• Restless
    Margaret Lawrence Gallery
    19 May –
    10 Jun 2017
    By David Wlazlo
    03 Jun 2017

    This week marks fifty years since the 1967 referendum and last week at Uluru a meeting of Indigenous leaders met to discuss a united strategy on constitutional recognition. Fifty years is a long time in anyone’s book, and with little material progress toward reconciliation, recognition, and ‘bridging the gap’, there is a widespread consensus that a symbolic mention is not enough to decolonise Australia’s founding document. The ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’, released last week by the Referendum Council, called for meaningful constitutional reform to enable First Australians to “take a rightful place in (their) own country.” The ‘Statement’ called for First Nations people to be heard through the governing idea of Makarrata, a Yolngu concept for a coming together and healing after a struggle.

    At least until Makarrata is brought about, the struggle continues. Restless, currently showing at the VCA Margaret Lawrence Gallery, presents a dense and uncomfortable examination of the struggle of symbols dealing with the naturalisation of the modern Australian state. These symbols are often both literal objects as well as potent metaphors, pointing to a sense of duality within symbolic activity. In fact, like the Uluru Statement last week, there is a real tension in this show between the necessity of symbolic engagement with the past and the urgent need to act toward the future and the present.

    Restless, 2017, Margaret Lawrence Gallery, photo: Christo Crocker.

    The work in Restless speaks to both these conditions. Representing or referring to an Australia both past and present, urban and rural, there is a strong examination of how Australia’s past filters through into the present, especially through its objects. The density of these explorations is palpable, as is their entanglement with the socio-economic counterparts in daily Australian life. The materials and symbols of the work seem to refer to an Australia both clearly past and eerily present: the work of Megan Evans and Karla Dickens uses objects sourced from antique stores in their assemblages, while Nick Devlin incorporates a multitude of flattened Australian two cent pieces, a now redundant currency. Jordan Marani’s work centralises an iconic Australian horror film from the 70s, a reflection on normalised frontier violence. On some walls hang Gordon Bennett’s welt paintings, while across the entirety of the black painted gallery floor Bennett’s work A Black History (1993) repeats those three words in black charcoal. The past also features in director David Sequeira’s thinking for the show, as he remembers Bennett’s 1993 show at Sutton Gallery (‘A Black History’) as a wakeup call for curatorial practice in Australia.

    Karla Dickens, Workhorse II, 2015, photo: D.Wlazlo.

    Karla Dickens presents a series of assemblages around the role of Indigenous women in rural settler Australia. Sexualised bull horns burst through dusty Akubra hats in Bush Cocky I, II and III (2015) alongside wire dressmaker’s dolls stripped topless down to their petticoats both feathered and cotton in The Help, and Brand – The Help (2015). These figures of ghostly women have tool belts and apron pockets full of equipment for cultural survival: spoons, branding irons, feathers and clapsticks. As if the imagery of sexual violence was not clear, Workhorse II features a worn, burnished and vulval horse’s collar or yoke into which are forcefully thrust so many cricket stumps. What makes these works so powerful is that this sexual violence is enacted through the tarnished patina of the antique store, those tan-hued archives of the last two hundred years where colonial identity is bought and sold in deceased estates. Middleclass Sundays spent in country towns evoke the urban Australian myth of the country life, and it is chilling to reflect on the Indigenous women who had to endure the subaltern position of both womanhood and Indigeneity.

    Restless, 2017, Margaret Lawrence Gallery, photo: Christo Crocker.

    The floor-based assemblages of Megan Evans also draw from the material colonial archive. Two antique upholstered chairs drip with red-beaded blood flow, while the jaws of a taxidermied fox drip with the same flow of red in Fox (2015). Alongside, Hero (2015) features a glass-encased model ship sailing through the same red glass beads. Evans’ stark and direct imagery underlies the problem of trying to account for violent dispossession and genocide in anything but the most direct symbolism: the long drip of blood falling through the Fox’s teeth seems a tad operatic as a metaphor, until you realise that it isn’t a metaphor at all but a kind of re-enactment or illustration.

    Nick Devlin, Sovereign, 2017, photo: D.Wlazlo.

