A quick whip around the traps. Mark Twain irresistibly said: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Alas, I don’t have time to write the following short and sharp, so short must do.

Tolarno: Ben Quilty, The Fiji Weddings
Ben Quilty is the hottest thing right now among painting collectors. (Do go to the site, the images are very well reproduced.) The Age‘s Robert Nelson — whose opinion I often have issues with; well, everyone’s a critic — wrote a good piece on this show, noting the virtues and vices of Quilty’s method: “One could look to Quilty as rescuing painting with turbulent instinct and courageous knife…” and/but “As form that represents space, however, the painting is weak. Volume, space and texture collapse in a blur, as if there is no underlying drawing process that weighs up the values of each.” It echos what Nelson wrote about Quilty nine years ago: “He tosses around thick paint on a large scale, with the kind of vigour in the medium that you might associate with abstract painting … As paint, it’s impressive; but as flesh or hair it’s compromised.” I admire Quilty’s facility but I think Nelson is right; his style has vim, but no rigour. Till June 1.

Heide: Fiona Hall, Big Game Hunting
Fiona Hall must be one of the most interesting and conceptually interesting artists. Her new show at Heide has alot to do with ecological and biosphere damage, and as usual she rounds up a kaboodle of materials and approaches — cloth and found stuff and bark paper painting and object vitrines — for a dense gallery experience in low lighting. There are messages, maybe too many, but it’s an impressive show — even if I’m a little reluctant to give in to its messaginess. Anyway, it looks great. Till 21 July.

Niagara: Tony Bevan, Recent Works
Tony Bevan is big in the UK, and elsewhere, and pretty much unknown here. This show of recent charcoal/oil paintings is a good chance to see his remarkable, stylised work. Spare but gutsy, zennish but earthy, awkward but beautifully drawn, plain but itching to sublime. The sheer amount of charcoal on his canvases is amazing especially in his Self Portrait PC1218, below. Charcoal is deep and dark and it does something paint cannot; it’s chthonic, and fragile.  And you can tell by the prices he is a Big Name ($90K for a largish picture). Till 1 June.

Edmund Pearce: Konrad Winkler, Moments Of My Life
A photography show I really enjoyed is on at the dedicated photographer gallery Edmund Pearce. (I made it late to the Robert Rooney’s The Box Brownie Years at CCP or I would have sent you there too; a great show). Konrad Winkler does something very simple to his photos which has a profoundly transformative effect. He has chosen pictures from times and people in his life and printed them up floating in a big white surface with intimately sized text printed by the side of the image — it’s not wall text; you are compelled to read it, and read the picture against it, and test the text against the picture.

You can see them on the website but it doesn’t make clear how unexpected a move this is. It has a lot to do with scale — with the size of the pictures which are large at 72 cm x 90 cm, and how the images and text are modestly sized within this area. To double this intimacy, the text that Winkler has provided has a superbly conversational style as if the artist were dropping an anecdote in your ear. It’s the kind of mood compression that poets take a lifetime to hone. Interestingly, in the one piece of actual “wall” text in the showWinkler suggests that the textual component may be even more important than the image, but I don’t think so. Somehow the push-pull between word and image and space has attained exactly the right tension, and the stories and feelings in the pictures bloom into a warmth that very few photographic exhibitions ever afford. Till June 1.

Text of the image above:

22 Sept 2009 Melbourne Vic.

Our second son Jake was hit by a car and went over the handlebars of his pushbike.

I went straight in to see him when his girlfriend rang. The first thing he asked was, did I have my camera? He was pleased when I said I had the Mimiya.

Ros was in Paris so the biggest drama was the long distance worry for her. She has always worried about Jake.

I don’t really, but I’m just his father.



NGV: Mix Tape 1980s: Appropriation, Subculture, Critical Style
Oops, that’s it, I’ve run out of time. Go see it just for the fun of looking back. If I had to take away five things they would be Paul Boston’s Fish House, an enormous wall papier mache sculpture; Juan Davila’s wicked and scabrous Rat Man; Micky Allan’s photo series Botany Bay Today; and first of all Leigh Bowery’s amazing and hilarious and funny larger than life costume, The Metropolitan. (I know, I’ve forgotten one piece. Okay, I have just remembered: Rosslyn Piggott’s memorable, passionate painting of a full length nude woman covered in tattoos.) Till 1 Sept.