Archive for the 'exhibition' Category

13
Dec
14

Exhibition: ‘Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma, 1852-1860′ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington Part 2

Exhibition dates: 21 September 2014 – 4th January 2015

 

Part two of this wonderful posting, including Tripe’s most famous photograph: Elephant Rock, End View, January – February 1858 (below).

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Many thankx to the National 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. Most of the text underneath the images is from the British Library website.

 

Captain Linnaeus Tripe (1822-1902)

From an upper-middle-class family in Devonport, England, Tripe joined the British East India Company in 1839 and was assigned to the 12th Madras Native Infantry. After several years of deployment in India, he returned to England in 1851 and began to explore an interest in photography. In 1853 he joined the Photographic Society of London.

Reflecting his military training as an officer in the British army, Tripe had great technical success in India and Burma, even though the tropical heat and humidity affected photographic chemistry. Yet Tripe’s destiny as a photographer was linked to the fate of the British Empire in India. Despite his professional achievements and technical innovations, rebellions in the late 1850s prompted a new era of oversight and regulations for the recently nationalized East India Company, and the British government took over the administration and rule of India, making it a crown colony. Tripe was forced to close his studio in 1860 because of cost-cutting measures, and he almost completely abandoned photography as a result.

 

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Amerapoora: Corner of Mygabhoodee-tee Kyoung, September 1 - October 21, 1855' 1855

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Amerapoora: Corner of Mygabhoodee-tee Kyoung, September 1 – October 21, 1855
1855
27.3 × 34.4 cm (10 3/4 × 13 1/2 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Purchase, The Buddy Taub Foundation, Dennis A. Roach and Jill Roach, Directors, and Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2012
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Photograph by Linnaeus Tripe, from a portfolio of 120 prints, with a close view of the wood-carving at the corner of a kyaung (monastery) near where the British delegation was housed at Amarapura in Burma (Myanmar). Tripe wrote of this kyaung, ‘This small monastery, near the Residency, attracted much attention from the richness of its carving and the beauty of its situation’. The Burmese are highly skilled at wood-carving, creating designs of great beauty, intricacy and fluidity.

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Amerapoora: Part of Balcony on the South Side of Maha-oung-meeay-liy-mhan Kyoung, September 1-October 21, 1855' 1855

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Amerapoora: Part of Balcony on the South Side of Maha-oung-meeay-liy-mhan Kyoung, September 1 – October 21, 1855
1855
26.9 × 34.7 cm (10 5/8 × 13 5/8 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Purchase, The Buddy Taub Foundation, Dennis A. Roach and Jill Roach, Directors, and Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2012
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Photograph by Linnaeus Tripe, from a portfolio of 120 prints, with a close-up detail of the wood-carved balcony of a kyaung (monastery) at Amarapura in Burma (Myanmar). Wood-carving is a living tradition in Burma, its artisans are supremely skilled in carving a rich repertoire of motifs from myths and legends and floral patterns into different types of woods. Tripe wrote of this scene, ‘This is open scroll-work, and very beautiful’.

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Rangoon: Near View of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, November 1855' 1855

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Rangoon: Near View of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, November 1855
1855
34.5 × 27.2 cm (13 5/8 × 10 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Edward J. Lenkin Fund

 

The Shwedagon Pagoda, officially named Shwedagon Zedi Daw and also known in English as the Great Dagon Pagoda and the Golden Pagoda, is a gilded pagoda and stupa 99 metres (325 ft) in height[citation needed] that is located in Yangon, Burma. The pagoda lies to the west of Kandawgyi Lake, on Singuttara Hill, thus dominating the skyline of the city. It is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda for the Burmese people. According to legend, the Shwedagon Pagoda has existed for more than 2,600 years, making it the oldest historical pagoda in Burma and the world. According to some historians and archaeologists, however, the pagoda was built by the Mon people between the 6th and 10th centuries AD.

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Rangoon: Henzas on the East Side of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, November 1855' 1855

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Rangoon: Henzas on the East Side of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, November 1855
1855
26.1 × 34.3 cm (10 1/4 × 13 1/2 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Purchase, The Buddy Taub Foundation, Dennis A. Roach and Jill Roach, Directors, and Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2012
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Photograph by Linnaeus Tripe, from a portfolio of 120 prints, with a view of the hinthas or hamsas (mythical birds) atop sacred flagstaffs or dagun-daings of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda at Rangoon (Yangon) in Burma (Myanmar). Linnaeus Tripe wrote, ‘These, painted in bright colours diapered with gold and silver (traces of which still remain) must have had a very gay appearance. Henza [hintha] staves are attached to all pagodas’. The hintha bird (or hamsa in Sanskrit) features in many Jataka tales: the stories which narrate details of the Buddha’s previous lives.

 

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Rangoon: Signal Pagoda, November 1855' 1855

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Rangoon: Signal Pagoda, November 1855
1855
26 × 34.6 cm (10 1/4 × 13 5/8 in.)
Private Collection, Courtesy Hans P. Kraus Jr.

 

Photograph by Linnaeus Tripe, from a portfolio of 120 prints, showing the Signal Pagoda at Rangoon (Yangon) in Burma (Myanmar). In this view of the pagoda the chinthes or leogryphs (Burmese temple guardian figures) can be glimpsed facing the roadway at the entrance. The circular object hanging from a yard at the top of the pagoda is presumably a time ball. Tripe wrote, ‘From this a very extended view of the town and river can be had. It is used as a signal station because of the distance at which a ship coming up the river can be descried. It is also known as Sale’s Pagoda’. The Sale referred to is Sir Robert Henry Sale, who was stationed on the site with a picket during the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-26). Sale (1782-1845) was an army officer who had served in India, and then played an active role in the capture of Rangoon as commander of the 13th. At the time of the mission’s visit the administration of the rapidly growing port was not well-developed. The pilot system did not work well, there was no pilot service and pilotage was left to private initiative, there were rival bands of pilots with their own pilot-brigs. They later combined to form the Pilot Club and this club fixed the rate of pilotage by agreement with the owners and captains of the vessels. The signalling station was at the Sale Barracks where the pagoda known as Sale’s Pagoda was used for the purpose and thenceforth began to be called the Signal Pagoda of Rangoon.

 

Linnaeus Tripe 'Royacottah: View from the Top of the Hill, Looking North-Northwest and by North, December 1857 - January 1858'

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Royacottah: View from the Top of the Hill, Looking North-Northwest and by North, December 1857 – January 1858
c. 1857-58
26 x 35.6 cm (10 1/4 x 14 in.)
Collection of Charles Isaacs and Carol Nigro

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Beekinpully: Permaul's Swing at Mariammah Covil, December 1857 - January 1858'

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Beekinpully: Permaul’s Swing at Mariammah Covil, December 1857 – January 1858
c. 1857-58
26 × 35.6 cm (10 1/4 × 14 in.)
Collection of Charles Isaacs and Carol Nigro

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Between Chittumputty and Teramboor: Elephant Rock, End View, January-February 1858' 1858

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Between Chittumputty and Teramboor: Elephant Rock, End View, January – February 1858
1858
23.8 × 36.8 cm (9 3/8 × 14 1/2 in.)
The British Library, London

 

This photograph of the Elephant Rock near Madurai in Tamilnadu, is part of a collection entitled Photographic Views in Madurai (Madras, 1858) and was taken by Linnaeus Tripe in 1858. It shows a general view of ”an enormous mass of granite or sienite situated to the north of the town of Madura, altogether isolated from the neighbouring hills, and when viewed from the S.E. or S.W. bearing a strong resemblance to a couchant elephant, with its trunk extended in front…The rock is about 11/4 miles long; and 250 feet high, measuring to the top of the elephant’s head.”

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Madura: The Vygay River, with Causeway, across to Madura, January – February 1858' 1858

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Madura: The Vygay River, with Causeway, across to Madura, January – February 1858
1858
23.1 x 35.4 cm (9 1/8 x 14 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
The Carolyn Brody Fund and Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Madura: Pillars in the Recessed Portico in the Raya Gopurum, with the Base of One of the Four Sculpted Monoliths, January - February 1858' 1858

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Madura: Pillars in the Recessed Portico in the Raya Gopurum, with the Base of One of the Four Sculpted Monoliths, January – February 1858
1858
35.6 × 28.1 cm (14 × 11 in.)
The British Library, London

 

This photograph of an archictectural detail from the Meenakshi Sundareshvara temple, Madurai, Tamilnadu, is part of a collection entitled ‘Photographic Views in Madurai ‘ (Madras, 1858) and was taken by Linnaeus Tripe in 1858. The Meenakshi Sundareshvara Temple is dedicated to Shiva and his consort Meenakshi, an ancient local divinity. The construction of this imposing temple-town was made possible by the magnificence of Tirumala Nayak (1623-1659). The rectangular precinct covers 6 hectares and has 11 huge towers and 4 entrance gopurams. Inside this enclosure there are columned mandapas, tanks, shrines and the two temples of Shiva and Meenakshi. East of the temple Tirumala Nayak began the construction of a new gopuram which was never completed. The most remarkable feature are 4 monolithic pillars. This view shows the base of one of the monoliths together with the elaborately carved pillars in the recessed north portico of the Raja Gopuram.

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Madura: The Blackburn Testimonial, January - February 1858' 1858

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Madura: The Blackburn Testimonial, January – February 1858
1858
25.3 × 35.1 cm (10 × 13 7/8 in.)
The British Library, London

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Madura: The Great Pagoda Jewels, January - February 1858' 1858

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Madura: The Great Pagoda Jewels, January – February 1858
1858
21.9 × 30.1 cm (8 5/8 × 11 7/8 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection
Purchase, Cynthia Hazen Polsky Gift, 2005
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

This photograph of the temple jewels of the Meenakshi Sundareshvara temple, Madurai, Tamilnadu, is part of a collection entitled Photographic Views in Madurai (Madras, 1858) and was taken by Linnaeus Tripe in 1858. The Meenakshi Sundareshvara Temple is dedicated to Shiva and his consort Meenakshi, the fish-eyed goddess Parvati. The construction of this imposing temple-town was made possible by the magnificence of Tirumala Nayak (1623-1659). The rectangular precinct covers 6 hectares and has 11 huge towers and 4 entrance gopurams. Inside this enclosure there are columned mandapas, tanks, shrines and the two temples of Shiva and Meenakshi. This is a collection of jewels and ornaments for use on festival occasions, including crowns, necklaces, gold and pearl pieces and naga images.

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Tanjore: Wrought-Iron Gun on a Cavalier in the Fort, March - April 1858' 1858

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Tanjore: Wrought-Iron Gun on a Cavalier in the Fort, March – April 1858
1858
26.1 × 36.1 cm (10 1/4 × 14 1/4 in.)
The British Library, London

 

The term Cavalier has been adopted from the French as a term in fortification for a work of great height constructed in the interior of a fort, bastion or other defence, so as to fire over the main parapet without interfering with the fire of the latter. A greater volume of fire can thus be obtained, but the great height of the cavalier makes it an easy target for a besieger’s guns.

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Central Museum Madras: Group 27, May - June 1858' 1858

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Central Museum Madras: Group 27, May – June 1858
1858
23.4 × 29.9 cm (9 1/4 × 11 3/4 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Purchase, Cynthia Hazen Polsky Gift and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1991
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Elliot Marbles and Other Sculpture from the Central Museum Madras: Group 26, May - June 1858' 1858

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Elliot Marbles and Other Sculpture from the Central Museum Madras: Group 26, May – June 1858
1858
25.8 × 23.2 cm (10 1/8 × 9 1/8 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Rubel Collection
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace and Richard and Ronay Menschel Gifts, 1997
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

The Amaravati Sculptures, Amaravati Marbles or the Elliot Marbles are a series of monumental sculptures and inscriptions that once furnished the religious mound known as the Great Stupa at Amaravati. While some artefacts remain in situ, many are scattered in various museums across the world, with the two principal collections held at the Government Museum in Chennai and the British Museum in London.

The figurative sculptures are nearly all in relief, with many of the most crowded scenes illustrating some of the Jataka tales, a large body of literature with complicated and fanciful accounts of the previous lives of the Buddha. The collection in the museum in Chennai (formerly Madras) has a large number of sculptures in relief, which they have classified by four periods of activity starting in the second century BC and stretching to the second century AD. The first period covers the 100 years between 200 and 100 BC, the second period covers 200 years from 100 BC to AD 100, the third covers AD 100 to 150, and the fourth covers 150 to 200. Early interest in the stupa and its sculptures was in part because it was wrongly thought to contain early evidence of Christianity in India.

In 1845, Sir Walter Elliot of the Madras Civil Service explored the area around the stupa and excavated near the west gate of the railing, removing many sculptures to Madras (now Chennai). They were kept outside the local college before being transported to the Madras Museum. At this time India was run by the East India Company and it was to that company that the curator of the museum appealed. The curator Dr Edward Balfour was concerned that the artefacts were deteriorating so in 1853 he started to raise a case for them to be moved. By 1855 he had arranged for both photographs and drawings to be made of the artefacts now called the Elliot Marbles. 75 photographs taken by Captain Linnaeus Tripe are now in the British Library. (Text from Wikipedia)

The photographs are of variable quality, and the volume contains a short preface explaining the reasons for this: ‘These photographs were taken by Captain tripe in the months of May and June, after a wearying tour through the Trichinopoly, Madura, and Tanjore Districts, during the preceding four months and a half. Many of the subjects being heavy masses, and therefore not easily to be transported into the open air, were taken as they were lying, in the rooms of the Museum. To enable him to attempt them at all he was obliged to use a dry collodion process, with which he had only recently made acquaintance. He would point to both these circumstances to account for the unsatisfactory pictures he has made of some of the Sculptures. In printing from the above mentioned negatives, their density, though apparently in their favor, increased the liability to yellowness in the lights, so much complained of in toning a print on albumenised paper with gold…'”

Linnaeus Tripe, Photographs of the Elliot Marbles; and other subjects; in the Central Museum Madras (Madras, 1858-59)

 

 

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10
Dec
14

Exhibition: ‘Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma, 1852-1860′ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington Part 1

Exhibition dates: 21 September 2014 – 4th January 2015

 

To my mind, Captain Linnaeus Tripe is one of the best of the Victorian photographers.