    Likewise, Nick Devlin’s work speaks a language alternating between metaphoric and literal. His black-soaked Australian flags in Black Flag (2013) suggest the modernist monochrome, or at least Rauschenberg’s flags, but at the same time they are literally Australian flags. Sovereign (2017) also adorns the blackened flag with flattened two-cent pieces, in a quite beautiful defacement of retired currency. What was once literal ‘value’ becomes decorative and formal. Along with We Are Golden (2017), a seemingly unaltered golden space blanket, Devlin’s work speaks to the growing inadequacy of the symbols of value we use to account for Australian identity.

    Jordan Marani, from the series 100 NOs, 2016-17, photo: D.Wlazlo.

    In the second room, Jordan Marani’s work is a single horse trailer, or float, central on the floor. Painted white, it has the blue chequered pattern from a police van under the blue word ‘policy’. Walking up into the trailer, a small screen waits at the top playing the 1970s classic Australian horror film Wake in Fright (1971). It’s a scary film, the violence under the mask of mateship and ‘buying each other a round at the pub’ also strongly recalls characters from the past (or perhaps this is just me: having grown up in rural Tasmania, this film gives me a shudder of recognition). With all the appearance of an official, although slightly battered, police horse trailer, White Horse Trailer Policy (2017) makes a connection between the mounted police and the drover mentality, where we climb into the back of the horse’s paddy wagon, our paddy wagon, and the horse is trained to recognise its masters in the film. On the wall are a collection of small decorative abstract paintings featuring the word ‘NO’. While Marani’s work often features geometric investigations into various four-letter words, the ‘no’ in this work is strong and firm rather than flippant: the paintings are as so many voices standing together in protest against the ‘white horse ‘of policy set against it.

    Restless, 2017, Margaret Lawrence Gallery, photo: Christo Crocker.

    The works of Gordon Bennett unite the show, mainly through the power of the floor text. ‘A black history’ is erased as contemporary art is consumed, remarks Sequeira, and Restless beautifully displays this. It is an aporia or bind that haunts so forcefully any time colonial Australia—and those who benefit from it—tries to naturalise its privilege. Bennett’s ‘welt’ paintings are so described because the artist fused a thick vinyl paint with a slash of red, producing the effect of a cut to the skin before it heals. Symbolic and literal, the welt seems to mark a passage of time from wounded to healed. A passage through memory, where to be healed is to be unable to forget the truth. For too long has this country been able to forget. Does this mean Australia needs to render Bennett’s text permanent, on all floors and stages, symbolically as well as literally, as Makarrata suggests? Restless is a reminder that until this is at the very least legislated, any sense of calm is an act of forgetting.

    David is a PhD Candidate in Art History and Theory at Monash University.

    Title image: Gordon Bennett, A Black History, 1993 (recreated 2017), photo: D.Wlazlo.)


