Archive for the 'Heide Museum of Modern Art' Category

03
Jan
14

Melbourne’s magnificent nine 2013

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

Marcus

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

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

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

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Darron Davies. 'Encased' 2012

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

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Darron Davies. 'The Red Shard' 2012

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

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

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

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

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Thomas Demand German born 1964 'Public housing' 2003

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

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Eliza Hutchison Australian born 1965 'The ancestors' 2004

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

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

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

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

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Louise Bourgeois 'Untitled' 2002

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Petrina Hicks. 'Venus' 2013

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

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Petrina Hicks. 'Enigma' 2013

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

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

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

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

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Density n.

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

Thickness of consistency;

Complexity of structure or content.

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Andrew Follows. 'Number 31, Eltham' 2013

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

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Andrew Follows. 'Green, Montsalvat' 2013

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

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Carol Jerrems. 'Mark and Flappers' 1975

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Claudia Terstappen. 'Zion Park (USA)' 1996

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Joan Ross. 'Tag and capture' 2013

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

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Joan Ross. 'Shopping for butterfly' 2013

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

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15
Apr
11

Exhibition: ‘Albert Tucker: Images of Modern Evil’ at Heide Museum of Modern Art

Exhibition dates: 19th March – 26th June 2011

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Albert Tucker
Image of Modern Evil: Paris Night
1948
oil on canvas on composition board
38.5 x 46.5 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of the artist 1985
© Barbara Tucker

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Everything that I have felt about Tucker’s work ‘Images of Modern Evil’ was eloquently spelt out by Robert Nelson in The Age newspaper on April 13th 2011 in a piece titled ‘Portrait of the artist as a hateful man’. Unfortunately, having searched The Age website, I cannot locate the online version of the writing. If anyone knows the link please email it to me!

Some of the best quotes from the piece are below:
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“History is full of moralists who insulted people for their lack of virtue. A millennium, a century, a decade later, we read their invectives and cringe. The main cause of their distemper now seems little more than misanthropic jealousy, where the reasons for moral disapproval boil down to a hatred of other people having fun.”

“Women for Tucker are disembodied monsters. Their limbs are abbreviated so as to focus attention on their fleshy core. The implication of these aesthetic amputees is grim: through their moral destitution, the women have transformed themselves into pure carnality, promoting their organs to men as mere flesh and with nothing in the head but an imbecilic smile.”

“Critics at the time were disgusted, recognising that the images are hateful and rancorous. But because Australia was determined to have modernism, it felt for 50 years that it had to swallow Tucker’s bile and consider it exquisite – like poison in Baudelaire – and make up political justifications for an odious sentiment.”

“Strip Tucker of his metaphoric filibustering, and you’re left with less weight than the shrivelled skulls of his strumpets. If Tucker’s women are happy lasses seeking fun with men, then why is their alacrity demeaned and condemned as sinister and vile? And if they’re prostitutes, why pick on the most vulnerable in society and stigmatise them for functional signs of joy?”

“Though accepted as heroically avant-garde, Tucker’s genre is pictorial slander. Just as an unproven allegation is destined to reflect on the plaintiff, so the man who accuses women of rotten morals – when no substance backs it up – stands accused of depraved motives.”

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And best of all…

“None of the wartime circumstances that writers adduce can explain Tucker’s misogyny. His ferocity comes from a declamatory soul, impatient to score points and assert superiority. The exhibition reveals talent for painting but none of the humility to apply it to people.”

Nelson, Robert. Portrait of the artist as a hateful man,” in The Age newspaper. Wednesday, April 13th 2011.

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Talent for painting but none of the humility to apply it to people. Very well said Robert Nelson.

Thank you for having the courage to enunciate what I, for one, have felt for a long time.

Go and visit the exhibition if you must, but if critics at the time found the work disgusting, hateful and rancorous viewing them from an historical perspective should not make them less so. These are works that lack the capacity to empathise with vulnerabilities of the human spirit and do not deserve the energy of an attentive audience to be spent upon them.

See the full Robert Nelson review on the ArtInfo website.

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Heide Museum of Modern Art
7 Templestowe Road, Bulleen, Victoria 3105

Opening hours:
(Heide II & Heide III)
Tue – Fri 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Sat/Sun/Public Holidays 12.00 noon – 5.00 pm

Heide Museum of Art website

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10
Oct
10

Review: ‘Up Close: Carol Jerrems with Larry Clark, Nan Goldin and William Yang’ at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 31st July – 31st October 2010

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Many thankx to Jade Enge and Heide Museum of Modern Art for allowing me publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on all of the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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“A face tells the story of what a person is thinking. The eyes reveal the suffering.”

Carol Jerems

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Carol Jerrems
Vale Street
1975
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of the Philip Morris Arts Grant, 1982
© Ken Jerrems & the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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Carol Jerrems
Mozart Street
1975
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of the Philip Morris Arts Grant, 1982
© Ken Jerrems & the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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Carol Jerrems
Mark and Flappers
1975
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of James Mollison, 1994
© Ken Jerrems & the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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Carol Jerrems
Dusan and Esben
1977

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Time and Truth: Looking again at the work of Carol Jerrems

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This is a solid exhibition of the photographs of Carol Jerrems at Heide Museum of Modern Art, accompanied by small selections of the work of Larry Clark and William Yang and the sequence The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1979) by Nan Goldin.

I like Jerrems work: it is strong, frontal, direct and truthful. What I dislike is the hagiography that has grown up around this artist, the mythologizing of Saint Jerrems. We don’t need a saint of Australian photography; what we need is an appreciation of the artist, the person and her legacy. While the personal history of this artist is well known – facing depression, putting herself in danger, sexually active, documenting the counter-culture sharps and skinheads and urban indigenous people, the photographing of women and her death at far too young an age – few people actually look at the photographs clearly.

Most of the photographs are 8″ x 10″ prints, mainly portraits, that are usually dark and contrasty, small and emotionally intense. Jerrems images are made full frame (the modernist conceit of filing out a negative carrier, so that if the negative was printed full frame there would be a black border around the picture) to avoid cropping in the darkroom. This shows good previsualisation by the artist, the composition of the image made at the time of the exposure. There is a closeness to the framing of the portraits and a conversant ambiguity about all of her backgrounds – mainly low depth of field, anonymous places (perhaps a brick wall or a close up of a street corner). In fact it is difficult to pin down any actual place in her photographs unless you are told in the title of the work. The contextlessness of her backgrounds allows the viewer to focus on the people placed before her lens and here Jerrems gets up close and personal, trying to capture the truth of her subjects, their soul (in this sense she is like Diane Arbus, thrusting her camera into places it was not supposed to go until something gives – the subject gives up, drops the mask, even if just for a split second, and click, the artist has their image). The mainly head and shoulders photographs of women are most impressive in this regard as Jerrems portrays the women’s strength and vulnerability as are the photographs of the artist herself in hospital fighting her debilitating illness, the most moving, emotional photographs in the exhibition.

