Six Real Ghosts and Pool

Two visual art exhibitions, one a group show, the other focused on the work of photographer Phil Elverum.
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The main event of Melbourne’s Sugar Mountain festival was a day of live music held in Melbourne’s Forum Theatre on 19 January. However the festival also encompasses separate side events, which explore distinct and diverse platforms, including film screenings and – of particular interest to this reviewer – visual art exhibitions.


Housed in Collingwood’s Lamington Drive artist complex, Pool is a group show which takes the subject of water as a departure point. While the thematic thread that links the works appears reasonably thin, its fluidity allows for a myriad of responses in multiple mediums. Contributing artists include Antuong Nguyen, Virginia Overell, Gian Manik, Joe Hamilton and artist collective MANY MANY.

Hamilton presents a video loop ‘stream’ which draws on the formal construction of collage, and combines it with new media digital interface to create a fascinating and entrancing loop of different colours and textures. The large scale projection sets a calming backdrop to the rest of the show, which looks at the optical and physical effects of water and its transformative properties, but also allows the audience to contemplate its various metaphorical potential.

The quiet show is interesting in a subtle way; it doesn’t present a united view, nor does it take a position of any sort. It draws on formal aesthetic similarities, the colour blue, and presents the audience with a simple and refined collection of works.
Phil Elverum’s Six Real Ghosts capitalises on a lo-fi aesthetic to create an eerie sense of place, time and space. An ambiguous narrative hangs between the large photos at Chapter House Lane. The gallery isn’t so much a conventional white cube space as a series of pin-boards on the facade of a 19th century building. This setting allows the space, and the work, to draw from and expand with its context. Located on Flinders Lane, in the midst of Melbourne’s central business district, the landscape photographs are both congruous and antithetic to their surroundings. The hazy imagery combining both empty landscapes and figures dwarfed by their surroundings calls upon filmic tropes to present the contradiction in the title.

While Sugar Mountain is best known for its music component, it does set a positive example for ways to incorporate multi-platform creative practise. The website states ‘above all the directors are determined to create an environment that is convivial and interactive with performances and spaces that find a natural meeting point’. Part of what can be so powerful and potent about visual art practise is its absolute liquidity: its capacity to take on absolutely any form and provoke a reaction, spark a point of interest and continue a discourse. Unfortunately though, contemporary art’s downfall is often its seeming inaccessibility to large crowds of people. In pairing a visual art component with a popular music festival, the two platforms have found a mutually beneficial middle ground, and I look forward to seeing more of what Sugar Mountain have to offer in the coming years.

Phil Elverum’s Six Real Ghosts
Chapter House Lane, Melbourne
17 January – 3 February

Includes work by Gian Manik, Virginia Overell, Antuong Nguyen, Joe Hamilton and MANY MANY
Lamington Drive, Collingwood
18 – 26 January

Sheena Colquhoun
About the Author
Sheena Colquhoun is a Melbourne based interdisciplinary artist and writer, currently undertaking a Bachelor of Visual Arts with a sculpture major.