Saturday, 26 July 2008

Marrickville Open Studio Trail has been running for some years but organisers seem to be over-optimistic in terms of coverage.

Last year, for example, there were fewer artists' studios on the map and it went for two days. This year there are 35 dots on the map.

It's impossible to visit all in a day. I got to only six, starting about 10am and finishing - belly rumbles beckoned me home for a bowl of spaghetti and a side dish of steamed zucchini - at 3pm.

Gilbert Grace's Cooks River VI (2004) is shown above because the river seems to be something of a symbol. Dimitri Kuznichenko, first on my list at number 10 (because closest to my home) also paints the river.

It's a lovely river, though not frequented by me much. Yet this should change, especially in winter when a couple of hours walking in the sun can do such wonderful things for the constitution.

Kuznichenko's art is surprising. I think he was surprised to see me walking toward his gate, grasping the print-out made from the council website.

He invited me in and spent the next 40 minutes or so telling me about his work, which is quite fabulous. Kuznichenko is an immigrant (from the Ukraine) and, like many immigrants what he loses in diction and grammar, he makes up for in a bubbling sense of humour and a sharp mind.

His landscapes, showing the rolling hills of this part of Sydney - the slope down to the river and the rise on the farther side (in which direction I live) - are reminiscent of early 20th century British modernism.

I thought immediately of Nash. Same dun colours, green and white and tan skies. Whispy clouds. Fragmented foreground running, helter-skelter, downhill into the cubes and triangles of suburbia.

The only quibble I have is that, frankly, it's impossible to walk. Starting, as I did, on the western fringe of the 'art cluster', the car is needed.

Diamando Koutsellis, who was born in Sydney and lived for eight years in Perth, makes lovely cylindrical towers out of thin strips of clay. She then applies glazed pods and slugs to the exterior.

The result is a twisting rendering of a process of becoming. The pods and slugs are stuck close to the clay surface, and they squirm up and down and around the tower, looking for a berth or an exit. She also paints.

Rosedale Street Gallery also participated today. Located on the corner of busy Canterbury Road in Hurlstone Park, the gallery features lots of nice ceramic work that is priced very reasonably.

I then switched tack and headed east, ending up in the vicinity of Addison Road, Marrickville. The abandoned army barracks here is given over to art studios. But before this, I dropped in on the fey ex-storyteller (really, she worked for the Dept of Education) Ffrances Ingram in her Shepherd Street house.

Ffrances - the name is Welsh - makes pokey work (did I get that right?). She buys offcuts of fabric at a nearby recycling centre and applies this, with a long pin, to a hessian base.

Her designs include crocodiles and goannas, but behind the tables these were placed on hung a set of 'primitive' paintings in bright gouache with orange tigers threading their way through the bush. Green, yellow, orange, purple.

Upstairs at the Addison Road Gallery were wonderful, muted landscapes by Natalie McCarthy. McCarthy applies her oils very thinly and, working from photos taken during quick trips to the inland, she puts together architecturally-sound vistas in a broad pallette.

Also on view in the space were paintings by My Le Thi. Thi uses a monochrome composition and scriptural elements (from the Roman alphabet, from Chinese ideograms, and Vietnamese version of Roman script).

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