So early on in the history of photography, for such a short period of time (much like Julia Margaret Cameron in this regard), Tripe’s photographs are so much more than just his foresight in recognizing that photography could be an effective tool for conveying information about unknown cultures and regions. As noted, “Tripe’s schooling as a surveyor, where the choice of viewpoint and careful attention to visual details were essential, gave his photographs their distinctive aesthetic rigor.” But it is more than just tools and trade. There is that indefinable magic of a master artist.

You only have to feel the impressive space of the open deck of Quarterdeck of HMS “Impregnable” (1852-1854, below) with that pendulous cross-beam pressing down from on high or understand the light in Pugahm Myo: Distant View of Gauda-palen Pagoda, August 20-24, 1855 (below) – how gorgeous is that image – and observe the subtleties of composition in seemingly unprepossessing vistas like Tsagain Myo: View near the Irrawadi River, August 29-30, 1855 and Tsagain Myo: A Roadway, August 29-30, 1855 (below) to understand what inspiration and insight this man had.

I could look at these images every day of my life and never get bored with them.

Marcus

 

Many thankx to the National 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. Most of the text underneath the images is from the British Library website.
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“The dynamic vision Tripe brought to these large, technically complex photographs and the lavish attention he paid to their execution indicate that his aims were artistic as well.”

 

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Gun Wharf - Devonport' 1852-1854

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Gun Wharf – Devonport
1852-1854
23.1 × 33 cm (9 1/8 × 13 in.)
Wilson Centre for Photography, London

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Quarterdeck of HMS "Impregnable",' 1852-1854

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Quarterdeck of HMS “Impregnable”
1852-1854
27 x 34.8 cm (10 5/8 x 13 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
The Sarah and William L Walton Fund, Diana and Mallory Walker Fund, and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Ye-nan-gyoung: Tamarind Tree, August 14-16, 1855' 1855

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Ye-nan-gyoung: Tamarind Tree, August 14-16, 1855
1855
26.3 × 34.7 cm (10 3/8 × 13 5/8 in.)
Courtesy Robert Hershkowitz, Charles Isaacs, Hans P. Kraus Jr.

 

Photograph by Linnaeus Tripe of a tamarind tree, with a pagoda on the hillside in the background, at Yenangyaung in Burma (Myanmar), from a portfolio of 120 prints. Tripe was the official photographer attached to a British diplomatic mission to King Mindon Min of Burma in 1855. This followed the British annexation of Pegu after the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852. Aside from official duties, the mission was instructed to gather information regarding the country and its people. Tripe’s architectural and topographical views are of great documentary importance as they are among the earliest surviving photographs of Burma. Yenangyaung was a town in west-central Myanmar on the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy), the centre of the most productive oil-fields in the country. Tamarind is commonly used in Burmese cuisine and the tamarind tree is widespread in Burma. It is also used as raw material in joss-stick production.

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Pugahm Myo: Distant View of Gauda-palen Pagoda, August 20-24, 1855' 1855

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Pugahm Myo: Distant View of Gauda-palen Pagoda, August 20-24, 1855
1855
25.3 × 34.1 cm (10 × 13 3/8 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Purchase, The Buddy Taub Foundation, Dennis A. Roach and Jill Roach, Directors, and Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2012
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Photograph by Linnaeus Tripe with a distant view of the Gawdawpalin temple in the Pagan (Bagan) region of Burma (Myanmar), from a portfolio of 120 prints. With this portfolio of architectural and topographical views, Tripe, an officer from the Madras Infantry, created an early photographic record of Burma. The 1855 British Mission to Burma was instructed to persuade the Burmese king Mindon Min to accept the annexation of Pegu (Lower Burma) following the Anglo-Burmese War of 1852. ICapital of the first kingdom of Burma from the 11th to the 14th century, Pagan is one of the most important archaeological sites in South East Asia, with the remains of over 2000 stupas, temples and monasteries scattered over a 30 km radius. One of the most beautiful and graceful of Pagan’s temples, the Late Period Gawdawpalin or Throne of Obeisance was begun in the reign of Narapatisithu (1174-1211) and completed by Nadaungmya (ruled 1211-34). Tripe wrote, “Taken from the top of Thapinyu. [That-byin-nu]. The ruins of all shapes and sizes seen in this view, give an idea of the manner in which they are scattered for about eight miles along the river [the Irrawaddy], to a depth of sometimes three miles.”

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Pugahm Myo: Thapinyu Pagoda, August 20-24, 1855' 1855

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Pugahm Myo: Thapinyu Pagoda, August 20-24, 1855
1855
25.1 × 34.5 cm (9 7/8 × 13 5/8 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Purchase, The Buddy Taub Foundation, Dennis A. Roach and Jill Roach, Directors, and Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2012
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Photograph by Linnaeus Tripe of the That-byin-nu temple in the Pagan (Bagan) region of Burma (Myanmar), from a portfolio of 120 prints. With this portfolio of architectural and topographical views, Tripe, an officer from the Madras Infantry, created an early photographic record of Burma. The 1855 British Mission to Burma was instructed to persuade the Burmese king Mindon Min to accept the annexation of Pegu (Lower Burma) following the Anglo-Burmese War of 1852. It was also the intention of the British to collect information about the country. They travelled in Burma from August to early November 1855, stopping at various places to allow Linnaeus Tripe, the official photographer, and the mission’s artist, Colesworthy Grant, to perform their duties. Capital of the first kingdom of Burma from the 11th to the 14th century, Pagan is one of the most important archaeological sites in South East Asia, with the remains of over 2000 stupas, temples and monasteries scattered over a 30 km radius. Tripe wrote of the That-byin-nu, “Or ‘the Omniscient’. It is about 230 feet square, and 200 feet high; divided into two stages, each stage into two stories. An arched corridor passes round each stage, with arched doorways opening outwards; opposite those on the ground story are sitting figures of Gautama. In the centre of each side of the lower stage, is a projecting wing with a lofty doorway, opening into a vestibule: this forms a centre porch to the corridor, a colossal seated figure of Gautama facing it. The centre of the building is a solid mass of masonry terminated by a bulging pyramidal spire crowned by a tee. Its date is about 1100 A.D.” The temple is the tallest construction in Pagan, towering to 61 ms. Built by King Alaungsitthu in the middle of the 12th century, its square plan is the most elaborate of the middle period of building in Pagan (ca.1120-70).

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Tsagain Myo: View near the Irrawadi River, August 29-30, 1855' 1855

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Tsagain Myo: View near the Irrawadi River, August 29-30, 1855
1855
26.2 × 34.2 cm (10 1/4 × 13 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Stephen G. Stein Fund

 

Photograph by Linnaeus Tripe of a view at Sagaing in Burma (Myanmar), from a portfolio of 120 prints. The view is on the bank of the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady), looking towards a building raised on piles over the water. Tripe wrote in the accompanying letterpress, “The Irrawadi at the time of the freshes, inundates the country from some distance from its banks; the necessity therefore of building on piles, as above seen is very evident.”

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Tsagain Myo: Ruined Tazoung, August 29-30, 1855' 1855

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Tsagain Myo: Ruined Tazoung, August 29-30, 1855
1855
27 × 34.2 cm (10 5/8 × 13 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Stephen G. Stein Fund

 

 

“Innovative British photographer Captain Linnaeus Tripe (1822-1902) captured some of the earliest photographs of India and Burma (now Myanmar). In the first major traveling exhibition of his work, Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma, 1852-1860 – on view at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, from September 21, 2014, through January 4, 2015 – approximately 60 photographs taken between 1854 and 1860 document the dramatic landscapes and the architecture of celebrated religious and secular sites in India and Burma, several of which are now destroyed.

“Tripe occupies a special place in the history of 19th-century photography for his foresight in recognizing that photography could be an effective tool for conveying information about unknown cultures and regions,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “We are delighted to premiere this exhibition for visitors interested in photography, architecture, and history, and we hope that these captivating images provide inspiration to all.”

The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum. After Washington, the exhibition will be on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, from February 24 through May 25, 2015, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, from June 24 through October 11, 2015.

 

Exhibition highlights

Arranged chronologically, the exhibition traces Tripe’s work from his earliest photographs made in England (1852-1854) during an extended leave from his first deployment in India, to those created on expeditions to the south Indian kingdom of Mysore (1854), to Burma (1855), and again to south India (1857-1858). His primary subjects range from archaeological sites and monuments, ancient and contemporary religious and secular buildings, to geological formations and landscape vistas.

Tripe first took photographs of English dockyards, ships undergoing repairs, and breakwaters – subjects of importance to the military. Photographs such as Quarterdeck of HMS “Impregnable” (1852-1854) distinguish his work from fellow amateurs, who preferred picturesque landscapes and genre scenes.

Tripe returned to India to work for the East India Company during a transitional time in the history of Great Britain, India, and Burma. By 1854 the company was the world’s largest and most powerful commercial enterprise as well as the virtual ruler of India and Burma. Administration of this vast area generated a need for collecting data, maps, surveys, drawings, and eventually photographs. Inspired by his employer’s interests, Tripe made a privately funded expedition to Mysore in south India, where he used his newly mastered photographic skills to document ancient sites and produced such images as Hullabede: Suli Munduppum from the Northeast (1854).

“Tripe’s training as a surveyor, where the choice of viewpoint and careful attention to visual details were essential, was key to the artistic success of his photographs,” said Sarah Greenough, senior curator and head, department of photographs, National Gallery of Art.

In 1855, Tripe and a topographic watercolor artist traveled along with a mission to Burma that sought to secure a peace treaty. During the expedition to Upper Burma, Tripe made more than 200 negatives, which he selected, retouched, printed, and compiled into portfolios, each with 120 original photographs, including Ye-nan-gyoung: Tamarind Tree (1855) and Pugahm Myo: Distant View of Gauda-palen Pagoda (1855).

The mission’s ultimate destination was the royal Burmese city of Amerapoora, where Tripe made nearly 100 negatives. For the presentation portfolio of this expedition, he arranged his photographs as if giving a tour of the city: from the residency compound, past a monumental Gautama – the most popular Burmese representation of the historical Buddha – to the western suburbs. Twenty-six original photographs from his Burma expedition will be on view.

Tripe was appointed photographer to the Madras Presidency in 1856, a British administrative subdivision covering much of southern India. He considered this a great honor and proposed that his work should be the “first attempt at illustrating in a complete and systematic manner the state of a country by means of photography.”

This project secured his status as the first to photograph extensively in south India – documenting the country’s holiest temples to the Hindu gods Shiva and Vishnu as well as efforts at modernization by the British and the widespread influence of the East India Company. His work in south India generated more than 290 large-format negatives, which he made into nine portfolios, a total of 17,745 prints, 30 of which will be on display.

The exhibition will also showcase Tripe’s 19-foot-long panorama, Tanjore: Great Pagoda, Inscriptions around Bimanum (1858) – the first of its kind in photography – recording the ancient Tamil inscriptions that run around the base of the Brihadishvara Temple at Tanjore in south India. To accomplish this technical marvel, Tripe circled the temple taking 21 separate exposures, which he joined and retouched to create the final composition.

To help visitors appreciate Tripe’s technical achievements, the installation features a final gallery with photographs by a number of Tripe’s contemporaries, explaining the photographic printing and retouching practices that distinguish his work.

 

Captain Linnaeus Tripe (1822-1902)

From an upper-middle-class family in Devonport, England, Tripe joined the British East India Company in 1839 and was assigned to the 12th Madras Native Infantry. After several years of deployment in India, he returned to England in 1851 and began to explore an interest in photography. In 1853 he joined the Photographic Society of London.

Reflecting his military training as an officer in the British army, Tripe had great technical success in India and Burma, even though the tropical heat and humidity affected photographic chemistry. Yet Tripe’s destiny as a photographer was linked to the fate of the British Empire in India. Despite his professional achievements and technical innovations, rebellions in the late 1850s prompted a new era of oversight and regulations for the recently nationalized East India Company, and the British government took over the administration and rule of India, making it a crown colony. Tripe was forced to close his studio in 1860 because of cost-cutting measures, and he almost completely abandoned photography as a result.

 

Curators

The exhibition curators are Sarah Greenough, senior curator and head, department of photographs, National Gallery of Art; Malcolm Daniel, curator in charge, department of photography, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and Roger Taylor, professor emeritus of photographic history, De Montfort University, Leicester.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Art

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Pugahm Myo: Carved Doorway in Courtyard of Shwe Zeegong Pagoda, August 20-24 or October 23, 1855' 1855

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Pugahm Myo: Carved Doorway in Courtyard of Shwe Zeegong Pagoda, August 20-24 or October 23, 1855
1855
32.5 × 26.9 cm (12 3/4 × 10 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Diana and Mallory Walker Fund

 

Photograph by Linnaeus Tripe of a carved doorway of the Shwezigon temple in the Pagan (Bagan) region of Burma (Myanmar), from a portfolio of 120 prints. Capital of the first kingdom of Burma from the 11th to the 14th century, Pagan is one of the most important archaeological sites in South East Asia, with the remains of over 2000 stupas, temples and monasteries scattered over a 30 km radius. An important place of pilgrimage in Pagan, the Shwezigon’s lower terraces were apparently built by Anawrahta (ruled 1044-77) and the rest of the edifice was built by Kyanzittha (ruled 1084-1113). Tripe wrote of this picture, “This is in the Court of Shwe Zeegong. It is ruinous and out of the perpendicular, but very interesting, and, being one of many in the same court and all differing, shows how fertile in design the Burmese are.”

