I’d been watching and laughing away to all the “America First, Our Country Second” videos on Friday. Hilarious – especially Australia’s contribution by Charlie Pickering of course! (…We haven’t got a wall, but we’ve got a fence – a rabbit proof fence! – it’s really great, and we made the rabbits pay for it, you’re gonna love it...)
So clearly I needed to get out of the house.
Lucky then that a good friend takes me along to Shut Up and Paint which was a perfect foil to all this outpouring of national pitches for second place to the neo-neo-liberal leader of the free? world.
The NGV’s curated response to Hockney’s exhibition brought together a group of contemporary works where the expression and stimulus comes through the combination of paint, clarity of purpose and a sure hand. But the cohesive thread that really drew me in was not just the wonderful depth and breadth of work but the diversity of artists represented.
Senior and emerging artists, men and women, indigenous artists, recent and distant immigrants to Australia, as well as artists from further afield, were all threaded together with having something to say and finding a way to say it through paint.
Apostolos Georgio’s Untitled (2012) of a man spinning multiple globes generates the dizzying sensation that we are the minutia at the merciless whim of some external manipulating force. This all seems particularly potent and apt at the moment: if we question our insignificance in what might be just one of many universes, why then would we bother railing against such a force?
Eko Nugroho’s “It’s Our Destiny 1 and 2” (2012) also speaks to us of unsettling times; the murky underbelly of corruption and ambiguity of responsibility and where it lies. A cradled bomb in the arms of one masked figure points to the weight carried by society – the inevitability that what we know and who we are will surely one day be erased. The question is – how soon will that day be?
Born in Indonesian (1977) Eko’s second work shows two figures, one with a sharpened sword held in one hand while a hand is shaken with another wearing a serpent for protection. The image leaves you with the lace of anxiety and fear, can we even trust those people we know? Is this another manipulation or something real? In any case such perceived tests for corruption are an ever present focus in Indonesia at the moment.
So what to do?
Clearly the best way to be second at anything is to
- respect the power of diversity
- shut up and
- get painting.
So I did that.
Much less provocative work – fairly noted.
But I am still at the paint-wrangling stage so give me another 20 years and I might be painting huge pieces on the floor like Helen Frankenthaler – a true first lady of America. (Clearly I wish I’d met this amazing person – what liberating work she made!)
Yet wrangle I did – no fluffy stuff. This one is a similar composition to my earlier effort from a week or so ago but with a bit more gusto. I’m going to keep painting the same thing until I get it right…
Other artists represented in the exhibition included
Vernon Ah Kee (AUS), Ai Weiwei (CHN), Asgar/Gabriel (AUT), Lynda Benglis (USA), Matti Braun (DEU), John Citizen (AUS), Tony Clark (AUS), Angela de la Cruz (ESP), Juan Davila (AUS), Lucio Fontana (ITA/ARG), Apostolos Georgiou (GRC), David Hockney (UK), Maison Margiela (FRA), Joan Mitchell (USA), Elizabeth Newman (AUS), Ohno Satoshi (JPN), Mika Rottenberg (ARG), Borna Sammak (USA), Jenny Watson (AUS) and many more.
You can download information on the exhibition here >>
And if you’re unsure why Australia deserves to be second to America – or even cares – you can watch it here