Posts Tagged ‘Australian contemporary sculpture

21
Feb
16

Review: ‘On the beach’ at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery, Mornington

Exhibition dates: 11th December 2015 – 28th February 2016

Curator: Wendy Garden

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'On the beach' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition On the beach at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

 

This is another solid thematic group exhibition at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery (curator Wendy Garden), following on from their recent success, Storm in a teacup.

The exhibition is not as successful as Storm in a teacup, mainly because most of the works are based on the monolithic, monosyllabic representation of beach culture, and its figuration, during the early decades of the twentieth century (White Australia policy, Australian stereotypes of the interwar period) and the re-staging of these ideas in the contemporary art presented through a diachronic (through/time), performative discourse.

There is so much re-staging in this exhibition I was left to wonder whether there was any original art work being produced that does not quote sources of history, memory, identity, representation and art from past generations. Daniel Boyd re-stages Captain Cook’s landing at Botany Bay with said hero as a pirate. Stephen Bowers replicates the Minton willow pattern motif and early paintings of kangaroos. Leanne Tobin re-stages Bungaree’s disrobing on the beach during his journey with Matthew Flinders. Diane Jones re-stages Max Dupain’s Sunbaker replacing the anonymous prostrate man with her head looking into the camera, or Dupain’s Form at Bondi with her head turned towards the camera. Worst offender is Anne Zahalka who re-states Dupain’s Sunbaker (again!) as a red-headed white women on the beach; or re-presents Charles Meere’s Australian beach pattern (1940, below) not once but twice – the first time in The bathers (1989) broadening the racial background of people to depict multicultural Australia in the 1980s, the second time in The new bathers (2013) broadening the mix even further. Most successful of these re-stagings is Michael Cook’s series of photographs Undiscovered in which the artist subverts deeply ingrained understandings of settlement, that of terra nullius, by depicting Captain Cook as black and positioning him in high-key, grey photographs of impressive beauty and power, surveying the land he has ‘discovered’ while perched upon an invisibly balanced ladder.

But with all of the works that quote from the past there is a sense that, even as the artists are critiquing the culture, they are also buying into the system of patriarchy, racism and control that they seek to comment on. They do not subvert the situation, merely (and locally) extrapolate from it. The idealised, iconic representation of early 20th century Australia culture in the paintings from the 1920-30s and the photographs from the 1940s-70s – specimens of perfect physical beauty – are simply shifted to a new demographic – that of iconic, individual figures in the same poses as the 1940s but of a different ethnicity. The colour of the figure and the clothing might have changed, but the underlying structure remains the same. And if you disturb one of the foundation elements, such as the base figure in one of George Caddy’s balancing beachobatics photographs, the whole rotten edifice of a racism free, multicultural Australia will come tumbling down, just as it did during the Cronulla Riot.

What I would have liked to have seen in this exhibition was a greater breadth of subject matter. Where are the homeless people living near the beach, the sex (for example, as portrayed in Tracey Moffat’s voyeuristic home video Heaven which shows footage of male surfers changing out of their wetsuits in car parks – “shot by Moffatt and a number of other women as if they were making a birdwatching documentary” – which challenges the masculinity of Australian surf culture and the ability of women to stare at men, instead of the other way around), death (drownings on beaches, the heartbreak of loss), and debauchery (the fluxus of Schoolies, that Neo-Dada performance of noise and movement), the abstract nature of Pictorialist photographs of the beach, not to mention erosion and environmental loss due to global warming. The works presented seem to have a too narrowly defined conceptual base, and a present narrative constructed on a coterie of earlier works representing what it is to be Australian at the beach. The contemporary narrative does not address the fluidity of the landscape in present time (in works such as Narelle Autio’s series Watercolours or The place in between).

The dark underside of the beach, its abstract fluidity, its constant movement is least well represented in this exhibition. Although I felt engaged as a viewer the constant re-quoting and rehashing of familiar forms left me a little bored. I wanted more inventiveness, more insight into the conditions and phenomena of beach culture in contemporary Australia. An interesting exhibition but an opportunity missed.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery for allowing me to publish most of the photographs in the posting. Other photographs come from Art Blart’s archive and those freely available online. Thankx also go to Manuela Furci, Director of the Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive for allowing me to publish his photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All text comes from the wall labels to the exhibition. Images noted © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'On the beach' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition On the beach at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery with Daniel Boyd’s We call them pirates out here (2006, below)
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Daniel Boyd (b. 1982) 'We call them pirates out here' 2006

 

Daniel Boyd (Australian, b. 1982)
We call them pirates out here (installation view)
2006
Museum of Contemporary Art
Purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2006
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

 

“The landing of Captain Cook in Botany Bay, 1770 by E. Phillips Fox is such an iconic and important image relating to the birth of Australia. Shifting the proposed view of Fox’s painting to something that was an indigenous person’s perspective allowed for me to challenge the subjective history that has been created.” ~ Daniel Boyd, 2008

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In this painting Daniel Boyd parodies E. Phillips Fox’s celebrated painting which was commissioned in 1902 by the Trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria to commemorate federation. No longer an image valorising colonial achievement, Boyd recasts the scene as one of theft and invasion. Captain Cook is depicted as a pirate to contest his heroic status in Australia’s foundation narratives. Smoke in the distance is evidence of human occupation and is a direct retort to the declaration that Australia was ‘terra nullius’ – land belonging to no-one, which was used to justify British possession.

 

Stephen Bowers (b. 1952) Peter Walker (board maker) (b. 1961) 'Antipodean willow surfboard' 2012 'Antipodean willow surfboard (Mini Simmons)' 2012

 

Stephen Bowers (Australian, b. 1952)
Peter Walker (board maker) (Australian, b. 1961)
Antipodean willow surfboard (installation view)
2012
Antipodean willow surfboard (Mini Simmons) (installation view)
2012
Hollow core surfboard, Paulownia wood, fibreglass, synthetic polymer paint
Courtesy of the artist and Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Caulfield
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Stephen Bowers (b. 1952) Peter Walker (board maker) (b. 1961) 'Antipodean willow surfboard (Mini Simmons)' (detail) 2012

 

Stephen Bowers (Australian, b. 1952)
Peter Walker (board maker) (Australian, b. 1961)
Antipodean willow surfboard (Mini Simmons) (installation detail)
2012
Hollow core surfboard, Paulownia wood, fibreglass, synthetic polymer paint
Courtesy of the artist and Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Caulfield
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

 

In these works Bowers combines the willow pattern motif, a ready-made metaphor of hybridity, with an image of a kangaroo as envisioned by George Stubbs in 1772. The willow pattern as an English invention, created by Thomas Minton in 1790. It is an imaginative geography and, like the first known European painting of a kangaroo, considers other lands as strange, exotic places. In this work the imagery of colonial occupation is visualised as a fusion of cultures underpinned by half-truths, fantasy and desire.

 

Installation view of Leanne Tobin's 'Clothes don't always maketh the man' (2012) (detail)

Installation view of Leanne Tobin's 'Clothes don't always maketh the man' (2012) (detail)

 

Installation views of Leanne Tobin’s Clothes don’t always maketh the man (2012)

 

Leanne Tobin (Australian, b. 1961)
Clothes don’t always maketh the man (installation details)
2012
Sand, textile, wood
Collection of the artist
Photos: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

 

Bungaree (c. 1755-1830) was a Garigal man who circumnavigated the continent of Australia with Matthew Flinders on the H.M.S. Investigator between 1802-03. Unlike Bennelong, who attempted to assimilate with British ways and Pemulwuy, who resisted, Bungaree made the decision to navigate a relationship with the British while still maintaining his cultural traditions. He played an important role as an envoy on Flinder’s voyages, negotiating with the different Aboriginal groups they encountered. A skilled mediator, Bungaree was adept at living between both worlds. When coming ashore he would shed his white man’s clothes so that he could conduct protocol relevant to the local elders. In this respect the beach became a zone of transformation and exchange.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'On the beach' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'On the beach' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition On the beach at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery with in the foreground, Leanne Tobin’s Clothes don’t always maketh the man (2012), and in the background photographs from Michael Cook’s Undiscovered series (2010, below)
Photos: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Michael Cook (b. 1968) 'Undiscovered 4' 2010

 

Michael Cook (Australian, b. 1968)
Undiscovered 4
2010
inkjet print on Hahnemuhle paper
124.0 x 100.0cm
Australian National Maritime Museum

 

 

A selection of works from a series of ten photographs in which Michael Cook contests the idea of ‘discovery’ that underpins narratives of the British settlement of Australia… Cook depicts the historic Cook as an Aboriginal man replete in his British naval officers attire. His ship, the famed Endeavour, is anchored in the sea behind him. By mimicking the moment of first discovery Cook subverts deeply ingrained understandings of settlement and asks us to consider what type of national Australia would be if the British had acknowledged Aboriginal people’s prior ownership.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'On the beach' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition On the beach at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery showing, at top left, Max Dupain’s Form at Bondi (1939); to the right of that Dupain’s At Newport (1952, below); to the right upper is George Caddy’s Chest strength and breathing exercise, 20 February 1937 (below); followed at far right by Rennie Ellis’ St Kilda Lifesavers (1968, top) and David Moore’s Lifesavers at Manly (1959, bottom)
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Max Dupain. 'At Newport' 1952, Sydney

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
At Newport
1952, Sydney
Silver gelatin photograph

 

George Caddy (1914-1983) 'Chest strength and breathing exercise, 20 February 1937' 1937

 

George Caddy (Australian, 1914-1983)
Chest strength and breathing exercise, 20 February 1937
1937
Digital print on paper
Paul Caddy collection
Courtesy of Paul Caddy

 

 

Like Max Dupain, who was three years his senior, Caddy was interested in the new modernist approach to photography. During 1936 he read magazines such as Popular Photography from New York and US Camera rather than Australasian Photo-Review which continued to champion soft-focus pictorialism. This photograph was taken the same year as Dupain’s famous Sunbather photograph. The framing and angle is similar reflecting their common interest in sharp focus, unusual vantage points and cold composition.

 

George Caddy (1914-1983) 'Freshwater Surf Life Saving Club reel team march past, 3 April 1938' 1938

 

George Caddy (Australian, 1914-1983)
Freshwater Surf Life Saving Club reel team march past, 3 April 1938
1938
Digital print
Collection of the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
Purchased from Paul Caddy, 2008

 

 

This photograph was taken only months after an infamous rescue at Bondi. On 6 February 1938 a sand bar collapsed sweeping two hundred people out to sea. 80 lifesavers rescued all but 5 people in a day subsequently described as Black Sunday. By 1938 the Surf Life Saving Association, which incorporated clubs from around Australia, had rescued 39,149 lives in its 30 year history. In 1938 alone there were 3,442 rescues. Up until the events of Black Sunday no one had drowned while lifesavers were on duty at Australian beaches. In comparison 2,000 people drowned in England each year.1

  1. Alan Davies, Bondi Jitterbug: George Caddy and his amera, Sydney: State Library of New South Wales, p. 13.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'On the beach' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition On the beach at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery with, at far left, Anne Zahalka’s The sunbather #2 (1989, below) and, at right, a selection of George Caddy’s beachobatics photographs.
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'On the beach' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition On the beach at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery with, at far left, Max Dupain’s Sunbaker (1937, top) with Diane Jones Sunbaker (2003, below); in the centre Anne Zahalka’s The sunbather #2 (1989, below); then Max Dupain’s Form at Bondi (1939, top) with Diane Jones Bondi (2003) underneath.
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Anne Zahalka. 'The sunbather #2' 1989

 

Anne Zahalka (Australian, b. 1957)
The sunbather #2
1989
From the series Bondi: playground of the Pacific 1989
Type C photograph

 

Installation photograph of Charles Meere's 'Australian beach pattern' (1940, below) and Anne Zahalka's 'The bathers' (1989)

 

Installation photograph of Charles Meere’s painting Australian beach pattern (1940, below) and Anne Zahalka’s photograph The bathers (1989) from the series Bondi: playground of the Pacific 1989, in which Zahalka restates Charles Meere’s painting to subvert the narrow stereotype of the Australian ideal… In this work Zahalka broadens the racial background of people depicted to create a more representative image of multicultural Australia in the 1980s.
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Charles Meere (1890-1961) 'Australian beach pattern' 1940 (detail)

 

Charles Meere (Australian born England, 1890-1961)
Australian beach pattern (installation detail)
1940
Oil and wax on canvas
Collection of Joy Chambers-Grundy and Reg Grundy AC OBE
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

 

A now iconic representation of early 20th century Australia culture… The scene is dominated by a mass of suntanned bodies: muscular, square-jawed white Australians – specimens of perfect physical beauty – enjoying the strenuous physical activities of the beach. A glorification of the strong, healthy, racially pure Australian ideal of the 1930s, it is eerily reminiscent of Nazi German Aryan propaganda between the wars.

Notably, the figures themselves all appear anonymous and disconnected, with indistinct facial features that show no acknowledgement of their fellow beach-goers. Their identities are overwhelmed by Meere’s obsession with arrangement. Rather than reflect real life, the figures are placed to create an idealised work of perfect balance. It is fascinating to consider that this iconic representation of Australian beach culture actually came from the imagination of an Englishman, who had only lived in Australia since the mid-1930s and who, according to his apprentice, ‘never went to the beach’ and ‘made up most of the figures’.1

  1. Freda Robertshaw quoted in Linda Slutzkin, Charles Meere 1890-1961. Sydney: S. H. Ervin Gallery, 1987, p. 6.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'On the beach' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition On the beach at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery with, at far left, George Caddy’s beachobatic photographs, and on the far wall Sidney Nolan’s Bathers (1943, below) and Jeffrey Smart’s Surfers Bondi (1963, below).
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Sidney Nolan (1917-1992) 'Bathers' 1943

 

Sidney Nolan (Australian, 1917-1992)
Bathers (installation view)
1943
Ripolin enamel on canvas
Headed Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
Bequest of John and Sunday Reed, 1982
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Jeffrey Smart (1921-2013) 'Surfers Bondi' 1963

 

Jeffrey Smart (Australian, 1921-2013)
Surfers Bondi
1963
Oil on board
Private collection

 

 

When bans on daylight bathing were lifted in 1902, the beach became a prime leisure destination. The beach became not only as a public space of recreation but also as a place where the Australian identity was developing, for many epitomising the liberties of Australia’s society. On the beach brings together 76 outstanding and iconic paintings, photographs and installations to consider the defining relationship we have to the shore.

Works by artists including Vernon Ah Kee, Arthur Boyd, Gordon Bennett, Daniel Boyd, Max Dupain, Charles Meere, Tracey Moffatt, David Moore, Sidney Nolan, Polixeni Papapetrou, John Perceval, Scott Redford, Jeffrey Smart, Albert Tucker, Guan Wei and Anne Zahalka, as well as outstanding recently discovered works by George Caddy (see above). A champion jitterbug dancer, Caddy’s photographs of ‘beachobatics’ were kept undisturbed in a shoebox for 60 years until they were ‘discovered’ by his son after his death. They capture the exuberance and optimism of Australian society between the wars.

The beach first became a prime leisure destination in the early decades of the twentieth century. Up to Federation many artists had looked to the bush to galvanise a fledging nationalism, but during the interwar years this shifted and increasingly the beach became the site of Australian identity. Already by 1908 one Melbourne newspaper commented upon the ‘vast throng of holidaymakers all along the coast.’ In the years following the First World War, against a backdrop of a growing interest in physical fitness, the beach was seen as a place for creating ‘a fine healthy race of men.’ Understandings of the beach as an Australian way of life emerged during this period and increasingly the Australian type was associated with bronzed athletic bodies on the beach.

On the beach looks at artists’ responses to the stereotype of the interwar period and juxtaposes modernist works with contemporary artists’ responses to include a more culturally diverse mix of people. Other artists in the exhibition challenge understandings of the beach as a benign space and consider the history of violence that is latent.

Press release from the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'On the beach' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Photographer Joyce Evans looking at two colour photographs by Rennie Ellis in the exhibition.
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'On the beach' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition On the beach at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery with, on the far wall left hand side, photographs by Rennie Ellis.
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'On the beach' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition On the beach at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery with, on the far wall right hand side, photographs by Rennie Ellis and, at right, Fiona Foley’s Nulla 4 eva IV (2009).
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Rennie Ellis. 'Union Jack, Lorne' c. 1968

 

Rennie Ellis (Australian, 1940-2003)
Union Jack, Lorne
c. 1968
Silver gelatin selenium toned fibre-based print
Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive

 

Rennie Ellis. 'Four Sunbathers, Lorne' c. 1968

 

Rennie Ellis (Australian, 1940-2003)
Four Sunbathers, Lorne
c. 1968
Type C photograph (ed. AP)
Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive

 

Rennie Ellis. 'Bondi, New South Wales' 1997

 

Rennie Ellis (Australian, 1940-2003)
Bondi, New South Wales
1997

 

“On the beach we chuck away our clothes, our status and our inhibitions and engage in rituals of sun worship and baptism. It’s a retreat to our primal needs.” ~ Rennie Ellis

 

Installation view of Vernon Ah Kee. 'cantchant' 2007-09

Installation view of Vernon Ah Kee. 'cantchant' 2007-09 (detail)

Installation view of Vernon Ah Kee. 'cantchant' 2007-09 (detail)

Installation view of Vernon Ah Kee. 'cantchant' 2007-09 (detail)

Installation view of Vernon Ah Kee. 'cantchant' 2007-09 (detail)

Installation view of Vernon Ah Kee. 'cantchant' 2007-09 (detail)

Installation view of Vernon Ah Kee. 'cantchant' 2007-09 (detail)

Installation view of Vernon Ah Kee. 'cantchant' 2007-09 (detail)

Installation view of Vernon Ah Kee. 'cantchant' 2007-09 (detail)

 

Installation views of Vernon Ah Kee’s cantchant 2007-09

 

Vernon Ah Kee (Australian, b. 1967; Kuku Yalandji, Waanji, Yidinji and Gugu Yimithirr)
cantchant (installation views)
2007-09
Synthetic polymer paint and resin over digital print on roamer, vinyl
Courtesy of the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane
Photos: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

 

Vernon Ah Kee’s response to the events at Cronulla (the Cronulla Riot) us a powerful retort to the racists and their mantra ‘we grew here, you flew here’ chanted on the beach during the riots. Ah Kee takes issue pointing out the hypocrisy in their statement.

“We grew here, you flew here is an insincere statement and they were chanting it over and over again. It’s a way to exercise racism. I’m like ‘WE’ grew here, say what you want, but we’re the fellas that grew here.”

The surfboards are printed with Yidinji shield designs and the portraits are members of the artists family. The work was exhibited in the Australian Pavilion at the 2009 Venice Biennale.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'On the beach' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition On the beach at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery with, on the far wall, Charles Blackman’s Sunbather (c. 1954, below) and Arthur Boyd’s Kite flyers [South Melbourne] (1943, below).
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Charles Blackman (b. 1928) 'Sunbather' c. 1954

 

Charles Blackman (Australian, b. 1928)
Sunbather (installation view)
c. 1954
Oil on board
Private collection, Melbourne
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

 

This is one of a number of paintings and drawings made in response to Blackman’s observations of life on Melbourne’s beaches. Blackman moved from Sydney to Melbourne in 1945 to be part of Melbourne’s burgeoning art scene, making friends with John Perceval, Joy Hester and John and Sunday Reed amongst others.

During this period Blackman regularly took the tram to St Kilda beach to swim and paint. Although he enjoyed spending time on the beach, there is a sinister overtone to this painting of a prostrate figure lying on the sand. A bleak, grey palette articulates the pallid lifeless flesh amplifying a sense of death. The hollow slits that substitute for eyes further accentuate the corpse-like appearance. It is a stark contrast to many paintings of the era that emphasise physical vitality and wellbeing. Rather the sense of isolation and heavy treatment of shadows and water creates a painting that is psychologically disturbing. This painting can be seen as a response to his wife, Barbara’s developing blindness. It has been noted that as the ‘darkness grew in her life, his pictures got darker.’1 Blackman stated many years later ‘I was trying to paint pictures which were unseeable.’2

  1. Barry Humphries quoted in Peter Wilmoth. “An artist in wonderland,” in The Age, 21 May 2006.
  2. Charles Blackman interviewed by James Gleeson, 28 April 1979.

 

Arthur Boyd (1920-1999) 'Kite flyers [South Melbourne]' 1943

 

Arthur Boyd (Australian, 1920-1999)
Kite flyers [South Melbourne] (installation view)
1943
Oil on canvas mounted on cardboard
46.3 x 60.9cm
National Gallery of Victoria
The Arthur Boyd Gift, 1975
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'On the beach' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'On the beach' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'On the beach' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition On the beach at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery with, in the centre, Brett Whiteley’s Balmoral (1975-78, below). To the left of this painting is Nancy Kilgour’s Figures on Manly Beach (1930, below) and to the right, at top, Norma Bull’s Bathing Beach (c. 1950-60s, below) with at bottom, George W. Lambert’s Anzacs bathing in the sea (1915, below).
Photos: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Brett Whiteley (1939-1992) 'Balmoral' 1975-78 (detail)

 

Brett Whiteley (Australian, 1939-1992)
Balmoral (installation detail)
1975-78
Oil and collage on canvas
180 x 204cm
Collection of the Hunter-Dyer family
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Nancy Kilgour (1904-1954) 'Figures on Manly Beach' c. 1930

 

Nancy Kilgour (Australian, 1904-1954)
Figures on Manly Beach
c. 1930
Oil on canvas
76 x 117cm
Manly Art Gallery and Museum, Sydney
Purchase with the assistance of the NSW Ministry for the Arts, 1986

 

 

Nancy Kilgour’s artificial arrangement of figures is believed to have been painted in the 1930s before Charles Meere painted his highly contrived composition Australian Beach Pattern, 1940. The staged poses create a tableau of Australians enjoying the freedoms of life on the beach. What is interesting about Kilgour’s painting is that a number of people are depicted fully clothed. so the emphasis is not so much on toned physiques but rather the pleasures of relaxing on the beach. The painting is also unusual because, whereas most beach scenes are cast in brilliant sunshine, the figures in the foreground in this painting are rendered in shadow suggesting the presence of the towering Norfolk Island Pine trees which form a crescent along the Manly foreshore.

 

Norma Bull. 'Bathing Beach' c. 1950-60s

 

Norma Bull (Australian, 1906-1980)
Bathing Beach
c. 1950s-60s
Oil on aluminium
30.5 x 40cm
Collection of the Warrnambool Art Gallery, Victoria

 

 

Norma Bull began her career at the National Gallery School in 1929, Receiving acclaim for her portraits she won the Sir John Longstaff Scholarship in 1937 and travelled to London where she worked as a war artist during the Second World War. After nine years in Europe, Bull returned to Australia and spent the next year following Wirth’s Circus, painting acrobats, clowns and scenes from circus life. She settled in the Melbourne suburb of Surrey Hills and spent her summer holidays at Anglesea which provided the opportunity to paint seascapes and beach scenes.

 

George W. Lambert. 'Anzacs bathing in the sea' 1915

George W. Lambert. 'Anzacs bathing in the sea' 1915 (detail)

 

George W. Lambert (Australian, 1867-1930)
Anzacs bathing in the sea (installation full and detail)
1915
Oil on canvas
25 x 34cm
Mildura Arts Centre
Senator R.D. Elliott Bequest, presented to the City of Mildura by Mrs Hilda Elliott, 1956
Photos: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

 

George Lambert, Australia’s official war artist, travelled to Gallipoli where he created detailed studies of large battle scenes. He also painted a number of smaller, more intimate works which were execute rapidly on the spot such as this scene of men bathing in the sea. Lambert’s focus is the musculature of their bodies. They are depicted as exemplars of heroic Australian masculinity. Historian C.E.W. Bean reflected in the 1920s that it was through the events on Anzac Cove on 25th April 1915 ‘that the consciousness of Australian nationhood was born.’1 In this respect the painting can be seen to have baptismal overtures.

  1. C.E.W. Bean, Official history of Australia in the War of 1914-1918 Volume 2, Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1934, p. 346.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'On the beach' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition On the beach at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery with, second left, Anne Zahalka’s The girls #2, Cronulla Beach (2007, below). At left on the far wall John Anderson’s Abundance (2015, below) followed by John Hopkins The crowd (1970, below).
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Anne-Zahalka-The-girls-#2-WEB

 

Anne Zahalka (Australian, b. 1957)
The girls #2, Cronulla Beach
2007
From the series Scenes from the Shire 2007
Type C photograph
73.3 x 89.2cm
Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery
Gift of the artist, 2012

 

John Anderson (b. 1947) 'Abundance' (detail) 2015

 

John Anderson (Australian, b. 1947)
Abundance (installation detail)
2015
Oil on linen
Courtesy of the artist and Australian Galleries, Melbourne and Sydney
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

John Hopkins. 'The crowd' 1970

 

John Hopkins (Australian, b. 1943)
The crowd
1970
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
172.7 x 245.2cm
Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery
Gift of the artist, 1974

 

Polixeni Papaetrou born Australia 1960 'Ocean Man' 2013

 

Polixeni Papaetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
Ocean Man
2013
From the series The Ghillies 2012-13
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2013

 

 

The ghillie suit is a form of camouflage originally used by hunters and the military. Recently popularised in the video game, Call of duty, the ghillie suit is worn by Papapetrou’s son, Solomon, who poses on the beach at Queenscliff. Appearing neither man nor nature, his indistinct form speaks of transformation and becoming – of prison and absence. By depicting the figure as some sort of monster emerging from the depths of the ocean, Papapetrou creates an image that draws upon Jungian understanding of the sea as a symbol of the collective unconscious – both a source of life and return.

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm

Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery website

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07
Dec
14

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

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

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

Curator: Joanna Bosse

 

 

Martin Thompson. 'Untitled' 2014

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

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

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

 

 

Andrew Blythe. 'Untitled' 2012

 

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

 

Terry William. 'Stereo' 2011

 

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

 

Terry Williams. 'Telephone' 2011

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press release from The Ian Potter Museum of Art

 

Julian Martin. 'Untitled' 2011

 

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

 

Kelly Greaves. 'My little Japan' 2010

 

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

 

Jack Napthine. 'Untitled' 2013

 

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

 

Jack Napthine. 'Untitled' 2013

 

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

 

Lisa Reid. 'Queen of hearts' 2010

 

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

 

 

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

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

The Ian Potter Museum of Art website

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03
Dec
13

Essay: ‘Made ready: A Philosophy of Moments’ Dr Marcus Bunyan / Exhibition: ‘Reinventing the Wheel: the Readymade Century’ at the Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 3rd October – 14th December 2013

Presented by Monash University Museum of Art in association with Melbourne Festival

 

Marcel Duchamp. 'Bicycle wheel' (detail) 1913 reconstructed 1964 (installation view detail)

 

Marcel Duchamp (French-American, 1887-1968)
Bicycle wheel (installation view detail) (with Dr Marcus Bunyan)
1913 reconstructed 1964
Painted wooden stool and bicycle wheel
Stool: 50.4cm (h.); wheel: 64.8cm (diam.); overall: 126.5cm (h.)
Collection: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Photo: © Joyce Evans

 

 

Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) is generating an enviable reputation for holding vibrant, intellectually stimulating group exhibitions on specific ideas, concepts and topics. This exhibition is no exception. It is one of the best exhibitions I have seen in Melbourne this year. Accompanied by a strong catalogue with three excellent essays by Thierry de Duve, Dr Rex Butler and Patrice Sharkey, this is a must see exhibition for any Melbourne art aficionado before it closes. My favourite pieces were Jeff Koons’ tactile Balloon dog (Red) (1995, below) and the coupling, copulating lights of Lou Hubbard’s Stretch (2007, below).

I am not going to critique the exhibition pieces per se but offer some thoughts about the nature of the readymade below.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to MUMA for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All photographs taken at the opening © Monash University Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan unless otherwise stated.

Download this essay as a pdf (9.8Mb pdf) Text © Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

“This transition is a flash, a boundary where this becomes that, not then, not that – falling in love, jumping of a bridge. Alive : dead; presence : absence; purpose : play; mastery : exhaustion; logos : silence; worldly : transcendent. Not this, not that. It is an impossible presence, present – a moment of unalienated production that we know exists but we cannot define it, place it. How can we know love? We can speak of it in a before and after sense but it is always a past moment that we recognise.

.
Dr Marcus Bunyan. Made Ready: A Philosophy of Moments. December 2013

 

 

Made ready: A Philosophy of Moments

Dr Marcus Bunyan

December 2013

 

The readymade is everywhere in the world (for the readymade can be made of anything); the readymade is nowhere in the world. This is the paradox of the readymade: it does not exist in the world as art until after the artist has named it. In this sense it can be argued that there is no such thing as a readymade. It only comes into being through the will and intention of the artist. The readymade may live unnamed in the world for years but it does not exist in the world as art until the artist has intentionally named it (or made it). As Marcel Duchamp observes,

“It’s not the visual aspect of the readymade that matters, it’s simply that fact that it exists… Visuality is no longer the question: the readymade is no longer visible, so to speak. It is completely grey matter. It is no longer retinal.”1

The readymade is (initially) a concept of the brain and not of the eye. It is a commodity made by man living in the world made ready for identification as art ‘already made’ by the recognition of the artist of its exchange value – the object as transitory metonym which “stands in” for another place of being through a change of name or purpose. It is the intention of the artist to impose an (alternate) order on the object, an order in which the readymade questions aesthetic criteria and categories such as taste, authorship and intentionality. As Dr Rex Butler notes, “The work is not simply intended – which is an obvious fact about any work of art – but about an intention that has come to replace, while entirely reproducing, that which is the very embodiment of the contingent and unpredictable.”2

According to Thierry de Duve, the choosing of the object is accompanied by three other acts: naming the object, signing it and devising some original presentation for it.3 There are the so called unassisted readymades (such as Duchamp’s Bottle dryer, 1914 reconstructed 1964 below) and there are also plain, aided, sick, unhappy, reciprocal and semi-readymades.4 In reality no readymade is unassisted as all are called into being by the mind of the artist. But the concept of the readymade “heralds the realisation that art can be made from anything whatsoever.”5 If this is the case then the readymade “makes of all aesthetic judgements something unconvincing, derivative, second-hand,”6 perhaps even deliberately “invoking” criticism before the artwork is even constructed. If the inherent structural and aesthetic function of all things is predetermined, as though fulfilling some underlying design, it is the artists intentionality in naming the object as art – a model of explanation “that abducts from external products to internal processes, from what is visible to what must be inferred”7 – that deliberately places and fixes these objects in a new moment in space and time.

Through appropriation, readymades “make their claim to the dignity of an art object through some unexpected presentation that decontextualises them and pulls them away from their daily use.”8 Through appropriation, artists laud everyday objects as art for all to see.9 Through appropriation, art institutes emphasise the power of the art institution, the readymade made taxidermied, stuffed object, placed on a stand, an everyday object lauded as art for all to see. In this scenario, the desire of manufacturing that wants consumer objects to be seen as useful, valuable is inverted as readymades become institutional objects of desire just out of reach of the audience (10,000 dollar coins just lying around on the floor!). The death of the object as an object and its reanimation “to the dignity of an art object” is completed “simply by its presence in the museum.”10 As Elizabeth Wilson states, “The only defence against transgressive desire is to turn either oneself or the object of desire to stone.”11 In this case it is the museum officials that turn the object of desire into stone (by lionising them as readymades). In actuality, these objects that artists imagine explore the dichotomy between presence and absence and the nature of transgressive desire.

Essentially, the concept of the readymade is both elastic (like the band that holds together the brick and book cover in Claire Fontaine’s witty La société du spectacle brickbat 2006, below) and fixed (like the brick itself), the readymade being both a performative act (ritualised play) and citational practice by which discourse produces the effects it names.12 Further, a link can be made to Bachelard’s theory of space and imagination which describes literary space as reflexive, resonant and moulded by consciousness.13 In their playfulness the spatial dynamics of readymades challenge and illuminate the human, sensory possibility. They examine how the reality of contemporary life is disguised and concealed from view, and how human beings are alienated from the very objects that they produce. For the French philosopher and sociologist Henri Lefebvre, “(The) critique of everyday life is … at once a rejection of the inauthentic and the alienated, and an unearthing of the human which still lies buried therein.”14

“One avenue for this unearthing is what Lefebvre describes as moments of presence – fleeting, sensate instants in which the “totality of possibilities contained in daily existence” were revealed. While destined to pass in an instant, it is through such moments that we are able to catch glimpses of the relation between the everyday and the social totality.”15 This philosophy or theory of moments was developed in opposition to Bergson’s understanding of time as a linear duration (duree) of separate instances and for Lefebvre, these “moments are “experiences of detachment from the everyday flow of time” which puncture the banality of everyday life…”16

“All the activities that constitute everyday life must then be rethought in terms of a dialectic of presence and absence and each moment is simultaneously an opportunity for alienation and disalienation.”17 The readymade, then, explores the politically radical potential that lies within the everyday through play and the intentionality of the artist. Through representation, readymades mediate between absence and presence; through poësis they begin to inhabit another time and space.

“In the poetic act, presence is the given. Lefebvre intends ‘poetic’ to cover unalienated production – the Greek poësis – as he explained in The Production of Space (1974)… Presence and poësis stand outside social relations of production. Flashes of inspiration, moments when one feels ‘all together’ and ‘in touch’, are not determined by economic relations, and cannot be prevented, even in a prison camp.”18

Readymades are a reaction against the linear production of industry, which is both functional and hierarchical. They are a reaction against the banality and repetition of the everyday – of the hegemony of capitalist production and the social relations of everyday life. In a culture of use and use by, the readymade “inscribes the work of art within a network of signs and pre-existing material.”19 Theses assemblages enable us to ask the question, what makes aesthetic judgement possible. They offer an alternative form of resistance to the imposition of linear repetition, through a form of mental and visual play. The moment of the representation encloses a transition (something transitory, something which ‘traverses’)20 – through a plethora of creative, emotive and imaginative practices – from something stable to un/stable.

This transition is a flash, a boundary where this becomes that, not then, not that – falling in love, jumping of a bridge. Alive : dead; presence : absence; purpose : play; mastery : exhaustion; logos : silence; worldly : transcendent. Not this, not that. It is an impossible presence, present – a moment of unalienated production that we know exists but we cannot define it, place it. How can we know love? We can speak of it in a before and after sense but it is always a past moment that we recognise.

It is the same with the readymade. The inscriptions on the early readymades (such as the bottle dryer and urinal) detailing authorship, dates, times, places can be seen as an attempt to ‘fix’ an individual artwork in the flow of time, to distinguish it from its unacknowledged neighbour – like “fixing” a photograph. It is telling that when the bottle rack was lost and remade in the 1960s the text that was originally on the lower metal ring was lost with the object itself.21 The text sought to fix these transitory moments of absence : presence.

Søren Kierkegaard calls this transition a “leap,” where a human being chooses an ethical life-view, one that resides in the actual and not in an ironic-aesthetic attitude.

“It is important to see that choice, as the characteristic of the ethical lifeview, forms a radical break with the ironic spiral of the aesthetic attitude. Kierkegaard sometimes calls the ethical choice a “leap,” a term that expresses the fundamental uncertainty of each commitment to actuality: contrary to aesthetic fantasy, which is “safely” self-contained, the outcome of the individual’s ethical choice is dependent on actuality and therefore not fully under the individual’s control. This is a decisive difference between aesthetic irony (including meta-irony) and the ethical leap: instead of merely rejecting all actuality, the latter takes responsibility for a certain actuality and tries to reshape it.”22

And tries to reshape it. Thus we can say that readymades are human beings taking responsibility for their actuality by choosing to name an object as art, creating objects that challenge aesthetic value judgements and an ironic-aesthetic lifeview through their very presence, by their very selfness. Remembering (ah memory!), that it is always a past moment that we recognise. The familiar is not necessarily the known – it has to be named.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Endnotes

  1. Duchamp, Marcel. “Talking about Readymades,” Interview by Phillipe Collin, June 21, 1967, quoted in Girst, Thomas. “Duchamp for Everyone,” in The Indefinite Duchamp. Germany: Hatje Cantz, 2013, p. 55 quoted in Day, Charlotte. “Introduction,” in Reinventing the Wheel: The Readymade Century. Melbourne: Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), 2013, p. 85
  2. Butler, Rex. “Two Snapshots of the Readymade Today,” in Reinventing the Wheel: The Readymade Century. Melbourne: Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), 2013, p. 98
  3. Duve, Thierry de. “Readymade,” in Reinventing the Wheel: The Readymade Century. Melbourne: Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), 2013, p. 92
  4. Ibid.,
  5. Ibid.,
  6. Butler, op. cit.,
  7. Danto, Arthur C. “Criticism, advocacy, and the end-of-art condition: a working paper,” on Artnet website [Online] Cited 01/12/2013. www.artnet.com/magazine_pre2000/features/danto/danto97-3-6.asp
  8. Duve, op. cit. p. 91
  9. “Still, appropriationism, which defines the end-of-art condition, is pretty much the defining principle of our moment, putting, as it does, everything and every combination of things at the service of art, even including bad drawing and bad painting, since these, being designated, tell us only what kind of point the artist who appropriates them intends, not what kind of artist she or he is.”
    Danto op. cit.,
  10. Duchamp, Marcel. Definition of the readymade in the Dictionnaire abrégé du Surréalisme quoted in Duve, op. cit. p. 92
  11. Wilson, Elizabeth. “The Invisible Flaneur,” in Watson, Sophie and Gibson, Katherine (eds.,). Postmodern Cities and Spaces. Cambridge, Mass: Blackwell, 1995, p. 75
  12. Butler, Judith. Bodies That Matter. New York: Routledge, 1993, p. 1-2
  13. See Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press, 1958 (1994)
  14. Trebitsch, M. “Preface,” in Lefebvre, Henri. Critique of everyday life Vol. I. London: Verso, 1991, pp.ix-xxviii quoted in Butler, Chris. Law and the Social Production of Space. August 2003, p.60 [Online] Cited 01/12/2013. No longer available online
  15. Harvey, D. “Afterword,” in Lefebvre, Henri. The production of space. Blackwell, Oxford, 1991, see note 1, at p. 429 quoted in Butler, Chris. Ibid., p. 60
  16. Shields, Rob. Lefebvre, love and struggle: spatial dialectics. London: Routledge, 1999, see note 4, at p. 61 quoted in Butler, Chris. Ibid., p. 61
  17. Shields, Rob. Lefebvre, love and struggle: spatial dialectics. London: Routledge, 1999, see note 4, at p. 70 quoted in Butler, Chris. Ibid., p. 61
  18. Shields, Rob. Lefebvre, love and struggle: spatial dialectics. London: Routledge, 1999, p. 99 [Online] Cited 01/12/2013. Google Books website.
  19. Sharkey, Patrice. “When Everything is already a Readymade,” in Reinventing the Wheel: The Readymade Century. Melbourne: Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), 2013, p. 107
  20. Lefebvre, Henri. The production of space. Blackwell, Oxford, 1991, p. 213 quoted in Shields, Rob op. cit., p. 99
  21. Duve, op. cit. p. 91
  22. Dulk, Allard Den. “Beyond Endless “Aesthetic” Irony: A Comparison of the Irony Critique of Søren Kierkegaard and David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest,” in Studies in the Novel Vol. 44, No. 3. University of North Texas: Fall 2012, pp. 325-345

 

 

Man Ray. 'Cadeau (Gift)' 1921 reconstructed 1970 (installation view)

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Cadeau (Gift) (installation view)
1921 reconstructed 1970
Iron with brass tacks and wooden base
Overall: 19.0 x 14.9 x 14.9cm; iron & base: 17.9 x 14.9 x 14.9cm; glass cover: 19.0cm (h.)
Collection: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Marcel Duchamp. 'Bicycle wheel' 1913 and 'Bottle dryer' 1914 (installation view)

 

Marcel Duchamp (French-American, 1887-1968)
Bicycle wheel
1913 reconstructed 1964
Painted wooden stool and bicycle wheel
Stool: 50.4cm (h.); wheel: 64.8cm (diam.); overall: 126.5cm (h.)
Collection: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Marcel Duchamp (French-American, 1887-1968)
Bottle dryer
1914 reconstructed 1964
Galvanised iron bottle dryer
65.0 x 44.0 x 43.0cm (overall); base: 37.5cm (diam.)
Collection: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Martin Creed (British, b. 1968)
Work no. 88 A sheet of A4 paper crumpled into a ball
1995
A4 paper, ed. 625/Unlimited
Approx. 2 in / 5.1cm diameter
Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth, London

Aleks Danko (Australian, b. 1950)
Art stuffing
1970
Synthetic polymer paint on paper-stuffed hessian bag
75.0 x 58.0 x 30.0cm
Collection: Art Gallery of New South Wales – John Kaldor Family Collection
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Barry Humphries. 'Battle of the plate' 1958 (installation view)

 

Barry Humphries (Australian, b. 1934)
Battle of the plate (installation view)
1958
Welded steel forks
28.5 x 87.0 x 26.5cm
Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
Bequest of Barrett Reid 2000
Photo: © Joyce Evans

 

Haim Steinbach. 'Untitled (graters, Victorian iron banks)' 1990 (installation view)

Haim Steinbach. 'Untitled (graters, Victorian iron banks)' 1990 (installation view detail)

Haim Steinbach. 'Untitled (graters, Victorian iron banks)' 1990 (installation view detail)

 

Haim Steinbach (Israeli-American, b. 1944)
Untitled (graters, Victorian iron banks) (installation view details)
1990
Aluminium laminated wood shelf with glass display case and objects
150.0 x 150.0 x 62.0cm (overall installed)
Collection: Art Gallery of New South Wales
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Tony Cragg. 'Spyrogyra' 1992 (installation view)

Tony Cragg. 'Spyrogyra' 1992 (installation view)

 

Tony Cragg (British, b. 1949)
Spyrogyra (installation views)
1992
Glass and steel
220.0 x 210.0cm
Collection: Art Gallery of New South Wales
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Tony Cragg. 'Spyrogyra' 1992 (installation view detail)

 

Tony Cragg (British, b. 1949)
Spyrogyra (installation detail)
1992
Glass and steel
220.0 x 210.0 cm
Collection: Art Gallery of New South Wales
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Arguably the most influential artistic development of the twentieth century, the readymade was set in motion one hundred years ago when Marcel Duchamp mounted an upturned bicycle wheel on a stool. Duchamp’s conversion of unadorned, everyday objects into fine art completely inverted how artistic practice was considered. Suddenly, art was capable of being everywhere and in everything. It was a revolutionary moment in modern art and the ripples from this epochal shift still resonate today.

Reinventing the Wheel: the Readymade Century pays tribute to Duchamp’s innovation, including two key examples of his work: Bicycle wheel 1913 and Bottle dryer 1914. Other important historical works that MUMA has borrowed for the exhibition reveal the readymade’s presence in Minimalism and Conceptual art as well as its echoes in Pop art. The exhibition traces some of the ways the readymade has been reinterpreted by subsequent artists in acts of homage to Duchamp or further expanding the possibilities the readymade has unfurled.

Among the various trajectories of the readymade, Reinventing the Wheel traces its elaborations in neo-dada practices, with a particular focus on everyday and vernacular contexts; the mysterious and libidinous potential of sculptural objects; institutional critique and nominal modes of artistic value. These discursive contexts also provide a foundation to explore more recent tendencies related to unmonumental and social sculpture, post-Fordism and other concerns, particularly among contemporary Australian artists. Bringing together works by over forty artists – from Duchamp and Man Ray to Andy Warhol and Martin Creed, along with some of Australia’s leading practitioners – this is a one-of-a-kind salute to an idea that continues to define the very nature of contemporary art.

“This is the most ambitious exhibition that MUMA has yet presented, including works that establish the historical moment of the readymade in Europe and its reception in the USA and in Australia. Most exciting is the opportunity for living artists to see their work as part of this ongoing history,” said Charlotte Day, Director of MUMA.

Press release from the MUMA website

 

Joseph Kosuth. 'One and three tables' 1965 (installation view)

 

Joseph Kosuth (American, b. 1945)
One and three tables (installation view)
1965
Wooden table, gelatin silver photograph, and photostat mounted on foamcore
Installation dimensions variable
Collection: Art Gallery of New South Wales
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Julian Dashper (New Zealand, b. 1960) 'Untitled (The Warriors)' 1998 (installation view)

 

Julian Dashper (New Zealand, b. 1960)
Untitled (The Warriors) (installation view)
1998
Vinyl on drumheads, drum kit
Dimensions variable
Courtesy of the Julian Dashper Estate and Michael Lett Auckland
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Masato Takasaka. 'Smile! Bauhaus babushka sundae boogie woogie (model for a prog rock SCULPTURE PARK)' (detail) 1999-2007/2013 (installation view detail)

 

Masato Takasaka
Smile! Bauhaus babushka sundae boogie woogie (model for a prog rock SCULPTURE PARK) (installation view detail)
1999-2007/2013
MDF, vinyl, marker on foamcore, soft drink cans, acrylic, paper notepad from Bauhaus Museum giftshop, plastic wrapper, cardboard, polycarbonate sheeting, marker on paper, Metallica babushka dolls, toy guitar, sundae keyring
Dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artist and Studio Masatotectures, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Jeff Koons. 'Balloon dog (Red)' 1995 designed (installation view)

 

Jeff Koons (American, b. 1955)
Balloon dog (Red) (installation view)
1995 designed
Porcelain, ed. 1113/2300
11.3 x 26.3cm diameter
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lou Hubbard. 'Stretch' 2007 (installation view)

 

Lou Hubbard (Australian, b. 1957)
Stretch (installation view)
2007
Two ‘Studio K’ Planet lamps, fluorescent lights, MDF, acrylic paint and Perspex
108.3 x 251.8 x 29.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and Sarah Scout, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Andrew Liversidge. 'IN MY MIND I KNOW WHAT I THINK BUT THAT’S ONLY BASED ON MY EXPERIENCE' 2009 (installation view)

 

Andrew Liversidge (Australian, b. 1979)
IN MY MIND I KNOW WHAT I THINK BUT THAT’S ONLY BASED ON MY EXPERIENCE (installation view)
2009
10,000 $1 coins (AUD)
30.0 x 30.0 x 30.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and The Commercial Gallery, Sydney
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Andrew Liversidge (Australian, b. 1979) 'IN MY MIND I KNOW WHAT I THINK BUT THAT’S ONLY BASED ON MY EXPERIENCE' 2009 (installation view)

 

Andrew Liversidge (Australian, b. 1979)
IN MY MIND I KNOW WHAT I THINK BUT THAT’S ONLY BASED ON MY EXPERIENCE (installation view)
2009
10,000 $1 coins (AUD)
30.0 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist and The Commercial Gallery, Sydney
Photo: Joyce Evans

 

Callum Morton. 'Mayor' 2013 (installation view)

 

Callum Morton (Australian, born Canada 1965)
Mayor (installation view)
2013
Polyurethane resin, wood, fibreglass, synthetic polymer paint
290.0 x 200.0 x 26.0cm
City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Claire Fontaine. 'La société du spectacle brickbat' 2006 (installation view)

 

Claire Fontaine (Italian, b. 1975)
La société du spectacle brickbat (installation view)
2006
Bricks and brick fragments, laser impression
178.0 x 108.0 x 58.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Word History

The earliest sense of brickbat, first recorded in 1563, was “a piece of brick.” Such pieces of brick have not infrequently been thrown at others in the hope of injuring them; hence, the figurative brickbats (first recorded in 1929) that critics hurl at performances they dislike. The appearance of bat as the second part of this compound is explained by the fact that the word bat, “war club, cudgel,” developed in Middle English the sense “chunk, clod, wad,” and in the 16th century came to be used specifically for a piece of brick that was unbroken on one end.

  1. A piece of brick or similar material, esp one used as a weapon
  2. Blunt criticism the critic threw several brickbats at the singer

 

 

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

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

Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) website

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07
Jun
13

Exhibition: ‘Sentinels’ by David Wood at Gasworks Arts Park, Albert Park

Exhibition dates: 29th May – 16th June 2013

 

David Wood. 'Ghost Gum Three' 2013

 

David Wood
Ghost Gum Three
2013
Stainless steel and red gum
76 x 310 x 44cm

 

 

A solid first solo exhibition from my friend David Wood at Gasworks Arts Park. Conceptually the show needed a little tightening but technically the work is outstanding (as you would expect from the owner of Bent Metal and one of Melbourne’s best blacksmiths) and aesthetically pleasing. I particularly liked the topographic remapping of both Port Phillip Bay and St Kilda Junction. Anyone who knows Melbourne intimately would recognise the ramps and walkways that bisect the interior of the junction even in their abstract form, especially the tram ramp ascending from Dandenong Road to St Kilda Road. I also admired the Nardoo sentinels, which are to be made at full size for a public park in Berwick later in the year.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

David Wood. 'Ghost Gum One' 2013

 

David Wood
Ghost Gum One
2013
Stainless steel and red gum
72 x 170 x 39cm

 

David Wood. 'Ghost Gum Two' 2013

 

David Wood
Ghost Gum Two
2013
Stainless steel and red gum
78 x 24 x 36cm

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Sentinels' by David Wood at Gasworks Art Park

 

Installation view of the exhibition Sentinels by David Wood at Gasworks Art Park

 

 

My work has two main driving forces – a desire to explore and continue a blacksmithing inheritance and investigating place and how we interact with the physical world. I am interested in how landmarks within landscape can shape, reflect and define our Nation’s ethos and their place as sentinels within our history.

I use traditional forging techniques and prefer to leave hammer marks and traces of process exposed, as testament, on the finished sculpture. The medium itself represents an industry crucial to our economy but detrimental to our landscape.

This current group of work, inspired by the burning of two ghost gums in the Northern Territory is a personal muse on Australian culture. The burning of the ghost gums made famous by Albert Namatjira was a terrible act of vandalism. Small silvery ghostly gum trees stand upon burnt timber bases intended to evoke images of landscape and cultural practice, both ancient and current. Forged vessels take inspiration from the ghost gums’ colour and form.

The pieces are abstract representations in metals and timber of trees, mountain ranges and land formations. Mountain ranges are used to survey our cities and towns. They collect our water and are harvested for their riches. Once they were homes to spiritual beings.

I was born at the base of mount Baw Baw and have created homage. This mountain for me is a keeper of secrets. As an adult I live upon the shores of Port Phillip Bay, a quiet sleeping giant. St Kilda junction is a lyrical gesture to paths crossing and the corroboree tree that still watches over this site.

Bought together, the sculptures encapsulate a personal sense of belonging to a place. They also endeavour to explore greater cultural notions of ownership.

Artist statement by David Wood

 

David Wood. 'Port Phillip Bay' 2013

 

David Wood
Port Phillip Bay
2013
Copper
33 x 33 x 70cm

 

David Wood. 'St Kilda Junction' 2013

 

David Wood
St Kilda Junction
2013
Stainless steel, mild steel and copper
27 x 40 x 32cm

 

David Wood. 'St Kilda Junction' 2013 (detail)

 

David Wood
St Kilda Junction (detail)
2013
Stainless steel, mild steel and copper
27 x 40 x 32cm

 

DSCN2624-WEB

David Wood. 'Nardoo sentinels' (detail) 2013

 

David Wood
Nardoo sentinels (detail)
2013
Mild steel

 

 

Nardoo sentinels

Inspired by classical structures within great gardens, in particular the Temple of the Winds in the Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens, this functional sculpture reflects the transparency of our native landscape, significant in shaping our cultural ethos. Mirroring a cluster of trees with their canopy hovering above, it defines its space and surrounds. This group of sentinels stand together to offer protection from the elements.

The singular motif takes the form of nardoo, a native water and food plant. Its finishes mimicking its natural colours and hues. Intended to be a water collector, the shelter is engineered to allow rainwater to drain through its canopy and channel down its stems. Visibility of water flow adds a kinetic dimension to the sculpture. Commissioned exclusively by Pask Development Group, via Tract Landscape Architects, this rotunda is a central feature for a public park. It will stand proud later this year.

 

David Wood. 'Nardoo sentinels' (left) and 'Reed Rotunda' (right) 2013

 

David Wood
Nardoo sentinels (left) and Reed Rotunda (right)
2013
Mild steel

 

David Wood. 'Reed rotunda' 2013

 

David Wood
Reed rotunda
2013
Mild steel
70 x 70 x 46cm

 

 

Reed rotunda

The design derives a motif from the natural growth of the Phragmite Australis reeds, a wetland plant indigenous to our continent home.

The common reed is known to everyone and surrounds us. It plays an integral role in conservation as habitat and a guardian for wildlife. A natural purifier, removing toxins from our creeks and wetlands. A reed standing alone may be insignificant, but when congregating on mass, it becomes a formidable force in both structure and function. An organic organism that frames and protects the landscape, moves and changes colour with the seasons, rides the wind and plays with light and shade.

Often overlooked as a feature of landscape or viewed as slightly raggedy, this piece invites visitors to celebrate these reeds as something beautiful and to use them as a metaphor for community, refuge and purification of the spirit and soul.

 

David Wood. 'Baw Baw wall feature' (detail) 2013

David Wood. 'Baw Baw wall feature' (detail) 2013

 

David Wood
Baw Baw wall feature (detail)
2013
Mild steel, stainless steel, copper, brass, aluminium and glass
6200 x 500 x 70cm

 

 

Gasworks Arts Park
21 Graham Street
Albert Park VIC 3206
Phone: (03) 8606 4200

Gallery Hours: 10am – 4pm each day

Gasworks Arts Park website

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30
May
13

Exhibition: ‘Alan Constable: Ten Cameras’ at South Willard, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 4th May – 2nd June 2013

Curator: Ricky Swallow

 

Wow it really happened! Congratulations to Alan Constable, Sim Lutin and Melissa Petty from Arts Project Australia and to Ricky Swallow for curating.

 

 

Alan Constable. 'Red NEK SLR' 2011

 

Alan Constable (Australian, b. 1956)
Red NEK SLR
2011
Ceramic
5.5 x 12.25 x 4.75 inches
© Alan Constable

 

 

“How would a comb that cannot untangle hair look? You can make the object dangerous, humorous, useless, sinister.”
.
Christina Ramberg.

