Backwoods Gallery
More than a gallery

Exhibition

Backwoods Gallery exhibit work by artists who have a background in street art and illustration, and provide a space for artists to present their work, on their own terms, without limitations.


Sex And The Sublime by Alphachanneling
Aug
31
to Sep 16

Sex And The Sublime by Alphachanneling

Exhibition Essay

Art has long explored the construct of human sexuality, it’s fluidity and it’s ever changing expression. As it flows through elusive, transient and at times vexing forms, modern sexuality is morphing and the definition of ‘acceptable’ is altered at an exhaustive rate. Still, sexuality always discovers new outlets, moving from the periphery and forcing its way into the mainstream.

Providing an unimaginable gateway between the tangible and intangible, non-ordinary states of consciousness have spanned the entirety of human history. This legacy of exploration into our capacity for boundlessness remains vibrant and woven into human culture — at times subversive, disguised or hidden under the surface of mainstream awareness, but exerting its influence nonetheless. Offering us an alternative framing of reality, the spectrum ranges from traditions of indigenous medicine to contemporary psychedelics, from rituals of trance and dance to taoist and yogic energy practices, and music, art and performance; not as entertainment, but rather as containers for cultivating the collective intimacy of shared experience. 

Alphachanneling’s work documents one altered state of consciousness in particular, the transcendent state of being accessible through the ecstatic gates of sex and love. Tantric expressionism captivates with the stoic beauty that eroticism affords. Perfect synchrony of humans and sex through a kaleidoscopic prism - inside and out. Mysterious corners of the soul, reserved for Freudian psychoanalysis, are brought into light as Alphachanneling dares you to gaze through the spiritual lens of desire. 

Alphachanneling’s art is autobiographical, a singular example of a personal utopian vision. Rather than to suggest this vision is universal, Alphachanneling intends the work to serve simply as an invitation to celebrate sexuality as a sacred animating force of spirit, health and vitality, in whatever way is most uniquely activating to you. The enthusiasm and sincerity fundamental to the work is a confrontation of coercive societal manipulations of sex through shame and exploitation, a reminder that confines should be questioned, challenged and explored. It presents as an audacious intersect, filled with unbound beauty and amplified into a seductive mythical universe. 

By remaining anonymous, Alphachanneling has removed identity from the equation. The separation of artist and work affords viewers the luxury of an objective view into the creator's mind. Yet the irony is we form our own constructs as we crave to know the meaning behind the art, the life of the artist and the events that brought the creativity to fruition. We substitute the unknown identity and project ourselves into the artist’s mind and work. Perhaps, this is what Alphachanneling wants.

We invite you to experience Alphachanneling’s impressive achievement and embark on the seductive journey that awaits.

Alphachanneling

Although choosing to remain anonymous, Alphachanneling is one of the better-known artists on Instagram, with a following fast approaching 700,000.

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I've been to paradise but I've never been to me by Filthyratbag
Aug
31
to Sep 16

I've been to paradise but I've never been to me by Filthyratbag

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Exhibition Essay

Located somewhere between Cindy Sherman, Joan Rivers and Matisse; Celeste Mountjoy (known most commonly by the alias ‘FilthyRatBag’) is a Melbourne based visual artist and writer at the helm of a practice as caustic as it is sensitive. Working primarily (though not exclusively) with rudimentary office stationary and digital mediums, Mountjoy fuses a barebones approach to line work with shards of text which range from the autobiographical to the culturally critical - choosing systematised misogyny, coming-of-age cliché’s and digital alienation as her targets.

‘I’ve Been To Paradise But I’ve Never Been To Me’ is Mountjoy’s first solo exhibition, a collection of work created over the past ten months; spanning several canvases, drawings and a handful of audio-visual works. The title of the exhibition, lifted from late 70’s FM radio titan Charlene’s ‘I’ve Never Been To Me’ rips the conservative ethos of the song loose from it’s moorings. Initially a lament for an idealised life of domesticity lost in the pursuit of bodily pleasures, the song’s main refrain, written by male songwriting duo Miller & Hirsch, is here re-appropriated to evoke the experience of growing as a woman in the dawn of a new century under the instruction of frameworks created by people who would not have to live through it. 

Given Mountjoy’s age (18) it is not surprising that her work also takes as its subject human nature’s struggle against its own chaotic creation, the hyper-connectivity afforded by the internet. Rather than grieve its ills or paint it in awe, Mountjoy prods at the inevitable archetypes and binaries created by the echo chambers of message boards, vote-in polls and pornography. Aspiring for a model of womanhood miniaturised and made into a consumer cliche, Mountjoy’s women struggle against or are magnetically absorbed into the gendered frameworks promised to them by the various utopias of the internet, both those of motherhood and those of whoredom.

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FILTHYRATBAG

Celeste Mountjoy aka Filthyratbag is a Melbourne based illustrator and comic artist who maintains amusingly clever everyday observations of living in the 21st century online via Instagram. Often rendered as simple digital illustrations, photos of her sketchbook and selfies, her artwork has caught the attention of hundreds of thousands of loyal followers around the world.

Having already exhibited artwork internationally and being featured in a vast collection of well-regarded publications, we look forward to hosting Celeste's first solo exhibition at Backwoods Gallery.

