“The Graduates” by Kris Carlon

3rd April 2005

Every visual arts student in Brisbane aspires (one imagines) to be included in the annual IMA round-up of the cream of last year’s graduates, Fresh Cut. This year however, a second show has also taken up the curatorial imperative of gathering work by the most exciting and talented young artists this city’s visual arts colleges have to offer. The difference was that this show was curated by one of their own.

Recent QUT graduate (now Honours student) Simone Jones brought The Graduates together to showcase the contemporary practices of her fellow students, people she knows, works with and understands. It is this intimacy with much of the work that has allowed Jones to curate a show that hangs together better than the usual IMA mish-mash (no offence IMA). Also, its installation in the cosy surrounds of Jan Manton’s gallery in Fish Lane provides a much more ‘comfortable’ experience of the work, with the artists and their friends adding to the general atmosphere of the exhibition, less like a car yard and more like a back yard.

While one Brisbane commentator complained about the lack of painterly work in the IMA version of graduate events, one can only imagine he would be more in his element at Jan Manton Art. There you can find a mass of paint being thrown around, some of it literally, as in Lachlan Glanville’s wall-sized monument to paint application, Untitled (2004). Joe Daws’ intimate landscapes uphold the traditional foundations of painting, while Dan Brock’s Given Tce Paddington with Japanese Skyline (2004) covers the cooler edge of contemporary (landscape) painting and highlights the current convergence of painting with other forms of contemporary cultural production.

The built (or demolished) environment provides the inspiration for three other artists in the show. Scott Johnson takes the current profusion of home renovation shows and applies their ethic of modification, yet simultaneously distils them into their true form, that of fashion. Meanwhile, Jasmin Coleman’s beautifully rendered ‘concrete paintings’ (my term) tempt us to look at our everyday environment in different ways, seeing what is beneath our feet as something worthy of aesthetic consideration, something which in her hands, it is. Likewise, Ben Werner takes the empty space once occupied by the Gabba Hotel and makes it a focal point for a contemplation of transience and loss. He chooses not to memorialize the Hotel as it once stood or present the process of demolition, but rather to immortalise the fact that he was already too late.

The work in this commercial show is just what it is, and while some of the artists are better represented in the show across town, the simple fact is that better art is not always easier to sell. Plans to make this into an annual exercise are however a welcome addition to the options for recent graduates and a commendable venture for a commercial gallery. Beyond this, it affords viewers the chance to see both sides of their practice and decide for themselves what works best.

The Graduates is on show at Jan Manton until 12th March, 2005.
Kris Carlon