Posts Tagged ‘carnivalesque

16
Sep
14

Exhibition: ‘Playgrounds. Reinventing the square’ at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid

Exhibition dates: 29th April – 22nd September 2014

Curatorship: Manuel J. Borja-Villel, Tamara Díaz y Teresa Velázquez

Artists: Vito Acconci, Efrén Álvarez , Erich Andrés, Karel Appel, Archigram, Archizoom, Ricardo Baroja, Bernardo Bertolucci, Lina Bo Bardi; André Vainer and Marcelo Ferraz. Photography: Paquito, André Breton, Hans Bruggeman, Caja Lúdica, Camping Producciones, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Tranquillo Casiraghi, Mariana Castillo Deball, Francesc Català-Roca, Mario Cattaneo, Agustí Centelles, Chto Delat?, Julieta Colomer, Joan Colom, Constant (Constant Nieuwenhuys), Waldemar Cordeiro, Corneille, Violette Cornelius, Margit Czenki, Guy Debord, Maya Deren, Disobedience Archive. Curator: Marco Scotini, Ed van der Elsken , James Ensor, El equipo de Mazzanti (Giancarlo Mazzanti, Carlos Medellín, Stanley Schultz, Juliana Zambrano, Eugenia Concha, Lucia Lanzoni and Mariana Bravo), Escuela de Valparaíso, Marcelo Expósito, Aldo van Eyck, Kattia García Fayat, Priscila Fernandes, Ángel Ferrant, José A. Figueroa, Robert Filliou, Peter Fischli, Peter Friedl, Alberto Giacometti, John Goldblatt, Francisco de Goya, GRAV (Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel), Grupo Contrafilé, Eric Hobsbawm, Lady Allen of Hurtwood, Internationale Situationniste, Cor Jaring, Kindel (Joaquín del Palacio), Henri Lefebvre, Fernand Léger, Helen Levitt, Liverani, L.S. Lowry, Maruja Mallo (Ana María Gómez González), Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky), Melchor María Mercado, Boris Mikhailov, Masato Nakagawa, Beaumont Newhall, Palle Nielsen , Isamu Noguchi , Nils Norman, Nudo (Eduardo Marín and Vladimir Llaguno), Hélio Oiticica, OMA / Rem Koolhaas, Cas Oorthuys, Amédée Ozenfant, Martin Parr, Jan H Peeterse, Erik Petersen, Adrian Piper, Cedric Price, Ab Pruis, Edgar Reitz and Alexander Kluge, Oliver Ressler, Jorge Ribalta, Xavier Ribas, Marcos L. Rosa, Emilio Rosenstein (Emil Vedin), Roberto Rossellini, Otto Salemon, Louis Sciarli, Alison y Peter Smithson, Kenneth Snelson, José Solana (José Gutiérrez Solana), Carl Theodor Sørensen, Humphrey Spender, Christensen Tage, Túlio Tavares (comp.), Teatro Ojo, Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour, Jean Vigo, Nuria Vila, Dmitry Vilensky, Pedro Vizcaíno, Peter Watkins, Weegee (Arthur H. Fellig), David Weiss

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Many thankx to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Playgrounds. Reinventing the square'

Installation view of the exhibition 'Playgrounds. Reinventing the square'

Installation view of the exhibition 'Playgrounds. Reinventing the square'

Installation view of the exhibition 'Playgrounds. Reinventing the square'

Installation view of the exhibition 'Playgrounds. Reinventing the square'

Installation view of the exhibition 'Playgrounds. Reinventing the square'

Installation view of the exhibition 'Playgrounds. Reinventing the square'

Installation view of the exhibition 'Playgrounds. Reinventing the square'

 

Installation views of the exhibition Playgrounds. Reinventing the square at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid

 

 

Through a selection of works from different time periods and in different mediums (paintings, sculptures, installations, videos, photographs, archive devices…), this exhibition analyses the socialising, transgressive and political potential of play when it appears linked to public space. The premise of Playgrounds is twofold: on one side, the popular tradition of carnival shows how the possibility of using recreational logic to subvert, reinvent and transcend exists, if only temporarily. On the other side, there has been two fundamental constants in utopian imagery throughout history: the vindication of the need for free time (countering work time, productive time) and the acknowledged existence of a community of shared property, with a main sphere of materialisation in public space.

The historical-artistic approach to the political and collective dimension of spaces of play, on view in this exhibition, gets under way in the second half of the 19th century, a time that signals the start of the process of free time becoming consumption time; a process that threw the concept of public space into crisis as it started to be conceived not only as an element for exercising (political) control, but also one for financial gain. Thus, cities started to become the objects of rational and utilitarian planning, where the field of architecture was redefined, providing spaces for play with new values, built as one of the key points of the modern ideology of the public.

This ideology was reshaped in the early decades of the 20th century; for instance, during this time projects were implemented that allowed the recovery and increased value of land that had been completely torn apart by war, turning it into areas of play aimed at nurturing children’s independence. The significant turning point in this process of restructuring took place during the 1960s, when, as demonstrated by numerous artistic and activist experiences and practices in recent decades, the festive subversion and anti-authoritarian outbursts from carnivalesque logic started to be employed as political tools attempting to generate other ways of making and contemplating the city, as well as organising community life.

With some 300 works, the exhibition recounts a different history of art, from the end of the 19th century to the present day, whereby the artwork plays a part in redefining public space by exploring the city as a game board, questioning modern-day carnival, vindicating the right to laziness, reinventing the square as a place of revolt and discovering the possibilities of a new world through its waste. The exhibit takes the playground model as an ideological interrogation of an alienated and consumerist present.

