Posts Tagged ‘Australian contemporary photography

03
Jul
20

Photographs: Marcus Bunyan. ‘A day in the Tiergarten’ (2019-2020)

June 2020

 

I hope people like this new series. I hope to turn the photographs into my first book, landscape format on heavyweight paper. If anyone knows a good publisher / printer for short run photobooks (not self publishing) please contact me at bunyanth@netspace.net.au. Thank you.

Please view the images on a larger screen. The whole series can be see with larger images on the A Day in the Tiergarten web page or you can enlarge the images below by clicking on them.

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In late 2019, I took a photographic research trip through Europe by train, visiting nine countries and seeing many exhibitions and photographs by master photographers (Güler, Capa, Lartigue, Katz, Frank, Sudek, Sander, Brassaï, Abbott, Kertesz). I also took over 8,000 photographs on three digital cameras. This series, this stream of consciousness – the images shown in the exact order that I took them, no sequencing – reflects my state of mind during the trip. It was a kind of an ascetic experience for me, embedded as I was in the spaces and architectures of the cities and landscapes of Europe, hardly talking to anyone for the duration of the journey.

A Day in the Tiergarten reflects this focus and clear seeing. Using camera and tripod the series, like a piece of music, moves from classical into surreal (the reflections of trees and water displacing the image plane), back to classical and on through Abstract Expressionism, ending in a peaceful coda of 4, 3, 2.

The series is an engagement with spirit – of wandering through a space of intimate desire and love. Love of trees, of being alone, of engaging with the self and nature. It was a magical day.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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88 images in the series © Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Remember these are just straight digital photographs, all full frame, no cropping.

Photographs are available from this series for purchase. As a guide, a digital colour 16″ x 20″ costs $1000 plus tracked and insured shipping. For more information please see my store web page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
A Day in the Tiergarten
2019-2020

 

 

Marcus Bunyan website

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22
Jul
18

Photographs: Marcus Bunyan. ‘Paris in film’ 2018 Part 2

July 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

 

Paris in film 2018

These photographs were taken on a trip to Paris in 2017 using my Mamiya twin-lens C220 medium format camera shot on Kodak Ektra 100 colour negative film.

It was strange taking these photographs over numerous, adventurous, energised days in Paris. Different from the yet to be sorted 4,000+ digital photographs I took, the act of taking these photographs allowed me to fully concentrate, to immerse myself in the environment, to loose myself in the process – with a commensurate dropping away of ego. I just was in the moment, “in the zone” as athletes would say.

They are only basic jpg scans of the negs, full frame, no cropping, and I have colour corrected as best I can, noting that all digital images look different from computer monitor to monitor – one of the perennial hazards of looking at work online. They have not been sequenced at the moment.

The photographs seem to hang well together as a body of work. I would love to get good scans and print some of them.

Through their clear visualisation, the photographs speak directly to the viewer.

Marcus

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68 images
© Marcus Bunyan

Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

Photographs are available from this series for purchase. As a guide, a digital colour 16″ x 20″ costs $1000 plus tracked and insured shipping. For more information please see my store web page.

 

 

“The great goal that we must all pursue is to kill off the great evil that eats away at us: egotism.”

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“Sometimes I think I love nature just as much, if not more, for not being capable of translation into words… No words can describe some things. The more one says the less one sees. You see… nature is like love, it’s in the heart and you must not talk about it too much. You diminish what you try to describe. As for myself, I have no idea of my own nature when I act unselfconsciously. I only see what there is between the sky and myself. I have no part in it all. If I think of you, in my odd way I am you and I cease to exist.”

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George Sand

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Fontainebleau' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Fontainebleau
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Fontainebleau' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Fontainebleau
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Animaux Nuisibles' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Animaux Nuisibles
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Animaux Nuisibles' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Animaux Nuisibles
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Animaux Nuisibles' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Animaux Nuisibles
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Rats Surmulots Captures aux Halles vers 1925' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Rats Surmulots Captures aux Halles vers 1925
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Dying light, KH in Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Dying light, KH in Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

 

Marcus Bunyan website

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13
Jul
18

Exhibition: ‘Jacqui Stockdale: Ghost Hoovanah’ at This Is No Fantasy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 30th June – 21st July 2018

 

Jacqui Stockdale. 'The New Pilgrim' 2018

 

Jacqui Stockdale
The New Pilgrim
2018
C Type Print
130 x 100 cm

 

Jacqui Stockdale. 'The Migrant' 2018

 

Jacqui Stockdale
The Migrant
2018
C Type Print
130 x 100 cm

 

 

It’s time…

As I said to Jacqui recently in an email, her images are magnificent – as always. She has knocked the Debil right out of the park.

We are so lucky to have such a talented group of female artist photographers in Australia at the moment.

You would think one of the big galleries, such as the National Gallery of Victoria or the National Gallery of Australia, would curate a large exhibition on the emergence of these artists, whose work mainly revolves around issues of gender, sexuality, identity, and place.

Here is a list of prospective artists that I can already think of: Hoda Afshar, Jane Burton, Pat Brassington, Rosemary Laing, Anne Ferran, Destiny Deacon, Simryn Gill, Katrin Koenning, Jane Brown, Carolyn Lewens, Clare Rae, Claudia Terstappen, Bindi Cole, Elizabeth Gertsakis, Janina Green, Siri Hayes, Joan Ross, Nicola Loder, Tracey Moffatt, Petrina Hicks, Robyn Stacey, Patricia Piccinini, Jacqui Stockdale and the late Polixeni Papapetrou – to name but a few.

What an illuminating exhibition and research it would be, digging around in the backstories of these amazing artists. Never, ever, in Australia have we had such creative talent amassed in one place at one time.

Someone, anyone, now is the time!

Marcus

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Many thankx to Jacqui Stockdale and This Is No Fantasy for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Jacqui Stockdale: Ghost Hoovanah' at This Is No Fantasy, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Jacqui Stockdale: Ghost Hoovanah' at This Is No Fantasy, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Jacqui Stockdale: Ghost Hoovanah at This Is No Fantasy, Melbourne

 

Jacqui Stockdale. 'The Donkey Debil' 2018

 

Jacqui Stockdale
The Donkey Debil
2018
C Type Print
130 x 100 cm

 

Jacqui Stockdale. 'The Hoo' 2018

 

Jacqui Stockdale
The Hoo
2018
C Type Print
130 x 100 cm

 

Jacqui Stockdale. 'The L'hybride' 2018

 

Jacqui Stockdale
The L’hybride
2018
C Type Print
130 x 100 cm

 

 

Hoovanah in the highest: Jacqui Stockdale and the post-colonial lens

Ghost Hoovanah is the title of Jacqui Stockdale’s new exhibition; but neither conventional geography nor modern linguistics will help in its decipherment. Instead, if we are to unpick her cryptic patois, an imaginative leap is required. Hoovanah? The word behooves its sassy Caribbean sister, Havana, that sweaty town of utopias where desires both real and imagined are woven into the fabric of its streets. And what of those spirits that inhabit this Ghost Hoovanah? The articulation of its name conjures a city of the dead; one that slumbers, but where those shouts of fervent praise, hosanna, might awaken the citizen spirits, who in turn come out to play for just one day of the year.

Stockdale is a contemporary Australian artist but her project is the production of a colonial history, albeit one that is conceived and written by all but the colonisers themselves. A classical historian might baulk at the site of a Mexican wrestler at large in the Australian landscape, displaced in time and space even as his status as ‘other’ is entirely suited to the job. This disruption of historical realities has a magical realist quality, but one also that unseats the authority of official histories. After all, how can one know if scenarios such as these were not a part of the local story? And why after all, would their narratives not be important as well?

Stockdale’s take on history – conflated, dark and elliptical – and which already has our attention, is further energised by a palpable sexuality. It pervades much of her imagery. Stockdale’s compositions beckon with sassy visual come-ons and haughty gestures of defiance, rolled together into tightly packed tableaus. This libidinous assertion of figures who are otherwise passively observed, is declarative in its liberating intent. In Stockdale’s photographic piece The Migrant 2018, the upright sitter gazes directly at the viewer, who surveys in turn, the curvaceous female form. The inference: Shove off, for the game is on. But the prerogative, dear viewer, is now mine and not yours, as once you might have thought. This is the crux of the artist’s revisionist position, the reanimation of voices that paternal histories repress. The awakening brings forth mothers, monsters, lovers and the wild folk, known to haunt the colonial scene. Even the tooth fairy is a fiend, as Stockdale reveals in The Donkey Debil 2018, a composition that captures a strange bunyip-like creature that suggests multiple mythic forms.

