Posts Tagged ‘installation

26
Aug
09

Review: ‘Symmetrical Spirit Guides and Fractal Alchemy’ by Carl Scrase at John Buckley Gallery, Richmond, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 19th August – 5th September 2009

 

Carl Scrase 'Fractal Alchemy' installation view 2009

 

Carl Scrase (Australian, b. 1983)
Fractal Alchemy installation view
2009

 

 

This is a slight exhibition of collages and constructions by Carl Scrase at John Buckley Gallery, Melbourne. Ironically, given the nature of the catalogue essay by Tai Snaith (see below) that waxes lyrical about the mystery and magic of symmetry, synchronicity and spirit, this exhibition lacks the depth of purpose needed to address spiritual elements that are the very basis of human existence.

The biomorphic forms that go to make up the work Fractal Alchemy (2009) fair better in this regard, the various size bull dog clips offering nonrepresentational patterns that resemble living organisms and genetic structures in shape and appearance. At their best these elemental shapes start to transcend form and function to become something else: an instinctive and intuitive connection to the inherent fold in the universe, like the embedded pattern, the DNA template in a blank piece of paper before the folding of the origami model. Unfortunately the wonder of this piece is short-lived. Unlike the ever magical repetition of fractal geometry with its inherent iteration of forms that constantly a/maze, here the shapes are not stretched far enough, the exposition not grounded in broken or fractured forms that invite alchemical awareness in the viewer.

The collages are less successful in this mystery project. Made from cut-up images from magazines these symmetrical constructions lack spiritual presence. Like the aspired to symmetrical beauty of a human face it is, paradoxically, the irregularities of the human face that are their most attractive feature – our individuality. In the photographic stereoscopes of Victorian landscapes it is the difference between the left and right image that adds three-dimensional depth in the eye of the viewer, that transports them to other places, other worlds. In the collages of  Picasso it is the irregularities that also transport the viewer into a hypertextural, hypertextual world of wonder. Scrase’s collages on the other hand, are flat, rigidly symmetrical life-less things that belie their stated aim – to be kaleidoscopic spirit guides in search of a pattern for inner peace. Although some of their forms are attractive their is no wonder, no my-story to be gleaned here.

Overall the work lacks the gravitas and sense of fun in and through the act of creation that the concepts require: to see things clearly and to ground this visualisation in objects that transcend ‘now’ and extend spirit into the eternal. These constructions do not stand as ‘equivalents’ for other states of consciousness, of being-in-the-world, nor do they offer a re-velatio where they open up ‘poetic spaces’ in which the alienation and opposition of inside and outside, of objectivity and subjectivity are seen to be disconnected. The Japanese ‘ma’, the interval which gives substance to the whole, is missing.

To express deep inner emotions and connection to spirit requires utmost focus on their expression-in-the-world, a releasement from ego and a layering of materials and form that transport the object and viewer into an’other’ plane of existence. Unfortunately this work falls short of this state of no-desire.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to John Buckley Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting.

 

Carl Scrase. 'Fractal Alchemy' 2009

 

Carl Scrase (Australian, b. 1983)
Fractal Alchemy installation view
2009

 

Carl Scrase. 'Fractal Alchemy' (detail) 2009

 

Carl Scrase (Australian, b. 1983)
Fractal Alchemy (detail)
2009

 

Carl Scrase. 'Fractal Alchemy' (detail) 2009

 

Carl Scrase (Australian, b. 1983)
Fractal Alchemy (detail)
2009

 

Carl Scrase. 'Fractal Alchemy' (detail) 2009

 

Carl Scrase (Australian, b. 1983)
Fractal Alchemy (detail)
2009

 

Carl Scrase. 'Fractal Alchemy' (detail) 2009

 

Carl Scrase (Australian, b. 1983)
Fractal Alchemy (detail)
2009

 

Carl Scrase. 'Fractal Alchemy' (detail) 2009

 

Carl Scrase (Australian, b. 1983)
Fractal Alchemy (detail)
2009

 

 

“Carl Scrase is a perfect example of an artist marking the turn of a tide. At this distinct ebb of the ravenous, rampant seas of consumption and production we’ve been surfing for the past couple of hundred years and with the onset of the new flow, towards the riptide of Mayan prophesies of fast approaching 2012, Carl is on it, or should I say in it. And he’s splashing around.

This new generation of creative humans (to which Carl belongs) are not really concerned with how much money, time or status something is worth, or what kind of flashy object the human next to them owns. They seem to be more interested in what kind of wisdom can be procured, how many friends can be found and how a thing can be recycled or was born from something else. It is all about a search for the spirit, the feeling. Moreover, what it means. We are getting sick of the bland smog of consumerism, the stench of blatant big business and seem to be looking for escape pointers, for enlightenment, for answers and for CHANGE.

Carl’s work suggests his role as an artist is almost akin to a kind of medium slash alchemist – a self-proclaimed, new-age, anonymous shaman of sorts. Big boots to fill indeed, but don’t worry, its not like Carl is about to declare himself a Secret Chief and start welcoming in the new Golden Dawn or reading your tarot at openings. Nor is he concerned with the alchemical properties and behaviour of inorganic compounds or scientific explanations or measurements of the planets. His interest lies in noticing the sparkling mist of questions surrounding these things. The mystery and magic of how these marvels, such as symmetry and synchronicity occur in nature and how we can possibly learn from them and experience them in our day-to-day lives.

A true spiritualist in an atheist age, Carl uses his work as a kind of cipher for sorting his beliefs via a material creative process. His collages begin with found images from magazines, chosen relatively arbitrarily. His sculptures begin in a similar fashion with found objects, usually of the mundane or mass produced variety. It may be that they are all parts of images of human faces or just a complete add for a pair of Crocs or a hundred boxes of bull dog clips. Starting with the colour and then cutting the shape, or with the objects and then finding their natural function- almost as if listening to an instinctive, visual Ouija board somewhere in his subconscious. Carl then arranges the pieces through play. Similar to the way that you need to relax your eyes to receive the effects of a Magic Eye picture (remember them?), Carl relaxes his mind in order to let his collages find their final composition. This allows a kind of subconscious code to come forward, thus acting as both a reflection of his thoughts but also a kind of guide or suggestion for other’s thoughts, and perhaps something deeper that we don’t understand just yet.

I remember as a child I found an empty plastic tubular casing of a biro pen whilst walking along the beach one day. It had been washed and scratched by the ocean and gave the pale blue, semi-translucent plastic a soft almost sparkly effect. I picked it up and instinctively looked through the tiny tunnel at the sun. The way the sunlight refracted through the plastic before reaching my retina made me think of a magical kaleidoscope and I immediately classified it as having ‘special powers’, granting it prime position in my pocket for months. It became a type of personal talisman or spirit guide.

Traditionally, in animist belief systems (such as Shinto and certain parts of Hinduism) sprits need either an object or a medium (ie, thunder, lightening, wind, animals, plants, etc) to be experienced or seen by humans. They need something else to exist in order to communicate with us. Carl’s images and objects seem to suggest or demonstrate this kind of medium as well as subtly questioning the message. In the same way that a child finds wonder in the changing symmetry of a Kaleidoscope before they even understand the science of the mirror involved, there is a wonder in these images and objects as soon as we encounter them. A wonder in creation, in ritual, in synchronicity and light. A wonder in life.