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Tsagain Myo: A Roadway, August 29-30, 1855' 1855

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Tsagain Myo: A Roadway, August 29-30, 1855
1855
24.5 × 34.1 cm (9 5/8 × 13 3/8 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Purchase, The Buddy Taub Foundation, Dennis A. Roach and Jill Roach, Directors, and Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2012
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Photograph by Linnaeus Tripe of a road at Sagaing in Burma (Myanmar), from a portfolio of 120 prints. Tripe, an officer from the Madras Infantry, was the official photographer attached to a British diplomatic mission to King Mindon Min of Burma in 1855. This followed the British annexation of Pegu after the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852. Mandalay in central Burma was the capital of the last Burmese kingdom. Clustered around it on the banks of the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) river are other earlier capitals, such as Ava (Inwa), Amarapura and Sagaing. The latter, 21 kms south-west of Mandalay, is on the opposite bank of the river from Ava and has long been revered as the religious centre of Burma. People come from all over the country to meditate at Sagaing, popularly described as ‘Little Pagan’ since there are hundreds of stupas and monasteries at this site. Founded in 1315 by a Shan chieftain, it was capital for only a few decades before the kings shifted to Ava.

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Amerapoora: Wooden Bridge, September 1–October 21, 1855' 1855

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Amerapoora: Wooden Bridge, September 1 – October 21, 1855
1855
22.3 × 32.4 cm (8 3/4 × 12 3/4 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Purchase, The Buddy Taub Foundation, Dennis A. Roach and Jill Roach, Directors, and Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2012
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Photograph by Linnaeus Tripe, from a portfolio of 120 prints, showing a view of the wooden bridge at Amarapura in Burma (Myanmar). The bridge spans the seasonal Taungthaman Lake to the south of Amarapura and is 1.5 kms long. Built by a mayor, U Bein, in 1784, it was constructed from teak posts salvaged from the ruined former capital city of Ava (Inwa). Tripe wrote of this view, “Carried over the west limb of the Lake on piles about 7 feet apart with some openings (bridged with loose planks) for the passage through of large boats.”

 

Linnaeus Tripe 'Amerapoora: Colossal Statue of Gautama Close to the North End of the Wooden Bridge, September 1 – October 21, 1855' 1855

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Amerapoora: Colossal Statue of Gautama Close to the North End of the Wooden Bridge, September 1 – October 21, 1855
1855
24.7 x 33.3 cm (9 3/4 x 13 1/8 in.)
Collection of Charles Isaacs and Carol Nigro

 

Photograph by Linnaeus Tripe of a statue of the seated Buddha, near the U Bein bridge at Amarapura in Burma (Myanmar). Amarapura was the site of the first British Embassy to Burma in 1795, and played host again to Tripe’s Mission. Tripe wrote of this Buddha surrounded by small pagodas, ‘Its height is about 37 and a half feet above the throne’.

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Amerapoora: View on the Lake, September 1 - October 21, 1855' 1855

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Amerapoora: View on the Lake, September 1 – October 21, 1855
1855
22.4 × 34.8 cm (8 7/8 × 13 3/4 in.)
Courtesy Robert Hershkowitz, Charles Isaacs, Hans P. Kraus Jr.

 

Photograph by Linnaeus Tripe with a general view looking across Taungthaman Lake to the city of Amarapura in Burma (Myanmar). Amarapura was designed upon a square mandala, or diagram illustrating cosmological ideas. Each of the twelve city gates, three along each wall, was surmounted by a Burmese style pavilion known as a pyat-that. The city was encircled by a moat, inside which the streets were built upon a grid pattern. The photographer wrote of this view, “Taken from the causeway crossing the Toung-deman lake at its eastern extremity. A glimpse of the city is caught on the left.”

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Amerapoora: Shwe-doung-dyk Pagoda, September 1-October 21, 1855' 1855

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Amerapoora: Shwe-doung-dyk Pagoda, September 1 – October 21, 1855
1855
25.8 × 34.6 cm (10 1/8 × 13 5/8 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Purchase, The Buddy Taub Foundation, Dennis A. Roach and Jill Roach, Directors, and Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2012
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Amerapoora: Toung-lay-lou-tiy Kyoung, September 1-October 21, 1855' 1855

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Amerapoora: Toung-lay-lou-tiy Kyoung, September 1 – October 21, 1855
1855
26.6 × 33.5 cm (10 1/2 × 13 1/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Stephen G. Stein Fund

 

Photograph by Linnaeus Tripe of a kyaung (monastery) at Amarapura in Burma (Myanmar). This view shows close-up detail of carved stonework at the entrance to the kyaung. Tripe wrote, “Monasteries are usually built of wood, this is of brick, its style too is uncommon in many of its details.”

 

 

National Gallery of Art
National Mall between 3rd and 7th Streets
Constitution Avenue NW, Washington

Opening hours:
Monday – Saturday 1000 am – 5.00 pm
Sunday 11.00 am – 6.00 pm

National Gallery of Art website

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07
Dec
14

Exhibition/text: ‘Everyday imagining: new perspectives on Outsider art’ at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 1st October 2014 – 18th January 2015

Artists: Andrew Blythe, Kellie Greaves, Julian Martin, Jack Napthine, Lisa Reid, Martin Thompson and Terry Williams

Curator: Joanna Bosse

 

This is a gorgeous exhibition at The Ian Potter Museum of Art. Walking through the show you can’t help but have a smile on your face, because the work is so inventive, so fresh, with no pretension to be anything other than, well, art.

There are big preconceptions about ‘Outsider art’, originally art that was made by institutionalised mentally ill people, but now more generally understood as art that is made by anyone outside the mainstream of art production – “artworks made by folk artists and those who are self-taught, disabled, or on the edges of society” who are disenfranchised in some way or other, either by their own choice or through circumstance or context.

Outsider art promotes contemporary art while still ‘tagging’ the artists as “Outsider” – just as you ‘tag’ a blog posting so that a search engine can find a specific item if it is searched for online. It is a classification I have never liked (in fact I abhor it!) for it defines what you are without ever understanding who you are and who you can become – as an artist and as a human being. One of the good things about this exhibition is that it challenges the presumptions of this label (unfortunately, while still using it).

As Joanna Bosse notes in her catalogue essay, “Most attempts to define the category of Outsider art include caveats about the elasticity of borders and the impact of evolving societal and cultural attitudes… The oppositional dialectic of inside/outside is increasingly acknowledged as redundant  and, in a world marked by cultural pluralism, many question the validity of the category.”1 Bosse goes on to suggest that, with its origins in the term art brut (the raw and unmediated nature of art made by the mentally ill), Outsider art reinforces the link between creativity, marginality and mental illness, proffering “the notion of a pure form of creativity that expresses an artist’s psychological state [which] is a prevailing view that traverses the divergent range of creative practice that falls under the label.”2

The ambiguities of art are always threatened by a label, never more so than in the case of Outsider art. For example, how many readers who visited the Melbourne Now exhibition at NGV International and saw the magnificent ceramic cameras by Alan Constable would know that the aritst is intellectually disabled, deaf and nearly blind. Alan holds photographs of cameras three inches away from his eyes and scans the images, then constructs his cameras by feel with his hands, fires them and glazes them. The casual viewer would know nothing of this backstory and just accepts the work on merit. Good art is good art no matter where it comes from. It is only when you enquire about the history of the artist – whether mainstream or outsider – that their condition of becoming (an artist) might affect how you contextualise a work or body of work.

Bosse makes comment about the rationale for the exhibition: ‘The decision to focus on artists’ engagement with the exterior, everyday world was to counter one of the common assumptions about artists in this category – that they are are disconnected from society and that their work is solely expressionistic, in that it relates almost exclusively to the self and the expression of the artist’s emotional inner life.”3 Bosse agrees with the position that to simply eliminate the designation would be a different kind of marginalisation – “one where the unique world view and specific challenges the individual faces would become lost in a misguided attempt at egalitarianism.”4

As chair of a panel session at the international conference Contemporary Outsider Art: The Global Context, 23-26th October at The University of Melbourne, curator Lynne Cooke also sees the classification “Outsider” as valuable, for “Outsider art is the condition that contemporary art wants to be” – that is imaginative, free, intuitive, visceral and living on the edge. She sees contemporary art as having run up the white flag leaving Outsider art – however you define that (not the white, middle class male establishment, and belonging to the right galleries) – to be the vanguard, the new avant-garde.5 The exhibition catalogue concludes with her observation that, while current curatorial strategies breakdown the distinctions between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ – making significant headway concerning stigmatisation – these might have the effect of loosing what she describes as the “‘unique and crucial agency’ that this art has to challenge the ‘monocultural frame’.”6 These artists positions as ‘circuit breakers’, holding counter culture positions, may be threatened as their work is made ready for market, especially if they have little knowledge of it themselves.

And there’s the rub, right there. On the one hand Outsider art wants to be taken seriously, the people promoting it (seldom the artists) want it to be shown in mainstream galleries like the National Gallery of Victoria, and so it should be. Good art is good art not matter what. But they also want to have their cake and eat it too; they want to stand both inside and outside the frame of reference.7 In other words, they promote Outsider art within a mainstream context while still claiming “marginal” status, leveraging funding, philanthropy, international conferences and standing in the community as evidence of their good work. And they do it very successfully. Where would we be without fantastic organisations such as Arts Project Australia and Arts Access Victoria to help people with a disability make art? Can you imagine the Melbourne Art Fair without one of the best stands of the entire proceedings, the Arts Project Australia stand? While I support them 100% I am playing devil’s advocate here, for I believe it’s time that the label “Outsider art” was permanently retired. Surely, if we live in a postmodern, post-human society where there is no centre and no periphery, then ‘other’ can occupy both the centre and the margins at one and the same time WITHOUT BEING NAMED AS SUCH!

[Of course, naming “Outsider art” is also a way of controlling it, to have agency and power over it – the power to delineate, classify and ring fence such art, power to promote such artists as the organisations own and bring that work to market.]

Getting rid of the term Outsider art is not a misguided attempt at egalitarianism as Joanna Bosse proposes, for there will always be a narrative to the work, a narrative to the artist. The viewer just has to read and enquire to find out. Personally, what I find most inspiring when looking at this art is that you are made aware of your interaction with the artist. The work is so immediate and fresh and you can feel the flowering of creativity within these souls jumping off the page.

For any artist, for any work, what we must do is talk about the specific in relation to each individual artist, in relation to the world, in relation to reality and resist the temptation to apply any label, resist the fetishisation of the object (and artist) through that label, absolutely. This is the way forward for any art. May the nomenclature “outsider” and its discrimination be gone forever.

.
Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

Footnotes

1. Bosse, Joanna. Everyday imagining: new perspectives on Outsider art.” Catalogue essay. The Ian Potter Museum of Modern Art.
2. Ibid.,
3. Ibid.,
4. Ibid.,
5. Cooke, Lynne. Senior Curator, Special Projects in Modern Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. My notes from the panel session “Outsider Art in the Centre: Museums and Contemporary Art,” at Contemporary Outsider Art: The Global Context, 23-26th October at The University of Melbourne.
6. Cooke, Lynne. Orthodoxies undermined’, Great and mighty things: Outsider art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz collection. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2013, p. 213 quote in Bosse, Joanna, op. cit.,
7. An example of this can be seen in the launch of the new magazine artsider - “Arts Access Victoria in Partnership with Writers Victoria invites you to the Launch of artsider, a magazine devoted to outsider art and writing.” What a clumsy title that seeks to have a foot in both camps. Email received from Arts Access Victoria 19/11/2014.

.
Many thankx to The Ian Potter Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Martin Thompson. 'Untitled' 2014

 

Martin Thompson
Untitled
2014
Ink on paper
52.5 x 105 cm
Courtesy the artist and Brett McDowell Gallery, Dunedin

 

Andrew Blythe. 'Untitled' 2012

 

Andrew Blythe
Untitled
2012
Synthetic polymer paint on paper
88 x 116 cm
Courtesy the artist and Tim Melville Gallery, Auckland

 

Terry William. 'Stereo' 2011

 

Terry Williams
Stereo
2011
Vinyl fabric, cotton, stuffing and fibre-tipped pen
21 x 43 x 14 cm
Private collection, Melbourne. Courtesy the artist and Arts Project Australia, Melbourne

 

Terry Williams. 'Telephone' 2011

 

Terry Williams
Telephone
2011
Fabric, cotton, stuffing and fibre-tipped pen
18 x 13 x 20 cm
Private collection, Melbourne. Courtesy the artist and Arts Project Australia, Melbourne

 

 

“An exhibition of Australian and New Zealand ‘Outsider’ artists which challenges a key existing interpretation of the genre will be presented at the Potter Museum of Art at The University of Melbourne, from 1 October 2014 to 15 January 2015. Everyday imagining: new perspectives on Outsider art, features the work of artists Andrew Blythe, Kellie Greaves, Julian Martin, Jack Napthine, Lisa Reid, Martin Thompson and Terry Williams.

The term ‘Outsider art’ was coined by British art historian Roger Cardinal in 1972 expanding on the 1940s French concept of art brut – predominantly artworks made by the institutionalised mentally ill – to include artworks made by folk artists and those who are self-taught, disabled, or on the edges of society. The work of Outsider artists is often interpreted as expressing a unique inner vision unsullied by social or cultural influences. Everyday imagining: new perspectives on Outsider art counters this view by presenting contemporary Outsider artists whose works reveal their proactive engagement with the everyday world through artworks that focus on day-to-day experiences.

Curator Joanna Bosse says the exhibition questions a key interpretive bias of Outsider art that is a legacy of its origins in art brut.

“The association with an interior psychological reality that is unsullied by social or cultural influences remains deeply embedded within the interpretations of Outsider art today, and can lead audiences to misinterpret the agency and intention of the artist. Everyday imagining: new perspectives on Outsider art questions this key interpretive bias, and presents the work of Australian and New Zealander outsider artists that demonstrate a clear and proactive engagement with the world. The work of artists Andrew Blythe, Kellie Greaves, Julian Martin, Jack Napthine, Lisa Reid, Martin Thompson and Terry Williams reveals their blatant interest in the here and now,” Ms Bosse said.

