Rumour Has It Naomi Price is back in town

I once said to me mum that had it not been for the Brit School, I’d have been a teen mum. She said to me, ‘no babes, it’s cos you was fat and ginger what saved you’

Irrepressible Adele. She’s always been good for a soundbite. Except that quote wasn’t said by Adele at all – not last night, at any rate. It was cabaret powerhouse Naomi Price channelling Adele, in the little red company’s production of Rumour Has It. Opening its fourth return season in Brisbane, it was a fabulous homecoming for both the show and its leading lady Price, who is returning to ‘normal’ life after coming to national attention during this year’s The Voice Australia.


Rumour Has It tracks the story of Adele Laurie Blue Adkins, from performing for her mother in the lounge room as a child to appearing before a crowd of thousands at Royal Albert Hall just a decade later. 

There are few celebrities who rise as suddenly, and capture society as quickly, as Adele did. But then there are few teenaged performers who could simultaneously appear on chat shows saying “fuck” every five seconds, and flip the bird at record label exes during award shows, while writing searing love songs so beautiful that middle aged men were routinely brought to tears at her arena concerts. Onstage she was glamourous, confident and mind-bendingly gifted for someone so young, immediately compared to legends Etta James, Dusty Springfield, Ella Fitzgerald et al. Offstage she was a mouthy loose cannon who overshared her personal life, laughed at her sudden fame, spoke with a broad cockney accent and openly joked about her weight and dramatic love life. She was an anomaly, her influence quickly seen throughout the music and fashion industries as established performers began covering her hits and professing their admiration, and girls everywhere decided beehives and heavy eye makeup were the way of the future. At her peak, when radio stations were flogging her songs to death and every magazine had her on their cover, she had the talent and charisma to sustain it. It was as though she had arrived a fully formed, and very modern, cultural icon.

This extraordinary level of fame was a turning point not only for Adele, but for Price and her co-director at the little red company, Adam Brunes, who saw potential in the story of the girl from Tottenham and set about writing a cabaret act that showed off both Price’s vocal ability and her comedic timing. It was only a short parody skit, maybe fifteen minutes, but it proved to Price and Brunes that the idea had legs, and Rumour Has It began to take shape.

Today, Rumour Has It has evolved into two hours of brilliant cabaret, a showcase for some of the best contemporary performers in this country. Naomi Price is still front and centre inhabiting the role of Adele, but now supported by a four piece band and trio of backup singers, she is able to push her performance into another realm. There is even greater confidence this time around, which is perhaps the result of her recent television experience, but is just as likely the result of being happy back in Adele’s skin. What Price does with the character isn’t an impression so much as an embodiment, to the extent that it’s hard to know how much of the script is anecdotes from Adele’s own mouth, and how much is improvised by Price while on stage. Either way, she nails Adele’s unique spirit completely.

Rumour Has It is the last of Queensland Theatre Company’s Diva Series, a run of actress-driven shows commissioned by QTC that has been a feature of 2015’s programming. This year’s offerings have been a little patchy, with amazing highs (The 7 Stages of Grieving, Home, Grounded) and one serious stinker (Happy Days, ironically). Rumour Has It, originally scheduled for July this year until Price’s television commitments interfered, is a great way to end the series – full of heart, genuine laughs and incredible talent. Brisbane had to wait a little while to see it this time; now that it’s here, don’t miss it. I thought I was at the point where Adele songs made my ears bleed, but Rumour Has It proves there’s life in the old girl yet! 

Rumour Has It
Bille Brown Studio until 17 October

Images used with permission of Dylan Evans Photography and the little red company

Are we in PARADI$E yet, BITCH?

Have you ever had flowering tea? Appearing at first like a tightly bound ball of chaff, it bursts open when steeped to reveal a beautiful floral bloom. Served in glass teapots so that you can appreciate the beauty unfolding, it really is one of life’s simple pleasures. I first tried one at White Rabbit Gallery’s tearoom, and it occurred to me at that time that it was the perfect analogy for the gallery itself. Not particularly exciting from the outside, but with an interior that gets more beautiful the further in to its layers you delve.

