Monday, November 17, 2014

In Conversation: Ann Thomson



Journey through yellow (2003), oil on canvas, 149 x 212cm, courtesy of the artist.

Ann Thomson was born in 1933 in Brisbane, QLD. She studied under Jon Molvig in Brisbane and at East Sydney Technical College. Presently, she lives and works in Sydney, NSW. Her first solo exhibition was in Sydney in 1965 and since then she has exhibited nationally and internationally. Thomson is currently represented by Olsen Irwin Gallery, Sydney; Charles Nodrum Gallery, Melbourne; Heiser Gallery, Brisbane; and Stephane Jacob, Paris. She has attended residencies including the Cité Internationale des Arts (Paris), the Arthur Boyd Studio (Tuscany), and Perdreauville (France). Her works are included in numerous collections, including the Australian National Gallery, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Parliament House (Canberra), Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection (Spain) and the Villa Haiss Museum (Germany).

*

Ann Thomson in her studio.

Can you tell our readers a little about your background? Where you come from, how long you’ve been making art, etc?
I grew up in Brisbane where I had an early interest in being an artist. I studied art part time for many years and finally became a full time art student at the National Art School in the late fifties. Ever since I left Art School I have been interested in making art that took me, mentally, into another place; making painting and sculpture that comes more from the imaginative and inventive mind, rather than visually rendered subjects.

Direction Now is, in many ways, a celebration of Abstraction in Art. In what ways do you see your work using abstraction? What drew you to using abstraction?
I suppose my approach to abstraction came out of American Abstract Expressionism which was coming into its own when I was young. I can also remember going to the opening of Direction 1 at the Macquarie Galleries when I first came to Sydney, which I found very exciting. Over the years my work has, I think, forged its own path, and through all its stages formed its own language, and always, I hope, being true to my particular touch. This path is well illustrated in my book with writing by David Malouf, Terence Maloon and Anna Johnson, published by Tim Olsen and available through Olsen Irwin Gallery, Sydney. 

Planet (2012), mixed media on linen, 89 x 130cm, courtesy of the artist and Olsen Irwin Gallery, Sydney.

Can you tell us what your motivations are for choosing the particular materials you work with in your artistic practice?
I love using disparate materials ( both in painting and sculpture) to compose a work. I am currently using acrylic paint which allows me to add collage. 

Arcadia (2012), oil on linen, 131 x 99cm, courtesy of the artist and Olsen Irwin Gallery, Sydney.

What’s next for you? Do you have any big projects coming up?
I have a few public exhibitions coming up, the first a survey at the Drill Hall Gallery at the National University, Canberra and a retrospective exhibition in the planning stages in Reims, France. I will be having an exhibition in Brisbane next year with Bruce Heiser Gallery and later on at Olsen Irwin Gallery in Sydney. 

If our readers want to find out more information about your work, where can they go?
They can view my website by visiting www.annthomson.com.au

The Yellow Wind (2010), acrylic on linen, 56 x 71cm, courtesy of the artist and Charles Nodrum Gallery, Melbourne. 




Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Sketchy Details

We have had some overwhelmingly well attended exhibitions at the Quest Hawthorn Community Project Wall this year, with a seemingly never-ending array of talented artists lining up to fill the space with their remarkable art. But Urban Sketchers nearly busted the seams of the gallery with an eager audience filling the place to capacity (and beyond) on Saturday.



Featuring artwork that takes the City of Boroondara as its subject, Urban Sketchers have filled the Quest Hawthorn Community Project Wall with over 80 individual drawings, paintings and watercolours. There are scenes of the areas most iconic destinations such as Glenferrie Road in Hawthorn, High Street in Kew, Maling Road in Camberwell and an almost infinite array of street scenes captured from this lovely and leafy part of Melbourne.


(detail of) Kapilesh Taneja's Shades of Summer - QPO
(detail of) Joe Whyte's Tudor
The Urban Sketchers phenomenon is a global affair, describing themselves as "a network of artists around the world who draw the cities where they live and travel to, (whose) mission is to Show the World, One Drawing at a Time". They gather at various sites and sketch what they encounter. For this exhibition, they focused solely on the City of Boroondara and they have done an exceptional job at capturing the flavour and character of the area.




The official launch of the exhibition was a terrific affair, with a wonderful atmosphere. Evelyn Yee, the principal organiser of the show, kicked the event off in a flurry of smiling faces and, excitingly, a flurry of red dots as well. The artwork will remain on display until 6 December and we encourage you to come on down and take a look at the sheer breadth and depth of artistic talent in this group.