Other photographs show constructed intimacies between people, the camera and the artist. In Esben and Dusan, Cronulla’ (1977, above), Jerrems uses the yin yang black, white background to frame the two protagonists, bringing forward the body of Esben in the right portion of the frame and letting Dusan recede into the darkness. In ‘Boys’ (1973) two bodies are photographed in a bed, legs and arms entwined but the print is so dark that you would never know they were two boys unless you were told – and this adds to a sense of mystery, the imaging of the most beautiful, sensitive, abstract embrace. ‘Mark Lean with Arms Crossed’ (1975) shows a cocky, self-assured Lean staring directly at the camera as though it were not there, as though he were conversing directly with Jerrems, the camera an extension of the artist capturing his brave-aura: one camera, one lens, one vision. If you study the contact sheet for the photograph ‘Vale Street’ (1975, above), Jerrems eventually draws the central luminous figure forward in the frame to create the now iconic image while the two acolytes hover, brooding and menacing in the darkened background.

As Kathy Drayton has observed, “Her photographs engage the viewer in an intimate relationship with her subjects. It’s not always a friendly intimacy – sometimes her subjects look defensive, irritated or even menacing, but you always sense that you’re seeing beyond the mask into the soul.”1

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Jerrems saw herself as a serious photographer; if something happened she felt she should be commenting on it. She was also quite naive but always pushed herself and her art into sometimes dangerous places. She would have thought ‘how do I say something that is true’ and her endeavour, which is also constructed, was seeing things in terms of opportunities for a good photograph. Jerrems removed the safeguards; she got right in there among her volatile characters, her potential sexual predators: let’s just see what happens when the safety fence goes down. Although I believe there is a lack of really good photographs that Jerrems made (what I call highlight pieces, namely the iconic ‘Vale Street’, ‘Mozart Street’, and ‘Mark and Flappers’ all 1975, see photographs above) there is a consistency to her work and how it exemplifies an exchange that takes place between the artist and the world. What I would call “a good deal.”

When looking at art, one of the best experiences for me is gaining the sense that something is open before you, that wasn’t open before. I don’t mean accessible, I mean open like making a clearing in the jungle, or being able to see further up a road, or just further on. And also like an open marketplace – where there were always good trades. There is the feeling that if you put in a certain amount of honesty, then you would get something back that made some room for you in front – some room that would allow you to look forward, and maybe even walk into that space. Seeing Jerrems work gives you that feeling.

Jerrems had the power to draw themes together, to ramp up the intensity, to empower her photographs and she was possibly on the way to becoming the things that people now say she was, but her early death curtailed this journey. Her photographs have social significance and photographic integrity and evidence time in the visible – the time in which Jerrems took them, the 1970s, and the truthfulness of her self and her style. I would have loved to have seen Jerrem’s response to the film still work of Cindy Sherman, the layering of the Sherman personas and the challenge to the feminist critique. As it is Jerrems photographs are very frontal in today’s terms and, because of her early death, she lacked the opportunity to interact with the development of more complex theories. The layers present at the time are now conflated into seemingly one layer, supported by back stories and obfuscation that clouds the work – it’s naked frontality and boldness. This obfuscation formalises her legacy into mythology.

Jerrems work does not need this. She struggled with her art, to get the best out of herself and her visualisation, to step into those spaces that I mentioned earlier. What we need is an appreciation of the time of her endeavour and the truthfulness of her art. To say that the work achieved fulfilment is to deny the importance of her death.

Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Carol Jerrems
Flying Dog
nd

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Carol Jerrems
Butterfly Behind Glass
1975
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of Mrs Joy Jerrems, 1981
© Ken Jerrems & the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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Carol Jerrems
Evonne Goolagong, Melbourne
1973
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of Mrs Joy Jerrems, 1981
© Ken Jerrems & the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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“Featuring the exceptional talent of four photographers whose images capture people, places and events with candid intimacy, Up Close traces the significant legacy of Australian photographer Carol Jerrems (1949–1980) alongside that of contemporary artists Larry Clark (USA), Nan Goldin (USA) and William Yang (Sydney). According to Guest Curator Natalie King, ‘Up Close takes its inspiration from the way each artist candidly depicts a social milieu and urban life of the 1970s and early 1980s’. Sharing an interest in sub-cultural groups and individuals on the margins of society, each artist reveals a remarkable capacity to provide an empathetic glimpse into semi-private worlds through intimate depictions of people and their surroundings.

Newly discovered prints by Jerrems are included as well as rare archival material from Jerrems’ family and previously unseen out-takes from Kathy Drayton’s documentary film, ‘Girl in the Mirror.’ It is 30 years since Jerrems’ death and 20 years since the first and only survey of her work was presented. Jerrems’ photographic practice was associated with a feminist and political imperative; as she put it: ‘the society is sick and I must help change it’. This exhibition uncovers Jerrems’ preoccupation with people and their environment, subcultures, forgotten and dispossessed groups, especially Aboriginal communities of the time.

Larry Clark unflinchingly turned the camera onto himself and his amphetamine-shooting coterie to produce Tulsa (1971), a series of photographs repeatedly cited for its raw depiction of marginalized youth. This significant publication and photographic series influenced Goldin and a generation of artists who aspired to break with the more traditional documentary modes. With its grainy shot-from-the-hip style, Tulsa exposes a world of sex, death, violence, anxiety and boredom capturing the aimlessness and ennui of teenagers.

First shown at Frank Zappa’s birthday party in 1979 at the Mudd Club in New York, Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency has evolved to be an iconic work of its time. Goldin’s snapshot aesthetic is evident in this immersive installation of close to 700 slides full of saturated colour and intimate framing accompanied by a soundtrack. Mining the emotional depths of her friends, lovers and family, Ballad signals a riveting intimacy whilst uncovering the bohemian life of New York’s Lower East Side. Goldin says, ‘I was documenting my life. It comes directly from the snapshot, which is always about love…’

William Yang’s photographs from the 1970s further the snapshot aesthetic through journeying into the intimate world of his particular social milieu: drag queens, Sydney gay and inner-city culture. Yang’s direct, unpretentious photographs provide a unique chronicle of marginalised groups especially as he put it: “…people who are gay, who were invisible, who were too scared to come out. During gay liberation people became visible, people became politicised, and there was a Mardi Gras that was a symbol of the movement.”

Up Close reveals how photographic practices provide an empathetic glimpse into semi-private worlds with close up depictions of people and their surroundings.