 

Alan Constable’s cameras are real ‘things’; they command constant attention from their audience and from their lucky owners. The resemblance of these sculptures to cameras is a starting point more than an end point, in the same way a swelling foot as painted by Phillip Guston behaves unlike any sensible foot, or a collage of a doorway by James Castle exceeds the expectation its structural simplicity presents.

Constable’s sculpture makes malleable mischief of both the form and function of the camera. In his hands it becomes an anthropomorphic character with endless variations and possibility. Specific types are modelled in clay from magazine advertisements with apt abbreviation and gesture, then glazed and fired in solid, sometimes soupy colours that further activate their surfaces and transform their sober dispositions.

The glazed surfaces are embellished with details so specific and beautiful they necessitate a tactile engagement with the object. As ‘things’ they still buzz with the handling and energy Constable employs in their making. Dials formed separately and thumbed into position, viewfinder windows cut directly through surfaces together with an oversized scale give Constable’s cameras the feeling of buildings or vessels. Scribed lines articulate both panels and seams, skewed inscriptions indicate model and make: all this information registers with efficiency to produce compelling objects.

The basic slab built walls forming the camera’s body also conceal one of the most interesting elements about these sculptures – internal chambers and walls have been built during the early stages of the works. Such entombed detail points towards Constable’s dedication to conceive and map a complete object, a total exploration of his subject based on unique invention and interpretation.”

Ricky Swallow, April 2013

 

South Willard is pleased to present Alan Constable|Ten Cameras as its next Shop Exhibit. Curated by Ricky Swallow in collaboration with Arts Project Australia, this is the first solo presentation of Constable’s ceramic sculptures in the United States. Now in his late 50’s, Constable has been producing his art at Arts Project studio’s in Melbourne since 1987, and has exhibited his camera sculptures in both gallery and institutional exhibitions to critical praise over the past 7 years.

Constable is also participating in Outsiderism curated by Alex Baker at Fleisher Ollman gallery in Philadelphia this month.

Ricky wishes to thank Alex Baker for his introduction to Alan’s work, and Sim Luttin and Melissa Petty at Arts Project Australia for their generous assistance.

 

Alan Constable (Australian, b. 1956) 'Orange AKI SLR' 2011

 

Alan Constable (Australian, b. 1956)
Orange AKI SLR
2011
Ceramic
6 x 10 x 4 inches
© Alan Constable

 

Alan Constable (Australian, b. 1956) 'Green SLR' 2011

 

Alan Constable (Australian, b. 1956)
Green SLR
2011
Ceramic
7.75 x 9 x 3 inches
© Alan Constable

 

 

South Willard
970 N Broadway #205
Los Angeles CA 90012
Phone: (323) 653-6153

Opening hours:
Mon – Sat 12am – 6pm
Sunday 12am – 5pm

Arts Project Australia website

South Willard website

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10
Dec
11

Review: ‘Lionel Bawden: Pattern spill’ at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Richmond

Exhibition dates: 23rd November – 17th December 2011

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Double Vision' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Double Vision
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form: 23.0 x 26.0 x 7.0 cm
Shelf: 7.5 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm

 

 

In the self contained world of commercial “art to go” galleries, this exhibition is the apotheosis of that form. The work is astonishingly beautiful, refined and self contained. Drawing on references to Islamic art, Brancusi (Endless Column), stalactites, wafting sea sponges and the changeable camouflage patterns of sea creatures, the sculptures are perfect in visualisation, creation, contemplation and containment.

Sitting on coloured perspex shelves the patterns spills of coloured Staedtler pencils explore “themes of flux, transformation and repetition as preconditions to our experience of the physical world.” The titles of the work hint at such an exploration: Double VisionTrance-muterSecretionLosing Containment, Pattern Spill.

How I wish, long, crave to own one and I am not alone: on the opening night nearly all the sculptures were already sold! Obviously people recognise the uniqueness and beauty of this work.

And yet …

.
Part of               me

longs
for    a
      broken
pencil,
a
snapped           t/wig,
something
                                           out of place
that puts
pattern to
shame.

 

For only in mutation is pattern given relevance (and this is what the irregularity of ‘spill’ is supposed to be about). The flow of the Pattern Spill sculptures are the only ones that get close to this mutation and that in a pretty, ordered way.

“What happens in the case of mutation? Consider the example of the genetic code. Mutation normally occurs when some random event (for example, a burst of radiation or a coding error) disrupts an existing pattern and something else is put in its place instead. Although mutation disrupts pattern, it also presupposes a morphological standard against which it can be measured and understood as mutation … Mutation is critical because it names the bifurcation point at which the interplay between pattern and randomness causes the system to evolve in a new direction…

The randomness to which mutation testifies is implicit in the very idea of pattern, for only against the background of nonpattern can pattern emerge. Randomness is the contrasting term that allows pattern to be understood as such.”1

.
Instead of pattern “something else is put in its place instead.” I don’t get that here. Yes, these are beautiful, contemplative sculptures but one wonders how they will go on revealing themselves over months and years. I yearn for the prick of their imperfection.

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

 

  1. Hayles, Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999, pp.30-33.

 

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Trance-muter' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Trance-muter
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form: 32.0 x 26.0 x 7.5 cm
Shelf: 7.5 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Secretion' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Secretion
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form: 31.0 x 25.0 x 17.0 cm
Shelf: 7.5 x 45.0 x 30.0 cm

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Losing Containment' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Losing Containment
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form 1: 31.5 x 24.0 x 12.0 cm
Form 2: 33.5 x 33.0 x 26.0 cm
Shelf: 15.0 x 120.0 x 30.0 cm

 

 

Lionel Bawden’s exhibition Pattern Spill will comprise of a range of small-scale objects created from vibrantly coloured pencils that are fused and sculpted together. By working with hexagonal coloured pencils as a sculptural material, Bawden is able to reconfigure and carve a range of amorphous shapes that convey movement and process. Bawden explores themes of flux, transformation and repetition as preconditions to our experience of the physical world.

This new body of work deals with ideas of control and collapse, surface and interior and organic patterns and energies through static three-dimensional objects. Bawden’s sculptures explore larger ideas beyond the work and relate to societal and natural systems, cycles and structures. Through his work, Bawden communicates macro ideas through micro detail. The works in Pattern spill become vessels for contemplation.

Alongside the sculptures there will also be a range of small meticulous drawings of vast hexagonal cells included in the exhibition. These drawings will act as companions to the sculptures, assisting to convey Bawden’s oblique explorations and meditations of the human condition.

Text from the Karen Woodbury Gallery website

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Pattern Spill' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Pattern Spill
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form: 30.0 x 23.5 x 33.0 cm
Shelf: 15.0 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Patttern Spill III' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Patttern Spill III
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form: 31.0 x 23.0 x 34.0 cm
Shelf: 15.0 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Secretion III' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Secretion III
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form: 35.0 x 26.5 x 15.0 cm
Shelf: 15.0 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Elevation' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Elevation
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form: 42.5 x 15.0 x 7.0 cm
Shelf: 7.5 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm

 

 

Karen Woodbury Gallery

This gallery has now closed.

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28
Oct
11

Sculpture: ‘Everything’ by Fredrick White, 2011

October 2012

 

Fredrick White. 'Everything' 2011

 

Fredrick White (Australian)
Everything
2011
steel
210 x 120 x 250cm

 

 

A new sculpture by Fredrick White is appearing in the Lorne Sculpture Prize (now Biennale) which opened on the 16th October and continues until 5th November, 2011. The work continues the artist’s exploration into the matrix of what is seen and not seen, what lies above and below.

Marcus

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

 

Fredrick White. 'Everything' 2011

Fredrick White. 'Everything' 2011

 

Fredrick White (Australian)
Everything
2011
steel
210 x 120 x 250cm

 

 

Fredrick White Sculpture website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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

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