Archive for June, 2012

28
Jun
12

Exhibition: ‘Light in Space’ by Veronica Caven Aldous at Stephen McLaughlan Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 13th June – 30th June 2012

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Apologies for the late posting but I only saw this exhibition recently. I met the artist, the delightful Veronica Caven Aldous and her work is stunning.

The works are emotive; like Brancusi’s Bird in Space they soar. Here is not the reductive coldness of a Dan Flavin but a truly hypnotic, meditative experience. The light is like visible music. I said to Veronica in my mind I have associations to the work of Josef Albers and his experiments with colour in the Homage to the Square series. But these works are uniquely her own, with their links to mysticism, India and the East.

The first series, Light in space 1, is truly beautiful as you sit watching in the darkened gallery. Still images can’t really do these vivid, liquid, mesmerising colour field sculptures justice, so I made a little

Flash movie of Light in space 1

to give you an idea of the moving work. The second series, Light in space 2, is also intensely beautiful in a different way, the computerised light boxes contained within aluminium cases. Depending at which angle you look the depth of field of the illusion changes leading to spaces of infinite r/egress (in computer networking, egress filtering is the monitoring and/or restricting the flow of outbound information). The light is both contained and extrapolated within the grids leading to an almost Escher-like enigma of light and energy.

These are splendid works. Whenever I want to have one on my wall at home I know I have struck gold. Go see them while you still can in the last two days of the exhibition. Magic.

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Many thankx to Veronica Caven Aldous and Stephen McLaughlan Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. The exhibition is still on Friday 29th June 1 – 5 pm and Saturday 30th June 11 am – 5 pm or by appointment 0407 317 323.

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Veronica Caven Aldous
Light in space 1
2010 – 11
A Blue field, 2010, Computerised LED light boxes and Perspex, 22 x 30 x 3 cm
B Magenta field, 2011, Computerised LED light boxes and Perspex, 43 x 59 x 3 cm
C Yellow field, 2011, Computerised LED light boxes and Perspex, 43 x 30 x 3 cm
D Green field, 2011, Computerised LED light boxes and Perspex, 22 x 59 x 3 cm
E Orange field, 2010, Computerised LED light boxes and Perspex, 22 x 30 x 3 cm
F Purple field, Computerised LED light boxes and Perspex, 22 x 30 x 3 cm

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Light from these computerised LED light boxes on the wall and floor act as intervention in space. It is not so much about the colour but the changing light in space that sets up a sense of flux. It is about change and that we see nothing without light. “The wonder of light: the universe consists mainly of invisible matter… only four to five percent of the universe is visible. 23 percent is dark matter, and 73 percent is dark energy.”

Artist statement

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Veronica Caven Aldous
Light in space 2
2011
A 2 x 2, 2011, Computerised LED light boxes in metal frame, 52 x 52 x 10 cm
B 3 x 3, 2011, Computerised LED light boxes in metal frame, 75 x 75 x 10 cm
C 3 x 3, 2011, Computerised LED light boxes in metal frame, 75 x 75 x 10 cm

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Stephen McLaughlan Gallery
Level 8 Room 16 Nicholas Building
37 Swanston Street Melbourne 3000
On the corner of Flinders Lane
T: 0407 317 323

Opening hours:
Wednesday to Friday 1 pm – 5 pm
Saturday 11 am – 5 pm
and by appointment

Stephen McLaughlan Gallery website

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26
Jun
12

Exhibition: ‘Eugène Atget: As Paris Was’ at Ticho House, the Museum of Israel, Jerusalem

Exhibition dates: 23rd March – 30th June 2012

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Some Atget photographs that I have never seen before makes this posting all the more pleasurable. The pendulous nature of the sea monster, like a leg hanging over the edge of a table (can’t u just feel the weight of it!); the oppressive solidity of the wall on the left hand side of Coin des rues Poulletier et Saint-Louis-en-l’île (c.1915); and the two undated photographs of Saint-Cloud: the dark, spidery presence of the tree in winter and the absolute recognition of the visual escape point in the reflection of trees in pond. Magnificent.

