Archive for the 'Monash Gallery of Art' Category

13
Mar
22

Review: ‘Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary’ at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 17th December 2021 – 20th March 2022

Curator: Nathaniel Gaskell

Artists: Darogah Abbas Ali, Indu Antony, Felice Beato, Mitter Bedi, Jyoti Bhatt, Bourne & Shepherd, Samuel Bourne, Michael Bühler-Rose, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Chunni Lall & Co., Lala Deen Dayal, Francis Frith & Co., Gauri Gill, Khubiram Gopilal, Hamilton Studios Ltd, Johnston and Hoffmann, Willoughby Wallace Hooper, William Johnson, John William Kaye and John Forbes Watson, Karen Knorr, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, Steve McCurry, Saché & Murray Studios, Pushpamala N with Clare ARNI, Nicolas & Company (attributed), Norman Parkinson, Anoli Perera, Suresh Punjabi, Marc Riboud, John Edward Saché, Charles Scott, Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur, Edward Taurines (attributed), Waswo X Waswo, Wiele and Klein Studio, Wilson Studios Bombay

 

 

Installation view of the opening of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the opening of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the Johnston & Hoffman photograph Maharaja Sir Bhagwati Prasad Singh (1915, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne is at one and the same time, a fascinating, stimulating, frustrating, uplifting – and a little sad – overview of the history of the photography of India. I won’t say the history of Indian photography because most of the historical photographs are taken by European studios in India, and even an equal amount of the mid-twentieth century and contemporary photographs are taken by non-Indian born photographers residing in India or elsewhere. The title Visions of India is, therefore, undeniably apt – the exhibition being as much about how foreigners view the Indian continent, culture and people as how Indians picture themselves.

The fascinating, stimulating and sad elements of the exhibition are the “presence” of the historical photographs. These photographs range from the European architectural documentation of Indian temples through European colonial-ethnographic images which document Indian ethnic “types” – in the case of William Johnson montaging ethnic group portraits taken in the studio with appropriate views of actual buildings and scenes to picture oriental races and tribes – to European and Indigenous Indian photographers and ruling Indian princes’ photographs of themselves and their courtesans … taken in the European manner.

John Falconer in his book 2018 book Under Indian Skies: 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection observes, “A number of India’s princes became deeply interested in photography and both practiced and collected it, several also retaining state photographers… The portraiture of Indian royalty also proved a popular genre. Portraits posed in the setting of the European studio, but celebrating an oriental luxury of costume, jewellery and other accoutrements, were commissioned not only by rulers themselves but were also collected by Western customers, as the contents of many collections attest.”1

But by whoever they were taken – European photographer, Indian photographer or royal prince – these photographs are always taken from a position of power and authority by a male, either to reinforce through the male gaze their own splendour or to document their personal chattels, the tangible goods that they owned. For example, while texts by Mrinalini Venkateswaran (below) and Aparna Andhare argue that the photographs of Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur are adept at revealing himself through his self-portraits “as a thoughtful person who intuitively understood the power of iconography and images,”2 and that he was adept at capturing the personalities of the heavily veiled inner circle of the zenana of the royal household, “that he was able to connect with, and portray, his sitters as individuals rather than ‘types'”2 (at a time when the women lived almost entirely out of public view) … these observations belie the fact that it was he, the ruler, that found them “fit” subjects to be sitters.

And this is what I find particularly sad about these particular photographs – I don’t feel their personalities but I feel their pain. I look at their body language, the demurely clasped hands, the “dead” eyes as they stare at the camera (except one older women who stares defiantly), and the timidity of the body posture… some almost seem to cringe from the camera’s gaze, others look so alone and sad, as though they would wish to be anywhere but subject to (t)his intimidatory gaze – of the camera and the man. It’s disturbing, this feeling of vulnerability and betrayal, when compared to the majesty of Lala Deen Dayal’s photographs, his portrayal of male royal opulence and self-importance.

Pertaining to the Indigenous Indian uptake of photography John Falconer observes that, “[Samuel] Bourne may have viewed the western technology of the camera as yet another symbol of the dominance of European culture, but Indians had lost no time in embracing the new medium. Bourne himself had noted that Indian studios were not uncommon in the Calcutta of the early 1860s. But documentary evidence relating to the growth of an Indigenous photographic culture in India is at present frustratingly limited and has not been investigated with the same rigour as more easily accessible Western records. Even so, it is clear that photography was quickly taken up be sections of the Indian population, in general those who were in a position to associate with European society. …

The only Indian studio whose work has received similar attention and acclamation to that given to European contemporaries is that of Lala Deen Dayal. The success of the Dayal studio is comparable to that achieved by his English counterpart Bourne and Shepherd… The attention paid to Deen Dayal in recent years and his status as an Indian icon stands in marked contrast to the dearth of information available on the work of equally interesting contemporaries.”3

It is unclear in the essay in the book Under Indian Skies: 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection from where this information and research has been gathered, as few Indian sources are quoted in the footnotes. While I am no expert on Indigenous Indian photography, it would seem logical that non-European research has been undertaken into historical, home grown photographic studios and published in the Indian, and not English, language. Perhaps the observations can be seen as another example of the ongoing Western-centric view of historical photographs of India.

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We then move onto the frustrating element of the exhibition, the contemporary photographs. As many of you may know I am not a great fan of contemporary photography but there is some focused, too focused, work on view. The frustrating element of the contemporary smorgasbord is the constant devolution of subject matter, the constant deconstruction of the (historical) minutiae of India – the small, precise, or trivial details of something – in which we never get a feeling for the personality of the Indian country or its people. The contemporary photographs are all about snippets, fragments, and traces of then and now, as though contemporary India is only ever constructed in order to be deconstructed out of its past. This constant prodding and poking at the multiple strings of history and its inequity is tiring and tiresome to say the least but contemporary Indian photography is not alone in this: Australian contemporary photography suffers from the same dis/ease.

The cacophony of “noise” which emanates from the contemporary photographs (and here I will use a section of text which mirrors the form) – – – from grids of hairy male legs seen from a child’s perspective (childhood memories / male figure / Indian family / perspectives of a child) to incarnations of mythological figures that examine “the genres of both the ethnographic photograph-as-document that is linked to the colonial era, as well as the fantasy-inspired make-believe that emanated from traditional Indian portrait studios in the late 19th and early 20th centuries” to conventions of colonial-era ethnographic portrait photographs of women dictated by male notions of femininity disrupted by deliberately dishevelled hair as a symbol of defiance against the notion of out-of-place hair seen as “hysterical” or “uncontrollable”, paradoxically making legible faces into ill/legible citizens, disturbed and defiant “others” (BIG BREATH!) – – – belies my lack of feeling for ANY of the photographs displayed.

After writing on photography since the year 2008 I keep coming up short / banging on the same drum about contemporary photography: I feel almost nothing for any of these photographs even as I appreciate their historical re-“visions”, their self-awareness and self-reflexivity (as much about the photographer as the subject), their intellectual rigour and conceptual contortions. They leave me feeling like I have been playing Twister with too many hands and feet, my mind tied up in an infinite library of thoughts and ideas while ruminating on less than stimulating images.

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And so to the glorious, uplifting denouement of the exhibition which are the dynamic photographs of Suresh Punjabi’s Suhag Studio in Nagda, Madhya Pradesh. I am in love with them.

Reminiscent of the photographs of Africans by Malike Sidibé (Malian, 1935-2016), Seydou Keïta (Malian, 1921-2001) and Sanlé Sory (West African, b. 1943), Punjabi’s visions of Indian life possess a vital energy unlike anything else in this exhibition, and get as close to capturing the spirit of the Indian people as anything I have ever seen from the continent. This is because, at the time, Punjabi’s photographs (like the photographs of Atget) were not considered art but were documents taken for a broad set of purposes: from wedding and family albums to passport photos, from administrative photos to personal souvenirs, from family groups to playful contexts. Through their lack of pretension (ah, there is the key!) “Punjabi’s photographs chronicle daily life in small-town India, a context that many photographic histories from the subcontinent often miss… These portraits are the result of a deeply personal and unique relationship between Punjabi and his clients…”

Punjabi’s clients were like family to him, and he wanted to photograph them in the best way possible, to picture them how they wanted to see themselves. Deceptively simple and formal in their pictorial construction, Punjabi’s photographs allow us to touch the aspirations of everyday Indians – with their hopes and dreams, their communion with family and friends, lost in the moment of dance or conversation, or crowded together in a small 10 x 20 feet studio with painted backdrop. “You can sense the presence of a humane vision behind the mechanical eye of the camera.” Simply put, these “playfully intimate” and grounded photographs are a refreshing counterpoint to so many conceptual contemporary photographs which lead nowhere, for they have an immediacy and intimacy which touches us (through their palpable aura) as only the best photographs can. “He doesn’t really take pictures of people and things (or, God forbid, grind out endless examples of his own cleverness). He photographs feelings and relationships.” (U.S. Camera ’62)

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. John Falconer. Under Indian Skies: 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection. Narayana Press, 2018, p. 35
  2. Aparna Andhare, Curator of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum quoted in “King’s Circle – Ram Singh & the Art of Intimate Portraiture,” on the Sarmaya website January 16, 2021 [Online] Cited 10/03/2022
  3. Falconer, op. cit., pp. 34-35

 

John Falconer. Under Indian Skies: 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection. Narayana Press, 2018, pp. 34-35.

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Many thankx to Monash Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. All installation photographs © Marcus Bunyan and the Monash Gallery of Art. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the opening of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the Johnston & Hoffman photograph Maharaja Sir Bhagwati Prasad Singh (1915, below)
Photo: Monash Gallery of Art

 

Johnston & Hoffman (founded 1882, dissolved 1950s) 'Maharaja Sir Bhagwati Prasad Singh' 1915

 

Johnston & Hoffman (founded 1882, dissolved 1950s)
Maharaja Sir Bhagwati Prasad Singh
1915
Hand-coloured albumen print
46.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

The leading photography studio of Johnston & Hoffman was established at 22 Chowringhee Road, Calcutta around 1882 by Theodore Julius Hoffman and Peter Arthur Johnston. A branch was opened in Darjeeling in 1890 and Simla in the mid 1890s. There was also a Burma branch at 70 Phayre Street, Rangoon for a short period between 1889-90. Hoffmann took over the business on the death of Johnston – which was around 1886 and soon after the Calcutta business commenced. Theodore Hoffman died in Calcutta, India in December 1921. It was possibly the second largest commercial photographers in India after the studios of Bourne and Shepherd and were one of the first to publish postcards in Calcutta from at least 1898 onwards.

Anonymous text from the Families In British India Society (FIBIS) website Nd [Online] Cited 03/03/2022

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Photography in the colonial era

 

Photography in the colonial era

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the photographs of Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (c. 1860, below)
Photo: Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur showing his self-portrait (c. 1860, centre, see below) and portraits of courtesans (c. 1860, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Informally called the ‘photographer prince of India,’ Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II was an avid photographer, creating over six thousand individual photographs and nearly two thousand glass plate negatives throughout his life. He is renowned for having photographed women residing in the zenana of the royal household – at a time when the women lived almost entirely out of public view – using modes of representation similar to traditional Victorian portraiture.

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

The ‘zenana’ portraits [zenana: the part of a house for the seclusion of women], as they are often called, are among the most remarkable of these negatives. They show many individual South Asian women: some look away, others dress up and pose, and several stare down the photographer (and today’s viewer), challenging both to uncover their personalities and stories. That Sawai Ram Singh was able to achieve at least the former – that he was able to connect with, and portray, his sitters as individuals rather than ‘types’ – is one of the special qualities of his images. He seems not to have photographed any of his wives, but that he photographed so many women; that he found them ‘fit’ subjects to be sitters, is unusual for this period. Nothing comparable has emerged from any other contemporary Indian court. Unfortunately, we cannot be sure who all these women are – history is poor at remembering their names – but many were women at his court. Perhaps they were performers; some may have been paaswaans.

Mrinalini Venkateswaran. “How a 19th Century Jaipur Ruler Mastered Photography,” on the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website Nd [Online] Cited 10/03/2022

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Ram Singh was passionate about art and photography; he captured (and developed) numerous photographs of women, junior functionaries (like tailors) and nobles of his court. It is believed that Ram Singh was introduced to a camera in 1864 when photographer T. Murray visited Jaipur. After learning how to photograph, he used to carry his camera on all his trips. When western visitors came to his court, he used to learn photography from them.

Many of the photographs taken by him were of elite women who so-far lived an entirely secluded private life in the zenanas of his palace; captured in an western artificial setting, consisting of elegant backdrops, Victorian furniture and Persian carpets. It has been since considered as a pioneer effort at portraying Rajput women behind the purdah. Prior to Ram Singh’s photographs, portraits of specific Rajput women were nearly unknown and artists mass-produced idealised representations of women based on a single model, to serve a variety of occasions, for centuries. Interestingly, the names of the photographed women were not mentioned and whether the Maharanis allowed themselves to be photographed is unknown.

Laura Weinstein, an acclaimed art curator argues that the photographs served as an important tool to engage in the widespread discourse about Indian women behind the purdah [the practice in certain Muslim and Hindu societies of screening women from men or strangers, especially by means of a curtain] and they stood out as a rare group of photographs that did not mirror oriental conceptions of Indian domestic life. By appropriating the very European model of portrait photography – which emphasised the dignity and propriety of women, he infused dignity into the life of his photograph-figures unlike other concurrent attempts and refuted the colonial notion of the zenana-inhabitants being idle, unhygienic, superstitious, sexually deviant and oppressed. Rather than reforming the purdah system or associated woman issues, his photographs were modern tools that staunchly defended the tradition, much more than it breached, by portraying an apparent normalcy.

Ram Singh had also commissioned numerous self-portraits in a variety of poses ranging from a Hindu holy man to a Rajput warrior to a Western gentleman. Vikramaditya Prakash, an art-historian had described them as “self-consciously hybridised representations [which] straddle and contest the separating boundary – between coloniser and colonised, English and native – the preservation and reaffirmation of which was crucial for colonial discourse.”

The glass negatives that produced the portraits, the albumen print photograph collection and his own self-portraits are now displayed at the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum in Jaipur. He was also a life-time member of Bengal Photographic Society.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Self-portrait' c. 1860

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Self-portrait
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the photographs of William Johnson (English, date born unknown – 1886) from the album The Oriental races and tribes, residents and visitors of Bombay with at left, The Kulis of the West of India (1852-1855, below); at centre, Chambhars (1852-1855, below); and at right, Kharavas (1852-1855, below)
Photo: Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the photographs of William Johnson (English, date born unknown – 1886) from the album The Oriental races and tribes, residents and visitors of Bombay with at left, The Kulis of the West of India (1852-1855, below); at centre, Chambhars (1852-1855, below); and at right, Kharavas (1852-1855, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown - 1886) 'The Kulis of the West of India' 1852-1855

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown – 1886)
The Kulis of the West of India
1852-1855
From the album The Oriental races and tribes, residents and visitors of Bombay
Albumen print
23.0 x 17.7cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown - 1886) 'Chambhars' 1852-1855

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown – 1886)
Chambhars
1852-1855
From the album The Oriental races and tribes, residents and visitors of Bombay
Albumen print
23.0 x 17.7cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Four members of the Chambhar community, historically associated with leather work, pose for an outdoor portrait by William Johnson, co-author and photographer of two-volume collection of albumen prints The Oriental Races and Tribes, Residents and Visitors of Bombay. The photographs with letter-press description are largely considered to be the first published ethnographic study of Indian people to use photos as well as written descriptions.

