23
Sep
09

Review: ‘Ivy’ photographs by Jane Burton at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Richmond, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 2nd September – 26th September 2009

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Jane Burton. 'Ivy #1' 2009

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Jane Burton
‘Ivy #1’
2009

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Installation view of 'Ivy' by Jane Burton at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

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Installation view of 'Ivy' by Jane Burton at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

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Installation views of ‘Ivy’ by Jane Burton at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

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This is another outstanding body of photographic work on display in Melbourne. Featuring 10 large and 2 small sepia toned, vignetted pigment prints Burton’s work creates dark enchanted worlds of faceless female figures placed in the built environment that balance (meta)physical light and shade creating ambiguous narratives of innocence tinged with a darker edge.

The eponymous photograph ‘Ivy #1’ (above) is the seminal image of the series: a dark brooding house, hunched down positioned low in the photographic space, covered in ivy with black windows and dark eves has an ominous almost impenetrable presence and sets the tone for the rest of the work.

There are wonderful references to the history of photography if one cares to look (not simply generic references to Victorian daguerreotypes, postcards and family photographs). ‘Ivy #2’ (below) is a powerful photograph where the female figure is blindfolded, unable to see the encroaching tumescence of vegetation that surrounds and is about to engulf her. The placement of the hands is exquisite – unsure, reaching out, doubting her surroundings – with the 3-bladed fan hovering behind ready to devour the unwary. This photograph has resonances of the magical photographs of the garden by the Czech photographer Josef Sudek.

‘Ivy #3’ (below) has echoes of the work of the American photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard and his placement of masked people within built environments. In Burton’s photograph the broken umbrella becomes like insect wings, the faceless whiteness of the three-legged and three-armed creature cocooned among the overhanging predatory ivy, the luminescent sky offering the possibility of redemption. Other photographs such as ‘Ivy #6’ (below) and ‘Ivy #7’ with their wonderful colours, depth of field, heavy shadows and elegiac romantic feel have references to Eugene Atget and his photographs of the parks of Versailles (see photograph below).

Still further references to the history of photography can be found in the photographs ‘Ivy #9’ and ‘Ivy #10’ (below). In ‘Ivy #9’ the intersection of the two female bodies through double exposure forms a slippage in (photographic) reality and the disappearance of original identity in the layering of the photographs and into the empty non-reflection of the mirror. This non-reflection is confirmed in ‘Ivy #10’ where the faceless nude woman holds a mirror with no reflection. These photographs remind me of the photographs of New Orleans prostitutes in the early years of the 20th century by the photographer Bellocq with their masked faces and the ornamentation of the wallpaper behind the figures (see below).

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.1 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.

Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Jane Burton. 'Ivy #2' 2009

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Jane Burton
‘Ivy #2’
2009

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Jane Burton. 'Ivy #3' 2009

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Jane Burton
‘Ivy #3’
2009

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“Jane Burton’s exhibition, Ivy comprises a series of photographs captured in black and white. The final prints are rendered with a sepia, peach-champagne tone, with many displaying a mottled hand-coloured effect in faded pastels of pink and green. These works hope to suggest an era past, perhaps Victorian. The imagery is evocative of old picture postcards from Europe and old photographs from the pages of family albums.

Central to the series is an image of a house covered with ivy. Depicted as dark and malevolent, the house is ‘haunted’ by the traces and stains of family history, habitation, and the buried secrets of all that occurred within.

Anonymous female figures are seen in garden settings where the foliage is rampant and encroaching and the shadows deep. There is an air of enchantment perceived with unspecified darker edge. The figures are innocent and playful. The viewer is asked to question if the and girls aware of the camera capturing their activity? Are the poses staged or caught spontaneously. In another photograph, a dilapidated male statue stands broken and armless, the texture of stone worn, and bruised with dark lichen and moss.

In the interior photographs, several nudes are depicted in the style of 19th century French daguerreotype photographs. These vignetted images display women against wall-papered backdrops with theatrical props reminiscent of earlier works by Burton such as the series ‘The other side’ (2003). Posed suggestively for the camera and the viewer’s gaze, the subjects themselves are faceless, their own gaze and features hidden behind dark hair. The surface and texture of these particular works suggests the patina of decay and the damage and wear of time.”

Text from the Karen Woodbury Gallery website

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Bellocq 1912

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Bellocq
1912

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Jane Burton. 'Ivy #10' 2009

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Jane Burton
‘Ivy #10’
2009

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Eugene Atget. 'Versailles, France' 1923

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Eugene Atget
‘Versailles, France’
1923

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Jane Burton. 'Ivy #6' 2009

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Jane Burton
‘Ivy #6’
2009

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1. Theoria entry from Wikipedia

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Jane Burton Survey Exhibition
“Eye of the Beholder”
24th September – 18th October 2009
Glen Eira City Gallery, Caulfield, Vic

Jane Burton website

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Karen Woodbury Gallery
4, Albert Street, Richmond, Vic 3121
Opening hours: Wed – Sat 11-5pm

Karen Woodbury Gallery website

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2 Responses to “Review: ‘Ivy’ photographs by Jane Burton at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Richmond, Melbourne”


  1. 1 artweb
    September 24, 2009 at 7:30 am

    JANE BURTON
    “Eye of the Beholder”, 20 year survey exhibition
    at Glen Eira City Gallery, Caulfield, Vic

    24 September – 18 October 2009
    http://www.gleneira.vic.gov.au/Page/Page.asp?Page_Id=1374

    Artist Website
    http://www.janeburton.com.au/


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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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