Posts Tagged ‘existential


Exhibition: ‘Overpainted Photographs’ by Gerhard Richter at Centre de la Photographie, Geneva

Exhibition dates: 20th February – 12th April 2009


Gerhard Richter. '9.4.89'


Gerhard Richter
10.1 cm x 14.8 cm
Oil on colour photograph



There is something unsettling in Richter’s serendipitious interventions. Using his own prosaic 10 x 15cm colour photographs that have been commercially printed as the basis of the works, Richter overlays the surface of the photograph with skeins of paint that disturb the reflexivity of each medium. Dragging the photograph through the paint or using a palette knife to apply layers of colour, the surfaces of paint and photograph no longer exist as separate entities. The process produces punctum like clefts rent in the fabric of time and space. If the intervention is judged unsuccessful the result if immediately destroyed.

In 5.Juli.1994 (below) blood red fingers of paint strain upwards as they invade the solidity of a dour suburban home, echoing the invading trees branches at top right of picture. In 11.2.98 (below) green paint slashes across the mouth and forehead of a woman in a floral dress, her eyes seemingly bloodshot and pleading stare into the distance to the left of our view, the silent scream strangled in her throat by the vibrations of paint. These are the instantaneous responses of the artist to the photograph, a single mood expounded in irreversible gestures, the actions of the painter’s hand disturbing the indexical link of the photograph and it’s ability to be ‘read’ as a referent of the object it depicts. Richter’s interventions challenge the concept of momentary awareness and offer the possibility of a space between, where the image stands for something else – access to Other, even a contemplation of the sublime.

“The color of paint applied corresponds or contrasts the tonalities of the underlying photograph but link the two through formal relationships of the layers … Often a tense relationship, the results run the gamut of the surreal to the beautiful to the disturbed. It is all the more surprising that each in its perceived completeness was in essence accomplished by chance and trial and error.”1

“Richter’s painterly gestures bounce off the [photographs] content in peculiar ways, sometimes interacting with it, sometimes overlaying it and sometimes threatening to eclipse it altogether. The final effect is to cause both photography and painting to seem like incredibly bizarre activities, disparate in texture but often complicit in aspiration.”2

I love the violence, the sometimes subversive, sometimes transcendental ‘equivalence’ of these images: where a Steiglitz cloud can stand for music, where a Minor White infrared photograph posits a new reality, Richter offers us an immediacy that destroys the self-reflexive nature of everyday life. His spontaneous musings, his amorphous worlds, his bleeds and blends crack open the skin of our existential life on earth. Here, certainly, are ‘the clefts in words, the words as flesh’.

Dr Marcus Bunyan


  1. Text from 5B4 blog
  2. Text from website


Gerhard Richter '11.4.89'


Gerhard Richter
10 cm x 15 cm
Oil on colour photograph


Gerhard Richter. '11.3.89'


Gerhard Richter
10 cm x 14.9 cm
Oil on colour photograph


Gerhard Richter. '5.Juli.1994'


Gerhard Richter
10.2 cm x 15.2 cm
Oil on colour photograph


Gerhard Richter. '11.2.98'


Gerhard Richter
10 cm x 14.7 cm
Oil on colour photograph


Gerhard Richter. '22.2.96'


Gerhard Richter
9.6 cm x 14.7 cm
Oil on colour photograph


Gerhard Richter. '11.Febr.05'


Gerhard Richter
10.1 cm x 14.9 cm
Oil on colour photograph



The exhibition presents 330 of Richter’s largely unknown overpainted photographs, a technique he has been using since 1982.

The exhibition UERBERNALTE FOTOGRAFIEN / PHOTOGRAPHIES PEINTES (OVERPAINTED PHOTOGRAPHS) at the Centre de la photographie Geneva (CPG) presented a side of the work of Gerhard Richter largely unknown up till now. Only a few collectors and gallerists close to the artist were aware of the practise that Gerhard Richter, one of the most important artists of our times, had developed systematically since 1982. It is only because of this exhibition that more than 1000 of his over-painted photographs will enter into his catalogue raisone. The CPG presents approximately 330 of them in this show.