Text from the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía website

 

Frank Burke. 'A kids scooter race at the Paddy's Markets in Sydney, 19 August 1956' 1956

 

Frank Burke
A kids scooter race at the Paddy’s Markets in Sydney, 19 August 1956
1956
Silver gelatin print

 

Helen Levitt. 'Boy with Ribbon' 1940

 

Helen Levitt
Boy with Ribbon
1940
Silver gelatin print

 

Agustí Centelles. 'Barcelona, España. Guardería infantil en Vía Layetana' [Babysitting in Layetana Road] 1936-39

 

Agustí Centelles
Barcelona, España. Guardería infantil en Vía Layetana [Babysitting in Layetana Road]
1936-39

 

Fernand Léger. 'Les Loisirs - Hommage à Louis David' [Leisure - Homage to Louis David] 1948-1949

 

Fernand Léger
Les Loisirs – Hommage à Louis David [Leisure – Homage to Louis David]
1948-1949

 

Palle Nielsen. 'A group of activists from different organisations in Denmark cleared a backyard in Stengade 52'

 

Palle Nielsen
A group of activists from different organisations in Denmark cleared a backyard in Stengade 52 in the area Nørrebro in Copenhagen the 31 of March 1968 and build a playground for the children instead. This was done to create attention of the lack of playgrounds as well as an overall redevelopment of the area
© VEGAP, Madrid, 2014
© PETERSEN ERIK / Polfoto

 

Louis Sciarli. 'Le Corbusier. Marseille: Unité d'habitation, École Maternelle' [Le Corbusier. Marseille: housing unit, Kindergarten] 1945/2014

 

Louis Sciarli
Le Corbusier. Marseille: Unité d’habitation, École Maternelle [Le Corbusier. Marseille: housing unit, Kindergarten]
1945/2014

 

Maruja Mallo (Ana María Gómez González) 'The Fair' 1927

 

Maruja Mallo (Ana María Gómez González) (Viveiro, Lugo, Spain, 1902 – Madrid, Spain, 1995)
The Fair (La verbena)
1927 (September)
Oil on canvas
119 x 165 cm

 

In 1928, at a one-woman exhibition put on by Ortega y Gasset in the rooms of the Revista de Occidente, Maruja Mallo showed the four oil paintings in the Madrid Fair series from which La verbena (The Fair), currently in the Museo Reina Sofía collection, is taken. In this colourful painting, an example of her personal world-view, the artist creates Baroque-filled scenes that are apparently without logic, where the motifs self-multiply into a whirlwind of lines and sensations. Imbued with a sharp critical sense, which is translated by the painter into subtle satire, the painting contains all the elements of the traditional popular Madrid fairs (the shooting gallery, the test-your-strength machine), alongside the principal characters and other, stranger kinds of characters like the one-eyed giant, the priest enjoying one of the sideshows or the man with deformed feet, begging with a guitar on his back. All this contributes to an undeniably Surrealist atmosphere.

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York (Two girls with ribbon)' c. 1940

 

Helen Levitt
New York (Two girls with ribbon)
c. 1940

 

Marcos L. Rosa. 'Revisitando los playgrounds de Aldo van Eyck' 1974/2011

 

Marcos L. Rosa
Revisitando los playgrounds de Aldo van Eyck
1974/2011

 

 

The exhibition addresses the socializing, transgressive and political potential of play in relation to public space. Ever since the popular tradition of the carnival, it has been recognized that it is possible, even if only temporarily, to subvert, reinvent and transcend an everyday life reduced to a mere exercise in survival. The recognition of the existence of communal goods and the need for free time, in direct contradistinction to working time, are two fundamental constants of the utopian imagination throughout history.The public space, as an ambience which synthesizes the notion of communal goods, is materialized as part of the experience of citizen participation.

Adopting as its premise the notion of carnival pageantry as a practice that alters the established order, the exhibition Playgrounds. Reinventing the square will explore the collective dimension of play and the need for a “ground” of its own in order to engage in the construction of a new public arena. Playgrounds (curated by Manuel J. Borja-Villel, Tamara Díaz and Teresa Velázquez) takes a historical and artistic approach to the space reserved for play and its socializing, transgressive and political potential from the dawn of modernity to the present day. The show to be seen at the Museo Reina Sofía aims to explore the recreational, playful, festive side of life that puts the humdrum reality of the everyday on hold, subverting, reinventing and transcending it for one fleeting moment.

With approximately 300 works in several formats (painting, sculpture, facilities, video, photography, graphical arts, cinema and documents) of artists like James Ensor, Francisco of Goya, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Helen Levitt, Alberto Giacometti, Ángel Ferrant, Hélio Oiticica, Lina Bo Bardi, Fischli and Weiss, Vito Acconci, Priscila Fernandes, or Xabier Rivas, Playgrounds. Reinventing the square shows how the playful element, understood as creative strategy, coexists with questions related to the public sphere Departing from this idea, the exhibition explores the recognition of the time and the space of the game as areas of essay and learning.

The show adopts the model of the ‘playground’ as an ideological interrogation of an alienated and consumerist present. After the industrial revolution and the gradual implantation of labor systems based on the capitalist principle of minimum investment for maximum gain, there emerges an indissociable identification between producer and consumer, one of whose immediate consequences is the conversion of free time into consumption time. The alienation of labor dominates modes of life and gives rise to a crisis in public spaces, threatened in their turn by economic forces. Derived from a rational and utilitarian planning of the city, the public park is instituted as a surrogate collective paradise, leading from the mid-19th century to great urban facilities for mass consumption and entertainment. From architecture, within the Modern Movement and its derivates, comes the definition of the playground, endowed with new social, pedagogical and functional values while at the same time emerging as one of the key points of the modern ideology of the public.