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Fresh Blood group show
Aug
10
to Aug 19

Fresh Blood group show

Simply and respectively, a selection of professional Australian artists who we love, but are yet to be exhibited at Backwoods Gallery. Without further ado let us introduce you to the Fresh Blood line-up.

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Georgia Hill

Georgia Hill is an Australian artist, specialising in contemporary, often site-specific based artworks that combine bold, monochromatic textures and lettering within experimental compositions.

Using a range of mediums, her instantly recognisable aesthetic can be read in terms of connections, relationships, time, place and community. Over the past four years, Hill’s works have developed from smaller exhibition works to large-scale installations that explore how structures and our natural environments are vital in allowing experiences to exist and develop from one physical context to another. 

Hill's works have spanned small inner-city walls to 400ft abandoned buildings across Canada, New Zealand, Iceland, The United States, Japan, Indonesia, and across Australia’s states.

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Minna Leunig

Minna Leunig is a Melbourne based artist working primarily in black and white pigments to create playful, primal and earthy images inspired by the natural world. Her work is characterised by a wandering hand and an intuitive lyrical approach to aesthetics.

Having grown up in rural North-East Victoria, Minna spent countless hours throughout her childhood and teenage years with her dogs, wandering the bush on foot and on horseback. Here she developed a profound love and respect for the Australian landscape and all its life forms. The presence of animals both wild and domesticated, as well as the many botanical varieties found in her early environment have been a strong influence, and her work often pays homage to these plants and animals, seeking to illustrate them as unique species and individuals – full of character, personality and spirit, in a world that so often commodifies, devalues or destroys them. Her recurring motifs affirm the strength and integrity of  the natural world, and include the vital wild elements of joy, humour and beauty, inspired by the life force of the bush and a deep abiding connection to country and its creatures.

As well as having exhibited at galleries such as Outré, Montsalvat, Neon Parlour and Lamington Drive, Minna has a keen interest in bringing art out of gallery spaces and into the public realm through street art, working by the philosophy that art should be an integral part of everyday life, and accessible to all.

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Tom Gerrard

Tom Gerrard’s art career started in the mid-90s where his art could be found on the streets of Melbourne. These days, he’s globally known for painting simplified characters, architecture and nature using a minimal colour palette. The characters and elements that make up his paintings have been inspired by people he’s seen and places he’s been. 

Tom’s gallery work is an evolution of style and technique that was learned painting on the streets. He has fused this style with acrylic paints, water colours and any other materials that he can find in his studio.

After eight years of travelling around the world, Tom returned to Melbourne in 2016. Since then he has placed his artistic focus exclusively on Australian life, suburban culture and his natural surroundings. He has utilised his thirteen years working as a graphic designer, and as a result his art has a graphical look as he works with a minimal colour palette and strips back his subjects to simple shape and line work.

Tom has settled back into Melbourne life where he paints murals at large art festivals across the country, exhibits in prestigious galleries such as Bromley & Co and Benalla Art Gallery and collaborates with some of the country’s biggest names in contemporary art.

In February 2016, Tom moved back to Melbourne where he continues to work as an artist and run his art podcast, Bench Talk. 

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Robert Bowers

Robert Bowers has been refining his painting techniques for over a decade, with the wild world a common theme over this time. 

A tropical, colourful setting suffuses many of his paintings, creating a warm palette and mood.

Bowers paintings typically highlight lost scenes set within lush foliage, sometimes including hidden figures, both human and animal. Roberts work combines the beauty of nature with the unexpected simplicity of the everyday norm, creating a sense of nostalgia and wonder.

His creations come in all forms of sizes; from intricate paintings the size of a post card, to large scale murals that still present the same amount of detail.

Robert has held numerous solo exhibitions across Australia over his career and has also been shown in numerous exhibitions further abroad; including New York, London and Singapore.

Bowers is an Australian artist, currently living in Melbourne.

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Al Stark

Al Stark’s work exists out of personal necessity as opposed to any particular career choice or need to belong. It is through an innate drive that he is able to form purpose and order to make some kind of sense within his existence, and its place in the world.

It is a practice, which primarily concerns itself with the malignant complexities of the human condition, where a theatre of symbolic forms and action are able to play out complex narratives.

Al has maintained a creative space operating largely outside conventional trajectories, choosing to follow where the work takes him and where it can adapt. This has led to a diverse range of work practice, commissions and approach including wall painting, printmaking, film, installation, sculpture, drawing, tattoo and studio painting.

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Matthew Fortrose

Based in Adelaide, working full time as an artist oscillating between painting, installation and sculpture. Fortrose likes the freedom of being able to bounce between mediums and enjoys using elements from each part of his practice to build a stronger identity for his paintings.

Abrupt and immediate ideas around composition and structure hold the attention in Matthew’s mural, studio and installation work. 

Drawing influence from colour field painting and early Bauhaus graphics, the use of rudimentary tools and industrialised processes assist in constructing a strong visual language towards his work.

Using documentation of a built environment, interventions within urban space and explorations into materiality, his works seeks to engage an audience through a series of persistent investigations around the use of public space, and how that communicates to a formal studio practice.

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Tristan Kerr

Tristan Kerr (born Melbourne, 1985) is an artist and typographer whose work reflects on cultural diversity, consumerism and advertising, and the tensions between subjects who exist within these worlds, as he combines fragments of street signage, mark making, graffiti and abstraction through his works.

