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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

“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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16
Sep
12

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

Exhibition dates: 11th August – 23rd September 2012

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

Press release from ACCA

 

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

Pat Brassington. 'Untitled (triptych)' 1989

Pat Brassington. 'Untitled (triptych)' 1989

Pat Brassington. 'Untitled (triptych)' 1989

 

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

 

 

The Secret: The Photo Worlds of Pat Brassington

Juliana Engberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Juliana Engberg

 

Installation view of Pat Brassington. 'The Gift' 1986

Pat Brassington. 'The Gift' 1986

Pat Brassington. 'The Gift' 1986

Pat Brassington. 'The Gift' 1986

Pat Brassington. 'The Gift' 1986

 

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

 

 

An interview with Pat Brassington

What sorts of things have inspired your work?

Ideas. Ideas that come from life’s experiences, from family and friends, the ideas embodied in the vast array of exhibited and published visual artworks. Literature, cinema and music, the natural world and human nature.
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Are there any particular artists who have influenced you?

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

Can you explain the processes and techniques in your work?

They vary but I often recycle a lot of material from my own photographic archive, something I continue to accumulate. As a work develops a specific requirement may arise so I will hunt around, or create the elements to produce a result I’m after. Clarification about the shape of new work emerges during the making process. It’s important to entertain possibilities and not shut them off unexplored: it can be like being in an extended state of uncertainty. But decisions are made.
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When you began working digitally and using Photoshop and digital colour printing techniques how did this develop or change the themes in your work?

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

It is part of the form of the visual world. Generally I don’t try to feel or deal separately with the components of an image.
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People comment on the personal nature of your work – what do you think about that?

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

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

What kinds of literature do you enjoy reading?

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

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

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

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

 

 

Pat Brassington. 'Sensors' 2010

 

Pat Brassington (Australian, b. 1942)
Sensors
2010

 

Pat Brassington. ‘Radar’ 2009

 

Pat Brassington (Australian, b. 1942)
Radar
2009

 

Pat Brassington. 'By the Way' 2010

 

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

 

 

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

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

Australian Centre for Contemporary Art website

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30
Jul
12

Artwork: ‘Transit’ series by Katrin Koenning, Melbourne

July 2012

 

Katrin Koenning. 'Untitled' from the series 'Transit' (2009 - )

 

Katrin Koenning (Australian, b. Germany 1978)
Untitled from the series Transit
2009 –

 

 

Transit is a stimulating body of work by Melbourne artist Katrin Koenning that documents mostly everyday journeys. As Koenning notes, “It is concerned with the space that lies between destinations, routines and obligations – the space between distances, if you so like,” where strangers are thrown together in an intimate space. The outcome of these encounters is mainly silence. In these works photography and the depiction of the lived world becomes the primer and reference point for a mediated existence, one based on longing, desire, reverie, absent presence and the phantasies of daydreams.

Compositionally the work is strong. Koenning shows an excellent understanding of the construction of the image plane and the use of colour, light and dark complements her intellectual enquiry. This much is given: these are excellent images that immerse the viewer in a visual dreamscape. What I am more interested in here is the transitional spaces of the journey, the traces of light that reflect back to us the concerns of the photographer and the conceptual ideas upon which the work is based.

Even when people are asleep in these photographs (which they sometimes are) it is as if an internal image, a day dream, a subconscious image is projected into/onto the external world in an act of scopophilic [the desire for pleasurable looking] voyeurism. It is as though our daydreams are inscribed in a physical location and we identify with this imaginary image and take it for reality.1 “This specific joy of receiving from the external world images that are usually internal… of seeing them inscribed in a physical location… of discovering in this way something almost realisable in them”2 becomes one reality of the journey. We become possessed, possessed by the phantasies of our daydreams, possessed by desire for this imaginary image.

Paradoxically these daydreams, the longing and yearning of the inner voice for a better place to be, for a holiday, for an escape from the drudgery of everyday life (for an imaginary, hallucinatory image) promote an escapism in the traveller and the absenting of presence that can be seen on any tram or train, any day of the week in cities throughout the world. The enactment of absent presence is usually performed through technology of some kind – a book, headphones, smart phones that connect to the internet, conversation on the mobile which is mainly gossip and texting – that distract people from having a quiet mind that leads to the contemplation of Self. The fear of silence is the fear of quietening the chattering voice in your head, being afraid of what you might find. The act of non-engagement is supplemented by the necessity of avoiding eye contact with fellow travellers, of making conversation, of engaging with strangers in any meaningful way. Hence the silence of forcibly intimate spaces.

The photographs that make up the series Transit form a theatrical space, a dramatic space where the people in them are separated from the outside world, neither here nor there, present but absent at one and the same time. This ritual of (non)spectatorship begins long before we begin our journey: the preparation, leaving the house with headphones and iPod, iPad, iPhone and I. This is followed by the ritual of buying a ticket (or not), boarding the train, tram, bus, plane or car being an effective way of transforming time and space. Our practices of mobility, that is our acts of moving are constituted in our acts of staying. What we take with us (for example our passport when we go overseas), always takes our place of residing, of staying, with us. Travel becomes the enactment or enfolding of bodies that move and bodies that stay, of stability.3 As Mary Louise Pratt has observed recently, the Western subject is an autonomous being with inherent conditions attached to its body and mobility is the privileged figure of its freedom, the proof and performance of its liberated state. In the metaphor of flow there is the enactment of freedom.4 Ironically, in the flow of travel envisaged in these photographs there is a dis/placement of desire onto the object of our (non)attention: in other words if we observe the world and desire it (as in the woman looking out of the window onto the distant view of the city, below) we displace our desire onto the object of our affection. If, on the other hand, we ignore the distant vista (as in the man playing with his iPod while the world flashes past outside, below) we displace our own presence through non-attention and our desire becomes a narcissistic attraction to Self. The remainer (who remains) and the remainder (what is left) is dictated by the place and placedness of the encounter, the interdependent modalities along the points of un/freedom (displacement of desires onto other may, in fact, not be freedom at all!)

