Monday, September 29, 2008

Matthew Sleeth as part of Melbourne International Arts Festival 2008

Matthew Sleeth is represented in the Town Hall Gallery Collection with several works. Part of the recent collection that the gallery acquired will be on display as part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival. See the article below on Sleeth's recent works.

Making order out of everyday mess (The Age, September 27, 2008)

Photographer Matthew Sleeth with his work.Photo: Eddie Jim

Matthew Sleeth's conceptual photography finds meaning and beauty in the patterns of daily life, writes Suzy Freeman-Greene.
THEY LIE FORLORNLY IN gutters, their steel bones bent, plastic wings misshapen. At first glance, they're merely some dumped umbrellas. But look longer at these photos and you start to feel a kind of sympathy for these bits of metal and plastic captured en masse. It's almost as if they were a species of wounded bird, ill-suited to urban life or strong winds.
The pictures of houseplants have a similar sad appeal. They sit in miserable looking offices, on windowsills and doorsteps: their bright flowers and tropical foliage hinting at dreams of a softer, greener life. These photos are twinned with images of fire extinguishers lurking on walls or in foyers or behind a plane seat. The contrasting subjects speak of very different emotions: a hopeful yearning for communion with nature and the fear that can hover beneath everyday lives.

These images are part of Matthew Sleeth's Pattern Recognition series, which will feature at this year's Melbourne International Arts Festival. Sleeth, a Melbourne artist, has had considerable success overseas. He's represented by galleries in Tokyo, Cologne, Copenhagen and New York (as well as Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane) and recently, America's prestigious Aperture Foundation published a book of his work. During the festival, his pictures will be popping up all over town: on billboards and tram stops; even projected on to a shard at Federation Square.
Sleeth arrives at our interview on a shiny motorbike. I'm early and have already climbed the steep, metal staircase that leads to his studio in an old cotton mill in Footscray. Sleeth describes himself as obsessive and this is a wonderful space in which to indulge such tendencies. Vast and light-filled, with a mezzanine floor, it has a darkroom, a wall of tall shelves and his latest passion: a picture scanner so huge it had to be lifted in by a crane through the window.
"It's big and it looks good," enthuses Sleeth half ironically, as we admire the hulking machine. This drum scanner will reproduce large-format negatives for his next show. Sleeth is quietly spoken but you sense his brain is constantly whirling with thoughts. On my arrival, he launches into a description of the conceptual rationale behind his work and soon I'm struggling to keep up with the rush of words and ideas.
He grew up in Surrey Hills, one of four children. His father, an accountant, was an amateur photographer and some of his earliest memories are of being lifted up in the dark room to watch an image emerge in a tray of water. Sleeth spent much of his 20s living overseas, in Zurich, Dublin and New York, and his photos have been taken all over the world. After a stint in Japan, he and his partner (who have two young children), returned to live in Melbourne in 2006.

Pattern Recognition is a series of grid-like collections of images. Some of the other intriguing subjects include security cameras; planes spotted from afar (ant-sized aircraft in huge, blue skies) and silhouetted figures peering through a wire fence at New York's Ground Zero.
While the links between these topics are obvious, other collections contain more enigmatic material. White depicts tiny figures skiing in a blizzard. Monitors shows a series of surreal, self-help slogans ("play", "don't procrastinate"), which flash on to screens at Tokyo Disneyland as patrons queue for rides. And La Joconde depicts a series of signs at the Louvre leading to the room housing the Mona Lisa. We never actually see the painting, but we feel the weight of expectation that surrounds it.
Each collection of photographs is shown in a grid of nine or 12 or 15 images. Patterns, says Sleeth, are an attempt to impose order upon the chaos of the world. This show also explores ideas about photography itself and the way it has historically been used to order and categorise life.

While his work is highly conceptual, Sleeth also wants to make "seductive" pictures that provoke an emotional response. And many of his images are beautiful, with a powerfully intense feel for colour. A 2003-05 series on campers at the Rosebud foreshore is quietly lyrical, with one especially choice picture of a bright blue panel van parked in the scrub. And his 2004-06 series of 12 Views of Mount Fuji shows the mountain hovering in the background like some lovely mirage, while in the foreground we inhabit a succession of banal urban landscapes including a car yard and an empty cafe.

A gentle humour is also at play. As Alasdair Foster, director of the Australian Centre for Photography, has written, Sleeth coaxes "beauty from the chaos of the everyday ... spiking his images with wit without sinking into the sardonic". Even the abandoned umbrellas snapped on Tokyo streets were approached, says Sleeth, in the spirit of a David Attenborough nature film, "where you come up from behind and look at them in their natural habitat".
Sleeth wants to blur the boundary between "candid" photography (what he calls "the found narrative") and staged images. While many of his images are "found", he may spend days or weeks digitally altering them in the studio. He deliberately avoids discussing how a photo was shot, to erase distinctions between truth and fiction, objectivity and subjectivity.

