Archive for November, 2014

30
Nov
14

Review: ‘PHOTOGRAPHY MEETS FEMINISM: Australian women photographers 1970s-80s’ at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 17th October – 7th December 2014

Artists: Micky Allan, Pat Brassington, Virginia Coventry, Sandy Edwards, Anne Ferran, Sue Ford, Christine Godden, Helen Grace, Janina Green, Fiona Hall, Ponch Hawkes, Carol Jerrems, Merryle Johnson, Ruth Maddison, Julie Rrap, Robyn Stacey.

Curator: Shaune Lakin

 

 

Christine Godden. 'Joanie pregnant' 1972

 

Christine Godden (Australian, b. 1947)
Joanie pregnant
1972
From the series Family
Gelatin silver print
15.3 x 22.6cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

With the National Gallery of Victoria’s photography exhibition program sliding into oblivion – the apparent demise of its only dedicated photography exhibition space on the 3rd floor of NGV International; the lack of exhibitions showcasing ANY Australian artists from any era; and the exhibition of perfunctory overseas exhibitions of mediocre quality (such as the high gloss, centimetre deep Alex Prager exhibition on show at the moment at NGV International) – it is encouraging that Monash Gallery of Art consistently puts on some of the best photography exhibitions in this city. This cracker of an exhibition, the last show curated by Shaune Lakin before his move to the National Gallery of Australia (and his passionate curatorial concept), is no exception. It is one of the best photography exhibitions I have seen all year in Melbourne.

Most of the welcome, usual suspects are here… but seeing them all together is a feast for the eyes and the intellect. While most are social documentary based photographers what I like about this exhibition is that there is little pretension here. The artists use photography as both a means and an end, to tell their story – of mothers, of workers, of dancers, of lovers – and to depict a revolution in social consciousness. What we must remember is the period in which this early work appeared. In the 1970s in Australia there were no formal photography programs at university and photography programs in techs and colleges were only just beginning: Photography Studies College (1973) in South Melbourne, Prahran College of Advanced Education (Paul Cox, John Cato, 1974) and Preston Tech (c. 1973, later Phillip Institute) were all set up in the early 1970s. The National Gallery of Victoria photography department was only set up in 1969 (the third ever in the world) with Jenny Boddington, Assistant Curator of Photography, was appointed in 1972 (later to become the first full time photography curator). There were three commercial photography galleries showing Australian and international work in Melbourne: Brummels (Rennie Ellis), Church Street Photographic Centre (Joyce Evans) and The Photographers Gallery (Paul Cox, John Williams, William Heimerman and Ian Lobb). While some of the artists attended these schools and others were self taught, few had their own darkroom. It was not uncommon for people to develop their negatives and print in bathrooms, toilets, backyard sheds and alike – and the advise was to switch on the shower before printing to clear the dust out of the air, advise in workshops that people did no bat an eyelid at.

What these women did, as Julie Millowick (another photographer who should have been in this exhibition, along with Elizabeth Gertsakis and Ingeborg Tyssen for example) observes of the teaching of John Cato, was “bring to the work knowledge that extended far beyond picking up a camera or going into a darkroom. He [Cato] believed that you must bring to every image you create a wide depth of insight across social, cultural and historical concerns. John was passionate in his belief that an understanding of humanity and society was crucial to our growth as individuals, and ultimately our success as photographers.”1 And so it is with these artists. Never has there been a time in Australian photography when so much social change has been documented by so few for such great advantage. In all its earthiness and connection, the work of these artists is ground breaking. It speaks from the heart for the abused, for the disenfranchised and downtrodden. The work is not only for women by women, as Ponch Hawkes states, but also points the way towards a more enlightened society by opening the eyes of the viewer to multiple points of view, multiple perspectives.

There are few “iconic” images among the exhibition and, as Robert Nelson notes in his review in The Age, little pretension to greatness. One of the surprising elements of the exhibition is how the four photographs by Carol Jerrems (including the famous Vale Street, 1975), seem to loose a lot of their power in this company. They are out muscled in terms of their presence by some of the more essential and earthy series – such as Women at work by Helen Grace and Our mums and us by Ponch Hawkes – and out done in terms of their sensuality by the work of Christine Godden. These were my two favourite bodies of work: Our mums and us and Christine Godden’s sequence of 44 images and the series Family.

Hawkes’ objective series of mother/daughter relationships are deceptively simple in their formal structure (mother and daughter positioned in family homes usually looking directly at the camera), until you start to analyse them. Their unpretentious nature is made up of the interaction that Hawkes elicits from the pairing and the objet trouvé that are worn (the cowgirl boots in Ponch and Ida, 1976) or surround them (the carpet, the table, the plant and the painting in Mimi and Dany, 1976). This relationship adds to the power of the assemblage, juxtaposition of energy and form being a guiding principle in the construction of the image. While the environment might be ‘natural’ it is very much constructed, both physically and psychologically, by the artist.

The work of Christine Godden was a revelation to me. These small, intense images have a powerful magnetism and I kept returning to look at them again and again. There is sensitivity to subject matter, but more importantly a sensuality in the print that is quite overwhelming. Couple this with the feeling of light, space, form and texture and these sometimes fragmentary photographs are a knockout. Just look at the sensitivity of the hands in Untitled, c. 1976. To see that, to capture it, to reveal it to the world – I was almost in tears looking at this photograph. The humanity of that gesture is something that I will treasure.

The only criticism of the exhibition is the lack of a book that addresses one of the most challenging times in Australian photographic history. This important work deserves a fully researched, scholarly publication that includes ALL the players in the story, not just those represented here. It’s about time. As a good friend of mine recently said, “Circles must expand as history moves away from a generation and cohort and, hopefully, the future will ask its own questions” … and I would add, without putting the blinkers on and creating more ideology.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

  1. Julie Millowick and Christopher Atkins. “Dr John Cato – Educator,” in Paul Cox and Bryan Gracey (eds.,). John Cato Retrospective. Melbourne: Wilkinson Publishing, 2013.

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

 

 

“As feminism took off among intellectuals of both sexes, art history would sometimes be interrogated to account for the reasons why there were relatively few great female artists.

While art historians would create reasonable apologies and impute the deficit to centuries of disadvantage to women, it was left to women artists to construct a view of art that redefined the stakes.

They sought a vision that didn’t see art as line-honours in transcendent inventions but a conversation that furthered the sympathy and consciousness of the community”

.
Robert Nelson The Age Wednesday November 5, 2014

 

 

Pat Brassington. 'Untitled' 1984 (1)

 

Pat Brassington (Australian, b. 1942)
Untitled
1984 (1)
From the series 1 + 1 = 3
Gelatin silver print
18 x 28cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Courtesy of the artist, ARC ONE Gallery (Melbourne), Stills Gallery (Sydney) and Bett Gallery (Hobart)

 

 

Pat Brassington‘s photographs have often made use of the artist’s home and family life as subject matter. The photographs included in this exhibition were taken during the early 1980s and, with their tight cropping and diagonal obliques, suggest that family life is an anxious and ambivalent place. Erotically charged body parts – whether partner’s or offspring – are left to hang, like fetish objects drifting through a dream. Brassington is consciously mining the clichés of psychoanalysis, with her focus on shoes, panties and an ominous father figure, but she reworks this symbolism with a comical lightness that is closer to a teen horror film than the analyst’s couch.

 

Helen Grace. 'Women at work, Newcastle' 1976

 

Helen Grace
Women at work, Newcastle
1976
From the series Series 1
Gelatin silver prints
17.5 x 11.6cm (each)
Courtesy of the artist

 

Helen Grace. 'Women at work, Newcastle' 1976

 

Helen Grace
Women at work, Newcastle
1976
From the series Series 2
Gelatin silver prints
11.6 x 17.5cm (each)
Courtesy of the artist

 

Helen Grace. 'Women at work, Newcastle' (detail) 1976

 

Helen Grace
Women at work, Newcastle (detail)
1976
From the series Series 2
Gelatin silver prints
11.6 x 17.5cm (each)
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Helen Grace was a member of the Sydney-based feminist collective Blatant Image (which also included Sandy Edwards), which formed around the Tin Sheds at Sydney University. The collective was interested in examining and reconfiguring the representation of women in popular culture, and also in developing alternative venues for socially conscious art and film. The photographs displayed here point to the two interconnected preoccupations of Grace’s work at this time: the social and cultural construction of motherhood and femininity (and the way that each of these categories are produced by and through consumerism and popular culture), and the documentation of women’s labour. An active member of Sydney’s labour movement, Grace photographed women working in a range of workplaces (including factories and hospitals) for both the historical record and as promotional aids for activist organisations.

Grace’s Women seem to adapt to repetitive-type tasks was widely shown in Sydney and Melbourne, including the exhibition The lovely motherhood show (1981). This work of seven panoramas depicting a string of nappies on a washing line at once points towards the inexorable tediousness of motherhood, and at the same time attempts to demystify the romantic myths of motherhood found in contemporary advertising and popular culture. Grace’s photographs were also widely used in posters produced by trade union and women’s groups. During the 1970s and 1980s screen printing was a cheap and effective way to incorporate photographic imagery into posters. Community groups also embraced screen printing because its aesthetic stood in opposition to commercial advertising, and the process lent itself to a do-it-yourself work ethic.

 

Merryle Johnson. 'Outside the big top' 1979-80

 

Merryle Johnson (Australian, b. 1949)
Outside the big top
1979-80
From the series Circus
Hand coloured gelatin silver prints
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Merryle Johnson, 2014

 

 

Merryle Johnson‘s photographic feminism sits alongside her contemporaries Micky Allan and Ruth Maddison. In the first instance, it is expressed in the autobiographical nature of her images, which often refer to her family history. And like Allan and Maddison, Johnson also used hand-colouring to reinvigorate documentary photography and to bring a decidedly female perspective to the medium. Johnson’s contribution to feminist photography in Australia is also reflected in her use of photographic sequences – multiple images printed on the same sheet. In these works, the single, perfectly realised photographic image of Modernist photography was replaced with a series of images that draw attention to the fragmentary, contingent and inconclusive nature of photography. The serialisation of photographs also engages a more embodied, spatialised and assertive experience than single pictures alone.

 

Christine Godden. 'Joanie and baby Jade, Larkspur' 1973

 

Christine Godden (Australian, b. 1947)
Joanie and baby Jade, Larkspur
1973
From the series Family
Gelatin silver print
8.4 x 13.8cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Christine Godden. 'Untitled' c. 1976

 

Christine Godden (Australian, b. 1947)
Untitled
c. 1976
Gelatin silver print
15.3 x 22.8cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Christine Godden. 'Untitled' c. 1976

 

Christine Godden (Australian, b. 1947)
Untitled
c. 1976
Gelatin silver print
15.2 x 22.7cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Christine Godden. 'Untitled' c. 1976

 

Christine Godden (Australian, b. 1947)
Untitled
c. 1976
Gelatin silver print
15.2 x 22.8cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Christine Godden‘s Untitled c. 1976 is part of a sequence of 44 images that represented fragments and textures that combine tenderness and formal rigour in a way that evokes a sense of poetry. The series Family c. 1973 details the domestic environment and experience of young families in the American West.

As well as presenting subjects that engaged a ‘feminine’ subject, Godden’s photographs critically interrogate many of the claims for a distinctly ‘feminine sensibility’ being made by and for women artists at this time. The ‘Untitled’ prints on display here were originally exhibited in 1976 at George Paton Gallery, Melbourne and the Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney. These pictures were originally shown as part of a tightly organised sequence of 44 photographs intended to show ‘how women see [and] how women think’. The tightly cropped glimpses of bodies and textures combine tenderness and formal rigour in a way that evokes a sense of visual poetry.

Christine Godden’s Family series comprises a large number of images detailing the domestic environment and experience of young families living in the American west. Godden was at this time a student at the San Francisco Art Institute and was very active in feminist networks, including the Advocates for Women organisation, for whom she photographed events and actions. Godden’s Family series documents her experience of the counter-cultural families of America’s west coast, who provided and celebrated a new model of family life and women’s work.

 

Installation view of 'Photography Meets Feminism' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of Photography Meets Feminism at the Monash Gallery of Art with, at right, Anne Ferran’s Scenes on the death of nature, scene I and II (1980-86)

 

Anne Ferran. 'Scenes on the death of nature, scene I' 1980-86

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Scenes on the death of nature, scene I
1980-86
Gelatin silver print
122.0 x 162.0cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Courtesy the artist and Sutton Gallery (Melbourne)

 

 

Anne Ferran‘s series Scenes on the death of nature presents five tableau-like scenes showing the artist’s daughter and her friends in classical dress. When they were first exhibited, commentators noted the enigmatic quality of the images, and how they resisted clear meaning, narrative and any attribute of personal style. To many, they represented a significant shift away from documentary photography. This might well be the ‘death’ to which the titles refer. For the critic Adrian Martin, the pictures appeared to evoke myth, while also being ambivalent about a photograph’s capacity to point to or allude to anything outside of itself; in this way, they can be seen to exemplify a certain post-modern approach to photography.

