Archive for the 'sculpture' Category

15
Jun
18

Exhibition: ‘Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861’ at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne Part 1

Exhibition dates: 15th March – 15th July 2018

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Colony: Frontier Wars (15 March – 2 September 2018) which presents a powerful response to colonisation through a range of historical and contemporary works by Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists dating from pre-contact times to present day.

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers should be aware that this posting contains images and names of people who may have since passed away.

 

 

Installation view of the entrance to the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the entrance to the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the entrance to the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the entrance to the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne featuring 19th century Aboriginal shields from the NGV Collection
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

This is an ambitious double exhibition from the National Gallery of Victoria: historical with a contemporary response. I didn’t have time to take installation photographs of the contemporary exhibition on Level 3 during the media call, concentrating instead on Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861, the historical exhibition on the ground floor of NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne.

A review, along with the installation photographs of the many early photographs present in the exhibition, will be presented in Part 2 of the posting.

Suffice to say that his exhibition should not be missed by any Australian.

Marcus

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

 

 

Colonial Frontier Massacres in Eastern Australia 1788-1872

Colonial Frontier Massacres in Eastern Australia 1788-1872 from The Centre for 21st Century Humanities, The University of Newcastle

 

Colonial Frontier Massacres in Eastern Australia 1788-1872 from The Centre for 21st Century Humanities, The University of Newcastle

 

Unknown. 'Broad shield' (early 19th century-mid 19th century) 

 

Unknown
Broad shield (early 19th century-mid 19th century)
earth pigments on wood, cane, pipeclay
91.3 x 19.5 x 9.5 cm irreg.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 2011

 

 

Shields

Aboriginal people have occupied the Australian continent for more than 65,000 years. The arrival and settlement of Europeans, from 1788, affected them profoundly. This proud massing of nineteenth-century shields at the entrance to this exhibition serves as both a reminder of the resilience of Aboriginal people in the face of colonisation, and a representation of the first chapter in Australian art.

The painted and incised designs on the shields are signifiers of the identities and places of these artists whose names, language groups and precise locations were not recorded by European collectors.

There are two kinds of shields traditional to south-east Australia. The first type is narrow and fashioned from a single piece of hardwood, designed to block the forceful blows of clubs, usually in individual combat, and is called a parrying shield. The second is broad and thin with a convex outer face and concave under-surface, and is fashioned from the outer bark or cambium. It is known as a broad or spear shield. This type of shield deflects sharply barbed spears thrown in general fights and also has a ceremonial purpose. These precious cultural objects are of inestimable value to Aboriginal people today. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Melchisédec Thévenot (cartographer, French c. 1620-1692) New Holland, revealed 1644: Terra Australis, discovered 1644 (Hollandia Nova detecta 1644: Terre Australe decouverte l'an 1644)

 

Melchisédec Thévenot (cartographer, French c. 1620-1692)
New Holland, revealed 1644: Terra Australis, discovered 1644 (Hollandia Nova detecta 1644: Terre Australe decouverte l’an 1644)
1644
Ink on paper
50.0 x 37.0 cm
Published in De l’imprimerie de Iaqves Langlois, 1663
National Library of Australia, Canberra
Photo: National Library of Australia

 

 

Included in Melchisédec Thévenot’s travel account of 1663, this is the first published large-scale map of Australia. It shows how much of the continent’s coastline was known to Europeans 100 years before James Cook’s Pacific voyages, which would substantially complete European cartographic knowledge about both Australia and New Zealand. Thévenot’s map was published when French colonial aspirations were expanding and it divides the continent along the 135-degree meridian, which marked the western limit of Spain’s imperial claim in the South Pacific. Designating the eastern, undescribed expanse in French (‘Terre Australe’), the map signals French interest in the land east of New Holland. (Exhibition text)

 

 

European exploration before 1770

The notion that James Cook ‘discovered’ Australia denies the presence of Aboriginal people for 65,000 years and overlooks other European and regional visitors to the Australian coast. The existence of a great southern land, Terra Australis, had long exercised Europeans’ imaginings about the world and began to take a more realistic shape on maps in the early seventeenth century because of maritime exploration. The earliest documented European contact was that of Willem Janszoon and his crew aboard the Dutch ship Duyken, which landed on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula in 1606.

Subsequently, a number of navigators on Dutch and English ships charted the west coast of the continent. Dutch explorer and trader Abel Tasman mapped the west and southern coasts of Van Diemen’s Land in 1642. Two years later, on his second voyage, he reached the north and west coast of Australia, which he named New Holland. The British privateer William Dampier reached the west coast in 1688, and trade between Aboriginal people and the Makassans (from modern-day Indonesia) is documented from around 1720. The Dutch charts of the western coast of Australia were known to the British for more than a century before Cook set sail on his first Pacific voyage. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Unknown 'Beardman jug, from the wreck site of Vergulde Draeck' before 1656

 

Unknown
Beardman jug, from the wreck site of Vergulde Draeck
before 1656
Earthenware Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney
Transferred from Australian Netherlands Committee on Old Dutch Shipwrecks, 1991
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Thirty years after the Batavia was wrecked off the Australian west coast, the VOC ship Vergulde Draeck was destroyed on a reef 100 kilometres north of current-day Perth. More than 300 years later, in 1963, the submerged wreck was discovered by fisherman, and a large quantity of gold and silver bullion and German beardman or bellarmine jugs retrieved from within. The latter name is popularly associated with late sixteenth- to early seventeenth-century cardinal Robert Bellarmine, an opponent of Protestantism who was known for his fierce anti-alcohol stance. These potbellied, anthropomorphic jugs were certainly intended to ridicule him; they were regularly used to store wine. (Exhibition text)

 

Unknown 'Beardman jug, from the wreck site of Vergulde Draeck' before 1656

 

Unknown
Beardman jug, from the wreck site of Vergulde Draeck
before 1656
Earthenware Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney
Transferred from Australian Netherlands Committee on Old Dutch Shipwrecks, 1991
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Isaac Gilsemans (cartographer) 'Coastal profiles of Van Diemen's Land, 4-5 December 1642'

 

Isaac Gilsemans (cartographer)
Coastal profiles of Van Diemen’s Land, 4-5 December 1642
1642
Bound into Extract from the Journal of the Skipper Commander Abel Janssen Tasman kept by himself in discovering the unknown Southland 1642-43, compiled c. 1643-47
Pen and ink
23.5 x 37.6 cm
State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Acquired from Martinus Nijhoff, 1926

 

Victor Victorszoon (draughtsman) Johannes van Keulen II. 'Amsterdam Island, St Paul Island, Black swans near Rottnest Island' c. 1724-26

 

Victor Victorszoon (draughtsman)
Johannes van Keulen II
Amsterdam Island, St Paul Island, Black swans near Rottnest Island
c. 1724-26
Plate from Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indien (The Old and New East Indies) by François Valentijn, vol. 3, part 2, published by Johannes von Braam and Gerard Onder de Linden, Dordrect and Amsterdam, 1724–26
Engraving
30.4 x 18.5 cm (plate), 34.7 x 22.1 cm (sheet)
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
J.C. Earl Bequest Fund 2011

 

William Ellis. 'View of Adventure Bay, Van Diemen's Land, New Holland' 1777

 

William Ellis (England 1751 – Belgium 1785, Australia 1777)
View of Adventure Bay, Van Diemen’s Land, New Holland
1777
Watercolour and brush and ink
20.0 x 47.3 cm
National Library of Australia, Canberra

 

 

William Ellis served as surgeon’s mate on Cook’s Third Voyage and doubled his duties as unofficial natural history draughtsman, producing numerous sketches and watercolours. In these two watercolours he documents the Discovery and the Resolution harboured in the calm waters of Adventure Bay on Bruny Island, and the distinctive geological features of Fluted Cape at the southern end of the bay. (Exhibition text)

 

William Bradley. 'Botany Bay. Sirius & Convoy going in: Supply & Agents Division in the Bay. 21 Janry 1788'

 

William Bradley (England c. 1757 – France 1833, Australia 1788-91)
Botany Bay. Sirius & Convoy going in: Supply & Agents Division in the Bay. 21 Janry 1788
opposite p. 56 in his A Voyage to New South Wales 1786-92, compiled 1802
Watercolour and pen and ink
19.0 x 24.3 cm (sheet)
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

 

 

William Bradley sailed with the First Fleet as first lieutenant on board HMS Sirius and remained in the colony until 1792. Like many officers he kept a journal, illustrating key events. This work shows the First Fleet’s second contingent of ships sailing in to Botany Bay to join the advance party already anchored there. Signed and dated 21 January 1788, this and other Bradley images are significant eyewitness accounts of history in the making. Bradley compiled this journal after 1802, and may have made copies of earlier drawings. (Exhibition text)

 

 

Landing and settlement at Sydney Cove 1788

Although Botany Bay had been chosen as the site for the establishment of the new penal colony, within days of arriving in January 1788, Governor Arthur Phillip relocated the First Fleet north to Sydney Cove in Port Jackson. Here the ships could be safely anchored and a freshwater stream provided a crucial water supply around which the first rudimentary settlement of tents, huts and the governor’s residence was established. The early years were extremely difficult and the colony faced starvation as the crops failed due to the lack of skilled farmers, unfamiliar climate and poor soil. But as farming pushed into more arable lands during the 1790s, settlement expanded and new townships were laid out, competing for resources with the Aboriginal inhabitants and dispossessing them of their lands.

No official artists accompanied the First Fleet and the colony’s earliest works of art were drawings made by officers trained in draughtsmanship and convicts with artistic skills. These drawings largely comprised ethnographic records of local people, natural history images of flora and fauna, charts and coastal views of the harbour’s topography. By the early years of the nineteenth century views of Sydney emphasised its growth, as urban development symbolised for the colonists the progress of Empire. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with in the bottom image at right, Sketch and description of the settlement at Sydney Cove, Port Jackson in the County of Cumberland 1788; and second right top, View of the entrance into Port Jackson taken from a boat lying under the North Head c. 1790
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Francis Fowkes (draughtsman) Samuel John Neele (etcher) 'Sketch and description of the settlement at Sydney Cove Port Jackson in the County of Cumberland' 1788

 

Francis Fowkes (draughtsman)
Samuel John Neele (etcher)
Sketch and description of the settlement at Sydney Cove Port Jackson in the County of Cumberland
1788
Hand-coloured etching and engraving published by R. Cribb, London, 24 July 1789
19.6 x 31.7 cm (image), 26.8 x 38.7 cm (sheet)
National Library of Australia, Canberra

 

 

Dated 16 April 1788, this extremely rare map (there are only three known copies) was drawn by former navy midshipman and convict, Francis Fowkes, some three months after the First Fleet arrived in New South Wales. Published in London in July 1789, it presents a schematised view of the infant settlement with buildings, tents, sawpits, workshops, storehouses, quarries and gardens identified in the key. The eleven ships of the First Fleet are shown at anchor and the Governor’s ‘mansion’ is clearly identified on the eastern side of the cove. (Exhibition text)

 

Port Jackson Painter. 'View of the entrance into Port Jackson taken from a boat lying under the North Head' c. 1790

 

Port Jackson Painter
View of the entrance into Port Jackson taken from a boat lying under the North Head
c. 1790
Watercolour
11.7 x 24.2 cm
Rex Nan Kivell Collection: National Library of Australia and National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at left lower, George Tobin’s Native Hut (or Wigwam) of Adventure Bay, Van Diemans [Diemen’s] Land 1792 folio 16 in his Sketches on H.M.S. Providence; including some sketches from later voyages on Thetis and Princess Charlotte album 1791-1831 watercolour. State Library of New South Wales, Sydney Acquired from Truslove and Hanson, in 1915 – in the image below at bottom left.
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at bottom centre, Sarah Stone’s Shells 1781
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Sarah Stone. 'Shells' 1781

 

Sarah Stone
Shells
1781
Watercolour over black pencil
43.0 x 58.0 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 2016

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at left, View of the town of Sydney in the colony of New South Wales c. 1799; and second left of the row of four, Juan Ravenet’s Convicts in New Holland (Convictos en la Nueva Olanda) and English in New Holland (Ingleses en la Nueva Olanda) 1789-94 (see below)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Unknown artist. 'View of the town of Sydney in the colony of New South Wales' c. 1799

 

Unknown artist (England)
Thomas Watling (after)
View of the town of Sydney in the colony of New South Wales
c. 1799
Oil on canvas
65.0 x 133.0 cm
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Gift of M.J.M. Carter AO through the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation in recognition of the abilities of James Bennett to promote public awareness and appreciation of Asian art and culture 2015
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program

 

 

Transportation to New South Wales

The favourable accounts of New South Wales by James Cook and Joseph Banks were influential in the government’s selection of Botany Bay as the site for a new penal colony. Britain’s loss of the American colonies in 1783 ended convict transportation across the Atlantic and increased the pressure for new solutions to the rising rates of crime and incarceration experienced in late eighteenth-century Britain. The founding of a penal settlement in New South Wales was perceived not only as providing a solution to domestic, social and political problems but also as holding the key to territorial expansion in the South Pacific and the promotion of imperial trade.

The lengthy preparation for the First Fleet raised huge public interest. For most people at that time it was a journey of unimaginable length to a place as remote and unknown as the moon. The eleven ships comprising the First Fleet left Portsmouth in May 1787 with more than 1300 men, women and children on board. Although most were British, there were also African, American and French convicts. After a voyage of eight months the First Fleet arrived in Botany Bay in January 1788. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Unknown. 'Transported for sedition' 1793 (installation view)

 

Unknown
Transported for sedition (installation view)
1793
Woodcut on linen
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

This printed linen handkerchief shows five men popularly known as the ‘Scottish martyrs’. In 1794 they were sentenced to transportation to New South Wales for terms of up to fourteen years for the crime of sedition – inciting rebellion against the government of Britain. When published, or printed on paper, images such as this were also considered seditious and censored. Printed handkerchiefs, however, were not subjected to the same sanctions. They had the added advantage of being easily concealed and, when safe to do so, were displayed to show the owner’s political affiliation. (Exhibition text)

 

Juan Ravenet. 'Convicts in New Holland (Convictos en la Nueva Olanda)' 1789-94

 

Juan Ravenet (Italy 1766 – Spain c. 1821)
Convicts in New Holland (Convictos en la Nueva Olanda)
1789-94
From an album of drawings made on the Spanish Scientific Expedition to Australia and the Pacific in the ships Descubierta and Atrevida under the command of Alessandro Malaspina, 1789-94
Brush and ink and wash
19.5 x 12.5 cm
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

 

Juan Ravenet. 'English in New Holland (Ingleses en la Nueva Olanda)' 1789-94

 

Juan Ravenet (Italy 1766 – Spain c. 1821)
English in New Holland (Ingleses en la Nueva Olanda)
1789-94
From an album of drawings made on the Spanish Scientific Expedition to Australia and the Pacific in the ships Descubierta and Atrevida under the command of Alessandro Malaspina, 1789-94
Brush and ink and wash
19.5 x 12.5 cm
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

 

 

Extremely few realistic depictions of convicts in Australia are known. These rare portraits, showing garments worn by male and female convicts and by officials, were painted by one of two artists on board the Spanish expedition (1789-94), led by Alessandro Malaspina, that visited Sydney in 1793. A major scientific expedition, like Cook’s and La Pérouse’s, the visit also had political implications, as Sydney formed a strategic British base in the Pacific that could threaten Spanish interests in the Americas and Philippines. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at left, Half-length portrait of Gna-na-gna-na c. 1790
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Port Jackson Painter. 'Half-length portrait of Gna-na-gna-na' c. 1790

 

Port Jackson Painter
Half-length portrait of Gna-na-gna-na
c. 1790
Gouache
29.4 x 24.0 cm
National Library of Australia, Canberra
Rex Nan Kivell Collection

 

 

Indigenous representation

In the early years of settlement there was little contact with the Eora, the Traditional Owners of the area around Sydney Cove, who actively avoided the new arrivals, but as the colony grew, communication, and occasionally friendships, developed. The English had little understanding of the deep relationship between the Eora and their lands, and their careful management of resources, which were soon overstretched by the colonists. Famine and introduced diseases also devastated numerous communities. As the nineteenth century progressed, traditional life along the east coast of Australia was irrevocably changed.

Early images of Aboriginal people reflect the curiosity of the early colonists. Studies of the material culture of Indigenous people, and attempts to record everyday activities ranging from ceremonial gatherings to fishing and hunting, reveal the Europeans’ desire to understand Aboriginal people and culture through ethnographic documentation. Importantly, a number of these portraits include the names of the people depicted – they are not generic representations. The European artists who made these images were fascinated by the appearance of the individuals they encountered, sometimes producing finely detailed drawings and watercolours showing the particulars of hairstyles, ornamentation and scarification. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Piron and Copia. 'Natives of Cape Diemen fishing (Pêche des sauvages du Cap de Diemen)' 1800

 

Jean Piron (draughtsman, Belgium 1767/1771 – south-east Asia after 1795)
Jacques Louis Copia (engraver, Germany 1764-99)
Natives of Cape Diemen fishing (Pêche des sauvages du Cap de Diemen)
1800
Plate 4 from the Atlas pour servir à relation du Voyage à la Recherche de La Pérouse (Atlas of the voyage in search of La Pérouse), by J-J. H. de Labillardière, published by Chez Dabo, Paris 1817
Etching and engraving
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2017

 

 

Jean Piron was an artist trained in the Neoclassical tradition who accompanied the expedition led by Admiral Joseph-Antoine Raymond Bruni D’Entrecasteaux during 1791-94. His drawings from this expedition are the earliest surviving visual observations of the Aboriginal people of Tasmania by French explorers. Prints, engraved after his death, show Piron’s idealised vision of Tasmanian Aboriginal people living in tranquil harmony with their surroundings. However, apart from the spear-throwing man and the accurately depicted fibre and kelp baskets, there is little to indicate Tasmania in the classicised representation of the landscape and its people. (Exhibition text)

 

Samuel John Neele (etcher, England 1758-1825) 'Pimbloy [Pemuluwuy], native of New Holland in a canoe of that country' 1804

 

Unknown artist (draughtsman, active in England early 19th century)
Samuel John Neele (etcher, England 1758-1825)
Pimbloy [Pemuluwuy], native of New Holland in a canoe of that country
1804
Following p. 170 in The Narrative of a Voyage of Discovery in his Majesty’s vessel the Lady Nelson by James Grant, published by Thomas Egerton, London, 1803
Etching
Special Collections, Deakin University, Melbourne

 

 

Pemuluwuy was an important man and warrior of the Eora nation. In December 1790 he gained notoriety after spearing, and killing, Governor Phillip’s gamekeeper. He then went on to lead raids on many of the settlements in the Sydney area, including Parramatta. David Collins, the lieutenant-governor, acknowledged that he was ‘a most active enemy’; however, he also noted that Pemuluwuy’s attacks were precipitated by the vicious ‘misconduct’ of the colonisers. In 1801 Governor King issued a proclamation that Indigenous people could be shot on sight, and placed a bounty on Pemuluwuy. He was murdered by a settler in 1802 and his body was subsequently desecrated. (Exhibition text)

 

John Heaviside Clark (draughtsman Scotland 1770-1863, England 1801-32) Matthew Dubourg (engraver active in England 1786-1838) 'Climbing trees' 1813 (installation view)

 

John Heaviside Clark (draughtsman Scotland 1770-1863, England 1801-32)
Matthew Dubourg (engraver active in England 1786-1838)
Climbing trees (installation view)
Plate 4 from Field Sports &c. &c. of the Native Inhabitants of New South Wales, published by Edward Orme, London
1813
Hand-coloured aquatint
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gurnett-Smith Bequest, 1999
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Field Sports &c. &c. of the Native Inhabitants of New South Wales was the first publication to focus on the representation of Indigenous Australian life. The set of ten colour aquatints was part of a much larger series called Foreign Field Sports, which depicted sporting and hunting pursuits from around the world. These prints contain accurate details, such as the spearthrower, however, the plants and animals are inaccurate and were clearly unfamiliar to the London artists who made them, neither of whom came to Australia. (Exhibition text)

 

John Heaviside Clark (draughtsman Scotland 1770-1863, England 1801-32) Matthew Dubourg (engraver active in England 1786-1838) 'Warriors of New S. Wales' 1813 (installation view)

 

John Heaviside Clark (draughtsman Scotland 1770-1863, England 1801-32)
Matthew Dubourg (engraver active in England 1786-1838)
Warriors of New S. Wales (installation view)
Plate 6 from Field Sports &c. &c. of the Native Inhabitants of New South Wales, published by Edward Orme, London
1813
Hand-coloured aquatint
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gurnett-Smith Bequest, 1999
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

The Flinders and Baudin expeditions

Between 1801 and 1804, skilled British navigator Matthew Flinders and his crew aboard the Investigator circumnavigated Australia, funded by the Royal Society and its president Sir Joseph Banks. Their directive was to chart the final stretch of southern coastline that remained unknown on European maps, and learn more about the continent’s extraordinary natural history. A similar French expedition led by Nicolas Baudin on the Géographe and the Naturaliste had already commenced (1800-04). Sent by the Marine Ministry and Napoleon Bonaparte, the expedition sought to map and explore the unfamiliar land and its inhabitants; however, the British feared that it was a reconnaissance mission with a view to founding a French base in New Holland or Van Diemen’s Land.

