Archive for the 'sculpture' Category

31
Jul
21

Exhibition: ‘Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life’ at the Hepworth Wakefield, Wakefield, West Yorkshire

Exhibition dates: 21st May 2021 – 27th February 2022

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975) 'Pierced Hemisphere' 1937

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975)
Pierced Hemisphere
1937
White marble
The Hepworth Wakefield (Wakefield Permanent Art Collection)
Barbara Hepworth © Bowness
Photo: Norman Taylor

 

 

As a bit of a break from photography, something very special this weekend especially for me. I adore this artist’s work.

Solid / voids
space / forms
still / movements
pierced / circles
memory / landscapes
music / curves
Spirit / leaps!

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

“The relationship between humans and landscape played a key role in Hepworth’s creative development. In 1949, she settled down in St Ives, Cornwall, where she stayed until her death. The harmony of the sea, earth and rocks in this remote part of England had a significant impact on her.”

 

 

“Barbara Hepworth is one of the most important artists of the 20th century, with a unique artistic vision that demands to be looked at in-depth. This exhibition will shine a light on Hepworth’s wide-ranging interests and how they infused her art practice. Deeply spiritual and passionately engaged with political, social and technological debates in the 20th century, Hepworth was obsessed with how the physical encounter with sculpture could impact the viewer and alter their perception of the world.”

.
Eleanor Clayton, Curator

 

“Hole turned out to be spelt with a W as well as an H. Holes were not gaps, they were connections. Hepworth made the hole into a connection between different expressions of form, and she made space into his own form.”

.
Jeannette Winterson

 

“I rarely draw what I see –
I draw what I feel in my body”

.
Barbara Hepworth

 

 

Installation image of 'Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life' at the Hepworth Wakefield

Installation image of 'Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life' at the Hepworth Wakefield

 

Installation images of Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life at the Hepworth Wakefield showing in the bottom image at right Single Form (September) (BH 312) in figured walnut, and a photograph at left of Single Form (1964) displayed near the pool in front of the United Nations Secretariat Building.
Photos: Nick Singleton

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975) 'Single Form (Chun Quoit)' 1961

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975)
Single Form (Chun Quoit)
1961
Plaster, painted brown
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate
Photo: Mark Heathcote

 

Barbara Hepworth working on the armature of 'Single Form' in the Palais de Danse, St Ives 1961

 

Barbara Hepworth working on the armature of Single Form in the Palais de Danse, St Ives
1961
© Bowness
Photo: Studio St Ives

 

Barbara Hepworth with the plaster prototype for the United Nations 'Single Form' at the Morris Singer foundry, London May 1963

 

Barbara Hepworth with the plaster prototype for the United Nations Single Form at the Morris Singer foundry, London
May 1963
Photo: Morgan-Wells
Barbara Hepworth © Bowness

 

'Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life' poster

 

Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life poster

 

Installation image of 'Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life' at the Hepworth Wakefield

Installation image of 'Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life' at the Hepworth Wakefield

Installation image of 'Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life' at the Hepworth Wakefield

Installation image of 'Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life' at the Hepworth Wakefield

 

Installation images of Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life at the Hepworth Wakefield.
Photos: Nick Singleton

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975) 'Kneeling Figure' 1932

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975)
Kneeling Figure
1932
Rosewood
Purchased with aid from the Wakefield Permanent Art Fund (Friends of Wakefield Art Galleries and Museums), V&A Purchase Grant Fund and Wakefield Girls’ High School, 1944
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate
Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones

 

Installation image of 'Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life' at the Hepworth Wakefield

Installation image of 'Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life' at the Hepworth Wakefield

Installation image of 'Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life' at the Hepworth Wakefield

 

Installation images of Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life at the Hepworth Wakefield showing in the bottom image at centre, Spring (1966)
Photos: Nick Singleton

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975) 'Spring' 1966

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975)
Spring
1966
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate
Photo: Jerry Hardman

 

Installation image of 'Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life' at the Hepworth Wakefield

 

Installation images of Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life at the Hepworth Wakefield showing in the bottom image second left Winged Figure (1961-62 below), and second right Rock Form (Porthcurno) (1964, below)

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975) 'Winged Figure' 1961-62

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975)
Winged Figure
1961-62
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate
Photo: Jonty Wilde

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975) 'Rock Form (Porthcurno)' 1964

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975)
Rock Form (Porthcurno)
1964
Plaster, painted green on the outside and blue/grey on the interior
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate
Photo: Jonty Wilde

 

 

To mark The Hepworth Wakefield‘s 10th anniversary, the Yorkshire-based gallery opened the most expansive exhibition of Barbara Hepworth’s work in the UK since the artist’s death in 1975.

The exhibition presents an in-depth view of the Wakefield-born artist’s life, interests, work and legacy. It displays some of Hepworth’s most celebrated sculptures including the modern abstract carving that launched her career in the 1920s and 1930s, her iconic strung sculptures of the 1940s and 1950s, and large scale bronze and carved sculptures from later in her career. Key loans from national public collections are being shown alongside works from private collections that have not been on public display since the 1970s, as well as rarely seen drawings, paintings and fabric designs. It reveals how Hepworth’s wide sphere of interests comprising music, dance, science, space exploration, politics and religion, as well as events in her personal life, influenced her work.

Contemporary artists Tacita Dean and Veronica Ryan have been commissioned to create new works which are being presented within the exhibition. Each artist explores themes and ideas that interested Hepworth and that continue to resonate with their own work. Artworks by Bridget Riley from the 1960s are also being presented in dialogue with Hepworth’s work from the same period.

To coincide with the exhibition, The Hepworth Wakefield’s curator Eleanor Clayton has written a major new biography on the artist, published by Thames & Hudson. Eleanor Clayton said: ‘Barbara Hepworth is one of the most important artists of the 20th century, with a unique artistic vision that demands to be looked at in depth. This exhibition will shine a light on Hepworth’s wide-ranging interests and how they infused her art practice. Deeply spiritual and passionately engaged with political, social and technological debates in the 20th century, Hepworth was obsessed with how the physical encounter with sculpture could impact the viewer and alter their perception of the world.’

Simon Wallis, Director of The Hepworth Wakefield, said: ‘Lockdown continues to be an ongoing challenge for us all, so I’m delighted we’ll be celebrating, post-lockdown, our 10th anniversary with an in-depth exploration of the art and life of Barbara Hepworth, Wakefield’s most famous daughter. With this major exhibition and new book, we’ll continue to build on the legacy and influence of a key pioneer of modern sculpture. Hepworth is a daily inspiration for us at the gallery and we look forward to sharing some of her greatest work with a wide new audience.’

 

The exhibition in detail

The exhibition opens with an introduction to Barbara Hepworth’s work, showing the three sculptural forms she returned to repeatedly throughout her career using a variety of different materials. A detailed look at Hepworth’s childhood in Yorkshire through archive material and photographs includes some of the artist’s earliest- known paintings, carvings and life drawings as she began to explore movement and the human form. A proponent of direct carving, Hepworth combined an acute sensitivity to the organic materials of wood and stone with the development of a radical new abstract language of form.

Hepworth’s determination to break free from accepted tradition was enhanced by travelling to Paris in 1932 where she visited the studios of many of the leading European avant-garde artists including Jean Arp, Constantin Brancusi and Pablo Picasso. A large section looks at Hepworth’s development of abstraction in the 1930s including Three Forms (1935) created shortly after she gave birth to triplets, an event she felt invigorated her work towards a bolder language of geometric form. One of the few examples in existence of Hepworth’s first coloured stringed sculptures in plaster, made during World War Two, is being shown alongside the many drawings she created during this period when sculptural materials were scarce. She described these drawings as ‘my sculptures born in the disguise of two dimensions.’

The exhibition reveals the artist’s creative process, drawing on new research from the recently established Hepworth Research Network (HRN), in collaboration with the Universities of York and Huddersfield, into the ways material factors shaped Hepworth’s sculptures and how they related to her broader conceptual and aesthetic concerns. This includes how starting bronze casting in the 1950s enabled Hepworth to create new forms and how, later in life, she experimented with new materials such as lead crystal and aluminium. On display is The Hepworth Wakefield’s unique collection of 44 surviving prototypes in plaster, aluminium and wood, many of which show the marks of Hepworth’s own hand and tools. These are being shown with a specially commissioned intervention by artist Veronica Ryan, the first artist to undertake a residency in Hepworth’s old studio in St Ives, where the prototypes once stood.

Hepworth’s broader interests – such as music, dance, theatre, politics, Greek mythology, and science – influenced her sculptures throughout her life. In the immediate post-war period she became fascinated with the interaction between figures – both in groups in her studio and observed around her, and also in a series of ‘Hospital drawings’, capturing surgeons at work in the early days of the National Health Service. These paintings and drawings capture her belief in the importance of unifying mental and physical existence – the ‘proper coordination between hand and spirit in our daily life’, to create a productive and positive society.

In 1951 Hepworth met composer Priaulx Rainier, and subsequently made several works inspired by the parallels between musical form and abstract sculpture. This coincided with her first theatrical design, for the 1951 production of Electra at The Old Vic. Archive photographs are being displayed together with Apollo (1951), a metal sculpture that formed part of the stage set, along with costume and set designs for the 1955 opera by Michael Tippett, A Midsummer Marriage, staged in 1955 at the Royal Opera House. This section of the exhibition also explores Hepworth’s passion for dance, and how she captured movement with gestural paintings and sculptures such as Forms in Movement (Galliard) (1956) and Curved Form (Pavan) (1956).

During the 1960s, Hepworth was a key cultural figure. She staged major exhibitions, presented work in experimental ways, made large-scale sculptures and explored colour in the patination of bronzes or painted surfaces of her carving. She played an active role in both local and international politics, campaigned for nuclear disarmament and supported pacifist causes. Her political values were encapsulated in the monumental Single Form, commissioned for the United Nations in 1964, of which she declared, ‘The United Nations is our conscience. If it succeeds it is our success. If it fails it is our failure.’ Rare footage of Hepworth’s speaking at the unveiling of this work as been included in the exhibition.

A group of works have been brought together to reveal the influence of the decade of space exploration on Hepworth, from Disc with Strings (Moon) (1969), made the year Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, to Four Hemispheres, inspired by the Telstar satellite. Hepworth noted at the end of the decade, ‘Man’s discovery of flight has radically altered the shape of our sculpture, just as it has altered our thinking.’

The final section of the exhibition looks at Hepworth’s last years, featuring her experiments with new materials and techniques, which incorporate bold colours and luminescent surfaces, while consistently seeking to use abstract form to express universal human experiences.

Barbara Hepworth is one of the most important artists of the twentieth century, and her organic sculptures have come to exemplify three-dimensional modernist art. Published at a time of increasing interest in her work, this biography moves beyond the traditional narratives of modernism to provide comprehensive insight into Hepworth’s remarkable life, work, and legacy.

Press release from the Hepworth Wakefield website

 

'Barbara Hepworth growing up' c. 1919

 

Barbara Hepworth growing up
c. 1919
Courtesy Bowness

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975) 'Mother and Child' 1934

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975)
Mother and Child
1934
Pink Ancaster stone
Purchased by Wakefield Corporation in 1951
Barbara Hepworth © Bowness

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975) 'Three Forms' 1935

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975)
Three Forms
1935
Serravezza marble on marble base
210 × 532 × 343mm, 23 kg
Tate. Presented by Mr and Mrs J.R. Marcus Brumwell 1964
On loan to The Hepworth Wakefield
Barbara Hepworth © Bowness

 

 

In 1934 Barbara Hepworth’s abstraction based on the human figure gave way to an art of pure form. With such works as Three Forms she reduced her sculpture to the most simple shapes and eradicated almost all colour. She said later that she was ‘absorbed in the relationships in space, in size and texture and weight, as well as the tensions between forms’. While the three elements are slightly imperfect in shape, their sizes and the spaces between them are precisely proportional to each other. This reflects her concern with the craft of hand-carving and with harmonious arrangement of form.

Gallery label, September 2004

Text from the Tate website

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975) 'Reconstruction' 1947

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975)
Reconstruction
1947
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate / Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London
Courtesy of the Hepworth Wakefield

 

Barbara Hepworth at work on 'Contrapuntal Forms' by floodlight 25 October 1950

 

Barbara Hepworth at work on Contrapuntal Forms by floodlight
25 October 1950
Official Festival photograph
National Archives © Bowness

 

Barbara Hepworth. 'Turning Forms' at the Festival of Britain 1951

 

Barbara Hepworth – Turning Forms at the Festival of Britain
1951
© Bowness
Photo: Anthony Panting

 

 

A richly illustrated biography on the life and work of Barbara Hepworth, one of the twentieth century’s most inspiring artists and a pioneer of modernist sculpture.

Barbara Hepworth is one of the most important artists of the twentieth century, and her organic sculptures have come to exemplify three-dimensional modernist art. Published at a time of increasing interest in her work, this biography moves beyond the traditional narratives of modernism to provide comprehensive insight into Hepworth’s remarkable life, work, and legacy.

In her lifetime, Hepworth was reproached for single-mindedness, with critics and commentators framing her work and demeanour as “cool and restrained.” Moreover, most exhibitions of her work in the twentieth century focused on Hepworth’s modernist abstract sculpture of the 1930s and its relation to her male contemporaries, leaving vast swathes of work overlooked, such as her largest and most significant public commission, the sculpture outside the UN building in New York.

This fully illustrated biography reflects Hepworth’s multifaceted and interdisciplinary approach, shedding new light on her interests in music, dance, poetry, contemporary politics, science, and technology. Author Eleanor Clayton uncovers Hepworth’s engagement with these fields through friends and networks and examines how they show up in Hepworth’s artistic practice, and how the artist synthesised seemingly conflicting disciplines and ideas into one coherent and inspirational philosophy of art and life.

 

Installation view of Barbara Hepworth, 'Orpheus' 1956

 

Installation view of Barbara Hepworth, Orpheus
1956
Photographed at The Hepworth Wakefield, March 2020
Photo: Lewis Ronald

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975) 'Forms In Movement (Galliard)' 1956

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975)
Forms In Movement (Galliard)
1956
Copper
89cm

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975) 'Curved Forms (Pavan)' 1956

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975)
Curved Forms (Pavan)
1956
Impregnated plaster, painted, on an aluminium armature
52 x 80 x 48.5cm
Presented by the artist’s daughters, Rachel Kidd and Sarah Bowness, through the Trustees of the Barbara Hepworth Estate and the Art Fund
Barbara Hepworth © Bowness
Photo: Mark Heathcote

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975) 'Totem' 1960-62

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975)
Totem
1960-62
Wakefield Permanent Art Collection
Barbara Hepworth © Bowness
Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones

 

Val Wilmer. 'Barbara Hepworth in the Palais de la Danse studio, St Ives, at work on the wood carving 'Hollow Form with White Interior'' 1963

 

Val Wilmer
Barbara Hepworth in the Palais de la Danse studio, St Ives, at work on the wood carving ‘Hollow Form with White Interior’
1963
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate

 

Barbara Hepworth at work on the plaster for 'Oval Form (Trezion)' 1963

 

Barbara Hepworth at work on the plaster for Oval Form (Trezion)
1963
© Bowness
Photo: Val Wilmer Barbara Hepworth

 

Barbara Hepworth with the Gift plaster of 'Figure for Landscape' and a bronze cast of 'Figure (Archaean)' November 1964

 

Barbara Hepworth with the Gift plaster of Figure for Landscape and a bronze cast of Figure (Archaean)
November 1964
Barbara Hepworth © Bowness
Photo: Lucien Myers

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975) 'Genesis III' 1966

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975)
Genesis III
1966
Barbara Hepworth © Bowness
Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975) 'Disc with Strings (Moon)' 1969

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975)
Disc with Strings (Moon)
1969

 

 

Fifteen years before Hepworth (1903-1975) made Disc with Strings (Moon), the author William Golding wrote these words:

“Somewhere over the darkened curve of the world the sun and moon were pulling; and the film of water on the earth planet was held, bulging slightly on one side while the solid core turned. The great wave of the tide moved further along the island and the water lifted.”

.
Though Golding was not writing about the British Isles, his words suggest the kind of large-scale, god-like perspective of earth which mid-century artists like himself and Hepworth were capable of. Disc with Strings (Moon) carries an undertow of planet-sized thinking, and the work is concerned not with reference to human life but, rather, with the fluid, open-ended life of the universe. …

When Disc with Strings (Moon) is viewed from the front, the two halves of the concave disc have subtly different colour values. Though the brushed aluminium surface is uniform all over the work, a viewer perceives two different values because the two halves of the sculpture reflect light differently. While the forward-facing half of the disc reflects the light directly into the viewer’s eye, the other canted half reflects light away and therefore appears comparatively darker. When viewed from the other side, the colour values of the two halves are reversed.

The introduction of string into the sculpture contributes further to this subtle interplay of visual effects. Speaking to the critic Herbert Read in 1952, Hepworth said that “[t]he strings were the tension I felt between myself and the sea, the wind or the hills.” In short, they were a metaphor for her deeply personal response to the elements of nature. In Disc with Strings (Moon), they also seem to register the rippling of waves, passing over the surface of the moon when it appears reflected in the sea.

Anonymous. “InSight No. XII,” on the Piano Nobile website May 13, 2020 [Online] Cited 12/07/2021.

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975) 'Four Hemispheres' 1970

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975)
Four Hemispheres
1970
Glass lead crystal

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975) 'Sun Setting, The Aegean Suite' 1971

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975)
Sun Setting, The Aegean Suite
1971
Lithograph on paper
The Hepworth Wakefield (Wakefield Permanent Art Collection)
Barbara Hepworth © Bowness

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975) 'Cone and Sphere' 1973

 

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975)
Cone and Sphere
1973
White marble
Hepworth Estate, on long loan to The Hepworth Wakefield (Wakefield Permanent Art Collection)
Barbara Hepworth © Bowness
Photo: Mark Heathcote

 

'Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life' catalogue cover

 

Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life catalogue cover

 

 

The Hepworth Wakefield
Gallery Walk, Wakefield
West Yorkshire, WF1 5AW
Phone: +44 (0)1924 247360

The Hepworth Wakefield website

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15
May
21

Exhibition: ‘Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency’ at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago

Exhibition dates: 19th January – 23rd May, 2021

Artists: Laia Abril, Candice Breitz, Elinor Carucci, Krista Franklin, Doreen Garner Candy Guinea, Joanne Leonard, Carmen Winant

 

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986) 'Poison, Pesticide & Desperation / A deadly solution for many women' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Poison, Pesticide & Desperation
A deadly solution for many women

Nd
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

Toxic religion

This is a harrowing exhibition. In reality, in the 21st century, it shouldn’t be, for the problems that it investigates – the psychological, physical, and emotional realities people encounter in the years leading up to, during, and after fertility; the lack of open acknowledgement of pleasure, the lack of access to abortion, and trauma – should no longer exist. Women’s bodies are not vehicles for reproduction as seen through a patriarchal, capitalist lens.

