugar, icing sugar paste, vegetable gum, ceramics and food colouring ($POA). With four other similar sculptures on plinths and featuring some frankly sexual elements, this show is not recommended for those who are easily aroused or who are diabetic. One plinth also had a plastic bag with some disposable plates and plastic knives and forks inside and we weren’t sure if they were part of the art. But why not?

There was also a poster stuck up with some text about the importance of saving our underwater ecosystems by Dr. Katharina Fabricius. How this well intentioned statement has any correlation to Yonetani’s work was very unclear to us except in the broadest of terms. Still, viewing the work in the stark afternoon sunlight streaming through the windows it was very beautiful and we suppose that is the real point. We left the gallery and immediately bought a jam doughnut.

The Art Life

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