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Many thankx to the Museum of Israel 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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Eugène Atget
Saint-Cloud
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Eugène Atget
Saint-Cloud
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Eugène Atget
Bagatelle
1926

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“The photographic oeuvre of Eugène Atget (1857-1927) has become a landmark in the history of the medium, and his works are recognized as an integral part of the canon of documentary photography. His subject matter was Paris with its houses, streets, parks, and castles – interior and exterior details of architecture being transformed by modernity. His fame came decades later; however his enduring legacy in the field is still discernible worldwide. This exhibition of Atget’s photographs of Paris, the first ever in Israel.

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem has announced  the acquisition of 200 photographs by the pioneering French documentary photographer Eugène Atget, gifted by Pamela and George Rohr, New York, and an anonymous donor, New York. These works add an important new dimension to the Museum’s exceptional photography holdings, encompassing over 55,000 works from the earliest days of photography to contemporary times.

Seventy of these newly gifted works will be presented in Eugène Atget: As Paris Was, an exhibition at Ticho House, the Israel Museum’s historic venue in downtown Jerusalem, featuring Atget’s images of Paris from the mid-1890s until 1927. Marking the first ever presentation of the photographer’s work in Israel, the exhibition is curated by Nissan Perez, Horace and Grace Goldsmith Senior Curator in the Museum’s Noel and Harriette Levine Department of Photography.

French photographer Eugène Atget is recognized internationally for his integral role in the canon of documentary photography. After working as a sailor, actor, and painter for almost thirty years, he embarked on a self-assigned mission to document French life, culture, and history in and around Paris. He chose houses, streets, parks, and castles as his subjects, capturing interior and exterior details of architecture being transformed by modernity. Without any official recognition, this enterprise yielded a massive visual compendium of nearly 10,000 photographs that Atget loosely designated as “documents pour artistes” (documents for artists), created by means of anachronistic technology and an antiquated camera.

“We are deeply grateful to our donors for this generous gift of so important a trove of works by Eugène Atget, a pivotal figure in the history of photography,” said James S. Snyder, Anne and Jerome Fisher Director of the Israel Museum. “We are proud to be sharing Atget’s unique vision with Israeli audiences for the first time and in the resonant setting of our historic Ticho House, which also juxtaposes turn-of-the-last century Jerusalem with its encroaching modernity.”

“Atget’s photographs of Paris, including those featured in Eugène Atget: As Paris Was, do not depict the city as a bustling modern metropolis,” said exhibition curator Nissan Perez. “He trained his lens on the older, often decaying buildings and parks. The scenes he captured, mostly devoid of human presence, express desolation and solitude, reminiscent of an empty stage awaiting the actors’ entrance.”

Press release from the Museum of Israel, Jerusalem website

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Eugène Atget
Poupées, 63 rue de Sèvres
1910-11

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Eugène Atget
Hôtel, 1 rue des Prouvaires et 54 rue Saint-Honoré
1912

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Eugène Atget
Coin des rues Poulletier et Saint-Louis-en-l’île
c.1915

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Eugène Atget
Gargouille, cour du Louvre
1902

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Ticho House
The Museum of Israel
Situated in the Jerusalem city center

Ticho House hours:
Sun, Mon, Wed, Thurs
 10 am – 5 pm
Tues 10 am – 10 pm
Fri 10 am – 2 pm

The Museum of Israel website

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22
Jun
12

Preview: ‘Night’s Ocean Shore’ by Andrew Follows from ‘Through the Looking Glass Dimly’ at The Old Ambulance Depot, Edinburgh

Exhibition dates: 4th August – 18th August 2012

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This sequence is part of a joint exhibition by blind photographers Andrew Follows and Rosita McKenzie titled Through the Looking Glass Dimly to be held at The Old Ambulance Depot, Edinburgh in August 2012. The exhibition is part of the Edinburgh Art Festival. On his first trip overseas Follows is travelling to Scotland with his trusty companion Eamon, his guide dog. The words below are an analysis of Andrew’s work, a photographer who only has 15% vision in one eye and is legally blind. This is the first time anyone has written about Andrew’s work in any depth. It has been great fun to work with Andrew on this project and it is a privilege to write some hopefully insightful words about his art practice.

The exhibition by Follows and McKenzie takes a twofold path. Firstly, work from both photographers will investigate the resilience of bush-fire prone landscapes in both Scotland and Australia. Secondly, work will portray the fluid spaces of the urban and natural landscape at night in both the Southern and Northern hemispheres. The exhibition is curated by Kate Martin from the Contemporary Art Exchange.