Basically it comes down to two things: men and religion.

Men dominate religious doctrine and government. Religion and governments decide whether abortion is legal or illegal (Poland), whether women are sentenced to years in jail for abortion (El Salvador) or whether a women is handcuffed to a hospital bed after trying to give herself an abortion (Brazil). In religious countries untold harm is being done to women in the name of Christ the saviour. What a joker our imaginary friend is. Never will women be seen as equal in the eyes of God for the dogma of teaching denies their humanity. No compassion, no equality, no freedom.

The standout works in this exhibition are the devastating photo-stories of Laia Abril from On Abortion, the first part of her new long-term project, A History of Misogyny; and the surrealist collages of Joanne Leonard taken from Journal of a Miscarriage (1973). I have transcribed the text under Abril’s photographs so you can read the horror which is propagated and reproduced in the name of religion. Dark ages indeed.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago 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 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation views of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing Laia Abril’s photographs. Top left: The Oral Solution; top right: Deadly Grapevine; bottom left: A Night Outside; bottom second left: Poison, Pesticide & Desperation; bottom third left: Coat Hanger

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986) 'Ancient Herbs and Oral Solutions, depicting herbs used in El Salvador to induce abortion' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
The Oral Solution
Ancient Herbs and Oral Solutions, depicting herbs used in El Salvador to induce abortion

Nd
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986) 'Coat Hanger' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Coat Hanger
Nd
From History of Misogyny
© Laia Abril

 

 

Laia Abril

“I’m trying to visualise a history of misogyny so we don’t forget what’s in the past and don’t get too comfortable in the present; so we take a look at things that sometimes we don’t want to – in a visual way that doesn’t make you just turn the page but makes you engage somehow and think a little bit.”

Under ‘natural’ circumstances, the average woman would get pregnant about 15 times in her life, resulting in ten births. Seven of those babies would survive childhood. For centuries, people have searched for ways to delay or terminate pregnancy. Today, safe and efficient means of abortion finally exist, yet women around the world continue to use ancient, illegal or risky home methods: Every year, 47,000 women die from botched abortions.

Across many countries and religions, millions of women are still denied access to abortion by the law or by social coercion. They are forced to carry pregnancies to term against their will, even minors and rape victims, and for many the pregnancy is not viable or poses a health risk. But all can be criminalised for trying to abort.

On Abortion is the first part of Laia Abril’s new long-term project, A History of Misogyny. The work was first exhibited at Les Rencontres in Arles in 2016 and awarded the Prix de la Photo Madame Figaro and the Fotopress Grant. Abril documents and conceptualises the dangers and damage caused by women’s lack of legal, safe and free access to abortion. She draws on the past to highlight the long, continuing erosion of women’s reproductive rights through to the present-day, weaving together questions of ethics and morality, to reveal a staggering series of social triggers, stigmas, and taboos around abortion that have been largely invisible until now.

Laia Abril is a visual artist, photographer and bookmaker from Barcelona. After graduating in Journalism, she enrolled at FABRICA – the Benetton artist residency; where she worked at COLORS Magazine as a creative editor and staff photographer for 5 years. Her projects have been shown throughout Europe, in the United States, and in China and have been published in media worldwide. Her work is held in many private and public collections. Her first book with Dewi Lewis Publishing, the critically acclaimed The Epilogue (2014), was shortlisted for the Paris Photo-Aperture First Book Award, Kassel PhotoBook Festival and the Photo España Best Book Award.

Text from the Dewi Lewis Publishing website [Online] Cited 14/04/2021

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing Laia Abril’s photographs. Top left: Sentenced to Decades; bottom left: The latrine where Manuela had her miscarriage; right: Manuela in El Salvador.

 

Laia Abril. 'Sentenced to Decades' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Sentenced to Decades
Las 17’s court records in the headquarters of the Citizens’ Coalition for the Decriminalization of Abortion

Nd
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

El Salvador and ‘Las 17’

“Last month in El Salvador, a young woman walked free after nearly a decade behind bars. Carmen Guadalupe Vásquez Aldana was just 18 when, in 2008, she was sentenced to 30 years in jail. Her crime? Having a miscarriage.
El Salvador has one of the world’s most draconian abortion statutes. It criminalises abortion on all grounds, including when the mother’s life or health is in danger, and in cases of rape. Women and girls cannot access an abortion even if continuing their pregnancy will kill them, or if their fetuses are not viable.
Those who defy the law and seek unsafe, clandestine abortions face horrifying consequences: The World Health Organization in 2008 reported that 9 percent of maternal deaths in Central America are due to such procedures.”
Erika Guevara-Rosas. “El Salvador and ‘Las 17’,” on the Amnesty International website 3rd March 2015 [Online] Cited 12/05/2021

 

Laia Abril. 'The latrine where Manuela had her miscarriage' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Manuela in El Salvador
The latrine where Manuela had her miscarriage

Nd
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

In February 2008, Manuela – an eight-months-pregnant, 33-year-old mother of two – suffered a miscarriage in the outdoor toilet of her home in a rural area of El Salvador. After losing, and then regaining, consciousness, Manuela (not her real name) managed to make it back to her house and ask her parents for help. When she got to the hospital, she was handcuffed to the bed for a week. Authorities suspected that Manuela’s miscarriage was actually “an abortion to hide her infidelity”; her husband had left her seven years prior, and she did not have the financial means to divorce him. During a trial that took place later that year, Manuela’s mother was accused of being an accomplice. Law-enforcement officials also took statements from Manuela’s illiterate father, who ended up signing documents that implicated his daughter. Manuela was condemned to 30 years in prison. Following her death behind bars two years later, in 2010, her family learned that her miscarriage had been the result of undiagnosed lymphatic cancer.

Text under the photograph

 

Laia Abril. 'Guadalupe, 26, El Salvador' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Guadalupe, 26, El Salvador
Guadalupe, one of the Las 17, was released from prison in February 2015. She had served seven years and three months in prison after a miscarriage resulting from a rape and subsequent pregnancy.

Nd
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

I was raped when I was 17, and became pregnant. I was sentenced to 30 years in prison for homicide, after losing my baby during an obstetric emergency while working at my employer’s house. My employer would not allow me to go home, and I passed out. I was in my third trimester. I wanted my baby – I don’t know what happened to her. They never returned her body to my family. I served seven years and seven months before I was pardoned. The day I was released was very joyful. It had been a long fight, but my lawyers and family never stopped visiting me. I have a newborn baby daughter and I’m thrilled to be a mum.

Text under the photograph

 

Abortion has been illegal in El Salvador since 1998. This is the case in any and all circumstances, including when the pregnancy poses a risk to the life of the mother. The extremely conservative politics of the country are due in part to the Roman Catholic Church, which exerts an outsized influence on Salvadoran politics and spearheaded a campaign in the 1990s that led to some of the most draconian laws against reproductive rights in the world.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing Laia Abril’s photographs.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Neil, 33, Ireland (installation view)
Nd
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

(Main photograph)

In 2010, my wife Michelle and I found out we were pregnant. She was over the moon, although I was worries and realistic – she had been fighting cancer since 2001 and was terminal. Unfortunately, her chemotherapy treatment had probably damaged the foetus, before we even knew there was one. Michelle was also unlikely to survive a pregnancy. Her oncologist prescribed an abortion. Michelle did not want to, but we had no other option. To our surprise, Cork University Hospital refused to do it.

(Right top)

The hospital told us that Michelle’s life was not at immediate risk [the only circumstance in which abortion is legal in Ireland]. Her doctor helped us to coordinate a trip to England, where the law is more flexible. Michelle was English, but she had no passport – she had not planned to travel! Waiting for the paperwork took two months, during which she was also denied treatment for her cancer [due to the pregnancy]. The trip itself was a nightmare, she was so sick and heartbroken. We had planned a medical abortion, but the pills didn’t work. In the end, she underwent a surgical procedure, which took a big toll on her health.

(Right bottom)

Michelle became quite active in the media, speaking out against the state. The [Irish government] ended up paying her compensation for the injustice. Before her pregnancy, Michelle had been responding very well to her treatment, and doctors said she could end up living for five more years. She was a very spiritual and optimistic person. But after we cam back from England, she took another scan. Her cancer had become more aggressive and spread to her brain. She died in November 2011.

Text under the three photographs above

 

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986) 'Magdalena, 32, Poland' 2018

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Magdalena, 32, Poland
2018
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation views of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing Laia Abril’s photographs Magdalena, 32, Poland (2018)

 

 

(Main photograph)

It was December 17, 2014. I took a pregnancy test and it came out positive. I am gay – I don’t want to talk about how I got pregnant. I don’t know for sure if my grief for the abortion is over, if I left it all behind. I think about it once in a while, and sometimes I cry. Not much, though, and not because I regret it. I don’t. I know I made the right choice, and the only possible one. It was the hardest experience in my life. I am a different person now. And I’m proud of myself.

(Top left)

On a Thursday, I went to see my gynaecologist. She’s a feminist, known for openly pre-choice views. She directed me to a trusted male gynaecologist, who performs ultrasound examinations. She he confirmed the pregnancy, I knew exactly what I needed to do. I am a feminist activist, and I was familiar with the obstacles to abortion in Poland: abortion is illegal except in cases of sexual assault, serious metal deformation, or threat to the mother’s life. I talked to the ultrasound doctor openly. He hesitated at first.

(Top middle)

There is a medicine called Arthrotec: it’s a combination of the drugs Diclofenac and Minoprostol, which are used to treat cateoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. You can buy it in the pharmacy with a prescription, and use it to induce miscarriage. Another alternative is to buy abortion pills on the black market, but I don’t trust them – many vendors fake abortion pills that cost a lot and do nothing. So I contacted a colleague who’s a stomatologist and lied that mom need Arthrotec due to back problems. I was lucky. On Sunday, I had the prescription.

(Top right)

On the evening of December 22, 2014, I stayed at my friend Tomo’s. I took my first pull around 10 pm in her kitchen. You take Arthritic in three phases – four pills every three hours, three times. It’s extremely unpleasant. You can’t simply swallow the ill. You have to hold it under your tongue until it melts, then spit out the small part of analgesic Diclofenac. The pills are bitter and your moth gets numb. It rook almost one hour for the first four pills. The bleeding really started two and half hours after the first set.

(Middle left)

I felt cold and freezing. Timo cooked some potatoes and beetroots for me. Also sauerkraut – I remember I had a great craving for that. I needed someone to take care of me, and anyway it’s recommended as a presentation in case of extended bleeding or other problems. It was hard for me to pick a person, but Timo asked no questions, and gave me her full support from the beginning to the very end of this experience.

(Middle centre)

After the pills, I took several showers, and changed my sanitary napkins ofter. We watched Stardust with Claire Dens and Robert De Niro. They always sooth me. i mostly slept thorough the next day and night. But the bleeding didn’t stop. I became a bit worried, so I phone my doctor. It seems I hadn’t fully purged, he said, and advised that I take another set to pills. He also prescribed antibiotics. The second time was a horror. I was literally giving birth. I was exhausted, but even after that, clots of blood remained in my uterus. A procedure called “curettage” would be need to get rid of them.

(Middle right)

I checked into my doctor’s hospital on December 31. He told me exactly what to say: “I’m pregnant. Recently some bleeding has begun. I hope everything is fine, please just check on me.” My doctor and I pretended we didn’t know each other, so other hospital staff wouldn’t get suspicious. The plan was to state that the foetus was dead, which would me the curettage legally. My doctor winked when I was supposed to say “yes” or “no” to the procedure. It was absurd and humiliating at the same time. The curettage was scheduled for the first day of the New Year. Honestly, I didn’t care.

(Bottom left)

The next morning I had the curettage, First anaesthesia in my life. I was numb enough not to feel much fear. I stayed in the hospital until late evening. Another chat with my doctor. I thanked him a lot. I don’t know what would have happened to me if he hadn’t guided, me, advised me. answered my phone calls, then worked out a safe and legal hospital scenario. A lot of things might have happened, but I was lucky. I physically recovered quickly.

(Bottom middle)

But I was traumatised. I remember lying in bed two days before I took pills, with my hand on my belly, thinking that it would nice to able to keep that pregnancy. I cried so much the day I took the pills and told Timo how much I did and did not want to do it at the same time. How much irrational sadness I felt, even though I didn’t want to have a kid, not then, and probably not ever. It was hormones. But it was also something more than that; you can’t really talk about it unless you’ve had the experience yourself. I grieved some time after.

(Bottom right)

Later, I created a private group on Facebook so that women could help each other. exchange addresses and phone number of trusted doctors, and give each other advice. Sometimes a woman contacts me and I give her all the info and contact I have. I feel like that’s the least I can do. I still have a few mementos related to my abortion, including an ultrasound photo of the foetus. Sometime I want to throw it away. But I never do.

Text under the photographs

 

Laia Abril. 'Magdalena, 32, Poland' 2018 from the book 'On Abortion'

 

Magdalena, 32, Poland 2018 from the book On Abortion by Laia Abril

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation views of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing Laia Abril’s photographs Marta, 29, Poland (Nd)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation views of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing Laia Abril’s photographs. At centre bottom, An FBI warrant for James Kopp (Nd); at right top, Prisoner #14681: Dr. Fenner (Nd); right middle, Midwife’s Mugshot (Nd); right bottom, Prisoner #5603 Dr. William H. Johnson

 

 

Prisoner #14681: Dr. Fenner

In 1941, Dr. Fenner was charged with feticide and sentenced to 16 months of hard labor in Nebraska. The doctor denied that he had performed the alleged abortion but admitted that he had performed ‘curettage” on a female patient. He claimed that his patient would have died due to inflammation otherwise.

Midwife’s Mugshot

Brazilian midwife Maria Berlimont practiced medicine without a licence and was accused of providing abortions illegally. “Dessie [current] public condemnation of both women and providers, law enforcement more often goes after the abortion provider. Police action and the media reports focus on illegal clinics while remaining silent on the women who seek out illegal abortion services.”

Prisoner #5603: Dr. William H. Johnson

In May 1910, doctor William H. Johnson of Nebraska was found guilt of having performed an illegal abortion resulting in the death of sixteen-year-old Amanda mueller. He was sentenced to two years of hard labor. Johnson was paroled on April 14, 1911, pardoned by the governor, and discharged on April 25.

 

Laia Abril. 'An FBI warrant for James Kopp, a member of The Lambs of Christ, who killed a doctor who worked at an New York abortion clinic in 1998' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
An FBI warrant for James Kopp, a member of The Lambs of Christ, who killed a doctor who worked at an New York abortion clinic in 1998
Nd
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing at right, Laia Abril’s Telephone – Voice mail, Florida Abortion Clinic (Nd)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing at right, Laia Abril’s Hippocratic Betrayal and Obstetric Violence

 

Laia Abril. 'Hippocratic Betrayal and Obstetric Violence' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Hippocratic Betrayal and Obstetric Violence
Nd
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

Hippocratic Betrayal and Obstetric Violence, by Laia Abril, referring to the case of a woman in Brazil who was handcuffed to her hospital bed after trying to give herself an abortion

This time, the found material and loaded objects – from an operating chair to a tangled heap of coathangers – make the testimonies all the more stark. One of the most resonant images is a staged photograph of a pair of handcuffs hanging from the rail of a hospital bed. It is titled Hippocratic Betrayal and refers to the case of a 19-year-old woman from São Paulo, who was taken to hospital with severe abdominal pains after ingesting abortion pills. After treating her, the doctor called the police, saying he would autopsy the foetus if she did not confess to trying to abort. She was handcuffed to her hospital bed and freed only after agreeing to pay £200 bail. Denunciation by doctors is common in Brazil, Peru and El Salvador.

“There are so many stories,” says Abril, “and it was important to find ways of telling them visually. The image of the handcuffs is a reconstruction because, of course, I was not present. No one was. The stories are true, the research is journalistic, the imagery is sometimes imaginative and sometimes documentary.”

Sean O’Hagan. “‘I’ve seen horrible things’: photographer Laia Abril on her history of misogyny,” on the Guardian website Wed 20 July 2016 [Online] Cited 14/04/2021

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing photographs from Laia Abril’s On Abortion (2018) with at second left, Soap and Enema Syringes

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986) 'Soap and Enema Syringes' 2018

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Soap and Enema Syringes
2018
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

In the picture a set of household abortion tools. In places where abortion is illegal, certain medical instruments can be a giveaway. For this reason, specific supplies have rarely been developed or sold for this procedure. Instead, doctors, back-street abortionists and pregnant women turn to common household tools: knitting needles, wire clothes hangers, urinary catheters and a wide variety of other objects long enough to reach into the uterus.

In the history of coercive reproduction, before the legalisation of abortion – and currently in the countries which remains illegal; was dominated for centuries by restrictive laws, based on demographic and religious agendas. Due the lack of alternatives, women was forced to apply dangerous methods for termination of her pregnancy, facing serious physical damage or even death. Both safe and very effective methods were only developed as of the middle of the last century.  The lives and the survival rate of women have thereby greatly improved.

Museum of contraception and Abortion, Vienna, Austria, 2015. Laia Abril.