The ideas of a “junk playground”, proposed by the Danish architect Carl Theodor Sørensen in 1935, and of an “adventure playground”, which was promoted in the United Kingdom by the landscape architect Lady Allen of Hurtwood and spread to several European cities after the Second World War, are means of retrieving and attaching significance to wastelands and bomb sites as play areas aimed at child autonomy. In the sixties, the child is vindicated as an autonomous political subject in a context dominated by the vindication of the right to the city, and coinciding with the high point of the revolt of the homo ludens (borrowing from the essay of the same name by Johan Huizinga) in the context of May ’68. As evidenced by the numerous processes of social activism in recent years, festive subversion and the anti-authoritarian overspilling of boundaries by the carnival become new ways of practising politics. The movements of 2011 in such scattered locations as Tahrir (Cairo), Sol (Madrid), Syntagma (Athens), and other squares, streets and neighborhoods restored the public and democratic dimension of such spaces. This temporary occupation, articulated through virtual communications networks, implied a reappropriation of the political and experimentation with other forms of organization and communal life.

The introduction to the exhibition will provide background on the carnivalesque concept of life, underscoring certain aspects related to the notion of free time in modern life. The show will also revisit the street as a place of play and self-realization, through examples of adventure playgrounds as well as photographs and films that will give a historic panoramic since the 1930s from a documentary perspective. The nucleus of the exhibition is devoted to the model of the modern playground and its contradictions, with relevant materials accounting for the urban revolution of the 1960s, the consideration of the city as a relational and psychological construction and works that parallel aesthetic and political transformations.

The last section of the show will consist of a series of experiments based on antihegemonic exercises, such us the civil appropriation of the street for “playground” use and works that challenge passive recreation through the emancipative power of play, not to mention recent experiences that resume the collective reinvention of the square and have become essential in envisioning new ways of doing politics.

Press release from the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

 

Helen Levitt. 'Untitled (Boy and gun)' 1940

 

Helen Levitt
Untitled (Boy and gun)
1940
Silver gelatin print

 

Francesc Català-Roca Valls (Tarragona, Spain, 1922 - Barcelona, Spain, 1998) 'Games in an Empty Lot' 1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca Valls (Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
Games in an Empty Lot
1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print on paper

 

Helen Levitt. 'Fruit and candy' Nd

 

Helen Levitt
Fruit and candy
Nd

 

Joan-Colom-No-Title-1958-1961-WEB

 

Joan Colom (Barcelona, Spain, 1921)
No title
from the series El carrer (The Street)
Date:  1958-1961 (circa) / Vintage print
Technique:  Gelatin silver print on paper

 

Joan Colom published his series on Barcelona’s Chinatown in the magazine AFAL (1962) with an autobiography: “Age: 40. Profession: Accountant. Hobbies: Apart from photography, obviously, none.” Of his method, Colom said: “I have decided to only work with subjects that I have predetermined.” Oriol Maspons adds the technical details: “Everything was taken using a Leica M2, shot from the hip without framing or focusing. A real photographer’s work. More than a year on the same subject.” The series had been exhibited with some success (and controversy) at the Sala Aixelá in Barcelona the previous year, under the title El carrer (The Street). In 1964 it was finally published by Lumen in one of the finest photo-books in their Palabra e Imagen collection, “Izas, rabizas y colipoterras”, designed by Oscar Tusquets and Cristian Cirici. Camilo José Cela contributed a text based around Colom’s (surreptitious but captionless) photos that was full of broad, cruel humour, pitilessly mocking the women, photographed by Colom and judged by Cela. Somewhat ahead of her time, one of the women actually sued the photographer, the only result of which was the photo-book’s withdrawal from bookshops, and Colom’s retirement from photography for years. From the 1980s onwards public obscurity became public recognition, which has continued to grow.

 

Helen Levitt. 'Children playing with a picture frame, New York' (Niños jugando con un marco, Nueva York) c. 1940

 

Helen Levitt
Children playing with a picture frame, New York (Niños jugando con un marco, Nueva York)
c. 1940

 

 

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Sabatini building. Room A1
Calle Santa Isabel, 52
Madrid 28012 Spain
Tel: (+34) 91 7741000

Opening hours:
Monday – Saturday from 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Sunday from 10.00 am – 2.30 pm

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía website

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12
Jan
13

Text: ‘Orality, (n)framing and enactment in the art of Jacqui Stockdale’ in IANN magazine Vol.8, ‘Unfound in Australia’, October 2012

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“What does it mean, to rediscover an unknown continent through the medium of photography in the 21st century? The seven artists that appear in this “Unfound in Australia” issue are well versed in the photographic technique and language familiar to modern art, yet show cultural distinctness that is nothing short of extraordinary. Our readers might experience a sense of shock or alienation from their work, which combines the new with the old. This kind of unsettling feeling may very well be an unconscious reaction to what we consider to be the ‘other.’ It is my hope that our readers will rediscover the power of photography as a chronological and visual language through these works of long underappreciated modern Australian photography.

