Posts Tagged ‘Australian women

15
Aug
14

Review: ‘Sue Ford’ at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 17th April – 24th August 2014

 

This is hugely disappointing exhibition of the work of Sue Ford at NGV Australia, Melbourne. The artist deserved better.

There is no doubting the importance of Ford’s early black and white photographs. Images of this type had not been seen in Australia before, and looking back now it is hard to appreciate the impact that the Time series (1962-74),  Self-portrait with camera (1960-2006) and images of women had on the photographic scene at the time. These muscular, robust photographs, while not possessing great technical skill, are rightly acknowledged as seminal images in the history of photography in Australia. I cannot praise them highly enough.

However, this exhibition and the important series in it have been ruined by a disastrous hang. The first room is spoiled by an ugly, cheap looking round central installation which is covered by pinned images from the much later series Somewhere in France, 1917 (1995, below) inside of which is projected the video Faces 1976-96 (below). This huge installation simply destroys the sensitivity, size and presence of the small silver gelatin works, overpowering them with repetitive images of a much larger scale.

The second room features a haphazard disposition of Ford’s important portraits of women from her book A Sixtieth of a Second: Portraits of Women 1961-1981, the arrangement of which seems to have no rhyme or reason. It’s all downhill from there. It doesn’t help that Ford’s work looses focus after the initial succinct statements as she begins to work with experimental photographic techniques – photograms, multiple exposures and mirroring of negatives – and, starting in the mid-1980s, branches out into research of Indigenous histories which only results in serviceable photographs at best. What is more disturbing is how later work such as the powerful series Shadow portraits (1994, below) are displayed. I remember seeing this series many years ago at the NGV in St Kilda Road and being bowled over by their size and formal presence; here in a darkened room they are displayed piecemeal and all impact and import is lost. The whole room should have been dedicated to this series, surrounding you with scans of nineteenth-century cartes-de-visite, the empty silhouettes filled with magical photograms of indigenous Australian fauna. That would have been something.

Finally, the exhibition shows 1990s works such as Bima, Brenda and the Madonna (1992-93), Video land (Kakadu river tour) (1994) and Yellowcake (1991) which continue Ford’s interest in social and political issues relating to the Australian landscape. Featuring still images of video shot from a tv screen these fractured, distorted and oversaturated images are printed as colour photocopies and then displayed as fragmented images in a rigid grid system pinned to the wall. These are ugly works. They contain too many elements, the colour, distortion, and bounding box of the tv screen playing badly against the too rigid grid system of the colour photocopies. Ford’s work seems to tail off into something unnatural, a dissolution of identity that really has nothing constructive to say. Perhaps these works do parallel the physical, ecological and spiritual gulf that Ford felt existed between many non-indigenous urban Australians but I don’t really feel that connection in the work and her investigation doesn’t lead to good art. If you want to see the most excellent use of colour, collage, montage, weaving and layering you only have to go up a level at NGV Australia to look at the David McDairmid exhibition to see how it should be done… it’s like night and day, one artist experimenting for abstraction’s sake, and the other really knowing their medium, what they are doing and what narrative/message they want to communicate.

What we cannot take away from Sue Ford is the utmost importance of those feminist images of strong, independent women and the precious, jewel-like, time travelling portrait works. For Ford the process of taking, looking at and using photographs was implicitly connected to a sense of time, time in flux in which the faces of a doubled past (1962-74, 1976-96) are reanimated in the present allowing for a consideration of the effects of ageing and change. Ultimately, these are conceptual works that have great power and integrity.

Unfortunately, the itsy bitsy design of this exhibition doesn’t allow any of the work to shine. It is not up to scratch and not worthy of the artist. Did the NGV run out of time, money and inspiration or where there other factors going on behind the scenes, such as access to the work? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but when you put this exhibition side by side with the 2011 Time Machine: Sue Ford at the Monash Gallery of Art, there is no comparison as to which better conveys the importance of Ford’s work in the history of Australian photography.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

 

 

For some time I have been thinking about the camera itself. Trying to explore its particular UNIQUENESS, coming to terms with the fact that I had been trying to ignore for some years, that the camera is actually a MACHINE. The machine has an enormous power easily abused. Man seems to misuse his machines continuously, with disastrous results for this century. In Time series I tried to use the camera as objectively as possible. It was a time machine. For me it was an amazing experience. It wasn’t until I placed the photograph of the younger face beside the recent photograph that I could fully appreciate the change. The camera showed me with absolute clarity something I could only just perceive with my naked eye.