The accompanying publication provides for the first time an in-depth account of Carol Jerrems’ work alongside that of her peers and will feature a number of newly commissioned essays. Edited by Natalie King and co-published by Heide and Schwartz City, it will be available at the Heide Store from 31 July.”

Press release from the Heide Museum of Modern Art website

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Carol Jerrems
Juliet Holding Vale Street
1976
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of Mrs Joy Jerrems 1981
© Ken Jerrems & the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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Carol Jerrems
Lynn
1976
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of the Philip Morris Arts Grant 1982
© Ken Jerrems & the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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Larry Clark
Untitled
1979
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980
© Larry Clark
Image courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York

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Larry Clark
No Title (Billy Mann)
1963
from the portfolio Tulsa
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980
Image courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York

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1. Drayton, Kathy quoted in Wilmoth, Peter. “The ’70s stripped bare,” on The Age website. July 17th, 2005. [Online] Cited 05/10/2010. www.theage.com.au/news/film/the-70s-stripped-bare/2005/07/16/1121455933362.html

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Heide Museum of Modern Art
7 Templestowe Road, Bulleen, Victoria 3105

Opening hours:
(Heide II & Heide III)
Tue–Fri 10.00am–5.00pm
Sat/Sun/Public Holidays 12.00noon–5.00pm
Closed Good Friday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day

Heide Museum of Art website

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06
Jul
10

Review: ‘Simryn Gill: Gathering’ at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 22 April – 18 July 2010

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Many thankx to Jade Enge and the Heide Museum of Modern Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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“The work of Simryn Gill considers questions of place and history, and how they might intersect with personal and collection experience … Using objects, language and photographs, her work conveys a deep interest in material culture, and in the ways that meaning can transform and translate in different contexts. Through the reinterpretation or alteration of existing objects, the photographing of specific locations, and the forming of collections, Gill contemplates how ideas and meanings are communicated between people, objects and sites.”

Wall text from the exhibition

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Simryn Gill
‘Untitled’
1999
gouache on National Geographic magazine pages (1970s)
Courtesy of the artist, BREENSPACE, Sydney and Tracy Williams Ltd, New York

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Simryn Gill
‘Untitled’
1999
gouache on National Geographic magazine pages (1970s)
Courtesy of the artist, BREENSPACE, Sydney and Tracy Williams Ltd, New York

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Simryn Gill
‘Pearls’
1999
Private collection

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Simryn Gill
‘My own private Angkor’
2007
Courtesy of the artist, BREENSPACE, Sydney and Tracy Williams Ltd, New York

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This is a strong survey exhibition of the work of Simryn Gill at Heide Museum of Modern Art. Like most survey exhibitions it suffers from a slightly piecemeal approach, dipping in and out of various bodies of work to try to make up a holistic whole. Conceptually this is not a problem as the thematic development of Gill’s work, her narrative arc if you like, is evident throughout. Visually this causes some work to seem isolated and left me wanting more connection between pieces and rooms as you walk around.

Highlights for me included ‘May 2006′ (2006), ‘Pearls’ (1999 – ongoing), ‘Untitled (interiors)’ 2008 and ‘Throwback’ (2007).

In ‘May 2006′ (2006) 817 silver gelatin photographs are mounted in columns of images, each column making up one of 30 rolls of film, one shot every day of a month photographing the artist’s immediate neighbourhood in Marrickville, Sydney, in the month in which the film expiration date occurred. Each column has a different number of images and are mounted along the one of the largest walls in the Heide galleries, producing an effect almost like a DNA sequence. Abstract scenes of pathways, fences, cars in streets, broken gutters, planes flying houses, trees, people walking, abandoned telephone directories, Hills hoists, coffee shops, windows, rooftops and factories inhabit the frame of reference – the environment seeming to be abandoned both literally and metaphorically. Empty chairs move from picture to picture. No Parking here!

There are some great angles in these photographs a la Robert Frank ‘The Americans’ with excellent use of short depth of field shooting across tabletops for example. Above all there is a sense of abandonment, desolation and isolation in the intersection of spaces. Even in strong sunlight there is a strange, haunting melancholy present – an innate understanding of the subconsciously known archetype of space and place, that sense of belonging – and an absolute recognition in the viewer of that.

In ‘Pearls’ (1999 – ongoing, see photograph above) friends provide Gill with a book of personal value, which she then transforms into beads of paper and then strings them together as necklaces which she then returns to the owner as a gift. The colours, length and heaviness of the necklace depends on the book chosen – the reconstructed text lying like pearls of wisdom against the skin of the giver/receiver, the meaning of the book transformed through the process. What a beautiful gift to receive.

‘Untitled (interiors)’ (2008), my second favourite work of the day, features bronze sculptures cast from the empty spaces created by dry cracks in the ground found near Nyngan and Lake George, New South Wales. The sculptures present the cracks inverted so they become like miniature mountain ranges, the cracks in the earth filled and metamorphosing until they thrust into the air, the empty spaces of the earth uplifted, negative/positive spaces interchangeable. This is a simple but beautifully resolved work. Unfortunately I do not have any photographs to show you of these sculptures.

Other work includes ‘My own private Angkor’ (2007, see photograph above), photographs taken at a housing estate in Port Dickson that is becoming overgrown and returning to the surrounding landscape that Gill has made into her own Angkor Wat in reverse, featuring the detritus of a vanquished, constructed environment; four black and white photographs from ‘Forest’ (1996) featuring text on leaves; a glass case of curiosities like the Victorian cabinet of curiosities that includes a jar of plastic cowboys and indians, a bowl of Mindanao pearls, found and made spherical objects, cast tin and mango seeds (‘Some of my best friends suck mangoes’, 1998) and different noses of cast tin (‘Boquet’ 1994); ‘Untitled’ (1998 – ongoing), a glass case full of found and blunt objects arranged like a seismograph recording, small at the ends and big in the centre featuring scissors, clubs, spoons, knives, bottle top openers, tweezers, letter openers and salad servers!; and ‘Paper boats’ (2008, see photographs below), table and floor covered by paper boats made from the torn out pages of Encyclopedia Britannica 1968 with the invitation to “Please make boats” with no explanation as to how, exactly, to make them – human knowledge as text, detritus, object, place, manufacture and commission.

The absolute star of the exhibition is the installation ‘Throwback’ (2007, see photographs below). The installation features the interior parts of a Tata truck (the engine and axles) recast in termite mound soils, river clay, laterite, sea shells, fruit skins, coconut bark, resin, and fibre laid on a huge dissecting table (much like the body in Rembrandt’s painting ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp’ (1632)) – the layout of the engine and axles evoking the spine and interior skeleton of the body. Unfortunately I do not have an overview photograph of the whole work but parts of the work can be seen in the photographs below. The Tata truck spent its working life plying the roads of the forests of Malaysia:

“With the rise of China and India, a voracious market for scrap metal has developed, hastening the disappearance of particular objects, Gill recovers the modern forms of the truck parts by casting them in natural materials found near her studio in Port Dickson.”

