The Finkelstein Files: In My Room

“Mother says there are locked rooms inside all women; kitchen of lust, bedroom of grief, bathroom of apathy.”

– from ‘The House’ by Warsan Shire

In My Room is the telling title of Helen Gory’s newest body of works – at once an invitation and a provocation. Strongly symbolist in nature and style, she has created a blueprint that challenges the viewer to encroach on her personal space; both as audience and interrogator.

Gilt-laden images are scratched into the paper, challenging its singular appearance. I am reminded of Austrian-born artist Gustav Klimt, who once said something like ‘art is a line around your thoughts’. This idea resonates throughout Gory’s works, which are at once deeply personal and universal. Draw a line; make a point; take a stand; risk something.

Gory’s oil-stick women delve backwards into unrevealed pockets of spaces, memories compartmentalised into separate ‘rooms’. Her challenge – and ours – is to slowly, carefully unpack these subtle chimeras; expose their interior to the outer world. Woman with Leaf speaks loudest without uttering a word. Verging on naïve, these night-shade women hover between darkness and illumination. Their talisman tools may well be props; striking a pose that both regales and invites us inside.

Helen Gory opened her own contemporary commercial art gallery in 1995. Helen Gory Galerie was a pioneer in supporting emerging practitioners, many of whom have gone on to become Australia’s leading visual artists. In 2008, Gory closed her gallery to pursue a long-unfulfilled desire to make art.

Golden Bars, 2018

Paper Collage and Oil Stick on Art Paper, 140 x 110cm.

It’s a Challenge, 2018

Paper Collage and Oil Stick on Art Paper, 140 x 110cm.

Walking Back To Happiness, 2018

Paper Collage and Oil Stick on Art Paper, 140 x 110cm.

Gory’s work is best described as visual stories where humour and joy sit side-by-side with the shadows that they cast. She is concerned with uncovering what is hidden, with the act of revelation. Through the repeated motifs of fragmented body parts, women, and elements of the natural world, her often-surreal images speak of desire, longing, angst and the power of transformation.

(det.) The Leaf, 2018, Oil Paint on Paper, 109 x 67cm

The Leaf, 2018

Oil Paint on Paper, 109 x 67cm

Gory works across various medium to construct these visual narratives. Her first primary medium, collage, allows her to deconstruct, fragment, (dis)connect and reassemble, the process of creation a metaphor for the complexity and layering of human experience.

More recently, Gory has segued from collage to painting and drawing. Using oil stick, graphite and charcoal in scribbling and scratching-like motions, she adds/removes layers in a repetitive act of mark-making that is intrinsic to the interior world she is revealing.

The Pods, 2018

Oil Paint on Paper, 109 x 67cm

(det.) The Pods, 2018

Oil Paint on Paper, 109 x 67cm

The Scarf, 2018

Oil Paint on Paper, 109 x 67cm

The Scarf, 2018

Oil Paint on Paper, 109 x 67cm

Last weekend to see In My Room!

Head to: Backwoods Gallery, 25 Easey Street, Collingwood, VIC, Australia (map)

The Finkelstein Files: Golden Repair

Above: Remembering the Pattern, 2016

Analogue collage, oil stick on hand painted rag paper, 34 x 46cm.

Above: Where The Sun Don’t Shine, 2016

Analogue collage, oil stick on hand painted rag paper, 35 x 45cm.

“Helen Gory’s art pivots upon its connections. Its power lies in its links. Her images seem to unspool and reveal an almost filmic flow of associations. Golden Repair, the title of her solo exhibition at Chapman & Bailey in Abbotsford, refers to the Japanese procedure of Kintsugi. This process brings together and reconnects fragments of that which was whole; it is, in essence, an embrace of imperfection. For Gory, the procedure stands as an analogy of the honest acceptance of often overlooked and almost forgotten aspects of her inner self. It’s a type of re-stitching – an aesthetically realigned spill-out of the contents of a mental handbag.”

Attending the opening of the exhibition, I was reminded of the astute observations of esteemed art historian, Ken Wach, (above) as he waxed lyrical about Gory’s gilt creations. An Associate Professor and former Head of Creative School of Art at Melbourne University, Wach has long proved a valuable treasure trove of knowledge when sluicing to the core of an artists’ intention.

Above: (detail.) Never Ending, 2016

Collage and oil stick on paper, 140 x 100cm.

The mixed-media works in Golden Repair speak of desire and displacement. Through her art Gory searches for patterns and meanings; her mind is seduced by connections and coincidences as it points toward a form of self-interrogation. Thoughts are prompted by fractured, fragmentary and juxtaposed images – an inventive vision of constructed parts rather than given wholes.

“This body of work is autobiographical, and has taken me close to three years,’ says Gory. “To celebrate that which is not perfect resonates deeply with me. These distortions and missing bits and pieces, floating in mid-air, are expressions of seeing beauty in who we are, as we are,” explains Gory. “Finding the connections are our strengths.”