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986) 'Soap and syringes used for abortion, from the Museum of Contraception and Abortion in Vienna' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Soap and syringes used for abortion, from the Museum of Contraception and Abortion in Vienna
Nd
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency explores the psychological, physical, and emotional realities people encounter in the years leading up to, during, and after fertility. The exhibition features eight artists who consider a range of topics including birth, miscarriage, pleasure, the lack of access to abortion, trauma, and the loss of fertility. The term “reproductive” is twofold. It implies the characteristics of a photograph, bringing attention to a notable lack of visual representation of the experiences of the female body. Additionally, the term is a reference to a common patriarchal, capitalist view of women’s bodies as vehicles for reproduction. This exhibition aims to add visual presence and a deeper understanding of the precarious nature of female rights and freedoms in a time where the future of these rights is uncertain.

The Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago (MoCP) presents Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency from January 19 – May 23, 2021. The exhibition explores the psychological, physical, and emotional realities women encounter in the years leading up to, during, and after fertility. The exhibition features eight artists who consider a range of topics including birth, miscarriage, pleasure, the lack of access to abortion, trauma, and the loss of fertility. The exhibition is organised by MoCP chief curator and deputy director Karen Irvine and curator of academic programs and collections Kristin Taylor.

With works ranging from photography to video installations, the exhibition includes work by artists Laia Abril, Candice Breitz, Elinor Carucci, Krista Franklin, Doreen Garner, Candy Guinea, Joanne Leonard, and Carmen Winant. This exhibition seeks to provide a deeper understanding of the precarious nature of reproductive rights in a time where the future of these rights is uncertain.

Works on view cover a range of issues all linking back to the theme of reproductive justice. Highlights include Candice Breitz’s installation Labour (2017-ongoing), which probes the many meanings of the word “labour” in terms of capitalism, from the act of giving birth to the labour that is inherent in mothering and nurturing a child, as well as the domestic labor that has historically been assigned to women.

Artists Carmen Winant and Elinor Carucci both explore female sexuality, implicitly and explicitly critiquing the patriarchal gaze at different stages of female life and fertility. Winant’s photographic assemblage of female sexuality in History of My Pleasure (2019-2020) highlights the agency of the libidinous female body, while Carucci explores sensuality and pleasure after menopause, emphasising imagery that is seldom made visible within art history and popular culture.

Other works on view highlight the often-invisible struggles of the reproductive body, including Under the Knife (2018), a project created by Chicago-based artist Krista Franklin, which intimately details the artist’s long struggle with uterine fibroids, a condition that can cause infertility and disproportionately affects Black women. Joanne Leonard explores a different kind of trauma in her Journal of a Miscarriage series (1973), a series of collages that grapple with the loss of her first pregnancy to miscarriage.

Taking a historical approach to understanding the contemporary state of reproductive healthcare, Laia Abril investigates the history of birth control and the subsequent consequences of restricting women’s access to safe and legal abortion, while Doreen Garner hauntingly pays tribute to Black women who were subject to torture in the name of medical research. Looking closely at the contemporary moment from an LGBTQ+ perspective, Candy Guinea depicts the artist’s journey with her partner as they attempt to conceive their first child through insemination, revealing pervasive gender binaries surrounding maternal health care.

The exhibition’s title, Reproductive, refers to both the act of copying something, like a photograph, and the biological creation of offspring. Additionally, the active tense of the verb “to reproduce” points to the capacity that these artists are at once demonstrating and demanding agency.

“The artists featured in this exhibition create space for themselves – and for others – to claim their power,” said exhibition curators Karen Irvine and Kristin Taylor, “revolutionising the prevailing sense of what it means for a woman to be (re)productive.”

Press release from the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Candy Guinea. 'Still from Mariposa' 2017

 

Candy Guinea (American, b. 1984)
Still from Mariposa
2017
Single-channel video, looped
17 minutes
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

This short film convos the family story of Candy Guinea and her partner Castro as they move through the heteronormative childbirth industry. Guinea documents their journey as a queer, Latinx couple as they attempt to conceive their first child through insemination, navigating numerous trials and errors with the process, and considering the larger emotional and social realities of those who undergo this often-arduous form of conception. As the film progresses, we follow the couple as they attempt to find gender-neutral maternity clothing, as well as LGBTQ+ friendly prenatal care, revealing pervasive gender binaries surrounding maternal health care.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing work by Joanne Leonard

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing three works by Joanne Leonard: at left, Censored journal page (Romanticism is Ultimately Fatal and 1964 police photograph of Gerri Santoro, left to die after botched abortion), from Journal of miscarriage 1973; at centre, Tears, November 28, 1973 from Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973; and at right, Untitled (cowry shells), November 30, 1973 from Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Joanne Leonard (American, b. 1940)
Censored journal page (Romanticism is Ultimately Fatal and 1964 police photograph of Gerri Santoro, left to die after botched abortion) (installation view)
1973
From Journal of a miscarriage, 1973
Collage
Courtesy of Jeremy Stone, San Francisco

 

 

Gerri Santoro

Geraldine “Gerri” Santoro (née Twerdy; August 16, 1935 – June 8, 1964) was an American woman who died because of an illegal abortion in 1964. A police photograph of her dead body, published in 1973, became a symbol of the abortion-rights movement.

 

Biography

Santoro was raised, along with 14 siblings, on the farm of a Ukrainian-American family in Coventry, Connecticut. She was described by those who knew her as “fun-loving” and “free-spirited”. At age 18 she married Sam Santoro; the couple had two daughters together.

 

Circumstances of death

In 1963, her husband’s domestic abuse prompted Santoro to leave, and she and her daughters returned to her childhood home. She took a job at Mansfield State Training School, where she met another employee, Clyde Dixon. The two began an extramarital affair and Santoro became pregnant.

When Sam Santoro announced he was coming from California to visit his daughters, Gerri Santoro feared for her life. On June 8, 1964, twenty-eight weeks into her pregnancy, she and Dixon checked into the Norwich Motel in Norwich, Connecticut, under aliases. They intended to perform a self-induced abortion, using surgical instruments and information from a textbook which Dixon had obtained from Milton Ray Morgan, a teacher at the Mansfield school. Dixon fled the motel after Santoro began to bleed. She died, and her body was found the following morning by a maid.

Dixon and Morgan were arrested three days later. Dixon was charged with manslaughter and Morgan was charged with conspiring to commit an illegal abortion. Dixon was sentenced to a year and day in prison.

 

Famous photograph

Police took a photograph of Santoro’s body as she was found: naked, kneeling, collapsed upon the floor, with a bloody towel between her legs. The picture was used in placards and famously published in Ms. magazine in April 1973, all without identifying Santoro. The photo has since become an abortion-rights symbol, used to illustrate that access to legal and professionally performed abortion reduces deaths from unsafe abortion.

Leona Gordon, Santoro’s sister, saw the photo in Ms. magazine and recognised the subject. Santoro’s daughters had been told their mother died in a car accident, which they believed until the photo became widely distributed. Of the photo’s publication, Santoro’s daughter, Joannie Santoro-Griffin, was quoted in 1995 as saying, “How dare they flaunt this? How dare they take my beautiful mom and put this in front of the public eye?” In more recent years, Joannie has become an abortion rights activist, attending the March for Women’s Lives in 2004 along with Leona and Joannie’s teenage daughter Tara, and blogging about the memory of her mother.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Joanne Leonard (American, b. 1940)
Untitled (cowry shells), November 30, 1973
1973
From Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973
Collage
Courtesy of Jeremy Stone, San Francisco

 

Joanne Leonard (American, b. 1940) 'Par/NoPair/OhPere October 9, 1973' (installation view)

 

Joanne Leonard (American, b. 1940)
Par/NoPair/OhPere October 9, 1973 (installation view)
From Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973
Collage
Courtesy of Jeremy Stone, San Francisco

 

Joanne Leonard (American, b. 1940) 'Par/NoPair/OhPere October 9, 1973'

 

Joanne Leonard (American, b. 1940)
Par/NoPair/OhPere October 9, 1973
From Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973
Collage
Courtesy of Jeremy Stone, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing two works by Joanne Leonard: at left, Untitled (woman/flower/snail) from Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973; and at right, Love Letter, November 16, 1973 from Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973,

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Joanne Leonard (American, b. 1940)
Untitled (woman/flower/snail) (installation view)
From Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973
Collage
Courtesy of Jeremy Stone, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing works by Joanne Leonard: at right, Untitled (clam/shell/birth), November 30, 1973 from Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973; and at second right, Untitled (Joanne, frog and sperm) from Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing works by Joanne Leonard: at left Magic Act (with painting my M. Ner) from Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing works by Elinor Carucci from her series Midlife (2012-2019) with at left, Winter 2016

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation views of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing works by Elinor Carucci from her series Midlife (2012-2019)

 

Elinor Carucci. 'My Uterus' 2015

 

Elinor Carucci (Israeli-American, b. 1971)
My Uterus
2015
From Midlife 2012-2019
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

 

The intimate images show Elinor Carucci as she approaches the age of fifty and enters menopause – the last cycle of female fertility. Photographs of attempts to remain psychologically balanced and youthful in appearance are coupled with close-up images of blood – a longtime symbol of fertility and the female body. In one poignant image, the artist’s uterus lies starkly on a medical cart just after a hysterectomy – a powerful metaphor for ageing and the grieving that often accompanies a long life. Also included in the series are images of Carucci’s sexual intimacy with her husband Eran, augmenting her bold look at the physical and mental struggles of losing fertility with a hopeful meditation on the longevity of sensuality, physical pride, and pleasure.

 

Doreen Garner. 'Betsey's Flag' 2019

 

Doreen Garner (American, b. 1986)
Betsey’s Flag
2019
Courtesy of the artist and JTT, New York

 

Doreen Garner. 'Betsey's Flag' 2019

 

Doreen Garner (American, b. 1986)
Betsey’s Flag
2019
Courtesy of the artist and JTT, New York

 

Doreen Garner. 'Betsey's Flag' 2019

 

Doreen Garner (American, b. 1986)
Betsey’s Flag
2019
Courtesy of the artist and JTT, New York

 

Krista Franklin (American, b. 1970) 'Self-Portrait in the Aftermath' 2020

 

Krista Franklin
Self-Portrait in the Aftermath
2020
Courtesy of the artist

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

(left to right)

Doreen Garner (American, b. 1986)
The Success of the Silver Suture: As Told by Sadist
2018
Plexiglass, rubber, inkjet print, menstrual blood, urine, epoxy resin
Courtesy of JTT Gallery, New York

Doreen Garner (American, b. 1986)
The First Operation: As Told by Sadist
2018
Plexiglass, rubber, inkjet print, menstrual blood, urine, epoxy resin
Courtesy of JTT Gallery, New York

Doreen Garner (American, b. 1986)
Death Would Have Been Preferable: As Told by Sadist
2018
Plexiglass, rubber, inkjet print, menstrual blood, urine, epoxy resin
Courtesy of JTT Gallery, New York

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Carmen Winant. 'A History of My Pleasure' 2019-20 (installation view)

Carmen Winant. 'A History of My Pleasure' 2019-20 (installation view)

Carmen Winant. 'A History of My Pleasure' 2019-20 (installation view)

Carmen Winant. 'A History of My Pleasure' 2019-20 (installation view)

Carmen Winant. 'A History of My Pleasure' 2019-20 (installation view)

 

Carmen Winant (American, b. 1983)
A History of My Pleasure (installation views)
2019-20
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Museum of Contemporary Photography
Columbia College Chicago
600 S Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60605

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm

The MoCP is CLOSED when Columbia College Chicago is closed, including all major holidays.

Museum of Contemporary Photography website

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07
Feb
21

Photographs: Marcus Bunyan. ‘Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise’ 2017-2020

February 2021

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2017-2020
From the series Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise
Digital photograph

 

 

les jeunes ñ’oublient pas
souvenir et jeunesse

young people don’t forget
memory and youth

 

 

A body of work from Père Lachaise cemetery, Paris. Unfortunately, I can’t display the series how I would like them laid out on Art Blart due to the limited page width… please see the layout on desktop (not mobile, again problems) at https://marcusbunyan.com/stones-vaults-flowers-pere-lachaise/

There are some beautiful individual images here – closing in on details, low depth of field, over saturated colours, out of focus, blurred – but in bringing them together I compose with the camera … a feeling, an homage to this place.

Conceptual: Instead of the axis ‘xyz’ being ‘space time context’ I roll the matrix through 90 degrees so the axis is now context (x), space (y) and time (z) – time being the floating variable (not just the variable time of the camera’s shutter): a photograph of the memorial to the victims of the Paris Commune; photographs of the tomb of Victor Noir who became a symbol of opposition to the imperial regime after he was assassinated; photographs of stones laid in respect to the victims of the Nazi death camps; the life of flowers (mostly artificial); the light streaming through stained glass windows at the back of vaults. Light, bending, light bending – illuminating the Stygian darkness, revealing hidden relations, small revelations.

I am the unmoved mover contemplating the perfectly beautiful, indivisible connection between life and death.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

65 mages in the series © Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. These are straight digital photographs, all full frame, no cropping.

Photographs are available from this series for purchase. As a guide, a digital colour 16″ x 20″ print costs $1,000 plus tracked and insured shipping. For more information please see the Store web page.

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Stones, Vaults, Flowers: Père Lachaise' 2017-2020

 

 

Marcus Bunyan website

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31
Jan
21

Review: ‘DESTINY’ at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 23rd November 2020 – 14th February 2021

 

Installation view of 'DESTINY' at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

 

“There is no excuse for ignorance, and you should make an effort to understand what happens in our world. How else can you be contemporary?”

.
Destiny Deacon

 

 

Embodied Ab/origin

This is a strong, powerful if rather repetitive exhibition by Destiny Deacon at NGV Australia, Melbourne. It’s like being hit over the head with a blakly ironic blunt object many times over, just like Aboriginal people have had both physical and cultural violence enacted upon them many times over since the arrival of the white man in terra nullius, a misnomer if ever there was one.

“Drawing from her vast collection of Aboriginalia, Deacon interrogates the way in which Aboriginal people have been, and continue to be, misrepresented within popular culture.” Aboriginalia is repurposed “historicised, interpreted and recast through Aboriginal eyes”, especially through the use of white-appropriated and conceptualised Blak dolly models that allegedly “possess a liveliness and personality, making the violence enacted on to them all the more confronting.” Deacon photographs her reclaimed dollies using Polaroids from which colour prints are enlarged. Technically and aesthetically this means the photographs loose the uniqueness, size and aura of a Polaroid, perhaps not the best outcome for the use of the instant photography process in the making of memorable images.

The exhibition never strays far from its theme: that whities will never understand the symbols of racism perpetrated against Blaks embedded in white culture, unless they are pointed out to them. This concept is expressed through the silent voice of the archetypal Blak doll – dis/embodied, headless, amputated, tied up, trapped in a blizzard, over the fence, adopted – inserted placelessly into whatever scenario bigotry and racism rears its head, a snatched headline of dispossession and grief. While the Blak dolls are a paradigm that Deacon uses to represent the “collective lives” of Aborigines under the heal of a repressive regime, no idea is ever investigated fully for the viewer is only given a snippet of information. Holistically, these snippets add up to a terrible indictment of a dominant race lording it over a vanquished one.

“Marcia Langton once described Destiny Deacon’s work as a ‘barometer of postcolonial anxiety’.” Personally, I don’t feel any sense of postcolonial anxiety when I look at Deacon’s work. I just feel sad, very sad and guilty. Sad for the invasion, sad and guilty for the lives lost, dispossession, poor health, shorter life spans, racism and inequality, the ongoing discrimination and neglect. It’s like sticking the knife in over and over again. I so wish it was different. We KNOW, if we are informed sentient beings, the injustices that Aboriginal people suffered and continue to suffer. As Deacon says, there is no excuse for ignorance. But this is preaching to the converted. How many Joe Public will come and see this exhibition to be informed and to change their mind? As a friend of mine succinctly said, “Don’t come to this exhibition if you don’t want your racism challenged.” Many will not bother. For others this will be a confronting exhibition. And in all this reclaiming of Aboriginalia, all this confrontation, all this looking back, the dredging up of every little inequality – it leaves me thinking: what is the future, where is the positiveness, where is the forward looking cultural creativity of a great people?

I believe that this contemporary reconceptualisation of history from a singular standpoint – that of a unified Ab/original people represented by Blak dolly – is pure hokum. Aboriginal culture is made up of many mobs, many voices, reflecting the difference in backgrounds and experiences of different communities which come together in diversity to present “a statement about the unity of Aboriginal people, the defiant continuity of their cultural traditions and the personal search of many individual artists for their own Aboriginal identity.”1 In this exhibition, where are the homosexual Aboriginals, the lesbian Aboriginals, the transgender Sista Girls, or an investigation into interracial marriages that are loving and kind, instead of just more and more works that reinforce injustices (of history) in the here and now, through the dis/embodied plastic body of a silent doll. Where is the positivity for the future, for example an acknowledgement of the thousands of people that attended Invasion Day rallies this year?

Collectively, the exhibition powerfully questions the processes of a problematic cultural assimilation using repurposed Aboriginalia but today Aboriginal identities, like all identities, are in a state of transformation and flux. I look at the work of contemporary African artists and I see joy, hope, colour, movement, new identities, new sites of conceptualisation in the evolving struggle to engage new definitions of nationhood in relation to the autonomous, self-governing body. They acknowledge history, discrimination, the struggle for freedom, but are more forward looking, more engaged with the possibilities of the future rather than the deficits of the past expressed in the inequalities of the present. When is a positive voice of embodied (not disembodied, decapitated) Ab/origin going to emerge in contemporary art?

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Jennifer Isaacs. “Introduction,” in Jennifer Isaacs (ed.,). Aboriginality: Contemporary Aboriginal Paintings and Prints. University of Queensland Press, 1996, p. 8.

.
Many thankx to the NGV for allowing me to publish some of the photographs in the posting. All the other images, as noted, are iPhone images of the exhibition by Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Destiny Deacon is one of Australia’s boldest and most acclaimed contemporary artists. In the largest retrospective of her work to date, DESTINY marks the artist’s first solo show in over 15 years. Featuring more than 100 multi-disciplinary works made over a 30-year period, the exhibition includes the premiere of newly-commissioned works. Numerous early video works created with the late Wiradjuri / Kamilaroi photographer Michael Riley and West Australian performance artist Erin Hefferon are also on display.