In a sense, and I use that word advisedly, these images become trans-sensual, hovering between one desirous place and the next, between one condition or possibility of becoming and another. Here I must note that I see a philosophical difference between ‘transit’ and ‘in transit’. ‘Transit’ suggests a pre-determined path between point A and point B: for example in the transit of Venus that recently took place the path that Venus would take was already mapped out, even before the event happened, even if Venus was absent. The DNA of the journey, its blueprint if you like, is already formed in the knowledge: we are going to Collins Street, Melbourne, the path immanent in the tabula rasa of the journey even before it has started. ‘In transit’ on the other hand, suggests an amorphous space that has no beginning and no end. There is no boundary that defines the journey, much as in these images “amorphous thinking in visual terms is inextricably bound up with sensation and perception. In many ways, how we think is how we see and vice versa.”5 Perhaps the series should have been called In Transit, for the images visualise a conception of boundary and form that is constantly in flux, emanating as it does from the subconscious desires of the traveller. These are scenarios for an intuitive vision of an amorphous space that image a lapse in time, where energy and information, light and shadow, harmony and form challenge an absolute identity, the pre-determined path.6

Projection of inner desires onto the actual world becomes the locality for the contemporary mythologies of values, beliefs, dreams and desires.7 In a Buddhist sense, in the longing of an individual to effect his or her liberation this flow of sense-desire must be cut completely. Instead of a desire to possess the object of their longing and then to be possessed by that desire (desire to possess / possessed by desire) we must learn, as Krishnamurti has insightfully observed, not to make images out of every word, out of every vision and desire. We must be attentive to the clarity of not making images – of desire, of prejudice, of flattery – and then we might become aware of the world that surrounds us, just for what it is and nothing more.8 Then there would be less need for the absenting of self into the technological ether or the day dreams of foreign lands or the desire for a better life.

The strength of this work is the trans-sensuality of the photographs. Their trans-sensuality initiates differently configured constructions of the world, one that will not allow the world to simply be displaced by a lack of awareness, a lack of presence in the world. The photographs physically queer the performative aspect of the actor upon the stage, allowing the viewer to understand the process that is happening within the photographs and then NOT construct alternate narratives of longing and desire if they so wish. What they do for the viewer is collapse the boundaries between the subjective and the objective, between the conscious and the subconscious, inducing in the viewer a glimpse of self-actualization,9 whereby the viewer has the ability to enjoy the experience of just being. As the viewer becomes the person in the photograph (by understanding the experience of being, not by making an image) the permeability and lack of fixity of the boundaries between self and other, between self and amorphous space, between self and the physical world becomes evident. We become aware of the suspension of time and space in these momentary, (photographic) acts of transcendence. These wonderful, never ending moments.

Dr Marcus Bunyan
July 2012

 

  1. Leonard, Richard. The Mystical Gaze of the Cinema: the Films of Peter Weir. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2009, p. 23
  2. Metz, C. Essais Sémiotiques. Paris: Klincksieck, 1977, p. 136 quoted in Leonard, Op. cit.
  3. Pratt, Mary Louise. “On Staying.” Keynote speech presented at the international conference Travel Ideals: Engaging with Spaces of Mobility. July 18th 2012 at the University of Melbourne
  4. Ibid.,
  5. Navarro, Kevin. “An Amorphous Image Process,” on Rhizome: Image Theory website. January 19th 2010 [Online] Cited 29/07/2012. rhizome.org/discuss/view/44895/
  6. Ibid.,
  7. Leonard Op. cit., p. 56
  8. KrishnamurtiBeginnings of Learning. London: Penguin, 1975, p. 131
  9. “It must be noted that self-actualization is not necessarily related to vocation or career choice … From Malsow’s (Maslow, A (1970) Motivation and Personality. New York, Harper & Row) standpoint, self-actualization is not primarily concerned with results of a particular kind of activity – it is concerned with the experience of the activity itself – not the composition but the composing – not the work of art but the creative process by which it is produced – not the taste of the food, but the creativity in the cooking of it. This is not to say that the product has no importance. What Maslow is emphasizing is the fact that the self-actualized persons is fulfilling his potentiatlities in the act itself. A byproduct of this creative act is a unique outcome. He may admire the result of this process. But the enjoyment of the process itself is also extremely important. The ability to enjoy the experience of being, therefore, is one of the essential capabilities of the healthy individual.” (My italics)
    Benson, Lou. Images,Heroes and Self-Perceptions. Englewood Hills, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1974, pp. 352-354

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Many thankx to Katrin Koenning for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All photographs Untitled from the series Transit (2009 – ) © Katrin Koenning.

 

 

Katrin Koenning. 'Untitled' from the series 'Transit' (2009 - )

 

Katrin Koenning. 'Untitled' from the series 'Transit' (2009 - )

 

Katrin Koenning. 'Untitled' from the series 'Transit' (2009 - )

 

Katrin Koenning. 'Untitled' from the series 'Transit' (2009 - )

 

Katrin Koenning (Australian, b. Germany 1978)
Untitled from the series Transit
2009 –

 

 

Transit documents people on mostly everyday journeys. It is concerned with the space that lies between between destinations, routines and obligations – the space between distances, if you so like. While I travel and observe, I write down snippets of overheard conversations. Old ladies talk about the weather, teenagers gossip, you hear laughter and bits of stories in amongst the monotonous sighing of the train or the mourning sound of an aching ship. Mostly, you hear silence – strangers are thrown together for a short while, forced to share an intimate space. They rarely talk.