For Carl, the practice of Alchemy (and in this instance one might just as comfortably read Alchemy as Art) is ‘not the search for some magic potion’ but rather the ‘awareness that all life is eternal and the inner peace that comes from that realisation’. Just as we recognise similar patterns within nature, like the spiral formation of a shell or the layering of petals on a flower or the direction of the hair growing on a man’s scalp, we can notice these patterns on a spiritual and philosophical plane also. It doesn’t take a genius to recognise a similar search for meaning and self-realisation being revisited amongst some of the most interesting artists of our time, but let’s just hope that the search continues to prove that the process of making art itself is both the question and the answer.”

Tai Snaith
 2009

Text from the John Buckley website [Online] Cited 20/08/2009 no longer available online

 

Carl Scrase (Australian, b. 1983) 'Spiritguide 090501' 2009

 

Carl Scrase (Australian, b. 1983)
Spiritguide 090501
2009

 

Carl Scrase (Australian, b. 1983) 'Spiritguide 090624' 2009

 

Carl Scrase (Australian, b. 1983)
Spiritguide 090624
2009

 

Carl Scrase. 'Spiritguide 090504' 2009

 

Carl Scrase (Australian, b. 1983)
Spiritguide 090504
2009

 

Carl Scrase. 'Spiritguide 090509' 2009

 

Carl Scrase (Australian, b. 1983)
Spiritguide 090509
2009

 

Carl Scrase. 'Spiritguide 090520' 2009

 

Carl Scrase (Australian, b. 1983)
Spiritguide 090520
2009

 

Carl Scrase. 'Spiritguide 090601' 2009

 

Carl Scrase (Australian, b. 1983)
Spiritguide 090601
2009

 

Carl Scrase. 'Spiritguide 090617' 2009

 

Carl Scrase (Australian, b. 1983)
Spiritguide 090617
2009

 

 

John Buckley Gallery

This gallery is now closed.

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14
Mar
09

Exhibition: ‘Yayoi Kusama: Mirrored Rooms’ at Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Sydney

Exhibition dates: 24th February – 8th June 2009

 

 

 

“Discover the work of internationally acclaimed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama with this major exhibition that spans decades of her artistic practice.

Yayoi Kusama: Mirrored Years demonstrates the enduring force of Yayoi Kusama. Renowned early installations such as Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field (1965) along with recent immersive environments including Fireflies on the Water (2000) and Clouds (2008) provide insight into the creative energy of this extraordinary artist and her lifelong preoccupation with the perceptual, visual and physical worlds.

Working across different media and forms that include painting, collage, sculpture, installation and film, as well as performance and its documentation, Kusama creates works that reveal a fixation with repetition, pattern and accumulation. Describing herself as an “obsessive artist”, her work is intensely sensual, infused with autobiographical, psychological and sexual content.”

Text from the MCA website [Online] Cited 12/03/2009 (no longer available online)

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Many thanks to Ed Jansen for the use of his installation photographs of this exhibition at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam in 2008. See the whole set of his photographs on Flickr. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Yayoi Kusama. 'Infinity Mirror Room - Phalli's Field' 1965

 

Yayoi Kusama
Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field
1965

 

Yayoi Kusama. 'Infinity Mirror Room - Phalli's Field' 1965

Yayoi Kusama. 'Infinity Mirror Room - Phalli's Field' 1965

 

Yayoi Kusama
Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field
1965
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 2008

 

 

Rewind 1960

Visual hallucinations of polka dots since childhood have inspired the most significant works of this avant-gardist, who says creating art “saved” her during her lifelong battle with mental illness.

Interview by Natalie Reilly

This photograph [see above, top, for the image of her in 1965] shows a creative work that I made in New York in 1960. I was 31 years old at the time and my inspiration was the inundation and proliferation of polka dots. The work represents the evolution of my original formative process. Of all the pieces I have made, I like this one the best. It was my intention to create an interminable image by using mirrors and multiplying red polka dots.

I was born in Nagano Prefecture , a mountainous region in Japan. The youngest of four children, I have one sister and two brothers.

Since childhood, I have loved to paint pictures and create art forms. [Kusama has suffered from obsessive thinking and visual hallucinations since early childhood. the hallucinations – often of polka dots, or “nets” as she calls them – have become the inspiration for much of her work.] I did many artworks in great numbers in my younger days.

I went to Seattle in 1957 where I had my first solo exhibition in the US. I moved  to New York in 1958. Japan in those days was too conservative for avant-garde art to be accepted. [By 1961, Kusama was an active participant in the avant-garde movement in New York. Her art, which often included performance and controversial themes such as nudity and protests against the Vietnam War, drew acclaim for art critics and other artists such as Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg.]

I was deeply moved by the efforts the artists in New York were making then to develop a new history for art. I owe what I am today to many people in the art circles in Japan, the US and Europe who enthusiastically supported my art and gave me a boost into the international art scene.

Artists Georgia O’Keefe and Joseph Cornell were among the many friends who helped me, including Donald Judd and [writer and activist] Lucy Lippard who appreciated the originality of my art.  [In 1962 at the height of her success in New York, Kusama’s mental health began to suffer as she grew more paranoid about other artists copying her work. Late that year, she covered up all the windows in her studio in an attempt to “shut out the world”, and by November she was hospitalised after suffering a nervous breakdown.]

I came back to Japan in 1973, because my health had deteriorated. I wanted to create art in a quiet atmosphere. I once said, “if it were not for art, I would have killed myself a long time ago” an that’s still true. I do art in order to pursue my philosophy of life seeking truth in art.

Reilly, Natalie. “Rewind 1960,” in Boleyn, Alison (ed.,). Sunday Life: The Sunday Age Magazine. Melbourne: Fairfax Magazines. February 15th 2009, p. 30.

 

Yayoi Kusama. 'Clouds' 1999 and 'Love Forever' 2005

 

Yayoi Kusama
Clouds 1999 and Love Forever 2005
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 2008

 

Yayoi Kusama. 'Fireflies on the Water' 2000

Yayoi Kusama. 'Fireflies on the Water' 2000

 

Yayoi Kusama
Fireflies on the Water
2000

 

Yayoi Kusuama. 'The Moment of Regeneration' 2004

 

Yayoi Kusama
The Moment of Regeneration
2004

 

Yayoi Kusama. 'Narcissus Garden' 1966

 

Yayoi Kusama
Narcissus Garden (at the Venice Biennale, Italy)
1966

 

Yayoi Kusama. 'Invisible Life' 2000

 

Yayoi Kusama
Invisible Life
2000

 

 

Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)
140 George Street
The Rocks, Sydney, Australia

Opening hours: 11 – 5pm daily

Yayoi Kusama website

Museum of Contemporary Art website

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07
Mar
09

Opening 3: Review: ‘Show Court 3’ and ‘Mood Bomb’ by Louise Paramor at Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 5th March – 28th March 2009

Opening: Thursday 5th March 2009

 

Louise Paramor. 'Show Court 3 (II)' 2009

 

Louise Paramor
Show Court 3 (II)
2009

 

 

Boarding a train at Flinders Street we emerge at South Yarra station to stroll down to River Street for our third opening of the night at Nellie Castan Gallery. We are greeted by the ever gracious Nellie Castan who has just returned from an overseas trip to Europe where she was soaking up the wonders of Rome amongst other places. For the latest exhibition in the gallery Louise Paramor is presenting two bodies of work: Show Court 3 and Mood Bomb (both 2009). Lets look at Show Court 3 first as this work has older origins.

Originally exhibited in 2006 at Nellie Castan under the title Jam Session the sculptures from this exhibition and many more beside (75 in all) were then installed in 2007 on show court 3 at Melbourne & Olympic Parks, hence the title of the installation. In the smaller gallery in 2009 we have six Lambda photographic prints that are records of this installation plus a video of the installation and de-installation of the work.

