Adelaide Review arts writer John Neylon surveys South Australia’s exhibitions landscape for the month of April.
Yve Thompson, TOKONOMA
Trevor McNamara, Home Coming
April 26 – May 18
Yve Thompson’s large wall drawings (perhaps they should be called scrolls) are the best and boldest examples of her work to date. The uniqueness of the artist’s practice has been based on a graphic style, part drawing and part inflected with a techno beat suggestive of CAD drawing. In traditional scroll-like canvases and drawings, imagery that appeared to be landscapes, foliage and the like, revealed at close quarters, to be clusters of mechanical components or digital pixels. There are a few canvases in this current show (and artist books) to give this kind of context to a break out set of images that utilise the artist’s finely calibrated drawing skills, within an imagined context of Japanese Tokonoma traditions. Thompson and Japanese pictorial/aesthetic traditions look a natural fit in beautifully drawn cascades of gum and she-oak boughs. Thompson says, “In these works I have been playing with the format and feeling of the hanging scroll and exploring the pared-back simplicity and elegance associated with traditional Japanese arts and crafts.”
Trevor McNamara’s paintings are designed to grab the eye. And so they do with acrobatics of colour shape and texture. Just like the good old days of 60s painterly abstraction when Elwyn Lynn was in heaven and all was right with the world. There is a candour about the intent and delivery of these works, designed to be eye catching yet sophisticated in a finely tuned aesthetic based on bold and sometimes subtle colour exchanges, simple compositions and textures. McNamara says, “My work must have a presence and a purpose and should be as exciting to own, as it is to create. The ultimate compliment for an artist is when people choose your work to hang on their wall.”
John Foubister, Belief in Doubt
Margie Sheppard and Llewelyn Ash, Translucent
West Gallery Thebarton
May 2 – June 9
That John Foubister makes paintings to “re-present every lived experience” is a small wonder. His agenda is nothing less than the meaning of life and within that a personal balancing act in which the beautiful things of the world tees off against the ugly. His methodology is fearless in the extreme – mark making based on an instinctive assessment of what needs to happen as a result – is responsible for extremely different paintings hanging side by side – like diary pages of a week in which the birds alternately trill or caw according to the mood of the moment. Having said that, his grounding in art’s studio tradition is comprehensive. The ghosts of Munch, Bonnard, Ken Whisson, Paul Nash, Ben Nicholson and Georgia O’Keefe et al are always there, peering over his shoulder. So, while his brush strokes and coalescing compositions are always threatening to part company, there is in an inner black hole drawing things back into the centre to enable viewer can get a glimpse of what the artist describes as a “serious silliness” at work. Bold, take-no-prisoners painting like this is rare. Are you up for the challenge.
Also showing at West Gallery Thebarton, painter Margie Sheppard and glass artist Llewelyn Ash riff off each other in limpid pools of peace, harmony and unapologetic, aesthetic beauty. The shared, simplicity of their forms and nuanced chromatics invite contemplation.
Alison Mitchell, Stephen Trebilcock, Nick Wirdnam
Hill Smith Gallery
May 30 – June 22
Does still life still live?
Quite a number of artists appear to think so. Maybe the idea that the story of art is built on a few simple narratives – still life being one of them – is true. The artist, some things, a place somewhere and a whole lotta looking – it can’t get any simpler (or complex) than that.
Hill Smith Gallery is presenting a selection of works by three South Australian artists, Alison Mitchell, Stephen Trebilcock and Nick Wirdnam who interpret the subject of ‘still life’ in contrasting styles and mediums of oil painting and glass sculpture. Don Rankin at BMG Art gazes intently at ordinary objects and discovers some extraordinary things.
For Mitchell it is the close encounters of the everyday items (including her beloved colanders) that consume her interest. Things have progressed since the artist went into this particular room in the art house years ago. Today, the paint crafting has a satisfying fluency. Her confidence in exploring the relationships of forms is evident. The artist comments, “It is usually some visual nuance that entices me to paint, a particular combination of colour, of light, or an unusual tonal contrast. It is the roundness and sheen of fruit, the compositional possibilities of a landscape or a particular twist or angle in a model’s body. It is seeing the world anew, with fresh eyes.”
Stephen Trebilcock’s magisterial celebrations of natural and horticultural bounty cast the viewer as a busy bee, maybe an ant or transgressive fruit fly, nosing into a bouquet or basket of produce. Once inside these images, all one can do is rub a bit of pollen in the eyes, and drift off to the drowsy hum of insects. It’s hard to escape, so intense is the pattern making, the textures and exchanges of colour. These are dreamscapes of an imagined realm of Adelaide Hills pastorales. Trebilcock says, “The subjects of fruits, vegetables and native flora allow me to fill a canvas with organic shapes, colours, and impasto texture to convey my passion.”
Nick Wirdnam’s remarkable glass works are an expression of an odyssey. The objects he makes are reflections of significant personal experiences. The editing and formatting of these objects offer insights into the artist’s world. The artist says, “Often drawing on cultural beliefs, personal circumstance or experience we develop systems which offer comfort and security. We invest value in symbols and objects which protect us from misfortune and provide hope and promise.”
Don Rankin, This is now
May 24 – June 15
Don Rankin’s small, still life canvases (at BMG Art), subscribe to a genre that can be traced back to Chardin, certainly Cezanne and a whisper of Morandi. This is close focus, don’t look away country where the viewer joins the artist in staring down the simplest of objects, some apples, poppies, a cup, vessel and vase on a table top. In such tight spaces, every move the artist makes – counts for something. The balance struck between precision and allusion says a great deal about the artist’s self-conscious dialogue with the act of look as an existential experience. Rankin believes that the experience of looking at art should be uplifting to the human spirit and should urge us to think again about the world we thought we knew.