Artist statement

 

Katrin Koenning. 'Untitled' from the series 'Transit' (2009 - )

 

Katrin Koenning. 'Untitled' from the series 'Transit' (2009 - )

 

Katrin Koenning. 'Untitled' from the series 'Transit' (2009 - )

 

Katrin Koenning. 'Untitled' from the series 'Transit' (2009 - )

 

Katrin Koenning. 'Untitled' from the series 'Transit' (2009 - )

 

Katrin Koenning. 'Untitled' from the series 'Transit' (2009 - )

 

Katrin Koenning. 'Untitled' from the series 'Transit' (2009 - )

 

Katrin Koenning. 'Untitled' from the series 'Transit' (2009 - )

 

Katrin Koenning (Australian, b. Germany 1978)
Untitled from the series Transit
2009 –

 

 

Katrin Koenning website

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22
Jun
12

Preview: ‘Night’s Ocean Shore’ by Andrew Follows from ‘Through the Looking Glass Dimly’ at The Old Ambulance Depot, Edinburgh

Exhibition dates: 4th August – 18th August 2012

 

Andrew Follows. 'Untitled' from the sequence 'Night's Ocean Shore' 2012

 

Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019)
Untitled
2012
From the sequence Night’s Ocean Shore
Digital inkjet print

 

 

This sequence is part of a joint exhibition by blind photographers Andrew Follows and Rosita McKenzie titled Through the Looking Glass Dimly to be held at The Old Ambulance Depot, Edinburgh in August 2012. The exhibition is part of the Edinburgh Art Festival. On his first trip overseas Follows is travelling to Scotland with his trusty companion Eamon, his guide dog. The words below are an analysis of Andrew’s work, a photographer who only has 15% vision in one eye and is legally blind. This is the first time anyone has written about Andrew’s work in any depth. It has been great fun to work with Andrew on this project and it is a privilege to write some hopefully insightful words about his art practice.

The exhibition by Follows and McKenzie takes a twofold path. Firstly, work from both photographers will investigate the resilience of bush-fire prone landscapes in both Scotland and Australia. Secondly, work will portray the fluid spaces of the urban and natural landscape at night in both the Southern and Northern hemispheres. The exhibition is curated by Kate Martin from the Contemporary Art Exchange.

This is a beautiful, well resolved sequence that has a very intimate narrative, a journey of discovery from the stars in the night sky to our own star, the sun and on to the illumination of the earth at night. Under any circumstances, Follows’ vision is outstanding.

 

 

 

Andrew Follows Night’s Ocean Shore sequence 2012

 

 

The Eye that sees the Sun: Andrew Follows and his Tabula rasa

 

“‘The world is my representation’: this is a truth valid with reference to every living and knowing being, although man alone can bring it into reflective, abstract consciousness. If he really does so, philosophical discernment has dawned on him. It then becomes clear and certain to him that he does not know a sun and an earth, but only an eye that sees a sun, a hand that feels the earth; that the world around him is there only as representation, i.e. only in reference to another, the representer, which is he himself.”

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Arthur Schopenhauer. ‘The World as Will and Representation’ 1818

 

 

Please close your left eye and place your left hand over it; now make a circle with the thumb and forefinger of your right hand and curl the rest of your fingers to make a tunnel; now place this hand to your right eye and close the aperture until you can only see a small amount of the world. Imagine, seeing the world through this one eye with only fifteen percent vision. This is the field of vision, the line of sight of artist Andrew Follows.

The artist’s visual acuity (the capacity of the eye to see fine detail, measured by determining the finest detail that can just be detected) has been with him since birth. He has always seen the world this way and does not regard it as a disability. In fact, his highly refined sense of “sight” enables spaces of poss/ability (not dis/ability) within his artistic practice. The development of an abnormal keen-sightedness helps him record his impression of the world via the medium of photography.

His is not the vision of im(pair)ment as the rest of us see the world, through two eyes, but the holistic vision of a monocular eye that becomes the root of his photography. The lens of the camera becomes an extension of Self, the shutter his very existence and the digital screen on the back of the camera his tabula rasa, a “blank slate” upon which he writes his experience and perception, his knowledge of the world. His experience of vision and the evidence of his photographs become both the beginning and the end of the work, a place in which his fundamental nature resides.

In today’s polyvocal world, with the proliferation of visual protheses (such as smart phones and digital cameras) we are now seeing the encoding of increasingly mental images of the material world. Follows’ photographs are an amalgamation of these mental images and what he can physically see on the screen, for when taking a photograph he cannot see details in the image he is taking. Follows takes the ‘I can see’ of sight, located within his field of vision, and through his organisation of the spatio-temporal field of vision and perception, he offers the viewer a unique ‘take’ on the world. His point of view is a collection of objects to which the eye is directed and on which it rests within a certain distance.

From a visual point of view this resting facilitates in Follows’ work a particular serenity and beauty. His skill as an artist is to combine his imagination with what he sees through the screens of camera and computer to create ‘other’ worlds. These other worlds are evidenced in Follows’ love of night time photography, as though his view of the environment, the spaces and places that surround him, is enhanced through a doubling of perception: of light, at night, through tunnel vision. Our eyes rest upon the effervescent lights of an oil refinery on the outskirts of Melbourne; the star trails blazing across the night sky; the reflections in water at Corio Bay, Geelong. Most importantly, it is the quality of light that imbues Follows’ work that enhances the narrative, the journey on which the artist takes us.