This is a beautiful, well resolved sequence that has a very intimate narrative, a journey of discovery from the stars in the night sky to our own star, the sun and on to the illumination of the earth at night. Under any circumstances, Follows’ vision is outstanding.

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Andrew Follows Night’s Ocean Shore sequence 2012

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The Eye that sees the Sun: Andrew Follows and his Tabula rasa

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“‘The world is my representation’: this is a truth valid with reference to every living and knowing being, although man alone can bring it into reflective, abstract consciousness. If he really does so, philosophical discernment has dawned on him. It then becomes clear and certain to him that he does not know a sun and an earth, but only an eye that sees a sun, a hand that feels the earth; that the world around him is there only as representation, i.e. only in reference to another, the representer, which is he himself.”

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Arthur Schopenhauer. The World as Will and Representation. 1818

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Please close your left eye and place your left hand over it; now make a circle with the thumb and forefinger of your right hand and curl the rest of your fingers to make a tunnel; now place this hand to your right eye and close the aperture until you can only see a small amount of the world. Imagine, seeing the world through this one eye with only fifteen percent vision. This is the field of vision, the line of sight of artist Andrew Follows.

The artist’s visual acuity (the capacity of the eye to see fine detail, measured by determining the finest detail that can just be detected) has been with him since birth. He has always seen the world this way and does not regard it as a disability. In fact, his highly refined sense of “sight” enables spaces of poss/ability (not dis/ability) within his artistic practice. The development of an abnormal keen-sightedness helps him record his impression of the world via the medium of photography.

His is not the vision of im(pair)ment as the rest of us see the world, through two eyes, but the holistic vision of a monocular eye that becomes the root of his photography. The lens of the camera becomes an extension of Self, the shutter his very existence and the digital screen on the back of the camera his tabula rasa, a “blank slate” upon which he writes his experience and perception, his knowledge of the world. His experience of vision and the evidence of his photographs become both the beginning and the end of the work, a place in which his fundamental nature resides.

In today’s polyvocal world, with the proliferation of visual protheses (such as smart phones and digital cameras) we are now seeing the encoding of increasingly mental images of the material world. Follows’ photographs are an amalgamation of these mental images and what he can physically see on the screen, for when taking a photograph he cannot see details in the image he is taking. Follows takes the ‘I can see’ of sight, located within his field of vision, and through his organization of the spatio-temporal field of vision and perception, he offers the viewer a unique ‘take’ on the world. His point of view is a collection of objects to which the eye is directed and on which it rests within a certain distance.

From a visual point of view this resting facilitates in Follows’ work a particular serenity and beauty. His skill as an artist is to combine his imagination with what he sees through the screens of camera and computer to create ‘other’ worlds. These other worlds are evidenced in Follows’ love of night time photography, as though his view of the environment, the spaces and places that surround him, is enhanced through a doubling of perception: of light, at night, through tunnel vision. Our eyes rest upon the effervescent lights of an oil refinery on the outskirts of Melbourne; the star trails blazing across the night sky; the reflections in water at Corio Bay, Geelong. Most importantly, it is the quality of light that imbues Follows’ work that enhances the narrative, the journey on which the artist takes us.

Follows’ shows us his world, and our world, as we have never seen it before. What is important in the work is that he asks us to embrace his vision and incorporate his photographs into our collective memory. The world is his representation, a truth valid with reference to every living and knowing being, brought by us into reflective, abstract consciousness. We the viewer become his eye, his only eye that sees Schopenhauer’s sun.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan
May 2012

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Andrew Follows
Untitled
from the sequence Night’s Ocean Shore
2012
Digital inkjet prints

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“Contemporary Art Exchange presents Through the Looking Glass Dimly a unique collaboration and exchange project between Australian and Scottish photographers Andrew Follows (Melbourne) and Rosita McKenzie (Edinburgh). Drawn together by their shared passion for photography, their experiences of visual impairment, and a desire to share their knowledge and skills globally, Andrew and Rosita have embarked on an ambitious visual arts project to raise awareness about visual impairment issues, celebrate recent artistic achievements and create the first international network for visually impaired artists.