While interesting as documentary evidence of the installation these photographs are thrice removed from the actual sculptures – the sculptures themselves, the installation of the sculptures on court and then the photographs of the installation of the sculptures. The photographs lose something in this process – the presence or link back to the referentiality of the object itself. There is no tactile suggestiveness here, no fresh visual connections to be made with the materials, no human interaction. The intertextual nature of the objects, the jamming together of found pieces of bright plastic to make seductive anthropomorphic creatures that ‘play’ off of each other has been lost.

What has been reinforced in the photographs is a phenomena that was observed in the actual installation.

“The sculptures created a jarring visual disruption when placed in a location normally associated with play and movement. The stadium seating surrounding the tennis court incited an expectation of entertainment; a number of viewers sat looking at the sculptures, as though waiting for them to spin and jump around. But mostly, the exhibition reversed the usual role of visitors to place where one sits and watches others move; here the objects on the tennis court were static and the spectators moved around.” (2007)1

In the photographs of these objects and in the installation itself what occurs is an inversion of perception, a concept noted by the urbanist Paul Virilio.2 Here the objects perceive us instead of us perceiving the object: they stare back with an oculocentric ‘suggestiveness’ which is advertising’s raison d’être (note the eye sculpture above). In particular this is what the photographs suggest – a high gloss surface, an advertising image that grabs our attention and forces us to look but is no longer a powerful image.

In the main gallery was the most interesting work of the whole night – experiments of abstraction in colour “inspired by the very substance of paint itself.” Made by pouring paint onto glass and then exhibiting the smooth reverse side, these paintings are not so much about the texture of the surface (as is Dale Frank’s work below) but a more ephemeral thing: the dreamscapes of the mind that they promote in the viewer, the imaginative connections that ask the viewer to make. Simpler and perhaps more refined than Frank’s work (because of the smooth surface, the lack of the physicality of the layering technique? because of the pooling of amoebic shapes produced, not the varnish that accumulates and recedes?) paint oozes, bleeds, swirls, drips upwards and blooms with a sensuality of intense love. They are dream states that allow the viewer to create their own narrative with the title of the works offering gentle guides along the way: Girl with Flowers, Lovers, Mood Bomb, Emerald God, Mama, and Animal Dreaming to name just a few. To me they also had connotations of melted plastic, almost as if the sculptures of Show Court 3 had dissolved into the glassy surface of a transparent tennis court.

These are wonderfully evocative paintings. I really enjoyed spending time with them.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

  1. O’Neill, Jane. Louise Paramor: Show Court 3. Melbourne: Nellie Castan Gallery, 2009
  2. Virilio, Paul. The Vision Machine. (trans. Julie Rose). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994, pp. 62-63

 

 

Louise Paramor. 'Show Court 3 (VI)' 2009

 

Louise Paramor
Show Court 3 (VI)
2009

 

Louise Paramor. 'Show Court 3' (detail) 2009

 

Louise Paramor
Show Court 3 (detail)
2009

 

Louise Paramor. 'Show Court 3' (detail) 2009

 

Louise Paramor
Show Court 3 (detail)
2009

 

Louise Paramor. Opening night crowd in front of 'Sky Pilot' (left) and 'Mama' (right) 2009

 

Louise Paramor
Opening night crowd in front of Sky Pilot (left) and Mama (right)
2009

 

Louise Paramor. Opening night crowd in front of 'Green Eyed Monster' (right) and 'Sky Pilot' (right) 2009

 

Louise Paramor
Opening night crowd in front of Green Eyed Monster (right) and Sky Pilot (right)
2009

 

Louise Paramor. Opening night crowd in front of 'Pineapple Express' 2009

 

Louise Paramor
Opening night crowd in front of Pineapple Express
2009

 

Louise Paramor. 'A Dog and His Master' (detail) 2009

 

Louise Paramor
A Dog and His Master (detail)
2009

 

Louise Paramor. 'Lovers' 2009

 

Louise Paramor
Lovers
2009

 

Dale Frank. 2005

 

Dale Frank
2. One conversation gambit you hear these days: ‘Do you rotate?’ An interesting change of tack? No suck luck. ‘Do you rotate?’ simply fishes for information about the extent of your collection. Do you have enough paintings to hang a different one in your dining room every month?
2005

 

Louise Paramor. 'Mood Bomb' 2009

 

Louise Paramor
Mood Bomb
2009

 

Louise Paramor. 'Slippery Slope' (detail) 2009

 

Louise Paramor
Slippery Slope (detail)
2009

 

Louise Paramor 'Green Eyed Monster' (detail) 2009

 

Louise Paramor
Green Eyed Monster (detail)
2009

 

 

Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne

This gallery closed in December 2013

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24
Feb
09

Review: ‘Ocean Without A Shore’ video installation by Bill Viola at The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

February 2009

 

Originally installed inside the intimate 15th century Venetian church of San Gallo as part of the 2007 Venice Biennale incorporating its internal architecture into the piece using the three existing stone altars as support for the video screens, the installation has been recreated in a small darkened room at The National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. What an installation it is.

Deprived of the ornate surroundings of the altars of the Venetian chapel – altars of which Viola has said that, “… as per the original development of the origins of Christianity these alters actually are a place where the dead kind of reside and connect with those of us, the living, who are here on earth. And they really are a connection between a cross, between a tomb and an alter – a place to pray,”1 – the viewer is forced to concentrate on the images themselves. This is no bad thing, stripping away as it does a formalised, religious response to mortality.

In the work Viola combines the use of a primitive twenty five year old security black and white analogue video surveillance camera with a high definition colour video camera through the use of a special mirror prism system. This technology allows for the seamless combination of both inputs: the dead appear far off in a dark obscure place as grey ghosts in a sea of pulsating ‘noise’ and gradually walk towards you, crossing the invisible threshold of a transparent water wall that separates the dead from the living, to appear in the space transformed into a detailed colour image. As they do so the sound that accompanies the transformation grows in intensity reminding me of a jet aircraft. You, the viewer, are transfixed watching every detail as the ghosts cross-over into the light, through a water curtain.

The performances of the actors (for that is what they are) are slow and poignant. As Viola has observed, “I spent time with each person individually talking with them and you know when you speak with people, you realise then that everybody has experienced some kind of loss in their life, great and small. So you speak with them, you work with them, you spend time and that comes to the surface while we were working on this project together, you know? I didn’t want to over-direct them because I knew that the water would have this kind of visual effect and so they were able to, I think, use this piece on their own and a lot of them had their own stories of coming back and visiting a relative perhaps, who had died.”1

The resurrected are pensive, some wringing the hands, some staring into the light. One offers their hands to the viewer in supplication before the tips of the fingers touch the wall of water – the ends turning bright white as they push through the penumbrae of the interface. As they move forward the hands take on a stricken anguish, stretched out in rigour. Slowly the resurrected turn and return to the other side. We watch them as we watch our own mortality, life slipping away one day after another. Here is not the distraction of a commodified society, here is the fact of every human life: that we all pass.

The effect on the viewer is both sad but paradoxically uplifting. I cried.

