Posts Tagged ‘photography

08
Jul
18

Review: ‘Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861’ at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne Part 2, featuring photographs from exhibition

Exhibition dates: 15th March – 15th July 2018

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Colony: Frontier Wars (15 March – 2 September 2018) which presents a powerful response to colonisation through a range of historical and contemporary works by Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists dating from pre-contact times to present day.

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers should be aware that this posting contains images and names of people who may have since passed away.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Colony: Australia 1770 - 1861' at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Colony: Australia 1770 – 1861 at NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne showing how some of the photographs were displayed in the case at rear.

Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

” …what the generality of the white population of the Colony consist of, which is of the most debased and vilest dregs of Great Britain and Ireland… they never look on the Blacks in the light of human beings, but, would just as soon shoot them as they would a crow, or hunt them as they would a kangaroo. Indeed in some districts the dogs used to be thought good for nothing unless they could kill a Black as well as a kangaroo, and they used to teach them to do so, by giving them some of the poor Black’s blood.”

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James Graham. ‘Overland Letter’ part of the Graham Bros collection at The University of Melbourne archives

 

The bad deeds of some leading frontier politicians, administrators and military men have been almost overlooked; many history books – even more modern online popular resources such as the Australian Dictionary of Biography – diminish, attempt to justify or overlook completely their proven excesses against this continent’s Indigenes. …

“On any occasion of seeing or falling in with the Natives, either in Bodies or Singly, they are to be called upon, by your friendly Native Guides, to surrender themselves to you as Prisoners of War. If they refuse to do so, make the least show of resistance, or attempt to run away from you, you will fire upon and compel them to surrender, breaking and destroying the Spears, Clubs and Waddies of all those you take Prisoners. Such natives as happen to be killed on such occasions, if grown up men, are to be hanged up on Trees in Conspicuous Situations, to Strike the Survivors with the greater terror.”

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Lachlan Macquarie, fifth governor of New South Wales quoted in Paul Daley, “Heroes, Monuments and History,” in ‘Meanjin’, Autumn 2018

 

 

Terror incognita

Firstly, let me state that I am no expert in Australian colonial history, culture or photography. These are very specialised fields. But what I can do is use my eyes, my knowledge and my feelings to provide comment on this exhibition.

This magnificent exhibition at NGV Australia at Federation Square is a fascinating interrogation of the early history of the Australian nation, yet at the same time I found it very disturbing and sad. The exhibition more resembles a natural history exhibition than an art exhibition, a cabinet of curiosities, a Wunderkammer, were encyclopaedic collections of objects whose categorical boundaries are yet to be defined are mixed with the first European art made on this continent. The exhibition is a microcosm or theatre of the world, and a memory theatre, for all that has passed since before invasion of this land up until the year 1861. The installation mixes together colonial and Indigenous artefacts from within the allotted time period. There is so much to see that I have visited three times and not got to the bottom of this exhibition it is so dense. Paintings, drawings, sculpture, colonial furniture, clothing, pottery, jewellery, photography, maps, artefacts, etc… are displayed in a melange of techniques, offering a huge range of artists and media. Please see Part 1 of the posting for the installation images of the exhibition.

Some observations can be made. Generally, the paintings and drawings are of a very classical form, very tightly controlled and painted. They set out to document the landscape, firstly the Australian landscape as seen in the European tradition, and then in a more realistic yet romanticised form in later paintings. Early colour aquatints of Aboriginal people depict them climbing trees in an almost reptilian manner while later representations picture “a romantic vision of a vast, silent and forbidding land. Two generic Aboriginal people figures are included in the foreground in the guise of the noble savage.” Of a vanishing race. Other collages (a fictionalised representational technique), such as James Wallis’ View of Awabakal Aboriginal people, with beach and river inlet, and distant Aboriginal group in background (c. 1818), propose “a harmonious relationship between the Awabakal, colonisers and the military. Such a suggestion is at odds with earlier events of April 1816 when Wallis, under the direction of Governor Macquarie, led an armed regiment against Dharawal and Gandangara people south of Sydney, in what is now acknowledged as the first officially sanctioned massacre of Indigenous people in Australia.” (Exhibition text) Further, the romanticised vistas of colonial interloper John Glover (1767-1849) evoke, “an idyll where the natives were at one with nature, even as the slaughter was upon them…” (Damian Smith, 2018). This connection to nature can be seen in Glover’s painting The River Nile, Van Diemen’s Land, from Mr Glover’s farm (1837). But, as the exhibition text notes, “Glover had not experienced the conflict or witnessed the violence between Tasmanian Aboriginal resistance fighters and white settlers during the 1820s. By the time of his arrival in 1831, the Tasmanian Aboriginal survivors had been forced to leave Country and relocate to Flinders Island.” These representations of Aboriginal life are pure fiction constructed in the imagination of the artists and colonisers.

By way of contrast, the portraits of landed gentry, such as Thomas Bock’s four paintings of Captain William Robertson and his family (1830s-50s), are elegant and flattering. They are portraits executed in the grand Georgian manner fashionable in England and were greatly prized by colonists. Here is a family who has made it, and they want everyone to know about it. The roots of their representation are in the old country, their allegiance there also, to the mother country. Australia is a colony, part of the British Empire, an outpost of all that is right and proper in the world. Imagine just for a second that you are back in the 1850s. No electricity, only candle power. Now imagine arriving at a home with these portraits, or the landscapes of John Glover, lit by candle light. The skin would be luminescent, the golden frames glowing in the light; the trees in the Glover paintings would have writhed, seeming almost alive in the flickering light. A forbidding landscape indeed.

In portraiture, the same disposition can be seen in the early daguerreotype and ambrotype photographs of Aboriginals and colonists.

“Within a decade of the arrival of European colonists in the Port Phillip District a number of professional photographers had established studios in Melbourne, and prominent among these was Douglas Kilburn. Around 1847, Kilburn made a series of portraits [see below] of people thought to be from the Kulin nation. The images testify to the power of photographs to record kin and define identity. They also show Aboriginal people who had experienced a decade of dispossession following the arrival of settlers. It is believed Kilburn’s subjects were among the numbers of First Nations people who had few choices other than to return to Melbourne because they had been driven out of their Country.” (Exhibition text)

If we look at these small, personal, one-off photographs housed in leather cases that can be closed off from the world, when opened to reveal the Aboriginal sitters … we notice how frontal they are, how they face straight on to the camera, how grouped they are, how they fill the picture plane with little negative space around them, how the camera seems to press in on them, as though to capture every last detail of their countenance and clothing. Their visage. The aspect of their being. These are ethnographic documents as much as they are portraits, for they map the condition of the captives. If, as Michael Graham-Stewart states in his book Bitter fruit: Australian photographs to 1963, “photography operates not only as an instrument of oppression, but also as a means of connecting with people of the past,” what do contemporary Indigenous Australians make of these images. Do they find evidence of wrongdoing and suffering but also of resistance, adaptation, and continuity? Are they also angry and sad at what they have lost, as in a thriving and incredibly diverse culture? I would be.

Again, by way of contrast we look at how the colonists viewed themselves in these personal treasures. Here, we must remember that these early photographs would have been relatively expensive for a family to have commissioned them, almost as expensive say, in contemporary terms, as buying a plasma television when they first came out. Only the well-to-do would have been able to afford to have their portrait taken. Two examples of this providence and bounty can be seen in this posting. The portrait of The Lashmar family by William Millington Nixon (1857-58, see below) shows a family who were pioneering pastoralists on Kangaroo Island in the 1850s. “Despite the relative remoteness of their home, and the harshness of the environment, the family evidently prospered. Thomas Young Lashmar not only had the means to travel to Adelaide with his wife and family, but was also able to commission photographic portraits at a time when it was still a relatively expensive exercise.” (Exhibition text) While Aboriginals while forced from their land and massacred, pastoralists were making money and prospering from the confiscated lands.

Nothing better shows the sense of entitlement that the early pastoralists had (and still do today, with their illegal land clearing) towards their possession of the land and their identity that arose from that possession, than the commissioned set of five portraits by daguerreotype portraitist George Goodman of the daughters of prominent local land holder William Lawson II in the town of Bathurst, north-west of Sydney. Dressed in their finest, the young daughters, arms covered, clutch flowers and either look away from the camera or directly at it. The camera is placed directly at eye level, or slightly below it, and the space around the sitter is open and amorphous, a plain background which isolates the figure in space. Unlike the claustrophobic portraits by Douglas Kilburn of the Aboriginals from the Kulin nation, here the sitters seem to possess the space of the photograph, they inhabit and can breathe in the pictorial plane. In particular, the portrait of Susannah Caroline Lawson (1845, below) pictures a young woman with an incredibly determined stare and haughty demeanour. She seems to radiate a perfect sense of entitlement within the physical presence of the photograph.

Other photographs reinforce this vision of the world that the colonists enacted. Thomas Bock’s Portrait of two boys (1848-50, below) “shows that he was a skilled photographer by 1848… Any parent would have been thrilled by such a vivid image of their sons, especially as, like many colonial sons, they might be getting ready to be sent ‘home’ to the United Kingdom for schooling. The image of the boys was a memento for their parents as well as proof for relatives in Britain that colonial society could produce the same well-dressed and well-bred young boys as the old country.” (Gael Newton)

There is the rub. For migrants who were a long way from home, photography was proof that they were alive, successful, flourishing… and could live up to the expectations of their family back home and the standards of the old country. “Photography served several interrelated roles associated with the experience of migration and colonisation. For those European migrants transplanted halfway across the world, often without family or friends, the most immediate and heartfelt use for the camera was portraiture. Some of Australia’s earliest surviving photographs are small, sturdily cased portraits which provided ‘likenesses as if by magic’ of those depicted and were sent back ‘home’, thus providing an emotional connection to family members.” (Exhibition text) An emotional connection for people living in a far off land to those back “home”, and an emotional connection to family in a forbidding land, to remind themselves of their strength and unity in the face of the unknown.

What this exhibition does not show, because they are later photographs, is evidence of the overt oppression of Indigenous peoples that photography documented. While terra nullius is a Latin expression meaning “nobody’s land” usually associated with colonising Australia, the British Government using this term to justify the dispossession of Indigenous people, there is also another term, terra incognita, a term used in cartography for regions that have not been mapped or documented. In many ways the terror that Indigenous people experienced during invasion is still being mapped and explored. Much of it is still not known or is unaccepted, as a terror incognita. Dr Katherine Ellinghaus in her article “Criss-Cross History Hidden in a Letter,” notes that, “Reconciliation Australia’s own biennial survey [2016] has found that more than one in three Australians don’t accept that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were subject to mass killings, incarceration, and forced removal from their lands.”

This is the terror that still exists in the Australian psyche. The terror of cutting ties to the motherland, the terror of an incognita, an “unknown land”, and the hidden terror prescribed and enacted on the cultural body of the Aboriginal, unacknowledged by some even today.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

Word count: 1,853

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Many thankx to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All installation photographs © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Robert Lyall with the New Norfolk Cup' 1851 Ambrotype

 

Unknown photographer
Robert Lyall with the New Norfolk Cup
1851
Ambrotype
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 2004
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Robert Lyall was a successful Tasmanian publican and businessman whose interests extended to horse racing. In 1851 his prized horse Patience won the New Norfolk Cup and Lyall was the recipient of a handsome silver presentation cup. Not only evidence of his success and standing, the cup was apparently also of great personal significance to Lyall as he included it as a decorative element when this large-scale ambrotype was commissioned. Unlike more intimately scaled cased images, this photograph was framed so that it could be prominently displayed on the wall. (Exhibition text)

 

Douglas T. Kilburn (attributed to) 'No title (Group of Koori men)' c. 1847 Daguerreotype

Douglas T. Kilburn (attributed to) 'No title (Group of Koori men)' c. 1847 Daguerreotype

 

Douglas T. Kilburn (attributed to) (England 1811 – Australia 1871, Australia from 1846)
No title (Group of Koori men)
c. 1847
Daguerreotype; leather, wood, velvet, brass
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased from Admission Funds, 1983

Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Within a decade of the arrival of European colonists in the Port Phillip District a number of professional photographers had established studios in Melbourne, and prominent among these was Douglas Kilburn. Around 1847, Kilburn made a series of portraits of people thought to be from the Kulin nation. The images testify to the power of photographs to record kin and define identity. They also show Aboriginal people who had experienced a decade of dispossession following the arrival of settlers. It is believed Kilburn’s subjects were among the numbers of First Nations people who had few choices other than to return to Melbourne because they had been driven out of their Country. (Exhibition text)

 

Douglas T. Kilburn (attributed to) (England 1811 – Australia 1871, Australia from 1846) 'No title (Group of Koori men)' c. 1847

 

Douglas T. Kilburn (attributed to) (England 1811 – Australia 1871, Australia from 1846)
No title (Group of Koori men)
c. 1847
Daguerreotype; leather, wood, velvet, brass
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased from Admission Funds, 1983

 

 

Kulin

The Kulin nation is an alliance of five Indigenous Australian tribes in south central Victoria, Australia. Their collective territory extended around Port Phillip and Western Port, up into the Great Dividing Range and the Loddon and Goulburn River valleys. Before British colonisation, the tribes spoke five related languages. These languages were spoken in two groups: the Eastern Kulin group of Woiwurrung, Boonwurrung, Taungurong and Ngurai-illam-wurrung; and the western language group of just Wathaurung.

The central Victoria area has been inhabited for an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 years before European settlement. At the time of British settlement in the 1830s, the collective populations of the Woiwurrung, Boonwurrung and Wathaurong tribes of the Kulin nation was estimated to be under 20,000. The Kulin lived by fishing, hunting and gathering, and made a sustainable living from the rich food sources of Port Phillip and the surrounding grasslands.