White Rabbit Gallery is one of the true cultural gems of Sydney, a gift of benefaction to the city from founder Judith Neilson, who opened the doors on her considerable collection of Chinese art in 2009. But the gallery is something of a gift to China as well.

It is easy to forget that China is a country capable of immense beauty. Red Guards and Communist manifestos, unfathomable population size and the ‘One Child’ policy, the world’s largest economy built on mass production and exploitation…it’s a disturbing history which makes it hard to appreciate the culture beyond the dodgy humanitarian record. The other China, the one of Confucian philosophy, music, language, martial arts, architecture, cuisine and visual arts is virtually drowned in the wake of its controversies. Yet China’s artisans have never lost sight of the long history that precedes them. They’ve outlasted both the Cultural Revolution’s destructive forces and the modern government’s form of repression by denial. Chinese art, the world’s oldest continuous tradition, has been reinvigorated by the country’s emerging artists being quick to adopt innovative and exciting new approaches to art practice. White Rabbit Gallery’s role in conveying this remarkable tenacity of spirit cannot be underestimated.

PARADI$E BITCH, the gallery’s latest exhibition, is heavily focused on the new and innovative. Neon, lasers, multimedia and kinetic art are all represented in a way that leaves your senses buzzing. Gangsta dwarves covered in bling compete for your attention with vintage porn movies and fully recreated niteclub scenes. Overstimulation is at the heart of this show, with the superficiality of 21st century life and where it’s leading us the primary focus.

As a result, the works in PARADI$E BITCH are more clinical and hardnosed than previous White Rabbit Gallery shows, with few moments for calm reflection – a bit like having a conversation with a hyperactive preteen. The messages are chaotic and urgently delivered, making notable exceptions like Zhang Dali’s melancholy tribute to the Tiananmen Square massacre all the more arresting.


In fact, that for me is the genius of this show’s curation – regardless of how much I enjoyed the laser beams and installations, it was the works ground in more traditional art forms that really moved me, and I was left pondering how much we lose in a world moving ever further away from tactile, unmediated experiences. This paradise we’re living in really is proving a bit of a bitch.

Back in the tearoom, where the focus is on the 3000 year old tradition of brewing cured leaves, I am free to contemplate China’s new position at the forefront of contemporary art. Much of the contemporary work emerging from China covers themes and ideas the art world has seen before, repeated across all genres, and some of it can seem a little reductive. But it is saved by a palpable sense of mischievous delight from the artists at finally being able to express themselves, experiment with external influences on their art practice and push the boundaries of authoritarian intervention. I wonder if part of the global appeal of contemporary Chinese art is in the voyeuristic element of watching a country’s people find their individual voices, and in seeing how much of what they have to say confirms or rejects our preconceptions.

White Rabbit Gallery provides an encouraging and inclusive space for both visitors and artists to reconsider that old cliché of East vs West, and remind us that China never lost its soul, the rest of the world just stopped searching a little deeper to find it.


PARADI$E BITCH until early February 2016
Images used with permission of White Rabbit Gallery


The Friendly Fire of Riverfire

I was sitting at my desk writing when the Super Hornets began their flyovers across the city – practice runs for Riverfire, a celebration of pyrotechnics and music that marks the end of Brisbane Festival. As they thundered past I wondered, not for the first time, at the incongruity of the relationship between warplanes and arts festivals.

Image via Tony Kevin Photography

The day before had been the helicopters’ turn. Four ADF choppers flying low through the city, sending birds and old ladies into panic mode. From my high-rise apartment it looked like Obama was back in town. It didn’t take long for social media to light up with images of them hovering mosquito-like around the CBD; everyone seemed to have Instagrammed it. Later in the day I was out with my dog when a guy and his mother walked past, obviously discussing the military displays. “At least they’re not dropping bombs, imagine living in a warzone.” Quite.

It seems to me a bizarre thing to celebrate arts and culture with fighter jets and reconnaissance helicopters. I understand they’re loud and fast and occasionally shoot flames out their arse (which in fairness does have parallels with at least one show I saw during Brisbane Festival) but surely at this point in time, with Australia undertaking airstrikes in Syria, and our troops still actively engaged in operations in Africa and the Middle East, there’s something a bit gross in celebrating the existence of a warplane? There is nothing celebratory in the sound of combat aircraft overhead. It is the sound of war, a terrifying daily occurrence for a large percentage of the world’s people. To make a spectacle of it seems…I don’t know. Arrogant? Insensitive?

