Monthly Archives: December 2009

Rohan’s Rituals – a performance at GoMA

Rohan Wealleans, photographed in his home by Sam Hartnett in September 2009

 Leg of Lamb loves kiwi artist Rohan Wealleans.  From his Waikato Contemporary Art Award-winning  flayed paint ‘vaginas’  to his B-grade inspired Horrorgamis and delicate millefiori style paint-chip arrangements, the artist’s vivid imagination delights… but sometimes offends. 

A bout of illness meant that Wealleans was unable to perform a paint ritual at this year’s Asia Pacific Triennial at the Gallery of Modern Art in Queensland, so the artist sent his twin brother, Shane, instead.  Decked out in a formal Polynesian suit, Shane’s improvised performance incorporated bastardized haka moves, attempts at Te Reo and a series of clicks that remotely resembled the dialect of the South African Xhosa tribe.  Needless to say, it’s difficult to watch. 

In the latest issue of Art and Australia curator Emma Bugden described Wealleans as “a white man whose work behaves badly in a climate of correction, and in doing so makes us think about the question of permission”.  This show of cobbled indigeneity, while in keeping with the artist’s penchant for fictionalised characters (and even worlds), pushes appropriation to the limit.

The Asia Pacific Triennial at Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, runs until April 5, 2010.

Larry Sultan dies aged 63

American artist Larry Sultan created staged ‘documentary’ photographs and is perhaps best known for his 2004 series ‘The Valley’, that features LA homes used as sets for pornographic films.  These unglamorous scenes featuring disrobed actors taking a break over a cuppa and bored beauties staring into the middle distance disrupt any fantasy associated with the final product.

Larry Sultan, 'Kitchen', 1999

Larry Sultan, 'Sharon Wild', 2001

Sultan’s most powerful work involved his own family, who he collaboated with for over a decade.  Toying with the constructs of Reagan-era family life, Sultan directed his mother and father in various staged scenarios.  Sultan stated: “Photography is there to construct the idea of us as a great family and we go on vacations and take these pictures and then we look at them later and we say, ‘Isn’t this a great family?’ So photography is instrumental in creating family not only as a memento, a souvenir, but also a kind of mythology.”

The artist is survived by his wife and two sons.

Larry Sultan, 'Mom Posing for Me', 1984

Larry Sultan, 'Thanksgiving Turkey', 1985

Leg of Lamb wishes you all a very Merry Christmas

Leg of Lamb will  be posting intermittently until 1 February, 2010.  Until then, happy holidays.

David Shrigley, 'Merry Christmas', 2002

Michael Jackson art – be afraid

Leg of Lamb was saddened by the unfortunate passing of MJ.  But fear not: solace can be found in the proliferation of artworks made in his honour, including this portait in the manner of Michelangelo’s David painted by David Nordahl – he worked on it for 17 years.

Damien Hirst – the claws are out!


It seems that art writers everywhere are frothing at the bit to tear shreds out of Damien Hirst’s recent offerings; paintings created by – heaven forbid – the artist’s own hand!   The artist who presented us with spot paintings, the £50 million diamond encrusted skull and animals suspended in formaldehyde (none of which were physically made by Hirst) has turned his attention to the subtle art of still life.  

Hirst effectively ‘donated’ £250,000 to exhibit at Britain’s Wallace Collection, a museum famous for its Old Master paintings and collection of antique furniture.  Hirst gilded the ceiling, relined the gallery walls with blue silk and hung his paintings in the company of Velasquez and Titian. 

Familiar motifs including  sharks, bones and butterflies are set amidst dots and faint striated lines all rendered in a style that is heavily indebted to Hirst’s idol – Francis Bacon.  Considering Hirst himself has claimed: “I was always very dissatisfied with my paintings, I always thought they weren’t very good”.  One wonders what he’s making of the overwhelmingly negative response. 

Guardian critic Adrian Searle described the work as ‘amateurish and adolescent’, his colleague Jonathan Jones claimed that the paintings were not only ‘terrible’, but revealed ‘everything that’s wrong with modern art’, The Telegraph’s Mark Hudson described them as ‘technically inept’ and the Independent’s Tom Lubbock reckons they’re ‘not worth looking at’.  

Despite the critics’ venom, the Wallace Collection has received a record number of visitors, and the show is set to be their most popular ever.  

Damien Hirst, 'Men Shall Know Nothing', 2008

 ‘No Love Lost, Blue Paintings by Damien Hirst’ is on display at The Wallace Collection, London, until January 24th, 2010.

Looking forward: Jenny Holzer at ACCA

Jenny Holzer, 'Torso', 2007

Leg of Lamb is looking forward to the exhibition, ‘Jenny Holzer,’ at ACCA, 111 Sturt Street, Southbank, Melbourne.   The survey show will be the first in Australia to present recent works by the artist.

Opening night: Wednesday 16 December, 6-8pm.

Exhibition dates: 17 December 2009 – 28 February 2010.

Tom Polo – ‘You are excellent’

Leg of Lamb is an avid reader of Mountain Fold, a free music journal published in Sydney.  Aside from interviews with all sorts of musically minded folk (like Roland S. Howard, Circle Pit and The Dead C), Mountain Fold also features ‘curated pages’ and some great art.  Leg of Lamb was delighted by the charming and slightly pathetic ghost painting by Sydney artist Tom Polo that features on the cover of the latest issue.