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Sue Ford 1974

 

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Discussions between Bob Hawke and Galarrwuy Yunupingu' 1988, printed 2014

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Discussions between Bob Hawke and Galarrwuy Yunupingu
1988, printed 2014
Gelatin silver photograph
51 x 61 cm
Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Ross', 1964; 'Ross', 1974 1964-74, printed 1974

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Ross, 1964; Ross, 1974
1964-74, printed 1974
From the Time series 1962-74
Gelatin silver photograph
(a-b) 11.1 x 20.1 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with the assistance of the Visual Arts Board and the KODAK (Australasia) PTY LTD Fund, 1974 (PH171.a-b-1974)
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Annette', 1962; 'Annette', 1974 1962-1974, printed 1974

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Annette, 1962; Annette, 1974
1962-1974, printed 1974
From the Time series 1962-74
Gelatin silver photograph
11.1 x 20.1 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased with the assistance of the Visual Arts Board and the KODAK (Australasia) Pty Ltd Fund, 1974 (PH170.a-b-1974)
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'No title (Photogram of two hands and garden path)' c. 1970

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
No title (Photogram of two hands and garden path)
c. 1970
Gelatin silver photogram
27.6 x 34.7 cm irreg. (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gerstl Bequest, 2000 (2000.60)
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Vietnam: the six o'clock news' c. 1970

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Vietnam: the six o’clock news
c. 1970
Collage of cut gelatin silver photograph on offset-photo lithograph
19.1 x 24.3 cm (image and sheet)
Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Lyn and Carol' 1961, printed 1988

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Lyn and Carol
1961, printed 1988
Gelatin silver photograph
34.1 x 34.2 cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Purchased 1988 (372.1988)
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

 

“The ground-breaking work of Australian photographer and filmmaker Sue Ford will be explored in a major retrospective opening at the National Gallery of Victoria on 17 April. One of the most important practitioners to emerge in the wave of 1970s feminist photographers, Ford is recognised for her inventive and unique approaches to the medium and passionate engagement with feminism and gender issues, contemporary politics and the histories of Australia and its Indigenous people.

The exhibition will bring together more than 150 photographs, digital prints, collages and films spanning the five decades of Ford’s career, as well as important archival materials and, poignantly, several unseen works that the artist was working on at the time of her death in 2009.

Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV, said, “Sue Ford has a long and significant history with the National Gallery of Victoria; she was the first Australian photographer to hold a solo exhibition at the Gallery with her renowned Time Series in 1974, and we have been honoured to present her work many times since. It is appropriate, then, that the NGV presents this retrospective exhibition surveying and celebrating her artistic work and life.”

Ford’s Time Series 1962-74 is regarded as a key moment in Australian photography. In this work, black-and-white double portraits of Ford’s friends and associates were taken around ten years apart and displayed side by side. Some sitters were photographed for a third and even fourth time, producing a remarkable dialogue on the passage of time, identity and personal histories. The entirety of the Time Series will be on display in the exhibition, along with Ford’s long-term project Self-portrait with camera, an extraordinary series of 47 self-portraits taken between 1960 and 2006.

The exhibition will feature Ford’s social documentary and portraiture work; both political and personal, these images reveal intimate depictions of life in inner-city Melbourne along with powerful records of critical political and social milestones including the 1988 Barunga Festival in the Northern Territory. Her prolific output also allows for the exhibition to survey the development of her experimentation with photographic, film, printing and multimedia techniques since the 1960s, such as the photogram, multiple exposures and mirroring of negatives.”

Press release from the NGV website

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Somewhere in France, 1917' 1999

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Somewhere in France, 1917
1999
Digital plan prints on paper
(1-54) 219.6 x 901.8 cm (overall) (installation)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1999 (1999.96.1-54)
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Shadow portraits' 1994

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Shadow portraits
1994
Colour photocopies (a-bbbb)
166.5 x 594.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1995 (1995.614.a-bbbb)
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Jim', 1964; 'Jim', 1969; 'Jim' 1974; 'Jim' 1979 1964-79, printed 2014

