What better way to spend a day than take a country drive to the Art Gallery of Ballarat to see the Net Work exhibition. The trip is worth it! There is much to see and think about in this exhibition with many outstanding artworks by exceptionally talented artists. Net Work has over 100 works by 38 contemporary artists who can be defined by one common factor: they are all members of The Littlest Forum (TLF), a private online group for professional contemporary artists across Australia.
Amanda van Gils founded the forum to offer support for artists as a way to connect and interact with other artists, and to assuage some of the isolation occasionally felt by studio-based artists. “The idea is to encourage a sense of community and facilitate sharing of information,” van Gils says. “Unlike many large open online forums, The Littlest Forum ensures a workable balance between early career with more established artists. The invitation only aspect of this forum ensures privacy so that artists feel free to share their questions, concerns, experiences and information. TLF enables the exchange of sophisticated information, connections and dialogue. Most of all, it provides encouragement, support and stimulation.”
In an era of social networking, these artists have embraced technology as a vital tool in their artistic careers, if not directly in their art practice. They are not bound by one particular school of thought allowing a diverse range of styles and artistic interpretations in the exhibition.
Skilfully curated by van Gils, Net Work doesn’t feel disjointed or ad hoc despite many different conceptual frameworks and mediums. There is something to captivate the eye at every turn: from the smooth white, sensual sculptures of Aliey Ball, to the geometric, minimalist abstracts by Louise Blyton and the evocative, figurative paintings by Dagmar Cyrulla. There are moody, film noir-influenced works by Steve Rosendale, an extraordinarily detailed and unusual still life composition by Kate Bergin, an ink-on-paper installation with meticulously pin-holed patterns by Jan Berg, plus a host of other works in painting, sculpture, photography, drawing, video, and digital prints.
It is obvious that van Gils must be a dynamic woman. Besides founding the forum and curating the exhibition, she is also a professional artist and has two contemporary landscapes in the exhibition. Depicting fleeting views of motion-blurred scenery as we whizz past, cushioned from our immediate surroundings in our speedy vehicles, van Gils’ paintings offer a new interpretation of the landscape genre. Through her work she explores notions about our contemporary experience of landscape and the tradition of landscape painting.
There are also a few works by artists with a connection to the greater Geelong region in the exhibition. Former Geelong artist, Robert Hollingworth, who is now based in Melbourne, has two paintings depicting deep space. These images of night skies and the universe explore the position between abstraction and representation, science and mythology, the real and the imagined. Hollingworth uses the cosmos as a metaphor for human longing and sees this subject as representing “the edge of what is known and what is unknowable”. The paintings look like images taken from the Hubble telescope but the stars are rearranged to create new constellations that reflect upon modern ideas and attitudes. The paintings are created using a limited palette and a special technique which involves flicking solvent over layers of paints. (You can learn more about Hollingworth’s paintings here and on his website www.roberthollingworth.com.au)
Ballarat artist, Kim Anderson has framed works on paper and a site-specific drawing on the wall (actually the emergency exit door of the gallery). Her subtle drawings are inspired by images of the body, both its exterior surfaces and delicate inner structures. “I am continually fascinated by the expressive potential of hands and feet. In constant contact with the rest of the world, they are more worn and creased than anywhere else on the body,” she says. “They are tough yet sensitive, dextrous and yet somehow vulnerable. Through constant wear they bear the inscriptions of my life experience, my passions and fears and memories layered over one another like a palimpsest.” Anderson’s practice has recently evolved from the production of more traditional object-based works, such as ink on paper, to working ephemerally with installation. Using techniques such as projection and drawing directly onto the walls and floor, she is exploring the use of alternative surfaces and spaces.
An intriguing installation of four artist books by another Ballarat artist, Debbie Hill, demands closer inspection. These works feature intricate drawings created with ink on bonded paper. Drawings of children have been cut into a tree-like shapes and inserted into old books. Hill’s drawings have a nostalgic feel to them, referencing an era long gone. They are quiet, reflective pieces, and invite contemplation. The graphic image of boys aiming toy guns, perhaps from the time of WWII, teamed with a book titled The World of the Children is a thought-provoking piece. You can learn more about Debbie Hill’s art in an interview with her on the Art Resource blog or visit her website www.debbiehill.com.au
At front: Thomas, Richard and Harold. At rear: Estelle, Debbie Hill.
(Photo courtesy Amanda van Gils.)
The above artworks are just a small sample of the works in this large exhibition. You can find out more about all 38 artists on the Net Work website www.networkexhibition.com
The artists in Net Work are: Kim Anderson, Aliey Ball, Jan Berg, Kate Bergin, Sue Beyer, Louise Blyton, Dave Brayshaw, Claire Bridge, David Coles, Simon Collins, Jacqui Comer, Dagmar Cyrulla, Chris Delpratt, Andrew Ensor, Robert Fenton, Dianne Gall, Michelle Giacobello, Minka Gillian, Erika Gofton, Debbie Hill, Robert Hollingworth, Kez Hughes, Julie Keating, Siobhan Kelley, Glenn Locklee, Vito Manfredi, Deb Mostert, Ilona Nelson, Beth Norling, Steve Rosendale, Mark Stewart, Jim Thalassoudis, Merryn J. Trevathan, Joanne Turner, Amanda van Gils, Steve Warburton, Irene Wellm and Darian Zam.
Net Work is on at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, 40 Lydiard St, Ballarat, 7 days a week until 30 January.