Wall text from the exhibition

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This is an outstanding work that left me stunned with it’s beauty and insightfulness. It literally took my breath away and for that reason alone a visit to this exhibition at Heide is well worth the journey.

Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Simryn Gill
‘Throwback’ (detail)
2007
interior parts of Tata truck, termite mound soil, river clay, laterite, seashells, fruit skins, leaves, bark and fibre, flowers, glue, resin,
milk
Buxton Collection Melbourne
Courtesy of the artist

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Simryn Gill
‘Throwback’ (detail)
2007
interior parts of Tata truck, termite mound soil, river clay, laterite, seashells, fruit skins, leaves, bark and fibre, flowers, glue, resin,
milk
Buxton Collection Melbourne
Courtesy of the artist

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“This exhibition (22 April – 18 July) presents the work of leading Sydney-based Malaysian artist, Simryn Gill. Featuring objects, books, collections, photographs and text pieces from the last six years of Gill’s practice, it explores the artist’s pursuit of meaning through materials, forms and ways of working, such as collecting, reading, archiving, arranging, casting and photographing.

Described in 2009 in the New Yorker as ‘quietly dazzling’, Gill’s work is internationally recognised. She has been honoured with solo exhibitions at the Tate Modern, London and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, both in 2006. Born in Singapore in 1959, Gill lives and works in Sydney and Port Dickson, Malaysia, and has participated in significant exhibitions internationally, including documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany (2007), the Singapore Biennale (2006), the Biennale of Sydney (2002 and 2008), the São Paulo Biennial (2004) and the Venice Biennale (1999).

An MCA touring exhibition curated by Russell Storer, it has been expanded by Heide to include the Australian premiere of Gill’s major work Throwback, originally produced for the documenta 12 exhibition in Kassel, Germany, in 2007. Throwback reworks the inner machinery of a 1985 Tata truck that plied the roads of Malaysia. With the economic rise of China and India, a voracious market for scrap metal has developed, hastening the disappearance of particular objects. Gill recovers the modern forms of truck parts by casting them in natural materials – found near her studio in Malaysia – including river mud, coconut husks, reconstituted termite mounds and fruit skins.

Gill has also produced a new work, an artist’s book reflecting on the gardens at Heide.

Gill’s practice considers how we might experience place as an intersection of personal and collective histories and geographies. Through the reinterpretation or alteration of existing objects, the photographing of specific locations, and the forming of collections, Gill contemplates how ideas and meanings are communicated between people, objects, and sites.

Several works in the exhibition invite audience participation. Paper Boats invites visitors to add their own unique paper boat to the installation by tearing pages from a 1968 Encyclopaedia Britannica and using the sheet to make an origami boat. Another work, Garland (2006) encourages us to hold, touch and rearrange objects collected by Gill on the beaches of Port Dickson, Malaysia, and the islands off Singapore – fragments reshaped by sea and sand that take on almost organic form.

A selection of books, sketches, collections and experimental pieces from the early 1990s to the present, some produced for exhibitions and others never intended as artworks will also be presented as part of the exhibition. Together they offer an insight into Gill’s artistic processes and her interest in art-making as an active engagement with the world.”

Press release from the Heide Museum of Modern Art website

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Simryn Gill
‘Paper boats’
2008
Encyclopaedia Britannica (1968 edition)
Courtesy of the artist and BREENSPACE, Sydney

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Simryn Gill
‘Paper boats’ (detail)
2008
Encyclopaedia Britannica (1968 edition)
Courtesy of the artist and BREENSPACE, Sydney

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Addendum: A Pencil for Your Thoughts

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Heide pencil, the confounding pencil

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I love to visit Heide, the elegant buildings, the art, the cafe, a stroll in the gardens looking at the sculpture. What I don’t like is being accosted by gallery attendants on my last three visits, twice on the last visit alone to review the Simryn Gill exhibition – accost being not too harsh a word for some of the approaches. The request: to not write in the gallery with a pen but to use a pencil (rushed to the scene of the crime post haste!)

I don’t like writing with a pencil, they go blunt and I can’t read my notes. I like writing with a pen.
This is a ridiculous state of affairs, the only gallery in Melbourne that I know of that has such a ‘nanny state’ rule.

Do they think that I am going to:

a) spear the pen into the gallery wall
b) attack the attendant with the pen (after this last visit the thought did cross my mind!) or
c) scribble all over the art work like a child …

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The more we are treated like children the more child-like we become.

“Put the pen on the ground … Step away from the pen.”

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Heide Museum of Modern Art
7 Templestowe Road, Bulleen, Victoria 3105

Opening hours:
(Heide II & Heide III)
Tue–Fri 10.00am–5.00pm
Sat/Sun/Public Holidays 12.00noon–5.00pm
Closed Good Friday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day

Heide Museum of Art website

Bookmark and Share

14
Jan
10

Review: ‘Cubism & Australian Art’ at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Bulleen

Exhibition dates: 24th November 2009 – 8th April 2010

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Perfect summer fare out at Heide at the moment – relax with a lunch at the new Cafe Vue followed by some vibrantly fresh art in the galleries. In a nicely paced exhibition, Cubism and Australian Art takes you on a journey from the 1920s to the present day, the art revealing itself wonderfully as you move through the galleries.

There are too many individual works to critique but some thoughts and ideas do stand out.

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Cezanne’s us of passage, the transition between adjacent shapes, where solid forms are fused with the surrounding space was an important starting point for the beginnings of Cubism. Simultaneity – movement, space and the dynamism of modern life – was matched to Cubism’s new forms of pictorial organisation. The geometries of the Section d’Or (or the Gold Mean), that magical ratio found in all forms, also sounds an important note as it flows through the rhythmic movement and the sensations of temporal reality.

In the work from the 1920s/30s presented in the exhibition the palette of most of the works is subdued, the form of circles and geometrics. There are some beautiful paintings by one of my favorite Australian artists Roy de Maistre and others by Eric Wilson, Sam Atyeo and Jean Appleton (see image below). The feeling of these works is quiet and intense.

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Following

There are some evocative works from the 1940s/50s including Godfrey Miller’s ‘Still Life with Musical Instruments’ (1958), Graham King’s ‘Industrial Landscape’ (1959) and Ralph Balson’s ‘Constructive painting’ (1951). ‘The Charcoal Burner’ (1959) by Fred Williams (see image below) is the Australian landscape seen through Cubist eyes, surface and space perfectly commingled in reserved palette, delineated planes. Grace Crowley’s ‘Abstract Painting’ (1947, see image below) is a symphony of colour, plane and form that I would willingly take home any day of the week!