All the same, it is possible to see these important pictures as signposts for another kind of death. The photographs allude to some of the ways that the subject of girl/woman has been produced through visual culture, whether the monumental friezes of classical or Victorian architecture, or Pre-Raphaelite tableaux. In this way, they evoke the idea of ‘femininity’ as a source of meaning. Rather than rejoicing in, resisting or critiquing ‘femininity’ as earlier feminist photographers might have done, Ferran’s pictures remain steadfastly, even ‘passively’ ambivalent. As the artist wrote at the time, the works reveal ‘very little of a personal vision or private sensibility’. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of four Carol Jerrems photographs with 'Vale Street' (1975) at left

 

Installation view of four Carol Jerrems photographs with Vale Street (1975) at left and Lynn (1976) at right

 

Carol Jerrems. 'Vale Street' 1975

 

Carol Jerrems (Australian, 1949-1980)
Vale Street
1975
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1976
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems

 

Carol Jerrems. 'Lynn' 1976

 

Carol Jerrems (Australian, 1949-1980)
Lynn
1976
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems

 

 

Carol Jerrems was one of a number of Australian women whose work during the 1970s challenged the dominant ideas of what a photographer was and how they worked. She adopted a collaborative approach to making photographs, which often featured friends and associates, and sought a photographic practice that would bring about social change. For Jerrems, as for many of her contemporaries, the photograph was an agent of social change, a means of both bringing people together and creating active and engaged social relationships. As she stated:

“I really like people … I try to reveal something about people, because they are so separate, so isolated; maybe it’s a way of bringing people together … I care about [people], I’d like to help them if I could, through my photographs…”

The iconic Vale Street shows Jerrems’s friend Catriona Brown standing in front of Mark Lean and Jon Bourke, teenage boys from Heidelberg Technical School where Jerrems was teaching at the time. The photograph was taken at a house in Vale Street, St Kilda. Although it is unclear if Jerrems conceived of this image as a feminist gesture, the subject’s assertive, bare-chested pose and Venus symbol led to this photograph being interpreted as a statement of feminist power.

 

Installation view of 'Photography Meets Feminism' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of 'Photography Meets Feminism' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of Photography Meets Feminism at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of Ponch Hawkes series 'Our mums and us' at the exhibition 'Photography Meets Feminism'

 

Installation view of Ponch Hawkes series Our mums and us at the exhibition Photography Meets Feminism. Her photographs were made by women, of women, for women.

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Ponch and Ida' 1976

 

Ponch Hawkes (Australian, b. 1946)
Ponch and Ida
1976
From the series Our mums and us
Gelatin silver print
17.7 x 12.7cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Ian Bracegirdle 2012
Courtesy of the artist

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Lorna and Mary' 1976

 

Ponch Hawkes (Australian, b. 1946)
Lorna and Mary
1976
From the series Our mums and us
Gelatin silver print
17.7 x 12.7cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Ian Bracegirdle 2012
Courtesy of the artist

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Mimi and Dany' 1976

 

Ponch Hawkes (Australian, b. 1946)
Mimi and Dany
1976
From the series Our mums and us
Gelatin silver print
17.7 x 12.7cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Ian Bracegirdle 2012
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Ponch Hawkes‘s best-known series Our mums and us documents a selection of the photographer’s contemporaries standing with their mothers. The photographs were taken at each subject’s family home and record generational shifts in personal style and domestic decor. Originally shown at Brummels Gallery of Photography in 1976, which was Hawkes’s first solo exhibition, Our mums and us has become one of the most celebrated examples of feminist photography in Australia.

The use of pronouns in the title suggests the series was made by women, of women and for women; it is a defiant and celebratory feminist gesture, which foregrounds women as at once independent and connected to each other. Reflecting on the series, Hawkes explains that ‘feminism helped me to understand that my mother was actually a woman too, and not just a mother, and Our mums and us came out of that realisation.’

 

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installation-k

installation-l

installation-h

 

Ephemera and books from Ponch Hawkes personal collection, including the cover of the seminal book A Book About Australian Women by Carol Jerrems and Virginia Fraser (Melbourne, 1974)

 

Ruth Maddison. 'Vehicle Builders Union Ball, Collingwood Town Hall, Melbourne' 1979

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Vehicle Builders Union Ball, Collingwood Town Hall, Melbourne
1979
From the series Let’s dance
Gelatin silver print
27.0 x 18.0cm
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of the artist

 

Ruth Maddison. 'Women’s dance, St Kilda Town Hall, Melbourne' 1985

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Women’s dance, St Kilda Town Hall, Melbourne
1985
Gelatin silver print
36.5 x 24.5 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Ruth Maddison photographed the social spaces that had been important to activist communities but which were in the process of passing away. These were mainly commissioned projects for labour and social movements, otherwise these histories would have been lost.

Dancing and entertainment were features of Ruth Maddison’s work throughout the 1980s. These photographs reflected Maddison’s own social life, which often revolved around Melbourne’s pubs and nightclubs. But there was also a classical documentary function to her photographs of trade union dances and the annual women’s dance at St Kilda Town Hall. These pictures reflected social spaces that had been important to activist communities, but which by the mid-1980s were in the process of passing away; as women’s groups began to fragment, and as the membership of labour organisations changed. The photographs shown here of the Vehicle Builders’ Union Ball at Collingwood Town Hall were part of a commission. Like many photographers in this exhibition (including Helen Grace, Sandy Edwards and Ponch Hawkes), political affiliation and professional practice often came together in commissioned projects for labour and social movements.

 

Virginia Coventry. 'Miss World televised' 1974

 

Virginia Coventry (Australian, b. 1942)
Miss World televised
1974
Gelatin silver print
15.5 x 13.5cm (each)
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Miss World televised is typical of Virginia Coventry‘s photographic work from this period, which tended to revolve around tightly organised sequences of pictures of the same subject (swimming pools in a Queensland town; the spaces between houses) or an event (a car moving through a carwash; a receding flood).

At the time, Coventry shared a house with Micky Allan. One night, while watching Allan’s black-and-white television, she saw footage of the 1974 Miss World pageant on the news. Immediately taken by the way the poor reception distorted the bodies of the contestants, Coventry began to photograph the footage. Once she developed the film, she realised the visual ‘disruption’ caused by the incongruity of the telecast process and the camera’s shutter speed obscured the figures and the beauty of the contestants, without necessarily deriding or critiquing the women themselves. As Coventry has written of the pictures: “I remember discussions with other women at the time about the way that the distortions offered a protection to the integrity of the actual person in the photo-images. Because of the radical slippage between reportage and reception, the individual is no longer the subject. The title operates to focus attention on Miss World telecast as a quite abstract construction – as do the black-and-white, grainy, prints.”

 

 

PHOTOGRAPHY MEETS FEMINISM: Australian women photographers 1970s-80s looks at the vital relationship of photography and feminism in Australia during the 1970s and ’80s.

Given the vitality of both feminist politics and art photography during the 1970s, it is not surprising that they entered into a lively exchange that extended into the 1980s. On the one hand, feminists used the highly informative and accessible medium of photography to raise awareness of critical social issues.

On the other hand, photographic artists embraced feminist themes as a way of making their practice less esoteric and more engaged with contemporary life. This productive intersection of feminism and photography fostered a range of technical innovations and critical frameworks that made a significant contribution to the direction of visual culture in Australia.

PHOTOGRAPHY MEETS FEMINISM: Australian women photographers 1970s-80s will feature vintage prints of important photographs, many of which have not been seen for decades.

MGA Interim Director, Stephen Zagala states, “We are proud to present this exhibition, which provides an as-yet untold account of Australian photography and draws heavily on MGA’s nationally significant collection of Australian photography.”

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art

 

This exhibition explores the encounter between photography and feminist politics during the 1970s and into the 1980s.

Both photography and feminism thrived during this period. Feminist politics of the 1970s expanded on its earlier fight for equal rights by illuminating discrimination against women in various contexts. This included addressing domestic violence, inequality in the workplace, sexism in the media, and the economics of parenting. Alongside this expanded critique of patriarchy, feminist politics also celebrated ‘sisterhood’ by drawing attention to the undervalued achievements of women and by taking pride in distinctly female perspectives on the world.

Photographic practice also expanded its parameters during the 1970s. Together with other art forms such as painting and sculpture, photography became more experimental and irreverent. Most photographic artists rejected the tradition of highbrow fine art photography and invested the medium with personal sentiment and everyday content. The camera also became a useful tool for a generation of artists more interested in social engagement than aesthetic finesse.

Given the vitality of both feminist politics and art photography during the 1970s, it is not surprising that they entered into a lively exchange that extended into the 1980s. On the one hand, feminists used the highly informative and accessible medium of photography to raise awareness of critical social issues. On the other hand, photographic artists embraced feminist themes as a way of making their practice less esoteric and more engaged with contemporary life. This productive intersection of feminism and photography fostered a range of technical innovations and critical frameworks that made a significant contribution to the direction of visual culture in Australia.

Text from the Monash Gallery of Art website

 

Sue Ford. 'Untitled' 1969-71

 

Sue Ford (Australian, 1943-2009)
Untitled
1969-71
From the series The Tide Recedes
Selenium toned gelatin silver print

 

Sue Ford. 'Untitled' 1969-71

 

Sue Ford (Australian, 1943-2009)
Untitled
1969-71
From the series The Tide Recedes
Selenium toned gelatin silver print

 

 

Sue Ford‘s series The Tide Recedes 1969-71 was made for her first solo exhibition at the Hawthorn City Art Gallery in 1971. People were becoming more removed from nature but Ford felt that woman share a particular biological and cultural affinity with nature. The contrasty black and white photographs of bodies melding with rocks in montage prints that are as rough as guts work magnificently.

These prints were made as preparation for Sue Ford’s ambitious series The tide recedes, shown as part of Ford’s first solo exhibition at the Hawthorn City Art Gallery in 1971. Throughout this body of work, images of naked women and of men and women embracing merge with a marine landscape. The series expresses Ford’s concern that people were becoming too removed from nature, and allude to the idea that women share a particular biological and cultural affinity with nature. It also draws on a technique that was central to feminist photographic practice – montage, where two disparate fragments are brought together to produce new and often unexpected meanings. While this reflects Ford’s work as a film maker, where montage is often used in storytelling, this strategy also embeds her pictures in the field of activist art. With montage, it is the viewer who ultimately makes sense of a work, as they find and see connections between disparate fragments.

While the prints presented in the 1971 exhibition were ambitious in scale and resolution, Ford preferred prints that were – in her terms – ‘rough as guts’. Prints such as those shown here represented an explicit rejection of the maleness of both the camera as a technological instrument and the arcane knowledge of the darkroom.

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Queensland out west' 1982

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Queensland out west
1982
Hand-coloured gelatin silver prints
9.2 x 15.2 (each)
Courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery (Sydney)

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Queensland out west' 1982 (detail)

Robyn Stacey. 'Queensland out west' 1982 (detail)

Robyn Stacey. 'Queensland out west' 1982 (detail)

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Queensland out west (details)
1982
Hand-coloured gelatin silver prints
9.2 x 15.2 (each)
Courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery (Sydney)

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Untitled (Geoff in Bondi)' 1981

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Untitled (Geoff in Bondi)
1981
From the series Modified myths 1938-88
Hand-coloured gelatin silver print
39.0 x 38.3 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery (Sydney)

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Untitled (Picnic)' 1981

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Untitled (Picnic)
1981
From the series Modified myths 1938-88
Hand-coloured gelatin silver print
39.0 x 38.3cm
Courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery (Sydney)

 

 

Robyn Stacey established a reputation for her hand- coloured prints in the late 1970s and early ’80s. Introduced to the process by Micky Allan, Stacey’s early hand-coloured prints examined the life and culture of Australia, especially her native Queensland. Stacey hand-coloured her photographs so as to invest them with personal attributes: “At the time I was interested in hand colouring [because it was] a technique associated with women’s work and craft. This approach seemed a good way to visually re-enforce the personal and intimate quality of the prints.”

Among Stacey’s most important contributions to the feminist tradition of hand colouring photographs are her pictures of Queensland architecture, taken during a road trip to western Queensland made with her mother. These images refer to an heroic subject in Australian culture – the stoicism of the outback and the people who populate it. But Stacey revises these myths, by presenting the images as intimate and personal.

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Ice' 1989

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Ice
1989
from the series Redline 7000
Silver dye bleach print
104.0 x 175.3cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2012
Courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery (Sydney)

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Jet' 1989

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Jet
1989
from the series Redline 7000
Silver dye bleach print
164.0 x 103.0cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2012
Courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery (Sydney)

 

 

In the late 80s, Stacey began to hand colour her transparencies rather than the print, thereby incorporating an aspect of reproducibility to the images. In this way the work shifted from the unique print, with its references to nostalgia and the careful rendering of places and times, to something resembling the glossy images found in 1980s’ mass media, especially Hollywood cinema.

 

Julie Rrap. 'Persona and shadow: Madonna' 1984

 

Julie Rrap (Australian, b. 1950)
Persona and shadow: Madonna
1984
Silver dye bleach print
203.0 x 126.5cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1997
Courtesy of the artist and Arc One Gallery (Melbourne) and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery (Sydney)

 

 

This photograph is from the series of nine works titled Persona and shadow. Julie Rrap produced this series after visiting a major survey of contemporary art in Berlin (Zeitgeist, 1982) which only included one woman among the 45 artists participating in the exhibition. Rrap responded to this curatorial sexism with a series of self-portraits in which she mimics stereotypical images of women painted by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944). Each pose refers to a female stereotype employed by Munch: the innocent girl, the mother, the whore, the Madonna, the sister, and so on.

