Archive for the 'Australian artist' Category

16
Apr
14

Review: ‘Stephen Dupont / The White Sheet Series No. 1′ at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 2nd April – 3rd May 2014

 

This is a wonderful exhibition by Stephen Dupont at Edmund Pearce Gallery. Using a 4″ x 5″ Polaroid type 55 and striping away the emulsion, Dupont is left with a fine grain large format black and white negative (which he can use in an enlarger) with the “Polaroid frame look”, which he incorporates into the silver gelatin prints.1

Most of the photographs are glorious, notably the ones where Dupont pulls back from his subject to reveal the context of the sitter (much like taking the mat of a Daguerreotype to reveal more of the studio hidden underneath). I particularly like where you can see two hands poking over the top of the white sheet hiding the person behind (see Untitled #08 2010, below). The spontaneity and improvisation of this act is very appealing. As Dupont observes this allows him “to reveal the audience gathering and the environment around the sheet. This is meant to give the viewer a real sense of place and time, and a window onto the streets of Haridwar.” This technique gives the images real presence, they fairly “sing” to me from the gallery wall. And then! to surround the silver with hand printed Indian textile stamps in red ink… these images are really something.

Dupont’s incisiveness at the coal face of the pictorial plane is also exemplary. Notice the construction of Untitled #14 (2010, below), and observe the arms of the protagonists. An arm is raised aloft mirroring the arm of the swami in the photograph behind and also the supporting pole of the tent at top right. His other arm points to the earth but this is crossed by the arm of an out of focus man at left, which forms a strong diagonal intervention into the image as he reaches out. The money and mobile phone, at bottom left, add to the incongruity of the scene.

I am less enamoured with Dupont’s riff on Richard Avedon’s contextless background portraits. They don’t really possess the power or presence of the photographs mentioned above or of Avedon’s portraits from the series In The American West. I would have also liked to have seen the field journal (the small images at the bottom of the posting) in the exhibition. It would have been fascinating to read the text and view the other textile stamp designs. Finally, a couple of prints at a much larger size would have been good to see, to break the regularity of the series.

Having said that, you really have to see these images in the flesh for they look so much better than when reproduced online. The red is luminous and it is a joy to see good silver gelatin prints instead of so-so digital failures (Polly Borland I hope your ears are burning). This exhibition is a perfect example of what Bill Henson was talking about in his recently curated exhibition Wildcards: Bill Henson shuffles the deck at Monash Gallery of Art (MGA) where he states that his interest “is in the photograph as an object, in the physical presence of the print or whatever kind of technology is being used to make it…”2 where the images appeal not just to the eye but to the whole body, “because photographs are first and foremost objects, their size, shape grouping and texture are as important as the images they’re recording.”3

These photographs have, as Henson notes of some photographs, “the ability to suggest some other thing and that’s what draws you in.”4 You stand in front of the best of these images and contemplate them with a sense of wonder, for they suggest to the viewer – through the hand and eye of the artist in the analogue process, through the hand of the artist when applying the wood block printing which was made with much spontaneity and feeling – other worlds of which we know very little brought close to our imagination. Through their inherent textures and tonalities, their physical presence, there is a sense of the people who populate that place, but more than that, there is a sense of our own fragility and mortality.

A feeling of anOther existence for our life if we had been born into such worlds.
And that is what makes these images so compelling.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

Footnotes

1. According to Wikipedia, “Type 55 negatives are the famous source of the “Polaroid frame look”… the Polaroid reagent/gel is squeezed between the negative and positive. Some of the reagent is trapped underneath the onion-skin-like frame that crops the print into a perfect 4×5 image. This reagent however creates an impression of that frame on the negative, which is not protected. The result is a perfect negative, but with imperfect frame-like image surrounded 3 of the four sides, while the 4th side shows the impression of the connective mesh that controls aspects of the Polaroid packet’s sleeve functionality.”
2. Interview with Bill Henson by Toby Fehily posted 01 Feb 2014 on the Art Guide Australia website [Online] Cited 18/02/2014.
3. Fiona Gruber. “Review of Wildcards, Bill Henson Shuffles the Deck” on the Guardian website, Wednesday 12 February 2014 [Online] Cited 16/03/2014
4. Fehily op. cit.,

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Many thankx to Edmund Pearce Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Stephen Dupont. 'Untitled #16' 2010

 

Stephen Dupont
Untitled #16
2010
Silver gelatin print and ink
20 x 16” (51 x 40.5 cm) / edition of 5 + 2 AP’s

 

Stephen Dupont. 'Untitled #08' 2010

 

Stephen Dupont
Untitled #08
2010
Silver gelatin print and ink
20 x 16” (51 x 40.5 cm) / edition of 5 + 2 AP’s

 

Stephen Dupont. 'Untitled #14' 2010

 

Stephen Dupont
Untitled #14
2010
Silver gelatin print and ink
20 x 16” (51 x 40.5 cm) / edition of 5 + 2 AP’s

 

Stephen Dupont. 'Untitled #04' 2010

 

Stephen Dupont
Untitled #04
2010
Silver gelatin print and ink
20 x 16” (51 x 40.5 cm) / edition of 5 + 2 AP’s

 

 

“Edmund Pearce is excited to present a solo exhibition by legendary Australian photographer Stephen Dupont, entitled The White Sheet Series Number 1. This new series was shot during India’s most important Hindu Festival, Kumbh Mela, and features portraits of pilgrims and visitors combined with hand printed Indian textile stamps.

Stephen Dupont has produced a remarkable body of visual work throughout his career; hauntingly beautiful photographs of fragile cultures and marginalized peoples. He captures the human dignity of his subjects with great intimacy and his images have received international acclaim for their artistic integrity and valuable insight into the people, culture and communities that have existed for hundreds of years, yet are fast disappearing from our world.

Mark Feeney of the Boston Globe states, “Inevitably, Dupont is an outsider; yet he’s an engaged outsider, full of calm, clear-eyed curiosity. There’s not just a sense of place in his work but also something that matters even more: a sense of the people who populate that place.’

Stephen’s work has earned him a number of photography’s most prestigious prizes, including a Robert Capa Gold Medal citation from the Overseas Press Club of America. His work has featured in influential publications such as The New Yorker, Aperture and The New York Times Magazine; and he has had major exhibitions in London, Paris, New York, Sydney, Canberra, Tokyo, and Shanghai. His photographic artist books and portfolios are held in numerous private collections and by prestigious institutions such as the National Gallery of Australia, the National Library of Australia, the British Library and the Library of Congress in Washington DC to name but a few.”

Press release from the Edmund Pearce Gallery website

 

Stephen Dupont. 'Untitled #07' 2010

 

Stephen Dupont
Untitled #07
2010
Silver gelatin print and ink
20 x 16” (51 x 40.5 cm) / edition of 5 + 2 AP’s

 

Stephen Dupont. 'Untitled #13' 2010

 

Stephen Dupont
Untitled #13
2010
Silver gelatin print and ink
20 x 16” (51 x 40.5 cm) / edition of 5 + 2 AP’s

 

Stephen Dupont. 'Untitled #12' 2010

 

Stephen Dupont
Untitled #12
2010
Silver gelatin print and ink
20 x 16” (51 x 40.5 cm) / edition of 5 + 2 AP’s

 

Stephen Dupont. 'Untitled #18' 2010

 

Stephen Dupont
Untitled #18
2010
Silver gelatin print and ink
20 x 16” (51 x 40.5 cm) / edition of 5 + 2 AP’s

 

Richard Avedon at work

 

Richard Avedon at work

 

Richard Avedon. 'Bill Curry, drifter, Interstate 40, Yukon, Oklahoma, 6/16/80' 1980

 

Richard Avedon
Bill Curry, drifter, Interstate 40, Yukon, Oklahoma, 6/16/80
1980
from In the American West, 1979–84

 

 

artist-book

“This body of work is a selection of portraits I made in 2010 at India’s most important Hindu festival called the Kumbh Mela. In one of four locations every four years Hindu pilgrims and visitors descend into the holy waters of the Ganges River to purify the soul in a spiritual ritual considered the largest peaceful gathering in the world. The photographs were taken in Haridwar of pilgrims and sadhus I chose randomly during that festival.

Inspired by an earlier series I made of anonymous portraits of Afghans in Kabul titled Axe Me Biggie, or Mr Take My Picture, but instead of an existing Afghan outdoor studio backdrop I chose the white sheet this time for its purity and simplicity. My subjects were asked to simply stand and pose before my camera. I use a white bed sheet to create an outdoor studio that not only captures my subject but also allows me to reveal the audience gathering and the environment around the sheet. This is meant to give the viewer a real sense of place and time, and a window onto the streets of Haridwar. Had I used the backdrop in a conventional way, to solely isolate a person, you’d have the impression that they were taken anywhere – New York, Sydney, or in a studio. This process is a creative choice and allows me with some control over my sitter but brings with it the spontaneity and surprise of what may take place around the zone I am working in: the gaze of someone holding the sheet that has no idea they are in the frame, or a hand holding the sheet or something else that crops up in front or behind. In the end my portraits are environmental or even landscapes.

Over many years of travel throughout India I have been collecting textile stamps and I decided to use them on my photographs. The research and experiments started in my field journal and then to the final hand printed images in this show. I wanted to create a relationship with Indian design and cloth, the Polaroid borders and the people in my pictures. Much like my photographic practice here the wood block printing was made with much spontaneity and feeling. The photographs have been handcrafted by Chris Reid at Blanco Negro using warmtone paper and processed in a specialised developer for unique tonality.

Stephen Dupont
Sydney, February 28, 2014

 

 

Edmund Pearce Gallery
Level 2, Nicholas Building
37 Swanston Street (corner Flinders Lane)
Melbourne Victoria 3000

Opening hours:
Wed – Sat 11 am – 5 pm

Edmund Pearce Gallery website

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13
Apr
14

Review: ‘Hoda Afshar / Under Western Eyes’ at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 2nd April – 3rd May 2014

 

Dear readers, my apologies for the lack of local reviews and postings since the beginning of the year. It’s not that I haven’t been out and about looking at exhibitions, far from it, simply that there has been little stimulating enough to do a posting on. Photographically, it has been a very slow start to 2014 in Melbourne.

There have been disappointing exhibitions from Jacqui Stockdale at Helen Gory Galerie (Super Naturale 15 Mar – 5 Apr 2014) where the artist removed her fabulous painted backgrounds and isolated the carnivalesque figure in Victorian album ovals against non-descript, beige colours, hence robbing them of the wonderful interplay between figure and context; Jane Burton at Karen Woodbury Gallery (In Other Bodies 2 April – 3 May 2014) where her intimate, sightless, pinhole portrait photographs are overlaid with “bruised candy colours,” in reality a sickly tri-colour overlay that ruins any presence some of the more powerful images ever had; Pat Brassington at Arc One Gallery (Pat Brassington 8 April – 15 May 2014) where, despite three interesting images (Blush, Major Tom and Night Shade), the rest of the exhibition feels like the photographs are a caricature of themselves, repeating earlier statements, with the work going nowhere (success breeds complacency?); and Polly Borland at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (Wonky 28 Mar – 25 May 2014) where the staged photographs of sculptural forms are insipid to say the least and the prints have pixellation the size of golf balls. You would have thought that a person of her supposed standing in the art world would have at least got the prints right.

It is a great pleasure then to finally discover some strong exhibitions around Melbourne town that are worthy of a posting: Hoda Afshar / Under Western Eyes and Stephen Dupont / The White Sheet Series No. 1, both at Edmund Pearce; the group exhibition Khem at Strange Neighbour; The Rennie Ellis Show at Monash Gallery of Art; and the magnificent Rosemary Laing / The Paper at Tolarno Galleries. Other postings to follow in the next week or so.

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I love Hoda Afshar’s work. It’s big, bold, brash, beautiful, and it has something important to say and does so, eloquently. I only wish I could read the text written on nipple and background to further understand the intricacies and references of the work. The photographs pull back the veil on how Westerners commodify the representation of Islamic women in the form of decodable stereotypes. This reductive interpretation of the identity of Muslim women is bound up with aspects of exoticism, which has links to the influential book Orientalism (1978), by Edward W. Saïd, “a foundational text for the academic field of Post-colonial Studies, wherein the denotations and connotations of the term “orientalism” are expanded to describe what Saïd sees as the false cultural assumptions of the “Western world”, facilitating the cultural misrepresentation of the “The Orient”, in general, and of the Middle East, in particular.” (Wikipedia)

For Western society, “oriental” art emanated from a type of primitive fantasy, reflecting the increasingly exotic tastes of Europe from the late 19th-century following European colonialism. In her work Afshar interrogates aspects of a visual neo-colonialism. Here the voices of the marginalised are acknowledged but only so far as the language of acknowledgement is controlled by neo-colonialism (another form of imperialism which is an out a growth of classical colonialism) – in which the image and literature of the oppressed is controlled by societal structures that seek to delimit the nature of their independence.