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Now

It is the contemporary work that is of most interest in this exhibition. Spatio-temporal reality is distorted as artists push the boundaries of dimensionality. The parameters of reality are blurred and extended through the use of multiple viewpoints and lines of sight. Fresh and spatially aware (like an in joke because everyone recognizes the fragmented ‘nature’ of contemporary existence) we have the sublime ‘Milky Way’ (1995, see image below) by Rosalie Gascoigne and for me the two standout pieces in the exhibition, ‘Bicycles’ (2007) by James Angus and ‘Static No.9 (a small section of something larger)’ (2005) by Daniel Crooks.

Though difficult to see in the photograph of the work (below), ‘Bicycles’ fuses three bicycles into one. “A photo finish made actual, a series of frames at the conclusion of a race transferred permanently into three dimensions.” You look and then look again: three frames into one, three tyres into one, three stands into one, three chains the only singular – like a freeze frame of a motor drive on a camera

Snap
Snap
Snap

or the slight difference of the two images of a Victorian stereoscope made triumvirate (the 3D world of Avatar comes to mind). Static, the bicycle can never work, is redundant, but paradoxically moves at the same time.

Even more mesmerizing is the video work ‘Static No.9 (a small section of something larger)’ by Daniel Crooks. Unfortunately I cannot show you the video but a still from the video can be seen below. Imagine this animated like swirling DNA (in actual fact it is people walking across an intersection at different distances and speeds to the camera – and then sections taken out of the video and layered). Swirling striations through time and space fragment identity so that people almost become code, the sound track the distorted beep beep beep of the buzzer at the crossing. I could have sat there for hours watching the performance as it crackles with energy and flow – with my oohs and aahs! The effect is magical, beautiful, hypnotic.

A great summer show – fresh, alive and well worth the journey if only to see that static in all its forms has never looked so good.

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Daniel Crooks
‘Portrait #2 (Chris)’
2007

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“With these portraits I’m attempting to make large detailed images of people in their own surroundings, images of people very much in and of their time that are both intriguing and beautiful. As with a lot of my work the portraits also seek to render the experience of time in a more tangible material form, blurring the line between still and moving images and looking to new post-camera models of spatiotemporal representation.”

Daniel Crooks

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Jean Appleton
‘Painting IX’
1937
Whitworth/Bruce Collection

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Elizabeth Gower
‘City Series’
1982-84

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Melinda Harper
‘Untitled’
2000

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Elizabeth Gower
‘Transient’
1979

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“Cubism & Australian Art, one of the most ambitious and extensive exhibitions Heide has undertaken, shows the impact of the revolutionary and transformative movement of Cubism on Australian art from the early twentieth century to the present day. It uncovers a little-known yet compelling history through works by over eighty artists, including key examples of international Cubism drawn from Australian collections – by André Lhote, Albert Gleizes, Fernand Léger, Alexander Archipenko, Ben Nicholson and others – and nine decades of Australian modern and contemporary art that demonstrate a local evolution of cubist ideas.

The exhibition documents the earliest incorporation of cubist principles in Australian art practice in the 1920s, when artists such as Grace Crowley and Anne Dangar, who studied overseas under leading cubist artists, began to transform their art in accordance with late cubist thinking. It examines the influence of Cubism on artists associated with the George Bell School in Melbourne and the Crowley-Fizelle School in Sydney; and on those who participated in the cubist movement abroad including James Cant and John Power.

While its distortions and unconventional perspectives served individual styles such as the expressionism of Albert Tucker or the experimental landscapes of Sidney Nolan and Fred Williams, Cubism’s most enduring influence on postwar Australian art has been in abstraction. This exhibition traces its reverberations in 1950s abstract art by Roger Kemp, Robert Klippel and Ron Robertson-Swann and others, through to works by younger artists such as Stephen Bram, Gemma Smith and Justin Andrews.

Cubism’s formal and conceptual innovations and its investigations into the representation of time, space and motion have continuing relevance for artists today, who variously adapt, develop, quote and critique aspects of cubist practice. In this exhibition, Cubism’s shifting, multi-perspectival view of reality takes on new form in moving-image works by John Dunkley-Smith and Daniel Crooks, in paintings by Melinda Harper and sculptures by James Angus. The use of found objects and recycled materials by Madonna Staunton, Rosalie Gascoigne and Masato Takasaka extends ideas originating in cubist sculpture and collage. Other artists are critical of Cubism, bringing Indigenous and non-european perspectives to bear on its modernist history, particularly  its appropriation of so-called ‘primitive art’.”

Text from the Heide Museum of Modern Art website

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Grace Crowley
‘Abstract painting’
1947

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Fred Williams
‘The Charcoal Burner’
1959

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Daniel Crooks
Static No.9 (a small section of something larger)’
2005

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James Angus
‘Bicycles’
2007

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Rosalie Gascoigne
‘Milky Way’ (detail)
1995

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Heide Museum of Modern Art
7 Templestowe Road, Bulleen, Victoria 3105

Opening hours:
(Heide II & Heide III)
Tue–Fri 10.00am–5.00pm
Sat/Sun/Public Holidays 12.00noon–5.00pm
Closed Good Friday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day

Heide Museum of Art website

Bookmark and Share

09
Jun
09

Review: ‘Modern Times: The Untold Story of Modernism in Australia’ at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 21st March – 12th July, 2009

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Roy de Maistre. 'Colour Composition derived from three bars of music in the Key of Green' 1935

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Roy de Maistre
‘Colour Composition derived from three bars of music in the Key of Green’
1935

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Roy de Maistre. 'Arrested Movement from a Trio' 1934

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Roy de Maistre
‘Arrested Movement from a Trio’
1934

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Despite some interesting highlight pieces this is a patchy, thin, incoherent exhibition assembled by the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney now showing at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne. Featuring a hotchpotch of work ranging across fields such as drawing, architecture, photography, painting, film, graphic design, craft, advertising, Australiana and aboriginal works the exhibition attempts to tell the untold story of Modernism in Australia to little effect. Within the exhibition there is no attempt to define exactly what ‘Modernism’ is and therefore an investigation into Modernism in Australia is all the more confusing for the visitor as there seems to be no stable basis on which to build that investigation. Perhaps reading the catalogue would give a greater overview of the development of Modernism in Australia but for the average visitor to the exhibition there seems to be no holistic rationale for the inclusion of elements within the exhibition which, much like Modernism itself, seems eclectically gathered from all walks of life with little regard for narrative structure.