Perhaps it’s a hangover from the Golden Age of aviation, when flying was still a novelty and pilots considered daring. Back then, there was at least some cultural value in planes in as much as they opened up new worlds and ways of thinking, made icons of Lindbergh and Earhart and helped advance the status of women. But there is little cultural value to be found in a Super Hornet, a machine capable of carrying air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, unless it’s in the untold destruction of cultures ravished by war. They have no artistic merit, designed only to inflict damage. They drop bombs, ruin towns and destroy life. They kill people. Should we really be quite so proud of their existence?

The arts community, for the most part, likes to sees itself as a socially aware sector. Often we’re the barometer by which the rest of society sets their moral compass, whether that be in agreeance or dissonance. We inspire, we outrage, and we provoke discussion. A little more than a year ago a considerable number of artists boycotted the Sydney Biennale over Transfield’s sponsorship of the event, an issue that damn near brought one of the largest arts festivals in Australia to a halt, but also gave rise to an important ethical discourse. It was a discussion that needed to be had, and the Arts community were are the forefront of the debate. But is it not a little hypocritical for the sector to take such an impassioned stance on the treatment of asylum seekers in detention, yet celebrate with one of the very things they were fleeing in the first place?

We now know there is no glory to be found in war; it is evil and insidious, and serves only to inflate the egos of already overbearing leaders. It is the antithesis of everything that the arts community as a whole sets out to provide society with. And while I understand that for some the supersonic booms are an absolute highlight, there are plenty more people in the world for whom there is no sound more distressing.

So go tonight and enjoy Riverfire – it really is a spectacular event, and a fantastic end to three weeks of theatre, art, music, fun and love. But perhaps when the ADF go across your heads this time, save your cheers and hug your friends and family instead – and say a silent prayer for those for whom a celebration of culture is as unlikely as a Super Hornet on a joy flight.

Image taken from The Courier Mail

O death, where is thy Sting?

Carrie McCarthy:

I become a little more enamoured with David Walsh every time he writes something.
Such a great wordsmith.

Originally posted on Mona Blog:

By David Walsh

Who’d have thought thirty year ago we’d all be sittin’ here drinking Château de Chasselas, eh?

Monty Python, Four Yorkshiremen, 1974

Giant steps are what you take
Walking on the moon
I hope my legs don’t break
Walking on the moon

The Police, Walking on the Moon, 1979

In late ’79 or early ’80 I first heard Walking on the Moon, at a bar at Wrest Point Casino in Hobart, in the very early, desperate days of my gambling. I was stunned by the song, not the first time that The Police had that effect on me. But I said to my mate, ‘Why would your legs be more likely to break on the moon, just because the reduced gravity makes you take giant steps. It’s ridiculous.’ ‘No,’ he replied, ‘it isn’t ridiculous. If you had been on the moon for some time, your…

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Robyn Stacey’s Cloud Land

There’s a perverse thing about humans that make two behavioral quirks a certainty: when we see a closed door, we immediately want to know what’s happening on the other side of it; and when we lock ourselves away from the world, we can’t help but look out the window to see what we’re missing. It’s the constant push-pull of being human; we require both intimacy and isolation in order to function. Well…that, and the fact that we’re all of us excited by a little voyeurism.

City people are especially prone to extremes of human interaction. The urgency and immediacy of city living makes for intense personal connections, and though they might be serious, they’re often fleeting, which leaves everyone feeling that a lifetime of loneliness is just one missed social engagement away. Cities are transient places with the majority of people living away from home, and despite doing our best to forge relationships that fill the void, nothing replaces family (which is weird considering they’re often the people we’re escaping when we head to the city in the first place). It’s a ridiculous way to live really, destined to make stuttering neurotics out of the best of us. One minute we’re thriving on the energy of the metropolis, the next we can feel it sucking our soul dry. And though we’re all in it together, we seldom talk about it. No one wants to be seen as the wallflower at the orgy, to steal a line from the queen of metropolitan observations, Nora Ephron.