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown - 1886) 'Kharavas' 1852-1855

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown – 1886)
Kharavas
1852-1855
From the album The Oriental races and tribes, residents and visitors of Bombay
Albumen print
23.0 x 17.7cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

William Johnson

 

William Johnson

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing in the bottom image at left and right, Wilson Brothers Bombay Portrait of Maharani Kusum Kunwarba (both c. 1930, below); and at centre Hamilton Studios Ltd Portrait of Maharani Vijaya Raje Scindia (c. 1940, below)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Wilson Studios Bombay. ‘Portrait of Maharani Kusum Kunwarbae’ c. 1930 (installation view)

 

Wilson Studios Bombay
Portrait of Maharani Kusum Kunwarba (installation view)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Hamilton Studios Ltd. 'Portrait of Maharini Vijaya Raje Scindia' c. 1940

 

Hamilton Studios Ltd
Portrait of Maharini Vijaya Raje Scindia
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Wilson Studios Bombay. 'Portrait of Maharani Kusum Kunwarba' c. 1930

 

Wilson Studios Bombay
Portrait of Maharani Kusum Kunwarba
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Chunni Lall & Co Portrait of a man (1860-1880, below); and at right, Unknown photographer Portrait of a royal figure (1860-1880, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Chunni Lall & Co ‘Portrait of a man’ 1860-1880 (installation view)

 

Chunni Lall & Co
Portrait of a man (installation view)
1860-1880
Hand-coloured albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Unknown photographer. 'Portrait of a royal figure' 1860-1980 (detail)

 

Unknown photographer
Portrait of a royal figure (detail)
1860-1980
Hand-coloured albumen print
26.6 x 21.5cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Khubiram Gopilal (Indian, 1891-1970) ‘A family worshipping deity Shrinathji during the festival of Nanda’ c. 1940 (installation view)

 

Khubiram Gopilal (Indian, 1891-1970)
A family worshipping deity Shrinathji during the festival of Nanda (installation view)
c. 1940
Gouache, gelatin silver prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

 

Khubiram Gopilal (Indian, 1891-1970) 'A family worshipping deity Shrinathji during the festival of Nanda' c. 1940

 

Khubiram Gopilal (Indian, 1891-1970)
A family worshipping deity Shrinathji during the festival of Nanda
c. 1940
Gouache, gelatin silver prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Khubiram Gopilal was a painter, studio photographer and collagist who specialised in a style of portrait called Manorath paintings, made for pilgrims visiting the Shrinarhji temple in the town of Nathdwara in Rajasthan (in northern India). To make these pictures, he photographed his subjects, carefully cut out their faces and hands and then pasted them into painted templates, using a brush and paint to mask the difference between the two mediums, making the final result appear like a detailed painting.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing artworks (left to right) by Johnson & Hoffman, Lala Deen Dayal and Bourne & Shepherd (see below)
Photo: Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Johnston & Hoffmann’s Maharao Raja Sir Ramsinghji, Bahadur of Bondi (1887, below): and at right, four images by Layla Deen Dayal (c. 1880) from the album Princes and Chiefs of India
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905) 'HH The Maha Rao of Kutch' c. 1880

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)
HH The Maha Rao of Kutch
c. 1880
From the album Princes and Chiefs of India
Carbon prints
25.1 x 19.5cm (each)
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)

Raja Lala Deen Dayal (Hindi: लाला दीन दयाल; 1844-1905; also written as ‘Din Dyal’ and ‘Diyal’ in his early years), famously known as Raja Deen Dayal) was an Indian photographer. His career began in the mid-1870s as a commissioned photographer; eventually he set up studios in Indore, Mumbai and Hyderabad. He became the court photographer to the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, Mahbub Ali Khan, Asif Jah VI, who awarded him the title Raja Bahadur Musavvir Jung Bahadur, and he was appointed as the photographer to the Viceroy of India in 1885.

He received the Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria in 1897.

 

Career

In 1866, Deen Dayal entered government service as head estimator and draughtsman in the Department of Works Secretariat Office in Indore. Meanwhile, he took up photography. His first patron in Indore was Maharaja Tukoji Rao II of Indore state, who in turn introduced him to Sir Henry Daly, agent to the Governor General for Central India (1871-1881) and the founder of Daly College, who encouraged his work, along with the Maharaja himself who encouraged him to set up his studio in Indore. Soon he was getting commissions from Maharajas and the British Raj. The following year he was commissioned to photograph the governor general’s tour of Central India. In 1868, Deen Dayal founded his studio – Lala Deen Dayal & Sons – and was subsequently commissioned to photograph temples and palaces of India. He established studios in Indore (Mid 1870s), Secunderabad (1886) and Bombay (1896).

In 1875-1876, Deen Dayal photographed the Royal Tour of the Prince and Princess of Wales. In the early 1880s he travelled with Sir Lepel Griffin through Bundelkhand, photographing the ancient architecture of the region. Griffin commissioned him to do archaeological photographs: The result was a portfolio of 86 photographs, known as “Famous Monuments of Central India”.

The next year he retired from government service and concentrated on his career as a professional photographer. Deen Dayal became the court photographer to the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad in 1885. Soon afterward he moved from Indore to Hyderabad. In the same year he was appointed as the photographer to the Viceroy of India. In time, the Nizam of Hyderabad conferred the honorary title of Raja upon him. It was at this time that Dayal created the firm Raja Deen Dayal & Sons in Hyderabad.

Deen Dayal was appointed photographer to Queen Victoria in 1897. In 1905–1906, Raja Deen Dayal accompanied the Royal Tour of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905) 'HH The Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir' c. 1880

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)
HH The Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir
c. 1880
From the album Princes and Chiefs of India
Carbon prints
25.1 x 19.5cm (each)
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905) 'HH The Thakore Saheb of Palitana' c. 1880

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)
HH The Thakore Saheb of Palitana
c. 1880
From the album Princes and Chiefs of India
Carbon prints
25.1 x 19.5cm (each)
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905) 'HH The Thakore Saheb of Dhrol' c. 1880

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)
HH The Thakore Saheb of Dhrol
c. 1880
From the album Princes and Chiefs of India
Carbon prints
25.1 x 19.5cm (each)
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Johnston & Hoffmann. 'Maharao Raja Sir Ramsinghji, Bahadur of Bondi' 1887

 

Johnston & Hoffmann
Maharao Raja Sir Ramsinghji, Bahadur of Bondi
1887
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

A note with this striking portrait of Maharao Raja Ram Singh Sahib Bahadur, of Bundi, describes him as a “wild fellow”. This image was taken from a four-volume album of photogravure prints, the only other copy belonging to Queen Victoria.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Bourne and Shepherd Ranbir Singh Maharaja of Kashmir (1875, below); at centre right, Unknown photographer. Unidentified Maharaja (c. 1880, below); and at right, Unknown photographer. HH Maharaja Shrimant Sir Anandrao III Puar Sahib Bahadur, Maharaja of Dhar (c. 1870, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Unknown photographer. 'Unidentified Maharaja' c. 1880 (installation view)

 

Unknown photographer
Unidentified Maharaja (installation view)
c. 1880
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Unknown photographer. 'HH Maharaja Shrimant Sir Anandrao III Puar Sahib Bahadur, Maharaja of Dhar' c. 1870 (installation view)

 

Unknown photographer
HH Maharaja Shrimant Sir Anandrao III Puar Sahib Bahadur, Maharaja of Dhar (installation view)
c. 1870
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Bourne and Shepherd (active 1864-1900s) 'Ranbir Singh, Maharaja of Kashmir' 1875

 

Bourne and Shepherd (active 1864-1900s)
Ranbir Singh, Maharaja of Kashmir
1875
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing three portraits of a courtesan (all 1874) by Darogah Abbas Ali (Indian, dates unknown)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Darogah Abbas Ali (Indian, dates unknown) 'Portrait of a courtesan' 1874

 

Darogah Abbas Ali (Indian, dates unknown)
Portrait of a courtesan
1874
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing showing at top left, Nicholas & Company (attributed) Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (c. 1880, below); at top right, Nicholas & Company (attributed) Sacred tank (c. 1860); at bottom left, Nicholas & Company (attributed) Temple, Madurai (c. 1880); and at bottom right, Wiele and Klein Studio The Southern Gopura, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (1895)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Nicholas & Company (attributed) 'Meenakshi Temple, Madurai' c. 1880

 

Nicholas & Company (attributed)
Meenakshi Temple, Madurai
c. 1880
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing showing at left, Unknown photographer. Portrait of a woman carrying pots c. 1870; at centre, Unknown photographer. Portrait of a man c. 1860-1880; and at right, Unknown photographer. Portrait of a couple c. 1860-1880
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Willoughby Wallace Hooper (England, 1837-1912) The game brought into camp (c. 1880); and at right, Francis Frith & Co. Carved horses in the Sheshagirirayar Mandapa at the Ranganatha Temple of Srirangam (c. 1880, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Francis Frith & Co. 'Carved horses in the Sheshagirirayar Mandapa at the Ranganatha Temple of Srirangam' c. 1880

 

Francis Frith & Co.
Carved horses in the Sheshagirirayar Mandapa at the Ranganatha Temple of Srirangam
c. 1880
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at top left, Edward Taurines (attributed, dates unknown). Brahmins of Bombay (c. 1880, below); at bottom left, Charles Scott (attributed, dates unknown). Caves of Karlie – seven attendant musicians (c. 1855-1862) from the album Photographs of Western India; and at right, Unknown photographer. A group portrait of British officials (c. 1880)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Edward Taurines (attributed, dates unknown) 'Brahmins of Bombay' c. 1880

 

Edward Taurines (attributed, dates unknown)
Brahmins of Bombay
c. 1880
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing photographs by Felice Beato (Italian, 1832-1909) with at left, Kaiser Bagh (1857); at centre, The Secundra Bagh, showing the breach and gateway, first attack of Sir Colin Campbell in November (1858, below); and at right, Gateway leading into the residency held by Captain Atkinson, 13th Native Infantry, commonly called the Bailee Guard Gate (1858)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

A pioneer of war photography who worked extensively in the Mediterranean, Middle East and South and East Asia, Felice Beato’s photographs reveal the brutality and aftermath of the conflicts he photographed. His reportage on the Crimean War (1853-1856), for instance, contrasted from that of his predecessor, the early British war photographer Roger Fenton, who was more restrained in depicting the lasting impressions of violence. In 1858, Beato travelled to India, after hearing about the rebellion that had broken out the previous year, and applied a similar approach. With the help of military personnel, he traversed the north of the country, documenting its aftermath in cities like Delhi, Agra, Lucknow and Kanpur, where his photographs often depicted bullet-ridden facades and desecrated battlefields.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Felice Beato (Italian, 1832-1909) 'The Secundra Bagh, showing the breach and gateway, first attack of Sir Colin Campbell in November' 1858

 

Felice Beato (Italian, 1832-1909)
The Secundra Bagh, showing the breach and gateway, first attack of Sir Colin Campbell in November
1858
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Felice Beato (Italian, 1832-1909) 'Gateway leading into the residency held by Captain Atkinson, 13th Native Infantry, commonly called the Bailee Guard Gate' 1858

 

Felice Beato (Italian, 1832-1909)
Gateway leading into the residency held by Captain Atkinson, 13th Native Infantry, commonly called the Bailee Guard Gate
1858
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

John Edward Saché (Germany, b. 1824; America (dates unknown); India (dates unknown); died India 1882) 'Four ayahs from Naintal Region' 1865 (installation view)

 

John Edward Saché (Germany, b. 1824; America (dates unknown); India (dates unknown); died India 1882)
Four ayahs from Naintal Region (installation view)
1865
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Samuel Bourne (British, 1834-1912) 'Taj Mahal, Agra' c. 1860

 

Samuel Bourne (British, 1834-1912)
Taj Mahal, Agra
c. 1860
Albumen print
16.0 x 20.6cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Samuel Bourne (British, 1834-1912)

Samuel Bourne (30 October 1834 – 24 April 1912) was a British photographer known for his prolific seven years’ work in India, from 1863 to 1870. Together with Charles Shepherd, he set up Bourne & Shepherd first in Shimla in 1863 and later in Kolkata (Calcutta); the company closed in June 2016. …

 

Work in India

He initially set up in partnership with an already established Calcutta photographer, William Howard. They moved up to Simla, where they established a new studio ‘Howard & Bourne’, to be joined in 1864 by Charles Shepherd, to form ‘Howard, Bourne & Shepherd’. By 1866, after the departure of Howard, it became ‘Bourne & Shepherd’, which became the premier photographic studio in India, and until it closed in June 2016 was perhaps the world’s oldest photographic business. Charles Shepherd evidently remained in Simla, to carry out the commercial and portrait studio work, and to supervise the printing and marketing of Bourne’s landscape and architectural studies, whilst Bourne was away travelling around the sub-continent.

Bourne spent six extremely productive years in India, and by the time he returned to England in January 1871, he had made approximately 2,200 fine images of the landscape and architecture of India and the Himalayas. Working primarily with a 10 x 12 inch plate camera, and using the complicated and laborious Wet Plate Collodion process, the impressive body of work he produced was always of superb technical quality and often of artistic brilliance. His ability to create superb photographs whilst travelling in the remotest areas of the Himalayas and working under the most exacting physical conditions, places him firmly amongst the very finest of nineteenth century travel photographers.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at centre, a group of work by Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934) 'An old woman making/drawing a mandana (Rangoli) design, Rajasthan' 1972

 

Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934)
An old woman making/drawing a mandana (Rangoli) design, Rajasthan
1972
Pigment ink-jet print
45.6 x 30.4cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934)

Jyotindra Manshankar Bhatt (12 March 1934), better known as Jyoti Bhatt, is an Indian artist best known for his modernist work in painting and printmaking and also his photographic documentation of rural Indian culture. He studied painting under N. S. Bendre and K.G. Subramanyan at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University (M.S.U.), Baroda. Later he studied fresco and mural painting at Banasthali Vidyapith in Rajasthan, and in the early 1960s went on to study at the Academia di Belle Arti in Naples, Italy, as well the Pratt Institute in New York. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 2019.

 

Biography

Bhatt moved from a cubist influence in his early work to a lighthearted and colourful Pop art that often drew its imagery from traditional Indian folk designs. Though Bhatt worked in a variety of mediums, including watercolours and oils, it is his printmaking that ultimately garnered him the most attention. In 1966 Bhatt returned to M.S.U. Baroda with a thorough knowledge of the intaglio process that he had gained at the Pratt Institute at Brooklyn in New York. It was partially Bhatt’s enthusiasm for intaglio that caused other artists such as Jeram Patel, Bhupen Khakhar and Gulammohammed Sheikh, to take up the same process. Bhatt, and his compatriots at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Baroda, soon came to be known as “The Baroda School” of Indian art.

Late in the 1960s, Bhatt was asked to take photographs of Gujarati folk art. Initially, this work was done for a seminar, but it soon became one of the artist’s passions to document traditional Indian craft and design work. The disappearing arts of rural Gujarat became a focus. Though Bhatt’s investigations into a village and tribal designs certainly influenced the motifs he used in his printmaking, Bhatt considers his documentary photographs to be an art form in themselves. His direct and simply composed photographs have become valued on their own merit.

Throughout Bhatt’s long career as a teacher at the M.S.U. Faculty of Fine Arts, he has photographed the evolution of the university, the artistic activities of its faculty and students, and the architecturally significant buildings of Baroda. This huge body of work is perhaps the best assembled photographic documentation that pertains to “The Baroda School” of Indian art.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934) 'A Rajasthani (Meena community) woman decorating a bullock for Gordhan Pooja festival' 1989

 

Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934)
A Rajasthani (Meena community) woman decorating a bullock for Gordhan Pooja festival
1989
Gelatin silver print
34.5 x 51.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at right in the bottom image, Karen Knorr’s The Queen’s room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur (2010, below)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Karen Knorr’s The Queen’s room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur (2010, below); and at right, A Place Like Amravati 2, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur (2011)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Karen Knorr (American born Germany, b. 1954) 'The Queen's room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur' 2010

 

Karen Knorr (American born Germany, b. 1954)
The Queen’s room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur
2010
Pigment ink-jet print
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Karen Knorr (American born Germany, b. 1954)

Karen Knorr HonFRPS is a German-born American photographer who lives in London.

Knorr was born in Frankfurt and raised in the 1960s in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In the 1970s, she moved to Great Britain where she has lived ever since. Knorr is a graduate of the Polytechnic of Central London (now the University of Westminster), and has an MA from the University of Derby. She is Professor of Photography at the University for the Creative Arts.

Knorr’s work explores Western cultural traditions, mainly British society, with widely ranging topics, from lifestyle to animals. She is interested in conceptual art, visual culture, feminism, and animal studies, and her art maintains connections with these topics.

Between 1979 and 1981 Knorr produced Belgravia, a series of black and white photographs each accompanied by a short text, typically critical to the British class system of the time. Subsequently, she produced Gentlemen (1981-1983), a series consisting of photographs of gentlemen’s members clubs and texts taken from parliamentary speeches and news reports. In these series, Knorr investigated values of the English upper middle classes, comparing them with aristocratic values. In 1986, the series Connoisseurs was made in colour. The series incorporates staged events into English architectural interiors. Between 1994 and 2004, Knorr photographed fine art academies throughout Europe, which resulted in the series Academies.

In 2008, she traveled to Rajasthan and took a large series of photographs, predominantly showing Indian interiors, often with animals from Indian folklore inside. She subsequently became a frequent traveller to India, visiting the country 15 times between 2008 and 2014. She mentioned that most of the buildings in India were never photographed, and they are not less interesting than common tourist attractions.

From 2014 to 2015, one room of Tate Britain hosted an exhibition of her photographs of “posh west Londoners in domestic settings and portraits of members at a gentlemen’s club” (Belgravia series).

