Posts Tagged ‘Canada

11
Jul
13

Text: ‘Un/settling Aboriginality’ Dr Marcus Bunyan / Exhibition: ‘Brook Andrew: 52 Portraits’ at Tolarno Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 15th June – 20th July 2013

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

Download the text Un/settling Aboriginality (1.1Mb pdf)

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Un/settling Aboriginality

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Abstract: This text investigates the concepts of postcolonialism / neo-colonialism and argues that Australia is a neo-colonial rather than a postcolonial country. It examines the work of two Australian artists in order to understand how their work is linked to the concept of neo-colonialism and ideas of contemporary Aboriginal identity, Otherness, localism and internationalism.

Keywords: postcolonialism, postcolonial, art, neo-colonialism, Australian art, Australian artists, Aboriginal photography, hybridism, localism, internationalism, Otherness, Australian identity, Brook Andrew, Ricky Maynard, Helen Ennis.

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Australia and postcolonialism / neo-colonialism

Defining the concept of postcolonialism is difficult. “To begin with, “post-colonial” is used as a temporal marker referring to the period after official decolonisation,”1 but it also refers to a general theory that Ania Loomba et al. call “the shifting and often interrelated forms of dominance and resistance; about the constitution of the colonial archive; about the interdependent play of race and class; about the significance of gender and sexuality; about the complex forms in which subjectivities are experienced and collectivities mobilized; about representation itself; and about the ethnographic translation of cultures.”2

“Postcolonial theory formulates its critique around the social histories, cultural differences and political discrimination that are practised and normalised by colonial and imperial machineries… Postcolonial critique can be defined as a dialectical discourse which broadly marks the historical facts of decolonisation. It allows people emerging from socio-political and economic domination to reclaim their sovereignty; it gives them a negotiating space for equity.”3

While colonialism and imperialism is about territory, possession, domination and power,4 postcolonialism is concerned with the history of colonialism, the psychology of racial representation and the frame of representation of the ‘Other’. It addresses the ongoing effects of colonialism and imperialism even after the colonial period has ended.
“Past and present inform each other, each implies the other and… each co-exists with the other.”5 Even after colonialism has supposedly ended there will always be remains that flow into the next period. What is important is not so much the past itself but its bearing upon cultural attitudes of the present and how the uneven relationships of the past are remembered differently.6 While the aims of postcolonialism are transformative, its objectives involve a wide-ranging political project – to reorient ethical norms, turn power structures upside down and investigate “the interrelated histories of violence, domination, inequality and injustice”7 and develop a tradition of resistance to the praxis of hegemony.

McCarthy and Dimitriadis posit three important motifs in postcolonial art.8 Briefly, they can be summarised as follows:

1/ A vigorous challenge to hegemonic forms of representation in Western models of classical realism and technologies of truth in which the eye of the Third World is turned on the West and challenges the ruling narrating subject through multiple perspectives and points of view.

2/ A rewriting of the narrative of modernity through a joining together of the binaries ‘centre’ and ‘periphery’, ‘developed’ and ‘underdeveloped’, and ‘civilised’ and ‘primitive’. “Culture, for these [postcolonial] artists, is a crucible of encounter, a crucible of hybridity in which all of cultural form is marked by twinness of subject and other.”9

3/ A critical reflexivity and thoughtfulness as elements of an artistic practice of freedom. This practice looks upon traditions with dispassion, one in which all preconceived visions and discourses are disrupted, a practice in which transformative possibilities are not given but have to worked for in often unpredictable and counter-intuitive ways.

According to Robert Young the paradigm of postcolonialism is to “locate the hidden rhizomes of colonialism’s historical reach, of what remains invisible, unseen, silent or unspoken” to examine “the continuing projection of past conflicts into the experience of the present, the insistent persistence of the afterimages of historical memory that drive the desire to transform the present.”10 This involves an investigation into a dialectic of visibility and invisibility where subjugated peoples were present but absent under the eye of the coloniser through a refusal of those in power to see who or what was there. “Postcolonialsm, in its original impulse, was concerned to make visible areas, nations, cultures of the world which were notionally acknowledged, technically there, but which in significant other senses were not there…”11 In other words, to acknowledge the idea of the ‘Other’ as a self determined entity if such an other should ever exist because, as Young affirms, “Tolerance requires that there be no “other,” that others should not be othered. We could say that there can be others, but there should be no othering of “the other.”12
The “Other” itself is a product of racial theory but Young suggests that “the question is not how to come to know “the other,” but for majority groups to stop othering minorities altogether, at which point minorities will be able to represent themselves as they are, in their specific forms of difference, rather than as they are othered.”13 Unfortunately, with regard to breaking down the divisiveness of the same-other split, “As soon as you have employed the very category of “the other” with respect to other peoples or societies, you are imprisoned in the framework of your own predetermining conceptualisation, perpetuating its form of exclusion.”14 Hence, as soon as the dominant force names the “other” as a paradigm of society, you perpetuate its existence as an object of postcolonial desire. This politics of recognition can only be validated by the other if the other choses to name him or herself in order to “describe a situation of historical discrimination which requires challenge, change and transformation… Othering was a colonial strategy of exclusion: for the postcolonial, there are only other human beings.”15

Important questions need to be asked about the contextual framework of postcolonialism as it is linked to race, culture, gender, settler and native: “When does a settler become coloniser, colonised and postcolonial? When does a race cease to be an oppressive agent and become a wealth of cultural diversities of a postcolonial setting? Or in the human history of migrations, when does the settler become native, indigenous, a primary citizen? And lastly, when does the native become truly postcolonial?”16

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This last question is pertinent with regard to Australian culture and identity. It can be argued that Australia is not a postcolonial but a neo-colonial country. Imperialism as a concept and colonialism as a practice are still active in a new form. This new form is neo-colonialism. Rukundwa and van Aarde observe that, “Neo-colonialism is another form of imperialism where industrialised powers interfere politically and economically in the affairs of post-independent nations. For Cabral (in McCulloch 1983:120-121), neo-colonialism is “an outgrowth of classical colonialism.” Young (2001:44-52) refers to neo-colonialism as “the last stage of imperialism” in which a postcolonial country is unable to deal with the economic domination that continues after the country gained independence. Altbach (1995:452-46) regards neo-colonialism as “partly planned policy” and a “continuation of the old practices”.”17

Australia is not a post-independent nation but an analogy can be made. The Australian government still interferes with the running of Aboriginal communities through the NT Intervention or, as it is more correctly known, Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007. Under the Stronger Futures legislation that recently passed through the senate, this intervention has been extended by another 10 years. “Its flagship policies are increased government engagement, income management, stabilisation, mainstreaming, and the catch cries “closing the gap” and “real jobs”.”18 As in colonial times the government has control of a subjugated people, their lives, income, health and general wellbeing, instead of partnering and supporting Aboriginal organisations and communities to take control of their futures.19

Further, Australia is still a colony, the Queen of England is still the Queen of Australia; Britannia remains in the guise of the “Commonwealth.” Racism, an insidious element of the colonial White Australia Policy (which only ended in 1973), is ever prevalent beneath the surface of Australian society. Witness the recent racial vilification of Sydney AFL (Aussie Rules!) player Adam Goodes by a teenager20 and the inexcusable racial vilification by Collingwood president Eddie McGuire when he said that Goodes could be used to promote the musical King Kong.21
“The dialectics of liberation from colonialism, whether political, economic, or cultural, demand that both the colonizer and the colonized liberate themselves at the same time.”22 This has not happened in Australia. The West’s continuing political, economic and cultural world domination has “lead to a neo-colonial situation, mistakenly called post-coloniality, which does not recognize the liberated other as a historical subject (in sociological theory, a historical subject is someone thought capable of taking an active role in shaping events) – as part of the historical transforming processes of modernity.”23 As has been shown above, Aboriginal communities are still thought incapable of taking an active role in shaping and administering their own communities. The result of this continuation of old practices is that Australia can be seen as a neo-colonial, not postcolonial, country.

Kathryn Trees asks, “Does post-colonial suggest colonialism has passed? For whom is it ‘post’? Surely not for Australian Aboriginal people at least, when land rights, social justice, respect and equal opportunity for most does not exist because of the internalised racism of many Australians. In countries such as Australia where Aboriginal sovereignty, in forms appropriate to Aboriginal people, is not legally recognised, post-colonialism is not merely a fiction, but a linguistic manoeuvre on the part of some ‘white’ theorists who find this a comfortable zone that precludes the necessity for political action.”24

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Two Australian artists, two different approaches

There are no dots or cross-hatching in the work of Ricky Maynard or Brook Andrew; no reference to some arcane Dreaming, for their work is contemporary art that addresses issues of identity and empowerment in different ways. Unlike remote Indigenous art that artist Richard Bell has labelled ‘Ooga Booga Art’ (arguing that it is based upon a false notion of tradition that casts Indigenous people as the exotic other, produced under the white, primitivist gaze),25 the work of these two artists is temporally complex (conflating past, present and future) and proposes that identity is created at the intersection of historically shifting subject positions, which destabilises any claim to an ‘authentic’ identity position and brings into question the very label ‘Aboriginal’ art and ‘Aboriginality’. By labelling an artist ‘Aboriginal’ or ‘gay’ for example, do you limit the subject matter that those artists can legitimately talk about, or do you just call them artists?
As Stephanie Radok has speculated, “surely as long as we call it Aboriginal art we are defining it ethnically and foregrounding its connection to a particular culture, separating it from other art and seeing it as a gift, a ‘present’ from another ethnography.”26 Be that as it may, artists can work from within a culture, a system, in order to critique the past in new ways: “The collective efforts of contemporary artists… do not reflect an escapist return to the past but a desire to think about what the past might now mean in new, creative ways.”27

Ways that un/settle Aboriginality through un/settling photography, in this case.

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Since the 1980s photographers addressing Indigenous issues have posed an alternative reality or viewpoint that, “articulates the concept of time as a continuum where the past, present and future co-exist in a dynamic form. This perspective has an overtly political dimension, making the past not only visible but also unforgettable.”28 The perspective proposes different strategies to deliberately unsettle white history so that “the future is as open as the past, and both are written in tandem.”29

Artists Ricky Maynard and Brook Andrew both critique neo-colonialism from inside the Western gallery system using a relationship of interdependence (Aboriginal/colonial) to find their place in the world, to help understand who they are and, ex post facto, to make a living from their art. They both offer an examination of place, space and identity construction through what I call ‘the industry of difference’.

