Archive for November, 2009

29
Nov
09

Review: ‘Emily Kame Kngwarreye: The Person and her Paintings’ at DACOU Aboriginal Art, Port Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 29th October – 6th December 2009

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Thankyou to Leanne Collier and DACOU Aboriginal Art for allowing me to reproduce the three large photographs of two ‘Wildflower’ paintings and one ‘My Country’ painting below.

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“One can theorize about beauty all day, but words are weak and at day’s end one will go out into the blue and golden and multifarious world, and one will know with the responsive heart, before there is time for words, what is and isn’t beautiful.”

Leo Rubinfien 1

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Emily Kame Kngwarreye
‘My Country’
1996

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Emily Kame Kngwarreye
‘Wildflower’
1994

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There are certain existential experiences in art one will always remember:

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The maelstrom of convulsive colours in the paintings of J. M. W. Turner at the Tate in London

Being alone in a gallery at the Louvre with six self-portraits by Rembrandt and embracing their inner humanity

Sitting in the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris and being surrounded by the elemental forces of Monet’s panels of Nymphéas

Listening to “Sorrowful Songs” from the Symphony No. 3 by Gorecki

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to name but a few

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Added to this list would be my experience of this exhibition of paintings by Emily Kame Kngwarreye.

It was a privilege to spend time alone with the work, just wandering around the gallery that is situated in an industrial estate in Port Melbourne. It is difficult for me to describe the experience such was the connection I had with the work, with the earth. I am emotional even writing about it. Standing in front of these paintings all pretensions of existence, all trappings of society, dissolve in colour, in presence.

I am a naturalised Australian having been born in England; I have never been to the inner desert. This does not matter. What I felt, what I experienced was a connection to the land, to the stories that Emily has told in these paintings. We all come from the earth and return to it.

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

Wisdom comes from the Indo-European root verb weid, “to see,” the same root from which words like vision come.2 In this sense these are “Vedic” paintings in that they are ancient, sacred teachings, Veda meaning literally “I have seen.”

On this day I saw. I felt.

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Rarely do I have such an emotional reaction to art. When it does happen it washes over me, it cleanses my soul and releases pent up emotions – about life, about mortality, about being.

As Cafe del Mar in one of their songs, “The Messenger” sing:

“We,
We got the feeling of Mystery,
We got the touch of humanity,
I know, we can’t live forever.”
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Go and be touched.

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Emily Kame Kngwarreye
‘My Country’
1996

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Emily Kame Kngwarreye
‘My Country’
1996

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“Emily Kame Kngwarreye is Australia’s most important and famous female artist. Hailed as a modernist ‘genius’, she has been compared to Rothko and de Kooning. An Anmatyerre elder from Utopia in the remote central desert region of the Northern Territory, Emily first took up painting on canvas in her late 70’s. She quickly became one of the leaders in the contemporary Aboriginal art movement, transforming her style several times during her short career of eight years. Today she is known as one of the greatest abstract painters of the 20th century.

This important exhibition of over 80 pieces covering all significant series and periods of Emily Kngwarreye’s artistic career is the first commercial retrospective exhibition to be held since she passed away in 1996. It gives the public an outstanding chance to view and purchase works in each of her styles. DACOU has retained numerous magnificent pieces over the years that will be included in this exhibition, such as rarely seen works from Emily’s Ochre Series, created with ochre and charcoal she collected from her country. On show will be the sister painting to the famous ‘Earth’s Creation’ (also titled ‘Earth’s Creation’, 1994, 4 panels, 211 x 596 cm) and just as splendid in colour and style.”

Text from the DACOU Aboriginal Art website

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Emily Kame Kngwarreye
‘My Country’
1996

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Emily Kame Kngwarreye
‘Wildflower’
1992

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Emily Kame Kngwarreye
‘Wildflower’ (detail)
1992

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1. Rubinfien, Leo. “Perfect Uncertainty: Robert Adams and the American West, (2002)” on Americansuburb X: Theory. [Online] Cited 22/11/2009. www.americansuburbx.com/2008/01/theory-perfect-uncertainty-robert-adams.html

2. Doczi, Gyorgy. The Power of Limits: Proportional Harmonies in Nature, Art and Architecture. Colorado: Shambala Publications, 1981, p.127.

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DACOU Aboriginal Art
10 B Phillip Court, Port Melbourne, 3207, Melways Ref: 42, H11
Wednesday to Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Sunday, 11:00am to 4:00pm

Dacou Aboriginal Art website

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26
Nov
09

Exhibition: ‘The Eventuality of Daybreak’ by Alex Lukas at Glowlab, New York

Exhibition dates: 12th November – 6th December 2009

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These are terrific – I want one!
A big thankx to Alex for allowing me to reproduce the images.

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Alex Lukas
‘Untitled’
2009
Acrylic and silk screen on two book pages

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Alex Lukas
‘Untitled’
2009
Acrylic and silk screen on two book pages

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“Glowlab is pleased to present ‘The Eventuality of Daybreak’, a solo exhibition by Alex Lukas featuring a new series of post-apocalyptic urban landscapes that blur the visual boundaries of fiction and reality.

Lukas’ work explores the existence of disaster, be it realized or fictitious, in contemporary society. Hyper-realistic motion pictures and unforgiving news footage depict seemingly identical – and equally riveting – facades of tragedy. The artist recognizes that relentless visual bombardment has resulted in society’s desensitization to the aesthetics of destruction.

