Archive for the 'Tacita Dean' Category

22
Apr
12

Exhibition: ‘Cy Twombly: Photographs 1951 – 2010′ at the Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels

Exhibition dates: 1st February – 29th April 2012

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“In a certain sense, Twombly operates like the pictorialists: his photographs look almost like paintings in which light is captured in brushstrokes.”

Text from the press release

Many thankx to the Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels 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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Cy Twombly
Foundry, Rome
2000
Dryprint on cardboard
43.1 x 27.9 cm
© Schirmer/Mosel Verlag – Nicola Del Roscio Foundation

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Cy Twombly
Untitled (Rome)
1966
Oil, wall paint, grease crayon on canvas
190 x 200 cm
Sammlung Lambrecht-Schadeberg / Rubenspreisträger der Stadt Siegen im Museum für Gegenwartskunst

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Cy Twombly
Yard Sale, Lexington
2008
Dryprint on cardboard
43.1 x 27.9 cm
© Schirmer/Mosel Verlag – Nicola Del Roscio Foundation

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Cy Twombly
Untitled, Lexington
2008
Dryprint on cardboard
43.1 x 27.9 cm
© Schirmer/Mosel Verlag – Fondazione Nicola del Roscio

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Cy Twombly
The Artist’s Shoes, Lexington
2005
Dryprint on cardboard
43.1 x 27.9 cm
© Schirmer/Mosel Verlag – Nicola Del Roscio

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“As a tribute to the recently deceased artist, the Centre for Fine Arts is turning the spotlight on a less familiar aspect of his oeuvre. The exhibition includes more than 100 dryprint Polaroid photographs (selected by Twombly himself), along with a selection of other works by Twombly and a film portrait by Tacita Dean.

Cy Twombly (who was born in Lexington in 1928 and died in Rome in 2011) was one of the most important US artists of his generation. He made his name with large-scale abstract paintings whose free form and spontaneous dynamism recall calligraphy and graffiti. In his work Twombly often referred to the myths of Classical Greek and Roman Antiquity, to literature and to art history.

The exhibition focuses on a less familiar aspect of Twombly’s oeuvre: his photographic work. The photographs are an addition to the artist’s creative world and throw new light on it. At the request of the publishers Schirmer/Mosel, Twombly selected more than 100 never previously published Polaroid photographs for a catalogue that was published just before his death on 5 July 2011. This selection is the subject of a travelling exhibition that has already been seen in Germany at the Museum Brandhorst (in Munich) and the Museum für Gegenwartskunst (in Siegen). At the Centre for Fine Arts the exhibition is being expanded, in collaboration with Dr. Hubertus von Amelunxen, who wrote an essay for the Twombly catalogue and who has made a selection for BOZAR of drawings and paintings by Twombly that reveal in greater depth the interplay of lines and light in his work. In addition, the exhibition is complemented by the screening of Tacita Dean’s intimate film portrait “Edwin Parker” (which takes its name from Twombly’s official given names).

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Twombly and photography

Twombly took up photography back in his student days in the 1950s and continued to take photographs throughout his career. It was only in the 1990s, however, that he went public with his photographic work in gallery exhibitions and publications.

All the photographs in the exhibition were taken with a Polaroid camera, enlarged, printed using a special kind of dryprint, and reproduced in limited editions. This procedure, developed by Twombly himself, gives the photographs a hazy glow and a coarse grain. Twombly further reinforced this impression of blurring by playing with light and shade, by overexposure and sophisticated colour saturation, and by employing extreme close-ups. The lack of definition gives his photographs a certain indefinable quality and a poetic dimension. Our attention is no longer drawn to the subject, but to the texture of the picture. In a certain sense, Twombly operates like the pictorialists: his photographs look almost like paintings in which light is captured in brushstrokes.

The subjects of his Polaroid photographs are extremely diverse. There are traditional still lifes with tulips, lemon leaves, and angel trumpets, alongside photographs of temples and atmospheric landscapes. Twombly surprises the viewer with intimate images of everyday objects such as his slippers, a detail from a painting, his brushes, a snapshot of his studio, etc.

The photographs are fascinating because they throw new light on Twombly’s creative spirit and visual language. These intangible, fragile images are permeated by the same themes that inspired the artist’s paintings, drawings, sculptures, and graphic art. The atmospheric colours and diffuse motifs of his photographs are an unexpected addition to his creative universe. Twombly’s oeuvre, moreover, is all about light – and is photography not the medium of light par excellence?