    2020 #21 Rex Butler Jane Sutherland, Obstruction, Box Hill 1887 Art Gallery of Ballarat
    2020 #20 Amelia Winata John Nixon, Groups + Pairs 2016-2020 Anna Schwartz Gallery
    2020 #19 Chelsea Hopper Justine Varga, Tachisme Tolarno Galleries
    2020 #18 Anna Parlane Patrick Pound, The Museum of There, Not There STATION
    2020 #17 Kate Meakin “Apparel” Neon Parc Brunswick
    2020 #16 Robert Schubert Terre Thaemlitz, Love Bomb/Ai No Bakudan The SUBSTATION
    2020 #15 Philip Brophy Lewis Fidock and Joshua Petherick, Weevils in the Flour Gertrude Contemporary
    2020 #14 Jane Eckett Virginia Cuppaidge, The Skyspace Paintings 1977 - 1982 Nicholas Thompson Gallery
    2020 #13 Rex Butler Callum Morton, Monument #32: Helter Shelter Alfred Deakin Place Ballarat
    2020 #12 Amelia Winata Ari Tampubolon, Symposia: This show is dedicated to K-pop girl group, TWICE. I love you. SEVENTH Gallery
    2020 #11 Giles Fielke Warwick Baker, Hi-Vis Dreams Centre for Contemporary Photography
    2020 #10 Amelia Wallin Agatha Gothe-Snape, The Outcome is Certain Monash University Museum of Art
    2020 #09 Audrey Schmidt Alethea Everard, Art show Meow2
    2020 #08 Chelsea Hopper Elizabeth Gower, LOCATIONS Sutton Gallery, Sutton Projects
    2020 #07 Paris Lettau KAWS: Companionship in the Age of Loneliness NGV International
    2020 #06 Victoria Perin Assembled: The Art of Robert Klippel Tarrawarra Museum of Art
    2019 #51 Luke Smythe Colin McCahon: Letters and Numbers National Gallery of Victoria
    2019 #50 David Wlazlo 110%: Wet Nurse c3 Contemporary Art Space
    2019 #49 Helen O'Toole Luke Sands Guzzler
    2019 #48 David Homewood Robert Hunter Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
    2019 #47 Giles Fielke Kate Wallace, Views to Remember / Travis McDonald, Clock Face C3 Contemporary Art Space
    2019 #46 Audrey Schmidt In Costume Mejia
    2019 #45 Marnie Edmiston Collection leads: John Scurry—small paintings Geelong Gallery
    2019 #44 Rex Butler Collecting Comme National Gallery of Victoria
    2019 #43 Francis Plagne Elizabeth Newman Neon Parc City
    2019 #42 Amelia Winata Preparation Haydens
    2019 #41 Victoria Perin Never the same river Anna Schwartz Gallery
    2019 #40 Philip Brophy Haroon Mirza: The Construction of an Act Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
    2019 #39 Matthew Linde Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion Bendigo Art Gallery
    2019 #38 Maddee Clark Fiona Foley: Who are these strangers and where are they going? Ballarat International Foto Biennale
    2019 #37 Giles Fielke Karrabing Film Collective: The Mermaids, or Aiden in Wonderland KINGS Artist Run
    2019 #36 Aneta Trajkoski SERIAL McClelland Sculpture Park+Gallery
    2019 #34 Philip Brophy ...(illegible)... MADA Gallery
    2019 #32 Ella Cattach On Vulnerability and Doubt Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
    2019 #31 Helen O'Toole George Egerton-Warburton, also known as , Heide Museum of Modern Art
    2019 #30 Victoria Perin, Brendan Casey I will never run out of lies nor love Bus Projects
    2019 #29 Anna Parlane FEM-aFFINITY Arts Project Australia
    2019 #28 Jane Eckett Josef Stanislaw Ostoja-Kotkowski: Solid Light McClelland Sculpture Park+Gallery
    2019 #27 Elyssia Bugg Prima Materia Bundoora Homestead
    2019 #26 Amelia Winata Angelica Mesiti: ASSEMBLY Venice Biennale
    2019 #25 Rex Butler Hans and Nora Heysen: Two Generations of Australian Art Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
    2019 #24 Francis Plagne Janet Burchill and Jennifer McCamley: Temptation to Co-exist Heide Museum of Modern Art
    2019 #23 Audrey Schmidt Octopus 19: Ventriloquy Gertrude Contemporary
    2019 #22 Anna Parlane Serene Velocity in Practice: MC510/CS183 Monash University Museum of Art
    2019 #21 Sophie Knezic Arlo Mountford: Deep Revolt Shepparton Art Museum