With work spanning five decades from 1917 – 1967 we are presented with, variously, Robert Klippel’s kitsch ‘Boomerang’ table from 1955, Robin Boyd’s ‘House of Tomorrow’ from 1949, Wolfgang Sievers ‘new objective’ photographs, Berlei’s scientific system for calculating beauty in woman in use till the 1960s, swimsuits from the 1920s – 1940s, Featherston chairs from the Australian pavilion at the 1967 Expo, a recreation of Australian architect Harry Seidler’s office (the most interesting part of this being the books he had in his office library: Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van de Rohe and ‘Concerning Town Planning’ by Le Corbusier) and the wind tunnel test model of the Sydney Opera House in wood from 1960. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera …

Highlight pieces include the above mentioned test model of the Sydney Opera House which is stunning in its scale and woodenness, in it’s simplicity of shape and form. Other highlight pieces are the colour music compositions of Roy de Maistre which were the tour de force of the show for me, true revelations in their rhythmic synchronic Moebius-like construction with layered planes of colour swirling in purples, greens and yellows. The large vintage photographic print of ‘Sunbaker’ (1934) by Max Dupain was also a revelation with it’s earthy brown tones, the blending of the atmospheric out of focus foreground with the clouds behind, the architectural nature of the outline of the body almost like the outline of Uluru, the darkness of the head with the sensuality of the head and shoulders framed against the largeness of the hand resting on the sand. Lastely the two paintings and one rug by French artist Sonia Delaunay are a knockout. It says something about an exhibition when the best work in the show are two paintings by a French artist seemingly plucked at random to show external influences on Australian artists and designers.

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Sonia Delaunay. 'Rhythm' 1938

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Sonia Delaunay
‘Rhythm’
1938

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Max Dupain. 'Sunbaker' 1934 printed 1937

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Max Dupain
‘Sunbaker’
1934 printed 1937

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While the exhibition does attempt to portray the breadth of the development of Modernism in Australia ultimately it falls well short in this endeavour. The most striking example of this shortcoming is the true star of the exhibition – the building that is Heide II itself. Commissioned by John and Sunday Reed and designed by the Victorian architect David McGlashan of the architectural firm McGlashan and Eversit in 1963 the building epitomises everything that is good about architectural Modernism and it’s form overshadows the exhibition itself. In this building we have beautiful spaces and volumes, an amazing staircase down into the lower area, suspended decking overlooking gardens, the blending of inside and outside areas, large expanses of glass to view the landscape, nooks and studies for privacy and the simplicity and eloquence of form that is Modernist design. With money one can indulge in the best of elitist Modernism. With position, position, position one can side steep the alienation of the city and the spread of surburbia where the dream of Australians owning a home of their own still continues in the vast, tasteless expanses of McMansion estates.

Robert Nelson in his review of this exhibition sees the car as creating the suburbs and Modernism as the emptying of the city after 6pm, the lessening of community and the devaluing of space he insists that there is little difference between a Californian bungalow in the suburbs and a utopian geometric neo-Corbusian box by Harry Seidler because they were equally shackled to motor transport.1 This is to miss the point.

Although Modernism in its basic form influenced most walks of life in Australia from swimsuit design to milk bars, from cinema to naturism, from bodies to advertising the most effective expressions of Modernism are architectural (as evidenced by Heide II) and were only open to those with money, power and position. Although Le Corbusier’s concept of public housing was a space ‘for the people’ the most interesting of his houses were the private commissions for wealthy clients. And so it proves here. One can imagine the parties on the deck at Heide II in the 1960s with men in their tuxedo and bow ties and woman in their gowns, or the relaxation of the Reed’s sitting in front of their fire in the submerged lounge. For the ordinary working class person Modernism brought a sense of alienation from the aspirational things one cannot buy in the world, an alienation that continues to this day; for the privileged few Modernism offered the exclusivity of elitism (or is it the elitism of exclusivity!) and an aspirational alienation of a different kind – that of the separation from the masses.

Go to Heide for the glorious gardens, the wonders of Heide II but don’t go to this exhibition expecting grand insights into the basis of Australian Modernism for that story, as Robert Nelson rightly notes, remains as yet untold.

Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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An excellent review of the exhibition by Jill Julius Matthews can be found on the Journal of the National Museum of Australia website.

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Heide II

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Heide II

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Hedie II photographs by Rory Hyde. More photos of Heide are on his Flickr photoset.

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“The Powerhouse Museum travelling exhibition Modern times: the untold story of modernism in Australia, presented in Melbourne by Connex, explores how modernism transformed Australian culture from 1917 to 1967, a period of great social, economic, political and technological change.

The Powerhouse Museum travelling exhibition Modern times: the untold story of modernism in Australia explores how modernism transformed Australian culture from 1917 to 1967, a period of great social, economic, political and technological change. From the ideals of abstraction and functionalism to the romance of high-rise cities, new leisure activities and the healthy body, modernism encapsulated the possibilities of the twentieth century. This exhibition is the first interdisciplinary survey of the impact of modernism in Australia, spanning art,design, architecture, advertising, photography, film and fashion.

Modern times is presented at Heide across all four of the Museum’s gallery spaces. It unfolds in thematic sections highlighting key stories about international exchange, the modern body, modernist ‘primitivism’, the city, modern pools, and the Space Age. Comprising over 300 objects and artworks, it showcases works by major artists including Sidney Nolan, Margaret Preston, Albert Tucker, Grace Cossington Smith, Max Dupain, Wolfgang Sievers, and Clement Meadmore, key architects Robin Boyd, Roy Grounds and Harry Seidler, and designers Fred Ward and Grant and Mary Featherston. An installation, Cannibal Tours, by Madrid-based Australian artist Narelle Jubelin is a contemporary adjunct to the exhibition.

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Athlete and movie-star Annette Kellerman’s ‘Modern Kellerman Bathing Suit for Women’ which became commercially available by the mid-1920s. The one-piece bathing suit became Kellerman’s trademark.

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Athlete and movie-star Annette Kellerman’s Modern Kellerman Bathing Suit for Women’ which became commercially available by the mid-1920s. The one-piece bathing suit became Kellerman’s trademark.

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‘On hot summer days cool off with Tooth’s KB Lager’, advertising poster (about 1940).

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‘On hot summer days cool off with Tooth’s KB Lager’
Advertising poster (about 1940).

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Inspired by the futurist visions of various European avant-gardes, modernist ideas were often controversial and shaped by many competing positions. Modern times reveals how these ideas were circulated and took hold in Australia, via émigrés, expatriates, exhibitions, films and publications. Australian contact with significant international modernist sources, such as the Bauhaus school in Germany, occurred through figures such as influential artist and teacher Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack, who taught Bauhaus principles at Geelong Grammar, and renowned architect Harry Seidler, who played a central role in shaping the modern city in Australia. Hirschfeld-Mack’s extraordinary film Colour Light Play of 1923 is shown for the first time in Australia, and Seidler’s 1948 studio, designed on his arrival from New York, has been re-created for the exhibition.