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Karen Knorr (American born Germany, b. 1954) 'The Queen's room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur' 2010

 

Karen Knorr (American born Germany, b. 1954)
The Queen’s room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur
2010
Pigment ink-jet print
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

The photographer uses digital image manipulation to create scenes that critique upper caste Rajput culture and examine marginalisation, mythology and power.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at centre, two photographs by Gauri Gill (see below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004) 'Muslim women praying at dawn in Srinagar' 1948

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
Muslim women praying at dawn in Srinagar
1948
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Marc Riboud (French, 1923-2015) 'Darjeeling, India' 1956

 

Marc Riboud (French, 1923-2015)
Darjeeling, India
1956
Gelatin silver print
24.0 x 36.5cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Marc Riboud (French, 1923-2015) 'Benares, India' 1956

 

Marc Riboud (French, 1923-2015)
Benares, India
1956
Gelatin silver print
23.5 x 36cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Monash Gallery of Art (MGA) announce the upcoming exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary featuring works from the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), Bengaluru. Since its invention in Europe in the 1840s, the genre of photography has played an integral role in the course of Indian art history. Although it is often quoted that India is the most photographed country in the world, the history of its representation is more complicated, and more political than initially meets the eye. Within just a few months of its invention, the camera arrived in the subcontinent at the height of British colonial rule. Photographs from the time typically served the colonial purpose of administration and control, and thus, often reflected colonial views. Over the subsequent few decades, and at an unprecedented scale, India – its landscapes, people, traditions and archaeological history – was catalogued for the colonial eye and transformed into a governable ‘object.’

Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary will be the first major survey of Indian photography in Australia, and all artworks showcased will be from the collection of Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), Bengaluru, which is one of the most celebrated photographic collections in India. The exhibition will be on view at MGA until 20 March 2022.

‘While this exhibition takes the context of colonialism as an entry point – both chronologically and conceptually – the historical arc of photography in India extends far beyond this initial point of contact, encompassing a range of shifts in artistic, cultural and political attitudes, and other voices who exist outside the traditional canon. With this exhibition, we will uncover not only the primary history of the genre, but also the multiple parallel and lesser-known photographic practices in the subcontinent that re-emphasise the diverse and socially significant story of Indian photography.’ ~ Nathaniel Gaskell, curator

.
One such narrative will be highlighted through a section looking at the work of Suresh Punjabi, the photographer and owner of the Studio Suhag in Nagda, Madhya Pradesh, established in 1979. Punjabi made portraits for a broad set of purposes, from wedding and family albums to passport photos to personal souvenirs. Working at the time in a small 10 x 20 feet studio. His photographs chronicle the human drama of life in a small-town in the heart of India; a history told through faces and attest to the existence of vast and distinct photographic histories that extend beyond formal archives and institutions.

Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary offers a journey through one of the most complex and photographed countries in the world. This ground-breaking exhibition is curated by Nathaniel Gaskell from MAP’s unique photographic collection specifically for MGA. For many of our audience members, this may be their first encounter with these artists, their works and even with the history of India, while others may recognise places or feel resonance with their Indian cultural heritage. The exhibition draws together an array of unique and fascinating works from the earliest days of colonial India through to some of the nation’s most remarkable contemporary photographers, in the first survey of its kind in Australia.’ ~ Anouska Phizacklea, MGA Gallery Director

.
The exhibition will begin its journey from 1860 onwards, displaying portraits of India’s ruling elite by pioneering photographers and studios of the time, such as Samuel Bourne, Francis Frith & Co., Felicé Beato, Willoughby Wallace Hooper, Lala Deen Dayal and Khubiram Gopilal, as well as looking at some more creative, non-commercial studios, such as that of Maharaja Ram Singh II, ‘The photographer Prince’ who had established a studio at his palace in Jaipur.

Entering the decades following India’s independence in 1947, the exhibition will showcase works by well-known mid-century European photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson to reveal how photography remained entrenched in orientalist ways of seeing, for the benefit of Western media. However, a number of Indian photographers, such as Mitter Bedi and Jyoti Bhatt, were also using photography to represent tradition, inequity and modernity in a changing world, responding to the industrialisation and the economic progress of the country.

The third section, featuring photographic practices from the 1990s onwards, will highlight themes of Western hegemony, postcolonialism, identity politics and the ethics of representation through the works of celebrated contemporary photographers, Pushpamala N and her collaborator Clare Arni, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, Anoli Perera, and Michael Bühler-Rose, an American ordained Hindu priest who pledges spiritual allegiance to India whilst working from his studios in both Mysore and New York.

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the work of Mitter Bedi (Indian, 1926-1985) with at left, Hindustan lever pipeline to success (1961, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Mitter Bedi (Indian, 1926-1985) 'Hindustan lever pipeline to success' 1961

 

Mitter Bedi (Indian, 1926-1985)
Hindustan lever pipeline to success
1961
Gelatin silver print
100.0 x 75.0cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

The photographer’s shots of industrial subjects from a newly independent India aimed to represent the ideals of an economically self-reliant and rapidly mechanised country, in line with the vision of its first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

 

Mitter Bedi (Indian, 1926-1985)

Mitter Bedi (26 January 1926 – 11 March 1985) was an Indian photographer, specialising in industrial photography, and a teacher. Prior to his interest in the field there was little photographic use in advertising and his images have become classic icons. He was a recipient of several awards and he had his own photographic agency in Bombay (now Mumbai), which became well known in Asia. …

 

Career

Bedi started his career by working for a printing press and the publicity department of a commercial firm and then took up a job in the film industry in 1947, the year of the partitioning of India and Pakistan into independent nations. At the start of his career in the early 1950s, his photographic assignments covered small events, mostly related to weddings and birthday celebrations or serving as the third or fourth assistant to a Bollywood film director. He frequented the airport to photograph passengers departing and arriving, which prompted his father-in-law B.N. Goenka, an industrialist, to suggest that Bedi change professions or travel abroad. However Bedi was firm in his resolve to continue in his chosen profession and said: “I am never going to leave the profession but bring it to the heights it deserves”. In 1959 his photographic assignments saw a drastic change when he met Arthur D’Arzian, who had specialised in photography of the steel and oil industry, during a social function of the Standard Oil Company in Bombay. Bedi then pursued engagements of Industrial photography, a new field just taking off in the country.

Bedi’s assignments covered public sector corporations and private enterprises. From 1960 to 1985, he traversed the industrial regions of India taking pictures. He took more than 2,000 photo shoots during the span of his career and covered projects from industries such as steel and oil, hospitality, mines, sugar, pharmaceuticals and many more. To propagate black-and-white photography as a profession in the country he wrote many articles and also established an academy in Bombay which is still operational under the direction of his family members. His photographs depicted a nation in which the factory and reactor dominated over the Indian people. He also worked as visiting professor in: K.C. College of Journalism, Bombay during 1974-1975; National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad in 1976; in Rajednra Prasad Institute of Communication, Bombay in 1978; and in SNDT Women’s University, Bombay, 1978. His academy in Bombay was a prominent institution in photography which enrolled national and international students and teachers.

Bedi’s images have become classic icons of the industrialisation which was carried out in India under Nehru. In spite of the limiting aspects of photographs taken primarily for advertising, Bedi introduced shape, design and geometric planes to create artistic rather than simply functional images. His visual expressions and artistry were used by both the state and industrialists to drive national development. An oeuvre of his black-and-white photographs taken during the period 1960s to 1970s, was held at the Piramal Centre for Photography representing an Art Form in Mumbai.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964) 'Feather Indian/Dot Indian' 2008-2009

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964)
Feather Indian/Dot Indian
2008-2009
From the series An Indian from India
Ink-jet prints on transparencies, metallic gold cards, leather case
14.5 x 9.4cm (each image)
Courtesy of the artist and Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Near-identical photographs place two “Indians” side by side. A double portrait framed in a leather case, made to appear as a traditional orotone. Matthew’s series An Indian from India addresses the historical identities of Indians and Native Americans, who – owing to Christopher Columbus’s erroneous identification on arriving in the Antilles in the late 15th century – have long been misidentified, and questions the nature of assimilation within and beyond the US.

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964) 'Noble savage/savage noble' 2007-2009

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964)
Noble savage/savage noble
2007-2009
from the series An Indian from India
Ink-jet prints on transparencies, metallic gold cards, leather case
14.5 x 9.4 cm (each image)

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964) 'American Indian with war paint/Indian with war paint' 2007-2009

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964)
American Indian with war paint/Indian with war paint
2007-2009
from the series An Indian from India
Ink-jet prints on transparencies, metallic gold cards, leather case
14.5 x 9.4 cm (each image)

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the work of Anoli Perera
Photo: Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art with in the bottom image, showing at left, three works by Anoli Perera (see below); at centre right, two photographs by Pushpamala N with Clare Arni. Returning from the tank (2001, below) and Lakshmi (2001, below); and at right, work by Pushpamala N with Clare Arni from the series Native women of South India (manners and customs) (see below)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Anoli Perera (Sri Lankan, b. 1962; America 1988-1992; Sri Lanka 1992-2016; arrived India 2016) 'I let my hair loose' 2010-2011

 

Anoli Perera (Sri Lankan, b. 1962; America 1988-1992; Sri Lanka 1992-2016; arrived India 2016)
I let my hair loose
2010-2011
From the Protest series I
Pigment ink-jet prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Young women in 2010-2011 pose according to the conventions of colonial-era portrait photography with deliberately dishevelled hair as a symbol of defiance against the notion of out-of-place hair seen as “hysterical” or “uncontrollable.”

 

Anoli Perera (Sri Lankan, b. 1962; America 1988-1992; Sri Lanka 1992-2016; arrived India 2016) 'I let my hair loose' 2010-2011

 

Anoli Perera (Sri Lankan, b. 1962; America 1988-1992; Sri Lanka 1992-2016; arrived India 2016)
I let my hair loose
2010-2011
From the Protest series IV
Pigment ink-jet prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Hair covers the face of a young woman who poses according to the conventions of colonial-era portrait photography. The Sri Lankan-born, Delhi-based artist is inspired not only by colonial-ethnographic images but also by portraits of women she saw as a child, often dictated by male notions of femininity. ‘Hair in its proper place is seen as a mark of beauty,’ she says. ‘Hair out of place is seen as significations of hysterical, uncontrollable, uncertain and unpredictable behaviour’.

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962) 'Returning from the tank' 2001

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962)
Returning from the tank
2001
From the series Native women of South India (manners and customs)
Chromogenic prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962) 'Lakshmi' 2001

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962)
Lakshmi
2001
From the series Native women of South India (manners and customs)
Chromogenic prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Pushpamala N with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962) 'Cracking the whip D-4' 2000-2004

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962)
Cracking the whip D-4
2000-2004
From the series Native women of South India (manners and customs)
Sepia-toned gelatin silver print
13.1 x 8.8cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

“In which the original Native Types characters perform as ethnographic objects”

Pushpamala N. (born 1956) is a photo and visual artist based in Bangalore, India. Born in Bangalore, Pushpamala formally trained as a sculptor and eventually shifted to photography to explore her interest in narrative figuration. Pushpamala has been referred to as “the most entertaining artist-iconoclast of contemporary Indian art”. Her work has been described as performance photography, as she frequently uses herself as a model in her own work. “She is known for her strongly feminist work and for her rejection of authenticity and embracing of multiple realities. As one of the pioneers of conceptual art in India and a leading figure in the feminist experiments in subject, material and language, her inventive work in sculpture, conceptual photography, video and performance have had a deep influence on art practice in India.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Clare Arni is a photographer whose work encompasses social documentary and cultural heritage. Clare’s body of work has been exhibited extensively, both in private galleries and cultural institutions. Her solo exhibitions document the lives of marginalised communities in some of the most remote regions of India and the disappearing trades of urban India.

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962) 'Returning from the tank 1' 2000-2004

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962)
Returning from the tank 1
2000-2004
From the series Native women of South India (manners and customs)
Sepia-toned gelatin silver print
13.1 x 8.8cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Artist Pushpamala measures herself in front of a Lamprey grid, a dehumanising ethnographic tool deployed to standardise the photography of people during and after the late 19th century. By satirically re-enacting this form of subjugation, Pushpamala, in collaboration with fellow artist Arni, questions the colonial gaze and critiques its obsession with classification.

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962) 'Velankani F6-A' 2000-2004

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962)
Velankani F6-A
2000-2004
From the series Native women of South India (manners and customs)
Sepia-toned gelatin silver print
13.1 x 8.8cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the work of Waswo X Waswo (American, b. 1953; arrived India 2001) with at left, Tribal dreams (2008, below); and at right, Night prowl (2008, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Waswo X Waswo (American, b. 1953; arrived India 2001) 'Tribal dreams' 2008

 

Waswo X Waswo (American, b. 1953; arrived India 2001)
Tribal dreams
2008
Pigment ink-jet prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Waswo X. Waswo first visited India in 1993; after several trips in the intervening years, he finally moved to India, renting a home and building a studio in Udaipur in 2006. This series is a comprises of Waswo’s hand-coloured work through a wide selection of photographs produced in his studio.

Playfully examining the genres of both the ethnographic photograph-as-document that is linked to the colonial era, as well as the fantasy-inspired make-believe that emanated from traditional Indian portrait studios in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Waswo creates a unique brand of contemporary photography that is an inspired mix of homage and critique. Ranging from shots of single figures to theatrically arranged tableaux, these photographs feature everyone from Gauri dancers to flower sellers, the incarnations of mythological figures, farmers and school children. In the tradition of pictorialism, Waswo’s carefully crafted images with their pastoral backdrops and hand-tinted processing resonate with a romantic sensibility, while yet remaining humorously self-aware and self-reflexive.

Anonymous text from the TARQ website Nd [Online] Cited 10/03/2022

 

Waswo X Waswo (American, b. 1953; arrived India 2001) 'Night prowl' 2008

 

Waswo X Waswo (American, b. 1953; arrived India 2001)
Night prowl
2008
Pigment ink-jet prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Michael Bühler-Rose (American, b. 1980) 'Camphor flame on pedestal' 2010

 

Michael Bühler-Rose (American, b. 1980)
Camphor flame on pedestal
2010
Pigment ink-jet print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the work of Gauri Gill (Indian, b. 1970) with at left, Madhu (2003, below); and at right, Revanti (2003, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Gauri Gill (Indian, b. 1970) 'Madhu' 2003

 

Gauri Gill (Indian, b. 1970)
Madhu
2003
From the series Balika Mela
Pigment ink-jet print
161.2 x 106.6cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

In 2003 the non profit organisation Urmul Setu Sansthan organised a Balika Mela – or fair for girls, in Lunkaransar town, attended by almost fifteen hundred adolescent girls from seventy surrounding villages. The Mela had various stalls, food, performances, a Ferris wheel, magicians, puppet shows, games and competitions, similar to any other small town fair. Urmul Setu invited the photographer to “do something with photography” at the Mela.

“I created a photo-stall for anyone to come in and have their portrait taken, and later buy the silver gelatin print at a subsidised rate if they wished. I had a few basic props and backdrops, whatever we could get from the local town studio and cloth shop on a very limited budget, but it was fairly minimal, and since it can get windy out in the desert everything would keep getting blown around, or periodically struck down. The light was the broad, even light of a desert sky, filtered through the cloth roof of our tent. Many of the more striking props – like the peacock and the paper hats – were brought in by the girls themselves. Girls came in, and decided how and with whom they would like to be photographed – best friends, new friends, sisters, the odd younger brother who had tagged along, girls with their teachers, the whole class, the local girl scouts. Some of those who posed for the pictures went on to learn photography in the workshops that we started in May of that year, and two years later they photographed the fair themselves.”

Gauri Gill, 2009

Text from the Nature Morte website [Online] Cited 08/03/2022

 

Gauri Gill (Indian, b. 1970) 'Revanti' 2003

 

Gauri Gill (Indian, b. 1970)
Revanti
2003
From the series Balika Mela
Pigment ink-jet print
161.2 x 106.6cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Indu Antony (Indian, b. 1982) 'Uncle Had Hairy Legs' 2017

 

Indu Antony (Indian, b. 1982)
Uncle Had Hairy Legs
2017
From the series Vincent Uncle
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

A set of 21 similarly composed photographs depict the legs of men wearing mundus. In her 2017 series Vincent Uncle, Antony investigates childhood memories and comments on the male figure within the Indian family by portraying her subjects from the perspective of a child.

 

 

Installation view of the opening of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Suresh Punjabi’s Untitled (Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman) (Nd, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

“I was never lonely. Through these mute photographs, this town slowly started to become my family. We were having a conversation that needed no words.”

