To say I follow Tom Polo’s work with a fanaticism and loyalty reminiscent of a pre pubescent girl to Justin Bieber is a fair comment. So it was with great expectation that I took my giddy self to his new exhibition Hit and Miss at the Parramatta Artist’s Studio Gallery. The exhibition is designed to be a retrospective look at Polo’s work from the last two years.
The exhibition was divided into four ‘galleries’ (for those who haven’t been to this space it is basically two rooms). The first gallery was new work by Polo, the words ‘Self Sabotage’ immediately engaged the viewer with Polo’s world after stepping into the gallery from a busy Parramatta midday. In stark black and white this work is nicely balanced by the thoughtfully placed smaller work ‘Maybe one day’. Similarly in this room is a small acrylic work ‘Hit and Miss’ with the colourful ‘No Idea’; an inconspicuous small painting in the corner. The area is punchy and clean and gives a nice visual introduction into Polo’s practice.
Walking into Gallery two; ‘Continuous one liners’ is an assortment of slogans, self help mantras and ironic gems. Polo is best known for this work and has been exploring this practice through the two years the exhibition covers. The placement of over sixteen works in such a small space generally detracted from the works as singular pieces. This was only compounded by the garish blue-hued wall the works were hung on. Although this is perhaps a deliberate technique to reference contemporary culture in which we are overloaded with this type of vocabulary; each banner got lost in the mish-mash. I couldn’t help but feel a few choice combinations as seen in the previous room would have been more effective.
Hit and Miss, acrylic on canvas 2010
Gallery three and four contained some more recent works by Polo; ‘The peak of human excellence’ and ‘The new science of personal achievement (Tony)’. These further explored the idea of contemporary self help culture through a subtle homage to Anthony (Tony) Robbins. The works on offer show a nice progression from the text in the previous rooms and it was great to see works by Polo which were not based on words.
For those who are familiar with Polo’s work; there is a nice flow in theme and content. For those new to Polo’s work this may all seem like one giant paint-based installation rather than a two year retrospective. Any small amount of signage or introductory text to the exhibition would have helped this immensely; indeed it would make this exhibition more accessible to the fairly bustling square outside the gallery. This being said; the work of Parramatta Artists Studio in launching early career artists into the sector is extremely valued and sometimes massive warehouse spaces to show works uncluttered and unlimited budgets to create overwhelming press hype is simply unavailable. The location of the exhibition was actually wonderful. Polo’s work addresses and re contextualises the mundanity of everyday routine; no location would be better than the sprawl of suburbia which is Parramatta and its surrounding suburbs.
In such an intimate space there is always the unexpected chance of meeting the artist ; as I mumble awkwardly with Polo; I am secretly trying to resist the urge to get down on one knee and beg him for a free work in exchange for slave labor or frankly anything savoury or otherwise in exchange for a canvas. On the train home I couldn’t help but resonate absolutely to Lisa Havilah’s words in the ‘Hit and Miss’ catalogue, (which, by the way is a fantastic souvenir of Polo’s work to have if you cannot take home the real deal) “there is an attractive materiality to Tom Polo’s work that make you want to take it home immediately.”
So yes there are some operational flaws within this exhibition but Polo’s irresistibly appealing retrospective of work is undeniable.
Now we are all waiting for the obvious line so I am going to give it. Tom Polo’s Hit and Miss: A definite hit.
Hit and Miss runs until 1 April 2011 at Parramatta Artist’s Studio Gallery
See more of Tom Polo: tompoloart.blogspot.com
All images courtesy of Parramatta Artist’s studio.