Posts Tagged ‘Alan Constable cameras

09
Aug
19

Review: ‘Why Take Pictures?’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 15th June – 11th August 2019

Artists: Alan Constable, Lyndal Irons, Glenn Sloggett, Michelle Tran, David Wadelton
Curator: Madé Spencer-Castle

 

 

Lyndal Irons. 'Backstage before Parade of Champions' 2015

 

Lyndal Irons
Backstage before Parade of Champions
2015
From the series Physie
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Picturing themselves

This is another strong exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, principally due to the integrity of the work and not the investigation of the theme for the exhibition, why take pictures?

I have always loved Alan Constable’s tactile cameras every since I first saw them. Constable is legally blind. He holds photographs of old cameras up to his eyes, a couple of inches away, and scans the images, committing them to memory. He then creates these most wonderful evocations of a seeing machine, almost as though he is transferring his in/sight into these in/operable, beautifully glazed structures. He twists two dimensional, photographic reality into these lumpy, misshapen sculptures, evocations of his memory and imagination. I have three of these cameras in my own collection. I treasure them.

Glen Sloggett’s works is, well… Glen Slogett’s work. What I mean by the statement is that you can always recognise his photographs through his signature as an artist. There is a delicious irony and dark humour present in his work… the cat / dead. The rose / a brothel. The scree of concrete / solidified. Slogett’s insightfulness into our existential condition is evidenced through his unique view of the world, pictured in thought provoking photographs. Nothing is quite as it seems. He has a fantastic eye and aesthetic. I remember the image Cheaper and Deeper (1996) from a book I saw many years ago and it so resonated with me. Just the sensibility of looking at these spaces and contexts. He pokes around in the strangeness of the world and reflects what he sees back to us: life hidden in plain sight, revealed in all its intricacies, in all its mundanity and glory. I really like his work.

Another artist I have a great affection for is David Wadelton. Again, the signature of his work is striking. You know it’s a Wadelton image. What I admire about his work is the persistence of his vision. His intellectual vision, his photographic vision. He sets out on a project and he puts his whole mind and soul into the work, documenting the shifting and changing spaces and places of Melbourne’s suburbs since 1975. What a great eye! The black and white objective newsagents, all Becher frontality, with this seeming emotional detachment when in fact each image is so emotionally charged – through the signage, and through the knowledge that these newsagents are disappearing from our city landscape. And then the colour, some might say kitsch, Suburban Baroque living rooms which picture “mid-century suburban interiors of the formerly working-class northern areas that were the destination of choice for many post-war immigrants from Europe.” Here a different technique, photographed at an angle, off to one side, from above, sometimes central, letting the spaces and colours speak for themselves. Now vanishing, these habitats redolent with pathos and longing for the motherland.

And then Lyndal Irons, an artist whose work I have never seen before. Again, beautifully composed images, the use of a limited colour palette and rouge highlights in Grooming Routine being particularly effective. There is something unnerving about the entire scenario – the fake tans, the too bright lipstick, the fervent admiration, the ecstatic posing… the winners having their photograph taken with their trophies while off to the side others watch (enviously?); the lines of young competitors and a photograph with the instructions: ‘Ideas For Photo Poses’ and ‘Make Sure The Photographer Can See your Number’. The whole charade reminds me of the hideous child beauty pageants in the good ol’ US of A. I would have liked to have seen more photographs from this body of work.

Where the exhibition fails is in its investigation into the theme, why take pictures? The exhibition does not interrogate with any rigour, in fact does not really scratch the surface of why we humans are so obsessed with taking photographs. Through the few lines of text that accompanies the exhibition (below), it offers a few titbits as way of remediation, a few possible ideas to cling to so as to answer the question: perhaps desire, perhaps obsession, curiosity, nostalgia and information. It then throws the photographic work of these artists at us as an answer, but what we are actually looking at is just representation, the outcome of the desire to picture, not an examination of the act itself. What the exhibition really needed was a thoroughly insightful text that examined our impulse to take pictures.

Here is a controversial statement. Every photograph is a self-portrait. What do I mean by this?

When we think back to the cave paintings of the Neolithic period, human beings picture the world around them by painting in colour on the rock that is earth. They picture themselves in that scene by painting what they know of the world around them. Through their imagination and creativity they place themselves in the scene – physically as hunters in the scene, and metaphorically through their relationship to the animals that they know and the objects that they carve, pictured on the cave walls. Theirs is a conscious decision to picture themselves as an infinite presence.

The same with photographs. Every time we press the shutter of a camera, it is a conscious decision to picture our relationship with the world. Through our will (to power), though our imagination and our desire, we place ourselves metaphorically (and physically when actually appear in the photograph) in every photograph. We stand behind the camera but imagine ourselves in that environment, have placed ourselves there to take the photograph. Every photograph is a self-portrait, one that establishes our relationship to the world, our identity, our values, who we are and how we react in each and every context.

