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Michael Eather: adventure play ground at Newstead Studios

Exhibition title/s: Michael Eather: adventure play ground
Exhibition duration:  22 June – 19 July 2022
Where: Newstead Studios, 22 Ross St Newstead, Mon – Fri 7am – 2pm | Sat 12pm – 4pm
Exhibition opening
: 6-8pm Thursday 23 June
Media Contact: Michael Eather
Phone: 0418 192 845
Exhibition cost: Free

adventure play ground consists of 39 works (comprising 27 paintings and 12 sculptures) which will be exhibited at Newstead Studios, a short walk from Ghost Ship Studios established by the artist Michael Eather in 2019. Most of the works in this exhibition have been completed in the past 12 months. The artist’s personal visual language, developed over almost 40 years of practice, prevails with familiar imagery (like floating stingrays and rocks) featured amongst some mysteriously obscure imagery such as new pinstriped ‘wallpaper’ motifs.

When entering Newstead Studios from Ross Street, two large scale works welcome viewers. To the right is Yugen rooms. This brightly coloured and striped interior creates a background to imagined elements and puzzling shadows, which in reference to the Japanese ‘yugen’, both evolve and dissolve. On the left is the exhibition centrepiece, Adventure play ground. Louise Martin-Chew comments, “Eather uses the stingray as a type of psychological envoy drifting over philosophical coastlines… subliminally crossing over cultures, oceans, ideas.” The layered map harks back to the artist’s epic map works of 1990s, including two held in the QAGOMA collection. Within a child-like theatre of his new world arrangement, the stingrays mischievously drift and play.

Walking through the corridor gallery (linking the Ross Street and Wickham Grove entrances) is a suite of five vibrant square canvases. In each of these intensely coloured, striped compositions, nestle images of boomerangs, rocks, mirrors, stingrays and spherical globes. The artist’s quest for meaning has become an unfolding visual game in which the stingray, Eather comments, is often the central thread. The painting And so on…and so forth was recently featured in the 2021 Sunshine Coast Art Prize.

The ‘Arch room’ displays smaller canvases installed opposite eight framed watercolours, each with suggestive landscapes alluding to a seemingly personal mythology. Recurring images of convergence and opposing forces are at play as depicted by an airborne stingray gliding between two giant rocks, in works such as Philosophical landscape (gelati).

Eather’s titles, as well a range of bronze tabletop sculptures in this exhibition, also reference children’s games where identity and natural curiosity for the world can be found within symbolic play. Play ground  uses the universal codes of ‘rock paper scissors’ hand gestures. Sunny girl, presents a bright yellow portal and bronze stingray suspended within the ambiguous elliptical space of a two way mirror connected to its ‘black shadow’ base.

For Eather, much of his new work is about a ‘call to adventure’. His ongoing narrative has been one that encounters cultural collision and crossover. Eather comments: “The light-hearted title ‘adventure play ground’ salutes the idea that nothing after childhood can be that serious! In many ways I felt we must go back to the child’s mind in order to understand the value of symbolic play and risk taking in the world. These new artworks aspire to an intuitive sense of wonder… many are optically bright and playful but with an edge of mystery.’