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Grand Scale Indeed

By Jill Stowell

Newcastle Herald, Saturday September 10, 2016

Newcastle Herald, Saturday September 10, 2016

MARION Borgelt is that phenomenon, an artist whose abstract artmaking sends out a force field of emotion.

Her exhibition at Newcastle Art Gallery until October 23 has the dispassionate presence of non-representation, while simultaneously pulsating with energy and metaphor.

In the course of a 40-year career, she has spent significant periods of time in Paris and New York, with works now in international collections, but she lives and works in Sydney and her large installations are to be found there as commissions in major public and private sites. She works on a grand scale.

Her connection with Newcastle Art Gallery goes back 30 years to 1986 when her intricately cellular paintings were shown in a joint exhibition with the similarly exciting young painter Jenny Watson. Her work, increasingly elemental, was last shown here in a spectacular survey exhibition in 2003. Who can forget the enormous surging work cascading the full height of the gallery’s void?

The present exhibition fills the upper level of the gallery with groups of works from the past 20 years, exploring an evolving symbolic language, increasingly deployed out from the wall into three dimensions.

The earliest pieces on view employ a visceral palette of red and black, with biomorphic impulses surging and fading in heavily textured patterning, its tactility always completely controlled.

Subliminal suggestion of the body is followed by a sudden shift to external forces, to pulsing waves of electricity, surges of light, the blips and kinks of strobe. Once again, the physical experience of these works, their repetitive patterns, acid colour and sense of speed is exhilarating as they evolve into three dimensions. The surface of the canvas becomes animated, slashed and manipulated so that the image pulsates as the viewer moves. The kinetic effect is hypnotic.

Equally meticulously constructed are the latest works that move off the wall into sculptural constructions, with a new concern for the process of cyclical movement. A spiral of evolving marble spheres suggests the phases of the moon. Golden discs wax and wane. Timber balls crack like eggs.

Not all the work is monumental. Carved books contain an inner life. An installation of small paintings encapsulates new visions of eternity. But it is the sheer scale of most of the works that impresses in an exhibition any major gallery would be proud to mount.

For Newcastle it is an exemplary project, augmenting and building on works from the city’s collection and demonstrating once again in a splendid exhibition the wealth of our gallery’s holdings.

Many people have written about Marion Borgelt’s grasp of the paradox of the physicality of space with a tantalising awareness of an inner resolution. Rod Pattenden, for example, writes of “the work of a layered eye immersed in looking, shaping, responding and creating through pulses that ripple their way down the cortex of the nervous system. … We are made to feel through our own bodies the twist and tilt of time.”

AT Gallery 139 until September 17 the latest exhibition takes its theme from the roles of mentor and mentored. In the event, the connections are mostly peripheral. Painter Dane Tobias imagines his houses and their interiors, unlike mentor Peter Lankas, celebrated for the plein air freshness of familiar glimpses of his surroundings. Brad Snape’s inflated steel orange is a mature work by a sculptor represented in many galleries at the moment. His student, Jo Lynch, demonstrates a tangential interest in materials.

For Newcastle it is an exemplary project, augmenting and building on works from the city’s collection and demonstrating once again in a splendid exhibition the wealth of our gallery’s holdings.

The most immediately successful collaboration is between Clare Weeks and fellow photographer Maisie Neale. Their peepshow boxes contain shifting kaleidoscopic images involving gesturing arms and legs. The results combine clowning with something slightly sinister.

NANSHE is no longer across the road. In fact, as I write, Nanshe is exhibiting in Berlin; there will be tales to tell.

I WAS happy to catch the final days of a remarkable exhibition at Back to Back Galleries. Jen Denzin has established a reputation for visionary recycling. Her bright blimps and festive volcanoes were joined by an array of towering monoliths by Mandy Robinson, fashioned from bands of stapled cardboard. How well suited this work would be for Maitland’s soaring atrium.

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