Posts Tagged ‘Barry Humphries

05
Mar
17

Exhibition: ‘David Hockney: Current’ at NGV International, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 11th November 2016 – 13th March 2017

 

Drawing inside the line

What Hockney does not do in his recent work, is draw inside the line.* By this I mean he fails to invest each line with feeling and empathy. For Hockney, the line is only a means to an end, for his art is basically reductive: how little can I get away with to impart my message.

The Yosemite paintings riff off Ansel Adams photographs; the 82 portraits & 1 still life (2013-2016, below) are some of the most dire portraits I have seen in a long time; and the paintings within paintings (or videos with split screens), develop his earlier Polaroid photography work with multiple perspectives making up one image, to little benefit. He even self quotes in A bigger card players (2015, below) with a painting of his earlier photographic work in the background.

Recently there were 553 Likes on one posting on the NGV Facebook page – it’s marvellous, fabulous, love the colours, just brilliant – and not a critical word to be heard. You could call this a kind of popular hysteria. But there has been little professional buzz around the exhibition.

For the viewer there is the invitation to reimagine, to see the world in different ways. But am I convinced? Not at all. I’ve seen the exhibition twice and have been totally underwhelmed both times. It’s just a contemporary version of Etch A Sketch – iPad art for the noughties.

Further, there seems to be little feeling about the whole enterprise. It’s as though he couldn’t push the art out fast enough, just like taking selfies on an iPhone and uploading them to Instagram. And this interchange between computer and eye, where the paintings look like computer aided anythings – is just rubbish.

I’ll leave you with a long but important text by Max Raphael quoted in John Berger’s Landscapes (below). Here Raphael articulates the concept of pictorial space and denotes the importance of an intensity of figuration. For Raphael, originality of constitution is NOT the urge to be different from others (iPad paintings etc…), it is the grasping of the origin of things: the roots of both ourselves and things. While suggestive form is a form of shorthand for the artist to convey the contents and feelings within himself to the viewer as Raphael notes, the artist must act upon the whole man, i.e. he must make the viewer live in the work’s own mode of reality.

This is something that Hockney never gets inside and never achieves. In the end the work is just appearance and illusion or, as someone said to me recently, smoke and mirrors.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the NGV for allowing me to publish the media images in this posting (first section of the posting).

All other images © David Hockney, Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria. Not to be reproduced without permission.

 

 

What are the methods of figuration?

1. The structuring of space.
2. The rendering of forms within that space effective.

The structuring of space has nothing to do with perspective: it’s tasks are to dislocate space so that it ceases to be static (the simplest example is that of the forward-coming relaxed leg in standing Greek figures) and to divide space into quanta so that we become conscious of its divisibility, and thus cease to be creatures of its continuity (for example, the receding planes parallel to the picture surface in late Cezannes). “To create pictorial space is to penetrate not only into the depths of the picture but also into the depths of our intellectual system of co-ordinates (which matches that of the world). Depth of space is depth of essence or else it is nothing but appearance and illusion.”

“The distinction between actual form and effective form is as follows: Actual form is descriptive; effective form is suggestive, i.e. through it the artist, instead of trying to convey the contents and feelings to the viewer by fully describing them, provides him only with as many clues as he needs to produce these contents and feelings within himself. To achieve this the artist must act not upon individual sense organs but upon the whole man, i.e. he must make the viewer live in the work’s own m.ode of reality.”

What does figuration, with this special material (see above), achieve?

“Intensity of figuration is not display of the artist’s strength; not vitality, which animates the outer world with the personal energies of the creative artist; not logical or emotional consistency, with which a limited problem is thought through or felt through to its ultimate consequences. What it does denote is the degree to which the very essence of art has been realised: the undoing of the world of things, the construction of the world of values, and hence the constitution of a new world. The originality of this constitution provides us with a general criterion by which we can measure intensity of figuration. Originality of constitution is not the urge to be different from others, to produce something entirely new; it is … the grasping of the origin: the roots of both ourselves and things.”

Max Raphael quoted in John Berger. “Revolutionary Undoing: On Max Raphael’s The Demands of Art,” John Berger. Landscapes. London and New York: Verso, 2016, pp. 50-51.

 

* “A line, an area of tone, is important not really because it records what you have seen, but because of what it will lead you on to see. Following up its logic in order to check its accuracy, you find confirmation or denial in the object itself or in your memory of it. Each confirmation or denial brings you closer to the object, until finally you are, as it were, inside it: the contours you have drawn no longer marking the edge of what you have seen, but the edge of what you have become.”

John Berger. “The Basis of All Painting and Sculpture is Drawing,” in John Berger. Landscapes. London and New York: Verso, 2016, p. 27.

 

 

David Hockney. "Untitled" 2009 iPad Drawing © David Hockney

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
Untitled, 91
2009
iPhone drawing
Collection of the artist
© David Hockney

 

David Hockney. "Untitled, 22 January 2011" iPad Drawing © David Hockney

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
Untitled, 655
2011
iPad drawing
Collection of the artist
© David Hockney

 

David Hockney. "Self Portrait, 25 March 2012, No. 3" iPad Drawing © David Hockney

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
Self Portrait, 25 March 2012, No. 3 (1236)
iPad drawing
Collection of the artist
© David Hockney

 

David Hockney. "Self Portrait, 20 March 2012" iPad Drawing © David Hockney

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
Self-portrait, 20 March 2012 (1219)
iPad drawing
Collection of the artist
© David Hockney

 

David Hockney. "Self Portrait, 21 March 2012" iPad Drawing © David Hockney

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
Self-portrait, 21 March 2012 (1223)
iPad drawing
Collection of the artist
© David Hockney

 

David Hockney. "Self Portrait, 25 March 2012, No. 2" iPad Drawing © David Hockney

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
Self-portrait, 25 March 2012, No. 2 (1233)
iPad drawing
Collection of the artist
© David Hockney

 

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'Bigger trees near Warter or/ou Peinture sur le motif pour le nouvel age post-photographique' 2007

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
Bigger trees near Warter or/ou Peinture sur le motif pour le nouvel age post-photographique
2007
Oil on 50 canvases
459.0 x 1225.0 cm (overall)
Tate, London
Presented by the artist 2008 (T12887)
© David Hockney
Photo credit: Richard Schmidt