Evelyn launches the event to a capacity crowd


Monday, November 10, 2014

In Conversation: Anton Hart

Anton Hart working his studio

Anton Hart has some big and bold artworks in Direction Now. Born in Melbourne in 1954, Hart studied at the University of South Australia and currently lives and works in Adelaide. His first solo exhibition was in 1992, and since then he has exhibited nationally. His works are held in a number of private, corporate and public collections, including the Art Gallery of South Australia. 

*

Can you tell our readers a little about your background? Where you come from, how long you’ve been making art, etc?
After being born in Melbourne, I grew up constantly moving about initially living in various beautiful regional coastal Victoria towns like Geelong and Warrnambool. Then Adelaide briefly and then up for an amazing time in Alice Springs and then later sometime in the dry summery mid-north country South Australia followed by up in the wet misty winter Adelaide Hills. Eventually and finally, we settled back here in Adelaide once again for the last time, just in time for my adolescence.

That long hitting the road experience was an invaluable endless lesson in a careful looking at the world, driving through shifting landscapes, meeting people and characters in an endless parade of listening to the world’s conversations, seasonal perfumes, late night headlights and revised ‘plan b’s’.

Art. I can’t remember when making art wasn’t a part of my ticking. Throughout my early school years I was seen as a precocious drawer of things and things imagined. In the school system, I was just an average academic student, but I could draw, excelling in my art classes and I suppose this still defines me, living in an inner world of the imagination rendered by hand & eye & mind.

Eventually, after time & some later formal studies at art school, I started to exhibit my work. Tentatively at first, in small group shows in fringe spaces and as time & events added up, into mature gallery opportunities and national/international exhibitions.


Local Storm (2004), acrylic paint and gaffer tape on canvas boards, Copyright courtesy of the artist.

Direction Now is, in many ways, a celebration of Abstraction in Art. In what ways do you see your work using abstraction?
My work has always danced around with the dual fancies of abstraction and reality. Flirting with ideas and styles. In this, probably all art work is abstract. Works that uses representation, conjuring images of flowers, a figure or a tree are all painted pictures that approximate reality in paint and they are all abstractions of one sort or another. Equally, even the most intense monochrome painting can be seen and understood through the grit of reality as a representation of real space.

I think that using terms such as abstraction and representation probably needs to be, at least reconsidered and perhaps dispensed with. Neither is especially useful or leads anyway enlighteningly new. This debate started a long way back. Remember Kazimir Malevich’s famous ‘Black Square’ was painted in 1915 at the very edge of one hundred years ago.

Over the long run of modernism and its wearing down, the so-called end of painting, into the post modernist world in which all art is now made, the persistence of painting and especially abstract painting is undeniable.
Perhaps representational pictures offer images of how the world looks, and abstract pictures perhaps give us images of how the world feels. The world today is constantly shifting and changing in ever acceleration where millions of people can add to the daily unrelenting flood of images on their smart devices, they can edit and adjust, into instants, microseconds and their existence. Abstraction remains the one whereabouts where painting can discover something genuine in our saturated media-image world. It is a surprising old/new spot that can be re-considered within an understanding of installation practice and the concept of site-specificity. 


Portrait Noise (2013), Acrylic paint and gaffer tape on vinyl tarp, 2.75m x 2.35m, Copyright courtesy of the artist.
What drew you to using abstraction?
I was never that conscious or deliberate in deciding what kind of art I should make. Painting was an extension of my instincts and decisions, my mark making, my gestures. Sweeps. Twists. Flicks. In my paintings the meaning of the work lies less in the image, and much more in the cancellations and stuttering of the things that the work is constituted. The mark making is actually a simple physical and relative thing.

Where they see yourself positioned within the history of Abstraction?
What a question. On one hand, I have affection for the everyday & I am appreciative of conceptualism, minimalism and post-minimalism for their clarity. Equally, I am drawn to expressionism and the shadowy, the uncontrollable and the indistinct. This is important because these are all ‘spaces’ that form in-between the desire for order and the real snarl of stuff.

Can you tell us what your motivations are for choosing the particular materials you work with in your artistic practice?
I am interested in the notion of rules, especially what happens within the paintings when rules are tested. For example I often deliberately work using only the cheapest of paints I can find such as ‘on special’ industrial house paints, sample paint pots, or reject paint samples that the customers didn’t like etc. I set up painting strategies that force me to paint gradually or in different ways. I often use unusual supports as well such as advertising vinyl tarps where I have to negotiate over the readymade images to find a new image. Sometimes I have even abandoned the use of paint to use materials such as gaffer tape directly on the gallery walls.



Burning Disaster (2009), Acrylic and gaffer tape on vinyl tarp, Copyright courtesy of the artist.