Above (Left to Right) : Three generations of Gory women together, artist Helen Gory with her daughter and grand-daughter.

Recognising the beauty in broken things, is interwoven with the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi – to find beauty in broken or old things. By giving new life, or rebirth to objects by celebrating their flaws and history, the 15th century practice of Kintsugi can be applied to life. To find value in the missing pieces – to bring light the scars that have come from our experiences, to find new purpose through seeing the beauty of imperfection – is a gift of innate prosperity.

I have long been an ardent fan of the collage as a unique medium of exploration – signposting our most primal visual markers. Assemblage is a dense and intricate process not for the feint-hearted as Gory explains of her practice. Gory’s ability to track and expand upon her ideas are referenced here in an earlier body of works here.

For an artist, who once was firmly fixed on the spectator side of the studio, her gallerist eye is sharp and pincer-like. An advantage of two decades of running a commercially successful exhibition space, and nurturing the fledgling careers of many of Melbourne’s finest talent, Gory has a head start. To then be able to ‘un-see’ what she can already ‘see’ is the trick to tying it all together. The Guts & the Gory.

Above: Holding My Flame, 2016

Oil Stick on Board, 38 x 34cm.

Above: Feeding the Donkey, 2016

Oil stick and pastel on paper, 122 x 86cm.

From a collectability perspective, the works are genuine nuggets of gold. Priced extremely affordably, it is tempting to select more than one work of art. A pair juxtaposed and pitted against themselves works well. I often ask my twin 7 year-olds their opinion on new works – their untrained eyes often ‘see’ better than most jaded buyers with decades of viewing under their proverbial belts. After a short discussion, they both select the same work – declaring it ‘special’.

A week post-opening, the collection is fast on its way to selling out – audiences are aware that what they see and feel resonates within long after stepping away from the image. That’s how great art is meant to make you feel. That you have stumbled upon something precious that makes you feel joyous!

Golden Repair is on until April 1st at Chapman And Bailey, 350 Johnston St, Abbotsford. For sales call the gallery 03 94158666, mon-fri, 10-5.30, sat 10.30-4.30.

A changing tableau of lines.

PicMonkey CollageAUSiMED Lot # 18, Windadryne, 2006 by Julie Dowling.

“In recent years Julie Dowling has emerged as one of Australia’s most sought after and accomplished painters, and a leading light of the contemporary Indigenous art movement. The subjects of her paintings deal with the Aboriginal identity and the Indigenous perspective of Australian history as reflected in the experiences of her ancestors, her family and her people over time. Thus the emphasis on portraiture in her work; both of individuals and of groups of people where Dowling consciously merges her European-style training with Indigenous concepts of picture making. References to classical Western art, Renaissance art, the Dutch masters and Caravaggio permeate her work. Dowling’s art is at once intimately personal and universally resonant.” Michael Reid, leading Australian art market commentator, art educator, art dealer and consultant.

ABC has filmed this incredible insight into one of this generations most important artists, Julie Dowling – please view it here.

Dowling-Collage

Her art is more than political, more than portraiture, and more than successful. Judith McGrath compiled this profile on Australian Art Collector’s most collectable artist 2002.

fencer-pic-Collage

Also known by her Aboriginal name Yulyurlu, Warlpiri artist Lorna Fencer Napurrula was born in the 1920s at Yumurrpa in the Tanami Desert, which is an important Yam Dreaming site — the yam being a food staple for desert people that also has important spiritual significance. She relocated to Lajamanu on the northern fringe of the Tanami Desert in her fifties (c.1975) and began to paint in 1986 as part of a course offered at Lajamanu School (and a commitment by the community to adopt acrylic painting and nurture a painting movement).

FENCER-CollageAUSiMED Lot #70, Coroborree at Yurmarlpu, 2005 by Lorna Fencer Napurrula.

Napurrula’s earliest works were in the traditional central desert style, which often involved a set of stylised symbols, marks and icons set among fields of dots. These works were rich in narrative, particularly those related to Yam Dreaming stories (elements of Rain and Snake Dreaming themes can also be found in her work).

Napurrula soon began individualising her style, freeing it from what was expected of Warlpiri artists. While familiar symbols (such as boomerangs and Yam root structures) continued to appear, Napurrula began applying them more intuitively, often laying motif over motif with a bold mix of colour to create works of textured beauty that evoked feeling while also paying tribute to ancestral stories. Her work as evokes “bodies of feeling”, Napurrula’s distinctive style (most evident in works post-1995) is one that, “employs ‘icons’ in looser terms than the earlier more exacting forms of iconography found in the works of other Warlpiri women”. Art Review 

fencer-CollageAUSiMED Lot #13, Yarla – Bush Potato,  2005.

While Napurrula exhibited widely from the mid-90s until her death (with at least twenty solo shows and more than sixty group exhibitions) and is well represented in major collectionsthe first significant survey of her work only took place last year. It saw more than sixty paintings on paper and canvas, prints and three-dimensional works visit seven galleries and six states.