The most dazzling record of both voyages’ scientific achievement was produced by the artists on board. Travelling with Baudin on the Géographe was Charles-Alexandre Lesueur, who delineated thousands of animal specimens, and Nicolas-Martin Petit, who represented the Aboriginal people encountered on the voyage. Their drawings were the basis for the engravings published in the official account of the expedition, Voyage of Discovery to the Southern Lands (1807–11). Aboard the Investigator was the mature natural history artist Ferdinand Bauer and the talented young landscape painter William Westall. (Text from the NGV website)

 

New Holland: New South Wales. View of the southern part of the town of Sydney

 

Charles-Alexandre Lesueur (draughtsman, France 1778-1846)
Victor Pillement (engraver, France 1767-1814)
Marie-Alexandre Duparc (engraver, active in France 18th century – 19th century)
New Holland: New South Wales. View of the southern part of the town of Sydney (Nouvelle-Hollande: Nouvelle Galles du Sud. Vue de la partie meridionale de la Ville de Sydney)
Plate 38 from Voyage de Découvertes aux Terres Australes (Voyage of Discovery to the Southern Lands) atlas, by François Peron and Louis de Freycinet, published by L’Imprimerie Impèriale, Paris, 1807-16
Etching and engraving
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through the NGV Foundation by John Baird, Member, 2005

 

 

Following their lengthy voyage and exploration of the south-east coastline of Australia, the Géographe and Naturaliste struggled into Port Jackson in June 1802. The French crew remained there for five months to recover and repair their ships. The surveying and scientific parties continued with their work, to some British suspicion, and Charles-Alexandre Lesueur drew scenes of Sydney and its surrounds, as well as exquisite natural history records. Taken from their camp on Bennelong Point (where the Sydney Opera House now stands) this view looks across Sydney Cove to where The Rocks and the southern end of the Harbour Bridge are now. (Exhibition text)

 

Ferdinand Bauer (Austria 1760-1826, England 1787-1801, 1805-14, Australia 1801-05) 'Gymea Lily' 1806-13, published 1813 (installation view)

 

Ferdinand Bauer (Austria 1760-1826, England 1787-1801, 1805-14, Australia 1801-05)
Gymea Lily (installation view)
1806-13, published 1813
Plate 13 from Illustrationes florae Novae Hollandiae, sive icones generum quae in Prodromo Novae Hollandiae et insulae van Diemen decripsit Robertus Brown, published London 1813
Colour engraving with hand-colouring
36.2 x 24.3 cm irreg. (image) 39.0 x 25.2 cm (plate) 51.0 x 34.0 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 2004
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Ferdinand Bauer. 'Banksia coccinea' 1806-13

 

Ferdinand Bauer (Austria 1760-1826, England 1787-1801, 1805-14, Australia 1801-05)
Banksia coccinea
1806-13, published 1813
Plate 3 from Illustrationes florae Novae Hollandiae, sive icones generum quae in Prodromo Novae Hollandiae et insulae van Diemen decripsit Robertus Brown, published London 1813
Colour engraving with hand-colouring
36.2 x 24.3 cm irreg. (image) 39.0 x 25.2 cm (plate) 51.0 x 34.0 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 2004

 

 

Austrian-born Ferdinand Bauer is recognised as one of the most accomplished natural history artists who did much of his art while travelling, both in the Mediterranean and then as an official artist on Matthew Flinders’ circumnavigation of Australia (1801-03). Working closely with botanist Robert Brown, Bauer produced over 2000 drawings and watercolours, and continued with his meticulous work upon his return to London. This engraving exemplifies his skill: it is engraved, printed in colour and then carefully handpainted, all by Bauer himself. Regrettably his intended botanical publication ran to only fifteen plates. (Exhibition text)

 

Barthélemy Roger. 'Y-erran-gou-la-ga' 1824

 

Barthélemy Roger (engraver, France 1767-1841)
Nicolas-Martin Petit (after) (draughtsman, France 1777-1804)
Y-erran-gou-la-ga, a native of the environs of Port Jackson (Y-erran-gou-la-ga, suavage des environs du port Jackson)
1824
Plate 24 in the Voyage de Découvertes aux Terres Australes (Voyage of Discovery to the Southern Lands) atlas
Arthus Bertrand, Paris, 1824, 2nd edition
Hand-coloured engraving, etching and stipple engraving printed in black and brown ink
31.5 x 24.1 cm (plate) 36.5 x 27.6 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Joe White Bequest, 2010

 

William Westall. 'Chasm Island, native cave painting' 1803

 

William Westall (England 1781-1850, Australia 1801-03)
Chasm Island, native cave painting
1803
Watercolour
26.7 x 36.6 cm
National Library of Australia, Canberra

 

William Westall. 'A view of King George's Sound' 1802

 

William Westall (England 1781-1850, Australia 1801-03)
A view of King George’s Sound
1802
Watercolour and pen and brown ink
27.9 x 42.9 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1978

 

 

William Westall was one of two artists who accompanied Matthew Flinders on the Investigator as it circumnavigated Australia between 1801 and 1803. This highly finished watercolour of King George’s Sound in south-western Australia is not a topographical study, but a romantic vision of a vast, silent and forbidding land. Two generic Aboriginal people figures are included in the foreground in the guise of the noble savage. Their classicised robes and the lack of a European presence, particularly the explorers encountering them, shows Westall casting the scene in an Arcadian period prior to British encounter. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne featuring the Bowman flag 1806 Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Mary Bowman (attributed to) (active in Australia early 19th century)
Bowman flag
1806
Oil on silk
State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Presented by John Bowman’s great grandchildren to Richmond Superior Public School, 1905; transferred to the Mitchell Library by the Dept. of Public Instruction, 1916

 

 

Made to commemorate Lord Nelson’s naval victory at Trafalgar, this remarkable flag was flown at Scottish free settler John Bowman’s farm in 1806. The first Australian-made flag, it features the earliest recorded image of a kangaroo and emu supporting a shield, one hundred years prior to the implementation of the current coat of arms. According to family members, the Bowman flag was made from the silk of Honor Bowman’s wedding dress and sewn by her daughter Mary Bowman; however, more recent analysis suggests the design was most likely commissioned from a professional sign painter. (Exhibition text)

 

John Lewin (England 1770 - Australia 1819, Australia from 1800) 'Koala and young' 1803

 

John Lewin (England 1770 – Australia 1819, Australia from 1800)
Koala and young (installation view)
1803
Watercolour and gouache
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Purchased from a descendant of Governor King, 1983
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Surprisingly, koalas were not captured by colonists until 1803, although their existence had been known of for several years, and they were described as cullawine or colo, the names used by Aboriginal hunters. In August 1803 a female and two joeys were taken to Sydney, where they were reported in the recently founded Sydney Gazette. After one joey died, the mother and surviving joey were painted, proficiently by the Sydney-based artist John Lewin, and exquisitely by expedition artist Ferdinand Bauer. Bauer was unable to complete his watercolour in time to be sent on a departing ship, and thus Lewin’s was the first visual record of this animal to reach England. (Exhibition text)

 

John Lewin. 'The gigantic lyllie of New South Wales' 1810

 

John Lewin (England 1770 – Australia 1819, Australia from 1800)
The gigantic lyllie of New South Wales
1810
Watercolour
54.1x 43.6 cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Purchased 1968

 

 

Natural history

In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the world was being studied and described by Europeans on a scale never seen before. Exploration in the Pacific revealed unanticipated communities and environments and the vast quantities of material brought back – objects, artefacts, specimens, maps, records, descriptions – were regarded with awe and astonishment. Enlightenment ambitions to understand the world through empirical observation led to intense scientific scrutiny, as people sought to comprehend and to classify this exciting, bemusing abundance. In this period, visual imagery became increasingly important, far exceeding a written description and surpassing dried or dead specimens in its ability to depict form, texture, colour, oddity and beauty.

From the time of the British landing in 1770, the people of Britain and Europe were astounded by what they saw in the colony. Captain (later Governor) John Hunter wrote ‘it would require the pencil of an able limner [artist] to give a stranger an idea of [the colourful birds], for it is impossible by words to describe them’. John Lewin was the first professional artist to arrive in New South Wales. Trained in natural history illustration and printmaking, Lewin promptly began drawing and making etchings of local moths and birds perched on Australian plants. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Unknown. 'The kanguroo, an animal found on the coast of New Holland' 1773

 

George Stubbs after (England 1724-1806)
Unknown (etcher active in England 1770s)
The kanguroo, an animal found on the coast of New Holland
1773
Plate in An Account of the Voyages undertaken … for making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere by John Hawkesworth, printed for W. Strahan and T. Cadell, London, 1773
Etching
Rare Books Collection, State Library Victoria, Melbourne

 

 

Of all the ‘discoveries’ made in Australia by the crew of the Endeavour, one completely unexpected creature captured European imaginations; an animal, Cook wrote, like a greyhound except that ‘it jump’d like a Hare or Deer’. Several of these were caught in northern Queensland where they were called gangurru by the local Guugu Yimithirr. In London, Banks commissioned leading animal painter George Stubbs to paint the kangaroo, although he had only skins, skulls and sketches by Parkinson as his guide. This painting was reproduced in the official account of the voyage, published in 1773, two years after the Endeavour returned home. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation views of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at second right top in the bottom image, James Sowerby’s Embothrium speciosissimum (now Telopea speciosissima) 1793
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

James Sowerby. 'Embothrium speciosissimum (now Telopea speciosissima)' 1793

 

James Sowerby (England 1757 – France 1822)
Embothrium speciosissimum (now Telopea speciosissima)
1793
Plate 7 from A Specimen of the Botany of New Holland, part 2, by James Edward Smith, published by James Sowerby, London 1793
Hand-coloured etching and gum arabic
23.6 x 16.0 cm (image and plate), 30.0 x 23.2 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Joe White Bequest, 2015

 

 

A Specimen of the Botany of New Holland by the preeminent English botanist James Edward Smith was the first book dedicated to the study of Australia’s flora. The publication was illustrated by one of England’s leading botanical artists, James Sowerby, who was working from drawings made by John White, surgeon-general of New South Wales, as well as from dried specimens. The detailed illustrations and use of proper Latin names in Smith and Sowerby’s publication follows the authors’ intention to publish a scientific book that also reached a lay audience. (Exhibition text)

 

Richard Browne (illustrator) 'Insects' 1813

 

Richard Browne (illustrator, Ireland 1776 – Australia 1824, Australia from 1811)
Insects
1813
Page 52 in Select Specimens from Nature of the Birds Animals &c &c of New South Wales collected and arranged by Thomas Skottowe 1813
Watercolour
18.7 x 30.0 cm (page)
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Bequeathed by D.S. Mitchell, 1907

 

 

Convicts with artistic talent were often put to work by their overseers. This was the case for convict Richard Browne who was assigned to Newcastle commandant Thomas Skottowe. Browne hand-painted the illustrations in Skottowe’s 1813 book, Select Specimens from Nature. Upon his release, Browne returned to Sydney, where he continued to paint stylised images of emus, lyrebirds and other animals. He also made portraits of Awabakal and Eora individuals, with the intention of selling these drawings to the developing local market, or as souvenirs to people aboard visiting ships. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with in the bottom image at right, John Lewin’s Fish catch and Dawes Point, Sydney Harbour c. 1813; and second right, John Lewin’s Platypus 1810
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

John Lewin
Fish catch and Dawes Point, Sydney Harbour (detail)
c. 1813
Oil on canvas
86.5 x 113.0 cm
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Gift of the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation and South Australian Brewing Holdings Limited 1989
Given to mark the occasion of the Company’s 1988 Centenary
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

John Lewin. 'Fish catch and Dawes Point, Sydney Harbour' c. 1813 

 

John Lewin (England 1770 – Australia 1819, Australia from 1800)
Fish catch and Dawes Point, Sydney Harbour
c. 1813
Oil on canvas
86.5 x 113.0 cm
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Gift of the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation and South Australian Brewing Holdings Limited 1989
Given to mark the occasion of the Company’s 1988 Centenary

 

 

In 1812, John Lewin wrote to a friend that he had two oil paintings underway, one of which is believed to be this unusual composition of a haul of fish caught in Sydney Harbour set against the background of Dawes Point (now The Rocks, Sydney). It is thus the earliest oil painting known to have been produced in Australia. Pictured in the composition are various identifiable fish varieties, including a crimson squirrelfish, estuary perch, rainbow wrasse, sea mullet and hammerhead shark, later named the Zygaena lewini (now Sphyrna lewini) after the artist. (Exhibition text)

 

John Lewin (England 1770 - Australia 1819, Australia from 1800) 'Platypus' 1810

 

John Lewin (England 1770 – Australia 1819, Australia from 1800)
Platypus
1810
Watercolour and gouache
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Bequeathed to the Trustees of the National Art Gallery of N.S.W. by Helen Banning; transferred to the Mitchell Library 1913
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Sydney Bird Painter. 'Black Swan' c. 1790

 

Sydney Bird Painter
Black Swan
c. 1790
Watercolour and ink
48.1 x 29.2 cm
Kerry Stokes Collection, Perth

 

 

Images of the black swan, as well as living birds and skins, were sent back to a fascinated Europe. One depiction became the pose de rigueur – a swan afloat, shown in profile like a heraldic symbol, with wings raised to show the white flight feathers. Like the Stubbs kangaroo, this black swan appeared in numerous forms. This beautiful watercolour was painted by an unidentified artist, possibly a member of the First Fleet, whose hand has also been identified in a volume of watercolours depicting birds held in the Mitchell Library, Sydney. Two or three artists made these drawings, and they are now collectively referred to as the Sydney Bird Painter. (Exhibition text)

 

Peter Brown. 'Blue-bellied parrot' 1776

 

Peter Brown (active in England 1758-99)
Blue-bellied parrot
1776
Plate VII in New Illustrations of Zoology: Containing Fifty Coloured Plates of New, Curious, and Non-Descript Birds, with a Few Quadrupeds, Reptiles and Insects, published by B. White, London 1776
Hand coloured etching
19.0 x 24.6 cm (image and plate), 24.0 x 30.5 cm (sheet)
Special Collections, Deakin University, Melbourne

 

 

It is unusual to know about an individual bird but this rainbow lorikeet (as it is now known) was captured at Botany Bay by Tupaia, the skilled Polynesian navigator and arioi (priest) who joined the Endeavour in Tahiti. The bird was taken back alive to London, and presented by Joseph Banks to the wealthy collector Marmaduke Tunstall. A watercolour of it was painted in 1772, and this print was published in 1776, carefully hand-coloured to show the bird’s distinctive plumage. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at centre, Joseph Lycett’s Inner view of Newcastle c. 1818
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Joseph Lycett. 'Inner view of Newcastle' c. 1818

 

Joseph Lycett (England c. 1775-1828, Australia 1814-22)
Inner view of Newcastle
c. 1818
Oil on canvas
59.6 x 90.0 cm
Newcastle Art Gallery, Newcastle
Purchased with assistance from the National Art Collections Fund, London UK 1961

 

 

Forger Joseph Lycett was sent to the secondary penal settlement in Newcastle in 1815 after reoffending. His artistic skills soon attracted the patronage of Commandant Captain James Wallis, and under his direction he produced several paintings and drawings for etchings of birds and the landscape, as well as keenly observed watercolours of the local Awabakal people. This view shows the unmistakable profile of Newcastle’s Nobby’s Island, a site which is, according to the Awabakal people, the home of a giant kangaroo that was banished from its kin. The crashing of his great tail against the ground is said to be the cause of earthquakes and tremors in the area. (Exhibition text)

 

 

Newcastle 1804

A penal settlement was established in Newcastle in 1804 as a place of secondary punishment for convicts. The area was rich in natural resources, including timber in the hinterland, large deposits of coal in the cliffs at the entrance to the harbour and shell middens for lime burning. Reoffenders sent to Newcastle experienced gruelling physical labour extracting these materials and desertion occurred frequently.

