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By Zac Millner-Cretney
March 04, 2013
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By Zac Millner-Cretney
March 04, 2013
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Blindside Gallery's latest split show brings us two markedly different exhibitions, splitting the space between the conceptual Feel the Confidence and the tactile Incessant Ruthlessness. Loosely linked by their obsession with time and agency, these two shows nonetheless feel somewhat out of balance — due largely to one of them being much stronger than the other.

Jon Hewitt's Feel the Confidence lives mostly in its accompanying information booklet sitting on a plinth outside the gallery. While the booklet quotes sources, explains motivations and narrates the artist's history, the work itself offers little. A grid repeats the same photograph of a bald man's head 42 times on every page, each photo underscored by a name. These names are men we know — Picasso, Warhol, Da Vinci — all apparently sufferers (if we can use that term) of male pattern baldness. There were four of these identical pages hanging when I saw the exhibit, but the number will grow every day as the artist hangs a new edition until the space is filled with baldness.

As the booklet elucidates, Hewitt doesn't have a lot of time for the art world. He considers it shallow, self-indulgent and above all, repetitive. He suggests that contemporary art is meaningless as any momentum or development has ceased, rendering attempts at participation largely futile. And yet, hair falls out — even Picasso, Warhol and Da Vinci's hair fell out, suggesting that no matter how great (or mediocre) an artist you are, you still can't stop that inexorable crawl towards death.

The thing is, not all art is as shallow as Hewitt would have us believe. Sarah Bunting's Incessant Ruthlessness, exhibited in the next room, is testament to this. Where Hewitt finds that there is nothing worth expressing, Bunting's paintings seem to drown in an excess of information. In dark, foreboding swirls of colour, lonely figures stare facelessly out at us surrounded by objects past, present and future, unable to make sense of the machinery, furniture and advertising that surrounds them. These solitary figures seem so overwhelmed by their surroundings that they are unable to act on anything.

Conceptually overlapping here with Feel the Confidence in regards to one's ability to have any effect on their surroundings, Incessant Ruthlessness explores the same territory with superior atmosphere and texture. That familiar feeling of being choked and oppressed is elicited, uniting a raft of viewers with an emotion that is undoubtedly universal, regardless of time and space — powerlessness.

Blindside has curated an interesting show, with the disparate approaches of the two artists providing food for thought. As an artistic experience, Feel the Confidence's smug emptiness is outmatched by Incessant Ruthlessness' moody, engaging tableaux.

Image credit Jon Hewitt.

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