A friend who I went with said that the images reminded her not of the dead temporarily coming back to life, but the birth of a new life – the breaking of water at the birth of a child. The performers seemed to her to behave like children brought anew into the world. One of my favourite moments was when the three screens were filled with just noise and a figure then appears out of the beyond, a dim and distant outline creating a transcendental moment. Unfortunately there are no images of these grainy figures. As noted below Viola uses a variety of different ethnic groups and cultures for his performers but the one very small criticism I have is they have no real individuality as people – there are no bikers with tattoos, no cross dressers, no punks because these do not serve his purpose. There is the black woman, the old woman, the middle aged man, the younger 30s man in black t-shirt: these are generic archetypes of humanity moulded to Viola’s artistic vision.

Viola has commented, “I think I have designed a piece that’s open ended enough, where the people and the range of people, the kind of people we chose are from various ethnic groups and cultures. And I think that the feeling of more this is a piece about humanity and it’s about the fragility of life, like the borderline between life and death is actually not a hard wall, it’s not to be opened with a lock and key, its actually very fragile, very tenuous.

You can cross it like that in an instant and I think religions, you know institutions aside, I think just the nature of our awareness of death is one of the things that in any culture makes human beings have that profound feeling of what we call the human condition and that’s really something I am really interested in. I think this piece really has a lot to do with, you know, our own mortality and all that that means.”1

These series of encounters at the intersection of life and death are worthy of the best work of this brilliant artist. He continues to astound with his prescience, addressing what is undeniable in the human condition. Long may he continue.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

 

  1. TateShots. Venice Biennale: Bill Viola. 30 June 2007 [Online] Cited 23/09/2009 (no longer available)

 

 

 

 

Ocean Without a Shore is about the presence of the dead in our lives. The three stone altars in the church of San Gallo become portals for the passage of the dead to and from our world. Presented as a series of encounters at the intersection between life and death, the video sequence documents a succession of individuals slowly approaching out of darkness and moving into the light. Each person must then break through an invisible threshold of water and light in order to pass into the physical world. Once incarnate however, all beings realise that their presence is finite and so they must eventually turn away from material existence to return from where they came. The cycle repeats without end.”

Bill Viola
25 May 2007
Text © Bill Viola 2007

 

The work was inspired by a poem by the twentieth century Senegalese poet and storyteller Birago Diop:

Hearing things more than beings,
listening to the voice of fire,
the voice of water.
Hearing in wind the weeping bushes,
sighs of our forefathers.

The dead are never gone:
they are in the shadows.
The dead are not in earth:
they’re in the rustling tree,
the groaning wood,
water that runs,
water that sleeps;
they’re in the hut, in the crowd,
the dead are not dead.

The dead are never gone,
they’re in the breast of a woman,
they’re in the crying of a child,
in the flaming torch.

The dead are not in the earth:
they’re in the dying fire,
the weeping grasses,
whimpering rocks,
they’re in the forest, they’re in the house,
the dead are not dead.

.
Text from the Ocean Without A Shore website [Online] Cited 23/09/2009 (no longer available)

 

 

Bill Viola. 'Ocean Without A Shore' 2007 video still

Bill Viola. 'Ocean Without A Shore' 2007 video still

Bill Viola. 'Ocean Without A Shore' 2007 video insatllation

Bill Viola. 'Ocean Without A Shore' 2007 video insatllation

 

Installation photographs of Ocean Without A Shore at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Bill Viola. 'Ocean Without A Shore' 2007 original video installation at church of San Gallo

 

Bill Viola
Ocean Without A Shore
2007
Original installation at church of San Gallo

 

 

NGV International
180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne

Open daily 10am-5pm

National Gallery of Victoria International website

Bill Viola website

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12
Feb
09

Review: ‘Bowerhouse Blues’ exhibition by Mary Newsome, Gallery 101, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 3rd February – 21st February 2009

 

Mary Newsome. 'Bowerhouse Blues' installation photograph with 'The Bowerhouse' centre

 

Mary Newsome
Bowerhouse Blues installation photograph with The Bowerhouse centre
2009

 

 

This is a slight bouffant of an exhibition by Mary Newsome at Gallery 101, Collins St., Melbourne.

“The exhibition consists of separate collections to do with blue, centring on the Bowerhouse with its beckoning light. The ideas came from several different directions.” And what directions they are.

Firstly, the idea of the lonely male bowerbird at the Museum of Victoria, given blue biros as solace after killing his last mate. Secondly, Oscar Wilde trying to live with his blue china toying with Yves Klein and his uber-dimensionality, the invisible blue becoming visible. Then we have finger painting as a child upgraded to paste painting “which is finger painting under a more adult name”; and more – poetry, yes! by famous poets, sandwiched with shells and cans and bits of glass and plastic and pottery and pegs all offered up to the god of the azure.

Artefacts litter the floor around the edge of the gallery, media wash across the walls. A silkscreen here and a painting of blue and white china there, watercolours of a view out of a blue curtained Cornish cottage, a blue seascape, the “royal-ness” of a blue tampons collage, three-dimensional objects, acrylics, crayon, pencil, oils and stencils. The Bowerhouse itself, like a blue ‘red light’ house with flashing blue light inside and heart on top. And so it goes.

There are some interesting small single-pigment blue acrylics that have geometric and anamorphic shapes painted upon them with stencilled names of the colour along the spine of the canvases. There are also a couple of competent oils and silkscreens of tea sets in a dresser with cups hanging from hooks.

The works date from 1980 to the present day – and “without fully realising it” the artist has looked through her work over the past 30 years and come across lots and lots of blue. Any artist worth their salt knows their oevure indelibly from front to back. It seems inconceivable to me that this epiphany has occurred without the artist not fully understanding the importance of the colour blue to their art practice before now.

Recently I have been reading a book called Distraction (Damon Young. Distraction: A Philosopher’s Guide to Being Free. Melbourne: Melbourne University Publishing, 2008). The book surmises that distraction is often a matter of what one values in the world. The book demonstrates that the opposite of a life of distraction is one of grateful appreciation, based on patient, sensitive, and thoughtful attention to the world. In this exhibition we have a perfect example of distraction: the noise of the collective work has subsumed its individual charms. The work seems forced into a conceptualisation not of it’s making. Everything seems laboured to the point where all the fun has been squeezed from it and, in the end, it just left me feeling the blues.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Photographs by Tim Gresham
Images courtesy of Gallery 101

 

Mary Newsome. 'Blue Colours' 2008

 

Mary Newsome
Blue Colours
2008

 

Mary Newsome. 'Bowerhouse Blues' installation photograph 2009

 

Mary Newsome
Bowerhouse Blues
2009
Installation photograph

 

Mary Newsome. 'Bathroom Sink' 1992

 

Mary Newsome
Bathroom Sink
1992

 

Mary Newsome. 'What Bliss There is in Blueness' 2009

 

Mary Newsome
What Bliss There is in Blueness
Extract from Laughter in the Dark, 1989 by Vladimir Nabokov
2009

 

Mary Newsome. 'Royal Tampons' collage

 

Mary Newsome
Royal Tampons
2009
Collage

 

 

Gallery 101

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10
Feb
09

Exhibition: ‘Utopia: Qiu Anxiong’ at Arken Museum of Modern Art, Denmark

Exhibition dates: 6th February – 22nd November 2009

 

Qui Anxiong. 'Staring into Amnesia' 2008

 

Qui Anxiong
Staring into Amnesia
2008

 

 

A dream has come true. ARKEN has opened the first of three contemporary art exhibitions under the heading UTOPIA.

The first UTOPIA artist is Chinese Qiu Anxiong (b. 1972). His work Staring into Amnesia (2008), an enormous original Chinese train carriage from the 1960s, is the principal work in ARKEN’s exhibition. Documentary video clips and poetic silhouettes have been added to the carriage taking us on a journey into China’s past, present and future.

