15
Oct
09

Exhibition: ‘Ricky Swallow: The Bricoleur’ at The Ian Potter Centre, NGV Australia, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 16th October 2009 – 28th February 2010

 

Media crowd at the Ricky Swallow exhibition 'The Bricoleur' at NGV Australia

 

Media crowd at the Ricky Swallow exhibition The Bricoleur at NGV Australia with Alex Baker, Senior Curator, Contemporary Art, NGV fourth from left with clasped hands.

 

 

Hot off the press straight to you here at Art Blart!

Photographs of the exhibition Ricky Swallow: The Bricoleur at the National Gallery of Victoria Australia, Federation Square. The photographs are in the chronological order that I took them, walking through the three spaces of the exhibition. A spare, visually minimalist aesthetic to the show, where every vanitas, every mark (in)forms the work as transcendent momenti mori. Review to follow.

Many thankx to Sue, Alison, Jemma and the team for the usual excellent job and for allowing me to document the exhibition. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“I’ve always been interested in how an object can be remembered and how that memory can be sustained and directed sculpturally, pulling things in and out of time, passing objects through the studio as a kind of filter returning them as new forms.”

.
Ricky Swallow

 

 

Ricky Swallow (Australian, b. 1974) 'The Bricoleur' 2006

 

Ricky Swallow (Australian, b. 1974)
The Bricoleur
2006
Jelutong
48 x 9.75 x 9.75 inches

 

Ricky Swallow (Australian, b. 1974) 'Unbroken Ways (for Derek Bailey)' 2006

 

Ricky Swallow (Australian, b. 1974)
Unbroken Ways (for Derek Bailey)
2006
English Limewood
5 x 30 x 7 inches

 

Ricky Swallow. 'One Nation Underground' 2007

 

Ricky Swallow (Australian, b. 1974)
One Nation Underground
2007

 

Ricky Swallow. 'One Nation Underground' (detail) 2007

 

Ricky Swallow (Australian, b. 1974)
One Nation Underground (detail)
2007

 

Ricky Swallow. 'Tusk' 2007

 

Ricky Swallow (Australian, b. 1974)
Tusk
2007
Bronze with white patina, brass fixtures
19.75 x 41.25 x 2.25 inches

 

Ricky Swallow. 'Tusk' (detail) 2007

 

Ricky Swallow (Australian, b. 1974)
Tusk (detail)
2007
Bronze with white patina, brass fixtures
19.75 x 41.25 x 2.25 inches

 

Ricky Swallow (Australian, b. 1974) 'Rehearsal for Retirement' (detail) 2008

 

Ricky Swallow (Australian, b. 1974)
Rehearsal for Retirement (detail)
2008
English Lime Wood, Poplar

 

Ricky Swallow (Australian, b. 1974) 'Rehearsal for Retirement' (detail) 2008

 

Ricky Swallow (Australian, b. 1974)
Rehearsal for Retirement (detail)
2008
English Lime Wood, Poplar

 

Ricky Swallow. 'Bowman’s record' (detail) 2008

 

Ricky Swallow (Australian, b. 1974)
Bowman’s record (detail)
2008
Bronze

 

Ricky Swallow. 'Bowman’s record' (detail) 2008

 

Ricky Swallow (Australian, b. 1974)
Bowman’s record (detail)
2008
Bronze

 

 

Ricky Swallow’s sculptures address fundamental issues that lie at the core of who we are. Things have lives. We are our things. We are things. When all is said and done it is our things – our material possessions – that outlive us. Anyone who has lost a family member or close friend knows this: what we have before us once that person is gone are the possessions that formed a life. Just as we are defined and represented by the things that we collect over time, we are ultimately objects ourselves. When we are dead and decomposed what remains are our bones, another type of object. And then there is social science. Archaeology, a subfield of anthropology, is entirely based on piecing together narratives of human relations based on material culture, that is, objects both whole and fragmentary. It may seem obvious but it is worth stressing here that our understanding of cultures from the distant past, those that originated before the advent of writing, is entirely based on the study of objects and skeletal remains. Swallow’s art addresses these basic yet enduring notions and reminds us of our deep symbiotic relationship to the stuff of daily life.

Like the bricoleur put into popular usage by anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss in his seminal book The Savage Mind, Ricky Swallow creates works of art often based on objects from his immediate surroundings. His method, however, is more of a second order bricolage: his sculptures are not assemblages of found objects, but rather elegantly crafted things. Handcarved from wood or plaster or cast in bronze, these humble objects are transformed into memorials to both the quotidian and the passage of time.