The uneasy relationship city dwellers have with their surroundings is at the heart of contemporary photographer Robyn Stacey’s new exhibition Cloud Land, currently on view at the Museum of Brisbane. Inspired by the millennia-old technique of camera obscura, Stacey has covered the walls of some of Brisbane’s most private spaces in projections of our most public, creating a body of work that is visually very beautiful, but also confronting in its honest exploration of isolation in the city. Though I’ve included a few images here for reference, Stacey’s work really needs to be seen large to best be appreciated. The detail in the rooms and the irony of the external location are vital to understanding her artistic intent.

A master of light play and early photographic techniques, Stacey used the fundamentals of pinhole photography on a much larger scale to make darkrooms out of hotel suites, gaol cells and offices throughout Brisbane (including, by chance, my old office at Mercy Heritage Centre), creating topsy-turvy vistas where the city floats like thought bubbles above the subject’s head. It’s hard to fathom that there isn’t more to Cloud Land than a photographer and her equipment – the projections are too clear, the images too glossy. Robyn Stacey’s work reminds us that artistry and expertise existed long before digital technology became the only road to perfection.

The relevance of Cloud Land to the Museum of Brisbane lies in the juxtaposition of modern interiors with heritage exteriors and vice versa; a chance for audiences to get a different view of Brisbane and contemplate the changes the city has undergone. Providing fresh perspectives on our environment is precisely what an institution that calls itself the museum of Brisbane should do, and part of the thrill of Cloud Land is in recognising both the cityscape and the interior. It’s like Where’s Wally for architects.

But there is also something to be gained by considering the other message that Cloud Land offers audiences, the one of loneliness in the crowd, and the opportunity it affords us to discuss the impact a city has on its inhabitants. City living breaks a lot of people. Constantly on guard, we develop tough exteriors, refuse eye contact on public transport and ignore the stranger next to us. Smiling pegs you as an interloper, a tourist about to be swallowed up by an army of black-clad office workers rushing to get home in peak hour. It’s exhausting, maintaining such distance between humans. It is a message might be missed by people outside the city, those who’ve moved to the ‘burbs and forgotten that the struggle is real, but for those of us still here pushing through the crowds, it’s nice to know someone is casting a watchful eye over us.

This story of Brisbane is important too, and it’s a courageous move on the part of the Museum of Brisbane to support an exhibition that highlights both the beauty of its location and its vulnerabilities. Cloud Land gives us a look at where we’ve been and where we’re headed, and the social implications of sustaining such rapid growth.

Robyn Stacey
Cloud Land
Museum of Brisbane until 3 April 2016

Linde Ivimey: Cross My Heart

When Sydney artist Linde Ivimey was looking for a new studio space a few years ago, she chanced upon a two story warehouse in the inner west that was exactly what she desired. Built in the early 1900s as a mail dispatch centre, it had been converted into a bright and airy living space upstairs with a large light-filled workshop below, and was the perfect place to merge home and studio time the way she needed. But perfect places come with imperfect asking prices, and the building was out of Linde’s reach.

Back in her existing studio she tried to reconcile her disappointment, only to find her mind drifting again and again to the warehouse in Turtle Lane and the life she could envisage there. Using her collection of brown paper bags, she sketched out her dreams and explored ancient cultural mythemes of the Divine Turtle, a giant tortoise that carried the world on her back. Into one, she placed a few totems, money and a little turtle she had fashioned from a champagne muselet. With the reverence of a Benedictine monk, she kept the bag like a shrine, surrounding it with candles and praying for a solution.

Inevitably these meditations made their way to the workbench, and soon a sculpture began to take shape as a sort of invocation that a real estate miracle might occur. The result was an endearing self-portrait of Linde as her bunny alter ego, her companion a little turtle on a lead. The bunny’s gaze was steady, with one hand shielding her eyes as if to get a better view of what lay ahead. Entitled Turtle Lane, it was a deceptively simple piece, its inspiration hidden behind its whimsy.

Not long after the work was completed, a change in circumstances saw Linde able to revisit her options, of which the still available warehouse was now a viable one. There was little hesitation in deciding what her next move would be. Turtle Lane was hers.