Appropriating the work of other artists is one of the strategies that characterises the work of so-called ‘postmodern’ artists active during the 1980s. The practice of borrowing, quoting and mimicking famous artworks was employed as a way of questioning notions of authenticity. Feminist artists tended to use appropriation to specifically question the authenticity of male representations of females. In more straightforward terms, Rrap reclaims Munch’s clichéd images of women and makes them her own. Rrap ultimately becomes an imposter, stealing her way into these masterpieces of art history, but the remarkable thing about these works is the way that the artist foregrounds the process of reappropriation itself. The procedure of restaging, collage, overpainting, and rephotographing becomes part of the final image, testifying to a d0-it-herself politic. (Wall text)

 

Micky Allan. 'Old age' 1978

 

Micky Allan (Australian, b. 1944)
Old age
1978
From the series Old age
Gelatin silver photograph, hand coloured with watercolour and pencil
18.2 x 12.0cm
© Micky Allan

 

Micky Allan. 'Old age' 1978

 

Micky Allan (Australian, b. 1944)
Old age
1978
From the series Old age
Gelatin silver photograph, hand coloured with watercolour and pencil
18.2 x 12.0cm
© Micky Allan

 

Micky Allan. 'Old age' 1978

 

Micky Allan (Australian, b. 1944)
Old age
1978
From the series Old age
Gelatin silver photograph, hand coloured with watercolour and pencil
18.2 x 12.0cm
© Micky Allan

 

 

Micky Allan’s two series Babies and Old age were shown in Melbourne and Sydney around 1976-77; their reception revealed much about the anxieties that informed photographic criticism and practice at the time, with critics dismissing the works as ‘slight’ and ‘feminine photographs par excellence’. Across a series of exhibitions between 1976 and 1980, Allan challenged many of the established conventions of fine art photography, in both technique and subject. Allan overpainted the black-and-white print with watercolour, gouache and pencil to the extent of both acknowledging the under recognised history of women’s photographic work – historically, women were employed by studios to hand-paint or tone photographic prints – and transgressing the smooth surface of photographic prints that was prized by traditional art photographers.

For Allan, overpainting rejected the technical sameness of modern photography and introduced an emotional warmth. Allan’s hand-colouring also interrupted the myth of photographic transparency – the notion of the photograph as a ‘disinterested’ window onto the world. Overpainted, the photograph became subjective, contingent and fallible. The lightness of many of Allan’s interventions enhances this sense of fallibility. (Wall text)

 

With a body of work ranging across painting, photography and performance, investigations of subjectivity have been central to Micky Allan’s practice. Allan has consistently drawn on feminist strategies which emphasise the personal and autobiographical. In the early 1970s she became involved with the experimental performance and collective activities based at The Pram Factory in Melbourne, working there as both a set designer and a photographer, documenting early feminist work. Of this time Allan has said that she saw “photography as a form of social encounter … that in comparison with painting it [was] much more integrated to what was going on.”1

Allan has acknowledged social documentary as the basis of her photographic work. For a short period she recorded political figures and the surrounding social changes in which she was both a participant and an observer. Old age, the second of three series whose focus is lifecycles (the other two being Babies 1976 and The prime of life 1979-80), comprises 40 hand-coloured individual portraits. Allan introduced the technique of hand-colouring in her work in 1976, a technique taken up by many women photographers at that time to counter the then dominant modes of masculine production. While there is stylistic variation across the series, each portrait, close-up in viewpoint, is meticulously rendered in pastel colours. The images do not capture a simple moment but rather work together to poignantly symbolise a rich regard for age. Of this Allan has said: “Altogether they are an attempt to familiarise and personalise “age”, in a society which tends to ignore or stereotype the old.”2

1. ‘On paper – survey 12’, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 21 Jun ‘ 20 Jul 1980, as quoted in 1987, Micky Allan: perspective 1975-1987, Monash University Gallery, Clayton p. 4
2. Ibid p. 19

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

 

Exhibiting artist’s biographies

Micky Allan (b. Australia 1944) studied Fine Art at the University of Melbourne, and painting at the National Gallery School in the 1960s. Allan began taking photographs in 1974 after joining the loosely formed feminist collective at Melbourne’s experimental arts and theatre space the Pram Factory. During this time Allan was part of a vibrant community of feminist artists that included Virginia Coventry, who taught her how to take and print photographs. Allan returned to painting as her primary medium in the early 1980s.

Pat Brassington (b. Australia 1942) is a Hobart-based artist who studied printmaking and photography at the Tasmanian School of Art, graduating with a Master of Fine Arts in 1985. Brassington draws on a personal archive of visual material to compose her images. This archive includes both photographic and non-photographic material, which has either been found or produced by Brassington. Her work takes inspiration from surrealist photography, with its recurring interest in fetish objects and uncanny domestic scenes. Brassington typically employs digital collage to manufacture disjointed compositions, and she exhibits her work in elliptical series that suggest dream-like narratives.

Virginia Coventry (b. Australia 1942) studied painting at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology during theearly 1960s, before undertaking postgraduate studies at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College, London. While painting and drawing have been constant features of Coventry’s practice, she started taking photographs during the mid-1960s and developed a significant reputation for her photo-based work during the 1970s. Her photographic work typically engages with socio-political issues and often incorporates textual elements that give it a discursive form.

Sandy Edwards (b. New Zealand 1948 arr. Australia 1961) has been an important figure in Australian photography as both a maker and advocate since the 1970s. Edwards’s practice has paid particular attention to women and their relationship with the media of photography and film. Most of her work is documentary in nature but her photographic prints are often presented in sequences that elaborate conceptual points. Edwards has also been a prolific curator of exhibitions promoting the work of contemporary photographers, especially in Sydney.

Anne Ferran (b. Australia 1949) is a Sydney-based photographer and academic. She studied humanities and teaching before training in photography at Sydney College of the Arts. She began exhibiting her work in the mid-1980s and has become one of Australia’s most critically acclaimed photographers. Ferran’s practice is largely concerned with using photography to reclaim forgotten pasts, with a specific interest in the histories of women and children in colonial Australia. In pursuing this interest, Ferran often develops her projects through archival research and fieldwork.

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) studied photography at RMIT and was the first Australian photographer to be given a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1974. Over the course of her artistic career Ford worked with still photography and moving images, beginning with traditional analogue film and then embracing the possibilities offered by photomedia and digital technologies. In this respect, Ford is a key figure in the history of avant-garde photographic experimentation. Ford’s artworks are also remarkable for their critical engagement with contemporary social issues, while also expressing deeply personal perspectives on the world.

Christine Godden (b. Australia 1947) has played a significant role in Australian photography as a maker, curator and advocate. After studying in Melbourne, Godden completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1975 and a Master of Fine Arts at the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York in 1980. On her return to Australia, she became director of the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney, and was consequently a prominent spokesperson for Australian photography during the 1980s. Her own photography is couched in a highly personal and poetic form of documentary practice.

Helen Grace (b. Australia 1949) is a self-taught artist who began making work as an active member of feminist and labour organisations in Sydney during the mid-1970s. Often straight-forwardly documentary in style, Grace’s approach to photography is closely aligned with political consciousness raising. Her work for the labour and women’s movements was widely circulated around the time of its production, both in the pages of publications and in posters produced by trade unions and women’s groups. Grace’s writing on photography and film, history and politics have also made a significant contribution to the critical discussion that surrounds feminist practice in Australia.

Janina Green (b. Germany 1944 arr. Australia 1949) studied Fine Arts at Melbourne University and Victoria College before training as a printmaker at RMIT. In the 1980s she taught herself photography and subsequently specialised in this medium. Green held her first solo exhibition of photography in 1986 and has exhibited regularly since then, participating in over 30 group exhibitions and producing over 20 solo shows. Green’s photographs are distinguished by their sophisticated and often sensuous surfaces, which testify to her early training in printmaking. In her role as a teacher in the photography department at the Victorian College of the Arts, Green has also played a significant role as a mentor for younger photographers.

Fiona Hall (b. Australia 1953) initially trained as a painter, and has ultimately become a celebrated sculptor, but photography was her primary medium in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Hall developed an interest in photography at art school and worked as an assistant to the well-known landscape photographer Fay Godwin while she lived in London between 1977-78. Hall subsequently studied photography at the Visual Studies Workshop in New York during 1982. Hall’s photographic practice demonstrates a fascination with decoration and style, which is informed by a critical interest in the premise of a ‘feminine’ sensibility.

Ponch Hawkes (b. Australia 1946) took up photography in 1972 while working as a journalist for the counter-cultural magazines Digger and Rolling Stone. Her early photography was informed by her role as a commentator on alternative social issues, and she has often used her images to engage with contemporary critical debates. During the 1970s Hawkes was part of a loosely formed feminist collective based at Melbourne’s experimental arts and theatre space the Pram Factory. Since that time she has continued to work closely with community groups around Australia and remains a key figure in contemporary photographic practice.

Carol Jerrems (Australia 1949-80) was born in Melbourne and studied photography at Prahran Technical College under Paul Cox and Athol Shmith between 1967 and 1970. Although she practised as an artist for only a decade, Jerrems has acquired a celebrated place in the annals of Australian photography. Her reputation is based on her compassionate, formally striking pictures, her intimate connection with the people involved in social movements of the day, and her role in the promotion of ‘art photography’ in this country.

Merryle Johnson (b. Australia 1949) graduated from Bendigo College of Advanced Education in 1969 with a major in painting. She took up photography in 1970 and it subsequently became central to her professional life, both as an arts educator and an exhibiting artist. Johnson’s approach to photography is informed by her broader training as an artist. This is particularly evident in her use of hand-colouring and sequencing. While the subject matter of her images is largely drawn from everyday life, she employs artistic devices to bring a sense of drama and fantasy to documentary photography.

Ruth Maddison (b. Australia 1945) is a self-taught photographer and artist. Maddison began working as a professional photographer in 1976, and she has been regularly exhibiting her work since 1979. Photography has been her primary medium, but in later years her artistic practice has expanded to include moving-image, textiles and sculpture. An interest in personal biography and the celebration of everyday existence informs her artistic practice. She is most well-known for her hand-coloured photographs of domestic life. In 1996 Maddison relocated from Melbourne to Eden, on the south coast of NSW.

Julie Rrap (b. Australia 1950) studied humanities at the University of Queensland (1969-71) before establishing her career as an exhibiting artist in Sydney during the 1980s. Rrap’s involvement with performance art and avant-garde politics during the 1970s laid the foundations for her later work in photography, painting, sculpture and video, which is largely concerned with the representation and experience of women’s bodies. The photographic objectification of female bodies is a persistent theme in Rrap’s work, but her highly expressive self-portraits invest the medium with a subjective intensity that affronts the clinical quality of voyeurism.

Robyn Stacey (b. Australia 1952) is a Sydney-based photographer who has been exhibiting since the mid-1980s. During the 1980s Stacey produced staged or ‘directorial’ photographs that drew on the visual language of cinema and television. Through the 1990s Stacey engaged in further training and study, and experimented extensively with new media including digital photography and lenticular prints. In 2000 Stacey began working with natural history collections in Australia and overseas, using photography to bring the contents of these archives to life. Throughout her career, Stacey has been interested in photography as an expressive medium that can be used to reiterate, remix and reanimate visual information.

 

 

Monash Gallery of Art
860 Ferntree Gully Road, Wheelers Hill
Victoria 3150 Australia
Phone: + 61 3 8544 0500

Opening hours:
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Sat – Sun: 10pm – 4pm
Mon/public holidays: closed

Monash Gallery of Art website

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27
Nov
14

Exhibition: ‘War from the Victims’ Perspective, Photographs by Jean Mohr’ at the Moscow Manege, Moscow

Exhibition dates: 11th November – 14th December 2014

An exhibition produced by the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, and the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs

 

 

 Jean Mohr. 'Greek children, Strovolos camp planned for 1,600 people, Cyprus, 1974'

 

Jean Mohr (Swiss, 1925-2018)
Greek children, Strovolos camp planned for 1,600 people, Cyprus, 1974
1974
© Jean Mohr, Musée de l’Elysée

 

 

It’s always the women and children that suffer.

Marcus

.
Many thanxk to the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and the Moscow Manege for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Jean Mohr. 'Bullet-holes in a façade, Cyprus, 1974'

 

Jean Mohr (Swiss, 1925-2018)
Bullet-holes in a façade, Cyprus, 1974
1974
© Jean Mohr, Musée de l’Elysée

 

Jean Mohr. 'Palestinian refugees camp, Gaza, 1979'

 

Jean Mohr (Swiss, 1925-2018)
Palestinian refugees camp, Gaza, 1979
1979
© Jean Mohr, Musée de l’Elysée

 

Jean Mohr. 'Portrait of a Greek refugee, Larnaca, Cyprus, 1976'

 

Jean Mohr (Swiss, 1925-2018)
Portrait of a Greek refugee, Larnaca, Cyprus, 1976
1976
© Jean Mohr, Musée de l’Elysée

 

Jean Mohr. 'Young Mozambican refugee, Nyimba camp, Zambia, 1968'

 

Jean Mohr (Swiss, 1925-2018)
Young Mozambican refugee, Nyimba camp, Zambia, 1968
1968
© UNHCR / J. Mohr

 

Jean Mohr. 'Young Mozambican refugee who gave birth at the Lundo clinic, Tanzania, 1968'

 

Jean Mohr (Swiss, 1925-2018)
Young Mozambican refugee who gave birth at the Lundo clinic, Tanzania, 1968
1968
© HCR/J.Mohr

 

Jean Mohr. 'School, Kyangwali camp, Uganda, 1968'

 

Jean Mohr (Swiss, 1925-2018)
School, Kyangwali camp, Uganda, 1968
1968
© Jean Mohr, Musée de l’Elysée

 

Jean Mohr. 'A camp of 300 tents for 1,400 refugees, Lefkaritis, near Lamaca, Cyprus, 1974'

 

Jean Mohr (Swiss, 1925-2018)
A camp of 300 tents for 1,400 refugees, Lefkaritis, near Lamaca, Cyprus, 1974
1974
© HCR/J.Mohr

 

 

 

Early on, Jean Mohr sought to understand and explain the drama of civilians trapped in belligerent situations. His reportages are the result of decades of experience, which saw a ICRC and UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) delegate transform himself into a full-time photographer, after a spell at an academy of painting.

