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First press (extra virgin)
It is perhaps fitting that First Press (Extra Virgin), a recent exhibition at the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia and one of the last under the directorship of the indomitable Bala Starr (who recently took up a position with the Melbourne International Biennal), united two concerns that have characterized her directorship: a commitment to emerging Adelaide artists, and the exposure of the South Australian artworld to some of the more interesting products of its interstate brethren. This was the third time Starr began the year's programme by exhibiting the work of a previously untried Adelaide artist alongside the work of two, more experienced, interstate artists. This year's rather precocious ''virgin" was Sarah Minney, who found herself in the rakish company of David Jolly and Lyndal Walker, both Melbourne-based artists.
David Jolly presented Phantasy I-VIII (1997-98), a series of small paintings on glass. In making these works, Jolly had culled images of the recent mission to Mars from the interne!. His resultant barren Mars-scapes were enlivened by a Dufyesque palette. Jolly painted the Martian surface a delicate yellow that ranged in hue from lemon though to scrambled egg. This vista was framed by the jaunty mechanical devices of the Sojourner probe, which obtruded in the foreground, and the lairish pink and green of the Martian skies. Jolly's sensuous hues, it transpired, were derived from the colours of anti-depressant packets: Prozac, Zoloft, and the like. It was ironic that his cheery palette originally advertised chemical bliss.
Jolly's paintings were accompanied by David Franzke's sound pieces. These were representations of a rather more familiar landscape: the parks and gardens around Melbourne. Franzke recorded and mixed the sounds of birdsong and other terrestrial activity into an ambient dance meld, all punctuated by the staccato ticking of park sprinklers. Given the interplanetary disparity, this collaboration worked surprisingly well. Both artists' work benefited from gratuitous couplings of style and content that were hypnotically, hallucinogenically, engaging.
Also engaging were Lyndal Walker's stylish colour photographs of Melbourne sharehouse interiors, which recorded the grunge ambience of sharehouse life. Student artwork, stolen street-signs, a filthy toaster, wallpaper from the seventies, piles of dirty washing ..., all vied for the viewer's attention. The photographs' boldly cropped “formal" compositions, mounted elegantly on blocks of foamcor, stressed their presence as objects as much as images. To me, their synthesis of disparate forms, textures and patterns recalled the formal qualities of synthetic cubism-an impression compounded by the shallow depth of field of most of the photographs which is a product of Walker's penchant for pointing the camera into corners.
The joys of such stylistic conceits escaped Sarah Minney. Her work, take me, I'm yours (1998), existed purely in terms of the domestic objects and actions that Walker's work recorded. Take me, I'm yours consisted of a stove and benchtop equipped with a Mixmaster and other domestic implements. These objects stood mutely at one end of the Contemporary Art Centre's rear gallery. Each day of the exhibition, a volunteer came in and baked a cake in the oven, filling the gallery with its scent. A booklet detailed the recipes: Agravaine's Apple Tea Cake, Kristian's Sandwich Chocolate Cake .... The fate of the cakes remained undisclosed, but it appeared they were not for the consumption of gallery-goers. Our lot was only to be teased and tempted; Minney's title, presumably, was ironic. The inscrutable master- plan of the artist, the oddly touching generosity on the part of the cake-bakers and the rather cruel enticement of the audience provided a complex conceptual mix. But overall, it was perhaps the viewer's own appetites, foregrounded by their very lack of satisfaction, that left the lasting impression on the mind.