Atlas: Andrew Hurle

Andrew Hurle’s work in Post-planning is about human imagination and its roots in pathology. There are six artworks: four small constructions (models), some more unfinished looking than others, and two prints about A3 size and pinned.

The works are installed as a group on a stage or rostrum built of black stained timber sheets—a display device designed by the curator and a consultant architect. The stage mimics some of the material effects you notice elsewhere in Post-planning but as well blurs the edges of where the artist’s work finishes.

Each of Hurle’s works takes as a lead his recent research into economic and banking systems. He describes this as ‘the subject of counterfeit, the psychology of wealth and the various anxieties that formulate in prosperity’s shadow—such as loss, theft and bankruptcy’.

The titles give an indication—there’s a wedged replica inkjet Postbank headquarters, Hellesches Ufer 60, 10963 Kreuzberg, Berlin for instance, and One Chase Manhattan Plaza, NY reminds me of Thomas Schütte’s Basement sculptures circa 1993. The most intriguing works perhaps are the two plainly exquisite inkjet prints pinned to the backboard and titled Guthaben (Ghost account), 2011. Hurle has lifted somehow and replicated page blanks from Nazi bank passbooks used by Jewish inmates in concentration camps.

What I like about Hurle’s interest in modelling is that it’s not confused with crafting or used as a vehicle for generational pathos. His sculptural models are still in large part schematic, closer to actual architectural models in their making and proportions. What is different is how Hurle incorporates his complex understandings of 2D printing technologies into the designs. You might argue these ‘models’ are actually 3D images.

Hurle is a printing specialist and as such has a very heterogeneous and gregarious curiosity about images and image reproduction. His image awareness is like an atlas. Images are a place and point of orientation as well as promising forms of knowledge. In Post-planning Hurle is particularly focused on images that are pernicious or rendered speechless or are aphasic.

Andrew Hurle, various works, Post-planning: Damiano Bertoli, Julian Hooper, Andrew Hurle, Alex Martinis Roe, Michelle Nikou, Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne, 31 March – 22 July 2012.

Andrew Hurle, ‘Guthaben (Ghost account)’, 2011, inkjet print on paper

Andrew Hurle, foreground: ‘One Chase Manhattan Plaza, NY’, 2011, inkjet print on polystyrene, synthetic polymer paint, card; third from left: ‘Postbank headquarters, Hellesches Ufer 60, 10963 Kreuzberg, Berlin’, 2011, inkjet print on paper on aluminium and polystyrene

Andrew Hurle’s works in ‘Post-planning’, 2012

Moya McKenna: Ideas once thought and then forgotten

Untitled (Cosmic bust man) is a recent artwork by American Tom Friedman; a bust of a man with dark apertures in place of eyes, mouth and nostrils. In a neat spatial inversion, the viewer peers in and unexpectedly sees the night sky. It’s not an artwork that begs detailed interpretation—ideas are suggested (about infinity, about the experience of staring into space, perhaps about mortality) but are left open-ended. In this way, Friedman’s work provides perfect material for Moya McKenna’s paintings.

This reference is among a handful which visually repeat throughout Moya’s work, often over years. Others include a cheetah’s head licking an unseen companion, Whistler’s mother sitting in profile, and a work by Yayoi Kusama drawn from a photograph Moya took in Japan a few years ago. Each provides a different emotional and formal texture, retaining something of their original context yet providing a unique armature for each individual work. A fine control limits this selection, reflecting, as Moya noted during my recent visit, a desire to decide ‘what enters the studio’, and by extension her paintings. Pushing backwards and forwards between these images, the things they suggest and the undefined spaces they inhabit seems to provide the axis on which her new work turns.