As Bhabha notes, “Postcolonial perspectives emerge from the colonial testimony of Third World countries and the discourses of “minorities” within the geopolitical divisions of East and West, North and South. They intervene in those ideological discourses of modernity that attempt to give a hegemonic “normality” to the uneven development and the differential, often disadvantaged, histories of nations, race, communities, peoples.” (Bhabha, H. K. The location of culture. London: Routledge, 1994, p. 71)

Postcolonial theory formulates its critique around the social histories, cultural differences and political discrimination that are practised and normalised by colonial and imperial machineries. What Afshar does is poke a great big stick at these (visual) machineries, phenomenologies that continue to operate within the operating “theatres”, the mass-produced and parcelled consumer identities of the Western world.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

Many thankx to Edmund Pearce Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Hoda Afshar. 'Westoxicated #1' 2013

 

Hoda Afshar
Westoxicated #1
2013
Archival Pigment Print
104 x 90 cm / edition of 5

 

Hoda Afshar. 'Westoxicated #2' 2013

 

Hoda Afshar
Westoxicated #2
2013
Archival Pigment Print
104 x 90 cm / edition of 5

 

Hoda Afshar. 'Westoxicated #3' 2013

 

Hoda Afshar
Westoxicated #3
2013
Archival Pigment Print
104 x 90 cm / edition of 5

 

 

Edmund Pearce is pleased to present Under Western Eyes, a solo exhibition by Hoda Afshar. The exhibition comprises a series of digitally manipulated photographs, criticising the continual representation of Islamic women in the contemporary art world as veiled, subjugated and suppressed. This new project explores how the veil – seen as a sort of forced enclosure – has become the dominant mode of representing Islamic women in the West.

In speaking of the series Hoda states, “veiled women are often portrayed as a homogeneous group; powerless subjects whose veil serves either as a symbol and tool of oppression, or is celebrated as an exotic commodity. As such, the images of Muslim women have been reduced to easily decodable stereotypes; mass-produced and parcelled for Western audiences as a consumer item. In this series, I intend to emphasise the reductive interpretation of the identity of Muslim women in the West and praising of such imagery as an attitude bound up with aspects of exoticism.”

Hoda Afshar is a visual artist and Photographer. She is currently a PhD candidate at the Department of Art at Curtin University. After finishing a BFA, majoring in Photography, at Azad University of Art and Architecture in Tehran, she began her career as a documentary photographer. In 2006 she was selected by World Press Photo as one of the top ten young documentary photographers of Iran to attend their Educational training program. Additionally, Hoda is currently a lecturer at the Photography Studies College in Melbourne. She has also been exhibiting locally and internationally since 2007 and was short listed for prestigious photography awards such as the Moran Contemporary Photographic Prizes (2012) and the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Prize (2013). She lives and works in Melbourne, Australia.

 

Hoda Afshar. 'Westoxicated #5' 2013

 

Hoda Afshar
Westoxicated #5
2013
Archival Pigment Print
104 x 90 cm / edition of 5

 

Hoda Afshar. 'Westoxicated #6' 2013

 

Hoda Afshar
Westoxicated #6
2013
Archival Pigment Print
104 x 90 cm / edition of 5

 

Hoda Afshar. 'Westoxicated #7' 2013

 

Hoda Afshar
Westoxicated #7
2013
Archival Pigment Print
104 x 90 cm / edition of 5

 

Hoda Afshar. 'Westoxicated #9' 2013

 

Hoda Afshar
Westoxicated #9
2013
Archival Pigment Print
104 x 90 cm / edition of 5

 

 

Edmund Pearce Gallery
Level 2, Nicholas Building
37 Swanston Street (corner Flinders Lane)
Melbourne Victoria 3000

Opening hours:
Wed – Sat 11 am – 5 pm

Edmund Pearce Gallery website

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08
Apr
14

Exhibition and book launch preview: ‘In the Folds of Hills’ by Kristian Laemmle-Ruff at The Field Institute, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 1st – 8th May 2014
Exhibition opening and book launch: Thursday 1st May, 6 – 8.30 pm

To be opened by Robert McFarlane
Stories by Charlotte Laemmle

 

One of my favourite contemporary Australian photographers has a new book and exhibition!

Hopefully a review to follow but having seen a digital copy of the book, the sensitivity of the work feels admirable… unrecalled stories and photographs of people’s lives and the environments in which they live.

The book retails for $60 AUD and will be available in selected book stores nationally and online at www.inthefoldsofhills.com. It is being published by Pearce Press and includes a foreword by former prime minister Malcolm Fraser and an essay by Robert McFarlane.

Many thankx to Kristian Laemmle-Ruff for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Foreword

In the Folds of Hills depicts a life in the secluded valleys around Lima, a little over 100 kms from Melbourne, Victoria. Kristian Laemmle-Ruff not only has great technical control of his craft, but translates this skill into truly artistic photographs.

His images of ordinary objects from everyday life invite the viewer to slow down and contemplate. These photos create a narrative that offers us insight into the way these people live.

The portfolio focuses on individuals who have lived most, if not all their lives in this area. They would all be hard-working and modest in their possessions. Their individual characters shine through the photographs with a rugged determination and strength.

In the Folds of Hills will come to have historic significance because it captures aspects of Australian rural life, which in many parts of this country are fast disappearing.

Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser AC CH

 

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. 'In the Folds of Hills' book cover 2014

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
In the Folds of Hills book cover
2014

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. 'Barn in the Mist' 2014

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Barn in the Mist
2014

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. 'Lima East Valley' 2014

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Lima East Valley
2014

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. 'Ralph Pearce' 2014

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Ralph Pearce
2014

 

 

Photographer’s Note

This project began with a curiosity to discover something that is quietly going unnoticed. As our cities grow and society increasingly relies on technological advances, there remain those older generations whose lives are still rooted in a past era: the early to mid 20th century. This was an era where small-scale labor-intensive livelihoods could thrive. In the face of changing needs and corporate competition these kinds of livelihoods, such as the family-owned farm, are disappearing.

Susan Sontag wrote in her book On Photography that “a beautiful subject can be the object of rueful feelings because it has aged or decayed or no longer exists … Photography is a twilight art.” This photo-series also lingers in some kind of twilight zone and has a sense of urgency; indeed one person has passed away since being photographed.

I first intended to capture day-to-day life and work in these secluded rural valleys. With subject matter so steeped in romanticism, I felt a need to explore beyond the ‘countryside’ clichés and idealisation common in the attitudes of city people. After meeting the subjects and gaining their trust, I sensed personal stories that needed to be told. To my surprise these stories were told not so much in the words spoken, but rather in the person’s material surrounds. Domestic interiors scattered with objects became allegories for human experience. These environments were full of memory.

It wasn’t uncommon for someone to still live in the house they were born in. An empty chair, a leaning barn, a clock ticking on the wall: these once mundane objects became potent symbols of their owner’s past, their hopes and their reality. Some objects suggested loss and melancholia, others embodied feelings of pride and even humour.

In the Folds of Hills is an exploration of the wisdom and rich humanity found in the characters living and working on this land. In celebrating and acknowledging them and their stories, the photo-narratives also offer a somewhat poetic insight into their inner worlds.

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. 'On Mother's Bed' 2014

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
On Mother’s Bed
2014

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. 'Old Flowers' 2014

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Old Flowers
2014

 

 

Ralph Pearce

Ralph’s knowledge and understanding of this part of the world is humbling. Rainfall patterns, geography and vegetation are things that matter to Ralph. He invites us to climb into his ute and drives to a stand of fabled Lima stringybarks. Few now exist in the valley. Our gentle giant is very much at home amongst the tall timbers that have been his livelihood for so many years.

“I still love mucking about in the bush,” chuckles Ralph with a twinkle in his eye. He shows us his tools, most importantly his axes, and carefully describes their variations and uses. The sheds back at the homestead hold a treasury of farming history and Ralph proudly shows us the old dairy, his shearing shed and a faithful companion, a Honda 110 motorbike. The land continues to give Ralph what he needs. His vegetable patch is impressive and the old gnarled fruit trees bear their gifts seasonally. Once a fortnight Ralph drives to Benalla for groceries and a chat. Every second Tuesday evening he travels to the nearby Moorngag Hall for a round of cards with friends from the district. Charlie Jensen, his childhood mate, collects him.

When next we visit Ralph he shows us around the rest of his house. His mother was clearly a significant influence. She died in 1985 aged ninety-eight and was blind for the last nine years of her life. Ralph cared for her. Her suitcase, packed for hospital, still sits in her room. Little has changed in the house since she died.

ABC Radio keeps Ralph informed. And informed he is. Television has never made an appearance in this house. Ralph speaks to us with the wisdom of someone who has seen many fashions and many politicians come and go. One cannot help but be touched by the simplicity and integrity of this man’s life. Ralph is a quiet gentleman, unassuming, self-reliant and comfortable within his skin. (Extract from stories by Charlotte Laemmle from the book In the Folds of Hills)

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. 'Ralph's oven' 2014

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Ralph’s oven
2014

 

 

The Field Institute at The Compound Interest (Centre for the Applied Arts)
15-25 Keele Street, Collingwood, Victoria

Opening hours:
Wed – Fri 11.00 am – 6.00 pm
Sat 12 am – 5pm

Field Institute website

The Compound Interest website

In the Folds of Hills website

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20
Mar
14

Exhibition and book launch preview: ‘THE RENNIE ELLIS SHOW’ and ‘Decadent 1980-2000′ at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 3rd April – 8th June 2014
Exhibition and book launch: 3-5 pm Saturday 5th April 2014

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I saw a digital preview of the new book Rennie Ellis - Decadent 1980-2000, shown to me by the delightful Director of the Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive, Manuela Furci – and I must say I was mighty impressed… it was absolutely, colourfully, outrageously FAB !

My god Rennie Ellis was a fantastic artist, what an eye, and what a sense of humour he imparts in his work. And in colour this time. The exhibition draws work from BOTH books – Decade 1970-1980 and Decadent 1980-2000. The colour images in the posting are from the Decadent book and are also in the exhibition. Do come along to the opening and book launch… it will be a solid gold event!

Marcus

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Many thankx to Manuel Furci and the Rennie Ellis Archive for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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“Without my photography life would be boring. Photography adds an extra dimension to my life. Somehow it confirms my place in the world”

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Rennie Ellis

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Rennie Ellis. 'Fully equipped, Albert Park Beach' c.1981

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Rennie Ellis
Fully equipped, Albert Park Beach
c.1981, printed later
Digital colour print
© Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive

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Rennie Ellis. 'Berlin Party, Inflation Melbourne' c.1981

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Rennie Ellis
Berlin Party, Inflation, Melbourne
c. 1981, printed later
Digital colour print
© Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive

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book-covers

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Rennie Ellis Decade 1970-1980 and Decadent 1980-2000

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“The photographer Rennie Ellis (1940-2003) is a key figure in Australian visual culture. Ellis is best remembered for his effervescent observations of Australian life during the 1970s-90s, including his now iconic book Life is a beach. Although invariably inflected with his own personality and wit, the thousands of social documentary photographs taken by Ellis during this period now form an important historical record.

The Rennie Ellis Show highlights some of the defining images of Australian life from the 1970s and ’80s. This is the period of Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser, Paul Keating and Bob Hawke; AC/DC and punk rock; cheap petrol and coconut oil; Hare Krishnas and Hookers and Deviant balls.

This exhibition of over 100 photographs provides a personal account of what Ellis termed ‘a great period of change’. Photographs explore the cultures and subcultures of the period, and provide a strong sense of a place that now seems worlds away, a world free of risk, of affordable inner city housing, of social protest, of disco and pub rock, of youth and exuberance.”

Text from the MGA website

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Rennie Ellis. 'Dining Out, Inflation' 1980

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Rennie Ellis
Dining Out, Inflation
1980, printed later
Selenium-toned silver gelatin print
© Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive

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Rennie Ellis. 'At the Pub, Brisbane' 1982

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Rennie Ellis
At the Pub, Brisbane
1982, printed later
Selenium-toned silver gelatin print
© Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive

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Exhibition and book launch preview: 'THE RENNIE ELLIS SHOW' and 'Decadent 1980-2000'

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Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive website

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Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive

Level 1 / 26 Acland Street
St Kilda 3182
Victoria, Australia
T: +61 3 9525 3862
E: info@RennieEllis.com.au

Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive website

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Monash Gallery of Art
860 Ferntree Gully Road, Wheelers Hill
Victoria 3150 Australia
T: + 61 3 8544 0500

Opening hours:
Tue – Fri: 10am – 5pm
Sat – Sun: 12pm – 5pm
Mon/public holidays: closed

Monash Gallery of Art website

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16
Mar
14

Review: ‘Wildcards: Bill Henson shuffles the deck’ at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 1st February – 30th March 2014

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Installation photograph of 'Wildcards: Bill Henson shuffles the deck' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation photograph of 'Wildcards: Bill Henson shuffles the deck' at the Monash Gallery of Art

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Installation photographs of Wildcards: Bill Henson shuffles the deck at the Monash Gallery of Art

1/ stygian gloom
2/large grouping of 14 works by Wesley Stacey

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UNKNOWN_WEB

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Unknown
Untitled
c. 1900
Cyanotype print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Acquired 2012

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vapid [vap-id]
adjective
lacking or having lost life, sharpness, or flavor

Origin:
1650-60;  Latin vapidus;  akin to va·por [vey-per]
noun
a visible exhalation, as fog, mist, steam, smoke diffused through or suspended in the air; particles of drugs that can be inhaled as a therapeutic agent.