Due to the upheaval and disturbances from British settlement from the 1830s on, there is limited physical evidence of the Kulin peoples’ collective past. However, there is a small number of registered sites of cultural and spiritual significance in the Melbourne area.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Douglas T. Kilburn (attributed to) 'No title (South-east Australian Aboriginal man and two younger companions)' 1847 (left) and 'No title (Two Koori women)' c. 1847 (right) Daguerreotypes

 

Left

Douglas T. Kilburn (attributed to) (England 1811 – Australia 1871, Australia from 1846)
No title (South-east Australian Aboriginal man and two younger companions)
1847
Daguerreotype
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 2007

Right

Douglas T. Kilburn (attributed to) (England 1811 – Australia 1871, Australia from 1846)
No title (Two Koori women)
c. 1847
Daguerreotype, brass, glass, gold, velvet
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 2004

Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Douglas T. Kilburn (attributed to) 'No title (Two Koori women)' c. 1847 Daguerreotype

 

Douglas T. Kilburn (attributed to) (England 1811 – Australia 1871, Australia from 1846)
No title (Two Koori women)
c. 1847
Daguerreotype, brass, glass, gold, velvet
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 2004
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

As a way of attracting attention to his newly opened business Douglas Kilburn took at least eight daguerreotypes of Aboriginal people in the lands of the Kulin nation. As a result of the nineteenth-century belief that the Aboriginal people were doomed to annihilation, Kilburn intended the images as ethnographic studies rather than individual portraits; nevertheless, his unnamed sitters project a proud and dignified presence. His photographs were popular with local artists such as Eugene von Guérard and John Skinner Prout, who copied them, and they also reached an international audience when they were used as the basis for wood engravings in William Westgarth’s Australia Felix in 1848, Nordisk Penning-Magazin in 1849 and the Illustrated London News in 1850. (Exhibition text)

 

George Goodman Lawson children

 

George Goodman (active in Australia 1842-51)

Left

Maria Emily Lawson
1845
Daguerreotype
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Presented 1993

Middle

Susannah Caroline Lawson
1845
Daguerreotype; leather, velvet
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Presented by Sir Kenneth Street, 1960

Right

Eliza Lawson
1845
Daguerreotype, leather, velvet
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Presented by Sir Kenneth Street, 1960

Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

George Goodman Lawson mother and children

 

George Goodman (active in Australia 1842-51)

Left

Caroline and Thomas James Lawson
1845
Daguerreotype, leather, velvet
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Presented 1991

Middle

Sophia Rebecca Lawson
1845
Daguerreotype, leather, velvet
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Presented by Sir Kenneth Street, 1960

Right

Sarah Ann Lawson
1845
Daguerreotype, leather, velvet
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Presented by Sir Kenneth Street, 1960

Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

George Goodman arrived in Sydney in 1842 and established the first professional photography studio in Australia. Although he is known to have made photographs of Tasmanian street scenes, his stock-in-trade was portraiture. Goodman travelled to regional towns where he advertised his services as a daguerreotype portraitist. In 1845 he visited the town of Bathurst, north-west of Sydney, and was commissioned to photograph the family of prominent local land holder William Lawson II. The resulting series includes five individual portraits of Lawson’s young daughters and a charming, and surprisingly informal, image showing his wife Caroline Lawson and their young son. (Exhibition text)

 

George Goodman (active in Australia 1842-51) 'Susannah Caroline Lawson' 1845

 

George Goodman (active in Australia 1842-51)
Susannah Caroline Lawson
1845
Daguerreotype; leather, velvet
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Presented by Sir Kenneth Street, 1960

 

George Goodman (active in Australia 1842-51) 'Eliza Lawson' 1845

 

George Goodman (active in Australia 1842-51)
Eliza Lawson
1845
Daguerreotype, leather, velvet
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Presented by Sir Kenneth Street, 1960

 

George Goodman (active in Australia 1842-51) 'Caroline and Thomas James Lawson' 1845

 

George Goodman (active in Australia 1842-51)
Caroline and Thomas James Lawson
1845
Daguerreotype, leather, velvet
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Presented 1991

 

George Goodman (active in Australia 1842-51) 'Sophia Rebecca Lawson' 1845

 

George Goodman (active in Australia 1842-51)
Sophia Rebecca Lawson
1845
Daguerreotype, leather, velvet
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Presented by Sir Kenneth Street, 1960

 

George Goodman (active in Australia 1842-51) 'Sarah Ann Lawson' 1845

 

George Goodman (active in Australia 1842-51)
Sarah Ann Lawson
1845
Daguerreotype, leather, velvet
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Presented by Sir Kenneth Street, 1960

 

Unknown photographer (working 1850s) 'Pair of portraits: George Taylor, his wife Ann (nee Collis Pratt)' c. 1856 Ambrotypes

 

Unknown photographer (working 1850s)
Pair of portraits: George Taylor, his wife Ann (nee Collis Pratt)
c. 1856, Adelaide
Two ambrotypes, colour dyes, gold paint
9.4 x 6.8 cm (each image, oval)
J.C. Earl Bequest Fund 2010
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Freeman Brothers Studio. ‘No title (Mother and children)’ 1855-56

 

Freeman Brothers Studio, Sydney (1854-1900)
James Freeman (England 1814 – Australia 1890, Australia from early 1850s)
William Freeman (England 1809 – Australia 1895, Australia from early 1850s)
No title (Mother and children)
1855-56
Daguerreotype, oil paint; leather, gold, paint, glass, velvet, metal, wood (case)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gerstl Bequest, 2001
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Freeman Brothers Studio. ‘No title (Mother and children)’ 1855-56

 

Freeman Brothers Studio, Sydney (1854-1900)
James Freeman (England 1814 – Australia 1890, Australia from early 1850s)
William Freeman (England 1809 – Australia 1895, Australia from early 1850s)
No title (Mother and children)
1855-56
Daguerreotype, oil paint; leather, gold, paint, glass, velvet, metal, wood (case)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gerstl Bequest, 2001

 

 

One of the largest and most celebrated Sydney photographic studios was run by the Freeman Brothers, whose skilful portraits were much admired. This pair of entrepreneurial photographers used the latest processes, building a large, well-appointed studio and actively promoting their work through display in international exhibitions. James Freeman was also extremely well versed in the potential uses of the medium, delivering a comprehensive lecture on the topic to a Sydney society in 1858. (Exhibition text)

 

Thomas Glaister (England 1824 - United States 1904, Australia 1850s) 'No title (Seated woman)' c. 1858

 

Thomas Glaister (England 1824 – United States 1904, Australia 1850s)
No title (Seated woman)
c. 1858
Ambrotype, coloured dyes
13.6 h x 10.7 w cm (case)
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1983
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Professor Robert Hall. ‘Portrait of a gentleman with check pants’ 1855-65 and Thomas Glaister. ‘George Coppin’ c. 1855

 

Left

Professor Robert Hall (active in Australia mid 19th century)
No title (Portrait of a gentleman with check pants)
1855-65
Stereo ambrotype, colour dyes
8.8 x 17.1 cm (overall)
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
R. J. Noye Collection
Gift of Douglas and Barbara Mullins, 2004

Right

Thomas Glaister (England 1824 – United States 1904, Australia 1850s)
George Coppin
c. 1855
Daguerreotype, hand tinted, gilt-matted and glazed
5.2 x 12.7 cm
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

George Selth Coppin (8 April 1819 – 14 March 1906) was a comic actor, entrepreneur and politician, active in Australia. For more information see the Australian Dictionary of Biography entry.

 

Thomas Glaister. ‘No title (Gentleman)’ c. 1854

 

Meade Brothers Studio, Melbourne (studio active in Australia 1850s)
Thomas Glaister (attributed to) (photographer England 1825 – United States 1904)
No title (Gentleman)
c. 1854
Daguerreotype, colour pigments; gold, leather, velvet, brass, glass (case)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of T. H. Lustig and Moar Families, Governor, 2001
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Thomas Glaister. ‘No title (Gentleman)’ c. 1854

 

Meade Brothers Studio, Melbourne (studio active in Australia 1850s)
Thomas Glaister (attributed to) (photographer England 1825 – United States 1904)
No title (Gentleman)
c. 1854
Daguerreotype, colour pigments; gold, leather, velvet, brass, glass (case)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of T. H. Lustig and Moar Families, Governor, 2001

 

Thomas Bock. ‘William Robertson Jnr.’ c. 1852 and ‘Margaret Robertson’ c. 1852

 

Left

Thomas Bock (attributed to) (England 1790 – Australia 1855, Australia from 1824)
William Robertson Jnr.
c. 1852
Daguerreotype, hand coloured
case: 9.2 x 8.0 cm, image: 7.0 x 5.5 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Fiona Turner (nee Robertson) and John Robertson, 2001
Donated through the Australia Government’s Cultural Gifts Program

Right

Thomas Bock (attributed to) (England 1790 – Australia 1855, Australia from 1824)
Margaret Robertson
c. 1852
Ambrotype, hand coloured
case: 9.3 x 8.0 cm, image: 7.0 x 6.0 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Fiona Turner (nee Robertson) and John Robertson, 2001
Donated through the Australia Government’s Cultural Gifts Program

Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

News of scientific discoveries reached Australia via the flotillas of ships plying the southern trade routes. The first demonstrations of photography occurred in England and France in 1839. News of this reached Australia that same year and was described in an account in the Tasmanian newspaper The Cornwall Chronicle on 19 October 1839. Former convict Thomas Bock was one of the earliest Tasmanian photographers, first advertising his studio in September 1843. His daguerreotype portraits resemble his paintings and drawings in their composition and use of hand-colouring. (Exhibition text)

 

Thomas Bock

1790 – 1855

Thomas Bock, artist, printmaker and photographer, is believed to have been born at Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham, in 1790. He completed an apprenticeship as an engraver with Thomas Brandard in Birmingham and in 1814 established his own business there, advertising himself as an ‘Engraver and Miniature Painter’. In April 1823, Bock and a woman named Mary Day Underhill appeared at the Warwickshire Assizes charged with ‘administering concoctions of certain herbs to Ann Yates, with the intent to cause a miscarriage.’ Both were found guilty and sentenced to transportation for fourteen years. At the time of his conviction, Bock was thirty-two, married and father to five children. Bock arrived in Hobart aboard the Asia in January 1824. His convict record stated he had ‘served an apprenticeship to the Engraving Business’ and described him as ‘well connected and very orderly.’ The colonial authorities found immediate use for Bock, some of his earliest Tasmanian works being bank notes engraved for the Bank of Van Diemen’s Land and a drawing of executed cannibal, Alexander Pearce, made in July 1824 at the request of the Colonial Surgeon. Bock worked as a printmaker during the 1820s, engraving stationery along with illustrations for publications such as the Hobart Town Almanack while also producing portraits. He received a conditional pardon in 1832 and free pardon a year later, thereafter establishing a highly successful practice as Hobart’s most sought-after portrait artist. Bock was particularly known for his portrait drawings utilising watercolour, pencil, chalk and pastel (or ‘French crayon’), but his practice was diverse, incorporating printmaking and oil painting as well as photography. On his death in Hobart in March 1855 he was described as ‘an artist of a very high order’ whose works ‘adorned the homes of a number of our old colonists and citizens.’

Text from the National Portrait Gallery website

 

Thomas Bock (attributed to) (England 1790 - Australia 1855, Australia from 1824) 'William Robertson Jnr.' c. 1852

 

Thomas Bock (attributed to) (England 1790 – Australia 1855, Australia from 1824)
William Robertson Jnr.
c. 1852
Daguerreotype, hand coloured
case: 9.2 x 8.0 cm, image: 7.0 x 5.5 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Fiona Turner (nee Robertson) and John Robertson, 2001
Donated through the Australia Government’s Cultural Gifts Program

 

 

William Robertson (1839-1892), barrister and politician, was the third of the seven children of pastoralist William Robertson (1798-1874) and his wife Margaret (née Whyte, 1811-1866). Robertson was born and educated in Hobart and then at Wadham College, Oxford. He is believed to be the first Australian to row in an Oxford eight, his team victorious against Cambridge in the Boat Race of 1861. Robertson graduated with a BA in 1862 and was married and called to the bar the following year. On his return to Australia, Robertson practised law in Hobart before heading to Victoria in 1864. He worked as a barrister in Melbourne and then assisted in the management of the family property, Corangamarah, which he and his three brothers jointly inherited on the death of their father in 1874. Robertson served as a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly between 1871 and 1874 and again from 1881 to 1886; he was also President of the Colac Shire council in 1880-81. After the dissolution of the partnership with his brothers in 1885, Robertson became sole owner of Corangamarah, later called The Hill, and in retirement enjoyed the lifestyle of an ‘hospitable and sports-loving country gentleman.’

Text from the National Portrait Gallery website

 

Thomas Bock (attributed to) (England 1790 - Australia 1855, Australia from 1824) 'Margaret Robertson' c. 1852

 

Thomas Bock (attributed to) (England 1790 – Australia 1855, Australia from 1824)
Margaret Robertson
c. 1852
Ambrotype, hand coloured
case: 9.3 x 8.0 cm, image: 7.0 x 6.0 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Fiona Turner (nee Robertson) and John Robertson, 2001
Donated through the Australia Government’s Cultural Gifts Program

 

 

Margaret Robertson (née Whyte, 1811-1866) was the daughter of settlers George and Jessie Whyte, who emigrated to Van Diemen’s Land from Scotland in 1832. In September 1834, Margaret married Scottish-born entrepreneur and landowner William Robertson (1798-1874), who had arrived in the colony in 1822 and who, in the decade leading up to his marriage, had acquired land nearby to a property owned by Margaret’s family. The first of Margaret and William’s seven children – four sons and three daughters – was born in 1835. The family resided in Hobart until the early 1860s, when Roberston relocated to his Victorian estate, where Margaret died in February 1866.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery website

 

Thomas Bock (England 1790 - Australia 1855, Australia from 1824) 'No title (Portrait of two boys)' 1848-50

 

Thomas Bock (England 1790 – Australia 1855, Australia from 1824)
No title (Portrait of two boys)
1848-50, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Daguerreotype
case closed 7.0 h x 6.0 w cm case open 7.5 h x 13.0 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 2009
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

The daguerreotype was first demonstrated in Australia in Sydney in May 1841. Late the following year, London’s George Goodman set up the first commercial studio in Sydney, claiming to have an exclusive license to use the daguerreotype in the colonies. Goodman was working in Hobart in August 1843, where he came in direct competition with British convict artist Thomas Bock.

Although an engraver by trade, Bock had a keen interest in photography and, in the Hobart Town Advertiser of 29 September 1843, he advertised that ‘in a short time he would be enabled to take photographic likenesses in the first style of the art’. Infuriated, Goodman threatened legal action and Bock promptly withdrew until five years later when he opened a portrait photography studio in Hobart.

Bock’s stepson Alfred assisted him in the photography-side of the studio business. They had seen daguerreotype portraits brought from London by Reverend Francis Russell Nixon in Hobart in June 1843 – before Goodman’s arrival in Tasmania – and had purchased a camera from a Frenchman in Hobart so that they could learn the new art form using photographic formulas published in English magazines. Their lack of proper training, however, shows in Hobart dignitary GTYB Boyes’s records of August 1849, in which he comments, ‘Bock understands the nature of his apparatus but very imperfectly!’ Despite this and other unfavourable remarks between 1849 and 1853, Boyes continued to visit Bock’s studios for daguerreotype portraits.

Bock’s portrait of two freckle-faced boys dressed in matching outfits shows that he was a skilled photographer by 1848 – a year before Boyes’s initial disparaging remark. Any parent would have been thrilled by such a vivid image of their sons, especially as, like many colonial sons, they might be getting ready to be sent ‘home’ to the United Kingdom for schooling. The image of the boys was a memento for their parents as well as proof for relatives in Britain that colonial society could produce the same well-dressed and well-bred young boys as the old country. The sitters are as yet unidentified but the daguerreotype has been dated by comparison with several identified examples of double portraits of children that have survived out of the hundreds of images made by the Bock studio.

Gael Newton
Senior Curator, Photography
in artonview, issue 61, autumn 2010

 

William Millington Nixon (England 1814 - Australia 1893, Australia from 1855) 'The Lashmar family' 1857-58

 

William Millington Nixon (England 1814 – Australia 1893, Australia from 1855)
The Lashmar family
1857-58
Daguerreotype, coloured inks; gold, leather, brass, metal, velvet and glass (case)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 2004
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Shortly after his arrival in Adelaide in 1855, William Millington Nixon began making daguerreotypes, and quickly become a skilled daguerreotypist. By 1858 he had built a reputation as a portraitist and established a studio in King William Street, Adelaide.

The Lashmar family were pioneering pastoralists on Kangaroo Island in the 1850s. Despite the relative remoteness of their home, and the harshness of the environment, the family evidently prospered. Thomas Young Lashmar not only had the means to travel to Adelaide with his wife and family, but was also able to commission photographic portraits at a time when it was still a relatively expensive exercise. (Exhibition text)

 

Unknown photographer. 'No title (Portrait of a nun)' c. 1860

 

Unknown photographer
No title (Portrait of a nun)
c. 1860
Ambrotype with hand tinting
4.0 x 16.5 x 12.5 cm (box)
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
R.J. Noye Collection
Gift of Douglas and Barbara Mullins, 2004
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Thomas Glaister (England 1824 - United States 1904, Australia 1850s) 'Reverend Jabez Bunting Waterhouse' 1861

 

Thomas Glaister (England 1824 – United States 1904, Australia 1850s)
Reverend Jabez Bunting Waterhouse
1861
Ambrotype, coloured-dyes
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

WATERHOUSE BROTHERS: Jabez Bunting (1821-1891), Joseph (1828-1881), and Samuel (1830-1918), Wesleyan ministers, were the fifth, ninth and tenth children of Rev. John Waterhouse (d. 1842) and his wife Jane Beadnell, née Skipsey. In 1838 their father, a prominent Yorkshire Methodist, was appointed general superintendent of the Wesleyan Methodist Mission in Australia and Polynesia with a roving commission. With his wife, seven sons and three daughters, he reached Hobart Town in the James on 1 February 1839.