For ‘The Eventuality of Daybreak’, Lukas has selected photographic spreads of well-known metropolises from vintage publications and uses them dually as canvas and unlikely subject. Through a deft handling of paint and carefully placed screenprinted passages, the artist pushes these aging illustrations in futuristic contexts. Submerging these cities conceptually and physically, Lukas inundates images of American cities with layers of media representing cataclysmic floods and crippling overgrowth.

Also included in the exhibition are works on paper depicting near-future scenes of devastated landscapes – crumbling infrastructure, overturned trucks and telling signs of human despair. As a counterpoint to the underwater cities, these darkly atmospheric and barren vistas signal devastation through an unsettling sense of absence.

Lukas’ intentional use of dated imagery presented in tandem with contemporary situations forces the viewer to reconcile two differing ideologies of urban space. The artist’s work calls into question society’s collective acceptance of the urban environment as an arena of destruction, once thought unthinkable and now seemingly inevitable.

‘The Eventuality of Daybreak’ is Lukas’ first solo exhibition with Glowlab. Lukas’ work has also been exhibited in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Stockholm and Copenhagen as well as in the pages of Swindle Quarterly, Proximity Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Village Voice, The Drama and The New York Times Book Review. Lukas is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and currently lives and works in Philadelphia, where he is a member of the artist collective Space 1026.”

Press release on the Glowlab website

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Alex Lukas
‘Untitled’
2009
Acrylic and silk screen on two book pages

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Alex Lukas
‘Untitled’
2009
Acrylic and silk screen on two book pages

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Alex Lukas
‘Untitled’
2009
Acrylic and silk screen on two book pages

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Alex Lukas
‘Untitled’
2009
Acrylic and silk screen on two book pages

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Glowlab
30 Grand Street between Thompson St. and 6th Ave, New York

Gallery hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 12-6pm

Glowlab website

Alex Lukas website

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23
Nov
09

Vale Sue Ford (1943 – 2009)

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One thing always struck me about Sue Ford’s work when I saw it.

The work had integrity.

Whatever she produced it was always interesting, valid and had integrity.
She followed her own path as we all do – and her voice was clear, focused and eloquent.

I loved her series ‘Shadow Portraits’ – an erudite investigation into the nature of Australian identity if ever there was one!

Vale Sue Ford.

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The Age obituary for Sue Ford

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Sue Ford
‘Dissolution’
2006
from the Last Light series

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Sue Ford
‘Silhouette’
2006
from the Last Light series

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Sue Ford
Apparition’
2007
from the Last Light series

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Sue Ford
‘Transparent’
2007
from the Last Light series

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Sue Ford
‘Shadow Portrait II’
1994 – 2002

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Sue Ford
‘Shadow Portrait III’
2003

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Sue Ford
‘Shadow Portrait IV’
1994 – 2002

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Sue Ford
‘Shadow Portrait V’
1994 – 2002

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Sue Ford
‘Ross, 1968’
1968

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Sue Ford
‘Big secret!’
c. 1960-1961

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Sue Ford
‘Orpheus’
1972

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Sue Ford
‘No title (Photogram of two hands and garden path)’
c. 1970

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22
Nov
09

Exhibition: ‘Chaotic Harmony: Contemporary Korean Photography’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Exhibition dates: 18th October – 3rd January 2010

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Great to have some really good quality photographs to show you from this exhibition! Thankx to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for the images.

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Sekwon Ahn. Triptych from the series 'Seoul New Town' 2005 - 07

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Sekwon Ahn
Triptych from the series ‘Seoul New Town’ (‘Lights of Weolgok-dong’, 2005; ‘Disappearing Lights of Weolgok-dong I’, 2006; and ‘Disappearing Lights of Weolgok-dong II’, 2007)
2005-2007
Chromogenic photographs
Courtesy of the artist

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Sekown Ahn. 'Lights of Weolgok-dong', 2005

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Sekown Ahn
‘Lights of Weolgok-dong’
2005

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Sekown Ahn. 'Disappearing Lights of Weolgok-dong I', 2006

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Sekown Ahn
‘Disappearing Lights of Weolgok-dong I’
2006

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Sekown Ahn. 'Disappearing Lights of Weolgok-dong II', 2007

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Sekown Ahn
‘Disappearing Lights of Weolgok-dong II’
2007

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Dae-Soo KIM 'Untitled' from the series 'Bamboo' (1998-2008) 1999

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Dae-Soo Kim
‘Untitled’ from the series ‘Bamboo’ (1998-2008)
1999
Gelatin silver photograph, printed 2007
Santa Barbara Museum of Art; museum purchase with funds provided by PhotoFutures

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Sanggil Kim. 'Off-line: Burberry internet community' 2005

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Sanggil Kim
‘Off-line: Burberry internet community’ from the series ‘off-line’ (2005)
2005
Chromogenic photograph
Santa Barbara Museum of Art; museum purchase with funds provided by PhotoFutures
© Sanggil Kim

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This October, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, presents Chaotic Harmony: Contemporary Korean Photography, the most comprehensive exhibition of contemporary Korean photography to ever be shown in the United States. Organized by Anne Wilkes Tucker, The Gus and Lyndall Wortham Curator of Photography at the MFAH, and Karen Sinsheimer, Curator of Photography at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Chaotic Harmony features large scale photographs by 40 Korean artists, many of who have never before exhibited in international museum exhibitions and whose work will be on view in the United States for the first time in this show. At the MFAH, the works will be on display in the Audrey Jones Beck Building’s Cameron Foundation Gallery, as well as the Lower Beck Corridor, from October 18, 2009 through January 3, 2010, presenting a fascinating window onto the vital and constantly evolving country, Korea.