Follows’ shows us his world, and our world, as we have never seen it before. What is important in the work is that he asks us to embrace his vision and incorporate his photographs into our collective memory. The world is his representation, a truth valid with reference to every living and knowing being, brought by us into reflective, abstract consciousness. We the viewer become his eye, his only eye that sees Schopenhauer’s sun.

Dr Marcus Bunyan
May 2012

 

 

Andrew Follows. 'Untitled' from the sequence 'Night's Ocean Shore' 2012

Andrew Follows. 'Untitled' from the sequence 'Night's Ocean Shore' 2012

 

 

Andrew Follows. 'Untitled' from the sequence 'Night's Ocean Shore' 2012

 

Andrew Follows. 'Untitled' from the sequence 'Night's Ocean Shore' 2012

 

 

Andrew Follows. 'Untitled' from the sequence 'Night's Ocean Shore' 2012

 

Andrew Follows. 'Untitled' from the sequence 'Night's Ocean Shore' 2012

 

Andrew Follows. 'Untitled' from the sequence 'Night's Ocean Shore' 2012

Andrew Follows. 'Untitled' from the sequence 'Night's Ocean Shore' 2012

 

Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019)
Untitled
From the sequence Night’s Ocean Shore
2012
Digital inkjet prints

 

 

Contemporary Art Exchange presents Through the Looking Glass Dimly a unique collaboration and exchange project between Australian and Scottish photographers Andrew Follows (Melbourne) and Rosita McKenzie (Edinburgh). Drawn together by their shared passion for photography, their experiences of visual impairment, and a desire to share their knowledge and skills globally, Andrew and Rosita have embarked on an ambitious visual arts project to raise awareness about visual impairment issues, celebrate recent artistic achievements and create the first international network for visually impaired artists.

Digital photography is an excellent medium for reflecting and exploring blind or vision impaired artists’ life experiences. For Rosita it provides ‘a voice’ and dispels the myth that totally blind people cannot possess vision and artistic imagination or participate fully in the visual arts. For Andrew, who has Retinitis Pigmentosa – a degenerative eye condition leaving him blind in one eye and with only fifteen percent vision in the other – it is a tool that enables him to see small glimpses of his fading world.

Andrew and Rosita have been collaborating to develop an exhibition of previous and new work. Since 2009, Andrew has documented the effects of, and resilience to, the devastating Black Saturday bushfires in the Victorian Highlands. Rosita, although having never ‘seen’ Andrew’s work, has responded to it by embarking on her own documentation of the effects of and regrowth after the unusual forest fires in the Scottish Highlands earlier this year. Andrew has also been experimenting with night photography and has developed a number of photographs capturing the Southern Hemisphere by night. In response, Rosita will develop a new body of work capturing the night sky from a Northern Hemisphere perspective. Both artists will also showcase examples from their wide range of photographs dealing with similar themes from natural and urban settings.

The project will be registered with the 2012 Edinburgh Art Festival and the Year of Creative Scotland. Through the Looking Glass Dimly will also coincide with other major international events taking place in Edinburgh during August such as the first International Cultural Summit, the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Festival of Politics at The Scottish Parliament.”

Text from the Contemporary Art Exchange

 

 

The Old Ambulance Depot
77 Brunswick Street
Edinburgh
EH7 5HS

Only open to the public during exhibitions and events

Andrew Follows Photography website

Edinburgh Art Festival website

The Old Ambulance Depot website

Contemporary Art Exchange website

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09
Jun
12

Appeal for donations: Andrew Follows and his exhibition in Edinburgh, August 2012

June 2012

 

 

Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019)
Untitled
from the series Night’s Ocean Shore
2012

 

 

As you may know I have been helping blind Australian photographer Andrew Follows as he prepares for the greatest adventure of his life, a joint exhibition as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival titled Through the Looking Glass, Dimly. The works have all be printed and framed and are on their way to Scotland at this very moment.

As the day draws near for Andrew and his guide dog Eamon to fly all the way to Europe, Andrew is running low on funds for the trip.

ANY DONATION, HOWEVER SMALL, WOULD BE GREATLY APPRECIATED !

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The donations are tax deductible in Australia – just in time for the end of the tax year! So please, get behind Andrew and give generously if you can. Included here is the Support My Arts Project donation form (180kb pdf) which you can print out and send off to Australia Business Arts who are supporting Andrew’s fund raising efforts.

Australia Business Arts
Foundation, Level 2, 405 Collins Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000

 

Many thankx

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Andrew Follows. 'Through the Looking Glass, Dimly' invitation

 

ABAF Andrew Follows support my art project

 

 

Andrew Follows website

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20
May
12

Review: ‘Littoral’ by Kristian Laemmle-Ruff at Colour Factory Gallery, Fitzroy

Exhibition dates: 4th May – 26th May 2012

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. 'Truck in Safi' 2010

 

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

 

 

Jeff Wall, the renowned Canadian photographer, observed recently that, “Photography is such a wide, complex art form medium that there’s no real single way of practising it. Up until 30 to 40 years ago, it was pretty much presumed that the way you practised photography seriously was in the documentary mode. It was very unilateral, other things weren’t really plausible. I never objected to documentary photography, but it’s not the whole story…”1

How true. In this post-photography world there are many spaces in the city for showing all kinds of photographic work, notably at the Centre for Contemporary Photography in Fitzroy. While the viewer does learn about different modes of photographic representation through experiential learning (making meaning from the direct experience of looking at such work), personally some contemporary photography often leaves me feeling rather underwhelmed. Rarely do I leave the CCP thinking, wow, that was a great “photography” exhibition, I have seen something amazing about the world that I had not recognised before. Interesting: possibly; inspiring / engaging / memorable: occasionally, which is perhaps why reviews of exhibitions at the CCP occur rather rarely on this blog. This is not to belittle the work that the CCP does as an establishment, far from it, but just to note that not much contemporary photography lasts long in the mind.

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

The artist’s literal rendition (the definition of littoral is that it relates to the coastal zone between the limits of high and low tides) of the interstitial spaces at the edge of urbana, the fluid spaces of a no man’s land, are beautifully visualised in the work. These entropic spaces are mainly devoid of physical human presence but filled with the detritus of humanity: concrete boxes and tangled beams of steel, satellite dishes and red-eyed chimney stacks. In Casablanca Terrace II (2010, below) satellite dishes shimmer in orange while in the distance alien lights seem to hover over the city; in Manneheim (2010, below) the whole photograph is a cold, chilly blue the only visible signs of human existence a couple of lights peeping from the flat windows (at left) while the belching smoke from numerous alien, red-eyed War of the Worlds chimney stacks blends seamlessly into the overcast sky (please enlarge the photograph to see these). When first looking at New Homes (2011, above) I thought the green lines at bottom left were trenches until I realised they were hedges. Then I noticed the empty oval in the upper right quadrant – a demolished sporting facility… a racetrack… a spaceship landing pad? In these familiar but alien landscapes (ice covered swimming pools, graveyards sitting under mountains) Laemmle-Ruff plays with colour, space and depth of field. In some photographs, such as Road to Essaouira (2010, below bottom) the depth of field is very shallow, the focus point in the photograph being the road and gravel, silver road sign and buildings falling out of focus beyond. Like the shifting of colour, this expansion and contraction of DOF from one photograph to the next adds to the body of works ethereality.

The best print in the exhibition is Truck in Safi (2010, above) which is an absolute knockout. The composition is beautifully visualised and the print is incredibly luminous and well balanced. The large white ‘M’ on the back of the earth-filled truck solidifies our gaze in the mid-foreground while, metaphorically, the letter stamps the earth as the possession of man. The road curves into the distance and upon it, as minute specks, are a bicycle and two motorbikes. The sweep of an industrial plant fills the horizon line in a sensuous entanglement of vessels and pipes. This truly is a beautiful photograph and therein lies the contradiction present in Laemmle-Ruff’s body of work. While seeking to capture the paradoxes of urbanisation and consumerism, a vernacular world, familiar and normal (both the beauty and frailty of our times as Laemmle-Ruff puts it), the beauty of the photographs becomes the heart of the work, its strength in the presence of the viewer and perhaps its slight weakness as well. The artist’s visual acoustics, his mythologising of the city if you like – the (dis)ease of the city as sublime photograph picturing the picturesque – has, to my mind, elements of Pictorialism in the artist’s scopophiliac looking. Nothing wrong with that, but we must acknowledge that there is a contradiction here, not between the beauty and frailty of our times, but between the frailty of the earth and the constructed beauty of the photograph seen through a desirous looking that might be at odds with Laemmle-Ruff’s intended project.

Be that as it may, it is a great pleasure to see a young, emerging artist produce such memorable photographic works. Walking into the gallery the viewer can littorally feel the pleasure that the artist has in capturing these complex, fluid spaces. The artist is at the beginning of a path of exploration where each new body of work will develop thematically out of concerns that have been evidenced here. Where this journey will take him is unknown but with courage, fortitude, knowledge, passion, a good eye and a camera he will go far. Good stuff!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Wall, Jeff quoted in Laurie, Victoria. “Lights, Camera,” in The Weekend Australian Review. May 19-20 2012, p. 5

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

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. 'New Homes' 2011

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
New Homes
2011
Type C print
100cm x 67cm

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. 'Casablanca Terrace II' 2010

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Casablanca Terrace II
2010
Type C print
100cm x 67cm

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. 'Manneheim' 2010

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Manneheim
2010
Type C print
100cm x 67cm

 

 

Littoral examines the shifting overlap between landscape and urbanscape. As a reaction to a traditional approach where the two are consciously separated, Laemmle-Ruff focuses on the often grotesque and ever-expanding littoral zone between civilisation and nature.

“I found these undefined zones did not discriminate on place or culture. From Morocco to the post WWII suburbs of Germany, somber skies were met with stubborn and aggressive urbanisation. I was drawn to contradictions. “The World Tastes Better with Pall Mall” claimed the cigarette ad. These empty remarks of consumerism seemed to go unchallenged. My intention was to capture these paradoxes and pull them from the wallpaper of modern sensibility. Our gaze once traveled to picturesque, unspoiled horizons, forests in mist and rolling plains. Instead it stops on concrete or becomes tangled in steel beams.”

Littoral presents us with spaces anticipating themselves. Housing estates on the fringe of development yet to be occupied; North African peasants walking past the mall’s facade where the market once stood; roof top terraces lined with satellite dishes streaming immaculate reception. We are left to wonder who will fill these homes. Who is in control of where urbanisation will go next?

Ultimately, this series may appear to be a presentation of a vernacular world, familiar and normal. This, in turn alludes to a desensitisation to our changing surroundings in an age of globalisation and overpopulation. Our landscape is increasingly becoming a manifestation of ourselves. Littoral urges one to question where the present seems to be leading us.

Practicing in both documentary and conceptual photography, from warm narratives to surreal visions, Kristian Laemmle-Ruff’s photographs subtly bring to light both the beauty and frailty of our times. As we spiral up the exponential curve of ‘progress’ there are dynamic ruptures, vulnerabilities and regenerative possibilities in our human reality – this is his motivation – a truth worth capturing.