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Jim, 1964; Jim, 1969; Jim 1974; Jim 1979
1964-79, printed 2014
From the Time series II 1962-82
Gelatin silver photographs
(a-d) 11.1 x 8.2 cm (each)
Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Fabian', 1966; 'Fabian', 1974; 'Fabian', 1980 1966-80, printed 1982

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Fabian, 1966; Fabian, 1974; Fabian, 1980
1966-80, printed 1982
From the Time series II 1962–82
Gelatin silver photographs
(a) 11.0 x 7.6 cm, (b) 11.8 x 8.4 cm, (c) 11.3 x 8.2 cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales Contempo Group 2013 (265.1996)
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Self-portrait 1961' 1961, printed 2011

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Self-portrait 1961
1961, printed 2011
Type C photograph
26.0 x 19.9 cm
Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Self-portrait 1974' 1974, printed 2011

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Self-portrait 1974
1974, printed 2011
Selenium-toned gelatin silver photograph
19.9 x 18.0 cm
Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Self-portrait 1986' 1986

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Self-portrait 1986
1986
Gelatin silver photograph
8.4 x 6.5 cm
Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Dissolution' 2007

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Dissolution
2007
From the Last Light series 2007
Colour lightjet print
112.0 x 142.0 cm
Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Bima, Brenda and the Madonna' 1992-93

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Bima, Brenda and the Madonna
1992-93
Colour laser prints
Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Video land (Kakadu river tour)' (detail) 1992-93

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Video land (Kakadu river tour) (detail)
1992-93
Colour laser prints
Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

 

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

National Gallery of Victoria website

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22
Sep
13

Review: ‘Carol Jerrems: photographic artist’ at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 6th July – 30th September 2013

A National Gallery of Australia exhibition

*PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS ART PHOTOGRAPHS OF FEMALE NUDITY – IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

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The one and only…

This is a fascinating National Gallery of Australia exhibition about the work of Australian photographer Carol Jerrems at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill – in part both memorable, intimate, informative, beautiful, uplifting and disappointing. Let me explain what I mean.

The first section of the exhibition is devoted to Jerrems student work, notably her experiments with overlapping bodies, depth of field, movement and the layering of space and time that can be seen in her vibrant photoboooks and concertina books (see installation photographs below), accompanied by her own poems. This early work, which I had never seen, provides a wonderful insight into how the later images came to be: the shooting down hallways into the light, the pairing and tripling of bodies one behind the other, and how she constructed narrative in her later set piece photographs. This is the informative part of the exhibition.

As the exhibition moves on to the main body of Jerrems work there, in all their glory, are the famous images: Evonne Goolagong, Melbourne (1973), Flying dog (1973), Vale Street (1975), Mark and Flappers (1975), Mark Lean: rape game (1975), Mozart Street (1975), Butterfly behind glass [Red Symons from Skyhooks] (1975), Lyn (1976), Lyn and the Buick (1976), Dusan and Esben, Cronulla (1977), the self portraits and the lads with their car down by the river bank. These are memorable, intimate images, at the top of tree in terms of their importance as some of the greatest images taken by any Australian photographer of all time. They are right up there with the very best and there is no denying this. But what else is there? Take away the top dozen images of any photographer and look at the next twenty images. Now, what do you see? In Jerrems case, the results (as evidenced by this exhibition) are a little disappointing. Of course, this is not unusual with any artist.

In her low key, diaristic documentary style, Jerrems focuses on life before her lens. She finds joy, intimacy, love, danger, transgression and rape; she portrays women and gay liberation, youth on the streets, sharpies and the indigenous population. As Christopher Allen notes, sexuality and its darker side was never far from the surface in Jerrems work and there was a “mix of defiance, erotic assertiveness and vulnerability of that time… [an] intimate closeness to the subject and the direct and unmodified transcription of the world before her.”1 Her intelligent imaging of everyday subject matter “produced a body of photographs that symbolized the hopes and aspirations of the counter-culture in Australia in the 1970s,” but this investigation did not produce particularly memorable photographs. Outside the top group of images I am struggling to remember her other images.

But what we must remember is that this Australia was another time and place. Art photography books had only just arrived in Melbourne in 1970 and Jerrems was one of the first women to point her camera at other women (producing the book A Book About Australian Women in 1974) and people of the revolution. These are socially important documents in terms of Australian (photographic) history. I believe that she said to herself – I know who I am, but I want to know what other people are like – and she transcribed how she was thinking about the world to the people around her through her photographs. Building on the legacy of artists like Henri Cartier-Bresson, André Kertész and Robert Frank, her photographs are like an after-image of some other place, some other Australia that is only forty years ago but now seems eons away in time and space.

