Monday, April 16, 2018

Tributary Projects space offers 'Beers' and much more

Emma Beers, Tributary Project room shot
By Caren Florance

If you’re heading out to Fyshwick any weekend, maybe for some Sunday shopping or a sausage at Bunnings, take a small detour and have a look at a gallery that you might not know about: Tributary Projects. It’s up in Molonglo Mall, that strange little concrete complex that sits at the top of the roundabout at Wollongong and Newcastle Streets. There’s always something interesting happening there. A case in point is the most recent show, called ‘NOFEARSEMMABEERS.’

Emma Beer is a young, engaging artist who is just past that stage we call ‘emerging’. She wants to question, through material and process, what painting can be. She is thoroughly grounded in her art: she has been a technical assistant to a number of important contemporary artists, she’s the Technical Officer in the ANU School of Art + Design’s Painting Workshop, where she stretches canvases and wrangles classes, and she is an alumni of that workshop. She’s paid attention to the activities and attitudes around her. The work she makes is strong, abstract, and interesting, full of texture and feeling. People are starting to notice her efforts.
Emma Beers,'sink or swim,' 2018 acrylic on canvas 160x120
Each of her paintings is geometric in its composition, all squares and rectangles, each vertical and horizontal addition overlapping without wiping out the previous layer. The predominant colours in her show were blue and white, and they evoked a sense of looking out of an airplane window, across layers of clouds, through some kind of angular filter. A closer look showed that Beer made no attempt to give you an illusion of flat surface, or that the paint is anything but paint. Some layers are like whipped cream smoothed with a knife, others are thinner, looser, letting the light through. They create sharply delineated veils, crossing themselves. There are touches of red in the some of the canvases, sometimes obvious, other times in subtle places, like the sides of the canvas, leaving a dull glow against the wall.

I always give mental points to interesting titles in artwork, and extra points if the artist doesn’t use the title ‘untitled’. Often a title is what makes an abstract work sing, shifting us from the obvious to something poetic or surreal. Beer’s titles are always good, and they tend to reflect her life as she’s painting rather than what she’s painting, forming an ongoing biographical record. The title of the show stemmed from a surprise present from a friend: a mail package containing a string of wool hung with cardboard cut-out and painted lettering, made to be a banner or bunting, spelling the words N O   F E A R S   E M M A   B E E R S. It’s been hung in her bedroom for ten years as a reminder to be bold and fearless, and judging from her output, it’s been a good strategy.

Emma Beers is just one of many interesting offerings by Tributary Projects, which is an artist-run space in unit 9 of Molonglo Mall. It’s open Thurs–Sunday, 11am to 6pm, but can also be visited by appointment. Fyshwick is one of the last spaces in Canberra that offers small, strange, affordable spaces for artists to try experimental projects. It has a gallery and a performance space, and each month the website releases experimental music mixes called Spirit Theatre as a Sound Program. Everyone involved is a volunteer, and the artists who exhibit are a broad mix of emerging and mid-career. It’s an arts project to get behind, and always worth dropping into once you’ve had your sausage sanga.