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IANN magazine
 Vol.8, “Unfound in Australia,” October 2012 IANN Magazine website

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My text that appears in IANN magazine Vol.8, “Unfound in Australia” (October 2012) on the art of Jacqui Stockdale is a reworking of the review of her exhibition Jacqui Stockdale: The Quiet Wild at Helen Gorie Galerie in April – May 2012. It is a good piece of writing but it is the “lite” version of the text that I wrote. Instead of the “heavy” version fragmenting away on some long forgotten backup hard drive, and for those of you that like a little more conceptual meat on the bone, it is published below.

Other artists featured in the Volume 8 edition of IANN magazine include Marian Drew, Henri Van Noordenburg, Justine Khamara, Magdalena Bors and Christian Thompson.

Marcus

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Orality, (n)framing and enactment in the art of Jacqui Stockdale

The concept of Orality is important in the art of Australian Jacqui Stockdale for her works are visual tone poems. Portraying identities in flux, her mythological creatures rise above the threshold of visibility to engage our relationship with time and space, to challenge the trace of experience.

Stockdale uses the body not as passive object but as descriptive and rhapsodic theme, the body as pliable flesh acting as a kind of threshold or hinge of experience – between interior and exterior, viewer and photograph, longing and desire. Drawing on personal places and stories, assemblage and performance (the process of painting the models and the outcome of this interaction), Stockdale creates a wonderful melange of archetypal characters that subvert traditional identities and narratives. Her creatures “shape-shift” and frustrate attempts at categorization and assimilation.

The artist inverts cultural stereotypes (which embody elements of fixity, repetition, and ambivalence) located within the realms of the fetish, the scopic, and the Imaginary in order to dis/place the collective memory of viewers that have been inscribed with a stereotypical collective vernacular. In this process the work elides “fantasy” which Bhabha suggests plays a formative role in colonial exercises of power.1 In Stockdale’s upside-down world (quite appropriate for the “land down under”), “Each new identity is one of inversion; man becomes woman, child becomes adult, animals transform into humans and vice-versa.”2

An example of this inversion can be seen in her latest series of photographs, The Quiet Wild (2012). Here Stockdale unsettles traditional textual readings, the titles of her photographic portraits indecipherable to the uninitiated, a coded language of identity and place. Lagunta, Leeawuleena and Jaara for example, are three Aboriginal names meaning, respectively, Tasmanian Tiger, the name for the land around Cradle Mountain on that island and the name for the Long Gully region around Bendigo, Victoria (Stockdale’s native area); El Gato is the cat and Gondwanan the name for the southernmost of two supercontinents (the other being Laurasia) before the world split apart into the structure that we known today.

Stockdale’s performative tactics and multiple modes of address, her polyvocal subject if you like, may be said to be an effect of intertextuality3: “a conscious recognition and pursuit of an altogether different set of values and historical and cultural trajectories.”4 Undeniably her re-iterations and re-writings of cultural trajectories as ritual performative acts have links to Bakhtin’s idea of the carnivalesque and the carnival paradigm, which accords to certain patterns of play where “the social hierarchies of everyday life… are profaned and overturned by normally suppressed voices and energies.”5

It is through this “play” that the context of the photographs and their relationship to each other and the viewer are “framed.” This device emphasises the aesthetic rather than information and encourages the viewer to think about the relationship between the body, the world of which it is part and the dream-reason of time.6

This intertextual (n)framing (n meaning unspecified number in mathematics) encourages the viewer to explore the inbetween spaces in the meta-narrative,and by leaps (intuitive leaps, poetic leaps, leaps of faith)”7 encourage escapism. Through the (n)framing of the body and the enactment of multiple selves Stockdale narrativises her mythological creatures, her charged bodies initiating new conditions of Otherness in the mise-en-scène of being. This is why her images are so powerful for her art approaches Otherness using a visual Orality and a theatrical openness that encourages disparate meanings to emerge into consciousness. It is up to us as viewers to seek the multiple, disparate significances of what is concealed in each photograph – in the myth of origin; in something that can’t be explained by man; in the expression of meaning of the things that are beyond us.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan
August 2012

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Jacqui Stockdale. 'Negro Returno, Long Gully' 2012

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Jacqui Stockdale
Negro Returno, Long Gully
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

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Footnotes

1. “According to Bhabha, stereotypes are located within the realms of the fetish, the scopic, and the Imaginary. He suggests that fantasy plays a formative role in colonial exercises of power. Bhabha describes the mechanism of cultural stereotypes as embodying elements of fixity, repetition, fantasy, and ambivalence, and suggests that if certain types of images are constantly presented in a range of different contexts, they will become imprinted onto the collective memory of viewers and inscribed within a collective vernacular.”

Vercoe, Caroline. Agency and Ambivalence: A Reading of Works by Coco Fusco,” in Fusco, Coco. The Bodies That Were Not Ours. London: Routledge, 2001, p.240.

2. Stockdale, Jacqui. Artist statement 2012.

3. Intertextuality is always an iteration which is also a re-iteration, a re-writing which foregrounds the trace of the various texts it both knowingly and unknowingly places and dis-places. Intertexuality is how a text is constituted. It fragments singular readings. The reader’s own previous readings, experiences and position within the cultural formation” also influences these re-inscriptions.

Keep, Christopher, McLaughlin, Tim and Parmar, Robin. Intertextuality, on The Electronic Labyrinth website [Online] Cited 13/11/2011. elab.eserver.org/hfl0278.html.

4. Fisher, Jean. Witness for the Prosecution: The Writings of Coco Fusco,” in Fusco, Coco. The Bodies That Were Not Ours. London: Routledge, 2001, pp. 227-228.