What we take for granted, in terms of sexual liberation, freedom of action and speech, she had to fight for. She had to fight for photographic, conceptual and technical knowledge to arm herself as an intelligent women (for that is what she was), so that she could image/imagine the world. She had to fight damn hard for these things – and then she upped the ante and pushed even harder, even further. These are dangerous photos, for women and gay men were vulnerable and threatened, marginalised and they were a target. Even in the act of photographing, her going into these places (brothels for example), she would have been a target. Does this make for memorable photographs?  Not necessarily, and you can see this in the unevenness of the results of her investigation. But socially these are very important images.

The pity is that she died so young for what this exhibition brought home to me was that here was an artist still defining, refining her subject matter. She never had to time to develop a mature style, a mature narrative as an artist (1975-1976 seems to be the high point as far as this exhibition goes). This is the great regret about the work of Carol Jerrems. Yes, there is some mediocre work in this exhibition, stuff that really doesn’t work at all (such as the brothel photographs), experimental work, individual and collective images that really don’t impinge on your consciousness. But there are also the miraculous photographs (and for a young photographer she had a lot of those), the ones that stay with you forever. The right up there, knock you out of the ball park photographs and those you cannot simply take away from the world. They live on in the world forever.

Does Jerrems deserve to be promoted as a legend, a ‘premier’ of Australian photography as some people are doing? Probably not on the evidence of this exhibition but my god, those top dozen or so images are something truly special to behold. Their ‘presence’ alone – their physicality in the world, their impact on you as you stand before them – guarantees that Jerrems will forever remain in the very top echelons of Australian photographers of all time not as a legend, but as a women of incredible strength, intelligence, passion, determination and vision.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to Mark Hislop for his help and Monash Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Carol Jerrems. 'A poem' 1970

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Carol Jerrems
A poem
1970
Gelatin silver photographs, letterpress, installed at Monash Gallery of Art
Photograph: Katie Tremschnig

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Carol Jerrems. 'A poem' 1970

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Carol Jerrems
A poem
1970
Gelatin silver photographs, letterpress, installed at Monash Gallery of Art
Photograph: Katie Tremschnig

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Carol Jerrems. 'Jim Fields, a portrait' 1970

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Carol Jerrems
Jim Fields, a portrait
1970
Gelatin silver photographs, letterpress, installed at Monash Gallery of Art
Photograph: Katie Tremschnig

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Carol Jerrems 'The Royal Melbourne Show.....1968, an essay' (L) and 'Movement with Zara' (R) 1968

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Carol Jerrems
The Royal Melbourne Show…..1968, an essay (L) and Movement with Zara (R)
1968
Gelatin silver photographs, letterpress, installed at Monash Gallery of Art
Photograph: Katie Tremschnig

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Living in the seventies

Carol Jerrems’s gritty, poetic and elusive images show people trying to find a new way of life and action in the 1970s. Her images have come to define a decade in Australia’s history. In contrast to an earlier generation of internationally renowned magazine photojournalists such as David Moore, the new generation did not seek commissioned commercial or magazine work and took instead a low key intimate approach with a diaristic personal-documentary style of imagery focussed on themselves and their own, mostly urban, environments. Jerrems put her camera where the counter culture suggested; women’s liberation, social inclusiveness for street youths and Indigenous people in the cities who were campaigning for justice and land rights.

Carol Jerrems was the first contemporary Australian woman photographer to have work acquired by a number of museums including the National Gallery of Australia. The National Gallery holds an extensive archive of Jerrems photographs and film work gifted by the artist’s mother Joy Jerrems in 1983. The current exhibition concentrates on prints signed or formally exhibited, by Carol Jerrems in her lifetime dating from 1968-1978. MGA is the only Victorian venue to host the National Gallery of Australia’s major new exhibition Carol Jerrems: photographic artist. This extraordinary exhibition tells the story of Jerrems’ complex and highly influential practice. Drawn from the National Gallery of Australia’s massive holdings of the artist’s work, Carol Jerrems: photographic artist features more than 100 works, most of which have not been seen in Melbourne since Jerrems lived here during the late ’60s and ’70s.

