Posts Tagged ‘Australian contemporary painting

07
Dec
14

Exhibition/text: ‘Everyday imagining: new perspectives on Outsider art’ at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 1st October 2014 – 18th January 2015

Artists: Andrew Blythe, Kellie Greaves, Julian Martin, Jack Napthine, Lisa Reid, Martin Thompson and Terry Williams

Curator: Joanna Bosse

 

 

Martin Thompson. 'Untitled' 2014

 

Martin Thompson (New Zealand, b. 1956)
Untitled
2014
Ink on paper
52.5 x 105cm
Courtesy the artist and Brett McDowell Gallery, Dunedin

 

 

This is a gorgeous exhibition at The Ian Potter Museum of Art. Walking through the show you can’t help but have a smile on your face, because the work is so inventive, so fresh, with no pretension to be anything other than, well, art.

There are big preconceptions about ‘Outsider art’, originally art that was made by institutionalised mentally ill people, but now more generally understood as art that is made by anyone outside the mainstream of art production – “artworks made by folk artists and those who are self-taught, disabled, or on the edges of society” who are disenfranchised in some way or other, either by their own choice or through circumstance or context.

Outsider art promotes contemporary art while still ‘tagging’ the artists as “Outsider” – just as you ‘tag’ a blog posting so that a search engine can find a specific item if it is searched for online. It is a classification I have never liked (in fact I abhor it!) for it defines what you are without ever understanding who you are and who you can become – as an artist and as a human being. One of the good things about this exhibition is that it challenges the presumptions of this label (unfortunately, while still using it).

As Joanna Bosse notes in her catalogue essay, “Most attempts to define the category of Outsider art include caveats about the elasticity of borders and the impact of evolving societal and cultural attitudes… The oppositional dialectic of inside/outside is increasingly acknowledged as redundant  and, in a world marked by cultural pluralism, many question the validity of the category.”1 Bosse goes on to suggest that, with its origins in the term art brut (the raw and unmediated nature of art made by the mentally ill), Outsider art reinforces the link between creativity, marginality and mental illness, proffering “the notion of a pure form of creativity that expresses an artist’s psychological state [which] is a prevailing view that traverses the divergent range of creative practice that falls under the label.”2

The ambiguities of art are always threatened by a label, never more so than in the case of Outsider art. For example, how many readers who visited the Melbourne Now exhibition at NGV International and saw the magnificent ceramic cameras by Alan Constable would know that the artist is intellectually disabled, deaf and nearly blind. Alan holds photographs of cameras three inches away from his eyes and scans the images, then constructs his cameras by feel with his hands, fires them and glazes them. The casual viewer would know nothing of this backstory and just accepts the work on merit. Good art is good art no matter where it comes from. It is only when you enquire about the history of the artist – whether mainstream or outsider – that their condition of becoming (an artist) might affect how you contextualise a work or body of work.

Bosse makes comment about the rationale for the exhibition: ‘The decision to focus on artists’ engagement with the exterior, everyday world was to counter one of the common assumptions about artists in this category – that they are disconnected from society and that their work is solely expressionistic, in that it relates almost exclusively to the self and the expression of the artist’s emotional inner life.”3 Bosse agrees with the position that to simply eliminate the designation would be a different kind of marginalisation – “one where the unique world view and specific challenges the individual faces would become lost in a misguided attempt at egalitarianism.”4

As chair of a panel session at the international conference Contemporary Outsider Art: The Global Context, 23-26th October at The University of Melbourne, curator Lynne Cooke also sees the classification “Outsider” as valuable, for “Outsider art is the condition that contemporary art wants to be” – that is imaginative, free, intuitive, visceral and living on the edge. She sees contemporary art as having run up the white flag leaving Outsider art – however you define that (not the white, middle class male establishment, and belonging to the right galleries) – to be the vanguard, the new avant-garde.5 The exhibition catalogue concludes with her observation that, while current curatorial strategies breakdown the distinctions between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ – making significant headway concerning stigmatisation – these might have the effect of loosing what she describes as the “‘unique and crucial agency’ that this art has to challenge the ‘monocultural frame’.”6 These artists positions as ‘circuit breakers’, holding counter culture positions, may be threatened as their work is made ready for market, especially if they have little knowledge of it themselves.

And there’s the rub, right there. On the one hand Outsider art wants to be taken seriously, the people promoting it (seldom the artists) want it to be shown in mainstream galleries like the National Gallery of Victoria, and so it should be. Good art is good art not matter what. But they also want to have their cake and eat it too; they want to stand both inside and outside the frame of reference.7 In other words, they promote Outsider art within a mainstream context while still claiming “marginal” status, leveraging funding, philanthropy, international conferences and standing in the community as evidence of their good work. And they do it very successfully. Where would we be without fantastic organisations such as Arts Project Australia and Arts Access Victoria to help people with a disability make art? Can you imagine the Melbourne Art Fair without one of the best stands of the entire proceedings, the Arts Project Australia stand? While I support them 100% I am playing devil’s advocate here, for I believe it’s time that the label “Outsider art” was permanently retired. Surely, if we live in a postmodern, post-human society where there is no centre and no periphery, then ‘other’ can occupy both the centre and the margins at one and the same time WITHOUT BEING NAMED AS SUCH!

[Of course, naming “Outsider art” is also a way of controlling it, to have agency and power over it – the power to delineate, classify and ring fence such art, power to promote such artists as the organisations own and bring that work to market.]

Getting rid of the term Outsider art is not a misguided attempt at egalitarianism as Joanna Bosse proposes, for there will always be a narrative to the work, a narrative to the artist. The viewer just has to read and enquire to find out. Personally, what I find most inspiring when looking at this art is that you are made aware of your interaction with the artist. The work is so immediate and fresh and you can feel the flowering of creativity within these souls jumping off the page.

For any artist, for any work, what we must do is talk about the specific in relation to each individual artist, in relation to the world, in relation to reality and resist the temptation to apply any label, resist the fetishisation of the object (and artist) through that label, absolutely. This is the way forward for any art. May the nomenclature “outsider” and its discrimination be gone forever.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

  1. Bosse, Joanna. Everyday imagining: new perspectives on Outsider art. Catalogue essay. The Ian Potter Museum of Modern Art.
  2. Ibid.,
  3. Ibid.,
  4. Ibid.,
  5. Cooke, Lynne. Senior Curator, Special Projects in Modern Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. My notes from the panel session “Outsider Art in the Centre: Museums and Contemporary Art,” at Contemporary Outsider Art: The Global Context, 23-26th October at The University of Melbourne.
  6. Cooke, Lynne. “Orthodoxies undermined,” in Great and mighty things: Outsider art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz collection. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2013, p. 213 quote in Bosse, Joanna, op. cit.,
  7. An example of this can be seen in the launch of the new magazine artsider – “Arts Access Victoria in Partnership with Writers Victoria invites you to the Launch of artsider, a magazine devoted to outsider art and writing.” What a clumsy title that seeks to have a foot in both camps. Email received from Arts Access Victoria 19/11/2014.

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Many thankx to The Ian Potter Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Andrew Blythe. 'Untitled' 2012

 

Andrew Blythe (New Zealand, b. 1962)
Untitled
2012
Synthetic polymer paint on paper
88 x 116cm
Courtesy the artist and Tim Melville Gallery, Auckland

 

Terry William. 'Stereo' 2011

 

Terry Williams (Australian, b. 1952)
Stereo
2011
Vinyl fabric, cotton, stuffing and fibre-tipped pen
21 x 43 x 14cm
Private collection, Melbourne. Courtesy the artist and Arts Project Australia, Melbourne

 

Terry Williams. 'Telephone' 2011

 

Terry Williams (Australian, b. 1952)
Telephone
2011
Fabric, cotton, stuffing and fibre-tipped pen
18 x 13 x 20cm
Private collection, Melbourne. Courtesy the artist and Arts Project Australia, Melbourne

 

 

An exhibition of Australian and New Zealand ‘Outsider’ artists which challenges a key existing interpretation of the genre will be presented at the Potter Museum of Art at The University of Melbourne, from 1 October 2014 to 15 January 2015. Everyday imagining: new perspectives on Outsider art, features the work of artists Andrew Blythe, Kellie Greaves, Julian Martin, Jack Napthine, Lisa Reid, Martin Thompson and Terry Williams.

