Thursday, April 14, 2016

Gallery 1 & 2
32.9° S – 151.5° E
14th April to 1st May

There are works from 40 individual artists sitting inside the NAS gallery.  With a general theme of “all things Newcastle” there are the familiar images of Newcastle as a coastal town.  Always referred to in the past as a ‘blue collar working class city’ the industrial side of Newcastle is also represented well in this exhibition.

Not to take anything away from all the great works which are a joy to behold collectively, my interest was more sustained towards those works that resonated with the earth, the water, the sand and political / social commentary.  

Maggie Hall’s End of the Line, photograph is a beautiful rendering of an empty rail line.  Is the line empty now but about to carry a train load (be it light or heavy rail) of visitors, locals, or industrial cargo along at any minute.  Or will the emptiness remain.  Regardless of the answer, the image itself remains one of great visual interest.

James E McFarland’s Waiting for the train.... is a suitcase overflowing with human skeletal remains. I guess the train was on a Sunday timetable or he sat on the wrong platform going in the wrong direction.  In spite of my flippant attempt at humour though, the work itself is quite remarkable and worth a visit just to see this work.

Laura Wilson’s Renewal assemblage utilises beach sand, white glass and etched lettering to heroically highlight our connection to our beach lifestyle.  Our connection to the beach is as fundamental as breathing to Newies.  It is a place of swimming, surfing, sunning, walking, and above all a meeting place that unites every visitor to the same viewing experience.

Ceramic artist, Grant Keene is showing his usual fine style of work in Home Grown. He prefers to use his own collection of ash, pumice and stoneware clays and glazes which he sources from local materials.

The night was enriched by live poetry from D’ N’ A’s Pop Up Poetry sitting in the gallery and typing poetry on old typewriters, and the wonderful sounds of  The High Andies in the courtyard. 

In the Blackbox Theatre space HoboTechno were showing their work which Tim Buchanan refers to as ‘experimental’ as it incorporates performance as well as ‘media’.  HoboTechno consists of a loose collective of artists namely Jo Lynch, Tim Buchanan, Dale Collier, Alex Pritchard & Andrew Styan. All the artists came together for this show at NAS which was a front-runner to their event Break Free 2016 coming up soon.



Read more about this event at: http://australia.breakfree2016.org/


A sample only of some of the works on display is below.
Left to Right Edwardo Milan Harbour #3, Casey Irvine Adrift I, Peter Lankas (section) Sunny on Busby
Aaron McGarry Rock Formation, Laura Wilson  Renewal (section),  Jodie Thompson Fig Whirlwind

Thursday, March 31, 2016



Gallery 1
24 March - 10 April
Well Connected

Elsie Randall

Elsie in Gallery 1 with her work done in collaboration with her daughter Tayla
The NAS gallery is going from strength to strength curating and providing opportunities for our vast community of artists.  I managed to catch up with two exhibiting artists over the Easter weekend.  Elsie Randall is an Aboriginal artist clearly passionate about art and Australian indigenous families. Her paternal connection is to the Yaegl people (Maclean/Yamba regions) and Bundjalung people (Ballina/Tweed region) on her maternal side. Her life has seen her fulfil commitments to family from an early age and she continues working across indigenous communities.  Elsie has worked in hairdressing, law enforcement, juvenile justice, Department of Community Services, Aboriginal family support services and as a private Consultant -  training, liaising, producing training manuals to assist with effective and positive engagement with the aboriginal community, children and families.


Elsie is the owner and operator of Free Spirit Art Gallery located at Shop 1/90 Maitland Road, Mayfield West, 2304, specialising in Aboriginal art.  Currently the gallery supports 70 local Aboriginal artists, 30 who live within other areas in NSW and 6 outside of the state.  A major project being undertaken is the development of an Art Foundation aimed at bringing Mutitjulu artists from Uluru for an exhibition in Newcastle later this year.

Elsie says her work is essentially about healing and shared stories.  Some works in the gallery have been undertaken collaboratively with her children, Leigh, Tayla and Kolby and her niece Ebony.  Elsie talked of loading the implement with acrylic paint and dripping the acrylic paint onto the surface.  The paint falls under its own momentum forming beautiful, complete raised dots on the material.  This is Elsie’s signature mark.  The process allows for ‘slowing down’ of the body, taking respite from the outside world, and engaging with the medium and pattern-making story telling.  The tactility of the surface is significant and important.  Elsie attaches her own personal developed colour palette to the works, with individual colours representing states of emotion.  It is a meditative process allowing for discussion and interaction between the artist and the colour and between collaborators.  Each work carries the story on the wall below.