What is your favorite artwork in Direction Now and why (and it can’t be your own work)?
It’s impossible to pick a favorite artwork from the show, but I am particularly drawn to the works of Terri Brooks, Michael Cusack and Miles Hall. Terri’s surfaces are compelling histories, Michael’s beautiful breaths of colour and Miles’s pared back minimalism.

What’s next for you? Do you have any big projects coming up?
I am happily project free at the moment, with a dedicated clean-air time ahead in my studio and some travel thrown in. However, I am starting to plan a new solo show. Early days, but I have just finished re-reading ‘Night Studio: A Memoir Of Philip Guston’ by his daughter Musa Mayer. I too mostly inhabit my studio at night, the time when I paint. The daytime is spent cleaning up and thinking. The Night Studio.

Monday, November 3, 2014

In Conversation: Amanda Ryan

RYAN, Amanda, Geometric Composition No 3 (2014), fabric, thread, wadding, eyelets and stand offs on board, 145cm x 116cm, Copyright courtesy of the artist. 

Amanda Ryan (b.1985) holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Hons. Class 1) and Master of Fine Arts, undertaken at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales. During her time as a student, Amanda was the recipient of the Australian Post Graduate Award 2008 - 2010 and was placed on the prestigious Dean's List, achieving a high distinction during her undergraduate honours year. From 2003 Amanda has participated a number of group exhibitions that notably include the inaugural Sass and Bide Art Prize Finalist Exhibition in 2005, COFA Space and 'Compositions' in 2008, held at King Street Gallery, Darlinghurst. Amanda's solo graduate exhibition 'Unearthed', 2010 demonstrated the diversity of this young artist and showcased her usage of fabrics, textiles, assemblage and installation that is now synonymous with her work. Over the past three years, Amanda has created and refined her unique visual language of geometric textile abstraction, which she uses to explore the fine line between art, craft and design.


*

Can you tell our readers a little about your background? Where you come from, how long you’ve been making art, etc?
I grew up in Dundas, a North-Western suburb of Sydney. I attended the College of Fine Arts from 2004 until 2010 where I completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts and later a Master of Fine Arts (by research) majoring in painting and drawing. Art, specifically painting and assemblage, has been a part of my life since childhood. I was forever fossicking around council clean ups discovering and collecting old pieces of furniture, off cuts and wooden panels that I would use in my paintings and assemblages.


Direction Now is, in many ways, a celebration of Abstraction in Art. In what ways do you see your work using abstraction?
I see my work as an enquiry into geometric abstraction. I explore geometric abstraction through layering, folding and arranging fabrics in a range of colours and textures, to create compositions and stand alone forms evolving from the act of play. I am interested in the interaction between colours, shapes and textures and what variations and combinations I can discover.


RYAN, Amanda, Multi Colour Folded Form No. 2 (2014), fabric, thread, wadding, eyelets and stand offs on board, dimensions variable, Copyright courtesy of the artist. 

What drew you to using abstraction?
The fact that an image or an artwork could evoke a sensation or subject without depicting it. I find abstract art engaging as it allows the viewer to use their imagination and to bring their own experiences and emotions to the artwork. I first found this in the painterly works of John Firth-Smith and Richard Diebenkorn of whom I admire greatly.


Where do you see yourself positioned within the history of Abstraction?
I see my practice as sharing the same ethos that surrounded the artists that exhibited in the 1968 exhibition, 'The Field', held at the National Gallery of Victoria. I see myself as continuing this enquiry into non figurative art forms and following in the footsteps of the early pioneers of geometric abstraction such as Michael Johnson, Sydney Ball and Tony McGillick.


Can you tell us what your motivations are for choosing the particular materials you work with in your artistic practice?
Materials and found objects have played an important role in my practice. I have always been interested in the prescribed meaning of an object through its form and function. In the past I would deconstruct these found objects and reassemble them into new forms. Over the past couple of years my focus has shifted from using found objects, to now employing a variety of fabrics and textiles in the construction of my works. I am still very much interested in material and meaning, however I now explore this through the use of new and recycled textiles. I choose materials that have a certain meaning or purpose, but I use them in a way that they are not intended to be used. There is a certain play on function and dysfunction in my work.



RYAN, AmandaMulti Colour Folded Form No. 7 (2014), fabric, thread, wadding, eyelets and stand offs on board, dimensions variable, Copyright courtesy of the artist. 

What is your favourite artwork in Direction Now and why (and it can’t be your own work)?
I actually have three favourite artworks in Direction Now. Miles Hall's use of colour in 'Related Parts', 2013 and 'Things only revealed in the night' , 2013 is very confident. He has a sophisticated understanding of colour and shape which I am drawn to. I am also drawn to the composition and layering of shapes and forms in Michael Cusak's work 'Fincher', 2012.