“As South Korea has exploded onto the international trade scene, South Korean artists have also emerged onto the global stage, which the recent high auction prices for Korean artwork attest to. Despite this fact, Korean art is still rarely presented in the United States, and the specific field of Korean photography is even less explored here,” said MFAH director Peter C. Marzio. “Following the MFAH’s tradition of presenting pioneering photography exhibitions, we are pleased to exhibit this brilliant survey of contemporary South Korean photography, which can be seen in the enhanced context of Your Bright Future and the museum’s Arts of Korea gallery.”

“Operating under a relatively new democracy in South Korea, artists experienced a burst of creative energy and freedom of expression in recent decades, and an entirely fresh perspective of modern-day Korea is presented in this show,” added curator Anne W. Tucker. “The photographers in Chaotic Harmony observe the country’s notable growth in terms of industry and urbanization and convey the resultant issues as well as reflect on the country’s ancient culture and religions.”

Within the exhibition, two distinct generations of Korean artists are represented: those born in the mid-1950s and 1960s, during a succession of military dictatorships when the country was still largely agrarian, and those born in the 1970s, predominantly in urban areas and who came into maturity in the new democratic era which began in 1987. With two exceptions, one work by each artist is included. Through recent works by both generations of photographers, Chaotic Harmony explores Korea through five thematic sections: land and sea; urbanization and globalization; family, friends, and memory; identity: cultural and personal; and anxiety.

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Land and Sea

Most of the work represented in the “Land and Sea” section of the exhibition was created by the first generation of Korean artists who traveled abroad for their graduate educations and brought their new ideas back to dramatically effect photographic styles in Korea. Nevertheless, many of them remained tied to Korean landscapes and traditions while embracing new aesthetic ideas. The extraordinarily beautiful land and seascapes in this section celebrate Korea´s surrounding oceans and the forests that cover large sections of its mountainous terrain. In addition, these photographers often explore religious practices that are primarily tied to nature. BAE Bien-u´s “Kyung ju” (1985, see photograph below) from the series Sonamu (which translates to “sacred pine grove”), documents mist-shrouded pine trees surrounding Gyeongiu, the ancient city of the Shilla kingdom (A.D. 668—935). KIM Young-sung’s untitled photograph (2005) from the Dolman series, shows a man standing atop one of Korea’s 50,000 dolmans (or ancient tombs). Over 60 percent of the world’s 80,000 dolmans are located in Korea. Gap-Chul Lee has documented shamanism (as well as Buddhism) in Korea for decades, but most specifically in his series Conflict and Reaction (1990—2001).

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Urbanization and Globalization

An ancient civilization, South Korea has recently transformed into one of the world’s major global economies. Three-fourths of the population is categorized as urban, with half living in the country’s six major cities. Seoul is the world’s fourth largest metropolitan area. This section of the exhibition responds to the shift of the population from rural to city living, and the entrance of Korea on to the world stage. Young-Joon CHO’s “Usual & Circle – Seoul Namdaemun, Rho Gwang-hyo” (2005) is a diptych: the image on the left presents an urban area teeming with stores, advertisements, people, and traffic, while the image on the right isolates a woman who we would not have otherwise noticed in the larger view of the city. Her expression of emotional distress is consistent with all the isolated figures in the series. Ahn Sekwon documented Seoul’s rapid physical changes by photographing one particular neighborhood of the Weolgok-dong section of Seoul in 2005, 2006, and 2007 as the old homes are destroyed to make room for new high rises. The resulting triptych (see photographs above) dramatically conveys the destruction of the modest-scale homes to make way for the towering scale of a modern city.

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Family, Friends, and Memory

“Family, Friends, and Memory” reflects the tensions in shifting societal values and practices as Korea continues its rapid growth. Traditionally, families followed Confucian norms: the father was the respected head of household and made decisions for his wife and children, financially supporting the family and arranging schooling and marriages. Social values have changed with increasing awareness of Western cultures through travel and the importation of Western products and media. Also with dramatic urban growth, came shifts from homes to crowded high rises, the entrance of women into the workforce, and other changes. Sunmin LEE’s photograph, “Lee, Sunja’s House #1 – Ancestral Rites” (2004, see below), portrays traditional values playing out in a modern setting: the men and boys of a family conduct traditional rituals in one room while the women watch from the doorway. Sanggil KIM’s “Off-line: Burberry Internet Community” (2005, see photograph above) depicts a modern phenomenon: people who met over the internet, united by a common passion, in this case, that of wearing Burberry Check (registered as a trademark of the Burberry brand) and enjoying an “off-line” get-together.

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Identity: Cultural and Personal

Between 1910 to 1945, Japan annexed Korea and systematically attempted to eradicate Korean culture and identity, for example, by banning Korean literature and language from schools. Only six years after World War II, Korea was devasted by the Korean War. This section of Chaotic Harmony investigates what it means to be Korean today after this disruptive history. Some artists, such as Bohnchang KOO, seek to reclaim past cultural history, by photographing treasured and uniquely Korean items such as Celadon – the main type of ceramic produced in ancient Korea and generally exalted as Korea’s most significant artistic legacy. Jungjin Lee in term photographs native crafts from Korean folk culture. Exploring more personal aspects of identity is Yeondoo JUNG’s ‘Bewitched #2’, a diptych juxtaposing images of the same teenager, mopping the floor of a Baskin Robbins in her day job and exploring the Artic regions in her dream job (see photographs below); and Hyo Jin IN’s “Violet # 01” from the High School Lovers series (2007), which portrays an openly lesbian couple.

