Megan Walch Double Happiness Helen Maxwell Gallery, Canberra 14 June – 7 July 2002 This exhibition of paintings by Megan Walch could well have been titled Enter the Dragon after Dave Hickey’s essay advocating a 1990s style neo-Baroque aesthetics of beauty as a form of wry orientalism. While Hickey’s description of the ‘Pre-Raphaelite dragon aloft on its leather wings’1 is presented as an anachronistic and tantalising alternative to the reigning institution of critique, Walch’s own sensationalist brush adopts something of the same exoticism in the clarity of its fantastic illusionist projection of alternative worlds. The eclectic range of works here presented highlights a confidence with the metier of post-painterly form that defies as it mimics digital enhancement. Their brash cinematic realisation is perhaps more easily associated with American than Australian practice, in response to her long sojourn in North America during the 1990s. Following initial studies at the University of Tasmania, Walch studied at the San Francisco Art Institute, Skowhegan School, Maine and the Marie Walsh Sharpe Space Program, before taking up residence in Brooklyn, New York prior to her return to Australia in 2001. Thus the series Shocking Crashes and Chases, of which one work from 2000 is here represented, takes its title from a reality-based US TV series as comment on the pornographic spectacle of American media. A self-confessed enthusiast for the televisual violence of films by David Cronenberg, Walsh cites her particular fascination at the time of this series’ inception for JG Ballard’s novel and the film version of Crash. In this work, the image of molten torpedoing flesh depicts organs that resemble a gigantic alien intestinal tract, mutated into bloated and wheezing sphincters released into the sky. A travesty of the roseate blue baroque ceiling, this series could at the same time be regarded as ongoing validation of the European concept of Vanitas in its symptomatic exploration of our palpable mortality. Quoting Willem de Kooning in her catalogue statement, she affirms ‘The interest in the difference of textures –between silk, wood, velvet, glass, marble – was there only in relation to flesh. Flesh was the reason why oil painting was invented.’ The fleshly resolve of heightened animation mirrors the melting forms of Salvador Dali and the Australian surrealist James Gleeson or the entropic release of Edward Ruscha’s Liquid Words. What marks Walch’s new direction as self-diagnosed ‘homecoming’ from the excesses of North American culture, and her own immersion in it, is the perhaps wilfully staged rediscovery of Chinatown in lower Manhatten. This was notably for Walch, ‘a means of falling back in love with the Southern Hemisphere and Australia’ as she remarks to Ashley Crawford in an interview for the Melbourne Age on the occasion of her exhibition at Smyrnios Gallery in Melbourne in 20012. These sci-fi fictions constitute an altogether new reality, in the discovery of the popular accoutrements of Chinese culture and along with it, a desire to move away from the dualism of western spirituality, to a more full fledged cross-cultural transcendence that is less at odds with the desiring sensuality of the surrealist dream.