The question of who speaks for our past depends largely on who is asking the question. In Stockdale’s work that inquiry is the clarion call of the other. Yet in speaking for the past, Stockdale is accounting also for the present, and with it, the presence of those who are new to the local scene. This politicised stance draws strength from the artist’s historical awareness, wherein those who do not fit are simply expunged from the record. In Stockdale’s photograph The New Pilgrim 2018, the first impression is of a Georgian aristocrat set in the saddle, as one might see in a painting by George Stubbs (1724-1806), yet this is eclipsed as our eyes alight on a traditional Burmese skirt. The figure is revealed as a Karen Thai refugee, a friend of the Stockdale family, who arrived most recently on Australia’s distant shores and has now settled in Bendigo, in Northern Victoria.

In Ghost Hoovanah each of Stockdale’s figures is set before a backdrop painted by the artist for the project. The staging is not new to Stockdale, and indeed it is a trope of early studio photography. It enabled that exciting yet gimmicky invention to look like posh old painting. But in Stockdale’s work, the link to painting recalls both her own immersion in the medium and also a self-conscious lineage. It is anchored in the Baroque canvases of Diego Velazquez (1599-1660) and the Romanticised vistas of colonial interloper John Glover (1767-1849). Velazquez confronted his viewers with the unnerving stares of spoilt Spanish Infantas and bilious courtier dwarfs, while Glover, enthralled by his arrival in Tasmania, evoked an idyll where the natives were at one with nature, even as the slaughter was upon them. Flickers of these antecedents emerge in Stockdale’s images and it is not surprising to discover that the scene she chose to paint is a disused gold-mine slag-heap abandoned by Chinese hopefuls who named their promised land as ‘Big Gold Mountain’.

The spectre of failure, as befell those Asian migrants and which dogged almost every colonial adventure, from Captain Cook to Burke and Wills, and our favourite outlaw Ned, is expunged in their unique apotheosis. Raised up as mythic spirits, their inability to triumph is transformed in the telling of their tales. Yet in Stockdale’s work, a subterranean undercurrent, of sub-cultures and those unnamed others who the white-man’s hall of fame passed by, emerge as entirely more enticing as they call us out to play. These are Dionysian dancers, and their haughty disinterest is catnip to our imagination. Even the mule, who appears in L’hybride 2018 seems fresh from Francisco de Goya’s nightmare Los Caprichos etchings. But on an upbeat note, the Sudanese Australian figure who appears in The Rider 2018, sets her eyes on the sky as clouds billow from her mind, as she, like all of Stockdale’s figures take possession of their imaginative space, and refuse in the face of all that surrounds them to be defined in the eyes of another. The promise of Stockdale’s work is the enfoldment of the world and its double, of all that is known and all that is dreamt of, and in that consummation of difference, the emergence of her vision is revealed. For the timid, such scenes may be affronting, but this bestiary is the artist’s presentiment, and in many respects, it is already the world.

Damian Smith, 2018

Dr Damian Smith is a freelance curator, arts writer and academic working in Australia at the University of Melbourne and RMIT, in Asia and Latin America. He is the Director of Words For Art, a member of the International Association of Art Critics and an art historian. He is currently curating Australian participation in the 2019 Bienal de la Habana, Cuba.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Jacqui Stockdale: Ghost Hoovanah' at This Is No Fantasy, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Jacqui Stockdale: Ghost Hoovanah' at This Is No Fantasy, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Jacqui Stockdale: Ghost Hoovanah at This Is No Fantasy, Melbourne

 

Jacqui Stockdale. 'The Rider' 2018

 

Jacqui Stockdale
The Rider
2018
C Type Print
130 x 100 cm

 

Jacqui Stockdale. 'Duel of the Mount' 2018 (installation view)

 

Jacqui Stockdale
Duel of the Mount (installation view)
2018
Diptych
Dimensions variable

 

Jacqui Stockdale. 'Duel of the Mount 1' 2018

 

Jacqui Stockdale
Duel of the Mount 1
2018
C Type Print
130 x 100 cm

 

Jacqui Stockdale. 'Duel of the Mount 2' 2018

 

Jacqui Stockdale
Duel of the Mount 2
2018
C Type Print
130 x 100 cm

 

 

This Is No Fantasy
108-110 Gertrude St
Fitzroy VIC 3065
Australia
Phone: +61 3 9417 7172

Opening hours:
Tues – Fri 10am – 5pm
Sat 12 – 5pm

This Is No Fantasy website

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30
Dec
13

Review: ‘Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change’ at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 9th November 2013 – 19th January 2014

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'After the fire (Northern Territory, Australia)' 2002

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
After the fire (Northern Territory, Australia)
2002
From the series Our ancestors 1990-
29 cm x 29cm

 

 

“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree…

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”

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Herman Hesse. Bäume: Betrachtungen und Gedichte (Trees: Reflections and Poems) 1984

 

 

This is the last review of 2013 and what a cracker of an exhibition to finish the year. Without doubt this is the best pure photography exhibition I have seen this year in Melbourne. The exhibition is stimulating and enervating, the image making of the highest order in its aesthetic beauty and visual complexity. The artist explores intangible spaces which define our physical and spiritual relationship with the un/known world.

Briefly stated the bulk of the exhibition features small, square, tonally rich black and white medium format landscape images of unspoiled places from around the world taken between the mid-1980s and the early 2000s, images that possess a sense of the sublime and suggest a link to indigenous cultures. These images are hung in rows, sometimes double row grids, that flesh out the narrative that Terstappen seeks to establish. It is a beautiful, enlightening hang and whoever sequenced the work and hung the show should be congratulated for they understood the artist’s narrative and the tonal range of the printing.

In an excellent review in The Age newspaper (Wednesday December 18th 2013) the writer Robert Nelson suggests that these vistas depict something holy to an earlier or parallel civilisation. He observes that Terstappen’s images go beyond the mere picturesque because the artist applies a persistent inquiry to image making no matter where she is in the world, for “she always looks for properties that the environment shares with counterparts elsewhere.” He goes on to state that the photographs have three systematic demands that the artist places on her interpretation of the landscape: 1/ that they express something elemental (earth, air, water, fire); 2/ the scene has to sustain a dark print with a visual weight that is almost contrary to the nature of photography; and 3/ the picture must reconcile the expansive and the intimate. In her world, everything must have presence, no matter how far away, and press up against the picture plane; everything must have a certain density, a thickness of being which is not about light but about the darkness of light.
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“All photographs depend on light; but Terstappen’s sensibility errs to descriptions of the density of things, not their reception or reflection of sunshine or even moonlight. Her scenery is gravid with banks engorged by roots, the bulk of outcrops or the intricate tangle of overlapping forest, which is also what seems to activate the water within the air to express it heaviness… A part of the impetus behind Terstappen’s project is pictorial: how to make the most rigorous sense of multiplicity, to frame big things so that they harmonise with little things, so that everything has an equivalent weight, including the air. The corollary of this consistent investigation is a poetic respect for the natural subject matter…”

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Through images of visual and conceptual beauty and complexity, Terstappen imparts a strange kind of temporality to the work. The artist layers shapes within the photographs and, befitting her training as a sculptor, pushes and pulls at the image plane like a malleable piece of clay, sometimes blocking vision at the surface of the print, sometimes allowing access to a partially accessible (psychological) interiority. For example, look at the last three images before the press release below: Cabbage trees (Queensland, Australia)Curtain fig tree (Queensland, Australia) and Alligator nest (Queensland, Australia) (all 2002). In Cabbage trees the artist creates a visual pattern, like a fabric pattern, that holds the viewer at the surface of the image while still allowing glimpses of what lies beyond; in Curtain fig tree it is as if a curtain has literally descended blocking any access to the interior; while in Alligator nest there is a beautiful, open density to the work that invites contemplation and meditation upon the scene.

In Terstappen’s work, there is always a sense of space moving back, moving from the bottom up or top down and a conscious use of a restricted tonality (no bright whites or blackest blacks). The artist blocks movement, opens it up or swirls it around. Sometimes earth becomes sky as steam turns to cloud, or rock becomes water as the two meld at the base of a waterfall. In this multiplicity, each element is given equal weight within certain atmospheres and an equilibrium is formed, to live at the heart of these images. Each complex, thoughtful image becomes a living and breathing entity.