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Anxiety

The “Anxiety” section of Chaotic Harmony investigates the constant tension provoked by strained relations and the potential of a violent outbreak between North and South Korea. Jung LEE’s “Bordering North Korea, #2” (2005), from her 2005-2008 series of the same title, offers a view of North Korea seen from China and them superimposes over it an accompanying text chosen from the set phrases that North Koreans are allowed to say to the few foreigners who gain access to the country, such as “Our country is the paradise of the people.” She wants the viewer to experience both the beauty of the land and the palpable repression evident in the political slogans. Seung Woo Back references the subliminal fear of an attack from North Korea by staging “invasions” of toy soldiers that march across a family’s yard and up their wall to the kitchen window ledge, presumably unbeknownst to the person whose silhouette is visible though the window.”

Press release from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston website

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Yeondoo Jung. 'Bewitched #2' 2001

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Yeondoo Jung
‘Bewitched #2’
2001

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Bien-U Bae. 'Kyung ju' from the series 'Sonamu' 1985

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Bien-U Bae
‘Kyung ju’ from the series ‘Sonamu’
1985
Gelatin silver photograph
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; museum purchase with funds provided by Photo Forum

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PA-YA. 'Noblesse Children #12' from the series 'Noblesse Children' 2008

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PA-YA
‘Noblesse Children #12’ from the series ‘Noblesse Children’ (2008)
2008
Chromogenic photograph
Santa Barbara Museum of Art; museum purchase with funds provided by PhotoFutures

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Sunmin LEE. 'Lee, Sunja´s House #1 - Ancestral Rites' from the series 'Woman's House II' (2003-2004) 2004

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Sunmin Lee
‘Lee, Sunja’s House #1 – Ancestral Rites’ from the series ‘Woman’s House II’ (2003-2004)
2004
Chromogenic photograph
Courtesy of the artist © Sunmin Lee

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Sungsoo Koo. 'Tour Bus' from the series 'Magical Reality' (2005-2006) 2005

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Sungsoo Koo
‘Tour Bus’ from the series ‘Magical Reality’ (2005-2006)
2005
Chromogenic photograph
Courtesy of the artist © Sungsoo Koo

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The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
1001 Bissonnet Street
Houston, TX 77005

Opening Hours:
Tuesday, Wednesday – 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Thursday – 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
Friday, Saturday – 10:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.
Sunday – 12:15 p.m.–7:00 p.m.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston website

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18
Nov
09

Review: ‘Heavenly Vaults’ by David Stephenson at John Buckley Gallery, Richmond

Exhibition dates: 7th – 28th November 2009

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Many thankx to Daniel and John Buckley Gallery for allowing me to reproduce the photographs from the exhibition.

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David Stephenson. 'Nave, Laon Cathedral, Laon, France' 2006/07

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David Stephenson. 'Choir, Laon Cathedral, Laon, France' 2006/07

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David Stephenson
‘Nave, Laon Cathedral, Laon, France’ (top) and ‘Choir, Laon Cathedral, Laon, France’
2006/07

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David Stephenson. 'St. Hugh’s Choir, Lincoln Cathedral, Lincoln, England' 2006/07

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David Stephenson
‘St. Hugh’s Choir, Lincoln Cathedral, Lincoln, England’
2006/07

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I remember many years ago, in the mid-1990’s, seeing the wonderful Domes of David Stephenson displayed in Flinders Lane in what is now fortfivedownstairs gallery. They were a revelation in this light filled space, row upon row of luminous domes seemingly lit from within, filled with the sense of the presence of divinity. On the opposite wall of the gallery were row upon row of photographs of Italian graves depicting the ceramic photographic markers of Italian dead – markers of the impermanance of life. The doubled death (the representation of identity on the grave, the momenti mori of the photograph) slipped quietly into the earth while opposite the domes ascended into heaven through their numinous elevation. The contrast was sublime.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the latest exhibition ‘Heavenly Vaults’ by David Stephenson at John Buckley Gallery, Richmond.

The problems start with the installation of the exhibition. As you walk into the gallery the 26 Cibachrome photographs are divided symmetrically down the axis of the gallery so that the prints reflect each other at both ends and each side of the gallery. It is like walking down the nave of a cathedral and observing the architectural restraint of the stained glass windows without their illumination. Instead of the punctum of light flooding through the stained glass windows, the varying of intensities, the equanimity of the square prints all exactly the same size, all reflecting the position of the other makes for a pedestrian installation. Some varying of the print size and placement would have added much life and movement to a static ensemble.

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Installation view of ‘Heavenly Vaults’ by David Stephenson at John Buckley Gallery, Richmond

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Another element that needed work were the prints themselves which, with a few notable exceptions, seemed remarkably dull and lifeless (unlike their digital reproductions which, paradoxically, seem to have more life!). They fail to adequately represent the aspirations of the vaults as they soar effortlessly overhead transposing the earth bound into the heaven sent. In the earlier work on the domes (which can be found in the book ‘Visions of Heaven: The Dome in European Architecture’) the symmetry of the mandala-like domes with their light-filled inner illumination worked well with the square format of the images making the photographs stand as equivalents for something else, other ineffable states of being.

“The power of the equivalent, so far as the expressive-creative photographer is concerned, lies in the fact that he can convey and evoke feelings about things and situations and events which for some reason or other are not or can not be photographed. The secret, the catch and the power lies in being able to use the forms and shapes of objects in front of the camera for their expressive-evocative qualities. Or to say this in another way, in practice Equivalency is the ability to use the visual world as the plastic material for the photographer’s expressive purposes. He may wish to employ the recording power of the medium, it is strong in photography, and document. Or he may wish to emphasize its transforming power, which is equally strong, and cause the subject to stand for something else too.”1

As Minor White further observes,

“When the image mirrors the man
And the man mirrors the subject
Something might take over”
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When the distance between object and image and image and viewer collapses then something else may be revealed: Spirit.