FENCER-Collage

FENCER-CollageAUSiMED Lot #12, Yumurlpa, The Spring, 2005 by Lorna Fencer.

Portraiture: The New Black

Cute Portraiture-CollageThe Archibald prize, the Not-the-Archies Prize, career portraitists, wanna-be-portraitists – which ever way you view it, never an easy ask. Portraiture, in my humble opinion would have to be one of the all-time underrated subject matters of the contemporary artist.

Drendell-Collage AUSiMED Lot # 44 The Thin Air of Desire, 2012 by Graeme Drendel, pictured right.

Click here to view The Stock Room’s excellent interview with portraitist, Graeme Drendel.

Bezor-CollageAUSiMED Lot #61, Face Value, 2011 by Annette Bezor.

Annette Bezor’s work has a long-standing concern with the roles, identities and psychological and emotional states of women, which she examines by analysing images of women in popular and classical culture. Bezor appropriates imagery from numerous sources, including classical painting, contemporary decorative art and contemporary culture to draw attention to their power and influence. The images are then reworked as stylised icons within compositions that represent a psychological space inhabited by women whose identities have been suppressed by the demands of a society that fetishises them.

In last years’ August Beautiful Ugly exhibition, Bezor focuses on celebrity, by representing well-known actors, singers and models – “the work explores how the female cult figure functions in society, and how our attitude to these women affect our perceptions of women generally.” says the artist.

Bezor-Collage

She is fascinated with the level of scrutiny that female celebrities are put under and how this inevitably sets the standard for those in society at large. Often these expectations are contradictory, overwhelming and, in some cases, have fatal consequences. These warped notions are also seen in the modelling industry where the term “Beautiful Ugly” was coined – a concept that has gone on to be adopted by the celebrity machine.

A great on essay by Richard Grayson wraps up a fab survey in Annette Bezor: A Passionate Gaze – the book showcases 50 illustrations of that are both significant and engaging — gender, sexuality, beauty, human relations and their representation.

Leading Australian Visual Arts writer, John McDonald, explores further here,  BEZOR, Annette- Australian Art Collector- article.

Cherry Hood-CollageAUSiMED Lot # 11, Luis, 2003 by Cherry Hood.

I love seeing the thread that runs through an artist’s work. It is highly visible with the paintings of Cherry Hood. You might know her from her Archibald Prize win in 2002 – her portrait was of pianist Simon Tedeschi. Cherry Hood’s artistic practice has centred around the portrait, a genre which has a long and perpetual history crossing cultures, time and space. While most artists explore portraiture at some point in their careers, whether portraits of sitters or the introspection of the self-portrait, Hood is a painter of children and adolescents, not quite portraits, but neither imaginary figures or faces.

Hood’s  large-scale youths are composites, drawn from a range of sources, from individual sitters (other artists and their children, Hood’s own sons) to images of young men and girls borrowed from fashion magazines. Using the unique method of pouring liquid (predominantly watercolour) onto sheets of heavy paper where it is left overnight to pool, stain and settle, Hood uses the expressionistic, accidental technique as a blurry, inky background to her intricate, very meticulous lines making up mouths, noses and penetrating eyes.

The work of Cherry Hood reflects a realism both sincere and contemporary. In the last decade of the 20th century, much to the surprise of the art world, the genre of “uncanny realism” advanced as a major movement – or at least as a significant, identifiable tendency. Painters and sculptors alike exchanged post-modernist irony for a new sincerity in relation to matters of method, representation, intention and the many psychological and formal possibilities of anatomical naturalism. Australian Art Collector’s interview by Bruce James 20_hood here.

Rhys-CollageArtist Rhys Lee pictured left, AUSiMED Lot # 59, Dmoters Bottle Boy, 2011 & THAT much talked about jumpsuit from the Gorman X Rhys Lee collaboration.

Rhys Lee-Collage

“If you google this celebrated and highly collectable Australian artist you will not find personality pieces. And you certainly wont find extensive editorial dialogues, as Rhys likes to keep things short and sharp. That is precisely what made this feature so special for me. Rhys Lee appears a guarded man, and that’s what I like about him. I respect people who selectively drip feed information about themselves, but it can become uncomfortable and tricky when you are trying to explore someone’s inspiration and art though the lens of a camera in a single afternoon. To his credit Rhys’ hospitality was beyond my expectations. To my delight I was given little restriction on what I could and couldn’t shoot in both his studio and personal space, which shares the same rugged coastal Victorian address. Rhys and his partner dished up a more than hearty lunch of locally sourced organic foods and wine while I explored his creative process for his upcoming show in June 2011.  I have always loved Rhys’ work – both the brooding and bright phases – and what I saw this time satisfied both. So without further ado, grab a cuppa’ and have gander at Rhys in his well-treed creative haven. ” Words and photography on Rhys LeeCory White

Who’s hanging about on your wall right now?  Is it hankering for make-over, overhaul or brand spanking new portrait to place in pride position?

put something really great here!-Collage