Through his practice, Kerr interrogates the ever-changing face of the city and its typographic ephemera, portraying the disregarded surfaces of urban life in his paintings, sculptures and large-scale installations. His fixation with fleeting urban street views was fuelled by the several years he spent working and exhibiting in Paris—as he noticed the disregarded shopfronts with fading hand-lettered signage, the sprawling graffiti and the torn metro posters that adorn the cities walls, forming part of its cultural archive.

Kerr’s works encourage people to stop, look and question their surroundings, considering other possibilities for what public space might constitute. Kerr has exhibited locally and throughout Europe.  

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James Dodd

James Dodd exhibits regularly across Australia in publicly funded institutions, commercial galleries and artist-run spaces. He works across a range of mediums with particular interests in painting, machines as art, graffiti, adventure and public space. He maintains a curiosity in sheds, backyards suburbia  and the creative activities and transgressions that occur in these spaces. 

Dodd is active as an educator at Adelaide Central School of Art and regularly delivers youth and community based arts programs across a range of outcomes. Dodd is represented by Hugo Michell Gallery, Adelaide.

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Jack Rowland

Jack Rowland is a Melbourne-based artist, whose chromatic and saturated landscape paintings aim to offer alternative perceptions of the natural world. Rowland holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Painting) from RMIT University, Melbourne.

He has been exhibiting nationally and internationally including James Makin Gallery, Anna Pappas Gallery, Linden New Art, Rubicon ARI, Blindside Gallery, Flinders Lane Gallery and Kunstraum Tapir (Berlin).

Rowland received the Hawkesbury Art Prize Highly Commended Award in 2015, and has also been short listed for a number of prizes such as Bayside Aquisitive Art Prize, Albany Art Prize and Substation Art Prize.

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In My Room by Helen Gory
Jul
20
to Aug 5

In My Room by Helen Gory

Exhibition Essay

"Mother says there are locked rooms inside all women; kitchen of lust, bedroom of grief, bathroom of apathy." 

– from 'The House' by Warsan Shire

In My Room is the telling title of Helen Gory's newest body of works - at once an invitation and a provocation. Strongly symbolist in nature and style, she has created a blueprint that challenges the viewer to encroach on her personal space; both as audience and interrogator.

Gilt-laden images are scratched into the paper, challenging its singular appearance. I am reminded of Austrian-born artist Gustav Klimt, who once said something like 'art is a line around your thoughts'. This idea resonates throughout Gory's works, which are at once deeply personal and universal. Draw a line; make a point; take a stand; risk something.

Gory's oil-stick women delve backwards into unrevealed pockets of spaces, memories compartmentalised into separate 'rooms'. Her challenge - and ours - is to slowly, carefully unpack these subtle chimeras; expose their interior to the outer world. Woman with Leaf speaks loudest without uttering a word. Verging on naïve, these night-shade women hover between darkness and illumination. Their talisman tools may well be props; striking a pose that both regales and invites us inside. 

– Vicki Finkelstein, Art Curator

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Helen Gory’s art pivots upon its connections. Its power lies in its links. Her images seem to unspool and reveal an almost filmic flow of associations. Golden Repair, the title of her solo exhibition refers to the Japanese procedure of Kintsugi – a process that brings together and reconnects fragments of that which was once whole; it is, in essence, an embrace of imperfection. For Gory, the procedure stands as an analogy of the honest acceptance of often overlooked and almost forgotten aspects of her inner self.
— Ken Wach, Associate Professor and former Principal Research Fellow and Head of the School of Creative Arts at The University of Melbourne
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Helen Gory

Helen Gory opened her own contemporary commercial art gallery in 1995. Helen Gory Galerie was a pioneer in supporting emerging practitioners, many of whom have gone on to become Australia's leading visual artists. In 2008, Gory closed her gallery to pursue a long-unfulfilled desire to make art.

Gory's work is best described as visual stories where humour and joy sit side-by-side with the shadows that they cast. She is concerned with uncovering what is hidden, with the act of revelation. Through the repeated motifs of fragmented body parts, women, and elements of the natural world, her often-surreal images speak of desire, longing, angst and the power of transformation.

Gory works across various medium to construct these visual narratives. Her first primary medium, collage, allows her to deconstruct, fragment, (dis)connect and reassemble, the process of creation a metaphor for the complexity and layering of human experience. More recently, Gory has segued from collage to painting and drawing. Using oil stick, graphite and charcoal in scribbling and scratching-like motions, she adds/removes layers in a repetitive act of mark-making that is intrinsic to the interior world she is revealing. 

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Utopia by Adam Kinninmont
Jul
6
to Jul 8

Utopia by Adam Kinninmont

Backwoods Forewoods 1

Since our beginnings, Backwoods has always fostered local and young artists. As we move into the future, Backwoods Forewoods aims to stay true to this ethos, fostering relationships with the next generation of up and coming Australian artists. Through this program, Backwoods Forewoods will spotlight young and local talent through a series of weekend exhibitions designed to support and promote our favourite emerging artists.

It’s our pleasure to launch the program with a long time friend of the gallery, Adam Kinninmont, and his collection titled Utopia.