Yet, from this brutal setting, a rich body of work was born which represents the first local art movement by settlers within the Australian colonies. Over a decade, two commandants overseeing the settlement, Lieutenant Thomas Skottowe (1811-18) and Captain James Wallis (1816-22), both of whom were appointed by Governor Lachlan Macquarie, used convicts with artistic skills on a range of projects and capital works programs. They set artists to work documenting the Newcastle region and the local flora and fauna in drawings, paintings and prints. Others interacted with the local Awabakal people and produced important visual documents recording specific individuals and their way of life. Convicted forger Joseph Lycett was sent to Newcastle in 1815, and was the most significant artist involved in these projects, executing a group of major oil paintings, numerous watercolours, and drawings for subsequent etchings. (Text from the NGV website)

 

James Wallis (Ireland c. 1785 - England 1858, Australia 1814-19) 'View of Awabakal Aboriginal people, with beach and river inlet, and distant Aboriginal group in background' c. 1818 (installation view)

 

James Wallis (Ireland c. 1785 – England 1858, Australia 1814-19)
View of Awabakal Aboriginal people, with beach and river inlet, and distant Aboriginal group in background (installation view)
c. 1818
in his Album of original drawings by Captain James Wallis and Joseph Lycett, bound with An Historical Account of the Colony of New South Wales by James Wallis, published by R. Ackerman, London, 1821 (c. 1817–21)
Watercolour and collaged watercolour
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Purchased 2011
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

This image is one of a number of watercolours painted by Captain James Wallis that were bound into his personal copy of this publication. This naive image shows Awabakal people from the Newcastle region, whose figures have been cut out and collaged over the coastal scene behind. This presents a harmonious relationship between the Awabakal, colonisers and the military. Such a suggestion is at odds with earlier events of April 1816 when Wallis, under the direction of Governor Macquarie, led an armed regiment against Dharawal and Gandangara people south of Sydney, in what is now acknowledged as the first officially sanctioned massacre of Indigenous people in Australia. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne showing the Dixson collector’s chest c. 1818-20
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

'Dixson collector's chest' c. 1818-20

 

William Temple (cabinetmaker)
Patrick Riley (cabinetmaker)
John Webster (cabinetmaker)
Joseph Lycett (attributed to) (decorator)
James Wallis (after)
William Westall (after)
Dixson collector’s chest
c. 1818-20
Australian Rose Mahogany (Dysoxylum fraserianum), Red Cedar (Toona ciliata), brass, oil, natural history specimens
56.0 x 71.3 x 46.5 cm (closed)
Dixson Galleries, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Presented by Sir William Dixson, 1937

 

 

The Dixson collector’s chest

The Dixson collector’s chest, c. 1818-20, and its close relation, the Macquarie collector’s chest, c. 1818, are rare examples of colonial ‘cabinets of curiosity’ and among the most fascinating and complex objects of the colonial period. The Macquarie collector’s chest was commissioned and likely designed by Captain James Wallis, commandant of Newcastle, to present to Governor Lachlan Macquarie. It is debated whether the Dixson collector’s chest, on display here, was produced as its prototype or subsequently as a second version.

Crafted by expert convict cabinet-makers from local Australian timbers, the cabinet opens to reveal painted panels by convict artist Joseph Lycett. Several show the Newcastle region, while others are painted after views by exploration artist William Westall. The drawers contain shells and originally would have also held other natural history specimens including birds, insects, coral and seaweed, tagged and arranged fastidiously by shape, colour and/or type. It is believed these specimens were collected with the assistance of the local Awabakal people, as Wallis had an amicable relationship with their kinsman Burigon.

Both of these chests were only discovered in the twentieth century; the example owned by Macquarie was found in a Scottish castle in the late 1970s, while the Dixson collector’s chest was acquired by Sir William Dixson, benefactor of the State Library of New South Wales, from a London dealer in 1937. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with in foreground, showing Dress uniform worn by Sir Edward Deas Thomson, Colonial Secretary of New South Wales 1832-42; and in the background, Augustus Earle’s Captain John Piper c. 1826 and Mary Ann Piper and her children c. 1826
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

In the three years he spent in the colonies, Augustus Earle established himself as one of its leading artists, specialising in portraiture. He was commissioned to produce several portraits of prominent officials including surveyor George Evans, also on display; the departing governor, Sir Thomas Brisbane; and this pair of canvases depicting Captain John Piper and his family. Dressed in a uniform of his own design, Piper is portrayed as a man at the height of his power. The accompanying portrait of Mary Ann with four of their thirteen children depicts the family at home. Her gentility is emphasised by her fashionable dress, banishing all trace of her origins as the daughter of First Fleet convicts. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne showing Dress uniform worn by Sir Edward Deas Thomson, Colonial Secretary of New South Wales (detail) 1832-42
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Unknown, England / Australia (maker)
Firmin & Sons, London (button maker England est. 1677)
Dress uniform worn by Sir Edward Deas Thomson, Colonial Secretary of New South Wales
1832-42
Wool, silver brocade (appliqué), metal (buttons)
Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney Purchased 1966

 

 

Worn by Sir Edward Deas Thomson, Colonial Secretary of New South Wales between 1837 and 1856, this dress coat and trousers formed part of Thomson’s official livery. Loosely based on the Windsor uniform, introduced by King George III, the outfit’s striking red collar and cuffs with oak leaf and acorn hand embroidery impart splendour. In the nascent colony, uniforms were a way to differentiate status, easing anxieties about social mobility and instilling discipline and obedience. (Exhibition text)

 

Augustus Earle (England 1793-1838, Brazil 1820-24, Australia 1825-28) 'Wentworth Falls' c. 1830 (installation view)

 

Augustus Earle (England 1793-1838, Brazil 1820-24, Australia 1825-28)
Wentworth Falls
c. 1830
Oil on canvas
Rex Nan Kivell Collection: National Library of Australia and National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

The intrepid artist and adventurer Augustus Earle arrived in Australia in January 1825 at a time when the economic and social hierarchies of the new colony were still in flux. An accidental émigré, rescued from the tiny island of Tristan da Cunha, where he had been marooned, Earle’s enterprising nature and versatile talents saw him build up a rich visual record of the colonial encounter for local and international audiences. These large oils were produced in England, several years after his return from the colony, and are among the first to evoke the scale and grandeur of the Australian wilderness. (Exhibition text)

 

Augustus Earle (England 1793-1838, Brazil 1820-24, Australia 1825-28) 'A bivouac of travellers in Australia in a cabbage-tree forest, day break' c. 1838

 

Augustus Earle (England 1793-1838, Brazil 1820-24, Australia 1825-28)
A bivouac of travellers in Australia in a cabbage-tree forest, day break (see installation photograph below at left)
c. 1838
Oil on canvas
118.0 x 82.0 cm
Rex Nan Kivell Collection: National Library of Australia and National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at bottom centre, Augustus Earle’s Portrait of Bungaree, a native of New South Wales c. 1826
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Bungaree, or Boongaree, (1775 – 24 November 1830) was an Aboriginal Australian from the Kuringgai people of the Broken Bay area, who was known as an explorer, entertainer, and Aboriginal community leader. He is significant in that he was the first person to be recorded in print as an Australian.

By the end of his life, he had become a familiar sight in colonial Sydney, dressed in a succession of military and naval uniforms that had been given to him. His distinctive outfits and notoriety within colonial society, as well as his gift for humour and mimicry, especially his impressions of past and present governors, made him a popular subject for portrait painters.

Bungaree first came to prominence in 1798, when he accompanied Matthew Flinders on a coastal survey as an interpreter, guide and negotiator with local indigenous groups. He later accompanied Flinders on his circumnavigation of Australia between 1801 and 1803 in the Investigator. Flinders was the cartographer of the first complete map of Australia, filling in the gaps from previous cartographic expeditions, and was the most prominent advocate for naming the continent “Australia”. Flinders noted that Bungaree was “a worthy and brave fellow” who, on multiple occasions, saved the expedition. Bungaree continued his association with exploratory voyages when he accompanied Phillip Parker King to north-western Australia in 1817 in the Mermaid.

In 1815, Governor Lachlan Macquarie dubbed Bungaree “Chief of the Broken Bay Tribe” and presented him with 15 acres (61,000 m2) of land on George’s Head. He also received a breastplate inscribed “BOONGAREE – Chief of the Broken Bay Tribe – 1815”. Bungaree was also known by the titles “King of Port Jackson” and “King of the Blacks”. Bungaree spent the rest of his life ceremonially welcoming visitors to Australia, educating people about Aboriginal culture (especially boomerang throwing), and soliciting tribute, especially from ships visiting Sydney. In 1828, he and his clan moved to the Governor’s Domain, and were given rations, with Bungaree described as ‘in the last stages of human infirmity’. He died at Garden Island on 24 November 1830 and was buried in Rose Bay. Obituaries of him were carried in the Sydney Gazette and The Australian.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Augustus Earle. 'Portrait of Bungaree, a native of New South Wales' c. 1826

 

Augustus Earle (England 1793-1838, Brazil 1820-24, Australia 1825-28)
Portrait of Bungaree, a native of New South Wales
c. 1826
Oil on canvas
68.5 x 50.5 cm
Rex Nan Kivell Collection: National Library of Australia and National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

 

Sydney 1810s-50s

The 1810s through to the 1850s was an era of expansion for the colonists who had settled in New South Wales and a time of continuing dispossession for Aboriginal people. Transportation ended in 1840, but convict labour continued to be assigned to assist with building roads and clearing land for pastoralists. The settler population grew and continued to occupy land further inland, north and south of Sydney. Emigration commissioners in London, and advocates within the colony, worked to encourage the arrival of free settlers, particularly women.

Throughout this period Sydney was the local centre of political power, and social and cultural sophistication. Artistic patronage was fostered. This is reflected in the proliferation of images in which nature and civilisation are pleasantly unified; the newly tamed wilderness placed against views of newly constructed Georgian buildings, demonstrating the colony’s ability to create order and flourish. Portraits were also in demand, and not only reflected the material success of prominent families but were commissioned by the expanding middle class. A print industry was established and expanded as the demand for locally produced prints increased. Images of colonial subjects, including portraits of Aboriginal people, account for a significant proportion of the art market at this time. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Edward Charles Close (Bengal (Bangladesh) 1790 - Australia 1866, Australia from 1817) 'The costume of the Australasians' c. 1817

 

Edward Charles Close (Bengal (Bangladesh) 1790 – Australia 1866, Australia from 1817)
The costume of the Australasians
c. 1817
In his New South Wales Sketchbook: Sea Voyage, Sydney, Illawarra, Newcastle, Morpeth c. 1817-40
Watercolour
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Purchased 2009

 

Installation views of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne featuring Elizabeth Macquarie, Governor Lachlan Macquarie and Lachlan Macquarie junior
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Unknown artist
Elizabeth Macquarie
c. 1819
Watercolour on ivory
State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Presented by F. W. Lawson, 1928

Unknown artist
Governor Lachlan Macquarie
c. 1819
Watercolour on ivory
State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Presented by Miss M. Bather Moore and Mr T. C. Bather Moore, 1965

Unknown artist
Lachlan Macquarie junior
c. 1817-18
Watercolour on ivory State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Presented by Miss M. Bather Moore and Mr T. C. Bather Moore, 1965

 

 

Portrait miniatures were produced in England from the sixteenth century, with the first example on ivory painted in 1707. They remained a popular form of portraiture, as they were both intimate and easy to carry, until photography gradually took over all but the high end of the market. In Australia miniatures were similarly popular with the more affluent colonists. Lachlan Macquarie was the governor of New South Wales from 1810 to 1821. This suite of miniatures, painted in Australia by a skilled but now unknown artist, show Macquarie, his wife Elizabeth and their young son. They were presented to Captain John Cliffe Watts, Macquarie’s aide-de-camp, as a gift and memento of friendship, prior to Cliffe’s return to England in April 1819. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne showing Henry Gritten’s oil on canvas Hobart, Tasmania 1856 National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Felton Bequest, 1975
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Hobart’s Mount Wellington was a landmark of such majestic beauty that for many it rivalled the magnificent natural harbour of Sydney. The site naturally attracted the pen and brush of many colonial artists including John Glover, Knud Bull and Eugene von Guérard. Henry Gritten, who lived in Hobart from 1856 until at least 1858, painted it many times, and it is almost as common in his oeuvre as his views of Melbourne from the Botanic Gardens of the 1860s. Most artists painted the view from the same vantage point adopted by Gritten, looking across the Derwent River towards the settlement nestled at the foot of the rising mountain. (Exhibition text)

 

 

Van Diemen’s Land 1803

In 1803, 160 years after the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman named and charted Van Diemen’s Land, the British laid claim to the island by relocating convicts and officers from New South Wales to forestall any incursion by the French. Convict transports continued to arrive intermittently in Van Diemen’s Land, mostly bringing prisoners from Britain and Ireland, until 1856, by which time more than 72,000 convicts had been sent there. There were several penal settlements established in Van Diemen’s Land, the most notorious of which were at Macquarie Harbour and Port Arthur.

In 1804, a year after the arrival of the first transports of convicts, Hobart Town was founded on the banks of the Derwent River and it quickly became an important southern trading port.

Over the next twenty years the settlement developed into a cultured, albeit provincial, Georgian township. Local sandstone was widely used to build fine buildings, including places of worship and civic and commercial buildings, and in turn the cultural life of the colony developed. In 1822 fifty-eight per cent of the population of Van Diemen’s Land were convicts, and consequently the majority of artists and artisans came from their ranks. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Unknown, Tasmania. 'Waistcoat' mid 19th century (installation view)

 

Unknown, Tasmania
Waistcoat (installation view)
Mid 19th century
Wool, cotton, bone
Collection of Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority, Hobart
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne showing Unknown, Tasmania 'Jacket' mid 19th century

 

Unknown, Tasmania
Jacket (installation view)
Mid 19th century
Wool, linen, cotton, bone
Collection of Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority, Hobart
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne showing Unknown, Tasmania Jacket and Indoor cap mid 19th century, wool, linen, cotton, bone
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Unknown
Tasmania Jacket
Mid 19th century
Wool, linen, cotton, bone
Collection of Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority, Hobart

Unknown, Tasmania
Indoor cap
Mid 19th century
Wool
Collection of Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority, Hobart

 

 

All convicts transported to Australia were issued with a set of clothing designed to differentiate between them and to facilitate identification should they attempt to escape. Although most convicts wore what became known as ‘slops’ in plain greys, dark browns and blues – like this jacket – the lowest class of convicts, particularly those with life sentences, were made to wear yellow. Colloquial terms soon emerged to describe these uniforms: a partly coloured black and buff uniform that demarcated reoffenders became known as a ‘magpie’, while the yellow-suited convicts were called ‘canaries’. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne showing Lion’s head, Book-shaped puzzle box, Bell and Fork mid 19th century
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Unknown, Tasmania
Lion’s head
Mid 19th century
Iron
Collection of Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority, Port Arthur

Unknown, Tasmania
Book-shaped puzzle box
Mid 19th century wood
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston Beattie Collection

Unknown, Tasmania
Bell
Mid 19th century
Wood, brass, iron, bronze
Collection of Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority, Hobart

Unknown, Tasmania
Fork
Mid 19th century
Wood
Collection of Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority, Port Arthur

 

 

NGV Australia will host two complementary exhibitions that explore Australia’s complex colonial history and the art that emerged during and in response to this period. Presented concurrently, these two ambitious and large-scale exhibitions, Colony: Australia 1770-1861 and Colony: Frontier Wars, offer differing perspectives on the colonisation of Australia.

Featuring an unprecedented assemblage of loans from major public institutions around Australia, Colony: Australia 1770-1861 is the most comprehensive survey of Australian colonial art to date. The exhibition explores the rich diversity of art, craft and design produced between 1770, the arrival of Lieutenant James Cook and the Endeavour, and 1861, the year the NGV was established.

The counterpoint to Colony: Australia 1770-1861, Colony: Frontier Wars presents a powerful response to colonisation through a range of historical and contemporary works by Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists dating from pre-contact times to present day. From nineteenth-century drawings by esteemed Wurundjeri artist and leader, William Barak, to the iridescent LED light boxes of Jonathan Jones, this exhibition reveals how Aboriginal people have responded to the arrival of Europeans with art that is diverse, powerful and compelling.

Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV said: ‘Cook’s landing marks the beginning of a history that still has repercussions today. This two-part exhibition presents different perspectives of a shared history with unprecedented depth and scope, featuring a breadth of works never-before-seen in Victoria. In order to realise this ambitious project, we have drawn upon the expertise and scholarship of many individuals from both within and outside the NGV. We are extremely grateful to the Aboriginal Elders and advisory groups who have offered their guidance, expertise and support,’ said Ellwood.

Joy Murphy-Wandin, Senior Wurundjeri Elder, said: ‘I am overwhelmed at the magnitude and integrity of this display: such work and vision is a credit to the curatorial team. The NGV is to be congratulated for providing a visual truth that will enable the public to see, and hopefully understand, First Peoples’ heartache, pain and anger. Colony: Australia 1770-1861 / Frontier Wars is a must see for all if we are to realise and action true reconciliation.’

Charting key moments of history, life and culture in the colonies, Colony: Australia 1770-1861 includes over 600 diverse and significant works, including examples of historical Aboriginal cultural objects, early watercolours, illustrated books, drawings, prints, paintings, sculpture and photographs, to a selection of furniture, fashion, textiles, decorative arts, and even taxidermy specimens.

Highlights from the exhibition include a wondrous ‘cabinet of curiosities’ showcasing the earliest European images of Australian flowers and animals, including the first Western image of a kangaroo and illustrations by the talented young water colourist Sarah Stone. Examples of early colonial cabinetmaking also feature, including the convict made and decorated Dixson chest containing shells and natural history specimens, as well as a rarely seen panorama of Melbourne in 1841 will also be on display.

Following the development of Western art and culture, the exhibition includes early drawings and paintings by convict artists such as convicted forgers Thomas Watling and Joseph Lycett; the first oil painting produced in the colonies by professional artist John Lewin; work by the earliest professional female artists, Mary Morton Allport, Martha Berkeley and Theresa Walker; landscapes by John Glover and Eugene von Guérard; photographs by the first professional photographer in Australia, George Goodman, and a set of Douglas Kilburn’s silver-plated daguerreotypes, which are the earliest extant photographs of Indigenous peoples.

Colony: Frontier Wars attests to the resilience of culture and Community, and addresses difficult aspects of Australia’s shared history, including dispossession and the stolen generation, through the works of Julie Gough, Brook Andrew, Maree Clarke, Ricky Maynard, Marlene Gilson, Julie Dowling, S. T. Gill, J. W. Lindt, Gordon Bennett, Arthur Boyd, Tommy McRae, Christian Thompson, and many more.

Giving presence to the countless makers whose identities have been lost as a consequence of colonialism, Colony: Frontier Wars also includes a collection of anonymous photographic portraits and historical cultural objects, including shields, clubs, spear throwers and spears, by makers whose names, language groups and Countries were not recorded at the time of collection. Challenging global museum conventions, the exhibition will credit the subjects and makers of these cultural objects as ‘once known’ rather than ‘unknown’.

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne showing William Francis Emery’s (active in Australia c. 1850-65) oil on canvas View of Ipswich from Limestone Hill c. 1861 Ipswich Art Gallery Collection, Ipswich
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne featuring 19th century earthenware and stoneware
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Left

Andreas Fritsch (Germany 1808 – Australia 1896, Australia from 1849)
Teapot
c. 1850
Earthenware
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of W. G. Tuck, 1972

Middle

Andreas Fritsch (Germany 1808 – Australia 1896, Australia from 1849)
Coffee pot
c. 1850
Earthenware
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of W. G. Tuck, 1972

Right

Trewenack, Magill, South Australia (pottery 1853-1928)
John Henry Trewenack (potter England 1853 – Australia 1883, Australia from 1849)
Lidded storage jar
c. 1855
Stoneware
National Museum of Australian Pottery, Holbrook, New South Wales

 

 

This sharply waisted coffee pot, with its flat lid and nipped-in knob, is of a traditional German type. Fritsch arrived in Melbourne from Schwarzenbek in northern Germany in 1849, accompanied by his wife and four children. He showed eight earthenware objects (which may have included this coffee pot and teapot) at the Victoria Industrial Society exhibition in Melbourne in 1851. The Argus commented on 30 January that Fritsch’s exhibits, which earned him a large silver medal, ‘shewed [sic] how little necessity there is for Victoria being dependent in this article on any other portion of the globe’.