Digital photography is an excellent medium for reflecting and exploring blind or vision impaired artists’ life experiences. For Rosita it provides ‘a voice’ and dispels the myth that totally blind people cannot possess vision and artistic imagination or participate fully in the visual arts. For Andrew, who has Retinitis Pigmentosa – a degenerative eye condition leaving him blind in one eye and with only fifteen percent vision in the other – it is a tool that enables him to see small glimpses of his fading world.

Andrew and Rosita have been collaborating to develop an exhibition of previous and new work. Since 2009, Andrew has documented the effects of, and resilience to, the devastating Black Saturday bushfires in the Victorian Highlands. Rosita, although having never ‘seen’ Andrew’s work, has responded to it by embarking on her own documentation of the effects of and regrowth after the unusual forest fires in the Scottish Highlands earlier this year. Andrew has also been experimenting with night photography and has developed a number of photographs capturing the Southern Hemisphere by night. In response, Rosita will develop a new body of work capturing the night sky from a Northern Hemisphere perspective. Both artists will also showcase examples from their wide range of photographs dealing with similar themes from natural and urban settings.

The project will be registered with the 2012 Edinburgh Art Festival and the Year of Creative Scotland. Through the Looking Glass Dimly will also coincide with other major international events taking place in Edinburgh during August such as the first International Cultural Summit, the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Festival of Politics at The Scottish Parliament.”

Text from the Contemporary Art Exchange

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The Old Ambulance Depot
77 Brunswick Street
Edinburgh
EH7 5HS

Only open to the public during exhibitions and events

Andrew Follows Photography website

Edinburgh Art Festival website

The Old Ambulance Depot website

Contemporary Art Exchange website

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19
Jun
12

Exhibition: ‘Chihuly Garden and Glass’, Seattle Center

Long-term exhibition

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Chihuly Garden and Glass
Glasshouse, Pacific Sun and Space Needle
2012

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Chihuly Garden and Glass
Glasshouse and Garden
2012

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Chihuly Garden and Glass
Glasshouse (day)
2012

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After just nine months of construction, Chihuly Garden and Glass, an exhibition looking at the career of Northwest artist Dale Chihuly, will open to the public in Seattle at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 21. To mark the occasion, Dale Chihuly will dedicate the exhibition’s centerpiece Glasshouse in a brief ceremony, culminating with the artist signing and dating one of the building’s structural beams. The centerpiece of Chihuly Garden and Glass is the Glasshouse. It is the result of Chihuly’s lifelong appreciation for conservatories with a design that draws inspiration from two of his favorite buildings: Sainte-Chapelle in Paris and the Crystal Palace in London. The Glasshouse sculpture is an expansive installation in a color palette of reds, oranges, yellows and amber. Made of many individual elements, it is one of Chihuly’s largest suspended sculptures.

Dale Chihuly said, “It is every artist’s dream to be able to showcase their work in one place and I am pleased to have this opportunity in my home community. The best works of my career are brought together in this exhibition and I hope everyone likes it.”

Located at the foot of the iconic Space Needle at Seattle Center, the city’s cultural hub, Chihuly Garden and Glass has transformed 1.5 acres of asphalt into a spectacular outdoor garden, a 40-foot-tall Glasshouse and 8 galleries of Chihuly’s art. The exhibition brings together all the elements of Chihuly’s work, including Drawings, signature glass series, large architectural installations and personal collections in a long-term exhibition. The exhibition’s centerpiece Glasshouse features one of the artist’s largest, suspended sculptures created specifically for Chihuly Garden and Glass. In addition to the artworks, the exhibition also features a first look at Chihuly’s extensive personal collections in the Collections Café.

The Exhibition Hall contains eight galleries and two Drawing Walls, offering visitors a comprehensive look at Chihuly’s significant series of work, including:

  • Glass Forest
  • Northwest Room
  • Sealife Room
  • Persian Ceiling
  • Mille Fiori
  • Ikebana and Float Boats
  • Chandeliers
  • Macchia Forest
  • Drawing Walls

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Dale Chihuly calls the Pacific Northwest home and supports many arts and civic communities in the region including Hilltop Artists and Pilchuck Glass School, both of which he co-founded. Pilchuck Glass School joins Pratt Fine Arts Center, ArtsFund and Seattle Public Schools as community partners for Chihuly Garden and Glass. Through these organizations Chihuly Garden and Glass supports opportunities for involvement and engagement in the arts, including the creation of a science curriculum based on glass blowing for middle school students in the Public Schools.