    2019 #21 Philip Brophy Christian Thompson: Baya Gardiya Australian Centre for the Moving Image
    2019 #20 Victoria Perin Isabel Davies: Recent Geometric Constructions Stephen McLaughlan Gallery
    2019 #19 Chelsea Hopper Taryn Simon: Contraband Anna Schwartz Gallery
    2019 #18 Rex Butler Tracey Moffatt: Body Remembers Tarrawarra Museum of Art
    2019 #17 Stephen Palmer Amalia Lindo: Computer Shoulders Centre for Contemporary Photography
    2019 #16 Giles Fielke Carve A Future, Devour Everything, Become Something Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
    2019 #15 David Wlazlo Compromise Warrnambool Art Gallery
    2019 #14 Ella Cattach Emma Phillips: Too Much to Dream Reading Room
    2019 #13 Paris Lettau The Museological Consciousness Lyon Housemuseum Galleries, Meow
    2019 #13 The Editors Memo Review 01. Perimeter Books, World Food Books, Monash University Museum of Art
    2019 #12 Giles Fielke Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits Bendigo Art Gallery
    2019 #11 Sophie Knezic The Tennis Piece Gertrude Contemporary
    2019 #10 Victoria Perin Papermade / John Nixon: Screenprints, Woodblocks & Unique Relief Prints Negative Press, Australian Galleries
    2019 #09 Francis Plagne Visions of Paradise: Indian Court Paintings National Gallery of Victoria
    2019 #08 Amelia Winata Daniel von Sturmer Anna Schwartz Gallery
    2019 #07 Audrey Schmidt Carny Neon Parc
    2019 #06 Rex Butler Christian Marclay: The Clock Australian Centre for the Moving Image
    2019 #05 Anna Parlane Marlene Gilson Art Gallery of Ballarat
    2018 #52 Memo Review Thanks for reading in 2018
    2018 #51 Victoria Perin Sweeney Reed and Strines Gallery Heide Museum of Modern Art
    2018 #50 Paris Lettau Katie West: warna (ground) Caves
    2018 #49 Audrey Schmidt Aesthetics, Politics and Histories: The Social Context of Art AAANZ Conference 2018 - RMIT University
    2018 #49 The Editors Does the art exhibition have a future? AAANZ Conference 2018 - RMIT University
    2018 #48 Rex Butler Mira Gojak and Takehito Koganezawa: The Garden of Forking Paths Buxton Contemporary
    2018 #47 Jane Eckett Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design Ian Potter Museum of Art
    2018 #46 Francis Plagne Spencer Lai: A smile forms into a grimace / Matilda Davis: Too Many Dinner Parties Bus Projects
    2018 #45 Anna Parlane Lili Reynaud-Dewar, TEETH, GUMS, MACHINES, FUTURE, SOCIETY / Alicia Frankovich, Exoplanets Monash University Museum of Art
    2018 #44 Amelia Winata Hito Steyerl: Factory of the Sun National Gallery of Victoria
    2018 #43 David Wlazlo Biennale of Australian Art Art Gallery of Ballarat
    2018 #42 Giles Fielke Anne Ferran: White Against Red Sutton Gallery
    2018 #41 Sophie Knezic Eavesdropping Ian Potter Museum of Art
    2018 #41 Benison Kilby State of the Union Ian Potter Museum of Art
    2018 #40 Tim Alves John Stezaker: Lost World Centre for Contemporary Photography
    2018 #39 Paris Lettau Brook Andrew: The Language of Skulls Ten Cubed
    2018 #38 Jane Eckett Design for Life: Grant and Mary Featherston Heide Museum of Modern Art
    2018 #37 Rex Butler Tom Roberts: Shearing the Rams National Gallery of Victoria
    2018 #36 Victoria Perin Baldessin / Whiteley: Parallel Visions National Gallery of Victoria
    2018 #35 Hester Lyon Architecture Makes Us: Cinematic Visions of Sonia Leber and David Chesworth Centre for Contemporary Photography
    2018 #34 Francis Plagne Robert Smithson: Time Crystals Monash University Museum of Art
    2018 #34 Philip Brophy Robert Smithson: Time Crystals Monash University Museum of Art
    2018 #33 Amelia Winata Nicholas Mangan, Termite Economies Sutton Gallery
    2018 #32 Giles Fielke Philadelphia Wireman World Food Books