Terry Williams’ soft fabric sculptures of everyday items such as fridges, cameras and clocks convey his keen observation of the world and urgent impulse to replicate what is meaningful through familiarity or fascination. Kellie Greaves’ paintings are based on book cover illustrations with the addition of her own compositional elements and complementary tonal colour combinations. The traditional discipline of life-drawing provides Lisa Reid with a structure to pursue her interest in recording the human figure. Her pen and ink drawings are carefully observed yet intuitive renderings.

Jack Napthine produces drawn recollections of his past and present daily life in the form of visual diaries. Light fittings from remembered environments feature prominently as do doors with multiple and varied locks. Napthine’s work has a bold economy of means; he uses thick texta pen to depict simplified designs accompanied by text detail that often records the names of friends and family.

The work of Martin Thompson and Andrew Blythe also displays a similarly indexical approach. Both artists produce detailed repetitive patterns that are borne out of a desire for order and control. Thompson uses large-scale grid paper to create meticulous and intricate geometric designs whereas Blythe uses select motifs – the word ‘no’ and the symbol ‘x’ – to fill the pictorial plane with dense yet orderly markings that result in graphic and rhythmic patterns.

“In the last decade in particular there has been much debate about the term ‘outsider art': who does it define? What are the prerequisite conditions for its production? What is it outside of, and who decides? This exhibition doesn’t seek to resolve these ambiguities or establish boundaries, but looks beyond definitions to challenge a key assumption underlying contemporary interpretations of outsider art,” Ms Bosse said.

Everyday imagining: new perspectives on Outsider art is held in conjunction with the international conference Contemporary Outsider art: the global context, presented Art Projects Australia and The University of Melbourne and held 23-26 October at The University of Melbourne. The conference proposes an inter-disciplinary exploration of the field, drawing on the experience and knowledge of Australian and international artists, collectors, curators and scholars. More information at www.outsiderartmelbourne2014.com.”

Press release from The Ian Potter Museum of Art

 

Julian Martin. 'Untitled' 2011

 

Julian Martin
Untitled
2011
Pastel on paper
38 x 28 cm
Courtesy the artist and Arts Project Australia, Melbourne

 

Kelly Greaves. 'My little Japan' 2010

 

Kelly Greaves
My little Japan
2010
Synthetic polymer paint on paper
59.4 x 42 cm
Courtesy the artist and Art Unlimited, Geelong

 

Jack Napthine. 'Untitled' 2013

 

Jack Napthine
Untitled
2013
Fibre-tipped pen on paper
59.4 x 42 cm
Courtesy the artist and Art Unlimited, Geelong

 

Jack Napthine. 'Untitled' 2013

 

Jack Napthine
Untitled
2013
Fibre-tipped pen on paper
42 x 59.4 cm
Courtesy the artist and Art Unlimited, Geelong

 

Lisa Reid. 'Queen of hearts' 2010

 

Lisa Reid
Queen of hearts
2010
Pencil on paper
35 x 25 cm
Courtesy the artist and Arts Project Australia, Melbourne

 

 

The Ian Potter Museum of Art
Swanston Street between Faraday and Elgin streets in Parkville
The University of Melbourne
Victoria 3010 Australia

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday and Sunday 12 – 5 pm
Monday closed

The Ian Potter Museum of Art website

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04
Dec
14

Exhibition: ‘RealSurreal. Masterpieces of Avant-Garde Photography Das Neue Sehen 1920-1950. Siegert Collection’ at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg

Exhibition dates: 15th November 2014 – 6th April 2015

The artists
Eugène Atget – Herbert Bayer – Hans Bellmer – Aenne Biermann – Brassaï – František Drtikol – Jaromír Funke – Florence Henri – André Kertész – Germaine Krull – Herbert List – Man Ray – László Moholy-Nagy – Albert Renger-Patzsch – August Sander – Josef Sudek – Maurice Tabard – Raoul Ubac – Umbo – Wols – and others

 

Thought photography

Here are some names to conjure with (above). And what an appropriate word “conjure” is to illuminate these images:

: to charge or entreat earnestly or solemnly

: to summon by or as if by invocation or incantation

: to affect or effect by or as if by magic

: to practice magical arts

: to use a conjurer’s tricks

: to make you think of (something)

: to create or imagine (something)

 

For what is photography, if not magic?

These images are conjured from both the imagination of the artist… and reality itself. One cannot live, be magical, without the other. “Beneath the surface of visible things the irrational, the magical, and the contradictory could be discovered and explored.”

Still waters run deep.

 

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Watch a 6 minute video about the exhibition on Vimeo (in German).

 

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch. 'Self-Portrait' 1926/27

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch
Self-Portrait
1926/27
Gelatin silver paper, 16.9 x 22.8 cm
photo: Christian P. Schmider, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Ann and Jürgen Wilde / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Brassaï. 'Occasional Magic (Sprouting Potato)' 1931

 

Brassaï
Occasional Magic (Sprouting Potato)
1931
Gelatin silver paper
28.8 x 23 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmider, Munich
© ESTATE BRASSAÏ – RMN

 

František Drtikol. 'Circular Segment (Arc)' 1928

 

František Drtikol
Circular Segment (Arc)
1928
Carbon print
21.3 x 28.7 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder, Munich
© František Drtikol – heirs, 2014

 

Hans Bellmer. 'The Doll' 1935

 

Hans Bellmer
The Doll
1935
Gelatin silver paper
17.4 x 17.9 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder, Munich
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Grete Stern. 'The Eternal Eye' c. 1950

 

Grete Stern
The Eternal Eye
c. 1950
Photomontage on gelatin silver paper
39.5 x 39.5 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder, Munich
© Estate of Grete Stern courtesy Galería Jorge Mara – La Ruche, Buenos Aires, 2014

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'RealSurreal' at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg

Installation view of the exhibition 'RealSurreal' at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg

Installation view of the exhibition 'RealSurreal' at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg

Installation view of the exhibition 'RealSurreal' at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg

 

Installation views of the exhibition RealSurreal at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg

 

 

“Is a photograph a true-to-life reproduction of reality, or is it merely a staged image? This year – the 175th anniversary of the invention of photography – the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg responds to this question with a comprehensive survey of avant-garde photography between 1920 and 1950. The exhibition RealSurreal presents around 200 masterpieces from the eminent Siegert Collection in Munich. This collection, which has never been shown in its entirety, contains photographs from the Neues Sehen (New Vision) movement, covering everything from New Objectivity to Surrealism in Germany, France, and Czechoslovakia.

Das Neue Sehen (New Vision)

Notions about photography’s visual veracity are as old as the art itself. As early as the nineteenth century there were arguments as to whether or not photography – with its mechanical ability to record ‘reality’ – was better suited to portray life more comprehensively and truthfully than other visual arts of the period. An inevitable reaction to what were considered photography’s shortcomings was Pictorialism, which approached photography according to the conventions of painting, in an attempt to lend it more artistic credibility. But around 1920 a new generation of international photographers began reconsidering the specific characteristics of photography as tools for developing it into a more modern method of appropriating reality. Rapid progress in technologising modern society affected the adoption of and attitudes toward photography: convenient cameras that used rolls of film came onto the market in greater numbers, making it easy for even the greenest of amateurs to take photographs. Photographs were increasingly used as illustrations in mass media, and in advertising, leading to a rising demand for accomplished images and professional image makers. These developments also changed the public’s visual habits, so that the New Vision arose as an expression of the perception of this new media-fabricated reality. Positions ranged from the precise recordings of what was seen in portrait and industrial photography, via the use of new framings and perspectives at the Bauhaus, all the way to the photomontage and technical experiments such as the photogram and solarisation, as well as Surrealism’s staged images.

The Mechanical Eye

Photographers of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement wanted to show the world as it was. For Albert Renger-Patzsch, photography was the “most dependable tool” for objectively reproducing the visible things of this world, especially the results of modern technology, and in this respect, it was superior to the subjective perception of the human eye. László Moholy-Nagy went a step further, with his famous verdict that “the illiterate of the future will be the person ignorant of the use of the camera as well as the pen.” To the camera he attributed the crucial function of technically expanding human perception. Whilst adequately depicting machines, mass society, and modern metropolitan life: “the photographic apparatus can perfect or supplement our Photographs were increasingly used as illustrations in mass media.” Unusual aspects and viewpoints led to striking images. From a bird’s-eye perspective, buildings and streets became compositions made up of lines and planes, while a low-angle shot could create an unforeseen dynamic and greatly enlarging an object resulted in magical dissociations.

The Real and the Surreal

Ultimately, the Surrealists identified in the “realistic” recording tool of photography yet another artistic means of “écriture automatique,” which André Breton also described as “thought photography.” Beneath the surface of visible things the irrational, the magical, and the contradictory could be discovered and explored. Documentary photographers such as Eugène Atget and Karl Blossfeldt became inspirational figures in this movement. Their work was printed in the Surrealist magazines, because a plant, staged and isolated in a photograph, could trigger all kinds of magical associations beyond its botanical context. Meanwhile manipulated and staged photographs benefitted from the truthfulness of “this is the way it was,” since they could only reinforce their mysterious statements. One of Surrealism’s most important artistic means – the combinatory creation (including, of course, the photomontage) – was particularly effective because heterogeneous visual elements were joined to form new, surprising contexts of meaning. Like Brassaï’s photographs of a nocturnal Paris, Karel Teige’s collages have a surreal quality which can also be found in a different form in Man Ray’s dreamlike photograms. Both staged photography and – with many experiments with photographic techniques, such as multiple exposures, negative printing, and solarisation – strove to achieve the melding of dream and reality, a goal postulated by Breton in his first Surrealist manifesto. In New Vision photography this could generally result in images that could “go either way,” depending on the viewpoint of the real/surreal photographer and observer; they could be seen as sober, objective reproductions of the visible world, or as imaginary, subjective reflections of reality.

The exhibition RealSurreal leads the visitor through Neues Sehen in Germany, Surrealism in Paris, and the avant-garde in Prague, alongside themes such as portraits, nudes, objects, architecture, and experimental. Opening with a prologue of exemplary nineteenth-century photographs which are compared and contrasted with Neues Sehen, one can literally experience the Neues Sehen in the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg via rare original prints by notable photographers, while rediscovering the broad spectrum and complexity of photographs from real to surreal. Besides approximately 200 photographs, the exhibition contains historical photography books and magazines, as well as rare artists’ books and examples of avant-garde cover design, making it possible to experience this new view of the world.

RealSurreal also features several famous clips from key films by Luis Buñuel, László Moholy-Nagy, Hans Richter, and others, shown continuously in a 45-minute loop, which highlight the fruitful interplay between avant-garde photography and the-then contemporary cinema. Important photographs and photo installations by Nobuyoshi Araki, Gilbert & George, Paul Graham, Andreas Gursky, Cindy Sherman, Jeff Wall, and James Welling, from the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg’s collection, will also demonstrate that the artistic questions posed by Neues Sehen are still relevant today.”

Press release from the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg website

 

Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Skull' 1932/33

 

Erwin Blumenfeld
Skull
1932/33
Solarisation on gelatin silver paper
29.6 x 24 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder, Munich
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

 

Josef Sudek. 'Plaster Head' c. 1947

 

Josef Sudek
Plaster Head
c. 1947
Gelatin silver paper
23.5 x 17.5 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder, Munich
© Estate of Josef Sudek

 

Herbert Bayer. 'Lonely Metropolitan' 1932/1969

 

Herbert Bayer
Lonely Metropolitan
1932/1969
Photomontage on gelatin silver paper
35.3 x 28 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder, Munich
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Herbert Bayer. 'Self-Portrait' 1932

 

Herbert Bayer
Self-Portrait
1932
Photomontage on gelatin silver paper
35.3 x 27.9 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder, Munich
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2014

 

Man Ray. 'Electricity' 1931

 

Man Ray
Electricity
1931
Photogravure
26 x 20.6 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder, Munich
© Man Ray Trust, Paris/ VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

May Ray. 'Rayography (spiral)'1923

 

May Ray
Rayography (spiral)
1923
Photogram on gelatin silver paper
26.6. x 21.4 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder, München
© Man Ray Trust, Paris/ VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Florence Henri. 'Portrait Composition (Erica Brausen)' 1931

 

Florence Henri
Portrait Composition (Erica Brausen)
1931
Gelatin silver paper
39.9 x 29 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder, Munich
© Galleria Martini & Ronchetti, Genova, Italy

 

Atelier Manassé. 'My Little Bird' c. 1928

 

Atelier Manassé
My Little Bird
c. 1928
Gelatin silver paper
21 x 16 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder, Munich
© IMAGNO/Austrian Archives

 

Genia Rubin. 'Lisa Fonssagives. Gown: Alix (Madame Grès)' 1937

 

Genia Rubin
Lisa Fonssagives. Gown: Alix (Madame Grès)
1937
Gelatin silver paper
30.3 x 21.5 cm
Photo: Christian P. Schmieder / Siegert Collection, Munich
© Sheherazade Ter-Abramoff, Paris

 

 

Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg
Abteilung Kommunikation
Hollerplatz 1 38440
Wolfsburg
T: +49 (0)5361 2669 69

Opening hours:
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Tuesday 11 am – 8 pm
Monday closed

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30
Nov
14

Review: ‘PHOTOGRAPHY MEETS FEMINISM: Australian women photographers 1970s-80s’ at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 17th October – 7th December 2014

Artists: Micky Allan, Pat Brassington, Virginia Coventry, Sandy Edwards, Anne Ferran, Sue Ford, Christine Godden, Helen Grace, Janina Green, Fiona Hall, Ponch Hawkes, Carol Jerrems, Merryle Johnson, Ruth Maddison, Julie Rrap, Robyn Stacey.