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This is an unexceptional exhibition, one that lacks jouissance in the sense of a transgressive kind of enjoyment, an investigation of the subject that gives pleasure in taking you to unexpected places. At times I felt like a somnambulist walking around this exhibition of photographs from the Monash Gallery of Art collection curated by Bill Henson, pitched into stygian darkness and listening to somewhat monotonous music. It was a not too invidious an exercise but it left me with a VAPID feeling, as though I had inhaled some soporific drug: the motion of the journey apparently not confined by a story, but in reality that story is Henson’s mainly black and white self-portrait. The photographs on the wall, while solid enough, seemed to lack sparkle. There were a couple of knockout prints (such as David Moore’s Himalaya at dusk, Sydney, 1950 below, the Untitled Cyanotype, c. 1900, above and Mark Hinderaker’s delicate portrait of Fiona Hall, 1984, below) and some real bombs (the large Norman Lindsay photographs, modern reproductions printed many times their original size were particularly nauseous) and one has to ask, were the images chosen for how they were balanced on the wall or were they chosen for content?

Henson states that there was no concept or agenda when picking the 88 photographs for this exhibition, simply his INTENSITY of feeling and intuition, his intuitive response to the images when he first saw them – to allow “their aesthetics to determine their presence… our whole bodies to experience these photographs – objects as pictures as photographs.”1 Henson responded as much as possible to the thing which then becomes an iconography (which appeals to his eye) as he asks himself, why is one brush stroke compelling, and not another? The viewer can then go on a journey in which MEANING comes from FEELING, and SENSATIONS are the primary stuff of life.

One of Henson’s preoccupations, “is an interest in the photograph as an object, in the physical presence of the print or whatever kind of technology is being used to make it.”2 He would like us to acknowledge the presence and aura (Walter Benjamin) of the photograph as we stand in front of it, responding with our whole bodies to the experience, not just our eyes. He wants us to have an intensity of feeling towards these works, responding to their presence and how he has hung the works in the exhibition. “There are no themes but rather images that appeal to the eye and, indeed, the whole body. Because photographs are first and foremost objects, their size, shape grouping and texture are as important as the images they’re recording.”3

Henson insists that there was no preconceived conceptual framework for picking these particular photographs but this is being disingenuous. Henson was invited to select images from the MGA collection with the specific idea of holding an exhibition, so this is the conceptual jumping off point; he then selected the images intuitively only to then group and arrange then intuitively/conceptually – by thinking long and hard about how these images would be grouped and hung on the wall of the gallery. I would like to believe that Henson was thinking about MUSIC when he hung this exhibition, not photography. Listen to Henson talk about the pairing of Leonie Reisberg’s Portrait of Peggy Silinski, Tasmania (c. 1976, below) and Beverley Veasey’s Study of a Calf, Bos taurus (2006, below) in this video, and you will get the idea about how he perceives these photographs relate to each other, how they transcend time and space.

This is one of the key elements of the exhibition: how Henson pushes and pulls at time and space itself through the placing of images of different eras together. The other two key elements are how the music rises and falls through the shape of the photographs themselves; and how the figures within the images are pulled towards or pushed away from you. With regard to the rise and fall, Henson manipulates the viewer through the embodiedness of both horizontal and vertical photographs, reminding me of a Japanese artist using a calligraphy brush (see the second installation image above, where the photographs move from the vertical to the square and then onto panoramic landscape). In relation to the content of the images, there seems to be a preoccupation (a story, a theme?) running through the exhibition with the body being consumed by the landscape or the body being isolated from the landscape but with the threat of being consumed by it. Evidence of this can be seen in Wesley Stacey’s Willie near Mallacoota (1979, below) where the body almost melts into the landscape and David Moore’s Newcastle steelworks (1963, below) where the kids on the bicycles are trying to escape the encroaching doom that hovers behind them.

One of the key images in the exhibition for me also reinforces this theme – a tiny Untitled Cyanotype (c. 1900, above) in which two Victorian children are perched on a bank near a stream with the bush beyond – but there are too many of this ilk to mention here: either the figures are pulled towards the front of the frame or pushed back into the encroaching danger, as though Henson is interrogating, evidencing un/occupied space. Overall, there is an element of control and lyrical balance in how he has grouped and hung these works together, the dark hue of the gallery walls allowing the photographs to exist as objects for themselves. Henson puts things next to each other in sequences and series to, allegedly, promote UNEXPECTED conversations and connections through a series of GESTURES.

As Henson notes,

“Maybe it’s the fact that the photographs have the ability to suggest some other thing and that’s what draws you in – that’s that feeling, the thing that slips away from thought. These are really the same things that apply to our meetings with any work of art, whether it’s a piece of music or a sculpture or anything else. There’s something compelling, there’s something there that sort of animates your speculative capacity, causes you to wonder. Other times, or most of the time, that’s not the case. Certainly most of the time that’s not the case with photography.”4

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For me, there was little WONDER in this exhibition, something that you would go ‘oh, wow’ at, some way of looking at the world that is interesting and insightful and fractures the plaisir of cultural enjoyment and identity. While the photographs may have been chosen intuitively and then hung intuitively/conceptually, I simply got very little FEELING, no ICE/FIRE  (as Minor White would say) – no frisson between his pairings, groupings and arrangements. It was all so predictable, so ho-hum. Everything I expected Henson to do… he did!

There were few unexpected gestures, no startling insight into the human and photographic condition. If as he says, “Everything comes to you through your whole body, not just through your eyes and ears,”5 and that photographs are first and foremost objects, their size, shape, grouping and texture as important as the images they’re recording THEN I wanted to be moved, I wanted to feel, to be immersed in a sensate world not a visible exhalation (of thought?), a vapor that this exhibition is. Henson might have painted an open-ended self-portrait but this does not make for a very engaging experience for the viewer. In this case, the sharing of a story has not meant the sharing of an emotion.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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1. 
Interview with Bill Henson by Toby Fehily posted 01 Feb 2014 on the Art Guide Australia website [Online] Cited 18/02/2014.
2. Ibid.,
3. Fiona Gruber. “Review of Wildcards, Bill Henson Shuffles the Deck” on the Guardian website, Wednesday 12 February 2014 [Online] Cited 16/03/2014
4. Fehily op. cit.,
5. Fehily op. cit.,

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Many thankx to the Monash Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

WARNING

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers should be aware that the following posting may contain images of deceased persons.

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John Eaton. 'Sheep in clearing' c. 1920s

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John Eaton (born United Kingdom 1881; arrived Australia 1889; died 1967)
Sheep in clearing
c. 1920s
Gelatin silver print
15.6 x 23.8 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Janice Hinderaker through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2003

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Fred Kruger. 'Queen Mary and King Billy outside their mia mia' c. 1880

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Fred Kruger (born Germany 1831; arrived Australia 1860; died 1888)
Queen Mary and King Billy outside their mia mia
c. 1880
Albumen print
13.4 x 20.8 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 2012

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David Moore. 'Himalaya at dusk, Sydney' 1950

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David Moore (Australia 1927-2003)
Himalaya at dusk, Sydney
1950
Gelatin silver print, printed 2005
24.5 x 34.25 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection donated by the Estate of David Moore 2006
Courtesy of the Estate of David Moore (Sydney)

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Stacey-willie-near-mallacoota

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Wesley Stacey (born Australia 1941)
Willie near Mallacoota
1979
From the series Koorie set
Gelatin silver print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Christine Godden 2011

Published under fair use for the purpose of art criticism

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David MOORE Newcastle steelworks

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David Moore (Australia 1927-2003)
Newcastle steelworks
1963
Gelatin silver print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Acquired 1981

Published under fair use for the purpose of art criticism

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“One of those preoccupations is an interest in the photograph as an object, in the physical presence of the print or whatever kind of technology is being used to make it. Part of the reason for that is that photography, more than any other medium, suffers from a mistake or misunderstanding people have when they’ve seen a reproduction in a magazine or online: they think they’re seeing the original. A certain amount of photography is made with its ultimate intention being to be seen in a magazine or online, but most photography, historically, ended up in its final form as a print – a cyanotype, or a tin type or a daguerreotype or whatever it might be.”

Interview with Bill Henson by Toby Fehily posted 01 Feb 2014 on the Art Guide Australia website [Online] Cited 18/02/2014. Used under fair use for the purpose of art criticism.

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REISBERG-WEB

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Leonie Reisberg (born Australia 1955)
Portrait of Peggy Silinski, Tasmania
c. 1976
Gelatin silver print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Janice Hinderaker through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2003

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VEASEY_calf_WEB

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Beverley Veasey (born Australia 1968)
Study of a Calf, Bos taurus
2006
Chromogenic print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Acquired 2006

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“I think when you look through any collection, you’re often struck by the kind of pointlessness and banality of photography. It doesn’t matter which museum in the world you look at. It’s like, “is there any need for this thing to exist at all?”. It probably comes back to the capacity of the object, the image to suggest things, the suggestive potential rather than the prescriptive, which is a given in photography of course, the evidential authority of the medium preceding any individual reading we have of particular pictures. Maybe it’s the fact that the photographs have the ability to suggest some other thing and that’s what draws you in – that’s that feeling, the thing that slips away from thought. These are really the same things that apply to our meetings with any work of art, whether it’s a piece of music or a sculpture or anything else. There’s something compelling, there’s something there that sort of animates your speculative capacity, causes you to wonder. Other times, or most of the time, that’s not the case. Certainly most of the time that’s not the case with photography.”

Interview with Bill Henson by Toby Fehily posted 01 Feb 2014 on the Art Guide Australia website [Online] Cited 18/02/2014. Used under fair use for the purpose of art criticism.

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POIGNANT-WEB

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Axel Poigant (born United Kingdom 1906; arrived Australia 1926; died 1986)
Jack and his family on the Canning Stock Route
1942
Gelatin silver print, printed 1986
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Acquired 1991

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JOHNSON_light-performance_WEB

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Tim Johson (born Australia 1947)
Light performances
1971-72
Gelatin silver print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Acquired 2011

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FAHD_alicia_WEB

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Cherine Fahd (born Australia 1974)
Alicia
2003
From the series A woman runs
Gelatin silver print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2011

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STACEY_friends-WEB

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Wesley Stacey (born Australia 1941)
Untitled
1973
From the series Friends
Gelatin silver print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Bill Bowness 2013

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“That was one of the things that interested me and continues to interest me about photography: how these things inhabit the world as objects. And indeed we read them not just with our eyes but with how our whole bodies read and encounter and negotiate these objects, which happen to be photographs. And that’s very much a thing that interests me in the way that I work. I feel sometimes that I only happen to make photographs myself and that it’s a means to an end… So there’s a sense in which I’m interested in these objects that happen to be photographs and the way that they inhabit the same space that our bodies inhabit. Everything comes to you through your whole body, not just through your eyes and ears – it’s a vast amount of information. Watching something get bigger as you draw closer to it, not just matters of proximity, but texture or the way objects sit in a space when they’re lit a certain way – all of this is very interesting to me, always has been.”

Interview with Bill Henson by Toby Fehily posted 01 Feb 2014 on the Art Guide Australia website [Online] Cited 18/02/2014. Used under fair use for the purpose of art criticism.

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HINDERAKER_Fiona-Hall_WEB

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Mark Hinderaker (born United States of America 1946; arrived Australia 1970; died 2004)
Fiona Hall
1984
Gelatin silver print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Janice Hinderaker through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2003

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LLINDSAY_Norman-and-Rose-WEB

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Lionel Lindsay (Australia 1874–1961)
Norman Lindsay and Rose Soady, Bond Street studio
c. 1909
Gelatin silver print, printed 2000
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Katherine Littlewood 2000

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STRIZIC_BHP_WEB

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Mark Strizic (born Germany 1928; arrived Australia 1950; died 2012)
BHP steel mill, Port Kembla, 1959
1959
Gelatin silver print, printed 1999
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by the Bowness Family through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2008

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Monash Gallery of Art
860 Ferntree Gully Road, Wheelers Hill
Victoria 3150 Australia
T: + 61 3 8544 0500

Opening hours:
Tue – Fri: 10am – 5pm
Sat – Sun: 12pm – 5pm
Mon/public holidays: closed

Monash Gallery of Art website

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14
Mar
14

Exhibition preview: ‘Out of the closets, into the streets: gay liberation photography 1971-73′ at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: Tuesday 22nd July – Saturday 26th July, 2014

Opening: TBC
Nite Art: Wednesday 23rd July until 11pm
Artists represented: Philip Potter, John Storey, John Englart, Barbara Creed, Ponch Hawkes, Rennie Ellis

Curated by Dr Marcus Bunyan and Nicholas Henderson

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Five days, that’s all you’ve got! Just five days to see this fabulous exhibition, so make a note of it now in your diaries…

The exhibition Out of the closets, into the streets: gay liberation photography 1971-73 pictures the very beginning of the gay liberation movement in Australia through the work of Philip Potter, John Storey, John Englart, Barbara Creed, Ponch Hawkes and Rennie Ellis. The exhibition examines for the first time images from the period as works of art as much as social documents. The title of the exhibition is a slogan from the period.

As gay people found their voice in the early 1970s artists, often at the very beginning of their careers, were there to capture meetings in lounge rooms, consciousness raising groups and street protests. The liberation movement meant ‘being there’, putting your body on the line. “It was a key feature of the new left that this embodied politics couldn’t stop in the streets: that is, the public arena as conventionally understood. ‘Being there’ politically also applied to households, classrooms, sexual relations, workplaces and the natural environment.”1

Curated by Dr Marcus Bunyan and Nicholas Henderson and with a catalogue essay by Professor Dennis Altman, the show is a stimulating experience for those who want to be inspired by the history and art of the early gay liberation movement in Australia.