Those who know Linde personally know that the story of Turtle Lane represents a very ‘Linde’ solution to a problem. Put simply, she is unlike anyone else you’ll meet. Deep contemplation, prayer, ritual and a sprinkling of something akin to voodoo are ever present in Linde’s approach to the world, but so too is a delight in ridiculousness and childish mischief-making. Passive existence is not an option for her, engaging instead in a constant process of learning and self-betterment. She seeks guidance widely – whether that means turning to the mystics of ancient worlds, her Catholic upbringing or the wisdom of Judge Judy (I may be disowned for divulging that), but she can also be surprisingly cynical for someone so receptive to new ideas. She is a delightful conundrum, having the peculiar honour of being both the sanest and most insane person I know. Almost every conversation between us results in me shaking my head in disbelief, an action just as likely to be caused by an outrageous one-liner as it might a profoundly moving reflection on her life.

These contradictions are something Linde wears with pride, and her home and studio are testament to that. A visit to Turtle Lane feels like you’re taking a walk through Linde’s personal timeline. She keeps her memories close, surrounding herself in reminders of her past and present, and each quirky corner of the place helps tell the story of how she came to be. Works from every stage of her career sit alongside childhood toys, special books, travel souvenirs, and treasured objects. That they share the space so harmoniously highlights just how intertwined all aspects of her life actually are.

I have written before about the talismanic properties of Linde’s artwork, but every time I stay at Turtle Lane I become more convinced that the building too pulsates with a mysterious energy. Perhaps it’s the floorboards, already carrying the imprint of so much history, and the way their cracks catch fragments from the workbench as Linde’s sculptures come to life; or maybe it’s the sunlight that streams through the louvres, giving all the quirks of the old warehouse an ethereal glow. Elevated above the surrounding buildings, it feels oddly secluded despite the proximity of the neighbours, and is one of the few spots where I feel myself completely unwind. I’m not the only friend who feels this way. Linde’s home is comforting and welcoming, a happy place where friendship and creativity are celebrated. In the last couple of years Turtle Lane has also become a fortress of sorts, providing sanctuary and security as Linde fought some agonizing personal battles. On the days when everything was proving a little too much to bear, there was always Turtle Lane; a cocoon into which she could retreat for convalescence and to process all that she had endured.

Linde’s most recent body of work, Cross My Heart, is a reflection on this time; an exploration of the coping mechanisms she employed to face the world beyond the protective buffer Turtle Lane allowed her. Engaged in a childlike game of dress up, the characters in this show are hiding their true identities behind elaborate costumes and role-playing. Is the fearless lion exactly who his ferocious roar says he is, or does a teddy bear hide behind that mask? Is that an exotic giraffe loping through the party, or is she just a little lamb trying to stand out in the crowd? In the same way that we all find ourselves occasionally wearing a mask to hide our personal truths, these sculptures too are finding self-preservation in putting on a brave face. Visually, Cross My Heart is lighter and more playful than much of Linde’s work, and has allowed her to show off her considerable drawing talent as well as some new and signature sculpting techniques. But for her friends, this is perhaps also Linde’s most confronting show, in that it forces us to acknowledge just how much she hid from us in order to protect both her friends from the truth, and herself from our reaction to it.

Today, the sculpture Turtle Lane sits on a table in Jan Murphy’s office, an unassuming presence in an always busy gallery. It has been there for a little while now, mostly because Jan professes to be unable to part with it. But perhaps there is something more serendipitous to its prolonged stay, given the works from Cross My Heart arrived in the gallery just last week. Maybe, just maybe, little Turtle Lane knew she had to be there to protect these new characters as they made their way from the safety of the studio to the big wide world beyond.

As long as there is Turtle Lane, everything will be okay.

Linde Ivimey
Cross My Heart
Jan Murphy Gallery until 3 October 2015.

The Other Art Fair, Sydney

I’m not sure there’s a busier place for art lovers than Sydney right now. Three major art fairs, the Archibald still hanging in the Art Gallery of NSW and White Rabbit Gallery opening their new exhibition all in the same week means there’s lots of competition for aesthetes attention this weekend. Yesterday alone saw the official openings of Sydney Contemporary, The Other Art Fair and Paradise Bitch which aside from anything else means the art scene is suffering one massive hangover today. At least we’re all in this together, right?

