Archive for June 2014

At that line: Sol LeWitt’s meditative spaces at AGNSW








Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing #303: Two part drawing. 1st part: circle, square, triangle, superimposed (outlines). 2nd part: rectangle, parallelogram, trapezoid, superimposed (outlines), 1977, black crayon, dimensions variable.


Recently I spent some time with the big Sol LeWitt exhibition that forms part of the Kaldor Family Collection at AGNSW. Kaldor and LeWitt were friends over many years, with Kaldor being an avid admirer and patron of LeWitt’s work. It was wonderful to spend some time amongst pieces which spanned the many decades of LeWitt’s practice.

I’ve said it before, I know , but I’m always attracted to artists who demonstrate faithfulness to their craft. It’s an attitude that sings to me, and I  find a renewed sense of dedication to my own work. LeWitt is definitely in that category.

Starting out in the 1950s with a vision that ran counter to that of the highly fashionable Abstract Expressionist painters, he was interested in objectivity and logic. He was a famous champion for conceptual practice, stating  that ‘the idea is the machine that makes art’ (‘Paragraphs on Conceptual Art’, 1967.) He was not interested in getting sexy with materials, nor with the trace of the artist’s presence and emotions.  He was interested in ideas about directions of lines; series and sequences – and in following these ideas to logical conclusions, a project which at times took years.












Rectangle (open), 1977.  This work invites us to consider where the art is located.


LeWitt is probably most famous for his Wall Drawings, an idea he pursued and developed over decades. Basically they consisted of instructions for the works to be manifested  onto any wall at any time, by either himself or accredited technicians. The idea was the art. The actual instrumental creation of it was a consequence of the art, not the art itself.

All his works come with a signed certificate. The instructions (as with Wall Drawing #303, top of this page) are more or less detailed, and deliberately allow for random factors due to geography or the personnel executing them. On one hand then, it’s objective; clinical even. On the other, it’s inviting the unexpected and the essentially human into the mix. It’s a curious combination of ideas that ends up, unexpectedly, being sometimes quite touching. For instance, Wall Drawing #1274, below:








Wall Drawing #1274, being executed by Jemima Flett at AGNSW. Photograph by Peter Rae.


This is a quiet giant. There is a gradation of tone from dark edges to a lightly textured, glowing centre that extends along 14 metres of wall space. This means that the viewer spends time walking along the work; there is a temporal aspect to it. It involves our bodies (as many Minimalist works did, in the 1960s/70s) and makes us aware of walls and floors in new ways. The work took a month to create and on this occasion does indeed necessarily involve the expressive hand of the technicians in the squiggles that make up the tone. It is obviously such a mammoth effort, and so much larger than life size that we are reminded of our frailty; our tendency to fatigue and error. In other words, we are at the edge of the Sacred and certainly the Romantic.

I was glad to see that it was not just me who responds in this way to LeWitt’s work. Daniel Thomas, writing in 1977 in The Bulletin, said:

   “in fact LeWitt’s art is readily experienced Romantically by the spectator. The variations with a repeatable structure can seem like Bach’s variations on a musical theme, to symbolise the wonder of creativity”.










Wall drawing #1091: arcs, circles and bands (room), 2003

Later years saw a foray into bold colour, although the geometry and the logical sequences were still there (perhaps less apparent.) AGNSW has reconstructed an installation originally created for the Kaldor home with Wall Drawing #1091, above.  It is an exuberant expression of Life something akin to the logic and beauty of a Mandelbrot unit. Mathematic; logical; sequential; vital.



Live on, survive, for the earth gives forth wonders. It may swallow your heart, but the wonders keep on coming. You stand before them bareheaded, shriven. What is expected of you is attention. SALMAN RUSHDIE









Vyvian Wilson, Island Blazing, mixed media on canvas triptych.


Clifton School of Arts remains an under-recognised treasure in the Northern Illawarra, despite many high-quality exhibitions being held there over the past several years. As a result of the current Committee’s decision to boost the profile of this cultural venue, the CSA’s own inaugural exhibition Feeling the Heat has been born.