 

Edward Robert Mickleburgh (England 1814 - late 19th century, Australia from c. 1841-1870s) 'The barque Terror commencing after Sperm Whales' 1840s (installation view)

 

Edward Robert Mickleburgh (England 1814 – late 19th century, Australia from c. 1841-1870s)
The barque Terror commencing after Sperm Whales (installation view)
1840s
Panbone and pigment
Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney
Purchased, 2004
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne showing Panoramic view of King George’s Sound, part of the colony of Swan River 1834
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Lieutenant Robert Dale (draughtsman England 1810-53, Australia 1829-33)
Robert Havell junior (engraver England 1793-1878, United States 1839-78)
Panoramic view of King George’s Sound, part of the colony of Swan River
1834
Engraving, colour aquatint and watercolour on 3 joined sheets
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1958

 

 

This lengthy and detailed print shows the distinctive coastline viewed from the rocky summit of Mount Clarence, with the recently established government farm at Strawberry Hill and what later became Albany below. Drawn by surveyor Lieutenant Robert Dale and translated into print by Robert Havell in London, it depicts Nyungar and European figures in friendly contact, surrounded by native vegetation and animals. The spectacular view may have enticed prospective investors or settlers, promoting an idyllic vision with its abundance of fertile land and peaceful relations with the Traditional Owners. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne showing at bottom, John Glover’s oil on canvas The Island of Madeira 1831-39 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

John Glover (England 1767 - Australia 1849, Australia from 1831) 'Moulting Lagoon and Great Oyster Bay, from Pine Hill' c. 1838 (installation view)

 

John Glover (England 1767 – Australia 1849, Australia from 1831)
Moulting Lagoon and Great Oyster Bay, from Pine Hill (installation view)
c. 1838
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with assistance of an anonymous donor and the M. G. Chapman Bequest, 2011
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

John Glover. 'View of Mills Plains, Van Diemen's Land' 1833

 

John Glover (England 1767 – Australia 1849, Australia from 1831)
View of Mills Plains, Van Diemen’s Land
1833
Oil on canvas
76.2 x 114.6 cm
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Morgan Thomas Bequest Fund 1951

 

 

John Glover was a mature and well-established artist by the time he immigrated to Van Diemen’s Land in 1831. He had enjoyed a long and mostly successful career as a painter in England and had exhibited at London’s Royal Academy on several occasions. He took to the bright light and colour of Van Diemen’s Land easily, depicting the distinctive terrain and vegetation with unerring naturalism and the selective, idealising eye of the picturesque painter. He established a farm named Patterdale in Deddington, outside of Launceston, with his sons. The property and surrounding Mills Plains countryside often feature as a subject in his paintings. (Exhibition text)

 

 

Van Diemen’s Land 1820s-50s

The increased arrival of free settlers from the 1820s onwards saw the colony of Van Diemen’s Land evolve from a brutal penal settlement into an economically sound and vibrant cultural centre. With its pleasant climate, few droughts and floods, and open grassland, which seemed pre-prepared for aspiring pastoralists, Van Diemen’s Land became the preferred destination for immigrants. By 1830, almost a third of the arrivals to Australia settled in the south, and the small island experienced economic prosperity.

Colonial society was increasingly able to support a vibrant artistic community, composed of amateurs and professionals, free settlers, highly skilled convicts and emancipists who found patronage despite their unsavoury backgrounds. In August 1837 the colony asserted its cultural superiority when Hobart hosted the first exhibition of art to be held in Australia, under the patronage of Lieutenant-Governor John Franklin and his wife, Jane. The Franklins had arrived in Hobart earlier that year, and during their tenure (1837-43) enthusiastically fostered the development of intellectual life, regarding the visual arts as an outward signifier of culture in the colony. The Vandemonian art, decorative arts and design produced from the 1830s to the early 1850s are among the most sophisticated and diverse of the colonial era. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at left, John Glover’s The River Nile, Van Diemen’s Land, from Mr Glover’s farm 1837; at centre, Hamilton Inn Sofa c. 1825; and in cabinet Necklace late 19th century
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

John Glover (England 1767 - Australia 1849, Australia from 1831) 'The River Nile, Van Diemen's Land, from Mr Glover's farm' 1837

 

John Glover (England 1767 – Australia 1849, Australia from 1831)
The River Nile, Van Diemen’s Land, from Mr Glover’s farm
1837
Oil on canvas
76.4 x 114.6 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1956

 

 

John Glover’s colonial landscapes can be divided into two groups: pastoral scenes of the land surrounding his own property, and pre-contact Aboriginal Arcadias. Although the Aboriginal figures are at times generic, they are shown as active participants in the landscape. Such scenes were, however, entirely imagined, as Glover encountered very few Tasmanian Aboriginal people while in the colony. Glover had not experienced the conflict or witnessed the violence between Tasmanian Aboriginal resistance fighters and white settlers during the 1820s. By the time of his arrival in 1831, the Tasmanian Aboriginal survivors had been forced to leave Country and relocate to Flinders Island.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at front left, Necklace late 19th century
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Unknown (Tasmanian Aboriginal active late 19th century)
Necklace
Late 19th century
Maireener shells (Phasianotrochus sp.)
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart

 

 

Shell necklace-making represents the most significant cultural tradition of Tasmanian Aboriginal women, one of few customary practices that has continued without interruption from long before British colonisation of Van Diemen’s Land in 1803. This necklace is strung from the rarest and most highly prized of shells, the maireneer (Phasianotrochus sp.). Seasonally gathered directly from the sea, maireneer shells are painstakingly processed to remove the outer brown casing and reveal their pearlescent lustre before being pierced and strung. Eighteenth-century French explorers remarked on the iridescent beauty of maireneer shell necklaces, and the esteem in which they were held by their skilled makers. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne showing Thomas Bock’s paintings John Robertson 1850 (top left); Mrs William Robertson mid 1830s (bottom left); Jessie Robertson 1850 (top right); and Captain William Robertson 1830s (bottom right) all oil on canvas, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide Mrs Mary Overton Gift Fund 1996
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Sentenced to transportation for fourteen years, Thomas Bock arrived in Hobart in 1824. He was already successful as an engraver in Birmingham so was put to work by government officials, engraving bank notes for the Bank of Van Diemen’s Land, stationery and illustrations for locally printed publications. Following his pardon, he was kept busy with painting commissions. His elegant and flattering portraits, executed in the grand Georgian manner fashionable in England, were greatly prized by colonists. In addition to painting these likenesses, Bock is believed to have photographed Captain Robertson, his wife and their son William junior in the early 1850s. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at centre, Hamilton Inn Sofa c. 1825
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Unknown, (Tasmania)
Hamilton Inn Sofa
c. 1825
Red Cedar (Toona ciliata), Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus sp.), pearwood, Mahogany, metal (steel and brass fittings), horsehair, wool, cotton
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart
Purchased for the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery by Federal Group with the assistance of the Art Foundation of Tasmania, 2005

 

 

This sofa is believed to be one of the earliest pieces of Tasmanian-made furniture. It is characteristically austere and reflects the Greek Revival taste popular in Britain during the Regency period, relying on the discipline of its refined line and silhouette for effect with ornamentation restricted to geometric motifs. Significantly, it has only been subject to repairs to stabilise the upholstery and framework, meaning it is in near original condition, rare for colonial furniture of this type. Usually, upholstery of this age has been replaced multiple times due to daily wear and tear and changing tastes in home furnishings. (Exhibition text)

 

Little is known of the sofa’s provenance before the late 19th century, when it entered the Sonners family of Hamilton – residents of the original Hamilton Inn from 1912 until the 1990s. Its earliest confirmed owner was Albert Sonners (1860 – 1935). The sofa’s maker, their client and the circumstances of production – including the date of manufacture – remain the subject of ongoing research.

However, it appears likely that the sofa was made during the 1820s, when wealthy colonists started to build large houses of the kind implied by the scale of the Hamilton Inn sofa. The sofa’s ambitious design would have been the height of fashion in the first decade of the 19th century, and is typical of the then fashionable, Greek-revival style. Pattern books became increasingly important as sources of ideas and promulgators of fashions from the late eighteenth century.

Thomas Hope’s (1769-1831) Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, published in 1807, was the first to promote the Greek-revival style and may have indirectly influenced the design of the Hamilton Inn sofa. The double-ended sofa – with scrolled arms and ‘sabre’ legs – displays an aesthetic that is restrained and geometric, consisting of shaped and relieved panels, reeding and tablets of decorative veneers.

The apparent simplicity emphasises the sofa’s elegant, curved and sweeping profile. Structural components made in Tasmanian hardwoods are disguised by either the upholstery or by cedar panels that also serve to disguise the attaching points for the upholstery. Ultimately, the design and scale of the sofa records the rapid transmission of British fashions to the new island colony, as well as the early presence of highly skilled furniture makers in Tasmania.

Text from the ABC Radio Hobart website

 

In November 2005, an unrestored red cedar couch discovered in a Tasmanian shed came up for auction in Hobart. The owner of the couch only wanted to make enough money to mend a fence. Instead, the couch sold at a drama-fuelled auction for more than $310,000.

At the auction, the couch was initially knocked down for $48,000 but a bidder protested and the auctioneer was forced to reopen the bidding. When the new round of bidding finally ceased, the sale was one of the highest prices ever paid for a piece of Australian furniture.

The couch was purchased by the Federal Group, a local Tasmanian hospitality and tourism group, with the assistance of the Art Foundation of Tasmania. It donated it to Hobart’s Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. …

When the gallery received the couch it faced a dilemma. The timber finish and upholstery were in poor condition and there was discussion over whether it should be restored or left untouched. After much consultation with experts, it was decided to improve the appearance without compromising the historical significance.

“It has the original upholstery, which is very unusual for this age,” says Hughes. “The finish and the wood are also pretty much original. So this makes it an extremely rare historical document, as well as a fantastic object.

“It has survived with more information than almost any other piece of colonial furniture. It has much to tell us about craftsmanship, materials and design in the early years of the Australian colonies.”

Text from The Australian website

 

Mary Morton Allport (England 1806 - Australia 1895, Australia from 1830) 'John Glover' c. 1832

 

Mary Morton Allport (England 1806 – Australia 1895, Australia from 1830)
John Glover
c. 1832
Watercolour on ivory, Huon Pine veneer, gilt
11.8 x 9.3 cm
Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, Hobart

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Frederick Woodhouse Senior (England 1820 – Australia 1909, Australia from 1858)
Owner, trainer, horse and jockey (installation view)
1858
Oil on canvas
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Elder Bequest Fund 1980
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation views of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at bottom right, Benjamin Duterrau’s (England 1761 – Australia 1851, Australia from 1832) oil on canvas Tasmanian Aboriginal 1837; and Thomas Bock’s Woureddy [Wurati]: Native of Bruné Island, Van Diemen’s Land c. 1837 third from left, botttom
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Tasmanian Aboriginal People

Between the establishment of the settlement of Hobart in 1804 and the early 1820s the British government granted to settlers just over 100,000 acres of land already occupied by Tasmanian Aboriginal people. By the beginning of the 1830s more than fourteen times this acreage had been taken over by Europeans. During these decades, Tasmanian Aboriginal communities were ravaged by introduced diseases and famine as their hunting grounds disappeared, and were involved in violent clashes with the settler population. These conflicts escalated during the 1820s and came to be known as the Black War.

In 1830, George Augustus Robinson was engaged in the so-called Friendly Mission, which sought to make peaceful contact with the Tasmanian Aboriginal people remaining on Country. With the assistance of groups of Aboriginal individuals, he persuaded those still living freely on the land to relocate to the Wybalenna settlement on Flinders Island. By 1835, many of the Tasmanian Aboriginal population lived permanently on Flinders Island, waiting to return to Country as they had been promised. Their numbers dwindled rapidly and in 1847 the remaining forty-seven individuals were forced to move to a former penal settlement at Oyster Cove, until the site was closed in 1874. Their traditions have lived on through Tasmanian Aboriginal people living outside of the official Wybalenna settlement in other coloniser and fishing communities. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Benjamin Duterrau (England 1761 - Australia 1851, Australia from 1832) 'Tasmanian Aboriginal' 1837

 

Benjamin Duterrau (England 1761 – Australia 1851, Australia from 1832)
Tasmanian Aboriginal
1837
Oil on canvas on composition board
National Library of Australia, Canberra
Presented by Mrs A. M. Barker 1936
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Benjamin Duterrau arrived in Van Diemen’s Land at the age of sixty-five as a free settler. He had planned to take up the position of drawing and music master at Ellinthrop Hall in Hobart, a fashionable school for ladies; however, this post was instead taken up by Henry Mundy. He lectured often on the importance of the fine arts in the developing colony after his arrival. Working predominantly in portraiture and occasionally in landscape, he is best known for producing the first Australian history paintings, which recorded the so-called ‘conciliation’ between Chief Protector of the Aborigines George Augustus Robinson and the Tasmanian Aboriginal people. (Exhibition text)

 

Thomas Bock (England 1790 - Australia 1855, Australia from 1824) 'Woureddy [Wurati]: Native of Bruné Island, Van Diemen's Land' c. 1837

 

Thomas Bock (England 1790 – Australia 1855, Australia from 1824)
Woureddy [Wurati]: Native of Bruné Island, Van Diemen’s Land
c. 1837
From the album Sketches in New South Wales and Tasmania by John Thompson, 1827–32
watercolour
28.3 x 21.0 cm
Dixson Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Bequeathed by Sir William Dixson, 1952

 

 

Between 1830 and 1834 Thomas Bock completed several watercolour portraits of Tasmanian Aboriginal people, many of whom were associated with George Augustus Robinson’s so-called ‘friendly mission’. Commissioned by Robinson himself, these sensitively rendered images were so admired for their accuracy that Bock was asked to make several duplicate copies by patrons Lady Jane Franklin and Reverend Henry Dowling. This group derives from one of these subsequent sets. The subject, Wurati of Bruny Island, was the husband of Trukanini and accompanied Robinson throughout Van Diemen’s Land in the early 1830s, and through Port Phillip between 1839 and 1842. He died just prior to returning to Flinders Island in 1842. (Exhibition text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne showing Ludwig Becker’s Aborigines of Tasmania 1852
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Ludwig Becker (Germany 1808 - Australia 1861, Australia from 1851) 'Aborigines of Tasmania: Woannadie, young woman' 1852

 

Ludwig Becker (Germany 1808 – Australia 1861, Australia from 1851)
Aborigines of Tasmania: Woannadie, young woman
1852
Watercolour
Pictures Collection, State Library Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased 1960

 

Ludwig Becker (Germany 1808 - Australia 1861, Australia from 1851) 'Aborigines of Tasmania: Naplomata, grandmother' 1852

 

Ludwig Becker (Germany 1808 – Australia 1861, Australia from 1851)
Aborigines of Tasmania: Naplomata, grandmother
1852
Watercolour
Pictures Collection, State Library Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased 1960

 

 

Ludwig Becker arrived in Launceston in 1851 and remained in Van Diemen’s Land for a year before relocating to Melbourne. During this time he produced small but poignant portraits of Tasmanian Aboriginal women living at Oyster Cove, south of Hobart. In 1847, the survivors of Wybalenna had returned to the mainland. Of the some 200 who were removed to Bass Strait, only forty-seven returned. By the time of Becker’s visit, close to a third of their population had died, and by the end of the decade approximately twelve people remained. (Exhibition text)

 

Douglas T. Kilburn. 'No title (Group of Koori men)' c. 1847

 

Douglas T. Kilburn
No title (Group of Koori men)
c. 1847
Daguerreotype; leather, wood, velvet, brass
7.5 x 6.5 cm (image) 9.2 x 7.9 x 1.7 cm (case) (closed)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased from Admission Funds, 1983

 

Douglas T. Kilburn. 'No title (Group of Koori men)' c. 1847 (detail)

 

Douglas T. Kilburn
No title (Group of Koori men) (detail)
c. 1847
Daguerreotype; leather, wood, velvet, brass
7.5 x 6.5 cm (image) 9.2 x 7.9 x 1.7 cm (case) (closed)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased from Admission Funds, 1983

 

 

As a way of attracting attention to his newly opened business Douglas Kilburn took at least eight daguerreotypes of Aboriginal people in the lands of the Kulin nation. As a result of the nineteenth-century belief that the Aboriginal people were doomed to annihilation, Kilburn intended the images as ethnographic studies rather than individual portraits; nevertheless, his unnamed sitters project a proud and dignified presence. His photographs were popular with local artists such as Eugene von Guérard and John Skinner Prout, who copied them, and they also reached an international audience when they were used as the basis for wood engravings in William Westgarth’s Australia Felix in 1848, Nordisk Penning-Magazin in 1849 and the Illustrated London News in 1850. (Exhibition text)

 

 

The Port Phillip District

In 1835, Melbourne was established on the Country of the Kulin nation on the northern bank of Birrarung, the ‘river of mists and shadows’. Contact between Indigenous peoples and European explorers and raiding groups of sealers had begun prior to the arrival of hopeful colonists from Van Diemen’s Land. They were soon followed by John Pascoe Fawkner and John Batman, each leading separate parties of settlers keen to secure acreage on the fertile lands found in what was soon to be known as the Port Phillip District.

In the early years Melbourne went through a period of rapid development, quickly becoming a progressive provincial town. In 1839 a visitor noted: ‘When I was here three years ago there were but two houses of any note whatever … Now I find a town occupying an area of nearly a mile square, on which are some hundreds of houses, and many of them spacious and well-built edifices’. In tandem with the settlement of Melbourne, pastoral expansion devastated Aboriginal communities already severely affected by disease. Dispossessed of their traditional lands and forced from Country and the food sources that had long sustained them, the remaining populations faced starvation. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Unknown (New South Wales / Victorian Aboriginal active 19th century) 'Club' 19th century (installation view)

 

Unknown (New South Wales / Victorian Aboriginal active 19th century)
Club
19th century
Wood
Koorie Heritage Trust, Melbourne
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Douglas T. Kilburn. 'No title (Group of Koori women)' 1847

 

Douglas T. Kilburn
No title (Group of Koori women)
1847
Daguerreotype; glass, brass, gold
6.6 x 5.4 cm (image)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1999

 

Douglas T. Kilburn. 'No title (Group of Koori women)' 1847 (detail)

 

Douglas T. Kilburn
No title (Group of Koori women) (detail)
1847
Daguerreotype; glass, brass, gold
6.6 x 5.4 cm (image)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1999

 

Henry Gritten (England 1818 - Australia 1873, Australia from 1853) 'Melbourne from the south bank of the Yarra' 1856

 

Henry Gritten (England 1818 – Australia 1873, Australia from 1853)
Melbourne from the south bank of the Yarra
1856
Watercolour over traces of pencil
(25.6 x 35.8) (image)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of John H. Connell, 1914

 

Ludwig Becker (Germany 1808 - Australia 1861, Australia from 1851) 'Melbourne from across the Yarra' 1854

 

Ludwig Becker (Germany 1808 – Australia 1861, Australia from 1851)
Melbourne from across the Yarra
1854
Tempera and watercolour on gesso on cardboard
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
V. K. Burmeister Bequest Fund and South Australian Government Grant 1990

 

Robert Dowling (England 1827-86, Australia 1834-57, 1884-86) 'Jane Sceales with daughters, Mary Jane and Hilda' c. 1856 (installation view)

 

Robert Dowling (England 1827-86, Australia 1834-57, 1884-86)
Jane Sceales with daughters, Mary Jane and Hilda (installation view)
c. 1856
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 2016. Acquired through family of Ella Lewis (nee Hood), granddaughter of Jane Hood (nee Sceales)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Jane Sceales and her daughters lived at Merrang, the pastoral run next to Minjah, owned by Joseph Ware. This is one of two known mourning portraits commissioned by Jane after the death of her husband Adolphus Sceales in 1855, produced while Robert Dowling was staying and working at Minjah. Scottish-born Jane is depicted in mourning dress, a teal and black tartan bow knotted elegantly at her collar. The skirt of her elder daughter, Mary Jane, is trimmed in the same fabric. By the close of 1856, Jane had remarried Robin Hood, becoming the matriarch of one of the most prominent families of the Western District. (Exhibition text)

 

Robert Dowling (England 1827-86, Australia 1834-57, 1884-86) 'Masters George, William and Miss Harriet Ware with the Aborigine Jamie Ware' 1856 (installation view)

 

Robert Dowling (England 1827-86, Australia 1834-57, 1884-86)
Masters George, William and Miss Harriet Ware with the Aborigine Jamie Ware (installation view)
1856
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Eleanor M. Borrow Bequest, 2007
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Robert Dowling (England 1827-86, Australia 1834-57, 1884-86) 'Masters George, William and Miss Harriet Ware with the Aborigine Jamie Ware' 1856

 

Robert Dowling (England 1827-86, Australia 1834-57, 1884-86)
Masters George, William and Miss Harriet Ware with the Aborigine Jamie Ware
1856
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Eleanor M. Borrow Bequest, 2007

 

 

In the late 1830s the young brothers Jeremiah, Joseph and John Ware, the eldest just twenty years of age, had played a major role in the settlement of the Western District in Victoria. By 1856 they were established and notable figures in the colony and had become significant patrons of the fine arts.