In recent years Qiu Anxiong has received great international attention with his poetic and moving video works which span from big and complex installations to hand painted animated films. The exhibition is the first presentation of Qiu Anxiong’s works in Denmark.

 

Utopia and dystopia

Qiu Anxiong belongs to a new generation of Chinese artists who bridge Chinese culture and history and today’s globalised contemporary art. Cultures arise and perish, and the yearning for the perfect society is closely followed by the utopia’s antithesis: an oppressed, conflicted dystopia. In a poetic and sensual idiom Qiu Anxiong raises the issue of which new utopias may provide the clue for today’s globalised reality.

Text from the Arken Musem of Modern Art website

 

 

ARKEN Museum of Modern Art

Chinese artist Qiu Anxiong talks about his work Staring into Amnesia – the main part of ARKEN’s UTOPIA – exhibition.

 

Qui Anxiong. 'Staring into Amnesia' 2008

 

Qui Anxiong
Staring into Amnesia
2008

 

Qui Anxiong. 'Staring into Amnesia' 2008

 

Qui Anxiong
Staring into Amnesia
2008

 

 

A 25 metres long, 42 tons heavy Chinese train carriage stops in Arken Museum of Modern Art’s unique exhibition space The Art Axis, ready to take the museum’s visitors on a journey unlike any other. A journey into China’s past, presence and future. Into deliberations of the good life and the good society. Of the dreams we have today – for ourselves and for the world.

In the 1960s and ’70s it ran in northeastern China. Ordinary Chinese people sat on the hard wooden seats and were transported to and from work, on family visits, tours and holidays. Now it stops in ARKEN’s Art Axis with the purpose of making Danish museum visitors think about the dreams and values that drive them and the world they live in.

The train carriage is the principal work of the first exhibition in the museum’s large-scale UTOPIA project. A project that is to raise the issue of the grand shared notion of the perfect society. Whatever happened to it? Does it still exist today? Have the international financial crisis and the American presidential election made it more topical? And if it does not exist, what has taken its place? Individual dreams of the good life, notions of globalisation, small enclaves of communities?

Opening on 6 February 2009, the UTOPIA exhibition is the first of three exhibitions of contemporary art shown in ARKEN’s Art Axis in the period 2009-2011 – one per year. Each exhibition presents a significant, international contemporary artist who explores art’s potential with regards to the notions of “the good life.” The first artist is the Chinese Qui Anxiong (b. 1972).

Qui Anxiong gave the train carriage an artistic makeover after it had ended its career as a means of public transportation, transforming it into the work Staring into Amnesia (2007). A work of art which invites us on a journey even though the carriage is motionless. A journey into China’s past, presence and future. For when the guests come aboard the train and sit down on the hard wooden seats, they journey through China’s history. Video clips of documentary and propaganda films from China from 1910 until today pass by the windows as fragments of memories alternating with silhouettes of everyday scenes: a girl waiting by a ventilator, two people playing chess, groups of people in processions, riots, struggles or celebration. What has been is juxtaposed with what is. And with the train as metaphor for movement in time, it raises the question of which destinations await us up ahead. Is the next stop Utopia? What do we hope will come, what do we dream of?

6,000 drawings – one movie – Staring into Amnesia is the chief work of the UTOPIA exhibition. It explores how humankind’s endeavours to create the perfect society through political and religious overall solutions, both historically and today, often result in the utopia’s antithesis: an oppressed, conflicted dystopia.

Another work in the exhibition is the animated film The New Book of Mountains and Seas (2006). The film consists of 6,000 drawings created by Qiu Anxiong in his small one bedroom apartment in Shanghai. It presents us with a mythologised version of the world today in which modern technology and nature merge: helicopters hover in the air like big birds, and black clad people fly like planes, crashing the Twin Towers in a drawn version of 9/11. In a poetic and dreamlike idiom, sharply contrasting with the depicted reality, the work explores the themes of religious and political conflicts characterising the global reality of our time. UTOPIA is supported by the Nordea Foundation.

Text from the Artdaily.org website

 

Qui Anxiong. 'Staring into Amnesia' 2008

 

Qui Anxiong
Staring into Amnesia
2008

 

 

Images courtesy of Boers-Li Gallery and ArtShortCut

Arken Museum of Modern Art
Skovvej 100, 2635 Ishøj
Phone: +45 43 54 02 22

Opening hours:
Tuesday-Thursday: 10 am-9 pm
Friday-Sunday: 10 am-5 pm
Monday: Closed

Arken Museum of Modern Art website

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04
Feb
09

Review: ‘Rosalie Gascoigne’ at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 9th December 2008 – 15th March 2009

 

Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Forty acre block' 1977

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Forty acre block
1977
Painted wood and metal, collage

 

 

This exhibition is a relatively small, muscular yet poetic evocation of the life and work of one of my favourite Australian artists, Rosalie Gascoigne. Perhaps I have an affinity with this artist that goes beyond words: being English I have grown to love the Australian landscape but to see the way Gascoigne visions it is a truly moving experience. I have also admired artists that can successfully combine images and sculptural elements visually in their work, language and memory impinging on consciousness (hence my infatuation with the work of Joseph Cornell).

As we enter the exhibition early constructions – wooden boxes – are presented dating from 1975-1984. These have a rough hewn, rustic charm to them, made as they are of weathered thick planks of wood. Less refined than the boxes of Joseph Cornell (see below) they nevertheless draw on the Australian vernacular in their use of objects. As with the Cornell boxes there is a strong element of childhood fun and games in these constructions. Dolly boxes (1976, below) for example contains innumerable plastic dollies of different sizes held inside wooden boxes; Black bird box (1976) is like a shooting gallery at a fun fair; other boxes feature birds and sea shells trapped in plastic bottles, printed images of moths, test tubes, candlesticks, metal teapots and children’s bicycle seats. Cloister (1977) below echoes the work of Joseph Cornell in it’s use of classical Renaissance imagery but with a rustic Australian charm. Unlike Cornell’s boxes which are enclosed dreamscapes that do not live in the world, Cascoigne’s boxes are made her own by being open and receptive to the landscape from which they merge, by being open to the world.

Forty acre block (1977, above) is a play on the great Aussie dream of owning your own 1/4 acre block. Inside the crate like tableaux we find cardboard parrots perched menacingly on rusted cylindrical metal tubes, two cardboard cut out cows with their white faces turned towards the viewer and at the rear of the box a sun-bleached picture of an orchard and three cows with human heads: a surreal vision of the Aussie landscape. Continuing the playfulness Parrot morning (1976, below) extends the theme, the bicycle wheel almost having elements of Duchamp’s readymades but given an Australian twist with the perching parrots.

Moving forward we find one of my favourite works, Feathered chairs (1978, below), a most beautiful evocation of technology and nature. Two red rusted 1950’s office chairs sit low on the floor, their seats, back and sides replaced by four rows of dark Commorant feathers held in place by wooden slats clamped together. Simple yet eloquent these surreal chairs have a poetic rhythm of place and space, speaking of the abandonment of  technology and it’s re-habitation by a trapped but beautiful nature. Other work becomes simpler, more focused around this time (and especially from 1984 onwards) as though the artist was finding her singular voice, was confident of the ‘less is more’ rhythms of the music she was creating. The essence appears: of the land, artefacts and spaces. In Swell (1984) for example two convex forms of corrugated iron (one horizontal, one vertical) play off of each other, forming an opposing flow of energies like the swelling of the sea. Nothing else is needed.

