Populism and Spectacle - its connection with Art?

The recent “Incredible and Phenomenal Journey of the Giants” featured at the Perth International Arts Festival was received in spectacular fashion by the inhabitants of Perth. The gigantic puppets moved through the streets of Perth over a three-day period, deftly articulated by a large number of puppeteers from the French street theatre company, Royal De Luxe. Amazing what you can do with millions of dollars - $5million for the Festival perhaps - not sure what the puppets cost.

The “little girl” edifice was perhaps the most well-described and publicised. She was engaging in both the mechanism by which she transited her route through the streets, but also her human-like movement as a child both lost in the city and at one with her audience.

The Giants in Perth

Click on the image for a video of a local news story on the "Giants". No mention of its artistic value.
Photo from

How well these works represented the intended curatorial narrative associated with the story of Western Australia, a little girl ‘giant’ dropped into an Aboriginal community - the story of the Gallipoli landing; commemorating the centenary of the Anzac - is maybe a little less clear and has us both intrigued and challenged by the worth of such endeavours outside of their sheer ‘spectacle’ value. We weren’t there though, so maybe there is something that we are missing from what we have seen in the media!

Despite the wonder of these works and the success with the public, does this form of art somehow form a bridge of appreciation with other forms of visual and installation works of art?

Does the spectacle of such endeavours somehow elevate the understanding of the populace with the ‘worth’ of Art and the work and mind of the Artist - in other forms and other avenues by which they may be experienced?

We are really not sure, despite there being a programme of exhibitions and events housed in galleries and other venues as part of the Perth International Arts Festival.

MONA in Hobart perhaps is a good example of where the blend of spectacle and appreciation of visual Art coalesces perhaps more demonstrably. The gallery itself houses an enviable collection of artworks in auspicious spaces that are, in themselves, spaces of illumination of the artworks that they accommodate and are also - in themselves, in many cases - microcosms of spectacle - as are some of the individual artworks.

Heavily themed in death and desire, works form a sustained narrative throughout the venue of wonder, controversy and novelty that play into a strong identity - or is it “brand” - for the museum?

Then there are the public works - the festivals and temporal public art that take place with MOFO and DARK MOFO that engage the populace of Hobart more holistically. They extend the gallery/museum and its works, although the artistic integrity seems well connected to the work and themes that lie within MONA. It is also about spectacle and popularising both Art and the enterprise that is MONA as well.

Here, it does seem as though appreciation for elements of works associated with the ‘festive;’ may actually connect back to an appreciation of Art housed and exhibited more conventionally within a building. It also seems to be very much about clever ‘branding’ and marketing, but in suggesting this, we do not wish to take anything away from what such endeavours do for Art and its appreciation in Hobart.

So what does this mean - if anything - for the work of regional galleries, festival organisers and other advocates of the Arts in regional areas. Our own experience suggests that appreciation of the Visual Arts seems to be limited to a very small proportion of the population. This is in reference to the diversity of visual arts on offer - contemporary works and even works that hark back to modernist styles of the early to mid 20th century. A lot of people still seem to have trouble with any artworks that present anything but a pretty picture of ‘something’ - a landscape, a still life, something that is able to be viewed as representational of something else - something known. There are also a few art-as-decor types, with nigh a thought in their heads about anything other than how a particular piece may enhance and respond to an existing decor.

Art does need to fit the person and the chosen space for its viewing in the home or business-place, but ‘fit’ is not just about its colours and textures - and the “picture”. Art surely is more than that.

In Lismore, we have a Regional Gallery that continues to balance the ‘comfortable’ and easy-on-the-eye-and-mind with more challenging exhibitions of contemporary works. This is all done in a totally inadequate building for this purpose and as a Regional Art Gallery - yet this gallery persists and presents so much more in ideas than its physical confines. There are artists’ talks as well that endeavour to educate and articulate the minds of the artists involved - and lead to some form of appreciation or understanding of the work - even if that work is not particularly ‘liked’.

In Lismore, we also have the Lantern Parade and Festival, a public celebration of spectacle and works of ‘light’ around the time of the winter equinox. These works are constructed by volunteer workers under the direction of Jyllie Jackson and are a major contribution to the social and cultural life of Lismore, but again we question, how do such endeavours relate to the breadth and appreciation of Art? How do they consolidate local artistic endeavour and the integrity of contemporary artistic thought here and the continuum of artistic thought elsewhere?

Do they even need to?

The answer to the latter, is no, they don’t, but we just wonder how much more interesting it would be if the Lantern Parade was curated and somehow linked with artistic advocacy that is manifested and undertaken by the Lismore Regional Gallery and others - like Serpentine Gallery and even ourselves. How might we all contribute to something bigger - celebrate the spectacle and collective affection we have for the creative works of the Lantern Parade, but draw it into a better understanding and appreciation of visual Art?

Does the Lantern Parade - just like the “Giants” in Perth - contribute to local arts in ways that extend beyond the event, or is its reach limited to the happening, the media exposure in the lead-up and following, and social media sharing of ‘happy snaps’ and collective celebration of doing something ‘different’ in town?