In this exhibition some of the singular images such as the Crossings, Choirs and Nave of the Church of Santa Maria, Hieronymite Monastery, Belém, Portugal (see photograph below) work best to achieve this revelation. They transcend the groundedness of the earthly plane through their inner ethereal light using a reductive colour palette and strong highlight/shadow detail. Conversely the diptychs and triptychs of Nave and Choir (see photographs below and above) fail to impress. The singular prints pinned to the gallery wall are joined together to form pairs and trios but in this process the ‘space between’ the prints (mainly white photographic paper), the breathing space between two or more photographs that balances their disparate elements, the distance that Minor White calls ‘ice/fire’, does not work. There is no tension, no crackle, no visual crossover of the arches and vaults, spandrels and flutes. Here it is dead space that drags all down with it.

I found myself observing without engagement, looking without wonder or feeling – never a good sign!

The photographs of Domes and Vaults have served David Stephenson well for numerous years but the concept has become tired, the inspiration in need of refreshment through other avenues of exploration – both physical and spiritual.

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Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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David Stephenson. 'Nave, Cathedral of St. Barbara, Kutná Hora, Czech Republic' 2008/09

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David Stephenson. 'Choir, Cathedral of St. Barbara, Kutná Hora, Czech Republic' 2008/09

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David Stephenson
‘Nave, Cathedral of St. Barbara, Kutná Hora, Czech Republic’ (top) and ‘Choir, Cathedral of St. Barbara, Kutná Hora, Czech Republic’
2008/09

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“While the subject of my photographs has shifted…my art has remained essentially spiritual – furthermore than two decades I have been exploring a contemporary expression of the sublime – a transcendental experience of awe with the vast space and time of existence.”

David Stephenson

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Internationally renowned photographer David Stephenson has dedicated his practice to capturing the sublime in nature and architecture. Fresh from a successful exhibition at Julie Saul Gallery in New York, Stephenson returns to John Buckley Gallery for his third highly anticipated exhibition Heavenly Vaults. The exhibition will feature 26 selected prints from his latest monograph published by Princeton Architectural Press; ‘Heavenly Vaults: From Romanesque to Gothic in European Architecture’. Shaun Lakin, Director of the Monash Gallery of Art, will launch the book and exhibition at the opening, November 7th.

Stephenson began to photograph Gothic vaults in Spain and Portugal in 2003, while completing the work for his Domes project, and his first monograph Visions of Heaven: the Dome in European Architecture. He began to focus on the Vaults project in 2006, photographing Gothic churches and cathedrals in England, Belgium and France. With the assistance of an Australia Council Artist Fellowship in 2008-09, Stephenson completed extensive fieldwork for the Vaults project, intensively photographing Romanesque and Gothic architecture in Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Germany. The exhibition at John Buckley Gallery coincides with the launch of his second monograph, ‘Heavenly Vaults: from Romanesque to Gothic in European Architecture’, published by Princeton Architectural Press, New York.

Even though the traditional systems the underpinned church architecture have lost their unequivocal power, David Stephenson’s photographs capture the resonance of those times. More importantly his work also suggest that the feelings of aspiration, transcendence, and infinity these buildings evoke in the viewer have an ongoing relevance beyond the religious setting and help us understand who and what we are.

Excerpt from Foreword, Heavenly Vaults, by Dr Isobel Crombie 2009

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David Stephenson’s new book of photography is a love letter to the intricate, seemingly sui generis vaults of Europe’s Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals and churches.

Press release from the John Buckley website

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David Stephenson. 'Nave, Church of Santa Maria, Hieronymite Monastery, Belém, Portugal' 2008/09

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David Stephenson
‘Nave, Church of Santa Maria, Hieronymite Monastery, Belém, Portugal’
2008/09

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David Stephenson
‘Choir, King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, England’
2006/07

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David Stephenson. 'Crossing, York Minster, York, England' 2006/07

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David Stephenson
‘Crossing, York Minster, York, England’
2006/07

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1. White, Minor. “Equivalence: The Perennial Trend,” in PSA Journal, Vol. 29, No. 7, pp. 17-21, 1963 [Online] Cited 17/11/2009. www.jnevins.com/whitereading.htm

2. White, Minor. “Three Canons,” from Mirrors, Messages, Manifestations. Viking Press, 1969.

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John Buckley Gallery

8 Albert St, Richmond VIC 3121 Australia
Gallery hours: 11 – 5 pm, Wednesday – Saturday

John Buckley Gallery website

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14
Nov
09

Exhibition: ‘Twilight Visions: Surrealism, Photography, and Paris’ at The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, Tennessee

Exhibition dates: 10th September 2009 – 3rd January 2010

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A big thankyou to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts for allowing me to publish the fours photographs, ‘La Tour Eiffel’, ‘Danseusue-Cancan, Moulin Rouge, Paris’ and the outstanding Atget photographs ‘The Wine Seller, 15 Rue Boyer’ and ‘Rue du Figuier’. Atget, one of my all time favourite photographers; Paris, a city that stirs the heart – what more can one ask!