In Terstappen’s work there is no fixed image and no single purpose, a single meaning, or one singular existence that the images propose. They transcend claims about the world arising from, for example, natural or scientific attitudes or theories of the ontological nature of the world. As the artist visualises, records the feeling of the facts, such complex and balanced images let the mind of the viewer wander in the landscape. In their fecundity the viewer is enveloped in that situation of not knowing. There is the feeling of the landscape, a sensitivity to being “lost” in the landscape, in the shadow of ‘Other’, enhanced through the modality of the printing. Dreamworld vs analytical/descriptive, there is the enigma of the landscape and its spiritual places. Yes, the sublime, but more an invocation, a plea to the gods for understanding. This phenomenological prayer allows the artist to envelop herself and the viewer in the profundity – the great depth, intensity and emotion – of the landscape. To be ‘present’ in the the untrammelled places of the world as (divine) experience.

The only doubt I have about the exhibition is the ex post facto interpretation of the archive as picturing places that are threatened by social and ecological change. As the catalogue text states, “These pictures now form part of an archive of historically significant places that are threatened by social and ecological change. This archive of spiritual sites has, over time, become an environmental archive, reminding us that photography not only has the power to bring places to life, but also to bear witness to the forces that threaten life.” If they are only now forming part of an environmental archive, what memory of sacred place did they initially respond to?

While Terstappen’s work has always focused on a physical encounter with space and an imaging of places that have deep or hidden meanings and mythical / symbolic significance, when I look at this work I do not get a strong sense of these places being under threat. Only through written (not visual) language is this environmental threat enunciated. While archives are always fluid and will always gather new meaning (look at Atget’s “documents for artists”, images that are now acknowledged as some of the most artistic and influential in the whole canon of photography), we must also acknowledge that nothing in this world remains the same, that everything changes all the time, for better or worse. The landscapes that Terstappen photographs are no more “natural” then as they are now, due to the effects of bushfires, human cultivation, erosion, habitation, hunting, farming and natural disaster. Humans cannot appeal to some vision of a world, some garden of Eden, that exists pre humanity. Who is to stay that these places in the world are disappearing or appearing? By the very act of photographing these places, Terstappen labels them, names them as inconsolable places that should never change. This is not the mysterious way of the world. I prefer to look at these places and acknowledge that this is how they looked through the eyes of this artist at this point in time. They have full presence before me, in all their mystery and majesty.

Is this textual analysis necessary for the work to succeed? I do not believe it is, in fact I believe it lessens the inherent quality of these images. Use these images to help people understand what human beings are doing to the planet by all means, but please do not try to retrofit concepts of destruction onto the work.

This minor quibble aside, I say to you that this is the most sophisticated reading of the landscape that I have seen in a long time – not just in Australia but from around the world. This is such a joy of an exhibition to see that you leave feeling engaged and uplifted. Being in the gallery on your own is a privilege that is hard to describe: to see (and feel!) landscape photography of the highest order and by an Australian artist as well. If you grant anything for your New Year’s wish you could do no better than to visit this magnificent exhibition and drink of its atmospheres.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Bushfire III (Northern Territory, Australia)' 2002

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Bushfire III (Northern Territory, Australia)
2002
From the series Our ancestors 1990-
29 cm x 29cm

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Sickness country II (Northern Territory, Australia)' 2002

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Sickness country II (Northern Territory, Australia)
2002
From the series Our ancestors 1990-
29 cm x 29cm

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Cabbage trees (Queensland, Australia)' 2002

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Cabbage trees (Queensland, Australia)
2002
From the series Our ancestors 1990-
29 cm x 29cm

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Curtain fig tree (Queensland, Australia)' 2002

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Curtain fig tree (Queensland, Australia)
2002
From the series Our ancestors 1990-
29 cm x 29cm

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Alligator nest (Queensland, Australia)' 2002

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Alligator nest (Queensland, Australia)
2002
From the series Lost world 2002-
21 cm x 21cm

 

 

Over the last thirty years Claudia Terstappen has taken photographs of places throughout the world that have spiritual resonance or associations. The basis of this exhibition is a selection of these landscapes, presented as gelatin silver prints printed by the artist between the 1980s – early 2000s.

The landscapes in this exhibition document places that have spiritual associations or significance for indigenous people, to make sense of their relationship to the land. But I now realise that the archive has taken on another set of meanings or intention. Today, these pictures form part of a vast archive of landscapes and places undergoing significant change. This archive of spiritual places has become an environmental archive.

Terstappen was born in Germany, and her landscapes are in many ways informed by her heritage. Like Australia, Germany has a particular tradition of landscape, where places of nature carry important associations for cultural understanding and a sense of belonging. Terstappen is herself part of a long tradition of German artists to explore this relationship.

Terstappen studied at the Düsseldorfer Kunstakademie, the training ground for many of Germany’s most important contemporary artists. Having been taught by the famous photographer Bernd Becher and then the architect and sculptor Erich Reusch, Terstappen has since exhibited widely throughout Europe, North America and Australia.

Text from the Monash Gallery of Art website

 

Claudia Terstappen originally trained a a sculptor but for over three decades she has worked in the medium of photography. In some respects, her art practice has been developed between these two artistic disciplines. She retains a strong interest in the sculptural sensation of a physical encounter in space, but she uses the two-dimensional medium of photography to document and reiterate these experiences.

Terstappen’s interest in the interplay between depth and surface is also evident in the subjects that she explores. She often photographs places that have deep or hidden meanings. This includes sites of pilgrimage, shrines of worship and landscapes invested with mythic significance. These associations are not always apparent, and often subsist as a type of secret knowledge, but they can be given tangible form through processes of story-telling and ceremonial action. Terstappen engages with these locations in order to give them a tangible photographic form, elaborating a sense of symbolic power or sublime drama across the surface of her images.

This exhibition features 75 photographs depicting places that have been invested with spiritual resonances or mythical associations, from Iceland and southern Europe to the Americas and Australia. The starting point for this exhibition is a selection of gelatin silver prints that were hand-printed by the artist between the mid-1980s and the early 2000s. These pictures now form part of an archive of historically significant places that are threatened by social and ecological change. This archive of spiritual sites has, over time, become an environmental archive; reminding us that photography not only has the power to bring places to life, but also to bear witness to the forces that threaten life.

Text from the exhibition pamphlet

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Turtle Dreaming, Australia (Northern Territory)' 2002

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Turtle Dreaming, Australia (Northern Territory)
2002
from the series Vanishing landscapes 1987-
Gelatin silver print
120 x 120cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Namandi spirit [Queensland, Australia]' 2002

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Namandi spirit (Queensland, Australia)
2002
from the series Our ancestors 1990-
Gelatin silver print
29 x 29cm
Courtesy  of the artist

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Cabbage trees [Queensland, Australia]' 2002

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Cabbage trees (Queensland, Australia)
2002
from the series Our ancestors 1990-
Gelatin silver print
29 x 29cm
Courtesy  of the artist

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Full moon [France]' 1997

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Full moon (France)
1997
from the series I believe in miracles 1997-
Gelatin silver print
80 x 80cm
Courtesy  of the artist

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Mountain [Brazil]' 1991

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Mountain (Brazil)
1991
from the series Sacred mountains 1989-
Gelatin silver print
37 x 37cm
Courtesy  of the artist

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Mountain [Las Palmas, Spain]' 1992

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Mountain (Las Palmas, Spain)
1992
from the series Sacred mountains 1989-
Gelatin silver print
49 x 49cm
Courtesy  of the artist

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Zion Park [USA]' 1996

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Zion Park (USA)
1996
from the series Sacred land of the Navajo Indians 1990-
Gelatin silver print
37 x 37cm
Courtesy  of the artist

 

 

In the shadow of change features almost 100 of Claudia Terstappen’s magnificent landscape photographs. Terstappen is a German-born photographer who studied at the famous Dusseldorf art academy and is now Professor of Photography at Monash University in Melbourne.

For over three decades, Terstappen has been photographing landscapes the world over. Brazil, Colombia, Canada, Japan, USA, Iceland and Spain have been destinations for the artist, who has travelled the world looking for landscapes which have particular spiritual or mythical meanings. This search brought Terstappen to Australia in 2002; the artist now lives in Melbourne as a permanent resident.

