Casual encounters with the past

By Rhonda Dredge

Radical families are inspiring and the van Schaiks are a name when it comes to the CBD, in architecture and now art.

In fact, Leon van Schaik, Emeritus Professor of Architecture at RMIT could be named a CBD hero. 

Back in the ’80s when heritage remakes were the rage, he was responsible for commissioning some of RMIT’s wild buildings, such as the bright green deconstructionist Storey Hall.

“I supported local creative talent,” Leon told CBD News, but he also protected RMIT’s iconic red brick buildings and laboratories. 

“They wanted to pull them down,” he said.

Standing up for your principles is a van Schaik ideology that has been passed down in the family to Leon’s daughter Andrée.

Her exhibition of paintings at Neon Park off Bourke St is a clever, enigmatic and stubborn exploration of primarily abstract forms in what might be called “metamodernism”.

The paintings have visual postmodernist references but are mostly derived from collages, a form invented in the early 1900s by the Dadaists and Surrrealists and made famous by Braques and Picasso.

The shapes in the paintings are random, freeform, loosely painted with soft hard edges and don’t extrapolate beyond their visual references.

Andrée appears to relish the privilege of modernism to be relaxed about meanings or to eschew them altogether. 

“I think the pieces reflect pastiche,” she said. “They have an internal charge. It’s kind of subtle. I can’t put my finger on it and I don’t want to.”

She uses the collages as a design guide then focuses on the pleasure of painting. 

“I don’t think about philosophy while I’m doing it. It’s all there in the back of my head.”

Some of the works move into picture-making, such as the tableau of jewellery pieces in Haeckel, while there are traces of Matisse in the red figurative building depicted in Tropic.

In all there are 19 paintings, drawn together more by size and method than content. 

To be in this small modernist Neon Parc gallery with the work and a crowd of architects come to show their respects was a rare pleasure. 

The paintings, which are small, portable and priced under $1000, fit neatly into the contemporary painting scene while creating casual encounters with the past. 

Andrée van Schaik features at Neon Parc, 1/53 Bourke St until August 31. 

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