2020, Kara Baldwin, Philosophish, Big Mouth Billy Bass, audio recording (looped), Arduino Nano, Bluetooth unit, MP3 player, approx. 30 x 19 x 10 cm. Robotic installation on a loop discussing humour theory from the mouth of a novelty fish.
Featuring artists Simon Perry, Juan Ford, Gerry Bell, Kara Baldwin, Kez Hughes, Amélie Scalercio, Nicholas Ives and Michael Vale, this group exhibition takes its title from the Bob Dylan song, “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” (1965) as a perfect metaphor for absurdism.
Through subtle humour and visual conundrums, all eight artists offer a playful meditation on the theory of absurdism, aimed to entertain rather than explain the ways of the universe.
Kara Baldwin is an artist living and working in Melbourne, Australia, exploring incongruity, absurdity and humour in visual art practices.
Kara Baldwin’s practice engages with a range of media including video, drawing, sculpture and installation to explore cognitive incongruity and visual wit. Her work considers modes of presenting and representing that disrupt conventional behaviours, aesthetics and social exchanges, drawing from humour methodology to examine the relationship between familiarity and novelty, expectation, association and conceptual flexibility.
Gerry Bell is a painter and critic whose long practice has included painting, film making and critical writing.
"I see my painting exploring ignored or discouraged options for style and themes. I see technique and iconography as continuous, shifting and manifold. My pictures advertise the array. Eclecticism or mere versatility is not enough. Clever compilations, convenient sentiments and dutiful policies, obvious myth and easy allusion are not enough. I want something more demanding, distinctive and defiant.
I am interested in the murky territory in between these things, the overtones and undercurrents, leaps and guesses, lies and mistakes; the flow to meaning in pictures that make worlds."
Juan Ford’s practice has consistently been engaged with opening up new possibilities for realism in painting. He has employed many strategies that argue around the theoretical ‘problems’ of realism in painting.
Ford enjoys exploiting the limited shortcomings of the dull, officially sanctioned dialogue between painting and it’s would-be executioner, photography, in order to develop new potential for realism. While his work evolves and varies across time, it characteristically involves an examination of the human figure and its relationship to its environment.
Juan Ford received a Master of Art from RMIT University in 2001. His many commissions include the Australian War Memorial, 2018, the National Gallery of Victoria’s Melbourne Now 2013/2014, Manifesta 9 European Biennale 2012, Premier John Brumby for Parliament of Victoria Parliament House, Sir Isaac Isaacs, first Governor General of Australia for the Melbourne Jewish Museum, Monash University, The University of Sydney and Trinity College Melbourne.
Ford has exhibited extensively within Australia and internationally, including recent solo exhibitions at the Palazzo Bembo in Venice 2017, at Galerie du Monde, Hong Kong 2019, Nakanojo Biennale Gunma Prefecture 2015 and a solo at Art Basel Hong Kong in 2013.
Major group exhibitions include at The Daejeon Museum of Art Korea 2015, Bendigo Art Gallery’s Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize 2020, Art Stage Singapore, the National Portrait Gallery Canberra 2014, Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria and the inaugural opening of Queensland Art Gallery/GOMA.
Ford has received prestigious international awards and residencies across Australia, Italy and the United States.
Kez Hughes is a Melbourne artist who is also the co-founder of CAVES Gallery.
Confounding ideas of authenticity and originality, Hughes re-presents the work of fellow artists as appropriation art.
But as surely as Romantic ideals are subject to scrutiny, Hughes reasserts high-cultural values through an emphasis on formal painting techniques. And her curatorial selection constitutes an oblique index of cultural capital that heightens the anxiety of the outsider spectator.
Part homage, part pastiche, Hughes’s visual engineering effects some slight alteration and degradation of the original image, and these shifts along the signifying chain allegorise the act of meaning-making. The outlaw artist is a maker and collector who recreates her favourite pieces for her own pleasure.
Nicholas Ives explores within his work realms of the Absurd and the Carnivalesque through a primarily figurative form.
His works flow across the borders of portraiture into abstract qualities, encouraging unexpected outcomes and collisions – encounters of the material surface and the imaginings of unknown painterly worlds.
Simon Perry is a British sculptor and academic, based in Melbourne, Australia. Best known for his large-scale public art works for urban spaces in Australia and overseas, Perry's practice incorporates numerous sculptural techniques including casting, carving and fabrication. His works have been created in bronze, concrete, granite, steel, aluminium, wood and stone. Perry's commissioned pieces are predominantly site-specific, and often address elements of environment and public space with a gentle humour.
Simon’s best known and loved work is the granite purse in the Bourke Street Mall.
Amélie Scalercio’s drawing-based practice ranges from explorations of celebrity, volcanos and collaborative drawing events to cadaver-based anatomy teaching at Monash University.
Michael Vale utilises historical painting methods to explore collisions of high and low art, absurdism and superfictions.
Michael Vale is a visual artist, curator and academic. In 2006 he completed his PhD at Monash University with a multi-media “art fiction” project entitled Le Chien qui Fume – A Smokey Life. In 2006 he was awarded Best Film on Art at the prestigious Asolo Artfilm Festival in northern Italy for a video work entitled The Long Walk. He has also been a finalist in the Archibald Prize on three occasions. His work The Great Divide, 2016 has won the Hutchins Australian Contemporary Art Prize 2018. He was also the winner of the Bayside Art Prize in 2017.
He has held 22 solo exhibitions since 1986, as well as curating and participating in numerous group exhibitions and short film festivals. For the last twenty years has been teaching in art schools including Monash University, RMIT, and the Hong Kong Art School. He is currently a senior lecturer in Fine Art in the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture (MADA) at Monash University. His artworks are held in several public collections in Australia, as well as private collections in Australia and overseas. His paintings can also be seen in Luna Park’s ‘Ghost Train’.