.
Suresh Punjabi

 

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman)' Nd (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman)
1983
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman)' 1983

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman)
1983
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman by Suresh Punjabi. The owner and photographer of Suhag Studio in Nagda, Madhya Pradesh – one of thousands of photographers who opened studios in small towns after the 1950s – foregrounds the copper armbands synonymous with the sitters’ professions. These carried cultural and social capital, as evidenced by Amitabh Bachchan’s portrayal of the porter as a working-class hero in the 1983 Bollywood movie Coolie.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the work of Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1983-1984

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1983-1984
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

A farmer from near Nagda visits Punjabi’s studio to have his portrait made for the first time. While the purpose of the photo is unclear, the man’s wide-eyed stare suggests that the camera either caught him by surprise or that he was overly exerting himself in an attempt to pose appropriately. His all-white attire, turban and Punjabi’s use of a shallow depth of field add to the portrait’s intrigue.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1979

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Some of the earliest and perhaps most obvious drivers of Suhag Studio’s business were administrative portraits, which Punjabi’s clients requested frequently and for a number of reasons, from paperwork for school admissions to procuring disability benefits. When juxtaposed, these images highlight the sheer diversity of Punjabi’s clientele, who appear to us as a mosaic of faces, registering the Indian bureaucracy’s efforts to account for them as formal and formally documented citizens.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

An older woman poses for a formal portrait at Suhag Studio. Like many of the other women photographed by Punjabi for this reason, this sitter too has a chunni (thin scarf) draped over her head, a convention that has since changed as the production of administrative photographs such as these has become increasingly standardised.

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1979

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Unlike the other administrative images in Punjabi’s archive, this is a full-length portrait because the older man in it asked to be photographed on his crutches, so he could claim disability entitlements from the government. The evidentiary quality of the photograph meant it was an important tool for India’s expanding identification and welfare system. With three studio lights focused directly on the standing subject, the portrait highlights both the man and his condition, making Punjabi an important middleman in the way he is able to be ‘seen’ by the state.

 

Identification & Records

By the late 1970s, identity documents had embedded themselves deeply into Indian civic life. Standardised photographs became necessary for many administrative activities, from accessing food subsidies to completing job applications. Punjabi’s studio provided an essential administrative service – and for Nagda’s poor and working classes, it became one of the few ways in which the presence of India’s creaking bureaucracy was felt.

Most people interpreted these photographic services through their own needs. One man insisted on a full-length portrait showing his crutches in order to qualify for disability entitlements; another arrived in a crisp white shirt for a passport photograph. When juxtaposed, these images highlight the sheer diversity of Punjabi’s clients, who collectively appear as a mosaic of faces, registering the state’s efforts to make them ‘legible’ citizens.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1987

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1987
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

“Rooted to the hallowed tradition of studio photography that began in 19th-century India with pioneers like Samuel Bourne and Lala Deen Dayal, Punjabi was also a visionary entrepreneur-artist. When he stood before his sitters, the film of familiarity lifted from their faces, exposing their fondest dreams and desires. In a sense, Punjabi donned the mantle of a dream merchant, as the archivist of the Great Indian Dream. And to such dreams, he himself had also been susceptible. …

In the 1970s, the family business had started to dwindle, forcing Punjabi to move to Nagda, a small town, some 100 km away from Indore. There, he opened Suhag Studio – the name was meant to drawn in clients interested in taking matrimonial photographs – to help his family. It proved to be a lifelong move, indeed an obsession.

Punjabi’s archives, as Gaskell and Nayar indicate in their curation, could be divided into several segments, first of which is his administrative photographs, which cover almost 30% of his archives. These images are mostly mug shots of individuals, taken for the purpose of identification papers and bureaucratic documents. But even in these fairly generic images, the drama of the human face is dimly palpable. You can sense the presence of a humane vision behind the mechanical eye of the camera. Punjabi seems to avoid the vapid blandness of documentary studio photography, where the subject is usually leached of all character and presented sans expression for the unfeeling scrutiny of the state.

A man in crutches is photographed in full profile by Punjabi on his request, with the camera lights included in the frame. The image is meant to be evidentiary record of his disability. Another man in a turban stares back at the camera, his pupils dilated, like the proverbial rabbit caught in the headlights of the Indian state. The incongruity of the carpeted studio floor, the sophisticated props (by the standard of those days) and the intensely ordinary attire of these people are starkly noticeable.

A woman dangles a bunch of grapes before her mouth, recreating the cliché of a lovestruck / lascivious heroine from the annals of Indian cinema. A man poses stiffly in tie and a pair of bell-bottoms, his hair neatly combed. Another one, in a vest, presents a study in contrasts, his hair stylishly long, a kerchief tied to his neck, a cigarette hanging from his lips. He rocks the archetypal mawali look to a T. You can sense the shadow of a slightly crumpled angry young man about his persona, modelled perhaps after Amitabh Bachchan, who was still the reigning hero in the galaxy of Bollywood cinema in the 1980s, when these photographs were taken.

If the influence of cinema shines through these compositions, more intriguing insinuations are made by some of the group photographs. In one, for instance, three men are seated close to one another, two of them locking fingers. The one in the middle stares at the camera, while the other two look in different directions.

These “playfully intimate” photographs, as Nayar calls them, are mementos of different kinds of bonds – filial, friendly, romantic – that were enacted inside the realms of the studio. Thus, Punjabi’s Suhag Studio opened up a space, where much more than plain documentation could be wagered. …

While each of these images stands boldly on its own – carrying its individual aura of distinction and enveloped by its unspoken narratorial arc – they also exist within an ecosystem of emotions that coursed through a nation during a certain phase of its development. With their thoughtful curation and textual notes, Gaskell and Nayar draw our attention to details that would otherwise have escaped our untrained eyes. They also make crucial connections between Punjabi’s work and those of Malike Sidibé’s (1935-2016) from Mali and Hashem El Madani’s (1928-2017) from Lebanon, among others. These photographers, legends in their own rights, also documented the seen and unseen faces of their nations with skill, complexity and exquisite artistry.

Extract from Somak Ghoshal. “Suresh Punjabi: The man who captured the Great Indian Dream,” on the Mint Lounge website 24/01/2021 [Online] Cited 03/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Full-length portrait of two men) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985-1986

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Full-length portrait of two men) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985-1986
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Two friends, dressed rather stylishly, stand in a slight three-quarter profile while looking directly into the camera. Punjabi often offered props such as sunglasses and hats to his sitters, however the origin of the pieces of clothing featured here – including the flared trousers and blazers – remains unclear. One interesting clue, likely intended to be cropped, is the pair of slippers near the bottom left of the frame. Only one of the men is wearing shoes, suggesting that the shoes are props and the slippers belong to him.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Full-length portrait of a man), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Full-length portrait of a man), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Punjabi’s childhood coincided with the waning years of the Golden Era of Hindi cinema, which he regularly drew inspiration from when developing his own visual style. Each of these images are largely inspired by the cultural lexicon of the times – outward expressions of heroism, villainy, aspiration, camaraderie, romance, and above all, personal style – and expresses a distinct style of playful formality, seemingly both rehearsed and improvised.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

On first meeting the man photographed here, Punjabi remarked how much he resembled the actor Amitabh Bachchan. In this portrait, the man’s long legs – much like Bachchan’s – appear even longer in his flared pants. The man’s distant stare, and the peeking studio lights on either edge of the frame, add further credibility to the fiction that this man is perhaps a body double preparing himself for an actual film scene. Being one of the most recognisable of Punjabi’s individual portraits, this image also appears on the cover of scholar Christopher Pinney’s book Artisan Camera: Studio Photography from Central India (2013).

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Group portrait of a family), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1986-1987

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Group portrait of a family), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1986-1987
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Life in Nagda, like in many towns in India, moved along a network of overlapping social relationships – friends, lovers, community members, coworkers. As photography opened up new opportunities for self-representation, these relationships seeped into the studio as well. Punjabi worked to represent his sitters against the social contexts, resulting in images that show us packed families, impassive coworkers, bashful lovers, playful friends and various expressions of cultural and religious celebration; connections, seen and unseen, caught mid-pose.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

In one of Punjabi’s most crowded compositions, a family of eight gathers into a tight frame for a group portrait. During this period, it was not uncommon for Punjabi to leave his studio (and sometimes Nagda as well) to photograph large families, often in front of their ancestral homes. In this case however, the family just about manages to squeeze into the indoor space. Accommodating all eight members also brings the studio’s ceiling into view, highlighting the limited, 10 x 20 feet space in which he worked during those years.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Group portrait of four friends), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Group portrait of four friends), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Full length portrait of three girls), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1979 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Full length portrait of three girls), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Although it’s difficult to say with certainty, the three young girls in this portrait are likely sisters who planned to have their photograph made on this day. Lending further credence to this assumption is the fact that two of the three girls are wearing identical patterns. At this time, especially in small and mid-sized towns in India, it wasn’t uncommon for households to have matching clothes stitched from the same piece of fabric, especially for siblings to wear. Another interesting aspect of this portrait, although not obvious at first glance, is that the girls on either side are far taller than the one in the middle, who must stand on a small stool – partly concealed by the other girls’ patterned clothing – to help retain a sense of continuity across the faces in the portrait.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Portrait of a man holding a bird), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1987 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Portrait of a man holding a bird), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1987
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Portrait of a man holding a bird), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1987

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Portrait of a man holding a bird), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1987
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

On entering Suhag Studio, the man in this portrait had one simple request for Punjabi: to be photographed with his beloved pet bird. In the resulting image, the man appears in flared trousers, thick-rimmed glasses and a rounded hat, leaning on a stool as his bird sits on his left index finger. In a bid to further accentuate the man’s lean, Punjabi tilts his camera to his right when taking the image, causing the painted background to appear slanted.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) Untitled (Seated portrait of three friends) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh 1979 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Seated portrait of three friends) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Seated portrait of three friends) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1979

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Seated portrait of three friends) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

In this informal group portrait, the relationship between three male friends finds an intriguing physical manifestation. The man in the centre stares directly into the lens, deadpan, while holding the hand of the man to his right who, in turn, gazes at the third man on the very left, whose focus is caught by something beyond the frame. The language of eyes and hands gains an almost filmic intensity through Punjabi’s treatment, which highlights his enduring interest in capturing unseen and understated gestures in his portraits.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Portrait of a young tea seller) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1987

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Portrait of a young tea seller) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1987
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

While many came to Punjabi with the hope of enacting the role of a film hero, others brought in a different set of influences. Working outside Suhag Studio selling tea, this boy was photographed by Punjabi in a highly stylised way, mimicking the temperament of a cinematic villain. The sunglasses, scarf and unlit cigarette – likely all props – contribute to this overall effect and lend a certain swagger to the thin boy’s leaning posture.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

 

 

 

Suresh Punjabi’s Suhag Studio: The Business of Dreams

This film tells the remarkable story of a photography studio in central India, established by Suresh Punjabi in the 1970s. Punjabi took tens of thousands of photographs over nearly half a century, documenting the lives and people of Nagda. The film forms part of an online exhibition of the same name, curated by Nathaniel Gaskell and Varun Nayar, for the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) in Bangalore and has been directed by Naveed Mulki / Faraway Originals. Special thanks to Pratik and Suresh Punjabi and family, and to the people of Nagda who appear in the film.

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Two men with a transistor radio), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1983

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Two men with a transistor radio), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1983
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Punjabi’s sitters, two unnamed men, pose holding a smaller transistor radio – the first in Nagda – up to their ears.

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) Untitled (Portrait of a man posing with a telephone) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Portrait of a man posing with a telephone) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

While the language of Hindi cinema had a significant impact on Punjabi, it was part of a larger constellation of influences. His work also captured how people from Nagda – a fast-industrialising town that sat outside but was never delinked from India’s urban centres – articulated their evolving ambitions and self-conceptions; a context in which a particular posture or prop could reveal a host of personal preferences and worldviews.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Portrait of a man posing with a telephone) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Portrait of a man posing with a telephone) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

A landline telephone makes an appearance in this individual portrait that features a slender young man pretending to be preoccupied for the camera. Apparent in the photograph is the sitter’s desire to associate himself with the sense of modernity and connectivity that the telephone – regardless of who is on the other side – symbolises.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) Untitled (Man with a camera) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Man with a camera) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Man with a camera) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Man with a camera) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Punjabi recalls this young man asking for a portrait that would make him look like a “smart, gentleman photographer.” The magazine, camera and tie featured in this image are all props, demonstrating Punjabi’s effort to meet his client’s expectations.

Magazines appear frequently in many of Punjabi’s portraits, where they express a certain urbane and sophisticated form of indulgence that was an important cultural signifier for India’s emerging middle class. Typically, this prop magazine was just whatever was lying around in the studio – often an issue of an entertainment magazine such as Bombay Screen or Mayapuri, from which Punjabi also drew visual inspiration.

The Japanese Yashica – presumably Punjabi’s – slung on this man’s shoulder was a pricey piece of equipment that didn’t typically circulate beyond urban markets. Its existence in this portrait speaks to the sitter’s desire for ‘smartness,’ expressing a degree of professional acuity as well as socioeconomic mobility and access.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Four men standing in front of a truck) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

There were times when Punjabi ventured out of his studio and into both nearby streets and remote villages, into temples and bars and through wedding processions and funerals. Having started out working weddings, Punjabi had become a keen-eyed and quick-footed photographer, rarely without a camera when the moment demanded it. These outdoor images provide a crucial bridge between the regulated and consciously arranged dream-world of his studio and the teeming human drama of everyday life just outside its doors.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

In one of many images Punjabi made outside his studio, a group of five men pose near a truck in Nagda, which is decorated with lights and flowers to commemorate Diwali. One of the men is hanging off the passenger side of the vehicle, though it is unclear whether he is its owner. Punjabi often ventured out into town with his camera and took photographs of everything from upturned vehicles for insurance claims to mass processions for funerals of important local figures.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Group portrait of men with cigarettes) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1979

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Group portrait of men with cigarettes) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

In one of Punjabi’s more crowded outdoor photographs, made at a local wedding, a number of men huddle around a bench at night, exchanging cigarettes, gestures and conversation. Nearly all of them are dressed in white, leading one to believe that they may have all been at the same event prior to – or even during – the point at which this image was made. In the background of the image, written in large Hindi letters on the back of a small wooden shack are the words: “The country’s leader, Indira Gandhi.” The 1970s and early 80s were a tumultuous time for the nation, primarily due to Gandhi’s imposition of a state of emergency from 1975-1977. This image was made after the state of emergency and before Gandhi’s assassination in 1984.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (A man dancing during a wedding) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1980

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (A man dancing during a wedding) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1980
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

The subject does not see the bright flash of Punjabi’s camera as he dances energetically alongside the wedding band and many guests at his friend’s wedding. A good wedding photographer must be invisible. Punjabi’s knack for framing an image inconspicuously and at the right moment reflects in a number of his outdoor photographs, especially of ceremonial events.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

 

Suresh Punjabi’s Suhag Studio: The Business of Dreams – The Business of Dreams Chapter 1, 1970s

The history of Studio Suhag in Nagda, Madhya Pradesh

 

 

Suresh Punjabi’s Suhag Studio: The Business of Dreams Chapter 2, 1980s

The history of Studio Suhag in Nagda, Madhya Pradesh

 

 

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07
Feb
20

Exhibition: ‘Dressing up: clothing and camera’ at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 23rd November 2019 – 9th February 2020

Curator: Gareth Syvret

Artists: Gordon Bennett, Polly Borland, Pat Brassington, Eric Bridgeman, Jeff Carter, Nanette Carter, Jack Cato, Zoë Croggon, Sharon Danzig, Rennie Ellis, Elizabeth Gertsakis, Christine Godden, Alfred Gregory, Craig Holmes, Tracey Moffatt, Derek O’Connor, Jill Orr, Deborah Paauwe, David Rosetzky, Damien Shen, Wesley Stacey, Christian Thompson, Lyndal Walker, Justene Williams, Anne Zahalka.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dressing Up at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

 

Making an appearance

There are some stimulating and challenging works in this first exhibition curated by new MGA Associate Curator Gareth Syvret, who was parachuted into the project at the last moment. The curator has pulled together work that examines the complex interweaving of “cultural scenarios,” “interpersonal scripts,” and “intrapsychic scripts” that ground how the camera, and the photographer, picture our relationship to dressing up… and how we see ourselves pictured by the camera.