The term ‘Outsider art’ was coined by British art historian Roger Cardinal in 1972 expanding on the 1940s French concept of art brut – predominantly artworks made by the institutionalised mentally ill – to include artworks made by folk artists and those who are self-taught, disabled, or on the edges of society. The work of Outsider artists is often interpreted as expressing a unique inner vision unsullied by social or cultural influences. Everyday imagining: new perspectives on Outsider art counters this view by presenting contemporary Outsider artists whose works reveal their proactive engagement with the everyday world through artworks that focus on day-to-day experiences.

Curator Joanna Bosse says the exhibition questions a key interpretive bias of Outsider art that is a legacy of its origins in art brut.

“The association with an interior psychological reality that is unsullied by social or cultural influences remains deeply embedded within the interpretations of Outsider art today, and can lead audiences to misinterpret the agency and intention of the artist. Everyday imagining: new perspectives on Outsider art questions this key interpretive bias, and presents the work of Australian and New Zealander outsider artists that demonstrate a clear and proactive engagement with the world. The work of artists Andrew Blythe, Kellie Greaves, Julian Martin, Jack Napthine, Lisa Reid, Martin Thompson and Terry Williams reveals their blatant interest in the here and now,” Ms Bosse said.

Terry Williams’ soft fabric sculptures of everyday items such as fridges, cameras and clocks convey his keen observation of the world and urgent impulse to replicate what is meaningful through familiarity or fascination. Kellie Greaves’ paintings are based on book cover illustrations with the addition of her own compositional elements and complementary tonal colour combinations. The traditional discipline of life-drawing provides Lisa Reid with a structure to pursue her interest in recording the human figure. Her pen and ink drawings are carefully observed yet intuitive renderings.

Jack Napthine produces drawn recollections of his past and present daily life in the form of visual diaries. Light fittings from remembered environments feature prominently as do doors with multiple and varied locks. Napthine’s work has a bold economy of means; he uses thick texta pen to depict simplified designs accompanied by text detail that often records the names of friends and family.

The work of Martin Thompson and Andrew Blythe also displays a similarly indexical approach. Both artists produce detailed repetitive patterns that are borne out of a desire for order and control. Thompson uses large-scale grid paper to create meticulous and intricate geometric designs whereas Blythe uses select motifs – the word ‘no’ and the symbol ‘x’ – to fill the pictorial plane with dense yet orderly markings that result in graphic and rhythmic patterns.

“In the last decade in particular there has been much debate about the term ‘outsider art’: who does it define? What are the prerequisite conditions for its production? What is it outside of, and who decides? This exhibition doesn’t seek to resolve these ambiguities or establish boundaries, but looks beyond definitions to challenge a key assumption underlying contemporary interpretations of outsider art,” Ms Bosse said.

Everyday imagining: new perspectives on Outsider art is held in conjunction with the international conference Contemporary Outsider art: the global context, presented Art Projects Australia and The University of Melbourne and held 23-26 October at The University of Melbourne. The conference proposes an inter-disciplinary exploration of the field, drawing on the experience and knowledge of Australian and international artists, collectors, curators and scholars.

Press release from The Ian Potter Museum of Art

 

Julian Martin. 'Untitled' 2011

 

Julian Martin (Australian, b. 1969)
Untitled
2011
Pastel on paper
38 x 28cm
Courtesy the artist and Arts Project Australia, Melbourne

 

Kelly Greaves. 'My little Japan' 2010

 

Kelly Greaves
My little Japan
2010
Synthetic polymer paint on paper
59.4 x 42cm
Courtesy the artist and Art Unlimited, Geelong

 

Jack Napthine. 'Untitled' 2013

 

Jack Napthine
Untitled
2013
Fibre-tipped pen on paper
59.4 x 42cm
Courtesy the artist and Art Unlimited, Geelong

 

Jack Napthine. 'Untitled' 2013

 

Jack Napthine
Untitled
2013
Fibre-tipped pen on paper
42 x 59.4 cm
Courtesy the artist and Art Unlimited, Geelong

 

Lisa Reid. 'Queen of hearts' 2010

 

Lisa Reid (Australian, b. 1975)
Queen of hearts
2010
Pencil on paper
35 x 25cm
Courtesy the artist and Arts Project Australia, Melbourne

 

 

The Ian Potter Museum of Art
Swanston Street between Faraday and Elgin streets in Parkville
The University of Melbourne
Victoria 3010 Australia

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday and Sunday 12 – 5 pm
Monday closed

The Ian Potter Museum of Art website

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10
Oct
12

Review: ‘Valerio Ciccone: Peripheral Observer’ at Arts Project Australia, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 8th September – 16th October 2012

 

Valerio Ciccone. 'Not titled (After Holbein)' 1991

 

Valerio Ciccone (Australian, b. 1970)
Not titled (After Holbein)
1991
Pastel on paper
50 x 66cm
Courtesy of MADMusee, Belgium

 

 

“Whatever medium he chooses, Ciccone’s work reflects a quiet connection with his subject, as well as a delicate poignancy or gentle sense of irony. There is a certain likeness between the peripheral gaze of his subjects and the way in which Ciccone, whilst remaining focused on his work, is able to keep a watchful eye on all that is happening around him. The subjects in Ciccone’s portraits rarely look directly at the viewer. They seem absorbed by action that is taking place off to the side, beyond the picture plane. Yet there is intentness in the expression, the feeling that the peripheral viewer does not miss a trick.”

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Dr Cheryl Daye, “Valerio Ciccone: Peripheral Observer,” Arts Project Australia catalogue, 2012, p. 14

 

“When his gaze moves out into the world. whilst paradoxically he stays in the same spot, we realise that in the new democracy of images everything is equal and everything is the same. Gary Ablett is next to John Howard who sidles up the Kuwaiti Crown Prince. Cathedrals are as important as the corner of a studio, and lions lie with mice, elephants with koala bears. That expands out to other images too, like that of old standard ‘the nude’ or ‘the model’ from life drawing class. Or fluid instinctual portraits of his studio colleagues. Again, not moving far, finding magic around the corner or across the room.”

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Glenn Barkly. “This is me – some thoughts on the art of Valerio Ciccone,” Arts Project Australia catalogue, 2012, p. 8

 

 

This is a beautiful and vibrant exhibition by Arts Project Australia artist Valerio Ciccone. As you can see from the reproductions in the posting the art work is engaging and enveloping. The work makes me happy, it makes me smile. Arts Project Australia does a wonderful job promoting their artists. It must be very difficult for the curators to append a conceptual idea onto an artist’s work without much input from the artist themselves. Such is the case here. Talking with curator of the exhibition Dr Cheryl Daye, she told me that the title of the exhibition was as much about the person Valerio Ciccone as the work itself; how Valerio circles around people before coming up to say hello, before approaching the subject directly. He is always “keeping an eye out” for what is going on around him.

In the top quotation above – the only paragraph in the two catalogue essays that addresses the conceptual idea of the exhibition – the terms peripheral gaze, peripheral viewer and by extension the title of the exhibition (peripheral observer), are conjoined. Personally, I think that there is a distinct difference between each term that caused me some conceptual unease when they are used together as such.

1. The peripheral gaze is a temporary, short state of uncertainty, before and between the active or passive state – perhaps!
In studying social interaction, Michael Watson (1970) found cultural variability in the intensity of gaze. He distinguished between three forms of gaze:

    • sharp: focusing on the other person’s eyes
    • clear: focusing about the other person’s head and face
    • peripheral: having the other person within the field of vision, but not focusing on his head or face1

2. A peripheral viewer is active, recipient and creative; sometimes part of the thing itself. They are able to transform into 3, passive.

3. A peripheral observer can be passive, sometimes unconsciously so, as when someone is watching TV commercials, pictures on a channel that they do not like. Given more choice over control of the channels they become more active and the retain more interest in the program they are watching. The analogy could be that of a flaneur, strolling, looking but not interacting. They are able to transform into 2, active.