These photographs are not memories at the time of their taking, although they make be taken under an impulse to memorialise. They will become memories, as when looking at old photo albums. They are not simply documents either, a recording of this time and place, because there is always the personal, the subjective relationship to the objective. Look at David Wadelton’s photographs of living rooms. Why was he present in all of these spaces? Just to observe, to document, to capture? No… he was their, to imagine, to create, to place himself at the scene, in the scene. Human beings make conscious choices to take photographs for all different kinds of reasons. But the one reason that is never mentioned is that, in reality, they are always picturing themselves.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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Many thankx to the Centre for Contemporary Photography for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs to view a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Why Make Pictures? at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photographs: J. Forsyth

 

 

Why Take Pictures? returns to one of the fundamental questions in photography, to consider our desire-drive and obsession with taking photographs, the apparatus of the camera and diverse approaches of looking through, or at, the lens. Featuring work by Alan Constable (VIC), Michelle Tran (VIC), Lyndal Irons (NSW), Glenn Sloggett (VIC) and David Wadelton (VIC), Why Take Pictures? considers the divergent motivations and compulsions as to why we take images in the first place.

We all take pictures, leaving every one of us with an extensive collection of images, historically as physical artefacts, but now stored within our digital devices. These collections become vessels of information and nostalgia, desire and curiosity. Why Takes Pictures? interrogates how and why we build up these storehouses of images, as considered through the lens of five exceptional artists.

Traversing documentary, commercial, political and highly personal modes, Why Take Pictures? presents a broad cross-section of different approaches to making photographs. Whether documenting social environments in states of change, examining the discarded or overlooked, prying at the strange behaviour of humans; or through examining the obsession with the camera itself, the artists in Why Take Pictures? are driven to continue to take photographs, like an itch that can’t be scratched.

Press release from the Centre for Contemporary Photography 21/09/2019

 

Biographies

Alan Constable is a multi-disciplinary artist whose practice spans drawing, painting and ceramics. His ceramic sculptures, which he began developing in 2007, reflects his life-long fascination with old cameras, which started at the age of eight when he would make replicas from cardboard cereal boxes. Constable’s finger impressions can be seen clearly on the clay surface, leaving the mark of the maker as a lasting imprint. Constable has been a regular studio artist at Arts Project Australia since 1991. Alongside selection in group exhibitions throughout Australia (including the Museum of Old and New Art in 2017), Constable has presented in a number of solo exhibitions including Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane; Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney; South Willard (curated by Ricky Swallow), Los Angeles; Stills Gallery, Sydney; and Helen Gory Galerie, Melbourne. Alan Constable is represented by Arts Projects Australia, Melbourne; Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney; and DUTTON, New York.

Hand-built from slabs of clay, Alan Constable’s charing sculptural cameras and optical devices … evoke and absolute obsession with the photographic apparatus. Legally blind, Constable creates his work through appropriating photographs from old books and magazines, holding the images close to his face and committing them to memory. Through recall, Constable reinterprets these images, transforming them from high-precision consumer objects, to tactile sculptures imbued with vitality, personality and warmth. Elegantly clunky, anthropomorphic and on the edge of the surreal, Constable’s compelling works all have ‘fictional’ apertures or viewfinders that can be physically seen through. Asking us to consider the functionality of vision, Constable’s ceramics have a human touch and sensibility that connects us directly to the devices we often consider merely utilitarian.

 

Alan Constable. 'Not titled' 2018

 

Alan Constable
Not titled
2018
Earthenware and glaze
9 x 19 x 8 cm
Courtesy of the artist
Alan Constable is represented by Arts Project Australia, Melbourne; Darren Knight, Sydney; Dutton, New York. Image copyright the artist, courtesy Arts Projects Australia. Photo: Andrew Barcham

 

Alan Constable. 'Not titled' 2019

 

Alan Constable
Not titled
2019
Earthenware and glaze
Courtesy of the artist
Alan Constable is represented by Arts Project Australia, Melbourne; Darren Knight, Sydney; Dutton, New York. Image copyright the artist, courtesy Arts Projects Australia. Photo: Andrew Barcham

 

Alan Constable. 'Not titled' 2019

 

Alan Constable
Not titled
2018
Earthenware and glaze
Courtesy of the artist
Alan Constable is represented by Arts Project Australia, Melbourne; Darren Knight, Sydney; Dutton, New York. Image copyright the artist, courtesy Arts Projects Australia. Photo: Andrew Barcham

 

 

Lyndal Irons is a Sydney-based photographer and writer focused on local reportage, who is interested in seeking out parts of Australian society that are familiar and accessible, yet not often closely encountered. By recording social histories and building legacies using photographs and words, her work encourages curiosity and a deeper connection to daily life. Irons has presented solo exhibitions at the State Library of New South Wales (2015), the Australian Centre for Photography (2014), and Elizabeth Street Gallery (2014). Lyndal has been a finalist in the National Photographic Portrait Prize (2017), the Bowness Prize (2015) and the Olive Cotton Award for Portraiture (2015). Lyndal Irons’ Physie series documents one of Australia’s oldest sporting institutions: physical culture (physie) and calisthenics.