The exhibition coincides with AIDS 2014: 20th International AIDS Conference (20-25 July 2014) and Nite Art which occurs on the Wednesday night (23rd July 2014). The exhibition will travel to Sydney to coincide with the 14th Australia’s Homosexual Histories Conference in November at a venue yet to be confirmed.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to all the artists for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Phillip Potter. 'Untitled [Queens]' 1971

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Phillip Potter
Untitled [Queens]
1971, printed 2014
© Phillip Potter

From a series of photographs of the very first gay rights demonstration which attracts 70 people outside NSW Liberal Party headquarters in support of the pre-selection of Tom Hughes against a right wing challenge following his support for homosexual law reform.

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Rennie Ellis. 'Confrontation, Gay Pride Week Picnic, Botanical Gardens 1973' 1973, printed later

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Rennie Ellis
Confrontation, Gay Pride Week Picnic, Botanical Gardens 1973
1973, printed 2014
© Rennie Ellis

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Anonymous. 'Untitled [Cricket is homosexual]' Melbourne, c. 1971 - 1973

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Anonymous
Untitled [Cricket is homosexual!]
Melbourne, c. 1971 – 1973, printed 2014
© Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

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Barbara Creed. 'Untitled [Gay Liberation Front banner]' Melbourne, 1973

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Barbara Creed
Untitled [Gay Liberation Front banner]
Melbourne, 1973, printed 2014
Still from a Super 8mm film
© Barbara Creed

Still from a super 8mm movie of a Women’s Liberation march, Melbourne, 1973.

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Barbara Creed. 'Untitled [Gay Lib Woman]' Melbourne, 1973

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Barbara Creed
Untitled [Gay Lib Woman]
Melbourne, 1973, printed 2014
Still from a Super 8mm film
© Barbara Creed

Still from a super 8mm movie of a Women’s Liberation march, Melbourne, 1973.

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John-Storey-I-am-a-Lesbian-and-Beautiful-1971

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John Storey
Untitled [I am a Lesbian and Beautiful]
1971, printed 2014
© John Storey

From a series of photographs of the very first gay rights demonstration which attracts 70 people outside NSW Liberal Party headquarters in support of the pre-selection of Tom Hughes against a right wing challenge following his support for homosexual law reform.

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Phillip Potter. 'Untitled [Policeman reading 'Camp Ink' magazine]' 1971

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Phillip Potter
Untitled [Policeman reading 'Camp Ink' magazine]
1971, printed 2014
© Phillip Potter

From a series of photographs of the very first gay rights demonstration which attracts 70 people outside NSW Liberal Party headquarters in support of the pre-selection of Tom Hughes against a right wing challenge following his support for homosexual law reform.

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Sponsored by

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For photographic services in Australia, Art Blart highly recommends CPL Digital (03) 8376 8376 cpldigital.com.au

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Dr Marcus Bunyan and the best photography blog in Australia sponsor this event artblart.com

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The Archives actively collects and preserves lesbian and gay material from across Australia alga.org.au

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Supported by

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EP is a contemporary Melbourne art space dedicated to the appreciation of photography (03) 9023 5775 edmundpearce.com.au

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Rennie Ellis is an award winning photographer and writer (03) 9525 3862 www.rennieellis.com.au

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1. Connell, Raewyn. “Ours is in colour: the new left of the 1960s,” in Carolyn D’Cruz and Mark Pendleton (eds.,). After Homosexual: The Legacies of Gay Liberation. Perth: UWA Publishing, 2013, p.43.

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AIDS 2014: 20th International AIDS Conference
20 July – 25 July 2014
Melbourne, Australia

AIDS 2014 website

Edmund Pearce Gallery
Level 2, Nicholas Building
37 Swanston Street (corner Flinders Lane)
Melbourne Victoria 3000
T: (03) 9023 5775

Opening hours:
Tues – Sat 11 am – 5 pm

Edmund Pearce Gallery website

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23
Feb
14

Review: ‘Simon Harsent / Melt: Portrait of an Iceberg’ at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 5th February – 1st March 2014

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A solid exhibition by Simon Harsent to open the year at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne.

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Things I felt and observed

  • Harsent shows me sculptural photographs of icebergs as I have never seen them before
  • The photographs are well printed and framed, have great colour variation and work at both sizes the images are presented at
  • The horizon line of the sea rises and falls throughout the series, allowing the viewer to levitate and drop as you walk around the gallery
  • The ecological component of the exhibition, while inherent, is not overpowering. Which is a good thing
  • The non-chronological hang benefits the exhibition immensely. If the exhibition had been hung from large to small iceberg, the effect would have been too didactic
  • The Brancusi-esque forms held more interest for me, such as Melt #029, Melt #036 and Melt #039 (seen with a photograph of Brancusi’s The Newborn 1920, below), together with the intense, close-up abstract forms such as Melt #014 and Melt #023. These are superb!

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Things I wanted to feel and observe

  • When viewing the series I didn’t feel Harsent’s metaphorical reflection upon his own mortality. Only in two images, Melt #042 and Melt #09 (where the sunlight hits the top of the iceberg deliciously) did I feel an anthropomorphic link to humanity
  • I didn’t feel the grandeur of these icebergs. Perhaps just one image at the largest size possible would have shook me from my reverie
  • I didn’t feel the personality of each iceberg in its own journey. In the exhibition I never knew which large iceberg had metamorphosized into which smaller iceberg. Therefore I was unsure of each iceberg’s life-span and story. For that reason these are not ontological portraits concerned with the nature and relations (the relation of one photograph and the next) of being.
  • Finally, I wanted the images to push forward, to take me further on the journey. Taking the adage that two-thirds of the iceberg is always below water, I never really felt the psychological power of these objects, something dark that is hidden beneath the sea. All the icebergs are photographed in clear, calm weather. Some photographed in storms, in mist or fog, or at night would have added ineffably to the atmosphere

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These are not sublime photographs. I never got that feeling from viewing the work. They come nowhere close to Alain de Botton’s wonderful prose on the significance of sublime places:

“If the world is unfair or beyond our understanding, sublime places suggest it is not surprising things should be thus. We are the playthings of the forces that laid out the oceans and chiselled the mountains. Sublime places acknowledge limitations that we might otherwise encounter with anxiety or anger in the ordinary flow of events. It is not just nature that defies us. Human life is as overwhelming, but it is the vast spaces of nature that perhaps provide us with the finest, the most respectful reminder of all that exceeds us. If we spend time with them, they may help us to accept more graciously the great unfathomable events that molest our lives and will inevitably return us to dust.” (de Botton, Alain. The Art of Travel. London: Penguin, 2002, p. 178 – 179.)

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I never felt that the photographs transported the viewer on an emotional journey that furthers our understanding of the fragility of life both of the planet and of ourselves. And that is the one thing I wished they had of done.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to Edmund Pearce Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Simon Harsent. 'Melt #028a' 2008

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Simon Harsent
Melt #028a
2008
Archival Pigment Print
58.5 x 86 cm
Edition of 25

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Simon Harsent. 'Melt #026' 2008

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Simon Harsent
Melt #026
2008
Archival Pigment Print
58.5 x 86 cm
Edition of 25

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Simon Harsent. 'Melt #029' 2008

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Simon Harsent
Melt #029
2008
Archival Pigment Print
110 x 160 cm
Edition of 10

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Simon Harsent. 'Melt #039' 2008

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Simon Harsent
Melt #039
2008
Archival Pigment Print
58.5 x 86 cm
Edition of 10

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Simon Harsent. 'Melt #036' 2008

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Simon Harsent
Melt #036
2008
Archival Pigment Print
58.5 x 86 cm
Edition of 25

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Constantin Brancusi. 'The Newborn'. Version I 1920 (close to the marble of 1915)

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Constantin Brancusi
The Newborn. Version I
1920 (close to the marble of 1915)
Bronze
14.6 cm x 21 cm x 14.6 cm
Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss request
© 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Used under conditions of fair use for the purpose of art criticism

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Simon Harsent. 'Melt #037' 2008

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Simon Harsent
Melt #037
2008
Archival Pigment Print
58.5 x 86 cm
Edition of 25

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Simon Harsent. 'Melt #042' 2008

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Simon Harsent
Melt #042
2008
Archival Pigment Print
58.5 x 86 cm
Edition of 25

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“After successful exhibitions in Australia and abroad, Simon Harsent’s sublime photographic series Melt: Portrait of an Iceberg makes its Melbourne premiere at Edmund Pearce this February. The exhibition and accompanying monograph present portraits of icebergs as they travel Greenland’s Ilulissat Icefjord. The ecological story is self-evident; more sections are breaking away from the arctic ice cap and melting faster due to global warming. But the chronicle of the iceberg is, for the artist, a metaphorical reflection upon his own mortality.

Harsent states; “Seeing them first overpowering in grandeur and then, later, about to be absorbed back into the flux from which they came, is both beautiful and humbling: a metamorphosis that endows them with a life-span, each with its own personality, each with its own story.”

Born in England Simon Harsent studied photography at Watford College before moving to Australia in 1988 to establish himself as one of the country’s leading photographers. Currently based in New York, Harsent’s career has seen him win numerous national and international awards including, Cannes Lions, One Show, Clio, D&AD, and Australia’s first Cannes Grand Prix – making him one of the most awarded photographers in the world. His work is included in the permanent collection of the Queensland Art Gallery and The Powerhouse Museum. Melt: Portrait of an Iceberg was published in late 2009 to critical acclaim, reinforced by its inclusion in the prestigious D&AD and PDN Photo Annuals.”

Text from the Edmund Pearce Gallery website

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Simon Harsent. 'Melt #023' 2008

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Simon Harsent
Melt #023
2008
Archival Pigment Print
58.5 x 86 cm
Edition of 25

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Simon Harsent. 'Melt #014' 2008

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Simon Harsent
Melt #014
2008
Archival Pigment Print
58.5 x 86 cm
Edition of 25

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Simon Harsent. 'Melt #021' 2008

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Simon Harsent
Melt #021
2008
Archival Pigment Print
58.5 x 86 cm
Edition of 25

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Simon Harsent. 'Melt #010' 2008

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Simon Harsent
Melt #010
2008
Archival Pigment Print
58.5 x 86 cm
Edition of 25

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Simon Harsent. 'Melt #09' 2008

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Simon Harsent
Melt #09
2008
Archival Pigment Print
58.5 x 86 cm
Edition of 25

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Simon Harsent. 'Melt #020' 2008

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Simon Harsent
Melt #020
2008
Archival Pigment Print
58.5 x 86 cm
Edition of 25

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Simon Harsent. 'Melt #05' 2008

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Simon Harsent
Melt #05
2008
Archival Pigment Print
58.5 x 86 cm
Edition of 25

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Simon Harsent. 'Melt #03' 2008

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Simon Harsent
Melt #03
2008
Archival Pigment Print
58.5 x 86 cm
Edition of 25

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Simon Harsent. 'Melt #07' 2008

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Simon Harsent
Melt #07
2008
Archival Pigment Print
110 x 160 cm
Edition of 10

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Edmund Pearce Gallery
Level 2, Nicholas Building
37 Swanston Street (corner Flinders Lane)
Melbourne Victoria 3000

Opening hours:
Wed – Sat 11 am – 5 pm

Edmund Pearce Gallery website

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04
Feb
14

Exhibition: ‘The Weak Sex – How Art Pictures the New Male’ at Kunstmuseum Bern

Exhibition dates: 18th October 2013 – 9th February 2014

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The Cult of Muscularity

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“… muscularity is a key term in appraising men’s bodies … this comes from men themselves. Muscularity is the sign of power – natural, achieved, phallic.”

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Richard Dyer. Only Entertainment. London: Routledge, 1992, p.114

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“The formation of ‘The Cult of Muscularity’ (Elliott Gorn. The Manly Art. London: Robson Books, 1986) in the last decade of the 19th century was a reaction to the perceived effeminisation of heterosexual masculinity. The position of the active, heroic hetero-male was under attack from the passivity of industrialisation, from the expansion of women’s rights and their ability to become breadwinners, and through the naming of deviant sexualities that were seen as a threat to the stability of society. By naming deviant sexualities they became visible to the general public for the first time, creating apprehension in the minds of men gazing upon the bodies of other men lest they be thought of as ‘pansies’. (Remember that it was in this decade the trials of Oscar Wilde had taken place in England after he was accused of being a sodomite by The Marquis of Queensbury. It is perhaps no coincidence that the rules that governed boxing, a very masculine sport in which a man could become a popular hero, were named after his accuser. By all accounts he was a brute of a man who despised and beat his son Lord Alfred Douglas and sought revenge on his partner, Oscar Wilde, for their sexual adventures). Muscles became the sign of heterosexual power, prowess, and virility. A man had control over his body and his physical world. His appearance affected how he interacted with this world, how he saw himself, and was seen by others, and how closely he matched the male physical ‘ideal’ impacted on his own levels of self-esteem. The gymnasium became a meeting point for exercise, for health, for male bonding, and to show off your undoubted ‘masculinity’…”

The development of ‘The Cult of Muscularity’ may also have parallels in other social environments which were evolving at the turn of the century. For example, I think that the construction of the muscular mesomorphic body can be linked to the appearance of the first skyscrapers in cities in the United States of America. Skyscrapers were a way increasing visibility and surface area within the limited space of a crowded city. One of the benefits of owning a skyscraper like the Chrysler Building in New York, with its increased surface area, was that it got the company noticed. The same can be said of the muscular body. Living and interacting in the city, the body itself is inscribed by social interaction with its environment, its systems of regulation and its memories and historicities (his-tor-i-city, ‘tor’ being a large hill or formation of rocks). Like a skyscraper, the muscular body has more surface area, is more visible, attracts more attention to its owner and is more admired. The owner of this body is desired because of his external appearance which may give him a feeling of superiority and power over others. However this body image may also lead to low self-esteem and heightened body dissatisfaction in the owner (causing anxiety and insecurity in his identity) as he constantly strives to maintain and enhance his body to fulfil expectations he has of himself.

