The Nishi Gallery is a cultural space in Canberra, Australia. It explores human experience through the lens of local identity, objects and their meaning; the natural and built world; design experimentation and artisanal making. Our exhibitions program supports the subversive, the radical and the vernacular. Nishi Gallery is curated by Molonglo and made in collaboration with local, national and international artists and designers, creative and social enterprises, cultural organisations and independent curators via a submissions and commissions process.
The Magic of Country, Nishi Gallery, 2018
‘The Magic of Country’ presents over 50 works connected to a larger body of over 200 works initiated on a long ago trip to the MacDonnell Ranges, Alice Springs. Here, Lancashire sat and painted in the 40 degree heat. He looked and listened; and began to feel something else. He started out painting ‘landscape’ but ended up painting ‘country’— it’s gaps, chasms and gorges.
Working for over 40-years in cross-cultural contexts, Lancashire has seen the hard work that still needs to be done; but his works don’t get bogged down in this. They are optimistic and hopeful. They are a celebration of the rugged beauty and fragility of the Australian landscape; a place he describes as one of the most beautiful on the planet. He hopes the works will spark a curiosity in others. A curiosity to go, to see it, to smell it, to feel it. ‘The Magic of Country’ is a reminder that nature requires our nurture; and that we all have a role to play in turning the tide whether that be through activism, expression, communication, acknowledgement or appreciation.
New Documents: all true things are equal, Nishi Gallery, 2017
The exhibition presents formally and poetically charged sequences of abstract natural constructs as part of a larger meditative practice by the artist. The title of the show takes its cues from the 1967 MoMA exhibition of three relatively unknown (at the time) photographers Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, and Garry Winogrand; that had a lasting influence on modern photography. Here, Celestino continues to redirect the techniques and aesthetics of both colour theory and landscape photography ‘to more personal ends’. This show brings together images, made in places the artist has visited and revisited over several years. As no image exists in isolation, the sum of this abstract survey details the elusive relationships and primitive responses that all we all have with discovery and the natural world.
Celestino’s work is specifically Australian. Rather than being influenced by ‘exotic’ locations, he focuses on landscapes within the immediate vicinity of his Randwick home; places he can return to again and again as part of an obsessive and endless study. He works with the light and colour of Australia’s eastern coast. Celestino shoots on film using a large format analogue camera. He handprints all images in his studio using a De Vere enlarger.
Through the presentation of his photographs in exhibition format Celestino questions ideas of value. By intentionally rejecting formal presentation methods he asks how we assign value to photographs.
Famiglia: Oh Holy Father, Nishi Gallery, 2017
In 2015, Chrystal Rimmer spent nine weeks at Ikuntji Artists, an aboriginal artists centre situated in MacDonnell Ranges in the Northern Territory. The Ikuntji community instilled in her the importance of family, spirituality and understanding ancestry, and this experience sparked the creation of this new body of work, titled ‘Famiglia: Oh Holy Father’.
Rimmer embarked on a journey of self-discovery that took her to Arcade in Treviso, Italy to meet her extended family and learn about her descent. ‘Famiglia: Oh Holy Father’ is an immersive family tree – a series of paintings of relatives and sacred spaces. While figurative the works are guided more by what Rimmer felt than what she saw. Architectural elements prevalent in Rimmer’s past painting series are present in these works as abstracted habitats. These habitats reflected her mood when creating the work and are at times representational of her subject’s personality.
Rimmer treats the canvas like a paper and the process of painting like sketching –predominately using charcoal, graphite and pastels. Colours have been inspired by her days wandering the Uffizi Gallery in between family meetings. Constructivist and Romanticist notions are visibly in the work – Rimmer describes these styles as an innate part of her visual vocabulary.
Through the work, Rimmer is asking a very personal set of questions: Who am I? Where do I fit? How do I interact with this space? While personal, these questions explore universal ideas of belonging and heritage – relevant to all of us. Through her work Rimmer suggests that tolerance for multiplicity could be grown through the discovery of our own personal identities. When it comes to our make up there are no borders, and we are all connected in ways we wouldn’t expect. What is “Australian” anyway.
Chrystal Rimmer is a recent BFA graduate of the National Art School, Sydney. She lives and creates work in Merimbula – a small town on the south coast of New South Wales, a place she describes as having “limited cultural diversity”
Legendary, Nishi Gallery, 2017
A series of philosophical ruminations by Canberra artist Sacha Pola. Pola incorporates classical forms, heroes and motifs into his paintings to convey, address and question universal themes such as moderation and excess, wealth and poverty, equality and disparity, adversity and opportunity, vanity and humility.
While drawing from classicism, the works have a spontaneous energy. Everyday materials are used in their creation. Wooden boards are coated with neutral tones. Figurative silhouettes are overlaid freehand with spray paint using flashes of colour. Pseudo landscapes are constructed around the figurative elements. Narratives unfold as the work is being created. Messages and meanings reveal themselves unexpectedly.
Pola’s paintings wrestle between the classical and the contemporary highlighting that many of the social concerns mused over by early civilisations are as relevant today as they were back then.