 

Lyndal Irons. 'Mermaid Beach' 2015

 

Lyndal Irons
Mermaid Beach
2015
From the series Physie
Archival inkjet print
37 x 55 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Lyndal Irons. 'Fans' 2015

 

Lyndal Irons
Fans
2015
From the series Physie
Archival inkjet print
37 x 55 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Lyndal Irons. 'Grooming Routine' 2015

 

Lyndal Irons
Grooming Routine
2015
From the series Physie
Archival inkjet print
37 x 55 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Lyndal Irons. 'Junior National Repecharge' 2015

 

Lyndal Irons
Junior National Repecharge
2015
From the series Physie
Archival inkjet print
37 x 55 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Lyndal Irons. 'Ideas for Photo Poses' 2015

 

Lyndal Irons
Ideas for Photo Poses
2015
From the series Physie
Archival inkjet print
37 x 55 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Glenn Sloggett has been exhibiting since the mid-90s. He won the prestigious Josephine Ulrick & Win Schubert Photography Award in 2008, and the inaugural John and Margaret Baker Memorial Fellowship for an Emerging Artist in 2001. He has held numerous solo exhibitions, including Cheaper and Deeper, a national touring show organised by the Australian Centre for Photography (2007). Sloggett’s work was featured on the ABC program The Art Life, and has been included in significant survey exhibitions of Australian art, including Australian Vernacular Photography, Art Gallery of New South Wales (2014); Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria (2013-2014); internationally touring Photographica Australis (2002–2004); and nationally touring New Australiana, Australian Centre for Photography (2001). His work is held in numerous private and public collections including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the National Gallery of Victoria and Monash Gallery of Art.

Interested in failure as a mechanism, Glenn Sloggett’s series of medium format photograph made with his twin-lens Rolleiflex could almost have been taken on a single walk around the neighbourhood on a strange, sunlit day. Wryly infused with dark humour and intermittent text punctuations such as “ICE IS A BAD THING” and “DO NOT LEAVE CHILDREN IN CARS”, Sloggett ask us to look beneath the surface of his documentary-style images. Why are people leaving their children in their cars? What precarious situation has driven someone to graffiti “is a bad thing” on this sign?

Sloggett’s work is at times bleak, and at others sublime. Looking closely, a cat that appears to be peacefully sunbaking has sunken eyes, an innocuous rose bush was taken in a brothel carpark. dumped concrete on the sidewalk looks like it has been churned up from a Friday night on the town.

 

Glenn Sloggett. 'Pawn shop' 2018

 

Glenn Sloggett
Pawn shop
2018
C-type print
120 x 100 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Glenn Sloggett. 'Industrial dumping' 2019

 

Glenn Sloggett
Industrial dumping
2019
C-type print
120 x 100 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Glenn Slogget. 'Dead cat' 2019

 

Glenn Sloggett
Dead cat
2019
C-type print
120 x 100 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Glenn Sloggett. 'Brothel car park' 2019

 

Glenn Sloggett
Brothel car park
2019
C-type print
120 x 100 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Michelle Tran is a fashion and portrait photographer, born and raised in Melbourne by Vietnamese refugee parents. She began her photographic studies at the Victorian College of the Arts with an exploration into cultural identity through portraiture. Commercially, she has applied her interest in people to fashion, creating an approach that is both delicate and candid. Making a connection with her subjects, Michelle puts people at ease in front of the camera. Her portfolio includes portraits of celebrities such as Kendrick Lamar and Christian Louboutin, while her fashion and advertising work spans across brands including Adidas, MECCA, Amazon, Moroccan Oil, L’Oréal and Myer. Michelle lives in Melbourne with her partner, daughter and two rabbits. Michelle Tran is represented by Hart & Co., Melbourne.

 

Michelle Tran. 'Sachi' 2019

 

Michelle Tran
Sachi
2019
Archival inkjet print
79 x 54 cm
Courtesy the artist and Hart & Co., Melbourne

 

Michelle Tran. 'Madison Shauna' 2019

 

Michelle Tran
Madison Shauna
2019
Archival inkjet print
79 x 54 cm
Courtesy the artist and Hart & Co., Melbourne

 

Michelle Tran. 'Sachi In Shadow' 2019

 

Michelle Tran
Sachi In Shadow
2019
Archival inkjet print
79 x 54 cm
Courtesy the artist and Hart & Co., Melbourne

 

 

