58 Beale St (Cnr Smith St) Southport Queensland
Artists at George Petelin Gallery
The late career artists at George Petelin Gallery are selected for their historical contribution to Australian culture since the 1970s. The forms of color-based abstraction in Australia today can be traced to the work of veteran icons represented by George Petelin Gallery such as Sydney Ball, the optical play of Lesley Dumbrell, and the varied experimentation of Robert Jacks. Jacks’s work forms a transition between modernism as typified by Picasso and later New York movements such as minimalism, which led to art based on concepts rather than on visual experience. The work of Ball, Dumbrell, and Jacks is thus an inspiration for the gallery’s second generation Australian abstractionists-artists such as Matthew Johnson, Eugene Carchesio, and Giles Ryder, alongside whom they now show.
Matthew Johnson pursues a visual experience whose tradition can be traced to Monet’s water-lilies, but now has to account also for how various forms of digital media convey to us almost everything we see. Eugene Carchesio makes modest works on paper based on simple abstract or representational forms that are, however, always charged with an abstract sense of energy. Giles Ryder spraypaints pastel-coloured stripes onto large curved sheets of aluminium. The utter perfection and subtlety of execution of his work recalls the work of American artist Donald Judd and that of British artist Bridget Riley. The work of these young artists is distinguished by immaculate execution and resonates with the pace and lustre of contemporary life. These abstractionists thus not only play with colour and form, but register the rhythms of our time.
Similarly, work by artists at the George Petelin Gallery who comment more directly on contemporary society, such that of Robert Boynes, Richard Bell, and Vivienne Binns, oozes a street-savvy elegance that matches that of the abstractionists. Boynes’s photo-based paintings of people on the move, always in transit, are cool and factual-like documentary journalism- but also as portentious and futuristic as a scene from Ridley Scott’s dystopian film Bladerunner. Bell’s work, in dealing with race relations, is the most blatantly political but is tempered with an outrageous sense of humour, while Binns’s work presents an ongoing struggle between her sensuous nature and her desire for political rigour.
A similar edgy vibrancy can be seen in the work of local emerging artists Scott Johnson and Peter Alwast. Scott Johnson makes gleaming sculptures that resemble both missiles and automobile bodies: chic monuments to the link between petroleum and world conflict. And his topical ‘luggage sculptures are like airport x-rays in 3D. Meanwhile, Peter Alwast bases paintings on such topics as mass media publicity images of the Gold Coast tourist funpark Seaworld in ways that bring out their eerie ambiguity. Both of these young artists were chosen for the Gadens Law firm’s annual ‘Top Ten exhibition in 2006.
Jenny Watson, who in 1992 was chosen to represent Australia at that veritable ‘Olympics' of world art, the Venice Biennale, comments with child-like directness on the deeply personal emotions of contemporary adult relationships. Thick gestural strokes of oil paint over highly tactile materials accompanied by poignant texts evoke her innermost experiences as a woman. Life events become coloured and interpreted in these works through the labyrinths of the artist’s unconscious mind.
Proppa Now is an art movement that has taken Australia by storm. Consisting of urban Aboriginal artists who have already won individual acclaim, Richard Bell, Vernon AhKee, and Laurie Nilsen, as well as formidable emerging artists such as Jennifer Herd, Andrea Fisher, and Tony Albert, this group dispels the notion that indigenous art needs to be from a remote area to be ‘authentic’. These artists have developed a sophisticated citybred Aboriginal aesthetic in contrast to what they call the ‘Ooga-Booga' mentality that seeks to cast indigenous culture as inherently static and primitive. Identifying such a historical phenomenon at its beginning presents an unparalleled opportunity for serious collectors and museums.
Bonita Ely and Kevin Mortensen both have a deep affinity with the natural environment and both create performance and installation pieces as well as pictures. Ely based performance works on the problems of increasing salinity and pollution in the Murray-Darling river system as early as the mid 1970s, and Mortensen, from about the same time, developed the seagull metaphor that has become his trademark vehicle for many issues. Today, both artists record the landscape with remarkable sensitivity and continue to work in various media.
There is a continuity from established to emerging artists at George Petelin Gallery in each of the major trends including performance art and installation. The work of veteran performance artist Luke Roberts exhibited at the gallery consists of exquisite pictures and sculptural objects that remain as ‘relics' of his performances. These are mainly related to the persona he created called Pope Alice, an ‘extraterrestrial' character through whom Roberts was able to mock the self-importance of human institutions. The work of emerging Gold Coast artist Corinne Colbert similarly rotates around her performances and installations of bizarre frocks that satirise the commercialisation of women’s fashion.
The gallery also shows work by
Gordon Bennett and Tim Johnson—artists whose reputations speak for
themselves. Bennett is arguably Australia’s leading postmodernist,
while Johnson draws spiritual inspiration from the globalisation of