Diena Georgetti’s paintings are both fresh and familiar. A bowerbird of visual motifs, the Melbourne-based artist mines the archives of art, architecture, fashion and design, selectively combining her discoveries into paintings. While modernism is her jam, Georgetti is unconcerned with the chronology or theoretical underpinnings of any particular movement; she values style and intuition above all. The titles of her past exhibitions, such as ‘ART as COMPANION’ and ‘The Humanity of Abstract Painting’, reflect the intensely personal nature of Georgetti’s practice, while ‘FUTURclassic’ – the title of her show at The Commercial – makes clear her intention to bring together multiple elements into single works.
The artist, who has exhibited regularly around Australia since the late 1980s, has made her first wall painting for ‘FUTURclassic’. Aviary (all works 2017) appears as two inverted columns at diagonal ends of the small gallery, with a series of parallel and perpendicular lines in red, green and black set against blocks of beige. The painting is developed from drawings from de stijl, the early-20th-century movement advocating reduced and simplified form and colour. It disrupts the hard edges of the white cube space, creating a new and complex set of boundaries. Indeed, its title suggests a large structure that allows birds to fly. Georgetti compares this to the framed paintings in the exhibition, which she likens to bird cages that don’t allow the same freedom of movement.
‘FUTURclassic’ includes three different types of frames across its six paintings, each of which works tonally with the painting it contains, bringing warmth (raw blonde wood), space-age cool (shiny silver) and light-absorbing flatness (matte black with small interior baubles). Their varied sizes and colours also break up the space between and around each painting, contributing to a sense of the exhibition as a personal collection of works brought together from different times and places.
The eponymous FUTURclassic features a hard-edged geometric composition in its lower half, while the central motif is painted with shaky edges that recall the registration of early mass-printing. Its neighbour Self Portrait boasts a palette of burgundy, mustard and olive, which combines with its curvilinear geometries to evoke a 1970s aesthetic. Trophy and Park see Georgetti explore pure shades of coral, ultramarine and yellow. FUTURclassic, Self Portrait, Trophy and Park share a compositional template: vertically formatted paintings divided into two sections horizontally, with the lower design reaching the edges, while the upper half holds a smaller self-contained painting against a field of colour. In some ways, it’s like meeting a family – while clearly related, individual works burst with personality.
In Cassette, black cut-out shapes hover on a white background. This use of black and white is unusual in Georgetti’s recent work but the lack of colour is countered by a lively arrangement of forms. A series of right-angled corners, their haphazard edges recalling Matisse paper cut-outs, nestle into one another. A small silhouetted frame (a meta-suggestion of one of Georgetti’s earlier works) hovers at the top left, with an arrangement of sharp-edged shapes to the right: the overall effect is that of a loosely staged architectural interior. (Satellite – in which a round, black void encircled by ultramarine blue looms up from behind an assortment of acute-angled forms – is a more abstract example of this invetigation.)
Cassette cuts a solitary figure, displayed on its own wall facing the gallery entrance. While it lacks the modernist palettes of Georgetti’s other paintings, it provides an important counterpoint in the exhibition and suggests a potential and exciting new area of exploration for the artist: future, classic and beyond.
First published in Issue 191