 

David Hockney "Yosemite I, October 16th 2011" © David Hockney

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
Yosemite I, October 16th 2011 (1059)
iPad drawing printed on four sheets of paper (39 x 35″ each) mounted on four sheets of Dibond
Edition of 12
77 3/4 x 69 3/4″ overall
Collection of the artist
© David Hockney
Photo credit: Richard Schmidt

 

David Hockney "The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven) - 31 May, No. 1" iPad drawing © David Hockney

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven) – 31 May, No. 1
iPad drawing printed on six sheets of paper (46 1/2 x 35″ each), mounted on four sheets of Dibond
Edition of 10
290.8 x 218.4 cm (overall)
© David Hockney
Photo credit: Richard Schmidt

 

David Hockney. "The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven) - 29 January" iPad drawing © David Hockney

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven) – 29 January
iPad drawing printed on four sheets of paper (46 1/2 x 35″ each), mounted on four sheets of Dibond
Edition of 10
290.8 x 218.4 cm (overall)
© David Hockney
Photo credit: Richard Schmidt

 

David Hockney. "Barry Humphries, 26-28 March" 2015 Acrylic on canvas 48 x 36" © David Hockney

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
Barry Humphries, 26-28 March
2015
Acrylic on canvas
48 x 36″
© David Hockney
Photo credit: Richard Schmidt

 

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'The group XI, 7-11 July 2014'

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
The group XI, 7-11 July 2014
Acrylic on canvas
122.0 x 183.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© David Hockney
Photo credit: Richard Schmidt

 

David Hockney (English 1937- ) '4 blue stools' 2014

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
4 blue stools
2014
Photographic drawing printed on paper, mounted on Dibond
edition 5 of 25
170.3 x 175.9 cm (image)
Collection David Hockney Foundation
© David Hockney
Photo credit: Richard Schmidt

 

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'A bigger card players' 2015

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
A bigger card players
2015
Photographic drawing printed on paper mounted on aluminium
edition 1 of 12
177.2 x 177.2 cm
Collection David Hockney Foundation
© David Hockney
Photo credit: Richard Schmidt

 

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'The jugglers' 2012

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
The jugglers
2012
18 digital videos synchronized and presented on 18 55-inch screens to comprise a single artwork
22 min
205.7 x 728.0 cm (overall)
Collection of the artist
© David Hockney

 

 

The National Gallery of Victoria presents a major solo exhibition of one of the most influential artists of the past century, David Hockney: Current, open until 13 March 2017 at NGV International. The exhibition, curated by the NGV in collaboration with David Hockney and his studio, features more than 1200 works from the past decade of the artist’s career – some new and most never-before-seen in Australia – including paintings, digital drawings, photography and video works.

Exhibition highlights include hundreds of extraordinary and sometimes animated, iPad digital drawings of still life compositions, self-portraits and large-scale landscapes including scenes of Yosemite National Park. Another highlight is The four seasons, Woldgate Woods (Spring 2011, Summer 2010, Autumn 2010, Winter 2010), a breath-taking and immersive video work showcasing the changing landscape of Hockney’s native Yorkshire, each season comprised of nine high-definition screens. A dedicated 60-metre long gallery lined with more than 80 recently painted acrylic portrait paintings of the artist’s family, friends and notable subjects including artists John Baldessari and Barry Humphries is also a major highlight.

Arguably Britain’s greatest living contemporary artist, David Hockney, 79, today works prolifically as a painter, also experimenting and mastering new technologies, producing thousands of drawings and works created on iPhone, iPad and in video. The artist will create a number of new works for the exhibition including an immersive room installation, which will be exhibited for the first time at the NGV.

Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV said: ‘It is a privilege to collaborate with David Hockney, one of the world’s most celebrated and truly innovative artists, to develop this exhibition which features dynamic new works and highlights of his oeuvre from the past decade. His recent use of cutting-edge technology will provide an engaging experience for visitors and reveal the mastery and skill behind his ever-evolving practice.’

Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley said: ‘Presenting the work of the illustrious artist David Hockney is yet another coup for the NGV and presents an unprecedented opportunity for Victorians and all visitors to the state to experience the work of one of the world’s greatest living artists. It will no doubt be another must-see event on Victoria’s cultural calendar this summer.’

Other highlights of the exhibition include Bigger Trees Near Warter, Hockney’s largest painting comprised of 50 oil on canvas panels, and the centrepiece of Hockney’s hugely popular exhibition A Bigger Picture at the Royal Academy, London and now owned by the Tate. Transforming the gallery, the three remaining walls of this space will display 1:1 digital versions of the same work and it will be the first time that this major work has been exhibited in Australia.

Hockney’s continued investigation into multi-point perspective will be represented by The Jugglers, an 18-screen, 22-minute video that depicts the artist in a room of jugglers, injecting Hockney’s signature playfulness into the exhibition. Again utilising technology to reveal a study in perspective, Hockney’s Seven Yorkshire Landscapes is a 12-minute multi-viewpoint video displayed on 18 tiled, 55-inch monitors which will monumentally showcase the extraordinary landscape.

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria

 

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'iPad drawings' 2010-16

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'iPad drawings' 2010-16

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'iPad drawings' 2010-16

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'iPad drawings' 2010-16

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'iPad drawings' 2010-16

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
iPad drawings
2010-16
iPad drawings, animations
Collection of the artist

 

 

The largest change in Hockney’s drawing technique at this time came with the artist’s adoption of the iPad. The surface of the iPad is much larger than the iPhone’s and is more in keeping with the scale of a traditional sketchbook. Soon after adopting the new device Hockney began drawing with a stylus rather than his finger. This was a significant development because it allowed him to continue his approach to drawing, developed throughout his career, on the new device.