So let’s start with The Other Art Fair, Australia’s version of the hugely successful UK artist-led initiative that aspires to connect emerging artists directly with prospective buyers.

Presented at aMBUSH Project Space in Chippendale’s Central Park, it’s a boutique experience of 80 artists specially selected by a committee of contemporary art experts including Paris Neilson of White Rabbit Gallery, Megan Robson from the MCA and art consultant Virginia Wilson.

This marks the first time The Other Art Fair has ventured outside of the UK and the show has transferred well to its Antipodean location. With a blue print lifted from previous fairs in London and Bristol the event is tightly run and pretty slick for a debut event, and the atmosphere is suitably celebratory and enthusiastic. It’s not as big and shiny as its big sister Sydney Contemporary, but that’s not what it hankers to be anyway. There are no gargantuan works or even more gargantuan stands, no big name artists or high profile dealers. The artists are representing themselves and operating without the ‘wheeler dealer’ element, which makes for a much more intimate and relaxed environment for everyone.

Having a selection committee to whittle down the 400 artist applications to 80 exhibitors means that the work available has, to a certain extent, been quite strictly curated. As a result, there’s a lot of good art on view and a good balance of mediums including painting, textile art, sculpture, photography, mixed media and print making. And while the relatively small stand size and space constraints of the venue disallow any huge ‘wow’ moments, there are still some real standouts.

New Zealand artist Tyrone Layne’s peoplescapes are fresh and perceptively drawn observations of human behaviour. These oil on board works are really unlike anything else being produced, both in subject and composition. In a fair with a lot of talent on display, he’s the one to watch.

Archibald finalist Kim Leutwyler’s portraits are high impact and startling in both colour and subject matter, but this fair has allowed her the chance to balance that against some subtle watercolours and small scale works, adding depth to what will no doubt become a well known art practice. If Leutwyler ends the weekend without representation, I’ll be left wondering (not for the first time) what on earth the commercial galleries are thinking.

Pamela Leung is probably the warmest person I’ve ever met, which makes sense considering her booth is swathed in fiery red and orange! Though she has lived in Australia for forty years now, her Hong Kong roots heavily influence her art, which is both visually stunning and profound in its message. Also, the woman must be aging backwards, because she told me she’s 64 but she quite literally doesn’t have a single wrinkle on her lovely face. Oh to have those genes!

The Other Art Fair was a daunting premise for many of the artists I spoke to in that it removed the protective buffer of the studio, putting them directly in the firing line of the public and their opinions of their work. Not every artist has the confidence required to represent themselves effectively in that situation, and it was pretty clear some were more comfortable than others. But if the shyer artists can get around their own insecurities and thrust themselves upon the public, then it’s a great way for them to connect and ensure that the person best able to convey a work’s importance, ie the artist themselves, is the one doing the talking.

That to me sounds a far more authentic and meaningful exchange than many of the transactions happening elsewhere in the art world this weekend, wouldn’t you say?

The Other Art Fair
Level Three, Central Park
Until 13 September 2015

Amber Boardman’s Oddities

Basically, at the very bottom of life, which seduces us all, there is only absurdity, and more absurdity. And maybe that’s what gives us our joy for living, because the only thing that can defeat absurdity is lucidity. Albert Camus

Hover, 2015

People are weird. They’re frigging weird. I’m not talking about the crazies woven in to the social fabric of big cities, like the guy on my bus who punches the air around him and whispers “boo” in fellow commuters’ ears, or the witchy-looking woman on a Paris street who pointed her finger at me through a foggy window and screamed some unintelligible French curse on me because I happened to meet her eye. No, I’m talking about the rest of us…the ones who watch reality television and make stars out of people like the Kardashians and Honey Boo-Boo, who’ll eat a Big Mac and an extra large fries at McDonalds but counter it with a Diet Coke, or who have hot wax poured on our genitals in an attempt to look more aesthetically pleasing but freak out at the thought of a pap smear or prostate check because that’s just a bit too invasive. You know, us ‘normal’ people, who live our lives without any idea of our own inherent madness.

