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New exhibitions for Maitland Art Gallery

MAITLAND Regional Art Gallery has a cluster of new exhibitions on view until February.Here is the long-awaited survey of the all-too-short career of Peter Speight, whose many sold-out exhibitions in Newcastle provided a wide choice of those eccentric, but emotionally compelling figures in recycled timber.
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SURREAL: Sandra Burgess’ Figscape I & II made of white porcelain.

Larger scale wooden sculpture also comes from chainsaw virtuoso Stephen King whose totemic pieces have regularly been prominent in Sydney’s Sculpture by the Sea.

The surprising exhibition upstairs celebrates the fashion designs of n Muslim women and their place in our culture.

BOTTLED UP: Mandy Robinson’s Spots of bother turns bottles into collage.

Smaller spaces contain the witty linocuts of Euan Heng and some of the life-affirming 1980 lithographs of Lloyd Rees.

With children still romping in Olivia Parsonage’s fabric environment and discovering Barbie Procobis’s surprises, it’s a rich mix.

I’ll look at these exhibitions more closely in January and also write about ‘Happyness’, the latest thematic group show at Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery. Just opened, it examines which things can make us happy.

Watt Space exhibitsTHOUGH it is late in the year, there are still formal exhibitions. At Watt Space until tomorrow are three solid bodies of work.Mandy Francis bases her PhD exhibition on links between architecture and sculpture, many sourced from public projects and community residencies.The concept of the house takes various shapes, particularly successful in skeletal models constructed from twigs.

Luke Grey’s project for Bachelor of Design plays with visual forms of words, bringing into question the nexus between language and perceived reality in crisp collages.

A double row of gleaming ceramic busts by Michelle and Suannah Louise makes fanciful comment on gender expectation and entrapment. Coils of extruded clay hair support a variety of creatures: a horse, an owl, a deer. They recall the world of rococo decoration and personification.

TAKE A LOOKAT The Lock-Up for only one weekend, Look Hear presented its annual event, with workshops and an exhibition, Look See, based on graphic design.

The compulsively watchable gridded video flashed comic images in bewildering succession, with the cat really needing its nine lives.A powerful charcoal drawing of a crouched colossus was by Shane von Westernhagen, presumably the same artist with the inexhaustible fantasy narratives who was a regular exhibitor in Newcastle years ago.

Hunter catalogueTHERE is still time to catch various Christmas group shows.Art Systems Wickham has a catalogue of the area’s most significant artists until tomorrow. Peter Gardiner has several drone-view junkscapes. John Morris has a vestigial print. Vera Zulumovski has moved on from the constraints of the linocut. Jill Orr has a deft landscape. Varelle Hardy has discovered poppies. Peter Tilley discovers red.

Belinda Street’s vibrant hilly landscapes contrast with Christine Ross’s cool minimal tropics and Jennifer Finnie’s splashy Bogey Hole. The porcelain figtree trunks by Sandra Burgess are startlingly surreal.Mandy Robinson turns bottles into fabric collage. Her work is also on view at Gosford Regional Gallery until January 13 in an exhibition focused on preloved clothes, which also includes Jane Robinson’s machine embroidered cutouts.But there is much more, including interesting new artistssuch as Jo Bevan, Nina Battley and Lydia Miller.

Busting out of formAT CStudios until tomorrow, Kas Thorpe has a group of extraordinary, somewhat scary, felt busts. I don’t know how she models the material to make this clutch of firm-featured, exotically bedecked female characters resembling the cast of acrobats from Cirque du Soleil.In other areas there are new inventive ceramics from Helen Stronach, who has mastered asymmetry and surface texture on sculptural vessels large and small, with paintings by Diana Baker of brilliant veils of sunset mist.

All that glittersIN Beaumont Street, Nanshe fills its front window with a radiant hanging totem by Jen Densin. It incorporates beads and glitter, plastic fringes and cast-off Christmas decorations, transcending kitsch through its sheer vitality.Inside, until December 24, is work by 15painters, some familiar and some interesting new discoveries plus jewellery.

Season’s greetingsAT 139 there is also an arresting window display in seasonable red. On the walls are many of the gallery’s regular artists, with some interesting additions, including Rieteka Guersen’s sculptural paper collages and Grant Keene’s foliated ceramic dolls’ heads.

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