Terstappen’s vast archive of landscape photographs has taken on significant environmental associations. As debates about the politics and impact of land use and climate change continue, Terstappen’s landscapes – from intimately scaled views of forests and riverbeds to grand views of mountains and glaciers – present a truly beautiful account of landscape photography and its contemporary significance.

As Terstappen states: ‘There is a moral dimension to looking at and photographing landscape today. Landscape photography has tremendous currency. Many of the landscapes in my photographs will have either completely disappeared or drastically changed by now. I firmly believe we need to re-establish our relationship with nature and landscape and photography can help us to achieve this.’

MGA Director and curator of the exhibition Shaune Lakin states: ‘MGA is very proud to have developed this exhibition with Claudia, which will be accompanied by a beautifully illustrated book. We have timed the exhibition to coincide with the 30-year anniversary of one of the defining moments in Australian photography, when landscape photographs actually brought about significant social and political change. It is now 30 years since Peter Dombrovskis’s now-iconic photographs of the Gordon River helped prevent construction of the Franklin Dam in Tasmania, which to this day remains one of the world’s great wilderness areas.

‘With the election of a new government and promises of a new environmental agenda, it seems a perfect time for us to reconsider the power of landscape photography and the status of environmentalism in Australia today.’

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art website

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Bob Browns opening speech at artist Claudia Terstappen’s exhibition In the shadow of change at the Monash Gallery of Art (MGA) in Melbourne. Recorded on Saturday 9 November 2013.

 

 

Monash Gallery of Art
860 Ferntree Gully Road, Wheelers Hill
Victoria 3150 Australia
Phone: + 61 3 8544 0500

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10am – 5pm
Saturday – Sunday 12pm – 5pm
Mon/public holidays closed

Monash Gallery of Art website

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21
Dec
13

New work: ‘upside, down’ 2013 by Dr Marcus Bunyan

December 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

 

Finally, I got my act together for a new series of my own work titled upside, down (2013). The series is now online on my website or you can click on the thumbnails below to go the full image. There are 30 images in the series formed as a sequence. Below is a selection of images from the series. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

People have asked me what this series is about. It’s about the suspension of belief; it’s about taking an enormous, heavy war machine and floating it in mid air and the impossibility of this; it’s about looking at this structure of destruction as a constructivist object, looking at the mass of this object; it is about the disintegration of this object (for these are poor quality scans that when enlarged will fall apart) – about raising the object up and letting it fall into the world. It is against war.

People have said to me the images look strange, that they look better the right way up. I’m glad that they are inverted for the world is a very strange place, where we make huge machines just to kill ourselves. I’m glad they look strange, I’m glad they make you feel uncomfortable. They are meant that way.

The sculptor Fredrick White has observed that the work is also about the beauty of the object, emphasising its form by inverting the mass of the ship, and also the weight, compression and displacement of space – almost like a time slippage/fracture, a time portal to another world. This is very perceptive because the work is about all of these things. I love layering the work so it reveals different things!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Photographs are available from this series for purchase. As a guide, a digital colour 16″ x 20″ costs $1000 plus tracked and insured shipping. For more information please see my store web page.

 

 

“The initial feeling of the series was of a curtain rising – and that strongly draws us into the drama. But the whole series is very witty, very touching and appeals very strongly to the senses. There is an inevitability about the human condition here that is very sobering. In the end the strongest of your gestures are almost ignored by the viewer who becomes aware of this atmosphere.”

.
Text from my mentor ISL

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013
Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013
Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013
Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013
Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013
Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013
Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013
Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

 

Marcus Bunyan website

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19
Nov
13

Three exhibitions: ‘Henri van Noordenburg / Efface’; ‘Amber McCaig / Imagined Histories’ and ‘Greg Elms / What Remains’ at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 6th – 23rd November 2013

 

Henri van Noordenburg. 'Composition XXI' 2013

 

Henri van Noordenburg (Australian, born Netherlands 1967)
Composition XXI
2013
Hand carved archival pigment print
30 x 30cm

 

 

Three solid exhibitions at Edmund Pearce Gallery. All three have interesting elements and strong images. All three have their positives and negatives.

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Henri van Noordenburg presents us with a European, colonialist take on the Australian landscape in his new series Efface, similar in their vernacular to early Australian painters visions of their new homeland, with their longing for an “original” home many leagues away over the sea. Except Noordenburg’s interventions look nothing like any Australian landscape I know, heavily influenced as they are by the work of French artist and engraver Gustav Doré (1832-1883) and Japanese wood block prints. His dark, brooding, subterranean art works – in which the artist photographs himself naked and bruised, prints this image on a large sheet of black photographic paper, then hand carves the landscape with a scalpel back into the paper base, isolating but at the same time surrounding the vulnerable, exposed body – image a gothic, melancholy vision of man lost in the wilderness. Here the body (self) is helpless before various forces, but these forces must still be engaged before some progress (pilgrims progress?) can be made.

The technique is truly extraordinary and the artist sets up a “perceptible tension” between technique and form, etching and photograph, body and bulimic (as in excessive), landscape. These ‘synthetic landscapes’ whose form is produced by spatial reorganisation and topographical interventions, man-made spaces, serve as background for what the artist wants us to see as our collective existence.1 Unfortunately, the conceptualisation of the work seems, well, a little confused. And perhaps that is the point. Noordenburg, with his Dutch heritage, is apparently still unsure of his place in a multicultural Australia, even after a few decades living here. But, I feel his point of departure for this work still remains uncertain. And this leads to uncertain outcomes for the viewer.

This uncertainty in the point of departure makes it difficult for the viewer to empathise with the stylistic inclinations of the landscape or the work as a whole. Somehow, it all seems so remote from too much. We can all sympathise with the “humanity” of the work, its anguish and sense of dislocation and wish it well, but I was left a little non-plussed by the visual evidence presented to me. If the exhibition was about wildness (not wilderness) and craziness (not a form of identity dislocation), then it would have been spot on:

“God against man. Man against God. Man against nature. Nature against man. Nature against God. God against nature. Very funny religion!”

D.T. Suzuki (1870-1966)

 

Amber McCaig’s series Imagined Histories image “contemporary people captured by a sharp technology… [as they] aspire to join the consciousness of another epoch” (Robert Nelson). Small, intense prints, hung in pairs, re-present figures dressed in renaissance costume acting out the fantasy of living in a romantic, historical era. The portraits are paired with still life of wooden boxes filled with allegorical objects full of symbolic representation. The portraits are strong (the incongruity of an Asian knight is particularly effective), and the relationship between portrait and still life is ambiguous and nuanced. However, the still life become repetitive with the constant placement of images at the back of the box coupled with objects situated towards the front of the box. A study of the magical boxes of the artist Joseph Cornell would have been beneficial in this regard.

I feel that there needs to be more layering in the construction of the individual photographs and between the works in the series as a whole, not just the pairs of images. While the work is a little one dimensional in this imagined time, this is a good beginning to an ongoing investigation.

 

While Sally Mann’s body of work What Remains is the rolled-gold standard for this kind of work, Greg Elms series What Remains offers an interesting forensic amplification of skeletal “nature”. These animalistic portraits of nature mort are eloquent, strong and forthright. Some work better than others. The Cheetah skull, the Vervet monkey skull (with Rayban Aviator sunglass eyes) and best of them all, the magnificent, constructivist Black cockatoo skull – are all haunting in their deathly presence. Some of the smaller skulls lack these works muscularity, especially when they are printed horizontally on a vertical piece of photographic paper, which simply does not work.

Whether the series needed the ironic commentary of the titles, or the trope of hanging the conceptualisation of the series on the back of global warming, is also debatable. I think the best images are strong enough, and the conviction of the artist obvious enough over numerous bodies of work, that the viewer does not need to be spoon fed this rationalisation.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Jackson, J. B. Discovering the Vernacular Landscape. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984, p. 8 quoted in Goldswain, Phillip. “Surveying the Field, Picturing the Grid: John Joseph Dwyer’s Urban Industrial Landscapes,” in Goldswain, Phillip and Taylor, William (eds.,). An Everyday Transience: The Urban Imaginary of Goldfields Photographer John Joseph Dwyer. Crawley, WA: University of Western Australia Publishing, 2010, p. 75.

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

 

 

Gustave Doré. llustration of Lord Alfred Tennyson's 'Idylls of the King' 1868

 

Gustave Doré (French, 1832-1883)
llustration of Lord Alfred Tennyson’s Idylls of the King
1868

 

Henri van Noordenburg. 'Composition X' 2012

 

Henri van Noordenburg (Australian, born Netherlands 1967)
Composition X
2012
Hand carved archival pigment print
106 x 106cm

 

 

Abstracted within the landscape, the artist features as the protagonist facing the threats of a seemingly hostile bush. Efface references The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden with a focus on the overlaying of a European aesthetic on the physical and intellectual landscape. Starting with self portraits set amid a featureless black background, the photographic surface is hand etched to reveal the landscape.

Van Noordenburg describes the process of self-nude photography as an “incredible mix between strength and weakness, frustration and containment a feeling of euphoria and adrenaline”. Feelings, which mirror van Noordenburg’s attempts to assimilate within a dominant culture.

Text from the Edmund Pearce Gallery website

 

Henri van Noordenburg. 'Composition XXII' 2013

 

Henri van Noordenburg (Australian, born Netherlands 1967)
Composition XXII
2013
Hand carved archival pigment print
30 x 30cm

 

Henri van Noordenburg. 'Composition XXIII' 2013

 

Henri van Noordenburg (Australian, born Netherlands 1967)
Composition XXIII
2013
Hand carved archival pigment print
30 x 30cm

 

 

Between Here and There

The figure that haunts these images is far from a signifier of passivity and calm. Dwarfed and subjugated by that which surrounds, his naked form seems deep in the throes the landscape’s implicit bewilderment and assault. His pallid, naked flesh is scarred and reddened and soiled, the reproach of this eerie land leaving an acrid evidence.

The work of Henri van Noordenburg veers towards the anxieties of juncture, displacement and exodus – art history, religious mythology, the socio-cultural tropes of migration and dislocation and the tensions of the photographic medium underlie his visual and allegorical language.

Indeed, the sensibilities and narratives that punctuate the Dutch-born artist’s new series, Efface, are significant on several levels. The immediately perceptible tension is that of technique and form. Beginning their lives as nude photographic self-portraits (the body set against a vast, featureless, black backdrop), van Noordenburg’s renderings of the Australian landscape and wilderness are in fact painstakingly realised hand-etchings. The photographic surface is an amalgam, the physicality of the photographic object unmistakable. In an era of fluctuation and change for the now ubiquitous digital form, van Noordenburg attempts to reengage, reinterpret and gain further understanding of the photograph’s physical roots.

The formal and stylistic inclinations that the artist achieves via such a process offers another intriguing layer. Resting upon the myth of the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, this loaded series operates in the shadows of art history, forging a Romantic European imagining of the landscape and broaching its loaded colonialist underpinnings. Just as van Noordenburg’s photographic visage wanders a landscape created via the hand and the imagination, the European man stalks the myth of the non-European landscape as a base, inhospitable threat. Allegories and references double back on one another; themes of movement, displacement, exile and expulsion break bread with the iconography of the colonialist gaze.

That it is van Noordenburg’s own image that haunts these works – his body writhing, crouched or prone amid the bush – proves telling. Though living in Australia for the best part of two decades, the artist is an outsider in a nation that remains in acute denial of the extent of its immigrant foundations. Whether white, black, yellow or brown, the great myth of a quintessential Australianness – one that exists on a plane distinct from the cultural melange that marks the Australian reality – threatens to dislocate all who fail to blindly buy in.

In the suite of works that populate Efface, van Noordenburg sets himself adrift, haunted by his own place in history, mythology and the wider Australian scheme. Though we live in an increasingly borderless and post-national world, some things tend not to change.

Dan Rule

 

Amber McCaig. 'Ute von Tangermunde' 2013

 

Amber McCaig
Ute von Tangermunde
2013
Archival pigment print
48 x 33cm

 

Amber McCaig. 'Untitled VII' 2013

 

Amber McCaig
Untitled VII
2013
Archival pigment print
48 x 33cm

 

 

“Using a combination of portraits and still life elements, Amber recreates an exploration into the idea of identity and imagination, providing an insight into what it is like to live out fantasies in everyday life. Laden with armour, treasure chests, maps and lore, these fantasies show the power of our imagination and what is possible if we dare to dream.”

Text from the Edmund Pearce Gallery website

 

Amber McCaig. 'The Knight Errant' 2013

 

Amber McCaig
The Knight Errant
2013
Archival pigment print
60 x 42cm

 

Amber McCaig. 'Untitled IV' 2013

 

Amber McCaig
Untitled IV
2013
Archival pigment print
60 x 42cm

 

Amber McCaig. 'The Knight' 2013

 

Amber McCaig
The Knight
2013
Archival pigment print
60 x 42cm

 

Amber McCaig. 'Untitled III' 2013

 

Amber McCaig
Untitled III
2013
Archival pigment print
60 x 42cm

 

Greg Elms. 'We knew it was serious, but we were kind of busy (Black cockatoo skull)' 2013

 

Greg Elms
We knew it was serious, but we were kind of busy (Black cockatoo skull)
2013
Archival pigment print
85 x 110cm

 

 

“This taxonomy series of large-scale prints, which acts as an amplification of its forensic nature, is an examination of where our relationships with animals are headed. Whilst those with vested interests may deride climate change, it is beyond dispute that there is a decline in many species of fauna (and flora). In 21st century life, where the distractions are numerous and social media pervasive, 24-hour news counteracts important issues amidst a blur of information overload… Elms work investigates the natural world exploring themes of reality, mortality and the sublime.”

Text from the Edmund Pearce Gallery website

 

Greg Elms. 'It got overrun by other news (Wombat skull, aerial view)' 2013

 

Greg Elms
It got overrun by other news (Wombat skull, aerial view)
2013
Archival pigment print
70 X 55cm

 

 

Respice post te!

There is something incredibly human about Greg Elms’ latest suite of works. Something uncannily and immediately recognisable in these gaping eyes and grimacing teeth. What links each of the ‘individuals’ here is very simple. It is not just death, it is the cause of death. These are forensic portraits of homicide victims, genocidal talismans for the perpetrator. Enjoy them, for it is we who must plead futile innocence.

Stripped of fur and flesh, they were beforehand stripped of the flora and fauna that sustained them, they were humiliated, out-numbered and out equipped and we? Well it’s simple. We needed more coffee plantations, more timber, more cultivation, more food for our yapping pets.

I’m not suggesting here that Elms is some kind of tree-hugging animal lover. But I am saying that, like the best forensic analysts, he has identified his victims well.

Elms himself gives away much of the story behind this cruelly grinning menagerie. Think of how many times in recent decades you have read the kinds of commentary that Elms utilises here as titles; “We knew it was serious, but we were kind of busy,” “Lobbyists were employed to dispute the facts,” “It got overrun by other news,” “We felt like we were helpless,” “It would’ve been fine if Newscorp was onside.”

These are everyday, generic comments. All too much so. think: Global Warming, human genocide, animal extinctions. Just everyday comments accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders. One could add “too late now.” Elms himself adds: “Everything comes and goes…”

But if there is beauty in Apocalypse then Elms has found it. There is an elegance alongside a silence in these animalistic portraits of nature mort. These un-furred memento mori.

The Latin phrase, memento mori, translates essentially as “Remember that you must die.” Another translation of the term reads Respice post te! Hominem te esse memento – Look behind you! Remember that you are but a man! But here in Elms’ portraits it is the Vervet Monkey, the Black Cockatoo, the Cheetah. Indeed, the only thing missing is the skull of the human.

But there is time enough for that…

Ashley Crawford

 

Greg Elms. 'We felt sort of helpless to stop the extinction (Cheetah skull)' 2012

 

Greg Elms
We felt sort of helpless to stop the extinction (Cheetah skull)
2012
Archival pigment print
110 x 85cm

 

Greg Elms. 'You won’t get away with this for much longer (Vervet monkey skull)' 2011

 

Greg Elms
You won’t get away with this for much longer (Vervet monkey skull)
2011
Archival pigment print
110 x 85cm

 

 

Edmund Pearce Gallery

This gallery has now closed.

Edmund Pearce Gallery website

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03
Nov
13

Exhibition: ‘Guest Relations’ by Robyn Stacey at Stills Gallery, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 9th October – 9th November 2013

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Room 1306 Mercure Potts Point, Jodi' 2013

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Room 1306 Mercure Potts Point, Jodi
2013
From Guest Relations
Type C print
100 x 133cm

 

 

X marks the spot

Somehow these photographs just don’t work for me.

Intellectually, I appreciate the Inception-esque concept but visually and emotionally I am ambivalent towards the images. They feel more like caricatures than engaging works of art. Human beings stare blankly off into the distance, as though there was some meaningful relationship between this “dead pan” look and the upside down camera obscura image; thought bubbles appearing above the head (as in a cartoon), emanate from stilted, frozen, blank-faced human beings. Dead pan, introverted looks do not make for engaging associations – between elements in the image or between the image and the viewer.

The tableau vivants evidence little life, to wit, the oh so correctly crossed legs in Room 3907 Sofitel on Collins, Morgan; the impeccably placed photographs in Room 2515 Shangri-la, Isobel (who would ever put photographs on a bed like that?); and the artfully placed dumbells in Room 4821 Sofitel on Collins, Chris (all 2013, below). X certainly does mark the constrained, constructed spot. Paradoxically, the images that work best are the ones where the human beings are absent, because the viewer can imagine the visage (and visualised thoughts) of the occupants, without seeing them. Then, and only then, do these images work as dreamlike scenarios and fulfil the artist’s desire to produce surreal and psychological spaces which seem to materialise their inhabitants’ distant thoughts.

However, as they are presented, each element of the image feels quite divisible, and all the elements of the image never feel fully integrated with each other. Hence the images feel less than fully resolved. What this body of work needed was a bit more panache and savour faire. Perhaps more distortion of the camera obscura image and more life from the protagonists would have brought the symbiotic relationships to life. You only have to think of the murder of Ann Lively in the film Minority Report to understand how these head cloud “visualisations” have incredible psychological power. I get none of that here.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to Stills Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All images are copyright of the artist.

 

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Room 13 Cartwright, Michael and Katherine' 2013

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Room 13 Cartwright, Michael and Katherine
2013
From Guest Relations
Type C print
100 x 133cm

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Room 14 Cartwright, Ocean' 2013

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Room 14 Cartwright, Ocean
2013
From Guest Relations
Type C print

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Room 14 Cartwright, Harbour' 2013

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Room 14 Cartwright, Harbour
2013
from Guest Relations
Type C print
100 x 146cm

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Room 5126 Pullman Hyde Park, Brielle' 2013

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Room 5126 Pullman Hyde Park, Brielle
2013
From Guest Relations
Type C print

 

 

“Hotel rooms are waiting spaces: waiting in rooms for people to arrive, for events to start, or just waiting to go home. They are also private spaces.”

.
Robyn Stacey, 2013

 

 

This striking new series by leading contemporary art photographer, Robyn Stacey, combines the simplest form of the camera, the “camera obscura”, with high-end digital photography to explore a specific context: the hotel room. The project explores the fleeting and ephemeral experience and how this is captured as a moment out of time, by the photographic still. 

Through Robyn Stacey’s photography we imagine other people’s private worlds. For the past 5 years her spectacular compositions have breathed new life into the old families of Sydney, reviving their personal objects from historic collections to evoke scenes as if they’ve just exited the room, leaving only a sprinkling of crumbs. Now, for Guest Relations she has turned from high fidelity studio photography to the non-digital process of camera obscura, Stacey brings our gaze to contemporary life and the transitory meetings of private and public worlds within the modern hotel room. Like pinhole photography, the camera obscura allows light in through a tiny hole in order to project a scene from outside onto an inside surface. Stacey recreates this process with ambitious scale and in unexpected settings, transforming the interiors of high-rise city chains and quiet coastline holiday destinations, into darkrooms for dramatically projected landscape vistas.

Turning from high fidelity studio photography to the non-digital process of camera obscura, Stacey brings our gaze to contemporary life and the transitory meetings of private and public worlds within the modern hotel room. Like pinhole photography, the “camera obscura” allows light in through a tiny hole in order to project a scene from outside onto an inside surface. Stacey recreates this process with ambitious scale and in unexpected settings, transforming the interiors of high-rise city Hotel chains and quiet coastline holiday destinations, into darkrooms for dramatically projected landscape vistas.

This historical form of image making, which Caravaggio and Vermeer are said to have used to create their impressive Baroque paintings, elaborately decorates the otherwise hermetic hotels rooms by wallpapering them with the world outside their windows. Normally characterised by modern minimalism and standardised comforts, these interiors are covered with the colonnades of buildings, the cityscapes of roads, rivers and parks (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane), and the turquoise shores of a sunbather’s paradise, such as the Gold Coast in Qld. Businessmen, young couples, and solo travellers are actors in these dreamlike scenarios; the upside-down, reversed and distorted visual effects of camera obscura, produce surreal and psychological spaces which seem to materialise their inhabitants’ distant thoughts.

Like stills from the sets of movies, Stacey’s images offer us fragments of untold narratives. Intimate and enigmatic moments glimpse the plethora of stories we can only imagine might play out within a hotel rooms’ four walls: the melodramas of domestics, the passionate professions of love, and the time-slowing boredom and loneliness that might accompany a life spent in endless waiting. Through the theatrical and distorted view of camera obscura is revealed a roving, fragmented and homogenised portrait of contemporary life. But by imbuing the transitory with the timeless, Stacey suggests that behind these closed, generic doors, we may all be looking outwards, seeking moments of beauty, clarity and meaningful connection.

Press release from the Stills Gallery website

 

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Room 2016 Shangri-la, Courtney' 2013

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Room 2016 Shangri-la, Courtney
2013
From Guest Relations
Type C print

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Room 3907 Sofitel on Collins, Morgan' 2013

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Room 3907 Sofitel on Collins, Morgan
2013
From Guest Relations
Type C print

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Room 2515 Shangri-la, Isobel' 2013

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Room 2515 Shangri-la, Isobel
2013
From Guest Relations
Type C print

 

 

Artist statement

“The project, Guest Relations, was developed for an Artist in Residency earlier this year, at the Sofitel on Collins in Melbourne, renowned for its uninterrupted panoramic views over Melbourne city. The aim of the residency was to explore the hermetic, but transient nature of the hotel room.

As the view is a significant part of the hotel experience I wanted to incorporate the external cityscape into the interior. By making the room into a camera obscura (the simplest and earliest form of pin-hole camera) the external view is then naturally projected back into the room, upside down and in reverse, allowing me to photograph the view and the room together in one image.

This visual combination creates a unique and powerful dreamlike setting that serves as the backdrop and creates an environment for the guests to be photographed in. There are no tricks – just utilising the earliest and simplest form of photography to produce spectacular cinematic results. The people in the photographs are not models and they bring their personality to the rooms, in a sense creating their own narratives. The project has since been extended to Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.”

Robyn Stacey, 2013

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Room 2015 Pullman Hyde Park, Chair Still Life' 2013

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Room 2015 Pullman Hyde Park, Chair Still Life
2013
From Guest Relations
Type C print

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Room 3601 Sofitel on Collins, Mr. Hoey' 2013

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Room 3601 Sofitel on Collins, Mr. Hoey
2013
From Guest Relations
Type C print
135 x 100cm

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Room 4821 Sofitel on Collins, Chris' 2013

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Room 4821 Sofitel on Collins, Chris
2013
From Guest Relations
Type C print
127 x 100cm

 

 

Stills Gallery

This gallery has now closed.

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25
Oct
13

Exhibition: ‘Party’ by Anne MacDonald at Bett Gallery, Hobart

Exhibition dates: 11th October – 1st November 2013

 

Anne MacDonald. 'Party no.1' 2012-13

 

Anne MacDonald (Australian, b. 1960)
Party no.1
2012-13
Fine art ink-jet print
110 x 160cm
edition of 5

 

 

Children’s birthday parties as symbols of loss and impermanence.

In these wonderful photographs there is a sense of sadness and perhaps even nostalgia. There is a certain wistfulness at play, a longing/yearning/pining for the past: a past that never happened (in my case). There is a delicacy and spareness here – in the colours and placement of objects in the mise-en-scène – which enhances the poetic telling of the story, the restrained aesthetic emphasising the choreographed movements within the scene. This, in turn, emphasises a sense of loss.