Moya says that to paint these works she needed to first understand space in a way that her earlier paintings allowed. These earlier works drew on constructed studio tableaux and collages, and over time moved from describing the ‘literal’ space she had set up in front of her, toward that imagined, or sensed, in the paintings themselves. Her recent group of paintings can be seen to complete this trajectory—the way their spaces are constructed appears prompted by an internal dialogue no longer beholden to the logic of how things should be. Simultaneously ‘finished’ and open-ended, their revisions suggest both a future and a past: the way they could have been underlies how they are. In part they work because they hang together so tenuously; shift one or two things and they could unravel.

Moya McKenna, Ride, Kalimanrawlins, Melbourne, 5–26 May 2012.

Moya McKenna, reference material (cheetah)

Moya McKenna, ‘Hot pumpkin’, 2011, oil on canvas, 71.5 x 106.5 cm. Photo: Andrew Curtis

Moya McKenna, reference material (Tom Friedman, ‘Untitled cosmic bust man’)

Moya McKenna, reference material (artist’s drawing)

Photo finish, or harmony in grey

Grey is the new blue, and Melbourne with its wintry aspect (for this last week at least) is my new Berlin, courtesy of John Nixon’s Black, white & grey. Photographic studies (photosheets), showing at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), and Corinna Belz’s Gerhard Richter—painting at the German film festival.

While Richter ruminates on history through his personal archive of old black and white photographs as source materials for his paintings, and whether (scandalously) he should throw them away, Nixon returns to the source to revel in the subtle and not-so-subtle gradations of tone, texture and contrast in the still-life photograph, with its roots in an earlier era of photomontage and cut-and-paste graphic design. Here, the techniques of Eisenstein, the Russian experimental cinematographer, meet the domestic world of Charles and Ray Eames in Nixon’s photographs of the black and white geometric patterned silk fabrics in the window of Job Warehouse in Bourke Street and the more natural environs of the artist’s house and garden in Briar Hill. The palpable materiality and archival sensibility of these non-objective compositions is further reinforced by their presentation as snapshot-size sample solutions mounted on cream manila folders to create ‘photosheets’.

As studies in form, that are beautiful in their effect—contrasting natural and synthetic forms, vegetation and the built environment, free-form and geometric or linear elements —Nixon returns to the pure essence of modernist photography. But (like Richter), this reflection on the past is not without irony, given the aura invested in the photographic print, now subsumed by the chicanery of the digital in the reprographic mindset. Just as Nixon goes down to the ‘self-serve’ Kodak Picture Kiosk at the local newsagent to make his prints after taking them through a Photoshop process to ‘restore’ them to the desired simplicity of black and white, Richter, with his machine arm squeegee, and relentless careful sifting and sieving of the mighty cadmiums, built up in layers, aspires to achieve the perfect photographic finish. All ways and means, to remind us once again how all that is old is new, and vice versa, like the passing of the seasons.

John Nixon, Black, white & grey. Photographic studies (photosheets), Centre for Contemporary Photography, 
Melbourne, 13 April – 27 May 2012.

Gerhard Richter—painting (dir. Corinna Belz), 2011, 
Audi Festival of German Films, Melbourne, April/May 2012.

John Nixon, ‘Black, white & grey. Photographic studies (photosheets)’, 2011, digital prints on manilla folders, each 35.5 x 46.5 cm. Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne

John Nixon, ‘Black, white & grey. Photographic studies (photosheets)’, 2011, digital prints on manilla folders, each 35.5 x 46.5 cm. Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne

Damiano Bertoli’s ‘Continuous moment: Anxiety Villa’

I know, because the writing on the wall told me, that this installation is somehow the restaging of a play written by Pablo Picasso. I do not feel it is necessary to know the event passed in order to situate myself into the present work but I can’t help wondering. So I do it. I go to Google. But only later, at the end, when I am trying my best to assimilate the various perceptions I have gleaned and tried to extract from the work.

Now it strikes me quite fittingly that this milieu is at odds with a performative piece that is the original play. Yes, there is movement in the form of a video piece, but it is recorded. It is so unlike theatre, which is live and unique and ephemeral. In contrast Bertoli beckons you into a trance or a time-loop.

