Melbourne’s magnificent nine 2013

January 2014


Darron Davies. 'Encased' 2012


Darron Davies (Australian)
Archival Pigment Print on Photo Rag
80 x 80cm / edition of 6



Here’s my pick of the nine best local exhibitions which featured on the Art Blart blog in 2013 (plus a favourite of the year from Hobart). Enjoy!



1/ Review: Terraria by Darron Davies at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

This is the first “magical” exhibition of photography that I have seen in Melbourne this year. Comprising just seven moderately large Archival Pigment Print on Photo Rag images mounted in white frames, this exhibition swept me off my feet. The photographs are beautiful, subtle, nuanced evocations to the fragility and enduring nature of life…

A sense of day / dreaming is possible when looking at these images. Interior / exterior, size / scale, ego / self are not fixed but fluid, like the condensation that runs down the inside of these environments (much like blood circulates our body). This allows the viewer’s mind to roam at will, to ponder the mysteries of our short, improbable, joyous life. The poetic titles add to this introspective reflection. I came away from viewing these magical, self sustaining vessels with an incredibly happy glow, more aware of my own body and its relationship to the world than before I had entered Darron Davies enveloping, terrarium world.


Darron Davies. 'The Red Shard' 2012


Darron Davies (Australian)
The Red Shard 
Archival Pigment Print on Photo Rag
80 x 80cm / edition of 6



2/ Review: Confounding: Contemporary Photography at NGV International, Melbourne

Presently, contemporary photography is able to reveal intangible, constructed vistas that live outside the realm of the scientific. A photograph becomes a perspective on the world, an orientation to the world based on human agency. An image-maker takes resources for meaning (a visual language, how the image is made and what it is about), undertakes a design process (the process of image-making), and in so doing re-images the world in a way that it has never quite been seen before.

These ideas are what a fascinating exhibition titled Confounding: Contemporary Photography, at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne investigates. In the confounding of contemporary photography we are no longer witnessing a lived reality but a break down of binaries such as sacred and profane, public and private, natural and artificial, real and dreamed environments as artists present their subjective visions of imagined, created worlds. Each image presents the viewer with a conundrum that investigates the relationship between photographs and the “real” world they supposedly record. How do these photographs make you feel about this constructed, confounding world? These fields of existence?


Thomas Demand. 'Public housing' 2003


Thomas Demand (German b. 1964)
Public housing
type C photograph
100.1 x 157cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by the Bowness Family Fund for Contemporary Photography, 2010
© Thomas Demand/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Licensed by VISCOPY, Sydney


Eliza Hutchison Australian born 1965 'The ancestors' 2004


Eliza Hutchison (Australian, b. 1965)
The ancestors
Light-jet print
95.4 x 72.9cm (image), 105.4 x 82.9cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds arranged by Loti Smorgon for Contemporary Australian Photography, 2005
© Eliza Hutchison, courtesy Murray White Room


3/ Review: Louise Bourgeois: Late Works at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne


Louise Bourgeois: Late Works installation view Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne Photograph: John Gollings 2012


Louise Bourgeois: Late Works installation view
Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
Photograph: John Gollings 2012


Louise Bourgeois 'Untitled' 2002


Louise Bourgeois (French-American, 1911-2010)
Tapestry and aluminium
43.2 x 30.5 x 30.5cm
Courtesy Cheim & Read and Hauser & Wirth
Photo: Christopher Burke
© Louise Bourgeois Trust



This is a tough, stimulating exhibition of late works by Louise Bourgeois at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne. All the main themes of the artist’s work explored over many years are represented in these late works: memory, emotion, anxiety, family, relationships, childhood, pain, desire and eroticism are all present as are female subjectivity and sexuality, expressed through the body…

Bourgeois’ work gives me an overall feeling of immersion in a world view, one that transcends the pain and speaks truth to power. Bourgeois confronted the emotion, memory or barrier to communication that generated her mood and the work. She observed, “My art is an exorcism. My sculpture allows me to re-experience fear, to give it a physicality, so that I am able to hack away at it.” By weaving, stitching and sewing Bourgeois threaded the past through the present and enacted, through artistic performance, a process of repair and reconstruction, giving meaning and shape to frustration and suffering. I have not been so lucky. My mother refuses to discuss the past, will not even come close to the subject for the pain is so great for her. I am left with a heaviness of heart, dealing with the demons of the past that constantly lurk in the memory of childhood, that insistently impinge on the man I am today. Louise Bourgeois’ sculptures brought it all flooding back as the work of only a great artist can, forcing me to become an ethical witness to her past, my past. A must see exhibition this summer in Melbourne.