Jabez was born in London on 19 April 1821, educated at Kingswood School in 1832-35 and apprenticed to a printer. In Hobart, A. Bent’s printing premises were purchased and worked by Jabez. In 1840 he became a local preacher extending his ministry to convict road menders. Received as a probationer in 1842, he returned to England to enter Richmond (Theological) College and in 1845 was appointed to Windsor circuit. After his ordination at the Methodist chapel, Spitalfields, he was sent to Van Diemen’s Land in 1847, and ministered successively in the Hobart, Westbury, Campbell Town and Longford circuits. In 1855 the first conference of the Wesleyan Church in Australia appointed him to South Australia; he served at Kapunda, Willunga and Adelaide, his ministry marked by his business acumen and his role as secretary of the Australasian Conference at Adelaide in 1862.

In 1864 Waterhouse was transferred to New South Wales and was appointed successively to Maitland, Goulburn, Orange, Waverley, Parramatta, Newcastle and Glebe. In 1874-75 he was secretary of the New South Wales and Queensland Annual Conference and president in 1876; he was elected secretary of the first three general conferences of the Australasian Wesleyan Methodist Church: in Melbourne 1875, Sydney 1878 and Adelaide 1881. In 1882 he retired as a supernumerary, but remained on committees such as those of the Sustentation and Extension Society and the Missionary Society, frequently looking after missionary interests during the absence of George Brown. He supported the Wesleyan Church in Tonga in the dispute with S. W. Baker and published The Secession and the Persecution in Tonga … (Sydney, 1886). Regarded as a gifted preacher by his denomination and as the architect of most of the conference legislation, he died of heart disease and dropsy at Randwick on 18 January 1891 and was buried in the Wesleyan section of Rookwood cemetery. He was survived by his wife Maria Augusta, née Bode, whom he had married at Windsor, England, on 13 August 1847, and by seven sons; his second son John was headmaster of Sydney High School.

Niel Gunson. Australian Dictionary of Biography

 

Freeman Brothers Studio. ‘Walter Davis’ and ‘Jemima Jane Davis’ c. 1860

 

Left

Freeman Brothers Studio (Sydney 1854-1900)
James Freeman (England 1814 – Australia 1890, Australia from early 1850s)
William Freeman (England 1809 – Australia 1895, Australia from early 1850s)
Jemima Jane Davis
c. 1860
Ambrotype, coloured dyes; wood, leather, velvet, glass and gilt metal (case)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Warwick Reeder, 1991

Right

Freeman Brothers Studio (Sydney 1854-1900)
James Freeman (England 1814 – Australia 1890, Australia from early 1850s)
William Freeman (England 1809 – Australia 1895, Australia from early 1850s)
Walter Davis
c. 1860
Ambrotype, coloured dyes; wood, leather, velvet, glass and gilt metal (case)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Warwick Reeder, 1991

Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Freeman Brothers Studio. ‘Walter Davis’ c. 1860

 

Freeman Brothers Studio (Sydney 1854-1900)
James Freeman (England 1814 – Australia 1890, Australia from early 1850s)
William Freeman (England 1809 – Australia 1895, Australia from early 1850s)
Walter Davis
c. 1860
Ambrotype, coloured dyes; wood, leather, velvet, glass and gilt metal (case)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Warwick Reeder, 1991
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Freeman Brothers Studio. ‘Jemima Jane Davis’ c. 1860

 

Freeman Brothers Studio (Sydney 1854-1900)
James Freeman (England 1814 – Australia 1890, Australia from early 1850s)
William Freeman (England 1809 – Australia 1895, Australia from early 1850s)
Jemima Jane Davis
c. 1860
Ambrotype, coloured dyes; wood, leather, velvet, glass and gilt metal (case)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Warwick Reeder, 1991

 

Freeman Brothers Studio. ‘Walter Davis’ c. 1860

 

Freeman Brothers Studio (Sydney 1854-1900)
James Freeman (England 1814 – Australia 1890, Australia from early 1850s)
William Freeman (England 1809 – Australia 1895, Australia from early 1850s)
Walter Davis
c. 1860
Ambrotype, coloured dyes; wood, leather, velvet, glass and gilt metal (case)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Warwick Reeder, 1991

 

Unknown photographer. 'No title (Portrait of a man, woman and child)' c. 1860

 

Unknown photographer
No title (Portrait of a man, woman and child)
c. 1860
Ambrotype, coloured dyes; wood, leather, brass, glass, silk (velvet) (case)
Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Unknown photographer. 'No title (Portrait of mother and child)' c. 1855

 

Unknown photographer
No title (Portrait of mother and child)
c. 1855
Ambrotype, coloured dyes; wood, leather, brass, glass, silk (velvet) (case)
Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney
Gift of Tooth & Company Ltd under the Australian Government’s Tax Incentives for the Arts Scheme, 1986
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Unknown photographer. ‘Jemima, wife of Jacky with William T. Mortlock’ and ‘Jacky, known as Master Mortlock’ c. 1860

 

Left

Unknown photographer
Jemima, wife of Jacky with William T. Mortlock
c. 1860
Daguerreotype
Ayers House Museum, National Trust of South Australia, Adelaide

Right

Unknown photographer
Jacky, known as Master Mortlock
c. 1860-65
Daguerreotype
Ayers House Museum, National Trust of South Australia, Adelaide

Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

The Mortlock family were wealthy pastoralists in South Australia. Along with the daguerreotypes of family members they commissioned around 1860 are two portraits of their domestic servants known as Jemima and Jacky. Each member of the Mortlock family has been named in these images, but the identity of the two Aboriginal sitters has been lost – initially with the assignment of European first names and then the addition of the surname ‘master Mortlock’, which identified them as servants of the pastoralists who employed them. (Exhibition text)

 

Unknown photographer. 'Brothers William Paul and Benjamin Featherstone' c. 1860

 

Unknown photographer
Brothers William Paul and Benjamin Featherstone
c. 1860
Ambrotype, gold paint
15.5 x 12.1 cm (case)
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
J.C. Earl Bequest Fund, 2010
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Thomas Glaister (England 1824 - United States 1904, Australia 1850s) 'Professor John Smith' c. 1858

 

Thomas Glaister (England 1824 – United States 1904, Australia 1850s)
Professor John Smith
c. 1858
Daguerreotype
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart
Presented by Miss Kate Crouch, 1942
Photo:
© Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Unknown photographer. 'Emily Spencer Wills' c. 1859

 

Unknown photographer
Emily Spencer Wills
c. 1859
Daguerreotype, coloured dyes; brass, glass, leather, wood
1/6th plate daguerreotype with applied colour in al brass matt (without original leather case)
Frame: 8.5 x 7.2 cm, sight: 6.6 x 5.4 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra Gift of T S Wills Cooke 2014
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
Photo:
© Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Unknown photographer. 'Emily Spencer Wills' c. 1859

 

Unknown photographer
Emily Spencer Wills
c. 1859
Daguerreotype, coloured dyes; brass, glass, leather, wood
1/6th plate daguerreotype with applied colour in al brass matt (without original leather case)
Frame: 8.5 x 7.2 cm, sight: 6.6 x 5.4 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra Gift of T S Wills Cooke 2014
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program

 

 

Photography served several interrelated roles associated with the experience of migration and colonisation. For those European migrants transplanted halfway across the world, often without family or friends, the most immediate and heartfelt use for the camera was portraiture. Some of Australia’s earliest surviving photographs are small, sturdily cased portraits which provided ‘likenesses as if by magic’ of those depicted and were sent back ‘home’, thus providing an emotional connection to family members.

This group of family portraits shows members of the Wills family, including Thomas Wentworth Wills, who was a prominent sportsman and one of the authors of the rules of the game that later became known as Australian Rules. (Exhibition text)

 

Unknown photographer. 'No title (Group of people in front of a crushing plant on a goldfield)' 1860s and Henry King (Australia 1855-1923) 'Henry Kay' 1855-60

 

Left

Unknown photographer
No title (Group of people in front of a crushing plant on a goldfield)
1860s
Ambrotype; embossed leather, wood, velvet, brass, gilt metal
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased, 2007

Right

Henry King (Australia 1855-1923)
Henry Kay
1855-60
Ambrotype, coloured dyes
2 photographs: ambrotypes with hand-colouring ; 8.9 x 6.5 cm. (oval, sight, f.1) in pinchbeck and gilt brass mount 10.9 x 8.3 cm. and 9.6 x 7.0 cm. (oval, sight, f.2) in gilt brass mount 10.9 x 8.2 cm., in brown union case 12.0 x 9.4 cm
Pictures Collection, State Library Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs W.G. Haysom 1964

Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

The discovery of gold in 1851 led to extraordinary change in the colonies as migrants flooded in and previously unknown wealth enabled expansion and development. Across the colony mines were dug and small towns and settlements were established. This ambrotype shows a working mine in central Victoria and also reveals the environmental damage that resulted from the scramble for gold.

The desire to make a fortune on the goldfields brought about significant social change. Migrants such as Henry Kay, who arrived from Penang in the 1850s, came seeking gold but stayed on in various other roles, including that of court interpreter. (Exhibition text)

 

Henry King (Australia 1855-1923) 'Henry Kay' 1855-60

Henry King (Australia 1855-1923) 'Henry Kay' 1855-60

 

Henry King (Australia 1855-1923)
Henry Kay
1855-60
Ambrotype, coloured dyes
2 photographs: ambrotypes with hand-colouring ; 8.9 x 6.5 cm. (oval, sight, f.1) in pinchbeck and gilt brass mount 10.9 x 8.3 cm. and 9.6 x 7.0 cm. (oval, sight, f.2) in gilt brass mount 10.9 x 8.2 cm., in brown union case 12.0 x 9.4 cm
Pictures Collection, State Library Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs W.G. Haysom 1964

 

 

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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04
May
18

Exhibition: ‘Susan Meiselas: Mediations’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 6th February – 20th May 2018

Curators: Carles Guerra and Pia Viewing

 

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Sandinistes aux portes du quartier général de la Garde nationale à Esteli : "L'homme au cocktail Molotov", Nicaragua' 16 juillet 1979

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Sandinistes aux portes du quartier général de la Garde nationale à Esteli : “L’homme au cocktail Molotov”, Nicaragua
16 juillet 1979
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

NICARAGUA. Esteli. 1979. Sandinistas at the walls of the Esteli National Guard headquarters

 

 

The second of a double header from Jeu de Paume, Paris.

Whatever you write or say doesn’t matter. It’s the images that matter, the work before you.

Meiselas’ work offers respect, that is the key word, respect for the individuality of the people she photographs. You can feel it in her images; it is what gives them their power. Unlike the previous posting on the work of Raoul Hausmann, where it was all about the photographer, here the work is authored but the photographs are all about the subject: their place in the world, their trials and tribulations.

Meiselas’ photographs are very strong – graphic work (in form and declaration) balanced with an existential, human touch. Meiselas questions the nature of the original photograph and photographic process in order to understand how the photograph and its ongoing testimonies change in specific times and places, by developing multilayered narratives which integrate the participation of her subjects into her works. As such they are as much meditations on the human condition as much as mediations between place, her role as witness, storytelling, and how the meaning of images changes according to the context of their diffusion, which is facilitated by technology.

On the compilation of her visual histories, I can’t put it better than the text below:

“Lauded documentary photographer Susan Meiselas has been working at the nexus of history, politics, ethnography, art, and storytelling throughout her prolific career, producing multi-layered photographic narratives about individuals and societies across the U.S. and the world. Sensitive to both the potential and limitations of images, the 1992 MacArthur Fellow approaches her projects aware of their inevitable impartiality and incompleteness, supplementing her own photographs with texts, interviews, archival images, and other forms of documentation. “My projects are authored but I’d like to think they are not authoritative,” she says.

“About Susan Meiselas” on the Artsy website

Marcus

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

 

A member of Magnum Photos since 1976, Susan Meiselas questions documentary practice. She became known through her work in conflict zones of Central America in the 1970s and 1980s in particular due to the strength of her colour photographs. Covering many subjects and countries, from war to human rights issues and from cultural identity to the sex industry, Meiselas uses photography, film, video and sometimes archive material, as she relentlessly explores and develops narratives integrating the participation of her subjects in her works. The exhibition highlights Susan Meiselas’ unique personal as well as geopolitical approach, showing how she moves through time and conflict and how she constantly questions the photographic process and her role as witness.

 

 

“It is important to me – in fact, it is central to my work – that I do what I can to respect the individuality of the people I photograph, all of whom exist in specific times and places.”

.
“This photograph is for whom. And so, for a long time that’s been the question motivating almost everything that I do.”

.
Susan Meiselas

 

 

Susan Meiselas: Mediations at Jeu de Paume on Vimeo

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Sharif and Son' 1971

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Sharif and Son
1971
Série 44 Irving Street, 1971
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

 

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Lena après le spectacle, Essex Junction, Vermont, 1973
1973
Série Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

USA. Essex Junction, Vermont. 1973. Lena on the Bally Box

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Lena juchée sur sa caisse, Essex Junction, Vermont, 1973' 1973

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Lena juchée sur sa caisse, Essex Junction, Vermont, 1973
1973
Série Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

USA. Essex Junction, Vermont. 1973. Lena after the show

 

 

“Meiselas is known for her searing, visceral photographs of civil unrest and political revolution around the world, from Central America to Kurdistan. However, it is her “Carnival Strippers” that defines her career for many.”

“A History of Magnum Photos in Ten Photographers” on the Artsy website.
See what they mean on the Susan Meiselas: “Carnival Strippers” 1972 – 1975 web page.

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Debbie et Renee, Rockland, Maine, 1972' 1972

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Debbie et Renee, Rockland, Maine, 1972
1972
Série Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

USA. Rockland, Maine. 1972. Debbie and Renee

 

 

Meiselas’s first major photographic essay focused on the lives of women performing striptease at New England country fairs, whom she photographed during three consecutive summers while teaching photography in New York City public school classrooms. Carnival Strippers was originally published in 1976 with a new edition of the book (which included a CD of the audio recordings) produced by Steidl/Whitney in 2003. In 1976, Meiselas was invited to join the photographic cooperative Magnum Photos. Beginning in 1976, she photographed a group of young girls living in her neighbourhood of Little Italy, New York. Entitled Prince Street Girls, they inspired an on-going relationship.

Meiselas is best known for her coverage of the insurrection in Nicaragua and her documentation of human rights issues in Latin America for over a decade. In 1978 Meiselas made her first trip to Nicaragua, and that year one of her iconic images was published on the cover of the New York Times Magazine. In 1981, she published Nicaragua: June 1978-July 1979, reprinted in 2008 (with a DVD of the film “Pictures from a Revolution”) and in 2016 (with a customize AR app, to trigger film clips from the photographs). Her image of Pablo Jesús Aráuz, the ‘Molotov Man’, made on July 16, 1979 just before the triumph of the Sandinistas, has become an icon of the revolution. The image is shown recontextualised in the installation The Life of an Image: ‘Molotov Man’, 1979–2009. Meiselas served as an editor for two collaborative projects, both of which support and highlight the work of regional photographers. The first, El Salvador: The Work of Thirty Photographers, Writers and Readers, 1983, also features her own images. The second project, Chile from Within, W. W. Norton, 1991, focuses on work by photographers living under the Pinochet regime. Meiselas has also co-directed four films: Living at Risk: The Story of a Nicaraguan Family, 1986 ; Voyages, on her work in Nicaragua produced in collaboration with director M. Karlin, Pictures from a Revolution, 1991, with R. P. Rogers and A. Guzzetti; and Reframing History, 2004.

In 1992, Meiselas produced Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History, Random House, 1997; University of Chicago Press, 2008. The book was produced along with akaKURDISTAN, 1998, an online archive of collective memory, currently shown as a physical map with story books made by contributors from the Kurdish diaspora worldwide. Pandora’s Box, Trebruk/Magnum Editions, 2003, is an exploration of an underground New York S&M club that began in 1995. Both projects are shown as exhibition works.

