Hany Armanious • Damiano Bertoli • Claire Healy & Sean Cordeiro • Jonathan Jones • Nike Savvas • Nick Mangan • John Meade
Adventures with form in space, the 2006 Balnaves Foundation Sculpture Project, considers the richly inventive ways in which contemporary artists use form and colour in their sculptures. It draws together the work of eight Australian artists whose sculptures are essentially abstract, highly imaginative and explore many ideas.
From a reconstructed iceberg, to a 28-metre-long light sculpture inspired by both natural shapes and Aboriginal motifs, to an installation of thousands of brightly coloured vibrating atom-like particles, this exhibition is a visually exciting and thought provoking adventure into the use of form in contemporary sculpture.
Wayne Tunnicliffe, the gallery's curator of contemporary art, says "The sculptures in this exhibition are informed by the legacy of the extraordinary experiments with shapes and voids, materials, colour and ideas that occurred throughout the 20th century. This project is exactly what the title says it is - an adventure with form in space - as the eight artists selected continue to find new ways to reinvent sculptural practice."
This is the fourth in a series of sculpture exhibitions which have been generously funded by the Balnaves Foundation. Neil and Diane Balnaves initiated this series with the Art Gallery in 2003 to provide a focus on sculpture within the gallery's programs. The first, Still-Life, was a group exhibition of young Australian sculptors, including Ricky Swallow who subsequently represented Australia at the 2005 Venice Biennale. The second exhibition focused on the connections between the abstract sculptures and vibrant paintings of senior Australian artist Robert Owen. Last year the beautiful and enigmatic work of German artist Wolfgang Laib was presented, including his famous pollen pieces.
Hany Armanious' tall and shapely, symmetrical sculpture recalls an outsize pepper mill on a pallet balanced on soccer balls; it is suggestively phallic as it extends up into the ceiling, while a candle is lit in homage in front of it. Abstract, black lines, created from gaffer tape cut on a buzz-saw, wrap around the walls of the exhibitions space, a mesmerising op-art work that suggest the grooves in a LP or even geological strata.
Collaborative artists Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro take apart familiar things such as houses and then stack the pieces into surprisingly ordered patterns. In the gallery they have positioned a hothouse, suggesting protection and nurture, but contained within it are the possessions Healy and Cordeiro left in storage when they set off overseas indefinitely. Self-storage arranges with precision and beauty the objects we find it hard to discard when we move on.
Jonathan Jones' overwhelming, 28-metre-long wall installation radiates heat and intense, white light. The formal regularity of its design, made from fluorescent tubes, recalls the famous, minimalist light sculptures of American Dan Flavin, but Jones' work has a skein of cultural references alien to minimalism. The inspiration for its design comes from both natural patterns found in the Australian landscape and from Aboriginal motifs such as the incised patterns on shields.
Generic wooden souvenirs brought back from holidays in the pacific islands and South-East Asia are transformed by Nick Mangan. Carved, cut and whittled into crystalline, abstract forms that seem to grow out of their source material, they are turned into both quasi-geological shapes and neo-primitivist objects, whose exoticism says more about the desires of the West than the cultures the souvenirs purport to represent.
Damiano Bertoli's Continuous moment recreates the sublimely beautiful iceberg in German romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich's The sea of ice 1822-24. From a distance and in photographs it looks highly finished, but close-up, its minimal forms turn out to have been created from the discards of a building site.
In Nike Savvas' huge room installation a shimmering haze of vibrating coloured balls suggests the very atoms that are the fundamental structural units of all things. This mesmerising work has an extraordinary optical effect as it oscillates within the gallery space, suggestive of a haze of colour over a hot landscape or an abstract painting that has exploded in the exhibition.
John Meade's sculptures are both figurative and abstract. The hair encasing the figure of Black duo: self portrait as Mary Magdalene, and nude with pitchfork is both comical and haunting. The form that sits behind it is biomorphic and abstract - an emanation the figure seems to have conjured forth. Nearby lays another figurative sculpture, inspired by the arching body of Madonna on the cover of her latest CD.