Nicole Polentas & Christopher Earl Milbourne ‘Psychomanteum’ @ Counihan Gallery

14 10 2011

Tonight (which is now last night by the time you’re reading this) was the opening of Nicole Polentas [artist profile] and Christopher Earl Milbourne ‘Psychomanteum‘ [link] at Counihan Gallery (Brunswick Town Hall).

What a wonderful event! Such a great show of support for these two artists. And an incredible body of work, displayed most especially sympathetically.

installation; photograph taken with artists permission

Exhibition media: “Christopher Earl Milbourne and Nicole Polentas explore the intersections between history and cultural memory. Symbolic evocations of place are manifest in jewellery, small-scale sculpture and song.

Two artists explore the qualities of materiality through sculpture and jewellery to provide a shared contemplation on the past, present and future.

Nicole Polentas and Christopher Earl Milbourne have designed their shared exhibition space to resemble the psychomanteum; the naturally occurring rockpools where people would go to consult the Oracles in Ancient Greece. Using cellular clusters of concrete, water and light to invert external space, the ambient and immersive gallery environment enables a consideration of the linkages between place and memory that each artist explores in their own practice.

installation (works of Nicole); photograph taken with artists permission

The opening speech from Associate Professor Robert Baines (who was head of our department when Nicole and I were studying our undergraduate degree) was pretty fabulous actually. He described the sense of giving a material form to the evoked image … I felt it really did pay due respect to the artists.

The plinths were made by the artists – so exacting and definite is the story of their work. It’s something special that they want to go to such lengths to show their work in the ‘right’ way. The tops of the plinths are concrete and many (I think most) filled with water to create the looking-pool. I also understand their hexagonal shape references the beehive, though I was so excited by the work and seeing my friends that I’ve now forgotten how this connected in (it was important, so will find out!). The exhibition design is seriously fantastic and looks great in the space.

installation (Chris's work); photograph taken with artists permission (sorry it's a bit fuzzy, the lighting was very low in this room - quite wonderful for experiencing the work though)

I am already a big fan of these two artists – they are friends of mine, and I love that I can say I’ve seen their work develop over the last six to seven years or so since we met. There is an amazing amount of work here – and their work has an exceptional two-way dialogue that really works.

Lastly, huge thanks to Nicole and her family for the wonderful Greek food spread – now THAT’s how to do an opening!!

Psychomanteum‘ is at Counihan Gallery until 6th November; there will be an artist talk this Saturday 15th October 2011.

Please click below to read more of the media release:

Nicole Polentas’ refined visual style is informed by her studies in gold and silversmithing and her Greek cultural heritage. Her work is subtle, contemplative and alive to the nuances of cross-cultural dialogue and transit. In her jewellery, she combines personal photographs and excerpts from rizitika songs (traditional music from Crete, that literally translate as ‘from the roots’), to explore how historical legacies relate to ideas of place and belonging. These songs represent the connection between the objects and the artist’s heritage, with the objects being a tangible manifestation of the music. In Psychomanteum the question posed is how to decipher these fragments to create constellations of meaning that move between past, present and future. The stirring composition of rizitika performed by Antonis Martsakis filters through the gallery space like a reprise, adding a further dimension to Polentas’ exquisitely rendered jewellery pieces, with the song cycle reminding us of the many forms in which history manifests.

The intricate sculptures of Christopher Earl Milbourne hover between abstraction and representation and evoke modern ruins, futuristic structures and architectural flux while creating an expressive formal language of their own. Working with sterling silver and gold alloys, Milbourne creates poetic yet tightly realised miniature landscapes that connect to traditional craft and avant-garde sculpture. In Psychomanteum, Milbourne takes as his subject the historical markers of industry— factories, civic buildings, gas stations and grain silos. Querying concepts of progress, Milbourne’s weathered and whimsical objects also consider the ‘aesthetics of ruin’, where abandoned structures in the landscape mark the rise and fall of power over time and act as historical palimpsests of creation and collapse.


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