 

According to Jules Romains, “Seeing, and its spatio-temporal organisation, precede gesture and speech and their co-ordination in knowing, recognising, making known (as images of our thoughts), our thoughts themselves and cognitive functions, which are never passive …”2 and Merleau-Ponty notes in an important formulation that, “Everything I see is in principle within my reach, at least within reach of my sight, marked on the map of the ‘I can’.”3

Marked on the map of ‘I can’: active. This is what Valerio does in his artwork, he marks his vision on the map of ‘I can’; not the centre or the periphery (for in postmodernism there is no centre, no periphery for the periphery is the centre!) but an equal balance between what passes before his eyes: background and subject given equal wait / weight within the picture plane where, “in the new democracy of images everything is equal and everything is the same.” This is not a peripheral observer but an artist who actively/passively addresses with equal importance the elements placed before his vision, a passing flow over which he has little control. Sight is decentred and becomes seeing on the field of the other, seeing under the Gaze.

“In the same way, when I see, what I see is formed by paths or networks laid down in advance of my seeing. It may be the case that I feel myself to inhabit some kind of center in my speech, but what decentres me is the network of language. It may be similarly be that I always feel myself to live at the center of my vision – somewhere (where?) behind my eyes; but, again, that vision is decentred by the networks of signifiers that come to me from the social milieu …

Lacan’s analysis of vision unfolds in the same terms: the viewing subject does not stand at the center of the perceptual horizon, and cannot command the chains and series of signifiers passing across the visual domain. Vision unfolds to the side of, in tangent to, the field of the other. And to that form of seeing Lacan gives a name: seeing on the field of the other, seeing under the Gaze.”4

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For me Valerio’s work is a result of a direct looking from a tangental position, not the other way around. His subjects and backgrounds are frontal to the viewer, his figures only rarely looking off to the side. The viewing subject, the artist in this case, stands not at the centre of the perceptual horizon and he cannot command what he sees, when he sees it. But what Valerio so brilliantly and sympathetically does is capture the visions that unfold in front of him with a wonderful joy of life that is breathtaking in its tangental difference, in its recognition of Otherness.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

  1. Watson, Michael. Proxemic Behavior: A Cross-Cultural Study. The Hague: Mouton, 1970 quoted in Chandler, Daniel. “Notes on “The Gaze”,” on the Aberystwyth University website [Online] Cited 05/10/2012 No longer available online
  2. Romains, Jules. La Vision extra-rétinienne et le sens paroptique. Paris: Gallimard, 1964 quoted in Virilio, Paul. The Vision Machine (trans. Julie Rose). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994, p. 7
  3. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. “Eye and Mind” (trans. Carleton Dallery) in The Primacy of Perception: And Other Essays on Phenomenological Psychology. Northwest University Press, 1964, p. 162
  4. Foster, Hal (ed.,). Vision and Visuality. Bay Press, Seattle: Dia Art Foundation Discussions in Contemporary Culture, Number 2, 1988, p. 94

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

 

Valerio Ciccone. 'Not titled' 1991

 

Valerio Ciccone (Australian, b. 1970)
Not titled
1991
Pastel on paper
56 x 76.5cm
Arts Project Australia Permanent Collection

 

Valerio Ciccone. 'Not titled' 1991

 

Valerio Ciccone (Australian, b. 1970)
Not titled
1991
Pastel on paper
76 x 57cm
Arts Project Australia Permanent Collection

 

Valerio Ciccone. 'Not titled (Gary Ablett)' 1998

 

Valerio Ciccone (Australian, b. 1970)
Not titled (Gary Ablett)
1998
Pastel on paper
66 x 50cm
Arts Project Australia Permanent Collection

 

 

Spanning a career of almost thirty years, Valerio Ciccone is an artist of complexity and subtly and this major survey exhibition is a testament to the varied terrain he has covered on his rich artistic journey. Valerio Ciccone: Peripheral Observer is a major survey exhibition that has been curated by Dr Cheryl Daye and will be officially opened by Glenn Barkley, Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia on Saturday 8 September 2012.

Ciccone’s work reflects his fascination with the world around him. With drawing as his primary mode of expression, Ciccone also effectively employs ceramics and animation to create whimsical figures and narratives. Since commencing at Arts Project Australia in 1984, Ciccone’s work has undergone a series of changes: from his earliest watercolours through the powerful text-based monochromatic pastel portraits, to his colourful recreation of scenes from AFL and his enduring repertoire of animals, still life and pop culture icons, he continues to delight with his gentle insights.

Although warm and gregarious, Ciccone likes to place himself as a peripheral observer in relation to his subjects, quietly transforming what he sees into unique visual statements. Curator Dr Cheryl Daye first meet Ciccone in 1984 and says, “Ciccone is a man of few words…  He cannot tell you about his artwork, what it means, how he made it or why. He cannot tell you about the subjects or why he chose them, but the deliberation of each mark made speaks of that which is important to him, his interpretation of the world and desire to share his experience of it.”

Accompanying this exhibition is the Leonard Joel Series catalogue Valerio Ciccone: Peripheral Observer, which is the second publication proudly supported by Leonard Joel.

Press release from the Arts Project Australia website

 

Valerio Ciccone. 'Not titled (life model)' 1990

 

Valerio Ciccone (Australian, b. 1970)
Not titled (life model)
1990
Ink on paper
76 x 57cm
Arts Project Australia Permanent Collection

 

Valerio Ciccone. 'Not titled (Notre Dame)' 1990

 

Valerio Ciccone (Australian, b. 1970)
Not titled (Notre Dame)
1990
Acrylic on paper
66 x 50cm
Arts Project Australia Permanent Collection

 

Valerio Ciccone. 'Not titled' 1987

 

Valerio Ciccone (Australian, b. 1970)
Not titled
1987
Pastel and felt pen on paper
66 x 50cm

 

Valerio Ciccone. 'Not titled (still life)' 1990

 

Valerio Ciccone (Australian, b. 1970)
Not titled (still life)
1990
Pastel on paper
66 x 50cm

 

Valerio Ciccone. 'Not titled (seated figure)' 1997

 

Valerio Ciccone (Australian, b. 1970)
Not titled (seated figure)
1997
Pastel on paper
66 x 50cm

 

Valerio Ciccone. 'Not titled (life drawing)' 1996

 

Valerio Ciccone (Australian, b. 1970)
Not titled (life drawing)
1996
Pastel on paper
66 x 50cm

 

 

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

Gallery hours:
Monday to Friday
 9am – 5pm
Saturday 
10am – 1pm

Arts Project Australia website

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22
Sep
12

Review: ‘Jenny Reddin: The Art of Catastrophe’ at Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond

Exhibition dates: 5th September – 29th September 2012

 

Jenny Reddin. 'Caught in an Effervescent Breeze' 2012

 

Jenny Reddin
Caught in an Effervescent Breeze
2012
Oil on canvas
122 x 122cm

 

 

“Each epoch dreams the one to follow, creates it in dreaming”

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Jules Michelet

 

“Each epoch dreams of itself as annihilated by catastrophes”

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Theodor Adorno

 

 

A star is born

The origin of the word catastrophe is Greek (kata + strophein) and its literal meaning was “overturn”. According to its definition, it is an event that causes trauma due to its capacity to destroy most of a community. Catastrophes are extreme events that affect a large number of victims in the affected community, and are easily identified as events that cause physical suffering.1 The use of words such as disaster (origin in the Italian word disastro (dis + astro, “bad star”)) and catastrophe create the idea of a “disaster taxonomy,” one which is based on the principle that there are variable emotional responses that depend on the type of disaster, the degree of personal impact, the size of the group affected, and the geographical and temporal range of the event.2 These pure words define the event itself and the havoc they wreak without incorporating the perceptions of the victims; in other words they are an objective reflection on the subjective performativity of the act itself.