#backwoodsforewoods

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Exhibition essay

Kinninmont’s latest series claims its title somewhat ironically. In this body of work, the Western mirage of a sublime suburban existence is dissolved, and seen to be degraded, used, worn down over time by the grind and grit of everyday life. These street moments are composed from his own observation and exploration of Melbourne suburbia, in particular the older industrial suburbs of Collingwood and Brunswick. They are inspired by his interest in art deco and European style architecture, and of the tradition of architectural design illustration, which provides the backdrop for the ephemeral graffiti conversation irrepressibly expressed onto the scene. With inspiration drawn from the late Howard Arkley’s bright, highly stylised Melbourne suburbia paintings, Kinninmont’s illustrations have an added element of unease and mischievousness, a nod to the lively street culture here. Characterised by a bold 80s colour palette, his energetic, gestural style is balanced with technically executed detail and stylised abstraction. The presence of people is noticeably missing from each scene, leaving the natural and designed elements to be admired. However, this is no House & Garden magazine dream: you can see the cracks.
 
Words by Helani Laisk


A. Kinninmont

Adam Kinninmont, formerly known as Swerfk, is a Melbourne-based graphic artist. In his earliest memory of drawing, he is a four year old, pausing a Disney cartoon in order to trace over the character on the screen. This childhood exposure to TV animation and comic books, and later the skate and graffiti scene of his youth, has all played a role in the development of his artistic vision and unique graphic style. Since completing a Bachelor of Visual Arts in Printmaking and Drawing at the ANU in Canberra, Kinninmont has exhibited throughout Australia and internationally. His focus has recently shifted from graffiti to fine art graphic work. ‘Utopia’ is his first exhibition under his real name.

Selected works

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Phantom Pain by Yusk Imai and Dante Horoiwa
Jun
8
to Jun 24

Phantom Pain by Yusk Imai and Dante Horoiwa

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Artists Statement

During one of our many discussions in the studio, we came across a hidden sensation, something that is always present, yet it’s causes or even the meaning of its existence still felt very abstract, but we agreed in describing it as a dull but constant pain. This is our attempt to interpret this well of abstract sensations, and during this process we hit many notes, but one in particular kept showing up over and over for both of us, death. Maybe the fear of it, maybe what it leaves behind for the living, whatever it is, it exists. This phantom pain keeps us going, fuelling our actions in life, always present, like gravity flowing through us and all things, always wise, reminding us, ironically, that everything is impermanent. We hope that you may welcome this pain with warmth, and that it may feel less abstract now, as it does for us, through our exhibition Phantom Pain at Backwoods Gallery.

- Yusk Imai and Dante Horoiwa

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Yusk Imai

Yusk Imai

Yusk Imai is a self-taught contemporary artist who was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1982, to a Japanese descendent family. At the age of 6 months, his family migrated to São Paulo where he lived until recently. Since 2007, Yusk has exhibited extensively within galleries, at art fairs and on the streets of Europe, USA, Australia and South America.

The flat perspectives and dramatic curves demonstrated in Imai’s work is reminiscent of Art Nouveau greats such as Gustav Klimt. His work exposes the rawness of humanity through surreal landscapes and characters reeking of maniac behaviour, insomnia, suffering and self-exploration, Imai’s paintings and drawings seem to lure us into a curious state of awe and questioning.

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Dante Horoiwa

Dante Horoiwa

Dante Horoiwa is a self-taught contemporary artist who was born in São Paulo, Brazil in 1988, to a Japanese descendent family. Recently, Horoiwa has exhibited his paintings at the El Centenario Museum in Mexico, with further features in United States, South and North American galleries, as well as large-scale murals on the streets of East and West Europe.

His work frequently deals with themes closely connected to the foundations of human existence, which are universal to all living beings. Using a placid colour scheme of neutral shades, Horoiwa’s paintings, drawings and murals possess a mysterious, spiritual and soulful tonality. His work delves into the depths of human experience to explore the seen and unseen, using familiar devices such as long hair, textiles, plants and threads to connect the various forms and evoke our sense of something magical and supernatural.

Selected Artworks

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The Human Intervention by Beastman
May
4
to May 20

The Human Intervention by Beastman

Exhibition Essay

Earth as we know it is an incredibly structured and harmonious network of interconnected systems that have slowly developed over the last 4.5 billion years or so. From the smallest bacteria to the largest of oceans, all life on Earth has one common ancestor. Everything is connected to everything. So how is it that our species has come to dominate our planet? And more so, what gives us the right to do so?

The ability for humans to manipulate the landscape and recognise the consequences of doing so puts us in a peculiar position. As a species, we are assigned the purpose to provide and procreate. Our common goal is to achieve stability for ourselves and our kin. However, to accomplish balance we must maintain the environment, as we depend on its cycles and resources to cultivate the bare necessities we require for survival. And so, the question then becomes: what is the future of nature? 

In his latest work, Brad Eastman (Beastman) depicts the potential future of Earth through a series of formulated painterly systems; balancing geometry, measurement, movement and colour to create symbolic contemporary landscapes. The work takes on an aerial viewpoint, looking down upon the human intervention, allowing us to consider the complex interplay of nature alongside the man-made, to creatively observe the consequences of our actions. 

Through his latest collection ‘The Human Intervention’, Beastman does not seek to answer the question of our role in nature instead, he invokes enquiry through the considered composition of key shapes and lines that resemble the manipulation of natural landscapes and environments. So that the question remains: what is the future of nature?

Beastman, Bradley Eastman

Beastman (Bradley Eastman) is a multidisciplinary artist from Sydney, Australia.