David Wadelton is a Melbourne-based painter and photographer who has documented the changing face of Melbourne’s Northern suburbs since 1975. Wadelton has held over 20 solo exhibitions, including three career surveys: Pictorial Knowledge, Geelong Art Gallery (1998); Icons Of Suburbia, McClelland Gallery, Langwarrin (2011) and The Northcote Hysterical Society, Bundoora Homestead Gallery (2015). Wadelton’s work has been included in Vision In Disbelief, 4th Biennale of Sydney (1982); Australian Culture Now, National Gallery of Victoria (2004); Far-Famed City of Melbourne, Ian Potter Museum of Art (2013); Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria (2014); Crossing paths with Vivian Maier, Centre for Contemporary Photography (2014); The Documentary Take, Centre for Contemporary Photography (2016); Romancing the Skull, Ballarat Art Gallery (2017) and Beyond boundaries – Discoveries in contemporary photography, Aperture Gallery, New York (2019).

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Why Make Pictures? at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing the work of David Wadelton and his series Living Rooms (top), Milk Bars (middle) and Small business (bottom)

 

David Wadelton. 'Coburg' 2018

 

David Wadelton
Coburg
2018
From the series Living Rooms
Courtesy the artist

 

David Wadelton. 'Reservoir' 2017–2019

 

David Wadelton
Reservoir
2017-2019
From the series Living Rooms
Courtesy the artist

 

David Wadelton. 'Pascoe Vale South' 2018

 

David Wadelton
Pascoe Vale South
2018
From the series Living Rooms
Courtesy the artist

 

David Wadelton. 'Reservoir' 2017

 

David Wadelton
Reservoir
2017
From the series Living Rooms
Courtesy the artist

 

David Wadelton. 'Reservoir' 2017

 

David Wadelton
Reservoir
2017
From the series Living Rooms
Courtesy the artist

 

David Wadelton. 'Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn' 2018

 

David Wadelton
Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn
2018
From the series Newsagents
Courtesy the artist

 

David Wadelton. 'Broadway, Reservoir' 2019

 

David Wadelton
Broadway, Reservoir
2019
From the series Newsagents
Courtesy the artist

 

David Wadelton. 'Watsonia Road Watsonia' 2016

 

David Wadelton
Watsonia Road, Watsonia
2016
From the series Newsagents
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
Phone: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening Hours:
Wednesday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm
Sunday, 1pm – 5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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05
Jul
14

Review: ‘Polaroid Project’ at Arts Project Australia, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 14th June – 12th July 2014

 

Polaroid Project is a vaguely disappointing exhibition at Arts Project Australia. The intentions and concept are good but the work sits rather silently and uneasily in the gallery space.

Constable’s anthropomorphised cameras are as lumpy and charismatic as ever, but the black colour does them no favours. Instead of transporting the viewer they become rather heavy and dull. They loose most of their transformative appeal.

Atkins’ boxes, “readymade abstractions” – his first attempt at sculpture – needed to be pushed further. While his painting practice uses distinctive graphic, jazz and minimalist colour forms, what makes them so watchable and mesmerising is that the eye has to attempt to go beyond the two-dimensional plane, to interrogate the juxtaposition of shape and space. The MDF cubes hand painted with auto acrylic paint deny the eye the ability to probe beyond the surface because the surface is already three dimensional. These boxes, these gestures of appropriation (devoid of text) just become perfect simulacra and, in reality, they really don’t take you anywhere.

Here’s an idea (or two): as Constable has had to take the camera out of the boxes – interior becomes exterior – what about carving into the MDF boxes in a series of steps that move inwards – exterior becomes interior! The colours would then move away from you. Not in all of them, just a few. It would certainly add more life and movement to the ensemble. And then, for good measure, paint a couple of the walls in the colours of the boxes – the whole goddam wall. THEN, place the cameras and cubes against this neon pop surface and see what happens… WHAM! KAPOW! Now we have something to think about, not this side by side act of representation that is really rather awkward.

Just me rabbiting on with some ideas, but as I said at the beginning, the whole exhibition is too silent and deadly. The whole shebang needs a good jolt of electricity to get the juices flowing. After all these ARE pop colours and these ARE Polaroid cameras – which produced the most popular form of instantaneous photograph, and representation in a physical form, so far invented. Ah, that speed and velocity of transmission.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

 

 

Complete-reference-forms-for-Polaroid-Project-WEB

 

polaroid-inspiration-WEB

 

polaroid-inspiration-b-WEB

 

Polaroid camera inspiration

 

 

“Polaroid Project is an in-depth collaborative project between celebrated Melbourne based artists Alan Constable and Peter Atkins examines both artists shared interests in the reinterpretation of existing forms, offering the viewer an opportunity to experience the complimentary ways these diverse artists view their distinctive worlds. This significant exhibition sees both artists responding to a collection of twelve original Polaroid cameras and packaging manufactured in the 1960s and 1970s.