Curator: Shaune Lakin

 

 

With the National Gallery of Victoria’s photography exhibition program sliding into oblivion – the apparent demise of its only dedicated photography exhibition space on the 3rd floor of NGV International; the lack of exhibitions showcasing ANY Australian artists from any era; and the exhibition of perfunctory overseas exhibitions of mediocre quality (such as the high gloss, centimetre deep Alex Prager exhibition on show at the moment at NGV International) – it is encouraging that Monash Gallery of Art consistently puts on some of the best photography exhibitions in this city. This cracker of an exhibition, the last show curated by Shaune Lakin before his move to the National Gallery of Australia (and his passionate curatorial concept), is no exception. It is one of the best photography exhibitions I have seen all year in Melbourne.

Most of the welcome, usual suspects are here… but seeing them all together is a feast for the eyes and the intellect. While most are social documentary based photographers what I like about this exhibition is that there is little pretension here. The artists use photography as both a means and an end, to tell their story – of mothers, of workers, of dancers, of lovers – and to depict a revolution in social consciousness. What we must remember is the period in which this early work appeared. In the 1970s in Australia there were no formal photography programs at university and photography programs in techs and colleges were only just beginning: Photography Studies College (1973) in South Melbourne, Prahran College of Advanced Education (Paul Cox, John Cato, 1974) and Preston Tech (c. 1973, later Phillip Institute) were all set up in the early 1970s. The National Gallery of Victoria photography department was only set up in 1969 (the third ever in the world) with Jenny Boddington, Assistant Curator of Photography, was appointed in 1972 (later to become the first full time photography curator). There were three commercial photography galleries showing Australian and international work in Melbourne: Brummels (Rennie Ellis), Church Street Photographic Centre (Joyce Evans) and The Photographers Gallery (Paul Cox, John Williams, William Heimerman and Ian Lobb). While some of the artists attended these schools and others were self taught, few had their own darkroom. It was not uncommon for people to develop their negatives and print in bathrooms, toilets, backyard sheds and alike – and the advise was to switch on the shower before printing to clear the dust out of the air, advise in workshops that people did no bat an eyelid at.

What these women did, as Julie Millowick (another photographer who should have been in this exhibition, along with Elizabeth Gertsakis and Ingeborg Tyssen for example) observes of the teaching of John Cato, was “bring to the work knowledge that extended far beyond picking up a camera or going into a darkroom. He [Cato] believed that you must bring to every image you create a wide depth of insight across social, cultural and historical concerns. John was passionate in his belief that an understanding of humanity and society was crucial to our growth as individuals, and ultimately our success as photographers.”1 And so it is with these artists. Never has there been a time in Australian photography when so much social change has been documented by so few for such great advantage. In all its earthiness and connection, the work of these artists is ground breaking. It speaks from the heart for the abused, for the disenfranchised and downtrodden. The work is not only for women by women, as Ponch Hawkes states, but also points the way towards a more enlightened society by opening the eyes of the viewer to multiple points of view, multiple perspectives.

There are few “iconic” images among the exhibition and, as Robert Nelson notes in his review in The Age, little pretension to greatness. One of the surprising elements of the exhibition is how the four photographs by Carol Jerrems (including the famous Vale Street, 1975), seem to loose a lot of their power in this company. They are out muscled in terms of their presence by some of the more essential and earthy series – such as Women at work by Helen Grace and Our mums and us by Ponch Hawkes – and out done in terms of their sensuality by the work of Christine Godden. These were my two favourite bodies of work: Our mums and us and Christine Godden’s sequence of 44 images and the series Family.

Hawkes’ objective series of mother/daughter relationships are deceptively simple in their formal structure (mother and daughter positioned in family homes usually looking directly at the camera), until you start to analyse them. Their unpretentious nature is made up of the interaction that Hawkes elicites from the pairing and the objet trouvé that are worn (the cowgirl boots in Ponch and Ida, 1976) or surround them (the carpet, the table, the plant and the painting in Mimi and Dany, 1976). This relationship adds to the power of the assemblage, juxtaposition of energy and form being a guiding principle in the construction of the image. While the environment might be ‘natural’ it is very much constructed, both physically and psychologically, by the artist.

The work of Christine Godden was a revelation to me. These small, intense images have a powerful magnetism and I kept returning to look at them again and again. There is sensitivity to subject matter, but more importantly a sensuality in the print that is quite overwhelming. Couple this with the feeling of light, space, form and texture and these sometimes fragmentary photographs are a knockout. Just look at the sensitivity of the hands in Untitled, c. 1976. To see that, to capture it, to reveal it to the world – I was almost in tears looking at this photograph. The humanity of that gesture is something that I will treasure.

The only criticism of the exhibition is the lack of a book that addresses one of the most challenging times in Australian photographic history. This important work deserves a fully researched, scholarly publication that includes ALL the players in the story, not just those represented here. It’s about time. As a good friend of mine recently said, “Circles must expand as history moves away from a generation and cohort and, hopefully, the future will ask its own questions” … and I would add, without putting the blinkers on and creating more ideology.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

Footnotes

1. Julie Millowick and Christopher Atkins. “Dr John Cato – Educator,” in Paul Cox and Bryan Gracey (eds.,). John Cato Retrospective. Melbourne: Wilkinson Publishing, 2013.

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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.

 

 

“As feminism took off among intellectuals of both sexes, art history would sometimes be interrogated to account for the reasons why there were relatively few great female artists.

While art historians would create reasonable apologies and impute the deficit to centuries of disadvantage to women, it was left to women artists to construct a view of art that redefined the stakes.

They sought a vision that didn’t see art as line-honours in transcendent inventions but a conversation that furthered the sympathy and consciousness of the community”

.
Robert Nelson The Age Wednesday November 5, 2014

 

 

Pat Brassington. 'Untitled' 1984 (1)

 

Pat Brassington
Untitled
1984 (1)
From the series 1 + 1 = 3
Gelatin silver print
18 x 28 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Courtesy of the artist, ARC ONE Gallery (Melbourne), Stills Gallery (Sydney) and Bett Gallery (Hobart)

 

Pat Brassington‘s photographs have often made use of the artist’s home and family life as subject matter. The photographs included in this exhibition were taken during the early 1980s and, with their tight cropping and diagonal obliques, suggest that family life is an anxious and ambivalent place. Erotically charged body parts – whether partner’s or offspring – are left to hang, like fetish objects drifting through a dream. Brassington is consciously mining the clichés of psychoanalysis, with her focus on shoes, panties and an ominous father figure, but she reworks this symbolism with a comical lightness that is closer to a teen horror film than the analyst’s couch.

 

Helen Grace. 'Women at work, Newcastle' 1976

 

Helen Grace
Women at work, Newcastle
1976
From the series Series 1
Gelatin silver prints
17.5 x 11.6 cm (each)
Courtesy of the artist

 

Helen Grace. 'Women at work, Newcastle' 1976

 

Helen Grace
Women at work, Newcastle
1976
From the series Series 2
Gelatin silver prints
11.6 x 17.5 cm (each)
Courtesy of the artist

 

Helen Grace. 'Women at work, Newcastle' (detail) 1976

 

Helen Grace
Women at work, Newcastle (detail)
1976
From the series Series 2
Gelatin silver prints
11.6 x 17.5 cm (each)
Courtesy of the artist

 

Helen Grace was a member of the Sydney-based feminist collective Blatant Image (which also included Sandy Edwards), which formed around the Tin Sheds at Sydney University. The collective was interested in examining and reconfiguring the representation of women in popular culture, and also in developing alternative venues for socially conscious art and film. The photographs displayed here point to the two interconnected preoccupations of Grace’s work at this time: the social and cultural construction of motherhood and femininity (and the way that each of these categories are produced by and through consumerism and popular culture), and the documentation of women’s labour. An active member of Sydney’s labour movement, Grace photographed women working in a range of workplaces (including factories and hospitals) for both the historical record and as promotional aids for activist organisations.

Grace’s Women seem to adapt to repetitive-type tasks was widely shown in Sydney and Melbourne, including the exhibition The lovely motherhood show (1981). This work of seven panoramas depicting a string of nappies on a washing line at once points towards the inexorable tediousness of motherhood, and at the same timeattempts to demystify the romantic myths of motherhood found in contemporary advertising and popular culture. Grace’s photographs were also widely used in posters produced by trade union and women’s groups. During the 1970s and 1980s screen printing was a cheap and effective way to incorporate photographic imagery into posters. Community groups also embraced screen printing because its aesthetic stood in opposition to commercial advertising, and the process lent itself to a do-it-yourself work ethic.

 

Merryle Johnson. 'Outside the big top' 1979-80

 

Merryle Johnson
Outside the big top
1979-80
From the series Circus
Hand coloured gelatin silver prints
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Merryle Johnson, 2014

 

Merryle Johnson‘s photographic feminism sits alongside her contemporaries Micky Allan and Ruth Maddison. In the first instance, it is expressed in the autobiographical nature of her images, which often refer to her family history. And like Allan and Maddison, Johnson also used hand-colouring to reinvigorate documentary photography and to bring a decidedly female perspective to the medium. Johnson’s contribution to feminist photography in Australia is also reflected in her use of photographic sequences – multiple images printed on the same sheet. In these works, the single, perfectly realised photographic image of Modernist photography was replaced with a series of images that draw attention to the fragmentary, contingent and inconclusive nature of photography. The serialisation of photographs also engages a more embodied, spatialised and assertive experience than single pictures alone.

 

Christine Godden. 'Joanie and baby Jade, Larkspur' 1973

 

Christine Godden
Joanie and baby Jade, Larkspur
1973
From the series Family
Gelatin silver print
8.4 x 13.8 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Christine Godden. 'Joanie pregnant' 1972

 

Christine Godden
Joanie pregnant
1972
From the series Family
Gelatin silver print
15.3 x 22.6 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Christine Godden. 'Untitled' c. 1976

 

Christine Godden
Untitled
c. 1976
Gelatin silver print
15.3 x 22.8 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Christine Godden. 'Untitled' c. 1976

 

Christine Godden
Untitled
c. 1976
Gelatin silver print
15.2 x 22.7 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Christine Godden. 'Untitled' c. 1976

 

Christine Godden
Untitled
c. 1976
Gelatin silver print
15.2 x 22.8 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Christine Godden’s Untitled c. 1976 is part of a sequence of 44 images that represented fragments and textures that combine tenderness and formal rigour in a way that evokes a sense of poetry. The series Family c. 1973 details the domestic environment and experience of young families in the American West.

As well as presenting subjects that engaged a ‘feminine’ subject, Godden’s photographs critically interrogate many of the claims for a distinctly ‘feminine sensibility’ being made by and for women artists at this time. The ‘Untitled’ prints on display here were originally exhibited in 1976 at George Paton Gallery, Melbourne and the Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney. These pictures were originally shown as part of a tightly organised sequence of 44 photographs intended to show ‘how women see [and] how women think’. The tightly cropped glimpses of bodies and textures combine tenderness and formal rigour in a way that evokes a sense of visual poetry.

Christine Godden’s Family series comprises a large number of images detailing the domestic environment and experience of young families living in the American west. Godden was at this time a student at the San Francisco Art Institute and was very active in feminist networks, including the Advocates for Women organisation, for whom she photographed events and actions. Godden’s Family series documents her experience of the counter-cultural families of America’s west coast, who provided and celebrated a new model of family life and women’s work.

 

Installation view of 'Photography Meets Feminism' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of Photography Meets Feminism at the Monash Gallery of Art with, at right, Anne Ferran’s Scenes on the death of nature, scene I and II (1980-86)

 

Anne Ferran. 'Scenes on the death of nature, scene I' 1980-86

 

Anne Ferran
Scenes on the death of nature, scene I
1980-86
Gelatin silver print
122.0 x 162.0 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Courtesy the artist and Sutton Gallery (Melbourne)

 

Anne Ferran‘s series Scenes on the death of nature presents five tableau-like scenes showing the artist’s daughter and her friends in classical dress. When they were first exhibited, commentators noted the enigmatic quality of the images, and how they resisted clear meaning, narrative and any attribute of personal style. To many, they represented a significant shift away from documentary photography. This might well be the ‘death’ to which the titles refer. For the critic Adrian Martin, the pictures appeared to evoke myth, while also being ambivalent about a photograph’s capacity to point to or allude to anything outside of itself; in this way, they can be seen to exemplify a certain post-modern approach to photography.

All the same, it is possible to see these important pictures as signposts for another kind of death. The photographs allude to some of the ways that the subject of girl/woman has been produced through visual culture, whether the monumental friezes of classical or Victorian architecture, or Pre-Raphaelite tableaux. In this way, they evoke the idea of ‘femininity’ as a source of meaning. Rather than rejoicing in, resisting or critiquing ‘femininity’ as earlier feminist photographers might have done, Ferran’s pictures remain steadfastly, even ‘passively’ ambivalent. As the artist wrote at the time, the works reveal ‘very little of a personal vision or private sensibility’. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of four Carol Jerrems photographs with 'Vale Street' (1975) at left

 

Installation view of four Carol Jerrems photographs with Vale Street (1975) at left and Lynn
(1976) at right

 

Carol Jerrems. 'Vale Street' 1975

 

Carol Jerrems
Vale Street
1975
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1976
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems

 

Carol Jerrems. 'Lynn' 1976

 

Carol Jerrems
Lynn
1976
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems

 

Carol Jerrems was one of a number of Australian women whose work during the 1970s challenged the dominant ideas of what a photographer was and how they worked. She adopted a collaborative approach to making photographs, which often featured friends and associates, and sought a photographic practice that would bring about social change. For Jerrems, as for many of her contemporaries, the photograph was an agent of social change, a means of both bringing people together and creating active and engaged social relationships. As she stated:
.

I really like people … I try to reveal something about people, because they are so separate, so isolated; maybe it’s a way of bringing people together … I care about [people], I’d like to help them if I could, through my photographs…

.
The iconic Vale Street shows Jerrems’s friend Catriona Brown standing in front of Mark Lean and Jon Bourke, teenage boys from Heidelberg Technical School where Jerrems was teaching at the time. The photograph was taken at a house in Vale Street, St Kilda. Although it is unclear if Jerrems conceived of this image as a feminist gesture, the subject’s assertive, bare-chested pose and Venus symbol led to this photograph being interpreted as a statement of feminist power.