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Tacita Dean

In the course of the exhibition circuit visitors can see an intimate film portrait of Twombly, Edwin Parker by the British artist Tacita Dean. The film takes its title from Twombly’s official given names (“Cy” is a traditional nickname in his family). The publicity-shy Twombly had become a mythical figure in the world of contemporary art. Dean’s film offers a rare insight into the artist’s life. The camera follows Twombly as he looks at his pictures in his studio, reads letters, looks through the louvres at the traffic in the city of his birth, or sits around a table with old friends and orders a meal. Tacita Dean is a British contemporary artist, known above all for her films. Her latest work to date is FILM, a 35 mm film continuously projected on a 13-metre-high monolith, which can be seen in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern until 11 March 2012.”

Press release from the Centre for Fine Arts website

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Cy Twombly
Tulips, Rome
1985
Dryprint on cardboard
43.1 x 27.9 cm
© Schirmer/Mosel Verlag – Nicola Del Roscio Foundation

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Cy Twombly
Cabbages, Gaeta
1998
Dryprint on cardboard
43.1 x 27.9 cm
© Schirmer/Mosel Verlag – Nicola Del Roscio Foundation

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Cy Twombly
Painting detail of Roses, Gaeta
2009
Dryprint on cardboard
43.1 x 27.9 cm
© Schirmer/Mosel Verlag – Fondazione Nicola del Roscio

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Cy Twombly
Sunset, Gaeta
2009
Dryprint on cardboard
43.1 x 27.9 cm
© Schirmer/Mosel Verlag – Nicola Del Roscio Foundation

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Cy Twombly
Painting Detail and “By the Ionian Sea” Sculpture, Bassano in Teverina
1992
Dryprint on cardboard
43.1 x 27.9 cm
© Schirmer/Mosel Verlag – Nicola Del Roscio Foundation

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Cy Twombly
Interior, Rome
1980
Dryprint on cardboard
43.1 x 27.9 cm
© Schirmer/Mosel Verlag – Fondazione Nicola del Roscio

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Centre for Fine Arts
Rue Ravenstein 23
1000 Bruxelles
Info and Tickets 02 507 82 00

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday, from 10.00 – 18.00, and until 21.00 on Thursdays

BOZAR website

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06
Jan
10

Melbourne’s Magnificent Dozen 2009

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Here’s my pick of the twelve best exhibitions in Melbourne for 2009 that featured on the Art Blart blog (in no particular order) – and a few honorable mentions that very nearly made the list!

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1/ ‘The Water Hole’ by Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger at ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art)

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Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger. 'The Waterhole' 2009

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Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger
‘The Water Hole’
2009

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“The most effective bed has a small meteorite suspended in a net bag above it. The viewer slides underneath the ‘rock’ placing the meteorite about a foot or so above your face. The meteorite is brown, dark and heavy, swinging slightly above your ‘third eye’. You feel its weight pressing down on your energy, on your life force and you feel how old this object is, how far it has traveled, how fragile and mortal you are. It is a sobering and enlightening experience but what an experience it is!”

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This was a magical and poignant exhibition that was a joy for children and adults alike. Children love it running around exploring the environments. Adults love it for it’s magical, witty and intelligent response to the problems facing our planet and our lives. A truly enjoyable interplanetary collision.

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2/ ‘Ocean Without A Shore’ video installation by Bill Viola at The National Gallery of Victoria

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Bill Viola. 'Ocean Without A Shore' 2007 video still

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The resurrected are pensive, some wringing the hands, some staring into the light. One offers their hands to the viewer in supplication before the tips of the fingers touch the wall of water – the ends turning bright white as they push through the penumbrae of the interface. As they move forward the hands take on a stricken anguish, stretched out in rigor. Slowly the resurrected turn and return to the other side. We watch them as we watch our own mortality, life slipping away one day after another. Here is not the distraction of a commodified society, here is the fact of every human life: that we all pass.

The effect on the viewer is both sad but paradoxically uplifting. I cried …

These series of encounters at the intersection of life and death are worthy of the best work of this brilliant artist. He continues to astound with his prescience, addressing what is undeniable in the human condition. Long may he continue.

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3/ Rosalie Gascoigne at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

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Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Sweet lovers' 1990

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Rosalie Gascoigne
‘Sweet lovers’
1990

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This was a wonderful exhibition. Gascoigne rightly commands a place in the pantheon of Australian stars. She has left us with a legacy of music that evokes the rhythms, the air, the spaces and colours of our country. As she herself said,

“Look at what we have: Space, skies. You can never have too much of nothing.”

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Nothing more, nothing less.

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4/ The Big Black Bubble’ paintings by Dale Frank at Anna Schwartz Gallery

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Dale Frank. 'Ryan Gosling' (2008/2009)

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Dale Frank
‘Ryan Gosling’
2008/2009

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The artist offered the viewer the ability to generate their own resonances with the painting, to use the imagination of ‘equivalence’ to suggest what these paintings stand for – and also what else they stand for. States of being, of transformation, wonder and joy emerged in the playfulness of these works.

‘Ryan Gosling’ was a tour de force. With the poetic structure of an oil spill, the varnish forms intricate slick upon slick contours that are almost topographical in their mapping. The black oozes light, becomes ‘plastic’ black before your eyes, like the black of Rembrandt’s backgrounds, illusive, illuminative and hard to pin down – perpetually hanging there in two dripping rows, fixed but fluid at one and the same time (you can just see the suspensions in the photograph above).

This painting was one of the most overwhelming syntheses of art and nature, of universal forces that I have seen in recent contemporary art. This exhibition was an electric pulsating universe of life, landscape and transformation. Magnificent!

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5/ ‘So It Goes’ by Laith McGregor at Helen Gory Galerie

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Laith McGregor. 'The Last Bastion' 2009 (detail)

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Laith McGregor
‘The Last Bastion’ (detail)
2009

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Simply spectacular!

I had never seen such art made using a biro before: truly inspiring.
Inventive, funny, poignant and outrageous this was a must see show of 2009.

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6/ ‘triestement (more-is u thrill-o)’ by Domenico De Clario at John Buckley Gallery

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Domenico de Clario. 'o (la grande maison blanche – snow clouds massing)' 2008/09

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Domenico de Clario
‘o (la grande maison blanche – snow clouds massing)’
2008/09

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Painted in a limited colour palette of ochres, greys and blacks the works vibrate with energy. Cezanne like spatial representations are abstracted and the paint bleeds across the canvas forming a maze of buildings. Walls and hedges loom darkly over roadways, emanations of heads and figures float in the picture plane and the highlight white of snow hovers like a spectral figure above buildings. These are elemental paintings where the shadow has become light and the light is shadow, meanderings of the soul in space.

de Clario feels the fluid relationship between substance and appearance; he understands that Utrillo is embedded in the position of each building and stone, in the cadences and rhymes of the paintings of Montmarte. de Clario interprets this knowledge in a Zen like rendition of shadow substance in his paintings. Everything has it’s place without possession of here and there, dark and light.

For my part it was my soul responding to the canvases. I was absorbed into their fabric. As in the dark night of the soul my outer shell gave way to an inner spirituality stripped of the distance between viewer and painting. I felt communion with this man, Utrillo, with this art, de Clario, that brought a sense of revelation in the immersion, like a baptism in the waters of dark light. For art this is a fantastic achievement.

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7/ ‘McLean Edwards: Songs from the Ghost Ship’ at Karen Woodury Gallery

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McLean Edwards. 'Venus' 2009

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McLean Edwards
‘Venus’
2009

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These heterogeneous paintings were a knockout with their wonderful, layered presence – they really command the viewer to look at them and celebrate the characters within them. Whimsical, ironic and full of humor these phantasmagorical images of creatures cast adrift with the night sky as background are fabulous assemblages of colour, form and storytelling.

My friend and I really enjoyed this exhibition. We were captivated by these songs, going back to the work again and again to tease out the details, to feel connection to the work. These are not lonely isolated figures but sublime emanations of inner states of being expertly rendered in glorious colour. And they made us laugh – what more could you ask for!

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8/ Tacita Dean at Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)

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Tacita Dean. 'Michael Hamburger' 2007

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Tacita Dean
‘Michael Hamburger [Still]’
16mm colour anamorphic, optical sound
28 minutes
2007

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“One can see echoes of Sebald’s work in that of Tacita Dean  – the personal narratives accompanied by mythical and historical stories and pictures. The tactility of Hamburger’s voice and hands, his caressing of the apples with the summary justice of the tossing away of rotten apples to stop them ruining the rest of the crop is arresting and holds you transfixed. Old varieties and old hands mixed with the old technology of film make for a nostalgic combination … Dean implicitly understands how objects can be elegies for fleeting lives.”

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Tacita Dean is a fantastic artist whose work examines the measure of things, the vibrations of spirit in the FLUX of experience. Her work has a trance-like quality that is heavy with nostalgia and memory and reflects the machine-ations of contemporary life. In her languorous and dense work Dean teases out the significance of insignificant actions/events and imparts meaning and life to them. This is no small achievement!

As an exhibition this was an intense and moving experience.

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9/ ‘Ivy’ photographs by Jane Burton at Karen Woodbury Gallery

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Jane Burton. 'Ivy #2' 2009

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Jane Burton
‘Ivy #2′
2009

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I feel that in these photographs with their facelessness and the non-reflection of the mirror investigate notions of ‘Theoria’ – a Greek emphasis on the vision or contemplation of God where theoria is the lifting up of the individual out of time and space and created being and through contemplative prayer into the presence of God. In fact the whole series of photographs can be understood through this conceptualisation – not just remembrances of past time, not a blind contemplation on existence but a lifting up out of time and space into the an’other’ dark but enlightening presence.

The greatest wonder of this series is that the photographs magically reveal themselves again and again over time. Despite (or because of) the references to other artists, the beauty of Burton’s work is that she has made it her own. The photographs have her signature, her voice as an artist and it is an informed voice; this just makes the resonances, the vibrations of energy within the work all the more potent and absorbing. I loved them.

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10/ ‘Sweet Complicity’ by eX de Medici at Karen Woodbury Gallery

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eX de Medici. 'Tooth and claw' (detail) 2009

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eX de Medici
‘Tooth and claw’ (detail)
2009

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In other less skilled artist’s hands the subject matter could become cliched and trite but here de Medici balances the disparate elements in her compositions and brings the subject matter alive – sinuously jumping off the paper, entwining the viewer in their delicious ironies, all of us sweetly complicit in the terror war (send more meat, send more meat!), fighting tooth and nail to keep urban realities at arm’s length. The dark desires that these works contain possess an aesthetic beauty that swallows us up so that we, too, become ‘Barbarians All’.

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11/ ‘Emily Kame Kngwarreye: The Person and her Paintings’ at DACOU Aboriginal Art

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Emily Kame Kngwarreye
‘Wildflower’
1994

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The paintings were painted horizontally (like the painter Jackson Pollock who intuitively accessed the spiritual realm) and evidence a horizontal consciousness not a hierarchical one. Knowledge is not privileged over wisdom. There is a balance between knowledge and wisdom – the knowledge gained through a life well lived and the wisdom of ancient stories that represent the intimacy of living on this world. The patterns and diversities of life compliment each other, are in balance.

Wisdom comes from the Indo-European root verb weid, “to see,” the same root from which words like vision come. In this sense these are “Vedic” paintings in that they are ancient, sacred teachings, Veda meaning literally “I have seen.”

On this day I saw. I felt.

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12/ ‘Unforced Intimacies’ by Patricia Piccinini at Tolarno Galleries

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Patricia Piccinini. 'Doubting Thomas' (detail) 2008

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Patricia Piccinini
‘Doubting Thomas’ (detail)
2008

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Patricia Piccinini. 'Doubting Thomas' 2008

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Patricia Piccinini
‘Doubting Thomas’
Silicone, fibreglass, human hair, clothing, chair
2008

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The terrains the Piccinini interrogates (nature and artifice, biogenetics, cloning, stem cell research, consumer culture) are a rematerialisation of the actual world through morphological ‘mapping’ onto the genomes of the future. Morphogenetic fields seem to surround the work with an intense aura; surrounded by this aura the animals and children become more spiritual in their silence. Experiencing this new world promotes an evolution in the way in which we conceive the future possibilities of life on this earth, this brave but mutably surreal new world.

This was truly one of the best exhibitions of the year in Melbourne.

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Honorable Mentions

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  • ‘Climbing the Walls and Other Actions’ by Clare Rae at the Centre for Contemporary Photography
    In these photographs action is opposed with stillness, danger opposed with suspension; the boundaries of space, both of the body and the environment, the interior and the exterior, memory and dream, are changed.
  • ‘Johannes Kuhnen: a survey of innovation’ at RMIT Gallery
    We stood transfixed before this work, peering closely at it and gasping in appreciation of the beauty, technical proficiency and pure poetry of the pieces.
  • ‘Double Infinitives’ by Marco Fusinato at Anna Schwartz Gallery
    The images are literally ripped from the matrix of time and space and become the dot dot dot of the addendum. What Fusinato does so excellently is to make us pause and stare, to recognize the flatness of these figures and the quietness of violence that surrounds us.
  • ‘all about … blooming’ by JUNKO GO at Gallery 101
    Go’s musings on the existential nature of our being are both full and empty at one and the same time and help us contemplate the link to the breath of the sublime.
  • ‘Mood Bomb’ by Louise Paramor at Nellie Castan Gallery
    They are dream states that allow the viewer to create their own narrative with the title of the works offering gentle guides along the way. These are wonderfully evocative paintings.
  • ‘New 09′ at Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)
    Finally you sit on the aluminium benches and contemplate in silence all that has come before and wonder what just hit you in a tidal wave of feelings, immediacies and emotions. The Doing and Undoing of Things.
  • ‘My Jesus Lets Me Rub His Belly’ by Martin Smith at Sophie Gannon Gallery
    At the end of days, when all is said and done, the funny diatribes with their ambiguous photographs are homily and heretic and together form a more inclusive body of bliss: ‘And also with you and you and you and you’

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20
Jul
09

Review: ‘Tacita Dean’ at Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 6th June – 2nd August, 2009

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Photographs from the exhibition are in the chronological order that they appear.

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Tacita Dean. 'Grobsteingrab (floating)' 2009

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Tacita Dean
‘Grobsteingrab (floating)’
2009

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Tacita Deam. 'T & I' (Tristan & Isolde) 2006

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Tacita Dean
‘T & I’ (Tristan & Isolde)
2006

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Tacita Dean. 'Banewl' 1999

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Tacita Dean
‘Totality’
16mm colour film
2000

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“The subjects are connected to the medium I use. It’s all about light and time and phenomena to some extent, like a rainbow or a gust of wind or even an eclipse or a green ray, things like that. And this is the language of light. It’s not the language of binary pixels.”

Tacita Dean1

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“The value of her [Dean’s] work, writes Winterson, is one of the virtues of art itself: it is an intervention into the rush of everyday life, holding up time and space for contemplation.”

Jeanette Winterson2

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old 16mm projector

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16mm film projector used by Tacita Dean to project ‘Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’

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Tacita Dean. ‘Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films)’ 2007

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Tacita Dean. ‘Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films)’ 2007

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Tacita Dean. ‘Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films)’ 2007

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Tacita Dean. ‘Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films)’ 2007

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Tacita Dean
‘Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films)’
2007

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This is a dense, ‘thick’ exhibition by Tacita Dean at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne that rewards repeat viewing. The theatricality of each work and the theatricality of the journey through ACCA’s dimmed galleries (an excellent installation of the work!) makes for an engrossing exhibition as Dean explores the minutiae of memory and the significance of insignificant events: a contemplation on the space, time and materiality of the everyday.

The exhibition starts with 3 very large floating rocks (‘Grobsteingrab (floating)’, ‘Hunengrab (floating)’ and ‘Riesenbelt (floating)’ all 2009) printed on multiple pieces of photographic paper, the surrounds of the rocks painted out with matt black blackboard paint (see image at top of this posting). The rocks look like mountain massif and are printed at different levels to each other; they move up and down, earthed in the sense that the viewer feels their heavy weight but also buoyant in their surface shininess, seeming to float into the void. The textuality of the rocks is incredible, the suspension of the rocks fragmented by the fact that they are printed on multiple pieces of photographic paper, the edges of the paper curling up to dislocate the unity of form.

Opposite is the large multi-panelled ‘T + I (Tristan + Isolde)’, a tour de force of Romantic landscape meets mythological journey (see image second from top). Sunshine searing through cloud lights the 25 Turneresque black and white gravure panels that feature an inlet, fjord and ravine. Semi-legible words dot the landscape, reflecting on the legendary story: ‘undergrowth’, ‘dispute’, ‘brightening up’, ‘BLIND FOLLY’ and ‘the union involved in a manifestation(?)’ for example. Each panel is beautifully rendered and a joy to behold – my friend and I stood transfixed, examining each panel in minute detail, trying to work out the significance and relation between the writing and image. As with most of the work in the exhibition the piece engages the viewer in a dialogue between reality, story and memory, between light, space, time and phenomena.

After the small rear projected film ‘Totality’ (2000) that shows the extraordinary event of a total eclipse of the sun by the moon for a period of two minutes and six seconds the viewer takes a short darkened passage to experience the major installation in the exhibition ‘Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films)’ 2007 (see images above).
The first thing you see is one image projected onto a small suspended screen, the rest of the installation blocked by a short gallery wall to the right. The dancer Merce Cunningham sits in studious calm and observes us. This in itself is magical but as we round the corner other screens of different sizes and heights come into view, all portraying Cunningham’s dance studio and him sitting in it from different angles, heights and distances (including close-ups of Cunningham himself). In the six screen projection the performances of Cunningham are sometimes in synch, sometimes not. The director Trevor Carlson, holding a stop watch, times the 3 movements of Cage’s musical piece 4’33” and directs Cunningham to change position at the end of every movement; his hands move, he crosses his legs and the performance continues.
The work is projected into the sculptural space using old 16mm film projectors and their sound mixes with the studied silence of the Cage work and white noise. The mirrors in the studio make spaces of infinite recess, showing us the director with the stop watch, the windows, the floor, the markings of the dancers hands on the mirrror’s surface adding another echo of past presences. As a viewer their seems to be an ‘openness’ around as you are pulled into a spatial and sound vortex, a phenomena that transcends normal spatio-temporal dimensionality. As people pass through the installation their shadows fall on the screens and become part of the work adding to the multi-layered feeling of the work. This is sensational stuff – you feel that you transcend reality itself as you observe and become immersed within this amazing work – almost as though space and time had split apart at the seams and you are left hanging, suspended in mid-air.

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Tacita Dean. 'Darmstädter Werkblock [Still]' 2007

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Tacita Dean
‘Darmstädter Werkblock [Still]’
16mm colour film, optical sound
18 minutes, continuous loop
2007

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Tacita Dean. 'Michael Hamburger' 2007

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Tacita Dean
‘Michael Hamburger [Still]’
16mm colour anamorphic, optical sound
28 minutes
2007

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The next two films are my favourite pieces in the exhibition. ‘Darmstädter Werkblock’ (2007) shows us the significance of insignificant markings – edges and intersections, textures, blends and bleeds, the minutiae of existence in the markings on the fabric of an internal wall (see photograph above). Here is light, wood panelling, texture and again the sound of the whirring of the film projector. Usually I am not a fan of this kind of work having seen enough ‘Dead Pan’ photography and photography of empty yet supposedly important spaces in my life, but here Dean’s film makes the experience come alive and actually mean something. Her work transcends the subject matter – and matter is at the point where these interstitial spaces have been marked by the abstract signs of human existence that constantly surround us.

In ‘Michael Hamburger’ (2007) Dean reaches the empito-me of these personal narratives that inhabit everyday life. Film of an orchard with wind rustling through the trees, clouds drifting across the sky, rotting apples on the branches, fallen fruit on the ground and a clearing with a man looking up at the trees is accompanied by the industrial sounds of clicks and pops like that of an old radio (see photograph above). The swirling sound of the wind surrounds you in the darkened gallery space much as the panoramic screen of the projection seems to enfold you. The scene swaps to an interior of a house and shows the man, has face mainly in shadow, the film focusing on the different type of apples in front of him or on the aged wrinkles of his hands holding the apples. He talks intelligently and knowingly about the different types of apples and their rarity and qualities. This is Michael Hamburger (now dead which adds poignancy to the film) – poet, critic, memoirist and academic notable for his translations of the work of W. G. Sebald, one of Tacita Dean’s main influences (and also an author that I love dearly).
One can see echoes of Sebald’s work in that of Tacita Dean  – the personal narratives accompanied by mythical and historical stories and pictures. The tactility of Hamburger’s voice and hands, his caressing of the apples with the summary justice of the tossing away of rotten apples to stop them ruining the rest of the crop is arresting and holds you transfixed. Old varieties and old hands mixed with the old technology of film make for a nostalgic combination. As John Matthews of ArtKritique has so insightfully observed in his review of this work Dean implicitly understands how objects can be elegies for fleeting lives.

After this work one should have a break – go to the front of the gallery and have a coffee and relax because this is an exhausting show!

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The rest of the exhibition tends to tail off slightly, with less engaging but still interesting works.

In ‘Die Regimentstochter’ (2005) (the name of a Donizetti opera) Dean uses a pile of 36 found and mutilated old opera and theatre programs from the 1930s and 1940s such as Staats Theatre, Berlin, Der Tanz and Deutsche Openhaus. These programs have had portions of their front covers roughly but clinically cut to reveal the inner pages beneath (see image below) and Dean uses them to comment on the politicisation of culture in Berlin’s mid-20th century history. The top of a powdered wigged head or the face of Beethoven has been revealed when the title of the work has been neatly removed along with something else:

“Each programme gives a tantalising glimpse of a title or a face through a small window cut into the embossed cover; we recognise Beethoven, Rossini, the face of a singer perhaps. When and by whom this incision in the cover was made, very neatly one might add, even more why these disfigured programmes were kept remains a mystery. A swift search in an archive would easily show what has been removed; most likely an embossed swastika, for these performances all happened during the Third Reich. Why they were removed is left to our imaginations; perhaps an avid theatre-goer livid at the co-option of culture by the regime, perhaps someone afraid they might be misinterpreted as fascist memorabilia, while wishing to retain the memories these performances triggered.”3

High up on a wall opposite these programs is the film ‘Palast’ (2004) in which Dean reflects Berlin’s divided history in the jaded façade of the once iconic Palast, the government building of the former German Democratic Republic.4 Shards of light hit glass and reflections are fractured in their gridded panes (see images below). A bird is seen flying, viewed through the window and we see the stains on that window but in this film things feel a bit forced. Unlike the earlier ‘Darmstädter Werkblock’ there is little magic here.

Again the minutiae of existence is examined in the final two films ‘Noir et Blanc’ (2006), made on the last 5 rolls of Dean’s black and white double-sided 16mm film stock and ‘Kodak’ (2006), both made at the Kodak factory in Chalon-sur-Saône before it closed it’s film production facilities (see images below). With the demise of the medium that she feels closest to Dean sought permission to film at the factory itself and both films examine that medium by turning it on itself.

“Dean became acutely aware of the threat to her chosen medium when she was unable to obtain standard 16mm black-and-white film for her camera. Upon discovering that the Kodak factory in Chalon-sur-Saône, France, was closing its film production facility, Dean obtained permission to document the manufacture of film at the factory, where cameras have never before been invited. The resulting rear-screen projection ‘Noir et Blanc’, filmed on the final five rolls Dean acquired, turns the medium on itself. The 44-minute-long work ‘Kodak’ constitutes a contemplative elegy for the approaching demise of a medium specific to Dean’s own practice. Kodak’s narrative follows the making of celluloid as it runs through several miles of machinery and explores the abandoned corners of the factory. On the day of filming, the factory also ran a test through the system with brown paper, providing a rare opportunity to see the facilities fully illuminated, without the darkness needed to prevent exposure, and underscoring the luster of the celluloid as the dull brown strips contrast with the luminous, transparent polyester.”5

As writer Tony Lloyd has commented, “The film “Kodak” documenting the manufacturing of film was as solemn and reverent as a Catholic mass and equally as dull and inexplicable.”6 I wouldn’t go that far but by the end of the exhibition the nostalgia for old technologies, the brown paper programs and the film strip as relic were starting to wear a bit thin, like the sprockets of an old film camera failing to take up the film.

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At her best Tacita Dean is a fantastic artist whose work examines the measure of things, the vibrations of spirit in the FLUX of experience. Her work has a trance-like quality that is heavy with nostalgia and memory and reflects the machine-ations of contemporary life. In her languorous (thankyou Tony Lloyd for that word, so appropriate I had to use it!) and dense work Dean teases out the significance of insignificant actions/events and imparts meaning and life to them. This is no small achievement!

As an exhibition this is an intense and moving experience. Go, take your time and enjoy!

Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Tacita Dean. 'Die Regimentstochter' 2005

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Tacita Dean
‘Die Regimentstochter’
2005

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Tacita Dean. 'Palast' 2004

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Tacita Dean. 'Palast' 2004

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Tacita Dean. Two stills from the film ‘Palast’
2004

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“A major survey of work by the internationally acclaimed British artist Tacita Dean will open at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) on June 6th, 2009.

In a great coup for Melbourne, fourteen recent projects by this celebrated contemporary artist will come together in what is the largest survey of Dean’s work to ever be shown outside of Europe.

Tacita Dean is one of Britain’s most accomplished and celebrated contemporary artists. She won the New York Guggenheim’s Hugo Boss award in 2007, was a Turner Prize nominee in 1998, and has had numerous solo exhibitions in Europe – at the Schaulager in Basel, DIA Beacon in New York, the de Pont Museum in the Netherlands, the Tate Britain, UK, the Musee d’art Moderne in Paris, France and the Villa Oppenheim in Berlin, to mention just a few.

Dean was also recently given the highly prestigious title of Royal Academician, awarded sparingly to alumni’s of the revered London art school who have achieved greatness in their work.

Tacita Dean was born in Canterbury in 1965, and moved to Berlin in 2000 after being awarded a DAAD residency. Early works focused on the sea – most famously she explored the tragic maritime misadventures of amateur English sailor Donald Crowhurst. Since moving to Berlin she has devoted her attention to the architecture and cultural history of Germany, a recurring theme also being the salvaging, saving and collecting of things lost. Many of her works rest on the icons of modernism, heroic failures and forgotten utopian ideals.

Dean is best known for her work with 16mm film, although she also works with photography, print and drawing. The qualities of filmmaking itself play a central role in her works – which hauntingly capture the passing of time, space and the mysteries of the natural world.

Her work occupies a place between fact and fiction. As British author Jeanette Winterson says, “Her genius, with her slow, steady, held frames, is to allow the viewer to dream; to enter without hurry, without expectation, and to accept, as we do in a dream, a different experience of time, and a different relationship to everyday objects.”

Included in this exhibition is Dean’s revered film installation, ‘Merce Cunningham Performs STILLNESS (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007, which was recently presented at the DIA Beacon in New York, and the 2007 work Michael Hamburger. Two new wall-based works especially created for this exclusive ACCA exhibition will also feature.

Dean is also known for creating ‘asides’ – totally absorbing texts on the subjects explored in her work. She will contribute texts on all the projects included in the exhibition for a catalogue which will be published to coincide with this unique ACCA survey.

The exhibition has been curated by ACCA’s Artistic Director, Juliana Engberg and follows an early 2002 exhibition of Dean’s work curated by Engberg for the Melbourne International Arts Festival.

“Tacita’s works continue to enthral and inspire me. Not only has she rescued relics from history and restored them with a visual dignity and affection in her wonderful film projects, but increasingly she rescues the traditional art forms of drawing, print making, painting, photography and film from a digital abyss,” says Juliana Engberg. “Her works have a truth and quiddity about them, but also a playful artifice and technical tactic to bring out the tactile and material in all she deals with. Tacita is a sublime story-teller, a narrator of odysseys and attempts. She is a true artist sojourner.

In this selection of works made since 2004 we grasp the breadth of her practice and her pursuit of the time-honoured landscape, portrait and abstract genres,” she says.”

Text from the press release from the ACCA website

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Tacita Dean. 'Noir et Blanc [Still]' 2006

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Tacita Dean
‘Noir et Blanc [Still]’
16mm black-and-white Kodak film
2006

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Tacita Dean. 'Kodak' 2006

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Tacita Dean
‘Kodak’
16mm colour and b/w film optical sound
44 minutes loop system
2006

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Australia Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)

111 Sturt Street
Southbank 
Victoria 3006
Australia
03 9697 9999

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Friday 10am – 5pm
Weekends & Public Holidays 11am – 6pm
Monday by appointment 
Open all public holidays except Christmas Day and Good Friday

ACCA website

Tacita Dean website

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1. Dean, Tacita quoted in Bunbury, Stephen.“Still Lives,” in The Age. Melbourne: Fairfax Publishing, A2 section, Saturday June 6th, 2009. p.20.

2. Winterson, Jeanette, quoted in Bunbury, Stephen.“Still Lives,” in The Age. Melbourne: Fairfax Publishing, A2 section, Saturday June 6th, 2009. p.20.

3. Anonymous. Product synopsis from ‘Tacita Dean Die Regimentstochter’ [Paperback] on the Amazon website [Online] Cited 19/07/2009.

4. Anonymous. Description of ‘Tacita Dean: ‘Palast” on the Tate St. Ives website [Online] Cited 19/07/2009.

5. Anonymous. ‘The Hugo Boss Prize: Tacita Dean’ on the Guggenheim Museum website [Online] Cited 19/07/2009.

6. Lloyd, Tony. ‘Opnion: Tacita Dean at ACCA’ on ArtInfo.com.au [Online] Cited 19/07/2009.

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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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