artMAD are crazy about art! The artMAD group – Annita Rae, Jenny Warren, Marion Smith, Mirjana Margetic, Ondra Gangell, Pat O’Connell and Susan Hayward – see themselves as Modern Art Disciples (hence MAD in their title), and aim to promote contemporary art within the Geelong region. They have varying art influences and philosophies, and express their concepts in a range of art forms including drawing, painting, sculpture and jewellery.
In a competitive art market, artMAD hope that by banding together, they will gain some clout and exposure. They meet once a month at Hayward’s gallery (Oxide Contemporary Arts), and over a bottle of wine or two, they discuss contemporary issues, artists and techniques, possible venues and outlets, and ideas about modern technology as an aid to their art practices. Associating with like minded people motivates them to pursue their art more seriously and push themselves further in conveying their thoughts and ideas. An added benefit is that they can observe how other artists work towards their goals and learn from each other.
Five of the artists are exhibiting in Elemental–Spiritual–Recycled–Sustainable which opens this Sunday 8 May at the Wintergarden. Despite their different styles and approaches to art, in this exhibition they are united by their care and concern for the natural environment.
Themes in the exhibition include: a contemporary, spiritual interpretation of the natural environments close to Geelong and nearby coastal areas (Margetic); a foreboding that mankind has lost the balance required to maintain the natural environment (Smith); a wiry representation of the creatures of this world (O’Connell); a personal interpretation of the Australian landscape with shifting colours and light (Warren); and an appreciation of the Australian bush, waterways and the animals and birds that inhabit these areas (Gangell).
For the first time Mirjana Margetic will be exhibiting ‘Birds’. These sculptures are symbols of survival yet also of vulnerability, and assembled from plaster, bark, branches and wire. She is also exhibiting paintings which comment on the changing landscape – changes that are caused either by natural means such as erosion, or through human intervention such as deforestation.
Marion Smith seeks to convey in her paintings the fragility of our natural environment and the detrimental impact of human activity upon this environment. “Once caretakers now careless,” she says. “Only rocks will endure although I’m not too optimistic about them.”
The colourful paintings of Jenny Warren are imagined places, a merging of landscapes she has seen and photographed. She is primarily interested in colour and light – the way colours blend, merge and constantly change whether it is in the earthy colour of the cliffs or the reflections of light on the water.
Ondra Gangell’s paintings reflect her love of the Australian bush. After the Anakie bushfires in 2006 Gangell witnessed a unique event when the grasstrees burst into flower, evidence that some parts of nature need fire to regenerate. She was inspired to paint this positive aspect of bushfires.
Using new and recycled wire and steel, Pat O’Connell creates sculptures which have warmth and personality and provide a stark contrast to the material from which they are created. As he works, some of the energy he uses to make each piece is transferred into the sculpture. His wire animals take on a life of their own and have their own personalities and expressions. He embraces the idea that cold hard steel can be transformed into something fluid and lifelike with movement and feeling.
O’Connell’s sculpture Hiding in the Grass, won 2nd prize in the People’s Choice Award at the Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show earlier this year.
Iconic grasstress by Pat O’Connell.
Elemental–Spiritual–Recycled–Sustainable is on at the Wintergarden, 51 McKillop Street, Geelong. Opening 8 May at 3pm and runs through until 31 May. Gallery open daily 10am–4pm.