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Alan Constable (Arts Project Australia, Melbourne)

Alan Constable is both a painter and a ceramicist who has exhibited in Australian and International galleries for over 25 years and has been a finalist in a number of significant contemporary art awards. Based on imagery from newspapers and magazines, his recent paintings are notable for their vibrant kaleidoscopic effects and strong sense colour and patterning. Though Constable’s works are often centred on political events and global figures, his thematic concerns are frequently subjugated by the pure visual experience of colour and form. Despite the occasional gravity of his subject matter, there is a genuine sense of joy within Constable’s paintings.

Constable’s ceramic works reflect a life-long fascination with old cameras, which began with his making replicas from cardboard cereal boxes at the age of eight. The sculptures are lyrical interpretations of technical instruments, and the artist’s finger marks can be seen clearly on the clay surface like traces of humanity. In this way, Alan Constable cameras can be viewed as extensions of the body, as much as sculptural representations of an object. Alan Constable’s clay cameras were recently exhibited in Melbourne Now at the National Gallery of Victoria. All thirteen cameras displayed were subsequently acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria for their permanent collection.

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Peter Atkins (Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne)

Peter Atkins is a leading Australian contemporary artist and an important representative of Australian art in the International arena. Over the past twenty-five years he has exhibited in Australia, New Zealand, England, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Mexico. His practice has centred around the appropriation and reinterpretation readymade abstract forms and patterns that are collected within his immediate environment, either within a local or international context. This material becomes the direct reference source for his work, providing tangible evidence to the viewer of his relationship and experience within the landscape. Particular interest is paid to the cultural associations of forms that have the capacity to trigger within the viewer, memory, nostalgia or a shared history of past experiences. Recent projects including ‘Disney Color Project’, ‘The Hume Highway Project’, ‘Monopoly Project’ and ‘In Transit’ all reference this collective cultural recall and shared experience.

Peter Atkins has held over 40 solo exhibitions with his survey exhibition titled Big Paintings 1990-2003 touring regional galleries during 2003-04. He has been represented in over fifty significant group exhibitions, including The Loti and Victor Smorgan Gift of Australian Contemporary Art at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Uncommon World: Aspects of Contemporary Australian Art and Home Sweet Home: Works from the Peter Fay Collection, both at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra and more recently in the prestigious Clemenger Contemporary Art Award at the National Gallery of Victoria in 2009/2010. His work is represented in the collections of every major Australian State Gallery as well as prominent Institutional, Corporate and Private collections both Nationally and Internationally. In 2010 his solo exhibition for Tolarno Galleries at the Melbourne Art Fair titled Hume Highway Project was purchased for The Lyon Collection in Melbourne.”

Text from the Arts Project Australia website

 

Peter Atkins with Alan Constable in the Arts Project Australia Studio in Northcote

 

Peter Atkins with Alan Constable in the Arts Project Australia Studio in Northcote.

 

polaroid-inspiration-c

 

Alan Constable creating one of the cameras for the Polaroid Project.

 

contable-polaroid-WEB

 

Alan Constable work in progress at Arts Project Australia Studio in Northcote. The cameras are inspired by a collection of retro Polaroid cameras collected by Peter Atkins.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Polaroid Project' at Arts Project Australia, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Polaroid Project' at Arts Project Australia, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Polaroid Project at Arts Project Australia, Melbourne

 

 

Two Takes On The Pop Object

“Polaroid Project, which brings together Peter Atkins’ re-creations of Polaroid camera packaging and Alan Constable’s versions of the cameras found within those boxes, demonstrates the continued relevance of how artists engage with the objects of consumer culture fifty years after the advent of Pop Art. At first glance, Peter Atkins and Alan Constable seem like unlikely collaborators. Atkins is a painter and Constable is best known as a sculptor, a maker of ceramic cameras. Atkins is invested in reproducing the clean lines and abstract, colourful design of the advertising industry in exacting detail. The lines of Constable’s cameras are never clean. His forms are inherently exaggerated, and the cameras themselves showcase the thumbing, handling, and kneading of the clay medium. If Atkins goes out of his way to convince us that his Polaroid box paintings-cum-sculptures share the near-seamlessness of the real thing, Constable seems to do just the opposite with his cameras. The latter are obviously NOT real cameras: their comic-book personalities, decidedly handmade disposition, their larger-than-life scale, and the fact that they wear their ceramic qualities so proudly (glazed in any number of colours) collectively proclaim their fiction. Despite the apparent disparity of the two artists, both rely exclusively on their own hands to create their work, even when that labour replicates the aesthetic of mechanical reproduction, in the case of Atkins. If we dig deep, we can ascertain a pronounced kinship shared by the two artists that dates back to early Pop in the United States – before the advent of Warhol’s screenprinting techniques that relied on the photograph. Both Atkins and Constable inhabit the handmade rather than the machine-produced realm of Pop, and signal to us that such strategies are still surprisingly timely today despite the digital and highly mediated culture we inhabit.

For nearly 20 years, Peter Atkins has been painting design forms on tarpaulin canvases (occasionally using other supports as well) appropriated from a range of sources including outdoor advertising, record albums, matchbooks, paperback books, product packaging, and street signage. Atkins reduces the essential forms of selected designs by deleting accompanying text and focusing completely on the graphic qualities of the image itself. Atkins has labelled his engagement with the graphic design of packaging and signage ‘readymade abstraction’ – utilising imagery that already exists in the world to transpose and distil into pared-down paintings. Steeped in the gesture of appropriation that has concerned artists for a century now (the readymade made its debut at the 1913 Armory Show when Marcel Duchamp displayed a porcelain urinal as a sculpture), Atkins has worked exclusively as a painter until recently.

Atkins has long been a collector of the objects on which he bases his paintings and the genesis of Polaroid Project firmly demonstrates this. Struck by the iconic graphic design of bright rainbow colour patterns on the original containers for Polaroid instant cameras, Atkins began collecting the camera boxes in earnest about three years ago (the original cameras were still inside the packaging). All of the packages and cameras date between 1969 and 1978; the colour spectrum/rainbow motif evident on the packages is not only indicative of graphic design of the period, but also alludes to the purported chromatic vibrancy of Polaroid film. Atkins knew he wanted to make a body of work using the boxes and was aware that he would be breaking new ground within the evolution of his practice by painting three-dimensionally. Atkins acknowledges that he first ignored what was inside the boxes he was collecting – the cameras themselves. Fetishising the veneer surrounding the product rather than the thing itself, Atkins almost forgot that the purpose of the packaging was to sell cameras. Halfway through the development of the project, Atkins began to marvel at the engineering elegance of the cameras and a light bulb went off in his head – the Arts Project Australia studio artist Alan Constable, recognised for his ceramic sculptures of cameras, would be an inspired collaborator for the project. If Atkins explores the visual language of how we are drawn to things, thereby making images designed for the masses his own, Constable’s skill lies in personalising what is inside the box, transforming a mass-produced consumer product into an idiosyncratic object.

Polaroid Project marks the first time Atkins has focused on replicating consumer packaging in 3D, creating what Donald Judd might have termed ‘specific objects’, art objects that incorporate aspects of painting and sculpture, but do not fit neatly into either category. As Atkins admits himself, his transformed Polaroid camera containers are difficult to categorise: Are they 3D paintings or sculptures? Similarly, they exist in the interstices of Pop and Minimalism, referencing images taken from advertisements, but eliminating descriptive text, distilling ads to abstraction. If it were not for Alan Constable’s cameras exhibited nearby, the viewer would most likely be unable to make the associative leap that these brightly coloured objects are in fact based on commercial packaging that housed and marketed cameras. In order to create boxes that appear as realistic as possible while still retaining proper rigidity as a support for a painting, Atkins used 6mm thick MDF board that he painstakingly sanded, infilling any gaps or surface blemishes with epoxy in order to simulate paper packing material as closely as possible. He then masked out the designs with tape and finally painted the Polaroid signature designs using carefully matched automobile spray paint. What looks machine-printed and fabricated is actually the product of artistic labour. Atkins’ boxes are the same size as the original packaging and are seemingly authentic in every way except for his decision not to reproduce text or photographic imagery, concentrating only on the colourful designs and the cubic format of the container.

Alan Constable’s glazed ceramic cameras lack precise lines and angles; their handmade wonkiness imbues them with a sentience, as if each sculpture is a character, a refugee from a cartoon narrative. If Philip Guston was a ceramicist, these are the kind of objects he would make. Constable has had a near life-long fascination with cameras. He made his first cameras from cardboard at the age of eight. The ceramic cameras have ranged from accordion-style devices to digital cameras to Polaroids, and all share the noticeable imprint of the artist’s hands and fingers, and quite often, an enlargement of scale compared to their real-world counterparts. Constable is legally blind and has pinhole vision so must work close-up during the creative process. For objects whose very existence are predicated on recording the visible, Constable’s cameras are created far more out of a sense of touch than sight. In Constable’s hands, cameras, which we usually associate with the optical, are transformed into the tactile.

Constable’s cameras are made by adding, subtracting, forming, and inscribing clay. A viewfinder or dial might be modelled separately from the camera body and then grafted on later and finally secured in the firing process. Viewfinders and lenses may be actual apertures or voids, but sometimes (as in the case of Constable’s copies of digital cameras) the display might feature an incised drawing of an imagined landscape, Constable’s take on trompe l’oeil realism. Constable also incises line work onto the camera’s surface to suggest dimension and detail. Constable’s cameras are structurally engineered from the inside out, containing internal chambers and walls to provide inherent stability, but also, perhaps, as a nod to speculative authenticity. Constable usually makes his cameras based on magazine advertisements; for Polaroid Project he had the rare opportunity of using real cameras as models for his sculptures.

Atkins is firmly situated within the handmade domain of the pop object/painting, as his renditions of Polaroid boxes are fabricated and painted only by him not by mechanical means, although the precise and seamless nature of his paint application replicates the look of commercial printing nearly exactly. While Alan Constable also relies on his hands in an endeavour to create a rendering of a commercial product, he does not in any way attempt to copy the Polaroid camera perfectly, or at least the results of his labour do not suggest a desire for verisimilitude. In a certain sense, Atkins plays Roy Lichtenstein to Constable’s Claes Oldenburg – two masters of early 1960s Pop. Lichtenstein made paintings of mass-produced printed imagery – notably comics – enlarging the image to reveal the building block of newsprint, the Ben Day dot. While Atkins does not necessarily play with scale the way Lichtenstein did, he shares with Lichtenstein a keen interest in exploring the imagery of popular culture, transposing it in paint to mimic commercial printing. In his installation The Store (1961), Claes Oldenburg riffed on the consumer products of the day creating handmade, cartoonish objects of exaggerated scale. While Constable forms his cameras out of clay, Oldenburg made his renditions of consumer goods from plaster-soaked muslin formed over wire frames, then painted in enamel – making no attempt to ape the real. Oldenburg’s objects have more in common with paintings than Constable’s cameras, but both amplify scale and instil an animated sensibility in the work, anthropomorphising objects. Lichtenstein and The Store-era Oldenburg represent the extremes of how Pop artists engaged with representation – mimicking commercial printing technology through exacting paintings, on the one hand, versus reproducing commercial goods through awkward handcraft on the other. The pairing of Atkins and Constable shows that the Lichtenstein/Oldenburg diametric is alive and well today and that artists continue to explore different registers of the real in depicting the pop object, relying solely on their own hands.”

© ALEX BAKER 2014
Director Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, Philadelphia USA

Reproduced with permission

 

Alan Constable & Peter Atkins. 'Square Shooter 2 #2' 2014

 

Alan Constable & Peter Atkins
Square Shooter 2 #2 (installation view)
2014
Ceramic camera and auto acrylic on MDF
Box: 16.7 x 16.7 x 18.4 cm
Camera: 16 x 14 x 16 cm

 

Alan Constable & Peter Atkins. 'Super Shooter' 2014

 

Alan Constable & Peter Atkins
Super Shooter (installation view)
2014
Ceramic camera and auto acrylic on MDF
Box: 16 x 17.5 x 18 cm
Camera: 16 x 14 x 16 cm

 

Alan Constable & Peter Atkins. 'Colorpack ll' 2014

 

Alan Constable & Peter Atkins
Colorpack ll (installation view)
2014
Ceramic camera and auto acrylic on MDF
Box: 16.7 x 16.7 x 19.8 cm
Camera: 15.5 x 16 x 20 cm

 

Alan Constable & Peter Atkins. 'Colorpack ll (detail)' 2014

Alan Constable & Peter Atkins. 'Colorpack ll' (detail) 2014

 

Alan Constable & Peter Atkins
Colorpack ll (detail)
2014
Ceramic camera and auto acrylic on MDF
Camera: 15.5 x 16 x 20 cm

 

Alan Constable & Peter Atkins. 'The Clincher' (detail) 2014

 

Alan Constable & Peter Atkins
The Clincher (detail)
2014
Ceramic camera and auto acrylic on MDF
Camera: 17.5 x 18 x 18 cm

 

Alan Constable & Peter Atkins. 'Colorpack 82' 2014

 

Alan Constable & Peter Atkins
Colorpack 82 (catalogue view)
2014
Ceramic camera and auto acrylic on MDF
Box: 16.7 x 16.7 x 18.4 cm
Camera: 16.5 x 14.5 x 20 cm

 

Alan Constable & Peter Atkins. 'Super Color Swinger' 2014

 

Alan Constable & Peter Atkins
Super Color Swinger (catalogue view)
2014
Ceramic camera and auto acrylic on MDF
Box: 16.7 x 16.7 x 18.4 cm
Camera: 17 x 15 x 15 cm

 

Alan Constable & Peter Atkins. 'Square Shooter 2 (with flash)' 2014

 

Alan Constable & Peter Atkins
Square Shooter 2 (with flash) (catalogue view)
2014
Ceramic camera and auto acrylic on MDF
Box: 16.7 x 16.7 x 18.4 cm
Camera: 17 x 14 x 18 cm

 

 

Arts Project Australia
24 High Street
Northcote Victoria 3070
T: + 61 3 9482 4484

Gallery Hours:
Monday to Friday
 9am – 5pm
Saturday 
10am – 5pm

Arts Project Australia website

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21
Aug
09

Opening: ‘Little Treasures’ and ‘Clay Cameras’ at Helen Gory Galerie, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 20th August – 5th September 2009