It is estimated that over 400,000 people a year will come to Seattle from all corners of the world to view this exhibition. 

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About Chihuly Garden and Glass

Chihuly Garden and Glass provides a look at the career of artist Dale Chihuly. Located at Seattle Center, the exhibition features an Exhibition Hall offering visitors a comprehensive look at Chihuly’s significant series of work. Visitors will also enjoy the centerpiece Glasshouse – a dramatic structure housing a suspended 1,340-piece, 100-foot-long glass sculpture – and the Garden, which is a backdrop for a number of monumental sculptures and other installations.”

Press release from the Chihuly Garden and Glass website

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Chihuly Garden and Glass
Pacific Sun and Glasshouse (evening)

2012

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Chihuly Garden and Glass
Glasshouse and Pacific Sun (evening)
2012

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Chihuly Garden and Glass
Glasshouse and Pacific Sun (evening)
2012

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Chihuly Garden and Glass
Viola Crystal Tower and Glasshouse (night)
2012

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Chihuly Garden and Glass
305 Harrison St
Seattle, WA 98109

Opening hours:
Sunday – Thursday 11am – 10pm
Friday – Saturday 11am – 11pm

Chihuly Garden and Glass website

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17
Jun
12

Video: ‘Disturbing Visions: the photography of Roger Ballen’ – Lens Culture Conversations with Photographers

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A very interesting video from Lens Culture where Roger Ballen explains his working methodology.
Inspiration comes from inside yourself, always!

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Roger Ballen: Lens Culture Conversations with Photographers from Jim Casper on Vimeo.

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Roger Ballen website

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15
Jun
12

Exhibition: ‘Gillian Wearing’ at Whitechapel Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 28th March – 17th June 2012
Galleries 1, 8 and Victor Petitgas Gallery

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Many thankx to the Whitechapel 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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Gillian Wearing
Dancing in Peckham
1994
Colour video with sound
25 minutes
© the artist
Courtesy Maureen Paley, London

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Gillian Wearing
Self Portrait at 17 Years Old
2003
Framed C-type print
115.5 x 92 cm
© the artist
Courtesy Maureen Paley, London

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Gillian Wearing
HELP
1992-3
From the series Signs that say what you want them to say and not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say
C-type print mounted on aluminium
Dimensions variable
© the artist
Courtesy Maureen Paley, London

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Gillian Wearing
I’M DESPERATE 
1992-3
From the series Signs that say what you want them to say and not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say
C-type print mounted on aluminium
Dimensions variable
© the artist
Courtesy Maureen Paley, London

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Gillian Wearing
WILL BRITAIN GET THROUGH THIS RECESSION?
1992-3
From the series Signs that say what you want them to say and not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say
C-type print mounted on aluminium
Dimensions variable
© the artist
Courtesy Maureen Paley, London

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“The Whitechapel Gallery presents the first major international survey of Turner Prize-winning British artist Gillian Wearing’s photographs and films which explore the public and private lives of ordinary people. Fascinated by how people present themselves in front of the camera in flyon-the-wall documentaries and reality TV, Gillian Wearing explores ideas of personal identity through often masking her subjects and using theatre’s staging techniques.

This major exhibition surveys Wearing’s work from the early photographs Signs that Say What You Want Them to Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You to Say (1992-3) to her latest video Bully (2010) and also includes several new photographs made specially for the Whitechapel Gallery exhibition.

Visitors to the exhibition enter a film set-style installation showcasing photographs and films in ‘front and back stage’ areas. Highlights include a striking photograph of the artist posing as her younger self, Self-Portrait at 17 Years Old (2003), Dancing in Peckham (1994), a film which blurs the boundaries between public space and private expression as Wearing dances in the middle of a shopping mall, and the UK premiere of recent film Bully (2010). New photographic works shown for the first time include two portraits of Wearing as artists August Sander and Claude Cahun as part of her ongoing series of iconic photographers, as well as still lives of flowers, looking back to the rich symbolism of the great age of 17th century Dutch painting.

