30 May 2024

Belco Arts presents a new and challenging group of artists

| Sasha Grishin
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Nick Stranks, Looking back, steel, bronze, timber, glass, cloth tape, acetate sheet. Photos: Belco Arts.

Isobel Rayson and Nick Stranks are two artists who share lives inside and outside their home and studio. In this joint exhibition, they continue where they left off in their previous joint exhibition at the Canberra Contemporary Art Space held in Manuka last year.

It is an attractive exhibition held together by three main themes – materiality, domesticity and symbolic forms.

Stranks is an objects person. He is fascinated with old tools, the space they occupy and their physical existence in the space of a workshop – their material presence. He is a consummate craftsman who especially enjoys steel and bronze and the various shadows and surfaces that they create. A piece like Looking back is a fantastically crafted toolbox out of steel, bronze and glass, and is shown resting on a timber crate. Stranks enjoys understatement in his art in creating objects that can easily be overlooked but will open up slowly as you pause to examine them.

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Stranks loves various visual conceits, verbal puns and Trompe-l’œil. His steel and bronze workbenches and individual tools suspended within a sea of rust treat us to various mind games as we discover a cornucopia of visual delights among his 27 exhibits.

Without wishing to indulge in gender stereotypes, Rayson is more concerned with domesticity and questions of domestic spaces.

She has miniature houses that can be tucked away or spread out like a ground plan and carved wooden chairs and tables. Her finest pieces are with wood that she carves and where she explores surface textures. Again and again, her low relief sculptural piece, at 62 by 52 centimetres, is large enough to create its own microcosm and small enough to appear like a framed painting on a wall.

Carved reddish wooden panel

Isobel Rayson, Again and again, wood carving framed in Tasmanian oak

Rayson has a refined sensibility in her art, and she is concerned with seriality, process and the passage of time. She enjoys playing with patterns and illusionistic spaces, creating visual prompts for our imagination to explore and inhabit.

Elizabeth Ficken’s sculptural installation Awaken is the most spectacular piece at the new Belco Arts exhibitions. It is woven out of aluminium wire mesh to create something resembling a floating cube-like cloud, about a metre-and-a-half high. It is highly effective as a contemplative piece of sculpture where you are invited to dissolve into it, get lost within its shadows and create your own reality. Possibly informed by Zen Buddhism, Ficken has created a wonderful contemplative space.

A fuzzy grey-black cube

Elizabeth Ficken, Awaken, aluminium Mesh (wire)

Robyn Campbell and Kirstin Guenther are well-established Canberra-based artists sharing the major West Gallery space. Campbell, who recently completed a residency at the Canberra Glassworks, explores the creation of enigmatic objects. In this exhibition, she is basically a scavenger who fossicks for discarded bits of metal of uncertain purpose, but carrying the scars of their former life. These she reinterprets by adding to them a cast glass supplement, in this way transforming the found object but somehow retaining echoes of its history. Her Illume series, where the metal object is graced with an amber glass tear, is among the most successful of her pieces.

Looks like an amber tear drop on a steel cog

Robyn Campbell, Illume 1, reused metal object and cast glass

Guenther is also a fossicker but of a different type.

Working with silks, papers and plywood manipulated with inks, paints and pastels, she introduces natural elements that she has gathered in her area, including feathers, casuarina fronds and grasses to play with the idea of nature, or at least the local environment, creating a self-portrait of itself through her art.

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Her Deep gold and blues liminal catenary series is especially effective and memorable. If most of Campbell’s pieces are like miniature sculptures, Guenther works on a more monumental scale, and her wall hangings possess a somewhat theatrical and mysterious quality that, on occasion, may have a touch of sensuousness.

Blue on white rectangular work

Kirstin Guenther, Deep gold and blues liminal catenary 2, Kohzo paper, ink, oil pastel.

There is also a series of paintings by Sarah Earle and intriguing constructions from discarded bits and pieces of frames by Yasmin Idriss.

This is another stunning array of exhibitions emerging from the creative epicentre of Belco Arts.

Almost Always: Isobel Rayson & Nick Stranks, Pivot Gallery; Light and Substance: Robyn Campbell & Kirstin Guenther, West Gallery; Awaken: Elizabeth Ficken, The Nook; Gold to Blue: Sarah Earle, Generator Gallery; YazElations: Upcycling Industrial waste: Yasmin Idriss, Window Gallery are exhibiting at Belconnen Arts Centre, 118 Emu Bank, Belconnen, until 7 July.

The exhibitions are open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.

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You’ve got to stop encouraging people to call this “art”…

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