George Paton Gallery: A View

Friday, 19 June, 2015

In 2015, the George Paton Gallery is brimming with exhibitions and events showcasing a wide variety of talented students across facilities and campuses.

This semester the gallery is pulling back on its inter-departmental exhibitions program to focus on student exhibitions. VCA Proud Prize winner Spencer Lai will be exhibiting after Easter with his piece Youth, Born at Brunch (from a Wish).

Lai’s exhibition will be followed by ‘Slap Pals get sacked – an art improvement program’, a non-student artist’s response to the BIP (business improvement program) that occurred in 2014 and resulted in a lot of staff members losing their jobs.

It plays on the irrationalisation of the university work force, using acronyms to play on what happened at the University of Melbourne and many other institutions.

The exhibition satirises the growing hypocritical nature of corporate language in workplaces, and each work is a renegotiation of the idea of ‘reduction’ as efficiency.

Their 540 Potato Portraits in particular illustrates how even the most unique are rendered generic to human resources that fixate on efficiency. ‘Slap Pals get sacked – an art improvement program’ took place from 18th March to 2nd April, and any who saw it would have appreciated its humour and concept.

Other highlights of the gallery’s calendar include the semesterly departmental exhibition, which will be hosting the sculptural and spatial department’s ‘Casting Situations’ and Mudfest, the university’s biennial arts festival, taking place from the 20th to the 29th of August and influencing the second semester program.

In a first, the George Paton gallery will be trialling a longer period of three weeks for each exhibition period, a clear show of support for exhibiting students.

Sandra Bridie, coordinator of the arts program at the University of Melbourne, commented that the gallery’s role is to support students, as it’s usually their first exhibition experience.

She loves that the gallery is ‘trial and error, as a result making the art quite risky’, and ‘there can always be interesting failures or things that fall apart in a really interesting way’. She believes that the exhibition doesn’t have to be a success; rather it prioritises learning as much about exhibiting, in an artist’s time there. The gallery is more interested in people challenging themselves and taking risks.