The prettified rockeries and vistas, plays up to the decorative schema as worldly terrain in the settings for A Chinese Ghost Story and the imaginary landscapes of classical oriental tradition. There is an overt fecundity to Smoke Monkey, depicting corpulescent glistening Buddha and Mao faces and figures like porcelain effigies occupying an ethereal landscape. Encroaching swarms of green organic matter, punctuated by phallic forms and prickly pubes offset the celestial blue ground. Likewise in another work from 2000, It’s not you, it’s me, the calligraphic pictogram of Chinese script is a peculiar pip-squeak ejaculation, apologetic and yet gleeful. Visions of the landscape are carried further in Dream Home and the series The Rise of Oxygen I, II & III as chunks of disembodied forms. Releasing oxygen bubbles, as if breaking out of the stratosphere, these works also play on the sci-fi world of graphic illustration, in particular referencing Roger Dean’s 1970s album cover for the band Yes. The quotational device as hard-edged graphic reflection is further brought to a head in Double Happiness, the title work. Framed in red, it stands as reference to traditional Chinese conjugal good fortune, presenting the steep incline of porcelain smooth buttocks rising out of the mist to sprout bonsai vegetation on its high peaks. The attendant cameo piece, Cleavage, against a background in Jade green, presents swelling breast forms almost like eyeballs carved into their sockets. In these works as in the most recent canvases Slipple and Wa Wa Wa, Walch plays out the signifying gestures of the body and the calligraphic gesture in the will to form. Not resting on the pure exotics of her oriental subject, the animation claims a multitude of references, including the ambient line of Dr Seuss, who’s nowhere terrain dissolves every construct of the landscape and the word. This melting down of the modernist grid through the dissolution of form is a consistent avowal of the rhetoric of formlessness in the literalised ‘Spittle’ that Michel Leiris described as ‘scandal itself, since it lowers the mouth – the visible sign of intelligence – to the level of the most shameful organs’3 Walch’s characteristic globular flourish seems yet to come out of the commodified and cleaned up version of its’ screen adaptation in Alien. Walch’s consciousness of inherited forms plays on an uneasy conflation of cultures, as if taking on the persona of oriental screens courtesans of western adaptation in Jade and the character of ‘China Blue’(played by Kathleen Turner in Crimes of Passion) to muddy the terrain of authenticity and the indominantly masculine subject of Chinese trans-avant garde painting. Like the influential passage on European neo-expressionism of the 1980s in reifying painting’s status through a relentless nostalgia of qualified revival, Walch has perhaps unwittingly captured the gem of the conundrum of a permitted speaking position in what Homi Bhaba has termed the ‘third space’ of interactive ‘in-between ness’ in the passage of Orientalist discourses. The erotic reflection of these work’s painterly animation is not unlike the anthropomorphic contortions, fed by an influentially late exposure to European Surrealism, of the works of Guan Wei, who’s formative introduction to the Australian scene, prior to taking up permanent residency, was at the University of Tasmania. So too,
there is significant legacy in the dialogue ensuing from exhibitions of Australian painting, such as Out of Asia, curated by Alison Carroll in 1990 or the exhibition Transcultural Painting toured by Asialink to North Asia. As such, Walch joins a significant entourage of Australian painters, not all of Asian descent, such as Tony Clarke and Geoff Lowe, who along with John Young and Lindy Lee, fruitfully explore the possibilities of painting through the texture less surface of what Paul Taylor influentially termed ‘the culture of second degree’.
Dave Hickey, “Enter the Dragon”, in The Invisible Dragon: Four Essays on Beauty, Art Issues Press 1993, p.12 2 Ashley Crawford, “Confidently Kitsch”, in The Melbourne Age, Monday ?, September 2001 3 As discussed by Yve-Alain Bois in Yves Alain- Bois & Rosalind Krauss, Formless: A Users Guide, Zone Books, 1997, p.18
