The differences between Sculpture by the Sea and the Miniature Show are that the former is open to anyone to submit an entry for selection, while the latter is by invitation to the artist. Sculpture by the Sea includes works that are site specific, can be ephemeral (to the point that some critics dismiss some works as no more than an accumulation of rubbish) and, given the grandeur of the site, can be overwhelmed by the cliffs and seaside setting.
Work in the Miniature Show tends to be made of materials that have some longevity, metal, clay, stone, timber and are non site specific. They are all easily seen in one gallery space rather than spread out over a very large site. All in all both exhibitions pose a challenge to the artists submitting works as well as the viewer, but both should be seen to understand the broad spectrum of sculptural talent working and exhibiting in Australia today.
The recent 19th annual Miniature Show, Minumental was just as exciting to visit as the previous eighteen exhibitions. Derry Messum’s “Beach Bum”, a work in ceramic & plaster showed a subtle sense of colour and Ian Scott’s bronze Man & Dog was beautifully cast. I should also declare that two works of mine, “en ti empieza y acaba” and “palabras y ritmos” from my sculpture series influenced by the Fredrico Garcia Lorca were also included.
Seeking the silence, an exhibition of the art of Lissa de Sailles, is made from the history and the fabric of this land, she takes locally sourced plant materials and weaves them into sculptural works that subtly address the loss of indigenous cultural practices as well as the impact our present society is having on the land and natural environment. Trade Basket 2014 made from hand spun eleocharis sphacelata (tall spike rush), jacaranda, red cedar, black bog reed and waxed linen thread demonstrates that these beautifully made objects, while mostly taking a semblance of form from traditional practical baskets and containers, the detail, colours and textures enhance them as sculptural forms in their own right.
Lost in Waste: A Landfill Odyssey
Tania Morandini at the Shoalhaven City Arts Centre put together a great educational exhibition, Lost in Waste, working with the local Waste Services, the exhibition aimed at raising awareness of the problem of sending waste, that could be recycled, to landfill. Through informative displays, art forms and artistic practice the exhibition highlighted creative reconfiguration of waste into resource. As well as using clothing and plastics in a humorous and imaginative fit-out of the gallery, the exhibition featured selected artists from the M.G.Dingle & G.B.Hughes Collection, including art by Peter Gardiner, Jane Gillies, Judy Overhieu as well as video art from LapDancer 2 by Sean Lowry. An educational, interactive brochure was available for children.
Shifting Shadows , Shifting Sands
Maryanne Wick and Szilvia György, both graduates from the National Art School in Darlinghurst collaborated in producing this subtle, but diverse exploration of still life. As they have noted they “share a similar aesthetic... quiet compositions based on a sense of place, simplicity of form, light, shadow and nature.” They first meet in 2008 when Wick took up a residency at Newington Armory Studios at Sydney Olympic Park when György’s had her studio. This collaboration was finalised during the considerations of doing an exhibition at the Arts Centre and it developed from there. They developed their theme and direction through observing and playing with light and shadow, exploring different and unusual perspectives, variety in shape and form, tonal colour and texture. As György’s pieces became available, Wick took some to her studio and developed the paintings, other 3D works were developed jointly. The artists also emphasised that “time did play an important part in the making of this work as well. We took time to think, to look, discover, create and to make mistakes. Its involvement in nature played a part in our thinking and in our work as well.”
The artists have really achieved the objectives of their collaboration, the exhibition is subtle in colour, a combination paintings, ceramics, found natural objects, and drawing, full of quiet shadows, and light highlighting the volume and depth, negative and positive spaces.
Food and Art
The earlier mention of the Escape ArtFest RIPE sculpture exhibition and prize held at Cupitt's Winery just outside of Milton, brings me to the subject of art and food. Over the last few years the Shoalhaven has been blessed with the opening of some very good restaurants that have been upping the standards and quality of the food in the region. David Campbell’s Hungry Duck at Berry now has extended the “empire” and has taken over the Wharf Restaurant and Bar in Nowra, Rick Stein at Bannisters at Mollymook was a game-changer as was Cupitt’s Winery with its beautiful location with views over a valley and the top end of Burrill Lake across to the Budawang Ranges, and their link to and support of artists through Escape ArtFest and of course the food. Late last year I ate from their Slow Food inspired menu during a visit to view the Sculpture. The meal included Pork, Veal and Duck Liver Terrine with Pear and Apple Chutney, Rump of Lamb with Spring Vegetables and a dessert of Brown Butter Crème Brûlée with Spiced Biscuit, Rum and Raisin Ice Cream, along with a glass of sparkling wine which was not particularly memorable apart from lacking bubbles and a glass of a very good 2013 Carolyn’s Cabernet under their own label.
Other top restaurants around Milton / Mollymook are Alex Delly & Jo Thomas’s St.Isidore just outside of the former and Matt Upson & Clayton Till’s Tallwood at Mollymook, both of which had art exhibitions on display when I visited recently.
