Steven Vella at NG Galleries

It seems decades ago, and it probably is, that my eldest niece was living in Sydney with a number of creative young men. The Art Student and I have just come in from the opening of an exhibition of splendid art created by one of them. Steven Vella’s Garden of Natural Wonders [Do click on the link and scroll along for some of the pieces] is the kind of exhibition that has you looking constantly from the artworks to the catalogue sheet, not to see what the piece is called, though some of the names are revelatory, but to see what materials it’s made from. It’s a gleaner’s equivalent of the treasury of a renaissance church, with bean pods, palm inflorescence, feathers, banksia seed in place of precious stones and metals. The religious dimension of that comparison isn’t too wide of the mark – there’s at least one cross, a couple of stupas, and a wall of ceremonial staffs that remind me of the theatricality of Mediterranean Catholicism. Steven’s North Queensland provenance and his Maltese heritage are both strongly present. But then the room is dominated by ‘Medusa’, which if not for its gorgeous flowing lines could be a homage to the Flying Spaghetti Monster:

But you know, my favourite piece is probably ‘Aunt Bibi’s Salad Bowl’, one of the smaller works, which assembles durian skins and a vintage teak bowl, among other things, to create a weird, spiky, domestic icon. Sadly I can’t find a photo, so if you want to see it you’ll have to go there yourself.

The NG Art Gallery is in Little Queen Street, Chippendale, just around the corner from the White Rabbit Gallery, and the exhibition will be there until 8 May.

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