The work is literally and intentionally a pastiche—but the pastiche is heightened by Bertoli’s impromptu selection of objects and materials.

The projection layers imagery that is idealised and filtered by nostalgia: pictures of mundane urban streets, surreal kitsch eroticism, impenetrable esoterica and possibly a place—somewhere in Europe or maybe Paris. Its aesthetic and haunting discordant soundtrack remind me of the film CuadecucVampir by Pere Portabella: a sort of documentary of an event, stealing scenes from the feature being shot around it—the filming of Jesus Franco’s Count Dracula. Portabella’s film has parallels with Bertoli’s ensemble installation as well. Although it was made at precisely the same time as the event it was referencing, it also does not attempt to contextualise events or create a linear narrative and like Bertoli’s video footage it contains no real dialogue.

Bertoli’s accompanying photographic montages serve as reference points to the video and the sculptural installation. They show a motley bunch of characters on a stage yet on a flat plane. They are not in any particular spatial dimension and for the most part are independent of one another.

The installation of sculptures and found objects, set in the centre of a black stage marked-out with a white grid is static, an inert panorama reminiscent of a museum display, disjointed—join the dots, if you can.

The mannequin standing upright in a trunk recalls a character from the images. It reminds me of a crime scene investigation. A mannequin becomes a proxy for the missing one, roadside at the point of ‘departure’ dressed in the victim’s clothing in order to trigger memories.

Post-planning: Damiano Bertoli, Julian Hooper, Andrew Hurle, Alex Martinis Roe, Michelle Nikou, Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne, 31 March – 22 July 2012.

Damiano Bertoli, ‘Continuous moment: Anxiety Villa’, 2012

Damiano Bertoli, ‘Continuous moment: Anxiety Villa’, 2012


Touching the surface: Angelica Mesiti

The vivid and the beautiful operate as an amnesty from the abundance of provisionality. But is it a satisfactory reprieve, say in relation to labour-intensive craftwork as another alternative? Specifically, I’m wondering how to find a space for ineffability in Mesiti’s work, beyond its surface—something problematic, a cleft where I can apply my own undirected interpretation. Metaphorically it’s the dead pixel I’m after. But I’m not looking for a fail, I’m trying to search out a space for interpretation where I don’t feel choreographed or coerced into an emotional response—this appears to be the irresistible propulsion of the work: the worthy subjects, their candid performances and Mesiti’s (high-definition) choices in aesthetic coercion.

There is a concentration on and of surface in this work, and as viewers we are in a vice: there doesn’t appear a way to relax into this seduction or reject it based on a slight-ness or a thin-ness, since the humanity runs thick. This is compulsive portraiture. And each performance, each coded gesture, communicates that paradox at the core of portraiture: that the outward appearance reveals the inner vast.

Big in production, projection size and quality, the four-channel video installation situates the viewer within an uncomfortable panopticon—like rote learning, constant refrains and universalist humanist themes. Like each subject we are rhythmically entranced. Where this video’s staging is more forceful than is required is within the interval between vignettes where the camera engages in an abstracted panning around the screens, an overladen metaphor for universalism perhaps.

Each performance is a performance observed. All is overt here, wedging us (the audience) in an emotional corner. Mesiti does a lot of hard work to make this look effortless. There is deep compassion and what appears to be a real fascination for her subjects is communicated and calculated. Novelist AS Byatt writes of the importance of invisible things in relation to portraiture, describing how even description in visual language of a face or a body may depend on being unseen for its force. In Mesiti’s video, each performer is lost in his or her own revelry, eyes closed in sincere engagement.

Angelica Mesiti, Citizen’s band, NEW12, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 17 March – 20 May 2012.