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Mississippi' 1974

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Mississippi
1974
Série Porch Portraits, 1974
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Caroline du Sud' 1974

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Caroline du Sud
1974
Série Porch Portraits, 1974
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Dee et Lisa, Mott Street, Little Italy, New York, 1976' 1976

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Dee et Lisa, Mott Street, Little Italy, New York, 1976
1976
Série Prince Street Girls, 1975-1990
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Roseann sur la route pour Manhatten Beach, New York, 1978' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Roseann sur la route pour Manhatten Beach, New York, 1978
1978
Série Prince Street Girls, 1975-1990
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

USA. New York CIty. 1978. Roseann on the way to Manhattan Beach

 

Alain Dejean Sygma. 'Portrait de Susan Meiselas, Monimbo, Nicaragua' Septembre 1978

 

Alain Dejean Sygma
Portrait de Susan Meiselas, Monimbo, Nicaragua
Septembre 1978
© Alain Dejean Sygma

 

 

The retrospective devoted to the American photographer Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) brings together a selection of works from the 1970s to the present day. A member of Magnum Photos since 1976, Susan Meiselas questions documentary practice. She became known through her work in conflict zones of Central America in the 1970s and 1980s in particular due to the strength of her colour photographs. Covering many subjects and countries, from war to human rights issues and from cultural identity to the sex industry, Meiselas uses photography, film, video and sometimes archive material, as she relentlessly explores and develops narratives integrating the participation of her subjects in her works. The exhibition highlights Susan Meiselas’s unique personal as well as geopolitical approach, showing how she moves through time and conflict and how she constantly questions the photographic process and her role as witness.

Her early works already illustrate her interest for documentary photography. Her very first project, 44 Irving Street (1971), was a series of black and white portraits. Here, she used her camera as a means of interacting with the other tenants of the boarding house where she lived during her time as a student. For Carnival Strippers (1972-1975), Meiselas followed strippers working in carnivals in New England over the course of three consecutive summers. The reportage is completed with audio recordings of the women, their clients and managers.

From this period originates also Prince Street Girls (1975-1992), which was shot in the district known as Little Italy, in New York, where Susan Meiselas still lives. She photographed a group of young girls over several years, capturing the changes that took place in their lives as they were growing up, constituting a chronicle of the evolving relationship between the young girls and the photographer.

Three important series represent the center of the exhibition: Nicaragua, El Salvador and Kurdistan. Made between the late 1970s and 2000, the works reveal the way in which the artist challenges and practises photography. During the course of her extensive travels in Latin America, over a number of decades, in times of war and peace, Meiselas returns to the sites where she took the original photographs, using the images to find the people she had met in order to pursue a record of their testimonies. With her project Mediations (1982), Susan Meiselas reveals how the meaning of images changes according to the context of their diffusion. Her novel approach is almost prophetic in a world where the diffusion of the image is facilitated by technology.

As from 1997, Meiselas addresses each conflict in a different way according to the context. Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History (1997) is an archive of the visual history of a people without a nation. Meiselas, who gathered those elements all around the world in collaboration with Kurdish people, constructed her work as an installation composed of a compilation of documents, photographs and videos.

In 1992, Meiselas, asked to contribute to an awareness campaign exposing domestic violence, began by photographing crime scenes, accompanying a team of police investigators, and then selected a number of documents with photographs from the archives of the San Francisco Police Department. This research led her to create Archives of Abuse, collages of police reports and photographs, exhibited in the city’s public spaces as posters on bus shelters.

For the retrospective at the Jeu de Paume, Susan Meiselas has created a new work, begun in 2015, based on her involvement with Multistory, a regional arts organisation based in the United Kingdom. This last series A Room of Their Own was made collaboratively in a refuge for women and focuses on domestic violence. The installation includes five narrative video works, featuring Meiselas’s photographs, first-hand testimonies, collages and drawings.

The exhibition of the Jeu de Paume is the most comprehensive retrospective of her work ever held in France. It retraces her trajectory since the 1970s as a visual artist who associates her subjects to her approach and questions the status of images in relation to the context in which they are perceived.

Press release from Jeu de Paume

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Masque traditionnel utilisé lors de l'insurrection populaire, Masaya, Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Masque traditionnel utilisé lors de l’insurrection populaire, Masaya, Nicaragua
[Traditional mask used during the popular uprising, Masaya, Nicaragua]

1978
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

 

 

In the late 1970s, without an assignment of any sort, Susan Meiselas went to Nicaragua to cover the popular insurrection following the assassination of the editor of the opposition newspaper La Prensa. She became one of the most celebrated photojournalists in the world for her colour photographs of the Sandinista Popular Revolution. Some of them became icons of the Nicaraguan revolution. She didn’t see the insurrection as a series of isolated news events as a photojournalist would, but rather a historical process that was unfolding every day. Her approach was specific to the context of the conflict and the terrain.

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Fouille de toutes les personnes voyageant en voiture, en camion, en bus ou à pied, Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Fouille de toutes les personnes voyageant en voiture, en camion, en bus ou à pied, Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua
1978
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

NICARAGUA. Cuidad Sandino. Searching everyone traveling by car, truck, bus or foot

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Retour chez soi, Masaya, Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Retour chez soi, Masaya, Nicaragua
1978
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

NICARAGUA. Masaya. September, 1978. Returning home

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Muchachos attendant la riposte de la Garde nationale, Matagalpa, Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Muchachos attendant la riposte de la Garde nationale, Matagalpa, Nicaragua
1978
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

NICARAGUA. Matagalpa. Muchachos await the counterattack by the National Guard

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Soldats fouillant la passagers du bus sur l’autoroute Nord, El Salvador' 1980

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Soldats fouillant la passagers du bus sur l’autoroute Nord, El Salvador
1980
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

EL SALVADOR. 1980. Soldiers search bus passengers along the Northern Highway

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Route pour Aguilares, El Salvador' 1983

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Route pour Aguilares, El Salvador
1983
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

EL SALVADOR. 1983. Road to Aguilares.

 

 

With Mediations, 1982, the project that lends its title to this retrospective exhibition, Meiselas revealed the effects that the circulation of images produces on their meaning. At a time when, thanks to new technologies, photography has become the object of an all-reaching exchange, Meiselas’s attitude becomes unprecedented, while her archival projects constitute a valuable precedent. Two of them, the ones devoted to Nicaragua and Kurdistan, are widely represented in this exhibition.

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Veuve sur le charnier de Koreme, nord de l'Irak' 1992

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Veuve sur le charnier de Koreme, nord de l’Irak
1992
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

NORTHERN IRAQ. Kurdistan. June, 1992. Widow at mass grave found in Koreme

 

 

The retrospective emphasises the development of Susan Meiselas’ photographic practice from the 1970s onwards. In most of her early work, she addresses the subjects of her portrait-based images by including them in one way or another in the process of her work. In 44 Irving Street, (1972), she asks the persons portrayed to comment on their representation and in Carnival Strippers (1975), a sound recording of the context in which the photographs are taken gives further perspective on the strippers lives. In addition to this aspect, her interest in archival documentation and the compilation of visual histories can also be traced back to this period (Lando, 1975) and one can see this develop in her research work on Kurdistan. Her treatment of images reveals that, in her artistic practice, she considers the photographic frame as a moment in time complementary to other forms of framing and capturing reality, which may be seen and reviewed over time.

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Blocs de béton signalant la fosse commune de Koreme, nord de l'Irak' 1992

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Blocs de béton signalant la fosse commune de Koreme, nord de l’Irak
[Concrete blocks signaling Koreme Mass grave, northern Iraq]

1992
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

 

 

Jeu de Paume
1, Place de la Concorde
75008 Paris
métro Concorde
Tel: 01 47 03 12 50

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 11.00 – 21.00
Wednesday – Sunday: 11.00 – 19.00
Closed Monday

Jeu de Paume website

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11
Apr
18

Vale Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)

April 2018

 

My god, what a loss.

I am very sorry to hear of the passing of Polixeni Papapetrou. Sadness indeed…

Poli was a wonderful spirit and an incredibly gifted artist. Condolences to Robert Nelson and all of the family.

A selection of some of my favourite Papapetrou images are posted below – but really, there are so many memorable images, she leaves behind an indelible and lasting legacy.

From an earlier posting:

 

“What we should do is honour this talented and determined artist for creating so many memorable images over the years, for following her passion and her heart with courage and conviction. For the rest of my life I will always remember the spaces, the ambiguous vistas, the fantastical archetypes, the fables of her work. Images of drag queens and Dreamkeepers, Ghillies and goblins are etched in my memory. I will always remember them. You can’t ask much more from the work of an artist than that.”

 

You can kill the dreamer, but you cannot kill the dream.

Marcus

 

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Drag queen wearing cut out dress' 1993

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Drag queen wearing cut out dress
1993
From the series Drag Queens 1988-1999
Gelatin silver photograph
28.5 x 28.5 cm
Courtesy the artist and Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

 

“Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.”

.
Paul Klee. Creative Credo [Schöpferische Konfession] 1920

 

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Three young men paying homage to Elvis on the 13th anniversary of Elvis’ death, Elvis Memorial Melbourne' 1990

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Three young men paying homage to Elvis on the 13th anniversary of Elvis’ death, Elvis Memorial Melbourne
1990
From the series Elvis Immortal 1987-2002
Selenium toned gelatin silver photograph
40.7 x 40.7 cm
Courtesy the artist and Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Mr Wrestling' 1992

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Mr Wrestling
1992
From the series Wrestlers 1992
Pigment ink print
100 x 100cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Indian Brave' 2002

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Indian Brave
2002
From the series Phantomwise 2002-03
Pigment ink print
85 x 85 cm
Courtesy the artist and Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Lost' 2005

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Lost
2005
From the series Fairy Tales 2004-2014
Type C print
100 x 100 cm
Courtesy the artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney + Berlin and Jarvis Dooney Galerie, Berlin
Reproduced with permission

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'In the Wimmera 1864 #1' 2006

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
In the Wimmera 1864 #1
2006
From the series Haunted country 2006
Pigment ink print
105 x 105cm
Geelong Gallery Collection

 

 

In the Wimmera 1864 #1 from the Haunted country series is amongst the earliest works by the artist to have been staged in the Australian landscape and is one in which she explores the narrative of the ‘lost child’. The work references the story of three children lost in Mallee scrub near their home outside Horsham in the Wimmera District and is reminiscent, as the artist intends, of Frederick McCubbin’s late 19th century paintings of children lost or at least wandering absent-mindedly through the Australia bush. (Text from the Culture Victoria website)

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Hanging Rock 1900 #3' 2006

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Hanging Rock 1900 #3
2006
From the series Haunted country 2006
Pigment ink print
105 x 105 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Provider' 2009

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Provider
2009
From the series Between Worlds 2009-2012
Pigment print
105 x 105cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Mourner' 2012

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Mourner
2012
From the series Between Worlds 2009-2012
Pigment print
105 x 105cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Joy Pedlars' 2011 from 'The Dreamkeepers' 2011

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Joy Pedlars
2011
From the series The Dreamkeepers 2012
Pigment print
105 x 105cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Wanderer No. 3', 2012 from 'The Dreamkeepers'

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Wanderer No. 3
2012
From the series The Dreamkeepers 2012
Pigment print
105 x 105cm

 

Polixeni Papaetrou (1960-2018) 'Ocean Man' 2013

 

Polixeni Papaetrou (1960-2018)
Ocean Man
2013
From the series The Ghillies 2013
120 cm x 120 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2013

 

Polixeni Papaetrou. 'Scrub Man' 2012

 

Polixeni Papaetrou (1960-2018)
Scrub Man
2012
From the series The Ghillies 2013
120 cm x 120 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2013

 

 

Review of the exhibition Polixeni Papapetrou: Lost Psyche at Stills Gallery, 2014

When “facing” adversity, it is a measure of a person’s character how they hold themselves, what face they show to the world, and how their art represents them in that world. So it is with Polixeni Papapetrou. The courage of this artist, her consistency of vision and insightful commentary on life even while life itself is in the balance, are inspiring to all those that know her.

Papapetrou has always created her own language, integrating the temporal dissemination of the historical “case” into a two-dimensional space of simultaneity and tabulation (the various archetypes and ancient characters), into an outline against a ground of Cartesian coordinates.1 In her construction, in her observation and under her act of surveillance, Papapetrou moves towards a well-made description of the states of the body in the tables and classification of the psychological landscape. Her tableaux (the French tableau signifies painting and scene (as in tableau vivant), but also table (as in a table used to organize data)) are a classification and tabulation that is an exact “portrait” of “the” illness, the lost psyche of the title. Her images lay out, in a very visible way, the double makeover: of the outer and inner landscape.

These narratives are above all self-portraits. The idea that image, archetype and artist might somehow be one and the same is a potent idea in Papapetrou’s work. What is “rendered” visible in her art is her own spirit, for these visionary works are nothing less than concise, intimate, focused self-portraits. They speak through the mask of the commedia dell’ arte of a face half turned to the world, half immersed in imaginary worlds. The double skin (as though human soul, the psyche, is erupting from within, forcing a face-off) and triple skin (evidenced in the lack of depth of field of the landscape tableaux) propose an opening up, a revealing of self in which the anatomy (anatemnein: to tear, to open a body, to dissect) of the living is revealed. The images become an autopsy on the living and the dead: “a series of images, that would crystallize and memorize for everyone the whole time of an inquiry and, beyond that, the time of a history.”2

Papapetrou’s images become the “true retina” of seeing, close to a scientific description of a character placed on a two dimensional background (notice how the stylised clouds in The Antiquarian, 2014 match the fur hat trim). In the sense of evidence, the artist’s archetypes proffer a Type that is balanced on the edge of longing, poetry, desire and death, one that the objectivity of photography seeks to fix and stabilise. These images serve the fantasy of a memory: of a masked archetype in a made over landscape captured “exact and sincere” by the apparatus of the camera. A faithful memory of a tableau in which Type is condensed into a unique image: the visage fixed to the regime of representation,3 the universal become singular. This Type is named through the incorporated Text, the Legend: I am Day Dreamer, Immigrant, Merchant, Poet, Storyteller.

But even as these photographs seek to fix the Type, “even as the object of knowledge is photographically detained for observation, fixed to objectivity,”4 the paradox is that this kind of knowledge slips away from itself, because photography is always an uncertain technique, unstable and chaotic, as ever the psyche. In the cutting-up of bodies, cutting-up on stage, a staging aimed at knowledge – the facticity of the masked, obscured, erupting face; the corporeal surface of the body, landscape, photograph – the image makes visible something of the movements of the soul. In these heterotopic images, sites that relate to more stable sites, “but in such a way as to suspect, neutralize, or invert the set of relations that they happen to designate, mirror or reflect,”5 Papapetrou’s psyche, “creates the chain of tradition which passes a happening on from generation to generation.”6 In her commedia dell’ arte, an improvised comedy of craft, of artisans (a worker in a skilled trade), the artist fashions the raw material of experience in a unique way.7 We, the audience, intuitively recognise the type of person being represented in the story, through their half masks, their clothing and context and through the skilful dissemination of collective memory and experience.