Curators and artists Vyvian Wilson and Ruth Harvey have populated the beautiful, light-filled space with the works of 19 invited artists. It’s a good strong mix of ideas and expressions; an evocative and sensitively hung show with some lovely rhythms and punctuation.

The ground floor space includes some works that appear light-hearted in approach but serious enough in message. David Rowe’s political cartoon afr cartoon 2014 shows a lewdly winking Tony Abbott with his pants most definitely on fire, bending over obligingly for big business, who light their cigars from the conflagration.














Lizzie Buckmaster-Dove,  Life and Its Marvels, The Natural Balance of Life 2013.


Lizzie Buckmaster-Dove’s Life and Its Marvels, The Natural Balance of Life brings us shapes cut out from a 1960s children’s encyclopedia. We can see the book; the cut-out shapes (based on small plastic items of rubbish) ands scraps of text. We gather from the imagery that what is being described are natural environments and biodiversity. We can’t make out more than a few words at a time; we gain an impression only, but are left with a sense of loss (Glenn Albrecht’s ‘solastalgia’ – a sense of loss for a changed environment that once provided solace.) [1]

This downstairs area has a kind of grumpy guardian spirit overlooking the proceedings – Alannah Dreise’s King of Green. This dominating figure, arms akimbo, was inspired by an actual theatrical character seen at local Festivals. There is a connection, though, to the ancient Pagan tradition of the “Green Man” – a pre-literary deity, the personification of all that is living, green and sacred. How appropriate that the King greets us early in a show  which contains so many works expressing ecological concerns.













Alannah Dreise, King of Green.


The temperature rises as we climb the stairs. Damian Bancks’ collage Simmer till ready is a densely convoluted, almost woven field of collage, which seems somehow to radiate heat. Its sibling, Heat of the moment, stands at the other end of the room; I see here an echo of our green guardian downstairs. This fiery-red figure, arms stretched out, centrally placed amongst a busy collage, could easily read as a burning man. He overlooks this group of works that generally has a more elemental feeling than downstairs.

There is plenty of mystery here. Lesley Goldacre’s photographic work The Spirits was created sans Photoshop jiggery-pokery, but you wouldn’t think so. It feels supernatural…it’s not clear whether we’re looking at columns of fire, or simply clouds reflecting violent and fabulous golden light. Then there are the repeated giant figures, silhouetted against this bright sky; but what they boast in size, they lack in solidity. They are only half there…almost wiped from the record. This could perhaps suggest a memory of trees, dwarfing the ‘real’ ones described in dark tracery at the top of the hill.


The Spirits








Lesley Goldacre, The Spirits


In the corner next to Vyvian Wilson’s spectacular Island Blazing (which is so compelling that the the viewer could be concerned that embers will fall on her feet where she stands) is a modest piece with content as big as the world. Annie Bourke’s Sunset Reflection is a tiny oil painting describing the light of the dying sun over the ocean. There is a tanker, an industrial ship, in the scene also which adds to the humble nature of the presentation. It is a quietly Romantic gem.

There are some welcome and necessary foils to all the heat. Arja Valimaki’s Birch Dream suggests a rhizomatic growth pattern, densely linear with muted earth tones that would probably read as warmish anywhere else; not here though. Carefully woven throughout the whole show are moist and lovely oases of various types: a cool misty Coledale by David Manks; bright, lush scenes by Tony Hull (Heat Haze, Kendall’s Beach Kiama and Summer Heat, Wombarra Pool)  and Simon Tognetti’s ceramic bowl, The Rockpool.


Birch Dream











Arja Valimaki, Birch Dream, acrylic on canvas.


Context truly is everything, as Curators are well aware. Anthony Buselli’s Altar describes rock formations on the beachfront.  This prompted powerful associations, sitting as it does amongst this hot congregation. Being a Coledale local, for me the beachfront is very much a part of my Escape Plan for the inevitable “catastrophic” category fire risk days. Then I remembered those families down in Tasmania –I think last year – forced to remain standing in the ocean for hours on end simply to survive. An altar at such times might be not so unlikely a thing.



Anthony Buselli, Altar, acrylic on canvas.


[1] US National Library of Medicine; National Institutes of Health, Solastalgia,