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Andre Kertesz 'Eiffel Tower, Summer Storm' 1927

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Andre Kertesz
‘Eiffel Tower, Summer Storm’
1927

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Ilse Bing. 'French Can Can Dancers, Mouline Rouge' 1931

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Ilse Bing
‘French Can Can Dancers, Moulin Rouge’
1931

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Andre Kertesz. 'Eiffel Tower, Paris' 1929

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Andre Kertesz
‘Eiffel Tower, Paris’
1929

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“The Frist Center for the Visual Arts will present ‘Twilight Visions: Surrealism, Photography, and Paris’, opening Sept. 10, 2009, in the Upper-Level Galleries. The show, which offers a unique perspective on Surrealism by examining the intersection of documentary photography, manipulated photography and film, will be on exhibition through Jan. 3, 2010, when it will travel to the International Center of Photography in New York followed by the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah, Ga.

Guest Curator Therese Lichtenstein, Ph.D., New York-based art historian and photography scholar, has organized the exhibition, working with Frist Center Curator Katie Delmez.

The exhibition of more than 150 works, which features a preponderance of photographs but also includes films, books and period ephemera, explores the city of Paris as the literal and metaphoric base of Surrealism in the wake of the World War I. It was believed by the Surrealists that unconscious dreams, chance encounters and actions and automatism freed “pure thought,” from all constraints imposed by conscious thought, reason or morals.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Frist Center will partner with Nashville’s Belcourt Theatre and Vanderbilt University’s International Lens and the school’s French and film departments to present a Surrealism film series which will include the classic ‘Un Chien Andalou’ (The Andalusian Dog) directed by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí and several other rarely screened period films.

Paris was a hotbed of creative activity at the dawn of the 20th century, attracting artists and writers to its vibrant and wildly fertile art scene. Numerous galleries flourished during this period, fueling the immigration of many of the world’s most talented artists. During the 1920s and 1930s, a number of photographers associated with Surrealism, including Man Ray, Brassaï, André Kertész, Ilse Bing and Germaine Krull, turned their lenses on the city of Paris with its dance halls, cafés and characters. These seemingly ordinary people and places not only had social histories but also became psychologically charged “found objects.” In exploring the city’s commonplace as well as its monuments, these photographers used unusual viewpoints, manipulative lighting techniques and innovative technical processes to expose and examine “the marvelous” in the everyday.

As Dr. Lichtenstein writes, “The images in Twilight Visions form a collection of views of various urban spaces, filled with cultural artifacts. The viewer is invited to slowly contemplate the city – its architecture, its monuments, its public spaces and its denizens – as an ephemeral ruin, at once both of the past and the present.”

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Man Ray. 'La Ville' (The City) 1931

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Man Ray
‘La Ville’ (The City)
1931

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Germaine Krull. 'La Tour Eiffel' (The Eiffel Tower), ca. 1928

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Germaine Krull
‘La Tour Eiffel’ (The Eiffel Tower)
ca. 1928. Gelatin silver print, 9 1/8 in. x 6 1/6 in
Collection of the Sack Photographic Trust of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
© Estate Germaine Krull, Museum Folkwang, Essen

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Ilse Bing. 'Danseusue-Cancan, Moulin Rouge, Paris' 1931

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Ilse Bing
‘Danseusue-Cancan, Moulin Rouge, Paris’
1931
Gelatin silver print, 14 in. x 11 in
Zabriskie Gallery
© Ilse Bing Estate/Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Eugène Atget. 'The Wine Seller, 15 Rue Boyer' 1910–1911

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Eugène Atget
‘The Wine Seller, 15 Rue Boyer’
1910–1911
Gelatin-silver print (printed by Berenice Abbott)
Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA.

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Eugene Atget. 'Boulevard de Strasbourg' 1926

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Eugene Atget
‘Boulevard de Strasbourg’
1926

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Eugène Atget. 'Rue du Figuier' 1924

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Eugène Atget
‘Rue du Figuier’
1924
Albumen print, 9 in. x 7 in
Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. by Exchange, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA.

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The Exhibition

Twilight Visions comprises five sections: images of the city at night and in the day, the transformation of well-known public monuments, the influence of Eugène Atget on the Surrealists; Parisian nightlife after hours and surreal figures.

The first section, Marvelous Encounters, includes photographs of city streets, shop windows, ordinary people and found objects that invite viewers to discover “the marvelous” in common objects and familiar places. Many of the works in this section look both familiar and strange, as subjects were photographed from unexpected angles, using dim lighting, soft focus and abstracted views to create dreamlike images. Among the works in this section are photographs by Brassaï, Man Ray, Ilse Bing, André Kertész, Germaine Krull, Dora Maar and Joseph Breitenbach.

The second section of the exhibition, entitled Photography’s Transformation of the Monument, looks at the monuments of Paris, particularly the Eiffel Tower, to examine the ways they shape connections to past and future. Included in this section are works by André Kertész, Ilse Bing, Germaine Krull and Man Ray. The Eiffel Tower, constructed from 1887–1889, was designed to serve as the entry to the Paris World’s Fair commemorating the centennial anniversary of the French Revolution. The skeletal iron structure also was designed to be a radio transmitter and a beacon for commercial advertisements in the form of illuminated signs. In 1931 Man Ray created a series of photographs that were reproduced in a portfolio by the Paris Electric Company for an advertising booklet called Èlectricité, which was used to promote personal use of electricity. That same year, he photographed the tower at night and used the image as the basis for ‘La Ville’ (The City, 1931 – see photograph above), a multiple-exposure print and one of the images used in Èlectricité. The Eiffel Tower, built as a utilitarian homage to the past, is transformed. The magic of electricity makes the tower visible at night, but in so doing, renders it unstable and non-architectural. Ray’s photograph turns the magnificent Eiffel Tower into indecipherable electrified text. In addition to Man Ray’s work, there are photographs by Ilse Bing, Georges Hugnet, André Kertész, Germaine Krull, Raoul Ubac and various postcards of the city that interrupt traditional heroic views of the monument.

