The difference between you and me

The Ian Potter Museum of Art
University of Melbourne, August 2005
What a disappointing no thrills exhibition. It’s not so much the works in the show but the way they've been killed that’s the problem. Motohiko Odani’s video work Rompers, a post-nature/neo-genome rollick, might have created a lively ambience but is so tamely installed with the sound down ever so low. Lothar Hempel’s works look strangely unrelated to each other and rather than having a friction between the different use of materials they are flat and inactive. The Baselitz painting, borrowed from an Australian collection, seems to be the means by which to include the famous European artist. It’s David Noonan, Tracey Moffatt and Richard Larter’s works that add some verve to the show. And Larter’s works, in particular, are so good you want rub yourself on them. One goes to a show like this with every expectation it’s going to be good, especially given the gallery has been closed for maintenance for nearly two years. This show takes no risks and changes nothing.
Jacqueline Riva


Anonymous Virginia Waite said...

In this return to painting it looks like no one ever left. The museum appears to be defending an old type of formalism. But why?

9:57 PM  
Blogger Helen said...

One theory puts it that this old style of formalism is on its way back in style in Australia, and has been back in style in Europe since about 2002.

7:22 PM  
Anonymous Geoff Lowe said...

do you think this urge for formalism is the same in both places? For the same reasons?

10:52 AM  
Blogger Helen said...

I think there are a multitude of different reasons in both places. Some of which overlap. Some of which are to do with art trends, others existing on a broader sociopolitical level.

9:38 PM  
Blogger lyndal said...

I really like Bala Starr's curatorial approach. I'm so sick of formulaic curating which so often brigns together the usual suspects, yet again, or responds to some predictable theme. Bala's shows are inclined to be confusing but as such challenging. Who else would have brought together Motohiko Odan and Tim Mc Monagle. I be they'll never be seen in the same room again. I don't get much sense of formalism here but rather come away with a sense of narrative and the relationship between the everyday and fantasy. I think that's an aspect of Bala's approach, there's many ways of interpreting this show

1:36 AM  
Blogger geoff lowe said...

Im just trying to dig out a bit more information here.
In Turin , where we have been living some of the time, there was a big show at Castello di Rivoli about Franz Kline. The show apppeared to concentrate on the potentional of formalist means and has an ambitious thorough monograph. Gesture, painting, space, presence, the canvas, the mark. In fact Greenberg is like a new name in Italy because in the 60s there everyone was more thinking about Manzoni and Fontana then Arte Povera. So this theistic space seems almost strange and new.

In Australia I see this formalist urge not even so much about abstraction but a joining of formalist means with figuration and narrative. Fred Williams is a key figure in it's history, so I guess we need to add a-feeling-of-place. This way of working is rewarded and collected by our museums. The figure-of-painting has never gone away.
As our way of living has changed around us in Melbourne we could have investigated social space, spatio temporal inteventions or an expanded field. But we continue to look at finely crafted objects as though they are a moral domain.They continue to be presented as pure objects, formal objects. Apparently in Sydney they call it "Melbourne twee".

It's not anyone's fault I'd just like more!

1:07 PM  
Blogger geoff lowe said...


for the sake of the conversation would you be willing to tell us who currently are the "usual suspects" and "predictable themes"?
I think what you wrote is funny, I'd like to know more if theres any?

1:18 PM  
Anonymous lyndal said...

Oops, I guess everyone thinks I've run away from those comments. I haven't but I do have to admit that the lazy curating I was referring to would seem to have subsided in recent years. Scanning over the websites of various institutions inclined to do curated shows, I did not find evidence of the phenomena I was speaking of amongst shows from the last year and a half. So.. I'm willing to take that back. I still think that Bala's curatorial approach is refreshing, a little crazy and I'm just not seeing this formalist problem. Why is the 'painting's back', 'painting's dead' issue so big? We all know that lots of people keep painting. It's fun putting paint on stuff and it looks good. There's money and status in it. Why does this issue continue to be discussed? It also applies to the current Primavera which makes some claims about the return of painting.

5:58 AM  
Blogger geoff lowe said...

we are finally back connected so Im also sorry to leave it this long. I think changing your mind is, in fact, a really good stimulus, it shows that we are in fact all in process. It's much more interesting than arguing from fixed positions, where you can often end up defending something you no longer believe in.
As for Formalism I'd like to hear from Virginia Waite? To me I think many shows have an exaggerated focus on the object and how it was made rather than thinking about the discourse around it. So for this reason the objects feel almost defended rather than questionable. I'd like to to think a show needs to be looked at and the discourse around it can then change the show. It would be more fresh more fun , to me Formalism represents something self contained. We need a bit of invasion!

4:37 PM  

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