If you are interested in contributing to the Uluru artists’ exhibition project, or talking to Elsie about her work, art or consultancy business in general, contact her at freespiritart@optusnet.com.au or phone directly on 0401580789.


Gallery 1
 24 March - 10 April
Healing Hands

Jasmine Craciun



There is also a collection of Healing Hands which are ceramic works by Jasmine Craciun on display. Jasmine is an eighteen year old Newcastle local from the Barkindji and Malyangapa people of western NSW.  Jasmine is currently undertakin a Visual Communication and Design course at the University of Newcastle.  Having a love and interest of art since a young child, Jasmine makes her debut entrance onto the exhibiting stage with her work Healing Hands.  Jasmine has drawn inspiration from the stories told to her by artist Elsie Randall.  Her five sculptures tell of the women of the bundjalung nation and their healing hands.  "Healing Hands" represents not only the power in the hands of the bundjalung women but also the culture and history that runs  through the veins of all indigenous people.
Gallery 2
24 March - 10 April

Along the Way with You 
Hannah Simonovich
Hannah in the gallery with her work


Hannah is a Newcastle artist currently living in Maitland.  She has a Bachelor Fine Art from Newcastle University with a double major in painting and photography and is currently studying interior design.  This is her first solo exhibition. The oil on canvas works in this exhibition are the result of travelling with her husband Andrew to California and Arizona in 2014.  Hannah described her process as being about returning and later reconnecting to her experience of being in each space through her visual and emotional memory.  Hannah does not use drawings or photographs as reference, just her personal recollections.

Hannah is always looking at contemporary art and lists J W Turner and the colour palette in Georgia O’Keefe’s works as key influences.  Hannah has several commissions and can be contacted directly if interested in talking to her about a new commission, project or opportunity. Email: Hanna.simonovich@gmail.com  and her website can be found at: Hannahmareesimonovich.com

Gallery 2
24 March - 10 April

Someone’s Home

Jeremy Robinson
Work by Jeremy Robinson on display in the entrance to Gallery 2

Artist Statement

Jeremy Robinson’s use of metal and steel to communicate themes of presence and place is both nostalgic and poetic.  Jeremy’s sensitivity and expertise in working his material is evident in his exhibition Someone’s Home.  This Melbourne hailed artist and blacksmith is masterful in this manipulation of metal with his current exhibition a testament to the many years spent refining and perfecting his art practice.  Scaled in the miniature, these narrative objects focus the mind on a world that can’t really be placed, yet is undeniably familiar.  Perhaps drawn from the ocean of Jeremy’s Victorian childhood, or from some iconic story contained within the pages of classic literature, so universally understood is this motif Robinson portrays, of a distinctly coastal way of life.  Presence and place are integral in Robinson’s work who reflects upon the place of the self within these dwellings and in so invites the view to consider their presence amongst the motions of everyday life.


Robinson who primarily works in timber, stone and forged steel explores the materiality of his medium with his recent work incorporating pilaster, marble, lime, shell and scale.  He relishes the deterioration of material, the flaking of paint on a timber wharf, the scale and the rust in the steel structures that reside precariously on our coastline.

Jeremy Robinson undertook training with Bernhard Wyearsch at ArtMetal Work, Melbourne, after which he joined Red Falcon Ironworks, Melbourne.  In 1993 he established his own company Bent Metal for the design and fabrication of domestic architectural steelwork.  He has worked as an industrial blacksmith for Loft & Sons Blacksmiths, Melbourne, and Dumbrell Forge, Wallsend, NSW.  He established an artmetal studio, Fe26 in Newcastle in 2000 and over the past fifteen years has produced a range of public and private commissions.  He is the Design and Technology teacher at the Newcastle Waldorf School.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Gallery 1

Hidden - Works of a Recluse

Neal Booth

Neal Booth in front of one of his pivotal works in the exhibition















Neal Booth is a dedicated father co-parenting his children, working to support himself, and committed to making art.  His academic achievements include completion of a Master of Philosophy (Fine Art) for which he received a scholarship.

Neal loves connecting with nature and the building materials of the earth.  His colour palette reflects this quite directly as he uses the materials of the earth as his pigment and paint.  It is a sophisticated and restrained palette, layered, distressed or harshly ground back and re-layered through to completion.  There is an obvious influence of the works of Anselm Kiefer and Neal spoke of his connection to the work of Andy Goldsworthy, and the writing of American art critic and sculptor Donald Judd.

“My art is an investigation into my intuitive and emotional understanding of nature and the landscape and how it can be expressed through the use of natural materials as medium and object.”