Press release from the Colour Factory Gallery website

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. 'Olympic Stadium' 2012

 

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

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. 'Road to Essaouira' 2010

 

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Road to Essaouira
2010
Type C print
100cm x 67cm

 

 

Colour Factory Gallery
409-429 Gore Street
Fitzroy, Victoria 3056
Phone: +61 3 9419 8756

Colour Factory Gallery website

Kristian Laemmle-Ruff website

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13
May
12

Review: ‘Jacqui Stockdale: The Quiet Wild’ at Helen Gory Galerie, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 18th April – 19th May 2012

 

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

 

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

 

 

After a slow start to the season there has be a veritable feast of excellent photography exhibitions in Melbourne over the last month or so, including John Gollings and Jane Brown at Edmund Pearce Gallery, the Fred Kruger and Light Works exhibitions (at NGVA and NGVI respectively), Littoral by Kristian Laemmle-Ruff at Colour Factory (the next local review after this one) and this exhibition, The Quiet Wild by Jacqui Stockdale at Helen Gory Galerie.

This is a very strong exhibition by Jacqui Stockdale, the metre tall colour prints (printed by the Colour Factory) displaying magnificently in the large gallery at Helen Gory. The photographs remind me of a perverse take on the ethnographic Cartes de visite that were produced during the colonial Victorian era in Australia, images of native peoples taken in studios with painted backdrops together with their cultural artefacts (which, coincidentally, can be seen in great detail and sadness in the Fred Kruger exhibition at NGVA). Drawing on personal places and stories, Mexican carnival and wrestlers masks, Indian masks, Aboriginal names and locations, Velasquez’s Las Meninas, the ghost of Frida Kahlo, rituals, gods (such as Rama) and deities, Australian scenery, performance (the process of painting the models and the outcome of this interaction), Stockdale creates a wonderful melange of archetypal characters that subvert traditional identities and narratives. Her creations “shape-shift” and frustrate attempts at categorization and assimilation.

Stockdale’s performative tactics and multiple modes of address, her polyvocal subject if you like, may be said to be an effect of textuality: “a conscious recognition and pursuit of an altogether different set of values and historical and cultural trajectories.”1 Undeniably this performative act (this “ritual spectacle”2) has links to the Bakhtin’s idea of the carnivalesque and the carnival paradigm, which accords to certain patterns of play. Stockdale inverts cultural stereotypes (which embody elements of fixity, repetition, and ambivalence) located within the realms of the fetish, the scopic, and the Imaginary in order to subvert the collective memory of viewers that have been inscribed with a stereotypical collective vernacular: her work transgresses the fantasy that plays a formative role in colonial exercises of power.3

Bakhtin likens the carnivalesque in literature to the type of activity that often takes place in the carnivals of popular culture. In the carnival… social hierarchies of everyday life – their solemnities and pieties and etiquettes, as well as all ready-made truths – are profaned and overturned by normally suppressed voices and energies. Thus, fools become wise, kings become beggars; opposites are mingled (fact and fantasy, heaven and hell).”4

In Stockdale’s world, a “world upside-down” (quite appropriate for Australia), “Each new identity is one of inversion; man becomes woman, child becomes adult, animals transform into humans and vice-versa.”Another example of this inversion can be seen in the “branding” of her photographs. In colonial Cartes de visite the sitter is, more often than not, unknown – unless it is an important person. It is the photographer’s name which is printed on the front and back of the card. In these photographs the photographers name is an illegible signature at bottom left, while the title of the person in the photograph is stamped into the work at bottom right. Here Stockdale again inverts traditional textual readings, the titles of her “photographic portraits that embody a world of mystical characters in masquerade” indecipherable to the uninitiated: a coded language of identity and place – Lagunta ManEl Gato, Les Jumeaux, Dogboy of Gondwanan, Infanta Shamanta and Rama Jaara, The Royal Shepherdess. ‘Lagunta’ is Aboriginal for Tasmanian Tiger and ‘Leeawuleena’ for the land around Cradle Mountain. ‘El Gato’ is the cat, ‘Jaara’ being the Aboriginal name for the Long Gully region and ‘Gondwanan’ the name for the southernmost of two supercontinents (the other being Laurasia) before the world split apart into the structure that we known today.

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

  1. Fisher, Jean. “Witness for the Prosecution: The Writings of Coco Fusco,” in Fusco, Coco. The Bodies That Were Not Ours. London: Routledge, 2001, pp. 227-228
  2. Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World (trans. Helene Iswolsky). Cambridge: MIT Press, 1968, p. 5
  3. “According to Bhabha, stereotypes are located within the realms of the fetish, the scopic, and the Imaginary. He suggests that fantasy plays a formative role in colonial exercises of power. Bhabha describes the mechanism of cultural stereotypes as embodying elements of fixity, repetition, fantasy, and ambivalence, and suggests that if certain types of images are constantly presented in a range of different contexts, they will become imprinted onto the collective memory of viewers and inscribed within a collective vernacular.”
    Vercoe, Caroline. “Agency and Ambivalence: A Reading of Works by Coco Fusco,” in Fusco, Coco. The Bodies That Were Not Ours. London: Routledge, 2001, p. 240
  4. Anon. “Carnivalesque,” on Wikipedia. [Online] Cited 13/05/2012

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

 

Jacqui Stockdale. 'Les Jumeaux' 2012

 

Jacqui Stockdale (Australian, b. 1968)
Les Jumeaux
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

 

 

In this modern world of distractions there is a wild nature that stirs inside of us. A desire for transcendence, to become someone else, dance part naked and chant our lost songs so that they can be heard above the sounds of cities and mobile ring tones.

