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

Exhibition dates: 8th March – 30th March 2013


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


Mike Reid (Australian)
Santa Monica, Los Angeles, USA



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

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



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

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

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

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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



Mike Reid. 'Toorak, Victoria' Nd


Mike Reid (Australian)
Toorak, Victoria


Mike Reid. 'South Fremantle, Western Australia' Nd


Mike Reid (Australian)
South Fremantle, Western Australia


Mike Reid. 'Richmond, Victoria' Nd


Mike Reid (Australian)
Richmond, Victoria



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

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

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

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

Press release from the Colour Factory Gallery website


Mike Reid. 'Richmond, Victoria' Nd


Mike Reid (Australian)
Richmond, Victoria


Mike Reid. 'Macleod, Victoria' Nd


Mike Reid (Australian)
Macleod, Victoria




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Reed, 2013

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


Mike Reid. 'Brunswick East, Victoria' Nd


Mike Reid (Australian)
Brunswick East, Victoria


Mike Reid. 'Fairfield, Victoria' Nd


Mike Reid (Australian)
Fairfield, Victoria


Man Ray. 'L'Enigme d'Isidore Ducasse' 1920, remade 1972


Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
L’Enigme d’Isidore Ducasse
1920, remade 1972
Sewing machine, wool and string
355 x 605 x 335 mm


Mike Reid. 'Athens, Greece' Nd


Mike Reid (Australian)
Athens, Greece



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

Opening hours:
Closed for refurbishment

Mike Reed Photography website

Colour Factory Gallery website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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