“By placing paint on photographs, with all their random and involuntary expressiveness, Gerhard Richter reinforces the unique aspect of each of these mediums and opens a field of tension rich in paradoxes, as old as the couple – painting / photography – which has largely defined modern art.”

Text from Centre de la Photographie website


Gerhard Richter is justly famed for the photorealism of his early canvases, but it is less well known that he has also painted directly onto photographic prints. These (mostly small-format) pieces were reproduced in books as early as the first Atlas, but practically all of the works themselves are housed in private collections and rarely exhibited in public. Overpainted Photographs gathers this body of work, which unites the labor of the hand with the work of mechanical reproduction to produce a kind of art as conceptually rich as Richter’s better-known paintings, neutralizing the expressive powers of each medium to reach an indifference to their potency. In an overture to Duchamp’s “degree zero” found objects, the original photographs are frequently bland in content – an empty office, a ball, a beach scene or tourist snapshot – and Richter’s painterly gestures bounce off that content in peculiar ways, sometimes interacting with it, sometimes overlaying it and sometimes threatening to eclipse it altogether. The final effect is to cause both photography and painting to seem like incredibly bizarre activities, disparate in texture but often complicit in aspiration. This monograph offers a unique opportunity to savor what had previously been a neglected but copious aspect of Richter’s work.

Text from the Amazon website


“The public scenes, whether on the beach or the ski slope or children’s theatre, are beset with sudden surges of colour that tend to resemble interventions of the sky or elemental forces, more than the moods of a decorative or ornamental painter annotation. Sometimes they seem like catastrophic visions. Blood-red snowflakes dance above the white fern. The photo shows skyscrapers in the urban morning sun – and the oil paint adds to the sulpherous fire that pours over the city from the sky”

Botho Strauss in Gerhard Richter: Overpainted Photographs (Hardcover)


Gerhard Richter. '22.1.2000 (Firenze)'


Gerhard Richter
22.1.2000 (Firenze)
12 cm x 12 cm
Oil on colour photograph


Gerhard Richter. '21.1.2000 (Firenze)'


Gerhard Richter
21.1.2000 (Firenze)
12 cm x 12 cm
Oil on colour photograph


Gerhard Richter. '22.4.07'


Gerhard Richter
12.6 cm x 16.7 cm
Oil on colour photograph



Centre de la Photographie
28, rue des Bains,
CH – 1205 Genève
Phone: + 41 22 329 28 35

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 11.00 – 18.00

Centre de la Photographie website

Gerhard Richter website

Amazon Books


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Review: ‘all about … blooming’ exhibition by JUNKO GO at Gallery 101, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 25th February – 14th March 2009


“We live in a world where high achievers are congratulated, yet true achievements are not related to what we can get done, but to how deeply we aware of how wonderful it is to be alive. In this exhibition, flowers are not only a predominant source of visual inspiration, looking at them also engenders a kind of appreciation and wonder. The fragile and ephemeral flower provokes in me an awareness of the human condition that reveals the true nature of our existence.

My goal is to create images which are strong and soft, bold and precise, beautiful and ugly, figurative and abstract, all at once. My greatest challenge is to make art about what it is to be human … What really matters in art making to me is a kind of awareness – a being able to say, ‘I am as I am’.”

Text from the artist statement



Junko Go. 'Opium Poppy' 2008


Junko Go
Opium Poppy


“One person’s heaven is another’s nightmare. Seeing both sides to every story can be a blessing and a curse. Good and bad, right and wrong, purity and impurity are inextricably linked.”



A delicate, refined but strong presence is felt in the work of Junko Go in the her new exhibition ‘all about … blooming’ at Gallery 101, Melbourne. Nominally landscape painting about flowers but featuring thoughts and ideas about the seed, the shoot, pollen and the breath of life the work addresses the essence of what it is to be human and live compassionately on this earth in an intelligent and profound way.

Denying the nihilism of abstract expressionism each mark is fully considered by being attentive to the connection between brush, hand and meaning. Almost childlike in their use of charcoal and acrylic her dogs, crosses and flowers, jottings and dashes, rain and rivers, seeds and people show a Zen like contemplation in the marks she makes on the canvas – just so. A releasement towards things is proffered, a letting go of the ego to create an awareness of just being. There is genuine warmth and humility to this work.