In various ways, the works interrogate how clothes (or the lack of them) reinforce the postmodern fragmentation of the individual or group, the self being decentred and multiple, as when we change from work clothes, to drag, to leather, to wearing our footy beanie and scarf… and how these e/facements, these everyday performances (for that is what they are), camouflage or reveal our “true” nature. Do we dress up to fit in (to a tribe or group, or representation), or do we rebel against the status quo, as did that enfant terrible who refused all categorisation throughout his life, the Australian fashion pioneer Leigh Bowery. How do we turn our face towards, or away from, the camera? (turning away is a re/action to the power of representation, even if a negative one)

Firstly we must recognise that “cultural forms do not have single determinate meanings – people make sense of them in different ways, according to the cultural (including sub-cultural) codes available to them.” And secondly, we must acknowledge that, “the analysis of images always needs to see how any given instance is embedded in a network of other instances”1 through intertexuality – where we, reality, our representation, and the image, are just nodes within a network whose unity is variable and relative.

“Critical to understanding the construction of these constantly shifting networks in contemporary society are the concepts of weaving and intertexuality. Intertextuality is the concept that texts do not live in isolation, ‘caught up as they are in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences: it is a node within a network… Its unity is variable and relative’ (Foucault, 1973). In other words the network is decentred and multiple allowing the possibility of transgressive texts or the construction of a work of art through the techniques of assemblage [Deleuze and Guattari] – a form of fluid, associative networking that is now the general condition of art production.”2

This weaving of surfaces disrupts histories and memories that are already narrativised, already textualised. It disrupts this marking, the continual reiteration of norms, by weaving a lack of fixity into objects, namely how we see ourselves, how we pictures ourselves. Through dress, and the camera, through a constant process of reconceptualisation of space and matter, we can redefine the significations of the body of the animal in the fold of inscription, through a process of materialisation. The production of this materialisation (the matériel, or arms, of sartorial elegance) – of this signified – is open to struggle, the simulation “by virtue of its being referent-free invites a reading of a different order: it is a perpetual examination of the code.”3 A code which, Julia Kristeva notes, is not simply the product of a single author, but of its relationship to other texts and to the structures of language itself. “[A]ny text,” she argues, “is constructed of a mosaic of quotations; any text is the absorption and transformation of another.”4 And this is what is happening in this exhibition – work, and images, which are a mosaic of quotations fighting over unity and fragmentation, reality and representation… and the construction of identity.

What this exhibition, and this materialisation, does not, and cannot answer, is the critical question: why do we dress up in the first place? What is the overriding reason for this ritualistic, performative enactment, this action, which happens time after time, day after day. And what is that face that we present to the camera during this performance? As Roland Barthes lucidly observes in Camera Lucida, “The PORTRAIT-PHOTOGRAPH is a closed field of forces. Four image-repertoires intersect here, oppose and distort each other. In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the photographer thinks I am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art.”5

So, who I am?

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Dyer, Richard. The Matter of Images: Essays on Representations. London: Routledge, 1993, pp. 2-3
  2. Foucault, Michel cited in Thumlert, Kurt. Intervisuality, Visual Culture, and Education. Nd [Online] Cited 01/04/2011 no longer available online
  3. Tseëlon, E. The Masque of Femininity: The Representation of Women in Everyday Life. London: Sage, 1995, pp. 128-130
  4. Kristeva, Julia. “Word, Dialog and Novel”, in Moi, Toril (ed.,). The Kristeva Reader, New York: Columbia University Press, 1986, p, 37 quoted in Keep, Christopher; McLaughlin, Tim and Parmar, Robin. “Intertextuality,” on The Electronic Labyrinth website [Online] Cited 07/02/2020
  5. Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida, London, 1984, p. 13

.
Many thankx to Monash Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. All installation photographs proceed in a clockwise order around the exhibition. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Dress and clothing are so much a part of the way people present themselves to the camera and this subject provides a strong theme through which to explore MGA’s extraordinary collection. Some photographs in the exhibition are well known, others have not previously been shown. All are equally compelling in showing the way photographers record and manipulate dress to tell their stories.

.
Gareth Syvret, MGA Associate Curator

 

As cultural hybrids, images are used as if they simultaneously block and unveil truth, reality, ways of seeing and understanding.

.
Ron Burnett. Cultures of Vision: Images, Media, & the Imaginary. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995, p. 237

 

The meanings of clothes may usefully be divided into two types, ‘denotation’ and ‘connotation’, each working in its own way on its own level. … Denotation is sometimes called a first order of signification or meaning. It is the literal meaning of a word or image… Connotation is sometimes called a second order of signification or meaning. It may be described as the things that the word to the image makes a person think or feel, or as the associations that a word or an image has for someone…

.
Barnard, Malcolm. Fashion as Communication. London: Routledge, 1996

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dressing Up at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne with at left, Gordon Bennett’s Self-portrait (Nuance II) (1994) and at right, Deborah Paauwe’s Foreign body (2004)

 

Gordon Bennett. 'Self-portrait (Nuance II)' 1994

 

Gordon Bennett (Australian, 1955-2014)
Self-portrait (Nuance II)
1994
Gelatin silver prints
50.8 x 40.6cm (each)
Photographer: Leanne Bennett
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1995
Courtesy of the Estate of Gordon Bennett and Sutton Gallery (Melbourne)

 

 

Gordon Bennett’s Self -portrait (nuance II) performance was staged for the camera rather than a live audience. The artist prepared for the performance by painting his face with polyvinyl acetate glue. The process of peeling away the pale skin, created by the dry glue, was then documented in a series of photographs. This work is a subtle critique of simplistic oppositions between people who have light skin and people who have dark skin. Bennett discovered that he was of Aboriginal descent when he was 11 years old, but he resisted identifying as an Indigenous Australian for another 20 years. Conceived as a self-portrait, this work alludes to Bennett’s own process of ‘coming out’ as an Aboriginal man; removing his white mask. But, rather than representing this process in terms of a simple opposition, the photographs emphasise the nuanced ambiguities and transitory nature of identity.

 

Deborah Paauwe. 'Foreign body' 2004

 

Deborah Paauwe (Australian, b. 1972)
Foreign body
2004
From the series Chinese whispers
Chromogenic print
120.0 x 120.0cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 2004
Courtesy of the artist, GAGPROJECTS Greenaway Art Gallery (Adelaide) and Michael Reid (Sydney)

 

 

Deborah Paauwe’s photographs are loaded and coded psychosexual puzzles. In this photograph Foreign body, who are the subjects and what is their relation? What is the nature of the embrace Paauwe concocts: eroticism or comfort? In their opposition as clothed and naked Paauwe’s models perform a drama, on desire, for the camera in which dress is figured as a method for revealing or concealing the body as the border between eye and flesh.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dressing Up at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne showing at left, Eric Bridgeman’s Woman from settlement with boobs (2010) and at right, two photographs from Tracey Moffatt’s series Scarred for life

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Tracey Moffatt. 'Job hunt' 1976 1994

 

Tracey Moffatt (Australian, b. 1960)
Job hunt
1976 1994
From the series Scarred for life
Off-set print
80.0 x 60.0cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1998
Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery (Sydney)

 

 

Scarred for life is a series of works based on true stories about traumatic childhood experiences. In response to each story, Moffatt has staged and photographed a scene that illustrates the tragic tale. The photographs have been made to look like snapshots from a family album, emphasising the everyday nature of the incidents and their ongoing significance as memories. The photographs have been presented in a way that mimics the format of the 1960s American magazine, Life, which was well known for publishing photo-essays in this captioned format. Moffatt often draws on the story-telling conventions of magazines, cinema and other popular forms of visual communication in ways that give her photographs a heightened sense of drama. In Job hunt the tension between the fictive nature of Moffatt’s artistry and the ordinariness of the subject’s dress as a schoolboy dramatises the everyday. This effect is explored further in The Wizard of Oz where the awkwardness of Moffatt’s casting of a boy in a dress as Dorothy in her own fiction is heightened by his father’s overblown gesture.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dressing Up at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne showing at left, Christian Thompson’s Gods and kings (2015) and at right, Damien Shen’s Ventral aspect of a male #1 and #2 (2014)

 

Christian Thompson. 'Gods and kings' 2015

 

Christian Thompson (Australian / Bidjara, b. 1978)
Gods and kings
2015
From the series Imperial relic
Chromogenic print
100.0 x 100.0cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 2018
Courtesy of the artist and Michael Reid (Sydney + Berlin)

 

 

In this photograph by Christian Thompson the artist wears a makeshift hooded cape fashioned out of multiple maps of Australia charting different and conflicting Indigenous and colonial histories. The melding of these narratives through a careful but fragmented process of folding references the instrumentality of the map as a weapon of territoriality to challenge the idea of colonial power predicated on the designation of Australia as terra nullius. Describing his use of portraiture Thompson says, ‘I don’t think of them as being ‘myself’, because I think of my works as conceptual portraits. I’m really just the armature to layer ideas on top of … I really like the idea of wearing history, I like the idea of adorning myself in references to history.’ By wearing his cloak of maps, Thompson transfigures his body into a terrain where difficult histories are re-explored.

 

Damien Shen. 'Ventral aspect of a male #1' 2014

 

Damien Shen (Australian / Ngarrindjeri, b. 1976)
Ventral aspect of a male #1
2014
From the series On the fabric of the Ngarrindjeri body – volume II
Pigment ink-jet print
59.4 x 42.0cm
Photographer: Richard Lyons
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 2016
Courtesy of the artists and MARS Gallery (Melbourne)

 

 

This work is from Shen’s series On the fabric of the Ngarrindjeri body – volume II (2014), which comprises 12 black-and-white photographs showing the artist and his uncle, a Ngarrindjeri elder known as Major Sumner. Across the series, the two subjects are shown from different angles, either together or individually. Their bodies have been painted in the traditional Ngarrindjeri way and they perform in front of the camera in a studio setting. While the majority of the images were taken in front of the studio backdrop, four of the images document Major Sumner ‘behind the scenes’.

This series is typical of Shen’s practice in that it explores his Indigenous identity and family history through portraiture. For Shen this series is extremely personal, as it documents his uncle sharing his cultural knowledge and experience with him. However, the series was also created to more broadly document Ngarrindjeri culture and the history of his ancestors. Furthermore, Shen’s use of a plain studio backdrop and sepia toning, along with his prosaic titles, directly reference 19th-century ethnographic portraiture, drawing attention to the history of the representation of Indigenous people. The candid backstage images are not sepia toned and have been juxtaposed with the staged portraits in a way that further highlights the artificiality of the studio setting.

 

Damien Shen. 'Ventral aspect of a male #2' 2014

 

Damien Shen (Australian / Ngarrindjeri, b. 1976)
Ventral aspect of a male #2
2014
From the series On the fabric of the Ngarrindjeri body – volume II
Pigment ink-jet print
59.4 x 42.0cm
Photographer: Richard Lyons
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 2016
Courtesy of the artists and MARS Gallery (Melbourne)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dressing Up at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne showing at left, Jill Orr’s Lunch with the birds (1979) and at centre, Zoë Croggon’s Lucia (2018) and at centre right, Justene Williams Blue foto (2005)

 

Jill Orr. 'Lunch with the birds #3' 1979

 

Jill Orr (Australian, b. 1952)
Lunch with the birds #3
1979
Ink-jet print, printed 2007
Photographer: Elizabeth Campbell
30.0 x 44.0cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 2008
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Jill Orr’s Lunch with the birds performance took place on St Kilda beach on a wintery day in 1979. It was conceived as a shamanistic ritual that would provide an antidote to the junk food that is often thrown to scavenging seagulls. Dressed in her mother’s wedding gown, Orr lay on the beach surrounded by a meal of whole bread, fresh fish and pure grain, and waited for the birds to come and commune with her on the foreshore. Apart from the photographer Elizabeth Campbell, who had been commissioned to document the event, there was no human audience on the beach. Like other performances that Orr has enacted in the landscape, nature itself is the primary audience for this ritual. All the same, Orr is quite conscious of using photography to share the performance with gallery audiences. Working with the photographic documentation after the event, Orr composed the images as a narrative sequence (from which these works are taken) and presented them on black mount boards to suggest a filmstrip.

 

Zoë Croggon. 'Lucia' 2018

 

Zoë Croggon (Australian, b. 1989)
Lucia
2018
From the series Luce Rossa
Pigment ink-jet print
65.0 x 79.0cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 2019
Courtesy of the artist and Daine Singer Gallery (Melbourne)

 

 

Zoë Croggon uses collage techniques to explore spatial relationships between the human form, architecture and the physical world. Her practice is informed by her experience of studying ballet and dance. In many of Croggon’s works, found photographs of the human body are cut out and re-placed, in tension, against surface and structure to explore the politics and poetics of space. For the series Lucia Rossa, the source materials are derived from Italian pornography, eroctica and fashion magazines. Although it is not overtly depicted, this work responds to the ways that the female body is ‘arranged, fragmented and presented for consumption…’ As such, ‘Lucia’ considers the condition of fabric, clothing and dress as a space for the body, laden with the politics of sexuality.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dressing Up at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne showing at left, Justene Williams Blue foto (2005) and at right, Christine Godden’s photographs

 

Christine Godden. 'Untitled' 1976

 

Christine Godden (Australian, b. 1947)
Untitled
1976
Gelatin silver print
15.3 x 22.8cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired with the assistance of The Robert Salzer Foundation 2015
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Christine Godden’s photographic work is a highly personal and poetic form of documentary practice, which is informed by a feminist interest in developing distinctly female perspectives on the world. Godden’s familiarity with the tradition of fine art photography in North America is evident in her commitment to high quality printing, which accentuates the sensuality of her subject matter. This photograph is from a body of Untitled works that was originally exhibited in 1976 at George Paton Gallery, Melbourne and the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney. This tightly organised sequence of 44 photographs intended to show ‘how women see [and] how women think.’ The photographs present fragments or tightly cropped glimpses of textures and bodies (usually of women) that, with their combination of tenderness and formal rigour, take the appearance of being ‘female,’ while at the same time unpicking or unhinging the logic of a feminine imagery or style.

 

Christine Godden. 'Untitled' 1976

 

Christine Godden (Australian, b. 1947)
Untitled
1976
Gelatin silver print
15.3 x 22.8cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired with the assistance of The Robert Salzer Foundation 2015
Courtesy of the artist

 

Christine Godden. 'Untitled' 1976

 

Christine Godden (Australian, b. 1947)
Untitled
1976
Gelatin silver print
15.3 x 22.8cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired with the assistance of The Robert Salzer Foundation 2015
Courtesy of the artist

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dressing Up at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne showing at left, Christine Godden’s photographs; at middle left David Rosetzky’s photographs; and at far right Sharon Danzig’s No escape (2004)

 

David Rosetzky. 'Hamish' 2004

 

David Rosetzky (Australian, b. 1970)
Hamish
2004
Chromogenic prints
50.0 x 61.0cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 2005
Reproduction courtesy of the artist and Sutton Gallery (Melbourne)

 

 

This work by David Rosetzky is an early examples of cut-out and collaged photographic portraits that he has been producing periodically since 2004. To create these images, Rosetzky produces slick studio portraits of young models, referencing the style of photography prevalent in advertising and fashion magazines. He then layers a number of portraits on top of each other before hand-cutting sections to reveal parts of the underlying prints. Through this method of image making he seeks to represent the identity of his subjects as multi-layered, shifting and often concealed.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dressing Up at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne showing at left, Sharon Danzig’s No escape (2004) and at right, the work of Pat Brassington

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dressing Up at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne showing work from Elizabeth Gertsakis’ series Innocent reading for origin (1987)

 

Elizabeth Gertsakis. 'Innocent reading for origin' 1987

 

Elizabeth Gertsakis (Australian, b. 1954)
Innocent reading for origin
1987
Gelatin silver prints
74.0 x 48.5cm (each)
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1994
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

For the series Innocent reading for origin, Elizabeth Gertsakis uses photographs of her family taken at the time of their migration to Australia from Florina, Greece, her birthplace, when she was an infant. These photographs are presented with typescripts of her readings and observations about the photographs. As viewers we are witness to how the images form the artist’s words and, placed alongside them, how her words form the images. The dress of the people in the photographs is particularly significant for their interpretation and description and the ways that these images operate on the artist and the viewer. Gertsakis is concerned here with how photographs transmit memory and meaning in private and public. By shifting the format and scale of family photographs from shoebox to gallery wall, Gertsakis calls into question the status of the medium as vernacular and/or fine art.

 

Elizabeth Gertsakis. 'Innocent reading for origin' 1987

 

Elizabeth Gertsakis (Australian, b. 1954)
Innocent reading for origin
1987
Gelatin silver prints
74.0 x 48.5 cm (each)
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1994
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

As necessity or luxury, to integrate or rebel, in freedom or oppression, dress is the nexus of selfhood. Photography and dress are forever entwined; from its inception in the 1840s one of photography’s main objectives has been the making of portraits. Clothing has been imaged by photographers ever since. In documentary mode, photography provides a record of the ways we dress and how clothing has changed over time. As an instrument of empire photography was used for the purpose of recording the dress and appearance of Indigenous people. Since the early twentieth century the practice of fashion photographers has posed body and garment to create brands and promote lifestyle choices to sell us the clothes we wear.

