Faces + Masks by Nikos Vavdinoudis
In some rural villages in Northern Greece around Christmas time, a range of pagan rituals are still observed. They’re rites that date to Ancient Greece, and Nikos Vavdinoudis’s wonderful photographic series, Faces + Masks, captures them in all their peculiar glory. Expect bells, holy ash smeared across faces, and costumes not unlike those in Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are all in the name of warding off evil spirits. The god Dionysos officiates a wedding ceremony, after which fur-clad beasts, called Babougera, attempt to kidnap the bride. By capturing these timeless rituals against a stunningly desolate winter landscape, Vavdinoudis brings his subjects’ faces out from behind the masks, and the ancient sharply into the present.
Faces + Masks is on show indefinitely at the Hellenic Museum.
The Club by Chen Wei
At the Center for Contemporary Photography this week, Beijing-based artist Chen Wei documents a forgotten subculture by recreating it. China’s ’90s nightclub scene was a revolutionary space for youth stifled by Communist rule. These venues weren’t just about dancing, says Chen: “They were once the realm of intellectuals and artists as a place to exchange ideas.” His photographs reconstruct the sweaty, low-lit nightclub atmosphere. Plenty of the images don't even have partygoers in them, but when they do they're disconnected, separate, milling in a black, smoky void, Chen highlighting the weirdness of dancing in a dark room with a group of strangers.
The Club is at the Centre for Contemporary Photography until May 7.
In the Back of My Mind by Zoe Croggon
Zoe Croggon continues her gradual takeover of Melbourne with her second launch in as many weeks. In the Back of My Mind complements and builds on her show at the NGV. It’s brighter and more developed, but it’s still built on the central conceit of juxtaposing kinetic human bodies with static spaces, finding the crossover between the two. And she does it all with simple collage techniques, never using more than two images. There’s also a video piece on show, which uses seven moving images on a short, mesmerising loop.
In the Back of My Mind is at Gertrude Contemporary until April 22.
Schoolgirls by Charles Blackman
Revered Australian artist Charles Blackman started his career by painting schoolgirls, either at play or lost, depending on how you look at it. They were a symbol of innocence, often placed in a murky, morally ambiguous urban space. This exhibition at Heide explores the time in the early 1950s he spent exploring that motif, from early, cartoonish works, to the frankly unsettling end: the works in which the suburban backdrops are gone, and the angular figures of the girls are hunched in grey, blank voids. The show also includes sketches and sculptures. Unmissable.
Charles Blackman: Schoolgirls runs at Heide from March 4 to June 18.