Robert Dowling’s family portrait Masters George, William, and Miss Harriet Ware and the Aborigine Jamie Ware is set in the grounds of pastoralist Joseph Ware’s property, Minjah. The group is headed by the eldest son, George, who bears a staff, the Biblical symbol of leadership often associated with Moses. To the right sits his younger brother, William, on the left is their sister Harriet and the Mopor youth from Spring Creek who took the family name, Jamie Ware. The portrait has remained with the descendants of the Ware family since its commission and is a poignant depiction of interracial accord.

There is an obvious affection between Jamie and Harriet: he reclines comfortably while the young girl drapes her arm casually over his leg. The absence of Jamie’s employers – the children’s parents, John and Barbara Ware, gives added resonance to the work, revealing the trust and intimate position Jamie held in the family. The depiction of the youth in European dress rather than as an anthropological study expresses the family’s concern for harmonious relations with Indigenous people.

Jamie’s inclusion is also symbolic of the Ware family’s awareness of the traumatic post-contact history experienced by Indigenous Australians, an understanding that was not generally shared in mid-nineteenth-century Victoria. By the 1850s it was reported that Tasmania’s Indigenous population had been decimated, which would have been a significant issue for Dowling and the Wares who had all migrated from the southern-most colony. Dowling painted a number of works that were intended as memorials, such as the NGV’s Tasmanian Aborigines, 1856, and Warrnambool Art Gallery’s Minjah in the old time, 1856. While these works look to the past and convey a sense of mourning, the Ware family portrait looks positively towards a more harmonious future and therefore is a transformative work to enter the NGV’s nineteenth-century Australian collection.

Masters George, William, and Miss Harriet Ware and the Aborigine Jamie Ware joins a number of works in the NGV collection that share a Ware family provenance. Joseph Ware commissioned six works from Dowling between 1855 and 1856, and the NGV collection contains works acquired by his younger brother, John Ware, that were donated in 2004 as part of the Joseph Brown Collection. These include Eugène von Guérard’s Spring in the valley of the Mitta Mitta with the Bogong Ranges in the distance, 1863, and the homestead portrait of John Ware’s Yalla-y-Poora, 1864.

Dowling continued to receive Ware family patronage after he left Australia in 1857; his portrait Miss Annie Ware, 1882, the daughter of John Ware, being commissioned during the sitter’s European travels.

Humphrey Clegg, Assistant Curator, Australian Art, NGV (in 2007)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at centre middle, Martha Berkeley’s oil on metal Georgina, Emily and Augusta Rose c. 1848
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

The Province of South Australia 1836

As early as 1829 the development of a convict‑free colony, home to settlers and migrants from Britain, was mooted. Seven years later, with regal approval, the Province of South Australia was officially proclaimed. Nine ships carrying free settlers to the colony set sail from England in 1836. They landed at Kangaroo Island and Holdfast Bay and finally settled on the banks of the Torrens River, where the township of Adelaide was established. With a number of trained artists among the early colonists, South Australia rapidly secured a position comparable to that of Hobart as a sophisticated centre for the visual arts.

These artists documented the earliest years of the colony and the first settlers. In 1845, Australia’s first solo exhibition was held by George French Angas, and two years later Adelaide artists held a group exhibition in the new colony. The discovery of gold in Victoria led to an exodus to the eastern colonies, slowing but not halting activity in South Australia.

The Province of South Australia was established on the land of the Kaurna people; the South Australia Act of 1834 included a guarantee of the rights of ‘any Aboriginal Natives’ and their descendants to lands they ‘now actually enjoy’. Despite these worthy ambitions, colonial expansion did ultimately dispossess and marginalise Aboriginal people. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Alexander Schramm (Germany 1813 - Australia 1864, Australia from 1849) 'A scene in South Australia' c. 1850 (installation view)

 

Alexander Schramm (Germany 1813 – Australia 1864, Australia from 1849)
A scene in South Australia (installation view)
c. 1850
Oil on canvas
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
South Australian Government Grant 1982
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Martha Berkeley (England 1813 - Australia 1899, Australia from 1837) 'Georgina, Emily and Augusta Rose' c. 1848

 

Martha Berkeley (England 1813 – Australia 1899, Australia from 1837)
Georgina, Emily and Augusta Rose
c. 1848
Oil on metal
36.4 x 39.5 cm
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
M.J.M. Carter AO Collection 2007
Given in memory of Di Townsend, Betty McIlwham and fellow Gallery Guides’ education programs for children

 

 

Martha Berkeley’s painting practice encompassed landscapes and views of the infant settlement, flower studies and portraiture. She depicted her family on several occasions and her portraits of her husband Charles, sister Theresa, brother-in-law and children are among her finest paintings. This charming group portrait presents her three daughters against the backdrop of their home in Adelaide. Berkeley adopts a format typical of Regency depictions of children; the youthful trio are happily engaged in the wholesome activity of posy-making, with the eldest, Augusta Rose, looking towards the viewer, as though appealing to them to join in. (Exhibition text)

 

S.T. Gill (England 1819 - Australia 1880, Australia from 1839) 'Port Adelaide looking north along Commercial Road' 1847

 

S.T. Gill (England 1819 – Australia 1880, Australia from 1839)
Port Adelaide looking north along Commercial Road
1847
Watercolour
20.3 x 32.0 cm
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Morgan Thomas Bequest Fund 1923

 

S.T. Gill. 'Country NW of tableland, Aug. 22 1846' 1846

 

S.T. Gill (England 1819 – Australia 1880, Australia from 1839)
Country NW of tableland, Aug. 22 1846
1846
Watercolour
19.0 x 30.7 cm
National Library of Australia, Canberra
Gift of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to the Australian Government, 1956

 

 

Along with government-supported expeditions, individuals also sought to discover new stock routes and pastures. In 1846 John Ainsworth Horrocks organised one such venture to explore beyond Lake Torrens, and S. T. Gill volunteered to accompany the party, with goats for food and a pack camel, named Harry. The trip ended abruptly when Horrocks accidentally shot himself at a desolate salt lake – he died later at his property in the Clare Valley. Gill subsequently painted a series of ‘faithful scenic representations’ documenting their tragic journey and exhibited them in Adelaide in 1847, providing the public with an accurate indication of South Australia’s dry interior. (Exhibition text)

 

George French Angas. 'Encounter Bay looking south' 1844

 

George French Angas (England 1822-86, Australia 1844-45, 1850-63)
Encounter Bay looking south
1844
Watercolour
26.2 x 35.9 cm
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Bequest of J. Angas Johnson 1902

 

 

George French Angas was the eldest son of one of the founding members of the South Australian Land Company, formed to develop a settlement in South Australia, and came to Australia as an experienced naturalist, artist and author. He travelled widely throughout South Australia, to the Murray River and down to Lake Coorong, sketching the countryside, and the customs and dwellings of the Aboriginal people he met, as well as spending time in New Zealand. Angas exhibited his watercolours in Adelaide and Sydney and upon his return to London, where his book South Australia Illustrated, with impressive full-page coloured lithographs, was published. (Exhibition text)

 

 

Melbourne 1851-61

The township of Melbourne grew steadily as migrants from Britain and other European countries sought economic opportunities and political and religious freedom. In 1851, the Port Phillip District became an independent colony and was named Victoria in honour of the Queen. The town’s fortunes were further transformed that year when gold was discovered. Victoria was the richest source of gold in Australia, and consequently experienced the greatest levels of growth and change. The population exploded as enthusiastic and optimistic prospectors poured in from around the world with the hope of making their fortunes. Despite enormous social turmoil and environmental destruction, gold propelled Melbourne into an unprecedented phase of expansion and prosperity.

This had a profound impact on the arts and cultural life in colonial Australia. The desire to replicate the cultural institutions of European capitals reached new heights and wealth from gold enabled these aspirations to be realised, with the establishment of a university, library and museum. In 1861, in a moment of great significance and pride, the Museum of Art – Australia’s first art museum, later known as the National Gallery of Victoria – opened at the Melbourne Public Library on Swanston Street. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with to the left in the bottom image, George Cavenagh’s Glorious News! Separation at last! 1850; and at centre top in the same image, Henry Burn’s oil on canvas Swanston Street from the Bridge 1861
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

George Cavenagh (editor and publisher) (India 1808 - Australia 1869, Australia from 1825) 'Glorious News! Separation at last!' Issued with the Melbourne Morning Herald 11 November 1850 (installation view)

 

George Cavenagh (editor and publisher) (India 1808 – Australia 1869, Australia from 1825)
Glorious News! Separation at last! (installation view)
Issued with the Melbourne Morning Herald
11 November 1850
Letterpress on buff paper
Pictures Collection, State Library Victoria, Melbourne
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

From the establishment of Melbourne in 1835, its colonial inhabitants campaigned for it to be a separate colony, rather than a distant district within New South Wales, controlled by the Sydney-based governor and legislative council. A public campaign began in 1839 and petitions were repeatedly sent to London. After many delays, on 11 November 1850 news was received that independence was to be granted. A jubilant population celebrated with fireworks, parades, balls and a three-day public holiday. Further festivities were held when the colony was formally proclaimed on 1 July 1851, and the first parliament sat in November of that year. (Exhibition text)

 

Henry Burn (England c. 1807 - Australia 1884, Australia from 1853, died 1884) 'Swanston Street from the Bridge' 1861

 

Henry Burn (England c. 1807 – Australia 1884, Australia from 1853, died 1884)
Swanston Street from the Bridge
1861
Oil on canvas
71.8 x 92.2 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of John H. Connell, 1914

 

 

Painted just twenty-six years after foundation, Henry Burn’s view of young Melbourne looks north from the Yarra towards the centre of the city. It reveals a number of identifiable landmarks including the original St Paul’s Church; the coroner’s office and Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, at what is now Federation Square; and Johnson’s Bridge Hotel, now the Young & Jackson Hotel. (Exhibition text)

 

Unknown, Australia. 'Dress' c. 1855

 

Unknown, Australia
Dress (see installation photo below right)
c. 1855
Cotton, silk, metal, mother-of-pearl, baleen
152.0 cm (centre back), 34.5 cm (waist, flat)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Michael Parker, 1983

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at centre right, Eugene von Guérard’s oil on canvas Ferntree Gully in the Dandenong Ranges 1857
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Eugene von Guérard. 'Ferntree Gully in the Dandenong Ranges' 1857

 

Eugene von Guérard (Austria 1811 – England 1901, Italy 1830-38, Australia 1852-82, Germany 1838-52, 1882-91, England from 1891)
Ferntree Gully in the Dandenong Ranges
1857
Oil on canvas
92.0 x 138.0 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of Dr Joseph Brown AO OBE 1975

 

 

Within five years of arriving in Victoria to try his luck on the Ballarat goldfields, Eugene von Guérard had undertaken several trips to sketch remote wilderness regions of Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia. These meticulous studies were translated into sublime panoramic vistas of volcanic plains and mountain ranges, and primordial bushland views, which melded his romantic European sensibility with scientific intensity. In early 1857 he returned a second time to the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne and later completed this scene in his studio. This celebration of nature was an immediate local success and became an important image that was reproduced in subsequent drawings and engravings. (Exhibition text)

 

 

Daniel Thomas discusses Eugene Von Guérard’s Ferntree Gully in the Dandenong Ranges

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne with at centre Sofa 1840s
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Unknown (Victoria / South Australia) 'Sofa' 1840s

 

Unknown (Victoria / South Australia)
Sofa
1840s
Red Cedar (Toona ciliata), upholstery, (other materials)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Michael and Traudl Moon, 1996

 

 

The success of German immigrants in South Australia saw the establishment of the German Immigration Committee in Melbourne in 1849 to encourage their settlement in Victoria. By the close of the decade, German immigrants had settled near Geelong, establishing Germantown, now the suburb of Grovedale, and by the 1850s were expanding into the Western District. It is likely this sofa was produced by German makers in either of these South Australian or Victorian communities. Its sweeping curves recall the architectural forms of the German Biedermeier style, but its lines and elaborate carved ornamentation reveal more Classical influences. (Exhibition text)

 

 

Further images

Tommy McRae (Kwat Kwat/Wiradjuri) (c. 1836-1901) 'Ceremony; hunting and fishing' 1860

 

Tommy McRae (Kwat Kwat/Wiradjuri) (c. 1836-1901)
Ceremony; hunting and fishing
1860
Pen and ink on blue paper
Pictures Collection, State Library Victoria, Melbourne
Accessioned c. 1931

 

 

As a consequence of colonisation Tommy McRae created cross-cultural pen and ink drawings on paper as a dialogue with the colonisers and a means of recording a culture often subjected to change and silencing. On a single sheet, McRae creates a holistic picture of his rich culture, which includes two distinct corroborees, a eucalypt with bird perched atop its foliage and a hunting story of four emus being stalked by men in camouflage while another spears a large fish. Two lines of male dancers are freely sketched in silhouette upon Country, indicated by a light tangle of lines. (Exhibition text)

 

Tommy McRae (Kwat Kwat/Wiradjuri) (c. 1836-1901) Page from 'Sketchbook' c. 1891 Sketchboo

Tommy McRae (Kwat Kwat/Wiradjuri) (c. 1836-1901) Page from 'Sketchbook' c. 1891 Sketchboo

 

Tommy McRae (Kwat Kwat/Wiradjuri) (c. 1836-1901)
Pages from Sketchbook
c. 1891
Sketchbook: pen and blue ink, 26 pages, paper and cardboard cover, stitched binding
24.4 x 31.2 cm (image and sheet) 24.4 x 31.2 cm (page) 24.4 x 31.2 x 1.0 cm (closed) 24.4 x 62.4 x 0.5 cm (open)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 2001
Purchased with the assistance of Ian Hicks AM, John Higgins and two anonymous donors, 2008

 

 

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

National Gallery of Victoria website

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11
Apr
18

Vale Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)

April 2018

 

My god, what a loss.

I am very sorry to hear of the passing of Polixeni Papapetrou. Sadness indeed…

Poli was a wonderful spirit and an incredibly gifted artist. Condolences to Robert Nelson and all of the family.

A selection of some of my favourite Papapetrou images are posted below – but really, there are so many memorable images, she leaves behind an indelible and lasting legacy.

From an earlier posting:

 

“What we should do is honour this talented and determined artist for creating so many memorable images over the years, for following her passion and her heart with courage and conviction. For the rest of my life I will always remember the spaces, the ambiguous vistas, the fantastical archetypes, the fables of her work. Images of drag queens and Dreamkeepers, Ghillies and goblins are etched in my memory. I will always remember them. You can’t ask much more from the work of an artist than that.”

 

You can kill the dreamer, but you cannot kill the dream.

Marcus

 

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Drag queen wearing cut out dress' 1993

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Drag queen wearing cut out dress
1993
From the series Drag Queens 1988-1999
Gelatin silver photograph
28.5 x 28.5 cm
Courtesy the artist and Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

 

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

.
Paul Klee. Creative Credo [Schöpferische Konfession] 1920

 

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Three young men paying homage to Elvis on the 13th anniversary of Elvis’ death, Elvis Memorial Melbourne' 1990

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Three young men paying homage to Elvis on the 13th anniversary of Elvis’ death, Elvis Memorial Melbourne
1990
From the series Elvis Immortal 1987-2002
Selenium toned gelatin silver photograph
40.7 x 40.7 cm
Courtesy the artist and Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Mr Wrestling' 1992

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Mr Wrestling
1992
From the series Wrestlers 1992
Pigment ink print
100 x 100cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Indian Brave' 2002

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Indian Brave
2002
From the series Phantomwise 2002-03
Pigment ink print
85 x 85 cm
Courtesy the artist and Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Lost' 2005

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Lost
2005
From the series Fairy Tales 2004-2014
Type C print
100 x 100 cm
Courtesy the artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney + Berlin and Jarvis Dooney Galerie, Berlin
Reproduced with permission

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'In the Wimmera 1864 #1' 2006

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
In the Wimmera 1864 #1
2006
From the series Haunted country 2006
Pigment ink print
105 x 105cm
Geelong Gallery Collection

 

 

In the Wimmera 1864 #1 from the Haunted country series is amongst the earliest works by the artist to have been staged in the Australian landscape and is one in which she explores the narrative of the ‘lost child’. The work references the story of three children lost in Mallee scrub near their home outside Horsham in the Wimmera District and is reminiscent, as the artist intends, of Frederick McCubbin’s late 19th century paintings of children lost or at least wandering absent-mindedly through the Australia bush. (Text from the Culture Victoria website)

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Hanging Rock 1900 #3' 2006

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Hanging Rock 1900 #3
2006
From the series Haunted country 2006
Pigment ink print
105 x 105 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Provider' 2009

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Provider
2009
From the series Between Worlds 2009-2012
Pigment print
105 x 105cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Mourner' 2012

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Mourner
2012
From the series Between Worlds 2009-2012
Pigment print
105 x 105cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Joy Pedlars' 2011 from 'The Dreamkeepers' 2011

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Joy Pedlars
2011
From the series The Dreamkeepers 2012
Pigment print
105 x 105cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Wanderer No. 3', 2012 from 'The Dreamkeepers'

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Wanderer No. 3
2012
From the series The Dreamkeepers 2012
Pigment print
105 x 105cm

 

Polixeni Papaetrou (1960-2018) 'Ocean Man' 2013

 

Polixeni Papaetrou (1960-2018)
Ocean Man
2013
From the series The Ghillies 2013
120 cm x 120 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2013

 

Polixeni Papaetrou. 'Scrub Man' 2012

 

Polixeni Papaetrou (1960-2018)
Scrub Man
2012
From the series The Ghillies 2013
120 cm x 120 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2013

 

 

Review of the exhibition Polixeni Papapetrou: Lost Psyche at Stills Gallery, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

Footnotes

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

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Immigrant' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Immigrant
2014
From the series Lost Psyche 2014
Pigment print
100 x 150 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Storyteller' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Storyteller
2014
From the series Lost Psyche 2014
Pigment print
100 x 150 cm

 

 

Polixeni Papapetrou website

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09
Mar
18

Review: ‘Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco’ at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 17th November 2017 – 12th March 2018

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'I’m going through changes' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
I’m going through changes
2016
Synthetic polymer paint and fibre-tipped pen on canvas
200.0 x 180.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

Hocus pocus, mumbo jumbo

Meaningless talk or activity / a form of words used by a person performing conjuring tricks.
Language or ritual causing or intended to cause confusion or bewilderment.