Through her storytelling Papapetrou moves towards a social and spiritual transformation, one that unhinges the lost psyche. Her landscape narratives are a narrative of a recognisable, challenging, unstable non-linear art, an art practice that embraces “the speculative mystery of ancient roles…  They’re all souls with divided emotions, torn between dream and reality, who like us, converge on the collective stage that is the world.” They are archetype as self-portrait: portraits of a searching, erupting, questioning soul, brave and courageous in a time of peril. And the work is for the children (of the world), for without art and family, extinction.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

Footnotes

1. Adapted from Didi-Huberman, Georges. Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpetriere (trans. Alisa Hartz). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003, p. 24-25. I am indebted to the ideas of Georges Didi-Huberman for his analysis of the ‘facies’ and the experiments of Jean-Martin Charcot on hysteria at the Hôpital Salpêtrière in Paris in the 1880s.
2. 
Ibid., p. 48
3. Ibid., p. 49
4. Ibid., p. 59
5. Foucault, Michel. “Of Other Spaces,” in Diacritics Spring 1986, p. 24 quoted in Fisher, Jean. “Witness for the Prosecution: The Writings of Coco Fusco,” in Fusco, Coco. The Bodies That Were Not Ours. London: Routledge, 2001, pp. 226-227
6. Fisher, Ibid., p. 227-228
7. “One can go on and ask oneself whether the relationship of the storyteller to his material, human life, is not in itself a craftsman’s relationship, whether it is not his very task to fashion the raw material of experience, his own and that of others, in a solid, useful, and unique way.”
Benjamin
, Walter. Illuminations (trans. by Harry Zohn; edited by Hannah Arendt). New York: Schocken Books, 1968 (2007), p. 108

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Immigrant' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Immigrant
2014
From the series Lost Psyche 2014
Pigment print
100 x 150 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Storyteller' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Storyteller
2014
From the series Lost Psyche 2014
Pigment print
100 x 150 cm

 

 

Polixeni Papapetrou website

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16
Feb
18

Review: ‘John Gollings: The history of the built world’ at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 2nd December 2017 – 4th March 2018

 

John Gollings. 'Berman House (Harry Seidler), Joadja, New South Wales' 2007

 

John Gollings
Berman House (Harry Seidler), Joadja, New South Wales
2007

 

 

From ancient to modern; different but same

This is a solid exhibition of the work of architectural photographer John Gollings, which features highly colour saturated photographs of the built environment, from ancient to modern.

The formal, classical images are well seen and photographed, mainly for commercial clients who, at the end of the project, want to document their construction in the most flattering light. And that’s what you get with a Gollings architectural photograph – a known “style” used again and again to document an object devoid of human presence, usually photographed at the bewitching hour for photographers (dawn or dusk) or illuminated, to give the building that special glow. Sounds easy, but it isn’t!

For some people the intention of the photographer is primary… later on comes the  successful manifestation of that intention. And of course, there is the public intention stated in the brief directed to a photographer who has accepted that brief. As well, there are the photographer’s private intentions and for these we have to refer to the image(s). I then ask, what happens when the photographer’s private intentions becomes his commercial practice, when his style becomes his trademark?

In these photographs which are about multiplicity / difference (in the sense of a different set of objects) / series and the pursuit of spirit (as compared to the pursuit of ego), Gollings evidences something inherent in man that has shown itself from the start – inhabitation – that has now has become something else. He has put these series together to make sense / no sense / nonsense and through this juxtaposition, he hopes that something transcendent happens when these environments are seen together. The contemporary structures are made by extraordinary people who keep pushing to make an ultimate ideal of their belief, and so they are extraordinary, yet different from each other. Gollings captures this difference.

“What is it that asks a question that cannot be answered” is a question that I believe that Gollings is interested in, and it manifests itself in people and some of their works, e.g. poetry, cinema, photography, music… and this is the scope of that question in architecture. I think that Gollings has just tried to be clear about this question in his work, in the images straightforward yet dramatic way.

In their usually monolithic grounding, the building is always front and centre, even in his views of ancient structures or the landscape. “Gollings will use dramatic lighting and acute points of view to create a moody effect, and draw people into the ambience of the architect’s creation.” (Wall text) That is the key word, effect. While Gollings has stripped everything back to the bare minimum, removed ego, has it got him any closer to that place of magic and noumenality – that place that we can know but never experience (e.g. death). SOME of the images work towards an exploration of this subliminal state of being, the unconscious raised to the surface (images such as Habitat filter (Matt Drysdale, Matt Myers and Tim Dow), Southbank, Victoria, 2017 and The Lotus Building (Studio 505), Changzhou, China, 2013), yet others just sit there, the camera angles too regulated, the monolithic structure too central. How I longed for a more unusual positioning of the camera – something Atget might have done for example – to capture the personality of the building, for I never really “get” the personality of the building in Gollings representational photographs.

Personally, what I love about photography is the magical space of exploration in the image, and that is something that I don’t really get in these photographs, from one image to the next. The same feeling emanates from them time after time. They have little human warmth despite their high colour sheen. But I think that a lot of the absence of the magical that I regret is probably quite intentional. That is not Gollings’ project or his projection, his “effect” if you like, for he is a very intelligent artist, and a very well informed photographer. He has considered all of this, and his photographs come out exactly the way he wants them to come out. They might not be my cup of tea but I can appreciate and understand them on an intellectual and aesthetic, if not a spiritual, level. Gollings’ holistic vision over more than 40 years has stood the test of time, proving that he is, indeed, a damn good photographer.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

.
Many thankx to Monash Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the media photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All installation photographs © Dr Marcus Bunyan, the artist and the Monash Gallery of Art.

 

Installation photographs

First gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Rear of opening wall featuring at right, Kay Street housing (Edmond &Corrigan), Carlton, Victoria 1983

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Left, Melbourne CBD, Melbourne, Victoria 2009; middle, Federation Square, Melbourne, Victoria 2010; and right, Melbourne CBD, Melbourne, Victoria 2010

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Melbourne CBD, Melbourne, Victoria 2010

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Vineyard House (Denton Corker Marshall), Yarra Valley, Victoria 2013

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Somers House (Kai Chen), Somers, Victoria 1997

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Main gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Sabratha Theatre, Sabratha, Libya 2005

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Underground temple, Kep, Cambodia 2007

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Jiaohe Old City, Turfan, China 2005

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Right, Sidney Myer Music Bowl refurbishment (Yuncken Freeman/Greg Burgess), Melbourne, Victoria 2001

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Second left, The Lotus Building (Studio 505), Changzhou, China 2013; third left, Croft House (James Stockwell), Inverloch, Victoria 2013; second right, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (Wood Marsh), Southbank, Victoria 2002; and right, Habitat filter (Matt Drysdale, Matt Myers and Tim Dow), Southbank, Victoria 2017

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Croft House (James Stockwell), Inverloch, Victoria 2013

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Nawarla Gabarnmang, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory 2015

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Third gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Left, El Dorado Motel, Surfers Paradise, Queensland 1973; second left, Golden Sun Motel, Surfers Paradise, Queensland 1973; second right, Biscayne Apartments, Surfers Paradise, Queensland 1973; and right, Cuba Flats, Surfers Paradise, Queensland 1973

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Left, Mid-century house, Surfers Paradise, Queensland 2017; middle, Mid-century house, Surfers Paradise, Queensland 2017; and right, Mid-century house, Surfers Paradise, Queensland 2017

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Every building on Surfers Paradise Boulevard west 1973 (detail)

Installation view of the exhibition 'John Gollings' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Every building on Surfers Paradise Boulevard west 1973 (detail)

 

 

John Gollings is Australia’s most pre-eminent and prolific photographer of the built environment. For the past 50 years he has been synthesising his parallel interests in photography and architecture to explore the cultural construction of social spaces. From sacred rock art sites and ancient temples to suburban dream homes and the monuments of corporate architecture, Gollings’s catalogue of images provides a remarkable visual history of human habitats. The history of the built world is the first major survey of Gollings photographic practice, and offers a much anticipated opportunity to appreciate the full breadth of his unique photographic vision.

 

John Gollings. 'Monash Gallery of Art (Harry Seidler), Wheelers Hill, Victoria' 1990

 

John Gollings
Monash Gallery of Art (Harry Seidler), Wheelers Hill, Victoria
1990

 

 

Waverley City Gallery

Gollings photographed Harry Seidler’s Waverley City Gallery before it was extended and renamed as Monash Gallery of Art. Gollings worked under Seidler’s direction to document the building, and the photographs clearly reflect Seidler’s architectural philosophy of organic geometric forms and interlocking planes.

Gollings’s interior view shows a Josef Albers tapestry hanging in the original foyer; an artwork that Seidler donated to the gallery with the intention of it remaining a permanent feature. Seidler once stated that he learnt more about design from Albers than any architectural school, and two of Albers’s design principles are clearly articulated in the architecture of MGA. The first of these is the notion that a high centre of gravity makes visual forms more dynamic, as evidenced in MGA’s top-heavy roofline. And the second – that irregular forms are more interesting to the eye than symmetrical grids – is apparent in the complex geometry of the building. (Wall text)

 

John Gollings. 'Webb Bridge (Robert Owen with Denton Corker Marshall), Docklands, Victoria' 2003

 

John Gollings
Webb Bridge (Robert Owen with Denton Corker Marshall), Docklands, Victoria
2003

 

 

Melbourne architecture

Gollings’s photographs of Melbourne offer a compelling portrait of the city he knows best. His aerial photographs draw out different features of Melbourne’s character, from the flatness of its suburban sprawl to the resplendent jewel box quality of its central business district. The sequence of images along this wall emphasises Gollings’s ability to metaphorically crawl inside the skin of his home town. Whether he’s photographing temporary architectural interventions or monumental entertainment stadiums, he finds ways to render them as skeletal structures or translucent surfaces. Gollings’s ability to embed the viewer in a scene is apparent across his work, but this is particularly evident in his images of Melbourne, where it seems he wears the built environment like a second skin. Even in his photograph of the Eureka Tower, Gollings uses the reflected light of a sunset to subdue this monolithic form and embed a reflected image of himself in the glass facade. (Wall text)

 

John Gollings. 'Federation Square, Melbourne, Victoria' 2010

 

John Gollings
Federation Square, Melbourne, Victoria
2010

 

John Gollings. 'Hotel Hotel foyer (March Studio), New Acton, Australian Capital Territory' 2013

 

John Gollings
Hotel Hotel foyer (March Studio), New Acton, Australian Capital Territory
2013

 

John Gollings. 'Karijini Visitor Centre (Woodhead International BDH), West Pilbara, Western Australia' 2001

 

John Gollings
Karijini Visitor Centre (Woodhead International BDH), West Pilbara, Western Australia
2001

 

 

Modern and contemporary architecture

Gollings’s professional practice has always included fashion and advertising projects, and one could argue that his treatment of architecture is invested with a certain dramatic fl air that owes something to these other genres of photography. Rather than using a sequence of photographs to systematically document different aspects of an architect’s design, Gollings often composes a single shot that captures the personality of a building. These are like portrait photographs, which use props and the surrounding backdrop to accentuate a sitter’s identity. A domestic house might be photographed through foliage in order to give it a bucolic character. Or a photograph might include more sky than building in order to evoke the vista that can be enjoyed by the inhabitants. In a similar vein, Gollings will use dramatic lighting and acute points of view to create a moody effect, and draw people into the ambience of the architect’s creation. (Wall text)

 

John Gollings. 'Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School (McBride Charles Ryan), Essendon, Victoria' 2011

 

John Gollings
Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School (McBride Charles Ryan), Essendon, Victoria
2011

 

John Gollings. 'Featherston House (Robin Boyd), Ivanhoe, Victoria' 2011

 

John Gollings
Featherston House (Robin Boyd), Ivanhoe, Victoria
2011

 

 

“Gollings’s photographic practice is driven by a deep enthusiasm and interest in the built environment,” explains MGA Senior Curator, Stephen Zagala. “He loves architecture and he uses photography to share his passion, bringing constructed spaces to life and drawing viewers into sensual encounters with architectural form.”

John Gollings is Australia’s pre-eminent, and most prolific, photographer of the built environment. For the past 50 years he has been synthesising his parallel interests in photography and architecture to explore the cultural construction of social spaces. While Gollings is well known for his documentation of new buildings and cityscapes, this survey exhibition situates these images within the broader context of his photographic practice. Alongside his commercial work, Gollings has always engaged in projects concerned with architectural history and heritage. This includes photographs of iconic modernist buildings, ancient sites of spiritual significance and the ruins of abandoned cities. Gollings’s interest in architectural heritage is also apparent in his documentation of places such as Melbourne and Surfers Paradise, where he has recorded the evolution of the built environment over extended periods of time.

From sacred rock art sites and ancient temples, to suburban dream homes, iconic monuments and architectural interventions, Gollings’s catalogue of images provides a remarkable visual history of how humans have chosen to inhabit their world. Constantly innovating with photographic technologies, and investigating new architectural subjects with a restless enthusiasm, Gollings has developed a distinctive visual style. This style typically conveys a personal or physical connection with the structure being photographed. Rather than documenting buildings in a way that reproduces the impersonal elevation plans of an architectural diagram, Gollings embeds the viewer in face-to-face encounters with built environments. Using a range of compositional techniques and visual effects to invest architecture with personality, he portrays buildings as lively habitats rather than static monuments.

The history of the built world is the first major survey of Gollings’s photographic practice and offers a much anticipated opportunity to appreciate the full breadth of his unique vision. With academic training in the history of architecture, and a professional grounding in photographic practice, Gollings documents and dramatises architecture with an informed artistic flair. Constantly innovating with photographic technologies, and investigating new architectural subjects with a restless enthusiasm, Gollings’s connoisseurship of the built world is unparalleled.

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art

 

John Gollings. 'Uluru Visitor Centre (Gregory Burgess), Uluru, Northern Territory' 1999

 

John Gollings
Uluru Visitor Centre (Gregory Burgess), Uluru, Northern Territory
1999

 

John Gollings. 'Kabaw Berber Granary, Kabaw, Libya' 2005

 

John Gollings
Kabaw Berber Granary, Kabaw, Libya
2005

 

John Gollings. 'Bayon, Angkor Thom, Cambodia' 2012

 

John Gollings
Bayon, Angkor Thom, Cambodia
2012

 

John Gollings. 'North face, south gate, Angkor Thom, Cambodia' 2007

 

John Gollings
North face, south gate, Angkor Thom, Cambodia
2007

 

John Gollings. 'Buddha detail, Borobudur, Java, Indonesia' 2011

 

John Gollings
Buddha detail, Borobudur, Java, Indonesia
2011

 

John Gollings. 'Mori Tim Stupa, Silk Road, China' 2005

 

John Gollings
Mori Tim Stupa, Silk Road, China
2005

 

John Gollings. 'Jiaohe Old City, Turfan, China' 2005

 

John Gollings
Jiaohe Old City, Turfan, China
2005

 

John Gollings. 'Pushkarani Kund (King’s Bath), Hampi, India' 1988

 

John Gollings
Pushkarani Kund (King’s Bath), Hampi, India
1988

 

John Gollings. 'Ta Prohm Temple, Angkor Thom, Cambodia' 2007

 

John Gollings
Ta Prohm Temple, Angkor Thom, Cambodia
2007

 

John Gollings 'Hanuman Temple, Hampi, India' 2006

 

John Gollings
Hanuman Temple, Hampi, India
2006

 

John Gollings. 'Small Ganesh, Hampi, India' 2006

 

John Gollings
Small Ganesh, Hampi, India
2006

 

John Gollings. 'Vittala Dance Mandapa interior, Hampi, India' 2005

 

John Gollings
Vittala Dance Mandapa interior, Hampi, India
2005

 

 

Ancient architecture

Gollings has embarked on a number of heritage projects that document the evolution of architectural history under various religious and political regimes across Asia. This includes the Chinese city of Jiaohe, which was carved out of the earth 2 000 years ago and then abandoned after Genghis Khan invaded the area in the 13th century; the Khmer temples of the Angkor Empire that once extended across much of mainland south-east Asia; and the architecture of the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire that ruled over southern India for 200 years before being conquered by Muslim sultanates in the 16th century. Further a fi eld, Gollings has documented the grain stores of the nomadic Berbers in Lybia, and the marble theatres that supplanted them when the Roman Empire occupied northern Africa at the dawn of the Common Era. Gollings brings his characteristic style to bear on all these subjects, drawing the viewer into the built environment with embedded perspectives and dramatic lighting. (Wall text)

 

John Gollings. 'Nawarla Gabarnmang, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory' 2015

 

John Gollings
Nawarla Gabarnmang, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory
2015

 

 

The Nawarla Gabarnmang rock shelter is the oldest human construction that Gollings has photographed. Located in southwestern Arnhem Land, on the traditional lands of the Jawoyn people, the architecture of this site was created by tunnelling into a naturally eroding cliff face. The roof is supported by 36 pillars, formed by the natural erosion of fissure lines in the bedrock. Archaeologists have shown that some pre-existing pillars were removed, some were reshaped and others were moved to new positions in order to modify the interior space. The ceiling, walls and pillars feature paintings of fi sh, wallabies, crocodiles, people and spiritual figures. Radiocarbon dating of floor deposits indicates that humans have used the shelter for over 45 000 years, and the rock art itself has been firmly dated back 28 000 years, making it some of the oldest surviving artwork in the world. Gollings’s photographs, with their accentuated perspectives and saturated colours, celebrate Nawarla Gabarnmang as a site of imagination and awe.