Section three, entitled Looking at Atget, examines the powerful work of Eugène Atget, a photographer who was “discovered” in the 1920s by Man Ray. Following a stint as a sailor, a brief career as an actor and an attempt at becoming a painter, he turned to photography. Working quietly and modestly, Atget documented the loss of “old” Parisian culture after the turn of the 20th century. But in so doing, his “poetry of the everyday” also became a personal expression of nostalgia for the world that was disappearing before his lens. His work was straightforward yet magical. Works include ‘Pont Neuf’ (1902–1903), ‘The Wine Seller’, ’15 Rue Boyer’ (ca. 1910) and ‘Boulevard de Strasbourg’ (1926) (see photographs above).

Section four, Portraits After Hours, explores the Bohemian avant-garde culture of Paris. In the 1920s and 1930s, the cafés and cabarets of Montparnasse and Montmartre were a part of the transition to modernity taking place in the city. The antibourgeois, often seedy places that were the comfortable haunts of Parisian artists and intellectuals were becoming tourist destinations … fetishized places of fantasy and desire. As these locales metamorphosed into tourist sites where “regular” folk could rub elbows with Parisian characters, increasingly, these locales became stage sets where the “actors” relived the past for the cameras of the tourists. Ilse Bing’s photographs of Cancan dancers at the famed Moulin-Rouge capture the color, flourish, nostalgia and exhilaration of the dance (see photographs above). Photographers represented in section four include: James Abbe, Ilse Bing, Brassaï and Man Ray.

Mutable Mirrors, the fifth section of the exhibition, investigates the subject of shifting identities that was a part of the Surrealists’ desire to alter consciousness and transform concepts of personal, social and group identity. Issues of gender and sexuality and the roles of masquerade and play are examined in the works of Lee Miller, Nusch Eluard, Dora Maar, Claude Cahun, Raoul Ubac, Hans Bellmer, Georges Hugnet, André Kertész, Man Ray and Brassaï who experimented with techniques of doubling, distorting, multiplying and fragmenting their images. Included in this section are André Kertesz’s ‘Distortions’ (1933) a series of photographs of nude women reflected in distorting mirrors that transform them into dreamlike creatures (see photographs below). The series was commissioned by the editor of the Parisian humor magazine, ‘Le Sourire’ (The Smile).”

Text from the Frist Center for the Visual Arts website

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Andre Kertesz 'Distortion 144, Paris' 1933

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Andre Kertesz
‘Distortion 144, Paris’
1933

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Andre Kertesz. 'Distortion 147, Paris' 1933

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Andre Kertesz
‘Distortion 147, Paris’
1933

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Andre Kertesz. 'Distortion 38, Paris' 1933

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Andre Kertesz
‘Distortion 38, Paris’
1933

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Andre Kertesz. 'Distortion 40, Paris' 1933

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Andre Kertesz
‘Distortion 40, Paris’
1933

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Frist Center for the Visual Arts
919 Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee, 37203

Opening hours:
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: 10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Thursday and Friday: 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m
Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Sunday: 1:00 – 5:30 p.m.

Frist Center for the Visual Arts website

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10
Nov
09

Review: ‘Unforced Intimacies’ by Patricia Piccinini at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 22nd October – 21st November 2009

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“Time and again my work returns to children, and their ambiguous relationships with the (only just) imaginary animals that I create. Children embody a number of the key issues in my work. Obviously they directly express the idea of genetics – both natural and artificial – but beyond that they also imply the responsibilities that a creator has to their creations. The innocence and vulnerability of children is powerfully emotive and evokes empathy – their presence softens the hardness of some of the more difficult ideas, but it can also elevate the anxiety level.”

Patricia Piccinini quoted on the Kaldor Public Art Projects website

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“I am interested in the way that contemporary biotechnology and even philosophy erode the traditional boundaries between the artificial and the natural, as well as between species and even the basic distinctions between animal and human.”

Patricia Piccinini quoted on the Artlink website

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Patricia Piccinini. 'The Strength of one Hand (With Canadian Mountain Goat)' 2009

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Patricia Piccinini
‘The Strength of one Hand (With Canadian Mountain Goat)’
Silicone, fibreglass, human hair, clothing, Canadian Mountain Goat
2009

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Patricia Piccinini. 'The Bottom Feeder' 2009

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Patricia Piccinini
‘The Bottom Feeder’
Silicone, fibreglass, steel, fox fur
2009

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Patricia Piccinini. 'The Bottom Feeder' (detail) 2009il

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Patricia Piccinini
‘The Bottom Feeder’ (detail)
2009

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We are the clouds that veil the midnight moon;
How restlessly they speed, and gleam, and quiver,
Streaking the darkness radiantly! – yet soon
Night closes round, and they are lost forever:

Or like forgotten lyres, whose dissonant strings
Give various response to each varying blast,
To whose frail frame no second motion brings
One mood or modulation like the last.

We rest. – A dream has power to poison sleep;
We rise. – One wandering thought pollutes the day;
We feel, conceive or reason, laugh or weep;
Embrace fond foe, or cast our cares away:

It is the same! – For, be it joy or sorrow,
The path of its departure still is free:
Man’s yesterday may ne’er be like his morrow;
Nought may endure but Mutability.

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Mutability by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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When human imagination takes flight, as it does in this exhibition, the results are superlative. Piccinini is at the height of her powers as an artist, in full control of the conceptual ideas, their presentation and the effect that they have on the viewer. Witty, funny, thought-provoking and at times a little scary Piccinini’s exhibition (paradoxically entitled ‘Unforced Intimacies’) is an act of revelatio: the pulling aside of the genetic curtain to see what lies beneath.