What’s next for you? Do you have any big projects coming up?
Apart from the daily thinking and making of art, my work will be featured in an upcoming group exhibition held at the Conny Dietzschold Gallery, Sydney. Dates and details are to be released shortly. Keep informed by viewing www.amandajaneprojects.com


If our readers want to find out more information about your work, where can they go?
Please view: www.amandajaneprojects.com
Like to keep informed on upcoming projects: https://www.facebook.com/amandajaneprojects


RYAN, AmandaYellow Folded Form No. 2 (2014), fabric, thread, wadding, eyelets and stand offs on board, dimensions variable, Copyright courtesy of the artist.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Art21 Cinema Sessions

ART21: Art in the Twenty-First Century is a fantastic documentary series providing unique access to some of the most compelling artists of our time. We are very excited to announce Town Hall Gallery has secured the rights to screen the entire Season 7 - for free. Four episodes feature a dozen artists from the United States, Europe, and Latin America, transporting viewers to artistic projects right across the planet.

In locations as diverse as a Bronx public housing project, a military testing facility in the Nevada desert, a jazz festival in Sweden, and an activist neighborhood in Mexico, the artists reveal intimate and personal insights into their lives and creative processes. Each one-hour episode in Season 7 is organised around a theme that connects the artists: Investigation, Secrets, Legacy and Fiction.



Art21 is an extremely popular series and especially well loved by artists for its critical insight into the working processes and ideas of the artists it explores. "Whether engaging communities to effect social change, probing personal and cultural histories, exploring timely political issues, or experimenting with how things are made, the artists in Art in the Twenty-First Century demonstrate that the art of today is truly relevant to our everyday lives, incorporating age-old forms and processes to make contemporary art that challenges us to see our world in new ways," says Executive Producer Susan Sollins.

Socially and politically engaged art is particularly present in Season 7. For example, Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn works with residents of the Forest Houses, a New York City Housing Authority development, to create his ambitious Gramsci Monument, an outdoor sculpture and participatory artwork featuring a library, radio station, stage, lounge, and workshop area. Formal experimentation is another theme running throughout the series, so too the influence of family and youthful experience.


We'll be screening the full season over each weekend so you've got plenty of opportunity to drop by and pick up different episodes:
  Saturday 1 November: Episode 1 'Investigation' and Episode 2 'Secrets'
  Sunday 2 November: Episode 3 'Legacy' and Episode 4 'Fiction'

Then repeated again the following weekend:
  Saturday 8 November: Episode 1 'Investigation' and Episode 2 'Secrets'
  Sunday 9 November: Episode 3 'Legacy' and Episode 4 'Fiction'

All screenings will run from 1.00pm - 3.00pm on each day.

We have a wonderful cafe right next to the Chandelier Room - our huge Victorian-era ballroom now fitted out with state of the art audio-visual equipment perfect for our Cinema Session - called Second Empire where you can get lunch beforehand and sneak out to enjoy snacks throughout the screening. And of course, the galleries will be open for your viewing pleasure as well, with our major exhibition Direction Now featuring ten of Australia's premier abstract painters. If you come along on Saturday 8 November you can even drop into the opening launch of our next Quest Hawthorn Community Project Wall exhibition, featuring the work of Urban Sketchers (from 2-4pm).

Monday, October 27, 2014

In Conversation: Anthony T O'Carroll


Small Studies No. 1 (2014), acrylic and mixed media on board, 35 x 30cm, Copyright courtesy of the artist.

Anthony T O'Carroll was born in 1979 in Sydney, NSW. He studied at St George College and the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales. His first solo exhibition was in 2001 and since then he has been in a number of group exhibitions across Australia. in 2010, he was the recipient of the Moya Dyring Studio Cité International des Arts, Paris (administrated by the Art Gallery of NSW). O'Carroll has been the finalist in numerous art prizes, including the Wynne Prize in 2010, and his works are included in many private, corporate and institutional collections.

We recently fired a number of questions at Anthony to gain a better insight into his artistic practice and the nature of abstract art in Australia.


*

Small Studies No. 15 (2014), acrylic and mixed media on board, 35 x 30cm, Copyright courtesy of the artist.

Can you tell our readers a little about your background? Where you come from, how long you’ve been making art, etc? 
I grew up in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs, Coogee beach and had a childhood that was surrounded by sun and the beach. Painting and drawing has been a part of my life from childhood. I had my first group exhibition in 1991 when I was only 12 and was a finalist in the Sydney Morning Herald, 'On this Day Art Award'. 


