Aug 9, 2014

Walking Women - Standing Monash

This installation is based on the absurd idea of a group of sculptures visiting a museum of modern art. These are the “Walking Women”, striding enthusiastically towards a contemporary statue of Sir John Monash, another sculpture looks at an artwork on the wall. Next to that is a painting which could easily be a portrait of the gallery visiting sculpture. Whilst another fabricated gallery visitor has lost interest in the art altogether and is contemplating a coffee.

Disinterested gallery visitor with Walking Women in Large Claude Glass

The Museum of Modern Art exhibition is typically impersonal and purposely obscure; included in the installation is the very famous but decaying Mario Merz, 1979 “Like a tree – from the numbers of Fibonacci”, a minimalist or maybe quasi Tantric red face portrait and a suite of framed “Large Claude Glass” black paintings that are actually impossible to see because they are so reflective that they mirror and distort everything.

Mario Merz 1979 “Like a tree – from the numbers of Fibonacci”

The Claude glass is named after the French landscape painter Claude Lorrain, 1600-1682, who used them extensively. They were small pocket sized, black or darkly coloured, slightly distorting mirrors, set in cases that could be opened like a book; painters often used them because they framed, simplified and altered visual information in ways that people of the time found very engaging. They became very popular with wealthy tourists in the 18th and 19th centuries who liked to turn their backs on a scene and view it on their Claude glass that had captured and rendered it artistically. These early analogue iPhone “Instagrams” needed no batteries and worked perfectly for hundreds of years!

Self portrait in "Large Claude Glass"

Portrait of Sir John Monash in Large Claude Glass

Mario Merz, 1925 – 2008, was a major Italian figure in the Arte Povera movement, his work combines a fascination with the material and metaphorical qualities of natural objects with ideas regarding infinity and repetition. Much of his work was based around the Fibonacci sequence, a formula often used to express mathematical sequences in nature. 

Black painting transforms Walking Women

Black painting transforms Walking Women

Sometimes you have ideas that produce most unexpected results, I suspect my enamel on glass black paintings owe a debt of gratitude to Sanné Mestrom who was working on her own interpretation of Frank Stella's Black paintings in the gallery while I was putting this exhibition together, it's one of the great benefits of artists working in the same space. Whilst I do not refer to Stella preferring to tip my cap to Ad Rienhardt instead, I'd known about the Claude Glass artist's aid to landscape device, what I didn't know before embarking on this project was that posh tourists got in on the act. It never ceases to amaze me that many things that are usually thought to be brand spanking new modernist inventions have in fact been around for centuries. These black paintings have given me a lot of joy because in them I get to see the world, or at least this installation and the entire gallery space, in a completely unpredictable way. 

Walking Women - Merz and More

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