St.Isidore prides itself on its regionality and local produce and is sited in a great setting surrounded by dams, vegetable and herb gardens, chicken runs, milking cows and a series of dams that lead the eye to the Budawang Ranges in the distance. The ambience, sitting on the verandah on a summer day with a glass of 2013 Gilbert Sangovize Shiraz Barbarea Rose by Simon Gilbert of Orange, perfect with the food and the day, would be extremely hard to top anywhere. The food is really well cooked, and reasonably unfussy in presentation. Michael ordered grilled octopus, followed by zucchini flowers stuffed with crab. A special of the day was roast duck (half or the whole), it was just after Christmas and I had not had my duck fix for the year, so despite my companion not being of the mind to eat duck nor any other kind of feathered beast, Boarding Schools of long ago have a lot to answer for, I ordered the zucchini flowers and a half duck. It was a bit over the top for one person but I enjoyed every juicy tender morsel of a either a very generous serve or from an animal with a lot more legs than normal; my half serving included a breast and two drumsticks. It came with potatoes, Savoy cabbage and blueberries, the latter when speared with a fork promptly burst with a spurt of purple juice. This usually happens when you are wearing a new fine linen or silk white shirt, so I was pleased I had worn a coloured and fairly old shirt, well it was summer and we had been to the beach, however the white table cloth was not so fortunate.
The octopus and the zucchini flowers were the two highlights, perfectly cooked, tender octopus and the crunch of the batter into the greenness of the zucchini followed by the sweetness of crab. If there were any reservations, these were with the dessert and the art. Summer melons bring to mind abundance and on perusing the menu I thought of chunks of cold juicy melon, a reality which was not reflected in the “Summer Melon Salad with yoghurt sorbet”, eight or so very tiny balls of three types of melon surrounding the scoop of yoghurt like an bracelet of coloured beads; a pretty presentation which did not fit my pre-conception.
The art was by Katarina Willoughby who was exhibiting paintings, almost portraits, of cattle and dairy cows, a subject very appropriate to the setting, but I found they lacked depth and personality.... and yes, I know some people, though not most farmers, would say that personality is not something you should expect in a cow, but the best paintings of animals have a quality of life and individuality, I do not expect the equivalent of George Stubbs, that would be setting a very high bar, but painting animals is very challenging to do really well.
Tallwood, a relatively new concern, situated on Tallwood Avenue in a small group of shops in Mollymook, is built around the concept of food share plates. The owners, who previously set up the Merry Street Restaurant and Bar at Kiola, now under new ownership, have now focused on Tallwood and there are some similarities in the menu and special days which focus on Tapas or Yum Char. The menu is interesting, with dishes inspired from various European and Asian countries including China and Spain, the servings are generous and the prices affordable. I twice had lunch, on the first, with Michael, again, and the day after St Isidore , so the half duck was not an option, we ordered a special of the day Beef and Scallops in a broth, Seafood Paella, Dukka spiced Eggplant and three sides - Broccolini, Crushed Peas and Roast Sweet Potato. This was way too much food, we struggled to finish but a great Rosé, 2012 Port Phillip Estate ‘Salasso’ from Mornington Peninsula, helped wash it down. The food is fresh, straight-forward, and really enjoyable to share with conversation and over a long relaxing break from the beach.
I returned a few days later, this time with Adrian, apart from being a great place to bring friends I did want to try lunch from a vegetarian perspective. We ordered the bread $2 per person, which really should be a part of the table like salt & pepper, I dislike the practice of charging for bread, though here it is good dense chewy sourdough, one slice, supplied with oil and a dip, the Taro chips with aioli - lovely aiolo but not so keen on the paper thin deep fried chips, Marinated Olives - heaps of local Kalamata, Dukka Spiced Eggplant – spectacularly good, Crushed peas plus the Beetroot with Curd and Leaves completed the order. Again the servings are generous and this is plenty of tasty food for two people, reasonably well balanced in terms of a vegetarian meal with quite a few options on the menu compared to a lot of restaurants where any vegetarian is left with a bowl of salad leaves.
Tallwood features a series of art exhibitions, rotating exhibitions by local artists as well as by artists from further afield. The current exhibition features mixed media / collage paintings of scenes around Mollymook, Burrill Lake, Narrawallee and Milton by local artist Fiona Glaister, whose work I found hard to like, I have tried to understand why, as she captures the swirl of water and the physicality of the subject, it is more the lack of subtlety and nuance in colour and the (plastic ?) board used in collage. From where I sat, looking up highlighted the white edges of each piece and exposed the method of “construction” and detracted from the depth of field I assume the artist was trying to achieve. However it is great that Tallwood run regular exhibitions and that their web site encourages artists to get in contact and explore the potential for exhibiting. The owners are also supporters of Escape ArtFest, holding a photography exhibition during the 2014 festival, and no doubt will participate in future festivals.