Thanks for the lovely response to the first missive. Well I never, what a charming lot you all are.
Lou Conboy might be building a world of some kind. I’ve previously known her as a photographer of spectral, eerie landscapes filled with mythological beings, deities and witches. Sisyphina has previously existed as a series of strange photographic images, but here, in the window of Good Grief studio, it is a narrative video work with surreal elements that interprets, as the title suggests, the myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus is an ancient tale that culminates in the striking image of a man who dared to consider himself better than the gods pushing a boulder uphill for all eternity: as soon as he gets it top of the accursed slope, it rolls down again. Sisyphus may represent absurd futility or pointless effort, but Sisyphina offers another take, for this straining, exhausted witch-goddess is assisted in her task by other fantastic beings, at various stages. A journey is undertaken, a task is performed, and others appear along the way.
There’s more to it though: the landscape this boulder is being moved through is spectacular to a high degree: it’s Jacob’s Ladder, a road to the top of Ben Lomond (an iconic mountain in North Eastern Tasmania), named after a section of the Old Testament. The road Conboy traverses - and she really did do this - is a long zig-zagging rise into alpine spaces. The aura of mythology is compounded by this dramatic location: somehow, what Conboy has done here is to make an artwork that is vast and heavy, inviting many potential interpretations. Sisyphina is certainly laced with the work a woman does and the exhaustion of this, but it is also something that could be understood as a transformative act of personal ritual: Conboy really did get dressed up as a kind of elemental witch creature, and really did spend hours pushing a boulder around on a mountain. I want to emphasise the singular nature of Conboy’s work: it has come undiluted straight out of her head and no-one else is going to make art like this. It’s rough, raw, has elements of real bedlam and is quite wonderful.
Joseph Gracia is one of my favourite Hobart artists. He’s not really chasing an art career, he tends to work with found objects, and he wears his heart on his sleeve a lot of time. Quite often, his art practice is about picking up litter - he finds a selection of objects that have been discarded and places them together and allows the sheer volume of what he has collected to speak for itself. His work can have a peculiar beauty to it, held together with a strong aesthetic vision - he knows exactly how to arrange and organise his material to give it a rhythm and make it pleasing to the eye. Of course, this is subversive, because he’s using the detritus of of our consumer society, so there’s a solid personal ethic informing the work, and it’s kind of cool that he took the time to clean up a bit.
Untitled balloons is exactly what it says: Gracia has collected the world’s saddest object, a limp and lost balloon, abandoned to the streets. Ah, how many children were reduced to sudden tears at the violent pop of a gaudy rubber bauble?
Balloons do not last, but Gracia reminds us that they do, in fact. Here is the residue of a lot of now-over parties, and, tellingly, retail promotional campaigns. Sad, ugly and dripping with pathos, this work is exactly what Joey does so well: he keeps his focus, makes his point and asks you to think a little bit harder as he does so. This kind of small prod into the ribs of disposable consumer culture is vital, and the unassuming, polite but firm tactics Gracia uses to make his point are bang on.
Both shows are at Good Grief for another week, and are intended to be visible from the street.
Mark Groves and Leith Thomas have had long careers as sound makers. Based in Victoria, they’ve been involved with punk, hardcore, noise rock and experimental sound. There’s an element of social and cultural comment across all their output, and this piece directly engages with news stories about the spread of COVID-19 in affluent suburbs in Melbourne. This is at the more confronting end of sound art, utilising a palette of noise and field recordings, but it’s not over the top and doesn’t fall into the trap of simply being harsh and bludgeoning for the sake of it. Found texts and dense clusters of bird call and static are deployed in a meticulous way, creating a genuine narrative that flatly describes events and underscores the implications of the text with sinister rhythmic crunches and radio noise.
This is one of the first works I’ve seen that focuses in on the pandemic as an event in Australia. Tension is expertly created, with bursts of dramatic release few and far between: this is a creepy construction that comes from a place of anger and disgust but is not overwhelmed by those emotions. If anything, Aspen Liberals is a kind of experimental radio documentary that presents and comments, but ultimately leaves the listener to draw what they will from the experience.
Have a listen to it here.
I found it worked very well on headphones: the intimate, whispering tactic Leith and Mark use is really brought out and the sound becomes immersive.
If you find this work piques your interest, check out Mark Groves’ label Index Clean . There’s some rich variety to be found therein.
Is instagram a legitimate way to see art? I’m going to give it a resounding positive nod, and the importance of this medium during recent times cannot be overstated: with galleries open only by appointment and the idea of actually heading to a viewing tinged with actual peril, online viewing is now very possible. A lot of artists are using instagram, and this has become an avenue through which I’m seeing some engaging work.
Yokel Design is the work of Aldous Kelly, and Aldous is not so much building a world but a suburb. His feed is filled with people, all drawn in an idiosyncratic, personal style that is visibly developing as it goes along. Aldous shares experiments and supplies tiny fragments of story in his drawings: every image has a distinct personality, and a backstory always seems implied. Who these people are and how they got to this moment is never revealed - but there’s something about the energy in each image that oozes narrative. All these creations are in the realm of the grotesque, but they aren’t cruel or mean, filled instead with a bleak whimsy and gentle satire of humans and how they carry on. Each individual image seems part of a greater whole, and you get the feeling a lot of Aldous’ people know each other from the pub or meet at the local shop to swap gossip a lot. Yokel Design is not quite like anything else in my sphere right now: Aldous’ take on abnormal normal people harks back to the work of Bruegel in a way, revelling in and celebrating ordinary life.
check it out: @yokel_design
Hand of heart
Do forward Make and Do, and if you are a maker of sound, art or anything else, let me know. I’m not confining this to Tasmanian arts, so if you are out there, say hello.
If you enjoyed this and feel like getting me a coffee or something, here’s the tip jar.
Thanks. See you. Stay safe.