Posts Tagged ‘Fitzroy

21
Jul
13

Review: ‘As far as I know’ by Katrin Koenning and Jessie Boylan at The Colour Factory Gallery, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 4th July – 27th July 2013

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“…the work itself – which describes various traces of industry and built history amid the expanses of rural and outback Australia – is of a much subtler cadence. These works are more a collection of scattered traces and silent armatures that sit within the vastness of the Australian landscape… While Koenning’s spacious works picture the rusted tractors and empty gain silos of dried-out farming communities and desert towns, Boylan’s images of Victorian forests and mining country have a more claustrophobic feel. In each case. the stories and traces prove elusive and assumed. It is a powerful allegory for Australia… As far as I know whispers of tacit, imbedded history – of small echoes amid a vast land.”

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Dan Rule “In the Galleries,” in The Saturday Age, July 13, 2013, p.7.

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There are some interesting visual elements to this exhibition by Katrin Koenning and Jessie Boylan at The Colour Factory Gallery but ultimately these elements do not add up to a satisfying whole.

Boylan’s images are well seen and the artist makes the environment within the pictorial plane seem much bigger than the space the photograph occupies, almost cinematic in their scope. However, the artist relies too heavily on the single tree or structure to hold the centre of the image, whilst placing the horizon line all to regularly half way up the image (see the 1, 2, 3, 4, and yes 5 images below). Even in the dense bush scenes there is a horizon line in the middle of the image, mentally blocking the viewer from any imaginative engagement with the landscape.

Koenning’s photographs evidence the bleached sunlight of rural Australia with visual elegance, but the artist is much cleverer when she is handling a number of elements within the picture plane (for example, see her series Transit), instead of being out of her environment and then simplifying the pictorial structure. I have seen so many of this type of photograph. They picture the traces of settlement as the detritus of an ailing economy – of a failed negotiation with the land – through a “Tom Roberts” moment. Surely there is more life, more to life in rural Australia than single trees (is there a theme emerging here?), desolate spaces and people in the mid-foreground with their back to the painter / photographer, staring off into the distance. They might have a presence but there are no possible futures intimated here.

But what really puts the nail in the coffin of this exhibition is the quality of the digital printing.

Boylan’s photographs are over saturated in the flesh while Koenning’s photographs are so pale and wane, even in the reproductions, that the print does not HOLD the image. It is one thing to capture the harsh light of rural Australia but when you are printing this light, you must have a STRUCTURE, some base upon which that light can sit in the print. These photographs fail in this regard. It says something when you look at the DL invite to the exhibition and there is the picture of the swimming pool radiant in blue, and then you look at that same photograph in the exhibition which is a pale imitation of the invite. I just wonder what happened in the printing process?

When artist’s used to print their own work in the darkroom they only had themselves to blame for poor printing. Today, photographers are reliant on their relationship with the printer at the digital photo lab, unless they are able to afford thousands of dollars to set up a printing space themselves. To find a good printer and build up a relationship with that person, a person who understands what the artist is trying to achieve in the look and feel of a body of work, takes time and patience. Unfortunately, that chemistry and magic has not happened in this exhibition.

And by the way, none of the photographs in this exhibition were printed at The Colour Factory, just to make that quite clear!

For me, these photographs are not allegories, pictures that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning for what little meaning they have is far to obvious. They are taciturn photographs, reticent, silent of more interesting truths – images that have little new to say which makes me want to look at them less.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art blart blog

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

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Jessie Boylan. 'Clunes (Cottage)' 2013

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Jessie Boylan
Clunes (Cottage)
2013
From the series Fourteen Ounces
Hahnemuhle Photo Rag
80cm x 60cm
Edition 10 +2AP

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Jessie Boylan. 'Clunes (Tree)' 2013

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Jessie Boylan
Clunes (Tree)
2013
From the series Fourteen Ounces
Hahnemuhle Photo Rag
80cm x 60cm
Edition 10 +2AP

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Jessie Boylan. 'Hepburns Clunes Rd' 2013

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Jessie Boylan
Hepburns Clunes Rd
2013
From the series Fourteen Ounces
Hahnemuhle Photo Rag
80cm x 60cm
Edition 10 +2AP

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Jessie Boylan. 'Mistletoe Mine #2' 2013

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Jessie Boylan
Mistletoe Mine #2
2013
From the series Fourteen Ounces
Hahnemuhle Photo Rag
80cm x 60cm
Edition 10 +2AP

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Jessie Boylan. 'Amelia Mine #1' 2013

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Jessie Boylan
Amelia Mine #1
2013
From the series Fourteen Ounces
Hahnemuhle Photo Rag
80cm x 60cm
Edition 10 +2AP

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As far as I know…  

Places don’t just have histories – they also have a presence and possible futures - Daniel Palmer

There are limits to what we can know about a place. Its history and memory, somewhat elusive, are always something slightly out of reach. Influenced by individual experience and expectation, understanding and connection to place will always be personal, and what we bring to a place determines how we see it.

Drawing from two different bodies of work, As far as I know is a story of people and place in regional and rural Australia, tracing remnants left behind by the industrial boom. Almost frozen, these traces of past hover in the land, seemingly waiting to be reused and reworked. As far as I know explores passages of time in manufactured, remembered and imaginary Australian landscapes. Contesting the division between the realm of memory and experience, the images study dynamics of landscape, and what this landscape means to us.

Press release from The Colour Factory Gallery website

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Katrin Koenning. 'Camp Detail #1, Fowlers Bay' 2013

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Katrin Koenning
Camp Detail #1, Fowlers Bay
2013
From the series Loraine and the Illusion of Illoura
Pigment Print
80cm x 80cm
Edition 5 +2AP

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Katrin Koenning. 'Campsite, Coorong National Park' 2013

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Katrin Koenning
Campsite, Coorong National Park
2013
From the series Loraine and the Illusion of Illoura
Pigment Print
80cm x 80cm
Edition 5 +2AP

 

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Katrin Koenning. 'Grain Silo, Loch' 2013

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Katrin Koenning
Grain Silo, Loch
2013
From the series Loraine and the Illusion of Illoura
Pigment Print
80cm x 80cm
Edition 5 +2AP

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Katrin Koenning. '15 Port Augusta Bathers' 2013

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Katrin Koenning
15 Port Augusta Bathers
2013
From the series Loraine and the Illusion of Illoura
Pigment Print
80cm x 80cm
Edition 5 +2AP

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Katrin Koenning. 'Boy #2, Port Augusta Jetty' 2013

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Katrin Koenning
Boy #2, Port Augusta Jetty
2013
From the series Loraine and the Illusion of Illoura
Pigment Print
80cm x 80cm
Edition 5 +2AP

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Katrin Koenning. 'Port Victoria Main Street' 2013

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Katrin Koenning
Port Victoria Main Street
2013
From the series Loraine and the Illusion of Illoura
Pigment Print
80cm x 80cm
Edition 5 +2AP

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Katrin Koenning. 'Pool #2, Whyalla Foreshore Motel' 2013

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Katrin Koenning
Pool #2, Whyalla Foreshore Motel
2013
From the series Loraine and the Illusion of Illoura
Pigment Print
80cm x 80cm
Edition 5 +2AP

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The Colour Factory Gallery
409 – 429 Gore Street
Fitzroy, Victoria 3056
T: +61 3 9419 8756

Opening hours:
Monday – Friday, 9.30am – 5.30pm
Saturday 1 – 4pm

Katrin Koenning website

Jessie Boylan website

Colour Factory Gallery website

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24
Mar
13

Review: ‘Shrouds’ by Mike Reid at the Colour Factory Gallery, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 8th March – 30th March 2013

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“Any discovery changing the nature, or the destination of an object or phenomenon constitutes a Surrealist achievement. Already the automats are multiplying and dreaming… realism prunes trees, Surrealism prunes life.”

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J-A. Boiffard, Paul Ellard and Roger Vitrac, in La Revolution Surréaliste, December 1924, p 2, quoted in Arturo Schwarz, Man Ray: the rigour of imagination,Thames & Hudson, London, 1977, p 161.

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This is a strong exhibition of documentary photography  by Mike Reid at the Colour Factory Gallery. Interesting idea; well seen formal photographs; good use of colour (brown, blue, silver, red and green shrouds); nice sized prints appropriate to the subject matter; and an excellent self published book to accompany the exhibition. This is just what it is – a solid exhibition of documentary photography.

