Last night was the second night of the Brisbane Artist Run Initiatives Festival [BARI 2014]. Boxcopy and Jugglers were on the bill following a successful low key opening night at the amazing Newstead Brewery [former Doggett Street Gallery] on Thursday with Frankandmimi [Rick Hayward and Emily Devers]. Rick’s beautifully executed and resolved hand painted text on old silky oak framed windows and Emily’s wonderfully alluring acrylic on board renditions of local aging Spring Hill corner stores were a gentle ease into this celebration of artists and their collaborative practices in Brisbane. When artists coalesce to make works of art, that jelly of excitement moves and shakes for a few months or at most, a couple of years. The idea of BARI is to plunge the viewing public into that shaking coalescence over a couple of weekends. The BARI dream is that some of this shaking jelly will stick and find its way into the minds and DNA of how viewers see the world. Change is a slow process in this hard wired capitalist consumer obsessed logic-reason-is-everything paradigm we are all immersed in. A viable alternative to seeing and being is hard to find and even harder to “sell”. BARI has shown its mettle though since it kicked off in 2008 and continues to add a visual art experience for emerging artist collectives and the viewing public in Brisbane.
And then there is Ryan Renshaw.
Taking the risky plunge out of staying long, the successful Ryan Renshaw is closing his Warry Street [Fortitude Valley] gallery. Last night’s biggest star of visual art madness under blinding lights was the closing party for the inimitable Ryan and his Gallery. After 10 years of remarkable installations of the newest and best in the Brisbane contemporary art, Ryan has called it quits. To me it sounds like a smart move, getting out on the crest of the wave for artists and Brisbane’s contemporary art lovers. It is easy to make the call too late in any small business, but particularly in the specialist field of running a commercial gallery. As a non-government funded commercial gallery, Ryan has appeared to make his venture work and his little red dots have indicated a keen collecting public. Any gallery owner/curator knows the pressure to create a following of viewers and collectors and conservative Brisbane added into the mix is an even tougher hurdle. But Brisbane is changing for some of us and the wave of new ideas and new ventures and new emerging art talent has some of us holding our breath and cheering at the same time.
Ryan chose Michael Candy and Archie Moore as his closing exhibitors. What a combination – one very talented kinetic artist and one very talented indigenous activist artist impacting my sensibilities and conscience. Michael’s installation was a hat tipped to a crazy hedonism of free booze and a politically incorrect attempt to kill a goldfish when and if the crowd swilled the last drop of his plumbed spirits.
Archie’s works composed a skilful conceptual rubber mallet attack on the white population’s awareness of our shocking colonial and post colonial record history of treatment of the indigenous population in this country.
In an ironical twist to the gold fish threat, Angela Hughes PhD installation at Jugglers exposed the horror of animal cruelty. From the tacky but moving shrine to dead animals to multiple mixed media on paper and board animal representations, Angela’s passion for a better world was a clear and clarion call.
The visual arts are telling strong stories in Brisbane. Who will fill the Renshaw vacuum and how that hole will affect the challenge of bringing depth and change to a growing but still conservative city are my questions of concern.