The LIsmore Lantern Parade

Photograph by Natsky. From The Lismore Lantern Parade website - www.lanternparade.com.

This is not intended as critical AT ALL of any such endeavours. They are very important in so many ways to the local economy, cultural identity and our sociability. BUT can they be MORE in relation to the Arts more broadly and connect us more with an appreciation of what Art is and can bring - beyond the object or collection of objects? Can these endeavours be more meaningful, perhaps, in terms of a curatorial framework for both the works of art and the ideas that they weave together and communicate?

Or, do we just get our ‘cultural fix’ with the spectacle and the ‘feel-good’ nature of enjoying something collectively out of our usual hours of doing something in a regional centre - or anywhere, really?

Art is more than that. Our artists deserve more appreciation than what they are (thankfully) given by a special few. How can we respect, celebrate and extend our local cultural resources beyond populism, while doing the same for endeavours that are very much about the spectacle and collective “party-time” that they contribute in so many ways to our local region?

In a region that proffers its creative and cultural credentials, how can we actually consider and action these things in terms of artistic integrity and quality? How can we bring the public - both local and visitors along with us?

How can we extend the appreciation and audience of the artists working across diverse media and genres - new and old - in this region and encourage and mentor both artists and audiences as well?

We think that we really need to. This comes from our own experience with artists, their audiences and the general public that enter our doors. We know that our artists deserve better - more acknowledgement and more than a fleeting glance of their work. Despite our best efforts, we also know that we can’t be alone in this. Our responsibility does lie with our own artists, but the broader ‘conversation’ about the Arts, their potential meaning and value to us all as human beings and a society, lies with all engaged and advocating for the Arts - here and elsewhere.

This is just a conversation. It's not about favouring or not favouring one artistic endeavour over another. It does maybe question our engagement with Art as an audience - and as 'consumers' - a terrible term that we are loathe to use, but one that must rear its head in this milieu of a contemporary paradigm of 'economics' - a context well and truly set in the dialogue of the news video associated with the "Giants" and the first image/video in this post.

It all has a place - for local economic development, local cultural identity, local social cohesion and capital - using temporal public art works, 'animated sculpture' and costume in 'festival' mode. It would just be nice to connect it better with other forms of Art and lead to a broader appreciation of Art, including 'fine art' and the stuff that resides in galleries, whether it is painting, sculpture, installation or new media. It just requires a little cross-pollination and curatorial collaboration … maybe.

Tales of the Winds by Imbi Davidson

The launch of Imbi Davidson's "Tales of the Winds" - the abstracted landscape of the Northern Rivers expressed by one of our finest young painters. Read More...

End of 2014 Gallerist Musings

2014 - The year that was! It was a huge year for the gallery with lots of shows and some new insights on advocating for the Arts and Artists outside of cities. Read More...

Worlds Apart by Matthew Shepherd

The launch of Matthew Shepherd's "Worlds Apart" - a splendid exhibition of art-photography! Read More...

Opening of The Art House

Launch of The Art House at Newrybar in the Byron Bay hinterland. Read More...

The Art House at Newrybar, Northern Rivers

New happenings for the visual arts in Newrybar - at The Art House. Read More...

The launch of exhibitions by Laszlo Biro and Paul Roguszka

Launching exhibitions by Laszlo Biro and Paul Roguszka.

A sense of spendour -3 Decades - AñA Wojak

Celebrating over three decades of making art by AñA Wojak - and this is just the visual arts side of this amazing artist's work! Read More...

"Surface Tensions" by Stuart Cussons

Launching Stuart Cussons's exhibition - "Surface Tensions". Stuart's work is a study in the minimalist approach to visual art, exhibiting both "peace" and tension in his accomplished works. Read More...

Starting in September - A solo show by Rikki Fisher

Coming up - Rikki Fisher and a solo show of works in scratchboard. Read More...

Uncharted Territories by Imbi Davidson at Arts Northern Rivers

Imbi Davidson exhibition of new and older works at Arts Northern Rivers. Read More...

April Exhibitions … into May

Two very special exhibitions are coming up in April. A preview is available on the 12th and 13th April, with the launch to be held on Sunday, 14th April, starting at 3.00pm. Details are on the flyer (link) below.

Our exhibitions are "Wabi - the quality of voluntary poverty", a solo exhibition by Stuart Cussons and "Perpetual Possibilities", a group show by emerging artists (and good mates), Annique Goldenberg, Leanne Stewart Haugh and Heather Matthew.

In his solo show, Stuart Cussons explores the 'philosophy' of Wabi which values a simple and austere beauty. This concept has underpinned Stuart's work for some time and is manifested in his deceptively simple 2D and 3D works.

Our group show, "Perpetual Possibilities" brings together works by Annique Goldenberg, Leanne Stewart Haugh and Heather Matthew who explore shared memory (between artist and viewer) and shared perceptions (again between artist and viewer) of their individual subjects - landscape, water, environment, time and the universe, and the way we access them, 'read' them and come to understand them.