Unfortunately the artist cannot leave it there. In his almost unintelligible artist statement (below), he tries to lever the concept of resurrection onto the work, meandering from Horus and Osiris through The Shroud of Turin, to Jewish Tachrichim (burial shrouds) and onto the commerce of Billabong and the politics of the burqa linking, very tenuously, the covering of Islamic women with the idea of these cars being “old bombs.”

Here I take issue with Reid’s conceptualisation of the word “shroud” vis a vis his photographs of covered cars. One of the definitions of shroud is “A cloth used to wrap a body for burial” but the more pertinent use of the word in relation to this work is “To shut off from sight; something that conceals, protects, or screens” from the Middle English schrud, garment. These are not abandoned, lifeless vehicles awaiting resurrection but loved vehicles that have been protected from the elements by their owners, wrapped and cocooned jewels that are in a state of hibernation. If they were unwanted they would have been abandoned by their owners to the elements, not protected beneath a concealing garment in a state of metamorphosis. The shrouding of the car acts like a Surrealist canvas, hinting at the structure underneath (the Cadillac, the Volkswagen, the Morris Minor) but allowing the viewer to discover the changing nature of the object.

All that was needed to accompany the exhibition and the book was something like the quotation at the top of the posting. Leave the rest up to the strength of the work and the viewer. They have the intelligence and imagination to work out what is going on without all the proselytising that only reveals the artist’s ultimate disconnection from the source. In other words, less is more. Nothing more, nothing less.

Dr Marcus Bunyan from the Art Blart blog

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

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Mike Reid. 'Santa Monica, Los Angeles, USA' Nd

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Mike Reid
Santa Monica, Los Angeles, USA
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Mike Reid. 'Toorak, Victoria' Nd

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Mike Reid
Toorak, Victoria
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Mike Reid. 'South Fremantle, Western Australia' Nd

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Mike Reid
South Fremantle, Western Australia
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Mike Reid. 'Richmond, Victoria' Nd

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Mike Reid
Richmond, Victoria
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Shrouds, by Mike Reed is a collection of photographs of covered cars. His love of gleaning was inherited from his ‘rag and bone’ father who amassed a metal detritus found on the bicycle route home from the factory where he worked. This assortment was stockpiled in his father’s rusted sheds, which appeared like an ‘Aladdin’s cave’ to a youthful Mike.

“The car was draped with a plastic sheet in the back blocks of Surfers Paradise whilst seeking to photograph decay in the landscape….You start with one and then see another then… over time, the medley plays into a collection… patterns precipitate or idiosyncrasies evolve from within…This is the joy of “seeing”.”

“Within my category of covered cars I began to view these still loved but lifeless vehicles, as if a resurrection was about to take place… for the heavenly roads of restoration or hell.”

Mike equates the car covers to the burial garments adorning the dead in preparation for resurrection. Mike cites the ‘wrapping’ of objects found in the work of artists’ Christo, Jean Claude, Man Ray and Magritte as inspiration. This incredible accumulation of images spans over two decades and 6 countries. A small selection has been chosen for this exhibition and a larger range appears in his book to be launched at the opening of Shrouds.

Press release from the Colour Factory Gallery website

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Mike Reid. 'Richmond, Victoria' Nd

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Mike Reid
Richmond, Victoria
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Mike Reid. 'Macleod, Victoria' Nd

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Mike Reid
Macleod, Victoria
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Shrouds

“The resurrection of the dead is a fundamental and central doctrine of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Many religious critics have alleged that even Christ’s resurrection was borrowed from the accounts of Osiris, God of the underworld, and the best-known deity in all of ancient Egyptian history. As a life-death-rebirth deity, Horus, the Sun God, and Osiris became a reflection of the annual cycle of crop harvesting as well as reflecting people’s desires for a successful afterlife. The Masons, Illuminati, Priory De Sion, clandestine government groups, and others believed that on December 22, 2012, Osiris would be resurrected. Nothing happened on that world shattering day but Spam and candle sales most certainly went through the roof. Thus in preparation to meet thy maker, a shroud, burial sheet or winding-cloth, usually cotton or linen but with no pockets, is wrapped around a body after it has been ceremonially washed and readied for burial.

Certainly the most controversial and famous burial garment is the Shroud of Turin. It is now stored in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Northern Italy after the crusaders stole it and bought it first to France around 1204.

Many believe this 4.3 by 1.1m linen cloth of a rare herringbone weave covered the beaten and crucified body of Jesus of Nazareth when He was laid in a tomb prior to His resurrection. Is it really the cloth that wrapped His bloodstained body, or is it simply a medieval hoax? This has lead to intense scrutiny by forensic experts, scientists, chemists, immunologists, pathologists, believers, historians, and writers regarding the where, when, and how the bloodstain image on the shroud was created. C-14 Carbon dating carried out in 1988, dated the cloth between 1260 and 1390.

In Jewish religious traditions the Tachrichim (burial shrouds) are traditional simple white burial garments, containing no pockets, usually made from 100% pure linen.A shroud or sometimes a prayer shawl for a man, in which Jews are dressed by the Chevra Kadisha for burial after undergoing a taharah (purification ceremony). Burying the departed in a garment is considered a testimony of faith in the resurrection of the body (commentary of Shach). This is a fundamental principle of faith, one of the thirteen principles, which the Rambam enumerates as being essential to Jewish belief. More to the point today we have an insurrection, while not yet violent against the wearing of another kind of covering… the niqab or the burqa. European governments are escalating the introduction of laws on the basis that the face covering, along with ski masks and bikies helmets, encourages female subjugation, lack of communication, non-safety, isolation, female abuse, oppression of freedom and non-conformity to the western culture. In fact the Koran only dictates to modesty in dress. May I say it that Billabong could improve sales with the launch of a ‘Tri-Kini’ on the beaches next summer.

Meanwhile… “The 2012 ban in France is officially the second country in Europe, after Belgium, to introduce a full ban on a garment which immigration minister Eric Besson has called a “walking coffin.””1 Indeed Australian Liberal Cory Bernadi said, “The burqa is no longer simply the symbol of female repression and Islamic culture, it is now emerging as a disguise of bandits and n’er do wells.”2 More so now the government and police authorities in the Netherlands, a usually very tolerant nation, have become anxious regarding security worries that a terrorist could use one for concealment. Well my shrouded cars could be the same, as most do conceal “old bombs.”

The inspiration for my rag tag assortment evolved from the artistes Christo and Jeanne-Claude who have wrapped, covered whole buildings, bridges and landscapes. Other favourites of mine, Man Ray and Rene Magritte have objects and humans covered as well, specifically Magrittes’ Las Amants 1 & II (The Lovers)3 1928. A plastic explanation is that “love is blind” and that the mantles are symbolic to the idea that a devoted lover would identify his soul mate in any form, immortal love. Another interpretation of Magrittes’ shrouds is that the paintings symbolize his mothers’ death. Magritte, when only 14, discovered her lifeless body which was naked apart from her nightdress that had swathed up around her face.

I started recording these morphological images over 20 years ago. The first was draped with a plastic sheet in a paddock in the back blocks of Surfers Paradise while meandering aimlessly, seeking decay in the landscape.

With my wandering and collecting shots I realized I have inherited the trait from my father. In his latter years my father became a rag and bone man in order to supplement the low family income. A bicycle route from his employment at Laminex factory to home lay through the local hard rubbish dump. Copper wire, lead, iron, even an aerial practice bomb, military helmets, a stockless revolver and rifle, rusted tools… festooned from his bike and festooned from his gladstone bag. Two rusting sheds contained somewhat the ever-growing metal waste for selling or keeping… an Aladdins’ cave to a young boy, everyday re-discovering lifes’ discards care of the Dendy Street tip.