    2018 #31 Victoria Perin, David Wlazlo, Amelia Winata Melbourne Art Fair & Spring 1883 Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Windsor Hotel
    2018 #30 Anna Parlane A Lightness of Spirit is the Measure of Happiness Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
    2018 #29 Giles Fielke, Amelia Winata, Tiarney Miekus Best and Overlooked of 2018 Recess, Ian Potter Museum of Art, Gertrude Contemporary
    2018 #28 Shelley McSpedden Auto Body Works Arts Project Australia
    2018 #27 Rex Butler Colony: Australia 1770–1861 / Frontier Wars National Gallery of Victoria
    2018 #26 Paris Lettau Andrew Browne: Spill Tolarno Galleries
    2018 #25 Jane Eckett The Sculpture Park Point Leo Estate
    2018 #24 Giles Fielke Lucina Lane and Nigel Lendon: Teach the Kids to Strike Neon Parc
    2018 #23 Tim Alves I hope you get this: Raquel Ormella Shepparton Art Museum
    2018 #22 Chelsea Hopper Diane Arbus: American Portraits Heide Museum of Modern Art
    2018 #21 Rex Butler The Field Revisited National Gallery of Victoria
    2018 #20 Anna Parlane Hard Feelings The Honeymoon Suite
    2018 #19 Francis Plagne Abstraction 17: A Field of Interest, c. 1968 Charles Nodrum Gallery
    2018 #18 Eva Birch Kieren Seymour: Blue Blindness Block Projects
    2018 #17 Amelia Winata Natalie Thomas and the Women's Art Register: Finding the Field True Estate Gallery
    2018 #16 David Wlazlo Troy Ramaekers: Double B-Sides Five Walls Projects
    2018 #15 Helen Hughes Vivienne Binns: It is what it is, what it is Sutton Gallery
    2018 #14 Kate Warren Soda_Jerk: TERROR NULLIUS Australian Centre for the Moving Image
    2018 #13 Paris Lettau The Shape of Things to Come Buxton Contemporary
    2018 #12 Victoria Perin Unfinished Business: Perspectives on Art and Feminism Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
    2018 #11 Giles Fielke Samraing Chea: Universal Drawings Reading Room
    2018 #10 Nicholas Tammens Mutlu Çerkez: 1988-2065 Monash University Museum of Art
    2018 #09 Tiarney Miekus Genesis Breyer P-Orridge: Loyalty Does Not End With Death The SUBSTATION
    2018 #08 Anna Parlane Kirsten Lyttle: Digital Mana Centre for Contemporary Photography
    2018 #07 Francis Plagne Tony Clark: Chinoiserie Landscape 1987 - 2017 Murray White Room
    2018 #06 Rex Butler Richard Bell: Dredging up the Past Gertrude Contemporary
    2018 #05 Amelia Winata Kieran Butler and collaborators: Rainbow Bois and Magical Gurls Blindside
    2017 #52 Giles Fielke Triennial National Gallery of Victoria
    2017 #51 Victoria Perin Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco National Gallery of Victoria
    2017 #50 Julia Lomas Angela Brennan: Forms of Life Ian Potter Museum of Art
    2017 #49 Kate Warren Cover Versions: Mimicry and Resistance Shepparton Art Museum
    2017 #48 Paris Lettau Our Knowing and Not Knowing: Helen Maudsley Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
    2017 #47 Francis Plagne Douglas Lance Gibson: What Was Once Yesterday Today & Tomorrow Tolarno Galleries
    2017 #46 Chelsea Hopper Jenny Watson: The Fabric of Fantasy Heide Museum of Modern Art
    2017 #45 Ian McLean Wayne Eager New Paintings Eastgate Gallery
    2017 #44 Anna Parlane Jason Phu: My Parents Met at the Fish Market Westspace
    2017 #43 Rex Butler Gareth Sansom: Transformer The Ian Potter Centre | NGV Australia
    2017 #42 David Wlazlo Joseph Kosuth: A Short History of My Thought Anna Schwartz Gallery
    2017 #41 Amelia Winata Darren Sylvester: Céline Bus Projects
    2017 #40 Helen Hughes Brent Harris: the small sword Tolarno Galleries
    2017 #39 Kate Warren The Score Ian Potter Museum of Art
    2017 #38 Paris Lettau Isadora Vaughan: Recalcitrant Bodies The Honeymoon Suite
    2017 #37 Francis Plagne Smallness: Trevelyan Clay & Kate Smith Neon Parc, Sutton Gallery
    2017 #36 Audrey Schmidt People Soup Suicidal Oil Piglet
