Diena Georgetti: The Humanity of Abstract Painting

Major retrospective of Queensland painter

The IMA, in partnership with Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, is pleased to present the first major survey exhibition of leading Queensland-based painter Diena Georgetti.

Art Exhibition previously on at IMA - Institute of Modern Art in Brisbane precinct, Queensland, Australia.
From Saturday 18 October 2008 to Saturday 29 November 2008

I Keep Falling Over, I Keep Passing Out, When I See a Face like You Now that I Don’t Think of You  image

Published by Institute of Modern Art on Wednesday 11 March 2009.
Contact the publisher.

Georgetti’s work is enigmatic and elusive. She achieved considerable critical attention when her blackboard works were first shown in 1989 at Brisbane’s Institute of Modern Art, and subsequently at the 1992 Biennale of Sydney. Soon after, her work took an abrupt turn, as she followed up with a series of orientalist paintings, marked by their modest scale, allegorical possibility and psychological intensity. More recently, she has been co-opting and remixing classic early modernist styles to forge a personal utopia.

Georgetti grew up in Brisbane, spent the 1990s in Melbourne, returned to Brisbane and is now based in rural Kooralbyn. Her work has been exhibited regularly in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, and in Wellington and Auckland. Few people, however, have had the opportunity to see its scope. Surveying two decades of her work, Diena Georgetti: The Humanity of Abstract Painting 1988-2008 brings together works from Australasian public and private collections, and allows us to take stock of the breadth and development of her work. It grants the artist overdue recognition.

Georgetti’s earliest works were chalk drawings – or writings – on blackboards. The panels, which were often exhibited in clusters, featured phrases or words, scrawled, sometimes elegantly, sometimes awkwardly. Georgetti used a lexicon of obscure but suggestive German and Latin-derived words that resembled English ones. Her expressions seemed freighted with philosophical import, suggesting a metaphysical manifesto or program. For instance, ‘Realizzate die substanzen’ seems to be an imperative to ‘realise the substance’. It is hard not to read the texts as self-referential, as if inscriptions like ‘Espectral lustro’ embodied what they described. Georgetti’s blackboards also suggested teaching aids, recalling the blackboards of Joseph Beuys. Fellow artist Eugene Carchesio characterised them as ‘a darkened space of thought’ and ‘poetry of severe purity’.

Georgetti’s recent cubist-inspired paintings look rather different, but are also quasi-metaphysical. Drawing on the collage-logic of synthetic-cubism, Georgetti has grafted motifs drawn from an eclectic image-bank – favourite images from art, architecture, fashion and design – into formats derived from early moderist painting. The work is pastiche: part mannerist, part hobbyist. It is like someone’s idea or fantasy of modern art. Georgetti’s project is romantic and idealist. She is forging a personal utopia from fragments of style she personally discovered, elected, identifies with and invests in. Or, as she puts it: ‘In the residence of Rudolph Schindler, his colleagues and their wives, I invite myself to warm wine and communal sex… In living a parallel existence with these modernists, and all they have gifted me, I am provided more familial relevance than any blood or gene.’

The Humanity of Abstract Painting has been curated by MUMA director Max Delany and IMA director Robert Leonard. It is a fitting collaboration, as MUMA has one of the largest collections of Georgetti’s work and Georgetti debuted at the IMA back in 1989. The show is accompanied by a catalogue.

Georgetti is represented Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney; Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington; and Michael Lett, Auckland.