A descendant of the Kuku and Erub / Mer people from Far North Queensland and Torres Strait, Deacon is internationally known for a body of work depicting her darkly comic, idiosyncratic worldview. Offering a nuanced, thoughtful and, at times, intensely funny snapshot of contemporary Australian life, Deacon reminds us that ‘serious’ art can also have a sense of humour.

Melbourne-based, Deacon works across photography, video, sculpture and installation to explore dichotomies such as childhood and adulthood, comedy and tragedy, and theft and reclamation. Her chaotic worlds, where disgraced dolls play out sinister scenes for audience amusement, subvert cultural phenomena to reflect and parody the environments around us.

 

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's 'Abi see da classroom' 2006

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser’s Abi see da classroom 2006 on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Virginia Fraser (Australian) 'Abi see da classroom' 2006 (still)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Virginia Fraser (Australian) 'Abi see da classroom' 2006 (still)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Virginia Fraser (Australian) 'Abi see da classroom' 2006 (still)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Virginia Fraser (Australian, d. 2021)
Abi see da classroom (stills)
2006
10 min. sound
National Gallery of Victoria
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Abi see da classroom

For the fiftieth anniversary of the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), Destiny Deacon and her long-time collaborator Virginia Fraser were given unrestricted access to the ABC’s archive, possibly the most significant collection of film and television held in Australia. By searching for any keywords that started with ‘Aborigin’ they were able to uncover a large assortment of videos.

In this installation, two CRT television screens play alongside each other, creating a mashup of noise and black-and-white moving images. The television on the right shows archival footage of Aboriginal children attending school, reading and playing musical instruments, while the television on the left presents a series of short clips of people in varying degrees of blackface. Switching from uncomfortable to distasteful, to overtly racist, the two channels juxtapose extreme versions of how Aboriginal people have historically been depicted on television. The footage is problematic and offensive; though, some might say ‘it was a different time’. The flashback to the 1950s prompts audiences to consider Australia’s legacy of televised racism and poses the question: how far have we actually come?

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon's 'Blak lik mi' 1991

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon’s Blak lik mi 1991 on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Blak lik mi' 1991

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Blak lik mi
1991, printed 1995
Exhibition version printed 202
Colour laser print from Polaroid original
80.0 x 100.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

Blak lik mi

Historically photography has been used as a tool to categorise and document Aboriginal people and their lives. In this work Destiny Deacon reclaims three images taken from a 1960s reproduction of a 1957 Axel Poignant photograph, from his photo essay, originally titled Picaninny Walkabout, later renamed Bush Walkabout. Deacon turns the colonial gaze back on the coloniser, photographing the photograph, and subverting her position as both subject and photographer.

The title Blak lik mi is a reference to John Howard Griffin’s autobiographical novel, Black Like Me, in which Griffin took large doses of an anti-vitiligo drug and spent hour daily under an ultraviolet lamp in order to change the appearance of his skin so that he ‘passed’ as Black. Deacon’s work offers a window into her own interrogation about what constitutes her Aboriginal identity. On this, Deacon often jokes that she ‘took the c, out of black little c**t’. Rude words beginning with ‘c’, of which there are many, are often used as offensive slights, and Deacon recalls being taunted with these words as a child.

‘Blak’, unlike ‘Black’, was Deacon’s way of self-determining her identity, and originating a version of the self that comes entirely from within. The legacy of this work has been massive. Countless Aboriginal people now self-determine their identity as Blak, so much so that a Google search of ‘Blak’ returns a nearly all Australian Indigenous search result.

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Installation view of 'DESTINY' at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon’s Me and Virginia’s doll (Me and Carol) 1997 at left, Last laughs 1995 at centre, and Where’s Mickey 2002 at right, on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Me and Virginia's doll (Me and Carol)' 1997

 

Destiny Deacon (Australian, Kuku/Erub/Mer b. 1957)
Me and Virginia’s doll (Me and Carol)
1997, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original

 

 

Destiny Deacon began her professional career in photography in her late thirties as a way to express herself and her political beliefs. A self-taught artist, Deacon is primarily known for her photographs and videos where she subverts familiar icons with humour and wit. Often when Deacon photographs people she poses them like paintings. In this image, Deacon presents herself as Frida, staging the image as an homage to Kahlo’s 1937 painting Me and my doll.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Last laughs' 1995

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Last laughs
1995
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

In this image Deacon both reclaims and ridicules a genre of colonial photography, which historically depicted Aboriginal women as a highly sexualised or exotic ‘other’. In the nineteenth century it was commonplace for Aboriginal women to appear naked in ethnographic photographs that were mass reproduced and distributed as souvenirs around the world. In Last laughs three Blak women pose for the camera, limbs intertwined, performing their sexuality. Unlike in the colonial photography it references, the subjects in this work are the ones in control.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Where's Mickey?' 2002

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Where’s Mickey?
2002, printed 2016
Exhibition version printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

 

Where’s Mickey? plays on the Australian slang phrase ‘Mickey Mouse’, used to refer to something that is substandard, poorly executed or amateurish. Mickey Mouse is also the archetypal figure of an (often white) American consumerist culture. In this portrait of Luke Captain, Deacon pokes fun at the cartoon icon, suggesting his animated spirit has possessed the body of an Aboriginal Australian man, who is dressed as a woman.

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at left, Where’s Mickey? 2002, and at right Meloncholy 2000
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Meloncholy' 2000

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Meloncholy
2000
From the Sad & Bad series
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

In 1970 African-American film director, Melvin Van Peebles released Watermelon Man, a movie in which a fictional, white insurance salesman wakes up one morning only  to discover he has turned Black overnight. The film is inspired by John Howard Griffin’s autobiographical novel, Black Like Me. In this image Deacon gives the watermelon a double meaning. The emptied peel of the melon cradles the doll’s body, kind of like the coolamon [Coolamon is an anglicised NSW Aboriginal word used to describe an Australian Aboriginal carrying vessel], but it is also a fruit that has been severed from its skin. She challenges the relationship between identity, skin colour, and how the world perceives and responds to both Blackness and Blakness.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Adoption' 2000 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Adoption (installation view)
2000; printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2016; copy printed 2020
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In this image Destiny Deacon has placed a collection of plastic, black toy babies into paper cupcake shells. Titled Adoption, this work directly references Australia’s shameful history of government-sanctioned Aboriginal child removal. In addition, Adoption also pokes fun at the deeply offensive misnomer of the nineteenth century that Aboriginal mothers were both infanticidal, as well as cannibals of their newborns. Deacon describes how she came to collect dolls, saying ‘in the beginning I wanted to rescue them, because otherwise they’d end up in a white home or something, somewhere no one would appreciate them’.

 

 

Destiny Deacon, one of Australia’s boldest and most acclaimed contemporary artists, will be celebrated in her largest retrospective to date opening at the National Gallery of Victoria on 23 November 2020.

DESTINY will mark Deacon’s first solo show in over 15 years, featuring more than 100 multi-disciplinary works made over a 30-year period, and including the premiere of newly-commissioned works created with the artist and her long-term collaborator Virginia Fraser. The exhibition will also feature a number of early video works created with the late Wiradjuri / Kamilaroi photographer Michael Riley and West Australian performance artist Erin Hefferon.

A descendant of the Kuku and Erub / Mer people from Far North Queensland and Torres Strait, Deacon is internationally known for a body of work depicting her darkly comic, idiosyncratic world view. Offering a nuanced, thoughtful and, at times, intensely funny snapshot of contemporary Australian life, Deacon reminds us that art can have both pathos and humour.

Melbourne-based, Deacon works across photography, video, sculpture, and installation to explore dichotomies such as childhood and adulthood, comedy and tragedy, and theft and reclamation. Her chaotic worlds, where disgraced dolls play out sinister scenes for audience amusement, subvert cultural phenomena to reflect and parody the environments around us.

Featuring early videos which mock negative stereotypes of Aboriginal Australians – Home video 1987, Welcome to my Koori world 1992, I don’t wanna be a bludger 1999 – the exhibition will also feature an installation of a lounge room housing Deacon’s own collection of ‘Koori kitsch’. Deacon and Fraser’s highly acclaimed installation Colourblinded 2005 will also be on display. A powerful combination of photographs, sculptures, and video projections, this interactive work leaves the viewer both literally and metaphorically ‘colourblinded’.

“Featuring new NGV commissions and some of the highlights of Deacon’s 30-year career, the retrospective DESTINY pays tribute to an artist who has been challenging audiences for more than 30 years,” said Tony Ellwood AM, Director, National Gallery of Victoria. “Destiny Deacon has never shied away from confronting our country’s difficult history and her work continues to make a vital contribution to Australian cultural discourse,” said Ellwood.

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at second right, Meloncholy 2000 and at right, Over the fence 2000
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Over the fence' 2000 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Over the fence (installation view)
2000, printed 2000
Exhibition version printed 2020
From the Sad & Bad series
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2016
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The nostalgic qualities in Deacon’s poignant photograph Over the fence reinforce a narrative familiar to many Aboriginal people. Two segregated dollies peer at each other across a suburban, wooden fence, leaving the audience wondering who is fenced in, and who is fenced out? The image illustrates an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality towards race, which many Aboriginal people would recognise beneath this seemingly ‘friendly’ neighbourhood encounter.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Portrait of Peter Blazey, writer' 2004 (installation view)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Portrait of Peter Blazey, writer (installation view)
2004, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Peter Blazey, journalist, author and gay activist.

Blazey was born in Melbourne in 1939 and worked for The Australian, the National Times and as a regular columnist for OutRage, a gay magazine. He published a number of books, including a political biography of Henry Bolte, and was co-editor of the short fiction anthology, Love Cries. His personal memoir, Screw Loose, appeared after his death from AIDS in 1997.

“Peter was someone with a lion’s head of loose ends that could never fit into some ideologically sound and tidy space. Storyteller, mythomane, and one of the last great conversationalists in a country wary of the free flow of uncensored language, he was a comet who flashed his tail at everyone.” – Tim Herbert, OutRage, 1997.

Text from the University of Melbourne Scholarship website [Online] Cited 29/01/2021

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Portrait of Gary Foley, activist' 1995 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Portrait of Gary Foley, activist (installation view)
1995, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Often in Deacon’s portrait photography, sitters are posed like those in paintings. In these three images, Deacon presents Gary Foley, an Aboriginal Gumbainggir activist, academic, writer and actor; Peter Blazey, the late journalist, author and gay activist; and Richard Bell, and activist and artist of the Kamilaroi, Kooma, Jiman and Gurang Gurang communities. All three men are posed in a near identical way to the 1932 painting The boy at the basin by Australian landscape and portrait artist William Dobell.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'My boomerang did come back' 2003 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
My boomerang did come back (installation view)
2003, printed 2020
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'My boomerang did come back' 2003

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
My boomerang did come back
2003, printed 2020
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

This image is a reference to Charlie Drake’s 1961 song ‘My Boomerang Won’t Come Back’. Drake sings in a halting and staccato manner, wildly grunting ‘ho’ and ‘ugh’ as he narrates the story of an effeminate young Aboriginal boy named Mac, who has been banished from his tribe because he is ‘a big disgrace to the Aborigine [sic] race’ because his ‘boomerang won’t come back’. A single hand (Lisa Bellear’s) reachers upward, grasping a bloody boomerang in front of a black background. Deacon suggests that Drake, whose song is at best a kind of vaudevillian blackface, has assassinated himself.

 

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Hear come the judge (installation view)
2006
Exhibition version printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Deacon references the 1968 comedic funk song ‘Here Comes the Judge’ by American entertained Dewey ‘Pigmeat’ Markham, which is regarded by many to be the first recorded hip-hop song. Markham’s lyrics ridicule the formalities of courtroom etiquette by painting a picture of a make-believe world where justice is in the hands of Black people. Deacon’s photograph uses humour to disarm and interrogate something that is inherently unfunny. The Blak / Black judge is only comical because it is supposedly unbelievable, a notion Deacon challenges audiences to reconsider.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Border patrol' 2006 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Border patrol (installation view)
2006, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

“And they figured a dispossessed people as racial types, suggesting that authentic Aboriginal identity was purely tribal and something to be trivialised as curios and knick-knacks…

But the figurines of a racialised people, of warriors, beautiful girls and adorable children, took this interest into a different realm of curiosity, namely objectification.

Elder women, who were often savagely vilified in popular newspapers as “unsightly frights”, never appear among these figurines. Lithe young women, deep-chested warrior tribesmen, dignified elder “noble savages” and sweetly smiling “piccaninnies” were particularly prized. In the early prints of artists Peg Maltby and Brownie Downing, endearing Aboriginal children are orphaned by the bush rather than being at home in the country of their birthright. They find playmates with baby native animals but are divested of family and community. They seem to be crying out for the care that only the state, it was thought, could properly provide. …

The figures found in Aboriginalia evoke a troubling presence, in which visual appeal, sometimes libidinal, stands in for the profound ambivalence at the heart of settler-colonialism, which has benefited from the violent dispossession of a people.

While townships were campaigning to exclude Aboriginal kids from schools, families from housing and adults from pubs, these nostalgic, perplexing images were being taken into white homes in the form of bric-a-brac.

Sociologist Adrian Franklin has described the “semiotic drenching” of souvenirs with Aboriginal motifs and argues “these objects became ‘repositories of recognition’ of what was often entirely absent, denied or undermined in the everyday political and policy spheres”.

These objects, he suggests, gave some expression to the sadness surrounding dispossession and removal. In more recent years, Indigenous artists such as Destiny Deacon and Tony Albert have repurposed Aboriginalia.

Thus it is finally being historicised, interpreted and recast through Aboriginal eyes.

Deacon uses dolls and kitsch ephemera from her own extensive collection to turn the tables on the uncritical consumption of racist imagery. In one of her best backhanders, she puts plastic, black babies in cupcake shells and titles the photograph Adoption.”

Extract from Dr Liz Conor. “Friday essay: the politics of Aboriginal kitsch,” on The Conversation website March 3, 2017 [Online] Cited 29/01/2021 CC

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at right Border patrol 2006
Photos: Tom Ross

 

Installation view of 'DESTINY' at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at second left, Heart broken 2006, and at fourth from left,
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Heart broken' 2006

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Heart broken
2006
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Ask your mother for sixpence' 1995

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Ask your mother for sixpence
1995
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0cm
Courtesy of the artist © Destiny Deacon

 

 

This image takes its name from a cheeky nursery rhyme Deacon recalls learning when living in Port Melbourne as a child. The playful limerick teases audiences with the threat of a rude word: ‘Ask your mum for sixpence, to see the big giraffe, pimples on his whiskers, and pimples on his – ask your mum for sixpence’. The work was originally displayed in juxtaposition with a photograph of a half-built Crown Casino in Melbourne, challenging audiences to consider the dynamic between the main character, a Blak woman working in service sweeping up coins, and the multinational gambling corporation.

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon and Michael Riley's 'I don't wanna be a bludger' 1999

Installation view of Destiny Deacon and Michael Riley's 'I don't wanna be a bludger' 1999

 

Installation views of Destiny Deacon and Michael Riley’s I don’t wanna be a bludger 1999 on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020. Photos: Tom Ross

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon and Michael Riley's 'I don't wanna be a bludger' 1999

 

Wall text

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 with at left, Whitey’s watching 1994; and at right, Moomba princess and Moomba princeling (both 2004)
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Installation view of 'DESTINY' at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at centre, Moomba princess and Moomba princeling (both 2004), and at right Thought cone (A-F) 1997
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Moomba princess' 2004 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Moomba princess (installation view)
2004, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Moomba princess and Moomba princeling show Deacon’s young niece and nephew dressed in the robes and regalia of Moomba sovereigns. Moomba is an annual parade and community festival held in Melbourne, which each year crowns a ‘Moomba monarch’. The portraits reference Elizabethan Armada portraiture, a style of painting which first depicted the Tudor queen seated in royal garb and surrounded by symbols against a backdrop depicting the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. At first glance, the Moomba portraits can be read as innocent children playing dress ups, but by presenting two Aboriginal models in this type of colonial ceremonial dress, Deacon challenges audiences to consider the legacy and impact of British invasion.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Moomba princeling' 2004 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Moomba princeling (installation view)
2004, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Thought cone (A-F) 1997 (installation view detail)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Thought cone (A-F) 1997 (installation view detail)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Thought cone (A-F) (installation view details)
1997, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon's 'Whitey's watching' 1994

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon’s Whitey’s watching 1994 on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon’s Whitey’s watching 1994 on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

For more than thirty years Destiny Deacon has forged a path as an international artist with a distinct brand of artistic humour unlike any other. Descended from the Kuku and Erub / Mer peoples of Far North Queensland and the Torres Strait, Deacon has been living and working in Melbourne since she arrived here as a small child.

Deacon’s work sits in the uncomfortable but compelling space between comedy and tragedy, and contrasts seemingly innocuous childhood imagery with scenes from the dark side of adulthood. She actively resists interpretation and so called ‘art speak’, instead choosing to let her work speak for itself. The more we look, the greater we understand that the world Deacon conjures is a complex one. Drawing from her vast collection of Aboriginalia, Deacon interrogates the way in which Aboriginal people have been, and continue to be, misrepresented within popular culture. Decapitated, amputated, pants down, tied up, trapped in a blizzard or flying through the air, the characters in Deacon’s world both reflect and parody the one in which we live.

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at right, Regal eagles (A-B) 1994
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Regal eagles (A-B)' 1994 (installation view)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Regal eagles (A-B)' 1994 (installation view)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Regal eagles (A-B)' 1994 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Regal eagles (A-B) (installation views)
1994, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Academic, historian and Indigenous rights activist Marcia Langton once described Destiny Deacon’s work as a ‘barometer of postcolonial anxiety’. This diptych combines two congruent images: the photo on the left shows a pair of young, white boys holding plastic Union Jacks and eating in front of a disregarded, spread-eagled Black doll. The image on the right shows another Black dolly in a Koori flag T-shirt pinned onto a board surrounded by appropriated Aboriginalia. As always in Deacon’s work, the dolls possess a liveliness and personality, making the violence enacted on to them all the more confronting.