Jerrems was born in Melbourne in 1949 and studied photography at Prahran Technical College under Paul Cox and Athol Shmith. Although she practised as an artist for only a decade, Jerrems has acquired a celebrated place in the annals of Australian photography. Her reputation is based on her intensely compassionate, formally striking pictures, her intimate connection with the people involved in social movements of the day, and her role in the promotion of ‘art photography’ in this country.

Jerrems was one of several Australian women whose work during the 1970s challenged the dominant ideas of what a photographer was and how they worked. She adopted a collaborative approach to making photographs, often featuring friends and associates, and sought a photographic practice that would bring about social change. Her gritty, poetic and elusive images show people trying to find a new way of life in the 1970s. Her images have come to define Melbourne in a decade of great social and political upheaval.

Carol Jerrems: photographic artist pays tribute to this important period in recent Australian history, showing how Jerrems participated in and helped to define Melbourne’s subculture and style in the 1970s. MGA Director Shaune Lakin said Jerrems’ vision would particularly resonate with Melbourne audiences, especially as her vision was revealed across the full breadth of her work. “Carol Jerrems: photographic artist is a perfect story for MGA to tell, as it is also the story of Melbourne in the 1970s. Jerrems captured Melbourne’s sub-cultures – sharpies, mods, hippies, feminists and gay liberationists – with powerful images that engage the viewer intimately with her subjects.”

As Dr Lakin notes, this is a rare chance to see the works Jerrems intended for exhibition: “Carol Jerrems: photographic artist concentrates on prints signed or formally exhibited by Jerrems in her lifetime, most returning to Melbourne for the first time. In addition to many of the images for which Jerrems is rightly famous, visitors to MGA can see Jerrems’ early work, including her extraordinary concertina books and other photobooks,” Lakin said.”

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art website

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Carol Jerrems. 'Flying dog' 1973

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Carol Jerrems
Flying dog
1973
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1976
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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Carol Jerrems. 'Mark and Flappers' 1975

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Carol Jerrems
Mark and Flappers
1975
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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Carol Jerrems. 'Vale Street' 1975

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Carol Jerrems
Vale Street
1975
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1976
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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“From the outset, Jerrems was interested in the expressive possibilities of the photographic medium, declaring that she was ‘an artist whose tool of expression is the camera’. She concentrated on photographing people; her subjects included her students, and her friends and acquaintances. Her first photographs were documentary in style, but by the mid-1970s the scenes she photographed were often contrived. She used a non-exploitative approach, based on the consent of her subjects. For Jerrems, photography had a crucial social role: ‘the society is sick and I must help change it’. Her photographs were a means of ‘bringing people together’ and offered affirmative views of certain aspects of contemporary life. With Virginia Fraser, she published A Book About Australian Women (Melbourne, 1974), to which she contributed the photographs…

Although one critic regarded her work as uneven – ‘she took a casual approach’ – Jerrems’s talents as a photographer were widely recognized. With her camera ‘firmly pointed at the heart of things’, she produced a body of photographs that symbolized the hopes and aspirations of the counter-culture in Australia in the 1970s.”

Helen Ennis, Australian Dictionary of Biography Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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Carol Jerrems. 'Mirror with a memory: motel room' 1977

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Carol Jerrems
Mirror with a memory: motel room
1977
Type C colour photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of Mrs Joy Jerrems 1981
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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Carol Jerrems. 'Boys' 1973

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Carol Jerrems
Boys
1973
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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Carol Jerrems. 'Outback Press Melbourne' 1974

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Carol Jerrems
Outback Press Melbourne
1974
left to right: Colin Talbot (writer), Alfred Milgrom (publisher), Morry Schwartz (entrepreneur, publisher, now publisher of The Monthly), Mark Gillespie (singer/songwriter)
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of Mrs Joy Jerrems 1981
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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Carol Jerrems. 'Carol Jerrems, self-portrait with Esben Storm' c.1975

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Carol Jerrems
Carol Jerrems, self-portrait with Esben Storm
c.1975
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of Mrs Joy Jerrems 1981
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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Carol Jerrems. 'Dusan and Esben, Cronulla' 1977

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Carol Jerrems
Dusan and Esben, Cronulla
1977
Gelatin silver photograph
20.1 x 30.3 cm image
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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Carol Jerrems. 'Butterfly behind glass [Red Symons from Skyhooks]' 1975