 

David Hockney (English 1937- ) Bigger trees near Warter or/ou Peinture sur le motif pour le nouvel age post-photographique 2007 Oil on 50 canvases 459.0 x 1225.0 cm (overall) Tate, London

David Hockney (English 1937- ) Bigger trees near Warter or/ou Peinture sur le motif pour le nouvel age post-photographique 2007 Oil on 50 canvases 459.0 x 1225.0 cm (overall) Tate, London

David Hockney (English 1937- ) Bigger trees near Warter or/ou Peinture sur le motif pour le nouvel age post-photographique 2007 Oil on 50 canvases 459.0 x 1225.0 cm (overall) Tate, London

David Hockney (English 1937- ) Bigger trees near Warter or/ou Peinture sur le motif pour le nouvel age post-photographique 2007 Oil on 50 canvases 459.0 x 1225.0 cm (overall) Tate, London

David Hockney (English 1937- ) Bigger trees near Warter or/ou Peinture sur le motif pour le nouvel age post-photographique 2007 Oil on 50 canvases 459.0 x 1225.0 cm (overall) Tate, London

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
Bigger trees near Warter or/ou Peinture sur le motif pour le nouvel age post-photographique
2007
Oil on 50 canvases
459.0 x 1225.0 cm (overall)
Tate, London

 

 

The approach taken by Hockney in making this enormous work was technically innovative and complex. Working closely with his assistant Jean-Pierre Gonçalves de Lima (J-P), Hockney first painted each canvas on site, and at the end of every day’s work J-P digitally documented the progress made. Prints were then created from the digital images, making it possible to compare and contrast multiple canvases and check the progress of the overall picture at the location. In this presentation the painting is flanked by three versions printed from digital documentation of the canvases.

 

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven) - 4 May'

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven) - 4 May'

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven) – 4 May
iPad drawing printed on six sheets of paper (46 1/2 x 35″ each), mounted on four sheets of Dibond

 

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven)' (various)

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven)' (various)

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven)' (various)

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven) - 2 January'

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven)
iPad drawings and animations
Collection of the artist

 

The full suite of iPad drawings from the series The arrival of spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven) are presented here on monitors as final works and as animations showing each stroke of their creation.

 

 

Exhibition highlights and themes

iPHONE AND iPAD DRAWINGS

Hockney has a large pocket inside every suit he owns – it used to contain a sketchbook, now it holds an iPad. A hallmark of Hockney’s career has been constant experimentation with new technologies. Since the 1970s, Hockney has made art using Polaroid photography, colour photocopying, the fax machine, computers, high-definition multi-screen video and, in recent years, iPhones and iPads. These drawings also give charming insight into Hockney’s domestic life in Yorkshire, depicting slippers, bedclothes, pots of teas and flowers.

BIGGER TREES NEAR WARTER

Hockney grew up in Yorkshire in the city of Bradford; however, he left the district around age twenty – first for London, then briefly for Paris, before moving to Los Angeles. In 2004, Hockney returned to Yorkshire and set up a residence in the countryside. There, Hockney took much inspiration from the intensity of the seasons in Yorkshire. After living in California with its strong even light and mild temperature, Yorkshire offered intensely changing seasons and constantly modulating light.

Bigger Trees Near Warter is David Hockney’s largest painting and comprises fifty smaller canvases that combine to make one giant work. The work transports the viewer to the Yorkshire countryside in wintertime and surrounds them in a thicket of deciduous trees, their bare winter branches in a tangle above the viewer’s head. Bigger Trees is arguably the largest work ever painted en plein air and was mapped using computers and digital photography.

THE ARRIVAL OF SPRING

Prior to 2004, David Hockney was not considered to be a landscape painter; however, a return to his childhood home of Yorkshire inspired a profound artistic response to the local countryside. Hockney’s close attention to the changing seasons and moods of Yorkshire is reminiscent of Monet at Giverny, Cézanne at Aix-en-Provence, Corot at the Forest of Fontainebleau and Constable at Suffolk.

The digital drawings in the series The arrival of spring in Woldgate are bursting with the energy of springtime: trees full of blossom, luxurious pastures, and colourful flowers returning to life after the hiatus of winter.

YOSEMITE

Hockney’s digital drawings of Yosemite National Park in California, an area famous for its ancient sequoia trees and immense granite cliffs, highlight the artist’s interest in pictorial space. If The Arrival of Spring images featured relatively crowded, cloistered landscapes, the Yosemite series explores expansive vistas of mountains and towering trees.

The digital canvas on an iPad or iPhone is endlessly expandable, allowing Hockney to zoom in to add infinitely more detail, and then zoom back out to view the whole, expansive composition.

82 PORTRAITS & 1 STILL LIFE

This monumental portrait series started with a portrait of Hockney’s studio manager, J-P Gonçalves de Lima. In 2013, Hockney and his studio team suffered a tragedy when 23-year-old studio assistant, Dominic Elliot, unexpectedly died. The loss of this young talented man, who had worked with Hockney for a number of years, plunged the close-knit studio community into a profound grief and Hockney ceased making work. Hockney’s art-making hiatus ended with the cathartic creation of the portrait of J-P, who Hockney observed with his head in his hands – a pose that encapsulated their shared grief.

The other portraits depict Hockney’s close friends and family, including Australia’s own Barry Humphries, architect Frank Gehry and artist John Baldessari. Sitters posed for Hockney for twenty hours across three days, a strenuous feat for both sitter and the artist. When a sitter was unable to attend one day, Hockney turned to his stocks of fruit and vegetables. The whole series consequently has the charming title 82 portraits & 1 still life.

PHOTOGRAPHIC DRAWINGS

The world premiere, large-scale wallpaper work titled 4 blue stools is a digitally constructed image of David Hockney’s studio in the Hollywood Hills and features various friends and studio assistants. Referred to as a ‘photographic drawing’ by the artist, the work is a constructed image in which different photographs are digitally sutured together to create one reality. The people, the chairs, the paintings are photographed separately and from different angles and then joined together to create one single, disorientating composition that challenges the conventions of photography.

THE JUGGLERS

This multi-screened video work depicts a room of jugglers who were filmed using eighteen synched video cameras, each set to a slightly different zoom. The overall resulting image is disjointed and prompts the viewer to look more carefully at the scene. The work challenges the notion of single point perspective by offering multiple perspectives that aim to replicate some of the complexity of a human being’s lived experience in time and space.

A BIGGER CARD PLAYERS

A Bigger Card Players is a single image that further highlights Hockney’s continued interest in perspective and space. On first look, this image appears as a relatively commonplace photograph of men playing cards; however, on closer inspection, Hockney’s playful disorientation of space and perspective becomes more apparent.