Catastrophes fascinate humans as they clearly show them the limits of their own existence. The dystopian catastrophe challenges the temporal linearity of a utopian dreaming in which the darkness of the lived moment is illuminated by the anticipatory daydreams of the “not-yet-conscious” future. What catastrophe codes is a dialectical relation to Utopianism, a rejection of the holistic vision of an anticipatory consciousness of a utopian future. As Matthew Charles observes,

“The catastrophic signifies the dialectical intrusion of the whole of history (including the present in which it is represented) into the construction epoch, and by extension the whole of the epoch into the life of the artist, and the whole life of the artist into a particular work. Benjamin’s messianic account of the experience of truth imposes the theological concepts of the infinite, fulfilled and perfected state of the world into the immanence of finite, particular, existing phenomenon. In this way, the intrusion of the historical Absolute contributes to the catastrophic ruination of the work.”3

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As can be seen in the Jenny Reddin’s artist statement, the whole of the artist’s history is bound up in the creation of the work. The infinite possibilities of a subjective understanding of truth are bound together with the immanence of finite, particular, existing phenomenon, that of the art of catastrophe, the objective presentation of ruination, in the art itself. Reddin’s anticipatory daydreams become an anticipatory illumination as an image, a constellation, a configuration tied closely to the idea of the concrete / fluid utopic / dystopic landscapes of the body and the earth. Reddin’s paintings work at both a macro and micro level, a phenomenon that is cross-disciplinary like the phenomenon of catastrophe itself. The work reminds me of cellular structures at the micro level (cross-sections of diseased kidneys, the veins of the heart or scientific slides of blood cells) and of aerial views of the earth at the macro level (alluvial deltas and views of open cast mines). They balance beauty with serendipity, the manipulation of the “flow” of paint (from one point in time to many points) that captures light, the light of the cosmos and of the subconscious. These magnificent works of art have emerged from the artist’s life – much as Immanuel Velikovsky argued that the planet Venus is a former “comet” which was ejected from Jupiter – in an act of catastrophic creation. They are dreaming of the future and yet also dreaming of catastrophe.

Running with these ideas you might argue that these dream images are both an act of emergence and an emergency, a catastrophe. For some thinkers the sociology of emergences aims to identify and enlarge the signs of possible future experiences, under the guise of tendencies and latencies, that are actively ignored by hegemonic rationality and knowledge. For Ernst Bloch the concept of The Not Yet, “is the way in which the future is inscribed in the present. It is not an indeterminate or infinite future, rather a concrete possibility and a capacity that neither exists in a vacuum nor are completely predetermined. Subjectively, the Not Yet is anticipatory consciousness, a form of consciousness that is extremely important in people’s lives. Objectively, the Not Yet is, on the one hand, capacity (potency) and, on the other, possibility (potentiality).”4

Here the field of possibility has a dimension of darkness (disaster) as it originates in the lived moment whilst the sociology of emergences inquires into the alternatives that are contained in the horizon of concrete, utopian possibilities in order to identify therein the tendencies of the future (the Not Yet): the light of the future. Hence these images contain both emergency (of the catastrophe, of the lived moment) and an emergence (into the future). A (bad) star is born. I also believe that in this artist another star has been born, one that will shine strongly in future dreamings.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Braga, Luciana L., Fiks, Jose P., Mari, Jair J. and Mello, Marcelo F. “The importance of the concepts of disaster, catastrophe, violence, trauma and barbarism in defining posttraumatic stress disorder in clinical practice,” in BMC Psychiatry 2008, 8:68 [Online] Cited 22/09/2012
  2. Ibid.,
  3. Charles, Matthew. “The Future is History: Dreams of Catastrophe in Ernst Bloch and Walter Benjamin,” Proceedings of the No Future conference, Institute of Advanced Studies, Durham University, 25-27 March 2011 [Online] Cited 22/09/2012
  4. Anon. “Sociology of Emergences,” on the P2P Foundation website [Online] Cited 22/09/2012

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

 

 

Jenny Reddin. 'Ms. Broadhurst’s Poppy' 2012

 

Jenny Reddin
Ms. Broadhurst’s Poppy
2012
Oil on canvas
122 x 122cm

 

Jenny Reddin. 'A Shifting Reality' 2012

 

Jenny Reddin
A Shifting Reality
2012
Mixes media on linen
137 x 122cm

 

 

At the heart of a catastrophe there is a massive burst of energy. Jenny Reddin’s works seek to capture that energy in an alchemic process that involves the dissolving of pigments in various solutions and pouring the viscous mixes onto prepared structures. Due to the varying specific gravities the pigments drop out at different rates offering alternately dry, textured or smooth, mirror-like fields. This series presents works inspired by the natural phenomenon and the interaction of the human form, capturing the juxtaposition of the beauty of the Australian country with the ongoing cycle of natural catastrophe.

Text from the gallery website

 

I have been painting for around 14 years. At a time when I should have been at Art School, I was studying for a bachelor of business. When I should have been exhibiting my work, I was running a consulting practice and managing people. It wasn’t until my husband and I adopted a little girl from India that I was able to take the time to explore my creative side. I have been painting ever since.

Catastrophe plays an important role in my life. I am an idea, act, plan person in everything I do. It’s how I live my life and it’s how I paint. I had to make a decision early on in my painting career that I either learned to celebrate the spontaneous nature of catastrophes or go mad trying to paint in a conventional manner. I found also that it was becoming increasingly important for me to find my own style and form of expression. I would cringe when people would compliment me by telling me that a work looked just like a Fred Williams or a John Olsen.

To a large extent, I have had to learn to paint from the subconscious. The more deliberate and planned I am at the commencement of a work, the less spontaneous and evocative the result. I go through what feels like long periods where the works are muddy and unsatisfying and I have to rip off the canvas and start again. I usually find when I take the time to analyse why, I have been trying to force an outcome and then all of a sudden, as my consciousness steps back and my subconscious takes over, they work.

Catastrophe is a piece that was painted early this year. It is a good example of the elements that I am looking for in my work, drama and light. The dramatic effect is created by dissolving pigments in viscous solvent solutions and then pouring them onto prepared canvas supports. I often pour two and three colours together so that they bump into each other creating riverlets and craters as the pigments drop out of solution at different rates. Light is captured by manipulating the flow of paint to trap sections of blank, white canvas which to my eye increase the sense of drama and luminance of the work.

It’s hard to say who inspires my work because I am unaware of anyone else painting in quite the same way. What I take from other artists would be honesty and integrity from artists such as Andy Goldsworthy; simplicity of form from the likes of Anthony Gormley and Antonio Tapies; the love of limited palette from Godwin Bradbeer; the beauty of gesture and rhythm from Yvonne Audette and Susan Rothenburg.

Jenny Reddin’s opening speech at the exhibition The Art of Catastrophe

 

Jenny Reddin. 'Space within space within space' 2012

 

Jenny Reddin
Space within space within space
2012
Oil in linen
122 x 122cm

 

Jenny Reddin. 'Amillaria' 2012

 

Jenny Reddin
Amillaria
2012
Oil on canvas
120 x 100cm

 

Jenny Reddin. 'Suspended Journey' 2012

 

Jenny Reddin
Suspended Journey
2012
Oil on linen
138 x 97cm

 

 

Anita Traverso Gallery

PO Box 7001, Hawthorn North 3122
Phone: 0408 534 034

Anita Traverso Gallery website

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10
Nov
11

Artwork: Alan Constable camera. Opening night photographs: ‘Movement and Emotion’ at Arts Project Australia, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 20th October – 26th November 2011

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan holdling his new Alan Constable camera at the opening of Movement and Emotion 2011. More of Alan's cameras can be seen behind.

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan holding his new Alan Constable camera at the opening of Movement and Emotion 2011.
More of Alan’s cameras can be seen behind.

 

 

I have added a new Alan Constable camera to my collection. Yah!

The one I have chosen is very unusual. The camera has a third eye and a stunning glaze. The exhibition features the work of three Arts Project Australia artists: Alan Constable, Chris O’Brien and Terry Williams. All three artists explore machine aesthetics within their practice.

I really do hope that the National Gallery of Victoria purchases some of these cameras. They are the most unusual and beautiful sculptural pieces I have seen in a long time.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to Art Project Australia for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. See more images from the Movement and Emotion exhibition.

 

Alan Constable. 'Not titled (three lens red camera)' 2011

 

Alan Constable (Australian, b. 1956)
Not titled (three lens red camera)
2011

 

Marcus with jeweller Marianne Cseh at right looking at the Alan Constable camera

 

Marcus with jeweller Marianne Cseh at right looking at the Alan Constable camera

 

Opening night crowd at 'Movement and Emotion'

 

Opening night crowd at Movement and Emotion, Arts Project Australia

 

Opening night, with at left curator Paul Hodges, artist Jodie Noble (seated), myself and at right, Jonah Jones, President of the board of Arts Project Australia

 

Opening night, with at left curator and artist Paul Hodges, artist Jodie Noble (seated), myself and, at right, Jonah Jones, President of the board of Arts Project Australia

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan giving the opening night speech at the exhibition 'Movement and Emotion' at Arts Project Australia

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan giving the opening night speech for the exhibition Movement and Emotion. Read the opening night speech.
I was so nervous my jeweller friend Marianne said she could see my hands shaking from where she was standing in the crowd!!

 

Artist Catherine Staughton standing in front of her work

 

Artist Catherine Staughton standing in front of her work

 

 

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

Gallery Hours:
Monday – Friday
 9am – 5pm
Saturday 
10am – 3.30pm

Arts Project Australia website

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21
Oct
11

Opening: ‘Movement and Emotion’ and ‘Jodie Noble Solo’ exhibitions at Arts Project Australia, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 20th October – 26th November 2011

Curator of Movement and Emotion: Paul Hodges

Artists: Steven Ajzenberg, Patrick Francis, Brigid Hanrahan, Paul Hodges, Chris Mason, Cameron Noble, Jodie Noble, Lisa Reid, Anthony Romagnano and Cathy Staughton

 

 

Catherine Staughton. 'Juggle Ball Hand Jump Roller' 2011

 

Catherine Staughton
Juggle Ball Hand Jump Roller
2011
Gouache and felt pen on paper
38 x 56cm

 

 

Opening night speech by Dr Marcus Bunyan

Thank you for your welcome to Arts Project Australia on this auspicious occasion, the first ever exhibition to be curated by an Arts Project artist, Paul Hodges. Together with the Jodie Noble solo exhibition in the front gallery I am sure you will agree that the gallery is full of vibrant work. There are some things that may be said about both bodies of work.

I asked Paul what had been the inspiration behind Movement and Emotion. He said that he often goes to the National Gallery of Victoria and looks at the pictures and imagines the artist painting. He wonders how they were feeling and he visualises the pictures coming to life, especially pictures of dancers in which he has a personal interest. He came back to Arts Project and started thinking about the work in the collection and after much thought made the selection you see here tonight. He used his imagination, his feelings and his understanding of the world to curate the exhibition.

Let’s consider the title Movement and Emotion.

Emotion can be defined as an agitation, a strong feeling, a departure from the normal calm state of an organism. The logos of emotion begins in the experience of ‘being moved’ in some manner. Any emotion holds within its structure some potential for movement, whether it be physical or mental. You can be physically still yet be mentally moved, causing you to have emotion. Some emotions occur over a period of seconds (for example, surprise), whereas others can last years (for example, love). In the word ’emotion’ is the very act of movement, namely motion. Hence e/motion is the root of this wonderful feeling that I get from these artworks. Emotion is movement. Emotion is feeling. Emotion is passion.1

And it is this very act that sustains the work in both exhibitions. The work is personal. It speaks from the heart. It is intimate, transcendent and enigmatic. It moves me like little contemporary art ever does. When I first saw the artwork in the space at the back of the gallery, when they were revealed to me I gasped at their simple, eloquent beauty. Whimsical and playful these works possess an element of the carnivalesque,2 a riot of colour and form that exist on the border of art and life. Mingling depictions of high culture and personal narrative the works have no pretence but a visceral immediacy: a direct connection from the artists imagination of the world, through the eyes to the hand and the paper to depict what is in the world. As Susan Sontag observes, “A work of art is a thing in the world, not just a text or commentary on the world…”3

Some of you may be familiar with the American photographer Walker Evans – his famous US Depression era pictures are a thing in the world, as well as text/commentary on the world. He refers to this working method as ‘transcendent documentary’4: a watchful intelligence that recognises a moment of seeing, a movement of emotion – and then describes it. Yes, a quest for ‘the thing itself’ but more than that, the imagination to describe the substance of our existence, the nature of reality. Objects, people and places are transformed from things seen to things that we known. Intimately. Inherently.

In their unique vision it is the artists relation to self, the nature of what they see and feel around them that creates e/motion. They transcend form while ordering it at the same time. It is both the immediate world, simply described, perceived as it stands with the whole of consciousness coupled with the imagination as always there, between our eyes and the world, for it is the imagination that defines our humanity, declares our consciousness. They imagine, they perceive the simple radiance of what is.

That is what these artists do.

Perceive.

What is.

.
In Movement and Emotion, and in the portraits of Jodie Noble we see what is and imagine what should be. The photographer Elliott Erwitt in his book Personal Exposures (1988) said, “The work I care about is terribly simple … I observe, I try to entertain, but above all I want pictures that are emotion.”5

Those pictures are here, e/motioning, all around us. I enjoy these pictures tremendously. Congratulations to all the artists for the experience that you have given us.”

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Endnotes

  1. See Robbins, Brent Dean. Emotion, Movement & Psychological Space: A Sketching Out of the Emotions in terms of Temporality, Spatiality, Embodiment, Being-with, and Language. Duquesne University, 1999 [Online] Cited 08/10/2011
  2. Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World (trans. Helene Iswolsky). Cambridge: MIT Press, 1968, p. 7
  3. Sontag, Susan. “On Style,” in Against Interpretation and Other Essays. New York: Delta Book, 1966, pp. 21-22
  4. Anon. “”A Revolutionary Project” Brings Cuba to the Getty Museum,” on Cuban Art News [Online] 05/10/2011 Cited 08/10/2011. No longer available online
  5. Erwitt, Elliott. Personal Exposures. W. W. Norton & Company, 1988 quoted on Anon. “Photographer Elliott Erwitt’s Archive to be Housed at Harry Ransom Center,” on Harry Ransom Center: The University of Texas website [Online] 22/09/2011. Cited 08/10/2011. No longer available online

 

 

Cameron Noble. 'Not titled (Blue Lady)' 2011

 

Cameron Noble
Not titled (Blue Lady)
2011
Dry pastel on paper
57 x 37.5cm

 

Jodie Noble. 'Not titled (red dog)' 2006

 

Jodie Noble
Not titled (red dog)
2006
Pastel on paper
76 x 57cm

 

Paul Hodges. 'Not titled (Pink Dancer)' 2010

 

Paul Hodges
Not titled (Pink Dancer)
2010
Ink on paper
50 x 35cm

 

Steven Ajzenberg. 'Harlequin' 2010

 

Steven Ajzenberg
Harlequin
2010
Gouache on paper
55.5 x 38cm

 

Jodie Noble. 'Geisha Girl' 2011

 

Jodie Noble
Geisha Girl
2011
Dry pastel on paper
35 x 25cm

 

Jodie Noble. 'Not titled (girl wearing pink dress)' 2010

 

Jodie Noble
Not titled (girl wearing pink dress)
2010
Prisma colour pencil on paper
50 x 35cm

 

 

Movement and Emotion

This exhibition will explore movement in paintings and the emotions of people in everyday life. These works are vibrant, expressive and each work is unique; they jump out at you. Key themes investigated include carnival, dance and portraits. This is the first exhibition Paul Hodges has curated.

“This is a wonderful show presenting movement and emotion in art by ten artists that I have collected from Arts Project Australia’s studio.”
Paul Hodges, 2011

“When I walk past Jodie Noble’s paintings I can almost feel what she is feeling … Jodie is telling us what she is feeling through her paintings.”
Paul Hodges 2010

 

Jodie Noble Solo

Jodie Noble’s current work is figurative and often incorporates an autobiographical narrative. While occasionally painting from life, her work also references popular culture. In particular, Noble is inspired by contemporary famous figures, from Frida Kahlo and Francisco Goya to Queen Elizabeth II. Noble’s work is descriptive, expressive and infused with a sense of physicality.

In this exhibition, Noble has selected a series of portraits on paper that are autobiographical and of people she knows in her life. This is Jodie’s second solo exhibition.