More than 80 exhibitions worldwide have been dedicated to his work, including two at the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne that holds his collection. In 1978, at Photokina (Frankfurt’s major Photography Fair), Jean Mohr was awarded the prize for the photographer who had most consistently served the cause of human rights. He is one of the best representatives of humanist photography, masterfully balancing sensitivity and rigour, emotion and reflection, art and documentary evidence.

The exhibition addresses the issues of victims of conflicts, refugees and communities suffering from war and still under potential threat. It focuses on the emblematic cases of Palestine, Cyprus, and Africa. Other examples illustrate the universal problems of populations directly or indirectly enduring repercussions of war (in Iran, Pakistan, Nicaragua…).

Palestine, its refugee camps, precarious sanitary conditions, and the Gaza stalemate, whilst being the subject of major media attention, is a case worthy of reconsideration. It needs to be regularly re-explained and repositioned in the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict. The case of Cyprus serves as a reminder that the refugee problem still remains an issue for certain members of the European Union. Several hundreds of thousands of people were forced into exile. Africa too needed to be addressed, as the post-colonial conflicts forced millions into displacement. The fragility of these States, outlined as they are by inherited colonial borders, regularly fuels turmoil which leads to humanitarian crises. The refugee problem is present throughout the continent.

Focussing upon these three geographical regions presents the problem of war victims in an historical setting classified by theme: “Portraits of Exile”, “The Children’s Diaspora”, “Temporary Landscapes”, and “Life Goes On”. These photographs render a face to the casualties and retrace the steps of their displacement, from their settlement in the precariousness of the camps and reception centres to their attempts to adapt to an enduring situation.

 

Portraits of Exile

Featuring portraits of refugees from different countries and cultures, the first section gives a human face to the impact of conflict.

Temporary Landscapes

The second section deals with the impact that war has on people’s homes. The photos document the displacement process and the precarious settlement of victims in camps, reception centres, mosques and shanty towns.

The Children’s Diaspora

Featuring images that capture the day-to-day lives of war’s youngest victims, this section reveals the gamut of situations faced by child refugees, as well as the many and diverse activities they engage in. Some photos show children attending a medical centre or clinic, while others show them playing, dancing or in class at a temporary school.

Life Goes On

The final section documents how people adapt to temporary situations that stretch out indefinitely. The images illustrate how important the distribution of food and clothing is, as well as documenting efforts to ensure that refugees can continue their schooling and education. This section includes the iconic image of a young Mozambican refugee and her newborn baby in a clinic in Lundo, Tanzania.

Press release from the Musée de l’Elysée

 

Jean Mohr. 'A few days after the Six-Day War, an Israeli officer considers an ICRC proposal, under the gaze of a Palestinian boy, Kalandia village between Jerusalem and Ramallah, 1967'

 

Jean Mohr (Swiss, 1925-2018)
A few days after the Six-Day War, an Israeli officer considers an ICRC proposal, under the gaze of a Palestinian boy, Kalandia village between Jerusalem and Ramallah, 1967
1967
© ICRC / Mohr, Jean

 

Jean Mohr. 'A needs assessment visit to stricken families, Khan Yunis, Gaza, 2002'

 

Jean Mohr (Swiss, 1925-2018)
A needs assessment visit to stricken families, Khan Yunis, Gaza, 2002
2002
© ICRC/MOHR, Jean

 

Jean Mohr. 'A needs assessment visit to stricken families, Khan Yunis, Gaza, 2002'

 

Jean Mohr (Swiss, 1925-2018)
A needs assessment visit to stricken families, Khan Yunis, Gaza, 2002
2002
© ICRC/MOHR, Jean

 

Jean Mohr. 'A young Mozambican refugee, Muhukuru clinic, Tanzania, 1968'

 

Jean Mohr (Swiss, 1925-2018)
A young Mozambican refugee, Muhukuru clinic, Tanzania, 1968
1968
© HCR/J.Mohr

 

Jean Mohr. 'Young Greek refugee, Cyprus, 1976'

 

Jean Mohr (Swiss, 1925-2018)
Young Greek refugee, Cyprus, 1976
1976
© Jean Mohr, Musée de l’Elysée

 

Jean Mohr. 'Kurdish refugees waiting for a food distribution, Qatr camp, Mahabad, Iran, 1991'

 

Jean Mohr (Swiss, 1925-2018)
Kurdish refugees waiting for a food distribution, Qatr camp, Mahabad, Iran, 1991
1991
© ICRC/Mohr, Jean

 

Jean Mohr. 'The photographed photographer, Jerusalem, 1979'

 

Jean Mohr (Swiss, 1925-2018)
The photographed photographer, Jerusalem, 1979
1979
© Jean Mohr, Musée de l’Elysée

 

Jean Mohr. 'Mozambican refugee at Sunday mass, Lundo installation area, Tanzania, 1968 The photographed photographer, Jerusalem, 1979'

 

 

Jean Mohr (Swiss, 1925-2018)
Mozambican refugee at Sunday mass, Lundo installation area, Tanzania, 1968
1968
© UNHCR / J. Mohr

 

 

Moscow Manege
Manezhnaya ploschad (Manege Square), 1
Moscow 125009

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 12.00 – 22.00
Closed Monday

Moscow Manege website

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23
Nov
14

Review: ‘Polixeni Papapetrou: Lost Psyche’ at Stills Gallery, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 29th October – 29th November 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Day Dreamer' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
The Day Dreamer
2014
Pigment print
100 x 150cm

 

 

“Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.”

.
Paul Klee. Creative Credo [Schöpferische Konfession] 1920

 

 

When “facing” adversity, it is a measure of a person’s character how they hold themselves, what face they show to the world, and how their art represents them in that world. So it is with Polixeni Papapetrou. The courage of this artist, her consistency of vision and insightful commentary on life even while life itself is in the balance, are inspiring to all those that know her.

Papapetrou has always created her own language, integrating the temporal dissemination of the historical “case” into a two-dimensional space of simultaneity and tabulation (the various archetypes and ancient characters), into an outline against a ground of Cartesian coordinates.1 In her construction, in her observation and under her act of surveillance, Papapetrou moves towards a well-made description of the states of the body in the tables and classification of the psychological landscape. Her tableaux (the French tableau signifies painting and scene (as in tableau vivant), but also table (as in a table used to organise data)) are a classification and tabulation that is an exact “portrait” of “the” illness, the lost psyche of the title. Her images lay out, in a very visible way, the double makeover: of the outer and inner landscape.

These narratives are above all self-portraits. The idea that image, archetype and artist might somehow be one and the same is a potent idea in Papapetrou’s work. What is “rendered” visible in her art is her own spirit, for these visionary works are nothing less than concise, intimate, focused self-portraits. They speak through the mask of the commedia dell’ arte of a face half turned to the world, half immersed in imaginary worlds. The double skin (as though human soul, the psyche, is erupting from within, forcing a face-off) and triple skin (evidenced in the lack of depth of field of the landscape tableaux) propose an opening up, a revealing of self in which the anatomy (anatemnein: to tear, to open a body, to dissect) of the living is revealed. The images become an autopsy on the living and the dead: “a series of images, that would crystallize and memorize for everyone the whole time of an inquiry and, beyond that, the time of a history.”2

Papapetrou’s images become the “true retina” of seeing, close to a scientific description of a character placed on a two dimensional background (notice how the stylised clouds in The Antiquarian, 2014 match the fur hat trim). In the sense of evidence, the artist’s archetypes proffer a Type that is balanced on the edge of longing, poetry, desire and death, one that the objectivity of photography seeks to fix and stabilise. These images serve the fantasy of a memory: of a masked archetype in a made over landscape captured “exact and sincere” by the apparatus of the camera. A faithful memory of a tableau in which Type is condensed into a unique image: the visage fixed to the regime of representation,3 the universal become singular. This Type is named through the incorporated Text, the Legend: I am Day Dreamer, Immigrant, Merchant, Poet, Storyteller.

But even as these photographs seek to fix the Type, “even as the object of knowledge is photographically detained for observation, fixed to objectivity,”4 the paradox is that this kind of knowledge slips away from itself, because photography is always an uncertain technique, unstable and chaotic, as ever the psyche. In the cutting-up of bodies, cutting-up on stage, a staging aimed at knowledge – the facticity of the masked, obscured, erupting face; the corporeal surface of the body, landscape, photograph – the image makes visible something of the movements of the soul. In these heterotopic images, sites that relate to more stable sites, “but in such a way as to suspect, neutralise, or invert the set of relations that they happen to designate, mirror or reflect,”5 Papapetrou’s psyche, “creates the chain of tradition which passes a happening on from generation to generation.”6 In her commedia dell’ arte, an improvised comedy of craft, of artisans (a worker in a skilled trade), the artist fashions the raw material of experience in a unique way.7 We, the audience, intuitively recognise the type of person being represented in the story, through their half masks, their clothing and context and through the skilful dissemination of collective memory and experience.

Through her storytelling Papapetrou moves towards a social and spiritual transformation, one that unhinges the lost psyche. Her landscape narratives are a narrative of a recognisable, challenging, unstable non-linear art, an art practice that embraces “the speculative mystery of ancient roles… They’re all souls with divided emotions, torn between dream and reality, who like us, converge on the collective stage that is the world.” They are archetype as self-portrait: portraits of a searching, erupting, questioning soul, brave and courageous in a time of peril. And the work is for the children (of the world), for without art and family, extinction.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

  1. Adapted from Didi-Huberman, Georges. Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpetriere (trans. Alisa Hartz). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003, p. 24-25. I am indebted to the ideas of Georges Didi-Huberman for his analysis of the ‘facies’ and the experiments of Jean-Martin Charcot on hysteria at the Hôpital Salpêtrière in Paris in the 1880s.
  2. Ibid., p. 48
  3. Ibid., p. 49
  4. Ibid., p. 59
  5. Foucault, Michel. “Of Other Spaces,” in Diacritics Spring 1986, p. 24 quoted in Fisher, Jean. “Witness for the Prosecution: The Writings of Coco Fusco,” in Fusco, Coco. The Bodies That Were Not Ours. London: Routledge, 2001, pp. 226-227
  6. Fisher, Ibid., p. 227-228
  7. “One can go on and ask oneself whether the relationship of the storyteller to his material, human life, is not in itself a craftsman’s relationship, whether it is not his very task to fashion the raw material of experience, his own and that of others, in a solid, useful, and unique way.”
    Benjamin
    , Walter. Illuminations (trans. by Harry Zohn; edited by Hannah Arendt). New York: Schocken Books, 1968 (2007), p. 108

.
Many thankx to Polixeni Papapetrou and Stills Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All images copyright of the artist.

 

 

“For her, history indicates a view of culture that is more congruent with mortality, with the biological swell of great things arising and perishing, brilliant and melancholy, august and yet brittle. Without judgement, she reorients history as phenomenology: it contains a bracing dimension of loss which is congruent with that fatal sentiment lodged in our unconscious, that our very being – our psyche – is ultimately lost…

Lost Psyche is always about lost cultural innocence, where culture gets too smart and ends by messing with an earlier equilibrium. Papapetrou identifies these moments not to promote gloom but to recognize all the parallels that make for redemption. Parts of the psyche are undoubtedly lost; but Papapetrou proposes and proves that they can still be poetically contacted.”

.
Robert Nelson 2014

 

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Immigrant' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
The Immigrant
2014
Pigment print
100 x 150cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Merchant' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
The Merchant
2014
Pigment print
100 x 150cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Orientalist' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
The Orientalist
2014
Pigment print
100 x 150cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Poet' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
The Poet
2014
Pigment print
100 x 150cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Storyteller' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
The Storyteller
2014
Pigment print
100 x 150cm

 

 

In Lost Psyche, Polixeni Papapetrou portrays emblematic figures that have come to the end of their tradition, their rationale, their place in the world. These intriguing and charismatic characters – the poet, the tourist, the immigrant, among others – bring to life antique Victorian paper masks. Yet, despite being cast beyond our immediate reality, their costumes harking back to earlier times, their settings to fantastical places, these archetypal figures live on in the cultural imagination.

Internationally celebrated for an oeuvre that has consistently tested the boundaries of performance and photography, reality and fantasy, childhood and adulthood, Lost Psyche marks a significant return for Papapetrou. Having extensively explored the Australian landscape as a stage for her photographic fictions, and working in response to the natural and historical dramas of our country, this series takes us back into her studio and the expansive scope of imaginary worlds.

Expressive, luscious and knowingly naïve, the painted backdrops bring to mind the simple seduction of children’s storybooks. At the same time, they reference the painting heavyweights and photographic forerunners that are celebrated within art history. Papapetrou’s image The Duchess, for instance, echoes Goya’s commanding oil painting of the Duchess of Alba (1797). Yet, in this newly imagined version, the ‘role’ of Duchess is playfully acted not endured, and like the melodrama of theatre, the dark sky and downcast actor are softened to become illustrative and symbolic – a scene in a universal story. So too, The Orientalist evokes Felix Beato’s 19th Century photographic forays in Japan, recalling his hand-colouring techniques and depictions of social ‘types’.

Consciously foregrounding this ever-present potential for art to present stereotyped representations, Papapetrou reminds us how these social roles and ‘masks’ play out within our souls and psyche’s just as they do on the cultural stage. As a metaphor for the loss of childhood, a time in which we openly switch between characters, identities and roles, this work evokes the persistence of that imagination, as it lives on within the adult world.

In Lost Psyche, the speculative mystery of ancient roles enjoys a fantastical and touching afterlife. In the contemporary world we may also entertain the inner poet, the storyteller, the clown, the connoisseur, the courtesan, the day dreamer or the dispossessed. They’re all souls with divided emotions, torn between dream and reality, who like us, converge on the collective stage that is the world.