THE FOUR SEASONS, WOLDGATE WOODS

Presented on four large panels, each comprising nine high definition screens, The four seasons, Woldgate Woods (Spring 2011, Summer 2010, Autumn 2010, Winter 2010) is an immersive video work that surrounds the spectator in the changing seasons of the Yorkshire landscape. Each film was shot using nine cameras, shooting simultaneously. The cameras were attached to a rig that moved slowly through the landscape. Like The Jugglers, each camera was set to a slightly different zoom and captures a different perspective of the same landscape and offers the viewer a new way of seeing the world around them.

Text from the NGV media kit

 

David Hockney (English 1937- ) '82 portraits & 1 still life' (installation view) 2013-2016

David Hockney (English 1937- ) '82 portraits & 1 still life' (installation view) 2013-2016

David Hockney (English 1937- ) '82 portraits & 1 still life' (installation view) 2013-2016

David Hockney (English 1937- ) '82 portraits & 1 still life' (installation view) 2013-2016

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
82 portraits & 1 still life (installation views)
2013-2016
Acrylic on canvas
Collection of the artist

 

 

82 portraits & 1 still life is a major series of acrylic on canvas paintings created between 2013 and 2016. Each of the works was painted by Hockney while standing, in direct visual relationship to his subject, over a three day period. The works are shown here chronologically, beginning with the portrait to the left of J-P. The paintings depict many people connected with Hockney’s daily life, and others he invited to sit for him. When viewed together, uninterrupted – as they are here for the first time – the works also capture Hockney’s unwavering artistic drive.

 

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'Augustus and Perry Barringer, 16th, 17th June 2014'

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
Augustus and Perry Barringer, 16th, 17th June 2014
Acrylic on canvas
Collection of the artist

 

David Hockney (English 1937- ) '82 portraits & 1 still life' (installation view) 2013-2016

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
Frank Gehry, 24th, 25th February 2016 and Edith Devaney, 11th, 12th, 13th February 2016 (installation view)
2013-2016
Acrylic on canvas
Collection of the artist

 

 

Edith Devaney is a contemporary art curator at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, where she curated the recent Hockney exhibition 82 Portraits & 1 Still Life. She contributed the text ‘Where do I end and they begin?’ to the David Hockney: Current exhibition publication, in which she observes: ‘The process is a very physical one for Hockney and he exhibits great mobility, continually moving forwards and backwards to look at the canvas close up and then from a few feet back … Throughout this process the level of concentration and intensity is unabated; it is clear that any exhaustion is balanced by the sheer joy of creation’.

 

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'Julie Green, 11th, 12th, 13th January 2015' and 'Doris Velasco, 5th, 6th January 2015' (installation view) 2013-2016

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
Julie Green, 11th, 12th, 13th January 2015 and Doris Velasco, 5th, 6th January 2015 (installation view)
2013-2016
Acrylic on canvas
Collection of the artist

 

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'Yosemite I, October 5th 2011' (detail)

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
Yosemite I, October 5th 2011 (detail)
iPad drawing printed on six sheets of paper mounted on six sheets of Dibond
Collection of the artist

 

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'Yosemite II, October 16th 2011' (detail)

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
Yosemite II, October 16th 2011 (detail)
iPad drawing printed on six sheets of paper mounted on six sheets of Dibond
Collection of the artist

 

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'Yosemite III, October 5th 2011' (detail)

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
Yosemite III, October 5th 2011 (detail)
iPad drawing printed on six sheets of paper mounted on six sheets of Dibond
Collection of the artist

 

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'Yosemite' series (installation view) 2011

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'Yosemite' series (installation view) 2011

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
Yosemite series (installation views)
2011
iPad drawings
Collection of the artist

 

 

The body of work shown in this gallery depicts Yosemite National Park in California, United States, captured on location by Hockney on an iPad in same way he created the Arrival of Spring series. The change of light in these works is clearly different to that in the Arrival of Spring – more intense, harsher – and the scale of the landscapes more colossal than the winding roads of the Woldgate Woods works. The grand scale of these prints and the bank of monitors imparts some of the humbling experience of standing before the ancient sequoia trees and granite cliffs of Yosemite.

 

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'The chairs' and 'four blue stools' 2014

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
The chairs
2014
Photographic drawing printed on self-adhesive paper

4 blue stools
2014
Photographic drawing printed on self-adhesive paper

Collection of the artist

 

David Hockney (English 1937- ) '4 blue stools' 2014

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
4 blue stools
2014
Photographic drawing mounted on Dibond
edition of 25
Collection David Hockney Foundation

 

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'The group XI, 7-11 July 2014'

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
The group XI, 7-11 July 2014
Acrylic on canvas
122.0 x 183.0 cm
Collection of the artist

 

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'The chairs' 2014

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
The chairs
2014
Photographic drawing mounted on Dibond
edition of 25
Collection David Hockney Foundation

 

David Hockney (English 1937- ) 'The group VII, 20-27 May 2014'

 

David Hockney (English 1937- )
The group VII, 20-27 May 2014
Acrylic on canvas
Collection of the artist

 

 

Extracts from David Hockney’s The jugglers (2012)

 

 

NGV International
180 St Kilda Road

Opening hours for exhibition
10am – 5pm daily

National Gallery of Victoria website

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08
Feb
15

Exhibition: ‘Bohemian Melbourne’ at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 12th December 2014 – 22th February 2015

 

Definition

Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, with few permanent ties, involving musical, artistic, or literary pursuits. In this context, Bohemians may be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds. (Wikipedia)

A Bohemian is a person, as an artist or writer, who lives and acts free of regard for conventional rules and practices.

 

This is a fantastic exhibition at the State Library of Victoria, one of the best I have seen so far in Melbourne this year. I have seen it three times and each time it has been a thoroughly rewarding experience.

  • Visually and intellectually stimulating, with a plethora of artefacts, texts and photographs
  • Excellent curatorship, with the exhibition logically structured in order to cohesively display the history, characters and stories, and strands of creativity and rebellious spirit that make up Melbourne’s cultural life
  • A great hang, with disparate elements and mediums all informing each other, pithy quotes, unique film footage, video, music
  • Not too big, just the right size to indulge your senses and brain power

.
One downside was that the exhibition needed a book or exhibition catalogue to flesh out the themes. Hopefully this will eventuate down the track. Also, it would have been nice to see more of what I would call ‘vernacular bohemianism’ – not just the famous people in each era, but the people that lived the life out on the streets, that supported the subcultures that sprung up from the 1950s onwards, but in a small exhibition it is understandable that there was not enough space.