 

Still life

The still life has been an important touchstone throughout Swallow’s recent practice as it is an inspired vehicle for the exploration of how meaning is generated by objects. Several sculptures in the exhibition reference the still-life tradition in which Swallow updates and personalises this time-honoured genre, in particular the vanitas paintings of 17th century Holland. Vanitas still lifes, through an assortment of objects that had recognisable symbolism to a 17th-century viewer, functioned as allegories on the futility of pleasure and the inevitably of death. Swallow’s embrace of still life convention, however, is non-didactic, secular and open-ended. Swallow is not obsessed by death. On the contrary, his focus on objects is about salvaging them from the dust bin of history and honouring their continued resonance in his life.

Killing time, 2003-04, and Salad days, 2005, depict animals that Swallow and his family either found or caught when he was young and best highlight how the artist reclaims the still life genre to explore personal narrative. Killing time, which depicts a bounty of fish and crustaceans spread across a table modelled after the Swallow family kitchen table of the artist’s youth, is rife with autobiographical association. It not only references an object from Swallow’s past, but also the profession of his father, a fisherman, and the fact that Swallow was raised by the sea. Salad days is another autobiographical work depicting a range of animals such as birds, a rabbit, mice and a fox skull. Like many boys growing up in rural environments, Swallow recalls shooting magpies, encountering nesting birds in his garage or discovering dead lizards or trapping live ones in an attempt to keep them as pets.

While not an overt still life, History of holding, 2007, suggests the genre in its fragmentary depiction of a musical instrument and the appearance of a lemon with falling rind. The hand holding/presenting a peeled lemon as the rind winds around the wrist in bracelet-like fashion is based on a cast of Swallow’s own hand, insinuating himself into this antiquated tradition. It is as if Swallow is announcing to us his deep interest in the temporality of objects through the presentation of the peeled lemon, which symbolises the passing of time and also appears in Killing time. The second component of History of holding is a sculptural interpretation of the Woodstock music festival icon designed by Arthur Skolnick in 1969, which still circulates today. History of holding, then, also references music, a leitmotif in Swallow’s art that appears both within the work itself, and also through Swallow’s use of titles.

 

Body fragments

Tusk, 2007 among several other works in the exhibition, explores the theme of body as fragment. Much has been discussed about Swallow’s use of the skeleton as a form rich in meaning within both the traditions of art history as well as popular culture (references range from the Medieval dance macabre and the memento mori of the still life tradition to the skeleton in rock music and skateboard art iconography). Tusk represents two skeletal arms with the hands clasped together in eternal union. A poignant work, Tusk is a meditation on permanence: the permanence of the human body even after death; the permanence of the union between two people, related in the fusion of the hands into that timeless symbol of love, the heart.

 

Watercolours: atmospheric presentations, mummies, music, homage

Swallow calls his watercolours “atmospheric presentations”, in contradistinction to his obviously more physical sculptures, and he sees them as respites from the intensity of labour and time invested in the sculptural work. They also permit experimentation in ways that sculpture simply does not allow. One nation underground, 2007, is a collection of images based on rock/folk musicians, several who had associations to 1960s Southern California, Swallow’s current home. Most of the subjects Swallow has illustrated in this work are now deceased; several experienced wide recognition only after their deaths. Like many of his sculptures, this group of watercolours tenderly painted with an air of nostalgia has the sensibility of a memorial – or as Swallow has called it “a modest monument”. The title of the work is based on a record album by another under-heralded rock band from the 1960s, Pearls Before Swine, and is a prime example of Swallow’s belief in the importance of titles to the viewing experience as clues or layers of meaning. In this case, the title hints at the quasi-cult status of the musicians and singers depicted. The featured musicians are Chris Bell (Big Star), Karen Dalton (a folk singer), Tim Buckley (legendary singer whose style spanned several genres and father to the late Jeff Buckley), Denny Doherty (The Mamas & the Papas ), Judee Sill (folk singer), Brian Jones (Rolling Stones), Arthur Lee (Love), John Phillips (The Mamas & the Papas ), Skip Spence (Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape) and Phil Ochs (folk singer).