 

John Gollings. 'Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (Wood Marsh), Southbank, Victoria' 2002

 

John Gollings
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (Wood Marsh), Southbank, Victoria
2002

 

John Gollings. 'Habitat filter (Matt Drysdale, Matt Myers and Tim Dow), Southbank, Victoria' 2017

 

John Gollings
Habitat filter (Matt Drysdale, Matt Myers and Tim Dow), Southbank, Victoria
2017

 

John Gollings. 'Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre (Renzo Piano), Nouméa, New Caledonia.' 1997

 

John Gollings
Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre (Renzo Piano), Nouméa, New Caledonia
1997

 

John Gollings. 'The Lotus Building (Studio 505), Changzhou, China' 2013

 

John Gollings
The Lotus Building (Studio 505), Changzhou, China
2013

 

 

Illuminated architecture

Photographing an inanimate object in the half light of dusk or dawn tends to invest it with a sense of life. A house with its interior lights on as night falls can seem enlivened with nocturnal possibilities. A building emerging from the shadows at daybreak might appear to be stirring from sleep. Gollings often takes advantage of the half light to give architecture a quiet vitality. He sometimes describes these photographs as ‘efficient images’, when the balance of sunlight and internal lighting allows him to make the interior and exterior of a building simultaneously visible. In effect, these images draw attention to the skin of architecture, rendering buildings as shells or envelopes rather than solid volumes. This approach is a particularly effective way of giving a sense of spiritual lightness to ancient stone temples. (Wall text)

 

John Gollings. 'Surfers Paradise aerial, Surfers Paradise, Queensland' 2012

 

 

John Gollings
Surfers Paradise aerial, Surfers Paradise, Queensland
2012

 

 

Surfers Paradise

Gollings’s relationship with the Gold Coast stretches back to childhood road trips that he made to Queensland with his parents in the late 1950s and 1960s. While he was still a teenager, Gollings took photographs that testify to an early fascination with the fanciful architecture of roadside motels. And in recent years he has continued to record the quaint postwar architecture of Surfers Paradise, along with the high rise developments that now overshadow them.

During 1973 and 1974 Gollings embarked on a major survey of architecture in Surfers Paradise. This project was specifically inspired by a seminal book on postmodern architecture, Learning from Las Vegas, authored by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour in 1972. This book turned its back on the formal purism of modernist architecture and argued for an approach to urban design that embraced popular culture, personal narratives and humour. Gollings, along with Mal Horner (urban planner), Julie James (graphic designer) and Tony Styant-Browne (architect), set out to produce a complimentary publication, Learning from Surfers Paradise. The publication was abandoned in 1975, but Gollings’s photographs remain an important record of Surfers Paradise and the postmodern condition in Australian culture.

The ideas associated with postmodern architecture have had a lasting influence on Gollings’s approach to photography. Throughout his work, Gollings subverts pure formalism with humorous juxtapositions and personal affectations. (Wall text)

 

John Gollings. 'Every high rise on the Gold Coast' 2012

 

John Gollings
Every high rise on the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise, Queensland
2012

 

John Gollings. 'Every high rise on the Gold Coast' 2012 (detail)

 

John Gollings
Every high rise on the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise, Queensland (detail)
2012

 

 

Monash Gallery of Art
860 Ferntree Gully Road, Wheelers Hill
Victoria 3150 Australia
T: + 61 3 8544 0500

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Sat – Sun: 12pm – 5pm
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08
Dec
17

In conversation: Marcus Bunyan and Elizabeth Gertsakis discuss his new work, ‘The Shape of Dreams’ (2013 – 2017)

December 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan
Untitled from the series The Shape of Dreams 
2013 – 2017
Silver gelatin print
© Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In conversation

EG: Just saw your most recent Art Blart and your work. It’s very beautiful. Congratulations. At first I didn’t know whose they were. Then I went through them one by one, and only after responding to them ‘unknown’ I saw it was your work. SO BEAUTIFUL, so potent and yet, within the ambivalence and questioning there was space for great stillness and contemplation. Powerful and so poetic. The one of the children, close up is dazzling, but so are the open fields, mountains, roadways and minute images of flight.

MB: Thank you so much Elizabeth. Yes, my work would you believe. I can now believe after 4 years hard work. A poem to the uncertainty of human dreams. It’s a conceptual series in the vein of my hero Minor White – contemplative, poetic as always with me, but with an edge under the poetry as you so correctly observe EG – you are caught in the dream in the end image, suspended in time and space, in your imagination. You are always so spot on with your observations.

EG: Your own tendency is also closely linked to language and ideas?

MB: This is very true. The basis for all my work is body, time, space, environment and their link to language and ideas… and how conceptual work can be spiritual as well.

EG: I’m with you on that one, and political as well.

MB: Indeed – all my work, including this series, is very anti-war.

EG: What is unseen, invisible in these images is definitely the dark quiet hole of hell that war is. Or at least those that invest in it.

MB: The key image in this regard is the one of the explosion.

EG: But the ones of the distant and misdirected aerial machines also…

MB: Indeed, and the second one, where all the men are looking away while the cloud expands in the background.

EG: Yes, the casual indifference and banality of it.

MB: You have it perfectly Elizabeth!

EG: But the children, oh those children, and the innocent implacability of the natural world.

MB: To find these images on Ebay and then spend four years of my life cleaning and saving them was an incredible experience. It was almost like I was breathing these images as I was saving them, looking into each one and being immersed in them. Thus, the art demands contemplation from the viewer in order to begin to understand its resonances.

.
Many thankx to Elizabeth Gertsakis for her wisdom, knowledge, friendship and advice throughout the year. These observations of my work mean a great deal to me.

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan
Untitled from the series The Shape of Dreams
2013 – 2017
Silver gelatin print
© Marcus Bunyan

 

 

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12
Nov
17

Review: ‘René Magritte: The Revealing Image, Photos and Films’ at the Latrobe Regional Art Gallery, Victoria

Exhibition dates: 19th August – 19th November 2017

Chief Curator: Xavier Canonne

 

René Magritte (1898-1967) 'Flirtatiousness (La coquetterie), René Magritte at the Jardin des Plantes, photo-booth photo' 1929

 

René Magritte (1898-1967)
Flirtatiousness (La coquetterie), René Magritte at the Jardin des Plantes, photo-booth photo
1929
Original photograph
43.2 x 33.2 cm (framed)
Private collection, Courtesy Brachot Gallery, Brussels

 

 

Extending the possibilities of the universe

When the chicken is not an egg (and vice versa)

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They sent me 10 media images… and I could not get a handle on this exhibition. They sent me the superlative catalogue… and still I could not visualise this exhibition in my mind. Only by going and actually seeing this impressive exhibition in the beautifully refurbished spaces of Latrobe Regional Gallery do you really begin to understand its sangfroid – that Magritte’s photographs are a hyper-reality take on the mystery of the everyday, accomplished by the artist altering the very conception of what a photograph is.

Please note, I have included several juxtapositions in this posting which illuminate the pairing of photograph and small reproductions of Magritte’s painting in various sections of the exhibition for which I did not have the media images. This is because the reader can not get a good idea of the exhibition otherwise, and so I use these images under “fair use” conditions for the purposes of academic review, and to ensure that someone who cannot actually see the exhibition can begin to understand its import.

Small, often tiny photographs, usually no more than 2.5″ x 4″, are double mounted (which adds to the concentrated focus on the image) in black frames. Collectively, these images possess a certain aura and intensity while individually they exude a wonderful presence. Some photographs are toned, some not; some have irregular edges (as though cut from something else, some other fabric of time), others have deckled, wavy edges. Some photographs are cabinet cards, others carte-de-visite, or gelatin silver. Some of the photographs are so small, for example one titled The Earthquake (1942), and Dissuasion (1937) that you can hardly make out what is going on in the image. But then between these two small images is a slightly larger photograph titled The Feast of Stones (1942) where René Magritte, Paul Magritte and Marcel Mariën are eating bricks! There are portraits of friends and wives, there are serendipitous photographs or, more often, elaborately staged performances for the camera. They form an impressive body (which isn’t a body) in the gallery space.

Throughout the gallery some of the small photographs are printed large on canvas and these add a vital counterpoint for the eye, amongst the ocean of small images. Further, the exhibition then “…assists the viewer in connecting the images with Magritte’s art by hanging alongside small reproductions of key paintings framed in gilt baroque frames.” Small reproductions of some of Magritte’s paintings are housed in elaborate, wide, heavy gold frames hung between some of the small photographs, but the reproductions are poor and the elaborateness of the frames quite overrides the reproductions themselves. This is a jarring note in an otherwise excellent exhibition. The scale of the reproductions sets up a correlation between the physicality of the small photographs and that of the paintings which in reality does not exist. The paintings are much bigger and their surface texture – their flattened almost non-existent brushstrokes – are totally lacking in the reproductions. While there are only two Magritte paintings in institutional collections in Australia (The Lovers (1928) at the National Gallery of Australia and In praise of dialectics (1937) at the National Gallery of Victoria), this exhibition cried out for at least a couple of “real” Magritte paintings amongst the photographs, so that the difference and similarities of aura and physicality could be compared between the two. Whether a loan of both paintings was too expensive in terms of insurance and security I am unsure, but they needed to be there.

One of the first juxtapositions in the exhibition is a reproduction of Magritte’s painting The Lovers (1928) which is sequenced with his photograph, The Bouquet (1937) and a still from Sergei Eisenstein’s film Battleship Potemkin (1925) in which sailors, comrades all, are covered in a tarpaulin and just about to be shot. While most juxtapositions of photograph and painting in the exhibition illuminate the symbiotic relationship that existed between both (did the photograph influence the painting or was it the other way round? when the photograph exists as an art work in its own right but challenges through a twisting of reality the very notion of a documentary photography, are the chicken and the egg, the painting and the photograph, existentially linked?), this initial juxtaposition seems a little forced. Indeed, in the excellent beautifully produced catalogue the principal curator (Xavier Canonne), notes that the juxtapositions, “… are suppositions based on an interplay of analogies. If Magritte was aware of them, he would no doubt have rejected them, preferring to see them as fortuitous coincidences. It nonetheless remains that the universe of the mind is full of borrowings whose origin often remains unsuspected; exemplars buried in memory crop back up and recompose themselves through association.” Perhaps this was not the best example to begin the exhibition, with a painting of two people attempting to kiss each other through their grey cloth linked to comrades about to get shot.

After the grounding of the first two tranches of photographs, ‘A family album’ and ‘A family resemblance’, the exhibition takes flight with the remaining sections of the exhibition, beginning with the section ‘Resembling a painter’ in which the staged photographs “show how Magritte often tended to parody his work as a painter.” Here Magritte’s painting Attempting the Impossible (1928) is sequenced with a photograph of Magritte painting Attempting the Impossible (1928) and the photograph Love (1928) in which the artist pretends to paint his wife “in the flesh”, only this time she is clothed. As Xavier Canonne observes, “The painter permanently questioned reality, playing on its possibilities…” and the photographs do just that, resulting in “a different way of conceiving of photography, without trick shots or manipulation, of offering… a multiplying effect, an extension of what would otherwise have been merely a documentary image. Beyond the mise-en-abyme implemented by the interplay of the painting and its ‘model’, this photograph goes beyond the notion of document to lay claim to that of an intrinsic work.”

An example of this is Jacqueline Nonkels supervised, staged, photograph Rene Magritte painting Clairvoyance 4th October 1936 depicts Magritte painting Clairvoyance only for the painting to repeat the gesture of him painting in the photograph. Go figure – literally! Next to the small photograph is a reproduction of the painting Clairvoyance (1936) and Canonne observes that the self-portrait has become as much mise-en-abyme (placed into abyss: the visual experience of standing between two mirrors, then seeing as a result an infinite reproduction of one’s image; or the Droste effect, in which a picture appears within itself, in a place where a similar picture would realistically be expected to appear) as anything else. By subverting the documentary reality of photography it becomes something else and in so doing, becomes an intrinsic work in its own right. This transformative representation can happen within one image, or in a sequence of images, such as the pairing of the three forms of Love: the photograph Love; René Magritte painting ‘Attempting the Impossible’; and the painting Attempting the Impossible (all 1928, below). Other examples in different sections throughout the exhibition include The Oblivion Seller (1936), a small photograph from 1937 which is sequenced next to a reproduction of Magritte’s painting of his wife, Georgette (1937); or the photograph Rene Magritte and The Barbarian (1938) which is sequenced with The Flame Rekindled (1943) and a still from Ernst Moerman’s surrealist film Monsieur Fantômas (1937).

I feel that these tiny, tiny portraits are about extending the possibilities of the image through the joy of living. To play, to have fun with friends, to travel to places, to talk about ideas, about art and love and life, to debate the titles of images and paintings with comrades. In this regard, the interwar period and the avant-garde was immensely creative in terms of an investigation into the multiplicities of the world. The photographs are a reality take on the mystery of the everyday, a counterpoise to the severity and austerity of Magritte’s paintings. Paraphrasing Alfred Gell, who was recently quoted by Zara Stanhope in an essay on the cultural agency of photographs, I believe that not only do works of art “have the power to act and to influence others”1 they also have the power to act and influence each other through human agency. The production and titling of Magritte’s paintings and photographs was a collective and transformative process (undertaken with his group of friends), part of a reflective process that articulated the material conditions of a given situation (in this case, the Belgian Surrealist movement), in which the paintings and the photographs extend the possibility of being through an engagement with each other. For example, in The Death of Ghosts (1928) you really really have to look to try and understand what is going on within the picture frame. Even then, you wonder what is going on… the movement of the image, the darkness, the person lying in the background which is then linked to the painting The Apparition (1928) which uses the same silhouette of the figure, a trope that Magritte often uses when switching from photograph to canvas.

Throughout this wonderful exhibition you begin to formulate ideas as to how, firstly, the photograph is used as source material for Magritte’s art, as in the photograph for the painting Universal Gravitation (1943) where a man puts his hand through a wall (or is it the other way around, where the painting informs the photograph?) and, secondly, how the photograph is not used as a source material, but renegotiates the spatio-temporal dimensionality of the paintings. And becomes a new art work that stands by itself. And then you have to factor in the moving image: the sensibility of film, that movable feast of magic and masks, smoke and mirrors. By placing models, friends and paintings in the same photograph, Magritte’s images conflate time and space and ultimately challenge the concept of photography as a memory aid.

Finally, there is so much mystery pres(t)aged within these photographs (the titles further compounding the dissolution of reality), that the already fragile grasp of the referentiality of the image is shattered. Go travel and see this exhibition, for it was a true pleasure to spend a variable amount of time in their intimate, visceral, and intellectual, embrace.

Marcus

Word count: 1,715

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

 

  1. Alfred Gell cited in Stanhope, Zara. “Photography in Focus,” in McColm, Donna (ed.,). “Love from Paris,” National Gallery of Victoria magazine. Melbourne: September/October 2017, p. 50.

 

The Surrealists made abundant use of photography, and some even devoted themselves to it entirely. But Magritte never considered himself a ‘photographer’ – he reserved this practice for special moments and specific uses: family photos; models for paintings and advertising work; photos of paintings in progress; and scenes improvised with friends, similar to the skits he later filmed with a home movie camera. Nevertheless, Magritte’s photographs and films are closely related to his paintings and demonstrate a similar method in their grasp on reality. Far from being merely entertaining occasional images, they shed a familiar light on the painter’s thought and evidence the same investigation of the mysteries of the world.

 

 

“My paintings are … visible images which conceal nothing; they evoke mystery and, indeed, when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question, ‘What does that mean?’. It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable.”

