Now, it’s fair to say I’ve visited my fair share of galleries around the world with a particular interest taken in Modern and Contemporary Art Galleries. However, aside from MoMA in New York, there is one gallery that stands out amongst the rest.
Like MoMA, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting this gallery several times over several years and I simply struggle to find anywhere that quite compares to it.
MCA: Museum Contemporary Art Australia in Sydney
My most recent visit was the other weekend, where the superb work of Louise Hearman is gracing the walls. This is the second time in a year that I’ve been really blown away by an MCA exhibit (the first was Grayson Perry – more on that later).
The contrast is even more stark after a recent visit to the Tate Modern in London which left me cold and uninspired; the glaring lighting, high ceilings, lack lustre juxtaposition, white, white and more white. It feels soulless, it is soulless.
Hearman‘s exhibit could not be further away from the Tate’s approach; most of Hearman‘s work lends its self to sensitive, low level lighting that enhances the enchantment of her surreal and mystical paintings. It lets the vividness of the light inside the picture speak for its self, not competing with the outside of the gallery but blending with it, and sucking you in as it does so.
It’s a challenging exhibit, in the best way possible. Hearman chooses not to title many of her paintings and refuses to talk about what they mean, it feels like real equality; truly handing the power over to the audience to find themselves in her work.
It’s not hard to be transfixed by something; whether it’s the intensity of the focus which is almost reminiscent of tilt shift, shifting the gazers view to a new realm, or the play on angles. It’s striking simplicity at its best, especially in the intimate and detailed portraiture.
Some of Hearman‘s work almost verges on parody, some creeping obviously in to surrealism while others edge, precariously, along the line of normality. Some are dark and unsettlingly, literally and metaphorically. But most of all, I think it’s just good.
It’s good because of Hearman but it’s also good because MCA seem to continuously exhibit art in sensitive surroundings by innovative artists.
There’s the Contemporary Art of literal piles of rubbish and blank canvasses, if that’s the kind of Contemporary Art that you want to see. But, it’s never all there is to visit.
Despite Australia’s poor record of representing Aboriginal culture, the MCA seem to be much more active in exhibiting and supporting modern Aboriginal artwork. Though I am still disappointed they seem unable to involve more Aboriginal speakers and events, it’s a start.
The Museum of Contemporary Art tells many different stories. Like Fiona Hall‘s “Manuhiri (Travellers)”; driftwood in the shape of animals found on the shores of the Waiapu River in New Zealand.
Reshaped by the ocean currents and now journeying to another life back in the world of the living – Fiona Hall regarding this piece “Manuhiri”
Though perhaps bravest and most exciting of all was the decision to host Grayson Perry‘s largest ever exhibition, at the beginning of the year. Leaving no aspect of Perry‘s career undemonstrated, it showcased every medium Perry has worked within.
From paintings to drawings. From the famous ceramics series to the present day ginormous and small scale tapestry. There were videos of interviews to get to know Perry, time-lapsed footage of Perry creating art, and notepads showcasing Perry‘s doodling thought processes.
Perry speaks from the heart; often raw, faithfully honest. But again, the art, no matter how good or inspiring will fall short if the installation space is incorrect. Poor lighting, bad signage, crammed in pieces and grumpy staff. That’s what puts me off, and it is in abundance in galleries the world over. But, not in Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
Here’s a gallery that shows it cares. It allows space. It regularly paints its walls to accommodate installations, modifying to enable the space to collaborate with the artist. Just like the art its self it moves, changes, expands and contracts.
And every time I visit; I almost always see the same staff. They care, and it shows in every fibre of its being, in every exhibition. It’s modern, it’s detailed and it is so interesting.
How lucky Sydney is to have a gem of a Contemporary Art Gallery that really competes on the world stage of sought after museums.
LOUISE HEARMAN in SYDNEY
Louise Hearman at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia runs from the 29th of September until the 4th of December 2016. Find out more on the MCA website.