A Retrospective - Video

A quick video that looks back at past exhibitions and gives people who haven't been here an idea of the spaces that comprise our gallery.

We thought it timely as we are increasingly called upon to make the odd presentation to tourism delegates, plus it shows new artists what to expect before they land here. We have a few of the latter on our books who haven't ventured out this way yet!

Hopefully it also demonstrates that while we may be a small country gallery in the 'middle of nowhere' (a perception of some), we are also perhaps a destination for viewing quality work from local artists and an adjunct and support to the significance of the Northern Rivers as a place of great creative diversity and interest.

It's probably best viewed in YouTube so that you can make the screen a bit bigger.

The "Organic Rhythm" Exhibition Launch

On Friday the 12th of October, The Channon Gallery had one of its most successful shows ever - Organic Rhythm by Soren Carlbergg.

With over 40 of Soren’s amazing pieces on show, attendees revelled in the diversity of size, form and mood apparent in Soren’s work. Many new faces were there and some long time supporters of the gallery were also in attendance - thanks to you all!

Marika Bryant, artist/writer opened the show in great form and our dear friends, Deb and Shane from Richmond Hill Sauces were on hand for great stories, as well as offering a taste of their delicious sauces and other condiments.

Many people approached us during the evening and commented positively on Soren's art and its presentation; comments that were genuine, as we sold seven pieces that evening. Again, thanks to you all for supporting our artists.

The show has caused quite a buzz in this very early stage, and we urge you all to come and see Soren’s beguiling work. It’s not your usual show; his pieces vary in size and are modestly priced. If you are considering acquiring a wonderful original artwork or just want a great visual experience, this is probably a good show to catch up on.






Launch of Peter Derrett's exhibition

Sunday, 2nd September saw a great crowd for the launch of Peter Derrett's solo exhibition. Admirers came from near and far to share in the event and peruse Peter's exhibition, entitled "Venice - Seen & Unseen".

It was great to see people with a long connection to art and The Channon, like Bette and Michael Taylor - Michael, himself a renowned painter. Lovely to see so many friends of the gallery too, including notable local artists Lindsay Hunt, Shirley Miller, Dawn Thirlaway, and Sue Adler, a lady with an international reputation for her own photographic artwork.

Peter attracted a host of notable people associated with the arts, music and his days in theatre, and those with just an interest and affection for photography. The subject matter was also of great interest and many were truly amazed by the artist's "eye" and the technical dexterity it took to render the images presented in the exhibition. It was worth noting in introducing this exhibition that none of the images were "touched up" or manipulated on a computer. We will continue to do so!







Brief Musings on our First Year


Another ‘word’ from the Company Secretary.
(Image: “The Company Secretary”, Lindsay Hunt)

Almost one...

Gentle reader! Thank you for reading this.

As we approach our first birthday, I sit here somewhat amazed that we have come so far, with so many wonderful people; both artists and people who appreciate them.
Much water has flowed under the metaphoric bridge since we officially opened in July of last year and we look back in happy amazement at where we started, and how far we have come.

At our start, we were focussed on providing a venue where excellent artists could exhibit, and where their admirers could find their work. We still adamantly are!

In a less than guaranteed economic and political environment, many folk (I’m sure), viewed our venture as quixotic at best. The first few months were characterised by irrepressible enthusiasm in the face of less than ideal circumstances; some say it still is!

We have been utterly privileged to meet an astonishing array of diverse folk; both artists and people who love their work; THANK YOU! It is this very thing that gives us succor and the strength to continue.

Thanks are due as well to those of you who have taken the time to comment and constructively criticise us and offer input ... we are all learning to improve, no?

So, in order to celebrate our mutual adventures, we sincerely invite all of you to join us and our astonishing artists on Sunday July 8, at 3pm, to share our first birthday!
Please respond by RSVPing to:


To secure your place at this happy event.

Allow me to thank you all and our artists, for without you, we are nothing...

Live long & prosper!

New Exhibitions in February

Over the next two months, we are presenting 2 quite different and challenging exhibitions, alongside our regular artists’ work.

Ross McMasters’ show is upfront and confronting; a visual and cerebral “slap in the face” if you will. His imagery and contexts range from being politically contentious, achingly human, and mildly amusing; sometimes all at once! Judge his work as you will, (and you will), but it can never be accused as boring. Large scale pieces blend with more intimate works to showcase Ross’s raw power and skill.

Just after we have all caught our breath with this show, we will present a visual orgy at the end of February, running through March. Denise N. Rall will be taking over the rear room to present a retro-roccoco-deluxo romp - a pageant of visual splendour with a menacing undercurrent that speaks to gender, power and class (my! How unfashionable these days!!). “The Bride as Banquet” will be more that the eye initially perceives, and more than your preconceptions may allow. Like Ross’s work, it will address issues that are mostly unspoken, and will pose more questions than provide answers. In our opinion; good art does exactly that. More details on Denise’s exhibition will be forthcoming soon.

The launch event for Ross’ exhibition will be on Sunday afternoon, 5th February, 2102. Please RSVP, if possible, so that we can get the catering right!

We would love to see you there.