When you really anaylse human behaviour it’s amazing we’ve survived this long at all. At best we’re a bit crazy; at worst, we’re batshit insane. Jumping out of aeroplanes for the fun of it, stubbornly puffing away on cigarettes regardless of the risks, working to earn money for things we never get to enjoy because we’re to busy working for the next thing, spending thirty minutes in the toilet paper aisle of the supermarket because we can’t decide whether we want aloe vera or eucalyptus-impregnated tissues (okay, that might just be me). Little of what we do in our lives between our arrival and departure makes much sense and we know it. That’s why self help books and Oprah Winfrey became so huge – we needed pseudo-science to tell us what was relevant.

Yoga, 2013

One person unlikely to be loitering around the self-help section of Dymocks is American-born, Sydney-based artist Amber Boardman, who has scooped up whatever existential crises she may have been experiencing and painted them out of herself in her distinctively absurdist style.

Women at the gynecologist, grown men playing at being Boy Scouts, couples getting kinky in the shower, art dealers with big shoulder pads, melodramatic daytime television – scenes from daily life that have struck Boardman in her inner absurd-o-meter. Where the rest of us encounter these moments and keep on moving, perhaps with an eye roll and a shake of the head, Boardman invites these people in to her art practice, creating back stories and strange fantasy worlds to explain away their behaviour. Or rather, our behaviour.

It’s a genius move really, engaging vaguely human creatures in easily identifiable daily activities in order to highlight our foibles. It’s absurd to see a fleshy blob performing yoga moves, but is it any less absurd than actually taking part in one of those classes, with all the contorting and involuntary noises that accompany it? An egg with a hangover is grotesquely funny, but is it any less funny or gross when it’s a human in the same condition?

These are wry observations made by someone who clearly delights in the peculiarities of people. Funny things happen to us all the time, we’re just too busy to notice, but Boardman examines the world the way writers do, taking in everything around her and questioning everyone’s motivation. She is not a passive observer, constructing narratives as a way of resolving her curiosity, using humour and irony to bring the story to its inevitable end.

Perhaps the most delightful part about Boardman’s work for me is that the questions she ponders have an almost child-like approach to them, being both literal and disarmingly logical. Kids are perceptive little things whose lack of inhibition and tenacious questioning makes them the perfect bullshit detectors. From the first moment they suspect what’s coming out their parents’ mouths may not be entirely accurate, they develop a delightful form of cynicism that makes them totally distrustful of “your face will stay like that” and completely naïve to “I have eyes in the back of my head.” These paintings are a kind of homage to the nervous giggle a child produces when know they’re being told something nonsensical, but they’re not quite sure which part of the story it is.

And that, to me, is life in a nutshell. I know the world is fucking crazy. I’m just not sure if it’s them or me.

Amber Boardman
Edwina Corlette Gallery until 18 September 2015.

Desirelines at the Judy

Desire Lines, both physical and metaphorical, are single moments of defiance that quickly become the norm as others follow suit. They are the beaten dirt tracks that crisscross city parks and wild sand dunes, thick scrub and council nature strips, and they are the doors opened by trailblazers who break societal norms and give the patriarchy a shake. They are at once transgressive and progressive, having an impact on everything and everyone in their vicinity.

But what happens when people conform to the disobedience and rebellion morphs into orthodoxy? Do we remain and toast the revolution, or head off again in search of new challenges? These are the paradoxes and dilemmas explored in Desirelines, a new work by Brisbane-based ensemble group Collusion.

The result of an intense collaboration between chamber musicians, visual designers, choreographers, dancers, costumers and composers, Desirelines is the latest of a number of innovative new works to have been developed in Brisbane recently. Excitingly, the standard of these performances has been consistently high, with only very rare exceptions. And Desirelines is definitely not one of those exceptions.

Everything about this show is exquisite, from the swirling musical score projected directly on to the stage, to the way the light catches the crystal detailing of the costumes as the performers glide through the animation, to the mop of curly hair atop the cellist’s head (a feature I realise is more to do with good genes than good direction, but still…)

With the musicians onstage and incorporated in to the choreography, an intimate relationship between the music and the movement of Desirelines develops, highlighting the interconnectedness of all the elements that have gone into creating this production.

