Review: New 09 - A review

The ‘New’ series of exhibitions are an annual project, now in its seventh year staged by the Australian Centre of Contemporary Art. As the catalogue foreword for New09 states, the exhibition “has entered the professional and public consciousness as an event that nominates individual artists of rising interest....” As such this exhibition generates a magnified scrutiny - sometimes borne of professional jealousy but often as not because of the name and ambition of the exhibition itself, and amplified by the fact that ACCA is a well resourced organisation. This year the selected artists have made new commisisoned works as a result of their invitation to participate in the show. This approach means that audiences do not get an overview of the concerns and approach to art making of “these artists of rising interest”. Arguably this is the purpose of such an exhibition. However with only one or two works per artist New 09 is not able to provide that perspective. As such the exhibition is perhaps best for the art insider who may be familiar with theses artists and their work and less appropriate for a general public who take an occasional interest in contemporary art. I wanted more work in this exhibition, I wanted more context to the work of Mathew Griffin to reward my viewing of his video work. Benjamin Armstrong and Brodie Ellis’s work also suffered from a lack of work/context. Whilst artist Simon Yates was only represented by two works they were sufficently theatrical and individual to cut through. Yates presented two life like robots - two walking figures held up by helium ballons that over time traversed the gallery space. Zombie like with diving rod hands, the figures, one male (a self portrait) and one female (resembling the artist’s partner are spooky and disconcerting whilst maintaining a fragilty borne of their manufacture from tissue paper, balsa wood and tape. Engaging without the theatrical qualities of the zombies is the corporate cold aesthetic of the installation by Jen Berean and Pat Foster. The suspended ceilings that hang from most corporate office buildings in the western world are employed as dry modernist grid suspended in the white cube of the modern art gallery. The barren white neutral space of the white cube is underscored by the aluminium glass shop like panels constructed in a doorway. The masking tape diagonally running across the glass provides sense of the temporary and fragile nature of the build. This is a dry, cynical and strong work of art. In the most successful works in this show a heightened consciousness and anxiety in our relationships to space is to the fore.

By David O'Halloran

David O'Halloran

David O'Halloran is an Australian visual art curator of 25 years experience working with some of the country's most important visual arts organisations including the Biennale of Sydney, the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, Contemporary Art Services Tasmania, and the Adelaide Festival. For the Glen Eira City Council Gallery he has curated important exhibitions that surveyed the work of significant Australian artists, including Elizabeth Gower, John Dunkley-Smith, Jon Campbell, Jan Murray, Stieg Persson and Victor Mazjner. David O'Halloran fondly remembers a maxim drummed into students at art school - "you can be so open minded your brains fall out".