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Friday, 16 May 2008

SHOWCASE REVIEW: Stephen Hart

Frank Feels Full of Himself - Carved and polychromed timber - 200x66x30cm - 2008

Giacommetti in wood.

Standing alone, a stretched figure, elongated to virtual anonymity. A Gicaommetti in wood, a shimmering man on the horizon, seen through squinted eyes. Yet, he has a name - 'Frank'. 'F' for 'Frank' so you can't forget - I am the slim man, I am the blue man, I am the hollow man, I am the every man, I am the man in 'The ballad of a thin man'.

Stephen's 'Frank' man resonates with the voices of Modernity. From Chaplin's little Charlie to Bob Dylan's song and dance man. A 'Woody Allen' in films like 'Sleeper' or Jacques Tati's Monsieur Hulot battling against technology. The struggle of men against the powers of technology, as in Fritz Lang's Metropolis or George Orwell's 1984. The message is a simple but clear reminder of the de-humanising nature of technology. Today it's the Internet, faceless facebook, Myspace and the myriad endless online nature of self promotion and subsequent narrowing of the soul.

What's cool about 'Frank's' Stephen is his sense of humour. Against all the odds of dehumanising, isolation and narrowing of the soul, 'Frank' survives - he might be a bit worse for wear but he's not alone - there are many 'Franks'. Grid like and boxed, looking a bit like the characters in Brack's, 'Collins Street 5pm', but I think, 'Franks' okay - even though he has a tendency to look into his own belly occasionally.
Frank's Doubt - Carved and polychromed timber - 90.5x23x6 - 2008

So, to me it is Stephens sense of humour that sings hope in the 'Frank' exhibition - I mean seriously, two 'Franks' attached by a spring, on wheels, facing each other like some sort of inverse "push-me, pull-you" - this is fun, quirky and one of the reasons I have liked art since being a child. There is no highfalutin art speaksy here - even the gallery notes on Stephen and his Frank show are written in a rational and non-esoteric way, which is refreshing. But the message is relevant and profound and the expression in wood, paint and other materials has a folk art/craft feel to it. I enjoyed Stephens work because it quickly strikes a chord with me and doesn't preach condescendingly - this is work about the real world, spoken in identifiable terms with a dash of humour and hope.


Frank's Moving Conversation - Carved and polychromed timber - 163.5x100x20.5cm - 2008

Stephen Hart currently has a show at Jan Manton's art gallery at South Brisbane until the 24th of May. More examples of his artwork from his current exhibition can be seen here.

Images are used by permission from Jan Mantons Art Gallery. Recently when visiting QAG and GOMA, I have taken the opportunity to visit this gallery which is just over the road. Jan and Kitty are very friendly and welcoming and it's well worth the extra walk to check out whatever is playing in their gallery - the diversity of work and calibre of artist presented there are of a high level.

2 comments:

  1. They do seem rather empty, these little blue people. Comments on "the human condition" that leave me vaguely annoyed and overcome with a desire to smash it all into splinters of Klein blue and drown it with Wagner's "Ride of the Valkeries" like Coppola did it in Apocalypse Now.
    Ta da da dahhh da - Ta da da dahhh da - ta da da dahhh da - ta dah dah dahhhh - ta ta dah dah dah...

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  2. That's the spirit Roger. It's funny I thought of Klein blue as well - we must be artwashed.

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