Another perspective is that, in ordering such a diverse group of people who don’t want to be classified, who lived on the edge of society – you remove their cultural and historical ability to be transgressive, to cross moral and social taboos. By naming them as “bohemian” you seek to classify and order their existence and bring them within a frame of reference that is about control, power and visibility. This disciplinary power, Michel Foucault maintains, relies on surveillance to transform the subjects and the exhibition taxonomy is just that… a form of surveillance of the subject as well as a form of ordering it. Under this phenomena of power, dissonance/dissidence is neutralised and human beings are made subjects: through ‘the systematic linking of the categories of power and knowledge to form a hybrid, power-knowledge.’ (Hirst, 1992, “Foucault and Architecture,” in AA Files, No. 26, Autumn, pp. 52-60)

As John Tagg notes in his book The Burden of Representation (and this is what this exhibition does, it ‘represents’ a particular construction of identity as seen from the viewpoint of the establishment, the institution), “when Foucault examines power he is not just examining a negative force operating through a series of prohibitions … We must cease once and for all to describe the effects of power in negative terms – as exclusion, censorship, concealment, eradication. In fact, power produces. It produces reality. It produces domains of objects, institutions of language, rituals of truth.” (Tagg, John. The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988, p. 87)

Ultimatley, that is what this exhibition does, it produces a reality that many of these bohemians would not have bought into, for they lived outside the fold. It produces domains of objects, institutions of language, rituals of truth that, through their naming, seek to classify and negate the transgressive and subversive nature of many of these people and groups. These people lived in opposition to the tenants and morals of everyday society and that is why we still love them – for their creativity, their individuality, their thoughts and above all their panache, stepping outside the orthodoxies and regi/mentality of everyday life. Against the system, for life.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

“The mania of young artists to
wish to live outside of their time,
with other ideas and other customs,
isolate them from the world,
render them strange and bizarre,
puts them outside the law, banished
from society. These are today’s
bohemians.”

.
Félix Pyat (French, 1810-1889)

 

 

Artist, rebel, hippie, hipster?

Revealing Melbourne’s enduring counter-cultures, Bohemian Melbourne celebrates a who’s who of creative free spirits through their art and the bohemian legacy that has shaped the character of this city. The exhibition shines a light on Melbourne’s cultural bohemians from 1860 to today, tracing individuals who have pushed against convention in their lives and art, from Marcus Clarke, Albert Tucker and Mirka Mora to Barry Humphries, Vali Myers and Nick Cave.

Venture into history’s backstreets and smoky salons to discover the stories of the daring poets, artists, visionaries, rebels and rock stars who changed Melbourne forever. (Text from the website)

 

Marcus Clarke: “A Punk in the Age of Steam”

Marcus Clarke, writer, journalist and later a librarian at the Melbourne Public Library, is generally celebrated as the father of Bohemian Melbourne – although he was more its wild child. After a privileged start in a wealthy English family, which allowed him to cultivate the life of a young dandy and to indulge his passion for the writings of Honoré de Balzac and others, a 16-year-old Clarke suddenly found himself in colonial Melbourne in 1863, thanks to a turn in the family fortune.

Determined to maintain a semblance of the life to which he had become accustomed, Clarke was soon to be found strolling the streets of Melbourne as a flâneur, an observer of the city spectacle. A short-lived post as a bank clerk was followed by a stint on the land as a jackaroo, but by the age of 21 he was back in Melbourne and working as a journalist for the Argus newspaper.

Clarke’s bohemian ways soon attracted other young journalists and writers, and they began to congregate at various Melbourne watering holes, in particular the Cafe de Paris establishing the Yorick Club, the early members of which included fellow writers Henry Rendall, George Gordon McCrae and Adam Lindsay Gordon. The Yorick had a human skull for a mascot and rules that parodied the gentleman’s clubs of establishment Melbourne. Its members gathered in rooms adjoining the office of Melbourne Punch to smoke clay pipes, drink from pewter mugs, recite poetry and generally engage in horseplay. Bohemian society had found a Melbourne home and a creative community was born. (Wall text from exhibition)

 

Unknown photographer. 'Marcus Clarke' 1866

 

Unknown photographer
Marcus Clarke
1866
Albumen silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

 

Bohemian culture in marvellous Melbourne

Marvellous Melbourne, which arose out of the egalitarianism of the gold rushes, gave birth to a strong bohemian culture. Marcus Clarke, the London-born journalist, writer, librarian and professional bohemian, joined the Athenaeum Club and founded in 1868 the Yorrick Club, Australia’s first bohemian club, which became a magnet for men of letters.

He was a dressed-up dandy, a flâneur and a heavy drinker, but had a touch of genius with his novel, For the Term of His Natural Life (1874/75), one of the classics of Australian colonial literature. He was dead by the age of 35, with suicide rumoured but rejected by his actress wife, Marian Dunn, the mother of his six children. Clarke in his behaviour and creative achievement became a model for other Australian bohemians to follow.

Extract from Professor Sasha Grishin. “Celebrating Melbourne bohemians at the State Library of Victoria,” on The Conversation website, 16 January 2015 [Online] Cited 03/02/2015

 

Unknown photographer. 'Marcus Clarke' (detail) 1866

 

Unknown photographer
Marcus Clarke (detail)
1866
Albumen silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

 

“In 1863, when the young Marcus Clarke arrived in Melbourne, he could have slipped easily into what passed for mannered society in the booming gold-rush city. His uncle was a County Court judge, his cousin a politician, and Clarke himself was granted honorary membership of the elite Melbourne Club. But he chose to turn his back on the bunyip aristocracy. “I am a bohemian,” declared the man who would go on to write the first great Australian novel. “I live, I walk, I eat, drink and philosophise.”

All of which sounds perfectly normal – except, perhaps, for the philosophising – but in reality, Marcus Clarke’s life was far from average. He became a celebrated satirist of Marvellous Melbourne, by turns outraging and titillating 19th-century sensibilities in Australia’s modern metropolis. He befriended fellow intellectuals and bon vivants to form underground literary clubs that didn’t so much turn their backs on as raise an insulting finger to colonial mores. He was a poet and a playwright, a journalist and a novelist, a jackaroo, a wastrel and, above all, quite the tremendous wit.

Clarke’s most enduring gift is his writing, particularly the classic convict novel For The Term Of His Natural Life. But a new exhibition at the State Library of Victoria pays tribute to his other major legacy – that of Australia’s first bona fide bohemian.

“Clarke was an iconoclast, dangerous to know and a dandy about town,” explains historian Dr Tony Moore, author of Dancing With Empty Pockets: Australia’s Bohemians

“Most people think of him as a venerable old Victorian gentleman, but I characterise him as a punk in the age of steam.” [Marcus: I don’t know why a venerable old Victorian gentleman – he was dead at 35]

Moore, who is a Monash University academic and passionate chronicler of unconventional Australians, was an adviser to the exhibition and worked alongside curator Clare Williamson to create this retrospective of radicals. Melbourne’s roaming free spirits have been corralled together for the first time using material – some of it never previously displayed in public – drawn from State Library archives and borrowed from public and private collections. Viewed en masse, they comprise a rogues’ gallery of some of the country’s most indelible cultural icons…

His [Clarke’s] image adorns the exhibition posters, a larger-than-life bohemian in breeches and knee-high boots with a cabbage-tree hat perched jauntily above his broad, handsome face. Melbourne’s original radical would be thrilled to see that his notoriety lives on, more than a century after his death.”

Extract from Kendall Hill. “Bohemian Melbourne: Exhibition” on the Qantas Travel Insider website [Online] Cited 03/02/2015

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

installation-k-WEB

 

Installation views of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

 

 

Wall text from the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Unknown photographer. 'Members of the Ishmael Club' c. 1900

 

Unknown photographer
Members of the Ishmael Club
c. 1900
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

Justus Jörgensen (1893-1975) 'Fifteen of the Founders' 1944

 

Justus Jörgensen (1893-1975)
Fifteen of the Founders
1944
Oil on canvas and gauze mounted on panel
Collection of the Montsalvat Trust

 

 

Montsalvat is the result of Justus Jörgensen’s vision for a collective experience of art and life. Jörgensen had trained in architecture and then in painting with earlier bohemian Max Meldrum. His studio in Queen Street, the Mitre Tavern and the Latin and Chung Wah restaurants were sites for lively discussions in which Jörgensen put forward his philosophies of art, the revival of medieval craftsmanship and communal living. This vision began to take shape in 1934 when he and his wife, Lily, brought land at Eltham; with the assistance of friends and followers, he built Montsalvat, an artists’ colony of studios, workshops and the communal Great Hall.

While Justus Jörgensen rarely exhibited, his great love was painting. This multi-panelled work comprises portraits by Jörgensen of 15 significant figures from the early years of Montsalvat. They are, from top to bottom, left to right:

Ian Robertson – student of Jorgensen who also ran an antiques shop
Leo Brierley – businessman and backer of Mervyn Skipper’s Pandemonium journal
Helen (Nell) Lempriere – niece of Dame Nellie Melba, painter, sculptor, and an earl student of Jorgensen
Norman Porter – friend and student of Jorgensen and lecturer in philosophy
Mervyn Skipper – author, journalist and Melbourne editor of the Bulletin
Helen Skipper – Mervyn’s first daughter, Jorgensen’s partner for many years, and mother of Sebastian and Sigmund Jorgensen
Justus Jorgensen – founder and architect of Montsalvat, painter, assistant to artist Max Meldrum and teacher.
Sonia Skipper – second daughter of Mervyn Skipper, and painter and teacher
Arthur Munday – law student, sculptor and stonemason trained by Jorgensen
William (Bill) Cook – teacher, philosophy and president of the Victorian Rationalist Society
Norman Radcliffe – student and friend of Jorgensen, and philosopher
Ray Grant – student of Jorgensen and philosopher
Edward Goll – internationally renowned pianist and teacher at Melbourne Conservatorium of Music
Arthur (George) Chalmers – pharmacist, student of Jorgensen, stonemason and carver, who also planted the first vineyard at Montsalvat

(Label texts)

 

Montsalvat is an artist colony in Eltham, Victoria, Australia, established by Justus Jörgensen in 1934. It is home to over a dozen buildings, houses and halls set amongst richly established gardens on 48,562 m2 (12 acres) of land. The colony of Montsalvat has a detailed history that reflects the life of Jörgensen and his friends and family; there is also a legend behind its name, while its buildings and gardens are steeped in the art and culture of Melbourne and its surroundings.

Visitors can pay a small fee to walk throughout the colony’s historical gardens, artists’ houses/workshops and explore the surrounding buildings. All of the buildings on the site were designed and built by residents with locally available materials, from various sources. The Great Hall offers an extensive network of spaces from extravagant halls and vast exhibition spaces, to small corridors and tiny balconies overlooking the gardens. (Wikipedia)

 

Percy Grainger (1882-1961) Ella Grainger (1889-1979) 'Towelling tunic, shirt, leggings, belt, shoes worn by Percy Grainger' c. 1934

 

Percy Grainger (1882-1961)
Ella Grainger (1889-1979)
Towelling tunic, shirt, leggings, belt, shoes worn by Percy Grainger
c. 1934
Cotton bath towels, plastic, leather and metal
Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

 

“In 1932 or 1933 my wife and I took up again this idea of clothing made of towelling and when in Australia in 1934 and 1935 we were amazed by the beauty of the bath towels on sale in Australia – some imported from England, Czechoslovakia and America, but most of them (and among them the most beautiful ones) manufactured in Australia. Here was a chance to show what could be done with the beauty born of machinery – a beauty as rich and subtle, in its own way, as anything made by hand or loom.”

