White Rabbit Gallery’s new exhibition – Beyond the Frame.
As always, White Rabbit have produced a thought-provoking and very powerful exhibition, but this time it’s also a dark exhibition. Sometimes the art displayed at White Rabbit is bleak – reflecting artists’ disenchantment with different aspects of Chinese contemporary life.
Lui Di (born 1985) produced a series of graphic images in 2008 (Animal Regulation), depicting gigantic animals posed in urban settings – amongst the drab and dreary blocks of Beijing apartments.
Ai Wei Wei, recently released from custody has a work in this exhibition too – with an assemblage of a series of large porcelain blobs – called, unsurprisingly, “Oil Spill”. The work is amazingly convincing.
But in my view, the most powerful, and profoundly sad work is the collection of photographs of inmates in Burmese prison camps by Lu Nan. A close second is Lu Zhengyuan’s life-size grey sculpture – mental patients.
The Mad Square
But if you really need to be cheered-up after this White Rabbit exhibition, it’s going to be a mistake to go to the much-hyped exhibition now at the Art Gallery of NSW – “The Mad Square” – German art from 1910 to 1937. I found it grim and disturbing – notwithstanding that it does include some important material from the Bauhaus school and (for me) a couple of small colourful paintings by Klee. Clearly the lead-up to WWI, the war itself, the aftermath and the inexorable march into WWII were profoundly chaotic hyper-violent periods – strongly depicted in the art in this exhibition.
FM and I found it grim going – from the massively deformed faces in ink drawing graphics of WWI severely wounded soldiers, to blood red paintings of murdered prostitutes, it was unrelentingly grim. Grim indeed.
Some time ago I complained about the Sydney Theatre Company’s War of the Roses (apart from the poor production), the tone of murder and mayhem accurately reflected the chaos of more recent times with the global financial meltdown and ongoing wars in the Middle East. That show was an A-grade downer. I found the Mad Square a downer too – but not for its quality, moreover because the content was very confronting.
The context in which this exhibition is experienced is a relevant factor – for FM and for me – yet again, a less-than welcome disturbing and even distressing experience in a world that seems up close and at a distance to be accelerating and falling apart at the seams – unutterably violent, mad and pointless.
Which leads me to a very welcome balance – provided by the marvellous black comedy – “The Guard”. Yes, there is more death and mayhem, drug smuggling on a massive scale, police corruption, more prostitution, a mother dying of cancer and a country policeman wading through a complex existential crisis.
It is truly hilarious – with the laconic wit and mirth of the Oirish at its best.
The boofy psycho baddy is a wonderful counterpoint to the genuinely threatening and ice cold members of the drug-smuggling trio– driving along discussing arcane points of philosophy. My favourite line amongst many great lines was when one of the baddies asked why he always had to do the murders and the reply was “Because you’re the psychopath !”; to which he protested and insisted that he was not, “I’m a ‘sociopath”’. The second crook says “What’s the difference” and the reply was “They told me inside the asylum, but it’s kind of tricky !”
The interplay between the ‘smarter than he looks’ Irish cop and the slick fish out water FBI man is a treat. “Have you ever been shot ?”…. Yes…three times…. “Does it hurt ?”
It’s a wonderful movie written and directed by a chap called John Michael Mcdonagh and it stars Brendon Gleeson as the Irish policeman and Don Cheadle as the visiting FBI operative. It’s a magnificently dry comedy and it’s a must-see.