Shifting Surrounds by Yandell Walton
Yandell Walton makes the most of the oppressive, cavernous spaces at the Substation with a series of discrete works about climate change involving sculpture, projection and a lot of dread.
In the central room, bathed in red light and perched atop a papier-mâché volcano brimming ominously with dry ice, there’s an LED clock counting down the seconds, minutes and hours to 2030 – the point of no return by which the planet will be a full 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. The school-science-experiment vibe of the volcano reflects a playfulness revisited throughout the show.
A breathtaking shot of Earth from space is obscured by a single piece of floating garbage. In one room, trees breathe. In another, we’re suspended in a 360-degree roaring ocean, like the 275 million people currently living on land that could potentially be flooded by 2100.
The thunderous sounds from each work bleed across different rooms. Breathing, rhythmic and pulsing, increasingly becoming too loud to ignore.
Shifting Surrounds is at Substation until July 20.
This is Not My World by Marco Fusinato
Marco Fusinato’s new show is simple and imposing. Five huge banners hang from the ceiling, all bearing the slogan “This Is Not My World” in different fonts, fanning out from a single point on the far side of the room. So, who’s world is it?
This work is the culmination of a project the artist has been working on since 2006, commissioning five different designers to add their own voice to a slogan originally used by a group of Yugoslavian dissident artists in the ’70s. Each designer adds a distinct identity to the phrase.
Samoan-born designer Joseph Churchward gives it a psychedelic spin. Amsterdam graphic design studio Experimental Jetset uses arrows ubiquitous in political logos. And Melbourne-born, Brooklyn-based artist Seldon Hunt, known for creating complex graphic album and poster art for rock bands, gives the phrase the ornate gothic look of a heavy-metal band logo.
It all looks simple, but it’s bursting with ideas. Different looks give the slogan a different feel, each one simultaneously threatening and vulnerable, direct and vague. It’s immediate, but it’s spread across more than a decade of movements and design traditions. The words don’t belong to any of the artists, but, in the moment, they belong all of them.
Playing with time and with other people’s work like this recalls Fusinato’s ongoing project Mass Black Implosion, in which he draws expressive lines on existing musical scores, implying that every note could be played at once.
This Is Not My World is at Anna Schwartz Gallery until July 6.
Octopus 19: Ventriloquy
The 19th iteration of Gertrude Contemporary’s annual group show is curated by Liquid Architecture’s artistic director Joel Stern, and focuses on all things ventriloquism: power, control and speaking for others. It’s not easy on the eyes or ears.
The show features the work of 14 artists. Metal guideposts lie knocked over on the floor, reflecting the lack of guidance and comfort we’re given in approaching these works. Artist Gabriella D’Costa has left a series of bollards around the room, with instructions seemingly destined for office and call-centre workers, from benign nonsense (“we’re looking forwards [sic] to foster a dynamic workplace culture this is future oriented, streamlined and laterally skilled”) to dystopian (“just one more thing before we get into your query, would you like me to save your voiceprint for you? It saves you time accessing your records”).
On a screen attached to a wire fence, a strobe-fuelled video installation by visual artist and photographer Jacqui Shelton plays. Simon Zoric has left a ventriloquist’s dummy, one of the old-fashioned creepy ones, limp against a wall in the corner of the room.
As I’m viewing the works, the ceiling vent emits a sudden loud burst of air, shaking a curtain, and just about every work makes uncomfortable sounds. And in the corner, there’s what appears to be a haunted op shop: a rack of old clothes, each labelled with the name and image of its previous owner, and a warning that the next owner will unconsciously inherit certain thoughts and behaviours from them.
It’s a theme park of memorably uncomfortable experiences. Relinquish control.
Octopus 19: Ventriloquy is at Gertrude Contemporary until July 20.
Hans and Nora Heysen: Two Generations of Australian Art
Hans Heysen is the kind of revered 20th-century Australian landscape painter whose work appears in all the major institutions, but which might feel a little dated for some contemporary tastes. This new exhibition at the NGV pairs him with his daughter Nora, often overlooked, but a brilliant portraitist and the first winner of the Archibald. The show is brimming with personality – perhaps Nora’s more than Hans’s – and goes some way to redressing the trivial coverage 20th-century women artists often received in their lifetimes.
Hans’s works are densely coloured, roomy and romantic looks at the Australian countryside. Pristine land and ancient gumtrees stretch into dry, flat horizons. Golden light drips from hay bales and windowsills. Stand back and watch the light play.
Not that it’s a competition, but Nora is the winner here. A series of self-portraits show the same over-the-shoulder, pissed-off look, despite being painted across decades. The same smirk, the same attitude. One, titled Down and Out in London (1937) finds Nora looking vulnerable, reflecting her financial difficulties and uncertain future as an artist.
Her works also have a lot more sass than her father’s. In a portrait of a farm worker, Ruth (1933), the sitter’s arms are folded, her head tilted sardonically, large eyes and thick eyebrows exaggerated. The landscape background, her father’s lifetime artistic focus, is scrawled roughly in the background. Another portrait, this one of an extravagantly camp man dressed only in leopard-print hotpants, make-up and little horns (The Faun, 1933), might have made her father squirm.
Hans and Nora Heysen: Two Generations of Australian Art is at NGV Australia until July 28.
Craftivism: Dissident Objects and Subversive Forms
In the art world, the word “craft” is often used to describe something less weighty, less important than “real art”. Given that craft encapsulates sewing, weaving and all things “nice” and seemingly non-threatening, that divide has very gendered connotations.
Craftivism is about the political underpinnings that have always existed in craft. Everything in this show carries not just political heft, but raw emotion, smuggled into needlework and other traditionally “feminine” forms. There’s real anger here. Penny Byrne fills an antique plate with vintage ceramic figurines, using kitsch to represent a boatload of refugees. James Tylor, who’s just been announced as a finalist in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, presents handcrafted Indigenous tools alongside photographs of dwellings, and traps in place on the land. There's plenty of subversive stuff here. Paul Yore’s What a Fucking Horrid Mess (2016) is a cacophony of contemporary Australian slogans and images incorporating politics, corporate branding and obscenity, all stitched together into a colourful, panic-inducing quilt. Michelle Hamer hand-stitches images based on photographs of the borders between Mexico and the US, and Palestine and Israel, committing to a typically decorative form something that no one wants to look at. And Slow Art Collective’s Archiloom (2016), a large structure made from bamboo and yarn, is perpetually unfinished. It’s left to us to take up some thread and make our mark on it.
Craftivism is at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery until July 21.