Ricky Maynard works with a large format camera and analogue, black and white photography in the Western documentary tradition to record traditional narratives of Tasmanian Aboriginal people in order to undermine the myth that they were all wiped off the face of the planet by colonisation. Through his photography he re-identifies the narratives of a subjugated and supposedly exterminated people, narratives that are thousands of years old, narratives that challenge a process of Othering or exclusion and which give voice to the oppressed.

Portrait of a Distant Land is done through the genre of documentary in a way that offers authenticity and honest image making in the process. It has to deal with all those ethical questions of creating visual history, the tools to tell it with and how we reclaim our own identity and history from the way we tell our own stories. It comes from the extension of the way the colonial camera happened way back in the 19th century and how it misrepresented Aboriginal people. The Government anthropologists and photographers were setting up to photograph the dying race. Of course it simply wasn’t true. That was a way that colonial people wanted to record their history. You see those earlier colonial and stereotypical images of Aboriginal people in historic archives, their photographic recordings were acts of invasion and subjugation used for their own purpose.”30

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Ricky Maynard 'Coming Home' 2005

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Ricky Maynard
Coming Home
2005
from Portrait of a Distant Land
Gelatin silver print
34 x 52cm, edition of 10 + 3 AP

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“I can remember coming here as a boy in old wooden boats to be taught by my grandparents and my parents.

I’ll be 57 this year and I have missed only one year when my daughter Leanne was born. Mutton birding is my life. To me it’s a gathering of our fella’s where we sit and yarn we remember and we honour all of those birders who have gone before us. Sometimes I just stand and look out across these beautiful islands remembering my people and I know I’m home. It makes me proud to be a strong Tasmanian black man.

This is something that they can never take away from me.”

Murray Mansell Big Dog Island, Bass Strait, 2005 31

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Ricky Maynard. 'Vansittart Island, Bass Strait, Tasmania' 2005

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Ricky Maynard
Vansittart Island, Bass Strait, Tasmania
2005
from Portrait of a Distant Land
Gelatin silver print
34 x 52cm, edition of 10 + 3 AP

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“As late as 1910 men came digging on Vansittart and Tin Kettle Islands looking for skeletons here.
We moved them where none will find them, at the dead of night my people removed the bodies of our grandmothers and took them to other islands, we planted shamrocks over the disturbed earth, so the last resting place of those girls who once had slithered over the rocks for seals will remain a secret forever.”

Old George Maynard 1975 32

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Ricky Maynard. 'The Healing Garden, Wybalenna, Flinders Island, Tasmania' 2005

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Ricky Maynard
The Healing Garden, Wybalenna, Flinders Island, Tasmania
2005
from Portrait of a Distant Land
Gelatin silver print
34 x 52cm, edition of 10 + 3 AP

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“It’s pretty important you know, the land, it doesn’t matter how small, it’s something, just a little sacred site, that’s Wybalenna.
There was a massacre there, sad things there, but we try not to go over that. Where the bad was we can always make it good.”

Aunty Ida West 1995 Flinders Island, Tasmania 33

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Maynard’s photographs are sites of contestation, specific, recognisable sites redolent with contested history. They are at once both local (specific) and global (addressing issues that affect all subjugated people and their stories, histories). Through his art practice Maynard journeys from the periphery to the centre to become a fully recognized historical subject, one that can take an active role in shaping events on a global platform, a human being that aims to create what he describes as “a true visual account of life now.”34 But, as Ian McLean has noted of the work of Derrida on the idea of repression, what returns in such narratives is not an authentic, original Aboriginality but the trace of an economy of repression: “Hence the return of the silenced nothing called Aboriginal as the being and truth of the place, is not the turn-around it might seem, because it does not reinstate an original Aboriginality, but reiterates the discourses of colonialism.”35
Sad and poignant soliloquies they may be, but in these ‘true’ visual accounts it is the trace of repression represented through Western technology (the camera, the photograph) and language (English is used to describe the narratives, see above) that is evidenced in these critiques of neo-colonialism (a reiteration of the discourses of colonialism) – not just an authentic lost and reclaimed Aboriginality – for these photographs are hybrid discourses that are both local/global, European/Indigenous.

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In his art practice Brook Andrew pursues a more conceptual mutli-disciplinary approach, one that successfully mines the colonial photographic archive to interrogate the colonial power narrative of subjugation, genocide, disenfranchisement through a deconstructive discourse, one that echoes with the repetitions of coloniality and evidences the fragments of racism through the status of appearances. “Through his persistent confrontation with the historical legacy of physiognomia in our public Imaginary”36 in video, neon, sculpture, craniology, old photography, old postcards, music, books, ethnography and anthropology, Andrew re-images and reconceptualises the colonial archive. His latest body of work 52 Portraits (Tolarno Galleries 15 June – 20 July 2013), is “a play on Gerhard Richter’s 48 Portraits projects, which lifted images of influential Western men from the pages of encyclopaedias, 52 Portraits shifts the gaze to the ubiquitous and exotic other.”37 The colonial portraits are screen-printed in black onto silver-coated canvases giving them an ‘other’ worldly, alien effect (as of precious metal), which disrupts the surface and identity of the original photographs. Variously, the unnamed portraits taken from his personal collection of old colonial postcards re-present unknown people from the Congo, Africa, Argentina, Ivory Coast, Brazil, Algeria, Australia, South America, etc… the images incredibly beautiful in their silvered, slivered reality (as of the time freeze of the camera), replete with fissures and fractures inherent in the printing process. Accompanying the series is an installation titled Vox: Beyond Tasmania (2013), a Wunderkammer containing a skeleton and colonial artefacts, the case with attached wooden trumpet (reminding me appropriately of His Master’s Voice) that focuses the gaze upon an anonymous skull, an unknowable life from the past. In the catalogue essay for the exhibition, Ian Anderson observes, “His view is global – and even though my response is highly local – I too see the resonances of a global cultural process that re-ordered much of humanity through the perspective of colonizing peoples.”38
While this may be true, it is only true for the limited number of people that will see the exhibition – usually white, well-educated people, “The realities of the commercial art world are such that it is chiefly the white upper crust that will see these works. Make of that what you will.”39 Through a lumping together of all minority people – as though multiple, local indigeneties can be spoken for through a single global indigeneity – Andrew seems to want to speak for all anonymous Indigenous people from around the world through his ‘industry of difference’. Like colonialism, this speaking is again for the privileged few, as only they get to see these transformed images, in which only those with money can afford to buy into his critique.

Personally, I believe that Andrew’s constant remapping and re-presentation of the colonial archive in body after body of work, this constant picking at the scab of history, offers no positive outcomes for the future. It is all too easy for an artist to be critical; it takes a lot more imagination for an artist to create positive images for a better future.

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Brook Andrew. 'Portrait 19 (Manitoba, Canada)' 2013

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Brook Andrew
Portrait 19 (Manitoba, Canada)
2013
Mixed media on Belgian linen
70 x 55 x 5 cm
Edition of 3 + 2 AP
Real photo postcard
Title: An Old Savage of Manitoba

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Brook Andrew. 'Portrait 9 (Arab)' 2013

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Brook Andrew
Portrait 9 (Arab)
2013
Mixed media on Belgian linen
70 x 55 x 5 cm
Edition of 3 + 2 AP
Real photo postcard
Title: Danseuse arabe
Publisher: Photo Garrigues Tunis – 2008
Inscribed on front: Tunis 20/8/04

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Conclusion

By the mid-eighties black and indigenous subjectivities were no longer transgressive and the ‘black man’s’ burden’ had shifted from being a figure of oblivion to that of a minority voice.40 Black subjectivities as minority identities use the language of difference to envisage zones of liberation in which marginality is a site of transformation. But, as Ian McLean asks, “Have these post or anti-colonial identities repulsed the return of coloniality?”41 In the fight against neo-colonialism he suggests not, when the role of minority discourses “are simultaneously marginalised and occupy an important place in majority texts.”42 Periphery becomes centre becomes periphery again. “Minority artists are not left alone on the periphery of dominant discourse. Indeed, they are required to be representatives of, or speak for, a particular marginalised community; and because of this, their speech is severely circumscribed. They bear a ‘burden of representation’.”43 McLean goes on to suggest the burden of representation placed on Aboriginal artists is one that cannot be escaped. The category ‘Aboriginal’ is too over determined. Aboriginal artists, like gay artists addressing homosexuality, can only address issues of race, identity and place.44

“Aboriginal artists must address issues of race, and all on the stage of an identity politics. Black artists, it seems, can perform only if they perform blackness. Reduced to gestures of revolt, they only reinforce the scene of repression played out in majority discourses of identity and otherness. Allowed to enter the field of majority language as divergent and hence transgressive discourses which police as much as they subvert the boundaries of this field, they work to extend certain boundaries necessary to Western identity formations, but which its traditions have repressed. In other words, minority discourses are complicit with majority texts.”45

As social constructs (the heart of the political terrain of imperial worlds) have been interrogated by artists, this has led to the supposed dissolution of conceptual binaries such as European Self / Indigenous Other, superior / inferior, centre / periphery.46 The critique of neo-colonialism mobilises a new, unstable conceptual framework, one that unsettles both imperialist structures of domination and a sense of an original Aboriginality. Counter-colonial perspectives might critique neo-colonial power through disruptive inhabitations of colonialist constructs (such as the photograph and the colonial photographic archive) but they do so through a nostalgic reworking and adaptation of the past in the present (through stories that are eons old in the case of Ricky Maynard or through appropriation of the colonial photographic archive in the case of Brook Andrew). Minority discourses un/settle Aboriginality in ways not intended by either Ricky Maynard or Brook Andrew, by reinforcing the boundaries of the repressed ‘Other’ through a Western photographic interrogation of age-old stories and the colonial photographic archive.

Both Maynard and Andrew picture identities that are reductively marshalled under the sign of minority discourse, a discourse that re-presents a field of representation in a particularly singular way (addressed to a privileged few). The viewer is not caught between positions, between voices, as both artists express an Aboriginal (not Australian) subjectivity, one that reinforces a black subjectivity and oppression by naming Aboriginal as ‘Other’ (here I am not proposing “assimilation” far from it, but inclusion through difference, much as gay people are now just members of society not deviants and outsiders).

Finally, what interests me further is how minority voices can picture the future not by looking at the past or by presenting some notion of a unitary representation (local/global) of identity, but by how they can interrogate and image the subject positions, political processes, cultural articulation and critical perspectives of neo-colonialism in order that these systems become the very preconditions to decolonisation.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan
July 2013

Word count: 3,453 excluding image titles and captions.

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Brook Andrew. 'Portrait 7 (Australia)' 2013

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Brook Andrew
Portrait 7 (Australia)
2013
Mixed media on Belgian linen
70 x 55 x 5 cm
Edition of 3 + 2 AP
“An Australian Wild Flower”
Pub. Kerry & Co., Sydney One Penny Stamp with post mark on image side of card. No Address.