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photos: Tom Ross

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser’s Melbourne Noir 2013
Photos: Tom Ross

 

 

Adapting the quotidian formats of snapshot photography, home videos, community TV and performance modes drawn from vaudeville and minstrel shows, Deacon’s artistic practice is marked by a wicked yet melancholy comedic and satirical disposition. In decidedly lo-fi vignettes, friends, family and members of Melbourne’s Indigenous community appear in mischievous narratives that amplify and deconstruct stereotypes of Indigenous identity and national history. For Melbourne Now, Deacon and Fraser present a trailer for a film noir that does not exist, a suite of photographs and a carnivalesque diorama. The pair’s playful political critiques underscore a prevailing sense of postcolonial unease, while connecting their work to wider global discourses concerned with racial struggle and cultural identity.

Text from Exhibition: ‘Melbourne Now’ at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Part 1

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of 'DESTINY' at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's 'Melbourne Noir' 2013

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser’s Melbourne Noir 2013
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

Digital prints, Digital prints on plywood, wood, gelatin silver photographs, high-definition video, sound
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Wall text

 

Wall text

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing in the foreground Snow storm 2005
Photos: Tom Ross

Colour Blinded

Man & doll (a)
Man & doll (b)
Man & doll (c)
Baby boomer
Back up
Pacified
2005, printed 2020
Lightfoot print from orthochromatic film negative

 

Wall text

 

Wall text

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Virginia Fraser (Australian) 'Snow storm' 2005 (installation vie

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Virginia Fraser (Australian) 'Snow storm' 2005 (installation vie

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Virginia Fraser (Australian) 'Snow storm' 2005 (installation vie

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Virginia Fraser (Australian)
Snow storm (installation views)
2005
Golliwogs, polystyrene and perspex cube
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Man & doll' 2005 (installation view detail)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Man & doll' 2005 (installation view detail)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Man & doll (installation view details)
2005, printed 2020
Lightfoot print from orthochromatic film negative
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser’s Koori lounge room 2021
Photos: Tom Ross

 

Wall text

 

Wall text

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser’s Koori lounge room 2021
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Ebony and Ivy face race' 2016 (installation view)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Ebony and Ivy face race (installation view)
2016, printed 2020
Lightjet print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Sand minding / Sand grabs 2017 (installation view)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Sand minding / Sand grabs 2017 (installation view detail)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Sand minding / Sand grabs (installation views)
2017, printed 2020
Inkjet print from digital image on archival paper
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

More than half of all mining projects in Australia are in close proximity to Indigenous communities. This relationship has long been, and continues to be, the source of much debate. In this work Deacon condemns the violence committed by the sand mining industry on the ecosystem, the land and its people. A latex-gloved hand makes an incision in a bag of soil, destructively releasing the sand inside. The white hand grasps the contents and takes a handful. Two disturbing characters look on with a seemingly perplexed expression, perhaps inviting us to consider the consequences of mining.

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at left, Arrears windows 2009; at centre, Sand minding / Sand grabs 2017; and in the background Koori lounge room 2021

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Arrears windows' 2009

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Arrears windows
2009
From the series Gazette
Inkjet print from digital image on archival paper
60.0 x 80.0cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

Gazette

Gossip walks
Look out!
Action men
Arrears windows
Come on in my kitchen

In 2009 Deacon produced the series Gazette. These now eerily familiar scenes appear like vignettes, offering windows into the lives of those living inside Melbourne’s public housing towers. Recent scenes from the news are echoed in Arrears windows, which shows Deacon’s collection of black and brown dolls crammed into yellow plastic tubs. The series draws attention to the individual lives and struggles of residents within these buildings, while also reminding viewers of the often-overcrowded conditions these residents live in. Each image brings to light Deacon’s idiosyncratic take on current global and national events with her semi-autobiographical edge.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Action men' 2009

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Action men
2009
From the series Gazette
Inkjet print from digital image on archival paper
80.0 x 60cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Dolly eyes' (A-H) 2020 (installation view)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Dolly eyes' (A-H) 2020 (installation view detail)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Dolly eyes' (A-H) 2020 (installation view detail)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Dolly eyes (A-H)
2020
Lightjet print
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

A doll with piercing blue eyes and dark brown skin is among the unblinking, manic faces that make up Destiny Deacon’s most recent series, Dolly Eyes, 2020. While people of colour can and do have an array of different-coloured eyes, blue eyes are often seen as a signifier of whiteness. Deacon’s tightly cropped images reduce these dollies to just eyes and skin tone, highlighting the problematic nature of using physical features to signify of racial identity.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Dolly lips (A-E)' 2017

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Dolly lips (A-E)
2017, printed 2020
Lightjet print
Photo: Tom Ross

 

 

Dolly lips extracts surprising expressions from some of Deacon’s regular models. Some of these dolls have been posing for Deacon for decades, but these sensitive and suggestive images show them in a new light.

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon's 'Smile' 2017

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon’s Smile 2017 on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Smile' 2017

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Smile
2017
Exhibition version printed 2020
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2016
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

Deacon undercuts our trust in the innocuous smiley face emoji and prompts the viewer to look more closely at the everyday symbols that proliferate in our lives. The dolls appear decapitated, but perhaps even more ominously the disembodied heads are actually poking through a yellow sheet. Deacon uses an op-shop boomerang to complete the smile. When broken down, the individual features that make up the happy face are all racially charged. However, when viewed at a glance, all people see is the familiar smiley face emoji.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Oz Games – Under the spell of the tall poppies' 1998

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Oz Games – Under the spell of the tall poppies
1998
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

In the lead-up to the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Deacon produced Oz, a series of works parodying the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. In the original film, Dorothy Gale is swept away from a farmhouse in Kansas to the magical land of Oz. In this series, Deacon transforms the journey undertaken by the original characters into a contemporary recognition of Aboriginality. Dorothy, now known as the ‘traveller’, appears alongside a ‘sad’ tin man, a ‘slow’ scarecrow in blackface and a ‘scared’ cowardly lion. The character’s quest for self-realisation resembles the personal journeys many Aboriginal people go through every day.

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at right, On reflection 2019

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'On reflection' 2019

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
On reflection
2019
Lightjet print
100.0 x 80.0cm
Collection of the artist
© Destiny Deacon, courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Escape – From the whacking spoon' 2007

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Escape – From the whacking spoon
2007
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

Whacked

Escape – from the whacking spoon
Whacked to sleep (B)
Fence sitters (A)
The goodie hoodie family
Waiting for the bust
Whacked & coming home

2007, printed 2020
Lightjet print

This series of photographs references familiar imagery from news media and contemporary culture, making a link between themes of terrorism, surveillance, suppression and Australian nationalism. Playing with stereotypes, Deacon and her friends have masked themselves in long johns with disturbing painted faces. The images use sinister humour to highlight shared similarities between fanatics around the world.

 

Installation view of 'Postcards from Mummy' 1998

Installation view of 'Postcards from Mummy' 1998

 

Installation view of Postcards from Mummy 1998 on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at left Dolly eyes (A-H) 2020; and at right, Blak 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

 

Throughout her career, this cast of characters has become central to Deacon’s practice, as has her subversive use of language. For Deacon, language, and in particular spelling, has provided an opportunity to reframe and assert her identity on her own terms. In its deceptive simplicity the recasting of ‘Black’ to ‘Blak’ resonated with Aboriginal communities everywhere. What started as Deacon asserting her personal identity as a Kuku / Erub / Mer woman, has since morphed into a Community-owned declaration of Aboriginal pride. It is fitting to conclude this exhibition with a singular photographic work: the letters b-l-a-k emblazoned across the surface with seventeen of Deacon’s regular dolly models.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Blak' 2020 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Blak (installation view)
2020
Light jet print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 5pm

National Gallery of Victoria website

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17
Jan
21

Exhibition: ‘The Experimental Self: Edvard Munch’s Photography’ at the National Nordic Museum, Seattle

Exhibition dates: 29th October 2020 – 31st January 2021

Curator: Dr Patricia Berman

 

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait in Åsgårdstrand' 1904

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait in Åsgårdstrand
1904
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

The camera is located so close to Munch that his looming head is out of focus. Reversing photographic norms, the background is in sharp focus, revealing a chest that had been given to the artist by his on-and-off-girlfriend Tulla Larsen, and a lithograph tacked to the wallpaper above it – a bitterly satirical commentary on their relationship.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Caricature: The Assault' 1903

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Caricature: The Assault
1903
Lithograph printed in black on medium heavy cream paper
Sheet: 237 x 487mm
Image: 180 x 415mm

 

 

Munch says to a woman friend – “What do you think of me?”
She says, “I think you are the Christ”

.
Peter Watkins (director) Edvard Munch (film) 1974

 

 

The semi-transparent self

What a fascinating study of an artist in motion – physically and spiritually.

Through his informal, experimental photographs, Munch explores issues of identity and self-representation, friendship, work and location. In his photographs, he “assumes a range of personalities, from the vulnerable patient at the clinic to the vital, naked artist on the beach”, many of which undermine “the function of a camera as a straight-forward documentary tool.”

“Faulty” focus, distorted perspectives and eccentric camera angles combined with low and selective depth of field allow Munch to create a body of self-images in which “the artist himself appears in some pictures as a shadow or a smear rather than a physical presence.” There is a subtle mystery to much of the artist’s photographic work, a sense of loneliness and isolation trading off visions of heroic creatures; mirror images questioning the stability of him/self playing off the vitalism of male body culture; and variations of melancholy opposing a better life which lay in nature and good health, stages in the theatre of life.

His ghost-like, semi-transparent self-image appears as if seen in a far off dream – flickering images in light – out of space and time / asynchronous with the effects of time and motion.

What strong, e-motionless photographs of self these are. Here is observation but not self pity. Here is Munch investigating, probing, the mirror stage of “the formation of the Ego via the process of identification, the Ego being the result of identifying with one’s own specular image.”1 (Lacan). Munch explores the tension between the subject and the image, between the whole and fragmented body as revealed in psychoanalytic experience, seeking access to representations of the unified self, in order to understand the human condition, of becoming. Who am I? How am I represented to myself, and to others?

The attempt to locate a fixed subject proves ever elusive. “The mirror stage is a drama… which manufactures for the subject, caught up in the lure of spatial identification, the succession of phantasies that extends from a fragmented body-image to a form of its totality.” (Écrits 4). With its link to a belief in spiritualism (popular in his day), Munch speculates that if we had different eyes we would be able to see our external astral casing, our different shapes. The exhibition text notes, “It is easy to read his layered, flickering images in light of such speculation.” Indeed it is. But the spectres that haunt Munch’s photographs are as much grounded in the reality of the everyday struggle to live a life on earth as they are in the spirit world. They are of the order of something, something that haunts and perturbs the mind, a questioning as to the nature of the self: am I a good person, am I worthy of a good life, where does the path lead me. I have been there, I am still there, I know his joy and pain.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. The specular image refers to the reflection of one’s own body in the mirror, the image of oneself which is simultaneously oneself and other – the “little other”.

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

 

Internationally celebrated for his paintings, prints, and watercolours, Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944) also took photographs. This exhibition of his photographs, prints, and films emphasises the artist’s experimentalism, examining his exploration of the camera as an expressive medium. By probing and exploiting the dynamics of “faulty” practice, such as distortion, blurred motion, eccentric camera angles, and other photographic “mistakes,” Munch photographed himself and his immediate environment in ways that rendered them poetic. In both still images and in his few forays with a hand-held moving-picture camera, Munch not only archived images, but invented them.

On loan from the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway, the 46 copy prints in the exhibition and the continuous screening of the DVD containing Munch’s films are accompanied by a small selection of prints from private collections, as well as contextualising panels and others that examine Munch’s photographic exploration. Similar to the ways in which the artist invented techniques and approaches to painting and graphic art, Munch’s informal photography both honoured the material before his lens and transmuted it into uncommon motifs.

 

” …these photographic images of the artist rise to the level of what Munch called “selfscrutinies”: emotional but hard-edged, and pierced with a dread of modern life that has outlived the Modernist era.” ~ New York Times

” …an unfinished playfulness with technical manipulation and subject matter that is not as readily seen in Munch’s more well-known work” ~ Hyperallergic

 

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Nurse at the Clinic, Copenhagen' 1908-09

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Nurse at the Clinic, Copenhagen
1908-09
Scan from negative

 

 

One of the nurses at Daniel Jacobson’s clinic in Copenhagen posed in a fontal manner that mirrors representations of women throughout Munch’s work. The slight movement of the camera blurs the figure and her surroundings, undermining the function of a camera as a straight-forward documentary tool.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Nurse at the Clinic, Copenhagen' 1908-09

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Nurse at the Clinic, Copenhagen
1908-09
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

After a successful run at New York’s Scandinavia House that received great reviews from New York Times and others, the photography of Edvard Munch is currently on display at the National Nordic Museum in Seattle now through January 31, 2021. Curated by distinguished Munch scholar, Dr. Patricia Berman of Wellesley College, The Experimental Self: Edvard Munch’s Photography presents works from the rich collection of Oslo’s Munch Museum and shares new research on one of the most significant artists of his day.

“After displaying the journalistic photography of Jacob Riis this spring and discussing a picture’s power to change lives, it is wonderful to host another celebrated Nordic artist whose photography reflects the artistic potential found in the camera of the late 19th and early 20th century,” said Executive Director / CEO Eric Nelson.

Internationally celebrated for his paintings, prints, and watercolours, Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944) experimented with both still photography and early motion picture cameras. The Experimental Self: Edvard Munch’s Photography displays his photographs and films in a way that emphasises the artist’s exploration of the camera as an expressive medium. By probing and exploiting the dynamics of “faulty” practice, such as distortion, blurred motion, eccentric camera angles, and other photographic “mistakes,” Munch photographed himself and his immediate environment in ways that rendered them poetic.

“In many ways, these works reveal an unknown Munch,” said Leslie Anne Anderson, Director of Collections, Exhibitions, and Programs at the National Nordic Museum. “The photographs were never displayed during the artist’s lifetime, and this exhibition invites visitors to peer into the keyhole of Munch’s private life.”

Press release from the National Nordic Museum

 

Ragnvald Vaering. 'Munch in his Winter Studio in Ekely on his seventy fifth birthday' 1938

 

Ragnvald Vaering
Munch in his Winter Studio in Ekely on his seventy fifth birthday
1938
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

Introduction: The Experimental Self

Edvard Munch was among the first artists in history to take “selfies.” Like his paintings, prints and writings, his amateur photographs are often about self-representation. Munch assumes a range of personalities, from the vulnerable patient at the clinic to the vital, naked artist on the beach. Sometimes he staged himself and people around him almost theatrically. Munch pursued his informal photography as an experimental medium, just like his paintings and prints. The artist himself was more than often the experimental subject. This exhibition, containing around 60 photographs and movie fragments in dialogue with graphic works, highlights the connection between Munch’s amateur photography and his more recognised work as an artist.

Munch took up photography in 1902, months before he and his lover Tulla Larsen ended a multi-year relationship with a pistol shot that mutilated one of his fingers. This event, and an accelerating career, triggered a period of increasing emotional turmoil that culminated in a rest cure in the private Copenhagen clinic of Dr. Daniel Jacobson in 1908-09. After a pause of almost two decades, Munch picked up the camera again in 1927. This second period of activity lasted into the mid-1930s and was bracketed by triumphant retrospective exhibitions in Berlin and Oslo but also by a haemorrhage in his right eye, temporarily impairing his vision. This was also the time that Munch tried his hand at home movies.

Unlike his prints and paintings, however, Munch did not exhibit his tiny, copy-printed photographs. Yet he wrote in 1930, “I have an old camera with which I have taken countless pictures of myself, often with amazing results … Some day when I am old, and I have nothing better to do than write my autobiography, all my self-portraits will see the light of day again.”

 

The Amateur Photographer

Munch’s photographs are often out of focus, and the artist himself appears in some pictures as a shadow or a smear rather than a physical presence. As an amateur photographer, he seems to have exploited the expressive potential in photographic “mistakes” such as “faulty” focus, distorted perspectives and eccentric camera angles. By including the platforms on which he stabilised his small, hand-held camera, he created out-of-focus, undefined areas cutting across the foreground. What may have begun as accidents, eventually became a habitual element in his work.

In many of his self-portrait photographs, Munch moved during the camera’s exposure time, transforming his own body into a ghost-like figure. In the photographs from his studio, Munch and his work seem to exist out of space and time with one another. He often experimented with such effects: “Had we different, stronger eyes,” wrote Munch, “we would be able, like X-rays … to see our external astral casing – and we would have different shapes.” It is easy to read his layered, flickering images in light of such speculation. On the other hand, Munch also regarded his self-images with humour. Writing to his relative Ludvig Ravensberg in June 1904, he confessed: “When I saw my body photographed in profile, I decided, after consulting with my vanity, to dedicate more time to throwing stones, throwing the javelin, and swimming.”

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait on a Valise in the Studio, Berlin' 1902

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait on a Valise in the Studio, Berlin
1902
Collodion contact print

 

 

Munch took up photography in 1902, the same year that this picture was taken. There are three preserved versions of the motif, with subtle variations. Munch sent two of the images to his aunt Karen in Norway with the description: “Here are two photographs taken with a little camera I procured. You can see that I have just shaved off my moustache.”

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait on a Valise in the Studio, Berlin' 1902

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait on a Valise in the Studio, Berlin
1902
Collodion contact print

 

 

The artist stages himself amidst his paintings (see below) in the studio he rented in Berlin at the time. The valise doubles as furniture and a symbol of Munch’s restless nature – he was often on the move.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Evening on Karl Johan' 1892

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Evening on Karl Johan
1892
Oil on canvas
84.5cm (33.2 in) x 121cm (47.6 in)
KODE, Rasmus Beyers samlinger
Public domain

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'The Back Yard at 30B Pilestredet, Kristiania' 1902(?)

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
The Back Yard at 30B Pilestredet, Kristiania
1902(?)
Silver gelatin contact print

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Nude Self-Portrait, Åsgårdstrand' 1903

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Nude Self-Portrait, Åsgårdstrand
1903
Collodion contact print

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'The Courtyard at 30B Pilestredet, Kristiania' 1902(?)

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
The Courtyard at 30B Pilestredet, Kristiania
1902(?)
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

This is assumed to be one of Munch’s earliest photographs, taken in one of his childhood homes. An inscription on the back reads “Outhouse window. 30-40 years old. Photograph of Pilestredet 30. A swan on the wall.” The swan that Munch refers to is actually a stain on the wall by the door. Can you see it? In moving the camera during the exposure, Munch erased the communal outhouse of his childhood and transformed it into a kind of dream image. This effect was later explored in avant-garde photography.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Karen Bjølstad and Inger Munch on the steps of 2 & 4 Olaf Ryes Plass, Kristiania' 1902(?)

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Karen Bjølstad and Inger Munch on the steps of 2 & 4 Olaf Ryes Plass, Kristiania
1902(?)
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

Munch has photographed his aunt Karen and his sister Inger on the steps of one of his childhood homes in Oslo. The camera is stabilised on a flat surface that dominates the foreground of the image. This is the case in several of Munch’s photographs, perhaps to mark the camera’s position, create a sense of distance and frame the subjects. What likely began as the accident of an amateur eventually became an aesthetic choice.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Nude Self-Portrait, Åsgårdstrand' 1904(?)

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Nude Self-Portrait, Åsgårdstrand
1904(?)
Collodion contact print

 

 

In the summer of 1904, Munch organised an informal “health vacation” for several of his friends in Åsgårdstrand by the Oslo fjord. Munch had owned a small fisherman’s cabin there since 1898. In that period, he worked on the painting Bathing Young Men. Munch described to his relative and close associate Ludvig Ravensberg “a huge canvas … ready to be populated by the strong men wandering among the waters. Here we train our muscles by swimming, boxing, and throwing rocks.”

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Ludvig Ravensberg in Åsgårdstrand' 1904

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Ludvig Ravensberg in Åsgårdstrand
1904
Collodion contact print

 

 

Ludvig Ravensberg was Munch’s close friend and relative who helped him organise exhibitions and get other practical work done. He also assisted Munch when the artist took some of his self-portraits in Åsgårdstrand. Here Ravensberg gets to pose in front of the camera himself.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait in the Garden, Åsgårdstrand' 1904

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait in the Garden, Åsgårdstrand
1904
Collodion contact print

 

 

Was this picture taken by Munch himself or another person? The filtered light, the human shadow projected onto Munch’s body and the dynamics of his pose help set the stage for the subtle mystery.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait in a Room on the Continent' 1906(?)

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait in a Room on the Continent
1906(?)
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

This photograph exists in two versions. One mirrors the other, probably a result of Munch flopping the negative as he developed the picture. The mirroring of motifs is something Munch often explored in his graphic work, such as the woodcuts Evening. Melancholy and Melancholy III – perhaps a dynamic he wanted to emulate in his photography. Chemical stains on the print testify to Munch’s hands-on approach to development and printing. In contrast to the products of a commercial printing house, he was not terribly concerned with a perfect print.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait in a Room on the Continent (mirrored)' 1906(?)

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait in a Room on the Continent (mirrored)
1906(?)
Silver gelatin contact print

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Evening. Melancholy I (Aften. Melankoli I)' 1896

 

Edvard Munch, Berlin (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
M.W. Lassally, Berlin (printer)
Evening. Melancholy I (Aften. Melankoli I)
1896
Woodcut
Composition: 16 1/4 x 18″ (41.2 x 45.7cm)
Sheet: 16 15/16 x 21″ (43 x 53.3cm)

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) Melancholy III (Melankoli III)' 1902

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Melancholy III (Melankoli III)
1902
Woodcut with gouache additions
Composition: 14 3/4 x 18 9/16″ (37.5 x 47.2cm)
Sheet: 20 1/2 x 25 7/8″ (52 x 65.8cm)

 

 

Variations of Melancholy

Edvard Munch made his first woodcuts and lithographs in 1896. He mastered an innovative technique in which he used the wood grain to emphasise his own lines. Using this technique, he created a number of related woodcuts on the theme of melancholy, including Evening. Melancholy I (1896), in which the brooding figure sits facing right, under an imposing crimson sky.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Edvard Munch and Ludvig Ravensberg, Åsgårdstrand' 1904

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Edvard Munch and Ludvig Ravensberg, Åsgårdstrand
1904
Collodion contact print

 

 

Munch used himself and his friends as models for his canvas Bathing Men. Here is a description by his friend Christian Gierløff: “The sun baked us all day and we let it do so. Munch worked a little on a painting of bathers, but for most of the day, we lay, overcome by the sun, in the sand by the water’s edge, between the large boulders, and we let our bodies drink in all of the sun they could. No one asked for a bathing suit.”

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'The Painting "Bathing Young Men" in the Garden, Åsgårdstrand' 1904

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
The Painting “Bathing Young Men” in the Garden, Åsgårdstrand
1904
Collodion contact print

 

 

Several photographs from the summer of 1904 picture Munch’s painting Bathing Young Men. Shadows cast by leaves at the upper left of the painting seem integral to canvas and have the effect of linking the painting to its natural surroundings. Ludvig Ravensberg stands on the extreme right, seemingly holding the painting. The out-of-focus foreground, the painted figures, and the living man holding the canvas aloft document not only the painting but, playfully, photographic representation itself.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Bathing Young Men' 1904

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Bathing Young Men
1904
Oil on canvas
Munch Museum
Public domain

 

 

Bathers were a popular subject around the turn of the last century. Sojourns at health spas were fashionable and people pursued sports, nudism and the healthful effects of the natural environment. It was seen as cleansing to bathe in the sea, while the sun constituted a rejuvenating force of life.

In this painting we see a virile, muscular, naked man emerging from the cool, turquoise sea after a swim. The picture can be read as a reflection of the period’s “vitalism” – a world view that assumed all living things to be suffused with a magical life force. This philosophy found its pictorial expression in particular in dynamic motifs of naked men and youths.

As a cultural phenomenon, vitalism was a reaction against the decadence of the period, and against industrialism, with the great cities and ways of life it brought with it. Instead of cool-headed rationalism and scientific technology, vitalism preferred to emphasise instinct and intuition – and believed the key to a better life lay in nature and good health.

Text from the National Museum website

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Exhibition at Blomqvist, Kristiania' 1902

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Exhibition at Blomqvist, Kristiania
1902
Collodion contact print

 

 

Munch took this image of his one-man exhibition at the influential art dealer Blomqvist in 1902. He also recorded himself, standing in the background, out of focus, hands in his pockets, facing directly into the camera.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Model in the Studio, Berlin' 1902

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Model in the Studio, Berlin
1902
Collodion contact print

 

 

This is among the few photographs that directly relate to Munch’s work in paint and graphic media. There are two versions of the motif, and subtle variations suggest that the photographer himself might have offered some instructions.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Nude with Long Red Hair' 1902

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Nude with Long Red Hair
1902
Oil on canvas

 

 

A Record of Healing

Munch often photographed in times and places where he struggled with his health and sought new energy. The pictures from the town of Warnemünde on Germany’s Baltic Coast show him as part of male body culture and include images of the artist naked and semi-naked on the beach. Munch also took tourist shots with his female models on the sand during the summers he spent there in 1907 and 1908.

In autumn 1908, Munch checked into a private clinic in Copenhagen managed by the physician Daniel Jacobson and his nurses. Munch was broken down by exhaustion, distress and alcoholism. The clinic became his home for over half a year. Within its walls, he painted, drew, created graphic motifs, organised exhibitions and took photographs in which he consistently appears semi-transparent. In the pictures of Munch’s room at the clinic we often get a glimpse of his paintings and prints. Sometimes he seems to have staged his body in postures that echo these paintings.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Rosa Meissner at Hotel Rohn, Warnemünde' 1907

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Rosa Meissner at Hotel Rohn, Warnemünde
1907
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

Most of Munch’s photographs cannot be firmly associated with specific artworks. This photograph is however closely related to the motif Weeping Woman, which Munch rendered in several oil versions, a lithograph and a sculpture. While the foreground figure has remained static, the figure in the background has moved. Blurred movement is specific to photography and film, a phenomenon that Munch exploited repeatedly in his photographs. The effect of motion reproduces the appearance of spirit photographs – the spectral bodies of the departed allegedly registered on photographic plates and film. Munch expressed interest in such photographs in the 1890s. Ghosts and spectres also began to appear in cinema in the medium’s infancy.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Edvard Munch and his Housekeeper, Warnemünde' 1907

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Edvard Munch and his Housekeeper, Warnemünde
1907
Collodion contact print

 

 

In this picture, Munch has exploited the effects of movement and time. His housekeeper in Warnemünde has moved during exposure and is out of focus. Munch himself is sharply rendered in the background, and at the same time barely present. He has perched on a dark sofa long enough to be registered in detail and then moved out of the camera’s range. He now appears almost as a ghost where both the couch and the back wall are visible through his body. This effect mirrors his experimentation with layered woodblock printing in his graphic work, in which figures appear embedded in wood graining.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Edvard Munch with Model on the Beach, Warnemünde' 1907

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Edvard Munch with Model on the Beach, Warnemünde
1907
Collodion contact print

 

 

This photograph stages the beach at Warnemünde as Munch’s outdoor studio. The painter is strategically covered beside his monumental canvas Bathing Men. The naked man is one of Munch’s models holding a pose depicted in the painting.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Bathing Men' 1907-08

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Bathing Men
1907-08
Oil on canvas
206 x 227cm

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Nude Self-Portrait, Warnemünde' 1907

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Nude Self-Portrait, Warnemünde
1907
Collodion contact print

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Canal in Warnemünde' 1907

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Canal in Warnemünde
1907
Collodion contact print

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait with a Valise' c. 1906

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait with a Valise
c. 1906
Collodion contact print

 

 

Back lit and smudged with chemicals, this photograph deviates from the instructions that accompanied the popular Kodak cameras intended for amateur use. Munch’s bodily envelopment by darkness and the light that dissolves the window in the background make this a staged image of isolation and longing. It echoes the mood and composition of the woodcut Evening. Melancholy I (above).

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Edvard Munch and Rosa Meissner on the Beach, Warnemünde' 1907

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Edvard Munch and Rosa Meissner on the Beach, Warnemünde
1907
Collodion contact print

 

 

Munch posed for this photograph with Rosa Meissner, a model with whom he had worked in Berlin and later in in Warnemünde. Rosa’s sister Olga Meissner, who appears in another photograph in the same location, may have taken the image. A similar picture exists with double exposure, perhaps as a result of instructions given by Munch himself.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Edvard Munch and Rosa Meissner, Warnemünde (mirrored)' 1907

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Edvard Munch and Rosa Meissner, Warnemünde (mirrored)
1907
Collodion contact print

 

 

By flopping the negative Munch demonstrated a curiosity with the dynamics of motif. This is something he explored over many years when he translated one of his painted motifs into a graphic image – the result was always mirrored. Sometimes Munch went even further and mirrored the motif itself on the printing stone or block – just as he did with this negative.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait at the Clinic, Copenhagen' 1908-09

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait at the Clinic, Copenhagen
1908-09
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

In the autumn of 1908 Munch suffered a psychological and physical collapse and sought treatment at the private Copenhagen clinic of Dr. Daniel Jacobson. He remained there for over half a year. Some years earlier, he had been wounded by a shot from his own pistol in a quarrel with his then lover Tulla Larsen. Munch’s voluminous writings attribute this event to the beginning of the decline for which he sought treatment. Here, the wounded hand is sharply focused in the foreground. Towards the end of his stay at the clinic, Munch painted a self-portrait which is related in posture and gesture, if not in mood, with this photograph.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait in the Clinic' 1909

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait in the Clinic
1909
Oil on canvas
KODE, Rasmus Meyers samlinger

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Edvard Munch à la Marat at the Clinic, Copenhagen' 1908-09

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Edvard Munch à la Marat at the Clinic, Copenhagen
1908-09
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

Munch has staged himself semi-naked next to a bathtub, suggesting a reference to Jacques-Louis David’s canonical painting of the murdered French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat. Munch made several paintings with the title The Death of Marat. The photograph can also be seen in relation to Munch’s painting On the operating table, which he made following the accident that wounded his hand. Unlike in his heroically staged nude self-portraits from Åsgårdstrand and Warnemünde, Munch appears softened and vulnerable. Whether this is a homage or satire, we can only imagine.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'The Death of Marat' 1907

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
The Death of Marat
1907
Oil on canvas

 

 

The starting point for The Death of Marat was the harrowing break-up with Tulla Larsen, who Munch was engaged to from 1898 to 1902. During a huge quarrel at his summer house at Aagaardsstrand in 1902, a revolver went off by accident, injuring Munch’s left hand. Munch laid the lame on Tulla Larsen and the engagement was broken off. The episode developed into a trauma which was to haunt Munch for many years, and which he worked on in several paintings, such as The Death of Marat I and The Death of Marat II, also called The Murderess.

The title Death of Marat refers to the murder of the French revolutionary Jean Paul Marat who, in 1793, was murdered by Charlotte Corday when he was lying in the bathtub. This was a motif many artists had treated up through the years. Marat was often presented as a hero, whilst Corday was regarded as a traitor.

Text from the Google Arts and Culture website

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-portrait on the Operating Table' 1902-03

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-portrait on the Operating Table
1902-03
Oil on canvas

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait with a Sculpture Draft, Kragerø' 1909-10

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait with a Sculpture Draft, Kragerø
1909-10
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

Following his return to Norway in 1909, Munch tried his hand at designing a monument for the centennial of Norway’s constitution. He identified this composition as “Old Mother Norway and Her Son.” It is one of the few informal images that picture the artist at work, or posing as though in the process of making his art.

 

 

Munch’s Selfies

When Munch picked up the camera again in 1927, after a pause of over fifteen years, he often posed in and around his life’s work at his home. The small size and flexibility of the popular camera models that he had chosen – about the size of a smartphone – made it easy to hold the apparatus in one hand and take a picture. Munch’s “selfies”, sometimes playful and always self-analytical, reveal a public life lived in private. They show us the artist outside of public scrutiny, as his camera recorded both staged and spontaneous moments of his everyday life. In his many self-portraits, we might recognise our own daily practices as we turn the camera back on ourselves.

In the late spring of 1930, Munch suffered a haemorrhage in his right eye, seriously compromising his vision. In that year, he created a series of “selfies.” In one photograph of great pathos, Munch closed his eyes, transforming his camera into both mirror and eye. “The camera cannot compete with brush and palette as long as it cannot be used in Heaven or in Hell,” Munch had written. With Munch’s eye closed and his aperture open, his own camera – disclosing both humour and pain – surely came close.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Edvard Munch's Housekeeper, Ekely' 1932

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Edvard Munch’s Housekeeper, Ekely
1932
Silver Gelatin

 

 

In the years 1927-1932, during Munch’s second period of photographic activity, the artist almost exclusively took photographs of himself and his work. This is a rare exception. Munch’s housekeeper is posing in a doorway and is doubled as a reflection on the shiny table on which the artist placed the camera. In fact, the woman is tripled, as a light, located behind her, throws her shadow onto the door to her left. The shadowing and expressive use of the foreground seem to have been strategic – an electrical plug and cord, snaking around the door jamb, appear to lead to a light source behind the model.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait with Paintings, Ekely' 1930

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait with Paintings, Ekely
1930
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

In several of Munch’s pictures, his body is transparent or ghosted as he moved his body during a time exposure. The images in the background (below), on the other hand, are rendered sharply. Perhaps the photograph tells us something about how volatile a human life is, while art endures.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Woman with a Samoyed' 1929-30

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Woman with a Samoyed
1929-30
Watercolour

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait with Paintings, Ekely' 1930

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait with Paintings, Ekely
1930
Silver gelatin contact print

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Fips on the Veranda, Ekely' 1930

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Fips on the Veranda, Ekely
1930
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

This “self-portrait” with the artist’s dog together with his own shadow exploits the effects of architectural space and direct and reflected light. Charmingly, Fips’s head and right paw are perfectly aligned with the shadow of a wall and light thrown through its mullioned window. Munch often photographed motifs with his back to the sun, causing his shadow to fall into the frame. A similar exploration of shadows appears in his painting and prints, sometimes with foreboding or pathos, and sometimes, as seen here, with humour.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Double Exposure of "Charlotte Corday", Ekely' c. 1930

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Double Exposure of “Charlotte Corday”, Ekely
c. 1930
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

In this photograph of the painting Charlotte Corday, Munch appears almost as a ghost. To achieve this affect, he used double exposure, taking two pictures on top of each other. Shadow figures such as this were emblematic of an absent presence, a kind of haunting, in Munch’s work. What began as a “mistake” in amateur snapshot photography became a common motif in experimental photography of the 1920s and ’30s as well as macabre effects in horror films from the same period.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Charlotte Corday' 1930

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Charlotte Corday
1930
Oil on canvas

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait at Ekely' 1930

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait at Ekely
1930
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

This is one of several prints that carries the words: “Photo: E. Munch 1931. After the eye disease.”

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait at Ekely' 1930

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait at Ekely
1930
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

In this image Munch is a spectral presence through which his well-lit paintings materialise. A similar union of body and material is found in the paintings and graphics, where figures become enmeshed in paint drips or wood grain patterning. Here the artist seems to stage himself as a figure in Evening. Melancholy (see above), embodying the contemplative state of mind conveyed by the title.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Still Life with Cabbage and other Vegetables' 1926-30

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Still Life with Cabbage and other Vegetables
1926-30
Oil on wooden panel

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait in front of "Metabolism", Ekely' 1931-32

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait in front of “Metabolism”, Ekely
1931-32
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

Munch stretches his arm outward and moves slightly to render himself out-of-focus. He appears almost transparent in this self-portrait at the feet of the figures in the painting Metabolism.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Metabolism' 1898-99

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Metabolism
1898-99
Oil on canvas

 

 

Munch’s Films

Munch’s short films can best be described as the charming experiments of an amateur. This was, however, an amateur with a long-term exploration of motion in art and photography. Electrified by cinema, Munch had even announced his intention of opening his own movie house. The short sequences he shot both mirror popular cinema, such as the films of Charlie Chaplin, and explore the industrial aesthetic of Dziga Vertov’s silent documentary Man with a Movie Camera from 1929.

Munch shot his “home movies” in the summer of 1927 using a Pathé-Baby camera that he had purchased in Paris. The portable device, which had come on the market in 1922, had helped to spark a surge of amateur home movies all over the world. The 9.5 mm projector that accommodated the film, and which Munch also owned, was likewise inexpensive and marketed for home projection. “Every decade extends the influence of cinema, enlarges its domain and multiplies its applications,” stated the Pathé promotional literature, ” …Today, in order to enter our home, it has made itself small, simple, affordable.”

Munch’s camera had a spring-loaded drive, rather than a hand-driven crank, allowing for a uniform recording speed and simplifying his act of filming. His fascination with the effects of time and motion are played out with humour and deliberation in his few forays into motion pictures. The artist peering into his own lens is a performance knowingly looking at a self that will be projected later, an actor in his large body of self-images.

 

 

Munch’s Films
1927
3:40

 

 

Munch’s short amateur films, stitched together in this video, were shot in Dresden, Oslo and on his property Ekely. One segment, a panning shot in a park, includes a man and woman seated on a bench, echoing Munch’s 1904 painting Kissing Couples in the Park. The high-angle shot of the boys looking through a fence, as we watch them, points to the artist’s canny and humorous analysis of point of view. Munch’s fragmentary films share the experimental camerawork with the genre of “city symphony” films of the 1920s.

 

 

Munch’s cameras

Munch purchased his first camera in Berlin in February 1902. This was most likely a Kodak Bulls-Eye No. 2, a simple and hugely popular amateur’s model. Because his later prints exist in three additional formats, he probably owned or borrowed other cameras. The first Kodak hand-held film camera was marketed in 1888. Successive innovations by Kodak made picture taking increasingly simple and inexpensive, establishing a mass market of amateur photographers. Early amateur photography was marketed as “fun” and “sport.” Munch was an early and eccentric practitioner.

The photographic manuals instructed amateurs to avoid mistakes such as out-of-focus or tilted images, ghosted figures, or shadows laid across the subjects. These were the very photographic elements that Munch repeated, turning the rules of good picture taking upside down.

Munch likely made his own contact prints using an Eastman Kodak-marketed kit outfitted for home use. There are both fingerprints and chemical spills on some of the images. He occasionally double-exposed his photographs or flopped the negative to achieve mirror-image prints, demonstrating a curiosity about the printing process itself. Munch’s exploration of the means and materials of amateur photography extends his groundbreaking strategies in lithography and woodcut.

 

Kodak Bulls-Eye No. 2

 

Kodak Bulls-Eye No. 2

 

 

This popular portable model seems to have been the type that Munch had as his first camera. Because the camera used light-proof film cartridges, had a fixed focus lens, and a small window indicating the exposure number, Kodak advertised this model as “Easy Photography,” suitable for the unskilled amateur. An instruction manual from the Eastman Kodak Company was sold with each camera. It included helpful graphics to guide the aspiring amateur and warnings against “absolute failure” to follow instructions. These “failures” were the effects that Munch seemed to favour.

 

Kodak Vest-Pocket Autographic

 

Kodak Vest-Pocket Autographic

 

 

This small, lightweight camera could be folded to fit a shirt pocket. Released during the Great War, it was advertised by Kodak to be “as accurate as a watch and as simple to use.” Requiring just a small pressure on the shutter release, the modest size and flexibility of the camera was well suited to some of the intimate images taken by Munch in the 1920s and 1930s.

 

 

 

Kodak No. 3A Series III

 

Kodak No. 3A Series III

 

 

Eastman Kodak issued the No. 3A, its first postcard format camera, between 1903 and 1915. The company produced variants such as the Series III until 1943. A bellows that collapsed into a folding bed made the camera portable.

 

Kodak No. 3 Series III Folding Pocket Camera

 

Kodak No. 3 Series III Folding Pocket Camera

 

 

Munch took most of the “selfies” at Ekely using this model. First produced from 1900 to 1915, and then with variants issued though the early 1940s, it was a camera that, like the No. 3A, could be operated by direct touch or via a pneumatic release.

 

Pathé Baby Ciné Camera

 

Pathé Baby Ciné Camera

 

 

This is one of the first cinema cameras intended for home use. The lightweight apparatus had a built-in clockwork which enabled amateurs such as Munch to make hand-held films. Pathé’s projectors made it possible to view the results at home.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Portrait of Edvard Munch' Nd

 

Unknown photographer
Portrait of Edvard Munch
Nd

 

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 12 December 1863 – 23 January 1944) was a Norwegian painter. His best known work, The Scream, has become one of the most iconic images of world art.

His childhood was overshadowed by illness, bereavement and the dread of inheriting a mental condition that ran in the family. Studying at the Royal School of Art and Design in Kristiania (today’s Oslo), Munch began to live a bohemian life under the influence of nihilist Hans Jæger, who urged him to paint his own emotional and psychological state (‘soul painting’). From this emerged his distinctive style.

Travel brought new influences and outlets. In Paris, he learned much from Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, especially their use of colour. In Berlin, he met Swedish dramatist August Strindberg, whom he painted, as he embarked on his major canon The Frieze of Life, depicting a series of deeply-felt themes such as love, anxiety, jealousy and betrayal, steeped in atmosphere.

The Scream was conceived in Kristiania. According to Munch, he was out walking at sunset, when he ‘heard the enormous, infinite scream of nature’. The painting’s agonised face is widely identified with the angst of the modern person. Between 1893 and 1910, he made two painted versions and two in pastels, as well as a number of prints. One of the pastels would eventually command the fourth highest nominal price paid for a painting at auction.

As his fame and wealth grew, his emotional state remained insecure. He briefly considered marriage, but could not commit himself. A breakdown in 1908 forced him to give up heavy drinking, and he was cheered by his increasing acceptance by the people of Kristiania and exposure in the city’s museums. His later years were spent working in peace and privacy. Although his works were banned in Nazi Germany, most of them survived World War II, securing him a legacy.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

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03
Jan
21

Exhibition: ‘Unearthed: Photography’s Roots’ at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 8th December 2020 – 9th May 2021

Curator: Alexander Moore

The exhibition will include work by the following 41 artists (in alphabetical order):

Nobuyoshi Araki, Anna Atkins, Alois Auer, Cecil Beaton, Karl Blossfeldt, Adolphe Braun, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Mat Collishaw, Imogen Cunningham, Roger Fenton, Adam Fuss, Ori Gersht, Cecilia Glaisher, Joy Gregory, William Henry Fox Talbot, Sir John Herschel, Gyula Holics, Jan van Huysum, Henry Irving, Charles Jones, Sarah Jones, André Kertész, Nick Knight, Lou Landauer, Richard Learoyd, Pradip Malde, Robert Mapplethorpe, John Moffat, Sarah Moon, James Mudd, Kazumasa Ogawa, T Enami, Dr Albert G Richards, Scowen & Co., Scheltens & Abbenes, Helen Sear, Edward Steichen, Josef Sudek, Lorenzo Vitturi, Edward Weston, Walter Woodbury.

 

 

Charles Jones (British, 1866-1959) 'Broccoli Leamington' c. 1895-1910

 

Charles Jones (British, 1866-1959)
Broccoli Leamington
c. 1895-1910
© Sean Sexton
Photo copyright Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

 

A difficult thing said simply

What a wonderful selection of photographs to start the year 2021.

As Laura Cumming observes, there is a profound connection between photography and photosynthesis – both created through light, both constructed and political. For the photograph is ALWAYS the choice of the photographer, and the landscape has ALWAYS been shaped and constructed since human beings emerged on this earth. Nothing in the natural world is ever “natural” but always mediated by time, space, context, power and desire. Desire to control the direction of a river, desire for food and shelter, desire for Lebensraum or living space as a practice of settler colonialism, desire to celebrate the “natural” world, desire to procreate, desire to propagate the (genetically modified) vegetable. A desire to desire.

Photography’s symbiotic relationship with the natural world is the relationship of photography and transmutation (the action of changing or the state of being changed into another form), photography and transmogrification (the act or process of changing or being changed completely). The natural world, through an action (that of being photographed), changes its state (flux) and, further, changes its state to a completely different form (fixed in liquid fixer; fixed, saved, but fluid, in the digital pixel). Flowers and vegetables are alive then wither and die, only to remain “the same” in the freeze frame of the death-defying photograph.

Photography’s fluidity and fixity – of movement, time, space, context, representation – allows “the infinite possibility of experimentation” not, as Cumming argues, “without the interference of humanity, accident, sound or movement” but through their very agency. It is the human hand that arranges these pyramidal broccoli, the accident of light in the photogram that allows us to pierce a clump of Bory’s Spleenwort root structure. It is human imagination, the movement of the human mind, that allows the artist Charles Jones to darken the Bean Longpod cases so that these become seared in the mind’s eye, fixed in all time and space as iconic image: the “transformation of an earthy root vegetable into an abstracted object worthy of adulation.”

While the process of photographing flower and vegetable may well be due to the interference of humanity, accident, sound or movement, contemplation or decisive moment, the final outcome of the image – the representation of the natural in the physicality of the print – usually attempts to hide these processes in images that are frozen in time, images that play on the notion of memento mori and the transient nature of life. In the presence of a triple death (ie. the death of the plant or flower, the time freeze or death moment of the photograph, and our knowledge that these plants and flowers in the photograph have already died), it is the abstraction of the death reality in images of flowers, plants and vegetables that allows for a touch of the soul. These photographs “provide a glimpse into the terrain of the unseen, or what German philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin coined the “optical unconsciousness”.”1 Here, photography allows us to capture the realm of the unseen and also allows us to glimpse the expansive terrain of the human imaginary. The camera reveals aspects of reality that register in our senses but never quite get processed consciously. (Is there anything “real” about Cunningham’s Two Callas 1929 other than a vibration of the energy of the cosmos?)

Still, still, still we are (unconsciously) aware of all that is embedded within a photograph for photography makes us feel, makes us remember “that which lies beyond the frame, or what photographs compel us to remember and forget, what they enable us to uncover and repress…”. Like any great work of art, when we look at a great photograph it is not what we BELIEVE that matters when we look, but how the art work makes us FEEL, how it touches the depths of our soul. These are the roots of photography, un/earthed, in the languages of image – (sub)conscious stories of the human imagination which seek to make sense of our roots in Earth.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

1. A different nature presents itself to the movie camera than to the naked eye. Instead of being something we enter into unconsciously or vaguely, in film we enter nature analytically. While a painter lovely caresses the surfaces of nature, the cameraman chucks a piece of dynamite at it, then reassembles the pieces:

“Our taverns and our metropolitan streets, our offices and furnished rooms, our railroad stations and our factories appeared to have us locked up hopelessly. Then came the film and burst this prison-world asunder by the dynamite of the tenth of a second, so that now, in the midst of its far-clung ruins and debris, we calmly and adventurously go travelling.”

A movie camera can be mounted on a speeding locomotive, dropped down a sewer, or secreted in a valise and carried surreptitiously around a city. The camera reveals aspects of reality that register in our senses but never quite get processed consciously. Film changed how we view the least significant minutiae of reality just as surely as Freud’s Psychopathology of Everyday Life changed how we look at incidental phenomenon like slips of the tongue. In other words, film serves as an optical unconscious. Benjamin asserts the film camera “introduces us to unconscious optics as does psychoanalysis to unconscious impulses.

“Richard Prouty. “The optical unconsciousness,” on the One-Way Street website Oct 16, 2009 [Online] Cited 03/01/2021

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

 

 

“The Dulwich show amounts to a political history of photography by other means. Should it aspire to nothing more than the fictions of painting? Should it be a catalogue, a document, a celebration of the natural life? Where Glaisher records the precise difference between two varieties of fern, Jones observes the Sputnik-like eccentricity of a plucked turnip. Where Imogen Cunningham sees the perfect abstraction of a calla lily, Edward Weston anthropomorphises a pepper, so that it momentarily resembles the torso of a body-builder. …

Perhaps the desire to photograph the vegetable world brings its own peace, as well as the infinite possibility of experimentation without the interference of humanity, accident, sound or movement. But perhaps it also has something to do with the profound connection between photography and photosynthesis. The very light that gives life to a rose, before its petals drop, is the same light that preserves it in a death-defying photograph.”

.
Laura Cumming. “Unearthed: Photography’s Roots review – cauliflowers saying cheese…” on the Guardian website Sun 29 Nov 2020 [Online] Cited 23/12/2020

 

 

Anna Atkins (English, 1799-1871) 'Ceylon' c. 1850

 

Anna Atkins (English, 1799-1871)
Ceylon [examples of ferns]
c. 1850
Cyanotype

 

 

After publishing her own book of cyanotype photograms of British algae in the 1840s, Atkins collaborated with her childhood friend and fellow scholar Anna Dixon on a second book of photograms. The book, Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Ferns, was published in 1853 and now resides in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

This particular image [above] is a selection from Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Ferns. A collection of four distinct ferns, it’s simply captioned “Ceylon”. At the time these cyanotypes were being made, the island of Ceylon – modern day Sri Lanka – was under British rule. It would be nearly another century before the island declared independence from Atkins’ home country. Despite the abundant difficulties of travel in the 1850s, Atkins’s many scientific and business connections no doubt helped her obtain several foreign specimens for this book of fern cyanotypes.

Anonymous text on the 20 x 200 website [Online] Cited 24/12/2020

 

This unique camera-less photograph was part of an extensive project to document plants from Great Britain and British colonies like Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and illustrates an early example of how important photography would become in our attempts to learn about and protect the natural world. Anna Atkins (British, 1799-1871) was a trained botanist who adopted photographic processes in order to describe, analyse, and, in a manner of speaking, preserve plant specimens from around the world. She is widely considered the first person to use photographs to illustrate a book, her British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions published in 1843. This particular photograph was produced with Anna Dixon for a later compilation: Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Flowering Plants and Ferns in 1854. With these and other projects, Atkins helped establish photography as an important tool in scientific and ecological observation. …

Atkins made all of her cyanotypes in England, often receiving specimens through imperial trade. This image, therefore, was produced over 5,000 miles away from where the plant originated

Brian Piper. “Object Lesson: Ceylon cyanotype by Anna Atkins,” on the New Orleans Museum of Art website March 23, 2020 [Online] Cited 24/12/2020.

 

Anna Atkins (English, 1799-1871) 'Plate 55 – Dictyota dichotoma, in the young state and in fruit' 1853

 

Anna Atkins (English, 1799-1871)
Plate 55 – Dictyota dichotoma, in the young state and in fruit
1853
From Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions Volume 1 (Part 1)
Cyanotype
Photo copyright Horniman Museum and Gardens

 

Cecilia Glaisher (British, 1828-1892) 'Bory's Spleenwort (Asplenium onopteris)' c. 1853-56

 

Cecilia Glaisher (British, 1828-1892)
Bory’s Spleenwort (Asplenium onopteris)
c. 1853-56
Salted paper print

 

 

Cecilia Glaisher (20 April 1828 – 28 December 1892) was an English amateur photographer, artist, illustrator and print-maker, working in the 1850s world of Victorian science and natural history. …

The British Ferns – Photographed from Nature by Mrs Glaisher was planned as an illustrated guide to identifying ferns, with the entomologist Edward Newman (1801-1876), a fern expert and publisher. Made using William Henry Fox Talbot’s photogenic drawing process during what has come to be known as the Victorian fern craze, it was to be published in a number of parts and intended to appeal to the growing number of fern collectors whose enthusiasm was fuelled by increasingly informative and magnificently illustrated fern publications. The use of photography, according to the printed handbill produced by Newman to promote the work, would allow fern specimens to be “displayed with incomparable exactness, producing absolute facsimiles of the objects, perfect in artistic effect and structural details”. A portfolio of ten prints, in mounts embossed with Newman’s publishing details, was presented by him to the Linnean Society in London in December 1855. However, perhaps due to an inability to raise sufficient subscriptions, or difficulties in producing prints in consistent quantities, the project appears to have been abandoned by 1856.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Roger Fenton. 'Fruit and Flowers' 1860

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
Fruit and Flowers
1860
Albumen print from a collodion negative
Victoria & Albert Museum

 

 

In tackling still lifes, Roger Fenton gave form to his ardent belief that no subject was off limits to photography, even one intimately linked to the history of painting and seemingly so dependent on colour. Faced with terrible weather in 1860 that curtailed his ability to photograph landscapes, Fenton drew upon the skills he had perfected earlier in the decade while photographing the collection of the British Museum and trained his lens on carefully balanced still-life arrangements. Cleverly massing and juxtaposing forms and tonal values, and brazenly taking advantage of photography’s ability to convey detail, Fenton quickly produced a series of unprecedented vivaciousness that convincingly demonstrated why photography should be counted as an art. Fruit and Flowers is among the last images this towering figure in the history of photography made before quitting photography for good at age 41.

Fruit and Flowers is an ebullient, in-your-face celebration of summer’s bounty. Shot head on and close up, the densely packed arrangement seems ready to tumble from the large, glossy 14- by nearly 17-inch albumen print made from a collodion negative. Dozens of juicy, sensuous grapes flank a tall, centred vase decorated with a tendril pattern; the vase holds pansies at its top while plums nestle at the base. At right, a few grapes dangle over the edge of a marble tabletop, falling into the viewer’s space, as does a striped, tasseled cloth at left. Star-shaped hoyas are reflected in a chased silver goblet, and two immense lilies, their stems obscured, appear to hover untethered above. The lilies are balanced compositionally by a large rose that faces the viewer, while a second rose, near the bottom, separates the grapes and a nude figurine. Ferns and lily of the valley complete the floral medley.

The prominent roses and lilies may allude to the sacred, as both are associated with the Virgin Mary, but myriad wine references, such as the grapes, the chalice decorated with grape vines, and especially the impish figurine, whose physical attributes link him to bacchanalian Roman festivals, point decidedly to the profane. At the same time, the withering rose, drooping leaves, and tired-looking plums remind the viewer that such pleasures are ephemeral.

Anonymous. “Fruit and Flowers: Roger Fenton,” on the National Gallery of Art website [Online] Cited 24/12/2020.