In Opium Poppy (2008, above) the darkness of the nightmare is represented by the black marks, ascending like Jacob’s ladder balanced by the mandala like poppies whose petals seem like feathers of a bird’s wing – a flight of fancy both good and bad. In Pollen (2009) bees swarm around a sunflower leaving traces of their presence, a bird flies close to a tiny blue cloud, the sun burst forth in a tiny patch of aqua colour, and people hug arm in arm. As Go says, “Bees in a flower bear pollen unawares and play a crucial roll for the plant to survive. Our love, kindness, warmth and wisdom affect one another unawares and play a crucial roll for our planet to survive.”  In New Shoot (2008, below) the puzzle of our existence, the nature of our existential being is laid bare for all to see.

In Seeds (2008) Go reminds us that rather than being focused on what we hoped for, we must make the most of whatever opportunities we are blessed with. This means being aware of the gifts one possesses, not the distance between ‘I’ and want, need and desire – now! The seed of our experience – the calm before the force that propelled us into existence – is already present within us.

Go’s musings on the existential nature of our being are both full and empty at one and the same time and help us contemplate the link to the breath of the sublime. In the end Go’s paintings are about endings and beginnings, about being strong or not, about the infinity of the seed and about our responses to living in harmony on this planet. Through the seed, the shoot, the flower and the earth access may be granted to the sublime and this perfectly sums up the work of this artist, a reflection of her energy and radiance transferred to the canvas. I loved it.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to Gallery 101 for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the art work for a larger version of the image.


Junko Go. 'New Shoot' 2008


Junko Go
New Shoot


“Each of us is born to fill a special place in this world. In the process, we sometimes have trouble finding our niche. Life is like a jigsaw puzzle in which we make every effort to find our own place that makes a right connection with others, with the world and even with the whole universe.”


Junko Go. 'Red Hot Poker' 2009


Junko Go
Red Hot Poker


“Push and pull our inner strength. Sometimes, we need courage to take risks in confronting pain and loss in order to gain a deep and profound experience.”




Gallery is no longer open.


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Review: ‘The Art of Existence’ exhibition by Les Kossatz at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 22nd November – 8th March 2009


Les Kossatz. 'Digger's glory box' 1965


Les Kossatz
Digger’s glory box
Silk, felt, canvas, cardboard, wood, brass, ink, fibre-tipped pen and synthetic polymer paint
106.0 x 76.0 x 7.0 cm
Courtesy the artist
Photographer: Viki Petherbridge
© Les Kossatz



Heide Museum of Modern Art has brought together nearly 100 pieces of work by the Australian artist Les Kossatz in an eclectic survey show, appropriately titled The Art of Existence. Featuring sculpture, painting and mixed media from the 1960s to the present the exhibition is appropriately titled because Kossatz’s work addresses certain archetypal themes that affect human existence:

His life-long fascination with the natural world and desire to understand both its human and animal inhabitants; exploration of the systems of knowledge and codes of behaviour that structure individual and communal life; and his critical and playful reflections on contemporary behaviour and the mysteries of existence.”1

Strong symbolic paintings are the focus of the work in the 1960s, paintings that address the shocking brutality of war and its aftermath, when soldiers return home. To the observation that these are of the ‘pop-style’ school of painting suggested by the Heide website I feel these works are also influenced by the collage of Cubism, the boxes of Joseph Cornell and the dismembered bodies of Francis Bacon. They engage with the symbolism of war and remembrance: memory, myth, and the banality of heroism and sacrifice.

The key work in this series is the painting Diggers throne (1966). This is a powerful disturbing image, effervescent and unnerving at the same time. It features a disembodied arm on the hand of a throne, surrounded by a wonderful kaleidoscopic assemblage of pictorial planes, artefacts and memories – an English flag, the flag of St George, a crown, medals and the words RSL. The arm reminds me of the Francis Bacon painting Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953) as it rests, roughly drawn in pencil on the arm of the throne, drawing the eye back up into nothingness.