Raw materials are physically collected from places that hold significance and transported back to be transformed. Neal uses various acrylic emulsions to stabilise the individual substructures in his process if necessary. The small photographic works were all taken at times and in places that hold sentimental attachment.



“...my practice is an investigation into the use of earthen materials as an emotionally cathartic process.”

The works appear solid and heavy but sometimes looks can be deceptive and perhaps the physical strength of an object is the result of soft, light, vulnerable individual layers laminated and impacted together to create such strength or the illusion of same.



In a reversal that is not uncommon Neal finds himself a teacher and mentor to his mother who is currently following in her son’s footsteps and undertaking studies in Fine Art at University level.



This is an exhibition of professional and polished works. I absolutely love this collection of pieces.



If you want to talk to Neal about his work, just say hello and introduce yourself, are interested in collaborating in a project, or commissioning a specific art work, please email Neal directly at nealbooth71@yahoo.com.au


Gallery 2

No Distance Left to Run

Vasanth Rao 

Vasanth Rao with his wife Pravina and the NAS co-directors Jordan Fardell and Melissa Bull on opening night

“Honest expression and innocence are the two key influences in my art and personality.  I believe in expressing not impressing...”

Vasanth has a Master of Sociology and has been making art for 17 years as a self-taught artist.  Three years ago he moved to Australia with his wife Pravina whose family is located in Australia. The foundation of Vasanth’s art is based within his love for Indian folk and tribal art.  When I talked to Vasanth he was passionate about his choice to engage with honest, innocent and expressive elements within his work.  His visual language comes directly from his heart without pre-planning as he immerses himself into a personal exploration of identity.

...”I have fallen in love with my silence and loneliness so much so that it has become a positive addiction for me.  This silence is my work zone and the birth place of my ideas.  It simply ends up as ‘Art Meditation’ wherein I find eternal peace.”



There is so much colour, and pattern-making sitting on the surface of his works.  Marks are applied almost with child-like eagerness to release the joy he finds while in this creative state.  Drawing is as much a part of his daily ritual as sleeping and eating.  His many exhibitions allow for evolution of ideas and practice while receiving feedback and interaction with the viewer.



For Vasanth life and art are beautiful and making it brings him satisfaction and hope. There certainly is joy, colour, and both spontaneous and planned mark-making within the works.  I have never seen work like this before or not that I can remember.  Some works utilise a black background which provides a dynamic space on which to layer energetic visual expression. Others show that urgent, free, unrestricted and expressive mark he applies with acrylic and oil pastels.



What a lovely experience listening to Vasanth speak exuberantly of his art experience with such passion.


View other works by Vasanth at www.vasanthrao.com
Read some details in English and listen to an interview in his native language with Vasanth on SBS Radio at http://www.sbs.com.au/yourlanguage/kannada/en/content/self-taught-painter-vasanth-rao

If you would like to talk to Vasanth directly about art in general, collaborative projects, commissions, or interviews please contact him directly on vasanthr12212@gmail.com

Chris Byrnes
NAS blogger

Friday, February 12, 2016


Currently on Show

Beauty and Smoke

Joerg Lehmann

Gallery 1

Images: Joerg Lehmann
Joerg Lehmann is stepping onto the centre stage at Newcastle Art Space with a large new body of work.  His attachment, dedication and passion for all things Film Noir is clearly on display in Gallery 1.  The walls are laden with signs of his connection to the power of light. Images as individual story lines are precisely lit with artificial studio lighting and sometimes enhanced by available outdoor lighting. Joerg always refers to these works as being collaborative works between photography, hair and makeup artists, models and designers who set the stage and develop each sequence. Film Noir does carry with it the nostalgia of times now spent, of a memory attached to viewing the first black and white photography, and acknowledgement of the stylised constructions that both form and inform these works. They are just such a joy to look at and imagine the story, the situation, the drama and the characters.  Stepping into the experience may provide a temporary step away from the everyday-ness of our lives and allow an opportunity to fantasise, to imagine oneself in the images, in costume with another persona.   Write your own story of connection to the works or engage with Joerg’s.  For me personally, the most rewarding images are those without people or with just a suggestion of the human, where I have the freedom to write my own narrative over the surface and I do love atmospheric spaces.  Just fabulous.




Our Vessel, Our Gender, Our Sexuality, Our Selves
I Am Series

Kalinda Nelson-Boyd

Gallery 2
Images: Kalinda Nelson-Boyd on opening night with 2 examples of her work
 Kalinda Nelson-Boyd is exhibiting work from her recent Bachelor of Fine Art Honours collection.  On her artist statement Kalinda refers to her work as being …… “A celebration of non-conformity in the individual construction of femininity, sexuality and gender...  Kalinda challenges historical and religious underpinnings of a western cultural context”.