Within my category of covered cars I began to view these still loved but lifeless vehicles, as if a resurrection was about to take place… for the heavenly roads of restoration or hell… (a scrap yard)”

Mike Reed, 2013

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1 The Telegraph, April 11 , 2011, Peter Allen In Paris
2 Cory Bernadi, SMH, May 6, 2011
3 “Las Amants” 1 is in the NGA collection, Canberra, NGA

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Mike Reid. 'Brunswick East, Victoria' Nd

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Mike Reid
Brunswick East, Victoria
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Mike Reid. 'Fairfield, Victoria' Nd

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Mike Reid
Fairfield, Victoria
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Man Ray. 'L'Enigme d'Isidore Ducasse' 1920, remade 1972

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Man Ray
L’Enigme d’Isidore Ducasse
1920, remade 1972
Sewing machine, wool and string
355 x 605 x 335 mm

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Mike Reid. 'Athens, Greece' Nd

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Mike Reid
Athens, Greece
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Colour Factory Gallery
409 – 429 Gore Street
Fitzroy, Victoria 3056
T: +61 3 9419 8756

Mike Reed Photography website

Colour Factory Gallery website

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04
Dec
12

Public talk: ‘What makes a great photograph?’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy

Wednesday 5 December 6.00 pm – 7.30 pm

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Entry by gold coin donation
Bookings not required

Join CCP to reflect on the inscrutable and relevant question: What makes a great photograph? 

As part of the 2012 Kodak Salon, CCP presents an evening of confident and wildly divergent points of view on this topic.
A photography editor, a couple of curators, designers, a creative director, writers and artists will reveal their passionate choices on the night!

Speakers include: Serena Bentley, Marcus Bunyan, Helen Frajman, Natalie King, Bronek Kozka, Tin and Ed, Tom Mosby, and John Waricker. Chaired by Naomi Cass, CCP Director.

Details can be found on the CCP website.

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CCP Public Program

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Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
T: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening Hours:
Wednesday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm
Sunday, 1pm – 5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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20
Oct
12

Review: ‘Gregory Crewdson: In A Lonely Place’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 28th September – 11th November 2012

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Installation photographs of the series Beneath the Roses (2003-2008) from the exhibition Gregory Crewdson: In A Lonely Place at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne (Photos: Dr Marcus Bunyan)

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© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

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Details of one of Gregory Crewdson’s works from the series Beneath the Roses (2003-2008) (Photos: Dr Marcus Bunyan)

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“The American middle-class nightmare: nothing is clean, orderly, idyllic, or romantic. In his perfectly staged, hyperrealistic tableaux, photographer Gregory Crewdson reveals the claustrophobic limbo and abyss of spiritual repression that is the typical suburb. Here, hushed-up violence, alienation, isolation, and emptiness are nothing new or unfamiliar, but rather part of the everyday neighbourhood experience.”

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Gregory Crewdson, In a Lonely Place, Abrams Publishing, New York, 2011

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“I have always been fascinated by the poetic condition of twilight. By its transformative quality. Its power of turning the ordinary into something magical and otherworldly. My wish is for the narrative in the pictures to work within that circumstance. It is that sense of in-between-ness that interests me.”

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Gregory Crewdson

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Downfall of a dream: (n)framing the enigma in Gregory Crewdson’s
Beneath the Roses

After the excoriating, unreasonably subjective diatribe by Robert Nelson in The Age newspaper (“Unreal stills, unmoving images” Wednesday October 17 2012) I hope this piece of writing will offer greater insight into the work of this internationally renowned artist. With some reservations, I like Crewsdon’s work, I like it a lot – as do the crowds of people flocking to the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy to see the exhibition. Never have I seen so many people at the CCP looking at contemporary photography before and that can only be a good thing.

Let’s get the basics out of the way first. The early series Fireflies are small silver gelatin photographs that capture “the tiny insects’ transient moments of light as they illuminate the summer night.” These are minor works that fail to transcend the ephemeral nature of photography, fail to light the imagination of the viewer when looking at these scenes of dusky desire and discontinuous lives. The series of beautiful photographs titled Sanctuary (2010) evidence the “ruin of the legendary Cinecittà studios, which was founded by Mussolini in the 1930s and is associated with the great Italian film director Federico Fellini.” Wonderful photographs of doorways, temples, dilapidated stage sets with excellent use of soft miasmic light creating an atmosphere of de/generation (as though a half-remembered version of Rome had passed down through the generations) interfaced with contemporary Rome as backdrop. The digital prints show no strong specular highlights, no deep blacks but a series of transmutable grey and mid tones that add to the overall feeling of romantic ruin. It is a pity that these photographs are not printed as silver gelatin photographs, for they would have had much more depth of feeling than they presently possess. They just feel a little “thin” to me to sustain the weight of atmosphere required of them.

But it is the series Beneath the Roses (2003-2008) that has made Crewdson truly famous. Shot using a large format camera, Crewdson makes large-scale photographs of elaborate and meticulously staged tableaux, which have been described as “micro-epics” that probe the dark corners of the psyche. Working in the manner of a film director, he leads a production crew, which includes a director of photography, special effects and lighting teams, casting director and actors. He typically makes several exposures that he later digitally combines to produce the final image. Photographs in the series of “brief encounters” include external dioramas (shot in a down at heel Western Massachusetts town), where Crewdson shuts down streets and lights the whole scene; to interior dialogues where houses are built on sound stages and the artist can control every detail of the production. Influences on these works include, but are not limited to:

David Lynch (Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks), Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo), Steven Spielberg (Close Encounters), the paintings of Edward Hopper, Diane Arbus (the detritus of her photographic interiors), film noir, psychoanalysis, American suburbia, the American dream, the photographs of Walker Evans, Cindy Sherman and surrealism. Concepts that you could link to the work include loneliness, alienation, apathy, resignation, mystery, contemplation and confusion, identity, desire, memory and imagination.

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Now to the nuts and bolts of the matter.

Another major influence that I will add is that of the great Italian director Federico Fellini (La Dolce Vita – The Sweet Life) who shot most of that film on the sets at Cinecittà studios in Rome. It is perhaps no coincidence that Crewdson, on his first overseas film shoot, shot the series Sanctuary at the very same location. Crewdson’s photographs in the series Beneath the Roses are an American form of  “The Sweet Life.” In 1961, the New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther praised Fellini’s “brilliantly graphic estimation of a whole swath of society in sad decay and, eventually, a withering commentary on the tragedy of the over-civilized… Fellini is nothing if not fertile, fierce and urbane in calculating the social scene around him and packing it onto the screen. He has an uncanny eye for finding the offbeat and grotesque incident, the gross and bizarre occurrence that exposes a glaring irony. He has, too, a splendid sense of balance and a deliciously sardonic wit that not only guided his cameras but also affected the writing of the script. In sum, it is an awesome picture, licentious in content but moral and vastly sophisticated in its attitude and what it says.”1 The same could equally be said of the Crewdson and his masterpieces in Beneath the Roses. Crewdson is in love with Fellini’s gesture – of the uplifting of the characters and their simultaneous descent into “sweet” hedonism, debauchery and decadence using the metaphor of downfall (downfall links each scene in La Dolce Vita, that of a “downward spiral that Marcello sets in motion when descending the first of several staircases (including ladders) that open and close each major episode.”)2 Crewdson’s “spectacular apocalypses of social enervation”3 mimic Fellini’s gestural flourishes becoming Crewdson’s theme of America’s downfall, America as a moral wasteland. Crewdson’s is “an aesthetic of disparity” that builds up a cumulative impression on the viewer that finds resolution in an “overpowering sense of the disparity between what life has been or could be, and what it actually is.”4

Crewdson’s cinematic encounters are vast and pin sharp when seen in the flesh. No reproduction on the web can do their physical presence justice; it is the details that delight in these productions. You have to get up close and personal with the work. His dystopic landscapes are not narratives as such, not stills taken from a movie (for that implies an ongoing story) but open-ended constructions that allow the viewer to imagine the story for themselves. They do not so much evoke a narrative as invite the viewer to create one for themselves – they are an “invitation” to a narrative, one that explores the anxiety of the (American) imagination, an invitation to empathise with the dramas at play within contemporary environments. For me, Crewdson’s extra ordinary photographs are a form of enigma (a puzzling or inexplicable occurrence or situation), the picture as master puzzle (where all the pieces fit perfectly together in stillness) that contains a riddle or hidden meaning. Clues to this reading can be found in one of the photographs from the series (Blue Period, see detail image, above) where Crewdson deliberately leaves the door of a bedside cupboard open to reveal a “Perfect PICTURE PUZZLE” box inside. The viewer has to really look into the image and understand the significance of this artefact.