Of course, body image is never a static concept for the power of muscular images of the male body resides in their perceived value as a commodity. This value is reinforced through social and moral values, through fluid personal interactions, and through the desire of self and others for a particular type of body image; it is a hierarchical system of valuation. It relies on what type of body is seen as socially desirable and ‘beautiful’ in a collective sense, even though physical attractiveness is very much a personal choice.”

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Dr Marcus Bunyan. Excerpt from “Bench Press,” in Pressing the Flesh: Sex, Body Image and the Gay Male, PhD thesis, RMIT Univesity, Melbourne, 2001.

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*PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS ART PHOTOGRAPHS OF MALE NUDITY AND MALE SEXUAL AROUSAL – IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

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Many thankx to the Kunstmuseum Bern for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Alexis Hunter. 'Approach to Fear: XVII: Masculinisation of Society - exorcise' 1977

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Alexis Hunter (born Epsom, New Zealand, 1948)
Approach to Fear: XVII: Masculinisation of Society – exorcise
1977
10 Color photographs, mounted on two panels, both 25 x 101 cm
Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery
© 2013 ProLitteris, Zürich
(From the section Experiments)

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Ugo Rondinone. 'I Don't Live Here Anymore' 1998

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Ugo Rondinone (born Brunnen, Switzerland, 1962)
I Don’t Live Here Anymore
1998
C-prints between Alucobond and Plexiglas
Each 180 × 125 cm
Kunstmuseum Bern, purchased with the donation of an Art Lover
(From the section Masculinity as Masquerade)

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Digitally manipulates photos of women depicted in various suggestive poses, replacing their features with his own in a sufficiently consistent way for the image to retain its erotic content. By slipping into different bodies, he tests his own body and appearance, and he raises the issue of reality. The artist can only offer his own, man-made version.

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Lynda Benglis. 'Artforum Advertisement in: Artforum, November 1974, Vol. 13, No. 3, S. 3-4' 1974

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Lynda Benglis (born Lake Charles, Louisiana, USA, 1941)
Artforum Advertisement in: Artforum, November 1974, Vol. 13, No. 3, S. 3-4
1974
26.7 × 26.5 × 0.5 cm
Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München
(From the section Experiments)

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Peter Land. 'Peter Land d. 5. maj 1994' 1994

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Peter Land (born Aarhus, Denmark, 1966)
Peter Land d. 5. maj 1994
1994
Colour video
Time, 25 Min.
Courtesy Galleri Nicolai Wallner
(From the section Crisis and Criticism)

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Ursula Palla. 'balance' 2012

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Ursula Palla (born Chur, Switzerland, 1961)
balance
2012
Colour video installation
Time, 8 Min.
Courtesy the artist
(From the section Crisis and Criticism)

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Masculinity under scrutiny

“This themed group exhibition is our contribution to the discussion on new role definitions of the male gender, a topic that has long been on the agenda of academia and popular culture. Works by artists of both sexes will address the issue of how contemporary art stages male role models and masculinity, critically scrutinizing the content of the same.

Who or what makes a man? How do men define themselves in art since feminism; how do they reflect on their gender and the portrayal thereof? Whereas the preferred angle of engaging with female artists is still today via “gender”, this is still a novel angle for looking at male artists. And as feminist art has finally become an established entity in major institutions, it is time to take a closer look at the art produced by men about men. The Sexual Revolution as well as the feminist and gay movements did not have only one side to them: they likewise impacted the roles of men and transformed images of masculinity. The exhibition therefore explores how contemporary Western artists of both sexes have, since the 1960s, invented new notions of masculinity or shattered existing ones. It does this with some 45 installations, some of which are large and extensive.

With this exhibition, the Kunstmuseum Bern is addressing a topic that, until now, has hardly been tackled in a museum context: the “normal” white heterosexual male, hitherto the ultimate measure for everything we consider characteristically human, is now facing a crisis. The exhibition and catalogue draw on the reflections and insights gained from masculinities studies to throw light on the consequences of the contemporary male crisis and how it is reflected in art, making the extent of the crisis visually palpable.

The works selected for the show have been divided up into six sections. These sections explore what “normal” might be and what the new nuances inherent in being “male” are today. The prescribed tour of the exhibition begins with the chapter on “Strong Weaknesses” and then proceeds through the sections focusing thematically on “Experiments”, “Emotions”, “Eroticism”, “Critique and Crisis”, and “Masculinity as Masquerade”. This route follows, at the same time, a roughly chronological order. The show is accompanied by a rich fund of educational programs with tours of the exhibition, discussions of artworks with invited guests, as well as a film program in collaboration with the cinema Kino Kunstmuseum, and not least, workshops for schools.

Participating artists: Vito Acconci / Bas Jan Ader / Luc Andrié / Lynda Benglis / Luciano Castelli / Martin Disler / VALIE EXPORT and Peter Weibel / Gelitin / Pascal Häusermann / Alexis Hunter / Cathy Joritz / Jesper Just / Jürgen Klauke / Frantiček Klossner / Elke Silvia Krystufek / Marie-Jo Lafontaine / Peter Land / Littlewhitehead / Sarah Lucas / Urs Lüthi / Manon / Paul McCarthy / Tracey Moffatt / Josef Felix Müller / Ursula Palla / Adrian Piper / Anne-Julie Raccoursier / Ugo Rondinone / Carole Roussopoulos / Rico Scagliola and Michael Meier / Sylvia Sleigh / Nedko Solakov / Megan Francis Sullivan / Sam Taylor-Johnson / Costa Vece / William Wegman / Silvie Zürcher.

Text from the Kunstmuseum Bern website

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Tracey Moffat. 'Heaven' (still) 1997

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Tracey Moffat. 'Heaven' (still) 1997

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Tracey Moffat. 'Heaven' (still) 1997

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Tracey Moffat (born Brisbane, Australia, 1960)
Heaven (3 stills)
1997
Colour video
Time, 28 Min.
© 2013 ProLitteris, Zürich
(From the section Eroticism)

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Male to the Hilt: Images of Men

“The exhibition The Weak Sex – How Art Pictures the New Male zeroes in on the evolution of male identity since the 1960s. On view are works by 40 artists regardless of gender who question masculinity and stage it anew. The Kunstmuseum Bern seeks to foster dialogue in the exhibition and is therefore increasing its focus on social media. For the first time our visitors can respond to issues raised by an exhibition immediately on location…

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The whole spectrum of art media and male images

The exhibition is presenting works that cover the entire range of media used by artists, including paintings, drawings, photographs, films, videos, sculptures and performance-installations. Artists of all ages are represented in the exhibition, enabling it to highlight images of men in all age groups. Each of the artworks questions social norms, who or what a man is, while orchestrating masculinity in novel ways and reflecting on what it means to be a “man”. The artworks in the show take up the theme of masculinity or male emotions – as discussed in society in general or as openly demonstrated by men today: as weeping sport heroes, the disadvantaged position of divorced fathers, overstrained top managers or criminal youths.

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Of strong weaknesses, eroticism and the male in crisis

The exhibition is divided into six sections that explore key aspects of masculinity studies and thus simultaneously follow a loose art-historical chronological thread. The introductory section takes up the theme of “Strong Weaknesses” with representations of men weeping or expressing fear. The second section “Experiments” scrutinizes the exciting events that took place in conjunction with the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The section “Emotions” presents male emotionality in intensely stirring artistic orchestrations. The section “Eroticism” take us through a selection of artworks that investigate men as objects of desire. The last two sections of the exhibition “Crisis and Critique” and “Masculinity as Masquerade” investigate traditional male images and give us an account of the potential of new gender orientations.”

Press release from the Kunstmuseum Bern website

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Bas Jan Ader. 'I'm Too Sad to Tell You' 1970/71

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Bas Jan Ader (born Winschoten, Netherlands, 1942, died 1975 presumably on the high seas. Lived in California, USA, as of 1963)
I’m Too Sad to Tell You
1970/71
16mm, s/w
Time, 3:34 Min.
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
(From the section Strong Weaknesses)

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Sylvia Sleigh. 'Paul Rosano in Jacobson Chair' 1971

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Sylvia Sleigh (born Llandudno, Wales, Great Britain, 1916; died New York, USA, 2010)
Paul Rosano in Jacobson Chair
1971
Oil on canvas
131 x 142 cm
Courtesy The Estate of Sylvia Sleigh & Freymond-Guth Fine Arts Zürich
(From the section Eroticism)

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Peter Weibel with Valie EXPORT. 'Peter Weibel Aus der Mappe der Hundigkeit' (Peter Weibel From the Underdog File) 1969

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Peter Weibel with Valie EXPORT
Peter Weibel Aus der Mappe der Hundigkeit (Peter Weibel From the Underdog File)
1969
Documentation of the action
5 s/w photographs, 40.4 x 50 cm / 50 x 40.4 cm
Sammlung Generali Foundation
Wien Foto: Josef Tandl
© Generali Foundation © 2013 ProLitteris, Zürich
(From the section Experiments)

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Gelitin. 'Ständerfotos - Nudes' (Standing Photos - Nudes) 2000

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Gelitin
Ständerfotos – Nudes (Standing Photos – Nudes)
2000
Series of 15 Lambda prints
Various dimensions
(From the section Eroticism)

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Gelitin. 'Ständerfotos - Nudes' (Standing Photos - Nudes) 2000

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Gelitin
Ständerfotos – Nudes (Standing Photos – Nudes)
2000
Series of 15 Lambda prints
Various dimensions
(From the section Eroticism)

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Austrian artists’ collective with Wolfgang Gantner, Ali Janka, Florian Reither, and Tobias Urban. Apparently became acquainted at a summer camp in 1978. Changed their name from Gelatin to Gelitin in 2005.

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“Those who lived through their childhood and youth as members of the baby-boomer generation in the period of the late nineteen-fifties to the mid-seventies, as we did, received a clear view of the world along the way. It was the Cold War. There were precise dividing lines, and it was possible to completely separate good and evil, right and wrong, from one other. The division of roles between men and women was regulated in a way that was just as self-evident. For many children of this time, it was natural that the father earned the money while the mother was at home around the clock and, depending on her social position, went shopping and took careof the laundry herself, or left the housework to employees in order to be able to dedicate herself to “nobler” tasks such as, for instance, beauty care. Family and social duties were clearly distributed between husband and wife: the “strong” sex was responsible for the material basics of existence and for the social identity of the family. The “weak” or also fair sex, in contrast, was responsible for the “soft” factors inside: children, housekeeping, and the beautification of the home. The year 1968 did away with bourgeois concepts of life. Feminism and emancipation anchored the equality of men and women in law. And since the nineteen-sixties, art has also dealt intensively and combatively with feminism and gender questions.

Since VALIE EXPORT walked her partner Peter Weibel on a leash like a dog in their public action that unsettled the public in 1968, legions of creators of art, primarily of the female sex, have questioned the correlations between the genders and undertaken radical reassessments. The formerly “strong” gender has thus long since become a “weak” one. Nevertheless, the exhibition The Weak Sex: How Art Pictures the New Male is not dedicated first and foremost to the battlefield of the genders. Nor is the gender question, which has so frequently been dealt with, posited in the foreground. The Weak Sex is instead dedicated to man as object of research. In what state does he find himself now that his classical role has been invalidated? How does he behave after the shift from representative external appearance to work within the family unit? And where does he stand in the meantime in the midstof so many strong women? What has become of the proud and self-assured man who once signed the school report cards with praise or reproach as head of the family? What has become of the XY species since then is presented – insightfully, sarcastically, and wittily – in the exhibition by Kathleen Bühler.”

Part of the Preface to the exhibition by Matthias Frehner, Director of the Kunstmuseum Bern and Klaus Vogel, Director of the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum Dresden

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Sam Taylor-Johnson. 'Steve Buscemi' 2004

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Sam Taylor-Johnson (born London (UK), 1967)
Steve Buscemi
2004
From the series: Crying Men, 2002-2004
C-Print
99.2 x 99.2 cm framed
Courtesy White Cube
© Sam Taylor-Johnson
(From the section Strong Weaknesses)

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Sam Taylor-Johnson. 'Gabriel Byrne' 2002

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Sam Taylor-Johnson (born London (UK), 1967)
Gabriel Byrne
2002
From the series: Crying Men, 2002-2004
C-Print
86.2 x 86.2 cm framed
Courtesy White Cube
© Sam Taylor-Johnson
(From the section Strong Weaknesses)

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Costa Vece. 'Me as a Revolutionary, Dictator, Guerilla, Freedom Fighter, Terrorist, Jesus Christ' 2007

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Costa Vece (born Herisau, Switzerland, 1969)
Me as a Revolutionary, Dictator, Guerilla, Freedom Fighter, Terrorist, Jesus Christ
2007
Ultrachrome – Digitalprint
106 × 80 cm
(From the section Crisis and Criticism)

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Ugo Rondinone. 'I Don't Live Here Anymore' 1998

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Ugo Rondinone (born Brunnen, Switzerland, 1962)
I Don’t Live Here Anymore
1998
C-print between Alucobond and Plexiglas
180 × 125 cm
Kunstmuseum Bern, purchased with the donation of an Art Lover
(From the section Masculinity as Masquerade)

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Rico-Scagliola-&-Michael-Meier-Nude-Leaves-and-Harp-WEB

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Rico Scagliola & Michael Meier (born Zurich, Switzerland, 1985; born Chur, Switzerland, 1982)
Nude, Leaves and Harp
2012
Floor Installation, HD Digital Print on Novilux traffic, dimensions variable
Ed. 1/5

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Jürgen Klauke. 'Rot' 1974

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Jürgen Klauke (born Kliding, Germany, 1943)
Rot
1974
Series of 7 photographs
Each 40 × 30 cm
Kunstmuseum Bern
(From the section Experiments)

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Stronger and Weaker Sexes: Remarks on the Exhibition

Kathleen Bühler Curator Kunstmuseum Bern

In 1908, the Genevan politician and essayist William Vogt wrote the book Sexe faible (The Weak Sex), in which he examines the “natural” weaknesses and inabilities of the female gender. Intended as a “response to absurd exaggerations and feminist utopias,”1 since then the catchy title has shaped the battle of the sexes as a dictum. Like Otto Weininger’s misogynistic study Geschlecht und Charakter (Sex and Character, 1903), Sexe faible is one of the texts from the turn of the previous century that justified the legal, political, and social subordination of women based on their anatomical and, according to the opinion of the author, thus also intellectual inferiority in comparison with men.2 The perception of women as the “weak sex” persisted tenaciously. It is first in recent years that this ascription has slowly been shifted to men, as for instance in the report by neurobiologist Gerald Huther called Das schwache Geschlecht und sein Gehirn (The Weak Sex and His Brain) published in 2009.

