Cover image of the review
Victoria Todorov, Room 318 (I am wealthy in terms of my vision), 2021, oil on canvas, 129 × 185 × 3.5 cm. Courtesy of Discordia.

  • Cameron Hurst

8 Aug 2021
Discordia, Neon Parc, Jacob Hoerner 4 Aug - 29 Aug 2021

At the start of the trailer for Woodstock 99: Peace, Love and Rage, the new HBO documentary about the calamitous festival, a talking head sets an ominous scene. “There is a sixth sense that you develop when you spend your life going to venues. I can tell you from a hundred feet away what the energy in that venue is going to be like”. Things were a little off at Woodstock that year. Mass dehydration abounded. Portaloos overflowed, and the festival infrastructure was incinerated in Limp Bizkit-soundtracked bonfires. Organisers lost control of the rabid crowds; there were casualties. The event was later nicknamed “The Day the 90s Died”.

Spring1883 was fine. There was alcohol and functioning toilets. Last I heard, nobody died. But when your coverage starts with a police procession and ends with a lockdown, even the shiniest paintings start looking like shit.

On Thursday night, the Discordia offshoot in Richmond was full. People meandered between the two main rooms and a Persian rug-covered basement. The show was stacked with a disparate mix of paintings, a few sculptures and a single glossy photograph of an oyster. Recent Discordia solo show alumni, Tim Bučković, contributed two small oil paintings which were good: frollicking pagan groups rendered in umber and steely blues, hung discreetly above a fireplace. I was looking at Julia Trybala’s Bathroom I (2021) and Bathroom II (2021), embryonic melting women, when the cops showed up. Three of the boys in blue made their way into the white cube and began interrogating the venue host, while more backup waited with arms staunchly crossed outside. The languid subjects of Trybala’s paintings seemed vaguely affronted by the severity of the fluorescent vests and buzz cuts. The crowd dispersed.

Installation view, Tim Bučković, Collection, 2021, oil on linen and Chambering, 2021, oil on linen, Discordia. Courtesy of Discordia.

On a non-Spring related visit to the Brunswick Neon Parc the next day, I saw the fantastic Elizabeth Newman solo show. It was a pleasure to see such a significant body of new and old works by a formidable artist in one place. In the mid-afternoon, I made my way to the city Neon Parc to see the eight artists at their Spring satellite. News of an impending lockdown had begun to circulate. In contrast to Newman’s formal asceticism, this gallery was filled with gunky Technicolour. A fellow attendee, a buyer in thick-framed spectacles, peered at Nabilah Nordin’s floor sculptures: colourful lumps made up of varying combinations of chicken wire, papier-mâché, cement and epoxy dough. The splayed limbs of Kieren Seymour’s ever-endearing characters were a highlight.

Installation view, Spring1883 satellite booth, Teelah George, Cat Fooks, Andrée van Schaik, Nabilah Nordin, Neon Parc. Courtesy of Neon Parc.

The Jacob Hoerner Gallery was the intended final stop. When I emailed to check their opening hours, they told me their Spring show was available for viewing in a narrow timeslot: between the hours of 6 and 8 pm on Wednesday and Thursday. Each night, they would rapidly deinstall the daytime show and quickly switch over to the art fair. At 4 pm, I was loitering on Spring Street when Daniel Andrews announced the 8 pm lockdown: “Go home”. I did, and sadly viewed Hoerner’s Spring showing via the catalogue instead. Notable pieces in the eclectic group included David Palliser’s bombastic, sinewy abstraction, Visitors (2021) and two Andrew Sibley works using Perspex from c. 1979.

Victoria Todorov, Room 318 (I am wealthy in terms of my vision), 2021, oil on canvas, 129 × 185 × 3.5 cm. Courtesy of Discordia.

That night, I watched videos of anti-lockdown rioters releasing flares on Swanston Street. I thought of Woodstock 99, of Spring1883 and of the empty suite in The Hotel Windsor intended for Victoria Todorov’s hyper-opulent portrait Room 318 (I am wealthy in terms of my vision) (2021). The painting depicts a blue-rinsed grand dame in a gilded melange. She is dignified and luxurious. A fantasy of what could have been.