“G’Day USA” exhibits artists from Down Under

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Christian Gibson?s panoramic photography of Australia?s landscape, such as his ?Great Barrier Reef,? pictured, is on display in the ?G?Day USA? exhibit at the Hamilton and Bleicher/Golightly galleries in Santa Monica through early February.

Local Christian Gibson’s landscape photography of his native Australia is shown alongside work by his compatriots.

By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times

It’s a week Down Under at the Hamilton and Bleicher/Golightly galleries in Santa Monica with their joint exhibit, “G’Day USA,” a celebration of Australian artists, including Malibu resident Christian Gibson.

The exhibit is part of an annual event sponsored by the Department of Foreign Affairs and various trade organizations. The idea is to showcase the best of Australian food, wine, film, fashion, art and the infamous Aussie facility for partying.

Gibson is exhibiting his collection of panoramic photographs of landscapes and seascapes, including an astonishing image of the Whitsunday Islands near the Great Barrier Reef off Australia’s eastern coast.

Om Bleicher, director of Bleicher/Golightly Gallery, said Gibson’s aerial and panoramic photography shows an eye for composition beyond his years (Gibson, the son of Mel and Robyn Gibson, is 27).

“Gibson has a way of capturing water and other subtleties of environments in an almost painterly quality that draws you in and makes you wish you were there,” Bleicher said.

Gibson, who can be seen out and about in Malibu taking photos of the local landscape, says his goal is just to get out there and show a bit of his work.

“I got really inspired after visiting Australia [he was born there in 1982] a few years ago and seeing some of the work of Ken Duncan, one of Australia’s biggest landscape photographers,” Gibson said. “He really lit a fire underneath me. An artist tries to have a dialogue with the viewer and that’s what I want my work to do.”

Malibu resident Leigh Hamilton, director of Hamilton Galleries, is from New Zealand and said the exhibit, featuring the works of Australian artists Gibson, Josh Rosenthal, Airom Bleicher and Greg Cook, was designed “really, to show what we like,” as much as to showcase an Australian culture.

“We have everything from earthy, aboriginal-type art to surrealism with Greg Cook’s paintings, to Christian’s amazing ocean lights to Josh’s abstract expressionism,” Hamilton said. “It’s modernism, but it acknowledges our roots.”

Hamilton said, like true Australians, no one was deterred by something as inconsequential as the deluge of rain during the opening night of the exhibit last week Thursday.

“It looked like a Cuban hurricane out there,” Hamilton said. “It was one of the [most fun] openings we’ve ever had.”

Artist Rosenthal said he started painting when he was 13 years old, in response to a little father-son rivalry.

“My dad painted something and I told him I thought it was [crap],” Rosenthal said. “He asked if I could do better, so I set out to show him I could. My dad’s one of my biggest supporters now.”

Twenty-five years or so later, and an Art Award for Excellence from Wesley College, where he received the highest marks in the state for fine art, Rosenthal said he has sold more work than ever since he moved to the U.S. two and a half years ago.

“Does that make me an expat?” he asked.

Rosenthal said of the abstract figures in his work: “I studied drama, so I’m very interested in the narrative of an image. I love ambiguity both in the expression and in the subtext of a painting.”

Bleicher said these particular artists were compelling as having a “perspectiveŠof the Australian ethos and environment influenced by living away from home. We wanted the exhibit to be approachable, informative and fun, while not compromising artistic integrity, [with] both general and academic appeal.”

To make the show accessible to the general public, the gallery has created a guide that provides interesting factoids about subject matter and historical background of the creatures and characters depicted in the various works.

The show has been so well attended, the gallery directors decided to have another party this weekend.

“We’re kiwis,” Hamilton said. “It seems like the right thing to do.”

“G’Day USA” runs through early February. Another gallery reception will take place Saturday, Jan. 30, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Bleicher/Golightly and Hamilton galleries; 1431 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica. More information, including gallery opening hours, can be obtained online at www.BGartdealings.com and www.HamiltonGalleries.com