4/ Exhibition: Petrina Hicks: Selected Photographs, 2013 at Helen Gory Galerie, Prahran, Melbourne

A stunning, eloquent and conceptually complex exhibition buy Petrina Hicks at Helen Gory Galerie…

I am just going to add that the photograph Venus (2013, below) is one of the most beautiful photographs that I have seen “in the flesh” (so to speak) for a long while. Hicks control over the ‘presence’ of the image, her control over the presence within the image is immaculate. To observe how she modulates the colour shift from blush of pink within the conch shell, to colour of skin, to colour of background is an absolute joy to behold. The pastel colours of skin and background only serve to illuminate the richness of the pink within the shell as a form of immaculate conception (an openness of the mind and of the body). I don’t really care who is looking at this photograph (not another sexualised male gaze!) the form is just beauty itself. I totally fell in love with this work.

Forget the neo-feminist readings, one string of text came to mind: The high fidelity of a fetishistic fecundity.


Petrina Hicks. 'Venus' 2013


Petrina Hicks (Australian, b. 1972)
Pigment print, Edition of 8
100 x 100cm


Petrina Hicks. 'Enigma' 2013


Petrina Hicks (Australian, b. 1972)
Pigment print, Edition of 8
100 x 100cm



5/ Exhibition: Density by Andrew Follows at Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond

I include this in my list of magnificent photographic exhibitions for the year not because I curated it, but because of the conceptualisation, the unique quality of the images and the tenacity of a visually impaired artist to produce such memorable work.

A wonderful exhibition by vision impaired photographer Andrew Follows at Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond. It has been a real pleasure to mentor Andrew over the past year and to see the fruits of our labour is incredibly satisfying. The images are strong, elemental, atmospheric, immersive. Due to the nature of Andrew’s tunnel vision there are hardly any traditional vanishing points within the images, instead the ‘plane of existence’ envelops you and draws you in.


Density n.

The degree of optical opacity of a medium or material, as of a photographic negative;

Thickness of consistency;

Complexity of structure or content.


Andrew Follows. 'Number 31, Eltham' 2013


Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019)
Number 31, Eltham
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5cm


Andrew Follows. 'Green, Montsalvat' 2013


Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019
Green, Montsalvat
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5 cm


Carol Jerrems. 'Mark and Flappers' 1975


Carol Jerrems (Australian, 1949-1980)
Mark and Flappers
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems


Carol Jerrems. 'Carol Jerrems, self-portrait with Esben Storm' c. 1975


Carol Jerrems (Australian, 1949-1980)
Carol Jerrems, self-portrait with Esben Storm
c. 1975
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of Mrs Joy Jerrems 1981
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems



6/ Review: Carol Jerrems: photographic artist at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

This is a fascinating National Gallery of Australia exhibition about the work of Australian photographer Carol Jerrems at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill – in part both memorable, intimate, informative, beautiful, uplifting and disappointing…

The pity is that she died so young for what this exhibition brought home to me was that here was an artist still defining, refining her subject matter. She never had to time to develop a mature style, a mature narrative as an artist (1975-1976 seems to be the high point as far as this exhibition goes). This is the great regret about the work of Carol Jerrems. Yes, there is some mediocre work in this exhibition, stuff that really doesn’t work at all (such as the brothel photographs), experimental work, individual and collective images that really don’t impinge on your consciousness. But there are also the miraculous photographs (and for a young photographer she had a lot of those), the ones that stay with you forever. The right up there, knock you out of the ball park photographs and those you cannot simply take away from the world. They live on in the world forever.

Does Jerrems deserve to be promoted as a legend, a ‘premier’ of Australian photography as some people are doing? Probably not on the evidence of this exhibition but my god, those top dozen or so images are something truly special to behold. Their ‘presence’ alone – their physicality in the world, their impact on you as you stand before them – guarantees that Jerrems will forever remain in the very top echelons of Australian photographers of all time not as a legend, but as a women of incredible strength, intelligence, passion, determination and vision.


7/ Exhibition: Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion at NGV International, Melbourne

What a gorgeous exhibition. It’s about time Melbourne had a bit of style put back into the National Gallery of Victoria, and this exhibition hits it out of the park. Not only are the photographs absolutely fabulous but the frocks are absolutely frocking as well. Well done to the NGV for teaming the photographs with the fashion and for a great install (makes a change to see 2D and 3D done so well together). Elegant, sophisticated and oozing quality, this is a sure fire winner….


Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International


Installation photograph of the exhibition Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion at NGV International


Edward Steichen. 'Marlene Dietrich' 1934


Edward Steichen (American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23)
Marlene Dietrich
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy Condé Nast Archive
© 1924 Condé Nast Publications



8/ Exhibition: Reinventing the Wheel: the Readymade Century at the Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), Melbourne

Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) is generating an enviable reputation for holding vibrant, intellectually stimulating group exhibitions on specific ideas, concepts and topics. This exhibition is no exception. It is one of the best exhibitions I have seen in Melbourne this year. Accompanied by a strong catalogue with three excellent essays by Thierry de Duve, Dr Rex Butler and Patrice Sharkey, this is a must see exhibition for any Melbourne art aficionado before it closes.

“This transition is a flash, a boundary where this becomes that, not then, not that – falling in love, jumping of a bridge. Alive : dead; presence : absence; purpose : play; mastery : exhaustion; logos : silence; worldly : transcendent. Not this, not that. It is an impossible presence, present – a moment of unalienated production that we know exists but we cannot define it, place it. How can we know love? We can speak of it in a before and after sense but it is always a past moment that we recognise.”

Dr Marcus Bunyan. Made Ready: A Philosophy of Moments. December 2013


Jeff Koons. 'Balloon dog (Red)' 1995 designed


Jeff Koons (American, b. 1955)
Balloon dog (Red)
1995 designed
Porcelain, ed. 1113/2300
11.3 x 26.3 cm diameter
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne




Andrew Liversidge (Australian, b. 1979)
10,000 $1 coins (AUD)
30 x 30 x 30cm
Courtesy of the artist and The Commercial Gallery, Sydney



9/ Review: Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne


Claudia Terstappen. 'Cabbage trees (Queensland, Australia)' 2002


Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Cabbage trees (Queensland, Australia)
from the series Our ancestors 1990-
Gelatin silver print
29 x 29cm
Courtesy  of the artist


Claudia Terstappen. 'Zion Park (USA)' 1996


Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Zion Park (USA)
from the series Sacred land of the Navajo Indians 1990-
Gelatin silver print
37 x 37cm
Courtesy  of the artist



Without doubt this is the best pure photography exhibition I have seen this year in Melbourne. The exhibition is stimulating and enervating, the image making of the highest order in its aesthetic beauty and visual complexity. The artist explores intangible spaces which define our physical and spiritual relationship with the un/known world…

In Terstappen’s work there is no fixed image and no single purpose, a single meaning, or one singular existence that the images propose. They transcend claims about the world arising from, for example, natural or scientific attitudes or theories of the ontological nature of the world. As the artist visualises, records the feeling of the facts, such complex and balanced images let the mind of the viewer wander in the landscape. In their fecundity the viewer is enveloped in that situation of not knowing. There is the feeling of the landscape, a sensitivity to being “lost” in the landscape, in the shadow of ‘Other’, enhanced through the modality of the printing. Dreamworld vs analytical / descriptive, there is the enigma of the landscape and its spiritual places. Yes, the sublime, but more an invocation, a plea to the gods for understanding. This phenomenological prayer allows the artist to envelop herself and the viewer in the profundity – the great depth, intensity and emotion – of the landscape. To be ‘present’ in the the untrammelled places of the world as (divine) experience…

I say to you that this is the most sophisticated reading of the landscape that I have seen in a long time – not just in Australia but from around the world. This is such a joy of an exhibition to see that you leave feeling engaged and uplifted. Being in the gallery on your own is a privilege that is hard to describe: to see (and feel!) landscape photography of the highest order and by an Australian artist as well.


10/ Exhibition: Joan Ross: Touching Other People’s Shopping at Bett Gallery, Hobart

The claiming of things
The touching of things
The digging of land
The tagging of place
The taking over of the world

Tag and capture.
Tag and capture.
Shop, dig, spray, destroy.

An ironic critique of the pastoral, neo/colonial world, tagged and captured in the 21st century.

Excellent work. The construction, sensibility and humour of the videos is outstanding. I also responded to the two works Tag and capture and Shopping for butterfly (both 2013, below).


Joan Ross. 'Tag and capture' 2013


Joan Ross (Australian, b. 1961)
Tag and capture
hand painted pigment print on cotton rag paper
50 x 47cm (image size)
edition of 3


Joan Ross. 'Shopping for butterfly' 2013


Joan Ross (Australian, b. 1961)
Shopping for butterfly
hand painted pigment print on cotton rag paper
51.5 x 50cm (image size)
edition of 3




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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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