Polo describes himself as “a time-waster extraordinaire who is currently obsessed with winning and losing.”  Sometimes his paintings contain motivational slogans, that, when executed in his ‘naieve’ style, become cringeworthy.  Paintings like ‘You are Excellent’ and ‘Well Done’ acknowledge a knowing, arguably hopeless optimism in the face of the banality (and disappointments) of everyday life.

Tom Polo, 'You are excellent' 2008

Tom Polo, 'Well Done,' 2008

Tom Polo, 'It's Really Good', 2008

Ah Xian wins 2009 Clemenger Contemporary Art Award

Established  in 1991, Leg of Lamb was surprised to learn that this year’s Clemenger Contemporary Art Award will be the last .  Trienially, a group of Australian artists are invited to participate and generate new work for exhibition.  The award was implemented through the generosity of patrons Joan and Peter Clemenger, and one hopes that the exhibition can be revived or redeveloped in the future.

The recipient of this year’s $ 50,000.00 award is Chinese-born, Sydney-based sculptor Ah Xian.  Xian often uses traditional Chinese materials and techniques, creating sculptural portraits in bronze, ceramics and cloisonné.  In contrast, his Clemenger entry, Concrete Forest, consists of a multitude of decorative busts cast entirely in concrete, a material emblematic of modern living and industrial progress.  Concrete Forest‘s  figures bear the impressions of different flora.  At once beautiful and insidious, spidery veins, leaves and stalks  creep across the silent figures, on occasion  puncturing their ‘skin’.  The work is a solemn comment on urban development and the fragility of life.

Leg of Lamb was particularly impressed with the sympathetic installation of Xian’s fellow-finalist Louise Hearman’s work.  The artist’s oil on masonite paintings are modest in scale and exquisitely painted.  Her depiction of light is unparallelled.  All too often, however, these works become lost on gallery walls, their subtlety doesn’t lend itself to the harshness of the white cube.  Congratulations then to those involved with installation of Hearman’s work at the Ian Potter.  Set against a richly coloured wall the paintings are hung in low light and individually spot lit, enlivening the colours of the oils and complementing the overall mood of the imagery.

Hearman’s work is always untitled and the artist – quite understandably – has no interest in discussing the ‘meaning’ of her paintings.  Relying heavily on dreams and the subconcious, her strange juxtapositions of imagery transform the ordinary into the unnerving.

Work by winner Ah Xian and finalists Louise Hearman, Peter Atkins, Vivienne Binns, Stephen Bush, Destiny Deacon, Domenico de Clario, Janenne Eaton, Julie Gough, Guan Wei, Janet Laurence, Trevor Nickolls, Dennis Nona, Scott Redford and Julie Rrap is on display at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne until 7 February 2010.

The two-tone tango – new work by Peter Roche

During a recent trip to Auckland, Leg of Lamb visited the studio of kiwi artist Peter Roche, the inhabitant of  the old Ambassador theatre in Point Chevalier.  Re-fitted by renowned architect Noel Lane, the artist’s home contains a fully equipped bar that also serves as Auckland’s wildest rock ‘n’ roll venue.

Roche etched out his career in the ’70s, conducting extreme, sado-masochistic performances in which he cut himself with razor blades, wrapped ox tongues around his head, performed enemas and, notoriously, had sheep’s kidneys grafted to his body.

Roche’s “go hard ya fukers” attitude is equally apparent in more recent kinetic sculptures and acid flung satellite dishes that convey debauched scenes including – among other things – projectile vomiting, dismemberment, splayed legs and a unicorn involved in ‘watersports’.

The elegance and restraint of Roche’s new work marks a departure from the rock ‘n’ roll exuberance of earlier projects.  He rejects the hard and fast in favour of subtle rhythms articulated by luminous fluorescent tubes.  Bought in bulk, the tubes lie piled Don Driver-like in shopping carts.  Or, punctuated by bursts of colour, they dance across walls (Wave, 2-Tone Tango + Blue) and onto the floor (Flap).

Roche is an artist who thinks big.  He recently created a massive neon installation for Alan Gibb’s sculpture park in the Kaipara.  He has a 20 metre, $5 million kinetic sculpture called Twister in the pipeline.  The beauty of Roche’s new works is that their scale is confined only for the sake of convenience.  Pieces like Stream and Wave have the potential to be installed ad infinitum.

Outside of The Ambassador, it’s hard to see Peter’s work these days.  It is not often found in public institutions or curated exhibitions, perhaps on account of the artist’s admirably uncensored artistic vision (last year one prominent Auckland dealer rejected a proposed show of lightboxes on account of their subject matter; nude self portraits complete with raging erections).  Peter Roche always dances to his own tune.

Richard Wright wins the 2009 Turner Prize

Beating out fellow finalists Enrico David, Lucy Skaer and Roger Hiorns, Glasgow-based artist Richard Wright is the 25th (and oldest) winner of Britain’s most prestigious art prize.  49-year-old Wright’s winning fresco is not only painstakingly created, it is also temporary.  His sentiment that “there is too much stuff in the world” is embodied within the artist’s own practise.  His site-specific installations are created on the condition that they must always be destroyed.  As such, Wright’s art lies completely outside of the art market and makes him an interesting foil to the likes of previous Turner Prize winners Damian Hirst, Tracey Emin et al, whose work is both wildly expensive and highly collectable.  Wright likes “…the idea of there being nothing left when I’m gone” and this ambition is a refreshing alternative to a culture consumed by the commodification of art.

The Turner prize runs at Tate Britain, London until 3 January 2010.