Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Just Between Us
Solo exhibition by Kate Gagliardi
Magazine Gallery
Oct 13

Kate Gagliardi is a natural artist. Compelled to create as the rest of us are compelled to eat she constantly sketches the images that pass before her eyes and through her mind. You won’t find a contrived concept or stale formula here. Gagliardi’s finished works are the intuitive expression of her fascinations and, as such, they are best appreciated intuitively. Thankfully, this task isn't difficult; Kate’s talent is plain to see.

Although she’s still in her final year of study Gagliardi’s works have already been showing up around Adelaide and interstate in the form of group exhibitions, published illustrations and street art. Now her first solo exhibition, Just Between Us at Magazine Gallery, gives us the first full glimpse of what she has to offer.

Illustration is her obvious strength and forms the starting point for much of her work. Female faces and figures feature prominently. Depicted in a naturalistic line of striking clarity Gagliardi’s women all display some kind of fantastical adornment that conveys a sense of otherworldly power. The emergence of animals in her new work follows the trend in art that seeks to covet the natural world as its fragility become ever more apparent.

As the title of exhibition suggests, there’s intimacy to Gagliardi’s work that only reveals itself on close inspection. The combination of pencil, watercolours and rice paper convey a feeling of delicacy and those with an eye for detail will appreciate the line work that’s left uncovered or only slightly obscured.

But ultimately the intimacy of the work is born out of Gagliardi’s own relationship with her craft. Each work is the result of hours spent in exploration of materials and refinement of style.

This wouldn’t be so interesting if it weren’t for the fact that so much art over the last 50 years has been created without any trace of the artist’s hand. From Andy Warhol to Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst there isn’t a stroke of skill between them. Yes their work is expensive and entertaining but so are most Hollywood blockbusters.

At the end of the day (or century more to the point) nothing beats the skill and vision of an individual artist whose work is the product of their own hands. When art shows the ‘hand of the artist’ it brings meaning to their physical striving. Such works reflect the meaning of all human striving.

Of course, the reoccurring formula of contemporary art is to substitute human striving for irony which is often used to pose the question of whether there is, in fact, any meaning to human striving. Such works demand that we laugh at the meaninglessness of it all or else be laughed at. It's a kind of nihilistic laziness that becomes tiresome pretty quickly even if it is covered in diamonds worth $100 million. After a while such works leave you empty and wondering why we elected such talentless misanthropes as our cultural leaders.

For a new generation of artists the proverbial rubber band seems to have snapped back in the other direction. Not surprisingly this new movement has emerged outside the establishment of contemporary art from two distinct streams of visual creativity, namely, graphic design and street art. This new breed of artist uphold a respect for their craft that belongs outside the post-modern era. Perhaps the best example of the melding of these two streams is the work of Anthony Lister who Gagliardi credits as an influence.

Coming from a street art background, Lister’s paintings subvert popular superhero characters from graphic novels and, in doing so, work to attack our tendency towards idolatry. What sets Lister’s work apart from others of his ilk is his ability to sign post his images with the techniques of fine art figuration, linking his work to a tradition that is centuries old.

Both Gagliardi’s and Lister's work presents human figures in a super human, fantastical light. These images, like so much of the cultural output of our time, answer our desire to affirm a belief in some supernatural aspect of life; to uphold something sacred, beyond the grasp of rational reductionism. Such work has become impossible within the established order of contemporary art that has been sterilised by critical thought.

But art is nothing without an audience and this new breed of artist are being met with a new generation of art collectors who are immune to shock tactics and bored with the notion of ‘is this art.’ Tomorrow’s art collector want beautiful images that whispers secrets to them rather than craftless objects that shout questions at us all. Riddance to the entertaining but impersonal blockbuster exhibitions of large institutions. Tomorrow’s collector prefers the personal growth of individual artists.

Although it’s a first for Adelaide, Magazine gallery follows thousands of others like it around the world. This low cost exhibition spaces places no limitations on how young artists present their work but avoids the non-commercial pretenses of artist run initiatives. Galleries like Magazine offer emerging artists a chance to build an audience and sell their work.

Just Between Us has achieved just that. Gagliardi’s works has developed in leaps and bounds over the last year and it seems the perfect time to let others in on her journey. Gagliardi’s work will develop further as she discovers greater depth of subject matter through which to open a dialogue with artists of the past. But artistic maturity of that kind can’t be rushed. The path of the natural artist is essentially one of self-discovery that persistently challenges the creator to delve deeper into their fascinations. It’s also a journey that holds great rewards for a patient audience.

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