Hannah GadsbyThe Artbar series held in the foyer of the WA Art Gallery has been a huge success, they mainly have singers but in an inspired piece of programming they presented Hannah Gadbsy. Determined to put her degree in Art History to work and also pay bills she put together a fantastic slide show of portraits accompanied by an extremely clever and downright hilarious commentary.

She was introduced by a woman who mentioned the words “quite funny” three times in her speech. She massively understated the case. Gadsby was in brilliant form.

The Artbar has a casual vibe with high tables and stools, bean bags, reasonable food and drink and you get to see the current exhibitions prior to the show. It’s a nice package. Gadsby adopts a casual vibe as well. Opening with a shout out and wave to sponsors “Audi” she added “It’s always good to get in sponsor joke in!”

To lead us into the portrait paintings we were presented with a series of photos of Hannah in childhood, on the green as a member of the Tasmanian Girls Golfing team, as a student and the only photo of baby Hannah where her head is lost, but her feet are well in focus.

Then Gadsby moved on to the portraits (in slide form) she assembled and it quickly became clear that she is drawn to the quirky objects with which the artists surround their subjects. There was a marvellous examination of a nude on chaise longue where in the background a couple of maidservants were rummaging for something in a chest!

There were quite a lot of nudes, most of them Ruben-esque. A term which Gadsby confided has been applied to herself. Along with the nudes and Biblical scenes were a number of small hovering angels, often put good use as book or music stands.

There is also the matter of accompanying animals. Are they a status thing? A clue to the importance of the subject? Big dogs, little dogs, standing horses, horses in full gallop. This lead to a series of photos of Putin interspersed with similar famous portraits eg Napoleon on horseback, Putin on horseback. The sequence was pointed but farcically funny.

There is a lot of comedy to mine in portraits. Various poses, why female nudes appear to lack skeletons, so relaxed are they on their couches or in one case the bowl of an uncomfortable looking fountain. Costumes, cod pieces, funny hats the not so subtle inclusion of the artist in the crowd scene or even in the rear of a royal family portrait.

To close the show Gadsby presented her own memorial (1978 – TBA) to the rich swelling background music of “Time to Say Goodbye”.

This is a one off show for Perth so I hope I am not accused of being a spoiler alert by mentioning the Putin photos. By the same token Gadsby is exceptionally amusing and her comic timing is extraordinary. Go and enjoy any show she offers!

Hannah Gadsby

Venue: Art Gallery WA | Perth Cultural Centre PERTH
Date: 27 October 2016
Tickets: $44
Bookings: artgallery.wa.gov.au/ArtBar

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