 

Brigid Hanrahan. 'Not titled (Ballet Dancers)' 2009

 

Brigid Hanrahan
Not titled (Ballet Dancers)
2009
Colour pencil and fineliner on paper
20 x 30cm

 

Anthony Romagnano. 'Madonna' 2010

 

Anthony Romagnano
Madonna
2010
Prisma colour pencil on paper
50 x 35cm

 

Jodie Noble. 'Not titled' 2010

 

Jodie Noble
Not titled
2010
Ink and fine-liner on paper
38 x 28.5cm

 

Lisa Reid. 'Great Aunt Edna' 2003

 

Lisa Reid
Great Aunt Edna
2003
Gouache on paper
55 x 37.5cm

 

Lisa Reid. 'Not titled (Adam Baddeley)' 2001

 

Lisa Reid
Not titled (Adam Baddeley)
2001
Pastel and pencil on paper
50 x 33cm

 

Cameron Noble. 'Not titled' 2011

 

Cameron Noble
Not titled
2011
Dry pastel on paper
38.5 x 32.5cm

 

Patrick Francis. 'Not titled' 2011

 

Patrick Francis
Not titled
2011
Acrylic on paper
70 x 50cm

 

 

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

Gallery hours:
Monday – Friday
 9am – 5pm
Saturday 
10am – 3.30pm

Arts Project Australia website

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23
May
11

Exhibition: ‘Monika Tichacek, To all my relations’ at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Richmond

Exhibition dates: 4th May – 28th May 2011

 

Monika Tichacek. 'To all my relations' 2011

 

Monika Tichacek (Australian, b. 1975 Switzerland)
To all my relations
2011
Diptych
Gouache, pencil and watercolour on paper
244.0 x 300.0 cm overall

 

 

This is a stupendous exhibition by Monika Tichacek, at Karen Woodbury Gallery. One of the highlights of the year, this is a definite must see!

The work is glorious in it’s detail, a sensual and visual delight (make sure you click on the photographs to see the close up of the work!). The riotous, bacchanalian density of the work is balanced by a lyrical intimacy, the work exploring the life cycle and our relationship to the world in gouache, pencil & watercolour. Tichacek’s vibrant pink birds, small bugs, flowers and leaves have absolutely delicious colours. The layered and overlaid compositions show complete control by the artist: mottled, blotted, bark-like wings of butterflies meld into trees in a delicate metamorphosis; insects are blurred becoming one with the structure of flowers in a controlled effusion of life. The title of the exhibition, To all my relations,

“has inspired an understanding that all animist cultures’ peoples have who live in close relationship to the earth. We are all related, we all exist in an interdependent system. The ecosystem is such an unbelievably complex, harmonious system. Every drop of rain, every insect, every micro-organism has its place for the perfect functioning and health of nature… The title is an acknowledgement and honouring of all that is live-giving, every little element that makes up the big picture of life on earth.”1

It was very difficult to pull myself away from the beauty and intimate polyphony of voices contained within the work. I loved it!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. O’Sullivan, Jane. “Artist Interview: Monika Tichacek,” on Australian Art Collector website, 19th May 2011 [Online] Cited 21/05/2010 no longer available online

.
Many thankx to Karen Woodbury Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs and Art Guide Australia for allowing me to publish the text in the posting. The text by Dylan Rainforth was commissioned by Art Guide Australia and appears in the May/June 11 issue of Art Guide Australia magazine. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Monika Tichacek. 'To all my relations' (detail) 2011

 

Monika Tichacek (Australian, b. 1975 Switzerland)
To all my relations (detail)
2011
Diptych
Gouache, pencil and watercolour on paper
244.0 x 300.0 cm overall

 

Monika Tichacek. 'To all my relations' (detail) 2011

 

Monika Tichacek (Australian, b. 1975 Switzerland)
To all my relations (detail)
2011
Diptych
Gouache, pencil and watercolour on paper
244.0 x 300.0 cm overall

 

Monika Tichacek. 'To all my relations' (detail) 2011

 

Monika Tichacek (Australian, b. 1975 Switzerland)
To all my relations (detail)
2011
Diptych
Gouache, pencil and watercolour on paper
244.0 x 300.0 cm overall

 

 

The Cycle of Nature – Monika Tichacek’s To All My Relations

Dylan Rainforth

Anyone used to the immaculately controlled, exactingly lit photographic and video mise en scène that Swiss-born artist Monika Tichacek presented in such series as The Shadowers, for which she won the prestigious Anne Landa Award for Video and New Media Arts in 2007, may be surprised by the direction her work has taken in her latest exhibition. To All My Relations consists entirely of works on paper – watercolour and ink drawings that evince a tension between abstract, gestural shapes and bleeds of colour, recalling (just for convenience’s sake) Kandinsky, and intricately rendered natural forms that owe more to the scientific, zoological and botanical narratives of the Endeavour voyages of Captain Cook, Joseph Banks and the artist Sydney Parkinson.

The work has come out of an intensive period over the last few years in which Tichacek spent considerable time in the jungles of South America and the deserts of the United States, as well as time spent in the New South Wales bush and studying nature books. “I’m getting more and more interested in the cellular, microscopic imagery that you get when you enlarge something and peer deeper into the structure of how material elements are composed, and that really coincides with my interest in Eastern philosophies of Buddhism and many other things too. I guess I’m looking as deeply into the nature of something as is possible but I’m trying not to do it so much with my mind – but of course that’s very challenging,” she says, laughing lightly.

“The exploration of feeling is quite important to me – it’s quite a departure from what I used to do, which were certainly works that came from a very inner landscape but then the execution would be very conceptual, obviously – it had to be and this new work is much more intimate.”

That challenge to the rational, objective Western subject is informed by Tichacek’s exposure to indigenous traditions in South America and other places.

“In 2006 I had a research grant and I went to the Amazon because I wanted to look more deeply into animist cultures, meaning cultures that really see the land as living and as alive with energy and with spirit or ‘beingness’. So I went to the Amazon and spent quite a long time there and also in the mountains in Peru and saw a little bit of Central America and also North America in the desert. I spent time there and really learnt a lot about their indigenous ways and got to participate in a lot of things and experience a lot of things. In the Amazon shamanic tradition there is a process – they call it dieting – you spend a few months more or less alone, existing on very limited foods. You get very little, limited food and very little contact and they give you different traditional plants that, through the communion they do, they are ‘told’ to give you. And you are encouraged to connect with this plant for its healing properties to come through. So that was quite an amazing time to get quite still…”

The exhibition title comes from a Native American ceremony. According to Tichacek, “It’s always said when entering the sweat lodge and it’s an acknowledgement of being related to everything in nature, every being, the understanding that without all these other relations one wouldn’t exist. In those cultures it’s much more understood – we’ve lost that understanding because we can just buy things in the supermarket and eat them but if we lived that way we would probably remember a lot more that we are closely related to everything around us.”

From this perspective we can see that this new work is not a complete departure from Tichacek’s earlier work after all, yet its intentions are radically different. Both the natural world and shamanistic knowledge played their part in The Shadowers. Professor Anne Marsh has described Tichacek’s video, played out in a violent scene occurring between three women (one of whom Marsh characterises as a witch doctor or shaman) in a forest environment, as stretch[ing] the boundaries between body art, ritual and sado-masochism by assaulting the senses and transgressing the social realm. In psychoanalytic terms it tears at the screen of the real and immerses the viewer into the abject world of instinctual response where language has no authority.” [i]

Pain, sado-masochism, ritual and endurance certainly have their place in shamanistic traditions – one need only think of any number of initiation rites – but now Tichacek is looking for a less conflicted relationship with nature. “The work has always been very personal and I guess in The Shadowers that nature relationship was starting to come in but it was very tense and very violent and very confused. The continuation of that theme is still there – the exploration of how to understand the experience of the self and what we are doing here and how we come to exist. That’s definitely been there before but this new work is more in the realm of psychology and the previous works are more in the realm of the female body.”