Polemics has long since yielded to statistics, and the most recent biological discoveries are gaining currency, such as the fact that male babies are already at risk in the womb because they lack a second X chromosome.3 This genetic “weakness” would apparently lead seamlessly to a social weakness, since males more frequently have problems in school, turn criminal, and die earlier.4 In addition to the findings on biologically based weaknesses also comes the social, economic, and political challenge, which has for some years been discussed as a “crisis of masculinity.” With this metaphor, “an attempt is made to apprehend all the changes that contribute to the fact that the dominance of the male gender, which was formerly consolidated to a large extent, … has lost the obviousness of being self-evident.”5 Nothing therefore demonstrates the transience of gender stereotypes more clearly, and one might rightly ask whether the earlier “weaknesses” might long since have come to be considered new “strengths.” The exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Bern takes up the thread that was already spun by the small but noteworthy exhibition in Switzerland Helden Heute (Heroes Today) in 2005.6 At that time, the focus was put on hero images in contemporary art and on society’s current need for strong men in art and politics.7 The current exhibition in Bern, in contrast, argues quite differently that specifically images of “weak” men best represent the social and cultural liberation movements of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The fact that men today are allowed to express their feelings publicly, as is shown for instance by the example of the exceptional Swiss athlete Roger Federer, or that they are staged by female artists as object of desire and no longer as subject of desire is a crucial innovation in the visualization of gender identities. After various exhibitions in recent years were dedicated to gender relations, gender imprinting, or the social latitude in performative stagings of gender,8 the exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Bern focuses exclusively on men in contemporary art for the first time.9 It brings together the points of view of male and female artists who deal either with their own experiences with men and/or being a man, or with an examination of the images of men that are available. This exhibition has been long overdue.

Nonetheless, what first needs to be overcome is the perception that “gender” themes are a woman’s matter and that only marginalized positions have addressed their social gender. Hegemonic male types – thus men who, according to general opinion, embody the dominant masculine ideal most convincingly – have only been reflected in public through media for a relatively short time, even though the male gender is also a sociocultural construct, just like that of women, transgender, or inter-gender individuals.10 What comes to be expressed here is the invisibility of norms. As is generally known, it is those social groups that hold the most power that actually expose their own status the least. In Western cultural tradition, these are physically sound, white heterosexual men.11 They remain the norm unchallenged as a “blind spot” without their position of power and their power to make decisions ever becoming a focus. The masculine-heterosexual dominance succeeds in “remaining out of the question itself,” as the art historian Irit Rogoff has criticized, by subordinating all representations of the “other” to their own norm, including women, individuals with a different sexual orientation, and non-whites.12

The fact that male bodies are becoming visible today in the most unexpected places is demonstrated in a striking way by the work Nude, Leaves and Harp (2012) by Rico Scagliola and Michael Meier, which graces the entrance area to the exhibition in Bern. The artist duo incorporated detailed images of their naked, sculpted bodies into a palm and marble decor on the floor. The path to the exhibition literally leads over their nakedness. Two exhibitions in Austria were also recently dedicated to this new presence of the naked man,13 with numerous works documenting “the deconstruction of hegemonic models of masculinity – the look of desire at the male body as well as body cult and exploitation,” which is also a focus of the exhibition in Bern.14 However, while those responsible in Linz and Vienna assumed a distanced, art-historical perspective by taking an iconographic approach based on the selection of motifs or a chronological approach according to epoch, the exhibition in Bern favors a different perspective. It focuses on representations of masculinity in art since the nineteen-sixties while simultaneously taking the historical conditions of being a man into consideration by utilizing central issues in masculinity research as a guide. What thus results is a logical division of the exhibition and this publication into six chapters.

The introductory chapter “Strong Weaknesses” revolves around the change in gender virtues and considers this based on the example of the weeping and fearful man. The chapter “Experiments” presents eccentric artistic stagings and sociocritical actions that were influenced by the sexual revolution. The chapter “Emotions” highlights the point in time at which men themselves increasingly cast aside the image of the successful and unflinching hero and explore men’s emotionality through doing so. The chapter “Eroticism” describes the change in gaze and position from the male subject to object of desire. The final two chapters “Crisis and Criticism” and “Masculinity as Masquerade,” in contrast, are dedicated to a younger generation of artists who deal out criticism of their “fathers” and also discover the arsenal of gender stagings and their utopian potential anew.”

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Footnotes

1 Une riposte aux exagérations, aux absurdités et aux utopies du féminisme is the subtitle.

2 Otto Weininger, Geschlecht und Charakter, 19th ed. (Leipzig and Vienna, 1920), p. 390. Both Weininger’s book and Vogt’s pamphlet, which saw signs of cultural decay in the women’s movement, are considered to be expressions of a growing antifeminism. The often-used term “weak sex” then also provided the title of a theater piece by Edouard Bourdet in 1929, which was even filmed in 1933.

3 “Männer – Das schwache Geschlecht und sein Gehirn: Peter Schipek im Gespräch mit Prof. Dr. Gerald Hüther,”
http://www.sinn-stiftung.eu/downloads/interview_maenner_das-schwache-geschlecht.pdf, p. 2 (accessed July 2013).

4 Carmen Sadowski, “Der Mann: das schwache Geschlecht,” Express.de,
http://www.express.de/living/studien-belegen-der-mann—das-schwache-geschlecht,2484,1190404.html (accessed July 14, 2013).

5 Michael Meuser and Sylka Scholz, “Krise oder Strukturwandel hegemonialer Männlichkeit?,” in In der Krise? Männlichkeiten im 21. Jahrhundert, ed. Mechthild Bereswill and Anke Neuber (Münster, 2011), p. 56. See also the text by Michael Meuser in this book.

6 Helden Heute: Das Heldenbild in der zeitgenössischen Kunst, Centre Pasquart, Biel, 2005.

7 Sociologists interpret this as a sign of need in times of social upheaval. See Dolores Denaro, in Helden Heute: Das Heldenbild in der zeitgenössischen Kunst, ed. Dolores Denaro, exh. cat. Centre Pasquart (Biel, 2005), p. 20.

8 Oh boy! It’s a Girl, Kunstverein München, 1994; Féminin – Masculin, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1995; Rosa für Jungs: Hellblau für Mädchen, Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst, Berlin, 1999; Das achte Feld, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, 2006; to name but a few.

9 To date, this has occurred only in smaller exhibition spaces, above all during the nineteen-eighties and nineties, and has remained practically undocumented. An exception in this respect was the exhibition Women’s Images of Men (1984) at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, organized by Joyce Agee, Catherine Elwes, Jacqueline Morreau, and Pat Whiteread.

10 Inge Stephan, “Im toten Winkel: Die Neuentdeckung des ‘ersten Geschlechts’ durch men’s studies und Männlichkeitsforschung,” in Männlichkeit als Maskerade: Kulturelle Inszenierungen vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart, ed. Claudia Benthien and Inge Stephan (Cologne et al., 2003), p. 13.

11 Richard Dyer, “Introduction,” in The Matter of Images: Essays on Representation, ed. Richard Dyer (London and New York, 1993), p. 4.

12 Irit Rogoff, “Er selbst: Konfigurationen von Männlichkeit und Autorität in der Deutschen Moderne,” in Blick-Wechsel: Konstruktionen von Männlichkeit und Weiblichkeit in Kunst und Kunstge-schichte, ed. Ines Lindner et al. (Berlin, 1989), p. 141.

13 Nude Men, Leopold Museum, Vienna, 2012-13; The Naked Man, Lentos Museum, Linz, 2012-13.

14 Barnabàs Bencsik and Stella Rollig, “Vorwort,” in Der nackte Mann: Texte, exh. cat. Lentos Kun-stmuseum Linz and Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art (Budapest, 2012), p. 7.

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Urs Lüthi. 'Lüthi weint auch für Sie' (Lüthi also cries for you) 1970

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Urs Lüthi (born Kriens, Switzerland, 1947)
Lüthi weint auch für Sie (Lüthi also cries for you)
1970
Offset printing on paper
85,5 x 58,6 cm
Ed. 15/100
Kunstmuseum Bern Sammlung Toni Gerber (Schenkung 1983)
© Urs Lüthi
(From the section Experiments)

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Luciano Castelli. 'Lucille, Straps Attractive' 1973

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Luciano Castelli (born Lucerne, Switzerland, 1951)
Lucille, Straps Attractive
1973
Collage on cardboard
100 x 70 cm
Kunstmuseum St. Gallen
© 2013 ProLitteris, Zürich
(From the section Experiments)

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littlewhitehead. 'The Overman' 2012

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littlewhitehead (Craig Little, born Glasgow (UK), 1980. Blake Whitehead, born Lanark (UK), 1985)
The Overman
2012
Mannequin, towels, Boxing Glove, wooden base
120 x 120 x 120cm
Saatchi Collection, London Courtesy of the artist/Sumarria Lunn Gallery/Saatchi Collection
(From the section Crisis and Criticism)

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Pascal Häusermann. 'Megalomania, No. 8' 2009

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Pascal Häusermann (born Chur, Switzerland, 1973)
Megalomania, No. 8
2009
Monotype, oil paint, shellac
43 x 29 cm
Private Collection, Courtesy the artist
(From the section Crisis and Criticism)

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Sarah Lucas. 'Self Portrait with Knickers' 1999

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Sarah Lucas (born London (GB), 1962)
Self Portrait with Knickers
1999
From Self Portraits 1990-1999
1999
Iris print on watercolour paper
80 x 60 cm
© Sarah Lucas, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London
(From the section Masculinity as Masquerade)

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Sarah Lucas. 'Self Portrait With Skull' 1996

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Sarah Lucas (born London (GB), 1962)
Self Portrait With Skull
1996
From Self Portraits 1990-1999
1999
Iris print on watercolour paper
80 x 60 cm
© Sarah Lucas, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London
(From the section Masculinity as Masquerade)

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Sarah Lucas. 'Smoking' 1998

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Sarah Lucas (born London (GB), 1962)
Smoking
1998
From Self Portraits 1990-1999
1999
Iris print on watercolour paper
80 x 60 cm
© Sarah Lucas, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London
(From the section Masculinity as Masquerade)

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Silvie Zürcher. 'Blue Shorts' 2005/6

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Silvie Zürcher (born Zurich, Switzerland, 1977)
Blue Shorts
2005/6
From the series I Wanna Be a Son
Collage
31.5 x 24.4 cm
Courtesy Silvie Zürcher
(From the section Masculinity as Masquerade)

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Kunstmuseum Bern
Hodlerstrasse 12
3000 Bern 7
T: +41 31 328 09 44
E: info@kunstmuseumbern.ch

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 10h – 21h
Wednesday to Sunday: 10h – 17h
Mondays: closed

Kunstmuseum Bern website

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03
Jan
14

Melbourne’s magnificent nine 2013

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Here’s my pick of the nine best local exhibitions which featured on the Art Blart blog in 2013 (plus a favourite of the year from Hobart). Enjoy!

Marcus

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1/ Review: Terraria by Darron Davies at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

This is the first “magical” exhibition of photography that I have seen in Melbourne this year. Comprising just seven moderately large Archival Pigment Print on Photo Rag images mounted in white frames, this exhibition swept me off my feet. The photographs are beautiful, subtle, nuanced evocations to the fragility and enduring nature of life…

A sense of day/dreaming is possible when looking at these images. Interior/exterior, size/scale, ego/self are not fixed but fluid, like the condensation that runs down the inside of these environments (much like blood circulates our body). This allows the viewer’s mind to roam at will, to ponder the mysteries of our short, improbable, joyous life. The poetic titles add to this introspective reflection. I came away from viewing these magical, self sustaining vessels with an incredibly happy glow, more aware of my own body and its relationship to the world than before I had entered Darron Davies enveloping, terrarium world.