In these bittersweet longings for an innocence (of person, of situation), small vibrations of energy carry great import. The suspended stars of Party No. 1, the abandoned heart of Party No. 5 with the single red ball perched precariously on the edge of the table – a masterstroke! If that little red ball was not there, the image simply would not work. To realise what the image needed, and to place that single ball there in the most knowing (yet spiritual) of positions, shows that this artist really knows what she is doing in this body of work. The fun / longing continues in Party No. 7, with its delicious monochromatic colours counterbalanced with the effusive staining of the spilt slurpee. Balance, restraint and intimacy are the key to these works, and MacDonald has achieved this to marvellous affect.

The only mis-step is the size of these images. I saw Party No. 2 at the William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize 2013 at the Monash Gallery of Art recently at the largest size (110 x 160cm, the other sizes being 76 x 110cm and 33 x 38cm) and it simply didn’t work. No ifs and buts, it simply did not work at the size it was displayed. Why artists persist is printing their work at a huge scale when the image simply cannot sustain such a size, both conceptually and visually, is beyond me. Is it because they think it will be lost in the crowd (of a prize) if they don’t print it that big, or because it’s fashionable to print so large and the clientele want it that size as a statement piece for their home? The ONLY size out of the three that these images will work is at 33 x 38cm because of the intimacy of the subject matter. They photographs need to be jewel-like to radiate their energy. At the larger sizes this energy is totally lost.

So if you like this work buy three or four at the smaller size and let the images draw you into an intimate embrace with an impermanent, and perhaps fond remembered, past.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Anne MacDonald. 'Party no.2' 2012-13

 

Anne MacDonald (Australian, b. 1960)
Party no.2
2012-13
Fine art ink-jet print
110 x 160cm
edition of 5

 

Anne MacDonald. 'Party no.3' 2012-13

 

Anne MacDonald (Australian, b. 1960)
Party no.3
2012-13
Fine art ink-jet print
110 x 160cm
edition of 5

 

Anne MacDonald. 'Party no.4' 2012-13

 

Anne MacDonald (Australian, b. 1960)
Party no.4
2012-13
Fine art ink-jet print
110 x 160cm
edition of 5

 

 

As a parent, observing my child growing up fills me with wonder, but also a sense of loss.

Children’s birthday parties are important social rituals, and on the surface of things, joyous and festive celebrations of life. However, on another level, they are compelling indicators of time’s inexorable passing. Children’s party decorations, food, gifts, games, toys and costumes alter each year with the age of the child. Their role extends beyond pure ornament and artifice to become symbolic of a transitory childhood world.

Looking at children’s birthday parties as symbols of loss and impermanence, Party continues my exploration into the relationship between the photographic still life, transience and mortality. In this series I have recreated ephemeral banquet scenes of party cakes and decorations. The images record the aftermath of the party, when all the fun is over, the presents have been opened, the cake eaten and the guests have left.

Artist statement

 

Anne MacDonald. 'Party no.5' 2012-13

 

Anne MacDonald (Australian, b. 1960)
Party no.5
2012-13
Fine art ink-jet print
110 x 160cm
edition of 5

 

Anne MacDonald. 'Party no.6' 2012-13

 

Anne MacDonald (Australian, b. 1960)
Party no.6
2012-13
Fine art ink-jet print
110 x 160cm
edition of 5

 

Anne MacDonald. 'Party no.7' 2012-13

 

Anne MacDonald (Australian, b. 1960)
Party no.7
2012-13
Fine art ink-jet print
110 x 160cm
edition of 5

 

Anne MacDonald. 'Party no.8' 2012-13

 

Anne MacDonald (Australian, b. 1960)
Party no.8
2012-13
Fine art ink-jet print
110 x 160cm
edition of 5

 

Anne MacDonald. 'Party no.9' 2012-13

 

Anne MacDonald (Australian, b. 1960)
Party no.9
2012-13
Fine art ink-jet print
110 x 160cm
edition of 5

 

 

Bett Galllery
369 Elizabeth Street
North Hobart Tasmania 7000
Australia
Phone: +61 (0) 3 6231 6511

Opening hours:
Mon – Fri 10am – 5.30pm
Sat 10am – 4pm

Bett Gallery website

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27
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Density’ by Andrew Follows, curated by Dr Marcus Bunyan, at Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond

Exhibition dates: 27th August – 21st September 2013

Curator: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Andrew Follows. 'Elevation, Doreen' 213

 

Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019)
Elevation, Doreen
213
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5cm

 

 

A wonderful exhibition by vision impaired photographer Andrew Follows at Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond. It has been a real pleasure to mentor Andrew over the past year and to see the fruits of our labour is incredibly satisfying. The images are strong, elemental, atmospheric, immersive. Due to the nature of Andrew’s tunnel vision there are hardly any traditional vanishing points within the images, instead the ‘plane of existence’ envelops you and draws you in.

Well done to everyone involved with the project. I would particularly like to thank Fiona Cook from Arts Access Victoria for keeping the project on track; the amazing Darren from CPL Digital for his most excellent efforts to print the almost impossible print; Jondi Keane from Deakin University for opening the exhibition; Anna Briers for writing a wonderful catalogue essay; and Anita Traverso for believing in Andrew and giving him an exhibition when many wouldn’t. Many thankx and respect to all.

Now onto the next project!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
The photographs below appear in the order they are in the exhibition. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Density n.

The degree of optical opacity of a medium or material, as of a photographic negative;

Thickness of consistency;

Complexity of structure or content.

 

 

Andrew Follows. 'Number 31, Eltham' 2013

 

Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019)
Number 31, Eltham
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5cm

 

Andrew Follows. 'Green, Montsalvat' 2013

 

Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019)
Green, Montsalvat
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5cm

 

Andrew Follows. 'Shadowlife' 2013

 

Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019)
Shadowlife
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5cm

 

Andrew Follows. 'Garland, South Melbourne' 2013

 

Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019)
Garland, South Melbourne
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
40 cm x 27cm

 

Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019) 'Indigo, Edenvale' 2013

 

Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019)
Indigo, Edenvale
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5 cm

 

 

The Mind’s Eye: Density in the Work of Andrew Follows

Anna Briers

 

Seeing has never been about the simple act of looking. It can be defined by the parameters of our past experience and cognitive stock, factors which enable, inhibit and shape our perceptive abilities. Ultimately, our ways of seeing are affected by our learnt cultural assumptions about the universe.1

Cultural theorist James Elkins has said, ‘blindness is not the opposite of vision, but it’s constant companion, and even the foundation of seeing itself.’2 In his seminal text The Object Stares Back, Elkins illustrates that we are blind to the limits of our own vision and that this unknowingness about our visual fallibilities is crucial to ordinary seeing. This blindness relates to a hierarchy of vision, defined not only by our psychological limitations but our physiological ones as well – the selection process that we employ to filter the vast proliferating output of information that we are inundated with on a daily basis. Without which, we would probably experience a kind of cerebral meltdown.

If vision is dependent on a certain amount of blindness, then by extension the notion that a photographic image can accurately document the truth is a misconception. The camera is not simply a black box that can correctly capture a quotation of reality, a machine of ‘logic and light’,3 for the act of taking a photograph is reliant on the careful selection and framing of a particular object or subject. The result of this point of view is the depiction of a subjective reality at the exclusion of everything else which is made invisible: eliminated by the perimeters of the frame.

In this context, it is interesting to consider the work of legally blind photographer Andrew Follows. Follows has a degenerative condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) that has rendered one eye completely blind with ever diminishing tunnel vision in the other. Follows can perceive three meters ahead, albeit through an obscuring haze. The clarity of his vision is dependent on lighting and various environmental factors; objects are often more perceptible at night. Whilst form and structure are apparent, he cannot see the intricate tonal details of a stained glass window. He cannot know that the colour of your scarf is royal blue. All this changes however, when Follows observes light flooding through the lens of a camera.

Through the small rectangular viewing panel on the reverse of a digital camera, Follows’ world is revealed. He is able to discern architectural detail and the vibrancy of nature; he is able to know that his favourite shade in the vast tonal spectrum is royal blue. In a realisation of Marshall McLuhan’s notion of the camera as a prosthetic extension,4 Follows’ camera extends his sight, and through it he is able to capture his unique vision, for a moment or for a millennia, a physical expression of the imaginings of his mind’s eye.

Curated by Dr Marcus Bunyan, the concept of Density was envisaged as a point of departure to explore the manifold variations and subsequent ruminations on the term as it relates to Follows’ perspective. As a technical descriptive, density explains the degree of optical opacity within a photographic negative. Portions of film that have been exposed to greater amounts of light yield a greater deposit of reduced silver. This is referred to as having a higher density than areas of shadow.5

Density also denotes a thickness of consistency and many of Follows’ works exhibit a complexity of compositional structure and content that elucidates the nature of Follows’ perception. ‘Even in the physicality of my vision, these photographs have a certain feeling that reflects my relationship to the world and how I visualise it.’6 A thematic constant that binds this series together is the shallow depth of field that is combined with a sense of the frame or the foreground being the view. Follows’ images, and therefore our view into his world is a restricted one. As the viewer we must frequently gaze through a kind of haze or obstruction in order to participate.

A pivotal example of this is Elevation, Doreen, 2013, where the composition is segmented by the skeletal structure of the wooden and steel supports of a building. Intersecting diagonals and verticals delineate and contain space across the picture plane, framing the mid-ground and background within its architecture. It is not the vista that is of interest to Follows.

This image cannot escape the requisite art historic parallels with movements such as the Russian Constructivists or De Stijl with its ‘Mondrian-esque’ all over composition. However the image speaks of interiority, its emphasis is on the foreground and by drawing our attention to the mechanics of how the view is framed we are made conscious of the act of seeing. There is a layering or doubling that occurs here: Follows makes us aware of the limitations of our own vision, through the act of looking – by revealing his unique vision, as a result of partial blindness.

Similarly, Void, Eltham, 2013, leaves us grasping for some semblance of illumination and visual clarity within a desolate and dimly lit car park. While our eye is guided across the picture plane by white lines and columns that recede into space, our view is ultimately obstructed by a concrete barrier covered in territorial markings and thus, we are reminded of the limitations of our own vision as we are left to gaze into the dense abyss.

A thematic constant in Follows’ images such as No. 31 Eltham, 2013, is that they resist a singular point of perspective as evidenced by early Renaissance painters where everything was centred on the eye of the beholder; the visible world arranged for the spectator as the universe was once thought to be arranged for God.7 By contrast, many photos evidence a planar sense of spatiality. Often lacking in a noticeable vanishing point, his images have an immersive potential and we are drawn into the various densities within Follows’ shallow depth of field. This is exemplified by the rich textures of Scarp face, Beechworth, 2013, and the lush grassland depicted in Green, Montsalvat, 2013.

Many of the photographs in Density instill a quiet contemplative mood that is partially evoked by a muted tonal palette. Yet within this visionary series the viewer can also bear witness to the reoccurrence of otherworldly imagery, as well as transient and transformational spaces. This sense is further enhanced by the fact that Follows’ photographs are often shot at times when the light is fleeting, on the interstice of night and day. This is exemplified by Green on Blue, 2013, where Follows captures a train in motion, conveying a temporality and flux that eloquently describes a state of transience: of being between spaces, neither here nor there.

With Judges Chair, Beechworth, 2013, Follows conveys the courtroom where infamous Australian Bushranger Ned Kelly was committed to stand trial for murder, prior to his eventual hanging in 1880. The image pervades an institutional formality that is intensified by a classically balanced composition, combined with ominous historical undertones. Yet the space depicted is interrupted by the glimmer of an ethereal light that bolts across the far wall, puncturing the image. Alternative possibilities become illuminated and a sense of otherworldliness becomes palpable.

Hillock No’s 1-3, Windsor, conveys the everyday subject matter of a BMX bike park. Photographed at night utilising the urban ambience of streetlights, the mounds of earth are lit by unearthly glow. Under the gaze of Andrew Follows, the site is infused with an eerie quality. No longer a metropolitan playground, it resembles the desertous territories of an alien landscape, perhaps on some other planetary body or far distant moon.

As Elkins said, blindness is not the opposite of sight, but it’s constant companion. It is therefore, not sight that is required to take a great photograph – it is vision. By using the camera as a prosthetic extension through which he is able to perceive and frame the universe, Follows’ photographs expound the limitations and fallibilities of our own ways of seeing. Moreover, he is able to reveal to us the uniqueness of his subjective view – forged from the rich imaginings of his mind’s eye.

Anna Briers independent writer and curator, Melbourne 2013

 

Endnotes

  1. Berger, John. Ways of seeing: based on the BBC television series. London: British Broadcasting Corporation; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972, p. 11.
  2. Elkins, James. The object stares back: on the nature of seeing. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.
  3. Elkins, James. What photography is. New York: Routledge, 2011
  4. McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding media: the extensions of man. London: Routledge, 2001. p. 210.
  5. Adams, Ansel. The negative: exposure and development. Hastings-on-Hudson, N. Y.: Morgan & Morgan, 1968.
  6. Quote drawn from artist’s statement.
  7. Berger, Op. cit., p. 16.

 

 

Andrew Follows. 'Green on blue' 2013

 

Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019)
Green on blue
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
157.3 cm x 86.5cm

 

Andrew Follows. 'Scarp face, Beechworth' 2013

 

Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019)
Scarp face, Beechworth
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
30 cm x 30cm

 

Andrew Follows. 'Judge's Chair, Beechworth' 2013

 

Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019)
Judge’s Chair, Beechworth
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
90 cm x 60cm

 

Andrew Follows. 'Void, Eltham' 2013

 

Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019)
Void, Eltham
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
90 cm x 60cm

 

Andrew Follows. 'Hillock No.1, Windsor' 2013

 

Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019)
Hillock No.1, Windsor
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5cm

 

Andrew Follows. 'Hillock No.2, Windsor' 2013

 

Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019)
Hillock No.2, Windsor
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5cm

 

Andrew Follows. 'Hillock No.3, Windsor' 2013

 

Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019)
Hillock No.3, Windsor
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5cm

 

Andrew Follows. 'Torso, Eltham' 2013

 

Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019)
Torso, Eltham
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
14 cm x 20cm

 

 

Density Logos

Anita Traverso Gallery

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02
Aug
13

Invitation to opening: ‘Density’ by Andrew Follows, curated by Dr Marcus Bunyan at Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond, Melbourne

Date: Saturday 31st August 2013, 3.30 – 5pm

 

Andrew Follows. 'Density' invitation 2013

 

Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019)
Density invitation
2013

 

 

I welcome all friends to the opening of the first exhibition I have curated since the completion of my Master of Art Curatorship at the University of Melbourne.

 

density n.

the degree of optical opacity of a medium or material, as of a photographic negative; thickness of consistency; complexity of structure or content.

 

You are cordially invited to the opening of Density, a solo exhibition of photographs by Andrew Follows on Saturday 31st  August 3.30 – 5pm at The Anita Traverso Gallery, 7 Albert Street Richmond, Victoria.

The works premiered in this exhibition are the culmination of a mentorship between Dr Marcus Bunyan and Andrew Follows, supported by Arts Access Victoria as part of the Boost Pathways Program.

“Curated by Dr Marcus Bunyan, the concept of Density was envisaged as a point of departure to explore the manifold variations and subsequent ruminations on the term as it relates to Follows’ perspective. As a technical descriptive, density explains the degree of optical opacity within a photographic negative. Portions of film that have been exposed to greater amounts of light yield a greater deposit of reduced silver. This is referred to as having a higher density than areas of shadow. Density also denotes a thickness of consistency and many of Follows’ works exhibit a complexity of compositional structure and content that elucidates the nature of Follows’ perception.”

.
Anna Briers. “The Mind’s Eye: Density in the Work of Andrew Follows.” Catalogue essay 2013

 

Curator: Dr Marcus Bunyan
Guest Speaker: 4pm Dr Jondi Keane, Senior Lecturer Deakin University
Artists Floor Talk: 3pm Saturday 7 September
Preview from Tuesday 27 August
Exhibition until Saturday 21 September
Gallery Hours Wed-Sat 11-5 + by appointment

The Opening will be Auslan Interpreted and the exhibition will be Audio Described.

Please click on the images below for a larger version.

 

Andrew Follows. 'Density' invitation 2013

 

Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019)
Density invitation
2013

 

Andrew Follows. 'Density' catalogue cover 2013

 

Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019)
Density catalogue cover
2013

 

 

Anita Traverso Gallery

This gallery is now closed.

Anita Traverso Gallery 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.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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