5. Anon. Carnivalesque,” on Wikipedia. [Online] Cited 13/05/2012. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnivalesque

6. Bacon, Julie Louise. Liquid Archive: On Ambivalence, in Liquid Archive. Melbourne: Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), 2012, p.119.

7. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara. The Museum – A Refuge for Utopian Thought, in Rüsen, Jörn; Fehr Michael, and Ramsbrock, Annelie (eds.). Die Unruhe der Kultur: Potentiale des Utopischen. Velbrück Wissenschaft, 2004. In German.

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Marcus Bunyan writing on his website

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13
May
12

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

Exhibition dates: 18th April – 19th May 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

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Jacqui Stockdale
Rama-Jaara the Royal Shepherdess
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

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Jacqui Stockdale
Les Jumeaux
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Artist statement by Jacqui Stockdale 2012

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Jacqui Stockdale
Jaguar Hombre
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

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Jacqui Stockdale
Lagunta Man, Leeawuleena
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

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

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

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

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

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

Catalogue essay by Jeff Makin, 2012

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Jacqui Stockdale
Dogboy of Gondwanan
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

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Jacqui Stockdale
Negro Returno, Long Gully
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

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Jacqui Stockdale
Luchadora Botanica
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

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1. Fisher, Jean. “Witness for the Prosecution: The Writings of Coco Fusco,” in Fusco, Coco. The Bodies That Were Not Ours. London: Routledge, 2001, pp. 227 – 228.

2. Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World (trans. Helene Iswolsky). Cambridge: MIT Press, 1968, p.5.

3. “According to Bhabha, stereotypes are located within the realms of the fetish, the scopic, and the Imaginary. He suggests that fantasy plays a formative role in colonial exercises of power. Bhabha describes the mechanism of cultural stereotypes as embodying elements of fixity, repetition, fantasy, and ambivalence, and suggests that if certain types of images are constantly presented in a range of different contexts, they will become imprinted onto the collective memory of viewers and inscribed within a collective vernacular.”

Vercoe, Caroline. “Agency and Ambivalence: A Reading of Works by Coco Fusco,” in Fusco, Coco. The Bodies That Were Not Ours. London: Routledge, 2001, p.240.

4. Anon. “Carnivalesque,” on Wikipedia. [Online] Cited 13/05/2012. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnivalesque

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Helen Gory Galerie
25 St Edmonds Rd
Prahran VIC 3181
T: +61 3 9525 2808

Opening hours:
Wed – Sat 11am – 5pm

Helen Gory Galerie website

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21
Oct
11

Opening: ‘Movement and Emotion’ and ‘Jodie Noble Solo’ exhibitions at Arts Project Australia, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 20th October – 26th November 2011

Curator of Movement and Emotion: Paul Hodges
Artists: Steven Ajzenberg, Patrick Francis, Brigid Hanrahan, Paul Hodges, Chris Mason, Cameron Noble, Jodie Noble, Lisa Reid, Anthony Romagnano and Cathy Staughton

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Opening night speech by Dr Marcus Bunyan

“Thank you for your welcome to Arts Project Australia on this auspicious occasion, the first ever exhibition to be curated by an Arts Project artist, Paul Hodges. Together with the Jodie Noble solo exhibition in the front gallery I am sure you will agree that the gallery is full of vibrant work. There are some things that may be said about both bodies of work.

I asked Paul what had been the inspiration behind Movement and Emotion. He said that he often goes to the National Gallery of Victoria and looks at the pictures and imagines the artist painting. He wonders how they were feeling and he visualises the pictures coming to life, especially pictures of dancers in which he has a personal interest. He came back to Arts Project and started thinking about the work in the collection and after much thought made the selection you see here tonight. He used his imagination, his feelings and his understanding of the world to curate the exhibition.

Let’s consider the title Movement and Emotion.

Emotion can be defined as an agitation, a strong feeling, a departure from the normal calm state of an organism. The logos of emotion begins in the experience of ‘being moved’ in some manner. Any emotion holds within its structure some potential for movement, whether it be physical or mental. You can be physically still yet be mentally moved, causing you to have emotion. Some emotions occur over a period of seconds (for example, surprise), whereas others can last years (for example, love). In the word ’emotion’ is the very act of movement, namely motion. Hence e/motion is the root of this wonderful feeling that I get from these artworks. Emotion is movement. Emotion is feeling. Emotion is passion.1

And it is this very act that sustains the work in both exhibitions. The work is personal. It speaks from the heart. It is intimate, transcendent and enigmatic. It moves me like little contemporary art ever does. When I first saw the artwork in the space at the back of the gallery, when they were revealed to me I gasped at their simple, eloquent beauty. Whimsical and playful these works possess an element of the carnivalesque,2 a riot of colour and form that exist on the border of art and life. Mingling depictions of high culture and personal narrative the works have no pretence but a visceral immediacy: a direct connection from the artists imagination of the world, through the eyes to the hand and the paper to depict what is in the world. As Susan Sontag observes, “A work of art is a thing in the world, not just a text or commentary on the world…”3

Some of you may be familiar with the American photographer Walker Evans – his famous US Depression era pictures are a thing in the world, as well as text/commentary on the world. He refers to this working method as ‘transcendent documentary’4: a watchful intelligence that recognises a moment of seeing, a movement of emotion – and then describes it. Yes, a quest for ‘the thing itself’ but more than that, the imagination to describe the substance of our existence, the nature of reality. Objects, people and places are transformed from things seen to things that we known. Intimately. Inherently.

