‘More Than Steel and Stone’
Exhibition Review by Jeanette Hutchinson
Umbrella Studio, Main Space Exhibition, Townsville, QLD. Australia.
Robert Henry, Rurik Henry, Rafaela Henry, Roselani Henry and Rainer Rusch.
If you haven’t yet viewed the current exhibitions at Umbrella Studio gallery, do yourself a favour and be mesmerised by the talent of our North Queensland printers and artisans. ‘More Than Steel and Stone’ downstairs in the main space compliments ‘Ad Wer: Story of the Stars from the Eastern Torres Straits’, a collection of prints by award winning artist Tommy Pau, also in the main space upstairs.
‘More than Steel and Stone’ is a family affair by artists Robert Henry (father) and Rurik Henry (son) known in Townsville for their love of working with steel and stone, hence the title which follows on from their very successful partnered exhibition at Umbrella in 2012 ‘Steel and Stone’. Robert and Rurik’s sculptural works are supplemented (via the principal artists’ invitation) with works from family members, Rafaela and Roselani Henry, and Rainer Rusch. Although not professional artists themselves, the works they have produced make a charming and proficient addition to the exhibition, which examines early European myths and tales, from the ancient Greeks and Prometheus to Norse Goddess Hel and Loki the trickster God.
Rosalina Henry’s ‘Prometheus’ (2016) charcoal on paper, is based on the Greek myth of the Titan who stole fire from the Gods to give to humanity, and as a consequence was chained to a mountain where every day an eagle would tear out his liver. Every night the liver would regenerate to be eaten again. The choice of subject matter refers to Rosalina’s profession as a medical practitioner; she states in the accompanying didactic that ‘In modern medicine we recognise that the liver has a remarkable capacity for self-repair.’ Both Rosalina and the viewer wonder at the knowledge of the ancient Greeks. The drawing is well executed in a linear anatomical depiction of affected body part versus expressionistic, attacking eagle.
Similarly, Rurik’s small sculpture ‘Hel’ (2016) in Stainless Steel, Aluminium and lead, is an expressive work that references a dark Scandinavian myth. Predating Christianity is the Norse Goddess Hel, Goddess of the dead, and monstrous child of trickster God Loki. Hel is depicted in Rurik’s work as a skeletal figure riding on an equally skeletal three legged horse, one boney finger pointing out those chosen to be received into the realm of the same name. Rurik experimented with the materials, breaking rules, and bonding elements together that normally should not be cohesive, to create both a smooth and textured, decaying and mordant Hel.
Robert Seniors ’Dire Wolf’, carved from white marble sourced from Chillagoe, is a revelation. Chillagoe, situated 140km west of Mareeba near the Atherton Tablelands, has many limestone caves and marble mines, producing marble known for its array of beautiful colours and exported throughout the world. Equally impressive is a carved, black warrior-like, white-fanged head, meticulous in detail and expression, titled ‘Horned Moon Cat – Demon Half Helm’ (2016). This work is a cross between pure imagination, Manga, and Norse legend, carved from black limestone and taking shape as all magical objects and mythic beings should; intuitively.
The principal artists of this eclectic collection of works on paper, objects and carvings, Robert and Rurik, work on their projects together in an old shed located somewhere in South Townsville, and it’s clear they share a love of experimentation and honing their skills in materials that aren’t commonly used these days, or rather, aren’t often displayed in the gallery environment. To see such artisan skills and creative melding of legend and myth is inspiring.