 

Installation view of 'Photography Meets Feminism' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of 'Photography Meets Feminism' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of Photography Meets Feminism at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of Ponch Hawkes series 'Our mums and us' at the exhibition 'Photography Meets Feminism'

 

Installation view of Ponch Hawkes series Our mums and us at the exhibition Photography Meets Feminism. Her photographs were made by women, of women, for women.

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Ponch and Ida' 1976

 

Ponch Hawkes
Ponch and Ida
1976
From the series Our mums and us
Gelatin silver print
17.7 x 12.7 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Ian Bracegirdle 2012
Courtesy of the artist

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Lorna and Mary' 1976

 

Ponch Hawkes
Lorna and Mary
1976
From the series Our mums and us
Gelatin silver print
17.7 x 12.7 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Ian Bracegirdle 2012
Courtesy of the artist

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Mimi and Dany' 1976

 

Ponch Hawkes
Mimi and Dany
1976
From the series Our mums and us
Gelatin silver print
17.7 x 12.7 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Ian Bracegirdle 2012
Courtesy of the artist

 

Ponch Hawkes‘s best-known series Our mums and us documents a selection of the photographer’s contemporaries standing with their mothers. The photographs were taken at each subject’s family home and record generational shifts in personal style and domestic decor. Originally shown at Brummels Gallery of Photography in 1976, which was Hawkes’s first solo exhibition, Our mums and us has become one of the most celebrated examples of feminist photography in Australia.

The use of pronouns in the title suggests the series was made by women, of women and for women; it is a defiant and celebratory feminist gesture, which foregrounds women as at once independent and connected to each other. Reflecting on the series, Hawkes explains that ‘feminism helped me to understand that my mother was actually a woman too, and not just a mother, and Our mums and us came out of that realisation.’

 

installation-i

installation-j

installation-k

installation-l

installation-h

 

Ephemera and books from Ponch Hawkes personal collection, including the cover of the seminal book A Book About Australian Women by Carol Jerrems and Virginia Fraser (Melbourne, 1974)

 

Ruth Maddison. 'Vehicle Builders Union Ball, Collingwood Town Hall, Melbourne' 1979

 

Ruth Maddison
Vehicle Builders Union Ball, Collingwood Town Hall, Melbourne
1979
From the series Let’s dance
Gelatin silver print
27.0 x 18.0 cm
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of the artist

 

Ruth Maddison. 'Women’s dance, St Kilda Town Hall, Melbourne' 1985

 

Ruth Maddison
Women’s dance, St Kilda Town Hall, Melbourne
1985
Gelatin silver print
36.5 x 24.5 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Ruth Maddison photographed the social spaces that had been important to activist communities but which were in the process of passing away. These were mainly commissioned projects for labour and social movements, otherwise these histories would have been lost.

Dancing and entertainment were features of Ruth Maddison’s work throughout the 1980s. These photographs reflected Maddison’s own social life, which often revolved around Melbourne’s pubs and nightclubs. But there was also a classical documentary function to her photographs of trade union dances and the annual women’s dance at St Kilda Town Hall. These pictures reflected social spaces that had been important to activist communities, but which by the mid-1980s were in the process of passing away; as women’s groups began to fragment, and as the membership of labour organisations changed. The photographs shown here of the Vehicle Builders’ Union Ball at Collingwood Town Hall were part of a commission. Like many photographers in this exhibition (including Helen Grace, Sandy Edwards and Ponch Hawkes), political affiliation and professional practice often came together in commissioned projects for labour and social movements.

 

Virginia Coventry. 'Miss World televised' 1974

 

Virginia Coventry
Miss World televised
1974
Gelatin silver print
15.5 x 13.5 cm (each)
Courtesy of the artist

 

Miss World televised is typical of Virginia Coventry‘s photographic work from this period, which tended to revolve around tightly organised sequences of pictures of the same subject (swimming pools in a Queensland town; the spaces between houses) or an event (a car moving through a carwash; a receding flood).

At the time, Coventry shared a house with Micky Allan. One night, while watching Allan’s black-and-white television, she saw footage of the 1974 Miss World pageant on the news. Immediately taken by the way the poor reception distorted the bodies of the contestants, Coventry began to photograph the footage. Once she developed the film, she realised the visual ‘disruption’ caused by the incongruity of the telecast process and the camera’s shutter speed obscured the figures and the beauty of the contestants, without necessarily deriding or critiquing the women themselves. As Coventry has written of the pictures: “I remember discussions with other women at the time about the way that the distortions offered a protection to the integrity of the actual person in the photo-images. Because of the radical slippage between reportage and reception, the individual is no longer the subject. The title operates to focus attention on Miss World telecast as a quiteabstract construction – as do the black-and-white, grainy, prints.”

 

 

PHOTOGRAPHY MEETS FEMINISM: Australian women photographers 1970s-80s looks at the vital relationship of photography and feminism in Australia during the 1970s and ’80s.

Given the vitality of both feminist politics and art photography during the 1970s, it is not surprising that they entered into a lively exchange that extended into the 1980s. On the one hand, feminists used the highly informative and accessible medium of photography to raise awareness of critical social issues.

On the other hand, photographic artists embraced feminist themes as a way of making their practice less esoteric and more engaged with contemporary life. This productive intersection of feminism and photography fostered a range of technical innovations and critical frameworks that made a significant contribution to the direction of visual culture in Australia.

PHOTOGRAPHY MEETS FEMINISM: Australian women photographers 1970s-80s will feature vintage prints of important photographs, many of which have not been seen for decades.

MGA Interim Director, Stephen Zagala states, “We are proud to present this exhibition, which provides an as-yet untold account of Australian photography and draws heavily on MGA’s nationally significant collection of Australian photography.””

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art

 

“This exhibition explores the encounter between photography and feminist politics during the 1970s and into the 1980s.

Both photography and feminism thrived during this period. Feminist politics of the 1970s expanded on its earlier fight for equal rights by illuminating discrimination against women in various contexts. This included addressing domestic violence, inequality in the workplace, sexism in the media, and the economics of parenting. Alongside this expanded critique of patriarchy, feminist politics also celebrated ‘sisterhood’ by drawing attention to the undervalued achievements of women and by taking pride in distinctly female perspectives on the world.

Photographic practice also expanded its parameters during the 1970s. Together with other art forms such as painting and sculpture, photography became more experimental and irreverent. Most photographic artists rejected the tradition of highbrow fine art photography and invested the medium with personal sentiment and everyday content. The camera also became a useful tool for a generation of artists more interested in social engagement than aesthetic finesse.

Given the vitality of both feminist politics and art photography during the 1970s, it is not surprising that they entered into a lively exchange that extended into the 1980s. On the one hand, feminists used the highly informative and accessible medium of photography to raise awareness of critical social issues. On the other hand, photographic artists embraced feminist themes as a way of making their practice less esoteric and more engaged with contemporary life. This productive intersection of feminism and photography fostered a range of technical innovations and critical frameworks that made a significant contribution to the direction of visual culture in Australia.”

Text from the Monash Gallery of Art website

 

Sue Ford. 'Untitled' 1969-71

 

Sue Ford
Untitled
1969-71
From the series The Tide Recedes
Selenium toned gelatin silver print

 

Sue Ford. 'Untitled' 1969-71

 

Sue Ford
Untitled
1969-71
From the series The Tide Recedes
Selenium toned gelatin silver print

 

Sue Ford‘s series The Tide Recedes 1969-71 was made for her first solo exhibition at the Hawthorn City Art Gallery in 1971. People were becoming more removed from nature but Ford felt that woman share a particular biological and cultural affinity with nature. The contrasty black and white photographs of bodies melding with rocks in montage prints that are as rough as guts work magnificently.

These prints were made as preparation for Sue Ford’s ambitious series The tide recedes, shown as part of Ford’s first solo exhibition at the Hawthorn City Art Gallery in 1971. Throughout this body of work, images of naked women and of men and women embracing merge with a marine landscape. The series expresses Ford’s concern that people were becoming too removed from nature, and allude to the idea that women share
a particular biological and cultural affinity with nature. It also draws on a technique that was central to feminist photographic practice – montage, where two disparate fragments are brought together to produce new and often unexpected meanings. While this reflects Ford’s work as a film maker, where montage is often used in storytelling, this strategy also embeds her pictures in the field of activist art. With montage, it is the viewer who ultimately makes sense of a work, as they find and see connections between disparate fragments.

While the prints presented in the 1971 exhibition were ambitious in scale and resolution, Ford preferred prints that were – in her terms – ‘rough as guts’. Prints such as those shown here represented an explicit rejection of the maleness of both the camera as a technological instrument and the arcane knowledge of the darkroom.

 

Sandy Edwards. 'A narrative with sexual overtones' 1983

 

Sandy Edwards
A narrative with sexual overtones
1983
100 laminated prints, wood file index box

 

“She was told her image was imperfect”

“HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW YOUR OWN FACE?”

“WOMAN” “DOLL” “CHILD”

 

Sandy Edwards was a member of the Sydney-based feminist collective Blatant Image (active in the early 1980s), which was established to look at the representation of women in the media and create images of women that questioned and challenged prevailing stereotypes. Edwards’s A narrative with sexual overtones came out of her work with Blatant Image, and was produced for Virginia Coventry’s groundbreaking collaborative project A critical distance (1980-86). This project involved a series of exhibitions and a major publication that examined the relationship of photography, politics and writing in Australia. A narrative with sexual overtones was first shown in an associated exhibition at Artspace, Sydney, and comprises 100 laminated photographic prints presented in a file index box. The prints reproduce images from the media and popular culture organised into a series of eight chapters. The images are placed above pieces of text incorporating three different voices: the italicised text is a male voice; capitalised text represents the parental voice; sentence-case text represents the voice of women. When originally exhibited, viewers were able to flip through the laminated prints.

While A narrative with sexual overtones critically engages with the representation of women in media, it is also autobiographical. Throughout the 1970s, Edwards worked as a freelance photographer. She became aware that the images of women she had consumed in magazines and on film as a teenager had influenced the way she photographed women as an adult. The images found in A narrative with sexual overtones come from magazines collected by Edwards as a teenager, and also screen shots taken from telecasts of Hollywood films. Typical of the approach of members of the Blatant Image collective, Edwards re-cycles these images to produce an active, tactile experience that simultaneously acknowledges the pleasure of looking at images in popular culture, and provides a critical framework for those images.

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Queensland out west' 1982

 

Robyn Stacey
Queensland out west
1982
Hand-coloured gelatin silver prints
9.2 x 15.2 (each)
Courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery (Sydney)

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Queensland out west' 1982 (detail)

Robyn Stacey. 'Queensland out west' 1982 (detail)

Robyn Stacey. 'Queensland out west' 1982 (detail)

 

Robyn Stacey
Queensland out west (details)
1982
Hand-coloured gelatin silver prints
9.2 x 15.2 (each)
Courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery (Sydney)

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Untitled (Geoff in Bondi)' 1981

 

Robyn Stacey
Untitled (Geoff in Bondi)
1981
From the series Modified myths 1938-88
Hand-coloured gelatin silver print
39.0 x 38.3 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery (Sydney)

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Untitled (Picnic)' 1981

 

Robyn Stacey
Untitled (Picnic)
1981
From the series Modified myths 1938-88
Hand-coloured gelatin silver print
39.0 x 38.3 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery (Sydney)

 

Robyn Stacey established a reputation for her hand- coloured prints in the late 1970s and early ’80s. Introduced to the process by Micky Allan, Stacey’s early hand-coloured prints examined the life and culture of Australia, especially her native Queensland. Stacey hand-coloured her photographs so as to invest them with personal attributes: “At the time I was interested in hand colouring [because it was] a technique associated with women’s work and craft. This approach seemed a good way to visually re-enforce the personal and intimate quality of the prints.”

Among Stacey’s most important contributions to the feminist tradition of hand colouring photographs are her pictures of Queensland architecture, taken during a road trip to western Queensland made with her mother. These images refer to an heroic subject in Australian culture – the stoicism of the outback and the people who populate it. But Stacey revises these myths, by presenting the images as intimate and personal.

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Ice' 1989

 

Robyn Stacey
Ice
1989
from the series Redline 7000
Silver dye bleach print
104.0 x 175.3 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2012
Courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery (Sydney)

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Jet' 1989

 

Robyn Stacey
Jet
1989
from the series Redline 7000
Silver dye bleach print
164.0 x 103.0 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2012
Courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery (Sydney)

 

In the late 80s, Stacey began to hand colour her transparencies rather than the print, thereby incorporating an aspect of reproducibility to the images. In this way the work shifted from the unique print, with its references to nostalgia and the careful rendering of places and times, to something resembling the glossy images found in 1980s’ mass media, especially Hollywood cinema.

 

Julie Rrap. 'Persona and shadow: Madonna' 1984

 

Julie Rrap
Persona and shadow: Madonna
1984
Silver dye bleach print
203.0 x 126.5 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1997
Courtesy of the artist and Arc One Gallery (Melbourne) and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery (Sydney)

This photograph is from the series of nine works titled Persona and shadow. Julie Rrap produced this series after visiting a major survey of contemporary art in Berlin (Zeitgeist, 1982) which only included one woman among the 45 artists participating in the exhibition. Rrap responded to this curatorial sexism with a series of self-portraits in which she mimics stereotypical images of women painted by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944). Each pose refers to a female stereotype employed by Munch: the innocent girl, the mother, the whore, the Madonna, the sister, and so on.