"I am interested in making a fiction out of what exists," he explains. Though he photographs people and things taken from daily life, he is not engaging in a "humanist, documentary approach - the people in the pictures represent archetypes of contemporary life," he says. "I don't really think that I am telling stories about individuals ... I am more telling stories about how we live."
In his series Pictured for example, (which will be projected on to the shard during the festival), he has photographed various people either taking amateur photos or posing for them. In one image, two giggling young women in a Tokyo cafe snap each other simultaneously on their mobiles. In another, a girl poses for an unseen camera at the gardens of Versailles. The series is a fond exploration of the way amateur photography is used to control and order memory. Photographs, says Sleeth, build up patterns of what we choose to remember and celebrate.
Sleeth's own process is "to do something to the point of exhaustion then move on". Thus he has over 5000 images of houseplants, taken over five years, and a fair few umbrella shots too.
Pulling open a drawer, he shows me his index cards, where thousands of images have been painstakingly categorised and filed. Some are series that didn't make the grade: one on balloons and another called "arses".

"Some ideas fail when you go and test them in the world," he observes.
As I leave his studio at four, Sleeth casually mentions that he needs to get some lunch. It seems rather late in the day, but he hasn't gotten round to eating.
Pattern Recognition will show at the Sophie Gannon Gallery in Richmond and at various public sites around Melbourne, from October 9-25.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Volunteer Art Stars Fiona Tettman!

Town Hall Gallery volunteer, Fiona Tettman with her
work in the current show Art From the Heart.
Town Hall Gallery has a wonderful team of dedicated volunteers that staff the gallery during the day, assist with exhibition openings and also public programs. Many of our volunteers are artistically inclined themselves but often don't have the opportunity to exhibit at the gallery. This was turned around for one of our long time volunteers, Fiona Tettman who has been focusing on mosaic for the last couple of years. Fiona had entered her work in the current exhibition Art From the Heart and we were all very excited to have it on show. I think I felt very much like a proud mother!
Fiona was shocked and pleased when her work was sold on the opening night and had to deal with being a visitor at the launch instead of working passing around trays of delicious treats! The team at Town Hall Gallery is extremely proud of Fiona taking part in this popular exhibition, we hope to see more works from her in the near future.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mosaic exhibition reaches viewers internationally

The lovely folk at Mosaic Art Source blog have posted quite a bit about the current exhibition Art From the Heart. How did they find us? Well, they have been taking a look around flickr and discovered the gallery's flickr site with all the new updates on the exhibition. They asked us if they could blog about the show as they found the works in the exhibition very inspirational and knew that their readers would be interested in finding out more.

So for those people who are interested in mosaic or are makers themselves, check out their blog to find out more about what is going on internationally in the land of mosaics!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Article on Kathryn Portelli's winning work

Article from Macedon Ranges Leader, article by Barry Kennedy.

PIPERS Creek mosaic artist Kathryn Portelli has embraced cutting-edge technology in her latest sculpture Strata Tower. The finely crafted art piece stands almost a metre high.
It also has two Quick Response (QR) tiles that look like bar codes.
“Viewers can point their mobile phones at it to upload data from the pixelated code,” she said.
QR has long been an advertising and promotion tool in Japan, but the technology is new in Australia, she said.

“They have such a mosaic look to them and have great possibilities in corporate art.”

The annual exhibit in Hawthorn brings together Melbourne’s best mosaic artists. Ms Portelli, who has mosaics at schools and kindergartens in the Macedon Ranges, has also produced work for this year’s Kyneton Daffodil Festival.
“I have produced a mosaic showing the spirit of three daffodils dancing and parading in a carnival mood,” she said.

The Mosaic Association of Australian and New Zealand Annual Exhibit is at the Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn from September 11 until September 27.
Ms Portelli’s local mosaic is at the Gallery on Piper.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Get into Art day and Yeah Write Zine Fair

Get into Art day flyer

It's all happening again! Sunday 26 October from 11am to 4pm will be the PGAV's annual Get into Art day. This year, Town Hall Gallery has combined the Get into Art day with Yeah Write zine fair so there will be loads of art, zines, comics and hand makey stuff as well as workshops and activities to allow you to get your art fix. The best thing is it's all free to attend!

What’s on during the day?
Yeah Write Zine Fair @ Hawthorn Town Hall (main hall): 11am-4pm

Various writers & stallholders selling and swapping comics and zines and other hand made items.

Badge making stand @ Hawthorn Town Hall (main hall): 11am – 4pm
Come and make some personalized badges for a gold coin donation.

Self-portrait creation with Caroline Carruthers @ Community Arts Space.
Starting at: 11am, 12 noon and 2pm

Create an alternative self-portrait using still life features in conjunction with the current exhibition, Seeing Ourselves.