Angelica Mesiti, ‘Citizen’s band’, 2012

Angelica Mesiti, ‘Citizen’s band’, 2012

Angelica Mesiti, ‘Citizen’s band’, 2012

Angelica Mesiti, ‘Citizen’s band’, 2012


I’m in the middle of developing a new project. The idea has been with me for years. Percolating away, sometimes urgent—spurred on by a new piece of writing, experience or thought, and sometimes hanging back—quiet.

I’m now at the stage where I’m starting to implement its structure in order to move along its conceptual development and physical realisation. I’m having conversations with people about it: artists, writers, dancers, makers. I’m debating it with unforgiving friends who are my best critics and supporters.

I’m presenting the same idea over and over again but in different ways, re-ordering it, changing its emphasis, editing out parts that no longer hold, introducing nuances which are only revealing themselves as I go. I enjoy this stage. This is where the kernel starts to go pop! And where the energy starts to connect from myself to another and another. This is where the project’s nucleus takes shape and then continues to evolve. Takes form.

It’s also the revealing part, the part where I feel myself really risking something. The search for money and venues and support can be tough but when the idea is strongly embedded compulsion motivates in a way no job can. Sharing an idea with others—something so personal and generated from within one’s own purview of the world—leaves me excited yet anxious. It’s the most vulnerable position I know of.

I often consider this practice and how in the artworld those of us who are making and creating each undertake this risk with punishing regularity. Artists, writers, curators—we each put ourselves, our very minds and vision, out there, over and over again. Our currency is so personal and so close that often I find myself wondering about other disciplines and industries: How much of themselves do they put into their work? What makes it worth it for them? Are they as addicted and compelled as we are?

Work bench

Working Keith Haring project (not the one in question)

Eve’s room


Siri Hayes: The world is our lounge room

Siri Hayes’s recent show of photographs and embroidery, All you knit is love is tricky to write about as I was left quite satisfied feeling the love of family, nature, and life in general. CCP is open on Sundays now so I popped in not knowing what was on. Siri’s exhibition fills the main gallery and visitors are welcomed with the homely stitched wall hangings that adorn the hallway before entering the space. For this show Siri’s great sense of exploration, intuition and play draw her toward parks and landscapes around Barcelona, where she generously shares the family experience of living and art making during a recent OzCo residency.

Among the park and landscape photos, the work Visual diaries has a Caspar David Friedrich feel. The viewer stands before an epic Spanish landscape with four coloured visual diaries, one for mother, father, daughter and son placed on a rock in the foreground of the photo, like some sort of family tribute to Mother Nature’s wonder. Another large photo, The edge-skin shows a park that looks like a huge green crater (actually an old quarry) dug into the surrounding grey man-scape. Your eyes float around the park before focusing on the small man and child, Siri’s partner Paul and daughter Luella, who sit making a clay sculpture in response to the large public work by Eduardo Chillida that is suspended from the cliffy area of the park in the background. Siri explained it was an attempt at forming a relationship with the natural and cultural landscape of Barcelona and took place as locals walked around enjoying the warm winter sun.

The subjects flow from outdoors to indoors with close-up self-portrait of Siri and also a portrait of Paul in front of a decorative Art Nouveau-style wall relief. Siri overlaps the portrait of Paul with an intricate embroidery that follows the leaves and lines in the wall relief. Stitching into the face of a loved one could seem a little voodoo and Siri explained to me that it did feel strange as she worked on the image for six months, but a tender touch and interaction with life is present throughout All you knit is love. Exiting the show I was really desperate to get some kind of catalogue but fittingly all that accompanied the work is a response in poem form written by Geraldine Barlow. It leaves space for your mind to wander.

Siri Hayes, All you knit is love, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, 13 April – 27 May 2012.

‘The edge-skin’, 2011, chromogenic print, 104 x 128 cm

‘Threaded leaves’, 2012, inkjet print, linen, silk and cotton thread, glass and plastic beads, 93 x 74 cm

‘Four’, 2011, chromogenic print, 104 x 128 cm (this is one of the notebooks)