To All My Relations will present several drawings, with one in particular being conceived on a massive scale that Tichacek intends to convey the sense of awe we experience when surrounded by nature. The artist will also stage a performance – something her interdisciplinary practice has always embraced – at the opening. Although she had not completely determined the details when I spoke to her the performance was inspired by a drawing she made a few years ago and will symbolically connect the artist’s body to the roots of a tree.

“I always feel like [performance serves] to bring my body into it. Although I feel like my body’s very much in these drawings there’s something about performance that’s really physically present.”

Dylan Rainforth.

 

This text by Dylan Rainforth was commissioned by Art Guide Australia and appears in the May/June 11 issue of Art Guide Australia magazine.

[i] Marsh, A. The Shadowers: Haunting the Real; essay available on Karen Woodbury Gallery website, accessed 03/04/11, no longer available online

 

 

Monika Tichacek. 'To all my relations' (detail) 2011

 

Monika Tichacek (Australian, b. 1975 Switzerland)
To all my relations (detail)
2011
Diptych
Gouache, pencil and watercolour on paper
244.0 x 300.0 cm overall

 

Monika Tichacek. 'To all my relations' (detail) 2011

 

Monika Tichacek (Australian, b. 1975 Switzerland)
To all my relations (detail)
2011
Diptych
Gouache, pencil and watercolour on paper
244.0 x 300.0 cm overall

 

Monika Tichacek. 'Birth of generosity' 2011

 

Monika Tichacek (Australian, b. 1975 Switzerland)
Birth of generosity
2011
Diptych
Pencil and watercolour on paper
70.0 x 114.0 cm overall

 

Monika Tichacek. 'Transmission' 2011

 

Monika Tichacek (Australian, b. 1975 Switzerland)
Transmission
2011
Pencil and watercolour on paper
150.0 x 125.0 cm

 

 

Karen Woodbury Gallery

This gallery has now closed

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03
Apr
11

Review: ‘NETWORKS (cells & silos)’ at Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), Caulfield

Exhibition dates: 1st February – 16th April 2011

 

Installation photograph of one of the galleries in the exhibition 'NETWORKS (cells & silos)' at Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) with Nick Mangan's 'Colony' (2005) in the foreground

 

Installation photograph of one of the galleries in the exhibition NETWORKS (cells & silos) at the newly opened Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) with Nick Mangan’s Colony (2005) in the foreground

 

 

This is a vibrant and eclectic exhibition at MUMA, one of the best this year in Melbourne. The curator Geraldine Barlow has gathered together some impressive, engaging works that are set off to good effect in the new gallery spaces. I spent a long and happy time wandering around the exhibition and came away visually satiated and intellectually stimulated.

The exhibition “explores the connections between artistic representation of networks; patterns and structures found in nature; and the rapidly evolving field of network science, communications and human relations.” (text from MUMA)

Networks connect – they describe (abstract) connections between people and things. Networks map simple or complex systems and can be real or an abstract representation of those systems. Networks form a nexus, “a sort of concentrated nodal point among a series of chains of markers” that reveals the centralising structure of networks (such as Facebook and Google). Robert Nelson in his review of this exhibition in The Age notes, “Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter [in their catalogue essay] describe the way networks paradoxically disorganise you, creating a disempowering messy grid of protocols that colonise your headspace … It’s commonplace to celebrate networks because they stimulate excitement about belonging, about extending your reach and joining in. These hopes are as pervasive as the networks themselves. But in structural terms, networks are also insidiously colonising and hierarchical, built on the principle of the rich becoming richer and the poor becoming more dependent.”1

I believe that networks can also be altruistic and non-heirarchical, offering a horizontal consciousness rather than a vertical one: points of view and perspectives on the world that open up these (virtual) spaces to fluidity, mutation, transgression and subversion. Catherine Lumby observes that,

“The contradictory, constantly shifting nature of contemporary information and image flows tends to erode the moral authority of any social order, patriarchal or otherwise. It is this very collapse which has arguably fuelled social revolutions such as feminism and gay and lesbian rights, but which equally disrupts attempts by some to ground them in identity politics.”2

Critical to understanding the construction of these constantly shifting networks in contemporary society are the concepts of weaving and intertexuality. Intertextuality is the concept that texts do not live in isolation, “caught up as they are in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences: it is a node within a network… Its unity is variable and relative (Foucault, 1973)3. In other words the network is decentred and multiple allowing the possibility of transgressive texts or the construction of a work of art through the techniques of assemblage (Deleuze and Guattari) – a form of fluid, associative networking that is now the general condition of art production.4

Infection of the network (by viruses for example) disrupts the pattern/randomness binary and may lead to mutations, ‘differance’ in Derrida’s terminology, spaces that are both fluid and fixed at one and the same time; neither here nor there.

.
On to (some of) the work.

Masato Takasaka’s series of fibre-tipped pen and pencil on paper, Information Superhighway (2006-07), are wonderful, kaleidoscopic works – inventive and fun, full of rhizomic, multi-layered dimensionality. Nick Mangan’s mixed media sculpture Colony (2005, see photograph below) is a spiky, totemic, figurative creature made of axe, shovel and hammer handles and riddled with holes like driftwood that looks like a bizarre, Medieval torture instrument.

Bryan Spiers paintings Shadowmath and New descending (both 2010, see photograph below) are excellent, puzzle-like reinterpretations of delicate, Futuristic movements. As he describes them, “I think of my paintings as puzzles or visual toys. They are images to be manipulated by the viewer; reconfigured, recomposed, expanded upon. Trajectories of change are implied by repeated shapes and graded colour transitions. They describe a continuum to be followed to its logical conclusion outside of the picture plane. This leads to the dissolution of the image, proposing new images yet to be made.”

Heath Bunting’s 3 panel work from The Status project (all 2010) features interrelated data sets that reach a “level of absurdity in attempting to relate radically different but inter-related information.” This mind mapping schematic of connections (coloured connections with labels, markers and legends) based around Bristol, England has some unbelievable entries if you look really closely:

  • A1072 Able to provide natural person date of birth 2010
  • A1073 Able to access the Internet
  • A1003 A terrorist
  • A1047 Providing instruction or training in the use of imaginary firearms such as sticks
  • A1088 Providing training in leopard crawling

.
Aaron Koblin’s beautiful video Flight patterns (2010) offers a mapping of thousands of plane journeys across the USA over time (based on East Coast time) so that the explosion of their frequency becomes like a fireworks display. Andrew McQualter’s fantastic acrylic paint wall drawings Three propositions, one example (2010-11), painted directly onto the gallery wall show various people, isolated from each other and from the viewer, talking and listening to their iPhones. As Robert Nelson comments, “They’re isolated individuals, all on their own plane, presumably doing social networking or communicating. If you walked past them, they wouldn’t respond because, with heads bowed, they’re absorbed in another reality. Their hands and minds are busy with a reality elsewhere.”

Present but not present, (not) here and there at the same time. This is a critical debate in contemporary culture: do these type of networks lessen our ability to build friendships and connections in the real world or are they just another element in our rhizomic network of associations that help with our interconnectivity: utopian or dystopian or equal measure of both? Does it really matter?

From the UK Kit Wise’s large digital print on aluminium series (including KTM SEA MOW RUH 2010, see below) are effective, offering solarised, negative, brightly coloured collages of seemingly atomised cities (the titles refer to the cities airport abbreviation codes). Mass Ornament (2009) by American artist Natalie Bookchin is one of my favourite works in the exhibition. In a horizontal panel of wall mounted screens play videos of people dancing in their bedroom. Bookchin has gleaned these gems from uploaded personal videos on YouTube – there are handstands, contortions, tap dancing, all manner of performances (some then deleted by the performer) – then collated by the artist and set to a Broadway-type music number. Mesmeric and amazing!

Koji Ryui’s spatial constructions Extended network towards the happy end of the universe (2007-11, see photograph below) are made of bendy, plastic drinking straws of different colours, encased and moulded into cellular shapes (reminding me of the white of the Melbourne Recital Centre exterior). Trailing off these structures in different colours are airborne-like filaments similar to the plant Old Man’s Beard. “Ryui repeats and arranges these objects in space to create peculiar environments and accidental narratives. In his installations, relationships or spaces between objects are equally as important as the objects themselves.” Wonderful.