MICHAEL CARR ART DEALER MELBOURNE REIGN New Melbourne Painting Hell’s Kitchen By Ashley Crawford On a recent cloudy afternoon Tony Lloyd, Stephen Haley, David Ralph, Sam Leach and Amanda Marburg sat around a crowded table in a tiny, dark Melbourne bar called Hell’s Kitchen. In many ways it was a typical Melbourne gathering; artists of disparate stylistic approaches huddling around and talking intensely. They weren’t taking in the sun outside a Sydney coffee shop. They were talking ideas. They were talking about what makes Melbourne art distinctive. At one point the conversation turned to an Australian figure they all admire, John Brack who, with his cool, analytical approach seemed to be a cornerstone reference. As Tony Lloyd commented; “I am a big fan and though he may not be a common ancestor to us all, he is at least a cherished family friend.” Someone mentioned A Melbourne Mood: Cool Contemporary Art, a show put together by then senior curator of Australian art, Daniel Thomas, at the Australian National Gallery in 1981. Thomas had gathered the then new stalwarts of Melbourne art – Howard Arkley, Robert Rooney, Jenny Watson et al and placed them alongside Brack, Robert Jacks and Robert Hunter with works ranging from 1953 to 1981. “It’s not a joke about the weather,” Thomas told Paul Taylor in the first issue of Tension magazine. “’Cool’ means distanced, doesn’t it… you don’t get het-up or emotionally over-excited. You know what you’re doing, you think about things as opposed to some of the mindless painting around…. “’Cool’ is not necessarily a Melbourne phenomenon, but there’s much more of it there than anywhere else… Perhaps it’s because people stay indoors more often and think.” Arguably Thomas got that part right. While Sydney’s economy may force artists to work, the mild climate can lead them astray. Melbourne’s cool winters force artists indoors; back to the studio. Like Berlin, Paris, New York or London, Melbourne is a city of extremes and that in itself creates a sense of solidarity. But solidarity does not mean stylistic similarity. Each of the artists here, while they may share ideas and a strong awareness of popular culture, approach their subjects with extraordinary diversity. But there are links. There is what we may dub ‘Mutated Organic’ seen in the works of Irene Hanenburgh, Sam Leach, Tony Lloyd, Amanda Marburg, Viv Miller, Meg Walch and Irene Wellm. These artists are linked by an almost gothic sensibility and a fascination for somewhat unnatural ‘natural’ forms. Then there is the ‘Distopian Architectural’ – an investigation into the geometrical and the man-made environment seen in its varying forms in the work of Stephen Haley, Darren Wardle, Clare Firth-Smith and David Ralph and the ‘urban pop’ of Geoff Newton. Organic Alienation AMANDA MARBURG’S BIZARRE paintings are the end product of a strange process that encompasses photography, plasticine sculpture and painting, a kind of Wallace and Grommit meets El Greco. Her images are initially sourced when she takes photographs from films or television; she then sculpts the image in her willfully crude fashion and then in turn photographs the sculptures before beginning the painstaking process of transferring the final image to canvas. The sense of the other-worldly that Marburg achieves comes in part from the disparate techniques she applies. She creates bizarre mis en scenes with her models, lighting them with candles to emphasise a kind of gothic sensibility. Marburg’s interest in plasticine was triggered by her desire to create a claymation of a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho. However, rather than film the model, Marburg took still photographs. To her surprise she found the snapshots far more intriguing than she had expected and set about utilising them to produce a series of paintings, which she exhibited in 2001. The results become a disturbing fairytale-like landscape.
She went on to execute paintings based on photographs of other models inspired by such films as Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959), Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) and Grosse Point Blank (1997) and the work of Hieronymus Bosch. The results are a very strange form of still-life painting indeed. Viv Miller’s work in this show, with is prodigious, outrageous growth is most decidedly the work of a studio artist as opposed to a person working plein air. This could be an illustration from a particularly creepy rewrite of an alternate Enid Blyton book. Miller eschews realism for atmosphere - there is something ‘off’ about her ‘nature’ with its muted, European-style tonality. In an artists statement for a group show at Gertrude Street Artists Spaces – the hot bed of Melbournian talent where Miller has her studio – the artist commented that: “I’m often struck by the possibility that faces you when you endeavour to make an image of something, be it something seen, an idea or a sensation. The best you can do is fall back upon whatever systems of representation might be at hand and remain obliquely detached from your subject. This is where