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Carol Jerrems
Butterfly behind glass [Red Symons from Skyhooks]
1975
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of Mrs Joy Jerrems 1981
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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Carol Jerrems. 'Jane Oehr, “Womenvision”, Filmaker's Co-Op' 1973

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Carol Jerrems
Jane Oehr, “Womenvision”, Filmaker’s Co-Op
1973
From A Book about Australian Women (Outback Press, 1974)
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of Mrs Joy Jerrems 1981
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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Carol Jerrems. 'Performers on stage,' Hair', Metro Theatre Kings Cross, Sydney, January 1970 [Jim Sharman Director cast included Reg Livermore]' 1970

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Carol Jerrems
Performers on stage, ‘Hair’, Metro Theatre Kings Cross, Sydney, January 1970
[Jim Sharman Director cast included Reg Livermore]
1970
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of Mrs Joy Jerrems 1981
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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Carol Jerrems. 'Peggy Selinski' 1968

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Carol Jerrems
Peggy Selinski
1968
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of Mrs Joy Jerrems 1981
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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Carol Jerrems. 'Lynn' 1976

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Carol Jerrems
Lynn
1976
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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1. Allen, Christopher. “Between suburbia and radicalism,” in The Australian newspaper, October 20th, 2012.

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

Opening hours:
Tue – Fri: 10am – 5pm
Sat – Sun: 12pm – 5pm
Mon/public holidays: closed

Monash Gallery of Art website

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10
Oct
10

Review: ‘Up Close: Carol Jerrems with Larry Clark, Nan Goldin and William Yang’ at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 31st July – 31st October 2010

 

Carol Jerrems. 'Vale Street' 1975

 

Carol Jerrems (Australian, 1949-1980)
Vale Street
1975
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of the Philip Morris Arts Grant, 1982
© Ken Jerrems & the Estate of Lance Jerrems

 

 

“A face tells the story of what a person is thinking. The eyes reveal the suffering.”

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Carol Jerems

 

 

Time and Truth: Looking again at the work of Carol Jerrems

This is a solid exhibition of the photographs of Carol Jerrems at Heide Museum of Modern Art, accompanied by small selections of the work of Larry Clark and William Yang and the sequence The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1979) by Nan Goldin.

I like Jerrems work: it is strong, frontal, direct and truthful. What I dislike is the hagiography that has grown up around this artist, the mythologizing of Saint Jerrems. We don’t need a saint of Australian photography; what we need is an appreciation of the artist, the person and her legacy. While the personal history of this artist is well known – facing depression, putting herself in danger, sexually active, documenting the counter-culture sharps and skinheads and urban indigenous people, the photographing of women and her death at far too young an age – few people actually look at the photographs clearly.

Most of the photographs are 8″ x 10″ prints, mainly portraits, that are usually dark and contrasty, small and emotionally intense. Jerrems images are made full frame (the modernist conceit of filing out a negative carrier, so that if the negative was printed full frame there would be a black border around the picture) to avoid cropping in the darkroom. This shows good previsualisation by the artist, the composition of the image made at the time of the exposure. There is a closeness to the framing of the portraits and a conversant ambiguity about all of her backgrounds – mainly low depth of field, anonymous places (perhaps a brick wall or a close up of a street corner). In fact it is difficult to pin down any actual place in her photographs unless you are told in the title of the work. The contextlessness of her backgrounds allows the viewer to focus on the people placed before her lens and here Jerrems gets up close and personal, trying to capture the truth of her subjects, their soul (in this sense she is like Diane Arbus, thrusting her camera into places it was not supposed to go until something gives – the subject gives up, drops the mask, even if just for a split second, and click, the artist has their image). The mainly head and shoulders photographs of women are most impressive in this regard as Jerrems portrays the women’s strength and vulnerability as are the photographs of the artist herself in hospital fighting her debilitating illness, the most moving, emotional photographs in the exhibition.

Other photographs show constructed intimacies between people, the camera and the artist. In Esben and Dusan, Cronulla (1977, above), Jerrems uses the yin yang black, white background to frame the two protagonists, bringing forward the body of Esben in the right portion of the frame and letting Dusan recede into the darkness. In Boys (1973) two bodies are photographed in a bed, legs and arms entwined but the print is so dark that you would never know they were two boys unless you were told – and this adds to a sense of mystery, the imaging of the most beautiful, sensitive, abstract embrace. Mark Lean with Arms Crossed (1975) shows a cocky, self-assured Lean staring directly at the camera as though it were not there, as though he were conversing directly with Jerrems, the camera an extension of the artist capturing his brave-aura: one camera, one lens, one vision. If you study the contact sheet for the photograph Vale Street (1975, above), Jerrems eventually draws the central luminous figure forward in the frame to create the now iconic image while the two acolytes hover, brooding and menacing in the darkened background.

