Seen at opposite sides of town, aligned with different festivals and presenting diverse exhibits, these two seemingly opposing exhibitions have one thing in common, they force the viewer to re-evaluate 'art' on many levels. I suggest prior to visiting each exhibition try to define, in your own words, what constitutes Art. Write it down then throw it away and with it all preconceived notions for they won't work in either of these presentations.
First of all be assured when entering The Church Gallery that it has not been vandalized. The installation is intended just as we see it. de la Cruz presents paintings that have been ripped asunder, bent and twisted, canvas torn from broken stretchers as if a tantrum was hurled in the studio. The works are placed well away from each other, perhaps to prevent any one of them attacking another. In such a presentation we can approach each sculpture-like piece and identify the 'painting' for what it is, coloured pigment suspended in a viscous oil medium, not a visual imitation.
The works demand a side-step in our thinking of art as a precious, or should that be precocious, attempt at imitating 'beauty'. With titles and exhibits like Stuck, a black canvas sagging from its support wedged in a stairwell; Crash, a stretched blue painting head butting a wrinkled unstretched image of itself; Nothing (small red) where a painted canvas is piled on the floor, we begin to suspect this is about violence or angst. Yet there is nothing morbid or frightening about these mini installations. They are quite beautiful on close inspection and if you sit down next to one, you'll find yourself communicating with art like you've never done before. A highly engaging and thought provoking exhibition.
You'll be engaged in quite another way at Artshouse. One wall is hung, from ceiling to floor in the style of The Salon, with a collection of art (we're broadly speaking here) gleaned from op shops and second hand stores by Moncrieff. It's like they are being offered a second chance. Here you'll discover paint-by-number Alpine vistas, completed jig-saw puzzles that have been glued together and framed, a series of bark paintings, some tapestry kits that use yard to draw neat English cottages or Outback scenes, faded posters and string art presented with a certain panache, as all retro chic must.
There are also some faded prints by those naughty French Impressionist as a salute to those whose art was considered of minor importance, in their own times. Moncrieff, unlike the selectors of the Salon de Beaux Arts, happily accepts and exhibits this odd collection of images and objects with egalitarianism and respect. Each item was once given or received with love, and held dearly by someone for one brief, bright moment of its history. Perhaps this pre-loved stuff is more precious then Fine Art.
But art snobs prevail. Exhibited on this wall of wonder are a number of 'real paintings', student works and hobby efforts, some signed, and it's these 'originals' that were snapped up first. Whoever purchased the river scene, complete with black swans modelled on the old beer can motif got the 'best of show'.
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