 

I have never been convinced by the work Del Kathryn Barton and this medium-sized exhibition at NGV Australia does absolutely nothing to change my mind.

Replete with the artist’s usual cacophony of tits, vulva and penises, the works mine various forms: sculpture, drawing, painting, film and collage; have multiple influences: Louise Bourgeois, Max Ernst, Barbara Kruger to name a few; and investigate numerous concepts such as the fluidity of gender, the link between human and animal forms, women’s genitalia and the blooming of flowers, the ornate decoration of species, “the strength of women, the visceral power of female sexuality and … Barton’s multiple interests in feminism, nature and the maternal figure.” Too much she cried!

Barton has a certain facility in the drawing of line, but this is too often overwhelmed by her inability to let negative space speak for itself. Every work is filled to the brim with vacuous detail, then overlaid with multicoloured polka dots in both collages and paintings (see the detail of her work in the face of cosmic odds, 2016 below), as though this device will tie all the works together. Her signature paintings of women have surface presence, are “just so meticulously attractive”, but absolutely lack what Barton is seeking – “so inexplicably intimate, so beyond, so seemingly effortless that there can be no defence. In these moments there is an opening-up within the body, the mind, within all the senses …” I felt nothing of that when looking at these works – no connection to an inner self or ‘the vast ocean of the collective-consciousness’.

Barton’s inability to engage the viewer in an intimate dialogue of body and mind can be seen in both text and graphic.

“today my body is feeling love
you fell into my flesh…… and we are fresh…… again
the unflesh are so clean somehow….. and their stirrings inform our smallness….. so that we are still small”

You fell into my flesh and we are fresh again. Please.

Then you look at the line work in volcanic woman (2016, below) as “these women erupt upward, as molten liquid bodies of agency. They display their genitals as though it is from their vaginas that the Earth’s energy spills forth,” and note the caricaturesque drawings lack any sense of intimacy or sensuality despite the subject matter. I think about Barton’s hero Louise Bourgeois and her work “10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME” (2006, below). Both works are displayed in a grid and produced in the same colour but the difference could not be more stark: Bourgeois’ use of negative space, the quiet sensitivity, eroticism and the superb intimacy of the work is the antithesis of Barton’s sexual megalomania. So often in art, less is more but Barton never seems to understand the adage.

To use Christopher Allen’s turn of phrase about the NGV Triennial, Barton’s works are “frenetically busy, but inherently insipid,” despite the overabundance / reliance on the display of sexual organs and excretions. While the artist desperately wants the viewer to be drawn into an intimate embrace with the supposed psychological and spiritual meanings of the work, the lack of emotional, sensual or erotic sensation negates any feeling towards it. Barton’s meaninglessness talk using confusing iconographies lays a surface trap for the viewer, taken in by decoration and sexual abundance. But if you look beyond the psychedelic aesthetic and decorative surfaces it’s just a conjuring trick, ritual representation as pseudo-spiritual experience.

Marcus

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

 

The NGV presents a major solo exhibition of one of Australia’s most popular artists, Del Kathryn Barton. Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco reveals the artist’s imaginative and deeply sensuous world, where ornately decorated species – both human and animal – are rendered in seductive line and colour. Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco is a survey of new and recent work by the two times Archibald Portrait Prize winner that reveals the breadth of Barton’s practice. Featuring comprehensive displays of recent paintings and drawings for which she is arguably best known, the exhibition also includes collage, sculpture, textiles and film, all drawn together by the artist’s exuberant and psychedelic aesthetic.

 

 

“The creatures are so gorgeous. They’re just so meticulously attractive, I’m never repulsed. Without the darkness Barton seems to think is there, what is left? Passive psychedelia? I believe Barton feels intensely, but a second-hand trip, like a dream told to a friend, is never as emotional as the teller thinks it is.”

.
Victoria Perrin1

 

“I had a weak-at-the-knees, tingle-all-over moment when I saw Louise Bourgeois’ work for the first time about fifteen years ago in Los Angeles. Yes I am a CRAZY fan. And, yes, it’s true I lay under her big spider in Tokyo and cried…

These are the releases I hope for in our vast world of art. Encounters when the artwork is somehow so inexplicably intimate, so beyond, so seemingly effortless that there can be no defence. In these moments there is an opening-up within the body, the mind, within all the senses … an experience of recognition, relief and awe that informs one’s deeper creative makeup.”

.
Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the inside another land series (2017, detail)
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

 

In this series of seventy-five montages that combine digital collage with hand painted details, Barton creates post-human visions in which women’s bodies are both human and plant. The Dadaists used collage to access the Freudian domain of the unconscious mind, and the great Dada artist Hannah Höch was a key proponent of photomontage in her exploration of the role of women in a changing world. Like the Surrealists, Barton uses collage as a method to critique the illusion of a defined and orderly world, in favour of absurdity. The visual delirium of these works induces a kind of hallucinatory experience in which new creatures seem possible.

It is widely understood that flowers symbolise female sexuality: their physical resemblance to women’s genitalia is coupled with an associative significance in their blooming, which invokes the creation of new life in birth. The history of floral representation strongly binds femininity and flowers, from the Greek nymph Chloris and her Roman counterpart Flora, who oversaw spring and flowers, to Sigmund Freud who was very clear on the matter: ‘Blossoms and flowers represent the female genitals, or more particularly, virginity. Do not forget that the blossoms are really the genitals of the plants’. (Wall text)

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

 

Del Kathryn Barton
inside another land (details)
2017
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'you’re not a bit ashamed' 2017

 

Del Kathryn Barton
you’re not a bit ashamed
2017
Synthetic polymer paint and ink on paper
152.0 x 194.0 cm (image and sheet)
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'to speak of anger, I will take care' 2017

 

Del Kathryn Barton
to speak of anger, I will take care
2017
Synthetic polymer paint and ink on paper
152.0 x 194.0 cm (image and sheet)
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the work briefly turned into dreams (2016)
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'briefly turned into dreams' 2016 (detail)

 

Del Kathryn Barton
briefly turned into dreams (detail)
2016
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Del Kathryn Barton
come home to me
2014-2017
Gouache and ink on hot pressed paper
Collection of the artist. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery and A3

 

 

The flexibility of language is revealed in come home to me. Barton loves language but at the same time questions its ability to communicate. The floating words are a strategy for awakening us to the various, infinite and slippery meaning of words. Like poetry, Barton’s fiercely non-didactic texts are open to diverse understandings. There is no wrong or right interpretation of these texts. Without dictating the associations these words create in each of our minds, Barton evokes sensual delights and pleasures of the flesh. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the work come home to me (2014-2017)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'mud monster' 2014 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'mud monster' 2014 (detail)

 

Del Kathryn Barton
mud monster (details)
2014
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the I am flesh again series (2008)
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the I am flesh again series (2008)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'I am flesh again' 2008 (detail)

 

Del Kathryn Barton
I am flesh again (detail)
2008
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the photogravure work the stars eat your body (2009) and the bronze up in this (2012) top; and the bronze i can grow you more, drunk on its own nectar (2017) bottom

 

 

Two-time Archibald prize-winner Del Kathryn Barton is being celebrated in the largest ever exhibition of her work to date at NGV Australia. Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco features 150 new and recent works by Barton, including her famed kaleidoscopic portraits, a never-before-seen large-scale sculpture in homage to her mother and Barton’s short film RED, starring Australian actress and Academy Award-winner Cate Blanchett.

‘With a practice spanning art, fashion and film, Barton’s psychedelic images reveal her personal responses to the human experience. She is one of Australia’s most popular artists, renowned for her highly intricate and distinctive hybrid forms, that break down boundaries between humans and nature’, said Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV.

This show is deeply personal for Barton with the debut of her new sculpture, at the foot of your love, which has been created in response to her mother’s terminal illness. Completed in 2017 and comprised of printed silk and Huon pine, the sculpture is reflective of Barton’s reoccurring themes of motherhood and nature. Featuring a wooden conch shell and an enormous silk ‘handkerchief’, the work is symbolic of Barton’s grief for her own mother.

Comprised of five panels and over 10 metres in length, sing blood-wings sing is Barton’s newest and largest painting to date. The painting features a female-focused reimagining of the 1963 Peter, Paul and Mary coming-of-age song, Puff the Magic Dragon. Barton often listens to the folk tune whilst working in her studio as a symbolic reminder to maintain her childlike curiosity through her artistic practice. Barton’s interpretation of the song and its meaning is depicted by four breasted, rainbow coloured dragons. In her signature style, she blurs human, mythological and animal representations in art, encouraging her audience to see how imagination and desire can test traditional forms.

The exhibition also features Barton’s acclaimed film RED, where Cate Blanchett plays a mother re-enacting the redback spider’s deadly mating ritual, alongside actor Alex Russell, Sydney Dance Company’s Charmene Yap and Barton’s own daughter Arella. In RED Barton conveys the strength of women, the visceral power of female sexuality and encapsulates Barton’s multiple interests in feminism, nature and the maternal figure.

Born in Sydney in 1972, Barton graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Sydney, in 1993. She won her first Archibald prize in 2008 for her self-portrait with her two children and then again in 2013 for her portrait of Australian actor Hugo Weaving.

Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco is one of five solo exhibitions by leading Australian artists for NGV Australia’s 2017-18 summer program. The exhibition is on display at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne from 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018.

Press release from the NGV

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

sing blood-wings sing (2017)

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018.
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'the highway is a disco' 2015

 

Del Kathryn Barton
the highway is a disco
2015
Synthetic polymer paint and fibre-tipped pen on canvas
Private collection, Austria
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'I want to love you' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
I want to love you
2016
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the work at the foot of your love (2017)
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the work at the foot of your love (2017)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

at the foot of your love  (2017) was made by Barton as she prepared for her mother’s death. The fabric represents a handkerchief for the tears of all children who mourn their mother’s departure. The wooden conch shell is envisaged by the artist as a boat on which to sail into the darkness of eternity and ‘the vast ocean of the collective-consciousness’. It celebrates home and place, since the Huon Pine tree, from which the work is made, is a precious and endangered timber of Australia, subject to decay. (Wall text)

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'of pink planets' 2014

 

Del Kathryn Barton
of pink planets
2014
Collection of Boris Tosic, Sydney
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

In this work a creature with the head of a wallaby and the tail of a snake looks as though it might suckle from one of the woman’s five breasts. The breast is a dual organ, both of pleasure and sustenance, and multiple breasts suggest abundant life energy. Symbolically, the multi-breasted woman recalls the mythological icon Artemis of Ephesus, goddess of the wilderness, the hunt, wild animals and fertility. In some interpretations of the iconography, the nodes on Artemis’s chest are said to be the testes of bulls sacrificed to her. This fluidity of gender, human and animal forms is a strong current in Barton’s art. (Wall text)

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'openly song' 2014

 

Del Kathryn Barton
openly song
2014
Private collection, Melbourne
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'or fall again' 2014

 

Del Kathryn Barton
or fall again
2014
Collection of Leonard Warson, Melbourne
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

The tangled and lush floral decoration of Barton’s paintings recreates the millefleur (1000 flowers) technique of late Middle Ages to early Renaissance tapestries, distinguished by a lack of uniform pattern. The medieval period is sometimes perceived as a time of pagan superstition when the mysteries of nature and humanity were still full of wonder and darkness, and the unknown and unexplained were revered. Barton’s works evoke this period and direct viewers to a mysteriously interconnected world where spirit, psyche, natural cycles and the body are interconnected in intimate, unknowable relationships. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the work or fall again (2014)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the work in the face of cosmic odds (2016)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'See ya mumma' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
See ya mumma
2016
Synthetic polymer paint and fibre-tipped pen on canvas
140.0 x 160.0 cm
Collection of Brooke Horne, Sydney
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'is the energy' 2014

 

Del Kathryn Barton
is the energy
2014
Private collection, Melbourne
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'girl as sorcerery figure' 2005

 

Del Kathryn Barton
girl as sorcerery figure
2005
Collection of Jane Badler, Melbourne
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Del Kathryn Barton
girl #8 (installation view)
2004
Fibre-tipped pen, gouache, watercolour and synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Art Gallery of New South Wales
© Del Kathryn Barton
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Louise Bourgeois. '10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME' 2006  Louise Bourgeois. '10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME' 2006 Louise Bourgeois. '10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME' 2006

 

Louise Bourgeois
“10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME” (details)
2006
Etching, ink, watercolour, pencil and gouache on paper

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the volcanic women series 2016-
Photo: © Tom Ross

 

 

‘I, too, overflow; my desires have invented new desires, my body knows unheard-of songs. Time and again I, too, have felt so full of luminous torrents that I could burst.’

HÉLÈNE CIXOUS, THE LAUGH OF THE MEDUSA (1975)

 

In this new series of works, entitled volcanic women, Barton coaxes and melts women into and out of the Earth’s larval core. Bodies flow from the ground, emerging as hot red lines of ink. These women erupt upward, as molten liquid bodies of agency. They display their genitals as though it is from their vaginas that the Earth’s energy spills forth. Barton here celebrates the abundance and generative necessity of women’s desire and sexual vigour. The suppression of women’s sexuality by a culture of fear is melted away in these volcanic works. (Wall text)

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'volcanic woman' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
volcanic woman
2016
From the volcanic women series 2016-
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the volcanic woman series (2016)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

 

“The film is split into sections titled MOTHER, FATHER, LIFE, DEATH and DAUGHTER. When it comes time for the father to feature, he is accompanied by a shot of a car revving. When the spider arrives (in a wonderful dance performed by Charmene Yap), she moves in an incredibly enthralling manner, but she’s writhing on a muscle car. The performance of gender isn’t twisted, it moves straight past the iconic and into the parodic. But it’s not supposed to be a parody of the deadly spider that eats its mate, it’s dead serious. Barton has no intimation of the taboo and genuinely titillating danger that Bourgeois could reproduce in spades. Then it hits me, everything in Barton’s world is conventionally beautiful, yet we’re supposed to find it shocking. I don’t see women reflected in her vision of “hyper-women”, I see great beauties, I see movie stars and high-fashion models.”

Victoria Perrin1

 

Del Kathryn Barton. Still from 'RED' 2016

Del Kathryn Barton. Still from 'RED' 2016

Del Kathryn Barton. Still from 'RED' 2016

Del Kathryn Barton. Still from 'RED' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
Stills from RED
2016
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

‘Mother of otherness Eat me’

SYLVIA PLATH, POEMS FOR A BIRTHDAY (1960)

 

Sylvia Plath’s words open Barton’s first short film, RED. The human maternal figure at the heart of this work (played by Cate Blanchett) is interchangeable with a red-back spider. Alongside Blanchett, Barton’s daughter, Arella Plater, and actor Alex Russell portray the nuclear family, and Sydney Dance Company’s Charmene Yap is the arching, writhing spider. The film explores women’s desire and maternal experience. In the realm of recent art history, the mother-spider recalls American sculptor Louise Bourgeois’s massive, looming arachnids. Bourgeois is one of Barton’s greatest influences and represented spiders in a renowned series begun in 1994 and continued until the end of her life in 2010. Like Plath and Bourgeois before her, in this work Barton has rendered the overwhelming complexities and contradictions of motherhood. (Wall text)

 

 

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

National Gallery of Victoria website

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16
Feb
18

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

From ancient to modern; different but same

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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

 

Installation photographs

First gallery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melbourne CBD, Melbourne, Victoria 2010

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

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

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

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

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

Somers House (Kai Chen), Somers, Victoria 1997

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

Main gallery

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

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

Sabratha Theatre, Sabratha, Libya 2005

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

Underground temple, Kep, Cambodia 2007

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

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

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

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

Jiaohe Old City, Turfan, China 2005

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

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

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

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

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

Croft House (James Stockwell), Inverloch, Victoria 2013

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

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

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

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

Nawarla Gabarnmang, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory 2015

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

Third gallery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every building on Surfers Paradise Boulevard west 1973 (detail)

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

Every building on Surfers Paradise Boulevard west 1973 (detail)

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Waverley City Gallery

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Melbourne architecture

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

 

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

 

John Gollings
Federation Square, Melbourne, Victoria
2010

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Modern and contemporary architecture

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

John Gollings
Kabaw Berber Granary, Kabaw, Libya
2005

 

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

 

John Gollings
Bayon, Angkor Thom, Cambodia
2012

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

John Gollings
Buddha detail, Borobudur, Java, Indonesia
2011

 

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

 

John Gollings
Mori Tim Stupa, Silk Road, China
2005

 

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

 

John Gollings
Jiaohe Old City, Turfan, China
2005

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

John Gollings
Ta Prohm Temple, Angkor Thom, Cambodia
2007

 

John Gollings 'Hanuman Temple, Hampi, India' 2006

 

John Gollings
Hanuman Temple, Hampi, India
2006

 

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

 

John Gollings
Small Ganesh, Hampi, India
2006

 

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

 

John Gollings
Vittala Dance Mandapa interior, Hampi, India
2005

 

 

Ancient architecture

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

 

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

 

John Gollings
Nawarla Gabarnmang, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory
2015

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Illuminated architecture

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

 

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

 

 

John Gollings
Surfers Paradise aerial, Surfers Paradise, Queensland
2012

 

 

Surfers Paradise

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

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

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

 

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

 

John Gollings
Every high rise on the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise, Queensland
2012

 

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

 

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

 

 

Monash Gallery of Art
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Victoria 3150 Australia
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09
Feb
18

Review: ‘Rosemary Laing’ at TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville, Victoria

Exhibition dates: 2nd December 2017 – 11th February 2018

Curator: Victoria Lynn

 

Rosemary Laing. 'weather (Eden) #1' 2006

 

Rosemary Laing
weather (Eden) #1
2006
From the series weather
C Type photograph
110 x 221.5 cm
Private Collection
© Rosemary Laing, Courtesy Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

 

 

Disjunction and displacement in the Australian landscape

On a suitably apocalyptic day – in terms of our relationship to landscape, environment, elements and shelter – I drove up the Yarra Valley to the beautiful TarraWarra Museum of Art to see an exhibition of the works of Rosemary Laing. Through teeming rain, headlights gleaming, windshield wipers at full bore listening to Beethoven symphonies, I undertook an epic drive up to that most beautiful part of Victoria. The slightly surreal, disembodied experience of the drive continued once I stepped inside the gallery to view Laing’s work.

Laing’s work has always been a favourite, whether it be the floating brides, the carpet laid through the forest, or the melting newsprint after rain. I have always thought of her sensitive conceptual, performative work as evidenced through large, panoramic photographs as strong and focused, effective in challenging contemporary cultural cliché relating to the land, specifically the possession and inhabitation of it. As such, perhaps I was expecting too much of this exhibition but to put it bluntly, the presentation was a great disappointment.