While modernism was international in character, an ‘Australian modernism’ was first championed in the 1920s by artist Margaret Preston, whose promotion of Aboriginal forms and motifs was important to the understanding of their artistic value. Preston’s designs, Len Lye’s stunning animation Tusalava (1929), Robert Klippel’s ‘boomerang’ table (c. 1955) and other works show the development of a vernacular modernism.

Other highlights of Modern times include works from the visionary experiment in colour theory by Roy de Maistre and Roland Wakelin in 1919, a model of Robin Boyd’s innovative House of Tomorrow (1949), the iconic Featherston wing sound chairs from the Australian pavilion at the 1967 Montreal Expo, and a large wooden model for Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House.”

Text from the Heide Museum of Art website

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Grant and Mary Featherston. 'Expo mark II sound chair' 1967

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Grant and Mary Featherston
‘Expo mark II sound chair’
1967

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Australia Square, 1968, Max Dupain-a keyhole to the future. Courtesy of Max Dupain and Associates.

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Max Dupain
‘Australia Square, 1968′, Max Dupain-a keyhole to the future
Courtesy of Max Dupain and Associates.

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Jeff Carter. 'At the Pasha Nightclub, Cooma' c.1957-59

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Jeff Carter
‘At the Pasha Nightclub, Cooma’
c.1957-59

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“A major exhibition opening for Sydney Design 08 in August, Modern times looks closely at the transformation of modern city life. The advent of cars, freeways, skyscrapers and new entertainment such as cinemas, milk bars, swimming pools, cafes and pubs are all legacies of modernism as revealed through the exhibition. The exhibition spans five decades from 1917 to 1967 – a tumultuous period marked by global wars, economic depression, a technological revolution and major social changes – out of which a modern cosmopolitan culture was shaped.

“The modernist movement was inspired by various European avant-gardes that projected visions of a better future, shaped by many competing positions. It was through émigrés, expatriates, exhibitions and publications that modernism become known in Australia,” Ann Stephen said. Encompassing art, design and architecture, Modern times focuses on seven themes: 1. the human body, image and health; 2. international influences and exchanges; 3. Indigenous art and modernism; 4. Interdisciplinary projects with retailers; 5. city landscapes and urban life; 6. public pools and milk bars; and 7. the space age.

Several great modern public pools were designed in Australia initially as part of an international swimming boom in the 1930s and boosted by the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. These will be shown on a large, immersive, panoramic audio visual screen celebrating the most Australian of past-times, being poolside. The earliest 1920s swimming costumes by silent film star Annette Kellerman, several decades of Australian icon ‘Speedo’ cossies and an early bikini will also be on display.

The much-loved corner milk bar from the 1930s will also be recreated in the exhibition for visitors to enter, complete with lolly jars, milkshakes and a juke box.

Other story highlights in the exhibition include Robin Boyd’s ‘House of Tomorrow’ that featured at the 1949 Modern Home Exhibition in Melbourne; and Boyd’s memorable Australian pavilion at the 1967 Montreal Expo that showcased Australian design including the iconic Featherston wing sound chairs and hostess uniforms designed by Zara Holt, wife of then prime minister Harold Holt.

Modernism also inspired new forms of public art and design like the abstract fountains by Tom Bass on Sydney’s former P&O building and Robert Woodward’s El Alamein Memorial Fountain, a popular tourist site in Sydney’s Kings Cross. Modernism shaped an exultant explosion of experiment as part of the Space Age informing such spectacular architectural feats as Roy Grounds’ dome for the Australian Academy of Science in Canberra and Jørn Utzon’s internationally-acclaimed Sydney Opera House, both featured in the exhibition.”

Text from the Huliq News website

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Robert Klippel 'Boomerang' coffee table 1955

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Robert Klippel
‘Boomerang’ coffee table
1955

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James Birrell. 'A modernist vision of Australia - The interior of the Australian Pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal' 1967

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National Archives of Australia
‘A modernist vision of Australia: Grant and Mary Featherston’s wing sound chairs were a feature of the Australian Pavilion, designed by architect James Maccormick with exhibits selected by Robin Boyd, at Expo 67 in Montreal, 1967′
1967

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James Birrell. 'View of the elevated restaurant, Centenary Pool, Brisbane' nd

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James Birrell
‘View of the elevated restaurant, Centenary Pool, Brisbane’
nd

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Heide Museum of Modern Art
7 Templestowe Road, Bulleen, Victoria 3105

Opening hours:
(Heide II & Heide III)
Tue–Fri 10.00am–5.00pm
Sat/Sun/Public Holidays 12.00noon–5.00pm
Closed Good Friday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day

Heide Museum of Art website

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‘Modern Times: The Untold Story of Modernism in Australia’, edited by Ann Stephen, Philip Goad and Andrew McNamara, Powerhouse Publishing, 2008 (paperback). Available on the Amazon website.

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1. “Emanating from Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, Modern Times “explores how modernism transformed Australian culture from 1917 to 1967.” But something is missing. The overwhelming modern development in these 50 years was the proliferation of automotive transport, which redefined the layout and function of Australian cities.

The cars created the suburbs; and as the individual bungalow drew out the vast dormitories of Sydney and Melbourne, the city centre was spiritually drained, dedicated to bureaucratic and commercial premises.

The story at Heide emphasises the gradual triumph of the tall buildings of the CBD. It doesn’t really reflect how these abstract monuments didn’t contain a soul after 6pm.

Although the project makes such a big deal of being interdisciplinary, the social history doesn’t have a robust geographical basis. And because of this, the exhibition and book fail to handle the new alienation that modernism brings: the evacuation of the city and the insularity of suburban people in bungalows with little street life and roads increasingly deemed unsafe for children.

What does it really matter if a house looks like a Californian bungalow or a utopian geometric neo-Corbusian box by Harry Seidler? In social terms, they’re structurally the same, equally retracting from a sense of community and equally shackled to motor transport. In this sense, the styles are immaterial, except that one of them gives you a feeling of intimacy while the other has a bit more light and is easily wiped with a sponge.

At the end of the chosen period, the folly of the dominant suburban pattern came to be understood in its dire ecological consequences. Alas, it was too late. The modernist devaluation of space had already occurred, and our whole society had been reorganised around petrol.”

Nelson, Robert. The Age. Wednesday 6th May, 2009.