Appropriating the work of other artists is one of the strategies that characterises the work of so-called ‘postmodern’ artists active during the 1980s. The practice of borrowing, quoting and mimicking famous artworks was employed as a way of questioning notions of authenticity. Feminist artists tended to use appropriation to specifically question the authenticity of male representations of females. In more straightforward terms, Rrap reclaims Munch’s clichéd images of women and makes them her own. Rrap ultimately becomes an imposter, stealing her way into these masterpieces of art history, but the remarkable thing about these works is the way that the artist foregrounds the process of reappropriation itself. The procedure of restaging, collage, overpainting, and rephotographing becomes part of the final image, testifying to a d0-it-herself politic. (Wall text)

 

Micky Allan. 'Old age' 1978

 

Micky Allan
Old age
1978
From the series Old age
Gelatin silver photograph, hand coloured with watercolour and pencil
18.2 x 12.0 cm
© Micky Allan

 

Micky Allan. 'Old age' 1978

 

Micky Allan
Old age
1978
From the series Old age
Gelatin silver photograph, hand coloured with watercolour and pencil
18.2 x 12.0 cm
© Micky Allan

 

Micky Allan. 'Old age' 1978

 

Micky Allan
Old age
1978
From the series Old age
Gelatin silver photograph, hand coloured with watercolour and pencil
18.2 x 12.0 cm
© Micky Allan

 

Micky Allan’s two series Babies and Old age were shown in Melbourne and Sydney around 1976-77; their reception revealed much about the anxieties that informed photographic criticism and practice at the time, with critics dismissing the works as ‘slight’ and ‘feminine photographs par excellence’. Across a series of exhibitions between 1976 and 1980, Allan challenged many of the established conventions of fine art photography, in both technique and subject. Allan overpainted the black-and-white print with watercolour, gouache and pencil to the extent of both acknowledging the under recognised history of women’s photographic work – historically, women were employed by studios to hand-paint or tone photographic prints – and transgressing the smooth surface of photographic prints that was prized by traditional art photographers.

For Allan, overpainting rejected the technical sameness of modern photography and introduced an emotional warmth. Allan’s hand-colouring also interrupted the myth of photographic transparency – the notion of the photograph as a ‘disinterested’ window onto the world. Overpainted, the photograph became subjective, contingent and fallible. The lightness of many of Allan’s interventions enhances this sense of fallibility. (Wall text)

 

With a body of work ranging across painting, photography and performance, investigations of subjectivity have been central to Micky Allan’s practice. Allan has consistently drawn on feminist strategies which emphasise the personal and autobiographical. In the early 1970s she became involved with the experimental performance and collective activities based at The Pram Factory in Melbourne, working there as both a set designer and a photographer, documenting early feminist work. Of this time Allan has said that she saw “photography as a form of social encounter … that in comparison with painting it [was] much more integrated to what was going on.”1

Allan has acknowledged social documentary as the basis of her photographic work. For a short period she recorded political figures and the surrounding social changes in which she was both a participant and an observer. Old age, the second of three series whose focus is lifecycles (the other two being Babies 1976 and The prime of life 1979-80), comprises 40 hand-coloured individual portraits. Allan introduced the technique of hand-colouring in her work in 1976, a technique taken up by many women photographers at that time to counter the then dominant modes of masculine production. While there is stylistic variation across the series, each portrait, close-up in viewpoint, is meticulously rendered in pastel colours. The images do not capture a simple moment but rather work together to poignantly symbolise a rich regard for age. Of this Allan has said: “Altogether they are an attempt to familiarise and personalise “age”, in a society which tends to ignore or stereotype the old.”2

1. ‘On paper – survey 12′, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 21 Jun ‘ 20 Jul 1980, as quoted in 1987, Micky Allan: perspective 1975-1987, Monash University Gallery, Clayton p. 4
2. Ibid p. 19

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

 

Exhibiting artist’s biographies

Micky Allan (b. Australia 1944) studied Fine Art at the University of Melbourne, and painting at the National Gallery School in the 1960s. Allan began taking photographs in 1974 after joining the loosely formed feminist collective at Melbourne’s experimental arts and theatre space the Pram Factory. During this time Allan was part of a vibrant community of feminist artists that included Virginia Coventry, who taught her how to take and print photographs. Allan returned to painting as her primary medium in the early 1980s.

Pat Brassington (b. Australia 1942) is a Hobart-based artist who studied printmaking and photography at the Tasmanian School of Art, graduating with a Master of Fine Arts in 1985. Brassington draws on a personal archive of visual material to compose her images. This archive includes both photographic and non-photographic material, which has either been found or produced by Brassington. Her work takes inspiration from surrealist photography, with its recurring interest in fetish objects and uncanny domestic scenes. Brassington typically employs digital collage to manufacture disjointed compositions, and she exhibits her work in elliptical series that suggest dream-like narratives.

Virginia Coventry (b. Australia 1942) studied painting at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology during theearly 1960s, before undertaking postgraduate studies at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College, London. While painting and drawing have been constant features of Coventry’s practice, she started taking photographs during the mid-1960s and developed a significant reputation for her photo-based work during the 1970s. Her photographic work typically engages with socio-political issues and often incorporates textual elements that give it a discursive form.

Sandy Edwards (b. New Zealand 1948 arr. Australia 1961) has been an important figure in Australian photography as both a maker and advocate since the 1970s. Edwards’s practice has paid particular attention to women and their relationship with the media of photography and film. Most of her work is documentary in nature but her photographic prints are often presented in sequences that elaborate conceptual points. Edwards has also been a prolific curator of exhibitions promoting the work of contemporary photographers, especially in Sydney.

Anne Ferran (b. Australia 1949) is a Sydney-based photographer and academic. She studied humanities and teaching before training in photography at Sydney College of the Arts. She began exhibiting her work in the mid-1980s and has become one of Australia’s most critically acclaimed photographers. Ferran’s practice is largely concerned with using photography to reclaim forgotten pasts, with a specific interest in the histories of women and children in colonial Australia. In pursuing this interest, Ferran often develops her projects through archival research and fieldwork.

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) studied photography at RMIT and was the first Australian photographer to be given a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1974. Over the course of her artistic career Ford worked with still photography and moving images, beginning with traditional analogue film and then embracing the possibilities offered by photomedia and digital technologies. In this respect, Ford is a key figure in the history of avant-garde photographic experimentation. Ford’s artworks are also remarkable for their critical engagement with contemporary social issues, while also expressing deeply personal perspectives on the world.

Christine Godden (b. Australia 1947) has played a significant role in Australian photography as a maker, curator and advocate. After studying in Melbourne, Godden completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1975 and a Master of Fine Arts at the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York in 1980. On her return to Australia, she became director of the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney, and was consequently a prominent spokesperson for Australian photography during the 1980s. Her own photography is couched in a highly personal and poetic form of documentary practice.

Helen Grace (b. Australia 1949) is a self-taught artist who began making work as an active member of feminist and labour organisations in Sydney during the mid-1970s. Often straight-forwardly documentary in style, Grace’s approach to photography is closely aligned with political consciousness raising. Her work for the labour and women’s movements was widely circulated around the time of its production, both in the pages of publications and in posters produced by trade unions and women’s groups. Grace’s writing on photography and film, history and politics have also made a significant contribution to the critical discussion that surrounds feminist practice in Australia.

Janina Green (b. Germany 1944 arr. Australia 1949) studied Fine Arts at Melbourne University and Victoria College before training as a printmaker at RMIT. In the 1980s she taught herself photography and subsequently specialised in this medium. Green held her first solo exhibition of photography in 1986 and has exhibited regularly since then, participating in over 30 group exhibitions and producing over 20 solo shows. Green’s photographs are distinguished by their sophisticated and often sensuous surfaces, which testify to her early training in printmaking. In her role as a teacher in the photography department at the Victorian College of the Arts, Green has also played a significant role as a mentor for younger photographers.

Fiona Hall (b. Australia 1953) initially trained as a painter, and has ultimately become a celebrated sculptor, but photography was her primary medium in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Hall developed an interest in photography at art school and worked as an assistant to the well-known landscape photographer Fay Godwin while she lived in London between 1977-78. Hall subsequently studied photography at the Visual Studies Workshop in New York during 1982. Hall’s photographic practice demonstrates a fascination with decoration and style, which is informed by a critical interest in the premise of a ‘feminine’ sensibility.

Ponch Hawkes (b. Australia 1946) took up photography in 1972 while working as a journalist for the counter-cultural magazines Digger and Rolling Stone. Her early photography was informed by her role as a commentator on alternative social issues, and she has often used her images to engage with contemporary critical debates. During the 1970s Hawkes was part of a loosely formed feminist collective based at Melbourne’s experimental arts and theatre space the Pram Factory. Since that time she has continued to work closely with community groups around Australia and remains a key figure in contemporary photographic practice.

Carol Jerrems (Australia 1949-80) was born in Melbourne and studied photography at Prahran Technical College under Paul Cox and Athol Shmith between 1967 and 1970. Although she practised as an artist for only a decade, Jerrems has acquired a celebrated place in the annals of Australian photography. Her reputation is based on her compassionate, formally striking pictures, her intimate connection with the people involved in social movements of the day, and her role in the promotion of ‘art photography’ in this country.

Merryle Johnson (b. Australia 1949) graduated from Bendigo College of Advanced Education in 1969 with a major in painting. She took up photography in 1970 and it subsequently became central to her professional life, both as an arts educator and an exhibiting artist. Johnson’s approach to photography is informed by her broader training as an artist. This is particularly evident in her use of hand-colouring and sequencing. While the subject matter of her images is largely drawn from everyday life, she employs artistic devices to bring a sense of drama and fantasy to documentary photography.

Ruth Maddison (b. Australia 1945) is a self-taught photographer and artist. Maddison began working as a professional photographer in 1976, and she has been regularly exhibiting her work since 1979. Photography has been her primary medium, but in later years her artistic practice has expanded to include moving-image, textiles and sculpture. An interest in personal biography and the celebration of everyday existence informs her artistic practice. She is most well-known for her hand-coloured photographs of domestic life. In 1996 Maddison relocated from Melbourne to Eden, on the south coast of NSW.

Julie Rrap (b. Australia 1950) studied humanities at the University of Queensland (1969-71) before establishing her career as an exhibiting artist in Sydney during the 1980s. Rrap’s involvement with performance art and avant-garde politics during the 1970s laid the foundations for her later work in photography, painting, sculpture and video, which is largely concerned with the representation and experience of women’s bodies. The photographic objectification of female bodies is a persistent theme in Rrap’s work, but her highly expressive self-portraits invest the medium with a subjective intensity that affronts the clinical quality of voyeurism.

Robyn Stacey (b. Australia 1952) is a Sydney-based photographer who has been exhibiting since the mid-1980s. During the 1980s Stacey produced staged or ‘directorial’ photographs that drew on the visual language of cinema and television. Through the 1990s Stacey engaged in further training and study, and experimented extensively with new media including digital photography and lenticular prints. In 2000 Stacey began working with natural history collections in Australia and overseas, using photography to bring the contents of these archives to life. Throughout her career, Stacey has been interested in photography as an expressive medium that can be used to reiterate, remix and reanimate visual information.

 

 

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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27
Nov
14

Exhibition: ‘War from the Victims’ Perspective, Photographs by Jean Mohr’ at the Moscow Manege, Moscow

Exhibition dates: 11th November – 14th December 2014

An exhibition produced by the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, and the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs

 

 

It’s always the women and children that suffer.

Marcus

.
Many thanxk to the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and the Moscow Manege for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

 Jean Mohr. 'Greek children, Strovolos camp planned for 1,600 people, Cyprus, 1974'

 

Jean Mohr
Greek children, Strovolos camp planned for 1,600 people, Cyprus, 1974
1974
© Jean Mohr, Musée de l’Elysée

 

Jean Mohr. 'Bullet-holes in a façade, Cyprus, 1974'

 

Jean Mohr
Bullet-holes in a façade, Cyprus, 1974
1974
© Jean Mohr, Musée de l’Elysée

 

Jean Mohr. 'Palestinian refugees camp, Gaza, 1979'

 

Jean Mohr
Palestinian refugees camp, Gaza, 1979
1979
© Jean Mohr, Musée de l’Elysée

 

Jean Mohr. 'Portrait of a Greek refugee, Larnaca, Cyprus, 1976'

 

Jean Mohr
Portrait of a Greek refugee, Larnaca, Cyprus, 1976
1976
© Jean Mohr, Musée de l’Elysée

 

Jean Mohr. 'Young Mozambican refugee, Nyimba camp, Zambia, 1968'

 

Jean Mohr
Young Mozambican refugee, Nyimba camp, Zambia, 1968
1968
© UNHCR / J. Mohr

 

Jean Mohr. 'Young Mozambican refugee who gave birth at the Lundo clinic, Tanzania, 1968'

 

Jean Mohr
Young Mozambican refugee who gave birth at the Lundo clinic, Tanzania, 1968
1968
© HCR/J.Mohr

 

Jean Mohr. 'School, Kyangwali camp, Uganda, 1968'

 

Jean Mohr
School, Kyangwali camp, Uganda, 1968
1968
© Jean Mohr, Musée de l’Elysée

 

Jean Mohr. 'A camp of 300 tents for 1,400 refugees, Lefkaritis, near Lamaca, Cyprus, 1974'

 

Jean Mohr
A camp of 300 tents for 1,400 refugees, Lefkaritis, near Lamaca, Cyprus, 1974
1974
© HCR/J.Mohr

 

 

 

“Early on, Jean Mohr sought to understand and explain the drama of civilians trapped in belligerent situations. His reportages are the result of decades of experience, which saw a ICRC and UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) delegate transform himself into a full-time photographer, after a spell at an academy of painting.

More than 80 exhibitions worldwide have been dedicated to his work, including two at the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne that holds his collection. In 1978, at Photokina (Frankfurt’s major Photography Fair), Jean Mohr was awarded the prize for the photographer who had most consistently served the cause of human rights. He is one of the best representatives of humanist photography, masterfully balancing sensitivity and rigor, emotion and reflection, art and documentary evidence.

The exhibition addresses the issues of victims of conflicts, refugees and communities suffering from war and still under potential threat. It focuses on the emblematic cases of Palestine, Cyprus, and Africa. Other examples illustrate the universal problems of populations directly or indirectly enduring repercussions of war (in Iran, Pakistan, Nicaragua…).