Featuring hyperrealist genetically modified creatures and human child figures Piccinini’s sculptures, drawings and video seem passionately alive in their verisimilitude (unlike Ricky Swallow’s resplendently dead relics at the NGV). In ‘The Strength of one Hand (With Canadian Mountain Goat)’, the title perhaps a play on the traditional Zen koan ‘The Sound of One Hand Clapping’, a meditation on the nature of inner compassion, a walrus-child balances on one hand on the back of a Canadian Mountain Goat. The walrus-child has extended eyes, a voluminous lower lip with whiskers under the nose; the hyperreality of the hand on the back of the goat makes it seem like the hand will come alive! A mane of hair flows down the walrus-child’s back to feet that are conjoined – like an articulated merman – ending not in flippers but in toes complete with dirty, cracked and broken nails. Here the natural athleticism of the mountain goat, now dead and stuffed, is surmounted by the mutated walrus-child’s natural athleticism, poignantly suspended like an exclamation mark above the in-animate pommel horse.

In ‘Balasana’ (‘The Child’s Pose’) a child reposes in the yoga position on a tribal rug. Balanced on top of the child is a stuffed Red-necked Wallaby that perfectly inverts the concave of the child’s back, it’s front feet curled over while it’s rear feet are splayed. The luminosity of the skin of the child is incredible – such a technical feat to achieve this realism – that you are drawn to intimately examine the child’s face and hands. The purpose of ‘The Child’s Pose’ in yoga is that it literally reminds us of our time as an infant and revives in us rather vivid memories of lying in this position. It also reminds us to cultivate our inner innocence so that we in turn may see the world without judgement or criticism. The paradoxes of the ‘unforced’ intimacy between the child and the wallaby can be read with this conceptualisation ‘in mind’.

With ‘The Bottom Feeder’ (2009) Piccinini’s imagination soars to new heights. With the shoulders of a human, the legs and forearms of what seems like a marsupial, the lowered head of a newt with intense staring blue eye (see photograph above), luminescent freckled skin covered in hair and a rear end that consists of both male and female genitalia that forms a ‘face’, the hermaphroditic bottom feeder is a frighteningly surreal visage. Inevitably the viewer is drawn to the exposed rump through a seemingly unforced interactivity, examining the folds and flaps of the labia and the hanging scrotum of this succulent feeder. Here Piccinini draws on psychoanalysis and Lacan’s theory of the mirror stage in a child’s development – where the child wants to merge with the mother to erase the self/other split by fulfilling the mother’s desire by having sex with her – thus erasing the mother’s lack, the idea of lack represented by the lack of a penis.1

As Jean Baudrillard notes of the mass of bodies on Brazil’s Copacabana beach, “Thousands of bodies everywhere. In fact, just one body, a single immense ramified mass of flesh, all sexes merged. A single, shameless expanded human polyp, a single organism, in which all collude like the sperm in seminal fluid … The sexual act is permanent, but not in the sense of Nordic eroticism: it is the epidermal promiscuity, the confusion of bodies, lips, buttocks, hips – a single fractal entity disseminated beneath the membrane of the sun.”2

An so it is here, all sexes merged within the anthropomorphised body of ‘The Bottom Feeder’, a body that challenges and subverts human perceptions of the form and sexuality of animals (including ourselves) that inhabit the world.

In ‘Doubting Thomas’ (2008), my favourite piece in the exhibition, a skeptical child with pale and luminous skin is about to put his hand inside the mouth of a genetically modified mole like creature that has reared it’s hairy snout to reveal a luscious, fluid-filled mouth replete with suckers and teeth. You want to shout ‘No, don’t go there!’ as the child’s absent mother has probably already warned him – to no avail. Children only learn through experience, I suspect in this case a nasty one.

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The terrains the Piccinini interrogates (nature and artifice, biogenetics, cloning, stem cell research, consumer culture) are a rematerialisation of the actual world through morphological ‘mapping’ onto the genomes of the future. Morphogenetic fields3 seem to surround the work with an intense aura; surrounded by this aura the animals and children become more spiritual in their silence. Experiencing this new world promotes an evolution in the way in which we conceive the future possibilities of life on this earth, this brave but mutably surreal new world.

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

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Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Patricia Piccinini. 'Doubting Thomas' (detail) 2008

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Patricia Piccinini
‘Doubting Thomas’ (detail)
2008

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Patricia Piccinini. 'Doubting Thomas' (detail) 2008

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Patricia Piccinini
‘Doubting Thomas’ (detail)
2008

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Patricia Piccinini. 'Doubting Thomas' 2008

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

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Patricia Piccinini. 'Balasana' 2009

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Patricia Piccinini
‘Balasana’
Silicone, fibreglass, human hair, clothing, Red-necked Wallaby, rug
2009

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1Klages, M. Jacques Lacan. Boulder: University of Colorado, 2001
http://www.colorado.edu/English/courses/ENGL2012Klages/lacan.html [Online] Cited 09/10/2009.

2. Baudrillard, Jean. Fragments: Cool Memories III, 1990 – 1995. London: Verso, 1997, p.74.

3. “A morphogenetic field is a group of cells able to respond to discrete, localized biochemical signals leading to the development of specific morphological structures or organs.”

Morphogenetic field definition on Wikipedia [Online] Cited 09/10/2009.

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Tolarno Galleries
Level 4, 104 Exhibition Street,
Melbourne, Vic, 3000

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10am – 5pm
Saturday 1 – 5pm

Tolarno Galleries website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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