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12
Dec
08

Review: ‘The Art of Existence’ exhibition by Les Kossatz at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

Heide Museum of Modern Art has brought together nearly 100 pieces of work by the Australian artist Les Kossatz in an eclectic survey show, appropriately titled ‘The Art of Existence’. Featuring sculpture, painting and mixed media from the 1960s to the present the exhibition is appropriately titled because Kossatz’s work addresses certain archetypal themes that affect human existence: “His life-long fascination with the natural world and desire to understand both its human and animal inhabitants; exploration of the systems of knowledge and codes of behavior that structure individual and communal life; and his critical and playful reflections on contemporary behaviour and the mysteries of existence.”1

 

Les Kossatz. "Digger's glory box" 1965

 

Les Kossatz.
‘Digger’s glory box’
1965
silk, felt, canvas, cardboard, wood, brass, ink, fibre-tipped pen and synthetic polymer paint 
106.0 x 76.0 x 7.0 cm 

 

Strong symbolic paintings are the focus of the work in the 1960s, paintings that address the shocking brutality of war and its aftermath, when soldiers return home. To the observation that these are of the ‘pop-style’ school of painting suggested by the Heide website I feel these works are also influenced by the collage of Cubism, the boxes of Joseph Cornell and the dismembered bodies of Francis Bacon. They engage with the symbolism of war and remembrance: memory, myth, and the banality of heroism and sacrifice.

The key work in this series is the painting ‘Diggers throne’ (1966). This is a powerful disturbing image, effervescent and unnerving at the same time. It features a disembodied arm on the hand of a throne, surrounded by a wonderful kaleidoscopic assemblage of pictorial planes, artefacts and memories – an English flag, the flag of St George, a crown, medals and the words RSL. The arm reminds me of the Francis Bacon painting ‘Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953)’ as it rests, roughly drawn in pencil on the arm of the throne, drawing the eye back up into nothingness.

 

Francis Bacon. "Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953)"

 

Francis Bacon.
‘Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953)’

 

The ‘Diggers throne’ painting also features these prophetic words:

“throne slow to rot
and twisted the memory
becomes sacred.
Bloody was the truth
And this a chair.”

 

All other work in this period seems to flow through this painting – the other large paintings, the small canvases featuring individual medals and the less successful hanging banners. But it is to this work we return again and again as a viewer, trying to decipher and reconcile our inner conflicts about the painting.

 

Les Kossatz. "Ram in sling" 1973

 

Les Kossatz.
‘Ram in sling’
1973
cast and fabricated stainless steel and sheepskin
29.3 x 126.5 x 66.0 cm  

 

As we move into the 1970s the work changes focus and direction. There emerges a concern with the desecration of the Australian landscape investigated in a series of large paintings and sculptures. In ‘Packaged landscape 1’ (1976) a steel suitcase with leather straps, slightly ajar, fulminates with artificial gum leaves trying to escape the strictures of the trap. In ‘Caged landscape’ (1972) nature is again trapped behind steel wire, weighed in the balance on a set of miniature scales. The paintings feature trees that are surrounded by concrete and the rabbit becomes a powerful symbol for Kossatz – a suffering beast, strung up on fences, a plague in a pitted landscape of chopped down trees, erosion and empty holes.

Into this vernacular emerges the key symbol of the artist’s oeuvre – the sheep. In 1972 Kossatz began a series of sculptures of sheep, “initially inspired by the experience of nursing an injured ram.” For Kossatz “the sheep represent the hardship of pioneer existence, the grazing industries prosperity, environmental concerns and the sheep act as narrative devices, potent metaphors for human behaviour.”2

The first sheep presented ‘in show’ is ‘Ram in Sling’ (1973). In this sculpture a metal bar is suspended in mid-air and from this bar heavy wire mesh drops to support the fleecy stomach and neck of the ram almost seeming to strangle it in the process, it’s metal feet just touching the ground. Again the scales of justice seem to weigh nature in the balance.

The themes life and death, order and chaos are further developed in the work ‘Hard slide’ (1980) where a sheep emerges mid-air from a trapdoor, two more tumble down a wooden slide end over end and another disappears into the ground through a wooden trapdoor opening. Sacrifice seems to be a consistent theme with both the earlier paintings and the metallised sheep:

 

“The completed life cycle, down the trapdoor, down the chute, after sacrifice by shearing.”

Daniel Thomas 1994

 

Les Kossatz. "Hard slide" 1980

 

Les Kossatz 
‘Hard slide’
1980
sheepskins, aluminium, Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga sp.), leather, steel
372.0 x 100.0 x 304.0 cm (installation)

 

Further sculptures of sheep, both small maquettes and large sculptures follow in the next room of the exhibition. This is the artist is full flow, featuring the inventive taking of 2D things into the round, investigating the key themes of his work: the contrast between nature and artifice, or humanity.

The small maquettes of sheep feature races, gantries, sluices, pens, trapdoors and paddocks. Sheep tumble in a cataclysmic maelstrom, falling with flailing legs into the darkness of the holding pen below. These are my favourite works – small, intimate, detailed, dark bronzes of serious intensity – the sheep becoming a theatre of the absurd, suspended, weighed and balancing in the performance of ritualised acts, a cacophony of flesh at once both intricate and unsettling. Their skins lay flayed and lifeless disappearing into the ‘unearth’ of the slated wooden floor of the shearing shed. The sheep “can be viewed metaphorically as a commentary of the existential situation of the individual and collective behaviour.”3 As Kossatz himself has noted, “It is hard to bring a piece of landscape inside and give it a living animated form. The sheep somehow gives me this quality of landscape.”

But we must also remember that this strictly a white man’s view of the Australian landscape. Nowhere does this work comment on the disenfranchisement of the native people’s of this land – the destruction of native habitats that the sheep brought about, the starvation that they caused to Aboriginal people just as they bought riches to the pastoralists and the country that mined the land with this amorphous mass of flesh.

 

Les Kossatz. "Guggenheim spiral" 1983

 

Les Kossatz.
‘Guggenheim spiral’
1983

 

Recent work in the exhibition returns to the earlier social themes of memory, war, remembrance, religion, shrines, atomic clouds and temples but it is the work of the late 1970s – 1980s that is the most cogent. As Kossatz ponders the nature of existence on this planet he does not see a definitive answer but emphasizes the journey we take, not the arrival. Here is something that we should all ponder, giving time to the nature of our personal journey in this life, on this earth.

Here also is an exhibition worthy our time and attention as part of that journey. Go visit!

 

 

 

Exhibition dates: 22nd November – 8th March 2009

Heide Museum of Modern Art
7 Templestowe Road
Bulleen Victoria 3105 Australia
T +61 3 9850 1500
F +61 3 9852 0154
info@heide.com.au

Website:  www.heide.com.au

 

1.  From the Heide website at www.heide.com.au
 2. From wall notes to the exhbition
3. From wall notes to the exhbition 




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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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