The Diggers throne painting also features these prophetic words:

“throne slow to rot
and twisted the memory
becomes sacred.
Bloody was the truth
And this a chair.”

All other work in this period seems to flow through this painting – the other large paintings, the small canvases featuring individual medals and the less successful hanging banners. But it is to this work we return again and again as a viewer, trying to decipher and reconcile our inner conflicts about the painting.

As we move into the 1970s the work changes focus and direction. There emerges a concern with the desecration of the Australian landscape investigated in a series of large paintings and sculptures. In Packaged landscape 1 (1976) a steel suitcase with leather straps, slightly ajar, fulminates with artificial gum leaves trying to escape the strictures of the trap. In Caged landscape (1972) nature is again trapped behind steel wire, weighed in the balance on a set of miniature scales. The paintings feature trees that are surrounded by concrete and the rabbit becomes a powerful symbol for Kossatz – a suffering beast, strung up on fences, a plague in a pitted landscape of chopped down trees, erosion and empty holes.

Into this vernacular emerges the key symbol of the artist’s oeuvre – the sheep. In 1972 Kossatz began a series of sculptures of sheep, “initially inspired by the experience of nursing an injured ram.” For Kossatz “the sheep represent the hardship of pioneer existence, the grazing industries prosperity, environmental concerns and the sheep act as narrative devices, potent metaphors for human behaviour.”2

The first sheep presented ‘in show’ is Ram in Sling (1973, below). In this sculpture a metal bar is suspended in mid-air and from this bar heavy wire mesh drops to support the fleecy stomach and neck of the ram almost seeming to strangle it in the process, it’s metal feet just touching the ground. Again the scales of justice seem to weigh nature in the balance.

The themes life and death, order and chaos are further developed in the work Hard slide (1980, below) where a sheep emerges mid-air from a trapdoor, two more tumble down a wooden slide end over end and another disappears into the ground through a wooden trapdoor opening. Sacrifice seems to be a consistent theme with both the earlier paintings and the metallised sheep:

“The completed life cycle, down the trapdoor, down the chute, after sacrifice by shearing.” ~ Daniel Thomas 1994

Further sculptures of sheep, both small maquettes and large sculptures follow in the next room of the exhibition. This is the artist is full flow, featuring the inventive taking of 2D things into the round, investigating the key themes of his work: the contrast between nature and artifice, or humanity.

The small maquettes of sheep feature races, gantries, sluices, pens, trapdoors and paddocks. Sheep tumble in a cataclysmic maelstrom, falling with flailing legs into the darkness of the holding pen below. These are my favourite works – small, intimate, detailed, dark bronzes of serious intensity – the sheep becoming a theatre of the absurd, suspended, weighed and balancing in the performance of ritualised acts, a cacophony of flesh at once both intricate and unsettling. Their skins lay flayed and lifeless disappearing into the ‘unearth’ of the slated wooden floor of the shearing shed. The sheep “can be viewed metaphorically as a commentary of the existential situation of the individual and collective behaviour.”3 As Kossatz himself has noted, “It is hard to bring a piece of landscape inside and give it a living animated form. The sheep somehow gives me this quality of landscape.”

But we must also remember that this strictly a white man’s view of the Australian landscape. Nowhere does this work comment on the disenfranchisement of the native people’s of this land – the destruction of native habitats that the sheep brought about, the starvation that they caused to Aboriginal people just as they bought riches to the pastoralists and the country that mined the land with this amorphous mass of flesh.

Recent work in the exhibition returns to the earlier social themes of memory, war, remembrance, religion, shrines, atomic clouds and temples but it is the work of the late 1970s – 1980s that is the most cogent. As Kossatz ponders the nature of existence on this planet he does not see a definitive answer but emphasises the journey we take, not the arrival. Here is something that we should all ponder, giving time to the nature of our personal journey in this life, on this earth.