Perhaps my only criticism of Desirelines is that there is so much beauty, it’s impossible to know where to focus your attention. Do you concentrate on the dancers’ graceful exchanges and miss the synchronicity of the animations, or take in the ingenuity of the simple set design and neglect the way the costumes mirror the set design.

Desirelines is a testament to the combined vision of co-producers (and choreographer and violinist respectively) Gareth Belling and Benjamin Greaves, and to the professionalism of all the creatives involved that they were able to combine their various disciplines and personalities to create such a bewitching piece of live performance. To say it’s an achievement is an understatement.

If you haven’t already got tickets you might struggle to find a seat now, but give it a shot anyway. I can’t imagine you’ll be disappointed if you’re lucky enough to see it.

Judith Wright Centre
Until 5 September

Images: FenLan Chuang


Miles Hall: Solid Liquid States

Very rarely in the course of writing this blog do I get to enjoy art for its own sake any more. These days it’s all about researching the artist and understanding their motivation, deciphering symbolism and recognising influences, and then working out how to turn the visual into words so those messages can best be conveyed. It’s not a complaint, I love what I do, but sometimes I crave an artist whose work I can enjoy without the peripheral noise.

So I’m really pleased that I made it beyond Jan Manton Art’s slightly intimidating entrance (which, by the way, you should totally ignore, because past the formality of the entry buzzer is the warmest welcome you can imagine) to check out Miles Hall’s latest exhibition Solid Liquid States.

Lemon Yellow

Miles Hall, an Australian now living in France, is an artist who seems to exist purely for the joy of making art. Each of his canvases is a tribute to the process of creating, the result of intuitive experiments with pigment, texture and composition, and as a result are impossible to photograph in a way that does them justice. Raw and textured, they feature bold colour combinations that bleed in to and repel each other in equal measure. Standing amongst them feels like the art world equivalent of the Colour Run marathons that have taken over the world, minus the sweat and mouthful of dyed corn starch.

Image care of Color Run Australia

Turquoise Deluge

Saffron, indigo, mossy green, pale grey, magenta, emerald and duck egg blue are thrown together with the sort of randomness that only a truly brilliant colourist can achieve. I haven’t seen anything this effortless since the day I dropped an entire case of pastels on the white carpet of my lounge room (don’t ask, still traumatized), an effect that can only be realized by an artist confident enough to follow his instincts and not overthink the outcome. The works reminded me of Moroccan spice markets and Thai shot silk, though the minute I was told Hall’s inspiration lay with the patisseries near his home in Montpellier, all I could think of was the trays of macaroons I had salivated over in Ladurée’s Paris boutique. Where the canvases feature more serene colour combinations, the effect is soft and ethereal, like diffused light on a film set.

As with all things though, the process Hall undertakes to create his work is significantly more intense than it seems. Each finished piece is the result of layer upon layer of paint applied to the canvas before being sanded back and painted over again and again. Occasional holes are punched into the works to allow layers to dribble through and run into each other, the canvas battered in to such a state that they end up almost sculptural in texture and appearance. Paint trickles run down their edges, further highlighting the fluidity of his approach. Each piece is testament to the level of care Hall takes every step of the way, and the training that has led him to have such precise understanding of how colour, texture and technique combine on canvas.

I think the great strength of this exhibition is the restraint with which the works were executed. The results could so easily have been too rough, too hypercoloured, too textured. Instead, Hall’s work is a perfect balance of gritty manipulation and organic movement, a bit like a boat builder who controls the overall design of the vessel, but not the inherent beauty of the material with which he is working. And I love that at a time when digital media and high quality printing is changing how we view and understand art, this work exists as a reminder that not everything can be fully appreciated without getting off your bum and seeing the original.

Which has just made me realize how much Miles Hall has now given me to think about, despite what I said in the beginning about enjoying this art for its own sake.

Goddammit *sighs*

Miles Hall: Solid Liquid States
Jan Manton Art
Until 5 September 2015

Over there, it’s raining

Indian Yellow

Visible Thoughts

Crimson Trickle

Fragile Like Charcoal

Earth Green

Orange Shading In To Green

Always On My Own

Swimming With Holes In My Belly