A gallery is dedicated to Wearing’s well-known photographs giving people the chance to write what they were thinking at that moment, titled Signs that Say What You Want Them to Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You to Say (1992-3). The series includes a city worker holding a sign saying, ‘I’m Desperate’, a policeman holding ‘Help!’ and another person’s sign ‘Will Britain ever get through this recession’.

The exhibition also includes a series of private viewing booths for three confessional videos shown together for the first time and in which Gillian Wearing asked people to describe intensely personal experiences. These include Trauma (2000) where sitters describe childhood traumas while wearing a mask. As well as the powerful videos Secrets and Lies (2000) and Confess All On Video. Don’t Worry, You Will Be In Disguise. Intrigued? Call Gillian… (1994). Alongside these works the video 2 into 1 (1997) sees a mother lip synching the voices of her twin sons and vice versa as they describe their relationship.”

Press release from Whitechapel Gallery website

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Gillian Wearing
Bully
2010
Colour video for projection with sound
7 minutes 55 seconds
© the artist
Courtesy Maureen Paley, London

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Gillian Wearing
2 into 1
1997
Colour video for monitor with sound
4 minutes 30 seconds
© the artist
Courtesy Maureen Paley, London

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Gillian Wearing
Trauma
2000
Colour video for monitor with sound
30 minutes
© the artist
Courtesy Maureen Paley, London

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Gillian Wearing
Me as Cahun Holding a Mask of My Face
2012
Framed bromide print
149 x 120.5 cm
© the artist
Courtesy Maureen Paley, London

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Gillian Wearing
Me as Sander
2012
Framed bromide print
149 x 98.8 cm
© the artist
Courtesy Maureen Paley, London

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Whitechapel Gallery
77 – 82 Whitechapel High Street
London E1 7QX
T: + 44 (0) 20 7522 7888

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 6pm
Thursdays and Fridays 11am  9pm

Whitechapel Gallery website

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12
Jun
12

Exhibition: ‘Metamorphosis of Japan after the War: Photography 1945-1964’ at the Berlin Museum of Photography

Exhibition dates: 9th March – 17th June 2012

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The joy of the discharged soldier (upon survival); the regimentation of the market place; the inquisitiveness of youth.
The blackness (incineration) of the body; the blackest sun; the memorial of mapping.

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Many thankx to the Berlin Museum of Photography 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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Eikoh Hosoe
Barakei (Ordeal by Roses), No. 16
1961
© Eikoh Hosoe

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Tadahiko Hayashi
Discharged soldiers, Shinagawa Station
Tokyo 1946
© Yoshikatsu Hayashi

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Shigeichi Nagano
Completing management training at a stock brokerage firm
Tokyo 1961
© Shigeichi Nagano

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Ken Domon
Children looking at a picture-card show
Tokyo 1953
© Ken Domon Museum of Photography

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“On August 15th, 1945 the Pacific War came to an end and with it fourteen years of bombings, of deprivation and of great sacrifice for the Japanese people. The collapse of Japanese militaristic rule and the arrival of the US occupation forces thrust the nation into a new and uncertain era. It was in this context that photography took on a central role in the nation’s rediscovery of self and it soon became a vital contributor to Japanese society in the immediate postwar years. Metamorphosis of Japan after the War. Photography 1945 – 1964 reveals the changing face of life in Japan from the end of the Pacific War in 1945 to the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964 through photographs by 11 of Japan’s leading post-war photographers. By observing the role of photography in the evolution of post-war Japan, this exhibition shows how photography was able to play a crucial role in the search for the nation’s new identity. The works of these 11 photographers are an extraordinary document of the birth of a new Japan and of a new photographic generation whose dynamism and creativity laid the foundations for modern Japanese photography. The exhibition is divided into 3 thematic sections based around the major periods of the postwar years:

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The aftermath of war

With the end of the war magazines and newspapers flourished as years of censorship gave way to an editorial boom. Publications that had been banned during the war resurfaced just as new ones went to press for the first time. Improvements in printing techniques also allowed the mass production and distribution of publications containing photographic reproductions. Photographs played a central role in this information boom, as people sought objectivity in the place of the military propaganda that they had been subjected to for several years. People turned to photography to find the ‘truth’ that they sought. This photographic explosion brought about a profound reflection on the nature of the medium and on its role in society. The public’s demand for objectivity led to the emergence of a powerful social realism movement in the immediate post-war years. The atrocities of the war and the massive physical destruction of the country led photographers to adopt a direct approach and to focus on bearing witness and documenting what they saw around them. Photographers abandoned pictorialism and the propaganda techniques of the wartime years to immerse themselves in reality. Of those photographers who had already been active in the pre-war years including Domon Ken, Hamaya Hiroshi, Kimura Ihee and Hayashi Tadahiko, Domon became the leading proponent of the photo-realism movement. He advocated “the pure snapshot, absolutely unstaged” and urged photographers to “pay attention to the screaming voice of the subject and simply operate the camera exactly according to its indications.” As a regular contributor to Camera magazine, he became very active in the world of amateur photography and encouraged camera club members to follow this realist path.

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Tradition versus modernity

Despite its predominance in the immediate post-war years, the social realist movement was not to last. It captured a specific moment in time when the nation needed to take stock of the Pacific War and of its consequences. Photographers increasingly began to view the movement as too rigid and heavily politicised. Hamaya for instance chose to break away and adopted a new approach, both in terms of style and subject, when he began his work on the coast of the Sea of Japan, leading to the series Yukiguni (Snow country) and Ura Nihon (Japan’s Back Coast). In these series Hamaya displayed a more humanist approach than seen in social realism and chose to focus instead on a timeless aspect of Japanese rural society, rather than on the social issues linked directly to the immediate post-war. By the mid 1950s many photographers were turning away from documenting the destruction of the war to focus on the stark contrast between ‘traditional’ Japan and the modernisation of Japanese society associated with the American occupation. The hardships of the 1940s were rapidly replaced with rapid industrialisation and economic growth as Japan was modernised. These changes had a deep impact as Japan’s complex social structures were thrown into upheaval with the country’s economic transformation. Photographers focused not only on capturing the emergence of this new economic and social paradigm in Japan’s cities, but also sought to document those areas of Japan which were less affected by modernisation and offered a window onto the country’s past.

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A new Japan

In addition during the second half of the 1950s a new generation of photographers was coming of age. They had grown up during the war but were only beginning to find their photographic eye during the post-war years. From this generation, a new photographic approach referred to as ‘subjective documentary’ was born. In 1959, the most innovative photographers of the time founded the agency Vivo which, despite its short lifespan, was to become a key contributor to the evolution of Japanese photography. With photographers such as Narahara Ikko, Tomatsu Shomei, Kawada Kikuji or Hosoe Eikoh, Vivo put forward the idea that personal experience and interpretation were essential elements in the value of a photographic image. These photographers developed a particular sensibility influenced by ‘traditional’ Japan as well as by the turbulence of postwar reconstruction and the explosion of economic growth. Their photographic eye turned both to the past, to the Japan of their childhood that they saw disappearing, and to the future and the ever-increasing modernisation that was transforming Japanese society. Over 10 years after the atomic bombings, this new generation of photographers also began to engage with the legacy of these events and their future significance, both for Japan and for all of humanity. The series that emerged including Kawada’s Chizu (The Map), Hosoe’s Kamaitachi and Tomatsu’s Nagasaki 11:02, are amongst some of the most powerful statements in twentieth century photography.”

Press release from the Berlin Museum of Photography

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Takeyoshi Tanuma
Dancers resting on the rooftop of the SKD Theatre
Asakusa, Tokyo 1949
© Takeyoshi Tanuma

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Ikko Narahara
Domains. Garden of Silence, No. 52
Hakodate, Hokkaido 1958
© Ikko Narahara

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Keisuke Katano
Woman planting rice
1955
© Keisuke Katano

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Shomei Tomatsu
Fukuejima Island
Nagasaki 1963
© The Japan Foundation

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Kikuji Kawada
The Map. The A-Bomb Memorial Dome and Ohta River
Hiroshima 1960-65
© Kikuji Kawada

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Berlin Museum of Photography
Jebensstraße 2
10623 Berlin

Opening hours:
Tues – Sunday 10am – 6pm
Closed Mondays

Berlin Museum of Photography 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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