Exhibition review: Heat, Redcliffe Art Gallery

Contemporary artists who use alchemy of air, sun and fire to create.

The exhibition Heat, at Redcliffe Art Gallery, elevates processes of making in South East Queensland through presenting a plethora of practitioners who engage in sun exposure, annealing, burning, firing and melting. Curated in-house by Hannah Williamson, this stunning showcase draws on the judiciously cultivated Moreton Bay Regional Council art collection as a fulcrum.

Pride of place has been given to Stealing Bamboo Shoots (2011) by Lindy Lee. It is from a series that fuses the immediacy of ‘Chinese flung ink’ painting with the timelessness of bronze. Relatively modest in scale, the composition is one of Lee’s earlier meditations using this process. Similarly melted but comparatively less robust, Yungan (Glass Dugong Bones) II (2020) poignantly pays homage to the critically endangered inhabitants of the region, which were abundant in pre-colonial times. 

Quandamooka artist, Megan Cope, repurposed the glass from television sets using a kiln. The silicone moulds were made from replicas of dugong bones, which she had sculpted earlier using wax. Despite a difference in sources, the material may echo the bottling of dugong oil, the harvesting of which caused the aforementioned population decimation. In addition to capturing the fragility of their existence, the glass ‘bones’ are installed to refract light and, ergo, represent the dappling in the shallows they inhabit.   

The immersive Carbo Domus (2009) by Stephen Newton is the largest of the collection pieces to be presented. It literally brings parts of the physical landscape into the gallery. The artist ‘weathered’ logs of western white gum (Eucalyptus argophloia) into a grove of willowing forms with gables to signify shelter. Charing is among the techniques he engaged. ‘Carbo’ translates from Latin into English as ‘coal’ or ‘charcoal’, and ‘domus’ as ‘home’. The artwork appears concerned with both the capacity of trees to filter and store carbon, and wood to provide shelter. 

Peta Berghofer infuses functional vessels with architectural features to create whimsical worlds for the imaginations of visitors to inhabit. Image: Supplied.

Reflecting a longstanding affiliation with artist-run spaces, Williamson appears steadfast in her commitment to providing opportunities for new or overlooked practitioners. Among the young artists she has invited to contribute is Peta Berghofer, who was awarded the USQ Bellmaine French Appreciation Travelling Scholarship in 2017. While sojourning in France in 2019, the ceramicist began infusing functional vessels with architectural aspects of urban vistas.

Give Take (2022) comically challenges the conventional divide between the ‘lesser’ and ‘greater’ arts, à la William Morris, with vibrantly painted additions to ‘body-stained’ stoneware vessels, such as ladders and directional signage. Her whimsical little worlds invite the imaginations of visitors to inhabit, an offer likely to be welcomed in these challenging times.

Arguably one of the brightest artists to emerge in South East Queensland over the past half-decade is sculptor-painter Jordan Azcune. Identifying as queer, he embraces yet subverts ecclesiastic iconography, materials and principles. Religious references in many of his artworks are explicit, such as the appropriation of church window frames and stained glass. The piety in the encaustic paintings featured in Heat, Visions (i-vi) (2022), extends beyond their medium. The abstract compositions explore optics, which underwent significant development during the Renaissance when artists sought to make pictures in service to God. Beyond the planes of each canvas, the set constitutes a graduation of colours and sizes.

Whereas the aforementioned artists share a connection with South East Queensland by birth or place of residence, ascendant practitioners from interstate have also been profiled such as coppersmith Shireen Taweel and ceramicist Yasmin Smith. The exhibition also includes sculptor Kirralee Robinson, the Hermannsburg Potters and the Quandamooka mother and daughter collaborative Sonja and Elisa Jane Carmichael.

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In equal parts, Heat may be considered in reference to the scorching Queensland summer, the engagement of high temperature processes in the production of the artwork, and in relation to ‘hot’ in the context of popularity. The gallery punches above its weight with respect to this line-up of art stars. The brightness of a flame is amplified through its sharing, but only if the recipient is of suitable substance. It is in its hothousing of South East Queensland talent where the exhibition truly shines.

Heat will be on display at Redcliffe Art Gallery until 4 February 2023.
Free entry.

Pamela See (Xue Mei-Ling) is a Brisbane-based an artist and writer. During her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) from Griffith University, she researched post-digital applications for traditional Chinese papercutting. Since 1997, she has exhibited across Europe, Asia, North America and Australia. The collections to house examples of her artwork include: the Huaxia Papercutting Museum in Changsha, the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in Canberra and the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) in Adelaide. She has also contributed to variety of publications such as: the Information, Medium and Society Journal of Publishing, M/C Journal, Art Education Australia, 716 Craft and Design and Garland Magazine.