In Step through (1980, below) fragments of floral linoleum floor are mounted on wooden blocks at differing heights allowing the viewer to visually wander across the space of the installation as their mind wanders to memories of the floors of Australian kitchens of the 1950’s – either seen in childhood or in photographs – their is a recognition from all ages, in all Australians. This theme is further developed in the gridded Inland sea (1986, below) patches of corrugated iron float above the ground like gently moving waves. Beautiful in it’s simplicity the colours, shapes and spaces evocatively reflect the undulating rise and fall of the landscape from which the iron has been rescued, the breath of air on the wind rippling the water.

The use of regularised block and grids start to appear in wall mounted vistas: of loopholes, of lovers, the metropolis and the fall, of beach houses and far views, of grasslands and medusas. Promised land (1986) offers a vision resplendent of a far away country – the promised land abstracted to Tarax, Dales, Cottee’s, Blue Bow home deliveries of a Sparkling Fruity Flavour! box ends, the 32 Fl. Oz weight weighing the vision of the Australian landscape in the balance.

The most effective work uses the yellow colour of Schweppes boxes. In Monaro (1989), one of my favourite works in the exhibition, the painted blocks of yellow wood with unreadable fragmented words on them become, from a distance, like the wafting waving dried grasses of the Monaro landscape around Gascoigne’s home. Liquid music of air and place.

“I like the gold of the Schweppes boxes. I think that gold is one of the classical colours. I don’t care if it has got Schweppes written all over it, people seem to think I care. I don’t care! I just like the black and yellow. When I started I had lots of off-cuts, little pieces too good to throw away. So I started joining them up in a sort of way, walking around them, adding a few more. I soon had a 6 x 4 foot panel. In the end I realised that I needed to have four panels to say what I wanted to say. As it grew so did I. I kept thinking of the Monaro grasslands, and I thought of David Campbell saying ‘the Monaro rolls on to the sea’.” 

Graeme Sullivan, Seeing Australia – Views of artists and art writers, Piper Press, Annandale, New South Wales, 1994, p. 19.

 

Summer swarm (1995) features small yellow blocks of wood an assemblage of yellow bees; Grassfest (1999, below) like a stand of yellow grass under the Australian sun; Metropolis (1999, below) collaged and patched road signs are worked together overlaying spaces and language. In Plenty (1986) yellow wood bricks mounted in panels are held in place with rusted metal nails. if you move close to the work the effect is immersive – every inflection of colour, grain of the wood, knot, nail hole, rub, scuff, daub of paint becomes evident. Every block is same but different, an almost transcendental experience.

In this work there is a refining of the essence of her vision of the world, a paring back of all extraneous elements but conversely an expansion in the energy of the work. A mature artist at the peak of their power.

In the ‘white’ work Star chart (1995) and Milky way (1995), heaven and earth reflect each other, the grids and patterns linked in a cosmic dance. But mostly air (1994-1995) the large installation that closes the exhibition confirms this dance, containing as it does white blocks of wood (invisible air) with a row of weathered wooden posts propped up against the gallery wall and animal spirits made of wooden blocks: faces with wings and ears, gasping for breath, white animals on a white background hovering between here and there, between heaven and earth.

This is a wonderful exhibition. Gascoigne rightly commands a place in the pantheon of Australian stars. She has left us with a legacy of music that evokes the rhythms, the air, the spaces and colours of our country. As she herself said,

“Look at what we have: Space, skies. You can never have too much of nothing.”

Nothing more, nothing less.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999) 'Study: dolly boxes A&B' 1976

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Study: dolly boxes A&B
1976
Wood, plastic
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Cloister' 1977

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Cloister
1977
Painted wood and collage
61.1 × 34.8 × 15.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of James Mollison, AO, 1999
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

Joseph Cornell. 'Medici Princess' 1948

 

Joseph Cornell
Medici Princess
1948
Mixed media

 

 

Rosalie Gascoigne is one of Australia’s most acclaimed and respected visual artists. Her distinctive style is characterised by her recognition of beauty in the most humble of objects such as soft drink crates, linoleum, retro-reflective road signs, dried grasses and feathers. Collecting and arranging these items, often rescued from rubbish dumps, and scarred and faded by the ravages of weather, is an integral part of her practice. Like a magician she transforms these discarded materials into sculptures, wall pieces and assemblages, which create evocative visual poetry, capturing the essence of things or an experience rather than conveying a literal representation.

Gascoigne like Picasso realised later in life that one is not made an artist, one is born an artist. Some of her fondest memories as a child are of collecting shells on summer holidays at the beach, and the yellow china her grandmother owned. At the age of ten she won first prize for her entry in a table decoration competition that included yellow flowers, an unusual Indian brass vase and Indian brass bowls.

Her journey to becoming a professional artist was highly unconventional. She received no formal art education, openly declared that she could neither draw nor paint and was not officially recognised as part of the Australian art scene until she held her first critically acclaimed exhibition at the age of fifty-seven.

Gascoigne was born in New Zealand in 1917. She studied for a Bachelor of Arts degree, specialising in English and Latin, at the University of Auckland. During this time she got to know her future husband Ben Gascoigne. In 1943, following a short teaching career, she moved to Australia to marry Ben. They lived as part of a small isolated scientific community around Mt Stromlo Observatory outside Canberra, where Ben had taken up a position. The transition from the gentle, green landscape of her home to the hard, unforgiving, dry slopes of Mount Stromlo, bounded by seemingly endless space, was initially a tough and lonely experience. She didn’t fit into the mould of the happy domesticated wife expected of this era. The lack of stimulating conversation with the other wives on the establishment made her feel particularly alone. She befriended nature instead and as she brought up three children in these alien conditions she remembers:

I’d push the children’s prams around that lonely mountain until I knew the shape of every stone and tree, the texture of every patch of dirt and grass, the colour of every leaf and weed. I’d gaze down at the valley below, a vastness of dry blond grass and grubby sheep and the sky used to hang, from there to there. ~ Janet Hawley ‘A late developer’, Sydney Morning Herald, Good Weekend, 15 November 1997, p. 40.

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She acclimatised to this new terrain and began to gather unusual natural forms. She displayed these found objects in her home, much to the bemusement of the conventional local community. Gascoigne began creating distinctive flower arrangements in the 1950s and won prizes for them in horticultural shows. When the family moved from Mount Stromlo to the Canberra suburb of Deakin in 1960, she studied ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, under Norman Sparnon, a master of the Sogetsu School. Gascoigne appreciated the strict discipline of this form of arranging, which imposed a sense of order on her collected found objects. The emphasis on line, form and sculptural properties was to become a key part of her later practice.

When Gascoigne’s three children had grown up, she had increasing freedom to pursue her growing interest in art. She visited art galleries more often, looked at art books and met people in the art world who were to shape her future career, including James Mollison, who became the inaugural director of the Australian National Gallery (now National Gallery of Australia). Her discussions with those in the arts community taught her much about looking and thinking about art, and confirmed her sense of identity as an artist.

In the mid-1960s she began making assemblages of rusted iron, which were followed, from 1973, by assemblages in boxes. These miniature surreal and often humorous worlds, such as The colonel’s lady, 1976, employed rich patterning and repetition through the arrangement of man-made objects, including advertising symbols used on the packaging of products.

The eclectic mix of objects and surfaces in these early works gave way to her later wall-based works that were elegant compositions limited to one or two materials, and subtly evoke culture, nature, language and the landscape, particularly the country around Canberra, which she came to love. Scrub country, 1982, and Monaro, 1989, epitomise these works. They are made from soft-drink crates – weathered by the sun, rain, wind and time – dismantled, sawn into strips and reassembled.

Gascoigne reached meteoric heights in her career which spanned over two decades until her death in 1999 at the age of eighty-two. She was given a major survey show at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in 1978, only four years after her first solo exhibition at Macquarie Galleries, Canberra. In 1982 she represented Australia with artist Peter Booth at the Venice Biennale. Her work is included in major public, corporate and private collections.

Text from the NGV Rosalie Gascoigne Education Kit

 

Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Parrot morning' 1976

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Parrot morning
1976
Painted metal, wood and paper
71.9 × 66.6 × 59.7 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Michell Endowment, 1976 Transferred to the Permanent Collection, 1996
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Feathered chairs' 1978

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Feathered chairs
1978

 

 

Despite their unusual appearance, this set of feathered chairs is not a departure from Rosalie Gascoigne’s usual practice. This work does not record, despite the reference to furniture in the title, a move to decorative arts – this feathered pair were never intended to function as seating – they are sculptures, conceived to fascinate the eye rather than conform to anyone’s behind.

Gascoigne collected the feathers for the chairs on the shores of Lake George, located about 35 kilometres from Canberra, on the road to Sydney.

‘And then I came to this place’, she recalled in 1982, ‘where there were all these… black birds, you know, cormorants. And a shattering of black beautiful glossy [feathers] as if the birds had just undressed. … They’re beautiful feathers. They’re like the underside of mushrooms. You know… the quill.’

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The feathers were assembled in racks similar to those used in Gasgoigne’s Feathered Fence 1979 (NGA Collection, Canberra) which used swan feathers also found at Lake George. Racks of feathers were displayed on two reddish metal chairs that she had found at the dump. Gascoigne aimed to create poetic, rather than literal interpretations of her work, aiming for a succinct ‘plastic metaphor’, where a melding of disparate objects and textures might produce unexpected allusions and tangential meanings. Nonetheless, the claw foot of the chair suggests the foot of a bird and the splayed feathers conjure up the pose of a cormorant with its spread wings drying off in the sun. Or did the sun-basking bird with its arm rest wings suggest a throne? Gascoigne was not an artist to routinely create figurative works and it’s just as likely that in this work she sought a tension between the earthbound weight of the metal and the airy, windborne feathers. She had a longtime fascination with birds and the Feathered Chairs suggest an evocation of flight and freedom; a joyous ability to see and read the story of our ancient land. Elated by exploration and discovery, Gascoigne willingly shares her delight with the armchair traveller.

Extract from Michael Desmond. “Rosalie Gascoigne,” on the Menzies website [Online] Cited 19/12/2018

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999) 'The tea party' 1980

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
The tea party
1980
Painted wood, celluloid, plastic, enamelled metal, feathers
82.0 x 35.0 x 190.0 cm
Gascoigne Family Collection, Canberra
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

 

After first exhibiting her work at the age of 57, Rosalie Gascoigne rapidly established a reputation as one of Australia’s foremost contemporary artists. Following her first exhibition in 1974, Gascoigne subsequently developed an impressive exhibition history that included her being honoured, in 1982, as the first female artist to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale.

This major exhibition of Rosalie Gascoigne’s work ranges from the boxlike assemblages of her early career through to large scale installations and her creation of master works constructed from Schweppes soft drink crates and retro-reflective road signs. The exhibition investigates the artist’s ability to draw creative inspiration from the discarded; her intrinsic response to her chosen materials, and her unique ability to evocatively convey the essence of nature and the transitory and captivating effects of light, air and space.

Rosalie Gascoigne is the first major retrospective exhibition of Gascoigne’s work to be seen in Melbourne and is accompanied by a comprehensive exhibition catalogue.

Text from the NGV website

 

Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Step through' 1980

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Step through
1980
Linoleum and wood
28.0 h x 93.0 w x 370.0 d cm
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

 

Extract from A Formal Focus – Art Elements and Principles

In Inland sea, 1986 (below), sixteen large sheets of corrugated tin hover above the floor in a loose grid arrangement. The grid format unifies the separate parts of the composition, and also enhances the expressive power of different visual elements through repetition. The shapes and lines repeated across the buckling sheets of tin create a powerful sense of the gentle movement of wind or water.

The strong visual rhythms and movement evident in Gascoigne’s compositions are often achieved through the repetition of different visual elements. Step through, 1980 (above), is made from fifteen separate parts, each made from a torn piece of brightly coloured, floral patterned linoleum mounted on a block of wood. The blocks sit at different angles creating different levels within the installation. The spaces between the different parts create a meandering path for the viewer to explore, highlighting the importance of movement through and across space in Gascoigne’s work.

“I was thinking about the unkempt empty blocks in built up city areas … usually covered in rank grasses and flowering weeds … rubble, old tins and bottles. One steps through them gingerly and, with possible snakes in mind, lifts one’s knees high.” ~ Vici MacDonald, Rosalie Gascoigne, Regaro Pty Ltd, Sydney, 1998, p. 48


Colour assumed a vital presence in Gascoigne’s work. In an overview of her work, as in the exhibition Rosalie Gascoigne (2008), the importance of particular colours is revealed in swathes and groupings of yellow, red, orange and white artworks, culminating in the grey, brown and ochre hues of the Earth series (1999), which were the artist’s last works. Individually, each work reveals something of the beauty of colour and its ability to suggest meaning; from sun-baked, muted yellows that remind us of vistas of dry grass, to soft pale greys and whites that murmur quietly of the open air and cloud.

Gascoigne was often drawn to particular materials because of the beauty of their colour and texture, and the associations or moods these suggested. The visual qualities and associations found in the textures of humble and/or discarded materials are clearly revealed in Gascoigne’s work – from the flaky layers of faded paint on weathered tin or wood that speak of both rural life and work, and the forces and seasons of nature, to the staccato flash of retro-reflective road signs that remind us of driving through the landscape.

Text from the NGV Rosalie Gascoigne Education Kit

 

Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Inland sea' 1986

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Inland sea
1986
Weathered painted corrugated iron, wire
39.1 × 325.0 × 355.5 cm (variable)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1993
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

 

Extract from Poetry and Words

Rosalie Gascoigne’s work is often referred to as visual poetry. Her training in literature and fascination for words infuse her work. She had a particular love of poetry. This included the modern Australian poets such as Peter Porter and David Campbell, who also evoked in his writing the landscape around Canberra. Just as a poet distils the essence of their subject with carefully chosen evocative words and phrases, so Gascoigne captures the spirit of a place, or the core of an idea with sensitive arrangements of visual elements. Instead of literary allusions, Gascoigne creates visual metaphors with materials such as corrugated iron in Inland sea, 1986, which evokes movement of air, while slivers of discarded, weathered timber in Monaro, 1989 suggest dried grassland. Repetition, ordering, fragmenting and editing out unnecessary materials are also part of her practice which echo the creation of poetry.

Gascoigne admired the English Romantic poets of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and often quoted William Wordsworth’s idea that: ‘Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity.’ She believed passionately that her work was intricately woven with glimpses of her past feelings and experiences. …

Other works studded with random words are more elusive and hark back to the poetry of Andre Bréton and the Surrealists, who scattered and re-arranged words cut from a newspaper.

Gascoigne frequently described her works as ‘stammering concrete poetry’ (Gregory O’Brien, 2004, p. 42), a reference to a style of poetry originating in the 1950s where the visual arrangement of words or letters suggests something about the subject of the poem. In All that jazz, 1989, for example, the artist has conjured up the pulsating chopped up rhythms of jazz with wooden strips of dazzling colour highlighted by splinters of black lettering. In contrast, the broken and fractured nature of the yellow and black road signs in Skylight, 1993, interspersed with ill-fitting patches of well-worn linoleum, sets up a tension that hints at both the tragedy of drought and the beauty of the Australian light in summer.

The evocative titles of Gascoigne’s works, which are selected after their completion and only after much contemplation, are chosen to be allusive and poetic rather than descriptive. They reveal an entry point but allow the viewer to experience their own intuitive response to the work.

Text from the NGV Rosalie Gascoigne Education Kit

 

Rosalie Gascoigne’s art comes from, is inspired by, and in turn reflects the spare countryside of the southern tablelands and the Monaro district, a unique natural environment that lies relatively close to Canberra, the artist’s home of more than fifty years. Gascoigne’s transformation and re-investment in her work of battered and weathered materials sourced in the landscape surrounding Canberra also highlights the importance of collecting to her oeuvre, as different materials appear in works from across the decades …

Gascoigne’s knowledge and love of language and of Romantic poetry is evident in many of her works as she aspired to make art that achieved ‘allusive and illusive’ qualities that she experienced in this form. Through the artist’s skill in making poetry of the commonplace and her intrinsic response to both her chosen materials and the particularities of the Australian landscape, we are able to witness her unique ability to evocatively capture and convey the essence of nature and the transitory and captivating effects of light, air and space.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999) 'Scrub country' 1982

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Scrub country
1982
Weathered painted wood (1-9)
144.0 x 376.0 cm (overall)
Private collection, Brisbane
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999) 'Scrub country' 1982 (detail)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Scrub country (detail)
1982
Weathered painted wood (1-9)
144.0 x 376.0 cm (overall)
Private collection, Brisbane
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

 

Extract from Landscape – Place, Memory, Experience

The art of Rosalie Gascoigne has a unique place in the rich landscape tradition in Australian art. While painting has been the dominant artform in this tradition, Gascoigne worked in assemblage and installation, using natural and man-made materials collected from the landscape. Unlike many earlier artists, she was not interested in describing the visual reality, picturesque beauty or stories of the Australian landscape. Gascoigne’s artworks capture the essence of the landscape’s topography, space, air, vegetation; and the daily and seasonal natural rhythms of nature, in compositions that are often startling in their refined simplicity. …

In Scrub country, 1982 wooden slats from old soft-drink crates are arranged methodically in rows and columns, but their faded colours, worn surfaces and uneven edges reveal the impact of prolonged use and many hot summers. The medley of faded yellows and greens, and nearly naked wooden surfaces in Scrub country is punctuated by flashes of turquoise blues, evoking the patterns of dappled light and colour often found in the Australian bush.

“I called it Scrub country because to me it had the randomness and relaxed air and the quality of colour which I think is much more typical of the Australia I know than any of those ochres and oranges so often used. I have let air through because we see a lot of filtered light, random pattern and carelessness in the Australian landscape.” ~ Public Programs Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales Education Kit, Material as Landscape – Rosalie Gascoigne Education Kit, 1997

.
While a palette of ‘blue and gold’ colours was strongly associated with the paintings of the famous Australian landscape painter Arthur Streeton (1867-1943), Scrub country clearly breaks with the landscape conventions associated with Streeton and his generation. The repetition and ordering of elements in distinct rows and columns creates a strong formal structure and a flattened space that avoids literal landscape references. Sensations and moods more associated with memory and experience of the landscape are emphasised. Gascoigne’s focus on the formal qualities suggests some affinity between her landscape inspired artworks and those of her contemporary, Australian artist Fred Williams (1927-1982), who also broke with convention in representing the landscape.

Text from the NGV Rosalie Gascoigne Education Kit

 

Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Sweet lovers' 1990

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Sweet lovers
1990
Reflective synthetic polymer film on plywood
105.0 x 79.5 cm
Collection of Christopher Hodges and Helen Eager, Sydney
Photo: Christian Markel
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Grassfest' 1999

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Grassfest
1999
Weathered painted wood on composition board
106.5 x 101.0 cm
Queensland University of Technology Art Collection, Brisbane
Purchased, 1999
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

 

Gascoigne worked intuitively with no preliminary drawings or plans. Her ideas, and the processes used to make each artwork, were inspired and determined by the look and feel of particular materials, and the visual and emotional associations they suggested. Depending on the materials used, many hundreds of hours would be spent on the labour intensive work of cutting, tearing, bending, scrubbing, sorting, grouping, arranging until the ‘right’ idea and visual effect crystallised. The process of transforming found materials into artworks was one of making the mood, experience and sensation of landscape visible.

 

Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Metropolis' 1999

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Metropolis
1999
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

 

Quotations

“Your art has to come out of your daily life. I really believe that if anyone is born an artist they’ve only got to look at what’s round their feet and what’s available to them. They don’t have to be clever, they don’t have to go to art school, they don’t have to get the exotic stuff – make it with what’s there. People think art’s like you strike it lucky and you’re famous tomorrow, but it isn’t like that, it’s a search for honesty on your own terms. The journey to self-recognition took me decades.”

Vici MacDonald, Rosalie Gascoigne, Regaro Pty Ltd, Sydney, 1998, p. 9

 

“I look for the eternal truths in nature, the rhythms, cycles, seasons, shapes, regeneration, restorative powers, spirit. I’m showing what I believe to be interesting and beautiful.”

Janet Hawley ‘A late developer’, Sydney Morning Herald, Good Weekend, 15 November 1997, p. 44

 

“I was hopeless at painting and drawing, and had no skills at making craftwork. At school, I envied people who could draw a perfect basket of apples. I regarded myself as totally non-artistic. My big love was, and remains, poetry; I always visualised every line of a poem as I read it.”

Janet Hawley ‘A late developer’, Sydney Morning Herald, Good Weekend, 15 November 1997, p. 42

 

“My concerns are as much with my materials as with the work I make of it. They both have to satisfy me … I look for things that have been somewhere, done something. Second-hand materials aren’t deliberate; they have had sun and wind on them …”

Public Programs Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Material as Landscape, Rosalie Gascoigne Education Kit, 1997

 

“Once I’d started on my art journey I was in it with a vengeance. I needed it so badly. At last life was full of possibilities.”

Janet Hawley ‘A late developer’, Sydney Morning Herald, Good Weekend, 15 November 1997, p. 41

 

“I have a real need to express elation at how interesting and beautiful things are and to see them arranged … I work with things I rather like and move them about until they recall the feeling of an actual moment in the landscape; then I’ve won.”

Rosalie Gascoigne interviewed by James Mollison and Steven Heath in Rosalie Gascoigne: Material as landscape (exh. cat), Deborah Edwards (ed.), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1997, p. 7

 

“My pieces can be looked at in many different ways. I try to provide a starting point from which people can let their imagination wander – what they will discover will be a product of their own experience as much as mine. My aim is to be allusive and elusive.”

Bob Weis, Judi Stack & Robert Lindsay, Survey 2 – Rosalie Gascoigne, video, colour, sound, 16 mins 50 secs, produced by the Media Resource Centre for the NGV, 1978

 

Rosalie Gascoigne. 'White city' 1993

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
White city
1993
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999) 'Star Chart' 1995

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Star Chart
1995
Synthetic polymer paint on sawn wood on composition board
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

 

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

National Gallery of Victoria website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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