In their unique vision it is the artists relation to self, the nature of what they see and feel around them that creates e/motion. They transcend form while ordering it at the same time. It is both the immediate world, simply described, perceived as it stands with the whole of consciousness coupled with the imagination as always there, between our eyes and the world, for it is the imagination that defines our humanity, declares our consciousness. They imagine, they perceive the simple radiance of what is.

That is what these artists do.

Perceive.

What is.

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In Movement and Emotion, and in the portraits of Jodie Noble we see what is and imagine what should be. The photographer Elliott Erwitt in his book Personal Exposures (1988) said, “The work I care about is terribly simple … I observe, I try to entertain, but above all I want pictures that are emotion.”5

Those pictures are here, e/motioning, all around us. I enjoy these pictures tremendously. Congratulations to all the artists for the experience that you have given us.”

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Cameron Noble
Not titled (Blue Lady)
2011
dry pastel on paper
57 x 37.5cm

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Jodie Noble
Not titled (red dog)
2006
pastel on paper
76 x 57cm

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Paul Hodges
Not titled (Pink Dancer)
2010
ink on paper
50 x 35cm

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Steven Ajzenberg
Harlequin
2010
gouache on paper
55.5 x 38cm

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Jodie Noble
Geisha Girl
2011
dry pastel on paper
35 x 25cm

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Jodie Noble
Not titled (girl wearing pink dress)
2010
prisma colour pencil on paper
50 x 35cm

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Movement and Emotion

This exhibition will explore movement in paintings and the emotions of people in everyday life. These works are vibrant, expressive and each work is unique; they jump out at you. Key themes investigated include carnival, dance and portraits. This is the first exhibition Paul Hodges has curated.

“This is a wonderful show presenting movement and emotion in art by ten artists that I have collected from Arts Project Australia’s studio.”
Paul Hodges, 2011

“When I walk past Jodie Noble’s paintings I can almost feel what she is feeling … Jodie is telling us what she is feeling through her paintings.”
Paul Hodges 2010

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Jodie Noble Solo

Jodie Noble’s current work is figurative and often incorporates an autobiographical narrative. While occasionally painting from life, her work also references popular culture. In particular, Noble is inspired by contemporary famous figures, from Frida Kahlo and Francisco Goya to Queen Elizabeth II. Noble’s work is descriptive, expressive and infused with a sense of physicality.

In this exhibition, Noble has selected a series of portraits on paper that are autobiographical and of people she knows in her life. This is Jodie’s second solo exhibition.

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Brigid Hanrahan
Not titled (Ballet Dancers)
2009
Colour pencil and fineliner on paper
20 x 30cm

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Catherine Staughton
Juggle Ball Hand Jump Roller
2011
gouache and felt pen on paper
38 x 56cm

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Anthony Romagnano
Madonna
2010
prisma colour pencil on paper
50 x 35cm

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Jodie Noble
Not titled
2010
ink and fine-liner on paper
38 x 28.5cm

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Lisa Reid
Great Aunt Edna
2003
gouache on paper
55 x 37.5cm

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Lisa Reid
Not titled (Adam Baddeley)
2001
pastel and pencil on paper
50 x 33cm

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Cameron Noble
Not titled
2011
dry pastel on paper
38.5 x 32.5cm

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Patrick Francis
Not titled
2011
acrylic on paper
70 x 50cm

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1. See Robbins, Brent Dean. Emotion, Movement & Psychological Space: A Sketching Out of the Emotions in terms of Temporality, Spatiality, Embodiment, Being-with, and Language. Duquesne University, 1999 [Online] Cited 08/10/2011.
mythosandlogos.com/emotion.html

2. Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World (trans. Helene Iswolsky). Cambridge: MIT Press, 1968, p.7.

3. Sontag, Susan. “On Style,” in Against Interpretation and Other Essays. New York: Delta Book, 1966, pp. 21-22.

4. Anon. “”A Revolutionary Project” Brings Cuba to the Getty Museum,” on Cuban Art News [Online] 05/10/2011 Cited 08/10/2011.
www.cubanartnews.org/can/post/a_revolutionary_project_brings_cuba_to_the_getty_museum

5. Erwitt, Elliott. Personal Exposures. W. W. Norton & Company, 1988 quoted on Anon. “Photographer Elliott Erwitt’s Archive to be Housed at Harry Ransom Center” on Harry Ransom Center: The University of Texas website [Online] 22/09/2011. Cited 08/10/2011.
www.hrc.utexas.edu/press/releases/2011/erwitt.html

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Arts Project Australia
24 High Street
Northcote Victoria 3070
T: + 61 3 9482 4484

Gallery Hours:
Monday to Friday
 9am – 5pm
Saturday 
10am – 1pm

Arts Project Australia website

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07
Oct
11

opening: ‘movement and emotion’ and ‘jodie noble solo’ at arts project australia, melbourne

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I am opening the exhibitions Movement and Emotion and Jodie Noble Solo at Arts Project Australia, Northcote on Wednesday 19th October 2011 from 6 – 8pm. All welcome, would be great to see you there. Details on the flyer!

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Arts Project Australia website

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21
Mar
10

Review: ‘Pondlurking’ by Tom Moore at Helen Gory Galerie, Prahran, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 10th March – 3rd April, 2010

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Many thankx to Nicola Stein and Helen Gory Galerie for allowing me to use the images below in the posting.

