5 March 2024

Outstanding regional artist exhibitions at Belco set a high bar for Canberra's galleries

| Sasha Grishin
blue painting

In and through 1 by Patsy Payne, one of four exhibitions at Belco Arts. Photo: Belconnen Arts Centre.

When it comes to exhibitions, Belco Arts consistently punches above its weight. It is the outstanding regional arts centre in Canberra, with flashy new professional gallery facilities, and famed for the boldness of its choices of curated exhibitions.

Belco’s new batch of exhibitions brings a number of surprises, both conceptually and visually.

Lines of Sight is an intriguing exhibition by two veteran printmakers, Patsy Payne and John Pratt, who retired some time ago after decades of teaching at the Canberra School of Art (which had its endless name changes).

Although the project is collaborative in nature with phone calls and postcards exchanged over a period of three years between one artist in Canberra and the other, if I’ve understood correctly, on the Central Coast, there is also a degree of coherence in the show.

On the agenda for discussion in the work is an investigation of the changing physical and spatial environment and looking at such things as space, tides and atmosphere and an awareness of distance.

READ ALSO A spectacular mural high in the sky takes its cue from Canberra’s mountains

It’s both an ambitious exhibition and a bit of a daydream, where the artists study that zone where the land meets the sea, the dominant feature of Gulaga (Mount Dromedary) and the changing shape of time.

The artists refer to some of their works as a ‘postcard narrative’, where from different perspectives they look at a changing environment caught between geological time that is counted in terms of millennia and temporal time where you are affected by the tides and the changing weather conditions.

From the exhibition, Pratt emerges as an artist who wishes to treat things holistically and employs maps to somehow bring it all within the grasp of the human mind.

In contrast, Payne is intent on fragmentation where scale is employed to dissolve any chance of certainty within the viewer’s eye and we are unaware if we are considering a detail of something quite tiny or a huge expanse.

Francis Kenna’s exhibition, atmo-spheres, explores the fashionable terrain of atmosphere and architecture. At the NGV Triennial 2024, presently on in Melbourne, there is an intriguing breathing architectural space designed by Nic Brunsdon that investigates the role of atmosphere in a built environment.

Kenna, who is a local emerging artist, questions the existence of atmosphere that we can inhabit and how this conditions the way we respond to the world.

Kenna’s offerings at the exhibition are quite diverse and vary from big and small sculptural installations to rather fine and delicate prints, perhaps lacking an overall coherence.

The most impressive work, for me, was a 16-screenprint wall installation, Rising from the spray. This piece has the power to create its own atmosphere capturing the moment when water turns into spray and is absorbed into the atmosphere.

READ ALSO Alia Bar brings classy, relaxed Greek dining to London Circuit

The biggest surprise, for me, was Interwoven 7 – a brilliant exhibition of fibre art that brings together 22 artists involved in basketry and textiles from the Canberra region and South Coast.

Some of these artists, including Hilary Peterson, Jasmine Bruce, Christiane Keller, Claudia Tasche, Beverly Moxon, Nancy Brunton, Trish Flynn, Sasha Hardcastle and Jessika Spencer are making work of a very high order that should be receiving serious recognition.

Australian fibre art, other than the work of First Nation artists, has frequently not received institutional curatorial attention as it has in other parts of world, while at the same time, some artists, predominantly women, are working at an international standard.

I was bowled over by some of the work, from the quirky and idiosyncratic, to the folksy and crafty, to the majority that is of a very high order and tackles questions of form and medium and interrogates environmental concerns.

There is also a cameo exhibition concerning self-doubt involving two ceramic artists, Zoe Slee and Fran Romano, that contains a healthy dose of humour.

Belco Arts presents a vibrant offering by local artists that will appeal to a wide audience, but it is also an offering that is of a very high calibre.

Lines of Sight, Patsy Payne and John Pratt, Pivot Gallery; atmo-spheres, Francis Kenna, Generator Gallery; Interwoven 7, West Gallery and The Benefit of Doubt, Fran Romano & Zoe Slee, Window Gallery

Belconnen Arts Centre, 118 Emu Bank, Belconnen, exhibitions close 28 March, Tues to Sun 10 am to 4 pm

Original Article published by Sasha Grishin on Riotact.

Weekly Wrap

Canberra is renowned for its restaurants, bars, arts and culture. If you want to know what's going on in and around the nation's capital, sign up for our weekly newsletter and have all the best of the Canberra community delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.