CURRENT EXHIBITION

GEORGE BURCHETT
Democracy.

Until 10 January 2015


Born in Hanoi, Australian artist George Burchett was delivered in exile. 15 years later he was granted his rightful citizenship. By this time he had lived in Vietnam, Russia, Bulgaria, Cambodia and France. After relocating to Australia, despite his best efforts, Burchett just never felt at home. A 2006 visit to Hanoi confirmed his decision to return and live there.

This SLOT work has its genesis in an appreciation for 1925-1945 historical drawings from the era of French colonisation, combined with Burchett's own research into his father's journalistic photographs spanning 1954-1966, and including a close association with the independence leader Ho Chi Minh.

The figure in conical hat is in fact interpreted directly from a photo of his father wearing a conical hat. It is repeated across the page in vermin-like fashion, as if some disposable faceless stereotype. Burchett reclaims the symbol in an ironic play on propaganda countering propaganda, a statement of stubborn persistence and resistance. 


Suspended in space like apparitions across the page these figures seem determined to be recognised; to form a statement of belonging all of their own. An inked finger, violent, impertinent, dirty punctuates the top left hand area of the work, titled Democracy (mis/spelt in Greek).

The work is quite simply a memoriam to the life of Burchett's father, this year posthumously awarded for his journalistic achievements. Wilfred Burchett was an Australian (minus 17 years of barred citizenship) with an interest in presenting news stories from more than one perspective - an endeavour which necessitated interviewing the "enemy" and finding their humanity, as well as the "democratic" forces in conflict.
 
Whatever the case or situation, the impact upon Burchett, as an individual and as artist, would be inevitable.  I have a sense that Democracy is only the tip of the iceberg, the beginning of a very personal journey to reclaim, deconstruct, reconstruct, the multiple forces that have pained, scarred and enriched his life, and a testimony to the intergenerational effects of war

 - Mai Nguyen Long.

This exhibition has been facilitated by Mai Nguyen Long following her recent self-driven residency in Vietnam.  
SUZY EVANSGomeroi attacking Major Mitchell and his native companion.

Until 13 December 2014


Gomeroi (Kamilaroi or Gamilaroi) people form one of the largest indigenous nations of Australia. They live in an area of north western New South Wales stretching from Murrurundi in the upper Hunter to Mungindi on the Queensland border and have a fierce reputation as warriors. Major Mitchell was Australia's fourth Surveyor General and the explorer who coined the phrase "Australia Felix" to describe the glorious landscape that he "discovered". He was also the first non-Aboriginal to visit Moree where Suzy Evans' people, the Gameroi live. 

Most of the trees that Major Mitchell famously marked - "like doges" - have gone and along with them trees carved by the Gomeroi as funerary markers, but the record of violent confrontation that is associated with Mitchell's three expeditions remains. 


Suzy said taht she had Albert Tucker's portraits of Australian explorers and the paintings of Sydney Nolan in mind when she made her work. She admires their pictures, in particular the way that Tucker paints parrots alighting on the heads of his explorers, but can't help finding their interpretation of teh genocidal appropriation of the Australian landscape absurd. In particular, it's hard to reconcile their mythology of a hostile and punishing landscape with Mitchell's observation of an "Australian Felix", the fortunate and bountiful Australia. It reminds us that mythology is simply myth and that when it comes to telling of our country's history our mythic representation rests in the hands of our artists. 



Suzy Evans' splendid work gives us a diminutive Major Mitchell being seen off the wall by a flight of Gomeroi. She takes on her role as myth-maker as surely as she does the role of image maker in this work that was exhibited in the recent Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award held at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, where Suzy says with delight: "it filled an entire wall!"

Suzy is a local to Redfern, SLOTs neighbourhood.
RELIGIOUS & META-RELIGIOUS ART IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
curated by Tony Twigg
Until 15 November 2014

Each year since 1951the Blake Prize for religious art has been offered. Like the more famous Archibald Prize for portraiture it encourages artists to lend their skills to a higher calling. This year SLOT is responding to the Blake Prize with an exhibition of religious and meta-religious art.