Kalinda photographs people mostly in tight interior spaces and then draws out a new image across the surface.  The background image appears classical and uses a rich colour palette in which to play out her conversation.  She scribbles and breaks down the barriers of the body surface below.  In this way Kalinda defaces and re-writes the idea of ‘the norm’, whatever the ‘norm’ is, and layers her figures with altered states of our humanity, with a fluidity of gender and sexuality.



Technically these are digital photographs with a separate drawing made on thin paper and sandwiched together with the photograph in a computer environment.



Within this construct Kalinda depicts her female subjects as being all woman in the natural raw state of existence, all knowing, in proud display of all body parts, some unshaven, without fear (or perhaps in spite of fear) of censorship or adherence to any traditional cultural ‘norm’. 


A work from this series I Am Untitled No.3, was selected as a finalist in the Contemporary Art Awards 2015


I Am Untitled 4, (not on show) was a finalist in the Shirl Youth Portrait Prize at Bega Valley Regional Gallery.  
http://www.merimbulanewsweekly.com.au/story/3494978/the-shirl-portrait-finalists-announced-gallery/#slide=13

This particular work started me looking to find ways to connect with the work.  I saw her work last year at the Honours show, and at first I was uncertain how to approach the work.  The harder I looked at this small image of a female-like figure in full frontal pose, challenging us to accept her, to acknowledge her, the more I discovered. Perhaps it is my age, and acknowledgment that everything in art now reminds me of something else as an automatic normal reaction, but it is difficult to disconnect my initial thoughts about the pose in I Am Untitled No. 4 from the naked female courtesan depicted in Edouard Manet’s Olympia from 1863.  Olympia also turns her eyes to the viewer and does not hide from her body and sexual identity.  Both poses challenge the viewer to accept the notion of female as a powerful, independent human figure rather than a passive one attached to a set of specific gender-based traits and physical attributes.  Then I went back and had a second look at Kalinda’s work, wondering if I was way off track with these connections.  Olympia is lost from my memory as Kalinda pushes the idea of non-conformity further onto her surfaces and dissolves the labels of gender and sexuality.



I love the Freddy Mercury look-a -like image, because of the colour palette and how it is positioned within the frame.  Although a masculine figure on the surface, he is resplendent with the drawn edition of female lingerie over the top.  The colour palette and composition remind me (here I go again) of a beautifully tonal Rembrandt and I think of the woman with her fleshy legs exposed as she attends to her bathing in Bathsheba at Her Bath finished in 1654 and the colour palette from  A Woman bathing in a Stream  from 1654. Am I looking to find comfort by identifying traditional and historical representations of the body within the image?  I stepped closer into the frame, looked closer and deeper and of course, spoke to the artist which is sometimes the most important element I think. The actual discussion about the work is important, to clarify, accept, challenge and ultimately understand the concept and methodologies involved.  Seeing what is presented on the surface is seldom enough.  Knowing what lies behind and underneath the surface is often more significant.




Our Vessel, Our Gender, Our Sexuality, Our Selves
Body Works Series

Phoebe Turnbull

Gallery 2
Images: Phoebe Turnbull

Phoebe Turnbull is a dancer, actor and artist.  The works on display are from her recent HSC work entitled Body Works.  Currently Phoebe is performing in Maitland Repertory Theatre’s production of Therese Raquin.  A review is available at: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/3689540/an-affair-to-remember/

Phoebe talked about her interest and observations of the different ways male and female bodies inhabit and move within a physical space.  As a dancer and actor, Phoebe would understand how her body should be positioned on the stage or on a physical platform.  We talked of her interest in watching the TED series of pod casts.  One in particular by Amy Cuddy, a Social  Psychologist, relates to power postures that increase the release of testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, depending on the particular body position adopted.  Phoebe has impressed words from this pod cast into a clay bodice form.  Link to the podcast can be found at: https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en



Phoebe’s blue and pink costumed figures link to the assignment of a particular colour to a specific traditional and historical gender, i.e. the notion of pink for girl babies and blue for boy babies.  The doll figures have no identifying traits about their sexuality with only one large eye representing their faces. There is a video about the work for viewing.


All the works in the gallery invite conversation and debate about our bodies, our perceptions and how others view us.  Are we not all ‘just human’ under the skin.  A fascinating mix of imagery, techniques, media and concepts.