Mini workshop making mini-books with Rachel Hughes @ Hawthorn Town Hall (main hall)
11am – 4pm.

In this workshop participants will make their own book. To provide for individual expression participants may choose between a small pocket-sized book or a slightly larger size (A5). There will also be a small selection of fabric to choose from as well as different coloured thread and beads.

Comic Book Jam @ Hawthorn Town Hall (main hall): 11am-4pm
Take part in the Comic book Jam where by participants will be asked to add to a ‘comic square’ to create a continuous story. This story will be added to the Town Hall Gallery’s blog site during the day.

So keep an eye out for the brochures and posters letting you know what's on and how to get there. Registrations for stalls for the Yeah Write Zine fair are now open also. Stalls are free of charge so you can come along and show off your zines, comics, graphic novels and other cool stuff that you make.

For more information on obtaining a stall at the zine fair, please contact Curator Mardi Nowak on

Monday, September 15, 2008

Get Your Fringe at Town Hall Gallery

Town Hall Gallery is pleased to host for the second year a Melbourne Fringe Festival event. This year features the exhibition Ugly, Drunk and Stupid: Grotesque Characters by Melbourne's Best Comic Book Makers and is curated by Jo Waite and Bernard Caleo.
This exhibition is on for one week only so make sure you pop along during October 1 to 5 to see these ugly and drunk characters brought to life in the gallery. There will also be some publications for sale to take home.
We've all been out in the evenings and caught sight of some interesting characters that have had a few too many drinks. This exhibition captures this bizarre characters in their full glory and gets them on paper. There are sure to be some gross outs and some giggles!
Keep checking with us to find out more about the in-gallery performance drawing as part of this event!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Art From the Heart Winners announced

Ash Hart, Spirit of Eureka.

Contemplation by Kate Howard.

art from the heart 046

Strata Tower by Kathryn Portelli.

The winners of the Art From the Heart were announced last night at the launch of the exhibition. First prize was awarded to Kathryn Portelli's work Strata Tower. Second prize went to Ash Hart's work Spirit of Eureka. Third prize went to Kate Howard's work Contemplation.

Highly commended prizes were awarded to: Julie Stevens work Sunset at Sea. Kim Wood for the work Raindrops and Helen Harman's sculptural piece, My old china. More images from the exhibition can be seen at the gallery flickr site.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mosaic madness starting today!

art from the heart 044

Art From the Heart, featuring works from Australian mosaicists opens today at Town Hall Gallery. Showcasing twenty eight artists from both Victoria and Tasmania, this exhibition will challenge viewers ideas of what contemporary mosaic art can be. Town Hall Gallery Curator and 2008 judge of the exhibition stated.

“Many people see mosaic as a hobby art form. They imagine people using smashed plates to adhere to different objects. Mosaic is a very beautiful, traditional and ancient artisan skill which this group aims to bring into the contemporary art world”.

Several local artists will also be on display in the exhibition, all of which have come from a diverse background to mosaic. Some are mosaic studio teachers, hobbyists and professional mosaic artists, however all have embraced the high degree of skill needed to create these works.

One of the youngest members of the association will also be showing her work in this exhibition. Jessica Cooke, a junior member will be one of the twenty eight artists on display at Town Hall Gallery, alongside other professionals.

Accompanying the Art From the Heart exhibition is the travelling national mosaic exhibition 30:30 Insects exhibition.

City of Boroondara also holds several mosaic works within it’s public art collection. Visitors may wish to go to the Camberwell Fresh Food Market to see 2 large mosaics by renown mosaicist Helen Bodycomb that are held within the collection.

The exhibition will run until 27 September.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ikebana Ohara - article

The Ikebana Ohara exhibition starts at Town Hall Gallery this Thursday 4 September. The group held a beautiful large event in Hawthorn Town Hall last night.
To find out more about Ikebana and the exhibition, click on the article above which was published in Melbourne Weekly Magazine August 27. Article is by Karen Murphy.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Ikebana Ohara one week only!

For one week only, Town Hall Gallery will host Ikebana Ohara. Ikebana is the ancient Japanese art of arranging flowers. Ohara is a specific style of ikebana that celebrates the diversity of nature. Ikebana Ohara emerged 140 years ago when Japan was opened to the rest of the world. An influx of new flowers and foliage enabled a revolutionary exploration of ikebana by the then artists of the time and the Ohara school of ikebana was established.

To experience Ikebana Ohara is to celebrate the beauty of the natural world - from traditional landscape designs to modern sculptural masterpieces. This exhibition is sure to inspire and will only be here for one week!

A floral demonstration by international Master Hoki Hara, Professor of Ohara School, Japan will be held in the Hawthorn Town Hall on Tuesday 2 September from 6.30pm. For more information email or phone 9899 3367.