My own interest in religious art began in Manila while watching the annual Black Nazarene procession - when an ancient figure of Christ is paraded in the street through such frenzy that each year several people are crushed to death. After the figure of Christ passed I was surprised to see another making its way through the crown, then another, and another. Patiently it was explained to me that it is the image that is sacred not the object, and while there are many objects, there is only one image.

This idea inverts our usual understanding of art where worthiness is measured by an object's artistic merit or monetary value irrespective of its subject matter. 

In our exhibition that contrasts religious and secular art, colonialism emerges as a common concern. That religious art was employed as an instrument of colonization in South East Asia is demonstrated by the banner of Thanh Teresa that was made for a Saigon (Ho Chi Min City) church in 1952, while the Viet Minh were fighting for Vietnam's independence from France. The banner opulently celebrates the French Saint Therese of the child of Jesus, a nun surrounded here by Vietnamese symbols of good luck and firmly amalgamated with the Fleur-de-lis, a symbol that has united the Holy Trinity and the French nation since the Middle Ages. 

In the Philippines, where colonialism was more successful, veneration of religious images has morphed into a personal identification with religious figures. The Virgin Mary has become the Filipina mother and the Santo Nino, the child Christ, has become the Filipino child, both possessed by the Church physically and meta-physically in an endlessly repeating cycle. 

In contrast to this arcane art predicated on a single absolute truth, SLOT offers meta-religious art - an unholy hegemony of Nationalism, leftist politics and abstraction - in essence Modernism. 

And while it might be tempting to identify Modernism as a religion, it would entail ignoring a central ideal - the single word shouted by Indonesia's Joko Widodo at the conclusion of his inauguration speech, "MERDEKA" - or Freedom - it is an elusive thing in South East Asia, yet its presence and its absence ask the central question - what we are to become?

- Tony Twigg
 
  
CURRENTLY @ D.I.P.
WENDY BORNHOLDT
Gold
September 2014 - February 2015

Originally from New Zealand, Wendy Bornholdt has exhibited installation works widely in NZ and the UK. Bornholdt was drawn to window works in 2006 when she devised a small work for the Dunedin Public Art Gallery that described a girl who liked to look in fish shop windows. She has since executed window works in NZ and here in Sydney. 



Gold - made for DIP (Darlington Installation Project) - is her fifth window work, and addresses beautifully the window's vision to address site through installation. Early next year she will install another work at DIPs sister gallery SLOT on Botany Road.

Simply, Gold is an old man's reflection on his childhood days at the beach. For several generations at least it also evokes a mood reflected by the work's site, an old corner shop. A fragment of a sign hints at it; a bit of history documents it, but mainly it's a memory that we can smell as readily as we can smell the sea at a distance through time - it's nostalgia.

Here the text floats on its window and is overlaid by reflections of the street and from within, including the roundabout opposite that Wendy describes as being evocative of a lifebuoy - a lifebuoy that is reflected in her text. 

Wendy's work is an accordion of associations - half prose, half graphic - that is "properly" installation art, designed to catch our eye as it wanders the street with an offering as tangible as a flight of fantasy.

DIP is a partner window project of SLOT. It is located on the corner of Abbercrombie Street and Golden Grove, Darlington; about a ten minute walk from SLOT. The space is made available by Lloyd Suttor, who runs a bed and breakfast at the location.
JAYANTO DAMANIKUntitled tea bags (strange fruit)
Until 18 October 2014

Jayanto's tea bags hang with beauty, delicately stained by dried tannin into a kind of exoticism that we are quick to think of as Asian. Jayanto is Indonesian. But he's just as quick to point out that the tea bag was invented somewhere in America sometime in the 70's and that tea is of course Chinese. Indeed this artwork reaches across cultures - it's an artefact of the perverse colonialism that is the modern world. 