Here also is an exhibition worthy our time and attention as part of that journey. Go visit!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 1,074

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


  1. From the Heide website
  2. From wall notes to the exhibition
  3. From wall notes to the exhibition


Postscript 2018

The late Les Kossatz (1943-2011) was a well known Melbourne-based artist and academic whose work is represented in many regional and state galleries and the National Gallery of Australia. He studied art at the Melbourne Teachers’ College and the RMIT, and went on to teach at the RMIT and Monash University. Kossatz’s first significant commission was for the stained glass windows at the Monash University Chapel in Melbourne. Later commissions included works for the Australian War Memorial, the High Court, the Ian Potter Foundation at the National Gallery of Victoria and the Darling Harbour Authority, Sydney. His sculpture, Ainslie’s Sheep, commissioned by Arts ACT in 2000, is a popular national capital landmark in the centre of Civic. A major retrospective of Kossatz’s work was held in 2009 at the Heide Park and Art Gallery, Melbourne.

Text from the High Court of Australia website

Francis Bacon. 'Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X' 1953


Francis Bacon
Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X


Les Kossatz. "Ram in sling" 1973


Les Kossatz
Ram in sling
Cast and fabricated stainless steel and sheepskin
129.3 x 126.5 x 66.0 cm
Heide Museum of Modern Art Collection
Purchased from John and Sunday Reed 1980
© Les Kossatz


Les Kossatz. 'Trophy room' 1975


Les Kossatz
Trophy room
Colour lithograph
74.0 x 76.0 cm (sheet)
Courtesy the artist
Photographer: Viki Petherbridge
© Les Kossatz



The art of existence is the first exhibition to review Les Kossatz’s contribution to Australian art in a career that spans the 1960s to today. Kossatz’s consistently experimental approach to media and techniques is revealed in works that display a lifelong fascination with humanity and the interaction of man and nature. His paintings, sculptures and works on paper stimulate a questioning and exploration of such concerns, which form the basis of this artist’s practice.

Les Kossatz’s early works of the 1960s draw on his training and ability to work across a diversity of media, including painting, drawing, printmaking and glass. Early paintings and etchings on the theme of the emptiness of memorials to the Australian ‘digger’ or soldiers were succeeded by images and objects offering impressions of the world around the artist – the rural domain and interior life of St Andrews in Victoria where Kossatz lived and worked. Such works demonstrated his determination to pursue a figurative practice at a time when abstract art had been imported to Australia and was considered the avant garde.

Remaining a staunchly independent artist, at the start of the 1970s Kossatz painted images of rabbits and sheep from St Andrews. In addition, the practice of working in three dimensions was to become more significant. Kossatz continued to develop familiar themes in the creation of installations and cast objects. Although he has produced drawings and prints across his career, working with sculpture has, since the early 1970s, been his primary mode of art-making. Large scale cast and assembled objects show Kossatz pursuing related themes of caged and packaged landscapes, shrines to the harvest and the still life.

The art of existence surveys Kossatz’s monumental life-sized sheep sculptures, which he began making in 1972 from casts of animal parts, and for which he is best known. These include Hard slide (1980), his prize-winning commission in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. Kossatz has won numerous commissions for outdoor sculptures that employ the sheep as literal and metaphorical beings. Kossatz’s work across three decades reveals a number of ongoing engagements, such as his observations of human behaviour and at times its similar manifestation in animals; the beliefs that sustain individuals and communities (such as religion, music and politics); and the forms of the landscape and our understanding of these relationships.

Introduction to the exhibition written by Zara Stanhope, Guest Curator, Heide Museum of Modern Art, 2008


Les Kossatz. "Hard slide" 1980


Les Kossatz
Hard slide
Sheepskins, aluminium, Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga sp.), leather, steel
372.0 x 100.0 x 304.0 cm (installation)


Les Kossatz. "Guggenheim spiral" 1983


Les Kossatz
Guggenheim spiral



Heide Museum of Modern Art
7 Templestowe Road
Bulleen Victoria 3105 Australia
Phone: +61 3 9850 1500

Opening hours:
(Heide II and Heide III)
Tue – Fri 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Sat/Sun/Public Holidays 12.00 noon – 5.00 pm

Heide Museum of Modern Art website


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Cartoon: Michael Leunig ‘The 3 A.M. WAKE UP’ 2008

November 2008




The 3 A.M. WAKE UP by Australian artist and cartoonist Michael Leunig 2008

My favourite cartoon in the world!



More Leunig images


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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: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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