it seems I find my space – playing right into this conundrum; but with a nod and a wink, as if administering tricks and fakery.” Utilising overlaid pencil drawing and acetate paint, Miller seems to strike a balance between fairy tale whimsy and futuristic distopia. She would be ideal to illustrate J.G. Ballard’s science fiction epic The Day of Creation in which nature takes over. Miller depicts a world both as we know it, and yet oddly shifted. Bedtime stories can be scary things. Irene Wellm’s European heritage provided gruesome yarns that both enchanted and scared the artist as a young child, and has inspired a continuous series of sumptuous oil paintings that mixes a light-hearted playfulness with a darker psychological side. Wellm’s work is informed by diverse influences, from European masters such as Caravaggio, to the extremes of Japanese anime and films by Hayao Miyazaki, which are evident in paintings where toys masquerade as iconic figures. Childhood memories, folk-lore, fairytales and family photographs are thrown into a nightmarish blender. In the works here childhood toys, replete with bouncy springs, take on a strangely darkly sexual allure in a distinctly surreal nether-universe. Children’s toys will never be the same. Not unlike Marburg, Wellm takes the figurative into essentially surreal and distinctly scary realms. MEG WALCH’S FINELY tuned paintings are imbued with both a sense of nostalgia and a fascination with the futuristic – an avant retro where Roger Dean’s infamous ’70s album covers for the band Yes meet David Cronenberg’s film adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s novel Crash. I first met Walsch in 2001 in her Williamsburg studio outside of New York where she had settled for a time and where her strange colouration was just beginning to appear. “The green is both fresh and toxic, it’s natural and it’s stagnant,” said Walch of her bizarre palette. While travel is a decided influence in Walch’s work, it had been filtered through a sci-fi sensibility. “Science fiction is of interest to me on a number of different levels because I’m a bit of a future babe,” she admits sheepishly. “I like to fantasize about the future and I see it optimistically, I love the idea of future projection.” She described her position as distopian but with a “happy outcome,” describing the experience of having a studio in Taipei in the early millennium as, “like being in BladeRunner. And I love those terrible ’70s movies and how they fantasize about the future from a ’70s perspective. There are these wild colours, strange beiges and reds, films like Zardoz and Videodrome. In part it’s probably the film stock and that doesn’t worry me at all. Painting the way I do in some ways is also dated, so there’s a nice parallel.” Walch’s work fluctuates between the almost Zen-like natural forms against simple backgrounds and more unsettling abstractions. She plays on the fine line between threat and kitsch, challenge and decoration. ONE SUSPECTS THAT Irene Hanenberg has been watching too many late night horror films. That’s not a bad thing, mind you, given the results.
Hanenberg’s ‘paintings’ are superb, sensual, visceral creations of swirling, viscous colouration. They’re not actually paintings per se, although they certainly have the appearance of painterly surface. They are in fact zund-prints on aluminium. But they are so sumptuous that this arcane technical fact seems totally irrelevant. Hanenberg’s swirling, tumultuous world is populated by beasts from another universe. There are hints of faeries and werewolves, vampiric bats and apocalyptic night storms. Strange growths are torn by solar winds in the evocation of new gods. It’s impossible not to start throwing around references to mysticism, the supernatural, the occult and even a strange eroticism. But then this gothic aesthetic is met with the cool, high-tech surface of digital technology applied to aluminium creating a strange schism, a kind of cyber-alchemy. We know Hanenberg is having fun. One of her 2005 works was called Freedom holidays and only the most die-hard Goth would want to spend their summer vacation there. It’s a swampland of the soul, a damp, rotting, mildewed place of grotesque greens and fecund growth. In Outward-out (Wolga banshees living in New Orleans) Hanenbergh’s Big Easy was the post-hurricane Cajun country of swamps where Voodoo ritual and dank superstition thrive. LIKE MARBURG AND Hanenberg, Tony Lloyd’s depictions of an alternate world are filtered through technology. But they are also highly experiential. This world is only ‘alternate’ via the imagination of the viewer once seduced into the inky, stygian darkness of his