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Tom Moore ‘Pondlurking’ installation photographs at Helen Gory Galerie, Prahran

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My apologies to readers for the paucity of reviews of exhibitions in Melbourne recently. It is not that I haven’t been circulating around town to lots of exhibitions, far from it. The fact is that nothing has really rocked my boat, including my visit to a disappointing ‘New 010’ exhibition at ACCA, an exhibition redeemed only by the marvellous magnetic levitations of Susan Jacobs installation titled ‘Being under no illusion’ (2010). Compared to the wealth of interesting work in ‘New 09’, work that still resides in my consciousness, the art in the current exhibition seems bland, the work ultimately and easily forgettable (a case of conceptual constipation?). Even though the exhibition lauds the collaboration between artists, designers, curators, architects, trades people and the kitchen sink in the production of the work, nothing substantive or lasting emerges.

No such problem exists with the exhibition ‘Pondlurking’ by Tom Moore at Helen Gory Galerie in Prahran. Wow, this show is good!

It produced in me an elation, a sense of exalted happiness, a smile on my dial that was with me the rest of the day. The installation features elegantly naive cardboard cityscape dioramas teeming with wondrous, whimsical mythological animals that traverse pond and undulating road. This bestiary of animals, minerals and vegetables (bestiaries were made popular in the Middle Ages in illustrated volumes that described various animals, birds and even rocks) is totally delightful. In the text ‘Moving Right Along’ the curator Julie Ewington notes connections in Moore’s work to the ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ by Hieronymus Bosch, the porcelain monkey orchestras of Miessen, parti-coloured hose of Medieval costume, the animals from Dr Suess’s books for children and Venetian glass figurines to name but a few. Another curator Geoffrey Edwards notes Moore’s accomplished technical skill in glass making, his use of lattice and trellis work in the figures themselves, namely the use of vetro a fili (broadly spaced) and vetro a retorti (twisted spiral) glass cane patterns.

While all of this is true what really stands out is the presence of these objects, their joyousness. The technical and conceptual never get in the way of good art. The Surrealist imagining of a new world order (the destruction of traditional taxonomies) takes place while balanced on one foot (see the installation image at the top of the page). The morphogenesis of these creatures, as they build one upon another, turns the world upside down (as in ‘Web Feet Duck Bum’ below). Multi-eyed potato cars, ducks with eyes wearing high heeled boots and three-legged devouring creatures segue from one state, condition, situation or element to another in a fluid condition of becoming. This morphogenesis is aided and abetted by the inherent fluidity of the glass medium itself skilfully used by Moore in the construction of his creatures. While the photographs below isolate the creatures within a contextless environment it is when the creatures are placed within the constructed environment so skilfully created by Moore that they come alive.

The interconnectedness of this fantastical world (the intertextual relationship of earth, water, air, life) seeks to break down the binaries of existence – good/bad, normal/mutation, presence/absence  – until something else (e)merges. Through their metamorphosed presence in a carnivalesque world that is both weird and the wonderful, Moore’s creatures invite us to look at ourselves and our landscape more kindly, more openly and with a greater generosity of spirit.

Not to be missed!

Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Tom Moore
‘Stylish Car’
2008

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Tom Moore
‘Birdboat with passenger with a vengeance’ (left) and ‘Robot Island’ (right)
2010 and 2009

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“A candy striped fish pokes its head up, all lipstick-pink kissable lips as a voyaging duck sprouts tree-masts and becomes duck-ship-island captained by a lone gherkin boy. Delinquent birds rampage while a crested birdcar peacefully unfurls sweet green shoots. A cardboard city burns and there’s something odd lurking in the pond, metallic and curiously tuberous, it regards it all with a wary eye.

There’s a whole world at play here. Growing, flying and always moving, this isn’t ours turned upside down but something other, a unique universe bound together with a logic entirely its own. Tubers take to the air, birds grow wheels and everything overflows with energy, pushing out green tendrils toward each other.

Tom Moore’s gloriously appealing glass creatures spring from his own fantastical imagination and the rich seabeds of the mythical, imaginary and grotesque. From mediaeval bestiaries with their camel leopards and manticores, to misericord creatures through Lear and Seuss to Moore’s reimagining of an Colonial Australian epergne as a verdantly plumed robot bird with resplendent palm tree, his creatures reuse, recycle and recombine in their never ending metamorphoses.

There’s an irrepressible joyousness in these creatures constant flux as they burst the boundaries of animal/vegetable/mineral and do away with taxonomies and rationality, reinventing themselves in happy disregard of all humanity’s rules.

While lurking seems antithetical to all this busy-ness, to skylarking fatbirds and peripatetic potatoes, the will to knowledge at the core of all lurking is what propels this endless becoming. This insatiable urge to simply find out is the engine of this prolific universe. As duck becomes island and man becomes bird, Moore’s creatures ask an eternal ‘what if?’ and an insouciant ‘why not?’

This transformative energy inheres in the material itself, in the mutable and alchemical nature of glass, in the fusing and melding of forms as light is captured within and bounces off lustrous surfaces. As glass flows through its changeable states, like water, like rain, so do Moore’s folk transform and evolve.

It’s this continuous moving through forms that hints at other meanings. Sharing forms, being made as it were, of each other and sharing an essential nature, each creature reaches out to every other in a net of relations in an intricately connected universe. These deep bonds, seen in their loving regard for each other speak of the delicate structures and balance of ecosystems and an absolutely necessary attention to and care for the world.

For there are no humans here and it seems that it’s this carelessness, this lack of attention to the fragile connections between the world and its creatures that’s the reason. The cities burn and cars rightfully become compost.

This riotous parade has pulled the artist too into their exuberant tumble. Becoming man-bird and greeting the day with a drumming bird song he is the harbinger perhaps of a new order, one bright green and sparkling.”