Polixeni Papapetrou is an internationally acclaimed artist. Her works feature in significant curated exhibitions, including recently the 13th Dong Gang International Photo Festival, Korea, the TarraWarra Biennale, VIC, Remain in Light, Museum of Contemporary Art, and Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria. She exhibits worldwide, including in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Seoul, Athens and Berlin. Recent solo exhibitions include Under My Skin, Northern Centre for Contemporary Art, 2014, Between Worlds in Fotogràfica Bogotá, 2013, and A Performative Paradox, Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2013. Her work is held in numerous institutional collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Monash Gallery of Art, Artbank, Fotomuseo, Colombia, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Florida, USA.

Press release from Stills Gallery

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Antiquarian' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
The Antiquarian
2014
Pigment print
150 x 100cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Duchess' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
The Duchess
2014
Pigment print
150 x 100cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Summer Clown' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
The Summer Clown
2014
Pigment print
150 x 100cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Troubadour' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
The Troubadour
2014
Pigment print
150 x 100cm

 

 

Stills Gallery

This gallery has now closed.

Stills Gallery website

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19
Nov
14

Japanese photographic album c.1920-30s Part 1

November 2014

 

Anonymous. 'Untitled' from a Japanese family photography album c. 1920-30s

 

Anonymous
Untitled
from a Japanese family photography album
c. 1920-30s

 

 

I bought an anonymous Japanese family photographic album from Daylesford in country Victoria recently for $25 (US$20). There were many images missing, but the thirty that were present are just stunning. I have been scanning them and gently digitally cleaning them since, and this is the first of three postings on the images. I love their immediacy, their vernacular language and intimate feel and the irregular shape and cut of the prints. Some of the photographs are very small in size.

The serenity, the beauty and the attention to the form of the hair is quite captivating. They have me entranced. Just delightful…

Marcus

 

Anonymous. 'Untitled [City scene]' from a Japanese family photography album c. 1920-30s

 

Anonymous
Untitled [City scene]
from a Japanese family photography album
c. 1920-30s

 

Anonymous. 'Untitled' from a Japanese family photography album c. 1920-30s (detail)

 

Anonymous
Untitled [City scene] (detail)
from a Japanese family photography album
c. 1920-30s

 

Anonymous. 'Untitled' from a Japanese family photography album c. 1920-30s

 

Anonymous
Untitled
from a Japanese family photography album
c. 1920-30s

 

Anonymous. 'Untitled [Father with his daughter]' from a Japanese family photography album c. 1920-30s

 

Anonymous
Untitled [Father with his daughter]
from a Japanese family photography album
c. 1920-30s

 

Anonymous Untitled [Father with his daughter] from a Japanese family photography album c. 1920-30s (detail)

 

Anonymous
Untitled [Father with his daughter] (detail)
from a Japanese family photography album
c. 1920-30s

 

Anonymous. 'Untitled' from a Japanese family photography album c. 1920-30s

 

Anonymous
Untitled
from a Japanese family photography album
c. 1920-30s

 

Anonymous. 'Untitled' from a Japanese family photography album c. 1920-30s

 

Anonymous
Untitled
from a Japanese family photography album
c. 1920-30s

 

Anonymous. 'Untitled' from a Japanese family photography album c. 1920-30s

 

Anonymous
Untitled
from a Japanese family photography album
c. 1920-30s

 

Anonymous. 'Untitled' from a Japanese family photography album c. 1920-30s

 

Anonymous
Untitled
from a Japanese family photography album
c. 1920-30s

 

Anonymous. 'Untitled [Three women and an umbrella]' (restored) from a Japanese family photography album c. 1920-30s

 

Anonymous
Untitled [Three women and an umbrella] (restored)
from a Japanese family photography album
c. 1920-30s

 

Anonymous. 'Untitled [Three women and an umbrella]' (umrestored) from a Japanese family photography album c. 1920-30s

 

Anonymous
Untitled [Three women and an umbrella] (unrestored)
from a Japanese family photography album
c. 1920-30s

 

Anonymous. 'Untitled' from a Japanese family photography album c. 1920-30s

 

Anonymous
Untitled
from a Japanese family photography album
c. 1920-30s

 

 

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15
Nov
14

Exhibition: ‘Transformational Imagemaking: Handmade Photography Since 1960’ at CEPA Gallery, Buffalo, NY

Exhibition dates: 19th September – 13rd December 2014

Artists: Thomas Barrow, Wayne Belger, Stephen Berkman, Matthew Brandt, Dan Burkholder, Darryl Curran, Binh Danh, Rick Dingus, Dan Estabrook, Robert Fichter, Robert Flynt, Judith Golden, Betty Hahn, Robert Heinecken, Robert Hirsch, Catherine Jansen, Harold Jones, Tantana Kellner, Les Krims, William Larson, Dinh Q. Lê, David Lebe, Martha Madigan, Curtis Mann, Stephen Marc, Scott McCarney, Chris McCaw, John Metoyer, Duane Michals, Vik Muniz, Joyce Neimanas, Bea Nettles, Ted Orland, Douglas Prince, Holly Roberts, Clarissa Sligh, Keith Smith, Jerry Spagnoli, Mike & Doug Starn, Brian Taylor, Maggie Taylor, Jerry Uelsmann, Todd Walker, Joel-Peter Witkin, John Wood.

Curator: Robert Hirsch

 

 

Vik Muniz. 'Picture of Dust' 2000

 

Vik Muniz (Brazilian, b. 1961)
Picture of Dust (Barry Le Va, Continuous and Related Activities; Discontinued by the Act of Dropping, 1967, Installed at the Whitney Museum in New Sculpture 1965-75: Between Geometry and Gesture, February 20-June 3, 1990)
2000
From the series The Things Themselves: Picture of Dust
Framed, overall: 51 x 130 1/2 inches
Two silver dye bleach prints (Ilfochrome)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York;/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

 

 

The resurgence of handmade photography in the 1960s had several sources and influences. It looked back to the “anti-tradition” of nineteenth-century romanticism, which accentuated the importance of making a highly personal response to experience and a critical response to society. It drew on contemporary popular culture. Many of the artists engaged in this movement were baby-boomers brought up on television and film, media that often portrayed photography as hip and sexy – eg. the film Blow-Up (1966) – and which drove home the significance of constructed photographic images. In addition, the widespread atmosphere of rebellion against social norms propelled the move toward handwork. The rejection of artistic standards in photography was consistent with the much broader exploration of sexual mores and gender roles that took place in the sixties. It was also consistent with the exploration of consciousness. The latter was encouraged by such counter-culture figures as Ken Kesey who, with his band of Merry Pranksters, boarded a Day-Glo bus called “Further” and took an LSD-fuelled trip across the country that echoed Dr. Timothy Leary’s decree “to tune in, turn on, and drop out.” On a broader level, the society-at-large was exposed to psychedelic exploration through Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), which youthful audiences saw as a mysterious consciousness-expanding trip into humanity’s future. Finally, handmade photography was supported by the general growth of photographic education in the university. The ubiquity and importance of the medium in the culture at large, as well as pressure from those who championed photography from within art institutions gave credence in the post-war decades to the idea that people could study photography seriously. As new photography programs mushroomed in the universities, they produced graduates who took teaching positions in even newer programs. Many of these young teachers, who had grown up to the adage of “do your own thing,” were responsive to unconventional ways of seeing and working, and they encouraged these attitudes in their students, many of whom turned to handmade photography.

Despite the attractions of handmade photography there were in the sixties, and still are to some degree, emphatic objections to the open engagement of the hand in photographic art. One common objection is that such art constitutes a dishonest method to cover up aesthetic and technical inadequacies. Another comes from those who believe strongly in the Western tradition of positivism. These people tend to reject handmade photography on the grounds that it is unnecessarily ambiguous or irrational in its meanings. Nevertheless, more artists than ever are currently using the flexible, experiential methods of handwork. In addition to opening up an avenue to inner experience, artists find handwork attractive because it promotes inventiveness, allows for the free play of intuition beyond the control of the intellect, extends the time of interaction with an image (on the part of both the maker and the viewer), and allows for the inclusion of a wide range of materials and processes within the boundaries of photography…

[Curator] Peter C. Bunnell’s innovative exhibitions [MoMA: Photography as Printmaking (1968) and Photography Into Sculpture (1970)] demonstrated that in essence photography is nothing more than light sensitive material on a surface. The exhibitions also recognized that the way a photograph is perceived and interpreted is established by artistic and societal preconceptions about how a photographic subject is supposed to look and what is accepted as truthful. The work in the Bunnell exhibitions was indicative of a larger zeitgeist of the late 1960s that involved leaving the safety net of custom, exploring how to be more aware of and physically connected to the world, and critically examining expectations with regard to lifestyles…

In spite of post-modernism’s assault on the myth of authorship and its sardonic outlook regarding the human spirit, artists who produce handmade photography continue to believe that individuals can make a difference, that originality matters, and that we learn and understand by doing. They think that a flexible image is a human image, an imperfect and physically crafted one that possesses its own idiosyncratic sense of essence, time, and wonder. Their work can be aesthetically difficult, as it may not provide the audience-friendly narratives and well-mannered compositions some people expect. But sometimes this is necessary to get us to set aside the ordained answers to the question: “What is a photograph?” and allow us to recognise photography’s remarkable diversity in form, structure, representational content, and meaning. This acknowledgment grants artists the freedom and respect to explore the full photographic terrain, to engage the medium’s broad power of inquiry, and to present the wide-ranging complexity of our experiences, beliefs, and feelings for others to see and contemplate.

Extract from Flexible Images: Handmade American Photography, 1969-2002 by Robert Hirsch (2003) on the Light Research website [Online] Cited 14/11/2014. First published in The Society for Photographic Education’s exposure, Volume 36: 1, 2003, cover and pages 23-42. © Robert Hirsch 2003

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

 

 

Thomas Barrow. 'Dart, Albuquerque' 1974

 

Thomas Barrow (American, b. 1938)
Dart, Albuquerque
1974
Fuji Crystal Archive Print

 

Thomas Barrow. 'f/t/s Cancellations (Brown) - Field Star' 1975

 

Thomas Barrow (American, b. 1938)
f/t/s Cancellations (Brown) – Field Star
1975
Gift from the Collection of Joel Deal and Betsy Ruppa
© Thomas Barrow. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

 

 

Barrow scratched through his landscape negatives, calling attention to the materiality of the medium itself and the fact that regardless of how much information is given, reality remains an accumulation of belief, knowledge, and one’s own experience.

 

Les Krims. 'The Static Electric Effect of Minnie Mouse on Mickey Mouse Balloons' 1968

 

Les Krims (American, b. 1942)
The Static Electric Effect of Minnie Mouse on Mickey Mouse Balloons
1968
Kodalith Print

 

 

“Kodak Kodalith paper was a thin, matt, orthochromatic graphic arts paper that was not intended for pictorial purposes. However, when it was used for pictorial expression its responsiveness to time and temperature controls during development enabled one to produce a wide range of grainy, high-contrast, and sepia tonal effects. Its unusual handling characteristics also meant that photographers had to pull the print at precisely the “right” moment from the developer and quickly get it into the stop bath, making each print unique.”

 

Din Q Le. 'Ezekial’s Whisper' 2014

 

Din Q Le (Vietnamese American, b. 1968)
Ezekial’s Whisper
2014
C-print, linen tape

 

Ted Orland. 'Meteor!' 1998

 

Ted Orland (American, b. 1941)
Meteor!
1998
Hand coloured gelatin silver print

 

Brian Taylor. 'Our Thoughts Wander' 2005

 

Brian Taylor (American)
Our Thoughts Wander
2005
From the series Open Books
Hand bound book

 

 

Open Books

I create photographically illustrated books springing from my fascination with the book format and a love of texture in art. My imagery is inspired by the surreal and poetic moments of living in our fast-paced, modern world. I’m fascinated by how daily life in the 21st Century presents us with incredible experiences in such regularity that we no longer differentiate between what is natural and what is coloured with implausibility, humour, and irony.

These hard cover books are hand bound with marbleised paper and displayed fully opened to a photographically illustrated two-page folio spread. Each book is framed in a wooden shadowbox and presented as a wall piece. I like the idea of making art that contains some imagery which can be sensed but not seen. The underlying pages contain my photographs, snapshots, and work prints that “gave their lives” for the imagery visible in the open spread. These images lie beneath the open pages like history.1

 

David Lebe. 'Angelo On The Roof' 1979

 

David Lebe (American, b. 1948)
Angelo On The Roof
1979

 

Jerry Uelsmann (American, born 1934) 'Small Woods where I met Myself (Final Version)' 1967

 

Jerry Uelsmann (American, b. 1934)
Small Woods where I met Myself (Final Version)
1967
Gelatin silver print
25.4 x 32.3cm (10 x 12 11/16 in.)
© 1967 Jerry Uelsmann

 

Robert Heinecken. 'Are You Rea #15' 1968

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Are You Rea #15
1968
Offset lithography

 

David Levinthal and Garry Trudeau. 'Untitled', from the series 'Hitler Moves East' 1977

 

David Levinthal (American, b. 1949) and Garry Trudeau (American, b. 1948)
Untitled, from the series Hitler Moves East
1977
8 x 10 inches
Gelatin silver (Kodalith) print
Courtesy Paul Morris Gallery, New York City

 

 

My favourite story comes from the early days of Levinthal’s career, when he was a college student working on Hitler Moves East with Garry Trudeau. They worked with childlike enthusiasm, purchasing smoke bombs from a local theatre supply shop and growing grass inside David’s apartment to achieve maximum realism. This culminated in a huge explosion of smoke, and the photograph above. Forever making jokes, Levinthal had this to say about the situation: “I’m not even sure we had 911 those days, so that was probably helpful.” He sometimes describes incidents in which things went wrong, but thankfully this wasn’t one of those situations. Instead he successfully produced this photo and began a transition from the early works, which show toys rearranged on his linoleum floor, to photographs that are sophisticated and deceptively real looking.