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Brook Andrew. 'Portrait 40 (Unknown)' 2013

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Brook Andrew
Portrait 40 (Unknown)
2013
Mixed media on Belgian linen
70 x 55 x 5 cm
Edition of 3 + 2 AP
“Typical Ricksha Boys.”
R.111. Copyright Pub. Sapsco Real Photo, Pox 5792, Johannesburg
Pencil Mark €5

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Brook Andrew. 'Portrait 44 (Syria)' 2013

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Brook Andrew
Portrait 44 (Syria)
2013
Mixed media on Belgian linen
70 x 55 x 5 cm Edition of 3 + 2 AP
Real photo postcard
Title: Derviches tourneurs á Damas
Printed on verso: Turquie, Union Postal Universelle, Carte postale

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Endnotes

1. Abraham, Susan. “What Does Mumbai Have to Do with Rome? Postcolonial Perspectives on Globalization and Theology,” in Theological Studies 69, 2008, pp. 376-93 cited in Kenzo, Mabiala Justin-Robert. What Is Postcolonialism and Why Does It Matter: An African Perspective. Nd [Online] Cited 13/06/2013.

2. Loomba, Ania et al. “Beyond What? An Introduction,” in Loomba, Ania et al. (ed.,). Postcolonial Studies and Beyond. Durham, N.C.: Duke University, 2005, pp.1-38.

3. Rukundwa, Lazare S and van Aarde, Andries G. “The formation of postcolonial theory,” in HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 63(3), 2007, p.1174.

4. “Neither imperialism nor colonialism is a simple act of accumulation and acquisition. Both are supported and perhaps even impelled by impressive ideological formations that include notions that certain territories and people require and beseech domination, as well as forms of knowledge affiliated with domination: the vocabulary of classic nineteenth-century imperial cultural is plentiful with such words and concepts as ‘inferior’ or ‘subject races’, ‘subordinate people’, ‘dependency’, ‘expansion’, and ‘authority’.”

Said, Edward. “Overlapping Territories, Intertwined Histories,” in Said, Edward. Culture and Imperialism. London: Chatto and Windus, 1993, p.8.

5. Ibid., p.2.

6. Ibid., p.19.

7. Young, Robert J.C. “Postcolonial Remains,” in New Literary History Vol. 43. No. 1. Winter 2012, p.20.

8. See McCarthy, Cameron and Dimitriadis, Greg. “The Work of Art in the Postcolonial Imagination,” in Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 21(1), 2000, p.61.

9. Ibid., p.61.

10. Young, Op. cit., p.21.

11. Young, Ibid., p.23.

12. “Critical analysis of subjection to the demeaning experience of being othered by a dominant group has been a long-standing focus for postcolonial studies, initiated by Frantz Fanon in his Black Skin, White Masks (1952).”

Young, Robert J.C. “Postcolonial Remains,” in New Literary History Vol. 43. No. 1. Winter 2012, p.36.

13. Ibid., p.37.

14. Ibid., p.38.

15. Ibid., p.39.

16. Rukundwa, Op cit., p.1173.

17. Ibid., p.1173

18. Anon. “The 30-year cycle: Indigenous policy and the tide of public opinion” on The Conversation website 06/06/2012 [Online] Cited 16/06/2013.

19. Karvelas, Patricia. “Senate approves Aboriginal intervention by 10 years,” on The Australian website June 29, 2012 [Online] Cited 16/06/2013.

20. ABC/AAP. “AFL: Adam Goodes racially abused while leading Sydney to Indigenous Round win over Collingwood Sat May 25, 2013” on the ABC News website [Online] Cited 15/06/2013.

21. Anon. “Eddie McGuire, Adam Goodes and ‘apes’: a landmark moment in Australian race relations,” on The Conversation website, 31 May 2013 [Online] Cited 15/06/2013.

22. Araeen, Rasheed. “The artist as a post-colonial subject and this individual’s journey towards ‘the centre’,” in King, Catherine. View of Difference. Different Views of Art. Yale University Press, 1999, p.232.

23. Ibid.,

24. Trees, Kathryn. “Postcolonialism: Yet Another Colonial Strategy?” in Span, Vol. 1, No. 36, 1993, pp.264-265 quoted in Heiss, Anita. “Post-Colonial-NOT!” in Dhuuluu Yala (To Talk Straight): Publishing Aboriginal Writing in Australia. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2003, pp.43-46.

25. Skerritt, Henry F. “Drawing NOW: Jus’ Drawn'” in Art Guide Australia, September/ October 2010, pp.34-35 [Online] Cited 17/06/2013.

26. Ibid.,

27. Ennis, Helen. “The Presence of the Past,” in Ennis, Helen. Photography and Australia. London: Reaktion Books, 2007, p.141.

28. Ibid., p.135.

29. Ibid., “Black to Blak,” p.45.

30. Maynard, Ricky quoted in Perkins, Hetti. Art + Soul. Melbourne: The Miegunyah Press, Melbourne University Publishing, 2010, p.85.

31. Mansell, Murray quoted on the Stills Gallery website [Online] Cited 22/06/2013.

32. Maynard, George quoted on the Stills Gallery website [Online] Cited 22/06/2013.

33. West, Ida quoted on the Stills Gallery website [Online] Cited 22/06/2013.

34. Maynard, Ricky. “The Craft of Documentary Photography,” in Phillips, Sandra. Racism, Representation and Photography. Sydney, 1994, p.115 quoted in Ennis, Helen. Photography and Australia. London: Reaktion Books, 2007, p.106.

35. McLean, Ian. “Post colonial: return to sender” 1998 paper delivered as the Hancock lecture at the University of Sydney on 11/11/1998 as part of the annual conference of the Australian Academy of Humanities which had as its theme: ‘First Peoples Second Chance Australia In Between Cultures’.

36. Papastergiadis, Nikos. “Brook Andrew: Counterpoints and Harmonics.” Catalogue essay for Brook Andrew’s exhibition 52 Portraits at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, June 2013.

37. Rule, Dan. “Brook Andrew: 52 Portraits,” in Arts & Entertainment, Lifestyle, in The Saturday Age newspaper, June 29th 2013, p.5.

38. Anderson, Pangkarner Ian. “Re-Assembling the trophies and curios of Colonialism & the Silent Terror.” Catalogue essay for Brook Andrew’s exhibition 52 Portraits at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, June 2013.

39. Rule, Dan. Op. cit.,

40. McLean, Ian. “Post colonial: return to sender” 1998.

41. Ibid.,

42. Ibid.,

43. Ibid.,

44. “Whether they like it or not, they [Aboriginal artists] bear a burden of representation. This burden is triply inscribed. First, they can only enter the field of representation or art as a disruptive force. Second, their speaking position is rigidly circumscribed: they are made to speak as representatives of a particular, that is, Aboriginal community. Third, this speaking is today made an essential component of the main game, the formation of Australian identity – what Philip Batty called ‘Australia’s desire to know itself through Aboriginal culture’.”

McLean, Ian. “Post colonial: return to sender” 1998.

45. Ibid.,

46. Jacobs observes, “As the work on the nexus of power and identity within the imperial process has been elaborated, so many of the conceptual binaries that were seen as fundamental to its architecture of power have been problematised. Binary couplets like core / periphery, inside / outside. Self / Other, First World / Third World, North / South have given way to tropes such as hybridity, diaspora, creolisation, transculturation, border.”

Jacobs, J. M. “(Post)colonial spaces,” Chapter 2 in Edge of Empire. London: Routledge, 1996, p.13.

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Brook Andrew. 'Vox: Beyond Tasmania' 2013

Brook Andrew. 'Vox: Beyond Tasmania' 2013

Brook Andrew. 'Vox: Beyond Tasmania' 2013

Brook Andrew. 'Vox: Beyond Tasmania' (detail) 2013

Brook Andrew. 'Vox: Beyond Tasmania' (detail) 2013

Brook Andrew. 'Vox: Beyond Tasmania' (detail) 2013

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Brook Andrew
Vox: Beyond Tasmania (full piece and detail shots)
2013
Timber, glass and mixed media
267 x 370 x 271 cm

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Bibliography

Anderson, Pangkarner Ian. “Re-Assembling the trophies and curios of Colonialism & the Silent Terror.” Catalogue essay for Brook Andrew’s exhibition 52 Portraits at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, June 2013.

Araeen, Rasheed. “The artist as a post-colonial subject and this individual’s journey towards ‘the centre’,” in King, Catherine. View of Difference. Different Views of Art. Yale University Press, 1999, p.232.

ABC/AAP. “AFL: Adam Goodes racially abused while leading Sydney to Indigenous Round win over Collingwood Sat May 25, 2013” on the ABC News website [Online] Cited 15/06/2013.

Abraham, Susan. “What Does Mumbai Have to Do with Rome? Postcolonial Perspectives on Globalization and Theology,” in Theological Studies 69, 2008, pp. 376-93 cited in Kenzo, Mabiala Justin-Robert. What Is Postcolonialism and Why Does It Matter: An African Perspective. Nd [Online] Cited 13/06/2013.

Anon. “Eddie McGuire, Adam Goodes and ‘apes’: a landmark moment in Australian race relations,” on The Conversation website, 31 May 2013 [Online] Cited 15/06/2013.

Anon. “The 30-year cycle: Indigenous policy and the tide of public opinion,” on The Conversation website 06/06/2012 [Online] Cited 16/06/2013.

Ennis, Helen. “The Presence of the Past,” in Ennis, Helen. Photography and Australia. London: Reaktion Books, 2007, p.141.

Heiss, Anita. “Post-Colonial-NOT!” in Dhuuluu Yala (To Talk Straight): Publishing Aboriginal Writing in Australia. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2003, pp.43-46.

Jacobs, J. M. “(Post)colonial spaces,” Chapter 2 in Edge of Empire. London: Routledge, 1996, p.13.

Karvelas, Patricia. “Senate approves Aboriginal intervention by 10 years,” on The Australian website June 29, 2012 [Online] Cited 16/06/2013.

Kenzo, Mabiala Justin-Robert. What Is Postcolonialism and Why Does It Matter: An African Perspective. Nd [Online] Cited 13/06/2013.

King, Catherine. View of Difference. Different Views of Art. Yale University Press, 1999

Loomba, Ania et al. “Beyond What? An Introduction,” in Loomba, Ania et al. (ed.,). Postcolonial Studies and Beyond. Durham, N.C.: Duke University, 2005, pp.1-38

Maynard, Ricky. “The Craft of Documentary Photography,” in Phillips, Sandra. Racism, Representation and Photography. Sydney, 1994, p.115 quoted in Ennis, Helen. Photography and Australia. London: Reaktion Books, 2007, p.106.