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Darron Davies. 'Encased' 2012

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Darron Davies
Encased 
2012
Archival Pigment Print on Photo Rag
80 x 80 cm / edition of 6

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Darron Davies. 'The Red Shard' 2012

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Darron Davies
The Red Shard 
2012
Archival Pigment Print on Photo Rag
80 x 80 cm / edition of 6

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2/ Review: Confounding: Contemporary Photography at NGV International, Melbourne

Presently, contemporary photography is able to reveal intangible, constructed vistas that live outside the realm of the scientific. A photograph becomes a perspective on the world, an orientation to the world based on human agency. An image-maker takes resources for meaning (a visual language, how the image is made and what it is about), undertakes a design process (the process of image-making), and in so doing re-images the world in a way that it has never quite been seen before.

These ideas are what a fascinating exhibition titled Confounding: Contemporary Photography, at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne investigates. In the confounding of contemporary photography we are no longer witnessing a lived reality but a break down of binaries such as sacred and profane, public and private, natural and artificial, real and dreamed environments as artists present their subjective visions of imagined, created worlds. Each image presents the viewer with a conundrum that investigates the relationship between photographs and the “real” world they supposedly record. How do these photographs make you feel about this constructed, confounding world? These fields of existence?

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Thomas Demand German born 1964 'Public housing' 2003

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Thomas Demand German born 1964
Public housing
2003
type C photograph
100.1 x 157.0 cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by the Bowness Family Fund for Contemporary Photography, 2010
© Thomas Demand/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Licensed by VISCOPY, Sydney

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Eliza Hutchison Australian born 1965 'The ancestors' 2004

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Eliza Hutchison Australian born 1965
The ancestors
2004
Light-jet print
95.4 x 72.9 cm (image), 105.4 x 82.9 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds arranged by Loti Smorgon for Contemporary Australian Photography, 2005
© Eliza Hutchison, courtesy Murray White Room

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3/ Review: Louise Bourgeois: Late Works at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

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Louise Bourgeois: Late Works installation view Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne Photograph: John Gollings 2012

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Louise Bourgeois: Late Works installation view
Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
Photograph: John Gollings 2012

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Louise Bourgeois 'Untitled' 2002

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Louise Bourgeois
Untitled
2002
Tapestry and aluminium
43.2 x 30.5 x 30.5 cm
Courtesy Cheim & Read and Hauser & Wirth
Photo: Christopher Burke
© Louise Bourgeois Trust

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This is a tough, stimulating exhibition of late works by Louise Bourgeois at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne. All the main themes of the artist’s work explored over many years are represented in these late works: memory, emotion, anxiety, family, relationships, childhood, pain, desire and eroticism are all present as are female subjectivity and sexuality, expressed through the body…

Bourgeois’ work gives me an overall feeling of immersion in a world view, one that transcends the pain and speaks truth to power. Bourgeois confronted the emotion, memory or barrier to communication that generated her mood and the work. She observed, “My art is an exorcism. My sculpture allows me to re-experience fear, to give it a physicality, so that I am able to hack away at it.” By weaving, stitching and sewing Bourgeois threaded the past through the present and enacted, through artistic performance, a process of repair and reconstruction, giving meaning and shape to frustration and suffering. I have not been so lucky. My mother refuses to discuss the past, will not even come close to the subject for the pain is so great for her. I am left with a heaviness of heart, dealing with the demons of the past that constantly lurk in the memory of childhood, that insistently impinge on the man I am today. Louise Bourgeois’ sculptures brought it all flooding back as the work of only a great artist can, forcing me to become an ethical witness to her past, my past. A must see exhibition this summer in Melbourne.

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4/ Exhibition: Petrina Hicks: Selected Photographs, 2013 at Helen Gory Galerie, Prahran, Melbourne

A stunning, eloquent and conceptually complex exhibition buy Petrina Hicks at Helen Gory Galerie…

I am just going to add that the photograph Venus (2013, below) is one of the most beautiful photographs that I have seen “in the flesh” (so to speak) for a long while. Hicks control over the ‘presence’ of the image, her control over the presence within the image is immaculate. To observe how she modulates the colour shift from blush of pink within the conch shell, to colour of skin, to colour of background is an absolute joy to behold. The pastel colours of skin and background only serve to illuminate the richness of the pink within the shell as a form of immaculate conception (an openness of the mind and of the body). I don’t really care who is looking at this photograph (not another sexualised male gaze!) the form is just beauty itself. I totally fell in love with this work.

Forget the neo-feminist readings, one string of text came to mind: The high fidelity of a fetishistic fecundity.

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Petrina Hicks. 'Venus' 2013

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Petrina Hicks
Venus
2013
Pigment print, Edition of 8
100 x 100cm

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Petrina Hicks. 'Enigma' 2013

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Petrina Hicks
Enigma
2013
Pigment print, Edition of 8
100 x 100cm

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5/ Exhibition: Density by Andrew Follows at Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond

I include this in my list of magnificent photographic exhibitions for the year not because I curated it, but because of the conceptualisation, the unique quality of the images and the tenacity of a visually impaired artist to produce such memorable work.

A wonderful exhibition by vision impaired photographer Andrew Follows at Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond. It has been a real pleasure to mentor Andrew over the past year and to see the fruits of our labour is incredibly satisfying. The images are strong, elemental, atmospheric, immersive. Due to the nature of Andrew’s tunnel vision there are hardly any traditional vanishing points within the images, instead the ‘plane of existence’ envelops you and draws you in.

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Density n.

The degree of optical opacity of a medium or material, as of a photographic negative;

Thickness of consistency;

Complexity of structure or content.

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Andrew Follows. 'Number 31, Eltham' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Number 31, Eltham
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Green, Montsalvat' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Green, Montsalvat
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5 cm

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Carol Jerrems. 'Mark and Flappers' 1975

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Carol Jerrems
Mark and Flappers
1975
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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Carol Jerrems. 'Carol Jerrems, self-portrait with Esben Storm' c. 1975

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Carol Jerrems
Carol Jerrems, self-portrait with Esben Storm
c. 1975
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of Mrs Joy Jerrems 1981
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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6/ Review: Carol Jerrems: photographic artist at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

This is a fascinating National Gallery of Australia exhibition about the work of Australian photographer Carol Jerrems at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill – in part both memorable, intimate, informative, beautiful, uplifting and disappointing…

The pity is that she died so young for what this exhibition brought home to me was that here was an artist still defining, refining her subject matter. She never had to time to develop a mature style, a mature narrative as an artist (1975-1976 seems to be the high point as far as this exhibition goes). This is the great regret about the work of Carol Jerrems. Yes, there is some mediocre work in this exhibition, stuff that really doesn’t work at all (such as the brothel photographs), experimental work, individual and collective images that really don’t impinge on your consciousness. But there are also the miraculous photographs (and for a young photographer she had a lot of those), the ones that stay with you forever. The right up there, knock you out of the ball park photographs and those you cannot simply take away from the world. They live on in the world forever.

Does Jerrems deserve to be promoted as a legend, a ‘premier’ of Australian photography as some people are doing? Probably not on the evidence of this exhibition but my god, those top dozen or so images are something truly special to behold. Their ‘presence’ alone – their physicality in the world, their impact on you as you stand before them – guarantees that Jerrems will forever remain in the very top echelons of Australian photographers of all time not as a legend, but as a women of incredible strength, intelligence, passion, determination and vision.

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7/ Exhibition: Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion at NGV International, Melbourne

What a gorgeous exhibition. It’s about time Melbourne had a bit of style put back into the National Gallery of Victoria, and this exhibition hits it out of the park. Not only are the photographs absolutely fabulous but the frocks are absolutely frocking as well. Well done to the NGV for teaming the photographs with the fashion and for a great install (makes a change to see 2D and 3D done so well together). Elegant, sophisticated and oozing quality, this is a sure fire winner….

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Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International

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Installation photograph of the exhibition Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion at NGV International

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23 'Marlene Dietrich' 1934

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Edward Steichen (American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23)
Marlene Dietrich
1934
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy Condé Nast Archive
© 1924 Condé Nast Publications

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8/ Exhibition: Reinventing the Wheel: the Readymade Century at the Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), Melbourne

Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) is generating an enviable reputation for holding vibrant, intellectually stimulating group exhibitions on specific ideas, concepts and topics. This exhibition is no exception. It is one of the best exhibitions I have seen in Melbourne this year. Accompanied by a strong catalogue with three excellent essays by Thierry de Duve, Dr Rex Butler and Patrice Sharkey, this is a must see exhibition for any Melbourne art aficionado before it closes.

“This transition is a flash, a boundary where this becomes that, not then, not that – falling in love, jumping of a bridge. Alive : dead; presence : absence; purpose : play; mastery : exhaustion; logos : silence; worldly : transcendent. Not this, not that. It is an impossible presence, present – a moment of unalienated production that we know exists but we cannot define it, place it. How can we know love? We can speak of it in a before and after sense but it is always a past moment that we recognise.”

Dr Marcus Bunyan. Made Ready: A Philosophy of Moments. December 2013

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Jeff Koons. 'Balloon dog (Red)' 1995 designed

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Jeff Koons
Balloon dog (Red)
1995 designed
Porcelain, ed. 1113/2300
11.3 x 26.3 cm diameter
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

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Andrew Liversidge. 'IN MY MIND I KNOW WHAT I THINK BUT THAT’S ONLY BASED ON MY EXPERIENCE' 2009

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Andrew Liversidge
IN MY MIND I KNOW WHAT I THINK BUT THAT’S ONLY BASED ON MY EXPERIENCE
2009
10,000 $1 coins (AUD)
30.0 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist and The Commercial Gallery, Sydney

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9/ Review: Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

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Claudia Terstappen. 'Cabbage trees (Queensland, Australia)' 2002

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Claudia Terstappen
Cabbage trees (Queensland, Australia)
2002
from the series Our ancestors 1990-
Gelatin silver print
29.0 x 29.0 cm
Courtesy  of the artist

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Claudia Terstappen. 'Zion Park (USA)' 1996

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Claudia Terstappen
Zion Park (USA)
1996
from the series Sacred land of the Navajo Indians 1990-
Gelatin silver print
37.0 x 37.0 cm
Courtesy  of the artist

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Without doubt this is the best pure photography exhibition I have seen this year in Melbourne. The exhibition is stimulating and enervating, the image making of the highest order in its aesthetic beauty and visual complexity. The artist explores intangible spaces which define our physical and spiritual relationship with the un/known world…

In Terstappen’s work there is no fixed image and no single purpose, a single meaning, or one singular existence that the images propose. They transcend claims about the world arising from, for example, natural or scientific attitudes or theories of the ontological nature of the world. As the artist visualises, records the feeling of the facts, such complex and balanced images let the mind of the viewer wander in the landscape. In their fecundity the viewer is enveloped in that situation of not knowing. There is the feeling of the landscape, a sensitivity to being “lost” in the landscape, in the shadow of ‘Other’, enhanced through the modality of the printing. Dreamworld vs analytical/descriptive, there is the enigma of the landscape and its spiritual places. Yes, the sublime, but more an invocation, a plea to the gods for understanding. This phenomenological prayer allows the artist to envelop herself and the viewer in the profundity – the great depth, intensity and emotion – of the landscape. To be ‘present’ in the the untrammelled places of the world as (divine) experience…

I say to you that this is the most sophisticated reading of the landscape that I have seen in a long time – not just in Australia but from around the world. This is such a joy of an exhibition to see that you leave feeling engaged and uplifted. Being in the gallery on your own is a privilege that is hard to describe: to see (and feel!) landscape photography of the highest order and by an Australian artist as well.

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10/ Exhibition: Joan Ross: Touching Other People’s Shopping at Bett Gallery, Hobart

The claiming of things
The touching of things
The digging of land
The tagging of place
The taking over of the world

Tag and capture.
Tag and capture.
Shop, dig, spray, destroy.

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An ironic critique of the pastoral, neo/colonial world, tagged and captured in the 21st century.
Excellent work. The construction, sensibility and humour of the videos is outstanding. I also responded to the two works Tag and capture and Shopping for butterfly (both 2013, below).

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Joan Ross. 'Tag and capture' 2013

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Joan Ross
Tag and capture
2013
hand painted pigment print on cotton rag paper
50 x 47 cm (image size)
edition of 3

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Joan Ross. 'Shopping for butterfly' 2013

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Joan Ross
Shopping for butterfly
2013
hand painted pigment print on cotton rag paper
51.5 x 50 cm (image size)
edition of 3

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30
Dec
13

Review: ‘Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change’ at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 9th November 2013 – 19th January 2014

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“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree…

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”
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Herman Hesse. Bäume: Betrachtungen und Gedichte (Trees: Reflections and Poems) 1984

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This is the last review of 2013 and what a cracker of an exhibition to finish the year. Without doubt this is the best pure photography exhibition I have seen this year in Melbourne. The exhibition is stimulating and enervating, the image making of the highest order in its aesthetic beauty and visual complexity. The artist explores intangible spaces which define our physical and spiritual relationship with the un/known world.

Briefly stated the bulk of the exhibition features small, square, tonally rich black and white medium format landscape images of unspoiled places from around the world taken between the mid-1980s and the early 2000s, images that possess a sense of the sublime and suggest a link to indigenous cultures. These images are hung in rows, sometimes double row grids, that flesh out the narrative that Terstappen seeks to establish. It is a beautiful, enlightening hang and whoever sequenced the work and hung the show should be congratulated for they understood the artist’s narrative and the tonal range of the printing.