Percy Grainger, c. 1955-56

 

Unknown photographer
Percy Grainger at White Plains, New York
1936
Exhibition graphic from silver gelatine photograph
Grainger Museum collection, The University of Melbourne

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015, including at left Albert Tucker, Self-portrait with Joy Hester, 1939 (see below)

 

Albert Tucker. 'Self-portrait with Joy Hester' 1939

 

Albert Tucker
Self-portrait with Joy Hester
1939
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

 

An Interview with Albert Tucker conducted by Justin Obrien in 1997.
Albert expands on his many insights,during the time he spent with John and Sunday Reed and other artists at Heide during the1940’s. An intimate insight into a unique man.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Opening of Mirka Café' 1954

 

Unknown photographer
Opening of Mirka Café
1954
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy of Heide Museum of Modern Art and William Mora Galleries

 

Unknown photographer. 'Opening of Mirka Café' (detail) 1954

 

Unknown photographer
Opening of Mirka Café (detail)
1954
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy of Heide Museum of Modern Art and William Mora Galleries

 

 

These clips features home movie footage taken by Gertie Anschel (c.1953-1954) with audio commentary by film director Philippe Mora.

Part 1 of 3 features scenes of Melbourne, The Mirka Café and Joy Hester and Gray Smith’s property. Philippe reflects on his childhood and identifies key figures of the Melbourne art scene. 

 

 

Part 2 of 3 features the property of Roger de Stoop, artist friends and Arthur Boyd at work on his 1956 Melbourne Olympic statue. Philippe reflects on his childhood identifies key figures of the Melbourne art scene.

 

 

Part 3 of 3 features the Moras, the art gang at a balcony party and late American actor Melvyn Douglas. Philippe reflects on his childhood, parents and identifies key figures of the Melbourne art scene.

 

 

Making Your Own Fun in the 50s

On the surface at least, Melbourne in the 1950s was a rather dour affair. For some non-conformists, such as Vali Myers and Barry Humphries, it was a place to escape rather than a place to be. For others, however, it was a site for creating underground cultures that were largely invisible to the mainstream.

This was no more so than in the case of gay and lesbian, or ‘camp’, culture, as it was known at the time. Homosexuality was illegal in Victoria until 1960, and in the 1950s it was sensationalised in the tabloid press as a subject for mockery if not horror. As a result, homosexual men and women developed alternative bohemian cultures and communities, with their own covert venues, house parties, secret languages and dress codes.

The gala costume arts balls that raised money for mainstream theatre and other arts charities were grand exceptions to the gnerally underground clubs and private parties. They offered rare moments in which camp culture could be expressed in public without fear for reprisal. Theatres and dance companies provided employment for many, and bars, such as the one nicknamed the Snake Pit at the Hotel Australia, and restaurants such as Val’s Coffee Lounge, provided opportunities for the camp community to meet and to mix with others who were outside the establishment.

 

Norman Ikin. 'Vali Myers' c. 1949

 

Norman Ikin
Vali Myers
c. 1949
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

Mark Strizic. 'Barry Humphries in Melbourne' 1969

 

Mark Strizic (1928-2012)
Barry Humphries in Melbourne
1969
Exhibition print from flexible-base negative
State Library of Victoria
Courtesy of the Estate of the artist

 

 

A never seen on broadcast TV programme with Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everage made in 1975. Barry Humphries was promoting his film ‘Barry McKenzie holds his own’. Films clips were provided officially by EMI. The interviewer trying to hold things together is Mark Caldwell. The programme was made in black and white.

 

 

Wall text from the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015 with, in the distance, Henry Talbot Portraits of actor Frank Thring 1963, with Thring’s jewellery box and contents in the foreground.

 

It has been said of Frank Thring that he could make most stages or foyers seem small. His larger-than-life personality was almost matched by his frame, often decked out in imposing black and with flamboyant jewellery. Son of Frank Thring snr, founder of Efftee Films and 3XY Radio, Thring jnr earned fame as an actor in London’s West End and in Hollywood films such as Ben Hur, often playing sinister or decadent characters. In the 1950s, he would recite poems laden with innuendo and hold court at the ‘head table’ at Val’s Coffee Lounge. To be welcome at his table was a sign one was part of the ‘in’ crowd. (Label text)

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'Arts Ball, Palais de Danse - John Anderson as Sun God' c. 1963-64

 

Unknown photographer
Arts Ball, Palais de Danse – John Anderson as Sun God
c. 1963-64
Gelatin silver photograph
Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

 

John Anderson was first-prize winner at a number of arts balls in the 1960s. His costume shown here reflects the creativity and effort that many put into their outfits. Costumes and headdresses were sometimes so large that Anderson and others regularly hired furniture vans to take them to the ball. One year the van that was transporting Anderson broke down and he completed the journey strapped upright on the back of a ute. His Sun  God costume wowed new audiences when he was invited to take part in a pageant on ice base on the theme of The Kind and I – with Anderson as the King – at the Southland shopping centre ice rink around 1970. (Label text)

But you will go to the ball, you will sweetie!

 

Richard Walsh (editor) 'The Review', Vol. 22, No. 22 Melbourne incorporated Newsagencies Co., March 1972

 

Richard Walsh (editor)
The Review, Vol. 22, No. 22
Melbourne incorporated Newsagencies Co.,
March 1972
State Library of Victoria

 

Before editing the irreverent Melbourne weekly The Review (Nation Review from July 1972, Richard Walsh edited counter-cultural Oz magazine with Richard Neville and Martin Sharp. Contributors to Nation Review included Max Harris, Bob Ellis, Phillip Adams, Michael Leunig and Germaine Greer. Greer had been part of the Drift in Melbourne, a loose association of artists, students and graduates. Enrolling in a Masters degree at Sydney University, in 1962 she becomes a leading light in the Sydney libertarian Push, an intellectual bohemia of larrikin anarchists. Gaining her PhD at Cambridge University, Greer then published her groundbreaking book The Female Eunuch. (Label text)

 

Ashley Mackevicius. 'Nick Cave' 1973

 

Ashley Mackevicius
Nick Cave
1973
Gelatin silver photograph
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2006

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Soapbox Circus - The Fabulous Spagoni Family' c. 1977

 

Ponch Hawkes
Soapbox Circus – The Fabulous Spagoni Family
c. 1977
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria
© the artist

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Melantroppos, Circus Oz, Princes Park' 1979

 

Ponch Hawkes
Melantroppos, Circus Oz, Princes Park
1979
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria
© the artist

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015 with artist Ponch Hawkes work at right

 

Rennie Ellis. 'Mirka Mora in her studio' 1978

 

