Anna Schwartz opens new space with Stephen Bram’s paintings


After Victoria’s lengthy lockdown, Anna Schwartz has reopened with not one, but two exhibition spaces in her Melbourne gallery.

While the increased availability of visual art exhibitions and other cultural offerings online has been a silver lining for many in what has been a pretty tough year, Anna Schwartz, founder and director of the gallery, explained when announcing the new space that she had decided not to host virtual shows. Instead she concentrated her efforts on increasing the capacity of the gallery to facilitate in-person encounters with art.

Groups + Pairs 2016-2020 by John Nixon, who recently passed away, is featured downstairs, and the first show in the newly renovated upstairs space at Anna Schwartz Gallery is a suite of paintings by Melbourne-based artist Stephen Bram.

Stephen Bram is known as an abstractionist, but the black and white works on show (from a series that has been evolving since 2014) flirt openly with representation; albeit representation of an enticingly ambiguous variety.

Using splodgy black dots on a white ground, Bram seems to present over-pixelated images of something, but just what is definitely not entirely clear. Some paintings seem to mimic hyper-close-up images of a palm print – all creases and folds and whorls of skin – but they could just as easily be an aerial view of a rainforest. Others resemble delicate fungi viewed under a super powerful microscope at maximum magnification, or they might represent all the stars in the solar system miniaturised and confined to a canvas.

In the infamous duck/rabbit problem a picture is either a duck or a rabbit. Actually it is both simultaneously, but it is not possible for viewers to see it this way. You have to choose, even if only for an instant.

In the same way, Stephen Bram’s monochromatic works invite audiences to oscillate wildly between micro and macro visions of the world and back again; a delightfully dizzying sensation that somehow highlights the beauty of both.

Stephen Bram
Anna Schwartz Gallery
18 November – 19 December

Preview Words by Tracey Clement