both literal and metaphorical road trips. In much of his work it is impossible not to evoke the darker aspects of such ‘road movies’ as Mad Max and, more recently, Wolf Creek. But equally relevant to this Australian Gothic sensibility are the cinematic shadows of David Lynch when ‘Frank’ decides to go for a drive in Blue Velvet, and indeed Lloyd tells a story of becoming decidedly spooked driving down Los Angeles’ Mulholland Drive in the night mist. Something lurks at the edge of these paintings, just out of the rays of the headlights. But Lloyd’s paranoia runs deep. The epic sweep of this sense of lost time, shifting realities and Philip K. Dick sense of unreality is captured with eerie intensity in Lloyd’s suite of paintings, A Short History of Lost Time. It’s a mix of historical images, news images, film stills and emails including UFOs, September 11, Zombies, Chernobyl, G.G. Allin, David Hicks and Charlton Heston. Given how he sourced the images it makes one think about why a communications device should be called such things as the ‘Web’ and the ‘Net’ – things one is caught in. To Lloyd the work is more about cultural memory than sociology – about remembering things the way one remembers them, rather than the way they actually occurred. Hence the mixture of disparate historical imagery, cinematic references and joke email pictures. “There’s a great quote from Gore Vidal about having seen so many films his memory is confused,” recalls Lloyd. “He distinctly remembers being governor of Alaska, and though history doesn’t confirm this belief he says ‘no matter, they were happy days, who cares if they were real or not?’” What links the images is the sense of lost time in each of them, whether it is time lost in Guantanamo Bay (Hicks), in a Kent insane asylum (piano man), being murdered at age three (Jon-Benet), a ghost ship from 18th Century (the Marie Celeste), the time lost from when we were in the womb (ultrasound image), a memory of feeling a woman's breasts (Un chien Andalou), a butterfly with their metamorphosis and fleeting lifespan, Harold Holt's search party, a punk rocker whose ambition was to suicide onstage... ‘REALISM’, ALBEIT A very odd version thereof, has been tackled with enormous success by such Melbourne painters Tony Clark and Stieg Persson, and more recently the sculptors Ricky Swallow and Sam Jinks. It is an approach tackled with extraordinary success by Sam Leach. In Ridley Scott’s classic piece of sci-fi noir, Blade Runner, the massive Tyrell Corporation – those responsible for the creation of replicants – has its headquarters in a huge, ziggurat style building. It is an image of power and arrogance. Inside the building all is shadows, the rays of the sun taking on the muted light of a 17th Century still life complete with owl. Early this year Sam Leach won an award for a painting that looked like it had been pilfered from The Hague. But the dark, painterly textures provided an almost surreal juxtaposition. Dividendgame featured a dead partridge, rendered in almost 17th Century style, hanging over the sign of an elevator –
a distinctly 20th Century invention.
Dividendgame clearly referenced Dutch still-life painting and was intimate in scale, encouraging a close encounter with the work. “The invitation to interact on a human scale is the opposite of that in any normal corporate lift-well,” noted Leach. “The painting juxtaposes the two traditions, starkly exposing the spiritual vacuum of the corporation by introducing a vanitas symbol into an empty corporate space.” For Leach the emergence of the genre of still-life and architecture painting in the Netherlands during the 17th Century provides a basis for considering the format, composition and modes of representation of constructed space. But his still-life paintings of skulls and dead birds also resonate with a powerful sense of mortality The Distopian Architectural Architecture seems to be an abiding fascination for Melbourne artists. It crops up in John Brack’s works and was embraced with passion by Howard Arkley who handed the torch down to Callum Morton. There are any number of other artists one could mention here, but Stephen Haley has certainly taken this thematic into new realms. THERE IS SOMETHING eerie about Stephen Haley’s paintings of distorted interiors and exteriors, as though the viewer has gained an inexplicable ability to see through ceilings and walls, as though one could soar through some gravity-free cyber zone, peeking from anatomically impossible angles. Haley is intrigued by vision and perception – the stuff of neuro-psychology. His work plays with our sense of how things are seen, how colours relate, how geometry – in