 

Charles Jones (British, 1866-1959) 'Bean Longpod' c. 1895-1910

 

Charles Jones (British, 1866-1959)
Bean Longpod
c. 1895-1910
© Sean Sexton
Photo copyright Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

 

In Bean Longpod (1895-1910), now on view in “Unearthed,” the titular plant cuts through the centre of the composition, leaving little room for anything else. Other works play with their subjects’ placement: Broccoli Leamington (1895-1910), for instance, finds large broccoli heads sitting atop one another in a pyramid-like formation. The overall effect of this unusual treatment, notes the Michael Hoppen Gallery, is the “transformation of an earthy root vegetable into an abstracted” object worthy of adulation. …

According to the Michael Hoppen Gallery, which hosted a 2015 exhibition on Jones, “[t]he extraordinary beauty of each Charles Jones print rests in the intensity of focus on the subject and the almost portrait-like respect with which each specimen is treated.”

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929) 'Iris Kaempferi' c. 1894

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929)
Iris Kaempferi
c. 1894
From Some Japanese Flowers
Chromo-collotype
Hand-coloured photograph
Photo copyright Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929) 'Japanese Lilies' c. 1894

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929)
Japanese Lilies
c. 1894
From Some Japanese Flowers
Chromo-collotype
Hand-coloured photograph
Photo copyright Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

 

Ogawa Kazumasa lived from the 1860s to almost the 1930s, surely one of the most fascinating 70-year stretches in Japanese history. Ogawa’s homeland “opened” to the world when he was a boy, and for the rest of his life he bore witness to the sometimes beautiful, sometimes strange, sometimes exhilarating results of a once-isolated culture assimilating seemingly everything foreign – art, technology, customs – all at once. Naturally he picked up a camera to document it all, and history now remembers him as a pioneer of his art. During the 1890s he published Some Japanese Flowers, a book containing his pictures of just that.

The following year, Ogawa’s hand-coloured photographs of Japanese flowers also appeared in the American books Japan, Described and Illustrated by the Japanese, edited by the renowned Anglo-Irish expatriate Japanese culture scholar Francis Brinkley and published in Boston, the city where Ogawa had spent a couple of years studying portrait photography and processing.

Ogawa’s varied life in Japan included working as an editor at Shashin Shinpō (写真新報), the only photography journal in the country at the time, as well as at the flower magazine Kokka (国華), which would certainly have given him the experience he needed to produce photographic specimens such as these. Though Ogawa invested a great deal in learning and employing the highest photographic technologies, they were the highest photographic technologies of the 1890s, when colour photography necessitated adding colours – of particular importance in the case of flowers – after the fact.

… Even as everything changed so rapidly all around him, as he mastered the just-as-rapidly developing tools of his craft, Ogawa nevertheless kept his eye for the natural and cultural aspects of his homeland that seemed never to have changed at all.

Colin Marshall. “Beautiful Hand-Colored Japanese Flowers Created by the Pioneering Photographer Ogawa Kazumasa (1896),” on the Open Culture website March 22nd, 2019 [Online] Cited 24/12/2020.

 

The stunning floral images … are the work of Ogawa Kazumasa, a Japanese photographer, printer, and publisher known for his pioneering work in photomechanical printing and photography in the Meiji era. Studying photography from the age of fifteen, Ogawa moved to Tokyo aged twenty to further his study and develop his English skills which he believed necessary to deepen his technical knowledge. After opening his own photography studio and working as an English interpreter for the Yokohama Police Department, Ogawa decided to travel to the United States to learn first hand the advance photographic techniques of the time. Having little money, Ogawa managed to get hired as a sailor on the USS Swatara and six months later landed in Washington. For the next two years, in Boston and Philadelphia, Ogawa studied printing techniques including the complicated collotype process with which he’d make his name on returning to Japan.

In 1884, Ogawa opened a photographic studio in Tokyo and in 1888 established a dry plate manufacturing company, and the following year, Japan’s first collotype business, the “K. Ogawa printing factory”. He also worked as an editor for various photography magazines, which he printed using the collotype printing process, and was a founding member of the Japan Photographic Society.

Anonymous. “Ogawa Kazumasa’s Hand-Coloured Photographs of Flowers (1896),” on The Public Domain Review website [Online] Cited 24/12/2020.

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929) 'Chrysanthemum' c. 1894

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929)
Chrysanthemum
c. 1894
From Some Japanese Flowers
Chromo-collotype
Hand-coloured photograph
Photo copyright Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929) 'Morning Glory' c. 1894

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929)
Morning Glory
c. 1894
From Some Japanese Flowers
Chromo-collotype
Hand-coloured photograph
Photo copyright Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

 

A central focus for the show and a truly rare opportunity for visitors will be a display of 11 works by the inventor and pioneer, Kazumasa Ogawa, whose effectively coloured photographs were created 30 years before colour film was invented. Ogawa combined printmaking and traditions in Japan to create truly original and pioneering photographs. By developing up to 16 different colour plates per image from expertly hand coloured prints he made Japan the world’s leading producer of coloured photographs, the display of which is hoped to be a revelation for many.

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976) 'Agave Design I' 1920s

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Agave Design I
1920s
Gelatin silver print

 

Edward Steichen. 'Magnolia Blossoms, Voulangis, France' c. 1921

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973)
Magnolia Blossoms, Voulangis, France
c. 1921
Gelatin silver print
19.4 x 23.8cm

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973) 'Foxgloves, France' 1925

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973)
Foxgloves, France
1925
Gelatin silver print

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Adiantum pedatum. Maidenhair Fern' before 1926

 

Karl Blossfeldt (German, 1865-1932)
Adiantum pedatum. Maidenhair Fern
before 1926
Private Collection, Derbyshire

 

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) 'Impatiens Glandulifera' 1928

 

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932)
Impatiens Glandulifera
1928
Gelatin silver print
27 x 20.5cm

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'Two Callas' 1929

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Two Callas
1929
Gelatin silver print

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958) 'Pepper No. 30' 1930

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Pepper No. 30
1930
Gelatin silver print contact print
24.1 × 19.2cm

 

 

A year later, during a four-day period from August 2-6, 1930, Weston took at least thirty more negatives of peppers. He first tried again with plain muslin or a piece of white cardboard as the backdrop, but for these images he thought the contrast between the backdrop and the pepper was too stark. On August 3 he found a large tin funnel, and, placing it on its side, he set a pepper just inside the large open end. He wrote:

It was a bright idea, a perfect relief for the pepper and adding reflecting light to important contours. I still had the pepper which caused me a week’s work, I had decided I could go no further with it, yet something kept me from taking it to the kitchen, the end of all good peppers. I placed it in the funnel, focused with the Zeiss, and knowing just the viewpoint, recognizing a perfect light, made an exposure of six minutes, with but a few moments’ preliminary work, the real preliminary was on in hours passed. I have a great negative, – by far the best!

It is a classic, completely satisfying, – a pepper – but more than a pepper; abstract, in that it is completely outside subject matter. It has no psychological attributes, no human emotions are aroused: this new pepper takes one beyond the world we know in the conscious mind.

To be sure, much of my work has this quality… but this one, and in fact all of the new ones, take one into an inner reality, – the absolute, – with a clear understanding, a mystic revealment. This is the “significant presentation” that I mean, the presentation through one’s intuitive self, seeing “through one’s eyes, not with them”: the visionary.”

By placing the pepper in the opening of the funnel, Weston was able to light it in a way that portrays the pepper in three dimensions, rather than as a flat image. It is this light that gives the image much of its extraordinary quality.

Edward Weston (1961). Nancy Newhall (ed.,). The Day-books of Edward Weston, Volume II. NY: Horizon Press. p. 180 quote on the Wikipedia website.

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973) 'Delphiniums' 1940

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973)
Delphiniums
1940
Dye imbibition print
Digital image courtesy of the George Eastman Museum
© 2019 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Gyula Holics (Hungarian, 1919-1989) 'Peas' 1950s

 

Gyula Holics (Hungarian, 1919-1989)
Peas
1950s
Gelatin silver print
23.8 x 18.1cm

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946 - 1989) 'Tulip' 1984

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Tulip
1984
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Used by permission

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Orchid' 1985

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Orchid
1985
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Used by permission

 

 

Trace the history of photography from the 1840s to present day, as seen through depictions of nature. In Summer 2020, we present our first major photography exhibition, tracing the rich history of the medium told through depictions of nature, bringing together over 100 works by 25 leading international photographers.

This autumn, Dulwich Picture Gallery will present the first exhibition to trace the history of photography as told through depictions of nature, revealing how the subject led to key advancements in the medium, from its very beginnings in 1840 to present day. Unearthed: Photography’s Roots will be the first major photography show at Dulwich Picture Gallery, bringing together over 100 works by 35 leading international photographers, many never seen before.

Presenting just one of the many possible histories of photography, this exhibition follows the lasting legacy of the great pioneers who made some of the world’s first photographs of nature, examining key moments in the medium’s history and the influences of sociological change, artistic movements and technological developments, including Pictorialism through to Modernism, experiments with colour and contemporary photography and new technologies.

Arranged chronologically and with a focus on botany and science throughout, the exhibition will highlight the innovations of some of the medium’s key figures, including William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877), Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976) and Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) as well as several overlooked photographers including Japanese artist, Kazumasa Ogawa (1860-1929) and the English gardener, Charles Jones (1866-1959). It will be the first show to publicly exhibit work by Jones, whose striking modernist photographs of plants remained unknown until 20 years after his death, when they were discovered in a trunk at Bermondsey Market in 1981.

Questioning the true age of photography, the exhibition will open with some of the first known Victorian images by William Henry Fox Talbot, positioning his experimentation with paper negatives as the very beginning of photography. It will also introduce a key selection of cyanotypes by one of the first women photographers, Anna Atkins (1799- 1871), who created camera-less photograms of the algae specimens found along the south coast of England. Displayed publicly for the first time, these works highlight the ground-breaking accuracy of Atkins’ approach, and the remarkably contemporary appearance of her work which has inspired many artists and designers.

The exhibition will also foreground the artists who produced unprecedented photographic art in the twentieth century without artistic intention. The medium allowed for quick documentation of nature’s infinite specimens, making it an important tool for scientists and botanists such as the German photographer and teacher Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) who captured close-up views of plant specimens in order to study and share an understanding of nature’s ‘architecture’. A selection of Blossfeldt’s ‘study aids’ will be displayed alongside work by the proud gardener Charles Jones, who used a glass plate camera to keep a meticulously illustrated record of his finest crops. Seen together for the first time, the two artists will be examined for their pragmatic approach that set them apart from the romanticised style of their time.

A central focus for the show and a truly rare opportunity for visitors will be a display of 11 works by the inventor and pioneer, Kazumasa Ogawa, whose effectively coloured photographs were created 30 years before colour film was invented. Ogawa combined printmaking and traditions in Japan to create truly original and pioneering photographs. By developing up to 16 different colour plates per image from expertly hand coloured prints, he made Japan the world’s leading producer of coloured photographs, the display of which is hoped to be a revelation for many.

Unearthed: Photography’s Roots will aim to highlight how nature photography has remained consistently radical, inventive and influential over the past two centuries with the final rooms in the exhibition dedicated to more recent advancements in the medium. A selection of work by the renowned symbolist photographers Imogen Cunningham and Robert Mapplethorpe will highlight the coded language of nature in photography. Both artists used nature to tackle the oppression experienced in their lives by channelling the strength and the sexuality of the natural subjects they photographed. This powerful symbolism, in works such as Mapplethorpe’s Tulips (1984) and Cunningham’s Agave Design I (1920s), allowed both artists to express themselves at a time when homosexuality was criminalised and women artists fought for recognition.

The final room culminates with contemporary works that reveal the enduring influence of early forms of photography and still life, with a spotlight on the artists today who are re-shaping the definition of these mediums through digital processes. Mat Collishaw’s (b.1966) Auto-Immolation (2010) combines new technology and ancient religious ideals, whilst Richard Learoyd’s (b.1966) camera-obscura photographs present a new dimension in the traditional still life genre pioneered by the artists of the Dutch Golden Age. The Gallery’s Mausoleum will host On Reflection (2014), by renowned Israeli video artist, Ori Gersht (b.1967), displayed publicly for the first time in the UK. An homage to the work of Flemish still-life painter Jan Brueghel the Elder, this ambitious work uses modern technolgy to capture the dynamic explosion of mirrored glass reflecting meticulously detailed floral arrangements by the Old Master. Brueghel’s Still Life A Stoneware Vase of Flowers, 1607-08, will also be included in the exhibition, on loan from St John’s College, Oxford for the first time in 300 years.

Unearthed: Photography’s Roots is curated by Alexander Moore, Creative Producer at Dulwich Picture Gallery, and former Head of Exhibitions for Mario Testino. He said:

“I am thrilled to present this extensive survey of photography which celebrates botany in its various guises – from Robert Mapplethorpe’s beautifully shot tulips, to Anna Atkins’ algae specimens. There is beauty to be found in all of the works in the exhibition, which includes some new discoveries. More than anything though, this exhibition reveals nature as the gift that keeps on giving – a conduit for the development of photography, it is also a force for hope and well-being that we have come to depend on so much in recent months. I hope the energy of this timely exhibition provides visitors with a new perspective on the power of the natural world – and perhaps the encouragement to take some pictures themselves!”

The exhibition will include a number of major loans from public and private collections, many never displayed publicly before. Lenders include The Horniman Museum, the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, Michael Hoppen Gallery and Blain Southern. A catalogue will accompany featuring essays by Alexander Moore and art historian and 17th-century still life painting specialist, Dr Fred Meijer.

Press release from the Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

Mat Collishaw (English, b. 1966) 'Auto Immolation 002' 2010 (still)

 

Mat Collishaw (English, b. 1966)
Auto Immolation 002 (still)
2010
Hard Drive, LCD Screen, Steel, Surveillance Mirror, Wood
300 x 113.5 x 52cm

 

Lorenzo Vitturi (Italian, b. 1980) 'Yellow and Red Bokkom Mix #2' 2013

 

Lorenzo Vitturi (Italian, b. 1980)
Yellow and Red Bokkom Mix #2
2013
Giclee print on Hahnemuhle bamboo paper
29.5 x 44cm
Edition of 7
© Lorenzo Vitturi
Courtesy of Flowers Gallery

 

Ori Gersht (Israeli, b. 1967) 'On Reflection' 2014

 

Ori Gersht (Israeli, b. 1967)
On Reflection
2014
© the Artist

 

 

Ori Gersht explores the binary oppositions of attraction and repulsion by capturing the moment when “destruction in the exploding mirrors becomes… the moment of creation.”

In the adjacent exhibition rooms, viewers are faced with ten enlarged video stills from the film presented as archival pigment prints. The images somewhat reverse the symbolic value of still-life paintings, or the idea that they are meant to immortalise the experience of nature. Frozen in time, images of the explosion also plays on the notion of memento mori and the transient nature of life. Thanatotic [the name chosen by Freud to represent a universal death instinct] undertones are also seen in the fine network of cracks in the mirrors, which are especially noticeable in On Reflection, Material E01 and On Reflection, Material B02 (both 2014). Gersht’s works provide a glimpse into the terrain of the unseen, or what German philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin coined the “optical unconsciousness.” The outcome is a powerful reminder of the fragility of existence.

Crystal Tong. “On Reflection: Ori Gersht,” on the ArtAsiaPacific website [Online] Cited 24/12/2020.

 

Ori Gersht (Israeli, b. 1967) 'On Reflection' 2014 (detail)

 

Ori Gersht (Israeli, b. 1967)
On Reflection (detail)
2014
© the Artist

 

Ori Gersht (Israeli, b. 1967) 'On Reflection' 2014 (detail)

 

Ori Gersht (Israeli, b. 1967)
On Reflection (detail)
2014
© the Artist

 

Richard Learoyd (British, b. 1966) 'Large Poppies' 2019

 

Richard Learoyd (British, b. 1966)
Large Poppies
2019
© the Artist
Image courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

 

 

Dulwich Picture Gallery
Gallery Road, London
SE21 7AD
Phone: 020 8693 5254

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays (except Bank Holiday Mondays)

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27
Dec
20

European art research tour exhibition: ‘Alberto Giacometti’ at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

Exhibition dates: 18th July – 1st December 2019, posted December 2020

Curators: Julia Tatiana Bailey (NGP), Catherine Grenier (Fondation Giacometti), Serena Bucalo-Mussely (Fondation Giacometti)

 

 

Installation view of the entrance to the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

 

Installation view of the entrance to the exhibition Alberto Giacometti at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The last posting for this year. What an excellent way to finish off what has been an incredibly long, stressful and tragic time. I am thinking of all my readers and sending them good energies for the year ahead. I saw this exhibition during my European sojourn last September… it seems a long time ago now.

.
The revelations

The beauty, darkness and intensity of Giacometti’s paintings. Most unexpected.
The fecundity, malleability and darkness of his busts of men.

.
The highlight

The large Walking Man I (1960)

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The disappointment

That there was only one Walking Man in the exhibition (Giacometti cast six numbered editions plus four artist proofs). I wanted to see a whole forest of them!

 

What a privilege to see this exhibition.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All iPhone images © Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“In my finished work I find transformed and relocated images, impressions, events that deeply affected me (often without me realising it), forms that are very close to me, even if I am often not able to name them, which makes them even more mysterious.”

.
Alberto Giacometti

 

 

The retrospective presents the works by one of the major 20th-century artists, sculptor and painter Alberto Giacometti (1901⁠-1966) for the first time in the Czech milieu.

His main theme was the human figure. He became well-known for compelling elongated figures done after World War II, but no less important are his artworks from the interwar period, when he was a key member of the Paris avant-garde. The National Gallery Prague prepares this exhibition in cooperation with the Paris-based Fondation Giacometti, which administers the estate of Annette and Alberto Giacometti. The selection of the exhibits from its collections, which is shown in the Trade Fair Palace, includes more than one hundred sculptures (including rare originals of plaster), paintings and drawings from all Giacometti’s creative periods, from the 1920s to 1960s.

 

 

Installation view of the entrance to the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

Installation view of the entrance to the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

Installation view of the entrance to the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

 

Installation views of the opening of the exhibition Alberto Giacometti at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

A family of artists

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague