Posts Tagged ‘installation art

09
Jun
17

Exhibition: ‘Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017’ at Tate Modern, London

Exhibition dates: 15th February – 11th June 2017

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'The State We're In, A' 2015

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
The State We’re In, A (Room 14)
2015
Ink-jet print
Dimensions variable
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'The Cock (Kiss)' 2002

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
The Cock (Kiss)
2002
Ink-jet print
Dimensions variable
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

If one thing matters, everything matters
(A love letter to Wolfgang Tillmans)

I believe that Wolfgang Tillmans is the number one photo-media artist working today. I know it’s a big call, but that’s how I see it.

His whole body of work is akin to a working archive – of memories, places, contexts, identities, landscapes (both physical and imagined) and people. He experiments, engages, and imagines all different possibilities in and through art. As Adrian Searle observes, “Tillmans’ work is all a kind of evidence – a sifting through material to find meaning.” And that meaning varies depending on the point of view one comes from, or adopts, in relation to the art. The viewer is allowed to make their own mind up, to dis/assemble or deepen relationships between things as they would like, or require, or not as the case may be. Tillmans is not didactic, but guides the viewer on that journey through intersections and nodal points of existence. The nexus of life.

Much as I admire the writing of art critic John McDonald, I disagree with his assessment of the work of Wolfgang Tillmans at Tate Modern (see quotation below). Personally, I find that there are many memorable photographs in this exhibition … as valuable and as valid a way of seeing the world in a contemporary sense, as Eggleston’s photographs are in a historic visualisation. I can recall Tillmans’ images just an intimately as I can Eggleston’s. But they are of a different nature, and this is where McDonald’s analysis is like comparing apples and pears. Eggleston’s classical modernist photographs depend on the centrality of composition where his images are perfectly self-contained, whether he is photographing a woman in a blue dress sitting on a kerb or an all green bathroom. They are of their time. Times have changed, and how we view the world has changed.

For Tillmans no subject matter is trivial (If One Thing Matters, Everything Matters – the title of a 2003 exhibition at Tate Britain), and how he approaches the subject is totally different from Eggleston. As he says of his work, his images are “calls to attentiveness.” What does he mean by this? Influenced by the work of the philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti whom I have also studied, a call to attentiveness is a way of being open and responsive to the world around you, to its infinite inflections, and to not walk around as if in a dream, letting the world pass you by. To be open and receptive to the energies and connections of the world spirit by seeing clearly.

Krishnamurti insightfully observed that we do not need to make images out of every word, out of every vision and desire. We must be attentive to the clarity of not making images – of desire, of prejudice, of flattery – and then we might become aware of the world that surrounds us, just for what it is and nothing more.1 Then there would be less need for the absenting of self into the technological ether or the day dreams of foreign lands or the desire for a better life. But being aware is not enough, we must be attentive of that awareness and not make images just because we can or must. This is a very contemporary way of looking at the world. As Krishnamurti says,

“Now with that same attention I’m going to see that when you flatter me, or insult me, there is no image, because I’m tremendously attentive … I listen because the mind wants to find out if it is creating an image out of every word, out of every contact. I’m tremendously awake, therefore I find in myself a person who is inattentive, asleep, dull, who makes images and gets hurt – not an intelligent man. Have you understood it at least verbally? Now apply it. Then you are sensitive to every occasion, it brings its own right action. And if anybody says something to you, you are tremendously attentive, not to any prejudices, but you are attentive to your conditioning. Therefore you have established a relationship with him, which is entirely different from his relationship with you. Because if he is prejudiced, you are not; if he is unaware, you are aware. Therefore you will never create an image about him. You see the difference?”2

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Then you are sensitive to every occasion, it brings its own right action. You are attentive and tremendously awake.

This is the essence of Tillmans work. He is tremendously attentive to the images he is making (“a representation of an unprivileged gaze or view” as he puts it) and to the associations that are possible between images, that we make as human beings. He is open and receptive to his conditioning and offers that gift to us through his art, if we recognise it and accept it for what it is. If you really look and understand what the artist is doing, these images are music, poetry and beauty – are time, place, belonging, voyeurism, affection, sex. They are archaic and shapeless and fluid and joy and magic and love…

They are the air between everything.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Krishnamurti. Beginnings of Learning. London: Penguin, 1975, p. 131
  2. Ibid., pp. 130-131

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

 

 

“To look at Eggleston alongside those he has inspire [Wolfgang Tillmans and Juergen Teller for example] is to see a surprisingly old-fashioned artist. No matter how instinctive his approach or how trivial his subjects, Eggleston believes in the centrality of composition. His images are perfectly self-contained. They don’t depend on a splashy, messy installation or a political stance. …

In the current survey of Tillmans’s work at Tate Modern photos of every description are plastered across the walls in the most anarchic manner, with hardly a memorable composition. Yet this shapeless stuff is no longer reviled by the critics – it’s the height of fashion.”

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John McDonald “William Eggleston: Portraits”

 

“For a long time in Britain, there was a deep suspicion of my work. People saw me as a commercial artist trying to get into the art world, and the work was dismissed as shallow or somehow lightweight. There are still many misconceptions about what I do – that my images are random and everyday, when they are actually neither. They are, in fact, the opposite. They are calls to attentiveness.”

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Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Installation view of room 4 (detail) from the exhibition 'Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017', which includes the latest iteration of the 'truth study centre' project

 

Installation view of room 4 (detail), which includes the latest iteration of the truth study centre project, with
Image © Tate Modern showing Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017 at Tate Modern 15 February – 11 June

 

 

The Tate show includes a room full of his “truth study centres”, which comprise often contradictory newspaper cuttings as well as photographs and pamphlets that aim to show how news is manipulated according to the political loyalties of those who produce it. As activists go, though, Tillmans is defiantly centre ground. “This is about strengthening the centre. I can understand left-wing politics from a passionate, idealistic point of view, but I do not think it is the solution to where we are now. The solution is good governance, moderation, agreement. Post-Brexit, post-Trump, the voices of reason need to be heard more than ever.”

Wolfgang Tillmans quoted on The Guardian website

 

Installation view of room 13 (detail) from the exhibition 'Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017' at Tate Modern

 

Installation view of room 13 (detail), which focuses in on Tillmans’ portraiture with Eleanor / Lutz, a (2016) at right
Image © Tate Modern showing Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017 at Tate Modern 15 February – 11 June

 

Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Eleanor / Lutz, a' 2016

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Eleanor / Lutz, a
2016
Ink-jet print
Dimensions variable
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Portrait of Wolfgang Tillmans, Tate Modern Boiler House, Level 3, 14/02/2017 in front of his works, Transient 2, 2015 and Tag/Nacht II, 2010

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Tag/Nacht II' 2010

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Tag/Nacht II
2010
Ink-jet print
Dimensions variable
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

The State We’re In, A, is part of Neue Welt [New World], the loose family of pictures I began at the end of the last decade. These had two points of departure: “What does the outside world look like to me 20 years after I began photographing?” and “What does it look like in particular with a new photographic medium?”

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Wolfgang Tillmans

 

“This exhibition is not about politics, it’s about poetry, it’s about installation art. It’s about thinking about the world. I’ve never felt that l can be separated, because the political is only the accumulation of many people’s private lives, which constitute the body politics…”

“My work has always been motivated by talking about society, by talking about how we live together, by how we feel in our bodies. Sexuality, like beauty, is never un-political, because they relate to what’s accepted in society. Two men kissing, is that acceptable? These are all questions to do with beauty.”

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Wolfgang Tillmans quoted on the Art News website

 

“There is music. There is dancing. Bewilderment is part of the pleasure, as we move between images and photographic abstractions. Tillmans’ asks us to make connections of all kinds – formal, thematic, spatial, political. He asks what the limits of photography are. There are questions here about time, place, belonging, voyeurism, affection, sex. After a while it all starts to tumble through me.”

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Adrian Searle review on the Guardian website

 

 

What are we to make of the world in which we find ourselves today? Contemporary artist Wolfgang Tillmans offers plenty of food for thought.

This is Wolfgang Tillmans’s first ever exhibition at Tate Modern and brings together works in an exciting variety of media – photographs, of course, but also video, digital slide projections, publications, curatorial projects and recorded music – all staged by the artist in characteristically innovative style. Alongside portraiture, landscape and intimate still lifes, Tillmans pushes the boundaries of the photographic form in abstract artworks that range from the sculptural to the immersive.

The year 2003 is the exhibition’s point of departure, representing for Tillmans the moment the world changed, with the invasion of Iraq and anti-war demonstrations. The social and political form a rich vein throughout the artist’s work. German-born, international in outlook and exhibited around the world, Tillmans spent many years in the UK and is currently based in Berlin. In 2000, he was the first photographer and first non-British artist to receive the Turner Prize.

 

Room one

Static interference typically appears on a television screen when an analogue signal is switched off. This can occur when a station’s official programme finishes for the night or if a broadcast is censored. In Tillmans’s Sendeschluss/End of Broadcast 2014 it represents the coexistence of two different generations of technology. The chaotic analogue static was displayed on a digital television, which allowed Tillmans’s high-resolution digital camera to record the pattern as it really appeared, something that would not have been possible with a traditional cathode ray tube television. This work shows Tillmans’s interest in questioning what we believe to be true: the seemingly black-and-white image turns out to be extremely colourful when viewed very close up.

Other works in this room reflect on digital printmaking and photography today. For example, the technical ability to photograph a nightscape from a moving vehicle without blurring, as in these images of Sunset Boulevard, is unprecedented. Itself the subject of many famous art photographs, this iconic roadway appears here littered with large format inkjet prints in the form of advertising billboards. In Double Exposure 2012-13 Tillmans juxtaposes images of two trade fairs – one for digital printers, the other for fruit and vegetables. Encounter 2014 shows a different photo-sensitive process. A pot had been left on top of a planter preventing light from reaching the sprouts underneath and leaving them white, while the surrounding growths that caught the daylight turned green.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Sendeschluss / End of Broadcast I' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Sendeschluss / End of Broadcast I
2014
Pigmented inkjet print
107 1/2 × 161 1/2″ (273.1 × 410.2 cm)
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Television white noise that the artist photographed while in Russia. For Tillmans, the image signifies resistance on his part to making clear images, but without the text its ostensibly radical nature would not be known.

 

Installation view of room 1 (detail), with 'Sendeschluss / End of Broadcast I' 2014, at left

 

Installation view of room 1 (detail), with Sendeschluss / End of Broadcast I, 2014, at left

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Double Exposure' 2012-13

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Double Exposure
2012-13
Pigmented inkjet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room two

Tillmans spends much of his time in the studio, yet he only occasionally uses it as a set for taking portraits. Instead, it is where prints are made and exhibitions are planned in architectural models, and where he collects materials and generates ideas. Over the years this environment has become a subject for his photographs, presenting a radically different view of the artist’s studio to the more traditional depictions seen in paintings over the centuries.

These works made around the studio demonstrate Tillmans’s concern with the physical process of making photographs, from chemical darkroom processes and their potential to create abstract pictures without the camera, to digital technology that is vital to the production of contemporary images, and the paper onto which they are printed. Tillmans’s understanding of the material qualities of paper is fundamental to his work, and photographs can take on a sculptural quality in series such as Lighter, 2005-ongoing and paper drop, 2001-ongoing, seen later in the exhibition.

In CLC 800, dismantled 2011 Tillmans uses photography to record a temporary installation, the result of unfastening every single screw in his defunct colour photocopier. He prefers to photograph his three-dimensional staged scenarios rather than actually displaying them as sculptures. He has often described the core of his work as ‘translating the three dimensional world into two dimensional pictures’.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans. 'paper drop' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
paper drop Prinzessinnenstrasse
2014
Pigmented inkjet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Perhaps as a continuation of his more textural photographs – depicting fabrics and still lifes so close up they become difficult to read – experiments in abstraction followed suit, many of them featuring what is perhaps his favourite motif: the fold, which, as the exhibition’s curator Chris Dercon kindly reminded us, was considered by the philosopher Leibniz as one of the most accurate ways to depict the complexities of the human soul.

Text from the Art News website

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'CLC 800, dismantled' 2011

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
CLC 800, dismantled
2011
Pigmented inkjet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room three

Having spent the preceding decade working largely on conceptual and abstract photographs, in 2009 Tillmans embarked on the four-year project Neue Welt. Looking at the world with fresh eyes, he aimed to depict how it has changed since he first took up the camera in 1988. He travelled to five continents to find places unknown to him and visited familiar places as if experiencing them for the first time. Interested in the surface of things as they appeared in those lucid first days of being in a new environment, he immersed himself in each location for just a brief period. Now using a high resolution digital camera, Tillmans captured images in a depth of detail that is immediately compelling, but also suggests the excess of information that is often described as a condition of contemporary life.

Communal spaces, people, animals, and still-life studies of nature or food are just some of the subjects that feature in Neue Welt. Seen together, these images offer a deliberately fragmented view. Rather than making an overarching statement about the changing character of modern life, Tillmans sought only to record, and to create a more empathetic understanding of the world. Over the course of the project, however, some shrewd observations about contemporary worldviews did emerge. One related to the changing shape of car headlights, which he noted are now very angular in shape, giving them a predatory appearance that might reflect a more competitive climate.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'astro crusto, a' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
astro crusto, a
2012
Pigmented inkjet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Installation shot of room 3 from the exhibition 'Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017' at Tate Modern

 

Installation view of room 3 (detail), with Headlight (f) 2012, at left; and Munuwata sky, 2011 at right
Image © Tate Modern showing Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017 at Tate Modern 15 February – 11 June

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Headlight (f)' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Headlight (f)
2012
Pigmented inkjet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Munuwata sky' 2011

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Munuwata sky
2011
Pigmented inkjet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room four

In the mid-2000s, prompted by global events, such as the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, Tillmans became interested in the assertions made by individuals, groups or organisations around the world that their viewpoint represented the absolute truth about a number of political and ethical questions.

He began his wryly-named truth study center project in 2005. Photographs, clippings from newspapers and magazines, objects, drawings, and copies of his own images are laid out in deliberate – and often provocative – juxtapositions. These arrangements reflect the presentation of information by news outlets in print and online. They also draw attention to gaps in knowledge, or areas where there is room for doubt. For each installation, the material presented in the truth study centers is selected according to its topical and geographic context. In 2017, the subject of truth and fake news is at the heart of political discourse across the world. This iteration of the project focuses in particular on how constructions of truth work on a psychological and physiological level.

The Silver 1998-ongoing prints connect to reality in a different way. Made by passing monochromatically exposed photographic paper through a dirty photo-developing machine, they collect particles and residue from the rollers and liquids. This makes them, in effect, a record of the chemical and mechanical process from which they originate.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'truth study center' 2017

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
truth study center
2017
Pigmented inkjet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room five

Tillmans has described how, as a photographer, he feels increasingly less obligated to reflect solely on the outside world through documentary images. In his abstract works, he looks inwards: exploring the rudiments of photographic processes and their potential to be used as a form of self-expression.

Like the Silver works in the previous room, the abstract Greifbar 2014-15 images are made without a camera. Working in the darkroom, Tillmans traces light directly onto photographic paper. The vast swathes of colour are a record of the physical gestures involved in their construction, but also suggest aspects of the body such as hair, or pigmentation of the skin. This reference to the figurative is reflected in the title, which translates as ‘tangible’.

Tillmans has observed that even though these works are made by the artist’s hand, they look as though they could be ‘scientific’ evidence of natural processes. For him, this interpretation is important, because it disassociates the works from the traditional gestural technique of painting. That the image is read as a photographic record, and not the result of the artist’s brushstroke, is essential to its conceptual meaning.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Greifbar 29' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Greifbar 29
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room six

Tillmans is interested in social life in its broadest sense, encompassing our participation in society. His photographs of individuals and groups are underpinned by his conviction that we are all vulnerable, and that our well-being depends upon knowing that we are not alone in the world.

Tillmans has observed that although cultural attitudes towards race, gender and sexuality have become more open over the three decades since he began his artistic practice, there is also greater policing of nightlife, and urban social spaces are closing down. His photographs taken in clubs, for example, testify to the importance of places where people can go today to feel safe, included, and free.

This concern with freedom also extends to the ways in which people organise themselves to make their voices heard. Images of political marches and protests draw attention to the cause for which they are fighting. They also form part of a wider study of what Tillmans describes as the recent ‘re-emergence’ of activism.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'The Blue Oyster Bar, Saint Petersburg' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
The Blue Oyster Bar, Saint Petersburg
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'NICE HERE but ever been to KRYGYZSTAN free Gender Expression WORLDWIDE' 2006

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
NICE HERE but ever been to KRYGYZSTAN free Gender Expression WORLDWIDE
2006
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room seven

Playback Room is a space designed for listening to recorded music. The project first ran at Between Bridges, the non-profit exhibition space Tillmans opened in London in 2006 and has since transferred to Berlin. In three exhibition (‘Colourbox’, ‘American Producers’ ‘Bring Your Own’) that took place between September 2014 and February 2015, he invited visitors to come and listen to music at almost the same quality at which it was originally mastered.

Whereas live music can be enjoyed in concert halls and stadiums, and visual art can be enjoyed in museums, no comparable space exists for appreciating studio music. Musicians and producers spend months recording tracks at optimal quality, yet we often listen to the results through audio equipment and personal devices that are not fit for perfect sound reproduction. Playback Room is a response to this. An example of Tillmans’s curatorial practice, he has chosen to include it here to encourage others to think about how recorded music can be given prominence within the museum setting.

The three tracks you hear in this room are by Colourbox, an English band who were active between 1982 and 1987. Tillmans, a long-term fan of the band, chose their music for Playback Room because they never performed live, thus emphasising the importance of the studio recordings.

 

Room eight

Tillmans began experimenting with abstraction while in high school, using the powerful enlargement function of an early digital photocopier to copy and degrade his own photographs as well as those cut from newspapers. He describes the coexistence of chance and control involved in this process as an essential ingredient in most of his work.

Ever since then, he has found ways to resist the idea that the photograph is solely a direct record of reality. In 2011, this area of his practice was compiled for the first time in his book Abstract Pictures. For a special edition of 176 copies Tillmans manipulated the printing press, for example by running it without plates or pouring ink into the wrong compartments, to create random effects and overprinted pages.

Some of his abstract photographs are made with a camera and others without, through the manipulation of chemicals, light, or the paper itself. Importantly, however, Tillmans does not distinguish between the abstract and the representational. He is more interested in what they have in common. The relationship between photography, sculpture and the body, for example, is expressed in abstract photographs made by crumpling a sheet of photographic paper, but also in close-ups of draped and wrinkled clothing such as Faltenwurf (Pines) a, 2016 in Room 9.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Concorde L433-11' 1997

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Concorde L433-11
1997
Ink-jet print
Tate
© Wolfgang Tillmans, courtesy Maureen Paley, London

 

 

Room nine

Artist books, exhibition catalogues, newspaper supplements and magazine spreads, posters and leaflets are an integral part of Tillmans’s output. These various formats and the ways in which they are distributed or made visible in the public space allow him to present work and engage audiences in a completely different manner to exhibitions. For him the printed page is as valid a venue for artistic creation as the walls of a museum. Many such projects are vital platforms on which he can speak out about a political topic, or express his continued interest in subjects such as musicians, or portraiture in general.

Recently, the print layout has enabled Tillmans to share a more personal aspect of his visual archive. Originally designed as a sixty-six page spread for the Winter 2015/Spring 2016 edition of Arena Homme +, this grid of images looks back at Fragile, the name he gave as a teenager to his creative alter-ego. Spanning 1983 to 1989 – the year before he moved to England to study – the photographs and illustrations provide a sensitive insight into a formative period in Tillmans’s life, predating the time when he chose photography as his main medium of expression.

The layout is also an example of the intricate collaging technique that he has employed in printed matter since 2011, deliberately obscuring some images by overlapping others on top of them

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Faltenwurf (Pines), a' 2016

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Faltenwurf (Pines), a
2016
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Tukan' 2010

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Tukan
2010
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room ten

An acute awareness of fragility endures across Tillmans’s practice in all of its different forms. Often this is expressed in his attentiveness to textures and surfaces. Collum 2011 is taken from Central Nervous System 2008-13, a group of portraits featuring only one subject, where the focus on intimate details, such as the nape of the neck or the soft skin of the outer ear, both emphasises and celebrates the frailty of the human body.

Weed 2014, a four-metre tall photograph taken in the garden of the artist’s London home, invites us to consider the beauty and complexity of a plant usually seen as a nuisance. The dead leaf of a nearby fig tree appears as both a sculptural form and a memento mori. Dusty Vehicle 2012, photographed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is highly specific in its depiction of texture, yet the reasons leading to this roadside arrangement remain a mystery.

The focus on a very few works in this room serves as an example of Tillmans’s varied approaches to exhibiting his prints. Though best known for installations comprising many pictures, he always places emphasis on the strength of the individual image. By pinning and taping work to the wall, as well as using frames, Tillmans draws attention to the edges of the print, encouraging the viewer to interact with the photograph as an object, rather than a conduit for an image.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Dusty Vehicle' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Dusty Vehicle
2012
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Collum' 2011

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Collum
2011
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Weed' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Weed
2014
Photograph, inkjet print on paper
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room eleven

In this room Tillmans highlights the coexistence of the personal, private, public, and political spheres in our lives. The simultaneity of a life lived as a sexual being as well as a political being, or in Tillmans’s case as a conceptual artist as well as a visually curious individual, plays out through the installation.

The entirely white view taken from the inside of a cloud, a word charged with multiple meanings, is presented alongside the close-up and matter-of-fact view of male buttocks and testicles. Like nackt, 2 2014, the small photograph The Air Between 2016 is the result of a lifelong interest in visually describing what it feels like to live in our bodies. Here the attention lies in photographing the air, the empty space between our skin and our clothes.

In still life, Calle Real II 2013, a severed agave chunk is placed on a German newspaper article describing the online depiction of atrocities by Islamic State. The image is as startling in its depiction of the finest green hues as it is in capturing how, simultaneously, we take in world events alongside details of our personal environment.

This room, which Tillmans considers as one work or installation in its entirety, is an example of his innovative use of different photographic prints and formats to reflect upon how we experience vastly different aspects of the world at the same time.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'The Air Between' 2016

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
The Air Between
2016
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Still life, Calle Real II' 2013

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Still life, Calle Real II
2013
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Nackt, 2 (nude, 2)' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Nackt, 2 (nude, 2)
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Room twelve

Tillmans has always been sensitive to the public side of his role as an artist, acknowledging that putting images out in the public world unavoidably places himself in the picture as well. His participation in activities such as lectures and interviews has been a platform for his voice from the beginning of his career.

Since 2014 he has also allowed performance to become a more prominent strand of his practice. Filmed in a hotel room in Los Angeles and an apartment in Tehran, Instrument 2015 is the first time that Tillmans has put himself in front of the camera for a video piece. Across a split screen, we see two separate occasions on which he has filmed himself dancing. The accompanying soundtrack was created by distorting the sound of his feet hitting the floor. In the absence of any other music, his body becomes an instrument.

On one side of the screen we see his body, on the other only his shadow. Referring to the shadow, New York Times critic Roberta Smith commented that:

“Disconcertingly, this insubstantial body is slightly out of sync with the fleshly one. It is a ghost, a shade, the specter that drives us all. The ease with which we want to believe that the two images are connected, even though they were filmed separately, might also act as a reminder to question what we assume to be true.”

 

Room thirteen

Portraiture has been central to Tillmans’s practice for three decades. For him, it is a collaborative act that he has described as ‘a good levelling instrument’. No matter who the sitter – a stranger or someone close to him, a public figure, an unknown individual, or even the artist himself – the process is characterised by the same dynamics: of vulnerability, exposure, honesty and always, to some extent, self-consciousness. Tillmans sees every portrait as resulting from the expectations and hopes of both sitter and photographer.

The portrait’s ability to highlight the relationship between appearance and identity is a recurring point of interest. In 2016, at HM Prison Reading, Tillmans took a distorted self-portrait in a damaged mirror once used by inmates. The disfigured result is the artist’s expression of the effects on the soul wrought by physical and psychological confinement and also censorship. Whoever looked into the reflective surface would gain a completely inaccurate impression of what they looked like, and how they are perceived by others.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Separate System, Reading Prison' 2016

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Separate System, Reading Prison
2016
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Anders pulling splinter from his foot' 2004

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Anders pulling splinter from his foot
2004
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

“The image’s reference to both Dorian Gray and Francis Bacon is evident. This catapults a new association: perhaps Bacon was painting Gray all along. Insistently, fearlessly, longingly.

As with much of Bacon’s oeuvre, and the very particular picture of Dorian Gray, a distorted, forward-facing male figure intimidates the viewer with his unmade face. However, Tillsman’s piece is not a picture, it is a photograph. Here, the artist (as was the case with Bacon/Wilde) is not the one dissembling what’s inside the frame, subjecting it with his brush. No. In Tillsman’s image, a piece of thick glass distorts the artist. Here, the artist is no longer the lens that is able to affect his surroundings. Here, the surroundings distort the artist.

The message Tillsman delivers is clear: things have changed. The world disfigures the subject while the artist is trapped, forced to stand there and watch.”

Text by Ana Maria Caballero on The Drugstore Notebook website

 

Room fourteen

Symbol and allegory are artistic strategies Tillmans is usually keen to avoid. The State We’re In, A 2015 is a departure from this stance: the work’s title is a direct reference to current global political tensions. Depicting the Atlantic Ocean, a vast area that crosses time zones and national frontiers, it records the sea energised by opposing forces, but not yet breaking into waves. Differing energies collide, about to erupt into conflict.

The photographs in this room deal with borders and how they seem clear-cut but are actually fluid. In these images, borders are made tangible in the vapour between clouds, the horizon itself or the folds in the two Lighter photo-objects. The shipwreck left behind by refugees on the Italian island of Lampedusa, depicted in this photograph from 2008, is a reminder that borders, represented elsewhere in more poetic delineations, can mean a question of life and death.

The text and tables sculpture Time Mirrored 3 2017 represents Tillmans’s interest in connecting the time in which we live to a broader historical context. He always understands the ‘Now’ as the history of the future. Events perceived as having happened over a vast gulf of time between us and the past, become tangible when ‘mathematically mirrored’ and connected to more recent periods of time in our living memory.

In contrast to the epic themes of sea and time, the pictures of an apple tree outside the artist’s London front door, a subject he has photographed since 2002, suggest a day-to-day positive outlook.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Italian Coastal Guard Flying Rescue Mission off Lampedusa' 2008

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Italian Coastal Guard Flying Rescue Mission off Lampedusa
2008
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Lampedusa' 2008

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Lampedusa
2008
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Installation view of room 14 (detail)

 

Installation view of room 14 (detail), featuring at left, pictures of an apple tree outside the artist’s London front door and at right, La Palma 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'La Palma' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
La Palma
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Apple tree' 2007

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Apple tree
2007
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Apple tree' Various dates

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Apple tree
Various dates
Ink-jet prints
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Book for Architects

Book for Architects 2014 is the culmination of Tillmans’s longstanding fascination with architecture. First presented at Rem Koolhaas’s 14th International Architecture Exhibition, Venice, 2013, it explores the contrast between the rationality and utopianism that inform design and the reality of how buildings and streets come to be constructed and inhabited.

In 450 images taken in 37 countries, across 5 continents, Tillmans hones in on the resourceful and ingenious ways in which people adapt their surroundings to fit their needs. These are individual and uncoordinated decisions that were not anticipated in architects’ plans, but still impact the contemporary built environment.

Across the double projection, we see examples of how buildings come to sit within a city plan, the ad-hoc ways in which they are modified, and the supposed ‘weaknesses’ of a space such as the corners where there are service doors, fire escapes, or alarm systems.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Shit buildings going up left, right and centre' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Shit buildings going up left, right and centre
2014
Book for Architects Plate 083 2014
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Untitled' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Untitled
2012
Book for Architects 2014
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

“He has said of his photographs that “they are a representation of an unprivileged gaze or view … In photography I like to assume exactly the unprivileged position, the position that everybody can take, that chooses to sit at an airplane window or chooses to climb a tower.”

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Wolfgang Tillmans quoted in Peter Halley, Midori Matsui, Jan Verwoert, Wolfgang Tillmans, London 2002, p. 136

 

 

Wolfgang Tillmans has earned recognition as one of the most exciting and innovative artists working today. Tate Modern presents an exhibition concentrating on his production across different media since 2003. First rising to prominence in the 1990s for his photographs of everyday life and contemporary culture, Tillmans has gone on to work in an ever greater variety of media and has taken an increasingly innovative approach to staging exhibitions. Tate Modern brings this variety to the fore, offering a new focus on his photographs, video, digital slide projections, publications, curatorial projects and recorded music.

Social and political themes form a rich vein throughout Tillmans’s work. The destabilisation of the world has arisen as a recurring concern for the artist since 2003, an important year when he felt the world changed with the invasion of Iraq and anti-war demonstrations. In 2017, at a moment when the subject of truth and fake news is at the heart of political discourse, Tillmans presents a new configuration of his tabletop installation truth study center 2005-ongoing. This ongoing project uses an assembly of printed matter from pamphlets to newspaper cuttings to his own works on paper to highlight Tillmans’s continued interest in word events and how they are communicated in the media.

Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017 will particularly highlight the artist’s deeper engagement with abstraction, beginning with the important work Sendeschluss / End of Broadcast I 2014. Based on images the artist took of an analogue TV losing signal, this work combines two opposing technologies – the digital and the analogue. Other works such as the series Blushes 2000-ongoing, made without a camera by manipulating the effects of light directly on photographic paper, show how the artist’s work with abstraction continues to push the boundaries and definitions of the photographic form.

The exhibition includes portraiture, landscape and still lives. A nightclub scene might record the joy of a safe social space for people to be themselves, while large-scale images of the sea such as La Palma 2014 or The State We’re In, A 2015 document places where borders intersect and margins are ever shifting. At the same time, intimate portraits like Collum 2011 focus on the delicacy, fragility and beauty of the human body. In 2009, Tillmans began using digital photography and was struck by the expanded opportunities the technology offered him. He began to travel more extensively to capture images of the commonplace and the extraordinary, photographing people and places across the world for the series Neue Welt 2009 – 2012.

The importance of Tillmans’s interdisciplinary practice is showcased throughout the exhibition. His Playback Room project, first shown at his Berlin exhibition space Between Bridges, provides a space within the museum for visitors to experience popular music by Colourbox at the best possible quality. The video installation Instrument 2015 shows Tillmans dancing to a soundtrack made by manipulating the sound of his own footsteps, while in the Tanks Studio his slide projection Book for Architects 2014 is being shown for the first time in the UK. Featuring thirty-seven countries and five continents, it reveals the tension between architectural form and function. In March, Tillmans will also take over Tate Modern’s south Tank for ten days with a specially-commissioned installation featuring live music events.

Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017 is co-curated by Chris Dercon and Helen Sainsbury, Head of Programme Realisation, Tate Modern with Emma Lewis, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue from Tate Publishing designed by Wolfgang Tillmans and a programme of talks and events in the gallery.

Press release from Tate Modern

 

Images from the exhibition

Installation view of the exhibition 'Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017' at Tate Modern 15 February - 11 June

 

Installation view of the exhibition Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017 with at left, Sunset night drive (2014) and at centre right, Young Man, Jeddah (2012)

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Sunset night drive' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Sunset night drive
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Young Man, Jeddah' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Young Man, Jeddah
2012
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Young Man, Jeddah (B)' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Young Man, Jeddah (B)
2012
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) '17 Years Supply' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
17 Years Supply
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

“Now the camera is staring into a big cardboard box, half-filled with pharmacist’s tubs and packages, 17 years’ supply of antiretroviral and other medications to treat HIV/Aids. I imagine the sound that box would make if you shook it, what that sound might say about a human life, its vulnerability and value.” ~ Adrian Searle

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Market I' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Market I
2012
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Studio still life, c' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Studio still life, c
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Juan Pablo & Karl Chingaza' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Juan Pablo & Karl Chingaza
2012
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Iguazu' 2010

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Iguazu
2010
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Oscar Niemeyer' 2010

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Oscar Niemeyer
2010
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Tube escalator joint' 2009

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Tube escalator joint
2009
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'JAL' 1997

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
JAL
1997
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Port-au-Prince' 2010

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Port-au-Prince
2010
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'London Olympics' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
London Olympics
2012
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Fespa Car' 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Fespa Car
2012
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'The Spectrum Dagger' 2016

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
The Spectrum Dagger
2016
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Gaza Wall' 2009

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Gaza Wall
2009
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Simon, Sebastian Street' 2013

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Simon, Sebastian Street
2013
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) 'Arms and Legs' 2014

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Arms and Legs
2014
Ink-jet print
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

Tate Modern
Bankside
London SE1 9TG
United Kingdom

Opening hours:
Sunday – Thursday 10.00 – 18.00
Friday – Saturday 10.00 – 22.00

Tate Modern website

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17
Dec
10

melbourne’s magnificent eleven 2010

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Here’s my pick of the eleven best exhibitions in Melbourne for 2010 that featured on the Art Blart blog (in no particular order). Enjoy!

Marcus

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1/ Jenny Holzer at The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)

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Jenny Holzer
‘Right Hand (Palm Rolled)’
2007
Oil on linen
80 x 62 in. (203.2 x 157.5 cm)
Text: U.S. government document

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The reason that you must visit this exhibition is the last body of work. Working with declassified documents that relate to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan Holzer’s ‘Redaction’ paintings address the elemental force that is man’s (in)humanity to man (in the study of literature, redaction is a form of editing in which multiple source texts are combined (redacted) and subjected to minor alteration to make them into a single work) … I left the exhibition feeling shell-shocked after experiencing intimacy with an evil that leaves few traces. In the consciences of the perpetrators? In the hearts of the living! Oh, how I wish to see the day when the human race will truly evolve beyond. We live in hope and the work of Jenny Holzer reminds us to be vigilant, to speak out, to have courage in the face of the unconscionable.

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2/ ‘Pondlurking’ by Tom Moore at Helen Gory Galerie, Prahran

This exhibition 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 … 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. The morphogenesis of these creatures, as they build one upon another, turns the world upside down … 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.

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

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3/ ‘Safety Zone’ by John Young at Anna Schwartz Gallery

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What can one say about work that is so confronting, poignant and beautiful – except to say that it is almost unbearable to look at this work without being emotionally charged, to wonder at the vicissitudes of human life, of events beyond one’s control.

The exhibition tells the story of the massacre of 300,000 people in the city of Nanjing in Jiangsu, China by Japanese troops in December, 1937 in what was to become known as the Nanjing Massacre. It also tells the story of a group of foreigners led by German businessman John Rabe and American missionary Minnie Vautrin who set up a “safety zone” to protect the lives of at least 250,000 Chinese citizens. The work is conceptually and aesthetically well resolved, the layering within the work creating a holistic narrative that engulfs and enfolds the viewer – holding them in the shock of brutality, the poignancy of poetry and the (non)sublimation of the human spirit to the will of others.

Simply, this is the best exhibition that I have seen in Melbourne so far this year.

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John Young
‘Flower Market (Nanjing 1936) #1’
2010
digital print and oil on Belgian linen
240 x 331 cm
image courtesy of the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery

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John Young
‘Safety Zone’
2010
60 works, digital prints on photographic paper and chalk on blackboard-painted archival cotton paper
Installation shot, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne
image courtesy of the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery

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4/ ‘To Hold and Be Held’ by Kiko Gianocca at Gallery Funaki

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Kiko Gianocca
‘Man & dog’
found image, resin, silver
2009

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A beautiful exhibition of objects by Swiss/Italian artist Kiko Gianocca at Gallery Funaki, Melbourne, one full of delicate resonances and remembrances.

Glass vessels with internal funnels filled with the gold detritus of disassembled objects, found pendants: Horse, Anchor, Four leaf clover, Swan, Hammer & sickle … Brooches of gloss and matt black resin plates. On the reverse images exposed like a photographic plate, found images solidified in resin.

The front: the depths of the universe, navigating the dazzling darkness
The back: memories, forgotten, then remade, worn like a secret against the beating chest. Only the wearer knows!

As Kiki Gianocca asks, “I am not sure if I grasp the memories that sometimes come to mind. I start to think they hold me instead of me holding them.”

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5/ ‘Jill Orr: Vision’ at Jenny Port Gallery, Richmond

The photographs invite us to share not only the mapping of the surface of the skin and the mapping of place and identity but the sharing of inner light, the light of the imaginary as well – and in this observation the images become unstable, open to reinterpretation. The distance between viewer and subject is transcended through an innate understanding of inner and outer light. The photographs seduce, meaning, literally, to be led astray … I found myself looking at the photographs again and again for small nuances, the detail of hairs on the head, the imagining of what the person was thinking about with their eyes closed: their future, their fears, their hopes, the ‘active imagination as a means to visualise sustainable futures’ (Orr, 2010) …

In the imagination of the darkness that lies behind these children’s closed eyes is the commonality of all places, a shared humanity of memory, of dreams. These photographs testify to our presence and ask us to decide how we feel about our life, our place and the relation to that (un)placeness where we must all, eventually, return.

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Jill Orr
‘Jacinta’
2009

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6/ ‘AND THEN…’ by Ian Burns at Anna Schwartz Gallery

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These are such fun assemblages, the created mis en scenes so magical and hilarious, guffaw inducing even, that they are entirely delightful.

There is so much to like here – the inventiveness, the freshness of the work, the insight into the use of images in contemporary culture. Still photographs of this work do not do it justice. I came away from the gallery uplifted, smiling, happy – and that is a wonderful thing to happen.

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Ian Burns
’15 hours v.4′
2010
Found object kinetic sculpture, live video and audio
Image courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery

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7/ ‘Night’s Plutonian Shore’ by Julia deVille at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Richmond

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Julia deVille
‘Nevermore’
2010

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This is an excellent exhibition by Julia deVille at Sophie Gannon Gallery in Richmond … This exhibition shows a commendable sense of restraint, a beautiful rise and fall in the work as you walk around the gallery space with the exhibits displayed on different types and heights of stand and a greater thematic development of the conceptual ideas within the work. There are some exquisite pieces.

In these pieces there is a simplification of the noise of the earlier works and in this simplification a conversant intensification of the layering of the conceptual ideas. Playful and witty the layers can be peeled back to reveal the poetry of  de Sade, the stories of Greek mythology and the amplification of life force that is at the heart of these works. Good stuff.

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8/ ‘Mari Funaki; Objects’ at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

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Mari Funaki
born Japan 1950, arrived Australia 1979, died 2010
‘Object’
2008
heat-coloured mild steel
36.0 x 47.5 x 14.5 cm
Collection of Johannes Hartfuss & Fabian Jungbeck, Melbourne
© The Estate of Mari Funaki

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Quiet, precise works. Forms of insect-like legs and proboscises. They balance, seeming to almost teeter on the edge – but the objects are incredibly grounded at the same time. As you walk into the darkened gallery and observe these creatures you feel this pull – lightness and weight. Fantastic!

And so it came to pass in silence, for these works are still, quiet and have a quality of the presence of the inexpressible. Funaki achieves these incredible silences through being true to her self and her style through an expression of her endearing will. While Mari may no longer be amongst us as expressions of her will the silences of these objects will be forever with us.

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

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

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Carol Jerrems
‘Mark and Flappers’
1975
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of James Mollison, 1994
© Ken Jerrems & the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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10/ ‘John Davis: Presence’ at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

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John Davis
Australia 1936–99
(Spotted fish)
1989
twigs, cotton thread, calico, bituminous paint
55.0 x 145.0 x 30.0 cm
Private collection, Melbourne
© Penelope Davis & Martin Davis. Administered by VISCOPY, Australia

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This is a superlative survey exhibition of the work of John Davis at NGV Australia, Melbourne.

In the mature work you can comment on the fish as ‘travellers’ or ‘nomads’, “a metaphor for people and the way we move around the world.” You can observe the caging, wrapping and bandaging of these fish as a metaphor for the hurt we humans impose on ourselves and the world around us. You can admire the craftsmanship and delicacy of the constructions, the use of found objects, thread, twigs, driftwood and calico and note the ironic use of bituminous paint in relation to the environment, “a sticky tar-like form of petroleum that is so thick and heavy,” of dark and brooding colour.

This is all well and true. But I have a feeling when looking at this work that here was a wise and old spirit, one who possessed knowledge and learning … a human being who attained a state of grace in his life and in his work.

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11/ ‘Mortality’ at The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)

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Fiona Tan
‘Tilt’
2002
DVD
courtesy of the artist, Frith Street Gallery London

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I never usually review group exhibitions but this is an exception to the rule. I have seen this exhibition three times and every time it has grown on me, every time I have found new things to explore, to contemplate, to enjoy. It is a fabulous exhibition, sometimes uplifting, sometimes deeply moving but never less than engaging – challenging our perception of life. The exhibition proceeds chronologically from birth to death. I comment on a few of my favourite works below but the whole is really the sum of the parts: go, see and take your time to inhale these works – the effort is well rewarded. The space becomes like a dark, fetishistic sauna with it’s nooks and crannies of videos and artwork. Make sure you investigate them all!

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16
Aug
09

Review: ‘Cineraria’ by Julia deville at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Richmond, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 28th July  – 22nd August, 2009

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Julia de Ville. 'Ruby Heart Starling' 2008

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Julia deVille
‘Ruby Heart Starling’
2008

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Julia de Ville. 'Night's Plutonian Shore' 2009

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Julia deVille
‘Night’s Plutonian Shore’
2009

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Julia de Ville. 'Infant Funerary Urn' 2009

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Julia deVille
‘Infant Funerary Urn’
2009

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Julia de Ville 'Cineraria' installation view at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne

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Julia de Ville 'Cineraria' installation view at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne

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Julia deVille ‘Cineraria’ installation views at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne

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This is an itsy-bitsy show by Julia deVille at Sophie Gannon Gallery in Richmond, Melbourne. Offering a menagerie of macabre stuffed animals and conceptual ideas the exhibition fails to coalesce into a satisfying vision. It features many ideas that are not fully investigated and incorporated into the corporeal body of the work.

We have, variously, The Funerary Urn/Cinerarium, The Ossuary, Skeletons, Black, Victorian Funerary Customs, Feathers, Taxidermy, Time, Eggs and Religion. We also have stuffed animals, cigar boxes, lace and silver, pelts and columns, jet necklaces and Victorian glass domes, glass eyes and ruby hearts to name but a few. The viewer is overwhelmed by ideas and materials.

When individual pieces excel the work is magical: the delicate and disturbing ‘Stillborn Angel’ (2009, below) curled in a foetal position with appended sparrows wings is a knockout. The large suspended raven of ‘Night’s Plutonian Shore’ (2009, above) effectively evinces the feeling of the shores of the underworld that the title, taken from an Edgar Allan Poe poem, reflects on.

Other pieces only half succeed. ‘Piglet’ (2009, below) is a nice idea with its lace snout and beaded wings sitting on a bed of feathers awaiting judgement but somehow the elements don’t click into place. Further work are just one shot ideas that really lead nowhere. For example ‘Cat Rug’ (2008, below) features black crystals in the mouth of a taxidermied cat that lies splayed on a plinth on the gallery floor. And … so … ‘Silver Rook’ (2008, below) is a rook whose bones have been cast in silver, with another ruby heart, suspended in mid-air in the gallery space. Again an interesting idea that really doesn’t translate into any dialogue that is substantial or interesting.

Another problem with the work is the technical proficiency of some of the pieces. The cast silver front legs and ribs of ‘The Anatomy of a Rabbit’ (2008, below) are of poor quality and detract from what should have been the delicacy of the skeletal bones of the work. The bronze lion cartouche on the egg shaped ‘Lion Urn’ (2009) fails to fit the curved shape of the egg – it is just attached at the top most point and sits proud of the egg shape beneath. Surely someone with an eye for detail and a sense of context, perfection and pride in the work they make would know that the cartouche should have been made to fit the shape underneath.

Despite its fashionable position hovering between craft, jewellery and installation this is ‘art’ in need of a good reappraisal. My suggestion would be to take one idea, only one, and investigate it fully in a range of work that is thematically linked and beautifully made. Instead of multiplying the ideas and materials that are used, simplify the conceptual theme and at the same time layer the work so it has more complexity, so that it reveals itself over time. You only have to look at the work of Mari Funaki in the previous post or the simple but conceptually complex photographs of Matthias Koch in the German photography review to understand that LESS IS MORE!

There are positive signs here and I look forward to seeing the development of the artist over the next few years.

Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog.

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Julia de Ville. 'Piglet' 2009

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Julia deVille
‘Piglet’
2009

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Julia de Ville. 'Cat Rug' 2008

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Julia deVille
‘Cat Rug’
2008

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Julia de Ville. 'Sympathy' 2008

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Julia deVille
‘Sympathy’
2008

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Julia de Ville. 'Silver Rook' 2008

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Julia deVille
‘Silver Rook’
2008

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“Cinerarium
n. pl. Cineraria
A place for keeping the ashes of a cremated body.

Cineraria
n. any of several horticultural varieties of a composite plant, Senecio hybridus, of the Canary Islands, having clusters of flowers with
white, blue, purple, red, or variegated rays.

Origin: 1590–1600; < NL, fem. of cinerarius ashen, equiv. to L ciner- (s. of cinis ashes) + -rius -ary; so named from ash-colored down on leaves.

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CINERARIA is a study of the ritual and sentiment behind funerary customs from various cultures and eras.

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Notes on inspirations

The Funerary Urn/Cinerarium: Funerary Urns have been used since the times of the ancient Greeks and are still used today. After death, the body is cremated and the ashes are collected in the urn.

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The Ossuary: An ossuary is a chest, building, well, or site made to serve as the final resting place of human skeletal remains. They are frequently used where burial space is scarce. A body is first buried in a temporary grave, then after some years the skeletal remains are removed and placed in an ossuary. The greatly reduced space taken up by an ossuary means that it is possible to store the remains of many more people in a single tomb than if the original coffins were left as is. This was a common practice in post plague Europe in the 14th – 16th Centuries.

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Skeletons: Human skeletons and sometimes non-human animal skeletons and skulls are often used as blunt images of death. The skull and crossbones (Death’s Head) motif has been used among Europeans as a symbol of piracy, poison and most commonly, human mortality.

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Black: In the West, the color used for death and mourning is black. Black is associated with the underworld and evil. Kali, the Hindu god of destruction, is depicted as black.

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Victorian Funerary Customs:

– A wreath of laurel, yew or boxwood tied with crape or black ribbons would be hung on the front door to alert passers by that a death had occurred.

– The use of flowers and candles helped to mask unpleasant odours in the room before embalming became common.

– White was a popular colour for the funeral of a child. White gloves, ostrich plumes and a white coffin were the standard.

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Feathers: In Egyptian culture a recently deceased persons soul had to be as light as a feather to pass the judgment of Ma’at. Ma’at (Maet, Mayet) is the Egyptian goddess of truth, justice and the underworld. She is often portrayed as wearing a feather, a symbol of truth, on her head. She passed judgment over the souls of the dead in the Judgment Hall of Osiris. She also weighted up the soul against a feather. The “Law of Ma’at” was the basis of civil laws in ancient Egypt. If it failed, the soul was sent into the underworld. Ma´at´s symbol, an ostrich feather, stands for order and truth.

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Taxidermy: Taxidermy to me is a modern form of preservation, a way for life to continue on after death, in a symbolic visual form.

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The Raven: In many cultures for thousands of years, the Raven has been seen symbol of death. This is largely due to the Raven feeding on carrion. Edgar Allan Poe has used this symbolism in his poem, “The Raven”.

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Time: Less blunt symbols of death frequently allude to the passage of time and the fragility of life. Clocks, hourglasses, sundials, and other timepieces call to mind that time is passing. Similarly, a candle both marks the passage of time, and bears witness that it will eventually burn itself out. These sorts of symbols were often incorporated into vanitas paintings, a variety of early still life.

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Eggs: The egg has been a symbol of the start of new life for over 2,500 years, dating back to the ancient Persians. I have chosen egg shapes and even one Ostrich egg to represent the cycle of life, the beginning and the end.

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Religion: Religion has played a large part in many funerary customs and beliefs. I am particularly interested in the Memento Mori period of the 16th – 18th Centuries. In a Calvinistic Europe, when the plague was a not too distant memory, a constant preoccupation with death became a fashionable devotional trend.

Julia deVille

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Julia de Ville. 'Stillborn Angel' 2009

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Julia deVille
‘Stillborn Angel’
2009

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Julia de Ville. 'The Anatomy of a Rabbit' 2008

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Julia deVille
‘The Anatomy of a Rabbit’
2008

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Julia de Ville 'Cineraria' installation views at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne

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Julia deVille ‘Cineraria’ installation view at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne

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

Sophie Gannon Gallery website

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20
Jul
09

Review: ‘Tacita Dean’ at Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 6th June – 2nd August, 2009

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Photographs from the exhibition are in the chronological order that they appear.

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Tacita Dean. 'Grobsteingrab (floating)' 2009

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Tacita Dean
‘Grobsteingrab (floating)’
2009

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Tacita Deam. 'T & I' (Tristan & Isolde) 2006

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Tacita Dean
‘T & I’ (Tristan & Isolde)
2006

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Tacita Dean. 'Banewl' 1999

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Tacita Dean
‘Totality’
16mm colour film
2000

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“The subjects are connected to the medium I use. It’s all about light and time and phenomena to some extent, like a rainbow or a gust of wind or even an eclipse or a green ray, things like that. And this is the language of light. It’s not the language of binary pixels.”

Tacita Dean1

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“The value of her [Dean’s] work, writes Winterson, is one of the virtues of art itself: it is an intervention into the rush of everyday life, holding up time and space for contemplation.”

Jeanette Winterson2

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old 16mm projector

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16mm film projector used by Tacita Dean to project ‘Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’

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Tacita Dean. ‘Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films)’ 2007

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Tacita Dean. ‘Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films)’ 2007

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Tacita Dean. ‘Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films)’ 2007

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Tacita Dean. ‘Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films)’ 2007

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Tacita Dean
‘Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films)’
2007

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This is a dense, ‘thick’ exhibition by Tacita Dean at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne that rewards repeat viewing. The theatricality of each work and the theatricality of the journey through ACCA’s dimmed galleries (an excellent installation of the work!) makes for an engrossing exhibition as Dean explores the minutiae of memory and the significance of insignificant events: a contemplation on the space, time and materiality of the everyday.

The exhibition starts with 3 very large floating rocks (‘Grobsteingrab (floating)’, ‘Hunengrab (floating)’ and ‘Riesenbelt (floating)’ all 2009) printed on multiple pieces of photographic paper, the surrounds of the rocks painted out with matt black blackboard paint (see image at top of this posting). The rocks look like mountain massif and are printed at different levels to each other; they move up and down, earthed in the sense that the viewer feels their heavy weight but also buoyant in their surface shininess, seeming to float into the void. The textuality of the rocks is incredible, the suspension of the rocks fragmented by the fact that they are printed on multiple pieces of photographic paper, the edges of the paper curling up to dislocate the unity of form.

Opposite is the large multi-panelled ‘T + I (Tristan + Isolde)’, a tour de force of Romantic landscape meets mythological journey (see image second from top). Sunshine searing through cloud lights the 25 Turneresque black and white gravure panels that feature an inlet, fjord and ravine. Semi-legible words dot the landscape, reflecting on the legendary story: ‘undergrowth’, ‘dispute’, ‘brightening up’, ‘BLIND FOLLY’ and ‘the union involved in a manifestation(?)’ for example. Each panel is beautifully rendered and a joy to behold – my friend and I stood transfixed, examining each panel in minute detail, trying to work out the significance and relation between the writing and image. As with most of the work in the exhibition the piece engages the viewer in a dialogue between reality, story and memory, between light, space, time and phenomena.

After the small rear projected film ‘Totality’ (2000) that shows the extraordinary event of a total eclipse of the sun by the moon for a period of two minutes and six seconds the viewer takes a short darkened passage to experience the major installation in the exhibition ‘Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films)’ 2007 (see images above).
The first thing you see is one image projected onto a small suspended screen, the rest of the installation blocked by a short gallery wall to the right. The dancer Merce Cunningham sits in studious calm and observes us. This in itself is magical but as we round the corner other screens of different sizes and heights come into view, all portraying Cunningham’s dance studio and him sitting in it from different angles, heights and distances (including close-ups of Cunningham himself). In the six screen projection the performances of Cunningham are sometimes in synch, sometimes not. The director Trevor Carlson, holding a stop watch, times the 3 movements of Cage’s musical piece 4’33” and directs Cunningham to change position at the end of every movement; his hands move, he crosses his legs and the performance continues.
The work is projected into the sculptural space using old 16mm film projectors and their sound mixes with the studied silence of the Cage work and white noise. The mirrors in the studio make spaces of infinite recess, showing us the director with the stop watch, the windows, the floor, the markings of the dancers hands on the mirrror’s surface adding another echo of past presences. As a viewer their seems to be an ‘openness’ around as you are pulled into a spatial and sound vortex, a phenomena that transcends normal spatio-temporal dimensionality. As people pass through the installation their shadows fall on the screens and become part of the work adding to the multi-layered feeling of the work. This is sensational stuff – you feel that you transcend reality itself as you observe and become immersed within this amazing work – almost as though space and time had split apart at the seams and you are left hanging, suspended in mid-air.

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Tacita Dean. 'Darmstädter Werkblock [Still]' 2007

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Tacita Dean
‘Darmstädter Werkblock [Still]’
16mm colour film, optical sound
18 minutes, continuous loop
2007

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Tacita Dean. 'Michael Hamburger' 2007

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Tacita Dean
‘Michael Hamburger [Still]’
16mm colour anamorphic, optical sound
28 minutes
2007

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The next two films are my favourite pieces in the exhibition. ‘Darmstädter Werkblock’ (2007) shows us the significance of insignificant markings – edges and intersections, textures, blends and bleeds, the minutiae of existence in the markings on the fabric of an internal wall (see photograph above). Here is light, wood panelling, texture and again the sound of the whirring of the film projector. Usually I am not a fan of this kind of work having seen enough ‘Dead Pan’ photography and photography of empty yet supposedly important spaces in my life, but here Dean’s film makes the experience come alive and actually mean something. Her work transcends the subject matter – and matter is at the point where these interstitial spaces have been marked by the abstract signs of human existence that constantly surround us.

In ‘Michael Hamburger’ (2007) Dean reaches the empito-me of these personal narratives that inhabit everyday life. Film of an orchard with wind rustling through the trees, clouds drifting across the sky, rotting apples on the branches, fallen fruit on the ground and a clearing with a man looking up at the trees is accompanied by the industrial sounds of clicks and pops like that of an old radio (see photograph above). The swirling sound of the wind surrounds you in the darkened gallery space much as the panoramic screen of the projection seems to enfold you. The scene swaps to an interior of a house and shows the man, has face mainly in shadow, the film focusing on the different type of apples in front of him or on the aged wrinkles of his hands holding the apples. He talks intelligently and knowingly about the different types of apples and their rarity and qualities. This is Michael Hamburger (now dead which adds poignancy to the film) – poet, critic, memoirist and academic notable for his translations of the work of W. G. Sebald, one of Tacita Dean’s main influences (and also an author that I love dearly).
One can see echoes of Sebald’s work in that of Tacita Dean  – the personal narratives accompanied by mythical and historical stories and pictures. The tactility of Hamburger’s voice and hands, his caressing of the apples with the summary justice of the tossing away of rotten apples to stop them ruining the rest of the crop is arresting and holds you transfixed. Old varieties and old hands mixed with the old technology of film make for a nostalgic combination. As John Matthews of ArtKritique has so insightfully observed in his review of this work Dean implicitly understands how objects can be elegies for fleeting lives.

After this work one should have a break – go to the front of the gallery and have a coffee and relax because this is an exhausting show!

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The rest of the exhibition tends to tail off slightly, with less engaging but still interesting works.

In ‘Die Regimentstochter’ (2005) (the name of a Donizetti opera) Dean uses a pile of 36 found and mutilated old opera and theatre programs from the 1930s and 1940s such as Staats Theatre, Berlin, Der Tanz and Deutsche Openhaus. These programs have had portions of their front covers roughly but clinically cut to reveal the inner pages beneath (see image below) and Dean uses them to comment on the politicisation of culture in Berlin’s mid-20th century history. The top of a powdered wigged head or the face of Beethoven has been revealed when the title of the work has been neatly removed along with something else:

“Each programme gives a tantalising glimpse of a title or a face through a small window cut into the embossed cover; we recognise Beethoven, Rossini, the face of a singer perhaps. When and by whom this incision in the cover was made, very neatly one might add, even more why these disfigured programmes were kept remains a mystery. A swift search in an archive would easily show what has been removed; most likely an embossed swastika, for these performances all happened during the Third Reich. Why they were removed is left to our imaginations; perhaps an avid theatre-goer livid at the co-option of culture by the regime, perhaps someone afraid they might be misinterpreted as fascist memorabilia, while wishing to retain the memories these performances triggered.”3

High up on a wall opposite these programs is the film ‘Palast’ (2004) in which Dean reflects Berlin’s divided history in the jaded façade of the once iconic Palast, the government building of the former German Democratic Republic.4 Shards of light hit glass and reflections are fractured in their gridded panes (see images below). A bird is seen flying, viewed through the window and we see the stains on that window but in this film things feel a bit forced. Unlike the earlier ‘Darmstädter Werkblock’ there is little magic here.

Again the minutiae of existence is examined in the final two films ‘Noir et Blanc’ (2006), made on the last 5 rolls of Dean’s black and white double-sided 16mm film stock and ‘Kodak’ (2006), both made at the Kodak factory in Chalon-sur-Saône before it closed it’s film production facilities (see images below). With the demise of the medium that she feels closest to Dean sought permission to film at the factory itself and both films examine that medium by turning it on itself.

“Dean became acutely aware of the threat to her chosen medium when she was unable to obtain standard 16mm black-and-white film for her camera. Upon discovering that the Kodak factory in Chalon-sur-Saône, France, was closing its film production facility, Dean obtained permission to document the manufacture of film at the factory, where cameras have never before been invited. The resulting rear-screen projection ‘Noir et Blanc’, filmed on the final five rolls Dean acquired, turns the medium on itself. The 44-minute-long work ‘Kodak’ constitutes a contemplative elegy for the approaching demise of a medium specific to Dean’s own practice. Kodak’s narrative follows the making of celluloid as it runs through several miles of machinery and explores the abandoned corners of the factory. On the day of filming, the factory also ran a test through the system with brown paper, providing a rare opportunity to see the facilities fully illuminated, without the darkness needed to prevent exposure, and underscoring the luster of the celluloid as the dull brown strips contrast with the luminous, transparent polyester.”5

As writer Tony Lloyd has commented, “The film “Kodak” documenting the manufacturing of film was as solemn and reverent as a Catholic mass and equally as dull and inexplicable.”6 I wouldn’t go that far but by the end of the exhibition the nostalgia for old technologies, the brown paper programs and the film strip as relic were starting to wear a bit thin, like the sprockets of an old film camera failing to take up the film.

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At her best Tacita Dean is a fantastic artist whose work examines the measure of things, the vibrations of spirit in the FLUX of experience. Her work has a trance-like quality that is heavy with nostalgia and memory and reflects the machine-ations of contemporary life. In her languorous (thankyou Tony Lloyd for that word, so appropriate I had to use it!) and dense work Dean teases out the significance of insignificant actions/events and imparts meaning and life to them. This is no small achievement!

As an exhibition this is an intense and moving experience. Go, take your time and enjoy!

Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Tacita Dean. 'Die Regimentstochter' 2005

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Tacita Dean
‘Die Regimentstochter’
2005

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Tacita Dean. 'Palast' 2004

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Tacita Dean. 'Palast' 2004

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Tacita Dean. Two stills from the film ‘Palast’
2004

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“A major survey of work by the internationally acclaimed British artist Tacita Dean will open at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) on June 6th, 2009.

In a great coup for Melbourne, fourteen recent projects by this celebrated contemporary artist will come together in what is the largest survey of Dean’s work to ever be shown outside of Europe.

Tacita Dean is one of Britain’s most accomplished and celebrated contemporary artists. She won the New York Guggenheim’s Hugo Boss award in 2007, was a Turner Prize nominee in 1998, and has had numerous solo exhibitions in Europe – at the Schaulager in Basel, DIA Beacon in New York, the de Pont Museum in the Netherlands, the Tate Britain, UK, the Musee d’art Moderne in Paris, France and the Villa Oppenheim in Berlin, to mention just a few.

Dean was also recently given the highly prestigious title of Royal Academician, awarded sparingly to alumni’s of the revered London art school who have achieved greatness in their work.

Tacita Dean was born in Canterbury in 1965, and moved to Berlin in 2000 after being awarded a DAAD residency. Early works focused on the sea – most famously she explored the tragic maritime misadventures of amateur English sailor Donald Crowhurst. Since moving to Berlin she has devoted her attention to the architecture and cultural history of Germany, a recurring theme also being the salvaging, saving and collecting of things lost. Many of her works rest on the icons of modernism, heroic failures and forgotten utopian ideals.

Dean is best known for her work with 16mm film, although she also works with photography, print and drawing. The qualities of filmmaking itself play a central role in her works – which hauntingly capture the passing of time, space and the mysteries of the natural world.

Her work occupies a place between fact and fiction. As British author Jeanette Winterson says, “Her genius, with her slow, steady, held frames, is to allow the viewer to dream; to enter without hurry, without expectation, and to accept, as we do in a dream, a different experience of time, and a different relationship to everyday objects.”

Included in this exhibition is Dean’s revered film installation, ‘Merce Cunningham Performs STILLNESS (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007, which was recently presented at the DIA Beacon in New York, and the 2007 work Michael Hamburger. Two new wall-based works especially created for this exclusive ACCA exhibition will also feature.

Dean is also known for creating ‘asides’ – totally absorbing texts on the subjects explored in her work. She will contribute texts on all the projects included in the exhibition for a catalogue which will be published to coincide with this unique ACCA survey.

The exhibition has been curated by ACCA’s Artistic Director, Juliana Engberg and follows an early 2002 exhibition of Dean’s work curated by Engberg for the Melbourne International Arts Festival.

“Tacita’s works continue to enthral and inspire me. Not only has she rescued relics from history and restored them with a visual dignity and affection in her wonderful film projects, but increasingly she rescues the traditional art forms of drawing, print making, painting, photography and film from a digital abyss,” says Juliana Engberg. “Her works have a truth and quiddity about them, but also a playful artifice and technical tactic to bring out the tactile and material in all she deals with. Tacita is a sublime story-teller, a narrator of odysseys and attempts. She is a true artist sojourner.

In this selection of works made since 2004 we grasp the breadth of her practice and her pursuit of the time-honoured landscape, portrait and abstract genres,” she says.”

Text from the press release from the ACCA website

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Tacita Dean. 'Noir et Blanc [Still]' 2006

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Tacita Dean
‘Noir et Blanc [Still]’
16mm black-and-white Kodak film
2006

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Tacita Dean. 'Kodak' 2006

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Tacita Dean
‘Kodak’
16mm colour and b/w film optical sound
44 minutes loop system
2006

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Australia Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)

111 Sturt Street
Southbank 
Victoria 3006
Australia
03 9697 9999

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Friday 10am – 5pm
Weekends & Public Holidays 11am – 6pm
Monday by appointment 
Open all public holidays except Christmas Day and Good Friday

ACCA website

Tacita Dean website

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1. Dean, Tacita quoted in Bunbury, Stephen.“Still Lives,” in The Age. Melbourne: Fairfax Publishing, A2 section, Saturday June 6th, 2009. p.20.

2. Winterson, Jeanette, quoted in Bunbury, Stephen.“Still Lives,” in The Age. Melbourne: Fairfax Publishing, A2 section, Saturday June 6th, 2009. p.20.

3. Anonymous. Product synopsis from ‘Tacita Dean Die Regimentstochter’ [Paperback] on the Amazon website [Online] Cited 19/07/2009.

4. Anonymous. Description of ‘Tacita Dean: ‘Palast” on the Tate St. Ives website [Online] Cited 19/07/2009.

5. Anonymous. ‘The Hugo Boss Prize: Tacita Dean’ on the Guggenheim Museum website [Online] Cited 19/07/2009.

6. Lloyd, Tony. ‘Opnion: Tacita Dean at ACCA’ on ArtInfo.com.au [Online] Cited 19/07/2009.

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08
Jul
09

Review: ‘Morphed’ by Emma Davies at Craft Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 19th June – 25th July, 2009

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Emma Davies. 'Sekai' (be humorous') 2009

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Emma Davies
‘Sekai’ (meaning ‘be humorous’)
2009

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Emma Davies. 'Tariro' (means 'hope') 2009

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Emma Davies
‘Tariro’ (means ‘hope’)
2009

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'Rutendo' (detail - means 'faith') 2009

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Emma Davies
‘Rutendo’ (detail – means ‘faith’)
2009

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A stimulating exhibition by Emma Davies at Craft Victoria of polypropylene industrial netting and packaging that has been heated, moulded, sculpted and literally morphed into these fantastical sculptures, inspired by the artist’s experiences when visiting Johannesburg in South Africa as part of the South Project. Davies evokes the mysterious and the bizarre in her figures, making the commonplace into something uncommon, taking her themes from the relics of bush medicine present in the street markets: the medicine market of Johannesburg full of dried animal bones, skulls, skins and bottles of alchemistic objects.

Despite their comforting South African names (translated into English as ‘hope’, ‘faith’, ‘quiet, tranquil’, ‘lady’, ‘chief’, ‘prince’ for example) these extremely individual figurative ‘presences’ have a powerful melancholic affect on the viewer. Their elongated long legged and armed, no necked forms create dark eyeless creatures that crouch in rusted boxes or sit on wooden posts with their legs and arms hanging, folded. They seem lonely and sad despite their titles, perhaps reflecting the harsh realities of a life of poverty on the streets of Soweto.
Two figures on wooden blocks seem to walk aimlessly, placed on large rough industrial tables with huge wheels while another figure sits up a rusted ladder propped against the wall. A group of figures are clustered together on top of large wooden posts of different heights, some with arms round each other for comfort, others with black or red feathers sprouting from shoulders, legs or wearing a red feathered skirt. These creatures create a marvellous group of contemplative wandering minstrels while behind them their eerie shadows fall on the gallery wall.

The crystalline-like nature to the surface of the creatures, like sparkling coal, reminds me of the work of William Kentridge, his white industrial protagonist Felix haunted by images of black workers deep underground mining coal (see Mine (1991) where his coffee plunger goes down into the ground through the bodies of black people). Some of the figures bat like ears also bring to mind the work of Francisco de Goya and specifically his work ‘Los Caprichos’ (The Whims), plate 43 from the series of 80 etchings published in 1799 titled ‘The Dream of Reason Produces Monsters’. The artist described the collection as an exposé of “the innumerable foibles and follies to be found in any civilized society, and from the common prejudices and deceitful practices which custom, ignorance, or self-interest have made usual.”1

As Goya began to sympathize with the suffering of the peasants so Davies seems to have been transformed by what she saw around her during her visit, trying to make sense of a foreign culture, dreaming the sleep of reason but surrounded and invaded by a world in which the natural and unnatural has fused and morphed.

I really liked this exhibition and the presence of these figures. I am obviously not alone as the show is almost sold out. A visit to these disturbing, enfolding creatures is recommended.

Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Francisco de Goya. 'Los Caprichos', plate 43 from the series 'El sueño de la razón produce monstros' 1799

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Francisco de Goya
‘Los Caprichos’ plate 43 from the series ‘El sueño de la razón produce monstros’
1799

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Emma Davies. 'Zola' (detail - means 'quiet, tranquil') 2009

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Emma Davies
‘Zola’ (detail – means ‘quiet, tranquil’)
2009

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L-R-7-8-9-10-11-12-small

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Emma Davies
Group with from left to right  ‘Enitan’ (person of story), ‘Ntombi’ (lady), ‘Kgosi’ (chief), ‘Nkosana’ (prince), ‘Lucky’ and ‘Alaba’ (second child after twins)
2009

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Emma Davies. 'Nkosana' (detail - means 'prince') 2009

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Emma Davies
‘Nkosana’ (detail – means ‘prince’)
2009

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Craft Victoria
31 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Victoria 3000

Opening hours: Monday 12 – 5pm, Tues – Sat 10 – 5pm

Craft Victoria website

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All photographs courtesy of Craft Victoria (thankyou Amy Brand!) and taken by their photographer Alexia Skok.

1. Quotation from Future Directed website

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12
Apr
09

Review: ‘New 09’ at Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 17th March – 17th May 2009

 

ACCA’s annual commissions exhibition – this year curated by Charlotte Day with new works from eight contemporary Australian artists including Justine Khamara, Brodie Ellis, Marco Fusinato, Simon Yates, Matthew Griffin, Benjamin Armstrong and Pat Foster and Jen Berean.

 

Simon Yates. 'Rhabdomancy' 2009

 

Simon Yates
‘Rhabdomancy’
tissue paper, wood, fishing rods, tape, string, electrical components, helium balloons dimensions variable
2009

 

“That’s what art is, he said, the story of a life in all its particularity. It’s the only thing that really is particular and personal. It’s the expression and, at the same time, the fabric of the particular. And what do you mean by the fabric of the particular? I asked, supposing he would answer: Art. I was also thinking, indulgently, that we were pretty drunk already and that it was time to go home. But my friend said: What I mean is the secret story … The secret story is the one we’ll never know, although we’re living it from day to day, thinking we’re alive, thinking we’ve got it all under control and the stuff we overlook doesn’t matter. But every damn thing matters! It’s just that we don’t realize. We tell ourselves that art runs on one track and life, our lives, on another, we don’t even realize that’s a lie.”

From the story “Dentist” from the book ‘Last Evenings on Earth’ by Roberto Bolaño 1

 

 

The curator Charlotte Day has assembled an interesting selection of artists for ‘New 09′ at ACCA, Melbourne. It is an exhibition whose ‘presences’ challenge through dark and light, sound and light, contemplation and silence. The journey is one of here and now moments that transport the viewer to states of being that address the fabric of the particular: doubt, anxiety and enlightenment crowd every corner. The particularities of the experience (material, social, psychological and imaginative) impinge on the viewers interior states of being transcending the very physicality and symbolic realism of the works.2

On entering the gallery you are greeted by Simon Yates self-propelled figures that make up the work ‘Rhabdomancy’ (2009, above). Suspended, tethered, floating just above the floor the figures move eerily about the entrance to the gallery, startling people who have not seen them move before. They stand silent witness, a simulation of self in tissue paper searching for meaning by using a dowsing rod. The word rhabdomancy has as one of it’s meanings ‘the art or gift of prophecy (or the pretense of prophecy) by supernatural means’. Here the figures are divining and divination rolled into one: grounded they seek release through the balloons but through augury they become an omen or portent from which the future is foretold.

 

Justine Khamara. 'Dilated Concentrations' 2009

 

Justine Khamara. 'Dilated Concentrations' 2009

 

Justine Khamara. 'Dilated Concentrations' 2009

 

Justine Khamara. 'Dilated Concentrations' 2009

 

Justine Khamara
‘Dilated Concentrations’
UV print on laster cut stainless steel
2009

 

“… cutting and slicing in order to see them better, willing them into three dimensions; an attempt to cheat death, or rather, to ward off forgetting of them as they are/were and as I was when the work was made.”

Justine Khamara

 

In the first gallery, a very minimal installation of two fractured faces stare out at you from the wall, my favourite work of the show. These are unsettling faces, protruding towards you like some topographical map, one eyes screwed shut the other beadily following you as you walk around the gallery space. Here the images of brother and sister presence anterior, already formed subjects not through memory (as photographs normally do) but through the insistence of the their multiple here and now planes of existence. Rather than ‘forgetting’ the images authenticate their identity through their ongoing presence in an ever renewing present.3 Their dissection of reality, the affirmation of their presence (not the photographic absence of a lost subject) embodies their secret story on the viewer told through psychological and imaginative processes: how do they make me feel – about my life, my death and being, here, now.

The pathos of the show is continued with the next work ‘Noosphere’ (2008) by Brodie Ellis (the noosphere is best described as a sort of ‘collective consciousness’ of human-beings).4 In this work a video above the clouds is projected onto a circular shape on the ceiling in a darkened room. The emotional and the imaginative impact of the message on the audience is again disorientating and immediate. The images look across the clouds to vistas of setting suns, look down on the clouds and the sea and land below. The images first move one way and then another, disorientating the viewer and changing their perspective of the earth; these are alien views of the earth accompanied by heart beat like ambient music. The perspective of the circle also changes depending on where the viewer stands like some anamorphic distortion of reality. On a stand a beaded yoke for a horse adds to the metaphorical alllegory of the installation.

In the next gallery is the literal climax to the exhibition, Marco Fusinato’s ‘Aetheric Plexus’ (2009). (Aether: medium through which light propagates; Plexus: in vertebrates, a plexus is an area where nerves branch and rejoin and is also a network of blood vessels).
Consisting of scaffolding that forms a cross and supports large numbers of silver spotlights with visible wiring and sound system the installation seems innocuous enough at first. Walking in front of the work produces no effect except to acknowledge the dull glow of red from the banks of dormant lights trained on the viewer. The interaction comes not in random fashion but when the viewer walks to the peripheries of the gallery corners triggering the work – suddenly you are are blasted with white light and the furious sound of white noise for about 15 seconds: I jumped half out of my skin! Totally disorientated as though one has been placed in a blast furnace or a heavenly irradiated crematorium one wonders what has just happened to you and it takes some time to reorientate oneself back in the afterlife of the here and now. Again the immediacy of the work, the particularities of the experience affect your interior states of being.

 

Benjamin Armstrong. 'Hold Everything Dear I' 2008

 

Benjamin Armstrong
‘Hold Everything Dear I’
2008

 

After a video installation by Matt Griffin you wander into the next gallery where two works by Benjamin Armstrong inhabit the floor of the gallery. And I do mean inhabit. Made of blown glass forms and wax coated tree branches the works have a strange affect on the psyche, to me seemingly emanations from the deep subconscious. Twin glass hemispheres of what look like a brain are surrounded by clasping synaptic nerve endings that support an egg like glass protusion – a thought bubble? a spirit emanation? These are wonderful contemplative but slightly disturbing objects that have coalesced into shape only in another form to melt and disappear: molten glass and melted wax dissipating the very form of our existence.

 

Pat Foster and Jen Berean. 'Untitled’ from the series ‘The Doing and Undoing of Things’ 2009

 

Pat Foster and Jen Berean
‘Untitled’ from the series ‘The Doing and Undoing of Things’
aluminium, safety glass, steel cable
2009

 

Finally we come to the three part installation by Pat Foster and Jen Berean (above). On the right of the photograph you can see three aluminium and glass doors, closed, sealed leading to another gallery. What you can’t see in the photograph is the three pieces of gaffer tape stretched across the glass doors, like they do on the building sites of new homes. No entry here. Above your head is a suspended matrix of aluminium and glass with some of the glass planes smashed.

 

Pat Foster and Jen Berean. 'Untitled’ from the series ‘The Doing and Undoing of Things’ 2009

 

Pat Foster and Jen Berean
‘Untitled’ from the series ‘The Doing and Undoing of Things’ (detail)
aluminium, safety glass, steel cable
2009

 

Clean, clinical, safe but smashed, secure but threatening the matrix presses down on the viewer. It reminded me of the vertical standing shards of the World Trade Centre set horizontal suspended overhead. Only the steel cable seemed to ruin the illusion and seemed out of place with the work. It would have been more successful if the matrix was somehow suspended with fewer tethers to increase the sense of downward pressure.
Finally you sit on the aluminium benches and contemplate in silence all that has come before and wonder what just hit you in a tidal wave of feelings, immediacies and emotions. The Doing and Undoing of Things.

“A work of art reminds you of who you are now” 

Kepesh from the film ‘Elegy’

 

An interesting journey then, one to provoke thought and emotion.

The fabric of the particular. The pathos of the art-iculate.

My only reservations are about the presence, the immediacy, the surface of it all. How persistent will these stories be? Will the work sustain pertinent inquiry above and beyond the here and now, the shock and awe. Or will it be like a meal one eats and then finds one is full but empty at the same time. A journey of smoke and mirrors.

M Bunyan

 

 

Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)

111 Sturt Street
Southbank 
Victoria 3006
Australia

Opening hours:
Tues – Fri 10 – 5pm

ACCA website

 

1. Bolano, Robert. Last Evenings on Earth. New Directions, 2007. Available on Amazon.

2. Blair, French. The Artist, The Body. [Online] Cited on 12/04/2009 at
 www.cacsa.org.au/cvapsa/2006/3_angels/angels_cat.pdf

3. Ibid.,

4. ”For Teilhard, the noosphere is best described as a sort of ‘collective consciousness’ of human-beings. It emerges from the interaction of human minds. The noosphere has grown in step with the organization of the human mass in relation to itself as it populates the earth. As mankind organizes itself in more complex social networks, the higher the noosphere will grow in awareness.”

From the concept of Nooshpere on Wikipedia.

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03
Apr
09

Around the galleries: Derek O’Connor at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Peter Cole ‘Elements + Memories’ at John Buckley Gallery, Melbourne

 

In a mad dash around town I managed to see the Derek O’Connor and Peter Cole exhibitions before they finished and also the Siri Hayes ‘En Plein Air’ exhibition of photographs at Gallerysmith (see next post).

 

Derek O’Connor paintings at Karen Woodbury Gallery – finishes April 4th 2009

An intense show of small oil paintings that really draw you into their composition. They are paintings of tremendous energy and layering, the surface being in a constant state of flux. The paintings become metaphors for the bodies existence in space, corporeal landscapes full of sensation ‘neither rational nor cerebral.’ They become a mediation and a meditation upon life itself  – complex, convulsive, concentrated energy that focuses the viewers attention so that they cannot look away.

 

Derek O'Connor. 'Horizontal' 2008

 

Derek O’Connor
‘Horizontal’
2008

 

Derek O'Connor. 'Horizontal' 2008

 

Derek O’Connor
‘Horizontal’
2008

 

“Working with his tools of palette knives and brushes, he sets into motion a train of repetitions, of speeds and slowness1 applying and scrapping paint away in an attempt to move from a position of not knowing towards knowing. He brings … an intense physical and mental awareness to the rhythms of his own movements, his own body. At such moments time seems to expand – to become infinite.

In erasing from his project the world of appearances, Derek O’Connor embraces something else – the realm of ‘sensation’. Sensation is an open painterly expression which resists definition. The Modernist painter Paul Cezanne described sensation as a “logic of the senses” which is neither rational nor cerebral2 … For Derek, the subject of his painting appears to be the act of making itself. Here subject and object collapse (folding into itself) so that sensation is experienced through the materiality of paint, via the movements of the artists’ body to affect the bodies of others.”

Paul Uhlmann from the catalogue essay

 

Derek O' Connor. 'Irregular' 2008

 

Derek O’Connor
‘Irregular’
2008

 

Karen Woodbury Gallery
4 Albert Street
RICHMOND VIC 3121
AUSTRALIA

Gallery Opening Hours Wed-Sat 11-5

Karen Woodbury Gallery website

 

1. Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. A Thousand Plateaus. London: Continuum, 1987, pp.292-300.

2. Deleuze, G. The Logic of Sensation. London: Continuum, 2003, p.42.

 

 

Peter Cole ‘Elements + Memories’ at John Buckley Gallery 18th March – 9th April 2009 

 

“In Peter D Cole’s stunning and ambitious exhibition Elements + Memories he creates a playful interactive work titled Elemental Landscape. Utilising his highly stylised modernist and reductionist technique – influenced at an early age by studies of Miro and Calder – Cole presents 64 small sculptural pieces of varying colour and shape of which the audience is encouraged to create their own compositions. Cole also presents three large-scale sculptures drawing on memories of his times in Japan.

Cole’s distinct skill of distilling the landscape and architecture into separate elements and symbols is in itself evocative of traditional minimal Japanese aesthetic and he has created a series of works which draw upon Japanese interiors and street scapes and the gardens of the Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom festival).”

Text from John Buckley Gallery website

 

Peter Cole. 'Elements + Memories' installation views at John Buckley Gallery, Melbourne

 

Peter Cole
‘Elements + Memories’ installation views at John Buckley Gallery, Melbourne (first and second image)

‘Bar 4 – Shibuya’ 2009 (third image)

‘Garden – Yoyogi’ 2009 (fourth image)

 

A decidedly underwhelming show by Peter Cole at John Buckley Gallery only redeemed by the amazing ‘Elemental Landscape’ series of 64 small sculptural pieces displayed as a frieze (see below). The large free standing sculptural works fail to impress with their minimalist Ikea-esque cut out style – especially when viewed from the rear of the work. One would have thought that a sculptor, making several free standing pieces that are going to be walked around in a gallery space, would have designed the work to be viewed ‘in the round’. As it is all the perfection of the clinical front of the works is undone by brackets and screws holding the whole thing together when viewed from the flattened rump. This is pretty, surface work that lacks substance and insight, pretty shapes and cut outs and targets that allude to memory but are just stylised glossy magazine representations of it.

 

Peter Cole. 'Elemental Landscape' 2009

Peter Cole. 'Elemental Landscape' 2009

Peter Cole. 'Elemental Landscape' 2009

Peter Cole. 'Elemental Landscape' 2009

 

Peter Cole
‘Elemental Landscape’
2009

 

On the other hand the ‘Elemental Landscape’ series of sculptures is just magical – playful, ever inventive, wonderfully contemporary, beautifully resolved in concept and manufacture, in their use and bending of geometric shapes, the sculptures really are fantastic when seen ‘in situ’ as a whole. Visit the exhibition just to see this work – buy some pieces and make your own elemental landscape!

 

 

John Buckley Gallery

8 Albert St, Richmond VIC 3121 Australia
Gallery hours: 11 – 5 pm, Wednesday – Saturday

John Buckley Gallery website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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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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