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Amelia Gundelach is exemplary of the new crop of young freelance curators emerging in Brisbane, and her latest project for Smith + Stoneley brought together young female contemporary artists from Brisbane and Melbourne under the umbrella of the 'extraordinary'. The exhibition featured Vera Moeller, Bibi Chew, Sarah Bond, Pilar Rajas, Lisa Dittreich, Larissa Hjorth (from Melbourne), and Catherine Brown, Christine Morrow, Andrea Higgins, Janet Callinicos, Wanita Jones, Ann Louise Buck, Belinda Parslow, and Janette Schultz (from Brisbane). The title, extraordinary, was a conundrum in itself. The word describes something which is extra ordinary, and the premise for the exhibition, as developed by Gundelach, was an investigation of the beautiful within the banal, within the everyday. Indeed, while much of the work took its inspiration from the commonplace, and in many cases used manipulated found materials, the end product was on the whole intensely aesthetic.
Christine Morrow's work often explores the domain of the immediately familiar. For extraordinary, she lovingly fashioned huge band-aids which she then stuck to the wall to create interesting Sol le Wilt-like drawings. The title, Grand Mal, which describes a severe epileptic seizure, contrasted with the ineffectual, uncanny size of the bandaids. Ultimately the work was reminiscent of childhood prangs, and Mother's caring touch. In a similar manner, Melbourne artist Vera Moeller showed work from a series called Ego (relaxed. She employed latex gloves to create abundant wall hangings which were arranged in patterns to mimic, amongst other references, female underwear - or more specifically, frilly tennis underpants, flashes of which camera lenses thrill to all over the world.
In a collaboration, Melbourne artist Sarah Bond and Amelia Gundelach produced one of the stand-out works of extraordinary, with There's No Place Like Home, a large installation made from ox-hide dog chews in cutesy shoe shapes, with doormats stacked below. Their inspiration came from the abundance of $2 shops in downtown Melbourne, and the treasure troves they offer to enterprising artists. The highly lacquered red dog shoe chews in their rigid minimal arrangement on the wall, produced a work rich in humour, combined with an awareness of the aesthetic appeal of these funny little gimmicks.
Sarah Bond revived the seventies fashion for the diorama with her wonderfully witty take on the landscape tradition and the nature/culture dialogue, with a series of cheap puzzles, all depicting the same scene and mounted on canvas boards. The mass-produced puzzles were all slightly different in colour: some were intensely 'natural', and others bizarrely faded which lent the work a certain nostalgia. Melbourne artist Bibi Chew produced a beautiful, oval wall piece from luxurious, bright red silk cord, and dress making pins which were obsessively and delicately tied into Chinese frogging, then pinned on to the wall like little domestic specimens. Chinese Knotting took its inspiration from part of the artist's cultural heritage, the ancient Chinese language which preceded calligraphy. It is illustrative of a particular contemporary interest in all things postminimal. In many ways, the work might be seen as a beautiful articulation of Eva Hesse's own post-minimal project.
Of course, the great success of extraordinary was the consistency of the work selected to meet the curatorial criteria. The artists produced work across diverse mediums which ultimately were successful in making the extra ordinary, extraordinary, while avoiding the cliches about banality which are so bandied about in the nineties. Specifically, extraordinary is the kind of exhibition Brisbane has come to expect of Smith+Stoneley which continues to balance a commitment to contemporary art with commercial necessity.