The Quiet Wild is a series of photographic portraits that embodies a world of mystical characters in masquerade set against hand-painted landscapes. The portraits playfully mimic the genre of exotic postcards and historical paintings where a fanciful subject is formally positioned within a make-believe landscape. The hand-painted settings in my photographs feature Australian scenery from places around Australia that have meaning to me including my mother’s property in Bendigo, the Melbourne Botanical Gardens and Lake Saint Claire in Tasmania.

I paint the models bodies and combine costumes and props including my own collection of rare masks originally used in dances of Mexican Carnival. This new work responds to established portrayals of human identity and masquerade informed by my research into different aspects of folk Carnivals where the masquerades are a fusion of clandestine voodoo, ancestral memory and personal revelation ritual and performance. Performance also plays a part in my photographic process where I interact with the models and allow the process to greatly determine the outcome. Each new identity is one of inversion; man becomes woman, child becomes adult, animals transform into humans and vice-versa.

The difference between painting the human subject and taking their portrait with a camera it is that during a photo shoot there is more of an element of performance. The subject, over a period of many hours often becomes a new character, extending a side of them that is not prevalent in daily life or invents a new identity. This is brought about by what I dress them in and how I direct them, provoking certain ideas, strengths about an animal power or super natural deity. I begin with an idea of character and a selection of costumes and them work intuitively as though in the dark or with eyes part open. I rarely end up with what I first imagined and revel in the surprise or discovery of a combined effort.

The inspiration for this series of work has come from a unique, rich and beautiful form of human expression that is found in the ritual side of folk art in the cultures around the world but mostly in Mexico. The traditional dances of Mexican Carnival provide an opportunity to revive the primeval gods from the depths of our communal memory, since dance constitutes our remotest language and most primitive sacred offering. The masks I have used in this series are from these types of ritual dance. They are recontextualised and worn in the works Lagunta Man and El Gato, Les Jumeaux, Dogboy of Gonwanan, Infanta Shamanta and Carnival of the Night. Other influences come from images of Exotic Postcards, regarding the formal presentation of the models, the constructed settings and the borders and way of labeling the image. Luchadora Botanica was influenced by a Goya Painting, Negro Returno – I wanted to bring one of my recent collages to life, See ‘to return’.

What I have done is imagined my own family as part ritualistic characters, setting in them in a landscape that I have visited.”

Artist statement by Jacqui Stockdale 2012

 

Jacqui Stockdale. 'Jaguar Hombre' 2012

 

Jacqui Stockdale (Australian, b. 1968)
Jaguar Hombre
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

 

Jacqui Stockdale. 'Lagunta Man, Leeawuleena' 2012

 

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

 

 

The ghost of Frida Kahlo is a haunting one that permeates many artists consciousness bringing with it not just a tragic story but intoxicating aromas of Mexican exotic, masks, Voo-Doo, bloody Mayan rituals and Catholicism gone troppo.

This is clearly evidenced in Jacqui Stockdale’s latest exhibition at Helen Gory Galerie in works such as Negro-Returno, Long Gully. The white lacy heart-shaped overlay of ghostly trees conceals a part-portrait of Frida here depicted in front of Long Gully Bendigo, the Stockdale property, after the Black Saturday bush fire three years ago. This haunting shadowy backdrop appears again in Rama Jaara, The Royal Shepherdess, ‘Jaara’ being the Aboriginal name for the Long Gully region. It is a personal aside of something that obviously touched this artist deeply, one to which she has bought her troupe of tableau vivant players to. Here, a Mauritian girl called Mimi, standing at attention, arms akimbo, dressed in remnants of regal colonial attire. The pose reminiscent of that of the Infanta Margarita in Velasquez’s Las Meninas. The dog has moved from bottom right to bottom left, here a small spotted Chinese Joss paper effigy made for the journey to the afterlife, rather than a great bounding Spanish mastiff. Our young self-possessed Mimi stares directly out of the picture space not as an Infanta, but as one of nature’s children, a shepherdess, her hairstyle resembling a ram’s head, informing that part of the title, ‘Rama’ a play on words.

Both the artists brothers are also players in this tableau: the younger as Lagunta Man, Leeawuleena and the artist’s twin as El Gato, van Diemonia. ‘Lagunta’ is Aboriginal for Tasmanian Tiger and ‘Leeawuleena’ for the land around Cradle Mountain. ‘El Gato’ is the cat, and both carrying a filmic reference to the recent movie The Hunter, filmed around Cradle Mt in Northern Tasmania. While the compositional phrasing has more than a nostalgic whiff of 19th century still studio photography, seen here such staged manners marry well to popular cinematic culture.

As this exhibition unfolds certain characterising concerns appear and reappear. Decapitation, and cross-cultural iconography make this a lavish art dining at the high table of pictorial fusion cuisine. Mexican masks, Joss paper, skulls, rites of passage tit-bits mix it with popular culture on the shag pile to produce a totally new hybrid. Folk memories merge with diaristic experiences, found objects flirt with finely painted trompe-oeil effects in an almost self-regulating metamorphosis.

In this Stockdale becomes a sort of gatekeeper, a ring master choreographer who will both mystify and amaze you with her family carnivale. Picture by picture, costume by costume, the staged imagined and the real, combine into a most fascinating enticement I find impossible to resist.

