Buxton Contemporary Gallery Curated Ann Stephen 26 July – 27 October 2019
By Celine Saoud
One hundred years have passed since the 1919 establishment of the Bauhaus: the widely celebrated German art school dedicated to uniting fine arts, craft, design and technology. To commemorate its centenary year, Buxton Contemporary highlights the artistic influence of Bauhaus within their exhibition, Bauhaus Now!. Curated by Ann Stephen, Bauhaus Now! explores the movement's impact on the fine arts by displaying a wide range of installation, video, painting and sculpture that depict a modernised, ever-evolving and resurrected Bauhaus movement. Meticulously curated to take the audience through this Bauhaus journey, the exhibition begins with contemporary, abstract expressions of Bauhaus ideals, before ending with a tribute to classical elements of the movement.
Divided across several rooms, Bauhaus Now! begins at the gallery's entrance way, featuring a 2019 costume by Mikala Dwyer and Justene Williams as part of their Mondspiel (Moon Play) series. Interested in exploring a modern-day unification of craft and fine arts, as well as the movement's fascination with the supernatural, the full-body costume is propped on the wall as though resurrected from the dead. Serving as the perfect prelude for what is yet to come in the exhibition, Dwyer and Williams' costume acts as a zombie-like warning of their supernatural explorations coming within the remainder of Bauhaus Now!.
To maintain the Bauhaus's primary function as an educational institute, the first room of the gallery explores the modern-day unification of visual arts and craft in exhibiting highly decorative lanterns created by students at VCA, RMIT and QCA Griffith University. Crafted during a week-long workshop, these highly decorative lanterns were marched through the heart of Melbourne City in a zombie-like spiritual revival of the Bauhaus movement. Accompanying the lanterns is the corresponding documentary _Lantern Parad_e, which plays as visitors weave through the colourful, crafted designs in their own personal Bauhaus parade.
Mikala Dwyer and Justene Williams' Mondspiel series continues through to the second room of the exhibition. From abstract explorations of the supernatural in vivid video installations of Mondspiel 1922-23, to the upright coffins in Totenhaus and the lively Thistle Garden, Dwyer and Williams' help illustrate the Bauhaus fascination with mystical and mythical energies in a modernised manner. Their imitation of such paranormal themes within their mixed-media installations help unite their widely abstract works with the Bauhaus movement, which similarly at least initially explored such extra-artistic matters.
Continuing in the upstairs loft of Buxton Contemporary, Bauhaus Now! shifts its focus from contemporary, abstract and thematic explorations of the supernatural to its classical artistic tropes. From woven rugs to small, cardboard structures, this tranquil, less chaotic space is ultimately complemented by the Bauhaus-inspired toys created by the students of Philip Goad at The University of Melbourne. As such, these interactive toys, as well as the remaining works within the upstairs loft, embody the crucial values that stand behind even the most abstract works of the Bauhaus, as well as the importance of complex ideals combined expressed with an attention to detail and functionality.
Celine is an Art History & Curating student at Monash University. While at University, Celine currently operates @melbourneartscene on Instagram, where she documents the Melbourne art scene as well as her own artistic practice.
Title image: Installation view, Bauhaus Now!, with Peter D Cole, Elemental landscape 2009-19, Buxton Contemporary – the University of Melbourne, 26 July – 27 October 2019 Courtesy of the artist © the artist. Photography Christian Capurro.