As Kathy Drayton has observed, “Her photographs engage the viewer in an intimate relationship with her subjects. It’s not always a friendly intimacy – sometimes her subjects look defensive, irritated or even menacing, but you always sense that you’re seeing beyond the mask into the soul.”1

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Jerrems saw herself as a serious photographer; if something happened she felt she should be commenting on it. She was also quite naive but always pushed herself and her art into sometimes dangerous places. She would have thought ‘how do I say something that is true’ and her endeavour, which is also constructed, was seeing things in terms of opportunities for a good photograph. Jerrems removed the safeguards; she got right in there among her volatile characters, her potential sexual predators: let’s just see what happens when the safety fence goes down. Although I believe there is a lack of really good photographs that Jerrems made (what I call highlight pieces, namely the iconic Vale Street, Mozart Street, and Mark and Flappers all 1975, see photographs below) there is a consistency to her work and how it exemplifies an exchange that takes place between the artist and the world. What I would call “a good deal.”

When looking at art, one of the best experiences for me is gaining the sense that something is open before you, that wasn’t open before. I don’t mean accessible, I mean open like making a clearing in the jungle, or being able to see further up a road, or just further on. And also like an open marketplace – where there were always good trades. There is the feeling that if you put in a certain amount of honesty, then you would get something back that made some room for you in front – some room that would allow you to look forward, and maybe even walk into that space. Seeing Jerrems work gives you that feeling.

Jerrems had the power to draw themes together, to ramp up the intensity, to empower her photographs and she was possibly on the way to becoming the things that people now say she was, but her early death curtailed this journey. Her photographs have social significance and photographic integrity and evidence time in the visible – the time in which Jerrems took them, the 1970s, and the truthfulness of her self and her style. I would have loved to have seen Jerrem’s response to the film still work of Cindy Sherman, the layering of the Sherman personas and the challenge to the feminist critique. As it is Jerrems photographs are very frontal in today’s terms and, because of her early death, she lacked the opportunity to interact with the development of more complex theories. The layers present at the time are now conflated into seemingly one layer, supported by back stories and obfuscation that clouds the work – it’s naked frontality and boldness. This obfuscation formalises her legacy into mythology.

Jerrems work does not need this. She struggled with her art, to get the best out of herself and her visualisation, to step into those spaces that I mentioned earlier. What we need is an appreciation of the time of her endeavour and the truthfulness of her art. To say that the work achieved fulfilment is to deny the importance of her death.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Drayton, Kathy quoted in Wilmoth, Peter. “The ’70s stripped bare,” on The Age website. July 17th, 2005. [Online] Cited 05/10/2010

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Many thankx to Jade Enge and Heide Museum of Modern Art for allowing me publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on all of the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Carol Jerrems. 'Mozart Street' 1975

 

Carol Jerrems (Australian, 1949-1980)
Mozart Street
1975
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of the Philip Morris Arts Grant, 1982
© Ken Jerrems & the Estate of Lance Jerrems

 

Carol Jerrems. 'Mark and Flappers' 1975

 

Carol Jerrems (Australian, 1949-1980)
Mark and Flappers
1975
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of James Mollison, 1994
© Ken Jerrems & the Estate of Lance Jerrems

 

Carol Jerrems. 'Dusan and Esben' 1977

 

Carol Jerrems (Australian, 1949-1980)
Dusan and Esben
1977

 

Carol Jerrems. 'Flying Dog' Nd

 

Carol Jerrems (Australian, 1949-1980)
Flying Dog
Nd

 

Carol Jerrems. 'Butterfly Behind Glass' 1975

 

Carol Jerrems (Australian, 1949-1980)
Butterfly Behind Glass
1975
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of Mrs Joy Jerrems, 1981
© Ken Jerrems & the Estate of Lance Jerrems

 

Carol Jerrems. 'Evonne Goolagong, Melbourne' 1973

 

