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Parisian impressions from the Masters

A huge number of new shows have opened across the region over the last week with Newcastle Art Gallery, Maitland Regional Art Gallery and Lake Macquarie City ArtGallery all presenting multiple exhibitions. In addition, Curve Gallery and Art SystemsWickham have opened their 2016 calendar, and Newcastle Art Space, Back to Back,Nanshe Watt Space and Cooks Hill Galleries are showing a new group of localartists at different stages of their careers.

Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery is hosting Impressions of Paris, a beautifullypresented, major international exhibition from the National Gallery of Australia whichfeatures over 90 lithographs, monotypes and drawings by the French masters:Honoré Daumier, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Edgar Degas. This expansive body ofwork covers the second half of the 19th century and allows us to experience aspectsof Parisian life from the very personal perspectives of these artists and also gainsome understanding of the political, social, economic and artistic revolution of whichthey were a part.

It was through wildly irreverent caricatures in mass circulation journals from the 1830s that Daumier became famous. All aspects of Parisian life were under hishighly political gaze, especially the absurdity of the monarchy, the hypocrisy ofpoliticians, the ‘manners’ of the bourgeoisie and the plight of the poor, and throughthese beautifully drafted and printed lithographs we are able to enter this long pastworld.

Edgar Degas thought Daumier one of the three greatest draftsman of the 19th centuryand the modernity of his themes and unrestrained position outside the academy hada lasting influence on this earliest Impressionist. By the late 1860s, Degas’ focus wason the activities of urban people at work and leisure; at the café, racetrack, balletstudio, park and concert hall. In the 1870s he returned to lithography and monotypeprinting and these fascinating and delightful works come from this period.

There is no mistaking the dance hall posters of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec who wasgreatly influenced by Degas and Daumier. The examples in this exhibition from the1890s are stunning in their originality, freshness and vitality while their exuberance issoftened by quiet studies of prostitutes going about their non–professional dailyactivities.

The accompanying exhibition, Paris/Hunter, brings together the work of four localartists produced during residencies they were awarded in Paris. Unlike the worksfrom over a hundred years earlier, these are immediate responses to a newenvironment over a short period of time. Claire Martin’s autumnal studies ofmonumental sculptures and human movement are contrasted with Michael Bell’s witand pop sensibility in his paintings and sculptures, full of African influence.James Drinkwater seems similarly inspired with great energy driving his paintingswhile Lottie Consalvo provides a more reflective space, photos and objects quietlyrecording her presence. Until March 13.

The gallery occupies a tremendous position on the lake shore and the sculptures through the park arewonderful, but in serious need ofrestoration after exposure to the elements. Ifcouncil would maintainthese public works and perhaps even add to their number, it would make the area farattractive as a destination.

Watt Space Gallery has two new exhibitions includingTheSpace Between You and Me from third year students Bree Rooney and LiseStenberg. Notions of memory, belonging and loss are explored with maturity bythese young artists through ceramics, etching and collagraphs to produce a unified,confident exhibition. Until Feb 28.

In Conversations with Ghosts at Back to Back, ceramicists Sue Stewartand Sally Picker along with printmakers Gina McDonald, Penny Wilson and ValeZakarauskas pay homage to deceased artists that have most influenced themincluding John Coburn, Bronwyn OliverandPeter Paul Rubens.

VITALITY: Details of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s Eldorado: Aristide Bruant, brush and spatter lithograph.

A MOMENT: Detail of Edgar Degas’ After the bath III, lithograph.

MATURITY: Lise Stenberg’s Ha Kjerringa, ceramic/mixed media, at Watt Space.

ABSURD: Honoré Daumier’s Past. Present. Future, lithograph (detail).

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