Posts Tagged ‘Mikhail Bakhtin

13
May
12

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

Exhibition dates: 18th April – 19th May 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Artist statement by Jacqui Stockdale 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catalogue essay by Jeff Makin, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opening hours:
Wed – Sat 11am – 5pm

Helen Gory Galerie website

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21
Oct
11

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

Exhibition dates: 20th October – 26th November 2011

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

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Opening night speech by Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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

Let’s consider the title Movement and Emotion.

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

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

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

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

That is what these artists do.

Perceive.

What is.

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

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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

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

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Steven Ajzenberg
Harlequin
2010
gouache on paper
55.5 x 38cm

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

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

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Movement and Emotion

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

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

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

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Jodie Noble Solo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arts Project Australia website

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29
May
09

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

Exhibition dates: 19th May – 13th June 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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Judith Wright video installation

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

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

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Judith Wright. 'Desire [14]' 2009

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Judith Wright
‘Desire [14]’
2009

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Judith Wright. 'Desire [5]' 2009

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Judith Wright
‘Desire [5]’
2009

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Judith Wright. 'Desire [7]' 2009

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Judith Wright
‘Desire [7]’
2009

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

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

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

As Michel Foucault has observed,

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

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

Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart blog

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Judith Wright. Desire [16]' 2009

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Judith Wright
‘Desire [16]’
2009

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Judith Wright. 'The Gift [2]' 2009

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Judith Wright
‘The Gift [2]’
2008

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Judith Wright. 'The Gift [7]' 2008

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Judith Wright
‘The Gift [7]’
2008

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Sophie Gannon Gallery

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

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

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

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

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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