Palestine, its refugee camps, precarious sanitary conditions, and the Gaza stalemate, whilst being the subject of major media attention, is a case worthy of reconsideration. It needs to be regularly re-explained and repositioned in the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict. The case of Cyprus serves as a reminder that the refugee problem still remains an issue for certain members of the European Union. Several hundreds of thousands of people were forced into exile. Africa too needed to be addressed, as the post-colonial conflicts forced millions into displacement. The fragility of these States, outlined as they are by inherited colonial borders, regularly fuels turmoil which leads to humanitarian crises. The refugee problem is present throughout the continent.

Focussing upon these three geographical regions presents the problem of war victims in an historical setting classified by theme: “Portraits of Exile”, “The Children’s Diaspora”, “Temporary Landscapes”, and “Life Goes On”. These photographs render a face to the casualties and retrace the steps of their displacement, from their settlement in the precariousness of the camps and reception centres to their attempts to adapt to an enduring situation.

 

Portraits of Exile

Featuring portraits of refugees from different countries and cultures, the first section gives a human face to the impact of conflict.

Temporary Landscapes

The second section deals with the impact that war has on people’s homes. The photos document the displacement process and the precarious settlement of victims in camps, reception centres, mosques and shanty towns.

The Children’s Diaspora

Featuring images that capture the day-to-day lives of war’s youngest victims, this section reveals the gamut of situations faced by child refugees, as well as the many and diverse activities they engage in. Some photos show children attending a medical centre or clinic, while others show them playing, dancing or in class at a temporary school.

Life Goes On

The final section documents how people adapt to temporary situations that stretch out indefinitely. The images illustrate how important the distribution of food and clothing is, as well as documenting efforts to ensure that refugees can continue their schooling and education. This section includes the iconic image of a young Mozambican refugee and her newborn baby in a clinic in Lundo, Tanzania. “

Press release from the Musée de l’Elysée

 

Jean Mohr. 'A few days after the Six-Day War, an Israeli officer considers an ICRC proposal, under the gaze of a Palestinian boy, Kalandia village between Jerusalem and Ramallah, 1967'

 

Jean Mohr
A few days after the Six-Day War, an Israeli officer considers an ICRC proposal, under the gaze of a Palestinian boy, Kalandia village between Jerusalem and Ramallah, 1967
1967
© ICRC / Mohr, Jean

 

Jean Mohr. 'A needs assessment visit to stricken families, Khan Yunis, Gaza, 2002'

 

Jean Mohr
A needs assessment visit to stricken families, Khan Yunis, Gaza, 2002
2002
© ICRC/MOHR, Jean

 

Jean Mohr. 'A needs assessment visit to stricken families, Khan Yunis, Gaza, 2002'

 

Jean Mohr
A needs assessment visit to stricken families, Khan Yunis, Gaza, 2002
2002
© ICRC/MOHR, Jean

 

Jean Mohr. 'A young Mozambican refugee, Muhukuru clinic, Tanzania, 1968'

 

Jean Mohr
A young Mozambican refugee, Muhukuru clinic, Tanzania, 1968
1968
© HCR/J.Mohr

 

Jean Mohr. 'Young Greek refugee, Cyprus, 1976'

 

Jean Mohr
Young Greek refugee, Cyprus, 1976
1976
© Jean Mohr, Musée de l’Elysée

 

Jean Mohr. 'Kurdish refugees waiting for a food distribution, Qatr camp, Mahabad, Iran, 1991'

 

Jean Mohr
Kurdish refugees waiting for a food distribution, Qatr camp, Mahabad, Iran, 1991
1991
© ICRC/Mohr, Jean

 

Jean Mohr. 'The photographed photographer, Jerusalem, 1979'

 

Jean Mohr
The photographed photographer, Jerusalem, 1979
1979
© Jean Mohr, Musée de l’Elysée

 

Jean Mohr. 'Mozambican refugee at Sunday mass, Lundo installation area, Tanzania, 1968 The photographed photographer, Jerusalem, 1979'

 

 

Jean Mohr
Mozambican refugee at Sunday mass, Lundo installation area, Tanzania, 1968
1968
© UNHCR / J. Mohr

 

 

Moscow Manege
Manezhnaya ploschad (Manege Square), 1
Moscow 125009

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 12.00 – 22.00
Closed Monday

Moscow Manege website

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23
Nov
14

Review: ‘Polixeni Papapetrou: Lost Psyche’ at Stills Gallery, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 29th October – 29th November 2014

 

 

“Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.”

.
Paul Klee. Creative Credo [Schöpferische Konfession] 1920

 

When “facing” adversity, it is a measure of a person’s character how they hold themselves, what face they show to the world, and how their art represents them in that world. So it is with Polixeni Papapetrou. The courage of this artist, her consistency of vision and insightful commentary on life even while life itself is in the balance, are inspiring to all those that know her.

Papapetrou has always created her own language, integrating the temporal dissemination of the historical “case” into a two-dimensional space of simultaneity and tabulation (the various archetypes and ancient characters), into an outline against a ground of Cartesian coordinates.1 In her construction, in her observation and under her act of surveillance, Papapetrou moves towards a well-made description of the states of the body in the tables and classification of the psychological landscape. Her tableaux (the French tableau signifies painting and scene (as in tableau vivant), but also table (as in a table used to organize data)) are a classification and tabulation that is an exact “portrait” of “the” illness, the lost psyche of the title. Her images lay out, in a very visible way, the double makeover: of the outer and inner landscape.

These narratives are above all self-portraits. The idea that image, archetype and artist might somehow be one and the same is a potent idea in Papapetrou’s work. What is “rendered” visible in her art is her own spirit, for these visionary works are nothing less than concise, intimate, focused self-portraits. They speak through the mask of the commedia dell’ arte of a face half turned to the world, half immersed in imaginary worlds. The double skin (as though human soul, the psyche, is erupting from within, forcing a face-off) and triple skin (evidenced in the lack of depth of field of the landscape tableaux) propose an opening up, a revealing of self in which the anatomy (anatemnein: to tear, to open a body, to dissect) of the living is revealed. The images become an autopsy on the living and the dead: “a series of images, that would crystallize and memorize for everyone the whole time of an inquiry and, beyond that, the time of a history.”2

Papapetrou’s images become the “true retina” of seeing, close to a scientific description of a character placed on a two dimensional background (notice how the stylised clouds in The Antiquarian, 2014 match the fur hat trim). In the sense of evidence, the artist’s archetypes proffer a Type that is balanced on the edge of longing, poetry, desire and death, one that the objectivity of photography seeks to fix and stabilise. These images serve the fantasy of a memory: of a masked archetype in a made over landscape captured “exact and sincere” by the apparatus of the camera. A faithful memory of a tableau in which Type is condensed into a unique image: the visage fixed to the regime of representation,3 the universal become singular. This Type is named through the incorporated Text, the Legend: I am Day Dreamer, Immigrant, Merchant, Poet, Storyteller.

But even as these photographs seek to fix the Type, “even as the object of knowledge is photographically detained for observation, fixed to objectivity,”4 the paradox is that this kind of knowledge slips away from itself, because photography is always an uncertain technique, unstable and chaotic, as ever the psyche. In the cutting-up of bodies, cutting-up on stage, a staging aimed at knowledge – the facticity of the masked, obscured, erupting face; the corporeal surface of the body, landscape, photograph – the image makes visible something of the movements of the soul. In these heterotopic images, sites that relate to more stable sites, “but in such a way as to suspect, neutralize, or invert the set of relations that they happen to designate, mirror or reflect,”5 Papapetrou’s psyche, “creates the chain of tradition which passes a happening on from generation to generation.”6 In her commedia dell’ arte, an improvised comedy of craft, of artisans (a worker in a skilled trade), the artist fashions the raw material of experience in a unique way.7 We, the audience, intuitively recognise the type of person being represented in the story, through their half masks, their clothing and context and through the skilful dissemination of collective memory and experience.

Through her storytelling Papapetrou moves towards a social and spiritual transformation, one that unhinges the lost psyche. Her landscape narratives are a narrative of a recognisable, challenging, unstable non-linear art, an art practice that embraces “the speculative mystery of ancient roles…  They’re all souls with divided emotions, torn between dream and reality, who like us, converge on the collective stage that is the world.” They are archetype as self-portrait: portraits of a searching, erupting, questioning soul, brave and courageous in a time of peril. And the work is for the children (of the world), for without art and family, extinction.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

Footnotes

1. Adapted from Didi-Huberman, Georges. Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpetriere (trans. Alisa Hartz). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003, p. 24-25. I am indebted to the ideas of Georges Didi-Huberman for his analysis of the ‘facies’ and the experiments of Jean-Martin Charcot on hysteria at the Hôpital Salpêtrière in Paris in the 1880s.
2.
Ibid., p. 48
3. Ibid., p. 49
4. Ibid., p. 59
5. Foucault, Michel. “Of Other Spaces,” in Diacritics Spring 1986, p. 24 quoted in Fisher, Jean. “Witness for the Prosecution: The Writings of Coco Fusco,” in Fusco, Coco. The Bodies That Were Not Ours. London: Routledge, 2001, pp. 226-227
6. Fisher, Ibid., p. 227-228
7. “One can go on and ask oneself whether the relationship of the storyteller to his material, human life, is not in itself a craftsman’s relationship, whether it is not his very task to fashion the raw material of experience, his own and that of others, in a solid, useful, and unique way.”
Benjamin
, Walter. Illuminations (trans. by Harry Zohn; edited by Hannah Arendt). New York: Schocken Books, 1968 (2007), p. 108

 

Many thankx to Polixeni Papapetrou and Stills Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All images copyright of the artist.

 

 

“For her, history indicates a view of culture that is more congruent with mortality, with the biological swell of great things arising and perishing, brilliant and melancholy, august and yet brittle. Without judgement, she reorients history as phenomenology: it contains a bracing dimension of loss which is congruent with that fatal sentiment lodged in our unconscious, that our very being – our psyche – is ultimately lost…

Lost Psyche is always about lost cultural innocence, where culture gets too smart and ends by messing with an earlier equilibrium. Papapetrou identifies these moments not to promote gloom but to recognize all the parallels that make for redemption. Parts of the psyche are undoubtedly lost; but Papapetrou proposes and proves that they can still be poetically contacted.”

.
Robert Nelson 2014

 

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Day Dreamer' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
The Day Dreamer
2014
Pigment print
100 x 150 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Immigrant' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
The Immigrant
2014
Pigment print
100 x 150 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Merchant' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
The Merchant
2014
Pigment print
100 x 150 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Orientalist' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
The Orientalist
2014
Pigment print
100 x 150 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Poet' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
The Poet
2014
Pigment print
100 x 150 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Storyteller' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
The Storyteller
2014
Pigment print
100 x 150 cm

 

 

“In Lost Psyche, Polixeni Papapetrou portrays emblematic figures that have come to the end of their tradition, their rationale, their place in the world. These intriguing and charismatic characters – the poet, the tourist, the immigrant, among others – bring to life antique Victorian paper masks. Yet, despite being cast beyond our immediate reality, their costumes harking back to earlier times, their settings to fantastical places, these archetypal figures live on in the cultural imagination.

Internationally celebrated for an oeuvre that has consistently tested the boundaries of performance and photography, reality and fantasy, childhood and adulthood, Lost Psyche marks a significant return for Papapetrou. Having extensively explored the Australian landscape as a stage for her photographic fictions, and working in response to the natural and historical dramas of our country, this series takes us back into her studio and the expansive scope of imaginary worlds.

Expressive, luscious and knowingly naïve, the painted backdrops bring to mind the simple seduction of children’s storybooks. At the same time, they reference the painting heavyweights and photographic forerunners that are celebrated within art history. Papapetrou’s image The Duchess, for instance, echoes Goya’s commanding oil painting of the Duchess of Alba (1797). Yet, in this newly imagined version, the ‘role’ of Duchess is playfully acted not endured, and like the melodrama of theatre, the dark sky and downcast actor are softened to become illustrative and symbolic – a scene in a universal story. So too, The Orientalist evokes Felix Beato’s 19th Century photographic forays in Japan, recalling his hand-colouring techniques and depictions of social ‘types’.

Consciously foregrounding this ever-present potential for art to present stereotyped representations, Papapetrou reminds us how these social roles and ‘masks’ play out within our souls and psyche’s just as they do on the cultural stage. As a metaphor for the loss of childhood, a time in which we openly switch between characters, identities and roles, this work evokes the persistence of that imagination, as it lives on within the adult world.

In Lost Psyche, the speculative mystery of ancient roles enjoys a fantastical and touching afterlife. In the contemporary world we may also entertain the inner poet, the storyteller, the clown, the connoisseur, the courtesan, the day dreamer or the dispossessed. They’re all souls with divided emotions, torn between dream and reality, who like us, converge on the collective stage that is the world.

Polixeni Papapetrou is an internationally acclaimed artist. Her works feature in significant curated exhibitions, including recently the 13th Dong Gang International Photo Festival, Korea, the TarraWarra Biennale, VIC, Remain in Light, Museum of Contemporary Art, and Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria. She exhibits worldwide, including in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Seoul, Athens and Berlin. Recent solo exhibitions include Under My Skin, Northern Centre for Contemporary Art, 2014, Between Worlds in Fotogràfica Bogotá, 2013, and A Performative Paradox, Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2013. Her work is held in numerous institutional collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Monash Gallery of Art, Artbank, Fotomuseo, Colombia, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Florida, USA.”

Press release from Stills Gallery

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Antiquarian' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
The Antiquarian
2014
Pigment print
150 x 100 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Duchess' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
The Duchess
2014
Pigment print
150 x 100 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Summer Clown' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
The Summer Clown
2014
Pigment print
150 x 100 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Troubadour' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
The Troubadour
2014
Pigment print
150 x 100 cm

 

 

Stills Gallery
36 Gosbell Street
Paddington NSW 2021
Australia
T: 61 2 9331 7775

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 11.00 am – 6.00 pm

Stills Gallery website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘The Songs of Eternity’ 1994

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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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