    2017 #35 Anna Parlane Forever Transformed Gertrude Contemporary
    2017 #34 Jane Eckett Sidney Nolan and Elwyn Lynn: A Joint Centenary Charles Nodrum Gallery
    2017 #33 David Wlazlo Future Eaters Monash University Museum of Art
    2017 #32 Beth Kearney Fictitious Realities Bayside Arts and Cultural Centre
    2017 #31 Rex Butler Brave New World: Australia 1930s / Call of the Avant-Garde: Constructivism and Australian Art Heide Museum of Modern Art, Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
    2017 #30 Victoria Perin Discovering Dobell / Dobell’s Circle Tarrawarra Museum of Art
    2017 #29 Amelia Winata Spencer Lai: Contaminant, Figures Fort Delta
    2017 #28 Helen Hughes Liam Osborne: Hot Copy Punk Café
    2017 #27 Kylie King Dale Frank Neon Parc
    2017 #26 Francis Plagne Every Brilliant Eye National Gallery of Victoria
    2017 #25 Rex Butler I can see Russia from here TCB art inc.
    2017 #24 Kate Warren Andrea Grützner: Tanztee and Erbgericht Centre for Contemporary Photography
    2017 #23 Giles Fielke On Campus Monash University
    2017 #22 David Wlazlo Restless Margaret Lawrence Gallery
    2017 #21 Anna Parlane Sky Country: Our Connection to the Cosmos Blak Dot Gallery
    2017 #20 Amelia Winata Unproductive Thinking Deakin University Art Gallery
    2017 #19 Anthony White Van Gogh and the Seasons National Gallery of Victoria
    2017 #18 Victoria Perin Harold Freedman: Artist for the People Art Gallery of Ballarat
    2017 #17 Paris Lettau Raafat Ishak & Damiano Bertoli: Hebdomeros Sutton Gallery
    2017 #16 Beth Kearney Bill Henson National Gallery of Victoria
    2017 #15 Helen Hughes James Tylor: un-resettling Vivien Anderson Gallery
    2017 #14 Rex Butler Louise Hearman Tarrawarra Museum of Art
    2017 #13 Julia Lomas Sally Smart: The Choreography of Cutting Sarah Scout Presents
    2017 #12 Giles Fielke Open Spatial Workshop: Converging in Time Monash University Museum of Art
    2017 #11 Kate Warren Daniel Crooks: Parabolic / Miyanaga Akira: REALTIME Anna Schwartz Gallery, National Gallery of Victoria
    2017 #10 Francis Plagne David Hockney: Current National Gallery of Victoria
    2017 #09 David Wlazlo Project 17: Radical Immanence Anna Pappas Gallery
    2017 #08 Anna Parlane Stuart Ringholt: Works on Paper Neon Parc
    2017 #07 Victoria Perin Don't be too Polite: Posters and Activism Ian Potter Museum of Art
    2017 #06 Amelia Winata O’Keeffe, Preston, Cossington-Smith: Making Modernism Heide Museum of Modern Art
    2017 #05 Paris Lettau Sovereignty Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
    2017 #04 Beth Kearney Ramesh Nithiyendran: In the beginning Ian Potter Museum of Art
    2017 #03 Giles Fielke Lucina Lane: Range White Cuberd
    2017 #02 Helen Hughes The Sculpture of Bronwyn Oliver Tarrawarra Museum of Art
    2017 #01 Rex Butler Suzanne Archer: Moving Forwards, Looking Back: A Survey 1969–2016 Nicholas Thompson Gallery
    Jane Sutherland, Obstruction, Box Hill 1887
    Art Gallery of Ballarat
    by Rex Butler
    John Nixon, Groups + Pairs 2016-2020
    Anna Schwartz Gallery
    by Amelia Winata
    Justine Varga, Tachisme
    Tolarno Galleries
    by Chelsea Hopper
    Patrick Pound, The Museum of There, Not There
    STATION
    by Anna Parlane
    “Apparel”
    Neon Parc Brunswick
    by Kate Meakin
    Terre Thaemlitz, Love Bomb/Ai No Bakudan
    The SUBSTATION
    by Robert Schubert
    Lewis Fidock and Joshua Petherick, Weevils in the Flour
    Gertrude Contemporary
    by Philip Brophy
    Virginia Cuppaidge, The Skyspace Paintings 1977 - 1982
    Nicholas Thompson Gallery
    by Jane Eckett
    Callum Morton, Monument #32: Helter Shelter
    Alfred Deakin Place Ballarat
    by Rex Butler
    Ari Tampubolon, Symposia: This show is dedicated to K-pop girl group, TWICE. I love you.
    SEVENTH Gallery
    by Amelia Winata

    The End.