Ashleigh Ferran. “From Toys to Art: Learning from David Levinthal,” on the Corcoran website August 7, 2013 [Online] Cited 02/07/2021

 

Joel-Peter Witkin. 'Poussin in Hell' 1999

 

Joel-Peter Witkin (American, b. 1939)
Poussin in Hell
1999
Toned gelatin silver print

 

Douglas Prince. 'Untitled' 1969

 

Douglas Prince (American, b. 1943)
Untitled
1969
Film and Plexiglas
5 x 5 x 2.5 inches

 

Mike and Doug Starn. 'Double Rembrandt with Steps' 1987-88

 

Mike and Doug Starn (American, b. 1961)
Double Rembrandt with Steps
1987-88
Toned gelatin silver print, toned ortho film, wood, Plexiglas, and glue.
108 x 108 inches
Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

 

 

CEPA Gallery is pleased to announce Transformational Imagemaking: Handmade Photography Since 1960, a companion exhibition to Robert Hirsch’s recently published book of the same title (Focal Press). This extraordinary exhibition features work by some of the most innovative photographers and imagemakers of the mid- 20th century through today; artists who redefined the notion of photography as a medium and left an indelible mark on contemporary photographic practices.

This extensive survey will include more than 140 works by over 40 artists spanning nearly 50 years of artistic practice unified by a curatorial arc rooted in notions that deviate from the purview of traditional photographic practice. Citing Robert Heinecken’s practice as the genesis of conceptual handmade photography, this exhibition charts an intricate universe of artists whose practice dispenses with the self-prescribed limitations of conventional photography in order to mine the boundless potential of the photographic medium as a conceptual conveyance.

Transformational Imagemaking is the culmination of Hirsch’s lifelong exploration into handmade photography and the artists whose practices were formed on the principle of unearthing new possibilities. Hirsch sites the catalyst for the project as an article he published in exposure in 2003 entitled “Flexible Images: Handmade American Photography, 1969-2002”. It has since expanded into a comprehensive publication that includes personal conversations with each artist conducted over a six-month period during 2013. CEPA will now elaborate further by mounting an exhibition that features a selection of each artist’s work.

In addition to Transformational Imagemaking, CEPA will also show the complete folio of Robert Heinecken’s seminal series Are You Rea (1966). Considered to be the grandfather of post-modern photographic practices and a major figure of 20th century art, Heinecken was a key figure in promoting new sentiments about photography as an art form, influencing artists such Richard Prince, Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, and others. Heinecken’s rebellious spirit challenged conventions about the ways photographs represent the tangible world: “We constantly tend to misuse or misunderstand the term reality in relation to photographs. The photograph itself is the only thing that is real.”

Are You Rea (1966), created by contact printing magazine tear-outs onto photographic paper, are ghostly compositions that layer sexually suggestive images of women with fractured text. This provocative body of work, sexually charged and evocatively ambiguous, reflects an awareness of desire as a commercial commodity that begs us to question the very root of our own desires.

Press release from CEPA Gallery

 

Keith Smith. 'Untitled' 1972

 

Keith Smith (American, b. 1938)
Untitled
1972

 

Binh Danh. 'The Botany of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum #2' 2008

 

Binh Danh (American born Vietnam, b. 1977)
The Botany of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum #2
2008
From the Immortality: The Remnants of the Vietnam and American War series
Chlorophyll print and resin

 

 

The chlorophyll process is an organic alternative photography process akin to the anthotype process. However, instead of printing on the crushed extract of fruit or plant matter, the prints are bleached by sunlight directly onto the surface of leaves using a positive. The resulting images are stunningly delicate and beautiful, ranging from haunting silhouettes to crisp definition. Despite the simplicity of the finished product, the process itself can be tedious with plenty of trial and error.

Drawing on the anthotype process, Danh refined a method for securing a positive directly to a live leaf and allowing sunlight to bleach the image onto its surface naturally. He has also addressed a fundamental challenge with natural photography processes; that of fixing the image to prevent further bleaching and deterioration over time. To save his work, Dah casts his finished pieces in a layer of resin allowing them to be enjoyed for years to come.

Tiffany Pereira. “The chlorophyll process,” on the Alternative Photography website [Online] Cited 02/07/2021

 

Dinh Q. Lê Vietnamese, born 1968 'Untitled' 1998

 

Dinh Q. Lê (Vietnamese, b. 1968)
Untitled, from the series Cambodia: Splendor and Darkness
1998
C-print and linen tape

 

Dan Estabrook. 'Fever' 2004

 

Dan Estabrook (American, b. 1969)
Fever
2004
Salt print with ink and watercolor

 

Robert Fichter. 'Roast Beast 3' 1968

 

Robert Fichter (American, b. 1939)
Roast Beast 3
1968
Verifax transfer with rundowns, stamping, and crayon

 

Robert Heineken. 'Are You Rea #1' 1966

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Are You Rea #1
1966
Offset lithography

 

Chris McCaw. 'Sunburned GSP #676 (San Francisco Bay)' 2013

 

Chris McCaw (American, b. 1971)
Sunburned GSP #676 (San Francisco Bay)
2013
Gelatin Silver paper negative

 

Curtis Mann. 'Photographer, Scratch' 2009

 

Curtis Mann (American, b. 1979)
Photographer, Scratch
2009
Bleached c-print with synthetic polymer varnish

 

Vik Muniz. 'Atlas (Carlao)' 2008

 

Vik Muniz (Brazilian, b. 1961)
Atlas (Carlao)
2008
Digital C-print

 

 

CEPA Gallery
617 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14203
Phone: (716) 856-2717

Opening hours:
Wednesday: 12.00pm – 4.00pm
Thursday: 4.00pm -7.00pm
Friday: 12:00pm – 4.00pm
Saturday: 12.00pm – 4.00pm

CEPA Gallery website

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11
Nov
14

Exhibition: ‘The New Landscape: Experiments in Light by Gyorgy Kepes’ at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University

Exhibition dates: 23rd July – 17th November 2014

 

Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001) 'Lichtenberg figures: A. R. von Hippel' 1951

 

Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001)
Lichtenberg figures: A. R. von Hippel
1951
Photographic enlargement on particleboard
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

 

Way to go… Abstract Expressionists eat your heart out!

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Cantor Arts Center for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

This exhibition explores the question of art’s relevance in a scientific age through the work of Hungarian-born American artist, designer, and visual theorist Gyorgy Kepes (1906-2001). Forty-five panels depict what Kepes, associated with Germany’s Bauhaus and Chicago’s New Bauhaus, called the “new landscape” of scientific imagery – microscopic minerals, cellular patterns, and tissue fibres – as well as Kepes’s own experiments with camera-less photographic techniques. The exhibition is one of the first projects resulting from a $500,000 grant awarded to the Cantor and the Department of Art & Art History from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to facilitate research conducted by Stanford Ph.D. candidates on the Cantor’s collection.

Text from the Cantor Arts Center website

 

 

Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001) 'Lichtenberg figures: A. R. von Hippel' 1951

 

Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001)
Lichtenberg figures: A. R. von Hippel
1951
Photographic enlargement on particleboard
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001) 'Untitled' Date unknown

 

Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001)
Untitled
Date unknown
Photographic enlargement on particleboard, date unknown
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001) 'Untitled' Date unknown

 

Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001)
Untitled
Date unknown
Photographic enlargement on particleboard, date unknown
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001) 'Gate, Photogenic' 1948

 

Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001)
Gate, Photogenic
1948
Photographic enlargement on particleboard, date unknown
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001) 'Photogenic Painting, Photogenic' 1942

 

Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001)
Photogenic Painting, Photogenic
1942
Photographic enlargement on particleboard, date unknown
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001) 'Light Graphic, Photogenic' 1945

 

Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001)
Light Graphic, Photogenic
1945
Photographic enlargement on particleboard, date unknown
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001) 'Camel's tongue: 10X' 1951

 

Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001)
Camel’s tongue: 10X
1951
Photographic enlargement on particleboard
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001) 'Transverse section of Osmanthus wood: 50X' 1951

 

Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001)
Transverse section of Osmanthus wood: 50X
1951
Photographic enlargement on particleboard
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001) 'Transverse section of wood: 250X' 1951

 

Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001)
Transverse section of wood: 250X
1951
Photographic enlargement on particleboard
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

 

Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University
328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5060
Phone: 650-723-4177

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Sunday 11am – 5pm
Closed Monday and Tuesday

Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University website

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07
Nov
14

Exhibition: ‘Walker Evans. A Life’s Work’ at Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin

Exhibition dates: 25th July – 9th November 2014

 

Walker Evans. 'Young Women Outside Clothing Store' 1934-35

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Young Women Outside Clothing Store
1934-35
114 x 184mm
Lunn Gallery Stamp (1975)
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

End of the week. Not a lot of energy or time to write an in depth piece on the wonders of Walker Evans, so just a few observations…

I like this photographer, I like him a lot. No histrionics, little subjectivity being thrown at the audience. The images are -just -so. The compositions are seemingly simple but are actually very complex. Only a skilled craftsman can make the difficult look simple. As Thomas Struth has said of his photography: ‘for me it is more interesting to try and find out something from the real than to throw something subjective in front of the audience.’

“The uninflected image gives no hints as to how it is to be interpreted, and the viewer is led to linger over what might otherwise seem an un-noteworthy, everyday vista.” It’s recognising that vista in the first place for what it is, and what else it can be, so that it ‘gives pause’ to the viewer.

I really like the portrait of Berenice Abbott and it is also very educational. Look at the depth of field, with the view camera probably one stop past wide open. The sharpness plane is very tiny but look at the quality of the lens and how it renders the values that are slightly out of focus. What a very beautiful image and I suspect a top drawer lens. Notice also it is print 22. Walker Evans would keep a lot of prints and they were not the same. The next copy of this print might have been better (he might have worked out something to do) or it might be worse – the developer might have gone off. So it is not strictly an “edition” it is just the numbering of the prints he made.

He used every sort of camera: 8 x 10 and the smaller view formats, roll film cameras, Colour polaroid! hence the different sizes of his prints. Occasionally he did crop his images but on other occasions he took “a stance” where you knew he was about to perform and there would be no cropping. If you are really interested in this master photographer, the best Walker Evans book to get is First and Last (1978, available cheaply as a hardback on Amazon) which contains many pictures and “threads” that are dynamite… and the John Szarkowski book Walker Evans (1972) is a good one as well.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to Martin-Gropius-Bau for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Walker Evans. 'Two Women' Frenchquarter, New Orleans, February - March 1935

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Two Women
Frenchquarter, New Orleans, February – March 1935
155 x 219mm
Lunn Gallery Stamp (1975)
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans. 'Girl In French Quarter' New Orleans, February - March 1935

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Girl In French Quarter
New Orleans, February – March 1935
117 x 178mm
Lunn Gallery Stamp (1975)
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans. 'Crowd In Public Square' 1930s

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Crowd In Public Square
1930s
143 x 248mm
Lunn Gallery Stamp (1975)
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans. 'Berenice Abbott' 1929-30

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Berenice Abbott
1929-30
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) was one of the great personalities of 20th century photography, being an exponent of what is called the “documentary style”. His work, which spans a period of over fifty years, will be represented by well over 200 original prints from the years 1928 to 1974, taken mostly from the considerable private collection of Clark and Joan Worswick, but also from various German collections.

For decades, right up to the present, the prolific photographic oeuvre of Walker Evans has acquired an increasingly model character. In the half century of his creative activity the photographer documented in sober documentary fashion a uniquely authentic picture of America, and like no other before him showed a particular feel for both the everyday and the subtle – the American Vernacular – creating a sense of identity and historic significance.

Visitors follow both Evans’ biography and the changing face of America, from the Great Depression to the onset of stability and business as usual: early impressions of the 1920s from the New York neighbourhood he lived in; portraits of his friends and fellow artists which give some indication of the ramified cultural ambience he inhabited; specimens of 19th century architecture that have blended into the evolving cultural life about them; picture cycles from Tahiti and Cuba; images of African sculptures and masks commissioned by the New York Museum of Modern Art; and numerous photographs taken in the 1930s in the rural south of the USA, which contrast starkly with the lifestyles of those who may be seen promenading in the fashionable streets of cities like New York.

In addition to street scenes, American monuments and shop window displays far from the world of “big business”, examples of his significant subway photographs are to be seen, taken with a hidden camera. We also see interiors whose modest appointments tell of the life of those who live in them, pictures that inevitably recall Evans’ remark that “I do like to suggest people by absence”. Evans’ predilection for typography, advertising and mass-produced articles give rise to strangely fascinating shots which seem to anticipate the soon-to-emerge Pop Art and its assemblages.

While the exhibition shows icons in the history of photography, it also highlights some of the photographer’s lesser known motifs dating from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. These include works done for Fortune, the magazine founded by Henry Luce in 1930; pictures taken on trips to London from 1945 onwards for the periodical Architectural Forum; or during stays at Robert Frank’s Nova Scotia house in the late 1960s.