"I created conversations with used tea bags, which I began collecting in 1997. Each tea bag...contains a memory of either my family or my friends...every tea bag tells a story of daily life's grievances and joys. I embrace their history and intertwine it with my own. I encourage viewers to recognise flesh, mind and spirit in order to create individual meaning."

This is how Jayanto described his tea bag installation to Slot director Tony Twigg, continuing, "Nothing is ever wasted and all materials of waste contain their unique history. They serve as tactile reminders of the past and give meaning to the present."

On the day Jayanto installed this piece, and over yet another cup of tea, his conversation turned to Indonesia's famous Black May Race Riots that occurred in May 1998, triggered by food shortages and mass unemployment that eventually led to the resignation of Indonesia's President Suharto and the fall of his government. The main targets of the violence were the ethic Chinese, however, most of the people who died in the riots were the Indonesian looters who had targeted the Chinese owned shops. Jayanto plucked the title of Billie Holiday's immortal song of racial intolerance Strange Fruit to sum up his piece.

Jayanto's fruit dangles for us; artfully melodious in their arrangement they await our mediation as whispers. 
ARTHUR APANSKI
Until 27 September 2014


It is not surprising to learn that Arthur studied theatre production, his expansive paintings construct a theatrical narrative. It is surprising, however, to learn that he is a self-taught artist, only coming to painting full-time in 2006 after moving to the Illawarra, south of Sydney.

His meticulous canvases range in subject matter, their hyper-real, almost surreal imagery create a tension between the man-made and the nature world. Arthur is interested in exploring possible futures and the role that we play within that – proactive, political, environmental, humanitarian.

This painting, Excess and hope for little Ethan (2012), fuses notions of fertility and bounty with a darker-side of mortality – grenades, a gas mask and ghostly sculls – probe us to question man’s interruption to that natural cycle.


The cyborg-like male figure composites the nostalgic terror of a gas mask with a mechanical prosthetic limb, probing us to think of the historical markers that interrupt how we navigate our place on this planet.

Is Arthur’s epic painting a message of warning or hope? You will have to decide your own fate – our collective future. 

SUE BESSELL + JONI BRAHAM 
Until 30 August 2014


This exhibition brings together two very different artistic practices and yet, surprisingly, holds much in common. Just as Slot sits within a landscape of temporal experiences – of staccato traffic, people passing, grabbed moments between here and there – this exhibition captures ‘the creative process of interruption’, a phrase Sue Bessell used to describes her digital photographic prints.  

In a similar way, Joni Braham’s assemblage sculptures are collected fragments; found objects that carry narrative, interrupted, and retold in new forms. A piece of lace blown up Sue's black and white digital collage forms a backdrop while a fragment of material embellishes story-telling through a fantastical object. Both consider placement and material to draw our meaning.


 

Sue adds: ‘In unsettling the relationship between the photographic image and its corresponding reality, a space of contestation opens up, where new meanings and experience are located, where the liminal self resides.’
 
This installation screams and jars and yet celebrates life with humour and poignant checks and balances. ‘The evocative (re)assemblies transform self portraiture into self representation,’ Sue continued in her statement.

It is a sentiment echoed in Joni’s words: ‘There is a joy in making art from materials that originally were used for a completely different purpose…In some sense the figures often have a sense of power tinged with foreboding or mystique juxtaposed with playfulness and eccentricity.  Almost always female or androgynous they are bold and strong.  A feminist ethic informs works.’

Therein the work of both artist carry rewritten histories. The juxtapositions within Sue’s photographic work, between original and imperfect hand-manipulated marks are amplified by Joni’s completely idiosyncratic sculptures – both exploring the multiplicity of self representation, and beyond.

But mostly, what both artists do, is offer the viewer the platform upon which to invent their own story.

This exhibition has been facilitated by artist Mai Nguyen-Long as part of Slot’s Illawarra Series. Showing until 30 August.