Jemima Kemp, 2010

Press release from the Helen Gory Galerie website

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Tom Moore
‘Web Feet Duck Bum’
2009

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Tom Moore
‘Tasty Eyes With Five Friends’
2007

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Tom Moore
‘Snarsenvorg the Devourer’
2008

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Tom Moore
‘Segway’
2009

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Tom Moore
‘Tree-Feet, Dollbird’
2008

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Helen Gory Galerie
25, St. Edmonds Road,
Prahran, Vic 3181

Opening hours: Wed – Fri 11 – 5pm, Sat 10 – 4pm

Helen Gory Galerie website

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29
May
09

Review: ‘Desire’ paintings and video by Judith Wright at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 19th May – 13th June 2009

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Judith Wright. Installation of 'Desire' exhibition at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne

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Judith Wright. Installation of 'Desire' exhibition at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne

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Judith Wright
Installation of ‘Desire’ exhibition at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne

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On a beautiful sunny Autumn afternoon in Melbourne I made a visit to Space Furniture on Church Street to ogle at the wondrous designs and then to the galleries of Albert Street in Richmond for three outstanding painting exhibitions: John Beard at John Buckley Gallery, McLean Edwards at Karen Woodbury Gallery and Judith Wright at Sophie Gannon Gallery. First cab off the rank is Judith Wright but reviews of the other two shows will follow.

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There is a part in Jim Jarmusch’s film ‘Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai’ (1999) where the anti-hero stares into the eyes of a dog and Jarmusch just holds the scene for what seems like an eternity. The camera observes the infinite bond between human and animal, an almost palpable connection across time and space, with an unflinching eye. The same can be said of Judith Wright’s encaustic paintings but here she pushes the relationship further – into an investigation of the animal in the human and vice versa, and their erotic charge when placed together. Here is the ‘carnivalesque’ at it most daring, most paired back, revealing in quiet Zen like compositions the dissolution of boundaries between both states of being.

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Judith Wright video installation

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Nominally based on the symbology of characters presented in two videos in the exhibition (masked figures playing with each other, a comical goats head with horns being one figure) the paintings are much more interesting than the videos. Painted on Japanese paper in wax and acrylic the biomorphic forms of babies heads, torsos and sculpted free forms and designs suggestive of living organisms address the title of the exhibition: desire!

Wright plays with scale and form, using earth tones and a luminous palette of oranges, yellows and pinks. Her shape-shifting paintings work to unhinge stagnant systems of thought that surround identity and the body. The waxed Japanese paper adds to the sensuality of the skin-like work. A baby seems to feed on a double nipple but the nipple has missed the mouth and is invading the eye. Forms intersect and the sensual shapes slip over each other: as in the Zen idea of ‘satori’ or enlightenment attained when two circles intersect here we have the intersection of an erotic enlightenment.

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Judith Wright. 'Desire [14]' 2009

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Judith Wright
‘Desire [14]’
2009

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Judith Wright. 'Desire [5]' 2009

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Judith Wright
‘Desire [5]’
2009

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Judith Wright. 'Desire [7]' 2009

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Judith Wright
‘Desire [7]’
2009

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As Russian theorist Mikhail Bakhtin notes the carnivalesque is the contravention of normal laws of behaviour, “and he proposes that the carnivalesque is also the home of the grotesque, where otherwise antithetical properties or characteristics are matched together in the same being: beast with human, youth with age, male with female.”1

“The carnival offers the chance to have a new outlook on the world, to realize the relative nature of all that exists, and to enter a completely new order of things.”2

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This is what these paintings propose: a new order of things, a chance for desires formed of new pleasures.

As Michel Foucault has observed,

“The possibility of using our bodies as a possible source of very numerous pleasures is something that is very important. For instance, if you look at the traditional construction of pleasure, you see that bodily pleasure, or pleasures of the flesh, are always drinking, eating and fucking. And that seems to be the limit of the understanding of our bodies, our pleasures …. It is very interesting to note, for instance, that for centuries people generally, as well as doctors, psychiatrists, and even liberation movements, have always spoken about desire, and never about pleasure. “We have to liberate our desire,” they say. No! We have to create new pleasure. And then maybe desire will follow.”3

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In their luminosity, in their skin-like textures, in their balance between the colour of the paper, the dark voids and the brown of babies heads we feel the sharp intake of the cold breathe of winter on the nostrils – we feel an evocation of new pleasure, of possible desires within us and the loosening of the grip of conformity. Like the perfect placement of rocks in a Japanese garden and the ripples of the gravel, of a reality that swirls around them these paintings open hearts and minds to inner states of being unexperienced before. And yes, I did enjoy the ride.

Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart blog

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Judith Wright. Desire [16]' 2009

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Judith Wright
‘Desire [16]’
2009

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Judith Wright. 'The Gift [2]' 2009

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Judith Wright
‘The Gift [2]’
2008

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Judith Wright. 'The Gift [7]' 2008

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Judith Wright
‘The Gift [7]’
2008

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Sophie Gannon Gallery

2, Albert Street, Richmond, Melbourne
Opening hours: Tues – Saturday 11 – 5pm

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1. Buchbinder, David. Masculinities and Identities. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1994, p.53. For a discussion of carnivalesque see Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and his World (trans. Hélène Iswolsky). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984, pp.196-277, 303-367.

2. Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and his World (trans. Hélène Iswolsky). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984, p.34.

3. Gallagher, Bob and Wilson, Alexander. “Sex and the Politics of Identity: An Interview with Michel Foucault,” in Thompson, Mark. Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987, p.31.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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