Text from the National Gallery of Victoria website [Online] Cited 15/10/2010

 

Installation view of 'Ricky Swallow: The Bricoleur' second room at NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Ricky Swallow: The Bricoleur' second room at NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Ricky Swallow: The Bricoleur second space at NGV Australia

 

Ricky Swallow. 'Caravan' (detail) 2008

 

Ricky Swallow (Australian, b. 1974)
Caravan (detail)
2008
Bronze

 

Ricky Swallow. 'Salad days' c.2005

 

Ricky Swallow (Australian, b. 1974)
Salad days
c. 2005

 

Ricky Swallow. 'Killing time' 2003 - 04

 

Ricky Swallow (Australian, b. 1974)
Killing time
2003-04

 

Ricky Swallow. 'Killing time' (detail) 2003 - 04

 

Ricky Swallow (Australian, b. 1974)
Killing time (detail)
2003-04

 

Ricky Swallow (Australian, b. 1974) 'Killing time' 2003-04

 

Ricky Swallow (Australian, b. 1974)
Killing time
2003-04

 

Ricky Swallow. 'Killing time' (detail) 2003-04

 

Ricky Swallow (Australian, b. 1974)
Killing time (detail)
2003-04

 

 

“A new exhibition featuring the work of internationally renowned Australian artist Ricky Swallow will open at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia on 16 October 2009.

Ricky Swallow: The Bricoleur is the artist’s first major exhibition in Australia since 2006. This exhibition will feature several of the artist’s well‐known intricately detailed, carved wooden sculptures as well as a range of new sculptural works in wood, bronze and plaster. The exhibition will also showcase two large groups of watercolours, an aspect of Swallow’s practice that is not as well known as his trademark works.

Salad days (2005) and Killing time (2003-04), which were featured in the 2005 Venice Biennale and are considered Swallow icons, will strike a familiar chord with Melbourne audiences.

Sculptures completed over the past year include bronze balloons on which bronze barnacles seamlessly cling (Caravan, 2008); a series of cast bronze archery targets (Bowman’s Record, 2008) that look like desecrated minimalist paintings; and carved wooden sculpture of a human skull inside what looks like a paper bag (Fig 1, 2008).

A highlight of the show will be Swallow’s watercolour, One Nation Underground (2007), recently acquired by the NGV. The work presents a collection of images based on 1960s musicians including Tim Buckley, Denny Doherty, Brian Jones and John Phillips.

Alex Baker, Senior Curator, Contemporary Art, NGV said the works in this exhibition explore the themes of life and death, time and its passing, mortality and immortality.

“Swallow’s art investigates how memory is distilled within the objects of daily life. His work addresses the fundamental issues that lie at the core of who we are, reminding us of our deep symbiotic relationship to the stuff of everyday life.”

“The exhibition’s title The Bricoleur refers to the kind of activities performed by a handyman or tinkerer, someone who makes creative use of whatever might be at hand. The Bricoleur is also the title of one of the sculptures in the exhibition, which depicts a forlorn houseplant with a sneaker wedged between its branches,” said Mr Baker.

Gerard Vaughan, Director, NGV, said this exhibition reinforces the NGV’s commitment to exhibiting and collecting world‐class contemporary art.

“The NGV has enjoyed a long and successful relationship with Ricky Swallow, exhibiting and acquiring a number of his works over the years. His detailed and exquisitely crafted replicas of commonplace objects never fail to inspire visitors to the Gallery.”

Ricky Swallow was born in Victoria in 1974 and currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California. His career has enjoyed a meteoric rise since winning the NGV’s prestigious Contempora5 art prize in 1999. Since then, Swallow has exhibited in the UK, Europe and the United States, and represented Australia at the 2005 Venice Biennale.”

Press release from the NGV website [Online] Cited 10/10/2009 no longer available online

 

Ricky Swallow facing the media behind his work 'Killing time' (2003 - 04)

Ricky Swallow facing the media behind his work 'Killing time' (2003 - 04)

 

Ricky Swallow facing the media behind his work Killing time (2003-04)

 

 

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
Open daily 10am – 5pm

National Gallery of Victoria website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top


3 Responses to “Exhibition: ‘Ricky Swallow: The Bricoleur’ at The Ian Potter Centre, NGV Australia, Melbourne”


  1. 1 Deborah Power
    July 6, 2010 at 7:20 am

    Dear Sir/Madam,
    I am very interested in emailing Ricky about his work and wondered if you could forward his email address? Unfortunately I was not able to see the exhibition last year.
    Many thanks,
    Deb Power.

    • 2 bunyanth
      July 6, 2010 at 10:29 am

      Hi Deb
      Thankx for your message
      Unfortunately I have no contact with Ricky Swallow. I would suggest contacting the media department at the National Gallery of Victoria (through their website under press). They may be able to help
      Marcus


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

If you would like to unsubscribe from the email list please email me at bunyanth@netspace.net.au and I will remove you asap. Thank you.

Join 2,683 other followers

If you would like to unsubscribe from the email list please email Marcus at bunyanth@netspace.net.au and I will remove you asap. Thank you.

Follow Art_Blart on Twitter
Art Blart on Pinterest

Lastest tweets

October 2009
M T W T F S S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Archives

Categories


%d bloggers like this: