Posts Tagged ‘Australian conceptual art

20
Sep
15

Exhibition: ‘Storm in a Teacup’ at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery, Mornington

Exhibition dates: 24th July – 27th September 2015

 

Hotham Street Ladies (est. Australia 2007) 'Dark tea' 2015

 

Hotham Street Ladies (est. Australia 2007)
Dark tea (installation photo)
2015
Royal icing, butter cream icing, fondant, food dye, found objects
Dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artists

 

 

This is the best thematic group exhibition I have seen in Melbourne and surrounds this year.

Every piece in the exhibition is visually stimulating and intelligently constructed, all works combining to make an engaging exhibition. Nothing is superfluous, every work having something interesting to say, whether it is about the ceremony of tea drinking, colonisation, global warming, Stolen Generations or social mores. Congratulations must go to the curators and artists for their efforts.

Particular favourites where the Hotham Street Ladies Dark Tea (2015, below) made of royal icing, butter cream icing, fondant, food dye, and found objects; the many sculptural objects which form the backbone of the exhibition, especially the work of Sharon West and Penny Byrne; and the wonderful vintage photographs that are displayed in the foyer of the gallery.

Accompanying this exhibition is another excellent exhibition, Ways to draw: A selection from the permanent collection by Betty Churcher, on till 27th September as well. If you want a day out from Melbourne with lunch in Mornington, some seriously good art and a drive along the coast, you could do no better than visit the gallery in the next week. Highly recommended.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Hotham Street Ladies (est. Australia 2007) 'Dark tea' 2015 (detail)

Hotham Street Ladies (est. Australia 2007) 'Dark tea' 2015 (detail)

 

Hotham Street Ladies (est. Australia 2007)
Dark tea (details)
2015
Royal icing, butter cream icing, fondant, food dye, found objects
Dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artists

 

Charles Blackman (b. Australia 1928) 'Feet beneath the table' 1956

 

Charles Blackman (Australian, 1928-2018)
Feet beneath the table
1956
Tempera and oil on composition board
106.5 x 121.8cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through the NGV Foundation by Barbara Blackman, Honorary Life Benefactor, 2005

 

 

Charles Blackman first encountered Lewis Caroll’s book, Alice in Wonderland, through a talking book for the blind which his wife, Barbara was listening to. Her developing blindness resulted in telescopic vision, spatial disorientation and a shrinking visual field. She was also pregnant with their first child and her distorted body image also had parallels with Alice’s experiences. By painting Alice at the Mad Hatter’s tea party Blackman could express his wife’s feeling of bewilderment and disorientation.

 

E. Phillips Fox (b. Australia 1865; d. Victoria 1915) 'The arbour' 1910

 

E. Phillips Fox (b. Australia 1865; d. Victoria 1915)
The arbour
1910
Oil on canvas
190.5 x 230.7cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest 1916

 

 

Melbourne born E. Phillips Fox, described as ‘one of the greatest of Australia’s Impressionist painters and the most gifted of her colourists’1 went to Paris in 1887 to study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts where he encountered the work of the French Impressionists. He remained in Paris for several years but made frequent trips back to Melbourne to visit his family. The Arbour was painted in Paris in Fox’s garden but is based upon observations of family life in his brother’s garden in Malvern. The depiction of an elegant family taking tea al fresco is a study of refined gentility. The Arbour was exhibited at both the Royal Academy and the Paris Salon exhibitions and was regarded by Fox as the finest thing he had done.2 At the time the painting was much admired for its ‘subtle lights ad shadow’3 and his exemplary ‘use of delicate colour and refined harmonies.’4

  1. Courier Mail, 12 May 1949
  2. Sydney Morning Herald, 13 October 1913
  3. Sydney Morning Herald, 13 October 1913
  4. Le Courrier Australien, Sydney, 15 April 1949

 

Clare Humphries (b. Australia 1973) 'Some things were out in the open' 2007

 

Clare Humphries (Australian, b. 1973)
Some things were out in the open
2007
Pigment print on Hahnemühle photo rag paper (ed. 3/5)
63.0 x 62.0cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Adam Hill (Blak Douglas) (b. Australia 1970) 'Not everyone’s cup of tea' 2009

 

Adam Hill (Blak Douglas) (Australian, b. 1970)
Not everyone’s cup of tea
2009
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
150.0 x 260.0cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 2009

 

Kendal Murray (b. Australia 1958) 'Exceed speed, mislead, concede' 2011

 

Kendal Murray (Australian, b. 1958)
Exceed speed, mislead, concede
2011
Mixed media assemblage
18.0 x 24.0 x 14.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and Arthouse Gallery, Sydney

 

Penny Byrne (b. Australia 1965) 'Tea for two in Tuvalu' 2011

 

Penny Byrne (Australian, b. 1965)
Tea for two in Tuvalu
2011
Vintage porcelain figurine, vintage, Action man accessories, vintage coral, glass fish, epoxy resin, epoxy putty, retouching medium, powder pigments
15.0 x 19.0cm
Private Collection

 

Penny Byrne (b. Australia 1965) 'Tea for two in Tuvalu' 2011

 

Penny Byrne (Australian, b. 1965)
Tea for two in Tuvalu (installation photo)
2011
Vintage porcelain figurine, vintage, Action man accessories, vintage coral, glass fish, epoxy resin, epoxy putty, retouching medium, powder pigments
15.0 x 19.0cm
Private Collection

 

 

This piece was inspired by an underwater cabinet meeting held in 2009 by Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed in a campaign to raise awareness for activity on climate change. The thirty minute meeting was held six metres below sea level and was attended by eleven cabinet members calling upon all countries to cut their emissions to halt further temperature rises.

Polynesian island nation of Tuvalu, located in the Pacific Ocean midway between Hawaii and Australia, experienced a severe drought in 2011. A sate of emergency was declared and rationing of fresh-water took place which restricted households on some of the islands to two buckets of fresh water per day. Tuvalu is also especially susceptible to changes in sea level and it is estimated that a sea level rise of 20 to 40 centimetres in the next 100 years could make Tuvalu uninhabitable.

 

Kate Bergin (b. Australia 1968) 'The hunt for a room of one’s own' 2012

 

Kate Bergin (Australian, b. 1968)
The hunt for a room of one’s own
2012
Oil on canvas on board
75.0 x 101.0 cm
Private Collection

 

 

Kate Bergin draws upon Dutch and Flemish seventeenth century tradition of still life painting to comment on our attitudes to animals. Bergin stages the scene on a crumpled white tablecloth upon which a large fox, based on a taxidermy fox she bought on eBay, regally sits centre stage. Meticulously rendered native birds, including a honeyeater, finch and triller, are based on photographs of specimens from the Melbourne Museum Collection. They flit about unperturbed by the introduced predator. Teaspoons, representing the impulse for collecting, entangle the fox and bird. Together with a teapot and cup, precariously placed, they contribute to the overarching sense of impending chaos.

Both afternoon tea and the fox represent English upper class social mores and were introduced into the colonies following British settlement. The fox arrived in 1855, brought in for recreational hunting, and has been a major cause of native bird extinctions. Fox numbers are increasing in some areas further threatening the precarious balance between wild life and introduced species.

 

Sharon West (b. Australia 1963) 'Two Koori Tribesmen receive a gift of afternoon tea from local colonists' 2014

 

Sharon West (Australian, b. 1963)
Two Koori Tribesmen receive a gift of afternoon tea from local colonists (installation photo)
2014
Mixed media assemblage
15.0 x 46.0 x 30.0cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Heather Shimmen (b. Australia 1957) 'Tip me up' 2005

 

Heather Shimmen (Australian, b. 1957)
Tip me up (installation photo)
2005
Linocut on paper and organza (ed. 7/30)
56.0 x 76.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and Australian Galleries, Melbourne and Sydney

 

Trent Jansen (b. Australia 1981) 'Briggs family tea service' 2011

 

Trent Jansen (Australian, b. 1981)
Briggs family tea service (installation photo)
2011
Slip cast porcelain, bull kelp, wallaby pelt, copper and brass
George (teapot) 22.5 x 20.5 x 13.0cm; Woretermoeteyenner (sugar bowl) 16.0 x 13.5 x 9.0cm; Dolly (milk jug) 12.5 x 12.5 x 8.5cm; John (teacup) 7.0 x 8.5 x 8.0cm; Eliza (teacup) 7.5 x 10.5 x 8.0cm; Mary (teacup) 10.0 x 9.0 x 6.5cm
Courtesy of Broached Commissions, Melbourne

 

 

The Briggs family tea service represents the marriage of George Briggs, a free settler, to Woretermoeteyenner of the Pairrebeenne people in Van Diemen’s Land and the four children they had together. Briggs arrived from Bedfordshire in 1791 and learned to speak the language of the local Pairrebeenne people, trading tea, flour and sugar fro kangaroo, wallaby and seal skins. It is understood that he became good friends with the leader of the Pairrebeenne people, Mannalargenna, and by 1810 he partnered his daughter Woretermoeteyenner. Their marriage meant she had to adapt to a way of life that merged her traditional cultural values with the ways of British settlers. The teapot and sugar bowl represent the parents while their first daughter, Doll Mountgarret Briggs is symbolised in the milk jug and the three cups each signify their other children John, Eliza and Mary.

The tea service is a hybrid design bringing together materials common to both cultures. To realise the set Jansen worked with Rod Bamford on the ceramic elements, Oliver Smith for the brass and copper and Vicki West, who uses the traditional methods of her Tasmanian Aboriginal ancestors, worked with the bull kelp components.

 

eX de Medici (b. Australia 1959) 'Blue (Bower-Bauer)' 1998–2000

 

eX de Medici (Australian, b. 1959)
Blue (Bower-Bauer) (installation photo)
1998-2000
Watercolour over black pencil on paper
114.0 x 152.8 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 2004

 

eX de Medici (b. Australia 1959) 'Blue (Bower-Bauer)' 1998-2000 (detail)

 

eX de Medici (Australian, b. 1959)
Blue (Bower-Bauer) (detail)
1998-2000
Watercolour over black pencil on paper
114.0 x 152.8cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 2004

 

 

A turning point in eX de Medici’s career came in 1998 when she saw an exhibition of watercolours by Ferdinand Bauer comprising 2,000 rarely seen images of native flora and fauna made when Bauer was official artist on Matthew Flinder’s historic circumnavigation of Australia in 1801-03. Previously working with tattoo imagery, Medici found the intricate works so compelling she decided to change course and ‘retrograde’ herself and explore watercolour as a medium.1

Referencing Australia’s Bower bird that adorns its nest with anything blue, Medici entangles the history of vanitas painting with commentary about the desire to seek permanence and affirmation in the accumulation of things. The broken willow pattern platter, upturned jugs and cups, amassed with so many other decorative and functional objects, are juxtaposed with skulls, fruit and flowers – symbols of mortality. A reaction to what she considered John Howard’s regressive politics at the time, the work ‘is a kind of a backhanded discussion about colonising our minds with retroactive ideas’.2

  1. Ted Gott. ‘eX deMedici an epic journey on a Lilliputian scale’ Art and Australia Vol. 40, No. 1, Spring 2002, p. 105
  2. eX deMedici in Paul Flynn. Artist Profile #5, March 2008, pp. 28-35.

 

 

Storm in a Teacup reflects upon tea drinking in Australia. Introduced by the British colonials, the afternoon tea party was an attempt to ‘civilise’ the land. Tea drinking became so popular in the colonies that by 1888 the amount of tea consumed per capita exceeded the amount consumed in England. Soon after, billy tea was to become an enduring symbol of the pioneering spirit, immortalised by Henry Lawson’s stories published under the title While the billy boils.

Beginning with elegant paintings of the afternoon tea table from E. Phillips Fox and Arthur Streeton, the exhibition goes on to explore the darker side of tea drinking and the social and environmental impacts of the humble cup of tea. Michael Cook’s Object (table), 2015, provides an alternative history to the narrative of colonialism while Sharon West and Adam Hill both use humour to subvert colonial understandings of the afternoon tea party as an occasion of refined gentility.

The humble cuppa has been around for thousands of years, but this exhibition explores how a popular beverage can impact on us culturally, socially, environmentally and politically. There is more to debate than just the proper way to make a cup of tea. Storm in a teacup explores far-reaching issues brewing from tea, including the imposition of one culture upon another – especially on the colonial frontier; the production of ceramics and the environmental impacts of porcelain and its production; gender stereotypes and socialisation through tea parties. The exhibition also reflects upon tea drinking ceremonies in Asia within a western Orientalist paradigm and tea drinking as an occasion for familial cohesiveness and disconnect.”

Text from the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Mark James Daniel (1867-1949) 'Verandah, "Harefield" - afternoon tea' Feb 1900

 

Mark James Daniel (Australian, 1867-1949)
Verandah, “Harefield” – afternoon tea
Feb 1900
Glass negative
8.5 x 11.0cm (quarter plate)
Collection of the State Library of Victoria

 

Michael J Drew (1873-1943) 'Group taking tea in a garden' between 1890 and 1900

 

Michael J Drew (Australian, 1873-1943)
Group taking tea in a garden
between 1890 and 1900
Glass negative
12.2 x 16.5cm (half plate)
Collection of the State Library of Victoria

 

Rex Hazlewood (1886-1968) '[Men drinking billy tea]' 1911 - 1927

 

Rex Hazlewood (Australian, 1886-1968)
[Men drinking billy tea]
1911-1927
Silver gelatin print
Collection of the State Library of New South Wales

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Afternoon tea at "Vivaleigh"' 1917

 

Anonymous photographer
Afternoon tea at “Vivaleigh”
1917
Gelatin silver print
12 x 16cm
Collection of the State Library of Victoria

 

James Fox Barnard (1874-1945) 'Lawn, Arylie, Hobart' c. 1900

 

James Fox Barnard (Australian, 1874-1945)
Lawn, Arylie, Hobart
c. 1900
Glass negative
8.5 x 11.0cm (quarter plate)
Collection of the State Library of Victoria

 

James Fox Barnard (1874-1945) '[Tea on the verandah]' c. 1900

 

James Fox Barnard (Australian, 1874-1945)
[Tea on the verandah]
c. 1900
Glass negative
8.5 x 11.0cm (quarter plate)
Collection of the State Library of Victoria

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Storm in a Teacup' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Storm in a Teacup' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Storm in a Teacup' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Storm in a Teacup' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Storm in a Teacup' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Storm in a Teacup at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

 

Tea is the medium of many a complex and commonplace rituals. Adopted in a variety of ceremonies and customs across the globe, its unique and symbolic place in our lives is subtle and powerful. Whether a quick cuppa around the kitchen table or a lavish display of refined gentility; from billy tea to Asian tea-drinking ceremonies, tea has played an important role in international trade but more curiously in facilitating social cohesiveness.

Comprising approximately 50 works including painting, photography, sculpture and installation Storm in a Teacup features artists such as Chares Blackman, John Perceval, Emma Minnie Boyd, E. Phillips Fox and contemporary artists Stephen Bowers, Danie Mellor, Penny Byrne, Rosalie Gasgoigne, Matthew Sleeth, eX de Medici, Anne Zahalka, Polixeni Papapetrou and a mad tea party installation by Hotham Street Ladies.

Tea is said to have first been invented in China around 2700 BC, with the earliest records of tea consumption dating to 1000BC. Initially consumed as a medicinal drink, it became widely popular as a common beverage and traded across Asia and Europe during the 16th century. It was King Charles II’s wife Catherine of Portugal who is said to have brought the tea habit to Great Britain. Indeed, the afternoon tea party first became fashionable in the seventeenth century following Queen Catherine de Braganza’s fondness for serving the beverage at Whitehall in London. It wasn’t until the 18th century that it became widely consumed with tea smuggling bringing the tipple to the masses and later influenced the Boston Tea Party.

Tea drinking became a demonstration of social aspirations and grew in popularity giving rise to a subtle orchestration of manners, dress and serving paraphernalia which created new forms of commodity consumption. In the colonies of New South Wales and Victoria afternoon tea parties were a lavish display of settler understandings of refined gentility that were an attempt to signal allegiance to the values of the home country and ground the displaced community in their originating culture. In this respect the afternoon tea party expressed collective understandings of British identity and was a means of domesticating and civilising the alien terrain of the colonies.

Press release from the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Clare Humphries (b. Australia 1973) 'Family confection II' 2015

Clare Humphries (b. Australia 1973) 'Family confection II' 2015

 

Clare Humphries (Australian, b. 1973)
Family confection II (installation photos)
2015
Sugar cubes stained with coffee and tea
Dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artist

 

Giuseppe Romeo (b. Australia 1958) Subjective landscape, 'Of consequence rather than reason' 2015

DSC1644-WEB

 

Giuseppe Romeo (Australian, b. 1958)
Subjective landscape, ‘Of consequence rather than reason’ (installation photos)
2015
Found discarded objects, bitumen, paint
80.0 x 100.0 x 60.0cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Guiseppe Rome asks the simple question: ‘What are you going to do with it all?’

Romeo recalls the tea sets his mother and aunts possessed and the ‘good set’ kept for special occasions that were rarely used. In this work a silver platter is the support for a silver cake stand upon which a teapot, creamer, sugar bowl and various serving implements jostle with items required to clean up the mess. The bat, ball and stumps are a reference to playing cricket which ‘became an excuse for a big afternoon tea party in England’. A ribbon of wire holds it all together ‘like a dream from Alice in Wonderland when nothing is as it seems’, while a tinkling melody from a music box is a lullaby that sends us in to a contented sleep.

Romeo coats the sculpture in bitumen then paints it entirely in white. The effect is reminiscent of excavated items from an ancient ruin, as if w are peering upon the remains from a modern day Pompeii – artefacts that have been covered in lava and buried. This work alludes to the ways in which we deceive ourselves and ‘attempt to keep it all together through consumption but ultimately we can’t’.

 

Samantha Everton (b. Australia 1971) 'Camellia' 2009

 

Samantha Everton (Australian, b. 1971)
Camellia
2009
From the series Vintage dolls 2009
Pigment print on rag paper (ed. AP2)
106.0 x 114.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and Anthea Polson Art, Queensland

 

Robyn Phelan (b. Australia 1965) 'Porcelain wall – ode to an obsession' 2010-15

 

Robyn Phelan (Australian, b. 1965)
Porcelain wall – ode to an obsession (installation photo)
2010-15
Porcelain, paper, clay, cobalt oxide, timber, pigment, Jingdezhen tissue transfer
240.0 x 122.0 x 42.0cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Robyn Phelan (b. Australia 1965) 'Porcelain wall – ode to an obsession' 2010-15 (detail)

 

Robyn Phelan (Australian, b. 1965)
Porcelain wall – ode to an obsession (detail)
2010-15
Porcelain, paper, clay, cobalt oxide, timber, pigment, Jingdezhen tissue transfer
240.0 x 122.0 x 42.0cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Robyn Phelan undertook a residency at the Pottery Workshop and Experimental Sculptural Factory of Jingdezhen, Jiangxi Province in China in 2008. Jingdezhen is known as the porcelain capital because it has been the centre of China’s ceramic production, beginning in the fourteenth century Yuan Dynasty, where fine porcelain was first exported all over the world.

Deposits of kaolinite, a clay found at Mt Kaolin nearby which can sustain very high firing temperatures produced a superior white porcelain of increased strength and translucency. Items made from kaolinite were fired with cobalt landscape designs and were highly sought after by European collectors. Over the centuries, because of excessive mining, the mountain’s deposits have become depleted. Phelan’s work is a lament to the desecration of the mountain and a reminder of the potential destructiveness of consumer desire.

 

Penny Byrne (b. Australia 1965) '‘Let’s forget about global warming’ said Alice ‘and have a cup of tea instead!’' 2010

 

Penny Byrne (Australian, b. 1965)
‘Let’s forget about global warming’ said Alice ‘and have a cup of tea instead!’ (installation photo)
2010
Vintage porcelain figurine, found toys, epoxy resin, epoxy putty, retouching medium, powder pigments
80.0 x 33.0cm
Williams Sinclair Collection

 

Penny Byrne (b. Australia 1965) '‘Let’s forget about global warming’ said Alice ‘and have a cup of tea instead!’' 2010 (detail)

 

Penny Byrne (Australian, b. 1965)
‘Let’s forget about global warming’ said Alice ‘and have a cup of tea instead!’ (detail)
2010
Vintage porcelain figurine, found toys, epoxy resin, epoxy putty, retouching medium, powder pigments
80.0 x 33.0cm
Williams Sinclair Collection

 

 

Penny Byrne’s reworked porcelain conversation piece was motivated by Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s cry to ‘drill, baby, drill’ during her campaign in 2008. A call for increase off-shore drilling of petroleum, including sites such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Palin claimed ‘that’s what we hear all across the country in our rallies because people are so hungry for those domestic sources of energy to be tapped into’.1

In Byrne’s piece the patriotic figures gorge themselves, blithely overindulging without care to the wastage. The new Disney production of Alice in Wonderland directed by Tim Burton had just been released and this led Byrne to reflect upon the Mad Hatter’s tea party in which tea was drunk all day because time stood still and was stuck at tea-time.

  1. Transcript: The Vice-Presidential Debate, 2 October 2008. Reprinted in the New York Times, 23 May 2012.

 

Sharon West (b. Australia 1963) 'Joseph Banks’ tea party for a Botany Bay tribesman is ruined by flies and spiders' 2014

 

Sharon West (Australian, b. 1963)
Joseph Banks’ tea party for a Botany Bay tribesman is ruined by flies and spiders
2014
Digital print on paper (ed. 2/5)
66.0 x 57.0cm (sheet)
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Sharon West’s recreation of an afternoon tea party is set in the early days of first contact. Joseph Banks was the botanist who sailed with Captain Cook on the Endeavour on the first voyage of discovery which mapped the east coast of Australia between 1768 and 1771. While ashore he made an extensive collection of native flora and fauna which was sent back to natural history museums in England. Banks was also instrumental in the British government’s decision to colonise the New South Wales settlement.

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (b. New Zealand 1917; arr. Australia 1943; d. Canberra 1999) 'The tea party' 1980

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (b. New Zealand 1917; arr. Australia 1943; d. Canberra 1999)
The tea party (installation photo)
1980
Painted wood, celluloid, plastic, enamelled metal, feathers
83.0 x 35.0 x 20.0cm
Private collection

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (b. New Zealand 1917; arr. Australia 1943; d. Canberra 1999) 'The tea party' 1980 (detail)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (b. New Zealand 1917; arr. Australia 1943; d. Canberra 1999)
The tea party (detail)
1980
Painted wood, celluloid, plastic, enamelled metal, feathers
83.0 x 35.0 x 20.0cm
Private collection

 

 

Rosalie Gascoigne found the kewpie dolls amongst a large number of discarded things from an abandoned sideshow at the Bungendore dump in the summer of 1976. ‘I thought “Oh, those dollies, they’re having a … very joyful … picnic. They’re … in the paddock, they’ve got all these old things … they’ve sat down on the teapots and waved their wings around.”

For Gascoigne beauty existed in the most humble of objects and the wear and tear from use only added to the appeal. The enamel teapots were also found at various dumps and were a particular focus of her collecting.

‘I had a thing about enamelware because I see it as being elegant. People see the holes in it. I was collecting brown and white at the same time. To me it had a sort of elegance that a Dalmatian dog has, spotty, very elegant’.1

  1. Rosalie Gascoigne, excerpts from her correspondence, email communication with Martin Gascoigne, 13 March 2015

 

Julie Dowling (b. Australia 1969) Badimaya people, Western Australia 'White with one' 2003

 

Julie Dowling (Australian, b. 1969)
Badimaya people, Western Australia
White with one
2003
Synthetic polymer paint and red ochre on canvas
121.0 x 100.0 cm
Collection of Jane Kleimeyer and Anthony Stuart

 

 

Julie Dowling’s painting is a poignant reminder of the Stolen Generations and the plight of many young girls, forcibly removed from their families, who were brought up in government institutions and trained to be domestic servant to white families. Girls were targeted because women were considered the ‘uplifters’ or ‘civilisers’ of their communities and as future mothers their education into the values of white society was deemed essential to enable successful assimilation. Girls in service were supposed to receive a wage but often this was retained by their employer and not passed on. Dowling points out it is also a history of Stolen wages.

 

Michael Cook (b. Australia 1968) Bidjara people, south-west Queensland 'Object (table)' 2015

 

Michael Cook (Australian, b. 1968)
Bidjara people, south-west Queensland
Object (table)
2015
Inkjet print on Hahnemühle cotton rag (ed. 2/4 + 2AP)
140.0 x 99.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and THIS IS NO FANTASY + dianne tanzer gallery, Melbourne

 

 

Michael Cook’s photographic tableau ‘turns the table’ on racism. By depicting the body of a white woman as a functional object in service to others, Cook considers the dehumanisation and objectification of one race of people by another in the history of slavery.

The double portrait on the back wall is by Johann Zoffany from 1778, and features Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761-1804) who was born into slavery in the West Indies. The daughter of an African mother, her father was an English naval officer who left her to the care of his uncle, Lord William Murray, where she was raised as an equal with Murray’s niece. Murray was instrumental in outlawing slavery in the United Kingdom in 1772. In the painting Zoffany depicts the two women standing together, the niece affectionately reaching out to Belle. Hence Cook’s afternoon tea is also a reminder that prejudice and racial inequality can be surmounted.

 

Yenny Huber (b. Austria 1980; arr. Australia 2000) 'Room No. 14' 2006

 

Yenny Huber (b. Austria 1980; arr. Australia 2000)
Room No. 14
2006
Digital print on aluminium panel (ed. 1/6)
27.2 x 27.2cm
Warrnambool Art Gallery, Victoria

 

 

Underpinned by the belief that any one person is comprised of diverse, fragmentary and often illusory selves, Yenny Huber explores the various ego states that reside within. This photograph is a self portrait taken in a hotel room, but it is also an impersonation of an identity available to women. Tea-drinking was once described as ‘an infallible sign of an old maid’1 and in this work Huber offers us an image of a good Catholic girl, knees together, elbows in, sitting demurely on the couch sipping tea. It is an image of femininity constrained by the dictates of religion and outdated socially sanctioned ideals of respectable female behaviour.

  1. The Horsham Times, Victoria, 26 April 1898

 

Anne Zahalka (b. Australia 1957) 'Saturday 5.18 pm 1995' 1995 (printed 1997)

 

Anne Zahalka (Australian, b. 1957)
Saturday 5.18 pm 1995
1995 (printed 1997)
Type C photograph (ed AP)
125.0 x 162.0cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Gift of the artist, 2011
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program

 

 

Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery
Civic Reserve, Dunns Road, Mornington

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm

Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

27
Apr
14

Review: ‘The Paper’ by Rosemary Laing at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 5th April 2014 – 3rd May 2014

 

Rosemary Laing. 'The Paper, Monday' 2013

 

Rosemary Laing (Australian, b. 1959)
The Paper, Monday
2013
C Type photograph
110 x 214cm
Courtesy the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

 

 

I always look forward to new work by the incomparable Rosemary Laing with great anticipation. I have never been disappointed. This magnificent group of five images is no exception, one of the photographic highlights so far this year in Melbourne.

These large, Type-C analogue landscape format photographs feature decomposing newspapers literally (being words) carpeting the forest floor. These site-specific interventions feature no digital manipulation and, as the erudite catalogue essay by George Alexander observes below, investigate the replacement of our daily newspaper by online information bytes, “the graphic graphic newsprint breaking down like typographic stew,”  the “transmigration of matter from one form to another,” “a meditation on time,” recycling, deforestation, information overload. These concepts build on earlier fragments from work by the artist (such as groundspeed2001) into something transformational, transnational and, even, otherworldly.

These entropic panoramas, which hang mysteriously between words and worlds, are indeed meditations on time and space. As Annette Hughes states,

“Laing’s pictorial space, like that of cinema, is generally art-directed, constructed, rehearsed, performed and shot in physical time and space, and though it could easily be Photoshopped these days, that’s not the point. The art object is only the end product of the making of these images. Being able to see the many human hours devoted to their execution is also a way of building duration back into the photograph.”1

.
Here’s my tuppence worth on Laing’s new work.

This suite of photographs has a panoramic immersiveness. The viewer feels as though time has stood still when looking at these photographs, where the newspapers are analogous to snow upon the ground, imparting something of a dream-like existence to the images. There is a talismanic quality to the images, like a standing stone circle that is believed to have magic powers and cause good things to happen. And they are full of symbols, such as arrows, to mark the way (see The Paper, Wednesday, earlier, 2013, below).

These are not unquiet images, suspended midway between fantasy and reality, but (un)quiet images – a subtle but pivotal difference. They possess the quietness of the forest but also the isolation and loneliness. They are based on a harmonic instability, like a minor chord at the beginning of a Beethoven symphony, which is then eventually resolved in the major. These images are the journey of that resolution. The words, the flesh of the textural body, has been pulped: that immersive instability of the fecund body laying down in the soil of mother earth.

The viewer is disorientated. We have no idea where we are, the paper (the word and world) creating for the body this foggy, dream-like atmosphere. As in all of Laing’s work, there is an inquiring instability here, one that seeks the resolution of stability through the love of the human body and of our existence. I stand still before them.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Hughes, Annette. “ABIGAIL SOLOMON-GODEAU Rosemary Laing,” Review on The Newtown Review of Books website 3th July 2012 [Online] Cited 27th April 2014 no longer available online

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

 

 

Rosemary Laing. 'The Paper, Tuesday' 2013

 

Rosemary Laing (Australian, b. 1959)
The Paper, Tuesday
2013
C Type photograph
110 x 209cm
Courtesy the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

 

Rosemary Laing. 'The Paper, Wednesday, earlier' 2013

 

Rosemary Laing (Australian, b. 1959)
The Paper, Wednesday, earlier
2013
C Type photograph
110 x 203cm
Courtesy the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

 

 

Rosemary Laing

The Paper

A forest is carpeted with truckloads of newspapers. A cacophony of printed voices layers the soil horizon of the ground. The former surface litter of loose and partly decayed organic matter is overlaid with pulped tree product. The 21st century cultural carpet of current events and mercenary babble is already time-lined by weathering, which is fast-tracking the decomposition of the worded pages. The graphic of newsprint is breaking down like typographic stew, falling apart like old lacework, dissolving like paint – it’s losing its imprint as fallen branches and leaves scatter over it. It seems to expect that over time it will disappear beneath what comes after, what fresh coats some future century will lay over it.

For this undertaking, Rosemary Laing located her activity among the woodlands of Bundanon, a casuarina forest peppered with eucalyptus and Burrawang. Located in the Shoalhaven of southern New South Wales, the site was originally the land of the Wodi Wodi people of the Yuin nation. Layered with subsequent occupations since the early 19th century, in 1993 the properties were gifted by Arthur and Yvonne Boyd and became the Bundanon Trust – a place for artists of all disciplines to work and a place for all people to draw inspiration.

Two unique opportunities here were made possible by the Trust to Rosemary Laing. The opportunity to develop and consider her actions unhindered by a time frame; together with access to the Bundanon collection of the influential gnarled ceramics that Arthur’s father Merric Boyd (1888-1959) made with their blue and green underglazes and swaying lines of treescapes on clay.

As it happened, while making this work, the place was inundated with floodwaters. Natural disaster has often enclosed her work, as in swanfires (2002-04), with its incinerated sheds and buildings, following bushfires in the Sussex Inlet area – also part of the Shoalhaven. Destruction sculpts and re-sculpts the world, and Laing joins the material cycle, the perpetual transmigration of matter from one form to another. A “terrible beauty”, as a friend remarked.

This series is called The Paper, for the daily newspaper – our long time companion and a primary fix for information of the world – that is swiftly being superseded by the new material technologies of our times. If the overwhelming flood of data and culture and spin is hitting us with some 500,000 discrete bits of information at any time, then we may be faced with inabilities to absorb that Total Noise. We probably missed the 25 bits that were important. The latest innovations of the Infosphere replay confections of overstimulation and boredom, sugar-hits of overload followed by emotional numbness.

Yet the covering of the ground that we saw in 2001 with groundspeed – not far geographically from this site – isn’t the same as here in the series The Paper. The point of loungeroom carpets in groundspeed was as an index of the latecomer’s sense of belonging. A kind of comfort zone for the non-indigenous, bridging old world and new. The carpeting this time – as she writes in her notes – “seems to be composting the present as a past about to happen; taking a once-upon- a-time not-that-long-ago standard as the ground-amendment-of- tomorrow already.” It is, among other things, a meditation on time.

Every new presentation of Laing’s work is also a running commentary on her previous corpus of work. The Paper explores themes touched upon in – Natural Disasters (1988), groundspeed (2001) with its patterned loungeroom carpets out in the ‘wild’ and in 2006, weather with its cyclone of newspaper shreds – while constantly replenishing what had remained surplus to that work. And this compost of earlier fragments, that are dismembered and scattered and gathered again, expands her material formation on this site.

From top to bottom the planet is being transfigured. Something essential is changing now and forever. The “global” has become everyone’s “local”. The human race is going through things it has never experienced before – as we are forced to join the caravan of this moment in time.

Hellish or heavenly? Promised Land or Wasteland? Take your pick. You do get the sense – with the dramatic shiny green of the ancient Burrrawang palms scattered about – of human impermanence against the bedrock temporal dimensions of the primitive Gondawan rainforest margins. As anyone who has spent time slogging through genuine bushland, and sensing the century’s long pulse of trees: we’ve fallen out of tune with the eternal present of the animal world, we’ve fallen into Time with its past and future, the chopped-up time of daily newspapers.

Find tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones … wrote Shakespeare (As You Like It, 2.1). The quote recalls the medieval idea of the Book of Nature that we are here to read, whose infinite pages unfold enormous landscapes: some see good, some evil, some both, some neither. Laing’s art takes root in a fissure, in that crack in the covenant between word and world, and the historical moment is right: we are in the age of the “trans-book” with the rise of the Kindle and iGoogle, and with it the end of newspapers, the demise of print and the retrenchment of journalists.

So as you enter the space, walk around the room with the suite of images – named for the days of the week – there’s an entropic feel with their grubby matte and muted beauty. Underfoot, things fall apart, the riggings of the page disintegrate into tissue, print naturalises into leaf mould, and words on paper are composted back into wood pulp and waste slurry. Accordingly, to make the images this time around, she put her dalliances with digital cameras and print-output machines aside, in favour of analogue, for all the lovely limitations and imperfections of light on cellulose triacetate, and the physical shadings of Laing’s printer in the darkroom.

The curving earth is a body, and these lacework landscapes show off the marks of ageing. The woods are a damp chamber, with a thick carpet of newspapers, and many doors open to the wind and faraway light. The images enclose you in brushwork of soft jade while the soggy colours of disintegration make time tangible.

There’s nothing said about the world here (recycling, deforestation, information overload) that you couldn’t find more reliably elsewhere. It’s rather Laing’s process of invention, through the hinterlands of her material imagination, that communicates her unexpected vision, tells her story of an imagined afterwards of along-the-way. There’s a stand of trees in these pictures still growing inside the shellacking and composting of our times.

.
George Alexander
September 2013

Published with permission

 

Rosemary Laing. 'The Paper, Wednesday' 2013

 

Rosemary Laing (Australian, b. 1959)
The Paper, Wednesday
2013
C Type photograph
110 x 197.5cm
Courtesy the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

 

Rosemary Laing. 'The Paper, Thursday' 2013

 

Rosemary Laing (Australian, b. 1959)
The Paper, Thursday
2013
C Type photograph
110 x 207cm
Courtesy the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

 

Rosemary Laing. 'The Paper, Friday' 2013

 

Rosemary Laing (Australian, b. 1959)
The Paper, Friday
2013
C Type photograph
110 x 196.3cm
Courtesy the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

 

 

Tolarno Galleries
Level 4
104 Exhibition Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Australia
Phone: 61 3 9654 6000

Opening hours:
Tue – Fri 10am – 5pm
Sat 1pm – 4pm

Tolarno Galleries website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

02
Jan
13

Melbourne’s magnificent eleven 2012

January 2013

 

Here’s my pick of the eleven best artists/exhibitions which featured on the Art Blart blog in 2012. Enjoy!

Marcus

 

1/ Review: The work of Robyn Hosking, AT_SALON at Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond

6th March – 24th March 2012

 

Robyn Hosking. 'The Wing Walker' 2011

 

Robyn Hosking
The Wing Walker
2011
Mixed media

 

Robyn Hosking. 'The Wing Walker' 2011 (detail)

 

Robyn Hosking
The Wing Walker (detail)
2011
Mixed media

 

 

… My favourite has to be The Wing Walker (2011) as an irate Julia Gillard tries to get rid of Kevin Rudd once and for all, even poking him with a stick to push him off the edge of the biplane. Balanced on a slowly revolving turntable with the world at its centre, this political merry-go round is panacea for the soul for people sick of politicians. This is brilliant political satire. The planes are all ends up and even when Julia thinks she has got rid of Kevin there he is, hanging on for dear life from the undercarriage of one of the planes…

Reminding me of the fantasy creatures of Tom Moore, these whimsical manifestations deal with serious, life changing and challenging issues with purpose, feeling and a wicked sense of humour. I really enjoyed this art (and joy is the correct word) because it takes real world issues, melds fantasy and pointed observation and reflects it back, as the artist observes, in a funfair’s distorted mirror. Magic!

 

2/ Review: Martin Parr: In Focus at Niagara Galleries, Richmond, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 6th March – 31st March 2012

 

This is a fine exhibition of the work of celebrated English photographer Martin Parr at Niagara Galleries, Richmond, albeit with one proviso. The mainly large colour prints are handsomely displayed in plain white frames within the gallery space and are taken from his well known series: Last Resort, Luxury, New British and British Food. Parr’s work is at its best when he concentrates on the volume of space within the image plane and the details that emerge from such a concentrated visualisation – whether it be the tension points within the image, assemblage of colour, incongruity of dress, messiness of childhood or philistine nature of luxury.

And so it goes. The dirt under the fingernails of the child eating a doughnut, the lurid colours of the popsicle and jacket of the kid with dribble on his face, all fantastic… They are joyous paeans to the quirky, incongruous worlds in which we live and circulate. They evidence life itself in all its orthogonal absurdity.

 

Martin Parr. 'England. New Brighton' 1983-1985

 

Martin Parr (British, b. 1952)
England. New Brighton.
From the series Last Resort
1983 – 1985
Pigment print
Edition of 5
102 x 127cm
Image courtesy of the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne

 

Martin Parr. 'England. New Brighton' 1983- 985

 

Martin Parr (British, b. 1952)
England. New Brighton.
From the series Last Resort
1983 – 1985
Pigment print
Edition of 5
102 x 127 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne

 

 

3/ Review: Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1 – 41 by Nicola Loder at Helen Gory Galerie, Prahran, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 14th March – 7th April 2012

 

I have always loved the work of Nicola Loder ever since I saw her solo exhibition Child 1-175: A Nostalgia for the Present at Stop 22 Gallery in St Kilda in 1996. This exhibition is no exception. Loder is the consummate professional, her work is as imaginative and intriguing as ever and there has been a consistent thematic development of ideas within her work over a long period of time. These ideas relate to the nature of seeing and being seen, the mapping of identity and the process of its (dis)appearance…

Loder’s exquisitely sensuous description of disappearance allows us to see the phenomenal word afresh. I look forward with a sense of anticipation to the next voyage of discovery the artist will take me on.

 

'Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1 - 41' by Nicola Loder, installation photograph at Helen Gorie Galerie

 

Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1 – 41 by Nicola Loder, installation photograph at Helen Gorie Galerie

 

Nicola Loder. 'Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 11)' 2012

 

Nicola Loder (Australian, b. 1964)
Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 11)
2012
Polyester thread, muslin
86 x 69cm

 

 

4/ Review: Jane Brown / Australian Gothic at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 25th April – 12th May 2012

 

Jane Brown. 'Big Trout, New South Wales' 2010

 

Jane Brown
Big Trout, New South Wales
2010
Museo silver rag print
59 x 46cm

 

Jane Brown. 'Adelong, New South Wales' 2011

 

Jane Brown
Adelong, New South Wales
2011
Fibre based, silver gelatin print
16.5 x 20.5 cm

 

 

This is a good exhibition of small, darkly hewn, traditionally printed silver gelatin photographs, beautifully hung in the small gallery at Edmund Pearce and lit in the requisite, ambient manner. There are some outstanding photographs in the exhibition. The strongest works are the surrealist tinged, film noir-ish mise-en-scènes, the ones that emphasise the metaphorical darkness of the elements gathered upon the stage. Photographs such as Big TroutThe Female Factory, Adelong, New South Wales and Captain’s Flat Hotel, New South Wales really invoke a feeling of unhomely (or unheimlich), where nature is out of kilter. These images unsettle our idea of Oztraliana, our perceived sense of Self and our place in the world. They disrupt normal transmission; they transmutate the seen environment, transforming appearance, nature and form.

 

5/ Review: Jacqui Stockdale: The Quiet Wild at Helen Gory Galerie, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 18th April – 19th May 2012

 

Jacqui Stockdale. 'Rama-Jaara the Royal Shepherdess' 2012

 

Jacqui Stockdale (Australian, b. 1968)
Rama-Jaara the Royal Shepherdess
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

 

Jacqui Stockdale. 'Lagunta Man, Leeawuleena' 2012 Type C Print 100 x 78cm

 

Jacqui Stockdale (Australian, b. 1968)
Lagunta Man, Leeawuleena
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

 

 

These are incredibly humorous, magical and symbolic photographs. A thought came into my mind when I was in the gallery surrounded by the work: for me they represented a vision of the Major Arcana of the Tarot (for example Jaguar Hombre could be seen as an inverted version of the Hanged Man with his foot in a figure four, the Hanged Man symbolising the need to just be in the world, yielding his mind and body to the Universal flow). The Major Arcana deal with the human condition, each card representing the joys and sorrows every man and woman can experience in a lifetime. In a way Stockdale offers us her own set of subversive Major Arcana, images that transgress the boundaries of the colonial vernacular, offering the viewer a chance to explore the heart of the quiet wild.

 

6/ Review: Littoral by Kristian Laemmle-Ruff at Colour Factory Gallery, Fitzroy

Exhibition dates: 4th May – 26th May 2012

 

It was such a joy then to walk around the corner from the CCP to the Colour Factory Gallery and view the exhibition Littoral by emerging artist Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. This is one of the best, if not the best, “photography” exhibition I have seen so far this year. As soon as you walk into the simple, elegant gallery you are surrounded by fourteen large scale horizontal photographs that are suffused with colour variations bouncing across the gallery – here a blue, there a green, now a lush orange palette. The effect is much like Monet’s waterlilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris; seated in the middle of the four curved paintings you are surrounded by large daubs of paint of various hues that have an elemental effect – resonances of earth, air, water, fire – on the viewer. The same affection of colour and space can be found in Laemmle-Ruff’s photographs.

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. 'Olympic Stadium' 2012

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Olympic Stadium
2012
Type C print
100cm x 67cm

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. 'Truck in Safi' 2010

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Truck in Safi
2010
Type C print
100cm x 67cm

 

 

7/ Review: Lost & Found: Family Photos Swept away by the 3.11 East Japan Tsunami at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 1st June – 15th July 2012

 

What we are left with in these images are vestiges of presence, remnants or traces of people that have passed on. In a kind of divine intervention, these photographs ask the viewer questions about the one fact that we cannot avoid in our lives, our own mortality, and what remains after we pass on. We can never know these people and places, just as we can never know the place and time of our death – when our “time” is up – but these photographs awaken in us a subconscious remembering: that we may be found (in life), then lost (through death), then found again in the gaze of the viewer looking at the photographs in the future present. We are (dis)continuous beings.

There is no one single reading of these photographs for “there are only competing narratives and interpretations of a world that cannot be wholly, accurately described.” These indescribable photographs impinge on our consciousness calling on us to remember even as the speed of contemporary life asks us to forget. This ethical act of looking, of mourning and remembering, of paying homage to presence acknowledges that we choose not to let pass into the dark night of the soul these traces of our forebears, for each emanation is deeply embedded within individual and cultural memory.

These photographs are a contemporary form of Western ‘dreaming’ in which we feel a link to the collective human experience. In this reification, we bear witness to the (re)assemblance of life, the abstract made (subconsciously) concrete, as material thing. These images of absent presence certainly reached out and touched my soul. Vividly, I choose to remember rather than to forget.

 

'Untitled' from 'Lost and Found' 2011

'Untitled' from 'Lost and Found' 2011

 

 

8/ Review: Berlinde De Bruyckere: We are all Flesh at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 2nd June – 29th July 2012

 

The main work We Are All Flesh (2012) reminded me of a version of the game The Hanged Man (you know, the one where you have to guess the letters of a word and if you don’t get the letter, the scaffold and the hanged man are drawn). The larger of the two hanging pieces featured two horse skins of different colours intertwined like a ying yang paux de deux. Psychologically the energy was very heavy. The use of straps to suspend the horses was inspired. Memories of Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp and The Godfather rose to the surface. My favourite piece was 019 (2007). Elegant in its simplicity this beautiful display case from a museum was dismantled and shipped over to Australia in parts and then reassembled here. The figurative pieces of wood, made of wax, seemed like bodies drained of blood displayed as specimens. The blankets underneath added an element of comfort. The whole piece was restrained and beautifully balanced. Joseph Beuys would have been very proud.

The “visceral gothic” contained in the exhibition was very evident. I liked the artist’s trembling and shuddering. Her narratives aroused a frisson, a moment of intense danger and excitement, the sudden terror of the risen animal

 

Berlinde De Bruyckere. 'We Are All Flesh' 2012

 

Berlinde De Bruyckere (Belgian, b. 1964)
We Are All Flesh
2012
Treated horse skin, epoxy, iron armature
280 x 160 x 100cm
Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth and Galleria Continua

 

Berlinde De Bruyckere. '019' 2007

 

Berlinde De Bruyckere (Belgian, b. 1964)
019
2007
Wax, epoxy, metal, glass, wood, blankets
293.5 x 517 x 77.5cm
Private Collection, Paris

 

 

9/ Review: Light Works at NGV International, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 23rd March – 16th September 2012

 

This is an intimate and stimulating photographic exhibition at the NGV International featuring the work of artists Mike and Doug Starn, David Stephenson, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Bill Henson, Adam Fuss, Simone Douglas, Park Hong-Chun, Eugenia Raskopoulos, Sam Shmith, Christoph Dahlhausen and Patrick Bailly-Maitre-Grand. It is fantastic to see an exhibition of solely contemporary photographs at the National Gallery of Victoria taken from their collection (with nary a vintage silver gelatin photograph in sight!), one which examines the orchestration of light from which all photography emanates – used by different photographers in the creation, and there is the key word, of their work. Collectively, the works seem to ooze a mysterious inner light, a facing towards the transcendent divine – both comforting, astonishing and terrifying in part measure.

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto. 'Winnetka Drive-In, Paramount' 1993

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese 1948-, worked in United States 1972- )
Winnetka Drive-In, Paramount
1993
Gelatin silver photograph
42.3 x 54.1cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by the Bowness Family Fund for Contemporary Photography, 2009
© Hiroshi Sugimoto, courtesy The Pace Gallery, New York

 

Mike and Doug Starn. 'Sol Invictus' 1992

 

Mike Starn (American, b. 1961) and Doug Starn (American, b. 1961)
Sol Invictus
1992
Orthographic film, silicon, pipe clamps, steel and adhesive tape
175.0 x 200.0 x 35.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by the National Gallery Women’s Association, 1994
© Doug Starn, Mike Starn/ARS, New York. Licensed by VISCOPY, Sydney

 

 

10/ Review: Gregory Crewdson: In A Lonely Place at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 28th September – 11th November 2012

 

In his visual mosaics Crewdson engages our relationship with time and space to challenge the trace of experience. His tableaux act as a kind of threshold or hinge of experience – between interior and exterior, viewer and photograph. His photographs are a form of monism in which two forces (interior / exterior) try to absorb each other but ultimately lead to a state of equilibrium. It is through this “play” that the context of the photographs and their relationship to each other and the viewer are “framed.” This device emphasises the aesthetic as much as information and encourages the viewer to think about the relationship between the body, the world of which it is part and the dream-reason of time. This intertextual (n)framing (n meaning unspecified number in mathematics) encourages the viewer to explore the inbetween spaces in the non-narrative / meta-narrative, “and by leaps (intuitive leaps, poetic leaps, leaps of faith)” encourage escapism in the imagination of the viewer. It is up to us as viewers to seek the multiple, disparate significances of what is concealed in each photograph as “felt knowledge” (Walter Benjamin), recalling to mind the sensory data placed before our eyes, something that can be experienced but cannot be explained by man: “the single moment of the present amidst the transience of life and searching for some kind of eternal truth.”

 

Installation photographs the series 'Beneath the Roses' (2003-2008) from the exhibition 'Gregory Crewdson: In A Lonely Place' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne

 

Installation photograph of the series Beneath the Roses from the exhibition Gregory Crewdson: In a Lonely Place at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Melbourne

 

Gregory Crewdson. 'Untitled (Maple Street)' 2003-2005

 

© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

 

 

11/ Exhibition: Janina Green: Ikea at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 28th November 28 – 15th December 2012

 

Installation photograph of 'Ikea' by Janina Green at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

 

Installation photograph of Ikea by Janina Green at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

 

Janina Green. 'Orange vase' 1990 reprinted 2012

 

Janina Green (Australian, born Germany 1944)
Orange vase
1990 reprinted 2012
Silver gelatin print on fibre based paper, handtinted with orange photo dye
85 x 70 cm

 

 

Fable = invent (an incident, person, or story)

Simulacrum = pretends to be a faithful copy, but it is a copy with no original

Performativity = power of discourse, politicization of abjection, ritual of being

Body / identity / desire = imperfection, fluidity, domesticity, transgression, transcendence

.
Intimate, conceptually robust and aesthetically sensitive.
The association of the images was emotionally overwhelming.
An absolute gem. One of the highlights of the year.

 

 

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

16
Sep
12

Review: ‘Pat Brassington: À Rebours’ at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 11th August – 23rd September 2012

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Installation photographs of Pat Brassington: À Rebours at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne

 

 

 

This is a disappointing exhibition of Pat Brassington’s photographic work at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. Despite two outstanding catalogue essays by Juliana Engberg and Edward Colless (whose textual and conceptual pyrotechnics morphs À Rebours – against the grain/ against nature – into a “rebus,” an iconographic puzzle, a cryptic device usually of a name made by putting together letters and words; who notes that the work has strong links to the idea of perversion (of nature) and that the artist corrupts the normal taxonomic ordering of the photogenic so that the work becomes alien ‘other’, “an army of invaders from ‘the other side’ of the print, who give away their identities with the flick of reptilian tongue or a vulval opening on the back of the neck”) – despite all of this, the smallish images fail to live in the large gallery spaces of ACCA and fall rather flat, their effect as pail and wane as the limited colour palette of the work itself (which is why, I perceive, some of the gallery walls have been painted a sky blue colour, to add some life to the work).

Unlike most, I have never been convinced of the efficacy and importance of Brassington’s mature style. The work might have seemed fresh when it was originally produced but it now seems rather stale and dated, the pieces too contrived for the viewer to attain any emotional sustenance from the work. The vulvic openings, the blind steps on a path to nowhere, the libidinal tongues, fallen bodies, slits, effusions, effluxions and fleshy openings (where internal becomes external, where memories, dreams and alienness toward Self become self-evident) are too basic in their use of surrealist, psycho-sexual tropes, too singular in their mono-narrative statements to allow the viewer answers to the questions which the artist poses. In other words the viewer is left hanging; the work does not take you anywhere that is useful or particularly interesting. While it is instructive to see the work collectively because it builds the narrative through a collection of themes of disembodiment the claim (in the video) that sight lines are important in this regard does not stand scrutiny because the work is too small for the viewer to discern at a distance the correlation between different works. Look at the slideshow at the top of the posting and notice how the gallery hang makes the work and the space feel dead: too few pieces hung at too large a distance apart only adds to the isolation, both physically and conceptually, of the work.

For me, the revelation of the exhibition was the earlier work. As can be seen from the photographs posted here, the groupings of analogue silver gelatin prints within the gallery spaces have real presence and narrative power because the viewer can construct their own meanings which are not didactic but open ended. These pieces really are amazing. They remind me of the best work of one of my favourite artists David Wojnarowicz and that is a compliment indeed. In the video Brassington rails against the serendipity of working with analogue photography whilst acknowledging that this was one of its strengths because you sometimes never knew what you would get – while working in Photoshop the artist has ultimate control. Perhaps some of that serendipity needs to be injected into the mature work! I get the feeling from the analogue work that something really matters, but you are unsure what whereas the digital work has me fixed like a rabbit in the headlights and leaves no lasting impression or imprint on my memory.

It amazes me in these days of post-photography, post postmodernism where there is no one meta-narrative how curators and collectors alike try to pigeon hole artists into one particular style, mainly so that they can compartmentalise and order the work that they produce: such and such produces this kind of work. Of course the other reason is that when a person walks into a room and there is a Henson, Arkeley or Brassington on the wall, the kudos and social standing of the person becomes obvious. Oh, you have a Bill Henson, how wonderful! It’s like a signature dish at a restaurant and everybody expects it to be the same, every time you go there. In art this is because the curators have liked the work and the collectors have bought the work so the artist thinks, right, I’ll have some of that and they make more of the same. Does this make this artist’s “style” the best thing that they have done. Sadly no, and many artists get trapped in the honey pot and the work never progresses and changes. Such is the case in this exhibition. Of course some artists have been more successful at evading this trap than others such as the master Picasso (who constantly reinvented himself in his style but not his themes) and in photography, Robert Mapplethorpe, who went from personal narrative to S & M photographs, to black men, to flowers and portraits as subject matter. What all of these transmogrifying artists do in all their bodies of work, however disparate they may be, is address the same thematic development of the work, ask the same questions of the audience in different forms. It is about time curators and collectors became more aware of this trend in contemporary art making.

In conclusion I would say to the artist – thank you for the work, especially the powerful analogue photographs, but it’s time to move on. Let’s see whether the journey has stalled or there is life and imagination yet on the path to alienation.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art for allowing me to publish the photographs and text in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Pat Brassington. Installation and individual photographs from 'Cumulus Analysis' 1986-87

Pat Brassington. Installation and individual photographs from 'Cumulus Analysis' 1986-87

Pat Brassington. Installation and individual photographs from 'Cumulus Analysis' 1986-87

Pat Brassington. Installation and individual photographs from 'Cumulus Analysis' 1986-87

Pat Brassington. Installation and individual photographs from 'Cumulus Analysis' 1986-87

Pat Brassington. Installation and individual photographs from 'Cumulus Analysis' 1986-87

Pat Brassington. Installation and individual photographs from 'Cumulus Analysis' 1986-87

Pat Brassington. Installation and individual photographs from 'Cumulus Analysis' 1986-87

 

Pat Brassington (Australian, b. 1942)
Installation and individual photographs from Cumulus Analysis
1986-87
18 silver gelatin photographs

 

 

As part of its Influential Australian Artist series, ACCA will present a survey of works by leading Australian photo-based artist Pat Brassington from August 11. Pat Brassington was one of the first artists to recognise the potential of the digital format, and has used it to create an enormous body of work – images that are hauntingly beautiful, deeply psychological, and sometimes disturbing.

Her works reference the tradition of surrealist photography. Recurring motifs usually include interior and domestic spaces and strange bodily mutations that take place within the human, predominantly female, form. The manipulation of the image is restrained, but the effect often uncanny and dramatic. À Rebours brings together works from Brassington’s exceptional 30 year career, presented over a series of small rooms aimed to emphasise the unsettling domesticity and claustrophobic atmosphere in her images. The exhibition title is inspired by the banned 1884 French novel of the same name, which in English translates as ‘against nature’ or ‘against the grain’.

Brassington was born in 1942 in Tasmania, and studied printmaking and photography at the Tasmanian School of Art in the early eighties She has exhibited in a number of group exhibitions including Feminism never happened, IMA, Brisbane (2010), On Reason and Emotion, Biennale of Sydney (2004) and in solo exhibitions at Art One Gallery, Melbourne, Monash University Museum of Art and Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne. ACCA’s Influential Australian Artist series celebrates the works of artists who have made a significant contribution to the history of Australian art practice, and the exhibition will be accompanied by a substantial catalogue documenting the artists’ career.”

Press release from ACCA

 

Installation view of Pat Brassington. 'Untitled (triptych)' 1989

Pat Brassington. 'Untitled (triptych)' 1989

Pat Brassington. 'Untitled (triptych)' 1989

Pat Brassington. 'Untitled (triptych)' 1989

 

Pat Brassington (Australian, b. 1942)
Installation and individual photographs from Untitled (triptych)
1989
3 silver gelatin photographs

 

 

The Secret: The Photo Worlds of Pat Brassington

Juliana Engberg

.
The photo-based works of Pat Brassington gained significant attention in the mid to late 1980s. Black and white images, sourced from reproductions, were arranged in grid and cluster formations to establish their status as a visual language which signified meaning beyond the apparent information they delivered. Adopting a modus operandi inherited from the montage, frisson-based tactics of surrealism, Brassington’s works seduced the viewer into a psycho-linguistic game of puns, Freudian jokes and visual metaphors by careful juxtaposition of images. Exploiting the license permitted by appropriation, and registering a knowledge of the use of signs and signifiers as part of an engagement with psychoanalysis and visual theory, Brassington’s works can be seen in the historical context of surrealist artists such as Max Ernst, Andre Breton, Brassai, Luis Buñuel and Raoul Ubac, as well as contemporary, post-modern artists, such as Barbara Kruger, Martha Rosler, John Baldessari and Silvia Kolbowski, who used image/linguistic associations and provocations to create meta-narratives.

Brassington’s early works, like The Gift, 1986, with its set of images showing details of the paintings of Christ as the ‘Man of Sorrows’ exposing the slit of wounded flesh, crops of cacti, hyper details of vampire movie stills in which blood gushes from a girl’s eyes, and the face of a man with eyes wide open and mouth agape, develop a disquieting set of associations – wounds, pricks, mouths, blood. These are the stuff of B-Grade horror movies, as well as evangelical ecstasy, and perhaps hint at more sinister rites. Similarly, Cumulus Analysis, 1987/8 with its play of clouds, shattered glass, fish, female body in the throws of a spasm, tensed hands, brail, hat crowns upturned to the sky, praying bodies, and angel statuettes, are a lexicon of signs that signify the female genitalia combined with violations and evangelical obsessions. Right of the grid, a solitary female face is seen, and with this simple exclusion from the ‘system’, Brassington turns the tables on the male gaze and replaces the ‘peephole image’ with a feminine look. Nevertheless in this ensemble, gathering analysis, the use of the female voyeur is an uncomfortable reversal. Instead of being witnesses to an oedipal drama, we are perhaps collusive on-lookers on an unspeakable trauma, along with a maternal watcher.

These earlier works of Brassington play out like story-boards for an inconclusive matrix of events. Like the early surrealists who looked outside ‘art’ towards forensic and medical images for their content, Brassington also borrows images from photographs depicting the research into hysteria conducted by Jean-Martin Charcot at the Salpetriere hospital, Paris: an infamous 19th century asylum for (so-called) insane and incurable women; and from medical photographs of biological abnormalities. As well as their links to surrealism, Brassington’s borrowings from medical archives also acknowledge the feminist revisioning that took place during the 1980s, which saw in these images of women patients used as ‘hysterical’ evidence for the photographic and medical gaze, a female oppression by the patriarchal system. With this evident historical distancing and their clear links to popular culture through the borrowing of images from films, media and art, these mid-1980s works adopt an almost academic detachment from the personal: the open ended narratives become more general and part of a semiotic universality to some extent. For this reason many commentators, then and since, have been comfortable in describing these mid ’80s works as being within the theoretical, psychological-based feminisms of the 1980s.

Before these elegant, crisp and delineated works of the mid 1980s, however, Brassington made a series of small black and white images that carried a heavier, subjective and domestic load. Untitled VI, 1980, shows a young girl bound in rope and in Untitled IV, 1980, a little girl carries a decapitated doll. These small black and white photographs, altered in the development and printing process through over-exposure and intentional fuzziness, seem to burn like afterimages from some other time. Through visual manipulation, innocuous play obtains a macabre, torturous character. These photographs court unsettling ambiguity and suggestiveness. Unlike the more academic photo grids, these works also seem closer to home.

In the series 1+1=3, 1984 a male figure haunts the domestic space, his blurry outline, highlighted from behind to accentuate hirsuteness, seems ominous and domineering, his body is oversized to the frame of the image. In accompanying images from the same series, child like legs protruding from under a table, the skirt and dressed legs of a woman viewed from above, and a dog lying under a cover, all photographed with a kind of forensic clarity, suggest some ‘incident’ and portray hiding, and partial truths. These small, early works establish a precedent in Brassington’s future images in which very often legs are oddly organised, hoisted and disjointed from bodies, peculiar points of view are shown and bodies in partial concealment are all activated to produce mystery and unease.

In the early 1990s, the development of digital-format photography, with its capacity for image building, akin to, but even more potentially malleable then analogue forms of montage and collage, saw Brassington return to the mood of these earlier and enigmatic works with their focus on interiors and curious figures. The digital format provided Brassington with the opportunity to blend, blur, almost shake, and stain the photographic paper to unleash a new subjectivism. Works from the ’90s also see Brassington moving from black and white formats to experimenting with colour, which becomes vivid, livid and adds a kind of visceral saturation and abstraction to images with mute tonality.

In the works of the 1990s and 2000s Brassington enters into an extra-surreal phase, producing images that are cast adrift from reality or popular culture references and built from the imagination. Brassington’s own visual language is developed in these works that manipulate figures, surfaces, textures and odd attachments and visual interventions. As her expertise in image building increases Brassington’s works take on dense, viscous, and sometimes translucent qualities that tamper with natural tactility. Figures become phantasmic and morph-like, at times transparent or artificially bulky. Nostalgic colours are played off against sharper, off-registered hues. Bio-morphs appear liked strange growths attaching themselves to, or coming forth from bodies, especially mouths.

Brassington’s reoccurring symbolism is confirmed in these works in which fish are clutched, wounds appear like stigmata in necks and on dresses, tongues protrude and become uncanny matter, mouths are gagged, hold things or bring forth pearls of blood-red caviar seeds. The use of fabric, stockings and lace add a weird feminine monstrosity to the muted subject – mostly a child. This digital phase of newest works produce beautiful visual qualities in pearlescent colours and shiny surfaces, which make their clandestine, convulsive subjects all the more disconcerting to consider. Brassington lures the viewer into a game of guessing and provokes us to know – to dig deep into our collective unconscious, which innately understands these unnatural things. In these later works there is little, if any academic distancing. The images are compellingly honest and close.

During this time Brassington’s affiliation with surrealism and its deployment of artistic intuition drawn from the unconscious is strongly evident. Equally evident is the deliberation in these images, which is clear and unavoidable given the digital process which cannot provide an ‘accident’ like over-exposure, shaking, mis-framing or those usual happy ‘chance’ things that gave analogue photography its exciting edge for finding the surreal moment in a snap of reality. Brassington consciously works the unconscious. The domestic setting also reasserts itself in these later works in which odd things play out. In the series Cambridge Road, 2007 the atmosphere of reality is used in an almost bland, de-saturated way to give greater emphasis to figures which become smudges, dogs that seem electrified with alertness to some danger outside the frame, strangely framed corners of furniture, beds, and dressing tables that appear as dramatic items in some bizarre theatre of domesticity.

In Cambridge Road coated humans wear animal and portrait masks and adopt roles that are unclear: a wire clothes hanger, leaning on the wall, hung on a hook or discarded in the background takes on a nasty aspect. In these works an over exposed flash adds a spectral, apparitional aspect to the scene, causing it to seem inhabited by a haunting, or ghostly return. In another series Below Stairs, 2009, an x-ray rat and small child emerge from a trap door in the floor of a barren room. In a further work the trap door is vanished and a grown woman stands, with her back to the viewer indicating a closure against these hallucinations.  These works, which have affinities with Max Ernst’s drawing, The Master’s Bedroom, confirm Brassington’s knowing attachment to the idea of the room-box as theatre explored in surrealism by Max Ernst, Rene Magritte, Joseph Cornell and female surrealists such as Dorothea Tanning, Lenora Carrington and Louise Bourgeois.

Around the same time as these picture theatres Brassington has created single figures. A scarlet dressed woman walks, retreating through an imaginary landscape in By the Way, 2010: a bag or pillow slip over her head – still hiding, or not seeing – but escaping – surviving perhaps.  A doll, dressed in a blue frock, Radar 2010, replaces the head with a light bulb stretched from the ceiling – rope like – unsettlingly similar to a noose, which demolishes cuteness. The bulb, standing in for the head, becomes a Cyclops, one-eyed thing, reminding us of the surrealist trope of the single eye ever used by Bataille, Ernst, Dali, Magritte, Man Ray, Buñuel and others, which in the surrealist visual language can so quickly become the mouth, the vagina dentate and object of possible castration. This bright spark of a doll is not all she seems.

These strange personages are like escapees from Brassington’s domestic dramas, new protagonists ready for their own story in the photo and digital world that Brassington has conjured from places we will never know, that are lived and returned in her own mind.  Among these personae Brassington creates an image of a person wrapped head to feet in a shiny eiderdown, a lone hand exposed clutches the cover closed.  The figure stands against the wall where shadow stripes stretch behind. This strangely real image reminds us of the small girl, in Untitled IV, 1980 once bound, who is now unleashed and protected, but still in hiding. In this most recent group Brassington has also delivered the compelling close-up face of a young child whose one eye turns inward towards the other. A torn blue piece of fabric covers the mouth. This image is called The Secret.

Juliana Engberg

 

Installation view of Pat Brassington. 'The Gift' 1986

Pat Brassington. 'The Gift' 1986

Pat Brassington. 'The Gift' 1986

Pat Brassington. 'The Gift' 1986

Pat Brassington. 'The Gift' 1986

 

Pat Brassington (Australian, b. 1942)
Installation and individual photographs from The Gift
1986
11 silver gelatin photographs

 

 

An interview with Pat Brassington

What sorts of things have inspired your work?

Ideas. Ideas that come from life’s experiences, from family and friends, the ideas embodied in the vast array of exhibited and published visual artworks. Literature, cinema and music, the natural world and human nature.
.

Are there any particular artists who have influenced you?

There is a moving feast of artist’s works that passes through one’s consciousness. Here are a few from the past that popped into my head as I write: Goya, Giacometti, Fuseli, Magritte, Ernst, Hoch, Hesse, Bourgeois….
.

Can you explain the processes and techniques in your work?

They vary but I often recycle a lot of material from my own photographic archive, something I continue to accumulate. As a work develops a specific requirement may arise so I will hunt around, or create the elements to produce a result I’m after. Clarification about the shape of new work emerges during the making process. It’s important to entertain possibilities and not shut them off unexplored: it can be like being in an extended state of uncertainty. But decisions are made.
.

When you began working digitally and using Photoshop and digital colour printing techniques how did this develop or change the themes in your work?

I didn’t have the opportunity to explore analogue colour photography, but I probably didn’t want to really. I liked working in black and white. My early digital work was monochromatic – the outcome of scanning black and white negatives – but I quickly realised that the potential was there to enhance the expressive qualities of an image by introducing colour.
.

How did you realise its potential?

It is part of the form of the visual world. Generally I don’t try to feel or deal separately with the components of an image.
.

People comment on the personal nature of your work – what do you think about that?

I’m assuming that you are asking whether my work is autobiographical!  I would certainly attribute or acknowledge that my life experience has influenced how I respond to, or interpret, ‘being in the world’. Some things stick, they become a part of you whether you like it or not. Art endeavours bring strange impressions back to life and create a different past, a new past with new phantoms miming actions and walking through walls.
.

Was the emergence of feminist theory and film theory guided by semiotics important to you?

Yes. And exposure to key texts was a liberating experience.
.

What kinds of literature do you enjoy reading?

Fiction mostly, including poetry on occasion. Just wish I could engage more often. The last book I read was Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom and that was at least 12 months. I have bookshelves containing books I have read. A few missing links mind you but those I have managed to keep are a reminder to me of where I have been.
.

How would your work have developed if the digital process had not become available?

Well there can be an unstable relationship between content and process. Maybe the subject matter may not have been much different in much of the work, but you can find yourself projecting ideas in the mind through process or more specifically in the forms typical of a process. Possibly the demonstrated capacity of computers to store, manipulate and converge images lead the way. Without drama it happened and the chemical playground moved over and the pixel playground dominated my thinking, not about what to do but how to do it.
.

Does the digital permit a freedom from reality?

Look if you did a count digital manipulation may provide a few more options more easily, but the real struggle for freedom is in the mind.

 

 

Pat Brassington. 'Sensors' 2010

 

Pat Brassington (Australian, b. 1942)
Sensors
2010

 

Pat Brassington. ‘Radar’ 2009

 

Pat Brassington (Australian, b. 1942)
Radar
2009

 

Pat Brassington. 'By the Way' 2010

 

Pat Brassington (Australian, b. 1942)
By the Way
2010

 

 

Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)
111 Sturt Street
Southbank
Victoria 3006
Australia

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10am – 5pm
Saturday – Sunday 11am – 5pm
Monday by appointment
Open all public holidays except Christmas Day and Good Friday

Australian Centre for Contemporary Art website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

01
Apr
12

Review: ‘Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1 – 41’ by Nicola Loder at Helen Gory Galerie, Prahran, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 14th March – 7th April 2012

 

West Bengali woman embroidering the 'Disappearances'

 

West Bengali woman embroidering the Disappearances

 

 

Fredric Jameson wrote that in the postmodern world, the subject is not alienated but fragmented. He explained that the notion of alienation presumes a centralized, unitary self who could become lost to himself or herself. But if, as a postmodernist sees it, the self is decentred and multiple, the concept of alienation breaks down. All that is left is an anxiety of identity… In simulation, identity can be fluid and multiple, a signifier no longer points to a thing that is signified, and understanding is less likely to proceed through analysis than by navigation through virtual space.

.
Sherry Turkle. Life on The Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995, p. 49.

 

 

I have always loved the work of Nicola Loder ever since I saw her solo exhibition Child 1-175: A Nostalgia for the Present at Stop 22 Gallery in St Kilda in 1996. This exhibition is no exception. Loder is the consummate professional, her work is as imaginative and intriguing as ever and there has been a consistent thematic development of ideas within her work over a long period of time. These ideas relate to the nature of seeing and being seen, the mapping of identity and the process of its (dis)appearance.

This latest iteration of her ongoing series Tourist (described in detail, below, in the erudite essay by Stuart Koop) again involves de/reconstructions of identity through slippages, elisions, deletions, disappearances and transformations. In Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1 – 41 the shroud-like effigies that result from Loder’s project, a reference reinforced by the muslin cloth lying over the bench in the gallery space (see the installation photographs below), are a repeated re-presentation of a lost or missing identity: the disappearance of the person in their own minds; photography’s “capture” of the original person; Loder’s deletion of this identity (I was there) to be substituted by Photoshop’s geometric algorithms; the West Bengali women’s reinterpretation of this disappearance; and the reappearance of a new energy in the colourful, embroidered reinterpretations. I have very much a feeling of a spiritual energy in this last embodiment – think of the link between death and the spirit (as in the Shroud of Turin).

The images have multiple narratives and are already textualised but Loder disrupts this marking, the continual reiteration of norms by weaving a lack of fixity into her objects. In her reconceptualisations of space and matter Loder redefines the significations of the body in the fold of inscription, through a process of materialisation. But this materialisation, like the image seared into the fabric of the Shroud of Turin, still somehow eludes us. This is what makes this work so tantalising…

This interweaving of texts culminates in the body inscribed on another plane existing in, as Loder herself describes it, a “de-constructed non-space somewhere between image, imagination, identity, language and being,” which, as Stuart Koop observes, “is… not a removal or deletion but a reconfiguration beyond verisimilitude, beyond our appearance to others and ourselves.” This is the navigation through a virtual space that Sherry Turkle posits in the quotation at the top of the posting, where the self is decentred and identity is fluid and multiple.

Loder’s exquisitely sensuous description of disappearance allows us to see the phenomenal word afresh. I look forward with a sense of anticipation to the next voyage of discovery the artist will take me on.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

.
Many thankx to Nicola Loder, Stuart Koop and Helen Gorie Galerie for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

'Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1 - 41' by Nicola Loder, installation photograph at Helen Gorie Galerie

'Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1 - 41' by Nicola Loder, installation photograph at Helen Gorie Galerie

 

Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1 – 41 by Nicola Loder, installation photograph at Helen Gorie Galerie

 

 

Photographer Nicola Loder explores the way in which people see.

The purpose of photography is largely to make things visible. Inspired in part by her experiences teaching blind children photography, Loder reverses photography’s function using it instead to capture objects and experiences that aren’t visible. She embraces Photoshop but counters its typical role of improving clarity and focus, rather using it to collapse images into layers of pattern and colour.

Tourist #5: disappearing project 1 – 40 is a multi-faceted project that teases out notions of seeing and being seen and the role of creator as truth teller. Loder sent out a flyer inviting people who had disappeared to send her a full-length image of themselves with a written description of what happened when they disappeared. The stories and images she received range from out of body near death experiences to the mundane act of sleeping, each shedding light on what people identify as disappearing. Loder then manipulated the submitted images into highly colourful digital patterns, resonant of her earlier photographic work. She took the reworked images to India where they were embroidered onto muslin by local women in West Bengal. The result is beautiful hand-embroidered works that reflect the women’s personal interpretations of the images and incorporate their rich history, cultural patterns and iconography.

“The obliterated, atomised, reconfigured portraits ‘rematerialise’ as tapestries executed by women from a small rural village, at the margins of Indian society, who – but for NGOs dedicated to overcome disadvantage, in this case Street Survivors empowering rural women through skills development – are largely invisible to their communities, to politicians, as well as their castes.

Of course, Loder has paid these women, a means of recognising and honouring their work, a means of bringing them into view, at the margins of economy, welfare and community. Indeed, she has taken their portraits and documented them at work, and it’s a startling contrast. Our middle-class stories, anxieties and interests ending up in the careful hands of these women in colourful saris, sitting and working together, our (largely) passing concerns darned into the muslin cloth in their laps, our own saturated photographic hues indistinguishable from the bright chaos of folded cloth and pleated skirts, with their nimble fingers tracing our desires and cares in bright lurid threads.” (Stuart Koops, 2012)

For Loder India is a central tenet of the project given its multiple associations with disappearing, from the focus on meditation to the burning of bodies at the Ghats in Varanasi, the final act of disappearing. On a personal level Loder lived in Calcutta as a child and views her experience of leaving India as another act of disappearing: both her Indian Ayah (Moti) and India physically disappeared from her life. Involving the women from her Ayah’s village is Loder’s reflection on and tribute to those experiences of disappearing.

Press release from Helen Gorie Galerie website

 

Nicola Loder. 'Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 11)' 2012 Polyester thread, muslin 86 x 69cm

 

Nicola Loder (Australian, b. 1964)
Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 11)
2012
Polyester thread, muslin
86 x 69cm

 

Nicola Loder. 'Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 16)' 2012 Polyester thread, muslin 86 x 69cm

 

Nicola Loder (Australian, b. 1964)
Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 16)
2012
Polyester thread, muslin
86 x 69cm

 

 

Catalogue Essay by Stuart Koops

Nicola Loder has facilitated childrens’ photography projects before, on several occasions working with marginalised groups, including kids from low socio-economic and non-English speaking schools and kids from the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind. Indeed she chose these groups with purpose, to consider the role of photography in highlighting certain communities most often occluded on the basis of an incapacity – making the invisible visible, making those who cannot see visible to us, giving those without the means of expression a language we can understand – in many ways, reversing the polarity of familiar concepts, disrupting our conventional understanding.

In teaching blind kids especially, Nicola told me she felt like she was disappearing. Not surprising, I guess, when you try to describe the camera, the lens, optics, focus, framing, composition. When your identity or your role as a photographer dissipates along with the explanatory power of these foundation terms and concepts. And practical demonstrations must at first seem frustratingly pointless.

That profound experience seems to have led Loder to use photography in reverse, as the means to decompose images; to utilise Photo­shop’s algorithms, not to augment or highlight certain attributes in her portraits she ultimately took of these kids, but return images to an undifferentiated field of static, the digital correlate to the original photochemical chaos, the entropy of raw silver halides, which the ‘irrefutable sun’ miraculously sorts into resemblance. In short, to unphotograph the kids somehow, commensurate with their disability and her own disappearance in the workshops.

But it’s not just Loder who has had the experience of disappearing. It’s a profound sensation shared by many and for different reasons, and Loder has collected different accounts of the experience which illustrate the further registers in which one may ‘disap­pear’; from spiritual attainment in transcending physical reality to out of body transcendental near-death experiences, from relief at escaping a difficult situation, to feelings of terror as a child abandoned, or worse, abducted, from the social isolation and alienation of teenagers and adults, to a freedom or liberation from social constraint and physical containment, wanting to leave behind an unhappy circumstance or just wanting to be magically, wonderfully invisible.

Practically speaking, there’s considerable interest in – and information on – how to disappear, especially in America. In 2008 artist Seth Price published How to Disappear from America, excerpted text from found sectarian tracts, paranoid rants and helpful DIY tips to assist anyone wishing to get off the grid without a trace (burn your credit cards, dump your car, hide your tracks, grow your own, etc) including great suggestions about where to go (motorcycle hangouts, punk rocks groups, new age dance studios, soup kitchens, churches, and homeless shelters).