Direction Now is, in many ways, a celebration of Abstraction in Art. In what ways do you see your work using abstraction? 
Abstraction, to me, is the pursuit of evoking a subject rather than rendering it. In my case the subject matter of my immediate surrounds of walls, sidewalks and surfaces that make up the urban landscape is what I aim to evoke. 


Small Studies No. 10 (2014), acrylic and mixed media on board, 35 x 30cm, Copyright courtesy of the artist.

What drew you to using abstraction? 
Abstraction, separate to a style or to an 'ism', has fundamentally been about the pursuit and discovery of finding a distinct visual language that is unique and highly individual. Using abstraction is a vehicle for me to express things that can not readily take form. It is personal. 


Where they see yourself positioned within the history of Abstraction? 
Following in the footsteps of such practitioners as Elwyn Lynn, Peter Clark, and Thomas Gleghorn, I would suggest that I would be a third generation matter painter. 


Can you tell us what your motivations are for choosing the particular materials you work with in your artistic practice? 
Materiality is key in my practice in the evocation of my subject, the urban environment. I tend to use a mixture of calcite and emulsion that forms the base of my works which I later physically manipulate and force cracks to appear. The usage of oil paint on top of the surface re-enforces the linkage to the subject via the application of a scrapper, like rendering a wall. I also tend to use acrylic paints and aerosol along with conventional pastels, oil sticks and graphite. Separate to this is the way how (process) these materials/medias are laid. I am forever experimenting and changing the properties of paint and how paint can be used in my practice. Currently I am immersing aerosol with acrylic paint via the use of fire and igniting the surface giving yet another impression of a blistered urban surface. 


Small Studies No. 14 (2014), acrylic and mixed media on board, 35 x 30cm, Copyright courtesy of the artist.



What is your favourite artwork in Direction Now and why (and it can’t be your own work)? 
Amanda Ryan's pieces, 'Geometric Compositions' for me are a joyfull celebration of geometric abstraction extended into textiles but yet are still very painterly. I enjoy this extension and the linkage to such iconic Australian painters such as Sydney Ball. 


What’s next for you? Do you have any big projects coming up?
Continuing to experiment and to find new methods of expression. 


If our readers want to find out more information about your work, where can they go? 
Please view; 
Like to keep informed on upcoming projects:


Small Studies No. 16 (2014), acrylic and mixed media on board, 35 x 30cm, Copyright courtesy of the artist.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Direction (right) now

Our final major exhibition for the year has officially launched and already drawing some terrific interest. Direction Now is a wonderful insight into contemporary abstract painting in Australia right now. With artists from Brisbane, Sydney, northern NSW, Melbourne, Canberra and Adelaide it is a rare snapshot of the national scene in one cohesive exhibition. 

And one thing worth mentioning right off the bat ... these works are quite something else in the flesh. While they could be said to be two-dimensional works that hang on the wall, that would be understating their true physical character. These are all highly haptic works - works that are just as sculptural as they are purely visual. Artworks like those by Amanda Ryan, Anthony O'Carroll and Miles Hall are especially object-like. Screen and print representations don't truly do them justice - not in the same way that standing in front of them, walking around them and feeling their presence in space will do. 


Anton Hart


Opening launches are always great fun and this was no exception. We are particularly pleased to have all three gallery spaces filled with large, vibrant works. These are powerful pieces that command the room and are all the better served by the wonderful spaces we are fortunate to have here at Town Hall Gallery. Independent curator and researcher Andrew Gaynor officially opened the show to an enthusiastic audience and two of the artists from Sydney (Anthony T O'Carroll and Amanda Ryan) flew down to be at the opening with fellow abstractionist Terri Brooks.


Andrew Gaynor officially opens the exhibition
Terri Brooks, Amanda Ryan and Anthony T O'Carroll

The artists have published a great exhibition catalogue for the show as well, which they are generously providing for free - so be sure to pick up one when you're in. You can also find out more about the artists on their Facebook page and their own websiteDirection Now has arrived from its showing in Port Macquarie and will next head on to Lismore Regional Gallery in 2015. The exhibition will continue here in Melbourne right through until 17 December - and is a perfect place to spend an afternoon inside air-conditioned comfort!

Admiring the work of Anthony T O'Carroll
A detail of Terri Brooks' fabulous artwork
Miles Hall and Ann Thomson commanding the space of Gallery 2
Our Pop-Up Art Library and relaxed reading area in Gallery 3
Opening night crowd
Gallery 1 and the works of Anthony T O'Carroll (l) and Anton Hart (r)