There are various contributing factors that do not make this exhibition a good one.

Firstly, as the curator Victoria Lynn observes, “Laing’s photographs are conceived in series, so that each photograph is part of a larger cluster of images that are often arrange in specific sequences.” This exhibition, “includes 28 large-scale works selected from ten series over a thirty-year period” that focus on the themes of land and landscape in Laing’s oeuvre. The problem with this approach to Laing’s work is that the photographs from the different series sit uncomfortably together. The transitions between the photographs and different bodies of work as evidenced in this exhibition, simply do not work. Minor White’s ice/fire – that frisson of intensity between two disparate images that makes both images relevant to each other – is non-existent here. What might have more successful in displaying Laing’s work would have been a larger selection from a more limited number of series. It would have given the viewer a more holistic sense of belonging and investment in the work. This is the problem working in series and specific sequences… once the work leaves that cluster of energy, that magical place of nurture, nature and conceptualisation, how does it reintegrate itself into other states of being and display?

Secondly, the light levels in the gallery were so low the photographs seemed drained of all their energy. I understand that the “lux levels are quite particular according to museum requirements considering many works are lent from various institutions around Australia,” having done a conservation subject during my Master of Art Curatorship, but this is where the surreal experience from the drive continued: upon entering the gallery it was like navigating a stygian gloom, as can be seen in the installation photographs of the exhibition below. This is a museum of art situated in the most beautiful landscape and these are photographs, captured with light! that need light to bring them alive. I remember seeing Laing’s work leak at Tolarno galleries in Melbourne, and being amazed by their presence, their energy. Not here. Here the blues of the sky and the reds of the carpet seemed drained of energy, the vibrations of being of the forest and land victim to overzealous preservation.

Thirdly, and this relates to the first point, there was one work How we lost poor Flossie (fires) (1988, below) from Laing’s early series Natural Disasters. The work appeared out of nowhere at the end of the exhibition, had nothing that it related to around it, and had no explanation as to why it was there. I really would have liked to have known more about how Laing got from this work to the later series in the exhibition. What was her process of discovery, of change and experimentation. How did Laing go from Flossie – slicing together the spectacle and graphic imagery from media coverage of the Ash Wednesday fires – to the embeddedness [definition: the dependence of a phenomenon on its environment, which may be defined alternatively in institutional, social, cognitive, or cultural terms] of performances within the landscape of the later work? This would have been a more cogent, pungent and relevant investigation into the rigours of Laing’s art practice.

I emerged into the world and it was still pouring with rain. I rejoiced. It was as though I was alive again. Laing’s work is always strong and interesting. It was just such a pity that this iteration of it, specifically its closeted choreography, was not as restless as the landscape the works imagine.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the TarraWarra Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photograph for a larger version of the image. All installation images © Dr Marcus Bunyan and TarraWarra Museum of Art.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Rosemary Laing at the TarraWarra Museum of Art featuring the works welcome to Australia (2004, C Type photograph, Collection of the University of Queensland) from the series to walk on a sea of salt

 

 

“… the detention centre images, so that you’ve got the Heysen, you know, trees that you want to belong to, and then you’ve got this endless vista – though it be a difficult journey across a horizon that never ends – and then you have the raised wire fence, completely closing off access to that land, and that place, and those images of belonging and heritage.”

Art Talk with Rosemary Laing

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Rosemary Laing at the TarraWarra Museum of Art featuring the works after Heysen (2004) at left, and to walk on a sea of salt (2004) at right, from the series to walk on a sea of salt

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

Installation view Rosemary Laing’s after Heysen (2004, C Type photograph, Collection of Carey Lyon and Jo Crosby) from the series to walk on a sea of salt

 

 

The question of how to belong in Australia permeates Laing’s work. Australia has one of the highest immigrant populations in the world so that the question of arrival, and of making oneself at home, continues to be part of the everyday reality. We also have one of the world’s harshest policies for asylum seekers so that – in the political imaginary of contemporary Australia – land is conceived as a border that has to be protected.

The artist’s most potent response to the contested issue of being at home in Australia is the 2004 series to walk on a sea of salt, where images of Woomera detention ventre, combined with photographs inspired by quintessential Australian imagery and stories, remind us that home does not travel with the asylum seeker. In after Heysen, Laing photographs the trees that Hans Heysen transformed into an Arcadian image of the Australian bush, but bleaches the image to invoke a sense of nationalistic nostalgia. By contrast, the spatial potential and magnitude of the Australian landscape is invoked by the image to walk on a sea of salt. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Rosemary Laing at the TarraWarra Museum of Art featuring works from the series The Paper (2013)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

Installation view of Rosemary Laing’s work The Paper, Tuesday (2013, C Type photograph, Monash University Collection) from the series The Paper (2013)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

Installation view of Rosemary Laing’s work The Paper, Thursday (2013, C Type photograph, Monash University Collection) from the series The Paper (2013)

 

 

Laing choreographs situations in the landscape, invoking a unique set of circumstances that reflect upon historic, social, environmental, economic and material conditions. Incongruous items are carefully positioned to flow with the compositional logic of a place.

On a hillside in Bundanon, New South Wales is a Casuarina forest sprinkled with Burrawang (cycads), an ancient plant that dates back to the Palaeozoic. The series The Paper was created on this hillside. The forest floor is covered in newspaper and photographed after the rains. The paper has literally been pressed into the forest floor by the torrent. It has been weathered. The sensationalism, headlines, imagery and opinion of the newspaper merge into a feathery ground cover of soft white, cream and beige hues. It is as if the area has flooded, not with water, but with paper. Words, colour and dates are dissolved into a tonal carpet. There is no light and shadow. This misalignment suggests the death of the daily paper, and here it inevitably returns to its natural habitat, its original ‘home’. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Rosemary Laing at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

Installation view of Rosemary Laing’s work weather (Eden) #1 (2006, C Type photograph, Collection of Peter and Anna Thomas) from the series weather

 

 

The idea of a natural disaster in the Australian landscape occupies the same intensity for Laing as the human or ‘unnatural’ disasters. The each speak of the endless transformation of the landscape, its unfolding stories and its capacity to conjure anxiety and fear.

the series weather, located on the south coast of New South Wales, was inspired by the impact of natural phenomena – coastal storms – on the area. The flash of red fish netting snagged unawares by the battered grey melaleucas in weather (Eden) #1 also signals the historic Indigenous and colonial whaling in the area and the more recent slow demise of the fishing industry. These images seem haunted. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

Installation view of Rosemary Laing’s works The Flowering of the Strange Orchid (2017) left, from the series Buddens, and at right weather (Eden) #2 from the series weather

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

Detail of Rosemary Laing’s work The Flowering of the Strange Orchid (2017)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

Installation view of Rosemary Laing’s work still life with teapot and daisies (2017, archival pigment print, Courtesy of the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne) from the series Buddens

 

 

In the most recent series Buddens, Laing turns again to the ‘unnatural disasters’ that impact ‘country’. The stream is covered in rolls of discarded clothing. It leads down to Wreck Bay, on the south coast of New South Wales, and is the site of multiple ship disasters. Historically these waters were used to transport convicts, goods, troops and settlers up and down the coast and they are littered with relics from shipwrecks including those of the vessels ‘Rose of Australia’ and ‘Walter Hood’.

The roof truss is like a piece of wreckage in amongst the trees, as if torn by the winds from an urban development on the outskirts of a city. Recalling the upside down house in the series leak (2010), it meets a natural A-frame in the foliage, yet the two don’t make a safe house.

The clothes seem to push through the landscape, like the rush of a river, perhaps in search of a safe haven. There is a mixture of metaphors in Buddens, highlighting the delicate balance between nature and culture required for survival.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

Installation view of Rosemary Laing’s work brumby mound #5 (2003, C Type photograph, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne) from the series one dozen unnatural disasters in the Australian landscape

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

Installation view of Rosemary Laing’s work brumby mound #6 (2003, C Type photograph, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne) from the series one dozen unnatural disasters in the Australian landscape

 

 

Landscape has a past, present an future; it is never the same as it used to be. In the face of wars, wrecks, and both natural and ‘unnatural’ destruction, we build shelters. We fence and furnish these landscape as we try to impose order on the precariousness and relative insignificance of life.  As can be seen in a number of Laing’s series, the introduction of elements from our ‘settled’ environment including carpet, clothing , architectural structures, newspapers and the like – creates a disjunction. Some thing is literally awry.

In the one dozen unnatural disasters in the Australian landscape series, red interior furniture occupies and unsuccessfully domesticates this landscape. Painted in red earth and glue, these items almost disappear in the desert landscape. they are both like relics of a lost civilisation, but also seem to have become attuned to the terrain.

In the series leak, Laing continues her poetic and political engagement with the Australian landscape whereby powerful and dynamic tensions are elicited through the construction and insertion of foreign objects in the natural environment. Although the land depicted has already been altered through years of cleating and grazing practices, these works metaphorically signal that the continued ‘leak’ of residential development into both remnant bushland and farmland owned by generations of families is an unwelcome accident or breach that threatens to overturn the ecological balance between nature and culture. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

Installation view of Rosemary Laing’s work Aristide (2010, C Type photograph, Collection of the University of Queensland) from the series leak

 

 

“Landscape changes; its restless. It moves with the wind and rhymes with the seasons. It burns and floods. It is spatial, offering the visitor several perspectives that can be contradictory, paradoxical and durational. Landscape is also a ‘situation’, a complex interplay of historical and environmental conditions. Landscape has a past, present and future; it is never the same as it used to be. When we gaze out over a bay, or ponder and Indigenous site, we can’t help but wonder what it used to look like, how it used to be occupied, what tragedies and serendipities happened there. Landscape can be both a place of belonging and a destination, and depending on one’s perspective, it can embody the familiarity of home and the promise of adventure; the discomfort of displacement or the tragedy of invasion. Landscape is formed as much by natural forces as it is by human knowledge. …

Rosemary Laing introduces us to these histories by creating projects in the Australian landscape. These projects are sustained by her continuing search for understanding the multiple attitudes to belonging in the landscape. Miwon Kwon has argued that today ‘feeling out of place is the cultural symptom of late capitalism’s political and social reality’, so much so, that to be ‘situated’ is to be ‘displaced’. In Australia, the notion of displacement has a history that goes back to colonisation. Questions of who owns the land, how we inhabit it, and who feels displaced, are an intrinsic part of the Australian consciousness. Laing’s work also asks how we encounter the landscape; who or what is out of  place; who or what does not belong; are ‘we’ the alien? …

Laing choreographs situations in the landscape, invoking a unique set of circumstances that reflect upon historic, social, environmental and material conditions…

Doherty argues that rather than being site specific, art has shifted from a fixed location, to one that, in the words of Kwon, is ‘constituted through social, economic, cultural and economic processes’. Such artworks are not located in a single place, but rather take the form of interactive activities, collective actions, and spatial experiences. They are constitutive rather than absolute; propositional rather than conclusive. Rosemary Laing’s mise-en-scènes are not public, events or performances, but they forge a compositional dialogue with the natural environment that provokes a social, economic and environmental conscience.

Laing’s photographs are conceived in series, so that each photograph is part of a larger cluster of images that are often arrange in specific sequences. Moreover, the spatial tableaux and the photographic outcome have an intrinsic connection. The installations cannot be seen without the photographic apparatus and yet each mise-en-scène is presented from a variety of perspectives and angles, so that we cannot necessarily rely on the photographic outcome to be ‘truthful’. The photograph is not simply documentation. It is an activator. In many respects Laing places us in the landscape, so that we fell part of the image. She does this through both the size and relative height of the image, along with the point of view and our relation with the horizon line. Laing tests the limits of the photograph, and also provokes the viewer to rearticulate their connection to landscape, and re-energise it. She comes to be the interlocutor between the histories and meanings embedded in landscape, the installation, the photograph and the viewer.”

Victoria Lynn. “Rosemary Laing – Co-belonging with the Landscape,” in Rosemary Laing exhibition catalogue, TarraWarra Art Museum, 2017, pp. 7-9.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

Installation view of Rosemary Laing’s work effort and rush #9 (swanfires) (2013-15, C Type photograph, Collection of Alex Cleary) from the series effort and rush

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

Detail of Rosemary Laing’s work effort and rush #9 (swanfires) (2013-15)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

Installation view of Rosemary Laing’s work burning Ayer #12 (2003, C Type photograph, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney) from the series one dozen unnatural disasters in the Australian landscape

 

 

The fire in burning Ayer #12 gives us some clues to the relationship between fire and the artist’s quest to reimagine belonging in the Australian landscape. The earth-encrusted items of mass-produced domestic wooden furniture – a reference, once more, to the idea of ‘housing’, home and belonging. Their ashes fold back into the earth. The strength of the red desert plain holds its ground, as it were, as the stage for this enactment of both sacrifice and return. Fire comes to be a metaphor for the ways in which the Indigenous landscape refuses our presence and escapes from our control.

In effort and rush #9 (swanfires), the blur of movement across tall thin tree trunks, captured in a smoky black hue, considers both the rush of the fire, and the rush of escape. It is as if the camera has become a paintbrush. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

Installation view of Rosemary Laing’s work swanfires, Chris’s shed (2002-04, C Type photograph, Monash Gallery of Art) from the series swanfires

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

Detail of Rosemary Laing’s work swanfires, Chris’s shed (2002-04)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

Installation view of Rosemary Laing’s work How we lost poor Flossie (fires) (1988, Gelatin silver photograph, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide) from the series Natural Disasters

 

 

When Laing first tackled disasters in her 1988 Natural Disasters series, it was from the point of view of the media phenomenon. Slicing together imagery from media coverage of the Ash Wednesday fires, the series, including works such as How we lost poor Flossie (fires) was more to do with the slipstream of spectacle in the wake of the bicentennial of Australia. At the time, competing propositions about our cultural identity jostled for attention: 200 years of settlement, Aboriginal calls for recognition, the tourist panorama, and the sensationalism of fire in the landscape.

After every significant fire near her house in Swanhaven, on the south cost of New South Wales, Laing takes photographs in the aftermath of the blaze, like a marker of the irreconcilable yet continuing presence of natural and unnatural disasters.

In the series swanfires there is an overwhelming sense of loss. These two images speak of the abject disaster of fire, before the clean up.  They depict situations that exceed our comprehension. In swanfires, John and Kathy’s auto services, the intersecting forms of corrugated iron – the quintessential material of rural Australia – are unexpectedly bathed in the softest of pink, their forms reflecting the tree line behind. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Rosemary Laing' at the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

Installation view of Rosemary Laing’s work swanfires, John and Kathy’s auto services (2002-04, C Type photograph,Courtesy of the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne) from the series swanfires

 

 

TarraWarra Museum of Art will stage an exhibition of the works of Rosemary Laing, one of Australia’s most significant and internationally-renowned photo-based artists, 2 December 2017 – 11 February 2018.

Focusing on the theme of land and landscape in Laing’s oeuvre, the Rosemary Laing exhibition includes 28 large scale works selected from 10 series over a thirty-year period. The exhibition, which is the first large-scale showing of Laing’s work in Victoria, will be accompanied by an exhibition of works by Fred Williams focusing on a single year of the artist’s oeuvre, Fred Williams – 1974. Curated by Anthony Fitzpatrick, the Williams exhibition reveals the ways in which colour and human intervention in the landscape became a focus for the artist.

Born in Brisbane and based in Sydney, Laing has worked with the photographic medium since the mid-1980s. Her projects have engaged with culturally and historically resonant sites in the Australian landscape, as well as choreographed performances. TarraWarra director, Victoria Lynn, curator of the exhibition, says Laing’s work is highly representative of the Museum’s central interest in the exchange between art, place and ideas.

“This exhibition reveals Laing’s compositional and technical ingenuity. It shows that Laing can create images of dazzling luminosity as well as solemnly subdued light. Flickers of bright red catch our eye, while passages of verdant greens create an all-over intensity. Her images take us to open and infinite plains as well as the depths of entangled forest trails.

“The artist builds structures and installations in coastal, farming, forest and desert landscapes from which she then creates photographic images. Whether it is papering the floor of a forest in the 2013 series The Paper, or creating a river of clothes displacing the water of a flowing creek in the new series Buddens 2017, Laing’s images reflect upon the historical and contemporary stories of human engagement with our continent. More specifically, the artist draws on colonisation and the impact of waves of asylum seekers, suggesting that the landscape is forever transformed both physically and metaphorically. The exhibition also includes works depicting the aftermath of fire, and the ways it too transforms what we thought we knew of the landscape,” Ms Lynn said.

Rosemary Laing comments: “The arrival of people, throughout history, shifts what happens in land, challenging those who have left their elsewhere, and disrupting the continuum of their destination-place. A disruption causes a reconfiguration. It elaborates both the beforehand and the afterward. The works are somewhere between – a narrative for the movement of people, the condition of landforms with a changing peopled condition, expectations of home and haven, flow and flooding, and the effect and affect of these passages.” The exhibition is supported by major exhibition partner the Balnaves Foundation, and will be accompanied by a catalogue authored by Judy Annear, funded by the Gordon Darling Foundation.

Annear, writes: “How to make sense of what humanity does in and to their environment regardless of whether that environment appears to be natural or made? What is the spectrum, the temperature of that activity? Laing is an artist who grapples with these questions and how to reflect and interpret the times in which she lives.”

Neil Balnaves AO, Founder The Balnaves Foundation said, “The exhibitions Rosemary Laing and Fred Williams – 1974 will be the third year that The Balnaves Foundation have supported the TarraWarra Museum of Art to deliver exhibitions of note by Australian artists. The Foundation is proud to partner in these major endeavours, providing vital opportunities for important Australian artists to be showcased, whilst providing art lovers – including inner-regional audiences – access to outstanding arts experiences.”

Laing has exhibited in Australia and abroad since the late 1980s. She has participated in various international biennials, including the Biennale of Sydney (2008), Venice Biennale (2007), Busan Biennale (2004), and Istanbul Biennial (1995). Her work is present in museums Australia-wide and international museums including: the Museo Nacional Centro De Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, USA; 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan; Kunstmuseum Luzern, Lucerne, Switzerland; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut, USA.

Laing has presented solo exhibitions at several museums, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Kunsthallen Brandts Klædefabrik, Odense; Domus Artium 2002, Salamanca; Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville; and National Museum of Art, Osaka. A monograph, written by Abigail Solomon-Godeau has been published by Prestel, New York (2012).