McCarthy, Cameron and Dimitriadis, Greg. “The Work of Art in the Postcolonial Imagination,” in Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 21(1), 2000, p.61

McLean, Ian. “Post colonial: return to sender” 1998 paper delivered as the Hancock lecture at the University of Sydney on 11/11/1998 as part of the annual conference of the Australian Academy of Humanities which had as its theme: ‘First Peoples Second Chance Australia In Between Cultures’.

Papastergiadis, Nikos. “Brook Andrew: Counterpoints and Harmonics.” Catalogue essay for Brook Andrew’s exhibition 52 Portraits at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, June 2013.

Perkins, Hetti. Art + Soul. Melbourne: The Miegunyah Press, Melbourne University Publishing, 2010, p.85.

Phillips, Sandra. Racism, Representation and Photography. Sydney, 1994, p.115.

Rukundwa, Lazare S and van Aarde, Andries G. “The formation of postcolonial theory” in HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 63(3), 2007, p.1174.

Rule, Dan. “Brook Andrew: 52 Portraits,” in Arts & Entertainment, Lifestyle, in The Saturday Age newspaper, June 29th 2013, p.5.

Said, Edward. “Overlapping Territories, Intertwined Histories,” in Said, Edward. Culture and imperialism. London: Chatto and Windus, 1993, p.8

Skerritt, Henry F. “Drawing NOW: Jus’ Drawn'” in Art Guide Australia, September/ October 2010, pp.34-35 [Online] Cited 17/06/2013.

Trees, Kathryn. “Postcolonialism: Yet Another Colonial Strategy?” in Span, Vol. 1, No. 36, 1993, pp.264-265 quoted in Heiss, Anita. “Post-Colonial-NOT!” in Dhuuluu Yala (To Talk Straight): Publishing Aboriginal Writing in Australia. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2003, pp.43-46.

Young, Robert J.C. “Postcolonial Remains,” in New Literary History Vol. 43. No. 1. Winter 2012, p.20.

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“Brook Andrew’s newest exhibition is a blockbuster comprising 52 portraits, all mixed media and all measuring 70 x 55 x 5 cm.  The portraits are of unknown people from Africa, Argentina, Ivory Coast, Syria, Sudan, Japan, Australia … They are based on 19th century postcards which Brook Andrew has collected over many years. These postcards were originally made for an international market interested in travel.

‘Colonial photographers made a trade in photographic images, which were on sold as postcards and souvenirs,’ writes Professor Ian Anderson in Re-assembling the trophies and curios of Colonialism & the Silent Terror. According to Brook Andrew, ‘names were not recorded when Indigenous peoples were photographed for ethnographic and curio purposes. The history and identity of these people remain absent.  In rare instances, some families might know an ancestor from a postcard.’

The exhibition takes it title from a book of drawings by Anatomist Richard Berry: TRANSACTIONS of the ROYAL SOCIETY OF VICTORIA. Published in 1909, Volume V of this rare book contains FIFTY-TWO TASMANIA CRANIA – tracings of 52 Tasmanian Aboriginal skulls that were at the time mainly in private collections.

‘These skulls,’ says Brook Andrew, ‘represented a pan-international practice of collecting Aboriginal skulls as trophies, a practice dependent on theories of Aboriginal people being part of the most primitive race of the world, hence a dying species. This theory activated many collections and grave robbing simultaneously.’

In 52 Portraits Brook Andrew delves into hidden histories such as the ‘dark art of body-snatching’ and continues his fascination with the meaning of appearances. ‘He zooms in on the head and torso of young men and women,’ says Nikos Papastergiadis. ‘Brook Andrew’s exhibition, takes us to another intersection where politics and aesthetics run in and over each other.’

The original images embody the colonial fantasies of innocence and backwardness, as well as more aggressive, but tacit expression of the wish to express uninhibited sexual availability. Brook Andrew aims to confront both the lascivious fascination that dominated the earlier consumption of these images and prudish aversions and repressive gaze that informs our more recent and much more ‘politically correct’ vision. His images make the viewer consider the meaning of these bodies and his focus also directs a critical reflection on the assumptions that frame the status of these images.

The centre piece of the exhibition is a kind of Wunderkammer containing all manner of ‘curiosities’ including a skull, drawings of skulls, a partial skeleton, photographs, diaries, glass slides, a stone axe and Wiradjuri shield. Titled Vox: Beyond Tasmania, the Wunderkammer/Gramophone plays out stories of Indigenous peoples.

In the interplay between the 52 Portraits and Vox: Beyond Tasmania, Brook Andrew aims to stir and open our hearts with his powerful 21st century ‘memorial’.”

Press release from the Tolarno Galleries website

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Tolarno Galleries
Level 4
104 Exhibition Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Australia
T: 61 3 9654 6000

Opening hours:
Tue – Fri 10 am – 5 pm
Sat 1 pm – 5 pm

Tolarno Galleries website

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16
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘Gordon Parks: Centennial’ at Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco

Exhibition dates: 21st February – 27th April 2013

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What an admirable photographer Gordon Parks was. It is a joy to see five of his colour photographs in this posting because I have never seen any before. They are glorious, complex compositions that ebb and flow like music whilst at the same time they are also damning indictments of the racially segregated society that was America in the 1950s. The little girl looks on in Ondria Tanner and Her Grandmother Window-shopping (1956, below), her left index finger bent upward on the pane of glass as the prettily dressed white, automaton mannequins march on, oblivious to her gaze; Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama  (1956, below) are surrounded by photographs, their pose mimicking that of their parents hanging behind them, while before them on the coffee table (under glass) are other, younger members of their extended family. Past, present and future coalesce in this one poignant image.

The sensibility of Parks photographs is a refined sensitivity based on experience. “Sensibility” is based on personal impressions of pleasure or pain. These are hard-wired responses that will vary from person to person. The discrimination of men towards each other mattered to Parks, this was his hard-wired response. This was his feeling towards subject matter and that is why these wonderful photographs still matter to us today.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Jenkins Johnson Gallery 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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Gordon Parks is the most important black photographer in the history of photojournalism. Long after the events that he photographed have been forgotten, his images will remain with us, testaments to the genius of his art, transcending time, place and subject matter.

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Dr Henry Louis Gates

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Gordon Parks. 'Ondria Tanner and Her Grandmother Window-shopping, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

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Gordon Parks
Ondria Tanner and Her Grandmother Window-shopping, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Edition 19 of 25
Pigment print
14 x 14 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'At Segregated Drinking Fountain, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

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Gordon Parks
At Segregated Drinking Fountain, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Edition 19 of 25
Pigment print
14 x 14 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'Department Store, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

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Gordon Parks
Department Store, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Edition 20 of 25
Pigment print
14 x 14 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'Mother and Children, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

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Gordon Parks
Mother and Children, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Edition 17 of 25
Pigment print
13 7/8 x 14 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

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Gordon Parks
Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Edition 17 of 25
Pigment print
14 1/8 x 14 inches
Modern print

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In celebration of the 100th birthday of Gordon Parks, one of the most influential African American photographers of the 20th century, Jenkins Johnson Gallery in collaboration with The Gordon Parks Foundation presents Gordon Parks: Centennial, on view from February 21 through April 27, 2013. Gordon Parks, an iconic photographer, writer, composer, and filmmaker, would have turned 100 on November 30, 2012. This will be the first solo exhibition for Parks on the West Coast in thirteen years. The exhibition will survey works spanning six decades of the artist’s career starting in 1940. The exhibition consists of more than seventy-five gelatin silver and pigment prints, including selections from Life magazine photo essays: Invisible Man, 1952; Segregation Story, 1956; The Black Panthers, 1970; and Flavio, 1960, about favelas in Brazil. Also included in the exhibition is his reinterpretation of American Gothic and his elegant depictions of artists like Alexander Calder, fashion models, and movie stars.

Noteworthy highlights include groundbreaking prints from the Invisible Man series which unfolds a visual narrative based on Ralph Ellison’s award winning novel. The images capture the essence of social isolation and the struggle of a black man who feels invisible to the outside world. Also on view will be a number of color prints from Segregation Story, 1956, which are a part of a limited edition portfolio of twelve color photographs with an essay by Maurice Berger. Newly released, these images were produced from transparencies found in early 2012, discovered in a storage box at The Gordon Parks Foundation. In the late 1960s Life magazine asked Gordon Parks to report on the Oakland, California-based Black Panther Party, including Eldridge Cleaver. Parks’ striking image of Eldridge Cleaver and His Wife, Kathleen, Algiers, Algeria, 1970 depicts Cleaver recovering from gun wounds after being ambushed by the Oakland police as well as an insert of Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the party along with Bobby Seale.

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About Gordon Parks

Parks was born into poverty in Fort Scott, Kansas in 1912, the youngest of fifteen children. He worked several odd jobs until he bought a camera at a Pawn Shop in 1937 in Seattle and was hired to photograph fashion at a department store in Minneapolis. In 1942 Parks received a photography fellowship from the Farm Security Administration, succeeding Dorothea Lange among others. While at the F.S.A., Parks created American Gothic, now known as one of his signature images, in which he shows Ella Watson, a cleaning women, holding a mop and broom, standing in front of an American flag. The image makes a poignant commentary on social injustice whilst referencing Grant Wood’s celebrated painting American Gothic which it is also named after. He became a freelance photographer working for Vogue as well as publishing two books, Flash Photography (1947) and Camera Portraits: Techniques and Principles of Documentary Portraiture (1948). In 1948 Parks was hired by Life magazine to do a photographic essay on Harlem gang leader, Red Jackson, which led to a permanent position at Life, where he worked for twenty years. Parks developed his skills as a composer and author and in 1969 he became the first African American to direct a major motion picture, The Learning Tree based on his best selling novel and in 1971 he directed Shaft. A true Renaissance man, Gordon Parks passed away in 2006.

As Philip Brookman, curator of photography and media arts at the Corcoran, states, “Gordon Parks’ art has now changed the way we perceive and remember chronic issues, such as race, poverty, and crime, just as it has influenced our understanding of beauty: of nature, landscape, childhood, fashion, and memory.”

