We’ve all been there, the “enigmatic object school of art”. Two, maybe three things tied together by no common thread. One naturally occurring, one manufactured, one “mediated”: a water worn rock wearing headphones sitting on a cushion (probably patterned, something ethnic or granny crafted, possibly unfinished) placed in the fork of a tree. The headphone jack inserted into a hole drilled into a branch tree. Stock terms: “The objects are in conversation…..” etc etc = Louise Haselton (this year’s SALA monograph artist). (Samstag Museum)
A. Valamanesh came to visual art from a craft background and her objects are so beautifully  and seamlessly crafted they often appear to have been extruded rather than made. Her works frequently look like specimens escaped from the vitrines of a natural history museum, insects or something from below the surface of the sea (the exhibition blurb uses the term “biomorphic” and I’d say that is about right). I find her work, most often clay / ceramic, very “cool” (in fact somewhat sterile), though sketches of her works are included in this show and I found them much more attractive, they had vastly more character than the finished pieces. This exhibition is part of the JamFactory’s Icon series which “celebrates the achievements of South Australia’s most influential artists working in craft-based media”. (Jam Factory)
H. Valamanesh’s work, on the other hand, whilst meticulously crafted, I often find intriguing. Showing at ACE Open (on the site of the once Experimental Art Foundation, then, latterly and very anachronistically, Australian Experimental Art Foundation now, more or less, an amalgam: super-glued to the CAC, Contemporary Arts Centre, previously CAS, Contemporary Art Society, it’s site in Parkside recently sold and currently being renovated. Drastically!!!) where-as he has regularly shown (previously) at Greenaways, (now gag). There’s a sense of history and romance about much of H. Valamanesh’s work. It tells stories, as opposed to being a “narrative” and they are not “in conversation”. It frequently alludes to the past and tells us about how he (and we?) got here from there and how we got to be as we are. Or how we might have or could do. At his best there’s a feeling of something very like magic, certainly mystery (at least). Sometimes, of a mystery about to be explained (should we take the time), or maybe fables handed down. Allegories, perhaps. Allusion and illusion. Muti-media: art povera to hi tech, some of his works I like most are made with very humble materials; palm fronds, mud, much more like mud than clay (“Some people say a man is made out of mud…..”, “16 Tons”, Tennessee Ernie Ford).
At ACE Open?
Well….. the works are not made from humble materials.
Got on the tram in Goodwood at 12:38PM, visited the three exhibition (and the “Art by prisoners” exhibition) and I was already back on the tram and passing through Victoria Square at 1:45PM, having spent some time acquiring the book “Hardsoft” (on the late John Barbour’s work) from ACE Open and purchasing a little carved sculpture by Maria Orsto, from the Tiwi Islands, at the JamFactory.
Nicholas Folland? Currently exhibiting “Other homes and gardens” at Central School of Art. Not gag? The SALA monograph artist of 2014 (Kirsten Coelho in 2020). I’ve no idea, and haven’t had one for some time, when it comes to Folland’s work. This is a full size representation of a kitchen, highly decorated in a floral pattern that has been referred to else where as “nostalgic”. The walls move, the room changes shape. The tap over the sink remains on. Chairs tilt, cupboard doors and drawers open and then slam shut, the table slides across the floor. Then they all return to their places. I didn’t stay long enough to observe whether or not the sequence of events was predictable. I’m guessing it was / is. Poltergeists? A slow motion depiction of an earthquake? Unfortunately not. A number of mechanical devices operate a pulley like system and the utilities / facilities are moved by clearly visible wires and springs. No mystery. The essay, by Andrew Purvis, which accompanies “Other….” does a good job of explaining the work and giving it a context. Purvis doesn’t pick up a possible interpretation of the heart of the home being plagued by intense pressures, pressures that are visible and able to be identified*. That the heart is under attack. It’s a heart-attack?
My suggestion? “Funny Bones” at Eastwood Community Centre and “vivid” out at Tea Tree Gully. Jungle Phillips doesn’t appear to be participating in this year’s SALA.
*Something like Richard Hamilton’s “Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?”. Hamilton was tutor and mentor to Bryan Ferry, who was soon thereafter to create (with his band, “Roxy Music’) “In every dream home a heartache” on the iconic “For your pleasure” album.