theory so logical – can simultaneously distort reality. These dreams of modernist architecture become Kafka-esque; replicating monstrously to the horizon, an endless city. “Architecture modulates space,” he says. “We speak of the architecture of something when referring to its structure. These works are about space – how it is constructed.” Suburban housing developments are remarkable for their reliance on repetition, house after house punched out from some simplistic architectural grid. Haley took this notion several steps further for his digital prints, utilising replication software to allow his buildings to multiply with nary a glimpse at building codes. As with the advent of photography, the new format of digital prints raises the question of replication. Haley is all too aware of this, thus dubbing a series of works Echo. An echo is a reflection of an original, but one that continues to reverberate and which undergoes significant mutation as it takes on characteristics of the surface from which it bounces. These too are the concerns of the paintings, although expressed in a restrained painterly style that emulates the smooth surfaces of photographic emulsion. DARREN WARDLE’S WORK renders the urban landscape caught in the midst of a nuclear blast; colours intensified to a terrifying degree. Wardle has ratcheted up Howard Arkley’s day-glo colours and spraycan appearance with carefully applied brush-strokes. His cities burn with a radioactive intensity and postmodern slickness which is now, in his most recent work, being scarred by urban graffiti. The sci-fi dystopia of Wardle’s works is key to their appeal. Not surprisingly Wardle is a fan of Ridley Scott’s film Blade Runner, in which the future Los Angeles is a garish mix of fluorescent lights, flashing advertising and grey, sodden brick. “Blade Runner was a really important work of art for me,” he says. “I’ve always treated it as a work of art. The layering of visuals and ideas is just superb.” Similarly important in Wardle’s lexicon is Mike Davis’ classic urban study of Los Angeles, City of Quartz and the works of the crime maestro James Ellroy, most especially his bleak classic, My Dark Places. Graffiti was also an influence and in his youth Wardle would tackle suburban walls. “Not tagging, more interventions on the urban space,” he says. “I did a fair bit of stencilling, well before it became the hip
thing to do. This was back in the early 90s. If I had a decent stencil I was using for a painting I’d just take it outside.” SINCE COMPLETING HER Masters of Fine Art in 2001 Clare Firth-Smith has wasted little time carving a niche with six solo shows in six years in Melbourne and Sydney. Firth-Smith seems to work on a juggling act between the hard edge geometry of architecture and a poetics of colour. To these complex structures she adds equally ambiguous and beguiling titles such as two can play this game, everybody's free (to be happy), and we slip & slide as we fall in love & I just can't seem to get enough of you and even an obscure love note xxxxx. There is an almost science fictional element to these plays on modernist architectural tropes. With her pared-back, muted pastel palette, Firth-Smith is the opposite of Wardle. Indeed, Firth-Smith’s architecture is truly that of the imagination, almost as organic in some ways as Viv Miller’s trees, yet grounded in a modernist geometry. UNLIKE THE METICULOUS sense of geometrical form explored in the work of Haley, Wardle and Firth-Smith, David Ralph’s work is deliberately rough-hewed. There are probably two quite distinct ways to view these strange unpopulated paintings. There’s the Utopian and the Distopian. There is Raphaela Davidson’s comment in her 2006 essay on Ralph’s work that these mobile homes house “a romantic soul searching for a new community, clean environment and peace.” The alternative would be to say these are symbols of retreat, desperation and pure eccentricity. Far more Cronenberg than Cannes in their mutated forms, scavenged materials and desperate attempts at ‘settlement.’ Davidson sees “Home is where the heart is.” Writing in the same catalogue, Roy Exley sees structures that “can be threatening or intriguing in equal measure, they can seduce or repel.” For Ralph the idea of the Mobile Home is essentially a “fantasy”. “It is not the actual structures which interest me,” he has said. “I like what they represent, namely freedom and personality. I like the idea of the Mobile Home as a metaphor, and a psychological container of a dream and fantasy.” While kitsch today, in the 1960’s and 70’s the Mobile Home was perceived as a symbol of Modernity – an image of aerodynamic sophistication and technology as a sign of Modernity’s freedom to travel. GEOFF NEWTON SEEMS to be having a lot of fun with his ongoing artistic exploration of the relationship between painting and rock music. All seems to be grist for Newton, from record covers to gumball machines. Alongside his activities as a painter Newton has a self-produced album featuring several groups (TEAM Antennas, Meat Campaign and more). Newton graduated from the Canberra School of Art in 2000 and soon made the move to Melbourne where music and painting have long been joined at the hip. Newton tends to make knowing gags and jokes that puncture the solemnity of the art scene. He is also one of the figures behind the new Melbourne gallery Neon Park, where a number of the artists in this show, such as Viv Miller and Irene Hanenbergh, are showing. The sense of stringent independence and camaraderie that can be seen filtering through these artists is another distinctive Melbourne tendency. ANOTHER ARTIST’S WORK that came up that day in Hell’s Kitchen was the American Charles Burns who has recently released an epic graphic novel titled Black Hole. Lloyd had already read it and was in raptures. Haley was just starting it. In one way it recounts a simple teen love story with all the attendant adolescent awkwardness, anguish, insular humiliations and the abject boredom. But there is the coexistent story of a disease that mutates the teens into hideous malformed outcasts. There is something of this in all the work here – an observation of the everyday pushed just slightly into another realm where all the grotesqueries of existence become manifest or maybe poignantly disguised. As in Burns work, there is also the darkness – compellingly black in tone and also in humour. The division here into the mutated organic and the distopian architectural understates the link between all the works in both categories in their slight off-key otherworldliness. While not exactly surreal, there is something of that in all the work.
The artists in this show represent a new Melbourne Mood; one infected by technology and popular culture, the cinematic and the architectural. Burrowed away in the warrens of inner-city studios, with Melbourne’s grey clouds skidding past outside, they create dark, contemplative worlds imbued with a cornucopia of rich ideas. But a key factor is the simple fact that they talk and share ideas. The jealously guarded, ego-driven practice so often seen in cities like Sydney and Los Angeles is barely tolerated in Melbourne. It’s too much fun talking over a beer in Hell’s Kitchen. With thanks to Stephen Haley.
Issue No. 29 December 2003
PLASTIC PARK by Simonne Carvin 'Plastic Park' is an exhibition of paintings by artist, Megan Walch in which reflective, beautiful art works are integrated with social commentary. This is the artist’s first Sydney show, and the result of a three month residency at the Australia Council studio in Taiwan. The strength of Walch’s works in 'Plastic Park' lies in their strong formal contrasts which in turn capture disparities in everyday life. For example, depictions of pollution and chaos, such as a dark city fog are set against trees, which symbolise the ecosystem. The portrayal of this precarious balance makes for an absorbing show.
New Rose Hotel Series 2003 Mixed media, oil and resin on wood, 22 x 44 cm Courtesy of the artist and Boutwell Draper Gallery As the artist herself says, the works represent, ‘A precarious geographical and political state where there is no fear of colour,
noise or fantasy’. Walch has depicted scenes of disordered urbanisation together with ordered technology. Her works are on canvas, paper and wood. For example, Plastique 3, is a large canvas depicting a red flower floating in a white abyss being set upon by a black tsunami-type swirl. In Bonsai Red, an enchanting work on watercolour paper, the artist has portrayed the ancient bonsai plant in the middle of a vast, grey landscape. A captivating addition to this exhibition is the New Rose Hotels Series, consisting of eleven discs - reminiscent of small surfboards, a fitting reference to popular culture—of oil and resin on wood. A butterfly skimming the surface of an approaching avalanche is just one of the delicate decorations applied to these pieces. Megan Walch began her studies in Tasmania. After receiving the Samstag International Travelling Scholarship in 1994, she embarked upon a Masters of Fine Art at the San Francisco Art Institute. Over the past 12 years she has held solo exhibitions in Australia and the United States. Megan Walch’s talent and flair ensure she is an artist to be seen and followed.
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