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ALEX STALLING’s PORTRAITS [part two]

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Alex Stalling in her Portrait exhibition

Alex Stalling in her Portrait exhibition

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Portraits: Layers of Meaning

Portraits [part two] An exhibition by Alex Stalling at Culliford Gallery, Toowoomba. July 28 – August 24, 2014

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Alex Stalling’s latest exhibition Portraits [Part Two] will certainly challenge the idea we might have of what a portrait can be. The bare white walls of the Toowoomba Art Society’s Culliford House Gallery, are punctuated by 20cm square pieces of white art paper onto which the artist has meticulously drawn and painted a ‘portrait’. Now these portraits are not of people we might know, someone famous, auntie Ethel, a sleeping child or a happy couple – they are … of animals – meta animals!

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Alex Stalling's Portrait exhibition

Alex Stalling’s Portrait exhibition

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Stalling has essentially created works made up of the shape or outlines of different animals. The animals sometimes morph and overlap – other times they are juxtaposed to suggest associations. A deer’s head and antlers adjoin a similar shape at 180o to form what looks like tree roots. A prancing deer dances with the outline of a upright bear. A moose stands on top of another, and a doe stands yet again on top! These works are like Mr Squiggle drawings gone wrong, or prints where the paper has jammed in the printer.

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Portrait #5

Portrait #5

Portrait #36

Portrait #36

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Many animals are bedecked with garlands of pink and orange flowers. This decorative element links individual artworks in the exhibition. A limited palette of flat colours of brown, orange, bright blue, pink and dark green also provides a cohesive aspect to the show.

The confusion of meaning continues. As if to create a cryptic challenge to the viewer – the animal outlines are partially filled-in often with bright and fluoro colours, but not in ways that help identification. The colouring implies another shapes or patternings which are partially obscured by the outlined edge of the animal. It is as though the animal outline has been cut out to reveal the abstract flat colour shape below on a background sheet.

 

#9

Portrait #9

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From a distance the outlines and colour shapes may appear to the gallery visitors as maps of continents, countries or localities. The colours perhaps define boundaries within those spaces. Moving up-close the another interpretation emerges – but it too, as discussed, is puzzling. Every image becomes a game, a riddle of confused meaning, a mind recognition trick, something that can amuse, entertain or stimulate the viewer to action.

Just who are these animal motifs a portrait of? The artist? A thought? And idea? A dream or muse, or influence? Or all of these…

The strength of Alex Stalling’s Portrait works is that they are not unchallenging easy-lookers, but rather works that demand the viewer to seek within themselves a resolution to a visual challenge – there, maybe they will find their ‘portrait’, and the meaning within the artworks.

Perhaps too, when an artist does a portrait, it also becomes a self-portrait of the artist themselves …

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Doug Spowart

August 12, 2014

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MORE INFORMATION 

 

http://www.alexstalling.com/

 

THIS SUNDAY in the exhibition space:

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 10.48.30 pm

https://www.facebook.com/bespokemarkets

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Text and installation photos ©2014 Doug Spowart     All artworks ©2014 Alex Stalling

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