In an excellent review in The Age newspaper (Wednesday December 18th 2013) the writer Robert Nelson suggests that these vistas depict something holy to an earlier or parallel civilisation. He observes that Terstappen’s images go beyond the mere picturesque because the artist applies a persistent inquiry to image making no matter where she is in the world, for “she always looks for properties that the environment shares with counterparts elsewhere.” He goes on to state that the photographs have three systematic demands that the artist places on her interpretation of the landscape: 1/ that they express something elemental (earth, air, water, fire); 2/ the scene has to sustain a dark print with a visual weight that is almost contrary to the nature of photography; and 3/the picture must reconcile the expansive and the intimate. In her world, everything must have presence, no matter how far away, and press up against the picture plane; everything must have a certain density, a thickness of being which is not about light but about the darkness of light.

“All photographs depend on light; but Terstappen’s sensibility errs to descriptions of the density of things, not their reception or reflection of sunshine or even moonlight. Her scenery is gravid with banks engorged by roots, the bulk of outcrops or the intricate tangle of overlapping forest, which is also what seems to activate the water within the air to express it heaviness… A part of the impetus behind Terstappen’s project is pictorial: how to make the most rigorous sense of multiplicity, to frame big things so that they harmonise with little things, so that everything has an equivalent weight, including the air.
The corollary of this consistent investigation is a poetic respect for the natural subject matter…”

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Through images of visual and conceptual beauty and complexity, Terstappen imparts a strange kind of temporality to the work. The artist layers shapes within the photographs and, befitting her training as a sculptor, pushes and pulls at the image plane like a malleable piece of clay, sometimes blocking vision at the surface of the print, sometimes allowing access to a partially accessible (psychological) interiority. For example, look at the last three images before the press release below: Cabbage trees (Queensland, Australia)Curtain fig tree (Queensland, Australia) and Alligator nest (Queensland, Australia) (all 2002). In Cabbage trees the artist creates a visual pattern, like a fabric pattern, that holds the viewer at the surface of the image while still allowing glimpses of what lies beyond; in Curtain fig tree it is as if a curtain has literally descended blocking any access to the interior; while in Alligator nest there is a beautiful, open density to the work that invites contemplation and meditation upon the scene.

In Terstappen’s work, there is always a sense of space moving back, moving from the bottom up or top down and a conscious use of a restricted tonality (no bright whites or blackest blacks). The artist blocks movement, opens it up or swirls it around. Sometimes earth becomes sky as steam turns to cloud, or rock becomes water as the two meld at the base of a waterfall. In this multiplicity, each element is given equal weight within certain atmospheres and an equilibrium is formed, to live at the heart of these images. Each complex, thoughtful image becomes a living and breathing entity.

In Terstappen’s work there is no fixed image and no single purpose, a single meaning, or one singular existence that the images propose. They transcend claims about the world arising from, for example, natural or scientific attitudes or theories of the ontological nature of the world. As the artist visualises, records the feeling of the facts, such complex and balanced images let the mind of the viewer wander in the landscape. In their fecundity the viewer is enveloped in that situation of not knowing. There is the feeling of the landscape, a sensitivity to being “lost” in the landscape, in the shadow of ‘Other’, enhanced through the modality of the printing. Dreamworld vs analytical/descriptive, there is the enigma of the landscape and its spiritual places. Yes, the sublime, but more an invocation, a plea to the gods for understanding. This phenomenological prayer allows the artist to envelop herself and the viewer in the profundity – the great depth, intensity and emotion – of the landscape. To be ‘present’ in the the untrammelled places of the world as (divine) experience.

The only doubt I have about the exhibition is the ex post facto interpretation of the archive as picturing places that are threatened by social and ecological change. As the catalogue text states, “These pictures now form part of an archive of historically significant places that are threatened by social and ecological change. This archive of spiritual sites has, over time, become an environmental archive, reminding us that photography not only has the power to bring places to life, but also to bear witness to the forces that threaten life.” If they are only now forming part of an environmental archive, what memory of sacred place did they initially respond to?

While Terstappen’s work has always focused on a physical encounter with space and an imaging of places that have deep or hidden meanings and mythical/symbolic significance, when I look at this work I do not get a strong sense of these places being under threat. Only through written (not visual) language is this environmental threat enunciated. While archives are always fluid and will always gather new meaning (look at Atget’s “documents for artists”, images that are now acknowledged as some of the most artistic and influential in the whole canon of photography), we must also acknowledge that nothing in this world remains the same, that everything changes all the time, for better or worse. The landscapes that Terstappen photographs are no more “natural” then as they are now, due to the effects of bushfires, human cultivation, erosion, habitation, hunting, farming and natural disaster. Humans cannot appeal to some vision of a world, some garden of Eden, that exists pre humanity. Who is to stay that these places in the world are disappearing or appearing? By the very act of photographing these places, Terstappen labels them, names them as inconsolable places that should never change. This is not the mysterious way of the world. I prefer to look at these places and acknowledge that this is how they looked through the eyes of this artist at this point in time. They have full presence before me, in all their mystery and majesty.

Is this textual analysis necessary for the work to succeed? I do not believe it is, in fact I believe it lessens the inherent quality of these images. Use these images to help people understand what human beings are doing to the planet by all means, but please do not try to retrofit concepts of destruction onto the work.

This minor quibble aside, I say to you that this is the most sophisticated reading of the landscape that I have seen in a long time – not just in Australia but from around the world. This is such a joy of an exhibition to see that you leave feeling engaged and uplifted. Being in the gallery on your own is a privilege that is hard to describe: to see (and feel!) landscape photography of the highest order and by an Australian artist as well. If you grant anything for your New Year’s wish you could do no better than to visit this magnificent exhibition and drink of its atmospheres.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Claudia Terstappen. 'After the fire (Northern Territory, Australia)' 2002

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Claudia Terstappen
After the fire (Northern Territory, Australia)
2002
From the series Our ancestors 1990-
29 cm x 29 cm

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Claudia Terstappen. 'Bushfire III (Northern Territory, Australia)' 2002

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Claudia Terstappen
Bushfire III (Northern Territory, Australia)
2002
From the series Our ancestors 1990-
29 cm x 29 cm

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Claudia Terstappen. 'Sickness country II (Northern Territory, Australia)' 2002

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Claudia Terstappen
Sickness country II (Northern Territory, Australia)
2002
From the series Our ancestors 1990-
29 cm x 29 cm

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Claudia Terstappen. 'Cabbage trees (Queensland, Australia)' 2002

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Claudia Terstappen
Cabbage trees (Queensland, Australia)
2002
From the series Our ancestors 1990-
29 cm x 29 cm

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Claudia Terstappen. 'Curtain fig tree (Queensland, Australia)' 2002

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Claudia Terstappen
Curtain fig tree (Queensland, Australia)
2002
From the series Our ancestors 1990-
29 cm x 29 cm

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Claudia Terstappen. 'Alligator nest (Queensland, Australia)' 2002

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Claudia Terstappen
Alligator nest (Queensland, Australia)
2002
From the series Lost world 2002-
21 cm x 21 cm

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“Over the last thirty years Claudia Terstappen has taken photographs of places throughout the world that have spiritual resonance or associations. The basis of this exhibition is a selection of these landscapes, presented as gelatin silver prints printed by the artist between the 1980s – early 2000s.

The landscapes in this exhibition document places that have spiritual associations or significance for indigenous people, to make sense of their relationship to the land. But I now realise that the archive has taken on another set of meanings or intention. Today, these pictures form part of a vast archive of landscapes and places undergoing significant change. This archive of spiritual places has become an environmental archive.

Terstappen was born in Germany, and her landscapes are in many ways informed by her heritage. Like Australia, Germany has a particular tradition of landscape, where places of nature carry important associations for cultural understanding and a sense of belonging. Terstappen is herself part of a long tradition of German artists to explore this relationship.

Terstappen studied at the Düsseldorfer Kunstakademie, the training ground for many of Germany’s most important contemporary artists. Having been taught by the famous photographer Bernd Becher and then the architect and sculptor Erich Reusch, Terstappen has since exhibited widely throughout Europe, North America and Australia.”

Text from the Monash Gallery of Art website

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“Claudia Terstappen originally trained a a sculptor but for over three decades she has worked in the medium of photography. In some respects, her art practice has been developed between these two artistic disciplines. She retains a strong interest in the sculptural sensation of a physical encounter in space, but she uses the two-dimensional medium of photography to document and reiterate these experiences.

Terstappen’s interest in the interplay between depth and surface is also evident in the subjects that she explores. She often photographs places that have deep or hidden meanings. This includes sites of pilgrimage, shrines of worship and landscapes invested with mythic significance. These associations are not always apparent, and often subsist as a type of secret knowledge, but they can be given tangible form through processes of story-telling and ceremonial action. Terstappen engages with these locations in order to give them a tangible photographic form, elaborating a sense of symbolic power or sublime drama across the surface of her images.

This exhibition features 75 photographs depicting places that have been invested with spiritual resonances or mythical associations, from Iceland and southern Europe to the Americas and Australia. The starting point for this exhibition is a selection of gelatin silver prints that were hand-printed by the artist between the mid-1980s and the early 2000s. These pictures now form part of an archive of historically significant places that are threatened by social and ecological change. This archive of spiritual sites has, over time, become an environmental archive; reminding us that photography not only has the power to bring places to life, but also to bear witness to the forces that threaten life.”

Text from the exhibition pamphlet

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Claudia Terstappen. 'Turtle Dreaming, Australia (Northern Territory)' 2002

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Claudia Terstappen
Turtle Dreaming, Australia (Northern Territory)
2002
from the series Vanishing landscapes 1987-
Gelatin silver print
120 x 120 cm
Courtesy  of the artist

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Claudia Terstappen. 'Namandi spirit [Queensland, Australia]' 2002

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Claudia Terstappen
Namandi spirit (Queensland, Australia)
2002
from the series Our ancestors 1990-
Gelatin silver print
29.0 x 29.0 cm
Courtesy  of the artist

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Claudia Terstappen. 'Cabbage trees [Queensland, Australia]' 2002

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Claudia Terstappen
Cabbage trees (Queensland, Australia)
2002
from the series Our ancestors 1990-
Gelatin silver print
29.0 x 29.0 cm
Courtesy  of the artist

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Claudia Terstappen. 'Full moon [France]' 1997

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Claudia Terstappen
Full moon (France)
1997
from the series I believe in miracles 1997-
Gelatin silver print
80.0 x 80.0 cm
Courtesy  of the artist

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Claudia Terstappen. 'Mountain [Brazil]' 1991

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Claudia Terstappen
Mountain (Brazil)
1991
from the series Sacred mountains 1989-
Gelatin silver print
37.0 x 37.0 cm
Courtesy  of the artist

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Claudia Terstappen. 'Mountain [Las Palmas, Spain]' 1992

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Claudia Terstappen
Mountain (Las Palmas, Spain)
1992
from the series Sacred mountains 1989-
Gelatin silver print
49.0 x 49.0 cm
Courtesy  of the artist

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Claudia Terstappen. 'Zion Park [USA]' 1996

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Claudia Terstappen
Zion Park (USA)
1996
from the series Sacred land of the Navajo Indians 1990-
Gelatin silver print
37.0 x 37.0 cm
Courtesy  of the artist

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In the shadow of change features almost 100 of Claudia Terstappen’s magnificent landscape photographs. Terstappen is a German-born photographer who studied at the famous Dusseldorf art academy and is now Professor of Photography at Monash University in Melbourne.

For over three decades, Terstappen has been photographing landscapes the world over. Brazil, Colombia, Canada, Japan, USA, Iceland and Spain have been destinations for the artist, who has travelled the world looking for landscapes which have particular spiritual or mythical meanings. This search brought Terstappen to Australia in 2002; the artist now lives in Melbourne as a permanent resident.

Terstappen’s vast archive of landscape photographs has taken on significant environmental associations. As debates about the politics and impact of land use and climate change continue, Terstappen’s landscapes – from intimately scaled views of forests and riverbeds to grand views of mountains and glaciers – present a truly beautiful account of landscape photography and its contemporary significance.

As Terstappen states: ‘There is a moral dimension to looking at and photographing landscape today. Landscape photography has tremendous currency. Many of the landscapes in my photographs will have either completely disappeared or drastically changed by now. I firmly believe we need to re-establish our relationship with nature and landscape and photography can help us to achieve this.’

MGA Director and curator of the exhibition Shaune Lakin states: ‘MGA is very proud to have developed this exhibition with Claudia, which will be accompanied by a beautifully illustrated book. We have timed the exhibition to coincide with the 30-year anniversary of one of the defining moments in Australian photography, when landscape photographs actually brought about significant social and political change. It is now 30 years since Peter Dombrovskis’s now-iconic photographs of the Gordon River helped prevent construction of the Franklin Dam in Tasmania, which to this day remains one of the world’s great wilderness areas.

‘With the election of a new government and promises of a new environmental agenda, it seems a perfect time for us to reconsider the power of landscape photography and the status of environmentalism in Australia today.’”

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art website

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Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

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Installation photographs of the exhibition Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

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Bob Browns opening speech at artist Claudia Terstappen’s exhibition In the shadow of change at the Monash Gallery of Art (MGA) in Melbourne. Recorded on Saturday 9 November 2013.

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Monash Gallery of Art
860 Ferntree Gully Road, Wheelers Hill
Victoria 3150 Australia
T: + 61 3 8544 0500

Opening hours:
Tue – Fri: 10am – 5pm
Sat – Sun: 12pm – 5pm
Mon/public holidays: closed

Monash Gallery of Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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