Ultra-modern conceptual art, century-old paper works, and watercolours of historic sheds are on display in five new exhibitions launched at NERAM on Friday night.
“It’s a welcome back to our audiences,” gallery director Rachael Parsons said.
“We kick the year off with a bang, making sure everyone is excited about what’s to come. We completely transform the museum, and give people so many new things to look at and experience.”
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Those who want art to challenge and surprise should see EMANATE, showcasing the work of ten recent graduates of the National Art School, Sydney.
“Experimentation is at the core,” the school's education outreach officer Alana Ambados said. “Our students really push the boundaries of what drawing or ceramics can be.”
There are 3-D photographs, video installations, textured paintings made from perspex and wallpaper, and ceramics like strange sea creatures.
Some are inspired by entropy, quantum physics, and the nexus between materiality and immateriality.
Others are political, dealing with asylum seekers, the politics of inclusion and exclusion, or oppressive social hierarchies and power structures.
Ms Parsons chose the artists – five Masters and five Bachelors, all women – from more than 150 students to graduate last year.
“These artists will push the next wave of what we’ll see in galleries and museums – and I hope this exhibition can be one small step in their journey,” she said.
One of those artists will return to NERAM; Masters graduate Joanne Makas has received a residency at the gallery. Her works on display include a graphite hanging, and an installation “Breathe”.
Christine Porter's watercolor exhibition, The Hundredth Shearing Shed, is named after her work at Deeargee, Uralla.
"For the viewer," Ms Parsons said, "one of the beautiful things is seeing something so familiar caught in her artwork. A real sense of place, time, and memory make it a wonderful viewing experience."
The Lismore-based artist has painted shearing sheds around NSW and Queensland since 1984, interested in the people who work in them, and the technical challenge of light and shade.
“I tell visual stories about rural Australia,” Ms Porter said.
Ms Porter is thrilled that NERAM put the show on for her.
Material Thinking: The Poetics of Process is a collaborative exhibition between the Black Gully Printmakers and Brisbane-based printmaker Dr Glen Skein, based on a two-day workshop.
It is described as “a collision of print, collage, artists’ books and the photographic image that explores artists’ personal connection with process and their intuitive engagement with materials”.
The printmakers will have their own exhibition later this year.
UNE lecturer Dr Margaret Brooks investigates identity and migration through vessels and paper made from Thistles.
“It is a little bit of tongue-in-cheek about the Australian government’s treatment of migrants,” Dr Brooks said.
The thistle, she explained, is the Scottish national emblem, but a weed in Australia.
“It's a small show, but it has huge impact,” Ms Parsons said.
Half of NERAM’s collections are works on paper – but these works can be overlooked or underrated compared to oils on canvas, Ms Parsons said.
On Paper rescues some of them, displaying art from the turn of the 20th century to the modern day – including a couple of charming Japanese prints.
On Paper, Material Thinking: February 8 to April 28
EMANATE: February 8 to April 7
Margaret Brooks: Thistles and Christine Porter: The Hundredth Shearing Shed: February 8 to March 17