Born 1980 in Sydney, Australia.

Influenced by the biodiversity, symbolism and design aesthetics behind nature’s repetitive geometric growth patterns and organic landscapes, Beastman's paintings, digital illustration, commercial projects and public murals explore a unique visual language, depicting future environments of abstracted landscapes, potential new life forms and human intervention.

One of the most distinctive and prolific emerging contemporary artists from Australia, Beastman has exhibited his artworks extensively around the world, has curated and organised numerous international art exhibitions and projects, and has been commissioned by the likes of Element, Facebook, Vivid Sydney, Mini, Apple, Westfield, Red Bull, Stockland, Hyundai and more. His artwork was recently acquired by the National Gallery of Australia, and his large solo and collaborative mural works can be found all over Australia and around the world.

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Scarlet by James Reka
Mar
23
to Apr 8

Scarlet by James Reka

Exhibition Essay

Have you ever felt that things are not within your power? Meekness is a fiendish strategy to hold intact all that is dreadful and extreme. Self-subversion and asceticism hold strong, but quietly and softly the eyes of the charming and innocent boggle upwards at the hedonist. She unveils the dark ritual of work, eat, sleep, repeat - the catalepsy caused by first world existence; escalating the desire for pleasure to it’s all mighty destruction. She is Scarlet.

From the roaring 1920’s to the second World War, and the Berlin Wall that divided the German Capital for 28 years - Berlin has historically been a dark dystopia, juxtaposed between desire and destruction. The fate this city bore has given birth too unique cultural grounds, where the line between high life and underground are inescapably blurry. Nourished by street art, punk culture, techno music, sexual laxity and hedonism - a new generation has transformed the artefacts of Berlin's dark past to create a Scarlet utopia of the post-war state.

Metaphoric notions of reconstruction are actualised through the post-cubist, industrial stylisation of the female form that features throughout Reka’s latest works - both painted and sculptural. The ‘Scarlet’ collection bears Rekas iconic visual language, with hints of a modern romance amidst historical sculptural artefacts, erotic art forms and Berlin's unavoidable pleasures.

James Reka

James Reka stands as one of Australia's most respected contemporary artists, having earn't his place in the National Gallery of Australia's permanent collection. While currently based in Berlin, Germany. His origins lie in the alleyways and train lines of Melbourne’s inner-suburbs, where he spent over a decade refining his now-emblematic aesthetic and pioneering of a new style of street art in Australia as part of the Everfresh crew. 

Surrealist, abstracted characters emerge from the depths of Reka’s mind, communicating through strong lines, bold colours and post-cubist styling. Theses figures live in the homes and laneways of three continents, clambering up walls and enriching the urban environment with his iconic visual language. 

With influences in pop culture, cartooning and illustration, Reka’s studio style emerged from his early design practice, featuring striking lines and colour ways. Over time, the logos and symbols he created evolved into more structured, animated forms and evolved to new mediums: murals, photography, and most recently sculpture. 

Through these origins, Reka has developed an incredibly diligent, almost obsessive attention to the technical proficiency of his studio work, which has elevated him to produce meticulously detailed, collected pieces. His art sits somewhere between humorous and menacing, contrasting the two opposing feelings in a way that is unique to his vision. These pseudo-human forms are recognisable but isolating, playful yet eerie. 

This is Reka’s art: a paradox between fastidious design and graffiti. 

Recently, Reka has held solo shows in London, San Francisco, Denmark and Melbourne, has exhibited at the Royal West of England Academy (RWA) in Bristol, as well as pieces appearing in New York, Munich, Denver and Cologne exhibitions. On the streets, his characters adorn the walls of cities around the world from Japan to Milan and Paris to Brooklyn, Montreal and Berlin.

Selected Artworks

Skulptur, Scarlet by James Reka

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Ora Ora by Shohei Otomo
Nov
24
to Dec 10

Ora Ora by Shohei Otomo

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Exhibition Essay

Japanese culture is engaged in an ongoing battle against two opponents; it’s youth and the West. Like a colossal Sumo wrestler with expert cultural judo, by using its opponents own weight as a weapon, Japan somehow keeps the fight in equilibrium. It rolls with each blow, assimilates culture, pushes back with its own creations and always finds balance.

The Japanese phrase 'ORA ORA' has no direct English translation. It’s a threat or battle-cry, commonly used by Japanese low-lives and thugs. Recently, the phrase has also found itself used in Manga as the onomatopoeia for exertion while punching or kicking someone repeatedly, with ironic undertones. 'ORA ORA' is a deceptively complicated phrase and a fitting title for this exhibition. Like everything that Shohei does, his choice of title has a layered meaning that elegantly ties into show’s central theme.

On the macro level, Japans cultural dynamic with the West can seem fluid. It has, after all, been going on for centuries. However, on the smaller scale, for Japanese individuals, this dynamic often results in a conflicting sense of cultural identity. Irreconcilably different aesthetics and contradictory philosophies occupy the Japanese consciousness; Tea ceremonies and vending machines, Buddhism and consumerism, Zen simplicity and a frenetic mess of logos. All vying for positions in the Japanese psyche. The resulting tension and its social implications thematically lie at the core of this exhibition.