Catalogue essay by Jeff Makin, 2012

 

Jacqui Stockdale. 'Dogboy of Gondwanan' 2012

 

Jacqui Stockdale (Australian, b. 1968)
Dogboy of Gondwanan
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

 

Jacqui Stockdale. 'Negro Returno, Long Gully' 2012

 

Jacqui Stockdale (Australian, b. 1968)
Negro Returno, Long Gully
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

 

Jacqui Stockdale. 'Luchadora Botanica' 2012

 

Jacqui Stockdale (Australian, b. 1968)
Luchadora Botanica
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

 

 

Helen Gory Galerie

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06
May
12

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

Exhibition dates: 25th April – 12th May 2012

 

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

 

Jane Brown (Kuwait, Australia, b. 1967)
Big Trout, New South Wales
2010
Museo silver rag print
59 x 46 cm

 

 

As you should know by now, this blog tries to promote the work of less well known artists and subject matter. So instead of concentrating on the wonderful aerial bushfire photographs of the well-known artist John Gollings (showing in the same gallery in different spaces with the work of Michael Norton) I have decided to do a posting on the exhibition Australian Gothic by Jane Brown.

This is a good exhibition of small, darkly hewn, traditionally printed silver gelatin photographs, beautifully hung in the small gallery at Edmund Pearce and lit in the requisite, ambient manner. There are some outstanding photographs in the exhibition. The strongest works are the surrealist tinged, film noir-ish mise-en-scènes, the ones that emphasise the metaphorical darkness of the elements gathered upon the stage. Photographs such as Big TroutThe Female Factory, Adelong, New South Wales and Captain’s Flat Hotel, New South Wales really invoke a feeling of unhomely (or unheimlich), where nature is out of kilter. These images unsettle our idea of Oztraliana, our perceived sense of Self and our place in the world. They disrupt normal transmission; they transmutate the seen environment, transforming appearance, nature and form. Less successful in this quest are the bushfire landscapes. I feel these add little to the narrative thread of the exhibition and could have easily been left out in a judicious cull of the photographs. This would have made the overarching story line stronger still.

One of the best photographs in the exhibition is Lathamstowe (2011, below). This dark, brooding, intense photograph is a beautifully realised visualisation, one that balances scale, tone, light, form and darkness to create a haunting image that stays with you a long time after you have seen it. This one images says it all: the artist has talent. More please!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
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.

 

Jane Brown. 'Bushfire Landscape I' 2011

 

Jane Brown (Kuwait, Australia, b. 1967)
Bushfire Landscape I
2011
Fibre based, silver gelatin print
16.5 x 20.5 cm

 

Jane Brown. 'Bushfire Landscape II, Lake Mountain, Victoria' 2010

 

Jane Brown (Kuwait, Australia, b. 1967)
Bushfire Landscape II, Lake Mountain, Victoria
2010
Fibre based, silver gelatin print
16.5 x 19.5 cm

 

Jane Brown. 'The Female Factory (convict women’s prison), Ross, Tasmania' 2009

 

Jane Brown (Kuwait, Australia, b. 1967)
The Female Factory (convict women’s prison), Ross, Tasmania
2009
Fibre based, silver gelatin print
15.8 x 19.5 cm

 

Jane Brown. 'Lathamstowe' 2011

 

Jane Brown (Kuwait, Australia, b. 1967)
Lathamstowe
2011
Fibre based, silver gelatin print
16.5 x 16.5 cm

 

 

“I find it interesting how monochrome is used to differentiate the living and the dead, the past and the present. It has an ability to transcend the constraints of time, memory and death. I examine this a lot in my work – landscapes seem to have vestiges or traces of past life and memorials become otherworldly.”

.
Jane Brown. ‘Weekend Australian Review’, August 2011

 

“The antipodes was seen as a world of reversals, the dark subconscious of Britain. It was for all intents and purposes Gothic par excellence.”

.
Gary Turcotte. “Australian Gothic,” in Marie Mulvey-Roberts (ed.), ‘The Handbook to Gothic Literature’.1998

 

 

Comprising photographs taken in rural New South Wales, the ACT, Victoria and Tasmania, this exhibition takes its cue from the gothic imaginings of colonial Australia. We see images of a convict past, the bush Christmas, unforgiving landscapes and melancholic hotels. It carries echoes of the cinema of Wake in Fright (1971) and the Cars that Ate Paris (1974)Rendering visible the themes of the melancholic and the uncanny, Australian Gothic manifests itself in rural isolation – where the homely becomes unhomely (or unheimlich) and where nature is out of kilter.

 

Jane Brown. 'Adelong, New South Wales' 2011

 

Jane Brown (Kuwait, Australia, b. 1967)
Adelong, New South Wales
2011
Fibre based, silver gelatin print
16.5 x 20.5 cm

 

Jane Brown. 'Tumbarumba, New South Wales' 2012

 

Jane Brown (Kuwait, Australia, b. 1967)
Tumbarumba, New South Wales
2012
Fibre based, silver gelatin print
16.5 x 19.5 cm

 

Jane Brown. 'One Way, Hobart, Tasmania' 2009

 

Jane Brown (Kuwait, Australia, b. 1967)
One Way, Hobart, Tasmania
2009
Fibre based, silver gelatin print
16.5 x 19.5 cm

 

Jane Brown. 'Unheimlich, French Island, Victoria' 2010

 

Jane Brown (Kuwait, Australia, b. 1967)
Unheimlich, French Island, Victoria
2010
Fibre based, silver gelatin print
19 x 16 cm

 

Jane Brown. 'Captain’s Flat Hotel, New South Wales' 2012

 

Jane Brown (Kuwait, Australia, b. 1967)
Captain’s Flat Hotel, New South Wales
2012
Fibre based, silver gelatin print
21.5 x 17.5 cm

 

 

Edmund Pearce Gallery

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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: ‘Padlocks/People’ 1994-96

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