Das Platforms / Contemporary Art


by Alex Bellemore

15 Jul 2011


Tortuga Studios, Sydney, 25 June–3 July.

Tortuga Studio’s EASYSPEAK exhibition opened a couple of Fridays ago. It all started so well, with this writer arriving very reviewer like and dutiful.

Somewhere along the line things got jovial.

This resulted in waking up Saturday morning with a wine stained room list and notes which, amongst other choice scrawls, included ‘must call the horror lady’ and ‘nipple/ bondage- sexy...investigate?’ Suffice to say it was not a typical ‘white cube’ opening night.

The theme of this large group exhibition of over forty artists was prohibition and paid homage to speakeasies: the underground ‘blind tiger’ spaces of the twenties. These spaces were home to the illegal sly tipple and were often symbols of equality and free speech at the time, thus the title EASYSPEAK.

The title of the exhibition and the opening night event is where the speakeasy theme of this exhibition ended. The seemingly random selection of works sit haphazardly and crammed in the sprawl of curious spaces at Tortuga Studios with many of the larger works inhabiting their own nooks.

Some honourable mentions of the exhibition include the collection of works by Perran Costi. A handful of eight pieces by Costi housed in a smaller room focused on the theme du jour of the art world right now - ‘the fragile environment’. Costi’s mixed media skyboxes and baggage series were literally tiny rays of light shining through in the dimmed haze of their surrounds. Dishevelled briefcases housed tiny patches of grass and idyllic back lighted blue skies; the works were a study in memory and landscape and were both charmingly romanticised and loaded with cause. Costi’s works were sure to resonate with many of the inner west local patrons of the event as they also referenced the increasingly financially impossible ‘Australian dream’ to own property. The strength of this collection of works lay in Costi’s strong and cohesive practice, amongst the overwhelming amount of work vying for space in the studios.

Garth Knight’s series of five photographs, a depiction of fantasy erotica were pleasurable to view as a fine study in intricate detail and consideration but, in the context of the exhibition, were not allowed to be considered further as my eyes played tug of war with the other artworks swarming around the photographs.

Jo Shand’s Thou Shalt Not series - an irreverent, modern subversion of the Catholic Church’s Ten Commandments on red cedar tile - were sold before I arrived. This was hardly surprising as they possessed the instant likeability befitting a pleasant hallway artwork.

Amongst the works on show are more than a few mediocre pieces and many could have been culled to make this a stronger ‘exhibition’. But Tortuga Studios is first and foremost a studio for creation and development and this is certainly apparent within the studio - both refined and unrefined. Best of all it was just pure fun.