ORA ORA's hero image, 'Counterstrike', portrays three schoolboys armed with bats knocking a salaryman to the ground. The boys slap the smart-phone out of his hand and prepare to stomp the crap out of him. The boy in the centre of the composition, the one wearing a Superman t-shirt, bites his bottom lip as he prepares to swing a bat into the man’s head. The three boys wrists and bags are adorned in car-keys and watches. Status symbols of consumerist Japan, reduced to the trophies of a tribalist backlash, presumably looted from other attacks. This is traditionalism responding violently to the shallowness of modernity. The words ‘New Era’ on the boy’s cap takes on a new meaning when written Kanji and supported by the nationalistic stickers that decorate the nailed bat in the foreground.

Shohei's illustrations depict the negative aspects of modernity and progress. His main message is clear - a simple critique of consumerism. But if we look deeper, there is more to this illustration. As Japan’s population ages, it has turned it’s back on Family in favour of materialism. The youth, in this case, are paradoxically presented as the protectors of ancient cultural traditions. By portraying the youth as the custodians of tradition, Shohei is suggesting that there is an optimal social structure partly nested in traditional values. Furthermore, when viewed in the context of Japan’s cultural dynamic with the West, the Superman t-shirt signifies imported popular culture while at the same time alludes to the Western philosophical rejection of nihilistic materialism. In both senses, it is a foreign concept that has been repurposed to support the preservation of Japanese culture. A perfect example of Japan’s adaptive 'cultural judo' cleverly hinted to us through Shohei’s use of symbolism.

Shohei Otomo is the most talented person I know. His technique is incredible, his work is flawless and his imagery is awe inspiring. But, technique alone is superficial, and it does not define a great artist. What makes Shohei Otomo a great artist is his sophisticated and elegant use of symbolism. Everything in Shohei’s work has significance. Each symbol within Shohei's work has layered and dynamic meanings which illustrate a critical meta-analysis of modern Japanese society.

This is the essence of Shohei’s work and I invite you to approach each piece in his show with this in mind.

Written by and from the perspective of Alexander Mitchell

Shohei Otomo

Working mostly in ballpoint pen, Shohei Otomo’s insightful depictions of Japan expose both it's commercial facade and deepest underground culture.

Delivered with an unmistakable level of biting political analysis and technical perfection, Shohei’s work straddles the worlds of art, graphic design, anime and punk.

Son of the legendary Katsuhiro Otomo the prolific author and illustrator who has shaped so much of Japanese culture with titles such as AKIRA, Shohei’s work takes his fathers legacy into the next generation.

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Facing Deconstruction by Unwell Bunny
Oct
20
to Nov 5

Facing Deconstruction by Unwell Bunny

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Exhibition Essay

Facing Deconstruction is somewhat of a self-portrait for Unwell Bunny otherwise known as Ed Bechervaise.

A point of reflection both on himself and an art movement he has a lengthy relationship with.

It is a pivotal point in an art career emerging from graffiti, growing through street art and moving into the urban contemporary art world. The road to this show has taken many twists and turns arriving to almost ponder through a deconstructed analytical view.

Facing deconstruction, looks at many of the faces that have played a part in not only inspiring an urban contemporary art path, but have been instrumental in evolving an entire movement in Australia. De bunking the faces that Ed grew up on through fifteen year and longer journey in the urban arts. Captured are faces of Ed’s contemporaries, mentors, figure heads and new breed of an independent dis establishment art movement. Each person is an individual, unique and forward focused. A provocateur, instigator, rebel ideologist. These are the portraits of the anti establishment, that in time should be considered in new established importance. They are the new change.

This body of work is much a moment in time, as it is a reflection on the influential figure heads in an ‘Unwell Bunny’ career. A documentation of thinkers that will no doubt go on to influence the next generation of artists, art books and with all hope, The Australian Museum establishment.

It creates a new point of view for the artist, one that analyses its surrounds, through a deconstructed frame. Focused on the immediate reality, but infused with the emotion of the past, this aesthetic documents reality now, rather than dancing off into experience, as Ed has done in previous shows. We see the artists studio, his home, and his subjects through his reality.

A view that continues to be influenced by the deconstructive traits of past artists such as Miro, Picasso, Magritte, Lichtenstein,but with the ferocity of the new urban, the electric city and the rapid consumer mindset.

In recoding this time through urban faces and compositional moments, Ed has laid his focused on the now, and emerged confidently to move forward in a way that looks to further simplify reality boldly, striking, un a bashed and deconstructed into something unique. The simplified constructs of a new urban life and the future of a movement paved by pioneers with distinct and striking vision, of which will no doubt evolve into the next evolution as the view forward continues.

Unwell Bunny

Unwell Bunny's artist history begins in Adelaide, Australia as a young 16 year old teen spraying walls and train lines. His initial ideas grew from 90's graffiti following a mix of both letter and character based aerosol art.

He moved to Melbourne in 2002 and began showing his work in Melbourne galleries. He became active in the Melbourne street art scene leaving paste up and graffiti works through the lanes and suburbs of Melbourne.

He had his first solo exhibition at Per Square Meter in Melbourne, which was run by LA based duo Dabs Myla at the time. In 2012, he lived in Amsterdam and spent time with London graffiti and street art heavy weight D*Face and Parisian pop graffiti icon Tilt. There he painted projects for Amsterdam street artists the London Police. 

