Families of posca people group together, their guts scrawled over the window in a display of doodling at its very best. Raphael Rizzo and Rhys Mitchell are sweating – it’s hot in the cargo shed, despite the promenade fronting the less-brown end of the Yarra. Louise Klerks (our Gallery Director) has called them here, one part of the assemblage in a larger residency to run month-long. Their casual partnership is bound by the name Watermelon Sugar, and two of the windows along South Wharf Promenade are receiving the Sugars treatment. Opposite, Nicholas Ryrie is working away. At his feet, a confetti of paint scrapings cover a drop sheet. Ryrie lines up some masking tape, horizontal to and a metre above the floor. He slaps it on the window and recreates the bold aqua line before he follows on in this manner…trial and error, trial and…
Two weeks later Renee Cosgrave and Andrzej Nowicki have moved into the space where the remaining windows and newly constructed white walls lie in wait. Summer continues to burn. Even Minna Gilligan’s large-scale collages, printed off-site onto fabric, hang perfectly still. Cosgrave has constructed a temporary workspace around which her colourful cheat sheets provide inspiration. Tubes of paint, tubs of paint, and connecta Textas all vie for attention. Cosgrave can replicate Texta texture with acrylics, and vice versa and in the vein that’s made a mark, she’s set to reproduce one of her detailed images on a large scale in the coming weeks.
Nowicki works away fastidiously. He appears anxiety free. His mixed media and watercolour works are evolving in a way that makes a reader want to see his neurotransmission transcribed. But eloquence and an urgency to get back to it has him give a great edit on what’s going on and what I’m looking at. I’m not entirely sure all artists like talking about their work, but everyone involved is certainly willing to have a stab. Between them, effort and honesty is common, as is the use of colour. The cohort has curator Louise Klerks written all over it, and her special energy and expertise in the local arts scene is apparent across the project.
Klerks has been curating shows for years around small Sydney and Melbourne ARIs. Her long-running life drawing class at No Vacancy gallery has a cult following and is frequented by Nicholas Ryrie between VCA classes. Ryrie recently tripped to New York and tapped into life drawing there to find some kind of scene. It paid off, with the relative youngster getting an ‘in’ on some sweet Brooklyn studio visits and East Village shows. Of course this is a secondary effect of the figurative drawing. In reality its primary purpose is to keep his head from exploding. Something that would be very messy indeed.
Ryrie has already shown at Rooftop Art Space in 2013. Though much smaller works they are a good representation of the abstract counter point to his painfully beautiful, detailed and delirious nudes. One at odds with the other, he feels no need to choose between the two, and why should he?
If anyone ever told Rhys Mitchell to choose, he clearly ignored them. A singer with Mouth Tooth, actor in upcoming ABC comedy series Upper Middle Bogan, and short film-maker, he also draws anthropomorphic cats. Everyone loves cats. When I see the images on his Tumblr, I think he may very well be right. He’s certainly so busy that when Raphael Rizzo takes off overseas or tackles his architecture degree, it’s of little concern. Rizzo has returned from Barcelona and we disagree on La Sagrada Familia. I think it’s horrible, he however finds it fascinating. Rizzo and Mitchell are both excited by the addition of an architectural degree to their collective skill-set. Already accustomed to working outside, and in the public-eye on walls, boards and windows, they have their sites set on serious structures. I suggest a Watermelon Sugar wing could be added to the as yet unfinished Basilica and we all pause giving it some thought.
Compared to the clean and soothing lines of Ryrie’s window, Watermelon Sugar have created two fabulously busy pieces. Mr Potato Head turns out to be an egg and I fear I’ve offended, but the boys are thrilled by any kind of interaction and interpretation of their work. There’s a lot to look at and their process is involved. Meditative. A sand mandala comes to mind, because like the traditional Tibetan works, impermanence is part of the point, a reminder to enjoy the journey.
An audience often lacks the means to view work before it’s finished, framed, hung. South Wharf Promenade Window gave the public an opportunity to get a glimpse of the progression of a piece. After Andrzej Nowicki’s two shows at Chapter House Lane I was especially curious to see how his works come together. Some, he said are like a pit, where he throws lots of things until it appears level. Others finish ever so swiftly and abruptly with no question haunting his decision. Of course they are a result of the synthesised design of bits and pieces already bouncing around his head. Full of ideas, he splits the parts into stages so I can see – the background wash, the pencilled drawings, the cut-out figures. And the research material: in this instance Munch and Moonlight (1895) and old snaps of family.
Minna Gilligan also looks to the past, referencing a childhood (not hers) where 60s space travel seemed awfully futuristic. Layered with an underwater dreamscape the coral creates an alternate world of play and imagination. Further works with similar motifs appear in Gilligan’s show Holiday Inn at WestSpace until mid-March.
Renee Cosgrave has previously applied her work in city lanes bringing colour to the brickwork, and next up returns to Monash where she graduated in Fine Arts (Honours) to spruce up a humble wall. Even her smaller works have great visual appeal. They also serve as test-patterns. Some on printer paper bear the blots of paint remnant after first brushed on alternate surfaces. Though she usually inhabits a spot in the Nicholas Building a studio can be a luxury for an artist. It can be a term loosely applied to a spare room, bedroom, shed or other less-glamorous nook… By opening up this empty space and giving these artists room to move, their presence unleashed creativity that you and I can sidle alongside. After the closing party, it lives on – we all take it away in our heads, where it turns into new ideas, makes new connections and continues its contribution to the fabric of a living city.