Another reading that I have formulated is of the transience of space and time within Crewdson’s series. In the disquieting, anonymous townscapes people look out from their porches (or the verandas are lit and empty), they abandon their cars or walk down desolate streets hardly ever looking directly out at the viewer. The photographs become sites of mystery and wonder hardly anchored (still precisely anchored?) in time and space. This disparity is emphasised in the interior dialogues. The viewer (exterior) looks at a framed doorway or window (exterior) looking into an scene (interior) where the walls are usually covered with floral wallpaper (interior / exterior) upon which hangs a framed image of a Monet-like landscape (exterior) (see detail image, above). Exterior, exterior, interior, interior / exterior, exterior. The trees of the landscape invade the home but are framed; exterior/framed, interior/mind. There is something mysterious going on here, some reflection of an inner state of mind.

In his visual mosaics Crewdson engages our relationship with time and space to challenge the trace of experience. His tableaux act as a kind of threshold or hinge of experience – between interior and exterior, viewer and photograph. His photographs are a form of monism in which two forces (interior / exterior) try to absorb each other but ultimately lead to a state of equilibrium. It is through this “play” that the context of the photographs and their relationship to each other and the viewer are “framed.” This device emphasises the aesthetic as much as information and encourages the viewer to think about the relationship between the body, the world of which it is part and the dream-reason of time.5 This intertextual (n)framing (n meaning unspecified number in mathematics) encourages the viewer to explore the inbetween spaces in the non-narrative / meta-narrative,”and by leaps (intuitive leaps, poetic leaps, leaps of faith)”6 encourage escapism in the imagination of the viewer. It is up to us as viewers to seek the multiple, disparate significances of what is concealed in each photograph as “felt knowledge” (Walter Benjamin), recalling to mind the sensory data placed before our eyes, something that can be experienced but cannot be explained by man: “the single moment of the present amidst the transience of life and searching for some kind of eternal truth.”7

Finally, in a more adverse reading of the photographs from the series Beneath the Roses, I must acknowledge the physically (not mentally) static nature of the images where every detail of the mise-en-scène is fully articulated and locked down: from the perfect trickle of blood running from the woman’s vagina in Blue Period, to the reflections in mirrors, the detritus of living scattered on the bedroom floor, the dirty telephone, packed suitcases and keys in locks to the desolate looks of the participants that never engage with the viewer. Despite allusions of despair, in their efficacy (their static and certain world order), there is no real chthonic madness here, no real messiness of the capture of death, murder and the wastage of human life (famine, AIDS, cancer or the blood running over the pavement in one of Weegee’s murder scenes for example). This is Fellini’s gross and bizarre LITE. Americurbana “is being addressed with the same reserve and elegance that ensures that the institution – artistic, political, what you will – is upheld and never threatened. It is pre-eminently legible, it elicits guilt but not so much as to cause offence.”8 I must also acknowledge the male-orientated viewpoint of the photographs, where men are seated, clothed, lazy or absent and all too often women are doing the washing or cooking, are naked and vulnerable. In their portrayal of (usually) half dressed or naked females the photographs evidence a particularly male view of the world, one that his little empathy or understanding of how a female actually lives in the world. For me this portrait of the feminine simply does not work. The male photographer maintains control (and power) by remaining resolutely (in)visible.

Overall this is a outstanding exhibition that thoroughly deserves that accolades it is receiving. Sitting in the gallery space for an hour and a half and soaking up the atmosphere of these magnificent works has been for me one of the art experiences of 2012. Make sure that you do not miss these mesmerising prophecies.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the artist, Gagosian Gallery and the Centre for Contemporary Photography for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Special thankx to Director of the CCP Naomi Cass and Ms. James McKee from Gagosian Gallery for facilitating the availability of the media images. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

All photographs © Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

Installation and detail photographs Dr Marcus Bunyan

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© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

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© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

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© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

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© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

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“In a Lonely Place presents selections from three major series by Gregory Crewdson, Fireflies (1996), Beneath the Roses (2003-2008), Sanctuary (2010) and, presented for the first time, the video Field Notes (2009). The exhibition title comes from Nicholas Ray’s 1950s film noir of the same name, one of many films that inspired Crewdson. In a Lonely Place is evocative of an underlying mood-a quiet feeling of alienation and loneliness that links the three series selected by curators Estelle Af Malmborg, Jens Erdman Rasmussen and Felix Hoffmann. In a Lonely Place presents the first comprehensive exhibition of Crewdson’s work in Australia.

In Beneath the Roses, anonymous townscapes, forest clearings and broad, desolate streets are revealed as sites of mystery and wonder; similarly, ostensibly banal interiors become the staging grounds for strange human scenarios. Crewdson’s scenes are tangibly atmospheric: visually alluring and often deeply disquieting. Never anchored precisely in time or place, these and the other narratives of Beneath the Roses are located in the dystopic landscape of the anxious American imagination. Crewdson explores the American psyche and the dramas at play within quotidian environments.

In his most recent series, Sanctuary (2010), Crewdson has taken a new direction, shooting for the first time outside the US. During a trip to Rome, he visited the legendary Cinecittà studios, which was founded by Mussolini in the 1930s and is associated with the great Italian film director Federico Fellini. Crewdson discovered fragments of a past glory, with occasional unexpected views of the surrounding contemporary Roman suburbia. Cinecittà is a lonely place deserted by the film crews who once used the site to recreate settings of ancient Rome, medieval Italy and nineteenth-century New York.

In the intimate photographs of Fireflies, Crewdson portrays the mating ritual of fireflies at dusk, capturing the tiny insects’ transient moments of light as they illuminate the summer night. Unlike the theatrical scale of the Beneath the Roses and Sanctuary series, Fireflies is a quiet meditation on the nature of light and desire, as the images reflect not only upon the fleeting movements of the insects in their intricate mating ritual, but upon the notion of photography itself, in capturing a single ephemeral moment.

Gregory Crewdson received a BA from the State University of New York, Purchase, New York in 1985 and an MFA in Photography from Yale School of Art, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut in 1988. He has exhibited widely in the United States and Europe. He is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Photography at the Yale School of Art, Yale University. Gregory Crewdson is represented by Gagosian Gallery and White Cube Gallery.”

Press release from the Gagosian Gallery website

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Installation photographs the series Sanctuary (2010) from the exhibition Gregory Crewdson: In A Lonely Place at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne (Photos: Dr Marcus Bunyan)

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© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

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© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

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© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

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© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

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© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

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1. Crowther’s review first published in The New York Times, April 20, 1961. In Fava and Vigano, 105 quoted in Anon. “La Dolce Vita,” on Wikipedia Footnote 30 [Online] Cited 20/10/2012. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Dolce_Vita

2. Anon. “La Dolce Vita,” on Wikipedia Footnote 30 [Online] Cited 20/10/2012. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Dolce_Vita

3. Sultanik, Aaron. Film, a Modern Art. Cranbury, N.J: Cornwall Books, 1986, p.408

4. Richardson, Robert. “Waste Lands: The Breakdown of Order,” in Bondanella (ed.), Federico Fellini: Essays in Criticism, p.111 quoted in Anon. “La Dolce Vita,” on Wikipedia Footnote 30 [Online] Cited 20/10/2012.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Dolce_Vita

5. Bacon, Julie Louise. “Liquid Archive: On Ambivalence,” in Liquid Archive. Melbourne: Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), 2012, p.119

6. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara. “The Museum – A Refuge for Utopian Thought,” in Rüsen, Jörn; Fehr Michael, and Ramsbrock, Annelie (eds.). Die Unruhe der Kultur: Potentiale des Utopischen. Velbrück Wissenschaft, 2004. In German.