Rennie Ellis
Mirka Mora in her studio
1978
Colour transparency
State Library Victoria
© Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive

 

Vali Myers (1930-2003) 'Passions' 1981-82

 

Vali Myers (1930-2003)
Passions
1981-82
Pen, black ink, sepia, burnt sienna and watercolour
Vali Myers Art Gallery Trust

 

Vali Myers discovered a love of drawing at an early age. Over the years it became her primary mode of artistic expression in place of contemporary dance. She dedicated her life to her art and would spend up to two years creating each of her intricately drawn artworks. Passions contains many elements that symbolically represent aspects of Vali Myers’ art and life. These include a fox (referencing her pet Foxy), ravens (Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven being one of her favourite poems, a gypsy-like figure playing a violin and, at the centre of it all, a woman with flaming red hair. (Label text)

 

Liz Ham. 'Vali Myers in her studio in the Nicholas Building' 1997

 

Liz Ham
Vali Myers in her studio in the Nicholas Building
1997
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

 

Australian artist Vali Myers moved to Paris from Australia at age 19 where she lived on the streets, danced in cafes, met Satre, Cocteau, Genet and Django Reinhardt. She moved to New York, tattooed Patti Smith’s knee, befriended Salvador Dali and met Andy Warhol and Tennessee Williams.

Vali was a great influence on lots of famous people Tennesse Williams, Jean Cocteau, Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, Jean Genet and Kate Bush.

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

 

Australian artist Howard Arkley interviewed by ABC television shortly before his untimely death in 1999.

 

Howard Arkley (1951-1999) 'The Ritual' 1986

 

Howard Arkley (1951-1999)
The Ritual
1986
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
State Library of Victoria

 

Howard Arkley is recognised as one of Australia’s most significant 20th-century artists. He is unique in embracing not only urban culture but also life in suburbia, a space generally shunned or scorned by bohemians, with exception of that other flaneur of suburbia, Barry Humphries. Like many bohemians before him, Arkley lived on the edge and experimented with mind-altering substances, and, like a good proportion of them, his life was tragically cut short as a result. Despite its large scale, comic-book style and pop colours, The Ritual is as much a cool and judgment-free study in composition and the human form as it is in the rituals or ‘habits’ associated with drug use. (Label text)

 

 

State Library of Victoria
328 Swanston St,
Melbourne VIC 3000
T: (03) 8664 7000

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Monday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Tuesday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
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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

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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.

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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

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“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.”

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

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Made ready: A Philosophy of Moments

Dr Marcus Bunyan

December 2013

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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 for the Art Blart blog

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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. www120.secure.griffith.edu.au/rch/file/6e262ab2-3509-3354-9079-f0a16c85949c/1/02Whole.pdf
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

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

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Man Ray
Cadeau (Gift)
1921 reconstructed 1970
Iron with brass tacks and wooden base
19.0 x 14.9 x 14.9 cm (overall); iron & base: 17.9 x 14.9 x 14.9 cm; glass cover: 19.0 cm (h.)
Collection: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

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

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

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Marcel Duchamp. 'Bicycle wheel' 1913 and 'Bottle dryer' 1914

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

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

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

Aleks Danko
Art stuffing
1970
Synthetic polymer paint on paper-stuffed hessian bag
75.0 x 58.0 x 30.0 cm
Collection: Art Gallery of New South Wales – John Kaldor Family Collection

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Barry Humphries. 'Battle of the plate' 1958

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Barry Humphries
Battle of the plate
1958
Welded steel forks
28.5 x 87.0 x 26.5 cm
Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
Bequest of Barrett Reid 2000
Photo: © Joyce Evans

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

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

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

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Haim Steinbach
Untitled (graters, Victorian iron banks) (details)
1990
Aluminium laminated wood shelf with glass display case and objects
150.0 x 150.0 x 62.0 cm (overall installed)
Collection: Art Gallery of New South Wales

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Tony Cragg. 'Spyrogyra' 1992

Tony Cragg. 'Spyrogyra' 1992

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Tony Cragg
Spyrogyra
1992
Glass and steel
220.0 x 210.0 cm
Collection: Art Gallery of New South Wales

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Tony Cragg. 'Spyrogyra' 1992 (detail)

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Tony Cragg
Spyrogyra (detail)
1992
Glass and steel
220.0 x 210.0 cm
Collection: Art Gallery of New South Wales

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“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

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Joseph Kosuth. 'One and three tables' 1965

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Joseph Kosuth
One and three tables
1965
Wooden table, gelatin silver photograph, and photostat mounted on foamcore
Installation dimensions variable
Collection: Art Gallery of New South Wales

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Julian-Dashper-Untitled-(The-Warriors)-WEB

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Julian Dashper
Untitled (The Warriors)
1998
Vinyl on drumheads, drum kit
Dimensions variable
Courtesy of the Julian Dashper Estate and Michael Lett Auckland

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

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Masato Takasaka
Smile! Bauhaus babushka sundae boogie woogie (model for a prog rock SCULPTURE PARK) (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

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

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Jeff Koons
Balloon dog (Red)
1995 designed
Porcelain, ed. 1113/2300
11.3 x 26.3 cm diameter
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

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Lou Hubbard. 'Stretch' 2007

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Lou Hubbard
Stretch
2007
Two ‘Studio K’ Planet lamps, fluorescent lights, MDF, acrylic paint and Perspex
108.3 x 251.8 x 29.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Sarah Scout, Melbourne

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

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Andrew Liversidge
IN MY MIND I KNOW WHAT I THINK BUT THAT’S ONLY BASED ON MY EXPERIENCE
2009
10,000 $1 coins (AUD)
30.0 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist and The Commercial Gallery, Sydney

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Andrew-Liversidge-IN-MY-MIND-I-KNOW-b-WEB

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

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Callum Morton. 'Mayor' 2013

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Callum Morton
Mayor
2013
Polyurethane resin, wood, fibreglass, synthetic polymer paint
290.0 x 200.0 x 26.0 cm
City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection

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Claire Fontaine. 'La société du spectacle brickbat' 2006

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Claire Fontaine
La société du spectacle brickbat
2006
Bricks and brick fragments, laser impression
178.0 x 108.0 x 58.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

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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

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

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

Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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