In early 2015, he had a solo show at Galerie Lacroix in Paris, which continued the theme of figurative, abstract painted works based on subconscious dialog and drawings based on a build-up of popular culture imagery. He is currently focusing on further investigation into the popular subconscious.

Selected Artworks

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Mirror Stage by Kim Hyunji
Sep
15
to Oct 1

Mirror Stage by Kim Hyunji

Exhibition Essay

Kim Hyunji, aka KIM KIM KIM, is a painter from South Korea, currently based in Melbourne, Australia. Recognising Australia’s multiculturalism and diversity, Hyunji's main subjects are the culturally attuned creatives of her generation, the Millennials. In real life and social media, she often observes the impacts of a globalised society - its conveniences, and pitfalls. Her unique style of portraiture is intended to portray the issues this generation is facing.

Her accurate yet expressive style embraces figural distortion to capture the internal reality of her subjects with the outward reality of their postures. In this exhibition, Kim Hyunji evokes feelings of her generation; alienation, angst, and perhaps hope of a brighter future. Hyunji is primarily interested in how social media can be used to create a persona. The internet offers us many tools in how we present our virtual presence to others, making the self-curation of our lives increasingly accessible.

“Social media can be useful for those wishing to write a particular narrative vision of themselves.”
- Kim Hyunji

Hyunji’s work investigates the cause and effects of curated self-presentation, and how it may be empowering, misleading, or influential. She calls to question what may get left behind after careful thought of self-image and is concerned with what may remain hidden or deemed unfit for external projections of character.

In collaboration with her models, Hyunji has created a stunning vignette into the lives of her peers, on canvas, acrylic and paper, beyond the self-curated images projected via social media.

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Kim Hyunji

Born in Washington. D.C., USA, 1992
Raised in Seoul, South Korea
Based in Melbourne, Australia

Kim Hyunji, Kim Kim Kim is an artist working predominantly with painting from South Korea, currently based in Melbourne. She completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts at Curtin University in 2014.

Recognising Australia’s multiculturalism and diversity, Kim’s main subjects are the culturally attuned creatives of her generation, the Millennials.

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Selected Artworks

Available upon request

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Equilibrium by Senekt
Aug
25
to Aug 27

Equilibrium by Senekt

Exhibition Essay

Harmony rings within the chaos of society. As life’s ups and downs cancel each other out, a sense of balance can be found. Wrestling with positive and negative forces, Senekt’s solo exhibition explores the impacts and outcomes of life’s fluctuating experiences. With artworks fuelled by emotion, Senekts surreal style is highlighted by the mood, colour, and balance of each piece. 

Senekt portrays the dissemblance of his own reality through hyper-realistic drawings flooded with color and surreal dimensions. The Japanese painter from Kyoto has been based out of Melbourne, Australia since 2013. Inspired by friendships, photographs, disjointed memories, everyday experiences, and daily occurrences, Senekt found balance through creation. His figurative, yet abstract style confront the nature of instinct as Senekt aims to not only deconstruct the human physicality, but also its psyche.

Fuelled by love/hate, good/evil, and ever-present mindfulness, Senekt's large suspended installation portrays his unique perspective on equilibrium in society.

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Senekt

Senekt is a Japanese painter from Kyoto who has been based out of Melbourne, Australia since 2013. His figurative paintings of human limbs and eyes adorn walls citywide.

Through his abstract works, Senekt aims to not only deconstruct the human physicality but also its psyche - exploring the meeting of the conscious and unconscious, existence and non-existence and the nature of instinctively.

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Self Loathing by Mic Porter
Aug
4
to Aug 20

Self Loathing by Mic Porter

Exhibition Essay

True artists are compelled to make art. The reason for their expression is not always important. What is always important, however, is the act of creation. Art comes before reason in the same way that the universe existed before science.

Mic Porter is one of those rare, great artists who is simply compelled to create. Mic isn’t driven by ‘career’ nor does he force himself to create consumable art. Mic is, instead, driven by a indefinable, fiery, energy of creation which torments him if he stops.

In his youth, this creative compulsion drove Mic towards graffiti. He forged ahead as one of Australia’s pioneer street artists, eventually to be tempered into a painter and sculptor by the VCA and experience at a bronze foundry.

Mic wrestles his demons with chainsaws, knives, markers and paint upon the battlegrounds of canvas, found objects, bronze and the exterior of tall buildings. His work is primal, expressive and above all, honest.

It’s easy to assume that Mic is a conduit for something that he doesn't understand; that his work is automatic and lacking self awareness. A subconscious process perhaps? After all, Mic’s work is primal, he is reserved and is reluctant to talk about his art. However, over the course of this project I have been impressed by the singularly sophisticated understanding that Mic has of his work and of art in general. Mic is not a spectator, he has mastered his drive, and is very much in control.

Perhaps even due to his reservation to talk about his work, Mic manages to express himself with the kinds of perfectly cryptic sound bytes that other artists drive themselves mad in an attempt to coin.

"Art is eternal narcissism, I’m a narcissist"

‘Self Loathing’ brings you a gallery full of screams, smiles and manic grins. In Mic's autobiographical collection of work, he's produced Totemic heads, brutally sculptured with from blocks of wood with a chainsaw sit in the centre of the large room, loomed over by the three largest Self Loathing paintings. The triptych feature Mic Porters iconic faces, instantly recognisable for the role that they’ve played in shaping Australia’s street art landscape for over two decades, now rendered in a mix of oil and enamel.