This exhibition draws together photographs from the MGA collection that feature dress or clothing as a significant element in their making. Some of the photographers included have produced works with documentary intent. For many, a classification of their practice is not so clear cut. These artists photograph dress, clothing and the body to actively question appearances. They use photography as a tactic for testing the nature of consumer culture, challenging social norms or protesting histories of colonisation and discrimination. Shaping and shaped by the individual, our clothes can conceal, reveal and transform who we are. Like the photographs in this exhibition they are the bearers of memory, emotion and time.

Text from the Monash Gallery of Art website [Online] Cited 22/12/2019

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dressing Up at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne showing the work of Polly Borland from her Bunny series (2004-2005)

 

Polly Borland. 'Untitled XXIII' 2004-05

 

Polly Borland (Australian, b. 1959)
Untitled XXIII
2004-2005
From the series Bunny
Chromogenic print, printed 2008
25.3 x 17.1cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 2008
Courtesy of the artist and Murray White Room (Melbourne)

 

 

This photograph is from Polly Borland’s Bunny series, which consists of more than 50 images. Borland worked over an extended period of time in close collaboration with actress Gwendoline Christie as the subject of the photographs. The Bunny series plays upon the physicality of its model – who is extraordinarily tall – rendering tense, awkward and absurd poses. The surreal character of Bunny created through gestures of masking and dressing up acts as a darkly playful riposte to the objectification of the Playboy centrefold. Through a process of costuming explored between photographer and subject these images lampoon the fetishism of the glamour shot, supplanting it with their own fantasies both revealed and concealed.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dressing Up at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne showing at left the work of Alfred Gregory, at centre the work of Jack Cato (1930s-1940s), and at right Lyndal Walker’s Lachlan sprucing by the hearth (2013) from the series Modern romance.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dressing Up at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne showing the work of Jeff Carter at left: Saturday arvo, Cronulla Beach (1960) and Clan gathering, Wangaratta (1955); and at right, Rennie Ellis’ Richmond fans, Grand Final, MCG (1974)

 

Jeff Carter. 'Saturday arvo, Cronulla Beach' 1960

 

Jeff Carter (Australian, 1928-2010)
Saturday arvo, Cronulla Beach
1960
Gelatin silver print
26.8 x 38.0cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1992
Courtesy of the artist

 

Jeff Carter. 'Clan gathering, Wangaratta' 1955

 

Jeff Carter (Australian, 1928-2010)
Clan gathering, Wangaratta
1955
Gelatin silver print
29.1 x 31.9cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1992
Courtesy of the artist

 

Rennie Ellis. 'Richmond fans, Grand Final, MCG' 1974

 

Rennie Ellis (Australian, 1940-2003)
Richmond fans, Grand Final, MCG
1974
Chromogenic print
26.7 x 40.7 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 2007
Courtesy of the Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive (Melbourne)

 

 

This is one of the most famous photographs of the most important date in the Australian football calendar: Grand Final Day. Ellis turned his lens off the field onto the fans of the winning side on 28 September 1974, the Richmond Tigers. Ellis’s photograph encapsulates the centrality of clothing and colour to the tribalism of football fandom – in particular among ‘cheer squads’ – some of it official merchandise, some adapted or homemade. The image brilliantly exemplifies the unique ability of still photography to render human physicality and a moment in time.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dressing Up at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne showing at left, Derek O’Connor’s Untitled (1981-1984) and at right, four Rennie Ellis photographs (see below).

 

Rennie Ellis. 'Confrontation, Gay Pride Week Picnic, Botanical Gardens' 1973

 

Rennie Ellis (Australian, 1940-2003)
Confrontation, Gay Pride Picnic, Botanic Gardens
1973
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print
22.8 x 34.3cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 2016
Courtesy of the Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive (Melbourne)

 

Rennie Ellis. 'Drag queens and security guard' 1973

 

Rennie Ellis (Australian, 1940-2003)
Drag queens and security guard
1973
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print
30.0 x 44.0cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 2016
Courtesy of the Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive (Melbourne)

 

 

In 1973 the Australian Gay Liberation movement instigated a series of Gay Pride festivals in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. This was a time when homosexual sex was classified as a criminal act across Australia, and the Gay Pride events sought to challenge these repressive laws and openly celebrate gay and lesbian culture in public spaces.

Rennie Ellis, one of the most prolific photojournalists of Australian society during the 1970s and 1980s, documented Melbourne’s Gay Pride Week with his characteristic warmth and candour. Commissioned to photograph the event for the National Review, Ellis captured everything from transgressive cross-dressers and camped up political banners to same-sex couples enjoying romantic interludes on the lawns of the Botanic Gardens.

Ellis made the only substantial visual record of Melbourne’s first gay and lesbian festival. These photographs show the importance of dress as a method for open expression of gay and queer identities. Since the making of these photographs, significant progress has been made on this issue, most notably with the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill, 2017 providing equal rights to same sex couples. Continued work and education towards the eradication of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, however, remains imperative.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dressing Up' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dressing Up at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne showing at left, Derek O’Connor’s Untitled (1981-1984) and at right, two photographs by Wesley Stacey, both Untitled (1973) from the series Friends

 

Derek O'Connor. 'Untitled' 1981-84

 

Derek O’Connor
Untitled
1981-1984
From the series Amata
Image 2 of a series of 4
Gelatin silver print
50.8 x 61.2cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 2007
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Derek O’Connor took this series of photographs in the early 1980s while he was living at Amata, an Aboriginal community situated in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara / Yankunyjatjara Lands in the far northwest of South Australia. They show a group of Aboriginal youths congregating around a campfire on the outskirts of the township, casually incorporating various elements of capitalist culture into their own communal space: second-hand ’70s clothing, a portable cassette player, a tin can with a Hans Heysen label, and petrol.

Photographs of this sort, which represent Aboriginal people as fringe-dwellers on the margins of White Australia, date back to the nineteenth century. Early examples of this genre typically cast Aboriginal people as a dying race, whose way of life was rapidly being undermined by the colonial regime. In O’Connor’s photographs, however, the Aboriginal youths personify a sense of persistent vitality, in spite of their circumstances. As O’Connor explains, ‘there is no self-pity or passive resignation in the way they face the camera. Their quiet defiance has a palpable sense of integrity.’

 

 

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16
Feb
18

Review: ‘John Gollings: The history of the built world’ at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 2nd December 2017 – 4th March 2018

 

John Gollings. 'Berman House (Harry Seidler), Joadja, New South Wales' 2007

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Berman House (Harry Seidler), Joadja, New South Wales
2007

 

 

From ancient to modern; different but same

This is a solid exhibition of the work of architectural photographer John Gollings, which features highly colour saturated photographs of the built environment, from ancient to modern.

The formal, classical images are well seen and photographed, mainly for commercial clients who, at the end of the project, want to document their construction in the most flattering light. And that’s what you get with a Gollings architectural photograph – a known “style” used again and again to document an object devoid of human presence, usually photographed at the bewitching hour for photographers (dawn or dusk) or illuminated, to give the building that special glow. Sounds easy, but it isn’t!

For some people the intention of the photographer is primary… later on comes the  successful manifestation of that intention. And of course, there is the public intention stated in the brief directed to a photographer who has accepted that brief. As well, there are the photographer’s private intentions and for these we have to refer to the image(s). I then ask, what happens when the photographer’s private intentions becomes his commercial practice, when his style becomes his trademark?

In these photographs which are about multiplicity / difference (in the sense of a different set of objects) / series and the pursuit of spirit (as compared to the pursuit of ego), Gollings evidences something inherent in man that has shown itself from the start – inhabitation – that has now has become something else. He has put these series together to make sense / no sense / nonsense and through this juxtaposition, he hopes that something transcendent happens when these environments are seen together. The contemporary structures are made by extraordinary people who keep pushing to make an ultimate ideal of their belief, and so they are extraordinary, yet different from each other. Gollings captures this difference.

“What is it that asks a question that cannot be answered” is a question that I believe that Gollings is interested in, and it manifests itself in people and some of their works, e.g. poetry, cinema, photography, music… and this is the scope of that question in architecture. I think that Gollings has just tried to be clear about this question in his work, in the images straightforward yet dramatic way.

In their usually monolithic grounding, the building is always front and centre, even in his views of ancient structures or the landscape. “Gollings will use dramatic lighting and acute points of view to create a moody effect, and draw people into the ambience of the architect’s creation.” (Wall text) That is the key word, effect. While Gollings has stripped everything back to the bare minimum, removed ego, has it got him any closer to that place of magic and noumenality – that place that we can know but never experience (e.g. death). SOME of the images work towards an exploration of this subliminal state of being, the unconscious raised to the surface (images such as Habitat filter (Matt Drysdale, Matt Myers and Tim Dow), Southbank, Victoria, 2017 and The Lotus Building (Studio 505), Changzhou, China, 2013), yet others just sit there, the camera angles too regulated, the monolithic structure too central. How I longed for a more unusual positioning of the camera – something Atget might have done for example – to capture the personality of the building, for I never really “get” the personality of the building in Gollings representational photographs.

Personally, what I love about photography is the magical space of exploration in the image, and that is something that I don’t really get in these photographs, from one image to the next. The same feeling emanates from them time after time. They have little human warmth despite their high colour sheen. But I think that a lot of the absence of the magical that I regret is probably quite intentional. That is not Gollings’ project or his projection, his “effect” if you like, for he is a very intelligent artist, and a very well informed photographer. He has considered all of this, and his photographs come out exactly the way he wants them to come out. They might not be my cup of tea but I can appreciate and understand them on an intellectual and aesthetic, if not a spiritual, level. Gollings’ holistic vision over more than 40 years has stood the test of time, proving that he is, indeed, a damn good photographer.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to Monash Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the media photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All installation photographs © Dr Marcus Bunyan, the artist and the Monash Gallery of Art.

 

Installation photographs

First gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Rear of opening wall featuring at right, Kay Street housing (Edmond &Corrigan), Carlton, Victoria 1983

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Left, Melbourne CBD, Melbourne, Victoria 2009; middle, Federation Square, Melbourne, Victoria 2010; and right, Melbourne CBD, Melbourne, Victoria 2010

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Melbourne CBD, Melbourne, Victoria 2010

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Vineyard House (Denton Corker Marshall), Yarra Valley, Victoria 2013

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Somers House (Kai Chen), Somers, Victoria 1997

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Main gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Sabratha Theatre, Sabratha, Libya 2005

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Underground temple, Kep, Cambodia 2007

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Jiaohe Old City, Turfan, China 2005

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Right, Sidney Myer Music Bowl refurbishment (Yuncken Freeman/Greg Burgess), Melbourne, Victoria 2001

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Second left, The Lotus Building (Studio 505), Changzhou, China 2013; third left, Croft House (James Stockwell), Inverloch, Victoria 2013; second right, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (Wood Marsh), Southbank, Victoria 2002; and right, Habitat filter (Matt Drysdale, Matt Myers and Tim Dow), Southbank, Victoria 2017

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Croft House (James Stockwell), Inverloch, Victoria 2013

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Nawarla Gabarnmang, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory 2015

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Third gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Left, El Dorado Motel, Surfers Paradise, Queensland 1973; second left, Golden Sun Motel, Surfers Paradise, Queensland 1973; second right, Biscayne Apartments, Surfers Paradise, Queensland 1973; and right, Cuba Flats, Surfers Paradise, Queensland 1973

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Left, Mid-century house, Surfers Paradise, Queensland 2017; middle, Mid-century house, Surfers Paradise, Queensland 2017; and right, Mid-century house, Surfers Paradise, Queensland 2017

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Every building on Surfers Paradise Boulevard west 1973 (detail)

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Every building on Surfers Paradise Boulevard west 1973 (detail)

 

 

John Gollings is Australia’s most pre-eminent and prolific photographer of the built environment. For the past 50 years he has been synthesising his parallel interests in photography and architecture to explore the cultural construction of social spaces. From sacred rock art sites and ancient temples to suburban dream homes and the monuments of corporate architecture, Gollings’s catalogue of images provides a remarkable visual history of human habitats. The history of the built world is the first major survey of Gollings photographic practice, and offers a much anticipated opportunity to appreciate the full breadth of his unique photographic vision.

 

John Gollings. 'Monash Gallery of Art (Harry Seidler), Wheelers Hill, Victoria' 1990

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Monash Gallery of Art (Harry Seidler), Wheelers Hill, Victoria
1990

 

 

Waverley City Gallery

Gollings photographed Harry Seidler’s Waverley City Gallery before it was extended and renamed as Monash Gallery of Art. Gollings worked under Seidler’s direction to document the building, and the photographs clearly reflect Seidler’s architectural philosophy of organic geometric forms and interlocking planes.

Gollings’s interior view shows a Josef Albers tapestry hanging in the original foyer; an artwork that Seidler donated to the gallery with the intention of it remaining a permanent feature. Seidler once stated that he learnt more about design from Albers than any architectural school, and two of Albers’s design principles are clearly articulated in the architecture of MGA. The first of these is the notion that a high centre of gravity makes visual forms more dynamic, as evidenced in MGA’s top-heavy roofline. And the second – that irregular forms are more interesting to the eye than symmetrical grids – is apparent in the complex geometry of the building. (Wall text)

 

John Gollings. 'Webb Bridge (Robert Owen with Denton Corker Marshall), Docklands, Victoria' 2003

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Webb Bridge (Robert Owen with Denton Corker Marshall), Docklands, Victoria
2003

 

 

Melbourne architecture

Gollings’s photographs of Melbourne offer a compelling portrait of the city he knows best. His aerial photographs draw out different features of Melbourne’s character, from the flatness of its suburban sprawl to the resplendent jewel box quality of its central business district. The sequence of images along this wall emphasises Gollings’s ability to metaphorically crawl inside the skin of his home town. Whether he’s photographing temporary architectural interventions or monumental entertainment stadiums, he finds ways to render them as skeletal structures or translucent surfaces. Gollings’s ability to embed the viewer in a scene is apparent across his work, but this is particularly evident in his images of Melbourne, where it seems he wears the built environment like a second skin. Even in his photograph of the Eureka Tower, Gollings uses the reflected light of a sunset to subdue this monolithic form and embed a reflected image of himself in the glass facade.

Wall text

 

John Gollings. 'Federation Square, Melbourne, Victoria' 2010

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Federation Square, Melbourne, Victoria
2010

 

John Gollings. 'Hotel Hotel foyer (March Studio), New Acton, Australian Capital Territory' 2013

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Hotel Hotel foyer (March Studio), New Acton, Australian Capital Territory
2013

 

John Gollings. 'Karijini Visitor Centre (Woodhead International BDH), West Pilbara, Western Australia' 2001

 

John Gollings
Karijini Visitor Centre (Woodhead International BDH), West Pilbara, Western Australia
2001

 

 

Modern and contemporary architecture

Gollings’s professional practice has always included fashion and advertising projects, and one could argue that his treatment of architecture is invested with a certain dramatic fl air that owes something to these other genres of photography. Rather than using a sequence of photographs to systematically document different aspects of an architect’s design, Gollings often composes a single shot that captures the personality of a building. These are like portrait photographs, which use props and the surrounding backdrop to accentuate a sitter’s identity. A domestic house might be photographed through foliage in order to give it a bucolic character. Or a photograph might include more sky than building in order to evoke the vista that can be enjoyed by the inhabitants. In a similar vein, Gollings will use dramatic lighting and acute points of view to create a moody effect, and draw people into the ambience of the architect’s creation.

Wall text

 

John Gollings. 'Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School (McBride Charles Ryan), Essendon, Victoria' 2011

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School (McBride Charles Ryan), Essendon, Victoria
2011

 

John Gollings. 'Featherston House (Robin Boyd), Ivanhoe, Victoria' 2011

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Featherston House (Robin Boyd), Ivanhoe, Victoria
2011

 

 

“Gollings’s photographic practice is driven by a deep enthusiasm and interest in the built environment,” explains MGA Senior Curator, Stephen Zagala. “He loves architecture and he uses photography to share his passion, bringing constructed spaces to life and drawing viewers into sensual encounters with architectural form.”

John Gollings is Australia’s pre-eminent, and most prolific, photographer of the built environment. For the past 50 years he has been synthesising his parallel interests in photography and architecture to explore the cultural construction of social spaces. While Gollings is well known for his documentation of new buildings and cityscapes, this survey exhibition situates these images within the broader context of his photographic practice. Alongside his commercial work, Gollings has always engaged in projects concerned with architectural history and heritage. This includes photographs of iconic modernist buildings, ancient sites of spiritual significance and the ruins of abandoned cities. Gollings’s interest in architectural heritage is also apparent in his documentation of places such as Melbourne and Surfers Paradise, where he has recorded the evolution of the built environment over extended periods of time.