Press release from the Jenkins Johnson Gallery website

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Gordon Parks. 'Norman Fontenelle, Sr., Harlem, New York' 1967

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Gordon Parks
Norman Fontenelle, Sr., Harlem, New York
1967
Gelatin silver print
13 x 9 1/8 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'Ellen's Feet, Harlem, New York' 1967

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Gordon Parks
Ellen’s Feet, Harlem, New York
1967
Gelatin silver print
6 1/4 x 9 3/8 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'Mysticism, Harlem, New York' 1952

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Gordon Parks
Mysticism, Harlem, New York
1952
Gelatin silver print
10 5/8 x 10 3/8 inches
Vintage print

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Gordon Parks. 'Tenement Dwellers, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1949

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Gordon Parks
Tenement Dwellers, Fort Scott, Kansas
1949
Gelatin silver print
7 x 9 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'Harlem Neighborhood, Harlem, New York' 1952

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Gordon Parks
Harlem Neighborhood, Harlem, New York
1952
Gelatin silver print
10 3/8 x 13 1/2 inches
Vintage print

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Gordon Parks. 'Drugstore Cowboys, Turner Valley, Canada' 1945

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Gordon Parks
Drugstore Cowboys, Turner Valley, Canada
1945
Gelatin silver print
9 7/8 x 12 7/8 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'The Invisible Man, Harlem, New York' 1952

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Gordon Parks
The Invisible Man, Harlem, New York
1952
Edition 1 of 10
Pigment print
14 1/8 x 14 inches
Modern print

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Jenkins Johnson Gallery
464 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
T: 415.677.0770

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10am – 6pm
Saturday 10am – 5pm

Jenkins Johnson Gallery website

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10
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘Don McCullin: A Retrospective’ at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Exhibition dates: 1st February – 14th April 2013

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“Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures”

“You do not go away from here without carrying a huge burden, if you are a decent human being and you have a conscience.”

“I photograph the humble, the anonymous, who are spontaneous and mirror all of us.”

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Don McCullin, Sleeping With Ghosts: A Life’s Work in Photography

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Many thankx to the National Gallery of Canada 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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Don McCullin. 'Catholic youth escaping a CS gas assault in the Bogside, Londonderry, Northern Ireland' 1971

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Don McCullin
Catholic youth escaping a CS gas assault in the Bogside, Londonderry, Northern Ireland
1971
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

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Don McCullin. 'US marine throwing grenade, Tet Offensive, Hué, South Vietnam' February 1968

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Don McCullin
US marine throwing grenade, Tet Offensive, Hué, South Vietnam
February 1968
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

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Don McCullin. 'Turkish defender leaving the side-entrance of a cinema, Limassol, Cyprus' 1964

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Don McCullin
Turkish defender leaving the side-entrance of a cinema, Limassol, Cyprus
1964
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

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Don-McCullin-Protester,-Cuban-missile-crisis-WEB

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Don McCullin
Protester, Cuban missile crisis, Whitehall, London
1962
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

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Don McCullin. 'American soldiers, Checkpoint Charlie, West Berlin' August 1961

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Don McCullin
American soldiers, Checkpoint Charlie, West Berlin
August 1961
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

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“For the first time ever, the National Gallery of Canada is organising an monographic exhibition dedicated to the work of a contemporary British photographer. Don McCullin: A Retrospective features a collection of 134 exceptional black-and-white photographs taken by McCullin, an unflinching photojournalist best known for his coverage of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones. His photographs have been published in major newspapers and magazines, including The Observer, The Sunday Times and The Daily Telegraph. McCullin has also created an important body of social documentary work and a series of lyrical landscapes in his native Britain. Several of these photographs are included in the exhibition, which will be on display until April 14, 2013 in the NGC’s Prints, Drawings and Photographs Galleries. “McCullin’s photographs belong in an art gallery because they consistently bring clarity and compositional grace to their compelling subject matter. These pictures are both hard to look at and hard not to.” said NGC director and CEO Marc Mayer.

Don McCullin: A Retrospective highlights works from all of McCullin’s major series: portraits of the poor and the homeless in London and northern England (1950s to 1980s); the construction of the Berlin Wall (1961); war and famine in Cyprus, the Congo, Biafra, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lebanon and Northern Ireland (1964-1982); peoples of Southeast Asia and Africa (1988-2004); and landscapes in Somerset, England, and northern France (1970-2011). In this exhibition, the artist’s journey from working class England to the killing fields and to the landscape of Arthurian myth reveals his searing outrage and profound compassion. Also included are magazines and newspapers relating to past assignments.

McCullin covered war zones on four continents, primarily from the 1960s to the 1980s. His photographs from the battlefields belong to a tradition of war art practiced by Francisco de Goya, Otto Dix and photographer Robert Capa, artists who, like himself, sought to communicate in images the horrors of human conflict. Particularly compelling for their narrative depth, sombre lighting and powerful composition, McCullin’s photographs convey the intensity and intimacy of his human encounters. His landscapes, although also dark and brooding, speak to his desire to distance himself from the subject of human suffering.

Although, McCullin did travel to Syria recently for The Times on one final war assignment (these photographs are not included in the exhibition), his exposure to the worst human atrocities took such a toll on him that he more or less retreated from conflict zones beginning in the 1980s. McCullin does not like being called a war photographer. Nor does he think of himself as an artist, but rather as a photojournalist, or simply, a photographer. In her insightful essay in the exhibition catalogue, Sobey Curatorial Assistant Katherine Stauble writes of the war photographs: “Likely (these images) were not meant to hang on a gallery wall, but rather, to communicate information, to reveal truths and to mobilize action. Now that McCullin has escaped the battlefield and for the past twenty years has been focusing his lens on landscape and still life, one might expect the artist moniker to sit more comfortably with him.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Canada website

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Don McCullin. 'The Guvnors, Finsbury Park, London' 1958

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Don McCullin
The Guvnors, Finsbury Park, London
1958
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

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Don McCullin. 'At a café in Finsbury Park, London' 1958

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Don McCullin
At a café in Finsbury Park, London
1958
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images
Photo © NGC

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Don McCullin. 'Jean, a homeless woman, Aldgate, East End, London' 1984, printed c. 1985

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Don McCullin
Jean, a homeless woman, Aldgate, East End, London
1984, printed c. 1985
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

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Don McCullin. 'Homeless Irishman, Aldgate, East End, London' 1970

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Don McCullin
Homeless Irishman, Aldgate, East End, London
1970
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

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Don McCullin. 'Old Vietnamese man, Tet Offensive, Hué, South Vietnam' February 1968

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Don McCullin
Old Vietnamese man, Tet Offensive, Hué, South Vietnam
February 1968
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

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National Gallery of Canada
380 Sussex Dr  Ottawa
ON K1N 9N4, Canada
T: +1 613-990-1985

Opening hours:
Sunday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Monday Closed
Tuesday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Wednesday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Thursday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Friday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Saturday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm

National Gallery of Canada website

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05
Mar
13

Review: ‘Jeff Wall Photographs’ at The Ian Potter Centre: NGVA, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 30th November 2012 – 17th March 2013

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“My work is a reconstruction and reconstruction is a philosophical activity. If I can create a drama that has philosophical meaning, that’s fine, or sometimes, it is not from meaning but a reconstruction of a feeling. It is best to capture in a photograph a feeling, an emotion, a look, a memory, a perception or a relationship.”

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Jeff Wall

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Stressed at the seams

The excruciating “conversation” between Jeff Wall and Thomas Demand in The Great Hall at the National Gallery of Victoria on November 28th 2012 seemed to run on interminably, yielding a couple of tiny gems but also a lot of leaden debate. I had higher hopes of the solo exhibition by Jeff Wall at NGV Australia. In some ways I was not disappointed, in other ways Wall’s calculating fields of existence certainly didn’t move my soul with any great conviction.

Initially, I was impressed perhaps even a little overwhelmed by the spacious hang, the placement of the mainly large, light box illuminated photographs and non light box photographs dotted amongst the galleries emphasising the inter-relationship between the images. The work in the exhibition includes large set-piece constructions, outdoor photographs of found environments, small, intimate conceptual works full of angles and colour and more recent ink jet print work. These “installations that happen to have photos in them” (Wall’s description) reflect the gigantism prevalent in much contemporary photography. In these large mise-en-scène you cannot fail to be impressed by the control the artist displays in the formal nature of their construction, the still-life tableaux representing the artist’s intention in a rather cold and remote way. As can be seen from the structural analysis of Polishing (1988) by Dr James McArdle and J.S.B. below, Wall is very clever in how he structures his shape-shifting photographs, how he seduces the eye into believing that everything is plausible within the formalist pictorial plane. But as McArdle observes,

“[His] formalism remains empty of connection to the subject, Wall denying any narrative representation… His distancing of the subject, his leaning on typecast (such as in the chicken plucking image) can be summed up in his method: staging, directing, controlling that sucks the real life out of the imagery and re-inflates it with bombast.”1

From his early, prissy double self-portrait to his laughing at, not with, the menial labourers in Dressing poultry (2007, below), the set-piece work does seem full of bombast (possessing a pompous and grandiloquent language; an obsolete material used for padding), but perhaps bombast is related to that standard postmodern language, irony. It certainly is a language where Wall denies any inherent narrative, where there is a “dis-identification of the figures in the pictures which becomes part of the aesthetic of the picture.”2 Wall says he is just depicting the figures, that they just become an effect of depiction (or representation, in other words). In this way Wall conditions our awareness of [this particular] space due only in part to their scale (McArdle). This grandiloquence, coupled with the luminance of the light box which creates the luminescence of the image, dazzles the eye but on closer inspection is a perhaps a psychological hall of mirrors. The shattering of this constructed illusion can be seen in the “seaminess” of the photographs. The media image of A view from an apartment (2004-05, below) gives it away: all trace of the join that is present in most of Wall’s large transparencies has been removed, when compared to my detail photograph of the image in the actual exhibition. The join gives lie, line, to the truth that here are photographs that we can believe in. The illusion becomes stressed at the seams but again, perhaps this join is just a trope that Wall has developed to compliment his visual language. Certainly, there is no reason why such large transparencies could not be printed in one piece and at a million dollars a pop he could surely talk to the manufacturer.

Scholars have noted that the phrase ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ has become a standard metaphor for anything that smacks of pretentiousness, pomposity, social hypocrisy, or hollow ostentatiousness and this is the case here. These photographs are like the Emperor’s new clothes, so caught up are we in the brilliance of their display we fail to notice that there is not much going on in terms of the actual “life” of the image (other than subsuming the life of up to 70 digital images to make one still, cold image). Wall’s photographs as performance, his theatre of disruption where the artist seeks to upset the veneer of the ordinary to blur the boundaries between what is probable or improbable, are undone by their existential isolation. I felt little empathy for any of the people in Wall’s tableaux vivants or for their imagined, non-narrative realities as Wall would have it. Perhaps I wasn’t meant to or, to be kinder, perhaps this is the strategy.