Press release from the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

Rosemary Laing. 'brumby mound #6' 2003

 

Rosemary Laing
brumby mound #6
2003
From the series one dozen unnatural disasters in the Australian landscape
C Type photograph
109.9 x 225 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds from the Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2004
© Rosemary Laing, Courtesy Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

 

Rosemary Laing. 'swanfires, John and Kathy's auto services' 2002-04

 

Rosemary Laing
swanfires, John and Kathy’s auto services
2002-04
From the series swanfires
C Type photograph
85 x 151 cm
Courtesy the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne
© Rosemary Laing, Courtesy Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

 

Rosemary Laing. 'The Paper, Tuesday' 2013

 

Rosemary Laing
The Paper, Tuesday
2013
From the series The Paper
C Type photograph
90 x 189 cm
Monash University Collection
Purchased by the Faculty of Science, 2015
Courtesy of Monash University Museum of Art
© Rosemary Laing, Courtesy Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

 

Rosemary Laing. 'Aristide' 2010

 

Rosemary Laing
Aristide
2010
From the series leak
C Type photograph
110 x 223 cm
The University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane
Collection of The University of Queensland, purchased 2011
© Rosemary Laing, Courtesy Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

 

Rosemary Laing. 'Walter Hood' 2017

 

Rosemary Laing
Walter Hood
2017
From the series Buddens
Archival pigment print
100 x 200.6 cm
Courtesy the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne
© Rosemary Laing, Courtesy Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

 

Rosemary Laing. 'The Flowering of the Strange Orchid' 2017

 

Rosemary Laing
The Flowering of the Strange Orchid
2017
From the series Buddens
Archival pigment print
100 x 200 cm
Ten Cubed Collection, Melbourne
© Rosemary Laing, Courtesy Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

 

Rosemary Laing. 'Drapery and wattle' 2017

 

Rosemary Laing
Drapery and wattle
2017
From the series Buddens
Archival pigment print
100 x 152.6 cm
Collection of Sally Dan-Cuthbert Art Consultant
© Rosemary Laing, Courtesy Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

 

 

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10
Jan
18

Exhibition: ‘Albert Renger-Patzsch: Things’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 17th October 2017 – 21st January 2018

Curator: Sérgio Mah, Universidade NOVA, Lisboa

 

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Stapelia variegata, Asclepiadaceae' 1923

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Stapelia variegata, Asclepiadaceae
1923
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde. Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Experiencing the image

“[Walter Isaacson] describes the photographs, of which 7200 … miraculously survive today, as the greatest record of curiosity, because his “cross-disciplinary brilliance whirls across every page, providing a delightful display of a mind dancing with nature”. Renger-Patzsch delighted in seeing patterns in nature, so he would juxtapose a photograph of the branching arteries of the heart with the roots of a sprouting tree.”1

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A mind dancing with nature.

Of course, the original quote (which I have altered) was talking about Leonardo da Vinci… but the same enquiring mind, the same display can be seen in the work of Albert Renger-Patzsch. His was a mind entranced by the nature of technology, and the technology, the structure of nature. However, he is ambivalent about the benefits of industrialisation even as he photographed it in ‘New Objectivity’ style – that is, supposedly free from emotion and subjectivity.

No writing about his work can put it better than this quote from when this exhibition was at Fundación MAPFRE in Madrid:

“Technical precision and exact representation of the subject; psychological contention and rejection of pictorial stylization and expressionism; a keen sense of composition with attention to details, structures and forms; a sharp and clear construction of the image: these were some of the fundamental premises of a tendency that understands photography as a privileged medium to promote an artistic and simultaneously perceptive shift.

Renger-Patzsch’s work amalgamates a great number of photographic subjects, typologies and genres. In a historical period marked by deep political tension and significant social and economic change, his work allows the viewer to envision a unique worldview, a platform of intersections and re-appreciations between the domains of nature and technology.”

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The only point I would not support in this quotation are these words, “psychological contention and rejection of pictorial stylization and expressionism.”

Of course, “through the disconcerting simplicity of the photographs Renger-Patzsch highlights the phenomenological and psychological aspects that are part of experiencing the image,” but he does so not through a REJECTION of pictorial stylization and expressionism (and all the baggage that those words embody), but through an INTENSIFICATION of a different form of pictorial style which forces? the image to emit a new form of expression. That is, the object is just its surface and is captured, instantly, by the camera in this perceptive shift.

Can you imagine seeing these photographs in the 1920s, having never seen anything like them before? They would have been revolutionary, in their rendering of the surface of the object and nothing more. Placing the camera directly before the object which requires nothing else but itself… the eye of the snake, the darkness of a tree trunk, the ordering of shoemakers’ irons. But then he finishes his ode to life, Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful], with his version of Albrecht Dürer’s Praying Hands (c. 1508). I suspect that the idea the Renger-Patzsch was working with is that beauty is truth, and truth is beauty.

In contemporary society, have we lost the ability to see these photographs as he intended, with a child-like innocence? Was he saying, this is objective, do you agree? Or does the poetic intensity in the life of things refuse to be stilled?

For me, these photographs are not e/motion-less, they are the very essence of a reality rendered wonderful in my eyes.

Marcus

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

  1. Paraphrase of Tina Allen. “Prophetic Polymath,” on Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson in Weekend Australian Review January 6-7 2018, p. 14

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966), who produced a huge body of work spanning four and half decades, was one of the most influential photographers of the New Objectivity movement that emerged in Germany in the mid 1920s. His work helped to establish photography as a unique and important medium within modern art. Renger-Patzsch revived realism in photography, adopting an approach that was characterised by formal and technical rigour and a rejection of expressionism and pictorial stylisation. He had a highly developed sense of composition, and his attention to detail, structure and form resulted in images with sharp, clear compositions. For Renger-Patzsch, photography was a medium that made possible new forms of artistic imagery, while being perfectly in step with a period marked by industrialisation and the spread of technology. By highlighting the medium’s unique properties and the creative possibilities of documentary photography, Renger-Patzsch forged a unique role for photography within the arts of his time.

His original, simple images combine extraordinary realism and documentary value with poetic and phenomenological resonance, giving them great power. Renger-Patzsch was a highly prolific photographer who explored a wide range of subjects and genres. This exhibition highlights the invaluable legacy of this extraordinary photographer, whose work provides an ideal context for reflecting on the specificities and relevance of photography within the field of contemporary art and culture.

– The Design of Nature
– From Vernacular Landscape to the Modern City
– The vision of things
– Landscapes of the Ruhr: the Topography of a Transformation
– Industrial Objects and Architecture: Geometry and Series
– The Destiny of Nature

Sérgio Mah

 

 

 

The Design of Nature

During the initial phase of his career, Albert Renger-Patzsch produced a series of photographs depicting plants and flowers for the collection Die Welt der Pflanze [The World of Plants], coordinated by Ernst Fuhrmann as part of his biosophical studies.

The first two volumes in the series, both published in 1924, were Orchideen [Orchids] and Crassula. Renger-Patzsch worked within the general parameters of the book, reproducing fragments of nature with as much objectivity and clarity as possible. He produced a large number of photographs distinguished by their great technical and compositional rigour, including systematic close-ups of plants and flowers. In 1923, Renger-Patzsch wrote his first text, “Pflanzenaufnahmen” [Plant photographs], setting out his views on photography and its extraordinary capacity for capturing nature. Among the images and arguments in the text he outlines some of the key principles that would underpin his photography: attention to detail and emphasis on the formal, structural and material aspects of nature, as well as, correspondingly, a reiterative affirmation of the intrinsic qualities of photography – realism, objectivity, neutrality – and its unique role in expanding our perception of reality.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Catasetum trindentatum, Orchidaceae' 1922-1923

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Catasetum trindentatum, Orchidaceae
1922-1923
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Brasilianischer Melonenbaum von unten gesehen [Brazilian melon tree seen from below]' 1923

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Brasilianischer Melonenbaum von unten gesehen [Brazilian melon tree seen from below]
1923
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

From Vernacular Landscape to the Modern City

In 1927, Albert Renger-Patzsch published his most ambitious book to date, Die Halligen [The Halligen Islands], with images of the islands in the Wadden Sea, on the northern coast of Germany.

His photographs featured a number of subjects: landscapes, portraits, architectural motifs and everyday activities. These subjects encapsulated the relationship between local ways of life (genuine, deep-rooted, traditional) and the physical and symbolic characteristics of this peculiar area. This vernacular reality contrasted with the rampant industrialisation that was transforming many of the great urban centres in Germany.

Over the ensuing years, Renger-Patzsch published Lübeck (1928) and Hamburg (1930), books that highlight the emerging characteristics of the modern city, the coexistence of different historic periods and the intersection between historical culture and the impact of industrialisation. In these photographs the photographer’s interest in combining documentary objectives with the creative potential of a modern vision is evident in his use of close-cropped, asymmetrical compositions and innovative perspectives, alternating between general shots and a focus on details. He displays sensitivity to the formal and structural aspects of reality, rejecting the atavistic influence of painting in order to embrace the possibilities of a “new vision” governed by photography.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Krabbenfischerin [Shrimp fisherwoman]' 1927

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Krabbenfischerin [Shrimp fisherwoman]
1927
Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle, Paris. Acquisition en 1979
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

The vision of things

In 1928, Albert Renger-Patzsch’s best-known book was published, Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful], although the photographer would have preferred the title Die Dinge [Things].

It exemplifies the principles and characteristics of the photographer’s work: a desire to represent the immanent substance of an object/subject while demonstrating photography’s capacity for recording reality. In this respect, representing the unique character of a particular thing was also a way of affirming the unique character of photography.

The book encompasses a wide range of subjects and elements from the photographer’s world. It is an anthology of photographs taken since the beginning of his career, including several images produced for the books Die Welt der Pflanze, Die Halligen and Lübeck. Photographic genres are equally diverse, spanning portrait, landscape, still life and architectural images. The subjects are presented in an evolving thematic and conceptual sequence: first nature, plants, animals, people and landscapes; next, the manmade world of objects, architecture, the city, machines, and industrial structures and spaces. In this way a worldview is organised, a context of intersections and reappraisals, between nature and technology, between the sacred and the profane, between historical heritage and modernity.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Ritzel and Zahnräder, Lindener Eisen-und Stahlwerke [Sprockets and gears, Lindener Eisen-und Stahlwerke factory]' 1927

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Ritzel and Zahnräder, Lindener Eisen-und Stahlwerke [Sprockets and gears, Lindener Eisen-und Stahlwerke factory]
1927
Albert Renger-Patzsch. Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann and Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Bügeleisen für Schuhfabrikation, Faguswerk Alfeld [Shoemakers' irons, Fagus factory, Alfeld]' 1928

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Bügeleisen für Schuhfabrikation, Faguswerk Alfeld [Shoemakers’ irons, Fagus factory, Alfeld]
1928
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on the book Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful]

Like other artists of his time, Renger-Patzsch was especially keen on exploring the formal analogies between the things of nature and industrial things. Industry led to mass production and the manufacture of standardised objects, exemplified in this image. This contrasts with other images from Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful], such as Gebirgsforst im Winter [Mountain forest in winter] (below), which capture repetition in nature.

Renger-Patzsch identifies a coherence, a parity, between nature and culture as non-antagonistic doHands. He suggests a measure of naturalness in technology, and a measure of rationality in nature. For the photographer the emphasis on industrial seriality also allowed him to underscore the seriality of photography itself (as a means of technical reproduction), thus demonstrating the unique, mediating condition of this medium for visual reproduction in the connection between the natural world and the world of modern industry.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Gebirgsforst im Winter (Fichtenwald im Winter)' [Mountain forest in winter (spruce forest in winter)] 1926

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Gebirgsforst im Winter (Fichtenwald im Winter)
[Mountain forest in winter (spruce forest in winter)]
1926
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Natterkopf [Head of an adder]' 1925

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Natterkopf [Head of an adder]
1925
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on the book Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful]

Painstaking attention to detail is a central feature of Renger-Patzsch’s photography, as demonstrated by several images in Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful]. Resorting to pronounced close-ups or subsequent reframing, the photographer breaks down and isolates the vision of certain things, thereby providing a fresh perspective: in this case, the image of a serpent’s head surrounded by a section of its body.

The close-up framing allows him to accentuate the two-dimensionality of the image, the part being more suggestive than the whole. This is a realistic, objective vision, but one aimed at creating a tension between the concrete nature of the motif and its abstract character.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Hände [Hands]' 1926-1927

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Hände [Hands]
1926-1927
Collection Ann und Jürgen Wilde
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on the book Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful]

This is the hundredth and last image of Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful]. It shows a pair of hands joined together, isolated from the rest of the body, rising over a black background in a gesture heavy with symbolic, meditative and spiritual fervour.

Aware that photography was increasingly becoming mundane and banal, and that the experience of attention was crumbling in the face of the accelerating transformation of reality, in Die Welt ist schön Renger-Patzsch offers an imaginary world where modern subjects can be reconnected with the things surrounding them via the mediation of a diffuse and calm temporality, the temporality of tradition and myth. A symptom of this vision is precisely the closing image of the book.

 

 

“To do justice to modern technology’s rigid linear structure, to the lofty gridwork of cranes and bridges, to the dynamism of machines operating at one thousand horsepower – only photography can do that. […] The absolutely correct rendering of form, the subtlety of tonal gradation from the brightest light to the darkest shadow, impart to a technically expert photograph the magic of experience.”

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Albert Renger-Patzsch, “Ziele”, Das Deutsche Lichtbild, Berlin, 1927

 

“There is an urgent need to examine old opinions and look at things from a new viewpoint. There must be an increase in the joy one takes in an object, and the photographer should become fully conscious of the splendid fidelity of reproduction made possible by this technique.”

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Albert Renger-Patzsch, “Die Freude am Gegenstand,” Das Kunstblatt, Berlin, 1928

 

“[…] the eye is subjective; it views with pleasure the essential things and completely overlooks what is unimportant. The camera, on the other hand, has to reproduce the entire image in focus and in a particular size. It will see the essential and the inessential with equal clarity.”

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Albert Renger-Patzsch, in Meister der Kamera erzählen wie sie wurden und wie sie arbeiten, Halle (Saale), 1937

 

“[…] the eye is not isolated in its perception of the world. Rather its connections to the brain and the support of our senses in experience heat, cold wind, noise, smells and so on create an extraordinarily compact image of the world, whose plasticity and density are perhaps intensified by a particularly appropriate emotional state. Photography reduces this colourful world into a black-and-white rectangle. It is obvious that this most unpretentious of art forms requires the greatest reliability of taste, ability for abstraction, fantasy and concentration.”

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Albert Renger-Patzsch, in Meister der Kamera erzählen wie sie wurden und wie sie arbeiten, Halle (Saale), 1937

 

 

The aim of this exhibition is to rediscover and pay tribute to the legacy of this unique photographer in the conviction that his work offers a context for encouraging reflection on the nature and artistic and speculative potential of photography within the framework of contemporary art and culture.

Of enormous simplicity and originality, Renger-Patzsch’s photography is notable for being based on a documentary style that prioritised realist sobriety and frankness as fundamental characteristics of photographic representation. In other words, his work offers a rigorous approach in technical and formal terms, in which the camera is only used to intensify our vision and aware of things. For Renger-Patzsch, this not only explained his photographic procedures but above all the potential for an aesthetic and conceptual identity for photography that visibly distanced itself from the Pictorialist legacy and from the hybrid experimentalism characteristic of the early 20th-century avant-gardes.

Both Renger-Patzsch’s photography and the various texts in which he set out his ideas reveal his determination to exploit the qualities inherent in the photographic medium. He stated that his aim was: “to use photographic means to create a photography that could exist through its own photographic nature.” In another text Renger-Patzsch wrote that,

“the eyes are not isolated from their perception of the world.

On the contrary, they are part of our senses and, by being connected to the brain, allow us to experience heat, cold, wind, noise, smell, and to rapidly construct a remarkably compacted image of the world, the plasticity and density of which also depend on our emotional states.

Photography reduces the world in colour to a rectangle in black and white. And logically, given that it is the least pretentious form of art, it requires rigorous taste, a capacity for abstraction, imagination and concentration.”

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Such statements reveal that the exceptional quality of Renger-Patzsch’s work and thought is also notable for the way it conceives and expands the horizon and scope of the idea of documentary photography. As a result, the descriptive and objective qualities of photography are combined with and articulated by its aesthetic, poetic and phenomenological powers.

This retrospective aims to encompass the principal themes, periods and genres that define Renger-Patzsch’s photographic output through the identification of three moments that are fundamental for an understanding of his career: firstly, his early years, from his photographs of plants taken for Folkwang/Auriga publishers, to the profusion of themes and photographic eclecticism which would be decisive for the creation of his book Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful] of 1928. The period that began after his move to Essen was one of intense photographic creation on the Ruhr area, principally involving subjects associated with places, buildings and industrial objects. Finally, the years after World War II reveal a new interest in the themes of nature and landscape particularly trees and rocks.

Including around 154 photographs, this is one of the largest retrospectives on the artist to date and undoubtedly the one to bring together the largest number of works by Renger-Patzsch from institutional and private collections: the Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde/Pinakothek der Moderne München (Munich), the Museum Folkwang (Essen), the Ludwig Museum (Cologne), the Galerie Berinson (Berlin), the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris).

Press release from Jeu de Paume

 

Highlights of the exhibition

Author of a monumental oeuvre created over four and a half decades, Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) was the leading photographer of the New Objectivity movement that appeared in German art in the mid 1920s.

Renger-Patzsch was a prolific photographer and his oeuvre encompasses a variety of themes, types and genres. This exhibition covers the most important stages in Renger-Patzsch’s career, from his first photographs of plant details, urban scenes and industrial subjects to his later landscape work. In total the exhibition features more than 150 photographs, mostly vintage prints from the most important collections in Germany.

Renger-Patzsch devoted himself to creating a new photographic realism, characterised by an extreme simplicity and originality. He created a modern visual language that was imbued with a poetic resonance and helped to redefine the photographic image.
For Renger-Patzsch, photography was the most appropriate medium for carrying out a change that was simultaneously artistic and perceptual, i.e., the possibility of a new kind of image that reflected the changes of the 1920s and 1930s, a period marked by industrialisation and the spread of technology.

Albert Renger-Patzsch is the author of one of the seminal books in the history of photography, Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful], which was published in 1928. This work reveals the full scope of Renger-Patzsch’s approach, which was to capture the unique character of each concrete thing in order to affirm also the unique character of photography.

Renger-Patzsch produced an exceptional body of work on the theme of industrial architecture, which he helped to turn into a genre in itself. He exerted a decisive influence on generations of photographers, not least Bernd and Hilla Becher. This exhibition sets out to highlight the vital legacy of this extraordinary photographer. In so doing, it sheds light on the important role of photography within the context of contemporary art and culture.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Landstraße bei Essen [Country road near Essen]' 1929

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Landstraße bei Essen [Country road near Essen]
1929
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Landscapes of the Ruhr: the Topography of a Transformation

In 1929, Renger-Patzsch relocated to Essen, in the Ruhr, Germany’s leading industrial region and one the photographer was familiar with.

Two years earlier, he had produced the first images in an ambitious project focusing on the landscapes of the Ruhr, which he would work on until 1935. In this realm of contrasts, he became particularly interested in spaces that were between cities, between the urban and the rural, landscapes that displayed the process of change that the region was undergoing due to industrialisation and the development of public infrastructure.

The works reflect a change in Renger-Patzsch’s photographic vision: the compositions are widened, in some cases into large panoramic views. The images now focus on a multiplicity of elements and explore interpretative relationships and associations. His preference for more open images that include the surroundings of objects, rather than just close-ups, reflects a more inclusive objectivity. Some images include people, usually seen from afar. These figures are set in particular socio-spatial contexts and help to highlight the enormous disparity in scale between the human figure and the new industrial complexes. Vertical and horizontal elements, close up and in the distance, are combined and juxtaposed. The relationship between different planes, between foreground and background, is intensified in order to show how industry has shaped the landscape, turning it into a heterogeneous and paradoxical landscape (in historical and social terms).