7. Kataoka, Mami commenting on the work of Allan Kaprow. “Transient Encounters,” in Broadsheet: Criticism, Theory, Art Vol 41.3, September 2012, p.174

8. Geczy, Adam. “A dish served lukewarm,” in Broadsheet: Criticism, Theory, Art Vol 41.3, September 2012, p.177

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Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
T: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening Hours:
Wednesday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm
Sunday, 1pm – 5pm

Gagosian Gallery website

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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20
May
12

Review: ‘Littoral’ by Kristian Laemmle-Ruff at Colour Factory Gallery, Fitzroy

Exhibition dates: 4th May – 26th May 2012

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Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Truck in Safi
2010
Type C print
100cm x 67cm

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Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
New Homes
2011
Type C print
100cm x 67cm

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Jeff Wall, the renowned Canadian photographer, observed recently that, “Photography is such a wide, complex art form medium that there’s no real single way of practising it. Up until 30 to 40 years ago, it was pretty much presumed that the way you practised photography seriously was in the documentary mode. It was very unilateral, other things weren’t really plausible. I never objected to documentary photography, but it’s not the whole story…”1

How true. In this post-photography world there are many spaces in the city for showing all kinds of photographic work, notably at the Centre for Contemporary Photography in Fitzroy. While the viewer does learn about different modes of photographic representation through experiential learning (making meaning from the direct experience of looking at such work), personally some contemporary photography often leaves me feeling rather underwhelmed. Rarely do I leave the CCP thinking, wow, that was a great “photography” exhibition, I have seen something amazing about the world that I had not recognised before. Interesting: possibly; inspiring/engaging/memorable: occasionally, which is perhaps why reviews of exhibitions at the CCP occur rather rarely on this blog. This is not to belittle the work that the CCP does as an establishment, far from it, but just to note that not much contemporary photography lasts long in the mind.

It was such a joy then to walk around the corner from the CCP to the Colour Factory Gallery and view the exhibition Littoral by emerging artist Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. This is one of the best, if not the best, “photography” exhibition I have seen so far this year. As soon as you walk into the simple, elegant gallery you are surrounded by fourteen large scale horizontal photographs that are suffused with colour variations bouncing across the gallery – here a blue, there a green, now a lush orange palette. The effect is much like Monet’s waterlilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris; seated in the middle of the four curved paintings you are surrounded by large daubs of paint of various hues that have an elemental effect – resonances of earth, air, water, fire – on the viewer. The same affection of colour and space can be found in Laemmle-Ruff’s photographs.

The artist’s literal rendition (the definition of littoral is that it relates to the coastal zone between the limits of high and low tides) of the interstitial spaces at the edge of urbana, the fluid spaces of a no man’s land, are beautifully visualised in the work. These entropic spaces are mainly devoid of physical human presence but filled with the detritus of humanity: concrete boxes and tangled beams of steel, satellite dishes and red-eyed chimney stacks. In Casablanca Terrace II (2010, below) satellite dishes shimmer in orange while in the distance alien lights seem to hover over the city; in Manneheim (2010, below) the whole photograph is a cold, chilly blue the only visible signs of human existence a couple of lights peeping from the flat windows (at left) while the belching smoke from numerous alien, red-eyed War of the Worlds chimney stacks blends seamlessly into the overcast sky (please enlarge the photograph to see these). When first looking at New Homes (2011, above) I thought the green lines at bottom left were trenches until I realised they were hedges. Then I noticed the empty oval in the upper right quadrant – a demolished sporting facility… a racetrack… a spaceship landing pad? In these familiar but alien landscapes (ice covered swimming pools, graveyards sitting under mountains) Laemmle-Ruff plays with colour, space and depth of field. In some photographs, such as Road to Essaouira (2010, below bottom) the depth of field is very shallow, the focus point in the photograph being the road and gravel, silver road sign and buildings falling out of focus beyond. Like the shifting of colour, this expansion and contraction of DOF from one photograph to the next adds to the body of works ethereality.

The best print in the exhibition is Truck in Safi (2010, above) which is an absolute knockout. The composition is beautifully visualised and the print is incredibly luminous and well balanced. The large white ‘M’ on the back of the earth-filled truck solidifies our gaze in the mid-foreground while, metaphorically, the letter stamps the earth as the possession of man. The road curves into the distance and upon it, as minute specks, are a bicycle and two motorbikes. The sweep of an industrial plant fills the horizon line in a sensuous entanglement of vessels and pipes. This truly is a beautiful photograph and therein lies the contradiction present in Laemmle-Ruff’s body of work. While seeking to capture the paradoxes of urbanisation and consumerism, a vernacular world, familiar and normal (both the beauty and frailty of our times as Laemmle-Ruff puts it), the beauty of the photographs becomes the heart of the work, its strength in the presence of the viewer and perhaps its slight weakness as well. The artist’s visual acoustics, his mythologising of the city if you like – the (dis)ease of the city as sublime photograph picturing the picturesque – has, to my mind, elements of Pictorialism in the artist’s scopophiliac looking. Nothing wrong with that, but we must acknowledge that there is a contradiction here, not between the beauty and frailty of our times, but between the frailty of the earth and the constructed beauty of the photograph seen through a desirous looking that might be at odds with Laemmle-Ruff’s intended project.

Be that as it may, it is a great pleasure to see a young, emerging artist produce such memorable photographic works. Walking into the gallery the viewer can littorally feel the pleasure that the artist has in capturing these complex, fluid spaces. The artist is at the beginning of a path of exploration where each new body of work will develop thematically out of concerns that have been evidenced here. Where this journey will take him is unknown but with courage, fortitude, knowledge, passion, a good eye and a camera he will go far. Good stuff!

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Many thankx to the artist and the Colour Factory Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Casablanca Terrace II
2010
Type C print
100cm x 67cm

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Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Manneheim
2010
Type C print
100cm x 67cm

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“Littoral examines the shifting overlap between landscape and urbanscape. As a reaction to a traditional approach where the two are consciously separated, Laemmle-Ruff focuses on the often grotesque and ever-expanding littoral zone between civilisation and nature.

“I found these undefined zones did not discriminate on place or culture. From Morocco to the post WWII suburbs of Germany, somber skies were met with stubborn and aggressive urbanisation. I was drawn to contradictions. “The World Tastes Better with Pall Mall” claimed the cigarette ad. These empty remarks of consumerism seemed to go unchallenged. My intention was to capture these paradoxes and pull them from the wallpaper of modern sensibility. Our gaze once traveled to picturesque, unspoiled horizons, forests in mist and rolling plains. Instead it stops on concrete or becomes tangled in steel beams.”

Littoral presents us with spaces anticipating themselves. Housing estates on the fringe of development yet to be occupied; North African peasants walking past the mall’s facade where the market once stood; roof top terraces lined with satellite dishes streaming immaculate reception. We are left to wonder who will fill these homes. Who is in control of where urbanisation will go next?

Ultimately, this series may appear to be a presentation of a vernacular world, familiar and normal. This, in turn alludes to a desensitisation to our changing surroundings in an age of globalisation and overpopulation. Our landscape is increasingly becoming a manifestation of ourselves. Littoral urges one to question where the present seems to be leading us.

Practicing in both documentary and conceptual photography, from warm narratives to surreal visions, Kristian Laemmle-Ruff’s photographs subtly bring to light both the beauty and frailty of our times. As we spiral up the exponential curve of ‘progress’ there are dynamic ruptures, vulnerabilities and regenerative possibilities in our human reality – this is his motivation – a truth worth capturing.”

Press release from the Colour Factory Gallery website

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Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Olympic Stadium
2012
Type C print
100cm x 67cm

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Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Road to Essaouira
2010
Type C print
100cm x 67cm

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1. Wall, Jeff quoted in Laurie, Victoria. “Lights, Camera,” in The Weekend Australian Review. May 19-20 2012, p.5.

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Colour Factory Gallery
409 – 429 Gore Street
Fitzroy, Victoria 3056
T: +61 3 9419 8756

Colour Factory Gallery website

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff website

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22
Nov
11

Exhibition: ‘Rückenfigur’ by David-Ashley Kerr at Dear Patti Smith ARI, Fitzroy

Exhibition dates: 17th November – 27th November 2011

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Congratulations to David-Ashley Kerr on his first solo exhibition: the photographs and concept are very interesting.
Many thankx to David for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs to see a larger version of the image.

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David-Ashley Kerr
I hear the River

2009
Lightjet Photographic Print
80 x 140cm

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David-Ashley Kerr
I hear the Sea
2010
Lightjet Photographic Print
80 x 140cm

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David-Ashley Kerr
I hear the Wind
2010
Lightjet Photographic Print
80 x 140cm

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“Although rückenfigur is popularly associated with the German romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich, its appearances in art very much pre-date his time. Early forms of it were attributed to Giotto but it became a more substantial style in the 15th century, creeping into the works of painters such as Jan van Eyck and later with Allaert van Everdingen and Jan Luiken

Often these uses were simply to direct the viewer to behold the landscape in the scene. Friedrich’s approach transfigured this into a different concept, sometimes referred to as “the halted traveller”, where the lonely wanderer has appeared to have been “stopped” by the view of the landscape. This implies to us as a viewer that there is perhaps more to the landscape than we see, but those thoughts may remain unknown to us… privately contained in the mind of the rückenfigur in the scene.

It appears to me that in looking at rückenfigur art, there are two distinct thematic conveyances. The first is the aforementioned “halted traveller” lost in the contemplation of the landscape. In gazing upon the landscape, the rückenfigur is quite separate from the scene being viewed. Although s/he is anonymous and without identity, there is still a distinct identity from that of the landscape.

The second appears, to me at least, to be quite the opposite. Another form of rückenfigur seems to be where the figure(s) are distantly placed deep within the landscape itself. You’ve still got “back figures” in contemplation, but the composition makes them part of the landscape rather than separate. While we still identify with them as a viewer, the identity of the figures are very much subsumed into the grandeur of the landscape, maybe even biblically so.”

Text by Christian Were, Melbourne

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David-Ashley Kerr
I hear Them
2010
Lightjet Photographic Print
80 x 140cm

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David-Ashley Kerr
Territory
2010
Lightjet Photographic Print
80 x 140cm

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David-Ashley Kerr is a Melbourne based visual artist working with large-format photography. This is his first Australian solo show, a selection of landscape studies completed since 2009 that began as a photographic investigation of the Rückenfigur, or back figure. This visual device is commonly associated with German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. It involves depicting a human figure that does not engage the viewer, introspectively contemplating the natural world or landscape before them.

David-Ashley Kerr’s photographic practice is a visual inquiry into the relationship between cultural identity and physical environment, site, or place. He currently investigates the use of a staged lone figure in contemporary landscape photography, attempting a symbolic representation of belonging to ‘place’ in a national context, in relation to both indigenous and non-indigenous Australian ownership and connection to land.

David-Ashley Kerr completed a Bachelor of Contemporary Art at Deakin University (2009) and a Master of Fine Art at RMIT University (2010). He is currently undertaking a PhD at Monash University on an Australian Postgraduate Award Scholarship, his research inquiring into place theory through photography, investigating the visual relationship between Australian cultural identity and physical environment.

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David-Ashley Kerr
Ore
2010
Lightjet Photographic Print
80 x 140cm

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David-Ashley Kerr
Trash
2010
Lightjet Photographic Print
80 x 140cm

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David-Ashley Kerr
Game
2009
Lightjet Photographic Print
80 x 140cm

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Dear Patti Smith
The Paterson Building
L2, 181 Smith St., Fitzroy
(enter from Smith St above TSL)
T: 9417 2293

Dear Patti Smith website

David-Ashley Kerr website

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23
Aug
11

Exhibition: ‘Patricia Piccinini: The Fitzroy Series’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 12th August – 4th September 2011

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A wonderful suite of photographs by Patricia Piccinini. When you see them “in the flesh” so to speak, five out of the six works (except for the last image below, Sitting Room, 2.30pm) are suffused with a beautiful, rich, dark honey-coloured light, even more so than the reproductions. This tonality adds to the romantic notion of the imaginary animals Piccinini creates – genetically modified, mutant child creatures and “Bottom Feeder” (for that is their name), rubbish scouring pets. The ordinariness of the environs that surround the mise-en-scènes supplements this feeling: books and bedrooms, workshops and sitting rooms allaying our fears, increasing our empathy. The humour is also delicious. Note the squirrel light in Bedroom, 10.30pm : inspired!

Of as much interest was Piccinini’s source material shown in the front gallery. I wrote most of the books, magazines and subjects of the photographs down because I was fascinated to see the inspiration for this artist:

  • Motorised chairs
  • Knots
  • Nests
  • American Native Indian hair (Edward S. Curtis)
  • Claws
  • Walruses
  • Skulls
  • Skeletons
  • Pupae
  • Scientific specimens
  • Birds covered in oil
  • Mammals of Australia
  • Darwin
  • Voyages of Discovery by Dr Tony Rice
  • Hiroshima Mon Amour by Marguerite Duras
  • Mag wheels
  • Big rigs (trucks)
  • Vespas
  • Custom cars and trucks
  • Morphed racing helmets
  • Photograph from Hitchcock’s The Birds
  • Braindead movie
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Newsweek: The Meaning of Michael (Jackson) July 13th, 2009
  • Rare breeds (sheep)
  • Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature by Donna Haraway
  • Louise Bourgeois
  • Macro/Hall by Erwin Wurm
  • Le Cere del Museo dell Instituto Fiorentino di Anatonia Patalogia deformatives

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Great work and a wonderful gesture by artist and galleries to support the Centre for Contemporary Photography.
NB. Please note the free artist floortalk at midday on August 27th at the CCP.

Many thankx to Karra Rees for her help and to the CCP 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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To mark Centre for Contemporary Photography’s 25th Anniversary Patricia Piccinini has made a new series of work, never seen before. Entitled The Fitzroy Series, the exhibition of Piccinini’s new body of work, accompanied by video work and a display of her source material, is the major event in the celebrations of CCP’s 25th Anniversary in 2011.

CCP is delighted to be offering this exciting new series for the CCP 25th Anniversary Limited Edition Print fundraiser, each image in the series is generously provided in a limited edition of 4 + 1AP.

Eighty percent of funds raised through Limited Edition Prints enable CCP to support the practice and presentation of contemporary photography through provision of exhibitions, publications, education and public programs, with the artist retaining twenty percent.

What: CCP 25th Anniversary Limited Edition Print
Price: $9,320 each framed by Neo Frames (inc. gst on frame)
The first 12 prints are available at the CCP fundraiser price of $9,320 each framed by Neo Frames (inc. GST on frame)
NB. Credit card purchases attract a 1.5% merchant fee.
Prints are accompanied by a signed, numbered certificate and are provided courtesy of the artist; Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne; Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney; and Haunch of Venison, New York.
Free Artist Floortalk: midday 27 August 2011

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Patricia Piccinini
Library, 8.45pm
2011
type C photograph
100 x 160 cm
Courtesy the artist; Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne; Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney; and Haunch of Venison, New York.

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Patricia Piccinini
Alley, 11.15am
2011
type C photograph
100 x 160 cm
Courtesy the artist; Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne; Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney; and Haunch of Venison, New York.

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Patricia Piccinini
Bedroom, 10.30pm
2011
type C photograph
100 x 160 cm
Courtesy the artist; Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne; Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney; and Haunch of Venison, New York.

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Patricia Piccinini
Street, 3.10am
2011
type C photograph
100 x 160 cm
Courtesy the artist; Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne; Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney; and Haunch of Venison, New York.

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Patricia Piccinini
Workshop, 7.00pm
2011
type C photograph
100 x 160 cm
Courtesy the artist; Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne; Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney; and Haunch of Venison, New York.

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Patricia Piccinini
Sitting Room, 2.30pm
2011
type C photograph
100 x 160 cm
Courtesy the artist; Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne; Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney; and Haunch of Venison, New York.

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Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
T: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening Hours:
Wednesday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm
Sunday, 1pm – 5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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06
Dec
09

Review: ‘Simryn Gill: Inland’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy

Exhibition dates: 9th October – 13th December 2009

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Simryn Gill. 'Forest #5' 1998

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Simryn Gill
‘Forest #5′
1998

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Simryn Gill. 'Forest #13' 1998

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Simryn Gill
‘Forest #13′
1998

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Simryn Gill. 'Untitled' from the Forest series 1996

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Simryn Gill
‘Untitled’ from the Forest series
1996

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Simryn Gill. 'Untitled' from the Forest series 1996

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Simryn Gill
‘Untitled’ from the Forest series
1996

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This is a strange survey exhibition of photographs by Malaysian-born Australian artist Simryn Gill at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne – photographs that form distinctive bodies of work that support the artist’s other conversations in art but do not form the main backbone to her practice. Perhaps this is part of the problem and part of the beauty of the work. While the work investigates the concepts of presence and absence, space, place and identity and the cultural inhabitation of nature there is a feeling that this is the work of an artist not used to putting images together in a sequence or body of work, not connecting the dots between ideas and image. Intrinsically there is nothing wrong with the conceptual ideas behind the photographs or the individual photographs themselves. The photographs don’t strike one as particularly memorable and they fail to mark the mind of the viewer in their multitudinous framings of reality.

In the series ‘Forest’ (1996 – 1998, see photographs above) a selective vision of nature is invaded by cultural texts, torn pages of books mimicking natural forms such as roots, flowers and variegated leaves. The ‘natural’ context is inhabited by the cultural con-text to form a double inhabitation  – “this strange hybrid nature before the paper rots away, suggestive of how nature is culturally inscribed and the futility of this attempt at containment.”1

This is a nice idea but the photographs fail to hold the attention of the viewer mainly because of the inability of the viewer to read the text that has been grafted onto the natural forms. I literally needed more from the work to hang my hat on and this is how I felt about much of this work presented here. This feeling persists with another series ‘Vegetation’ (1999, see photographs below). Mundane landscapes are inhabited by faceless human beings, their absence/presence marking the landscape while at the same time nature marks them. A good idea that needed to be pushed much further.

The main body of work in the exhibition is the series ‘Dalam’ (2001, see photographs below), a 258 strong series of colour photographs presented in the gallery space in gridded formation (Dalam, in Malay, can mean ‘inside’, ‘interior’ or ‘deep’). Featuring a photographic record of the interior of numerous Malaysian homes these clinical yet someone hobby-like photographs record the minutiae of domestica – the intimacy of the interior balanced by a sense of isolation and loneliness through the absence of human presence. Here, “the living room may be seen here as a cultural and social mask for its inhabitants. It’s the space into which others are welcomed on our own terms and onto which we project a portrayal of ourselves.”3 Although the work asks us “to rethink our concepts of spaces and domesticity in relation to various aspects such as socio-cultural identities, history and memory,” as presented in the gallery space the viewer is initially overwhelmed by the number, colour and construction of the interiors.

Personally I found that in the mundanity/individuality of the repetition I soon lost interest in looking intimately at the work. The photographs lack a certain spark, a certain clarity of vision in the actual taking of the images. None of the wonderful angles and intelligence of camera positioning of Eugene Atget here and maybe this is the point – the stifling ‘personality’ and banality of human habitation echoed in the photographs – but I would have rather have looked at a single monumentally intimate, magical image by Candida Hofer than all of these photographs put together!

Unfortunately in this survey exhibition there is only one photograph from what I regard as Simryn Gill’s best body of work, ‘A small town at the turn of the century’ (1999 – 2000, see photograph below). Perhaps this was an oversight as this series would seem to bind the others more holistically together. Photographs of this excellent series can be viewed on the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery website and their presence in this exhibition would have certainly raised the bar in terms of the artist’s vision of nature, place and identity. The square colour format, the interior/exterior of the environments and naturalness of the photographs and their the fruitful bodies really have an eloquent power that most of the work at the Centre for Contemporary Photography seems to lack. Other than the last body of work, ‘Inland’ (2009, see photograph below) that is.

In the smallest most intimate space at the CCP are some of the most intimate images of Australian place that you will ever see. Spread out on a table in small stacks of jewel-like black and white and Cibachrome images the viewer is asked to done white gloves (ah, the delicious irony of white hands on the Australian land!) to view the empty interiors, landscapes and (hands holding) rocks of the interior. These are beautifully seen and resolved images. The rocks are most poignant.
Gill digs beneath the surface of this thing called Australian-ness and exposes not the vast horizons, decorous landscapes or rugged people (as Naomi Cass states below) but small intimacies of space and place, identity and memory. In the ability to shuffle the deck of cards, to reorder the photographs to make their own narrative the viewer becomes as much the author of the story being told as the artist herself – an open-ended intertextual narrative guided by the artist that investigates the very root of what it is to be Australian on a personal level. I enjoyed this reordering, this subjective experience very much.

Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Simryn Gill. 'Vegetation #1' 1999

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Simryn Gill
‘Vegetation #1′
1999

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Simryn Gill. 'Vegetation #5' 1999

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Simryn Gill
‘Vegetation #5′
1999

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Simryn Gill. 'Vegetation #3' 1999

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Simryn Gill
‘Vegetation #3′
1999

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Simryn Gill: Inland is a survey of photography and takes place in a photography gallery. It is important to declare at the outset, that while photography forms a significant and wondrous part of her practice, Simryn Gill does not consider herself a photographer; “For me, the taking of photographs is another tool in my bag of strategies, in that awkward pursuit of coherence we sometimes call art.”2 Simryn Gill: Inland embraces this conundrum as an entry point for considering Gill’s photography, and how photography might function more broadly as a way of engaging with the world.

Seven major series wind almost chronologically through the gallery – in this first survey of Gill’s photography – following a path, quite literally, from outside to inside, from found in nature to found in culture and back. Commencing with three series located outdoors, Forest (1996 – 1998), Rampant (1999) and Vegetation (1999), the survey moves to Gill’s sweeping interior series Dalam (2001). On the cusp of outside and inside is Power station (2004), which makes a curious and visceral analogy between the interior of her childhood home in Port Dickson, Malaysia and the interior of an adjacent power station. Like a medieval Book of Hours, the hand-sized concertina work Distance (2003 – 2009) is an attempt by Gill to convey the interior of her home in Marrickville, Sydney to someone residing outside Australia.

Gill’s most recent work Inland (2009), commissioned for this survey and photographed during a road trip from northern New South Wales to South Australia and across the bight to Western Australia, is at the heart of the exhibition. Gill’s only moving image work, Vessel (2004), commissioned for SBS Television, closes the exhibition’s journey with the almost imperceptible passage of a small fishing vessel across the horizon. To ground the exhibition, or perhaps to oversee our journey, one image is selected from Gill’s highly regarded series, A small town at the turn of the century (1999 – 2000).

Seeking an understanding of the politics of place informs her recent series. Inland confounds what is normally expected from photographs of Australia’s interior and eschews decorous landscapes, vast horizons or smiling rugged people, for modest interiors of homes. Indeed there are no people present, only the houses they have inhabited as evidence of their subjectivity.

Inland consists in piles of small jewel-like Cibachrome and black and white prints sitting on a table for viewers to peruse, heightening the provisional nature of its description, leaving open-ended the question of what can be known through photographic representation.”

Naomi Cass,
Exhibition Curator and Director 
Centre for Contemporary Photography

Press release from the Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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Simryn Gill. 'Dalam #6' 2001

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Simryn Gill
‘Dalam #6′
2001

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Simryn Gill. 'Dalam #31' 2001

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Simryn Gill
‘Dalam #31′
2001

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Simryn Gill. 'Dalam #107' 2001

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Simryn Gill
‘Dalam #107′
2001

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Simryn Gill. 'A small town at the turn of the century #5' 1999–2000

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Simryn Gill
‘A small town at the turn of the century #5′
1999–2000
type C photograph
from a series of 40
91.5 x 91.5 cm
private collection, Sydney

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Simryn Gill. 'Inland' 2009

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Simryn Gill
‘Inland’
2009
cibachrome photographs and silver gelatin
photographs (quantity variable)
13.0 x 13.0 cm (each)

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1. Anon. “Simryn Gill: Selected Work,” on Indepth Arts News website. [Online] Cited 6th December 2009
www.absolutearts.com/artsnews/2002/07/26/30140.html

2. Gill, Simryn. “May 2006,” in Off the Edge, Merdeka 50 years issue no. 33, September 2007, p. 83.

3. Day, Kate. “After Image: Photography at the Fruit Market Gallery,” on Culture 24 website. [Online] Cited 6th December 2009. www.culture24.org.uk.

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Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
Tel: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening Hours: Wednesday–Saturday, 11am–6pm
Sunday, 1pm–5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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19
Sep
09

Review: ‘Climbing the Walls and Other Actions’ by Clare Rae at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 7th August – 27th September 2009

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All images by Clare Rae from the series ‘Climbing the Walls and Other Actions’ 2009. Many thankx to Clare for allowing me to publish them.

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Clare Rae. 'Untitled' from the series 'Climbing the Walls and Other Actions' 2009

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Clare Rae. 'Untitled' from the series 'Climbing the Walls and Other Actions' 2009

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“To withdraw into one’s corner is undoubtedly a meager expression. But despite its meagerness, it has numerous images, some, perhaps, of great antiquity, images that are psychologically primitive. At times, the simpler the image, the vaster the dreams.”

Gaston Bachelard.1

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Usually I am not a great fan of ‘faceless’ photography as I call it but this series of work, ‘Climbing the Walls and Other Actions’ (2009) by the artist Clare Rae is even better than the series by Tracey Moffatt in the previous review.

Exploring activities of the female body in closed domestic spaces these psychologically intense photographs push the physical boundaries of play through the navigation of space. As a child has little awareness about the inherent dangers of a seemingly benign environment so Rae’s self-portraits turn the lens on her conceptualisation of the inner child at play and the activating of the body in and through space. As the artist herself says, “the way children negotiate their surroundings and respond with an unharnessed spatial awareness, which I find really interesting when applied to the adult body.”2

Continuing the themes from the last review, that of spaces of intimacy and reverberation, these photographs offer us fragmentary dialectics that subvert the unity of the archetype, the unity of the body in space. Here the (in)action of the photographic freeze balances the tenuous positions of the body: a re-balancing of both interior and exterior space.

As Noel Arnaud writes, “Je suis l’espace ou je suis” (I am the space where I am).

Further, Bachelard notes “… by changing space, by leaving the space of one’s usual sensibilities, one enters into communication with a space that is psychically innovating.”3

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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.
Space seems to open up and grow with these actions to become poetic space – and the simplicity of the images aids and abets the vastness of our dreams. This change of concrete space does not change our place, but our nature. Here the mapping of self in space, our existence, our exist-stance (to have being in a specified place whether material or spiritual), is challenged in the most beautiful way by these walls and actions, by these creatures, ambiguities, photographs.

Henri Lefebvre insightfully observes, “… each living body is space and has space: it produces itself in space and it also produces that space.”4

I am the (sublime) space where I am, that surrounds me with countless presences.

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Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Clare Rae. 'Untitled' from the series 'Climbing the Walls and Other Actions' 2009

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Clare Rae. 'Untitled' from the series 'Climbing the Walls and Other Actions' 2009

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“‘Climbing the Walls and Other Actions’ is primarily concerned with visually representing my experience of femininity, whilst also exploring aspects of representation that relate to feminism. The project considers the relationship between the body and space by including formal elements within each frame such as windows and corners. Through a sequence of precarious poses I explore my relationship with femininity, an approach born of frustration. I use the body to promote ideas of discomfort and awkwardness, resisting the passivity inherent in traditional representations of femininity. The images attempt to de-stabilise the figure, drawing tension from the potential dangers the body faces in these positions. Whilst the actions taking place are not in themselves particularly dangerous, the work demonstrates a gentle testing of physical boundaries and limitations via a child-like exploration of the physical environment.”

Text from the Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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clare_rae1

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Clare Rae. 'Untitled' from the series 'Climbing the Walls and Other Actions' 2009

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1. Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969, p.137.

2. Email from the artist 7th September, 2009

3. Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969, p.206.

4. Lefebvre, Herni. The Production of Space. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1974, p.170.

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Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
Tel: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening Hours: Wednesday–Saturday, 11am–6pm
Sunday, 1pm–5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

Bookmark and Share

17
Sep
09

Review: ‘First Jobs’ by Tracey Moffatt at Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 7th August – 27th September 2009

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Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Fruit Market' 1975

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Tracey Moffat
‘First Jobs, Fruit Market’
1975

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Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Housekeeper' 1975

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Tracey Moffat
‘First Jobs, Housekeeper’
1975

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Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Store Clerk' 1975

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Tracey Moffat
‘First Jobs, Store Clerk’
1975

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There are some wonderful bodies of photographic work on show around Melbourne at the moment and this is one of them.

Featuring twelve archival pigment on rice paper with gel medium prints, Tracey Moffatt’s series ‘First Jobs’ (2008) is a knockout. Images of the artist are inserted into found photographs which are then ‘hand coloured’ (like old postcards) in Photoshop. Moffatt’s series conceptualises the early jobs that she had to do to survive – investigating the banality of the jobs, the value of friendships that were formed coupled with an implicit understanding of the dictum ‘work is life’.

Moffatt’s images hark back to the White Australia policy of the 1950s and the home and living books of that period. With their hyper-real colours, strange coloured skies, green washing machines and purple tarmac Moffatt amps up the voltage of these images and subverts their idealisation. Here is the re-presentation of the physical and spatial isolation of the figure (store clerk/housekeeper) or the sublimation of the usually female figure into the amorphous mass of the whole (meat packing/pineapple cannery) in quintessentially Australian environments. Here also is comment on the nature of a patriarchal society – the smiling receptionist sitting under the portrait of her male boss, awaiting his command.

The spaces of these photographs seem to (literally) consume the artist and her remembrance of these jobs. Despite her smiling face in each of the images we implicitly understand the banality of the jobs for we have done them oursleves. We know these spaces intimately: the spaces inhabit us as much as we inhabit them. As the viewer we experience the being of these images, their reveberation, where the two kinds of space – the space of intimacy and the world space – blend.1

The only sour note of the series comes not in the work itself but in the accompanying artist statement (see below). In this churlish expose of the ‘woe is me, I’m a full time artist and isn’t it so difficult to be a full time artist’ variety, Moffatt complains about the miserable voices in her head and about having to get up off the couch because she is the only person able to make the work and the money. Oh to be so lucky to actually make a living as a full time artist and have the time and space to be creative 7 days a week! Would I have her situation anytime soon? Ha, um, yes.”

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Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Corner Store' 1977

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Tracey Moffat
‘First Jobs, Corner Store’
1977

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tracey Moffat. First Jobs, Receptionist 1977

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Tracey Moffat
‘First Jobs, Receptionist’
1977

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Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Meat Packing' 1978

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Tracey Moffat
‘First Jobs, Meat Packing’
1978

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“Over the years my friends and I joke about our dreadful past jobs. Jobs we worked as teenagers and young students. Awful jobs that we would rather forget about such as cleaning out the local cinema after a screening of The Exorcist in 1974.

When I was a kid I always had jobs and I always made my own money whether it was receiving a dollar for pulling up the weeds in the yard or baby sitting for neighbours or working at the local green grocers. The thing about making a bit of your own cash was that you could buy your own clothes and not have to wear the clothes that your mother picked out.

In 1978 at seventeen I worked in factories peeling pineapples. I also packed meat and shelled prawns. Such back breaking labour was exhausting but the money was good.  After one year I saved enough money to travel to Europe and backpacked around for nine months. Then in 1980 I went to art school in Brisbane but continued part-time work as a waitress to pay for art materials.

After art school I was desperate for money to pay the rent and I worked many jobs. Some were: scrubbing floors in a women’s refuge, washing dishes in a canteen and parking cars in a car park beneath a restaurant called Dirty Dicks (I had no driver’s licence, but the patrons were always drunk and didn’t care.)

I am resentful and appalled at the work I had to do to survive. I hold a grudge towards rich kids who never had to slave like I did. Secretly though I’m proud of myself. When I think of those early years I realize that I was learning to be tough and work whether I liked it or not. I put my head down and was forced to be productive. I was learning how to get on with other people and learning to handle a boss. These days I do nothing but make art and have exhibitions. Being an artist feels like being on a permanent but jittery holiday in comparison to those early working days. Now I sleep in until 9.30am and press the ‘ignore’ button on my phone if I don’t feel like talking to anyone. But, as Bette Davis put it, it is ‘The Lonely Life’. You have come up with the ideas and make them happen. No-one else is going to do it for you.

But I remember the good things about the factory floor. Walking into work everyday and saying hi to people you knew, there was a camaraderie. The work was mindless but it didn’t mean that your mind couldn’t go places. Then there was knock-off time. The bell would ring and you would be out the door with a wad of cash in your hand and not a care in the world.

In being a full-time artist there never is any knock-off time. There’s always a nagging, miserable voice of ideas in your head and you MUST get up off the sofa and produce work. The bell never rings and you never know where your next buck is coming from. Your mind is constantly wound up. You’re never really physically tired not like when you had a real honest job. But would I go back to working in a factory just to get good a night’s sleep? Ha, um, no.”

Tracey Moffatt, 
New York 2008

Press release from Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery

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Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Pineapple Cannery' 1978

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Tracey Moffat
‘First Jobs, Pineapple Cannery’
1978

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Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Parking Cars' 1981

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Tracey Moffat
‘First Jobs, Parking Cars’
1981

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Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Canteen' 1984

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Tracey Moffat
‘First Jobs, Canteen’
1984

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1. Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969, p.203.

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Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
Tel: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening Hours: Wednesday–Saturday, 11am–6pm
Sunday, 1pm–5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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