Observation To Inspiration

July 26, 2012

The inaugural pop-up exhibition for Hotham Street Contemporary will showcase four strikingly unique artists - Caroline Christie, Kate Elsey, Phil Elson and Xiaoping Zhou - all of whom are at the zenith of their individual careers and talent.

The venue for this exhibition is the SmartArtz gallery space at 2 Alfred Place, South Melbourne and will run every day 11am to 5pm from August 9-19 2012. The opening event, including the official launch of Hotham Street Contemporary, kicks off at 6.30pm, Thursday August 9. All four artists will be in attendance and the night is set to be a memorable beginning for this exciting new name in the art world.

In choosing the artists to feature in this important first show, Hotham Street Contemporary's Director and Exhibition Curator Liam Ferguson was keen to exhibit a level of quality, creativity and aesthetic beauty that he wants his audience to associate with the Hotham Street name.

"I think it's vital to set a standard of art you want to show the world right from the start. Under Hotham Street Contemporary I want to promote thoughtful and beautifully executed work from artists who have dedicated their lives to their craft. In these four I have chosen for this exhibition I see just that. They have all come from essentially disparate backgrounds and have vastly different styles and subject matter yet through their work runs a binding thread of beauty in composition and colour. All are keen observers of the world around them and the inspiration it gives them is for all to see in oil, ochre, ink, porcelain and whatever amazing combination of chemicals Caroline Christie uses to create her masterpieces!"

Having seen all of their work individually I am really looking forward to bringing it all together in the one space and seeing the magic that comes from that."

Another quality that ties these four artists together is that each has mastered their chosen medium.

Take Phil Elson.

A practicing ceramicist for almost 30 years, Phil has been largely influenced by the beautifully fine ceramics of South East Asia, Japan, China and Korea. His work on the wheel could be mistaken as originating from any of these areas given the delicate elegance infused into each piece. Elson has been strongly focussed on the development of form and colour within his works and the space that surrounds them, particularly in his development of multi-piece installations.

Inspired by the beautiful architecture he witnessed during a residency in Barcelona, Phil's work has evolved; his bowls have transformed into elegant structures and the pieces have joined to form stunning cityscapes.

"I loved how these buildings reached into the air; into the sky about them. They exuded a love of materials, a love of place, a love of life. Something of that time, something of those places now resides in me. My recent work utilises high fired translucent glazed and unglazed porcelain. This is my response to what I saw and felt in those exquisite places."

Xiaoping Zhou is a unique story in Australian art. Arriving in Melbourne 24 years ago to exhibit some of his traditional Chinese brush paintings Xiaoping decided to head to Central Australia to experience what the country had to offer outside of a thriving metropolis he was already accustomed to in his home country. In particular he was keen to visit indigenous communities.

In Alice Springs he encountered Aboriginal people for the first time along with their art and found what he had been looking for. His own culture was over 5000 years old but here was a society much older and infused with the expressive elements of tradition, symbolism and meaning that he aspired to. This had a profound affect on the young artist and most of his work since then has been about Aboriginal society, combining his Chinese painting with Aboriginal culture and technical influences, making his work highly unique.

"In Chinese traditional painting artists often paint imaginary and mythical scenes, mysterious mountains and waterfalls, cloud filled landscapes, beautiful flowers and fierce tigers and horses. I'm more interested in people's everyday lives. In my work I paint Aboriginal people as they live, how they look, what they're doing."

A particularly striking aspect of Xiaoping's paintings is the use of ochres alongside the traditional Chinese inks - most times being applied to rice paper on the floor before being fixed to canvas. This process produces amazingly beautiful textures and colours.

After over two decades of exploration in techniques of chemical mixing, Caroline Christie is confident of what her medium will do under different conditions. She uses this knowledge to achieve a brushless fluidity and capture dynamic painterly interactions.

"Paint allows me to create and record extraordinary exchanges of energy."

In this process Christie becomes both the creator and spectator of her work. Landscapes and forms are created as colours and chemicals collide, the resulting compositions are emotive whirlwinds of movement.

"...working as an abstract expressionist, I feel that what the viewer gets from my work is subjective and the role of my artwork is only truly completed in the eyes of the person viewing it."

Kate Elsey's last exhibition at Axia Modern Art was something to behold. A room full of birds, their forms evolved through the scraping back of layers of paint to reveal kaleidoscopes of colour and landscapes of texture.

Art can be polarising but the beauty and majesty of Kate's paintings unified all that saw them into one voice of appreciation for this young artist's vision.

In this new series of work which Kate has entitled her 'Kaleidoscope Series' the idea of colour and nature is further explored.

"My work is a distilled interpretation of the kaleidoscope, threads woven together into the pattern of life. Expressing nature and its harmonious complexity into a wild magical simplicity. I'm wanting to represent wildlife in an emblematic, monumental and symbolic way, allowing the viewer to hopefully appreciate our coexistence. My aim in life is to paint pictures celebrating diversity, perfection and the emotion of the wild life, promoting the need to take care of our wilderness."

Elsey paints and lives north west of Melbourne, Victoria. It is here that she surrounds herself each day in the ancient volcanic landforms and the birds, animals and plants that exist there from the creek valley of the Organ Pipes National Park to the depths of the Lerderderg Gorge.

Kate has developed her own unique technique, eschewing brushes for varying sizes of metal scrapers to sculpt oil paint, bringing strong textures, line and colour. A collector of her work has recently coined her style as a kind of repressed expression - or "repressionism".