From sacred rock art sites and ancient temples, to suburban dream homes, iconic monuments and architectural interventions, Gollings’s catalogue of images provides a remarkable visual history of how humans have chosen to inhabit their world. Constantly innovating with photographic technologies, and investigating new architectural subjects with a restless enthusiasm, Gollings has developed a distinctive visual style. This style typically conveys a personal or physical connection with the structure being photographed. Rather than documenting buildings in a way that reproduces the impersonal elevation plans of an architectural diagram, Gollings embeds the viewer in face-to-face encounters with built environments. Using a range of compositional techniques and visual effects to invest architecture with personality, he portrays buildings as lively habitats rather than static monuments.

The history of the built world is the first major survey of Gollings’s photographic practice and offers a much anticipated opportunity to appreciate the full breadth of his unique vision. With academic training in the history of architecture, and a professional grounding in photographic practice, Gollings documents and dramatises architecture with an informed artistic flair. Constantly innovating with photographic technologies, and investigating new architectural subjects with a restless enthusiasm, Gollings’s connoisseurship of the built world is unparalleled.

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art

 

John Gollings. 'Uluru Visitor Centre (Gregory Burgess), Uluru, Northern Territory' 1999

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Uluru Visitor Centre (Gregory Burgess), Uluru, Northern Territory
1999

 

John Gollings. 'Kabaw Berber Granary, Kabaw, Libya' 2005

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Kabaw Berber Granary, Kabaw, Libya
2005

 

John Gollings. 'Bayon, Angkor Thom, Cambodia' 2012

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Bayon, Angkor Thom, Cambodia
2012

 

John Gollings. 'North face, south gate, Angkor Thom, Cambodia' 2007

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
North face, south gate, Angkor Thom, Cambodia
2007

 

John Gollings. 'Buddha detail, Borobudur, Java, Indonesia' 2011

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Buddha detail, Borobudur, Java, Indonesia
2011

 

John Gollings. 'Mori Tim Stupa, Silk Road, China' 2005

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Mori Tim Stupa, Silk Road, China
2005

 

John Gollings. 'Jiaohe Old City, Turfan, China' 2005

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Jiaohe Old City, Turfan, China
2005

 

John Gollings. 'Pushkarani Kund (King’s Bath), Hampi, India' 1988

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Pushkarani Kund (King’s Bath), Hampi, India
1988

 

John Gollings. 'Ta Prohm Temple, Angkor Thom, Cambodia' 2007

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Ta Prohm Temple, Angkor Thom, Cambodia
2007

 

John Gollings 'Hanuman Temple, Hampi, India' 2006

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Hanuman Temple, Hampi, India
2006

 

John Gollings. 'Small Ganesh, Hampi, India' 2006

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Small Ganesh, Hampi, India
2006

 

John Gollings. 'Vittala Dance Mandapa interior, Hampi, India' 2005

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Vittala Dance Mandapa interior, Hampi, India
2005

 

 

Ancient architecture

Gollings has embarked on a number of heritage projects that document the evolution of architectural history under various religious and political regimes across Asia. This includes the Chinese city of Jiaohe, which was carved out of the earth 2 000 years ago and then abandoned after Genghis Khan invaded the area in the 13th century; the Khmer temples of the Angkor Empire that once extended across much of mainland south-east Asia; and the architecture of the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire that ruled over southern India for 200 years before being conquered by Muslim sultanates in the 16th century. Further a fi eld, Gollings has documented the grain stores of the nomadic Berbers in Lybia, and the marble theatres that supplanted them when the Roman Empire occupied northern Africa at the dawn of the Common Era. Gollings brings his characteristic style to bear on all these subjects, drawing the viewer into the built environment with embedded perspectives and dramatic lighting.

Wall text

 

John Gollings. 'Nawarla Gabarnmang, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory' 2015

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Nawarla Gabarnmang, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory
2015

 

 

The Nawarla Gabarnmang rock shelter is the oldest human construction that Gollings has photographed. Located in southwestern Arnhem Land, on the traditional lands of the Jawoyn people, the architecture of this site was created by tunnelling into a naturally eroding cliff face. The roof is supported by 36 pillars, formed by the natural erosion of fissure lines in the bedrock. Archaeologists have shown that some pre-existing pillars were removed, some were reshaped and others were moved to new positions in order to modify the interior space. The ceiling, walls and pillars feature paintings of fi sh, wallabies, crocodiles, people and spiritual figures. Radiocarbon dating of floor deposits indicates that humans have used the shelter for over 45 000 years, and the rock art itself has been firmly dated back 28 000 years, making it some of the oldest surviving artwork in the world. Gollings’s photographs, with their accentuated perspectives and saturated colours, celebrate Nawarla Gabarnmang as a site of imagination and awe.

Wall text

 

John Gollings. 'Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (Wood Marsh), Southbank, Victoria' 2002

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (Wood Marsh), Southbank, Victoria
2002

 

John Gollings. 'Habitat filter (Matt Drysdale, Matt Myers and Tim Dow), Southbank, Victoria' 2017

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Habitat filter (Matt Drysdale, Matt Myers and Tim Dow), Southbank, Victoria
2017

 

John Gollings. 'Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre (Renzo Piano), Nouméa, New Caledonia.' 1997

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre (Renzo Piano), Nouméa, New Caledonia
1997

 

John Gollings. 'The Lotus Building (Studio 505), Changzhou, China' 2013

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
The Lotus Building (Studio 505), Changzhou, China
2013

 

 

Illuminated architecture

Photographing an inanimate object in the half light of dusk or dawn tends to invest it with a sense of life. A house with its interior lights on as night falls can seem enlivened with nocturnal possibilities. A building emerging from the shadows at daybreak might appear to be stirring from sleep. Gollings often takes advantage of the half light to give architecture a quiet vitality. He sometimes describes these photographs as ‘efficient images’, when the balance of sunlight and internal lighting allows him to make the interior and exterior of a building simultaneously visible. In effect, these images draw attention to the skin of architecture, rendering buildings as shells or envelopes rather than solid volumes. This approach is a particularly effective way of giving a sense of spiritual lightness to ancient stone temples.

Wall text

 

John Gollings. 'Surfers Paradise aerial, Surfers Paradise, Queensland' 2012

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Surfers Paradise aerial, Surfers Paradise, Queensland
2012

 

 

Surfers Paradise

Gollings’s relationship with the Gold Coast stretches back to childhood road trips that he made to Queensland with his parents in the late 1950s and 1960s. While he was still a teenager, Gollings took photographs that testify to an early fascination with the fanciful architecture of roadside motels. And in recent years he has continued to record the quaint postwar architecture of Surfers Paradise, along with the high rise developments that now overshadow them.

During 1973 and 1974 Gollings embarked on a major survey of architecture in Surfers Paradise. This project was specifically inspired by a seminal book on postmodern architecture, Learning from Las Vegas, authored by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour in 1972. This book turned its back on the formal purism of modernist architecture and argued for an approach to urban design that embraced popular culture, personal narratives and humour. Gollings, along with Mal Horner (urban planner), Julie James (graphic designer) and Tony Styant-Browne (architect), set out to produce a complimentary publication, Learning from Surfers Paradise. The publication was abandoned in 1975, but Gollings’s photographs remain an important record of Surfers Paradise and the postmodern condition in Australian culture.

The ideas associated with postmodern architecture have had a lasting influence on Gollings’s approach to photography. Throughout his work, Gollings subverts pure formalism with humorous juxtapositions and personal affectations.

Wall text

 

John Gollings. 'Every high rise on the Gold Coast' 2012

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Every high rise on the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise, Queensland
2012

 

John Gollings. 'Every high rise on the Gold Coast' 2012 (detail)

 

John Gollings (Australian, b. 1944)
Every high rise on the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise, Queensland (detail)
2012

 

 

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03
Aug
17

Review: ‘Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker’ at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 6th May – 6th August 2017

“A GREAT review Marcus. As always. A master piece.” ~ Peter Barker, artist

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the entrance to the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Max Dupain. 'Sunbaker' c. 1937

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Sunbaker
c. 1937
Gelatin silver print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1980

 

Anne Zahalka. 'The sunbather #2' 1989

 

Anne Zahalka (Australian, b. 1957)
The sunbather #2
1989
From the series Bondi: playground of the Pacific
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1997

 

 

The misery of too much sun

Simply put (where the work in this exhibition is anything but), this is one of the most depressing Australian group photography exhibitions that I have seen in a very long time. I left the exhibition feeling like I wanted to slit my wrists.

“Reimagining” an image is always going to be problematic, especially such an iconic photograph as Max Dupain’s no-face, monolithic, Uluru-shaped, low depth of field, wet, British male tourist lying on Culburra Beach, New South Wales in the 1930s – an image that “supposedly conveys a quintessential Australian identity,” a “casual holiday snap that came to symbolise leisure and freedom in the 1970s [which] was taken in the uncertain economic times before the Second World War.”

The scope for such a contemporary conceptual exercise is vast and the artists in this exhibition don’t waste the opportunity. Variously but not exclusively we have:

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Breakfast Club (1985), a movie in which five teenagers navigate identity issues
  • Indigenous massacres in Australia … positions of the planets between 1789 and 1928, when 63 massacres of Indigenous peoples took place
  • Samoan culture – malu – the female-Samoan tattoo (tatau)
  • The lifeless body of three-year-old refugee Aylan Kurdi, lying face down on a beach in Turkey which now haunts the figure of the Sunbaker
  • Sufi-inspired choreography, the dancers wearing a hammam cloth
  • 1920s swimwear based on wartime camouflage schemes
  • Reclaiming of the feminist body both as a medium of deliberate submission and active resistance through women’s strength, endurance and resilience by undertaking physical and psychological experiments that test the limits of her body, playfully and painfully
  • Denunciating the violence of the sand mining industry on the ecosystem, the land and its peoples
  • Grandfather opal-mine worker in South Australia excluded from Aboriginal rights until 1967
  • Paradox of a nation seen as a sun-blessed paradise while its shores have been a place of contestation and misery
  • Memories of childhood landscapes and research into the Massacre Map published by the Koorie Heritage Trust, which identified sites where Indigenous massacres occurred between 1836 and 1853
  • Digitally animated Sunbaker to make it resonate as a symbol of the 229 years since colonisation

.
How you get from a holiday snap of a tourist visiting Australia, having a swim, flopping down on the beach and all the joy that this entails to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Breakfast Club, female-Samoan tattoos, camouflage schemes, reclaiming the feminist body and more contestation and misery than you can poke a stick at – massacres, more massacres, symbol of 229 years of colonisation and a body of a three-year-old refugee which now supposedly haunts the figure of Sunbaker – is mind boggling. And no, the powerful image of that small body does not haunt Sunbaker. It never will. Only in the titular imagination of the artist!

Some of these reconceptualisations draw such a long bow that the arrow fell out of the sky long before the art work was finished. The trajectory of most of this work is so cerebral that you wonder whether the artists actually thought about visual and associative outcomes, something that the viewer would make connection to and with, before they started making the work. Is this really a good idea? Does the image, Sunbaker, actually evoke any of these relationships? For example, what have positions of the planets between 1789 and 1928 and identified sites where Indigenous massacres occurred between 1836 and 1853 have to do with a sun baker… other than to assuage white guilt over the invasion of Aboriginal land? That is the crux of the matter: it’s all about white guilt.

There is such a thing as acknowledging the past and letting it go, while taking responsibility for the present and the future. As a black American friend of mine said to me recently, he doesn’t blame white people for slavery, and neither do most black Americans… it’s history, acknowledge it and move on; take responsibility for present injustices. Of course, past, present and future time are linked; memory and history influence culture, narrative and identity. But to constantly conceptualise, as much contemporary Australian photography does, the past AS the present through existential angst ridden explorations that produce forgettable images simply beggars belief. Let’s have more contestation and misery; let’s perpetuate the cycle of guilt, shame, misery and despair that we acknowledge was totally wrong. Let’s invert Sunbaker into a demon – a fractured, negative identity – both literally and metaphysically. Two artists literally do this, as though by inverting an image using this trope, you give the negative image profound power.

Other than Anne Zahalka’s wonderful feminist re-imag(in)ing of Sunbaker, the most evocative excavation of relationship to the original image comes from that gorgeous photographer William Yang. Just a celebration of sun, sand, sea, and male identity through beautiful, intimate images of the male body – “At Bondi Beach, people were sunbathing. There was an attractive openness in the atmosphere…” An atmosphere and a generosity of spirit sorely lacking in the rest of the work.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

PS. And it’s Sunbaker not The Sunbaker!

.
Many thankx to 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.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Sara Oscar’s Pleasant Island (The Pacific Solution) (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Sara Oscar (born 1975, Sydney, NSW) 'Pleasant Island (The Pacific Solution)' 2017

Sara Oscar (born 1975, Sydney, NSW) 'Pleasant Island (The Pacific Solution)' 2017

Sara Oscar (born 1975, Sydney, NSW) 'Pleasant Island (The Pacific Solution)' 2017

Sara Oscar (born 1975, Sydney, NSW) 'Pleasant Island (The Pacific Solution)' 2017

Sara Oscar (born 1975, Sydney, NSW) 'Pleasant Island (The Pacific Solution)' 2017

 

Sara Oscar (born 1975, Sydney, NSW)
Pleasant Island (The Pacific Solution)
2017
Inkjet print on Hahnemuehle paper
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Sara Oscar draws connections between the present and the past. Interested in how time changes the meaning of images, her practice is drawn to allegory and metaphor.

In late 2015, photographs circulated widely of the lifeless body of three-year-old refugee Aylan Kurdi, lying face down on a beach in Turkey. The pose has come to symbolise the plight of all refugees and now haunts the figure of the Sunbaker. Nauru – a picturesque island in Micronesia that imprisons refugees to Australia under the Pacific Solution – is the subject of this series that draws connections between the themes of colonialism, beach culture and immigration.

 

 

Nasim Nasr (born 1964, Tehran, Iran; lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Still for Eighty Years
2017
Courtesy the artist and Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide
Video: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Monash Gallery of Art and Nasim Nasr

 

 

Nasim Nasr’s multimedia practice explores the cultural differences between East and West, looking at the complex identities that exist at their nexus.

Shot on Culburra Beach, NSW – where Dupain photographed the Sunbaker – Still for Eighty Years juxtaposes traditional motifs from the Middle East with the Australian beach landscape. Here, the beach becomes a place for cross-cultural dialogue. Inviting us to contemplate their mesmerising Sufi-inspired choreography, the dancers wear a hammam cloth specifically woven for the performance. Nasr’s work is a meditation on the transient nature of identity.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Nasim Nasr’s Still for Eighty Years (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Nasim Nasr. 'Still for Eighty Years' 2017

Nasim Nasr. 'Still for Eighty Years' 2017

Nasim Nasr. 'Still for Eighty Years' 2017

Nasim Nasr. 'Still for Eighty Years' 2017

Nasim Nasr. 'Still for Eighty Years' 2017

 

Nasim Nasr (born 1964, Tehran, Iran; lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Still for Eighty Years
2017
Production stills from video
Courtesy the artist and Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of Justene Williams’ Home security: out of the sun (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Justene Williams (born 1970, Sydney, NSW) 'Home security: out of the sun' 2017

 

Justene Williams (born 1970, Sydney, NSW)
Home security: out of the sun
2017
Dye sublimation print on chromaluxe metal
Courtesy of the artist and Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney

 

 

Home security is inspired by Dupain’s involvement in the Department of Home Security during the Second World War as part of the Sydney Camouflage Group. Working for the Australian Government, the group deployed visual illusions inspired by surrealism, cubism and abstraction to conceal military equipment. With his astute photographic eye for shadows, exposure and patterns, Dupain contributed to The Art of Camouflage, a manual that described techniques he later taught to soldiers in Darwin and Papua-new Guinea.

Inspired by the sheltering trees of the Sydney College of the Arts Callan Park Campus and 1920s swimwear based on wartime camouflage schemes, this work continues Williams exploration of the poetics and politics of camouflage.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of Daniel von Sturmer’s Sunbaker (MGA replica) (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

 

Continuing his After Images series (begun in 2013), Daniel von Sturmer has photographed the shadow cast by the replica of Dupain’s Sunbaker held in the Monash Gallery of Art collection. Using a specially constructed ‘set’, the resulting work – a 1:1 image of the Sunbaker shadow – questions the aura held by the original, iconic image. How relevant is the original when multiple reproductions exist?

