Utopian Dialogue

Dec 6 - 22

About the show

Nick Pont’s style is quintessentially Australian, and so are the stories he tells. He cites, among others, Sidney Nolan and Brett Whiteley as artistic influences, as well as author Tim Winton. The painters’ influences are noticeable, while Winton’s ideas of character mystique and cultural escapism are highly visible in Pont’s work.

Since moving from Sydney to New South Wales’ Mid-North Coast, Pont has gained more space in his studio, and subsequently his mind. His work has been able to expand on to larger canvases, while still maintaining his ink practice en plein-air as well as in the studio, rather than in a small Sydney space. There is breathing room in his new works, landscapes with lone figures inhabiting them, while the expanse of hills and palm trees replaces the urgency of the city. 

Utopian Dialogue includes works on paper and oil paintings, with landscapes exploring Pont’s ‘idea of utopia and the dialogue between various environmental, spiritual and social elements’. The figures in some works seem representational, like stand-ins blending into the landscape and providing anchors and reference points for the viewer. They meld with their surroundings, spreading into them with elongated limbs, like tree branches growing into picture plane. Unlike Pont’s last exhibition, Ideals and Other Stories, Utopian Dialogue, for the most part, is less driven by linear narrative. The images we see are like snapshots of a single moment, while seemingly evolving and moving in front of our eyes. The elements are in motion while the moment is still. 

Reflection in Landscape is the largest painting in the exhibition. A winding river cuts through an earthy green landscape, bare, scraggly trees scattered along its escarpment. Warm afternoon sunlight creeps over rolling mountains in the background and the bust of a ghostly figure stands alone amid the blue of the river in the foreground. With no clear outline, the figure bleeds into the landscape, connected to it with a line growing out of its forehead and expanding like a plume of yellow smoke. The work speaks to Pont’s idea of Utopia: open spaces, connection to a beautiful landscape, and escape from the city; it does, however, have a dark side to it. There is something lonely about the figure, the finger-like branches of leaf-less trees reaching, with the vast land around him almost stiflingly empty – but for a house in the mountains surrounded by nature.

Utopian Dialogue is a conversation between Pont’s ideals and the rationality that creeps into the work. Each painting begins with serenity and beatific landscapes while ominous undertones develop under the surface, often around the figures that are planted in the scenery. Space opposes loneliness, nature and wilderness overwhelm as the artists explores his surroundings in a conversation around his personal Utopia.

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Outside Kyoto

November 8 - December 4

About the show

Momoka Imura, Kazumi Kamae, Yumiko Kawai, Keigo Kimura, Yukio Miyashita, Hideaki Yoshikawa

Six outsider artists out of Atelier Yamanami in the Shiga Prefecture of Japan come to Sydney for the first time ever. Atelier Yamanami is a studio space that nurtures artists with disabilities.

Hideaki Yoshikawa is an artist with down syndrome, whose clay sculptures depict thousands of miniscule faces that seem like a sea of dots before closer inspection. Yoshikawa, his own face millimetres from his sculpture, chants his mantra, ‘eye, eye, nose, mouth’, as he gently pushes divots into the shaped clay with a toothpick.

The English-language newspaper transcriptions of Yukio Miyashita seem at once like condensed images of modern society and abstract picture planes. The words mean nothing to Miyashita, as he carefully copies the foreign symbols in a non-stop flowing stream of consciousness. It can take him weeks to complete a work.

Yumiko Kawai begins with a piece of cloth. She carefully embroiders circle after circle as the colourful fabric tightens and raises into a topographical landscape of hills and valleys.

Momoka Imura is one of the younger artists at Atelier Yamanami, though her work is beginning to garner international attention. Her practice consists of a layering process, whereby Imura sews buttons onto cloth that is then bunched up and covered with another button-covered cloth until the object gains a certain weight and shape.

Keigo Kimura has been drawing trains since he was seven years old. Although he no longer pastes together bits of paper to fit all the carriages, Kimura still stretches his trains over long pieces of shoji paper.

When she came to Yamanami, Kazumi Kamae started out working with fabric, though in 2003 she transitioned to sculpting with clay. Her unique practice focuses on only one subject, the man she loves and obsessively depicts, Mr. Masato. Kamae begins by fashioning a solid foundation. She then rolls tiny rice-sized pieces of clay in her hands and covers the surface of the sculptures. Kamae is mute, so these intricate works become her main form of communicating her love to Masato.

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Outside america

October 18 - November 6

About the show

Henry Speller, Willem De Kooning, Thornton Dial, C.J. Pyle, Frank Jones, Karl Wirsum, Gladys Nilsson, Minnie Evans, Roger Brown, Ray Yoshida, Jim Nutt, Christina Ramberg, Scott Daniel Ellison, David Leggett, Mose Tolliver, Lee Godie, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein

Outside America is an exhibition of both outsider and insider American art from the 1960s to the present. The exhibition seeks to create a dialogue between separate groups of artists, while simultaneously presenting movements to the Australian public that are not represented in our public galleries.

Few people would classify Roger Brown, Karl Wirsum, or Ray Yoshida as outsider artsits. So what is it that ties them to the more widely accepted American outsiders like Lee Godie, Thornton Dial, or Mose Tolliver in this exhibition? The Chicago Imagists (a group Brown, Wirsum and Yoshida helped define) existed outside the norm of American art at the time. New York and the world was preoccupied with pop, leaving a whole genre to develop away from the limelight.Half a century later, the Imagists are still far from receiving their due recognition. American survey exhibitions, especially in Australia, seem largely unaware of the movement.

Lee Godie, a homeless Chicagoan who was discovered selling her canvases on the steps of the Art institute of Chicago, now has a significant number of works in the Museum’s collection. Those works now beautifully represent the dialog, between outside and inside, from the steps the walls of the gallery. In Outside America, Godie’s work is displayed alongside the likes of Mose Tolliver, Roger Brown, Gladys Nilsson and Thornton Dial.

A drawing by Henry Speller, who grew up in the 1900s and 1910s on a plantation in the Mississippi Delta, hangs frame-to-frame with a charcoal sketch by Willem De Kooning. The conversations that occurs between artworks whose makers could not have had more disparate backgrounds is what makes Outside America a show that truly warrants a face-to-face meeting.