Laverty 2 at Newcastle Region Art Gallery: Challenging & Mesmerising
After reading a glowing review by art critic John McDonald in the Sydney Morning Herald of the current exhibition at the Newcastle Region Art Gallery, Laverty 2, I decided to see it for myself. I had been to see Laverty 1 in July 2008 and was most impressed. Colin and Elizabeth Laverty are avid collectors of contemporary art with a strong collection of Indigenous art. Laverty 1, which was exclusively Aboriginal art, was extremely successful and popular with the public. Laverty 2 shows yet more of their impressive collection but includes both Indigenous and non Indigenous paintings.
At first I wasn’t impressed. I arrived late in the afternoon when there were few patrons. The gallery was quiet, as galleries can be, but the fact that the first floor was closed off for the installation of the next show, and the lights were very dimly lit made me feel rather isolated and unwelcome. As I approached the first floor it took a moment for my eyes to adjust. I couldn’t understand the need for broody dim light until I saw the effect on the paintings. The row of large, organic, geometric paintings of IIdiko Kovacs was floating off the wall. Not literally of course, but the effect was transcendental. A similar effect occurred with Sally Gabori’s large narrow rectangular canvases of bright orange, yellow, and red with black patches reminiscent of Clifford Still.
As I moved into a brightly lit section of the gallery, I found the white walls complemented Rosalie Gascoigne’s Legend (1988). This area also seemed to work well with the more graphic nature of Ken Whisson’s bold outlines of urban cityscapes in primary colours. More subdued were the softly lit works of Dorothy Napangardi, displayed on a dark burgundy wall.
While I found the traditional-looking works of horses by Frederick Woodhouse Snr to be out of place in a room of powerful contemporary works, one of the highlights was nearby. Three works by Louise Hearman were displayed in faint light each with a strong direct spotlight highlighting a section of each painting. At first I wasn’t convinced it should be allowed. After all it changes the work from its original state into something mystical. The illuminated storm clouds conjure up 19th Century Romantic landscapes while the mustard yellow building in Untitled #723 (1999) is captivating. Words cannot describe the unique affect the lighting has had on the appearance of these works. I still feel that curatorial boundaries may have been overstepped in the use of lighting to create new visions of the originals, however, the outcome is mesmerising.
In what would normally be a challenge to exhibit such diverse art works together in one show has been made easier by the fact the Laverty’s have collected several works by each artist. This complements and strengthens each artist’s showing.
I am already looking forward to Laverty 3!
Laverty 2 is on display at Newcastle Region Art Gallery (Laman St, Newcastle) until 14 August 2011.