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René Magritte

 

“For me, art is the means of evoking mystery… the mystery is the supreme thing. It’s reassuring to know that there’s mystery – to know that there is more than what one knows.”

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René Magritte

 

“This triumphant poetry replaced the stereotyped effect of traditional painting. It is a complete rupture with the mental habits of artists imprisoned by talent, virtuosity and all the little aesthetic specialities. It is a new vision where viewers find their isolation and the silence of the world.”

“One rarely looks at images with the naked eye; a psychology, an aesthetic, a philosophy interpose themselves all in one; everything goes up in smoke. We question images before listening to them, we question them indiscriminately. Then we are surprised if the expected answer does not come.” (1944)

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Paul Nougé

 

“Magritte’s art used images as a poet might use words; that is, in ways that new meanings, unnoticed harmonies, curious insights, subtle inflections and penetrating observations might be made. As with good poetry, they are not must made as ‘interesting’ asides, but create to feature as instances of heightened states of mind. Furthermore, like good poetry, Magritte’s images in painting, drawings, prints, films and photography have uplift. They promote thought and have an aesthetic punch that dislodges the all-too-common anaesthesia of incurious everyday life.”

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Associate Professor Ken Wach. “René Magritte: Art as a Mental Act” in René Magritte: A Guide to René Magritte, Latrobe Regional Gallery, 2017, p. 13

 

 

'René Magritte: The Revealing Image, Photos and Films' poster

Installation view of the exhibition 'René Magritte: The Revealing Image' at the Latrobe Regional Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'René Magritte: The Revealing Image' at the Latrobe Regional Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'René Magritte: The Revealing Image' at the Latrobe Regional Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'René Magritte: The Revealing Image' at the Latrobe Regional Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'René Magritte: The Revealing Image' at the Latrobe Regional Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'René Magritte: The Revealing Image' at the Latrobe Regional Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'René Magritte: The Revealing Image' at the Latrobe Regional Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'René Magritte: The Revealing Image' at the Latrobe Regional Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'René Magritte: The Revealing Image' at the Latrobe Regional Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition René Magritte: The Revealing Image at the Latrobe Regional Art Gallery
Installation photography by Benjamin Hosking

 

“And although it may not refer to a specific painting, Virtue Rewarded, a photograph taken in Brussels in 1934, preserves Magritte’s iconography for all time with a silhouette – the painter himself – in a hat and long coat in front of a suburban landscape, the recurring image of the anonymous man in Magritte’s world.” ~ Xavier Canonne

 

René Magritte (1898-1967) 'Virtue Rewarded' 1934

 

Unknown photographer
Virtue Rewarded
1934, Brussels
Original photograph

 

 

Introduction from the book

“The discovery of the photographs and films of René Magritte in the mid-1970s, more than 10 years after the painter’s death, and their subsequent appraisal and study have given us a look into a family album that reveals an intimate side of Magritte, independent of the biographical documents unearthed from his archives and those of people he was close to. This discovery has also led to an investigation of Magritte’s relationship with these ‘other images’, for which he served as creator, director and model, and of his relationship with the mediums of photography and cinema, to which, in his experience as a painter, he assigned a role of both recreation and creation.” ~ Xavier Canonne.

 

Description of the exhibition

The exhibition René Magritte: The Revealing Image, Photos and Films consists of 132 original photographs from the archives of the painter and those closest to him, presented in six sections, and eight self-made films. The photographs are organised thematically, eschewing strict chronology, each section introduced by a text, the individual photographs including a caption and a comment. They are accompanied by enlargements in the form of posters and, depending on the section, by reproductions of Magritte’s paintings or films, or by films which made an impression on him.

A Family Album

The photographs in this section, arranged chronologically, are devoted to Magritte’s family life. Snaps taken with his parents and brothers, his military service, the early years of his marriage to Georgette, their period of residence at Perreux-sur-Marne near Paris, their life in Brussels – all revealing the daily life of René Magritte.

A Family Resemblance

Organised chronologically, this section brings together photographs representing René Magritte’s other “family”, the Brussels Surrealist group with which the painter threw in his lot in 1926. Paul Nougé, Marcel Lecomte, Louis Scutenaire, Irène Hamoir, Paul Colinet, Marcel Mariën, Camille Goemans and Marthe Beauvoisin are some of the characters who feature in these compositions, in many cases improvised “photographic tableaux” bearing witness to the intimate relationship between René Magritte and his immediate circle.

The Resemblance of Painting

This third section of the exhibition consists of photographs of René Magritte at his easel, covering the years from 1917 to 1965. They show the painter with works from different periods, taken impromptu or posing, generally in a suit, in the succession of houses where he never established a workshop, preferring to paint in his living-room. Working documents or “staged” photographs, they show how Magritte often tended to parody his work as a painter.

Reproduction Permitted or Photography Enhanced

This section of the exhibition comprises paintings by Magritte placed on his easel or forming the background of portraits of him and his wife. Essential paintings, some of which have been lost, provide the painter with a stage set into which he projects himself with his wife, going beyond documentary photography.

This section also includes a series of photographs which served as models for his paintings, featuring Georgette and René Magritte, Louis Scutenaire and various close friends – photographs directly connected with his works, which are presented in the form of reproductions. Magritte used the same procedure in the short films he made between 1940 and 1960, and extracts in television format or reproductions are shown alongside the original photographs.

The Imitation of Photography. Magritte and the Cinema[tograph]

The cinema, more even than painting and to the same extent as literature, was a seminal influence of the work of René Magritte. As a child, he had been exposed to the first silent films and he tried to recreate their freshness and spontaneity in the short films he made, featuring his close friends. Magritte may still be posing in this section, but the emphasis is on entertainment.

This section of the exhibition is accompanied by extracts from his own films, presented on the TV screens, and by images from films by directors he admired, such as Louis Feuillade with his celebrated Fantômas.

The False Mirror

This title of a celebrated painting by René Magritte opens the final section of the exhibition. Consisting essentially of portraits of Magritte at different stages of his life, they sometimes depict him in dreamy mood, sometimes expressing amusement, generally with his eyes closed, focused inwards. The section also includes photographs in which the painter and his friends mask their faces or turn away from the camera lens, prolonging in photographic mode his painterly research on the caché-visible (things hidden in plain sight).

 

Section 1: A Family Album

The photographs in this section, arranged chronologically, are devoted to Magritte’s family life. Snaps taken with his parents and brothers, his military service, the early years of his marriage to Georgette, their period of residence at Perreux-sur-Marne near Paris, their life in Brussels – all revealing the daily life of René Magritte.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Georgette and René Magritte, Brussels, June 1922' 1922

 

Unknown photographer
Georgette and René Magritte, Brussels, June 1922 [on their wedding day]
1922
Original photograph
43.2 x 33.2 cm (framed)
Private collection, Courtesy Brachot Gallery, Brussels

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'René Magritte: The Revealing Image' at the Latrobe Regional Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition René Magritte: The Revealing Image at the Latrobe Regional Art Gallery with at left, Régina Bertinchamps, René Magritte’s mother by an unknown photograper, Nd; and at right, Léopold Magritte and Régina Bertinchamps, Lessines, 1898 also by an unknown photographer.

 

René Magritte (Belgium 1898-1967) 'Les Amants [The lovers]' 1928

 

René Magritte (Belgium 1898-1967)
Les Amants [The lovers]
1928
Oil on canvas
Collection of Richard S. Zeisler, New York

Reproduction in the exhibition
Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

 

This is one of a small group of pictures painted by Magritte in Paris in 1927-28, in which the identity of the figures is mysteriously shrouded in white cloth. The group of paintings includes L’histoire centrale (The central story) 1927 (collection Isy Brachot, Brussels); L’invention de la vie (The invention of life) 1927-28 (private collection, Brussels); The lovers 1928 in the Australian National Gallery; and the similarly titled, similarly dated and similarly sized painting in the collection of Richard S. Zeisler, New York, in which the same shrouded heads of a man and a woman that appear in the Gallery’s painting attempt to kiss each other through their grey cloth integuments.

The origin of this disturbing image has been attributed to various sources in Magritte’s imagination. Like many of his Surrealist associates, Magritte was fascinated by ‘Fantômas’, the shadowy hero of the thriller series which first appeared in novel form in 1913, and shortly after in films made by Louis Feuillade. The identity of ‘Fantômas’ is never revealed; he appears in the films disguised with a cloth or stocking over his head. Another source for the shrouded heads in Magritte’s paintings has been suggested in the memory of his mother’s apparent suicide. In 1912, when Magritte was only thirteen years of age, his mother was found drowned in the river Sambre; when her body was recovered from the river, her nightdress was supposedly wrapped around her head.

Michael Lloyd & Michael Desmond. European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery 1992 p.173.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Unknown photographer. 'The Bouquet (Le Bouquet), Georgette and René Magritte, Rue Esseghem, Brussels' 1937

 

Unknown photographer
The Bouquet (Le Bouquet), Georgette and René Magritte, Rue Esseghem, Brussels
1937
Original Photograph
43.2 x 33.2 cm (framed)
Private collection, Courtesy Brachot Gallery, Brussels

 

 

Section 2: A Family Resemblance

Organised chronologically, this section brings together photographs representing René Magritte’s other “family”, the Brussels Surrealist group with which the painter threw in his lot in 1926. Paul Nougé, Marcel Lecomte, Louis Scutenaire, Irène Hamoir, Paul Colinet, Marcel Mariën, Camille Goemans and Marthe Beauvoisin are some of the characters who feature in these compositions, in many cases improvised “photographic tableaux” bearing witness to the intimate relationship between René Magritte and his immediate circle.

 

Unknown photographer. 'The Hunters' Gathering (La rendez-vous de chase)' 1934

 

Unknown photographer
The Hunters’ Gathering (La rendez-vous de chase)
1934
Original photograph
27 x 33 cm (framed)
Collection Charly Herscovici, Europe

Left to right: E.L.T Mesens, René Magritte, Louis Scutenaier, André Souris and Paul Nougé
Seated: Iréne Hamoir, Marthe Beauvoisin and Georgette Magritte. Studio Joe Rentmeesters

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'René Magritte: The Revealing Image' at the Latrobe Regional Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition René Magritte: The Revealing Image at the Latrobe Regional Art Gallery with at left, René Magritte’s The Correspondance Group, 1928 (Paul Nougé, Marcel Lecomte and Camille Goemans), paired with René Magritte’s Portrait of Paul Nougé, 1927 at right.

 

René Magritte (Belgium 1898-1967) 'Portrait of Paul Nougé' 1927

 

René Magritte (Belgium 1898-1967)
Portrait of Paul Nougé
1927
Oil on canvas

Reproduction in the exhibition
Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

Unknown photographer. 'The Extraterresterials V' (detail) 1935

 

Unknown photographer
The Extraterresterials V (detail)
1935, Brussels, Rue Esseghem

Left to right: Paul Colinet, Marcel Lecomte, Georgette and René Magritte

Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

Unknown photographer. 'Saluting the Flag' 1935

 

Unknown photographer
Saluting the Flag
1935, Koksijde
Original photograph

Left to right: Paul Colinet, René Magritte, Louis Scutenaire, Paul Nougé, and Paul Magritte

 

 

Section 3: The Resemblance of Painting

This third section of the exhibition consists of photographs of René Magritte at his easel, covering the years from 1917 to 1965. They show the painter with works from different periods, taken impromptu or posing, generally in a suit, in the succession of houses where he never established a workshop, preferring to paint in his living-room. Working documents or “staged” photographs, they show how Magritte often tended to parody his work as a painter.

 

Unknown photographer. 'René Magritte painting The Empty Mask (Le masque vide), Le Perreuxsur-Marne' 1928

 

Unknown photographer
René Magritte painting The Empty Mask (Le masque vide), Le Perreux-sur-Marne
1928
Original photograph
32 x 38 cm (framed)
Collection Charly Herscovici, Europe

 

Unknown photographer. 'Love' 1928

 

Unknown photographer
Love
1928, Le Perreux-sur-Marne
Study for Attempting the Impossible
Original photograph

Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

Unknown photographer. 'René Magritte painting 'Attempting the Impossible'' 1928

 

Unknown photographer
René Magritte painting ‘Attempting the Impossible’
1928, Le Perreux-sur-Marne
Original photograph

Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

 René Magritte (1898-1967) 'Attempting the Impossible' 1928

 

René Magritte (1898-1967)
Attempting the Impossible
1928
Oil on canvas

Reproduction in the exhibition
Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

Jacqueline Nonkels. 'René Magritte painting 'Clairvoyance'' Brussels, 4 October 1936

 

Jacqueline Nonkels
René Magritte painting ‘Clairvoyance’
Brussels, 4 October 1936
Original photograph

Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

René Magritte (1898-1967) 'Clairvoyance' 1936

 

René Magritte (1898-1967)
Clairvoyance
1936
Oil on canvas

Reproduction in the exhibition
Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

 

Magritte has set up his easel in the small courtyard leading to the garden on Rue Essenghem. On it sits a completed painting, Clairvoyance, which represents Magritte seated in front of a canvas, brush in hand, his face turned towards an egg resting on a table covered with a tablecloth to his left. But the painted image in this photographic model is a bird with spread wings. Magritte, in a perfect imitation – suit, palette, haircut and chair – is in turn seated in front of he painting, pretending to paint. The photograph, taken on 4 October 1936 by young Jacqueline Nonkels according to instructions and staging established by Magritte, seems as much self-portrait as mise-en-abyme. It is the result of a different way of conceiving of photography, without trick shots or manipulation, of offering… a multiplying effect, an extension of what would otherwise have been merely a documentary image. Beyond the mise-en-abyme implemented by the interplay of the painting and its ‘model’, this photograph goes beyond the notion of document to lay claim to that of an intrinsic work.

Xavier Canonne. “The Resemblance of Painting,” in René Magritte: The Revealing Image, Photos and Films. LaTrobe Regional Gallery, 2017, p. 72.

 

Section 4: Reproduction Permitted or Photography Enhanced

This section of the exhibition comprises paintings by Magritte placed on his easel or forming the background of portraits of him and his wife. Essential paintings, some of which have been lost, provide the painter with a stage set into which he projects himself with his wife, going beyond documentary photography.

This section also includes a series of photographs which served as models for his paintings, featuring Georgette and René Magritte, Louis Scutenaire and various close friends – photographs directly connected with his works, which are presented in the form of reproductions. Magritte used the same procedure in the short films he made between 1940 and 1960, and extracts in television format or reproductions are shown alongside the original photographs.

 

Unknown photographer. 'The Holy Family' 1928

 

Unknown photographer
The Holy Family
1928, Le Perreux-sur-Marne
Original photograph

Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

 

“Magritte’s photographs attest to a form of improvisation, offering a compromise between a portrait of those around him and the reproduction of his own painting by somehow effecting their merger: The Holy Family shows the painter and his wife sitting on either side of the painting The Windows of Dawn (1928), with The Obsession (1928) placed on the easel above them.”

Xavier Canonne. “Reproduction permitted or photography enhanced,” in René Magritte: The Revealing Image, Photos and Films. LaTrobe Regional Gallery, 2017, p. 98.