Carol Jerrems (Australian, 1949-1980)
Evonne Goolagong, Melbourne
1973
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of Mrs Joy Jerrems, 1981
© Ken Jerrems & the Estate of Lance Jerrems

 

 

Featuring the exceptional talent of four photographers whose images capture people, places and events with candid intimacy, Up Close traces the significant legacy of Australian photographer Carol Jerrems (1949–1980) alongside that of contemporary artists Larry Clark (USA), Nan Goldin (USA) and William Yang (Sydney). According to Guest Curator Natalie King, ‘Up Close takes its inspiration from the way each artist candidly depicts a social milieu and urban life of the 1970s and early 1980s’. Sharing an interest in sub-cultural groups and individuals on the margins of society, each artist reveals a remarkable capacity to provide an empathetic glimpse into semi-private worlds through intimate depictions of people and their surroundings.

Newly discovered prints by Jerrems are included as well as rare archival material from Jerrems’ family and previously unseen out-takes from Kathy Drayton’s documentary film, ‘Girl in the Mirror.’ It is 30 years since Jerrems’ death and 20 years since the first and only survey of her work was presented. Jerrems’ photographic practice was associated with a feminist and political imperative; as she put it: ‘the society is sick and I must help change it’. This exhibition uncovers Jerrems’ preoccupation with people and their environment, subcultures, forgotten and dispossessed groups, especially Aboriginal communities of the time.

Larry Clark unflinchingly turned the camera onto himself and his amphetamine-shooting coterie to produce Tulsa (1971), a series of photographs repeatedly cited for its raw depiction of marginalized youth. This significant publication and photographic series influenced Goldin and a generation of artists who aspired to break with the more traditional documentary modes. With its grainy shot-from-the-hip style, Tulsa exposes a world of sex, death, violence, anxiety and boredom capturing the aimlessness and ennui of teenagers.

First shown at Frank Zappa’s birthday party in 1979 at the Mudd Club in New York, Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency has evolved to be an iconic work of its time. Goldin’s snapshot aesthetic is evident in this immersive installation of close to 700 slides full of saturated colour and intimate framing accompanied by a soundtrack. Mining the emotional depths of her friends, lovers and family, Ballad signals a riveting intimacy whilst uncovering the bohemian life of New York’s Lower East Side. Goldin says, ‘I was documenting my life. It comes directly from the snapshot, which is always about love…’

William Yang’s photographs from the 1970s further the snapshot aesthetic through journeying into the intimate world of his particular social milieu: drag queens, Sydney gay and inner-city culture. Yang’s direct, unpretentious photographs provide a unique chronicle of marginalised groups especially as he put it: “…people who are gay, who were invisible, who were too scared to come out. During gay liberation people became visible, people became politicised, and there was a Mardi Gras that was a symbol of the movement.”

Up Close reveals how photographic practices provide an empathetic glimpse into semi-private worlds with close up depictions of people and their surroundings.

The accompanying publication provides for the first time an in-depth account of Carol Jerrems’ work alongside that of her peers and will feature a number of newly commissioned essays. Edited by Natalie King and co-published by Heide and Schwartz City, it will be available at the Heide Store from 31 July.”

Press release from the Heide Museum of Modern Art website

 

Carol Jerrems. 'Juliet Holding Vale Street' 1976

 

Carol Jerrems (Australian, 1949-1980)
Juliet Holding Vale Street
1976
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of Mrs Joy Jerrems 1981
© Ken Jerrems & the Estate of Lance Jerrems

 

Carol Jerrems. 'Lynn' 1976

 

Carol Jerrems (Australian, 1949-1980)
Lynn
1976
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of the Philip Morris Arts Grant 1982
© Ken Jerrems & the Estate of Lance Jerrems

 

Larry Clark. 'Untitled' 1979

 

Larry Clark (American, b. 1943)
Untitled
1979
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980
© Larry Clark
Image courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York

 

Larry Clark. 'No Title (Billy Mann)' 1963 from the portfolio 'Tulsa'

 

Larry Clark (American, b. 1943)
No Title (Billy Mann)
1963
from the portfolio Tulsa
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980
Image courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York

 

 

Heide Museum of Modern Art
7 Templestowe Road, Bulleen, Victoria 3105

Opening hours:
(Heide II & Heide III)
Tues – Sun 10.00 am – 5.00 pm

Heide Museum of Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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