Text from the Martin-Gropius-Bau website

 

Walker Evans. 'Façade of House with Large Numbers' Denver, Colorado, August 1967

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Façade of House with Large Numbers
Denver, Colorado, August 1967
Collection of Clark and Joan Worswick
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans. 'Interior View of Heliker/Lahotan House' Walpole, Maine, 1962

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Interior View of Heliker/Lahotan House
Walpole, Maine, 1962
Collection of Clark and Joan Worswick
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans. 'Interior View of Robert Frank’s House' Nova Scotia, 1969-71

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Interior View of Robert Frank’s House
Nova Scotia, 1969-71
Collection of Clark and Joan Worswick
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans. 'Robert Frank' Nova Scotia, 1969-71

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Robert Frank
Nova Scotia, 1969-71
Collection of Clark and Joan Worswick
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans. 'Barn' Nova Scotia, 1969-71


 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Barn
Nova Scotia, 1969-71
Collection of Clark and Joan Worswick
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans. 'Pabst Blue Ribbon Sign' Chicago, Illinois, 1946

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Pabst Blue Ribbon Sign
Chicago, Illinois, 1946
Collection of Clark and Joan Worswick
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin
Niederkirchnerstraße 7
Corner Stresemannstr. 110
10963 Berlin
Phone: +49 (0)30 254 86-0

Opening Hours:
Wednesday to Monday 10 – 19 hrs
Tuesday closed

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05
Nov
14

Exhibition / text: ‘From Steam to Diesel’ at the Portobello Library, Edinburgh

Exhibition dates: 20th October – 7th November 2014

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Four men with loco 55210' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
Four men with loco 55210
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

 

This is a great project. The photographs are wonderful. At one time they could have almost been made here in Victoria, Australia.

Archie Foley who found the 500 or so railway related negatives taken by, at this stage, an anonymous British Railways engine driver was quite taken aback to get an email from half way around the world asking for some press images – but this is what this blog does, promote eclectic exhibitions of interesting photography from around the world, no matter how small they are.

I have always loved trains and the photographs of them (including the ones by Winston O. Link). Once I saw the images I think I shed a tear at the beauty of them. Archie informs me that the negatives are a mixture of 127; 6cm square and a larger 6cm x 8cm. There are notes of the cameras the photographer used and his favourite appears to have been an Isolette 11 (see below). However he also used Ikonta; Suprima; Isola and Super Isolette. These cameras have reasonable optical quality (not as good as a Rollei twin lens for example) with the advantage that they have a large negative and can be folded up and put in a jacket pocket, to be taken out when needed.

As a good friend of mine Ian observed,
.

I nearly said 6×8 cm last night – I know its difficult to believe after the event, and the Isolette has the same basic shape as the Voigtlander I suspected. The Voigtlander was like some of the Rolleis and you could put in a metal mask that would allow 6 x 8, 6 x 6, 6 x 4.5 as well the full 6 x 9. I suspect the Voigtlander was a bit upmarket from the Isolette: the Agfa cameras at the time of these pictures were good cameras and (obviously) with German lenses. I don’t know if they had those masks but I am guessing you could do the same with the Isolette. One claim I have seen is that the lenses were more matched to emulsions of the 50’s and were contrasty with later emulsions. I would have to know a lot more to verify that. The pictures look optically good to me. There were some extraordinary European films in 120 stock – I caught the end of them – 12 ISO and wooden spools – and  SENSATIONAL tonal scales. 

Of all cameras (even 35mm), the drop front cameras like the Isolette had the best connection to the people you were photographing. I don’t mean through the  viewfinder – I mean that the viewfinder was just for checking the composition – you really had to do a lot of looking over the camera. Probably the old Stieglitz Graflex was just as communicative. With the bellows extension there would be a scale on the focussing track that would tell you the distance the camera was focussed to – no other way to check!

As a kid I played with Marklin toy trains and they published a book that I still have called “The Marklin Miniature Railway and its Prototype”. It is old and faded now, but there were sections on how to do signalling etc. on your train set so that it matched the real thing etc…

 

What interests me most about these stunning images is the use of space by the photographer. These railway photographs with their beautiful but naive space have an almost mythic quality to them. I know a little about photography and from my knowledge I cannot think of anyone else that handles space like this in a photograph (save for perhaps Thomas Struth and the space around the people in his museum photographs or his group portraits of people in Japan, and even then he blocks the exit for the eye behind his tableaux vivant).

I have been racking my brains but these are really unique, especially the square format portrait shots. Look at the first photograph Four men with loco 55210 (below) and notice the expanse of platform and line of the train that leads the eye into the depiction of the four men. The light that falls on them is superlative but notice how the photographer keeps a respectful distance for this is not portrait photography which attempts to capture a fleeting, revealing moment or expression. The photographer places them as though to “encourage contemplation and investigation, inviting the viewer to reflect upon the limits of his or her knowledge of other people.” The eye scans the image for clues, giving the viewer pause to take in the scene: and low and behold what opens up behind the four men is this most magnificent space with the curve of the platform, the girders and the silence of the dark train in the distance.

As in Thomas Struth’s photographs of architectural East Berlin these photographs bring about ‘a move to investigative viewing’ which is also a ‘call to interact’. But these photographs don’t possess the base objectivity of Struth for they are a little too engaging of their space (their antithesis being the photographs by Alec Soth from his series Niagara).

Further evidence of the sophistication of the composition of these images can be found in the two photographs Shotts Iron Work’s Signalbox and Man on platform in front of signal array (below). In the first photograph the man is embedded in the landscape, his weight shifting slightly to his right foot as his shadow falls on the fence beside him, the fence line and train tracks lead the eye into the image and off into an amorphous, infinite distance. Again, in the second photograph the figure is not front and centre but part of an ensemble as the eye is led this time by a massive horizontal plane into the image. He stands on the platform as if on the deck of an aircraft carrier. And then there are the two close up portraits, Jackie Collett at Beattock and A smiling fireman (below) where the photographer has climbed up into the intimate space of the drivers cab and got them to be comfortable enough to reveal themselves to the camera -in that light! -with those backgrounds!

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The use of lenses today is proof of how difficult it is to think and feel space while taking a picture. These days everyone has a zoom lens but it is nearly always used by people to fill the frame with the main subject. But with a zoom there are infinite relationships between foreground and background if the photographer is free to move in relation to the main subject… and sometimes we are. Or to put it another way, we are able to control the degree of flattening of space with a zoom lens infinitely. If we have 2 fixed lenses we have 2 controls of space. This anonymous photographer and the German photographer Thomas Struth in particular seem to have the ability to think about this space control, and resolve it in different ways. Sometimes for Struth the quality of the space in the city streets or in a museum announces these places as pictures.

Struth is someone who has an affinity with the railway group photographs for his photographs, like these, resist immediate consumption. They make the viewer pause and think. “Discussing Struth’s work, the critic Richard Sennett has written: ‘We relate to these images as we might appreciate strangers in a crowd; we feel their presence without the need to transgress boundaries by demanding intimacy or revelation … people guard their separateness even as they present themselves directly to us.’ (Sennett p. 94.) Struth’s portraits encourage contemplation and investigation, inviting the viewer to reflect upon the limits of his or her knowledge of other people.”1 And, sotto voce, so do these photographs… The speaker gives the impression of uttering a truth which may surprise and delight.

As Archie has noted in his correspondence with me, the exhibition has been done on a shoestring budget but from small beginnings – and acorns – mighty oaks grow. All power to both Archie Foley and Peter Ross for arranging it. A book and larger exhibition would be a wonderful representation of this work. All I can say is this: that I hope this posting helps that process along for these photographs have a magnificent soul. Simply put, they are great.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

  1. Richard Sennett, Thomas Struth: Strangers and Friends, exhibition catalogue, Institute of Contemporary Art, London 1994 quoted in “Thomas Struth: The Shimada Family, Yamaguchi, Japan 1986” Text summary on the Tate website [Online] Cited 04/11/2014

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Many thankx to Archie Foley and Peter Ross for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All images © Archie Foley and Peter Ross and may not be used without permission.

Acknowledgement: Thank you to John of Print Vision (0131 661 8855) for his advice during the preparation and for producing such excellent prints.

 

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Women workers in front of posters' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
Women workers in front of posters
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Shotts Iron Work’s Signalbox' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
Shotts Iron Work’s Signalbox
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Man on platform in front of signal array' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
Man on platform in front of signal array
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Jackie Collett at Beattock' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
Jackie Collett at Beattock
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

Anonymous photographer. 'A smiling fireman' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
A smiling fireman
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

 

This exhibition has been compiled from a collection of photo negatives found by Archie Foley in a collector’s fair in Portobello. As he went through the collection he was able to extract 100s of railway related negatives dating from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s that showed that the photographer must have been a British Railways engine driver. A chance meeting and conversation with local photographer and video producer, Peter E. Ross, on a bus going into Edinburgh led to the decision to mount an exhibition of photographs made from selected negatives.

As a colleague the driver/photographer was able to snap drivers, shunters, platelayers, signalmen, cleaners and others at work in locations in and around Edinburgh and, occasionally, a bit further afield. The photographs are a unique behind the scenes record of the men and women who worked on the railway and how it looked before diesel power finally replaced steam in 1968.

This is the first time that the photographs have been on public show and Archie and Peter feel privileged to be able to display, and pay tribute to, the dedication and skill of the, as yet unidentified, photographer. Neither Archie nor Peter is an expert on railways and invite visitors to use the Visitors’ Book to suggest possible locations for photographs where these are not given. Please also suggest amendments if you believe any of the captions are incorrect.

The exhibition is at Portobello Library, Rosefield Avenue from Monday, 20th October to Friday, 7th November.

Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

Anonymous photographer. 'The game's a bogie' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
The game’s a bogie
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Duchess of Buccleuch on turntable' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
Duchess of Buccleuch on turntable
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Duchess of Buccleuch bearing "Royal Scot" headboard' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
Duchess of Buccleuch bearing “Royal Scot” headboard
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

 

The two photographs above were obviously taken at the same time as each other (look at the tall trees in the background). I love how the photographer has moved across the tracks from the distance shot onto an oblique angle with the twin arches of the bridge in the background for the closer photograph. You can seen some unevenness in the development of the film in the foreground of both images but no matter, these images give real insight into how this artist was operating, what his thinking was when photographing their behemoths.

 

Anonymous photographer. 'The photographer in working clothes' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
The photographer in working clothes
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Six cleaners, one man and three buckets' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
Six cleaners, one man and three buckets
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Colinton Station with guard on loco' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
Colinton Station with guard on loco
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Diesel unit with guard' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
Diesel unit with guard
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

Agfa Isolette II camera 1960s

 

Agfa Isolette II (1950-60), showing the characteristic wide raised centre of its top housing. The thick knurled disc on the right (of the picture) is a film-type reminder dial.

 

 

Isolette II

The Isolette II (1950-60) was sold alongside the ‘I’; it is an alternative model offering higher specification than the ‘I’, not a successor to it. The camera was available (for at least some time) with coated 85 mm f/4.5 Agnar or Apotar or 75 mm f/3.5 Solinar lenses; however, most examples seen have the Apotar. McKeown gives a very wide range of shutters (Vario, Pronto, Prontor-S and SV, Compur Rapid and Synchro-Compur). This reflects changes in the specification over the period the camera was made (i.e. not all of these shutters were available at the same time): for example, a user’s manual (of unknown date) only lists the Pronto and Prontor SVS. The range of shutter speeds is therefore variable between examples. Some of the shutters have a delayed action. Most are synchronised (some have switchable M and X-synchronisation). On some examples of the camera, there is a shutter locking lever on the back of the top housing, to provide ‘T’ shutter by locking the release button down, where the shutter itself does not have a ‘T’ setting.

Unlike the Isolette I and all the preceding models, the film advance knob is on the right. The camera still has a swing-out spool-holder on the supply side of the film chamber.
There is a double-exposure prevention interlock; this engages after releasing the shutter, and is disengaged by advancing the film. It has a red (locked) or silver (unlocked) indicator in a hole in the top-plate, next to the advance knob. Like the ‘T’ lock, this interlock acts on the body release button, so if the lock engages accidentally, or a double exposure is desired, it is still possible to release the shutter by pressing the linkage on the shutter itself (or with a cable release, on versions of the camera on which the cable attaches directly to the shutter, not the body release; they vary in this respect).

Like the Isolette I, early versions of the II have a disc-type depth-of-field indicator on the left of the top plate. On later cameras this is replaced with a film-type reminder, and the DOF scale, if any, is on the shutter face-plate.

Text from the Camera-wiki.org website

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'From Steam to Diesel' at the Portobello Library, Edinburgh

 

Installation photograph of one half of the exhibition From Steam to Diesel at the Portobello Library, Edinburgh. The other half of the exhibition is off camera to the right.

 

 

Portobello Library
14 Rosefield Avenue, Edinburgh,
Midlothian, EH15 1AU

Opening hours
Monday 10.00 – 20.00
Tuesday 10.00 – 20.00
Wednesday 10.00 – 20.00
Thursday 10.00 – 20.00
Friday 10.00 – 17.00
Saturday 09.00 – 17.00
Sunday 13.00 – 17.00

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02
Nov
14

Review: ‘Victor Hugo: Les Misérables – From Page to Stage’ at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 18th July – 9th November 2014

 

Victor Hugo. 'Les Misérables vol. 1' 1845-1862

 

Victor Hugo (French, 1802-1885)
Les Misérables vol. 1
1845-1862
Autograph manuscript
Bibliothèque nationale de France

 

 

Devour the main course but don’t stay for dessert

This is an exhibition in two galleries. In the first you are not allowed to take photographs but in the second you can take as many as you want. You are told this as you enter the exhibition but the import of this incantation only becomes apparent much later in your visit.