Last but not least my favourite work in the exhibition: heart of the air you can hear by Sandra Selig (2011, see photographs below). The photographs do not do the work justice. Made simply from spun polyester, nails and paint this Spirograph-like construction is beautiful in its resonance and colour, captivating in its complexity. Built into a corner of the gallery the work floats at eye level, twists and turns and changes intensity of colour when viewed from different angles. From the front it looks like a spaceship out of Star Wars woven by light!

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There are many other excellent works in the exhibition that I have not mentioned. Some of the work disrupts the continual reiteration of norms by weaving a lack of fixity into the network’s existence. Other work visually makes comment on and reinforces the structure of such networks. Whichever it is this is a truly engaging exhibition that no single body, let alone a networked one, should miss.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Nelson, Robert. “Networks, Cells and Silos” review in The Age newspaper. Melbourne: Fairfax Media, 23/02/2011 [Online] Cited 23/03/2011
  2. Lumby, Catharine. “Nothing Personal: Sex, Gender and Identity in The Media Age,” in Matthews, Jill (ed.,). Sex in Public: Australian Sexual Cultures. St. Leonards: Allen and Unwin, 1997, pp. 14-15
  3. Foucault, Michel cited in Thumlert, Kurt. Intervisuality, Visual Culture, and Education. [Online] Cited 01/04/2011 no longer available online
  4. “To understand the production of art at the end of tradition, which in our lifetime means art at the end of modernism, requires, as the postmodern debate has shown, a careful consideration of the idea of history and the notion of ending. Rather than just thinking ending as the arrival of the finality of a fixed chronological moment, it can also be thought as a slow and indecisive process of internal decomposition that leaves in place numerous deposits of us, in us and with us – all with a considerable and complex afterlife. In this context all figuration is prefigured. This is to say that the design element of the production of a work of art, the compositional, now exists prior to the management of form of, and on, the picture plane. Techniques of assemblage, like montage and collage – which not only juxtaposed different aesthetics but also different historical moments, were the precursors of what is now the general condition of production.”Fry, Tony. “Art Byting the Dust,” in Hayward, Phillip. Culture, Technology and Creativity in the Late Twentieth Century. London: John Libbey and Company, 1990, pp. 169-170

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Many thankx to Monash University Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Kerrie Poliness. 'Blue Wall Drawing #1' 2007-11

 

Kerrie Poliness
Blue Wall Drawing #1
2007-11

 

Hilarie Mais. 'The waiting - anon' 1986

 

Hilarie Mais
The waiting – anon
1986

 

 

An interview with the curator: Geraldine Barlow

Where did your interest in networks come from?

I’ve long been fascinated by network maps of human relationships – the graphical representation of something seemingly so complex and multi-layered. The structure of the brain and how this relates to theories of mind is also an area of personal interest. Our society, bodies and relationships are all made up of different kinds of networks, and artists have long been interested in mapping out these structures. I realised some time ago that the visual representation of networks might make for an interesting exhibition, from this point on I collected and ‘tested’ different ideas of what the exhibition might include.

How is this explored in the exhibition?

Human relationships feature in some of the works in the exhibition, but not all. I hope the exhibition offers a wide variety of links between people’s familiar world and daily experiences on the one hand, and more abstract ideas on the other.

There are a number of works from the Monash University Collection included in the exhibition. Can you tell us about these and why you selected them?

The Monash University Collection is a great source of inspiration, it is a wonderful collection, but also, I think any artwork considered closely and over time opens up in surprising ways and offers unexpected insights, working with the works in the collection over a period of years allows me to think about them in a long and slow way.

Dorothy Braund’s work Christ with the disciples listening 1966 was given to the University in 1974. It is a very beautiful formal painting of a series of shaded circles and ellipses. At first glance it is simple and seems to represent a ring of figures, their heads and bodies gathered together. On closer examination it is not so clear where one figure ends and another begins, as a whole the clustered forms seem to operate more like a cell. Historically this cell of men and the ideas attributed to them has had a profound impact, in their day they might have been seen as a kind of terrorist cell.

Through the sensitive composition and balance of abstract form, the artist has created a complex representation of the relationships between people: the ways in which we are both connected to each other, and yet might also circulate ideas in a tight ‘Chinese whispers’ type circle. This work was painted in 1966, long before our current awareness of social and telecommunications networks, but it can still offer us insights in our contemporary world and the way we relate to each other.

How did the new gallery space affect the installation of the exhibition?

The exhibition was slowly forming in my mind, even as Kerstin Thompson’s wonderful gallery space was being designed and built. The gallery has offered a wonderful armature and character for the exhibition to work with, hopefully in the manner of a conversation. Kerstin was been very interested in understand and reflecting the essential structure of the building, not building over what was pre-existing. The exhibition like-wise has an interest in structural models, geometries and patterns – in finding a balance between the regular and the slightly warped. In the central corridor which runs down the spine of the gallery, Thompson has chosen to leave the mechanical services exposed, to allow the essential structure of the building to be a form of ornament. Many of the artists in the exhibition also have an interest in the relationship between structure and ornament.

 

Sandra Selig. 'heart of the air you can hear' 2011

 

Sandra Selig
heart of the air you can hear
2011

 

Sandra Selig. 'heart of the air you can hear' 2011 (detail)

 

Sandra Selig
heart of the air you can hear (detail)
2011

 

Koji Ryui. 'Extended network towards the happy end of the universe' 2007-11

 

Koji Ryui
Extended network towards the happy end of the universe
2007-11

 

 

The connections between artistic representations of networks and the rapidly evolving field of network science are the subject of the latest exhibition at the Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA).

Presenting the work of Australian and international artists, NETWORKS (cells & silos) reflects the organising principles and dynamics of our increasingly networked society, and related patterns found in organic, social and engineered forms.

MUMA’s Senior Curator, Geraldine Barlow conceived and developed the exhibition as a way of continuing the dialogue about the role and effect of different networks in society.

“Art and aesthetics are often treated as very separate enclaves from science, physics and mathematics,” Barlow says. “But art offers us a way to re- contextualise our associations and interactions with the networks around us and look at the effect they have on us. I hope the exhibition will prompt people to think about the networks in their lives and how they mould and shape us.”

A key inspiration for the exhibition was Annamaria Tallas’ documentary, How Kevin Bacon Cured Cancer, which features the work of network scientist Albert-László Barabási.

“The documentary explores the thesis that all networks – both natural and man-made – conform to a similar mathematical formula, with the same patterns emerging over and again,” Barlow said.

The artworks featured in NETWORKS (cells & silos) explore networks as diverse as those found in urban planning and cities, biology, organisations, travel and of course social networks, as well as the dual qualities of hyper-connectedness and isolation that technology has heightened in modern life.

Extending the dialogue about the possibilities of networks is of great interest to MUMA Director, Max Delany, particularly in the university context.

“Within a university we have a vast array of specialist disciplines – science, technology, humanities – all having conversations about how the world is and where we want to be heading,” Delany says. “Often these conversations are held in isolation from each other, but considered together, and from the standpoint of artists, the possibilities of collaborative networks become very exciting.”

This collaboration can be seen in Kerrie Poliness’ work Blue Wall Drawing #1 (2007/2011). Students from Monash University have created the piece, following the formal and conceptual guidelines set out by the artist. Each version of Poliness’ work creates unique patterns and networks as the collaborative team choose how to implement the drawing rules which are structured to allow a different outcome in each space where they are applied.

The exhibition’s accompanying publication contains essays from curator Geraldine Barlow, network and social theorists Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter, and science documentary filmmaker Annamaria Tallas, all exploring the exhibition’s theme. Digital and hard copies are available on request.

Press release from the Monash University Museum of Art

 

Bryan Spier. 'Shadowmath' 2010 (and) 'New descending' 2010

 

Bryan Spier
Shadowmath and New descending
both 2010

 

Kit Wise. 'KTM SEA MOW RUH' 2010

 

Kit Wise
KTM SEA MOW RUH
2010
Digital photograph

 

 

Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA)
Ground Floor, Building F.
Monash University Caulfield campus
900 Dandenong Road
Caulfield East, VIC 3145
Phone: +61 3 9905 4217

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday 12 – 5 pm

Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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

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