Examining the ability of photography to accurately capture the real world, this abstract black square draws connections between an image’s meaning and how significance is transferred from the original to the shadow.

 

Daniel von Sturmer. 'Sunbaker (MGA replica)' 2017

 

Daniel von Sturmer (Born 1972, Auckland, Aotearoa, New Zealand Lives and works in Melbourne, Vic)
Sunbaker (MGA replica)
2017
Unique archival pigment print
Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne / Sydney

 

 

Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker is a large-scale exhibition of new works commissioned from 15 artists responding to Australian photographer Max Dupain’s iconic ‘Sunbaker’ image. Artists include Peta Clancy, Christopher Day, Destiny Deacon, Michaela Gleave, Nasim Nasr, Sara Oscar, Julie Rrap, Khaled Sabsabi, Yhonnie Scarce, Christian Thompson, Angela Tiatia. Kawita Vatanajyankur, Daniel Von Sturmer, Justene Williams and William Yang. Under the sun is a travelling exhibition produced by the Australian Centre for Photography (ACP).

MGA Curator Stella Loftus-Hills said, “MGA is delighted to be hosting Under the sun and to be revisiting Max Dupain’s Sunbaker (1937) 80 years after its creation. Dupain’s iconic photograph entered MGA’s collection in 1980 and this exhibition is a wonderful opportunity for our audiences to view the work in the context of contemporary art and to reflect upon its relationship to current ideas around national identity.”

Under the sun explores views of our culture, our identity and our nationhood through works that surprise, challenge and enthuse audiences. Commissioned by ACP, the mix of artists reflects Australia’s multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-faith nature, enabling a creative and often very personal exploration of the question ‘is there something new under the sun?’ These artists contemplate, challenge and interpret the representation of Max Dupain’s photograph – which became an icon of a particular time and a particular vision of Australian culture – while offering unique perspectives on what it could possibly signify in our current society.

ACP Curator, Claire Monneraye said: “Max Dupain’s ‘Sunbaker’, remains an iconic representation of the Australian way of life and a milestone in the history of Australian photography. In this exhibition, the 15 artists have interrogated the social and political implications embedded within this image but also challenged the status of this photograph in our visual culture. Pushing the boundaries of the photographic medium, their works expose the aesthetical complexities at play in discussions around collective identity.

Examining the legacy of the past and questioning the relevance that this image might retain in the future, the exhibition draws on a range of diverse practitioners and creative forms to consider questions of representation and cultural pluralism while also reflecting on the depiction of the idealised body, discussing gender issues, cultural and political ideas relating to immigration and colonisation, and our relationship with the land.”

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art

 

 

Kawita Vatanajyankur (Born 1987, Bangkok, Thailand Lives and works Bangkok and Sydney, NSW)
Carrier (extract)
2017
Video, duration: approx. 5 mins
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney
Video: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Monash Gallery of Art and Kawita Vatanajyankur

 

 

In this video work, Kawita Vatanajyankur reflects on her experience of migrating to Australia, exploring the resulting shift of identity. Celebrating women’s strength, endurance and resilience, Vatanajyankur’s captivating, seductive – and yet disquieting – videowork critiques the challenges faced by migrant Asian women in relation to everyday labour.

Referring to her performances as ‘meditation postures’, the artist undertakes physical and psychological experiments that test the limits of her body, playfully and painfully. The artist’s self-objectification is part of a feminist art tradition that reclaims the female body, both as a medium of deliberate submission and active resistance.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Kawita Vatanajyankur’s Carrier (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Kawita Vatanajyankur. 'Carrier' 2017

Kawita Vatanajyankur. 'Carrier' 2017

 

Kawita Vatanajyankur (Born 1987, Bangkok, Thailand Lives and works Bangkok and Sydney, NSW)
Carrier
2017
Video stills
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Destiny Deacon’s Sand minding and Sand grabs (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Destiny Deacon. 'Sand minding' 2017

Destiny Deacon. 'Sand grabs' 2017

Destiny Deacon. 'Sand grabs' 2017

Destiny Deacon. 'Sand grabs' 2017

 

Destiny Deacon (Born 1957, Maryborough, Qld Lives and works Melbourne, Vic KuKu (Cape York) and Erub/Mer (Torres Strait) peoples)
Sand minding
2017
Archival inkjet pigment print
Sand grabs
2017
Archival inkjet pigment prints
Courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

 

 

Throughout her career Destiny Deacon has orchestrated a personal and political theatre of kitsch and poignant ‘Aboriginalia’ to expose and deconstruct Indigenous issues. Deacon’s anti-art aesthetic confronts us with the cruelty of racism and the sombre reality of Australia’s colonial history.

Acknowledging the sand as central to Dupain’s photograph, Destiny Deacon denunciates the violence of the sand mining industry on the ecosystem, the land and its peoples. While hands are performing a destructive soil surgery, two uncanny dolls emerge from the sand. Both whistleblowers and guardians of the land, they invite us to consider a topical issue and its consequences.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of Christopher Day’s Untitled (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Christopher Day. 'Untitled' 2017

 

Christopher Day (Born 1978, Melbourne, Vic, 1978 Lives and works Melbourne, Vic)
Untitled
2017
Pigment print

 

 

After processing, developing and scanning the photographs shot on his 35 mm camera, Christopher Day assembles, crops, combines and rearranges his images, again and again. Blending personal and historical narratives, Day’s complex imagery is ambiguous, humorous and allegorical, challenging simplistic definitions of identity and gender.

In this work a shiny round apple bearing visible teeth marks alludes to the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – each character embodying a set of clichés including Snow White herself, whose beauty and feminine charm become her undoing. The artist also refers to The Breakfast Club (1985), a movie in which five teenagers navigate identity issues.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of Michaela Gleave’s Under One Sun (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Michaela Gleave. 'Under One Sun' (detail) 2017

 

Michaela Gleave (Born 1980, Alice Springs, NT Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Under One Sun (detail)
2017
Silver gelatin prints
Courtesy the artist and Anna Pappas Gallery, Melbourne

 

 

Under One Sun highlights the complexity of colonial history and the ambivalence of representing identity. Using Wikipedia‘s listing of Indigenous massacres in Australia, Michaela Gleave highlights the lack of the associated verified historical data. Her zoomed out installation documents the positions of the planets between 1789 and 1928, when 63 massacres of Indigenous peoples took place.

James Cook’s first Pacific voyage, to document the 1769 Transit of Venus and investigate the existence of Terra Australis Incognita, opened the way for the European settlement of Australia. Drawing parallels between the development of photography, science and colonisation, the artist reminds us that technological advances in astronomy and navigation helped expand the British Empire, with science often justifying the atrocities committed.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Yhonnie Scarce’s Working Class Man (Andamooka Opal Fields) (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Yhonnie Scarce (Born 1973, Woomera, SA Lives and works Melbourne, Vic and Adelaide, SA Kokatha and Nukunu peoples)
Working Class Man (Andamooka Opal Fields)
2017
Inkjet print on cotton rag paper, vintage metal bucket, blown glass
Courtesy the artist and This Is No Fantasy + Dianne Tanzer Gallery, Melbourne

 

 

In this deeply personal work, Yhonnie Scarce pays tribute to her grandfather, who endured many hardships during his life as an opal-mine worker in South Australia. Looking at this family photograph, Scarce felt compelled to tell the story of a man who provided for his family and contributed to society, yet remained excluded from the rights of Australian citizenship until 1967.

Beyond the nostalgic, Scarce includes vernacular photographs in her installations not only to control her personal narrative but also to reaffirm the presence of unsung heroes. ‘Politically motivated and emotionally driven’, Working Class Man (Andamooka Opal Fields) epitomises the experience of many Indigenous Australians while interrogating the effects of colonisation on future generations.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Angela Tiatia’s Dark Light (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Angela Tiatia (Born 1973, Auckland, Aotearoa, New Zealand Lives and works in Sydney, NSW)
Dark Light
2017
Video, duration: 4 min, self-adhesive inkjet pigment print
Courtesy the artist and Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne

 

 

With Dark Light, Angela Tiatia deconstructs every element of the Sunbaker to reconfigure its exact opposite. The sensual tension created by this process forces us to re-examine the familiar.

Tiatia also reveals deeper contradictions. A chandelier symbolising opulence and power is hung over the artist’s body which is baring the malu – the female-Samoan tattoo (tatau). In pre-Christian times, the malu signified protection and shelter as young women entered womanhood. However, it was condemned by missionaries alongside their male equivalent (pe’a) and some Samoan communities still forbid women to publicly expose the malu. Dark Light sees Tiatia resisting the forces of colonialism embedded within Samoan culture.

 

Christian Thompson (Born 1978, Gawler, SA Lives and works in London, England Bidjara people) 'This Brutal World' 2017

 

Christian Thompson (Born 1978, Gawler, SA Lives and works in London, England Bidjara people)
This Brutal World
2017
Inkjet pigment print
Courtesy the artist and Michael Reid, Sydney / Berlin

 

 

With This Brutal World, Christian Thompson focuses on portraiture and its ability to trouble the relationship between past and present.

Where Dupain’s Sunbaker supposedly conveys a quintessential Australian identity, Thompson reminds us of assimilation policies first outlined at the Aboriginal Welfare Initial Conference of Commonwealth and State Aboriginal Authorities in 1937. Here the artist wears a costume borrowed from London’s National Theatre. His eyes are covered with dried roses and his body is superimposed on the glittering shallow creek beds – images captured during trips to his traditional homelands in outback Queensland. Thompson employs references to the natural world to evoke spirituality.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Julie Rrap’s Speechless (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Julie Rrap (Born 1950, Lismore, NSW Lives and works Sydney, NSW) 'Speechless' 2017

Julie Rrap (Born 1950, Lismore, NSW Lives and works Sydney, NSW) 'Speechless' 2017

 

Julie Rrap (Born 1950, Lismore, NSW Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Speechless
2017
Bronze and steel
Courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

 

 

Julie Rrap’s long interest in the politics of the human body informed her investigation of the Sunbaker pose. A casual holiday snap that came to symbolise leisure and freedom in the 1970s, Dupain’s photograph was taken in the uncertain economic times before the Second World War.

Exploring the ambivalence of the pose and transposing this contradiction to now, Rrap draws attention to the paradox of a nation seen as a sun-blessed paradise while its shores have been a place of contestation and misery. Speechless places the viewer in two positions, showing the viewpoint of both the person who speaks out and the one who keeps their head down.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Peta Clancy’s Fissures in time (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Peta Clancy. 'Fissures in time #3' 2017

Peta Clancy. 'Fissures in time #1' 2017

Peta Clancy. 'Fissures in time #2' 2017

Peta Clancy. 'Fissures in time #4' 2017

 

Peta Clancy (Born 1970, Melbourne, Vic, Lives and works Melbourne, Vic)
Fissures in time (L to R) #3 #1 #2 #4
2017
Archival pigment prints
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Drawing on memories of childhood landscapes, Peta Clancy repeatedly visited several locations in Victoria, taking photographs with her large-format camera. Informed by her research into the Massacre Map published by the Koorie Heritage Trust, which identified sites where Indigenous massacres occurred between 1836 and 1853, the artist has produced placeless images that question our relationship to landscapes of trauma and how we perceive reality.

After photographing a site, Clancy returned to install a large print on a custom-designed frame in front of the same landscape; slicing through the paper, then revealing sections of the scene behind before re-photographing it. The resulting images challenge you to see with fresh eyes.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of William Yang’s SUMMER, A suite of images and My Time at South Bondi (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
SUMMER, A suite of images
2017
Digital pigment prints
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

My Time at South Bondi
2017
Video with music by Daniel Holdsworth
Duration: 4 min
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

 

A prolific documentary photographer, storyteller and performer, William Yang creates works that tell an intimate, autobiographical story.

For this installation, William Yang draws on his extensive archive of images, memories and sensual experiences, showing the unique atmosphere of freedom that prevailed on Sydney beaches in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Taken around Bondi and Tamarama, Yang has captured the joy of an era and the beauty of the elements with humour and generosity. More than reminiscence or exposé, Yang’s images reveal sensitive connections and insightful reflections about cultural identity.

 

William Yang. 'Golden Summer' 1987/2016

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Golden Summer
1987/2016
Digital print with gold foil
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

William Yang. 'Lifesaver Double' 1987/2017

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Lifesaver Double
1987/2017
Digital print
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW) 'Lifesavers #3' 1987/2017

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Lifesavers #3
1987/2017
Digital print
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

William Yang. 'Splashproof #1' 1994/2017

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Splashproof #1
1994/2017
Digital print with digital text
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

William Yang. 'Splashproof #2' 1994/2017

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Splashproof #2
1994/2017
Digital print
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

William Yang. 'Splashproof #3' 1994/2017

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Splashproof #3
1994/2017
Digital print
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

William Yang. 'Bondi Beach (1970s)' 1970s/2017

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Bondi Beach (1970s)
1970s/2017
Digital print with text
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

William Yang. 'Tamarama Lifesavers' 1981/2017

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Tamarama Lifesavers
1981/2017
Digital print
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

William Yang 'Checking Out Bondi' 1981/2017

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Checking Out Bondi
1981/2017
Digital print
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW) 'Childhood of Icarus' 1975/2017

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Childhood of Icarus
1975/2017
Digital print
Courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

 

Khaled Sabsabi (Born 1965, Tripoli, Lebanon Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
229 (extract)
2017
Three-channel video with sound
Duration: 3 min 49 sec
Hand-painted laser prints on transparencies
C-type prints
Courtesy the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane
Video: © Dr Marcus Bunyan, Monash Gallery of Art and Khaled Sabsabi

 

 

Khaled Sabsabi has recreated the negative of the Sunbaker by reframing the image and playing with the essential codes of the photographic medium. Sabsabi has multiplied, handpainted and digitally animated the photograph to make it resonate as a symbol of the 229 years since colonisation.

229 challenges the representation of race by inverting black and white, forcing us to question the almost imperceptible alterations, and examine notions of copyright and origin. Ultimately, 229 asks the viewer to be actively engaged and socially responsible.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under the sun Reimagining Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker'' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Khaled Sabsabi’s 229 (2017) from the exhibition Under the sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Khaled Sabsabi. '229' 2017

Khaled Sabsabi. '229' 2017

Khaled Sabsabi. '229' 2017

Khaled Sabsabi. '229' 2017

Khaled Sabsabi. '229' 2017

 

Khaled Sabsabi (Born 1965, Tripoli, Lebanon Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
229
2017
Production stills from video
Courtesy the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane

 

 

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25
Nov
16

Exhibitions: ‘Beyond Eden: Polixeni Papapetrou / Dutch masters of light: Hendrik Kerstens & Erwin Olaf / Glamour stakes: Martin Parr at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 22nd October 2016 – 4th December 2016

 

Installation view of 'Beyond Eden: Polixeni Papapetrou' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of Beyond Eden: Polixeni Papapetrou at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne, featuring three images from the series It’s all about me (2016)
© Marcus Bunyan, the artist and the Monash Gallery of Art

 

 

There was hardly standing room at the opening of Beyond Eden: Polixeni Papapetrou at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne. As for car parking, I had to park the car on the grass out the back of the gallery it was so full. Inside, it was great to see Poli and the appreciative crowd really enjoyed her work.

It was the usual fair from the exhibition Glamour stakes: Martin Parr, a whirl of movement, colour, intensity – in the frenetic construction of the picture plane; in the feverish nature of encounter between camera and subject – and obnoxious detail in photographs from the series Luxury (2003-2009). Low depth of field, flash photography, fabulous hats, and vibrant colours feature in images that ‘document leisure and consumption and highlight the unintentional, awkward and often ugly sides of beauty, fashion and wealth’. Sadly, after a time it all becomes a bit too predictable and repetitive.

The pick of the bunch in the exhibition Dutch masters of light: Hendrik Kerstens & Erwin Olaf was the work of Hendrik Kerstens. Simple, elegant portrait compositions that feature, and subvert, the aesthetics of 17th-century Dutch master paintings. I love the humour and disruption in the a/historical account, “the différance [which] simultaneously contains within its neo-graphism the activities of differing and deferring, a distancing acted out temporally as well as spatially.” (Geoffrey Batchen)

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to 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.

 

 

Installation view of 'Beyond Eden: Polixeni Papapetrou' at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of Beyond Eden: Polixeni Papapetrou at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne, featuring three images from the series It’s all about me (2016)
© Marcus Bunyan, the artist and the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (born Australia 1960) 'It's all about me' (installation view) 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
It’s all about me (installation view)
2016
From the series It’s all about me
Pigment ink-jet print
Collection of the artist
© Marcus Bunyan, the artist and the Monash Gallery of Art