Each face is Mic’s, but also his family and society’s, he explains that it’s history coming through his face. I think that it’s more than that, I think Mic is so brutally honest with himself, that the self portraits end up reflecting all of us, which is why they’re so alluring and powerful.

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Mic Porter

Michael 'Mic' Porter studied at the Victorian College of Art, graduating in 2003 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, majoring in sculpture. Following his studies, Mic spent 8 years working for his VCA supervisor at Perrin Sculpture Foundry in Cheltenham, where he had the opportunity to learn modern and traditional bronze casting techniques.

The foundry offered Mic the privilege of working alongside many of Australia’s leading artists on the execution of major commissions. This time spent at the foundry enabled Mic to hone his casting and sculpting techniques, resulting in the production of two large bodies of work.

Mic's practice spans a wide variety of media including large scale murals, bronze, stone and timber sculpture, painting and printmaking. Constantly working with new and found materials, Mic is able to experiment with new techniques, informing his artwork as it evolves.

'Art is not just about technique. I believe that it is also about the mysteries of creativity and the ways in which creative people serve to enrich our understanding of who we all are.'
- Michael Porter

Selected Artworks

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Jul
7
to Jul 23

The Resistible Rise of a Bear of Little Brain by Stephen Ives

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Exhibition Essay

Stephen Ives, employs a rare level of expert craftsmanship to present an unfiltered and lucid exploration of his brilliant imagination. Ives' subconscious pours free-style poetry into his sculptures and illustrations, lacing his work with a playful language of archetypal symbols and colours.

As his audience, we are free to enjoy the surreal, superficial brilliance of a B17 Bomber with a baby's face or a gun turret placed in dissected eyeball. However, if we choose to delve deeper into his work there is hidden meaning in each and every detail, waiting for us to decipher.

Ives describes his work as 'bricolage', a French term, recently popularised by artists such as Tom Sachs and mockingly employed to affect a pretentious air upon a style of art that essentially uses found objects or sometimes even just junk. Stephen Ives brings a new level of abstraction to the tradition by working with discarded toys, cut-up and expertly resculpted and repurposed. The inherent cultural references that the toys lend each sculpture is actually where the symbolic subtext of Ives’ work is most apparent. If his subconscious is talking to us through his art, his inner child is without doubt the ring leader.

On July 7th, Stephen Ives is opening ‘The Resistible Rise of a Bear of Little Brain’, a pseudo-historical war museum at Backwoods Gallery. Running until July 23rd, the collection of dioramic sculptures, historic sketches and priceless war paraphernalia recounts the key events in the darkest chapter of recent fictional history, ‘The Great Pooh War’. The megalomaniacal transformation of Winnie the Pooh from silly old bear to vicious dictator poised to take possession of the one hundred acre woods.

More than a fictional universe which has been developing in Ives' head since 2002, ‘The Great Pooh War’ is a stern warning of the dangers inherent in the lust for power and honey. It is a tale of what happens when the seams of society come undone and madness takes hold, with an absolutely uncanny similarity to our own world. Go figure.

It is also, of course, a brilliantly conceived and executed, absurdist exhibition of fantastically detailed sculptures, illustration and installations by an artist who we consider a treasure to the Australian art scene and who we are extremely proud to work with.

Stephen Ives

Architect of fantastic worlds.

Through a language of seemingly cool and indifferent symbols, Stephen Ives presents us with a colour-coded manual to the human psyche.

However, upon reading these symbols, you quickly realise that there is nothing cool or indifferent about the contents spelt therein. Through the poetry of his language, Stephen bares the naked confessions of an honest mind, brutally uncompromising and universally relatable.

Working mostly in illustration and a form of sculpture that Stephen refer to as ‘bricolage’, his metaphors are blended with artistry and flawless technique into a dreamscape reminiscent of the Franco-Belgian Bande dessinée and the early surrealists. You are reminded of your first love, your secret identities and the things of which you dare not speak.

Selected Artworks

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Transition by Deams
May
19
to Jun 4

Transition by Deams

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Exhibition Essay

Following on from ‘In The Fold’, Deams' positively received, debut exhibition, returns to Backwoods with ‘Transition’. 'Transition' marks a further progression and sophistication of his distinctive approach to painting and abstraction. This new body of work encapsulates the seemingly chaotic yet clearly directed nature of energy and form in a state of transition.

This transient metamorphosis allows us a momentary glimpse into the future of the artists work whilst simultaneously presenting a deep acknowledgement of the diversity of his past explorations. Confidently employing expressionist techniques, Deams’ distinct brushstrokes and multi-layered process guide the work into exciting new territory. The works evoke a deep sense of change and a fearless approach that has been demonstrated by the ubiquitous evolution in his work.

Deams

Painter, designer and geometric visionary Deams has been influencing the Melbourne street art scene for over a decade. A founding member of the infamous Melbourne collective AWOL Crew, his work can be found in both galleries and street contexts around the world.

Deams has an intuitive approach to painting and process, which allows for his work to oscillate between tangible and intangible forms and realities. He approaches his practice with a studious dedication to his past and the immediacy of his present, discovering links between the impressions of his childhood and his current ideas and experiences.

His work continues to explore aesthetic and interpersonal relationships through compositional conversations in form and texture.

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