There was one exception: Untangling (1994, below) which is a cracker of an image. All the psychological and existential meaning comes pouring out here: an underground cave (Jung’s cave archetype, symbol of the unconscious), the male sitters profound mood of introspection, the skein of tangled rope which may represent the source of the Gordian Knot, used as a metaphor for an intractable problem (disentangling an “impossible” knot) – although I prefer the analogy of the Ouroboros, the snake devouring its own tail which often represents self-reflexivity or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return, which emphasises the relationship between a person’s mind and their experience of reality, how the psyche shapes the environment in which they act, and the untangling of consciousness.

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While his work was cutting edge in the late 1980s – 1990s, containing something in the work that brought him to notice, today it evidences a cultural and visual aesthetic that already seems completely outdated (the Pet Shop Boys on a bad hair day). Through staring at a constructed atemporal reality – like a man dreaming, caught in a no-time – Wall has created a form of look but don’t touch voyeurism, a slightly bombastic narcissism based on the photographers’ own power. But perhaps this is the point. Perhaps the qualities that I have criticized in the artist’s work are the very qualities the he is pursuing. Wall might want a don’t touch voyeurism for example – possibly deny it even exists or give it another name – so that the work interrogates some aspect of alienation without ever naming it. This can be seen in his construction of the photograph Polishing where he represents a mundane act in a cheap hotel room, raising the performance up to the altar of high art while hiding its anomalous philosophical and physical distortions.

I think Wall is a clever person wanting to be contradictory and clever.

To some people the qualities evidenced in Wall’s photographs can be seen to be quite admirable: today we shouldn’t (always) have to seek resolution or meaning. But when Wall says in the quote at the top of this posting that his work is a “reconstruction of a feeling” then I wonder where this feeling has gone, or whether it existed in the first place, for reconstruction is a very strange word to use with regard to feelings.

While the artist can control the uniqueness of a particular image seen from the point of view of production, intention and encounter3 what he cannot control is the interpretation of his images by the viewer. With this in mind (very apt) this is what I don’t get from these images: they lack for me is the quality of being lyrical, an artist’s expression of emotion in an imaginative and beautiful way. The stress seams present in his photographs, be they physical (the actual print) or psychological (photographs like Doorpusher or A view from an apartment) don’t allow me emotional access to the work. Aiming for an investigation into the existential nature of being and the philosophical reconstruction of a feeling, Wall ends up stressed at the seams (even un/seamed, un/scene, un/seen) and leaves me spatially and emotionally unmoved.

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.

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'A view from an apartment' 2004-05

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
A view from an apartment
2004-05
Transparency in light box 1/2
167.0 x 244.0 cm
Tate, London Purchased with assistance from the American Fund for the Tate Gallery and Tate Members, 2006
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'A view from an apartment' 2004-05 (detail)

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
A view from an apartment (detail)
2004-05
Photograph: Marcus Bunyan

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Polishing' 1998

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Polishing
1998
Transparency in light box, 1/2
162.0 x 207.0 cm State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia Purchased with assistance from the Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation, 1999
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall 'Polishing' skewing

Image Dr James McArdle

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Jeff Wall 'Polishing' skewing

Image J.S.B.

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Structural analysis of Jeff Wall’s Polishing (1998)

“There is a perceptual discomfort in viewing this image on the wall that is not apparent in the desk-top experience of it. I’m referring to a weird skewing of the perspective of the room. Wall has tilted the monorail of his 8×10 camera down toward the corner of the room, making the left hand wall of the bathroom lean uncomfortably, more than does the patched join of the wall panels to the right. He has then shifted the lens left, thus positioning the one vertical (right behind the figure) to the right of centre. The bathroom door, draped with a towel, looks as if it is hanging off its hinges, at variance with the top of the entrance door which remains horizontal. Conventionally, an architectural photographer would square everything and Wall does that in Doorpusher which though shot from an extremely oblique angle employs a radical drop-front to correct the verticals.”

Dr James McArdle

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“”Firstly, the floor is not straight in the image. You can see how in my edit, I have rotated the image a little to make the floor straight: (you can see how much by the break in the picture rail see red arrow). JW being tricky and skilled. Now the amount of lean in wall could almost be achieved just by a camera pointing down. No weird camera movements – this is almost familiar. But the door leans more than the wall! Next, note the degree of convergence in blue lines compared to green lines. Therefore the blue angle is emphasized – somehow. Note different hang of towel in magenta compared to blue – therefore edited ~ somehow!

The grid is good because as an initial observation it shows how much distortion we are viewing. But it makes it difficult to see that the floor is not level. When the floor is straightened the lean on the left wall is not as much as it seemed. Wait! Things do splay out when the camera is pointed down – so maybe there is no Photoshop in this at all? But there is – the angles have been emphasised a bit (I believe digitally) and there are puns in the angle of the towel (sloping at a different angle) and the buttons on the couch (not sloping out at all).

Lets play with this a bit more. So just tilt the camera to slope the floor and emphasise the lean by using the tilt to straighten the verticals on one side – and now make this a bit stronger in Photoshop. And by judicious use of the furniture placement the slope of the floor can be partly hidden. I can imagine Jeff Wall saying to a crowd that there is no Photoshop in this – it’s just camera placement (including a tilt in the whole camera) and without duplicating the scene I can’t be sure – but I think he has stressed in Photoshop some things that are already there. Digital enhancement.

Finally we can say that the formal qualities of this image are a play upon what has been initially offered by the camera. Initially: The walls are sloping! So is it just optics, or camera angle or Photoshop? It’s all three but not as much Photoshop as initially thought. The floor is not straight, the camera angle has been changed and there has been some digital emphasis.”

J.S.B. (author of The Well Tempered View Camera)

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Many thankx to Dr James McArdle for the initial gridded image from the posting “Perspective blow up,” on his Camera/Eye blog (January 21st, 2013) where he argues that the skewing is all done with tilting and shifting of an 8 x 10 image view camera to the analysis by J.S.B in which he argues that the skewing is partially done through the architecture (the set), the camera and some Photoshop tweeking.

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Double Self-Portrait' 1979

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Double Self-Portrait
1979
Transparency in light box AP
172.0 x 229.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Untangling' 1994, printed 2006

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Untangling
1994, printed 2006
Transparency in light box, AP
189.0 x 223.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased NGV Foundation and with the assistance of NGV Contemporary, 2006
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Dressing poultry' 2007

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Dressing poultry
2007
Transparency in light box, 1/2
201.5 x 252.0 cm
Cranford Collection, London
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Adrian Walker, artist, drawing from a specimen in a laboratory in the Dept. of Anatomy at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver' 1992

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Adrian Walker, artist, drawing from a specimen in a laboratory in the Dept. of Anatomy at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver
1992
Transparency in light box, AP
119.0 x 164.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'A sudden gust of wind (after Hokusai)' 1993

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
A sudden gust of wind (after Hokusai)
1993
Transparency in light box, unique state
229.0 x 377.0 cm
Tate, London Purchased with the assistance from the Patrons of New Art through the Tate Gallery Foundation and from the National Art Collections Fund, 1995
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'After 'Invisible Man' by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue' 1999-2000

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
After ‘Invisible Man’ by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue
1999-2000
Transparency in light box, AP
174.0 x 250.5 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Knife throw' 2008

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Knife throw
2008
Colour photograph, AP
184.0 x 256.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'The Destroyed Room' 1978

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
The Destroyed Room
1978
Transparency in light box, AP
159.0 x 234.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Clipped branches, East Cordova St., Vancouver' 1999

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Clipped branches, East Cordova St., Vancouver
1999
Transparency in light box, AP
72.0 x 89.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Diagonal Composition' 1993

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Diagonal Composition
1993
Transparency in light box, AP
40.0 x 46.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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1. McArdle, James. Email to the author 22-01-2013

2. Wall, Jeff and Crombie, Isobel. “Jeff Wall Photographs: Knife Throw,” video on ArtDaily.org [Online] Cited 03-03-2013

3. Howarth, Sophie. “Introduction,” in Singular Images: essays on Remarkable Photographs. New York: Aperture, 2006, p.7.

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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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27
Apr
12

Exhibition: ‘Songs of the Future: Canadian Industrial Photographs, 1858 – Today’ at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada

Exhibition dates: 20th August 2011 – 29th April 2012

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Another eclectic photography exhibition. I do love them for their interesting subject matter. Much as Australian photography may seem slightly obscure to the rest of the world so Canadian photography is little known in Australia. One of the important briefs of this blog is to promote all photography in its many forms, including Australian, to the four corners of the globe.

Many thankx to the Art Gallery of Ontario 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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“Oh the song of the future has been sung / All the battles have been won
On the mountain tops we stand / All the world at our command
We have opened up her soil / With our teardrops and our toil”

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Gordon Lightfoot, “Canadian Railroad Trilogy”

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Isabelle Hayeur
Jade
2004
from the series Model Homes, 2004 – 2007
Chromogenic print
107 x 160 cm
Gift of Paul Bain, 2008
Image courtesy the Art Gallery of Ontario / AGO Image Resources
© 2011 Art Gallery of Ontario

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E. Haanel Cassidy
Man on Tower
1940
from the series Canadian Industry – Grain Elevator
Gelatin silver print
23.7 x 35.3 cm
Gift of Sylvia Platt, 2002
Image courtesy the Art Gallery of Ontario / AGO Image Resources
© 2011 Art Gallery of Ontario

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George Hunter
Dofasco and Stelco steel mills, Hamilton, Ontario
1954
Dye transfer print
31.2 x 42.1 cm
Gift of George Hunter, R.C.A, 2010
Image courtesy the Art Gallery of Ontario / AGO Image Resources
© 2011 Art Gallery of Ontario

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“The practice of photography in Canada closely parallels the development of its industries. As railroad tracks were laid and bridges were built to allow access to remote forests and mineral-rich territories, photographers followed, as they did when mining and lumber interests developed. These industrial activities have undeniably shaped the Canadian landscape – for better and for worse. And photographs of these activities – whether made on commission by those eager to document their contribution to national progress, or for the photographer’s own interest – continue to feed our imaginations, shape our opinions and make us aware of what is at stake.

Songs of Future: Canadian Industrial Photographs, 1858 to Today includes more than 100 photographs – by such figures as William Notman, Alexander Henderson, Richard Maynard, J.C.M. Hayward, John Vanderpant, E. Haanel Cassidy, George Hunter, Bill Vazan, Ralph Greenhill, Geoffrey James, Edward Burtynsky, Peter MacCallum, Steven Evans, Jesse Boles, and Isabelle Hayeur – most drawn from the AGO’s permanent collection, and many of which have never been shown. Featuring sites from the west coast to the Maritimes, the exhibition showcases this other landscape tradition in Canadian art and the Canadian photographers who have described, evoked, celebrated, and cast a critical eye on our industrial landscapes for more than 150 years.