The first gallery is a profound experience: manuscripts, letters, photographs, paintings, and posters that all relate to the great man and his work Les Misérables. The Charles Marville photographs are sublime (as always) with the width of the vertical prints being the element that I noticed most on this viewing. The space that Marville manages to capture in these vertical images makes them seem almost as wide as they are high giving them an almost panoramic feel, as though the space of the image goes on forever, from side to side and into the distance. There is a wonderful sense of volume in the atmosphere, tones and textures of these images. One juxtaposition is particularly tantalising, the pairing of Marville’s Rue Tirechape (1865) with engravings such as the demolition work for constructing the Boulevard St. Germain by Maxine Lalanne (1827-1886). The illusion that one could be the other is enlightening, and there is an established association (especially in Pictorialist photography) between representation in etching and photography.1

As Philip Ebury observes,

“It has often been said that Pictorial photographs resemble works in other media. The analogy with etchings is especially striking and the comparison is more than physical. Between 1890 and the late 1920s, etching and Pictorial photography had a shared history and many similar aims. Parallels between the two disciplines in Australia had their antecedents in England. In the late nineteenth century many photographers in that country were consciously promoting artistic, as opposed to documentary work. At the same time, printmakers were reviving the art of original etching as an expressive rather than a reproductive medium.”2

But the Charles Marville photographs are not the star of the show, oh no. That is left to five things:

a) An album of which you can see only one leaf in the exhibition, Les Proscrits (‘The Exiles’) (1856, below), but that one leaf is enough. The enigma, light and intimacy of this one page is just magnificent.

b) Equally impressive are the very small intense portraits of Victor Hugo such as the silver gelatin photograph attributed to Arsène Garnier (1820-1909) – dark, atmospheric with Neo-classical sculptures and chandeliers reflected in expansive mirrors, VH propped up by a favourite chair; or Charles Hugo’s salted paper print from a collodion negative of his father in Jersey leaning on the back of a chair (1853-55). The intensity of these portraits is remarkable.

c) Victor Hugo’s own paintings, usually pen and brown ink wash on paper, are also very powerful. In images such as Ma destinée (My destiny) (1867, below) where VH wrote in direct conversation with the ocean and The bowels of the Leviathan (1866) – dark, dank labyrinthine Parisian sewers – Hugo draws you into a world of the disenfranchised, the poor, the destitute and their (and his) destiny.

d) The beautiful theatre posters (1880s-1910s) worth the price of admission on their own

e) Leaving the best till last, the autographed manuscript Volume 1 of Les Misérables in all its glory (the first time it has ever left France), complete with revisions, crossings out and the final version in red, resting innocuously in a glass display cabinet. The psychological weight of the volume is immense. This is getting as close to the ‘source’ as you can possibly get without touching it. I remember once holding a first edition of Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol in my hand. This had that same spine tingling effect.

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The first gallery assembles this incredible story and builds a glorious intensity of experience. I was on such an elevated level it was great.

And then, in literally two minutes, it was gone… No, no, no, no!

The second gallery is such a let down. It features costumes, posters, pamphlets and video in an exploration of the musical ‘phenomena’ this is the (Disney-fied) Les Misérables. A stage set from the musical with cut our heads so people can have their photo taken, and for performances; very poor quality black and white images of the sets of the theatrical productions of Les Misérables; a cardboard cut-out two-wheeled cart that is the worst thing that you could possibly see; and videos of workshops with men explaining how they are using a bandsaw to create the stage for the musical (as if I want to see that after what has gone before!). From the sublime to the ridiculous. I’m sure the kids might like it but after seeing such an amazing first half of the exhibition, for me this was like being tied with a ball and chain and dropped over the side to sink like a stone. Why do curators insist on doing this. Do they think that they always have to have a “popular” space for the family and the kids these days. That more is really more?

In this case it quite ruined what was up till then an incredible experience. So visit the exhibition for the main course (and don’t take any photos), but if I were you I would turn around after the first gallery and walk out the way I came in, thinking to myself ‘less is more!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. See Ebury, Frances. “Engravers and Etchers, Pictorialists and Photographers,” Part 2, Chapter 2 in Making Pictures: Australian Pictorial Photography as Art 1897 – 1957 Volume 1. Phd thesis, The University of Melbourne, 2001, p. 73.
  2. Ibid.,

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Many thankx to the State Library of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“As long as social damnation exists, through laws and customs, artificially creating hell at the heart of civilization and muddying a destiny that is divine with human calamity; as long as the three problems of the century – man’s debasement through the proletariat, woman’s demoralisation through hunger, the wasting of the child through darkness – are not resolved … as long as ignorance and misery exist in this world, books like the one you are about to read are, perhaps, not entirely useless.”

.
Victor Hugo, Hauteville House, 1 January 1862

 

 

Victor Hugo. 'Title page of 'Les Misérables' vol. 1' 1845-1862

 

Victor Hugo (French, 1802-1885)
Title page of Les Misérables vol. 1
1845-1862
Autograph manuscript
Bibliothèque nationale de France

 

Victor Hugo. 'Paris' Paris, 1867

 

Victor Hugo (French, 1802-1885)
Paris
Paris, 1867
Maison Littéraire de Victor Hugo

 

Victor Hugo. 'Ma destinée (My destiny)' 1867

 

Victor Hugo (French, 1802-1885)
Ma destinée (My destiny)
1867
Ink and brown-ink wash
© Maisons de Victor Hugo / Roger-Viollet

 

'Les Proscrits' ('The Exiles') 1856

 

Les Proscrits (‘The Exiles’)
1856
Album of photographs
Bibliothèque nationale de France

 

 

Album The Exiles – Victor Hugo and his circle of friends in exile started in Guernsey on the 1st January 1856. The album creates an allegorical portrait of VH. His family is represented by Victor Hugo’s hand (left), Adele’s hand (right), Marine Terrace their home in Jersey 1852-56 (centre) and VH posing at his desk in his study at Hauterville House, Guernsey, where he completed Les Misérables surrounded by sunlight. The page appears in the posting the correct way up, as it appears in the album.

 

Les Proscrits ('The Exiles') album (detail of page) 1856

 

Victor Hugo’s hand
From the album Les Proscrits (‘The Exiles’) (detail of page)
1856
Album of photographs
Bibliothèque nationale de France

 

Les Proscrits ('The Exiles') album (detail of page) 1856

 

Victor Hugo posing at his desk in his study at Hauterville House, Guernsey
From the album Les Proscrits (‘The Exiles’) (detail of page)
1856
Album of photographs
Bibliothèque nationale de France

 

Edmond Bacot. 'Victor Hugo en 1862' (Victor Hugo in 1862)

 

Edmond Bacot (French, 1814-1875)
Victor Hugo en 1862 (Victor Hugo in 1862)
1862
Maison de Victor Hugo
Image © Edmond Bacot / Maisons de Victor Hugo / Roger-Viollet

 

Auguste Rodin. 'Victor Hugo, buste dit À l'Illustre Maître' (Victor Hugo, bust known as 'To the illustrious master') 1883

 

Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917)
Victor Hugo, buste dit À l’Illustre Maître (Victor Hugo, bust known as ‘To the illustrious master’)
1883
Musée Rodin

 

 

Rodin states that Hugo would not pose. “I worked out on the veranda. I observed him swiftly, but carefully as he refused to pose. He accepted to be looked at, from all angles, but he would not pose. And so I looked at his conscience. And this is how I was able to capture the real Hugo.”

 

 

When the first two volumes of Les Misérables arrived in Paris in April 1862, all 6000 copies sold in a day. Public readings were organised when copies sold out. Everyone was reading it, from the literary intelligentsia to the common people. It was also quickly translated into nine languages to reach a global audience. After only three months, 100,000 authorised copies (and countless editions on the black market) had been sold worldwide, making the novel into an unprecedented literary bestseller of western literature. In 1870 after the fall of Napoleon III, Hugo returned to France and was hailed a national hero.

Victor Hugo’s legacy and the iconic story of Les Misérables endure to this day with various adaptations being created around the world. There have been at least 48 films, 14 animated films or TV series, radio plays, 12 television miniseries, numerous comic books, and at least 286 editions of Les Misérables published, sung and spoken. The stage musical of Boublil and Schönberg’s Les Misérables is in itself a worldwide phenomenon. It is the longest running theatre performance in London and has been seen by over 65 million people in 43 countries and in 21 languages. It returns to Melbourne in June 2014.

 

About Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo is considered one of the most important and influential authors of the 19th century. Through his transformative literary works and political activism, French society’s most vulnerable were given a voice in a nation ruled by those with power and privilege. Best known for his novels Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame Hugo is also acclaimed for his theatre, essays, drawings and poetry.

Born in Besançon, France in 1802, Hugo was the son of an atheist and anti-monarchist French General and a Catholic pro-monarchist mother. A precocious talent, Hugo’s first work was published at the age of 15. His debut as a professional writer soon followed with the release of his first volume of romantic poems; Ode et poésies diverses in 1822Many of his early romantic works drew inspiration from his childhood sweetheart and wife Adele Foucher, with whom he had four children. Another powerful female influence on Hugo’s writings was his mistress of more than fifty years, Juliette Drouet.

As Hugo’s career progressed, his aptitude and fondness for romantic literature was matched by his passion for addressing themes of disadvantage and poverty. Hugo’s first major masterpiece The Hunchback of Notre Dame published in 1831 reflected his interest in highlighting such prejudices. However, it was his greatest masterpiece, Les Misérables, that first challenged and then changed the social and political understanding of poverty, disadvantage and inherited privilege in society. In Les Misérables Hugo casts an ex-convict, Jean Valjean, as the revered protagonist and paints a villain of the character representing authority and privilege, Inspector Javert.

Hugo dedicated 17 years of his life to plan and write the epic three part story beginning in the early 1840s and finally publishing the novel in 1862. In addition to his social and political sympathies, Hugo drew from many of his own personal experiences and professional turmoil to inform the characters and themes in Les Misérables. These included the tragic drowning of his eldest daughter, Leopoldine, in a boating accident in 1843, and Hugo’s exile from France by Louis Napoleon III in 1851 – a result of his public opposition to the increasingly authoritarian rule of the self-declared emperor.

From his exile on the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey where he lived for 19 years, Hugo maintained his trenchent opposition to the political status quo and the death penalty, while also publishing widely and spending three years finishing his magnum opus Les Misérables. When Les Misérables finally hit the stands in Paris in 1862 the response by the public was explosive. All 6000 copies sold out in a day, and three months later the book was an international best seller and had been translated into nine languages. Following the success of Les Misérables Hugo returned to France in 1870 after the fall of Napoleon III and was hailed a national hero. He continued to work until he died on 22 May 1885. At his state funeral it was estimated that close to two million people attended. Hugo’s wish to be buried in a pauper’s coffin was granted and his body lay in state under the Arc de Triomphe until he was interred in the Panthéon.

Today Victor Hugo’s extraordinary legacy continues. Les Misérables has been published in at least 250 editions since 1862, 48 films have been made of the story and the Boublil and Schönberg Les Misérables musical has been seen by over 65 million people worldwide in 42 countries and 22 languages, and is one of the most popular musicals of all time. Victor Hugo is remembered as an international literary giant and a French national hero.

 

Themes

The possibility that the condemned can rise above poverty and degradation to become good and honourable, and perhaps above all to fight for freedom of body and soul.

 

Charles Marville. 'Percement de l'avenue de l'Opéra' (Clearing of the Avenue de l'Opéra) c. 1876

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Percement de l’avenue de l’Opéra (Clearing of the Avenue de l’Opéra)
c. 1876
State Library of Victoria

 

Charles Marville. 'Rue Soufflot (pendant la démolition)' (Rue Soufflot [during demolition]) c. 1876-77

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Rue Soufflot (pendant la démolition) (Rue Soufflot [during demolition])
c. 1876-77
State Library of Victoria

 

Charles Marville. 'Avenue d'Iéna' c. 1877

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Avenue d’Iéna
c. 1877
State Library of Victoria

 

Charles Marville. 'Boulevard Haussmann' c. 1877

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Boulevard Haussmann
c. 1877
State Library of Victoria

 

Charles Marville. 'Cour du Dragon' c. 1863-1869

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Cour du Dragon, Rue de Taranne
c. 1863-1869
State Library of Victoria

 

Charles Marville. 'Rue Tirechape' c. 1863-69

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Rue Tirechape
c. 1863-69
State Library of Victoria

 

Charles Marville. 'Rue de Fontaines' c. 1863-69

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Rue de Fontaines
c. 1863-69
State Library of Victoria

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879) 'Rue du Marche aux fleurs' c. 1863-69

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Rue du Marche aux fleurs
c. 1863-69
State Library of Victoria

 

Paul Carpentier. 'Episode du 29 juillet 1830, rue Chilperic, face á la colonnade du Louvre' (Event of 29 July 1830, rue Chilperic, before the colonnade of the Louvre) 1830

 

Paul Carpentier (French, 1787-1877)
Episode du 29 juillet 1830, rue Chilperic, face á la colonnade du Louvre (Event of 29 July 1830, rue Chilperic, before the colonnade of the Louvre)
1830
© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet

 

Charles Méryon (French, 1821-1868) 'Le petit pont' (The little bridge) 1850

 

Charles Méryon (French, 1821-1868)
Le petit pont (The little bridge)
1850
National Gallery of Victoria, purchased 1891

 

Ottavio Rodella Tavio (Italian, 1864-1910) Poster for 'I Miserabili di Victor Hugo' (Les Misérables by Victor Hugo) 1890

 

Ottavio Rodella Tavio (Italian, 1864-1910)
Poster for I Miserabili di Victor Hugo (Les Misérables by Victor Hugo)
1890
Bibliothèque nationale de France

 

'Les Misérables by Victor Hugo' New York, Classics Illustrated no. 9 1950

 

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
New York, Classics Illustrated no. 9
1950
State Library of Victoria

 

Design by Slawomir Kitowski. 'Les Misérables poster' 1989-2000

 

Design by Slawomir Kitowski
Les Misérables
poster
1989-2000
Teatr Muzyczny, Gdynia, Poland
Courtesy Cameron Mackintosh Ltd

 

 

State Library of Victoria
328 Swanston St,
Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: (03) 8664 7000

Opening hours:
10am to 6pm daily

State Library of Victoria 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, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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