Little Treasures Toby Richardson, Will Nolan, CJ Taylor and Steve Wilson

Clay Cameras Alan Constable

 

 

Alan Constable. 'Not titled (ALE SLR)' 2008

 

Alan Constable (Australian,
Not titled (ALE SLR)
2008

 

 

A small crowd was in attendance for the opening of two new exhibitions at Helen Gory Galerie (due to two auctions, one at Sotheby’s and the other at Deutscher-Menzies). Despite this the crowd was appreciative of the beautifully printed and well presented work. In the main exhibition Little Treasures four photographers show various bodies of work. Toby Richardson’s stained pillows (Portrait of the artist) from the years 1986-2003 were effective in their muted tones and ‘thickened’ spatio-temporal identity. CJ Taylor’s winged detritus from the taxidermist were haunting in their mutilated beauty. Steve Wilson’s sometimes legless flies were startling in their precision, attitude/altitude and, as someone noted, they looked like jet fighters! Finally my favourite of this quartet were the recyco-pop iridescent bottle tops of Will Nolan – “these objects remain enigmatic, resonating with a sense of mystery, hidden thoughts and unknown histories.” (Lauren Tomczak, catalogue text).

Some good work then in this take on found, then lost and found again treasure trove, work that retrieves and sustains traces of life, history and memory in the arcana of discarded and dissected objects.

The hit of the night for me was the work of Alan Constable, his “objects that see”. I found his clay cameras intoxicating – I wanted to own one (always a good sign). I loved the exaggerated form and colours, the playfulness of the creativity on display. Being a photographer I went around trying to work out the different makes of these scratched and highly glazed cameras without looking at the exhibition handout. For a very reasonable price you could own one of these seductive (is that the right word, I think it is) viewfinders and they were selling like hot cakes!

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

 

 

Little Treasures

“Wings, pillows, flies and bottle tops are blown up vastly in stunning large scale prints that take the viewer through the looking glass into another universe, their brilliant colour and rich detail revealing unexpected beauty and delight in these forgotten things. Unmanipulated and finely printed, these images are the product of each artist’s technical mastery and inquisitive eye finding beauty in the cast off and delight in the ignored.” (Jemima Kemp, 2009)

 

Installation view of 'Little Treasures' showing the work of Toby Richardson 'Portrait of the Artist' series at Helen Gory Galerie, Melbourne

 

Installation view of Little Treasures showing Toby Richardson’s Portrait of the Artist series (2009, left)

 

Opening night crowd at 'Little Treasures'

Installation view of 'Little Treasures' showing the work of CJ Taylor (left) and Will Nolan 'Bottle Top' series (2009, right) series at Helen Gory Galerie, Melbourne

 

Installation view of Little Treasures showing the work of CJ Taylor (2009, left) and Will Nolan’s Bottle Top series (2009, right)

 

Installation view of 'Little Treasures' showing the work of CJ Taylor (2009)

 

Installation view of Little Treasures showing the work of CJ Taylor (2009)

 

CJ Taylor. 'Blue, turquoise yellow green' 2009

 

CJ Taylor
Blue, turquoise yellow green
2009
Acrylic glass pigment print
110 x 79 cm

 

CJ Taylor. 'Blue, Blue, Grey' 2009

 

CJ Taylor
Blue, Blue, Grey
2009
Acrylic glass pigment print
110 x 79 cm

 

f

 

Installation view of Little Treasures showing Will Nolan’s Bottle Top series (2009)

 

Will Nolan. 'Bottle top #10' 2009

 

Will Nolan
Bottle top #10
2009

 

Will Nolan. 'Bottle top #1' 2009

 

Will Nolan
Bottle top #1
2009

 

Installation view of 'Little Treasures' showing the work of Steve Wilson 'Fly' series (2009) at Helen Gory Galerie, Melbourne

 

Installation view of Little Treasures showing Steve Wilson’s Fly series (2009)

 

 

Clay Cameras

“From the box brownie to disposables, VHS to SLR, these works explore Alan Constable’s fascination with cameras. Unlike the streamlined design of the originals, Constable’s cameras appear soft, organic and malleable.”

 

Alan Constable. 'Not titled (pearlescent gold/black Leica)' 2008

 

Alan Constable
Not titled (pearlescent gold/black Leica)
2008

 

Installation view of 'Clay Cameras' at Helen Gory Galerie, Melbourne

 

Installation view of Clay Cameras by Alan Constable

 

Alan Constable. 'Not titled (Hasselblad)' 2008

 

Alan Constable
Not titled (Hasselblad)
2008

 

Alan Constable. 'Not titled (Digital with zoom lens)' 2009

 

Alan Constable
Not titled (Digital with zoom lens)
2009

 

 

Helen Gory Galerie

This gallery is now closed.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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