Depicting railway and bridge building, quarries and mines, and the lumber, pulp and paper, and concrete industries in Canada, Songs of the Future traces the shifting perspectives on industry and the Canadian landscape from the Industrial Revolution to today. The exhibition highlights the ways in which the photographers’ perspectives on industry have shifted along with those of society at large, as celebratory images of human domination over nature give way to more critical views of industrial impact.

The exhibition is curated by Sophie Hackett, the AGO’s assistant curator of photography, who integrates works from various periods into thematic concentrations, including images featuring: the construction of the Victoria Bridge over the St. Lawrence River in the late 1850s; the building of the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company, a pulp-and-paper mill located in Grand Falls, Newfoundland, in 1912; and the development of the railroad in Canada.

“The exhibition explores the history of Canadian photography through the topic of industrial imagery,” says Hackett. “Featuring sites from the Maritimes to the west coast, and rooted in the fundamentally Canadian genre of landscape, the photographs bear witness to the various aesthetic techniques and styles emphasized by Canadian photographers over the past 150 years.””

Press release from the AGO website

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Alexander Henderson
Miramichi Bridges: Southwest Branch, View of Pier G, completed September 15, 1873
1873
Albumen print
25.3 x 30.5 cm
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Berger, 2008
Image courtesy the Art Gallery of Ontario / AGO Image Resources
© 2011 Art Gallery of Ontario

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Edward Burtynsky
C.N. Track, Thompson River #002, British Columbia
1985
from the series Railcuts
Chromogenic print
121.9 x 147.3 cm
Gift of Harry and Ann Malcolmson, 2008
Image courtesy the Art Gallery of Ontario / AGO Image Resources
© 2011 Art Gallery of Ontario

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Peter MacCallum
Finishing Mill Department, St. Marys Cement, Bowmanville, Ontario
1999
from the series Concrete Industries, 1998 – 2004
Gelatin silver print
50.8 x 40.6 cm
Purchase, funds donated by James Lahey and Pym Buitenhuis, 2008
Image courtesy the Art Gallery of Ontario / AGO Image Resources
© 2011 Art Gallery of Ontario

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Ralph Greenhill
Prince of Wales Bridge, Ottawa, Ontario
1977
Gelatin silver print
22.6 x 17.4 cm
Gift of Av Isaacs, 2008
Image courtesy the Art Gallery of Ontario / AGO Image Resources
© 2011 Art Gallery of Ontario

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John Vanderpant
No.2, Towers in White
around 1934
Gelatin silver print
34.4 x 27 cm
Purchase, donated funds in memory of Eric Steiner, 2002
Image courtesy the Art Gallery of Ontario / AGO Image Resources
© 2011 Art Gallery of Ontario

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Art Gallery of Ontario
Musée des beaux-arts de l’Ontario

317 Dundas Street West
Toronto Ontario Canada M5T 1G4

Opening hours:
Tue – Sunday 10.30am – 5.30pm
Closed Mondays

Art Gallery of Ontario website

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30
Dec
11

Exhibition: ‘Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven’ at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 19th October 2011 – 8th January 2012

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What a wonderful posting to end 2011. I had no idea how magnificent Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven was. The paintings are sublime, full of light, colour and texture: they perfectly capture the atmosphere of outback Canada. As the curator observes, ‘These artists produced some of the most vibrant and beautiful landscapes of the twentieth century’. I couldn’t agree more. A joy to see, these impressions leave one spellbound. Finally, something delicious in landscape painting!

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

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Frederick Horsman Varley
Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay
1921
Oil on canvas
132.6 x 162.8 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
© Varley Art Gallery, Town of Markham
Photo © NGC

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Franklin Carmichael
Autumn Hillside
1920
Oil on canvas
76 x 91.4cm
© Art Gallery of Ontario,
Gift from the J.S. McLean Collection, Toronto
© Courtesy of the Estate of Franklin Carmichael

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Frederick Horsman Varley
Peter Sandiford at Split Rock, Georgian Bay
1922
Oil on wood panel
21 x 26.7cm
© Art Gallery of Ontario
© Varley Art Gallery, Town of Markham

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Frederick Horsman Varley
Cloud, Red Mountain
1927-8
Oil on canvas
87 x 102.2 cm
© Art Gallery of Ontario
© Varley Art Gallery, Town of Markham

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Frederick Horsman Varley
West Coast Sunset, Vancouver
c. 1926
Oil on wood
30.4 x 38.1 cm
The Thomson Collection
© Art Gallery of Ontario

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Lawren Harris
Lake Superior, Sketch XLVII
c. 1923
Oil on panel, 30 x 37.5 cm
Collection: A. K. Prakash
© Family of Lawren S. Harris

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Lawren Harris
Isolation Peak
c. 1939
Oil on panel
30 x 37.5 cm
Collection: A. K. Prakash
© Family of Lawren S. Harris

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Lawren Harris
Untitled Mountain Landscape
c.1927-28
Oil on canvas
122.3 x 152.7 cm
Thomson Collection, AGO
© Art Gallery of Ontario
© Family of Lawren S. Harris

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Lawren Harris
Tamaracks and Blue Hill
c. 1919
Oil on panel
26.7 x 34.7 cm
Art Gallery of Ontario
© Family of Lawren S. Harris

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Lawren Harris
Trees and Pool
c. 1920
Oil on panel
26.7 x 35.6 cm
© Art Gallery of Ontario
© Family of Lawren S. Harris

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“Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Bicentenary year of momentous exhibition fi rsts is to continue in October with Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven. The exhibition forms part of Dulwich Picture Gallery’s North American series showcasing the work of artists rarely seen in the UK.

Painting Canada will feature some of Canada’s most iconic landscape paintings. These bold and exciting works were first celebrated not in Canada, but in London, at the British Empire exhibitions at Wembley in 1924 and 1925. Since then, despite becoming greatly revered in Canada, the work of Thomson and the Group of Seven has been virtually unknown on the international stage. This major exhibition will reintroduce them to the British public, with an astonishing 122 paintings on display as well as Tom Thomson’s sketchbox.

Tom Thomson and J. E. H. MacDonald, Arthur Lismer, Frederick Varley, Frank Johnston and Franklin Carmichael met as employees of the design firm Grip Ltd. in Toronto. The other two members of the Group were A. Y. (Alexander Young) Jackson from Montreal and Lawren Harris, effectively the Group’s leader, and a man of considerable personal wealth. They often met at the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto to discuss their opinions and share their art.

The artists, sometimes known as the ‘Algonquin Park School’ at this stage, received indirect monetary support from Harris (heir to the Massey-Harris farm machinery fortune) and direct support from Dr. James MacCallum a wealthy Toronto ophthalmologist and colllector. Harris and MacCallum collaborated to build a studio building that opened in 1914 to serve as a meeting and working place for the proposed new Canadian art movement.

The progress of this informal group of artists was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I and a further severe blow came in 1917 when Thomson died while canoeing in Algonquin Park. The circumstances of his death and subsequent burial have remained mysterious, the source to this day of myriad conspiracy theories.

Thomson’s seven artist friends reunited after the war. They continued to travel throughout Canada, sketching the landscape and developing techniques to represent such wild and diverse terrain in their art. In 1920 they finally came together as the Group of Seven and held their first exhibition under that name. Prior to this, the art establishment’s view of the Canadian landscape was that it was either unpaintable or too wild and uncouth to be worthy of being painted. Reviews for the 1920 exhibition were mixed, but as the decade progressed the Group came to be recognised as pioneers of a new, Canadian, school of art. Nowadays, the Group and Tom Thomson are iconic in their native country; every schoolchild is familiar with masterpieces such as Thomson’s The Jack Pine, arguably the most famous and beloved painting in Canada.

Dulwich Picture Gallery is proud to partner with the National Gallery of Canada on this exhibition, with generous support of loans also coming from the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, the Art Gallery of Ontario and other lenders. These institutions are lending some of the most famous paintings in Canada. Additionally, a special revelation of the show is provided by the rich group of works to be found in private collections.

Painting Canada has been planned as a journey through Canada, framed by two grand rooms dedicated individually to Tom Thomson’s electrifying sketches and paintings of Algonquin Park and Lawren Harris’s other-worldly paintings of the Arctic and the Rocky Mountains. Between these two ‘poles’, a selection of the very best work of Thomson and the Group of Seven will be on display. A special feature of the show will be the juxtaposition, wherever possible, of the initial sketch with the finished canvas. One room will in fact be devoted entirely to a display of these vibrant sketches, which represent one of the most impressive contributions of Canada to twentieth-century art.

Ian Dejardin said: “These artists produced some of the most vibrant and beautiful landscapes of the twentieth century. The Canadians have kept this particular light under a bushel for far too long – I am proud, and frankly amazed, that this is to be the very first major exhibition of their work to be held in this country since the sensation of their first showing here in 1924. As for Tom Thomson – what he achieved in his tragically short career (just 4 or 5 years) is extraordinary. He is Canada’s very own Van Gogh – prepare to be dazzled.”

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A. Y. Jackson
Totem Poles, Kitwanga
1926
Oil on panel
21.25 x 26.25 cm
© Collection: A. K. Prakash

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J. E. H. MacDonald
Falls, Montreal River
1920
Oil on canvas
121.9 x 153 cm
© Art Gallery of Ontario

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J. E. H. MacDonald
Autumn Leaves, Batchewana Woods, Algoma
c. 1919
Oil on composite woodboard
21.6 x 26.7 cm
© Art Gallery of Ontario

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J. E. H. MacDonald
The Little Falls
1918
Oil on composite woodboard
21.6 x 26.7 cm
© Art Gallery of Ontario

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J. E. H. MacDonald
Mount Oderay
1930
Oil on canvas
40 x 52.5 cm
© Collection: Ash K. Prakash

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J. E. H. MacDonald
Mount Biddle
1930
Oil on composite woodboard
21.5 x 26.7 cm
© Art Gallery of Ontario

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Tom Thomson (1877 – 1917)

Tom Thomson was born near Claremont, Ontario on 5 August, 1877. A turning point in his life came in 1909 when he joined the staff of Grip Ltd., a prominent Toronto photo-engraving house. The firm’s head designer, artist-poet J.E.H. MacDonald, contributed much to Thomson’s artistic development, sharpening his sense of design. However, Thomson’s career as a fine artist lasted barely four or fi ve years; it was cut short in July 1917, when his canoe was found floating on Canoe Lake, empty. His body surfaced days later, triggering decades of speculation as to his fate. More sensational than these stories, however, was the burst of creativity that had preceded his death. In his last two years, Thomson had developed an artistic language that seemed to capture the unique qualities of the Canadian landscape – painterly, vibrant in colour, in tune with the subtle change of the seasons. The Canadian wilderness had been previously considered too wild and untamed  to inspire ‘true’ art.

