It’s official – Megsie has left the building. (For Vale Megsie from the BVRG…go here.) Her final duty was the opening of Men…
…and a damned fine exhibition it is.
(foreground) Jay Kochel, Breathe
And here’s her curatorial overview…
This exhibition is not entirely as it seems – artworks-by-five-men-about-men-contemplating-manhood is much too simplistic. Too literal. Too redolent of the gender clichés that cyclically brand and drive the psychobabble of each evolving epoch (…since the Neanderthals.)
Because, contrary to social marketeering, men are as complex and emotionally vulnerable as their female counterparts (possibly more so if only they’d own up to it!) And now, post-millennium, men are stretched on the rack of receding identity, inhabiting a world that sets ever diminishing store on the physical evidence of principle and integrity; where manufacture has become virtualization and men – in the main – inhabit a space of (often) undisclosed confusion. They are thrust into roles that have, for the most part, already been written out of the script.
And this is where the visual arts play such a critical role in our lives – as an expressive vehicle for the social currency of our times. Art at its most prosaic is caught in the facsimile syndrome; the verbatim copy of the subject (be it landscape, still life or pampered pooch.) But art at its most potent and sublime can reveal the very essence of our existence. It explores and contemplates our common humanity. It alerts us to anomalies in ways that can shift our consciousness, with a deftness of touch that can be nothing short of game changing.
Men, as an exhibition, aptly demonstrates the efficacy of this kind of nuanced communication. Liam Ryan’s wonderfully blokey vignettes are an entertaining reference to classical antecedents, with a contemporary twist; his Graces have the seductiveness of Bond chicks and Deposition of the Windfield Cup (below left) is lacking only in the pity and piety accorded Christ.
There’s archaic ritual running through all Ryan’s work, and the Masons are probably the least of it.
Filmmaker Lee Chittick’s tender study of a young Julien on the verge of manhood is a rhapsodic interplay of dawning awareness. Vulnerability vying with a strengthening resolve. Whereas his self-portrait as an older man (below right) conveys an almost ingenuous sense of bewilderment. It’s evocative, gentle and sweet. And perhaps Tony Sweeting represents the artist’s ideal for Post-millennium Everyman (he’d probably get our vote, too.)
Frazer Bull-Clark’s cinematic rendition of Derek O’Conner places him firmly in the quintessential role of the artist as anti-hero; the renegade, the loner, sexy in that dangerously disreputable way. The vision is apocalyptic and the voice-over faintly ironic given that O’Conner is the strong and silent (even taciturn) type. All of which is poles apart from the signature verve and vibrancy of O’Conner’s style of painting. In this regard Leaving Lost is a quite brilliant construct of masculine complexity. (Catch on Vimeo here.)
The work of Neil Roberts has always revolved around ‘manly energy’. To quote Deborah Clark, Roberts looked “at masculinity, its culture, its rituals, its nonsense, and the fantastic possibilities of its transformation.” The titles of his works were invariably expressions of intimacy – a key to what would always be a deeply compassionate thought process. He was drawn to objects that were stiff with the sweat of toil and stoic perseverance. Objects that, when assembled, often spoke of exhausted ruination – even, perhaps, that slip into eternal quietude.
Neil Roberts, Suicide of the Hands
Jay Kochel’s work is the most enigmatic of all, which is hardly surprising given the title of his series; Touch me Gertrude Stein. The shared, almost obsessive, investigation of meaningful meaninglessness could just as easily be translated into the perennial fixation ‘what makes men tick?’ [though of course Kochel (and Stein) always has a more strident intellectual bent.] This work is, by its very nature, unashamedly esoteric. And in a gallery context of touch me/don’t touch me, we catch the universal dilemma of gender politics itself.
Jay Kochel, thongs and pump
(background) Neil Roberts, Pause in time of weariness
It’s on until Saturday 14th, so swing by if you haven’t seen it.
Meanwhile that’s it folks/sayonara amigos/over and out from the BVRG. Megsie is now officially on the loose – WATCH OUT!!
For more info on Jay Kochel go here. For more info on Neil Roberts go here.