Power dressers from the Powerhouse

FASHION: Garments from the collection of Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum are currently on exhibit at Maitland Regional Art Gallery.That Muslim women like fashion should not come as a surprise in our multicultural hedonistic society.


Of course there are different imperatives for women from a culture which prizes modesty and consequently displays less flesh.

Garments from the collection of Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum and the stories of the individuals who design and wear them make another of the current exhibitions at Maitland Regional Art Gallery, until February 28.

The hair- and neck-covering hijab ensures a universally elegant line, but knees and elbows are not always covered. However, walking the Kokoda Track or training as a surf lifesaver creates design challenges for strong and determined women interacting with modern Australia. The many revealing stories associated with the exhibition show these women with lives and interests that we instantly recognise.

Printmaking SkillsTHE oldest and perhaps finest works currently showing at MRAG until February 7, is the suite of lithographs made by Lloyd Rees at the age of 85 in 1980, revealing his mastery of creating light in black and white.

A shady tree dominates the track to a farm shed. There are no people, no distant view, but this prosaic subject tells us all we need to know about a particular time of day in a quite casually selected space, about the possible harmony of man and nature.

The lithographic process allows the artist to make quick broad gestures, unlike the linear forms of etching and engraving. It is thus nearer to painting.

The Caloola prints and the wonderfully layered and animated boulders on the summit of Mount Wellington above Hobart show the sacred power of the landscape, recognised by Lloyd Rees throughout his long career.

FRIENDLY PACK: Lydia Miller’s Sunday at Horseshoe Beach.

With the deft linocuts by Euan Heng downstairs we are in a different world of printmaking. He uses strong contrasts in form and bold black and white to make witty visual comments with the crisp aplomb of epigrams.

Owners Paint DogsIT’S hardly surprising that many people want to paint their dogs. For its first exhibition of the year until January 30, Gallery 139 has found places on its walls for more than sixty works as full of pricked ears, happy grins and eagerness to please as Newcastle’s dog beach on Saturday mornings.

Michael Bell sets the scene with a pair of paintings from his well-loved series of energetic interaction between beach, man, dog and stick. He has also created another litter of those irresistible cardboard creatures, this time featuring a curly tail.There is the noble dog of Sheila Lummis, the symbol dogs of Susan Ryman, the faithful dog in the graveyard by Greg Slevin, Jill Orr’s domestic familiar, Lydia Miller’s friendly pack andHelene Leane painting a selfie with snout.

I suppose in a way all the works are self-portraits, versions of our daily lives, even Andrew Finnie’s dream Rosie. But I would have anticipated more greyhounds

Go figure at NansheACROSS the road, Nanshe has an exhibition, also until January 30, of genre scenes featuring the figure, with some deftly managed compositions. Andrew Finnie finds this too an agreeable challenge. So do Libby Cusick and Mal Connon.

New trends in the ever-changing range of resident jewellery include settings of such archaic materials as small fossils and 1930s diamante, lovingly reused. Barb Nanshe is already making the work she will show in invitation exhibitions in London and Berlin in a few months’ time.

FIGURES: Detail from Libby Cusick’s Patonga Beach, a work at Nanshe Gallery.

Caves BeachFlourishingA VISIT to Finite Gallery at Caves Beach found a thriving enterprise with wall space for a constantly changing display of paintings, often with seascape and beach themes. They include work from a wide range of artists, some local, some well-known painters recently retired from teaching. They are among the tutors of this busy institution’s constantly evolving programfor adults and children, experienced artists and enthusiastic beginners.We tend to find Caves Beach challengingly remote. We forget that it is a thriving colony of Sydney, which plays a major role in this gallery’s success.