His fellow employees at Grip Ltd. included Arthur Lismer, F.H. Varley, Franklin Carmichael and Frank Johnston – all adventurous young painters who often organised weekend painting trips to the countryside around Toronto. After Tom’s death, a memorial exhibition was arranged and these men, together with Lawren Harris and A. Y. Jackson, would go on to form in 1920 the Group of Seven, probably the most famous artistic force in Canadian art history. Along with Thomson they created a landscape style that to this day infl uences the way Canadians visualise their own country and their best paintings have become national icons.

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Lawren Harris (1885 – 1970)

Lawren Harris was born on 23 October 1885, in Brantford, Ontario. He attended St. Andrew’s College in Toronto before studying art in Berlin, Germany, from 1904 to 1908. He then returned to Toronto, where he began painting post-impressionist street scenes of its older and poorer areas. By 1919 Harris’s landscapes had become increasingly sombre and his brush stroke more expressive. His affection for Scandinavian landscape painting was one of the key factors in the formulation of the Group of Seven’s approach to the Ontario woods, which Harris himself painted with gusto and attention. His later style was grandly beautiful and austere, finding its most characteristic subject matter in the awesome landscapes of Lake Superior, the Rockies and the Canadian Arctic.

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A. Y. Jackson (1882 – 1974)

Alexander Young Jackson, or “A. Y.” as he was fondly known, was born in Montreal on 3 October, 1882. Like other members of the Group of Seven he was trained as a commercial artist and for many years made his living by that means. He apprenticed to a Montreal lithographer at the age of 12, and though he later spent two and a half years in France studying painting, he was soon back in Canada paying his rent by designing cigar labels. In the following years after the formation of the Group of Seven he painted the Arctic, the West Coast, the Prairies, and Ontario’s north woods, as well as his beloved St. Lawrence, where his countless sketching expeditions earned him the nickname Père Raquette-Pappa Snowshoe.

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Arthur Lismer (1885 – 1969)

Arthur Lismer celebrated the powerful beauty of the Canadian landscape in his own expressionist style. His paintings are characterized by vivid colour, deliberately coarse brushwork and a simplified form. Lismer was born in Sheffield, England. At the age of 26, he immigrated to Canada seeking work as a commercial illustrator. It was at Grip Ltd. in Toronto that he met a group of other talented young artists who were to become the Group of Seven. Together, they organized trips to explore and sketch the wilderness – capturing the spirit of Canada in their work, and setting Canadian art on a bold and original new course. Although Lismer painted throughout his life, he devoted the majority of his time to art education. A gifted teacher, Lismer pioneered the field of child art education across Canada and around the world.

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Frederick Horsman Varley (1881 – 1969)

Varley was born in 1881 in Sheffield, England. He studied painting at Sheffield and Antwerp and went to work in London as a commercial illustrator. In 1912 he came to Canada, where he found himself working in the same commercial studio as Tom Thomson. With Thomson and the others he took to painting Northern Ontario landscapes, and also began to do considerable work as a portrait painter. In 1926 Varley moved to Vancouver to become Head of Drawing, Painting & Composition at the newly formed Vancouver School of Decorative & Applied Arts. In 1933 he founded his own school, the British Columbia College of Arts, but this venture led to his bankruptcy in 1935 and by then his marriage had also collapsed. The next years were difficult for Varley, most of them spent suffering from alcoholism in Montreal. In 1945, however, he returned to Toronto and slowly began to work again. He died in Toronto in 1969.

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Franklin Carmichael (1890 – 1945)

Carmichael, the son of a carriage maker, was born in Orillia, Ontario on 4 May, 1890. He arrived in Toronto in 1911 with some training in commercial art, and soon found himself the associate of Tom Thomson and a number of other commercial artists who were teaching themselves to be serious painters. In 1913 he went to Antwerp to study painting but was soon back in Ontario to participate in the founding of the Group of Seven, of which he was the youngest member. In 1932 he was appointed Head of Graphic and Commercial Art at the Ontario College of Art. He died in Toronto in 1945.

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Frank (Franz) Johnston (1888 – 1949)

Johnston was an original member but only showed in the Group’s first exhibition. Johnston’s style and technique – he very often  painted in tempera – differed from that of the other Group of Seven members. His work was extremely decorative, and sold well – a fact that led to his early departure from the Group, since he felt he could earn more disassociated from the initial critical outrage that greeted the first Group exhibitions.

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J. E. H. MacDonald (1873 – 1932)

John Edward Hervey MacDonald challenged and vastly broadened the scope of Canadian Art. MacDonald believed that art should express the “mood and character and spirit of the country”, and he portrayed his vision in vast panoramas using dark, rich colours and a turbulent patterned style. MacDonald was born in Durham, England, and moved to Canada at the age of fourteen. He trained as an artist in Hamilton and Toronto, pursuing a career in commercial art. In 1895 he joined Grip Ltd. in Toronto where he met and encouraged other staff members, including Tom Thomson, Frank Carmichael, Arthur Lismer and Fred Varley, to paint with him on weekends – laying the groundwork for what would later become Canada’s famous Group of Seven. He was the oldest member of the Group. His early death led directly to the disbanding of the Group in 1933.

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Tom Thomson
The Jack Pine
1916-1917
Oil on canvas
127.9 x 139.8 cm
©  National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Photo © NGC

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Tom Thomson
Winter Thaw in the Woods
1917
Oil on composite woodpulp board
21.6 x 26.8 cm
Thomson Collection, AGO
© Art Gallery of Ontario

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Tom Thomson
A Northern Lake
c. 1916
Oil on composite wood-pulp board
21.6 x 26.7 cm
© Art Gallery of Ontario

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Tom Thomson
Path behind Mowat Lodge
1917
Oil on wood
26.8 x 21.4 cm
Thomson Collection, AGO
© Art Gallery of Ontario

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Dulwich Picture Gallery
Gallery Road, London
SE21 7AD
T: 020 8693 5254

Opening hours:
Tue – Fri 10am – 5pm
weekends Bank Holiday Mondays 11am – 5pm
Closed Mondays except Bank Holidays

Dulwich Picture Gallery website

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14
Feb
09

Exhibition: ‘Edward Burtynsky: The Residual Landscapes’ at The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Banff, Alberta

Exhibition dates: 7th February – 26th April 2009

 

One of the great photographers of the world.

Enjoy some of his images below and for more photographs please visit his website.

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Many thankx to The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Edward Burtynsky. 'Silver Lake Operations #1, Lake Lefroy, Western Australia 2007'

 

Edward Burtynsky
Silver Lake Operations #1, Lake Lefroy, Western Australia 2007
2007

 

Edward Burtynsky. 'Tanggu Port, Tianjin, China 2005'

 

Edward Burtynsky
Tanggu Port, Tianjin, China 2005
2005

 

 

Nature transformed through industry is a predominant theme in my work. I set course to intersect with a contemporary view of the great ages of man; from stone, to minerals, oil, transportation, silicon, and so on. To make these ideas visible I search for subjects that are rich in detail and scale yet open in their meaning. Recycling yards, mine tailings, quarries and refineries are all places that are outside of our normal experience, yet we partake of their output on a daily basis.

These images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence; they search for a dialogue between attraction and repulsion, seduction and fear. We are drawn by desire – a chance at good living, yet we are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success. Our dependence on nature to provide the materials for our consumption and our concern for the health of our planet sets us into an uneasy contradiction. For me, these images function as reflecting pools of our times.

Edward Burtynsky quoted on The Whyte Museum website.

 

Edward Burtynsky. 'Oxford Tire Pile #8, Westley, California 1999'

 

Edward Burtynsky
Oxford Tire Pile #8, Westley, California 1999
1999

 

Edward Burtynsky. 'Nickel Tailings #30, Sudbury, Ontario, 1996'

 

Edward Burtynsky
Nickel Tailings #30, Sudbury, Ontario, 1996
1996

 

Edward Burtynsky. 'Nickel Tailings #31, Sudbury, Ontario 1996'

 

Edward Burtynsky
Nickel Tailings #31, Sudbury, Ontario 1996
1996

 

Edward Burtynsky. 'Feng Jie #4, Three Gorges Dam Project, Yangtze River, 2002'

 

Edward Burtynsky
Feng Jie #4, Three Gorges Dam Project, Yangtze River, 2002
2002

 

 

These images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence; they search for a dialogue between attraction and repulsion, seduction and fear,” said Edward Burtynsky, photographer. “We are drawn by desire – a chance at good living, yet we are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success. Our dependence on nature to provide the materials for our consumption and our concern for the health of our planet sets us into an uneasy contradiction. For me, these images function as reflecting pools of our times.

Speaking of his “Quarries” series, Burtynsky has said, “The concept of the landscape as architecture has become, for me, an act of imagination. I remember looking at buildings made of stone, and thinking, there has to be an interesting landscape somewhere out there, because these stones had to have been taken out of the quarry one block at a time. I had never seen a dimensional quarry, but I envisioned an inverted cubed architecture on the side of a hill. I went in search of it, and when I had it on my ground glass I knew that I had arrived.”

Text from The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies

 

Edward Burtynsky. 'Shipbreaking #1, Chittagong, Bangladesh, 2000'

 

Edward Burtynsky
Shipbreaking #1, Chittagong, Bangladesh, 2000
2000

 

Edward Burtynsky. 'Bao Steel #2, Shanghai, China, 2005'

 

Edward Burtynsky
Bao Steel #2, Shanghai, China, 2005
2005

 

Edward Burtnysky. 'Iberia Quarries #3, Bencatel, Portugal, 2006'

 

Edward Burtnysky
Iberia Quarries #3, Bencatel, Portugal, 2006
2006

 

Edward Burtnysky. 'China Quarries #8, Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2004'

 

Edward Burtnysky
China Quarries #8, Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2004
2004

 

Edward Burtynsky. 'Dam #6 ,Three Gorges Dam Project, Yangtze River, 2005'

 

Edward Burtynsky
Dam #6, Three Gorges Dam Project, Yangtze River, 2005
2005

 

 

Trailer for the film Manufactured Landscapes in which Jennifer Baichwal documents Edward Burtynsky doing what artists do – making art, in this case photographing Bangladesh and China as he observes the “manufacturer to the world”.

 

 

Edward Burtynsky Manufactured Landscapes

 

 

The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
111 Bear Street, Banff, Alberta
T1L 1A3 Canada
Phone: 1 403 762 2291

Opening hours:
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The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies 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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