Borrow Tomorrow, Nishi Gallery, 2017
‘Borrow Tomorrow’ exhibited a new body of work by local Canberra artist Luke Chiswell. Through the work, Luke continued his exploration of objects within space –abstracting perception and scale. This exhibition was characterized by a liberal use of foraged materials such as fabric, dirt and wood; taken from Luke’s hometown of Collector in NSW.
Porosity Kabari, Nishi Gallery, 2017
‘Porosity Kabari’ was an exhibition by Australian object designer Trent Jansen, artist and architect Richard Goodwin and Indian design thinker Ishan Khosla. It ran in the Nishi1‘Nishi’ means ‘west’ in Japanese.It also relates to the last of three buildings built at the NewActon precinct: Nishi Commercial, Nishi Residential and Nishi Hotel Cinema Retail. Gallery from Friday 9 June 2017 – Sunday 9 July 2017.
‘Porosity Kabari’ was result of an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, collaborative project; the trio worked over three weeks to produce furniture and object pieces made from materials and craftsmanship sourced solely from the ‘Chor Bazaar’ (thieves market) and ‘Dharavi’ (the largest slum in earth) in Mumbai, India.
India is a place where resourcefulness is part of the everyday. The market neighbourhoods where this project took place are where many of India’s useful objects end up. It is also where they are often given a second life – car panels are transformed into ad hoc cookers and old clothing is quilted into rugs for snake charmers.
The setting and parametres of this project challenged the designers to make do with what was at hand and in doing so ‘Porosity Kabari’ presents an alternative model for sustainable design that is relevant to all of us, living anywhere. It investigates the cycle of use, reuse (and further reuse)—and
how we can, quite simply, use one thing to make another thing.
The exhibition explores cultural conditions and social structures specific to India but perhaps familiar to many developing nations. The idealised notion of “progress” is put into question, as is the cycle of consumerism and desire in globalised India. ‘Porosity Kabari’ celebrates craft but highlights how craftspeople are undervalued in contemporary Indian society.
The objects produced for ‘Porosity Kabari’ were made outside the industrialised system. Improvisation was the applied technique for making. Ideas were generated and design decisions were made on the fly, shaped by the daily observations and moods of the designers. ‘Porosity Kabari’ champions the ad hoc and builds appreciation of the makeshift. It reminds us to look to and learn from those countries where, for many, resources are scare and resourcefulness is a necessity.
Coincidences, Nishi Gallery, 2017
‘Coincidences’ was an exploration of the work of John Wardle Architects (JWA) carried out by a series of prominent architectural photographers and artist, Peter Kennedy. This exhibition interrogates the boundaries between public and private spaces. Can a foyer have the intimacy of a living room? How might a house have the civic atmosphere of a university hall? Photographers each visited two JWA buildings and took a single image of each site. The images are presented as a pair; thus drawing out points of commonality, ‘coincidences’, across seemingly unconnected architectural contexts.
Perfect Imperfect, Nishi Gallery, 2016
The exhibition, installed at the Nishi Gallery, sprung from the pages, and launched, a new book by the same name by Karen McCartney with photography by Sharyn Cairns and styling by Glen Proebstel, published by Murdoch Books.
‘Perfect Imperfect’ brought together contemporary design with well-worn objects to explore the established aesthetic of wabi-sabi from a new standpoint where craftspeople, designers and artists are combining handmade processes with new technologies for making. It explored concepts of mutability, ugliness, the unfinished and incomplete, irregularity, serendipity, weathering and decay, tranquility, modesty and contrast. It celebrated objects imbued with these values – their humanity, their poetry, their honesty.
‘Perfect Imperfect’ included more than 30 ceramics, art and sculptural pieces, textiles, photography and found objects to form one cohesive study of imperfection, highlighting the beauty of accident, age and patina.
Swarm Trap, Nishi Gallery, 2016
Swarm traps are safe houses for bees – small man-made structures designed to give bees refuge when they swarm seasonally, looking for a new home.
Swarming is the natural reproductive process of the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) super-organism. The goal of a swarm of bees is to establish a new colony in a new home. The queen bee leaves the hive with about half of the worker bees, her daughters, swarming around her. Meanwhile, in the hive they left behind, a newly hatched queen is born and the cycle of life continues.
The goal of a swarm trap is to catch swarms before the bees set up shop in an inappropriate place and the pest exterminator is called in. Catching a swarm encourages sustainable, backyard beekeeping – and the more bees under loving management in backyards the better these precious pollinators will be positioned to handle the looming threat of the varroa mite (Varroa destructor) and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Australia is currently varroa- and CCD-free. Here, we are experiencing a golden age of beekeeping.
The 12 objects exhibited are tributes to this good fortune, to honey bees and to sustainable, small-scale beekeeping. At the close of this exhibition the traps were installed out in the bush city and suburbs as working traps with ongoing documentation underway.
Swarm Trap was curated by Honey Fingers and MANY MANY and presented by Hotel Hotel.