But Loder’s more interested in the personal, individual experience of disappearing. She asked for photo-portraits to accompany people’s descriptions of disappearing, from which she has seemingly excised each subject, using Photoshop as she did before with the blind kids, leaving a whorl of digital effect in the vacant space within their outline, set in high relief against a lounge-room, or a yard, or other family members. Yet on closer inspection this is perhaps a matter of transformation, since ‘disappearing’ may be very different from ‘deletion’.

In Photoshop we are each just so much chroma, luma and shape. A touch of the magic wand and we are separated from the rest of our lives, ‘lassooed’, a godly power to designate liberated from special-effects cinema by the Knoll brothers in 1988 and given to every geek with a Mac II. Since when it’s just too easy to be deleted; two clicks and we’re in the trash.

But in Loder’s work our data is recast, colour intensified, details blurred, outlines softened, curves modified, screens overlaid and so it seems Photoshop’s myriad algorithms – set against their intended technical imperative to optimise appearances – might provide a metaphor for our disappearing, which is indeed not a removal or deletion but a reconfiguration beyond verisimilitude, beyond our appearance to others and ourselves. And while we might lose visual coherence as an image, we are inscribed upon another plane altogether, one at odds with photographic realism, and which Loder describes as a “de-constructed non-space somewhere between image, imagination, identity, language and being.” Like the shimmering dissipation of Kirk on the teleporter’s deck in Star Trek, these subjects are transported to another realm, different orders of reality merging into a new volatile blend. Perhaps it’s a higher plane too where all souls mingle and coalesce as either zeros or ones, a digital afterlife in which everything is equivalent and a new digital equanimity prevails.

Stuart Koops 2012

 

Nicola Loder. 'Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 8)' 2012 Polyester thread, muslin 86 x 69cm

 

Nicola Loder (Australian, b. 1964)
Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 8)
2012
Polyester thread, muslin
86 x 69cm

 

Nicola Loder. 'Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 17)' 2012 Polyester thread, muslin 86 x 69cm

 

Nicola Loder (Australian, b. 1964)
Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 17)
2012
Polyester thread, muslin
86 x 69cm

 

Nicola Loder. 'Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 18)' 2012 Polyester thread, muslin 86 x 69cm

 

Nicola Loder (Australian, b. 1964)
Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 18)
2012
Polyester thread, muslin
86 x 69cm

 

West Bengali women embroidering the 'Disappearances'

 

West Bengali women embroidering the Disappearances

 

 

Helen Gory Galerie

This gallery is now closed.

Nicola Loder website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

26
Oct
11

Exhibition: ‘Polly Borland: Smudge’ at Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York

Exhibition dates:  22nd September – 29th October 2011

 

Many thankx to Paul Kasmin Gallery for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Each photograph has been printed in three editions (small: 44 x 38.5 cm, edition of 3 plus 3 APs; medium: 76 x 65 cm, edition of 6 plus 3 APs; and large-scale prints: 147.5 x 122 cm, edition of 3 plus 3 APs).

 

 

Polly Borland. 'Untitled III' 2010

 

Polly Borland (Australian, b. 1959)
Untitled III
2010
C-print

 

Polly Borland. 'Untitled IV' 2010

 

Polly Borland (Australian, b. 1959)
Untitled IV
2010
C-print

 

Polly Borland. 'Untitled XIII' 2010

 

Polly Borland (Australian, b. 1959)
Untitled XIII
2010
C-print

 

Polly Borland. 'Untitled XXXIV' 2010

 

Polly Borland (Australian, b. 1959)
Untitled XXXIV
2010
C-print

 

 

Paul Kasmin Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of photographs by Polly Borland from her Smudge series, curated by Danny Moynihan. Opening on September 22, 2011 at 511 W. 27th Street, this will be the artist’s first show with the gallery.

In this body of arresting portraits, Borland dresses and directs her models; manipulating their various costumes, makeup and body positioning to create her own visual language. With faces obscured by wigs, nylon hose and masks, her anonymous subjects are captured in moments of great openness and vulnerability.

Of his experience modelling for Borland, the musician Nick Cave writes, “I am struck by Polly’s deep love for her subjects and the dignity that exists in their dysmorphia. Because her pictures are never voyeuristic, never observational and never merely shocking. Rather, Polly seems to me to be shooting into a distorted mirror and simply bringing back heartbreaking refracted images of herself.”

Borland’s captivating, intimate portraits convey a keen sensitivity to her subjects. “It’s a long time that the camera has been bringing us news about zanies and pariahs, their miseries and their quirks. Showing the banality of the non-normal. Making voyeurs of us all…” writes Susan Sontag in her essay accompanying Borland’s The Babies catalogue, “…But this is particularly gifted, authoritative, intelligent work. Borland’s pictures seem very knowing, compassionate; and too close, too familiar, to suggest common or mere curiosity.”

Borland was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1959, and moved to the United Kingdom in 1989. She has recently relocated to Los Angeles.

Text from the Paul Kasmin Gallery website

 

Polly Borland. 'Untitled XXIV' 2010

 

Polly Borland (Australian, b. 1959)
Untitled XXIV
2010
C-print

 

Polly Borland. 'Untitled XL' 2010

 

Polly Borland (Australian, b. 1959)
Untitled XL
2010
C-print

 

Polly Borland. 'Untitled XXVI' 2010

 

Polly Borland (Australian, b. 1959)
Untitled XXVI
2010
C-print

 

Polly Borland. 'Untitled XXXVIII' 2010

 

Polly Borland (Australian, b. 1959)
Untitled XXXVIII
2010
C-print

 

 

Paul Kasmin Gallery
293 Tenth Ave.
New York, NY 10001
511 W. 27th Street
New York, NY 10001
Phone: 212.563.4474

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday, 10am – 6pm

Paul Kasmin Gallery website

LIKE ART BLACK ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

23
Aug
11

Exhibition: ‘Patricia Piccinini: The Fitzroy Series’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 12th August – 4th September 2011

 

Patricia Piccinini. 'Library, 8.45pm' 2011

 

Patricia Piccinini (Australian, b. 1965)
Library, 8.45pm
2011
Type C photograph
100 x 160 cm
Courtesy the artist; Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne; Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney; and Haunch of Venison, New York

 

 

A wonderful suite of photographs by Patricia Piccinini. When you see them “in the flesh” so to speak, five out of the six works (except for the last image below, Sitting Room, 2.30pm) are suffused with a beautiful, rich, dark honey-coloured light, even more so than the reproductions. This tonality adds to the romantic notion of the imaginary animals Piccinini creates – genetically modified, mutant child creatures and “Bottom Feeder” (for that is their name), rubbish scouring pets. The ordinariness of the environs that surround the mise-en-scènes supplements this feeling: books and bedrooms, workshops and sitting rooms allaying our fears, increasing our empathy. The humour is also delicious. Note the squirrel light in Bedroom, 10.30pm : inspired!

Of as much interest was Piccinini’s source material shown in the front gallery. I wrote most of the books, magazines and subjects of the photographs down because I was fascinated to see the inspiration for this artist:

  • Motorised chairs
  • Knots
  • Nests
  • American Native Indian hair (Edward S. Curtis)
  • Claws
  • Walruses
  • Skulls
  • Skeletons
  • Pupae
  • Scientific specimens
  • Birds covered in oil
  • Mammals of Australia
  • Darwin
  • Voyages of Discovery by Dr Tony Rice
  • Hiroshima Mon Amour by Marguerite Duras
  • Mag wheels
  • Big rigs (trucks)
  • Vespas
  • Custom cars and trucks
  • Morphed racing helmets
  • Photograph from Hitchcock’s The Birds
  • Braindead movie
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Newsweek: The Meaning of Michael (Jackson) July 13th, 2009
  • Rare breeds (sheep)
  • Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature by Donna Haraway
  • Louise Bourgeois
  • Macro/Hall by Erwin Wurm
  • Le Cere del Museo dell Instituto Fiorentino di Anatonia Patalogia deformatives

.
Great work and a wonderful gesture by artist and galleries to support the Centre for Contemporary Photography.
NB. Please note the free artist floortalk at midday on August 27th at the CCP.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to Karra Rees for her help and to the CCP for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Patricia Piccinini. 'Alley, 11.15am' 2011

 

Patricia Piccinini (Australian, b. 1965)
Alley, 11.15am
2011
Type C photograph
100 x 160 cm
Courtesy the artist; Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne; Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney; and Haunch of Venison, New York.

 

Patricia Piccinini. 'Bedroom, 10.30pm' 2011

 

Patricia Piccinini (Australian, b. 1965)
Bedroom, 10.30pm
2011
Type C photograph
100 x 160 cm
Courtesy the artist; Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne; Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney; and Haunch of Venison, New York.

 

Patricia Piccinini (Australian, b. 1965) 'Street, 3.10am' 2011

 

Patricia Piccinini (Australian, b. 1965)
Street, 3.10am
2011
Type C photograph
100 x 160 cm
Courtesy the artist; Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne; Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney; and Haunch of Venison, New York.

 

Patricia Piccinini. 'Workshop, 7.00pm' 2011

 

Patricia Piccinini (Australian, b. 1965)
Workshop, 7.00pm
2011
Type C photograph
100 x 160 cm
Courtesy the artist; Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne; Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney; and Haunch of Venison, New York

 

 

To mark Centre for Contemporary Photography’s 25th Anniversary Patricia Piccinini has made a new series of work, never seen before. Entitled The Fitzroy Series, the exhibition of Piccinini’s new body of work, accompanied by video work and a display of her source material, is the major event in the celebrations of CCP’s 25th Anniversary in 2011.

CCP is delighted to be offering this exciting new series for the CCP 25th Anniversary Limited Edition Print fundraiser, each image in the series is generously provided in a limited edition of 4 + 1AP.

Eighty percent of funds raised through Limited Edition Prints enable CCP to support the practice and presentation of contemporary photography through provision of exhibitions, publications, education and public programs, with the artist retaining twenty percent.

What: CCP 25th Anniversary Limited Edition Print
Price: $9,320 each framed by Neo Frames (inc. gst on frame)
The first 12 prints are available at the CCP fundraiser price of $9,320 each framed by Neo Frames (inc. GST on frame)
NB. Credit card purchases attract a 1.5% merchant fee.
Prints are accompanied by a signed, numbered certificate and are provided courtesy of the artist; Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne; Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney; and Haunch of Venison, New York.
Free Artist Floortalk: midday 27 August 2011

 

Patricia Piccinini. 'Sitting Room, 2.30pm' 2011

 

Patricia Piccinini (Australian, b. 1965)
Sitting Room, 2.30pm
2011
Type C photograph
100 x 160 cm
Courtesy the artist; Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne; Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney; and Haunch of Venison, New York.

 

 

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

Opening Hours:
Wednesday – Friday, 11 am – 5 pm
Saturday and Sunday, 12 pm – 5 pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

LIKE ART BLACK ON FACEBOOK

Back to top




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, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor 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.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. If you would like to unsubscribe from the email list please email me at bunyanth@netspace.net.au and I will remove you asap. Thank you.

Join 2,788 other followers

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

Follow Art_Blart on Twitter
Art Blart on Pinterest

Blog Stats

  • 11,380,291 hits

Recent Posts

Lastest tweets

December 2021
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Archives

Categories

If you would like to unsubscribe from the email list please email me at bunyanth@netspace.net.au and I will remove you asap. Thank you.

Join 2,788 other followers