 

Paul Nougé (1895-1967) 'The Seers' c. 1930

 

Paul Nougé (1895-1967)
The Seers
c. 1930
Marthe Beauvoisin and Georgette Magritte

Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

René Magritte (1898-1967) 'The Shadow and Its Shadow (L'ombre et son ombre), Georgette and René Magritte, Brussels' 1932

 

Paul Nougé attributed (1895-1967)
The Shadow and Its Shadow (L’ombre et son ombre)
1932, Brussels
Georgette and René Magritte
Original photograph
41.2 x 33.2 cm (framed)
Private collection, Courtesy Brachot Gallery, Brussels

 

“The Shadow and Its Shadow is indeed a photographic painting, an autonomous work that Magritte could also have transferred to canvas in treating the theme of the ‘hidden-invisible’.” ~ Xavier Canonne

 

René Magritte. 'Faraway looks' c. 1927

 

René Magritte (1898-1967)
Faraway looks
c. 1927
Oil on canvas

Reproduction in the exhibition
Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

René Magritte (1898-1967) 'The Oblivion Seller '1936

 

René Magritte (1898-1967)
The Oblivion Seller (detail)
1936
Georgette Magritte
Original photograph
Cover image for the catalogue to the exhibition

Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

René Magritte (1898-1967) 'Georgette' 1937

 

René Magritte (1898-1967)
Georgette
1937
Oil on canvas
Museé Magritte, Brussels

Painting not in exhibition but reproduced in catalogue
Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

 

“Taken on the Belgian Coast in 1936, The Oblivion Seller (as Scutenaire aptly named it) shows a spontaneity and opportuneness completed in the mind of the painter, who often represented himself with his eyes closed, as if lost in thought. The ‘deflection’ of his snapshot of a happy moment – woman one loves at the beach on holiday – seems to prefigure certain later paintings, the nearest of which chronologically is Georgette (1937), an oval portrait that she kept her whole life… The painter permanently questioned reality, playing on its possibilities, assigning objects and beings a similar presence on film or canvas, the ‘default scene’ never quite satisfying him.”

Xavier Canonne. “Reproduction permitted or photography enhanced,” in René Magritte: The Revealing Image, Photos and Films. LaTrobe Regional Gallery, 2017, p. 106.

 

René Magritte (1898-1967) 'Universal Gravitation' 1943

 

René Magritte (1898-1967)
Universal Gravitation
1943
Oil on canvas
Private collection

Painting reproduced in exhibition
Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

René Magritte (1898-1967) 'The Destroyer' 1943

 

René Magritte (1898-1967)
The Destroyer
1943
Louis Scutenaire
Original photograph

Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

René Magritte (1898-1967) 'The Healer' 1937

 

René Magritte (1898-1967)
The Healer
1937
Oil on canvas
René Magritte/ Charly Herscovici c/o SABAM

Painting not in exhibition but reproduced in catalogue
Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

René Magritte (1898-1967) 'God, The Eighth Day' 1937

 

René Magritte (1898-1967)
God, The Eighth Day
1937
Brussels, Rue Essenghem
Original photograph
René Magritte/ Courtesy Brachot Gallery, Brussels

Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

René Magritte (1898-1967) 'The Death of Ghosts' 1928

 

René Magritte (1898-1967)
The Death of Ghosts
1928, Le Perreux-sur-Marne
Jacqueline Celcourt-Nonkels and René Magritte
René Magritte/ Courtesy Brachot Gallery, Brussels

Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

“Although the silhouette of a man (probably Magritte) in The Death of Ghosts (1928) appears in the painting The Apparition (1928), other photos differ from the final painting, or were in turn inspired by it, the exact chronological sequence in these cases being less certain.” ~ Xavier Canonne

 

René Magritte (1898-1967) 'The Apparition' 1928

 

René Magritte (1898-1967)
The Apparition
1928
Oil on canvas
Staatsgalerie, Stutgart
René Magritte/ Charly Herscovici c/o SABAM

Painting reproduced in exhibition
Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

René Magritte (1898-1967) 'Queen Semiramis (La reine Sémiramis)' 1947

 

René Magritte (1898-1967)
Queen Semiramis (La reine Sémiramis)
1947, Brussels
Original photograph
41.2 x 33.2 cm (framed)
Private collection, Courtesy Brachot Gallery, Brussels

 

René Magritte (1898-1967) 'Perfect Harmony' 1947

 

René Magritte (1898-1967)
Perfect Harmony
1947
Oil on canvas
René Magritte/ Charly Herscovici c/o SABAM

Painting not in exhibition but reproduced in catalogue
Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

René Magritte (1898-1967) 'The Meeting (Le Rendez-vous), Brussels' 1938

 

René Magritte (1898-1967)
The Meeting (Le Rendez-vous)
1938, Brussels
Original photograph
43.2 x 33.2 cm (framed)
Private collection, Courtesy Brachot Gallery, Brussels

 

 

René Magritte: The Revealing Image, Photos and Films is a world-first exhibition which provides stunning insight into the life, work and thinking of René Magritte, one of the world’s most important 20th Century artists. The exhibition, to be held at Latrobe Regional Galley in Morwell, Victoria, Australia from 19 August to 19 November 2017, features 130 original photographs by and of Magritte, his family, friends and fellow artists. It also includes eight self-made films which give a behind-the-scenes view of Magritte’s world. This exhibition, staged in collaboration with the Magritte Foundation Belgium. René Magritte: The Revealing Image, Photos and Films, marks the 50th anniversary of the Belgian Surrealist’s death. After its world-premiere in Morwell, René Magritte: The Revealing Image, Photos and Films will travel to Hong Kong, North and South America, and back to Europe.

Latrobe Regional Galley director Dr Mark Themann said René Magritte: The Revealing Image, Photos and Films was an opportunity to experience an amazing assembly of intimate and insightful photographs and films, many of which have never been exhibited previously. “Magritte had a unique creative ability to enchant. He used the ordinary and the everyday to evoke the mysterious and to question our perceptions of reality,” Dr Themann said. “He is an iconic artist, whose influence on fellow artists, designers, film directors and visual culture continues to this day. It’s a magnificent opportunity to present this major international exhibition in our newly-renovated Latrobe Regional Galley in Morwell. We’re looking forward to welcoming visitors from the local region, around Australia, and the world.”

Exhibition Chief Curator Xavier Canonne said the discovery of the photographs and films of René Magritte in the mid-1970s, 10 years after the painter’s death, and their subsequent appraisal and study, had given us an even greater appreciation of Magritte as an artist. “There are a lot of connections between Magritte’s photos and films, and his famous paintings,” Mr Canonne said. “Magritte was deeply interested by the possibilities of the image. The photos and films were used as models or documents for his paintings, and as experimental fields for his research, in order to find something more – to extend the possibilities of his universe. Through this exhibition we gain a greater sense and understanding of who Magritte was, how this informed his work, and why his art is so important.”

In conjunction with the opening of René Magritte: The Revealing Image, Photos and Films a book on the exhibition by Mr Canonne has been published by Ludion, distributed globally by Thames & Hudson.

Press release from the Latrobe Regional Art Gallery

 

Section 5: The Imitation of Photography. Magritte and the Cinema[tograph]

The cinema, more even than painting and to the same extent as literature, was a seminal influence of the work of René Magritte. As a child, he had been exposed to the first silent films and he tried to recreate their freshness and spontaneity in the short films he made, featuring his close friends. Magritte may still be posing in this section, but the emphasis is on entertainment.

This section of the exhibition is accompanied by extracts from his own films, presented on the TV screens, and by images from films by directors he admired, such as Louis Feuillade with his celebrated Fantômas.

 

Unknown photographer. 'René Magritte and The Barbarian (Le Barbare)' 1938

 

Unknown photographer
René Magritte and The Barbarian (Le Barbare), London Gallery, London
1938
Original photograph
43.2 x 33.2 cm (framed)
Private collection, Courtesy Brachot Gallery, Brussels

 

René Magritte (1898-1967) 'The Flame Rekindled' 1943

 

René Magritte (1898-1967)
The Flame Rekindled
1943
Oil on canvas
Private collection

Reproduction in the exhibition
Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

Ernst Moerman. 'Monsieur Fantômas' 1937 (film still)

 

Ernst Moerman
Monsieur Fantômas
1937
Film still

Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

 

“These examples are suppositions based on an interplay of analogies. If Magritte was aware of them, he would no doubt have rejected them, preferring to see them as fortuitous coincidences. It nonetheless remains that the universe of the mind is full of borrowings whose origin often remains unsuspected; exemplars buried in memory crop back up and recompose themselves through association. It is more an atmosphere that is evoked here, in particular that of the silent movies, with a power of images that impressed the painter move than photographs, at a time when the silver screen, this mysterious wellspring, was as much a source of this power as the mirror.”

Xavier Canonne. “The imitation of photography. Magritte and the cinema[tograph],” in René Magritte: The Revealing Image, Photos and Films. LaTrobe Regional Gallery, 2017, p. 126.

 

Unknown photographer. 'On the Road to Texas' 1942

 

Unknown photographer
On the Road to Texas
1942, Brussels

Left to right: Agui Ubac, Irène Hamoir, Louis Scutenaire, Jacqueline Nonkels, Georgette and René Magritte

 

 

René Magritte – surrealistic home movie
Nd

Not in the exhibition

 

 

René Magritte: The Revealing Image, Photos and Films promotional video

 

 

Louis Feuillade (1873 – 1925)
Fantômas
1913

Not in the exhibition

 

 

Louis Feuillade (1873 – 1925) was a prolific and prominent French film director from the silent era. Between 1906 and 1924 he directed over 630 films. He is primarily known for the serials FantômasLes Vampires and Judex.

The Fantômas serial in 1913 was his first masterpiece, the result of a long apprenticeship – during which the series with realistic ambitions, Life as it is, played a major role. It is also the first masterpiece in what the modern critic, from both a literary and a cinematographic point of view, would later call “the fantastic realism” or the “social fantastic”. He is credited with developing many of the thriller techniques used famously by Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, and others.

The series consists of five episodes, each an hour to an hour and a half in length, which end in cliffhangers, i.e., episodes one and three end with Fantômas making a last-minute escape, the end of the second entry has Fantômas blowing up Lady Beltham’s manor house with Juve and Fandor, the two heroes, still inside. The subsequent episodes begin with a recap of the story that has gone before. Each film is further divided into three or more chapters that do not end in cliffhangers.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

The False Mirror

This title of a celebrated painting by René Magritte opens the final section of the exhibition. Consisting essentially of portraits of Magritte at different stages of his life, they sometimes depict him in dreamy mood, sometimes expressing amusement, generally with his eyes closed, focused inwards. The section also includes photographs in which the painter and his friends mask their faces or turn away from the camera lens, prolonging in photographic mode his painterly research on the caché-visible (things hidden in plain sight).

 

Unknown photographer. 'René Magritte' 1930

 

Unknown photographer
René Magritte
1930
Original photograph

Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

Unknown photographer. 'The Eminence Grise' 1938

 

Unknown photographer
The Eminence Grise
1938
René Magritte on the Belgian coast
Original photograph

Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

“Again at the Belgian Coast in 1938, by now in keeping with an established ritual, Magritte, having hooked an open book to the straps of his bathing suit, turns aways from the camera (The Eminence Grise).” ~ Xavier Canonne

Éminence grise: a person who exercises power or influence in a certain sphere without holding an official position.

 

Unknown photographer. 'The Gladness of the Day' August 1935

 

Unknown photographer
The Gladness of the Day
August 1935, Lessines
Original photograph
Georgette Magritte, Louis Scutenaire, René Magritte

Published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic review

 

René Magritte (1898-1967) 'The Giant (Le Géant), Paul Nougé on the Belgian Coast' 1937

 

René Magritte (1898-1967)
The Giant (Le Géant), Paul Nougé on the Belgian Coast
1937
Private collection, Courtesy Brachot Gallery, Brussels
Original photograph
41.2 x 33.2 cm (framed)

 

 

“Paul Nougé shields his face behind a chessboard, forcing the viewer to concentrate on the details of his clothing and the pipe he holds in his hand. Scutenaire entitled this photo The Giant, an apt title for the antiportrait of the man who was the soul of the Brussels Surrealist group and never stopped calling for a self-effacement that favoured maximum freedom.” ~ Xavier Canonne

 

Paul Nougé (1895-1967), was a Belgian poet, founder and theoretician of surrealism in Belgium, sometimes known as the “Belgian Breton”. …

In November 1924 he created the journal “Correspondance”, which published 26 pamphlets up to September 1925, in collaboration with Camille Goemans and Marcel Lecomte. In July 1925 he was expelled from the party. That same year Nougé met the French surrealists, Louis Aragon, André Breton and Paul Éluard, and together they signed the tract “La Révolution d’abord et toujours” (The Revolution First and Forever), and made the acquaintance of Louis Scutenaire in 1926. September of that same year marked the drafting of the constitution of the Belgian Surrealist Group that comprised Nougé, Goemans, René Magritte, E. L. T. Mesens and André Souris.

In 1927 Nougé composed plagiarised examples of a grammar book of Clarisse Juranville, illustrated with 5 drawings by Magritte. In 1928 he founded the magazine “Distances” and wrote the poem catalogue of a fur trader that was illustrated by Magritte entitled “Le catalogue Samuel” (re-edited by Didier Devillez, Brussels, 1996). He also wrote the preface of a Magritte exhibition at the gallery “L’époque” (signed by his ‘accomplices’ Goemans, Mesens, Lecomte, Scutenaire and Souris) and delivered in January 1929 to Charleroi – a conference on the accompanying music to a concert conducted by Souris and an exhibition of Magritte (“La conférence de Charleroi”, published in 1946). Between December 1929 and February 1930 Nougé created 19 photographs, unpublished until 1968, under the title “Subversion des images”. These photographs have been displayed notably, and most recently, at the Edinburgh Art Festival 2009. In 1931 he wrote the preface to an exhibition which followed the return of Magritte to Brussels. Extracts from “Images défendues” were published in 1933 in issue number 5 of “Surréalisme au service de la Révolution”. In 1934 Nougé co-signed “L’action immédiate” in “Documents 34”, edited by Mesens. In 1935 “Le Couteau dans la plaie” (‘The Knife in the Wound’) was published and in 1936, René Magritte ou la révélation objective was published in “Les Beaux-Arts” in Brussels. In that same year, Nougé, along with Mesens, organised the exclusion of Souris from the group.

Nougé was mobilised in 1939 in Mérignac then Biarritz, during World War II, as a military nurse. In 1941 Nougé prefaced an exhibition, quickly closed by the occupying forces, of photographs by Raoul Ubac in Brussels L’expérience souveraine (The Sovereign Experience). In 1943 he published the complete text of René Magritte ou Les images défendues. In January 1944, under the pseudonym of Paul Lecharantais, he prefaced a new exhibition of Magritte that was criticised by the collaborators of nazism. In 1945 Nougé participated in the exhibition “Surréalisme” organised by the Editions La Boétie de Bruxelles gallery. In 1946 he published La Conférence de Charleroi and, under the title Élémentaires a preface for the exhibition of Magritte “Le Surréalisme en Plein Soleil” (Surrealism in Full Sunlight) at the Dietrich gallery.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Shunk Kender. 'René Magritte and The Likeness (La Resemblance)' about 1962

 

Shunk Kender (Harry Shunk and Janos Kender)
René Magritte and The Likeness (La Resemblance) 
(from The Eternally Obvious)
about 1962
Private collection, Courtesy Brachot Gallery, Brussels
Original photograph
41.2 x 33.2 cm

 

 

“And in the living room on Rue des Mimosas, for the photographer Skunk Kender, Magritte traded his face for a panel from The Eternally Obvious (1954), replacing his features with those of a woman’s face, here again accomplishing the transmutation of a painting by a photograph: the painter substitutes his silhouette in a three-piece suit for the fragmented woman’s body in the original painting and disappears behind his work.” ~ Xavier Canonne

 

Shunk-Kender

The photographers Harry Shunk (German, 1924-2006) and János Kender (Hungarian, 1937-2009) worked together under the name Shunk-Kender from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, based first in Paris and then in New York. Shunk-Kender photographed artworks, events, and landmark exhibitions of avant-garde movements of the era, from Nouveau réalisme to Earth art. They were connected with a vibrant art scene that they captured through portraits of artists and participated in through collaborative projects.

The roles played by the duo varied from one project to the next. In some cases, Shunk-Kender worked as documentarians, photographing Happenings and performances; in other instances, they were collaborators, acting alongside other artists to realise works of art through photography. (Text from the MoMA website)

 

Shunk Kender. 'René Magritte in front of Le sens de réalité' 1960

 

Shunk Kender (Harry Shunk and Janos Kender)
René Magritte in front of ‘Le sens de réalité’
1960
Private collection, Courtesy Brachot Gallery, Brussels
Original photograph
43.2 x 33.2 cm

 

 

Latrobe Regional Art Gallery
138 Commercial Road
Morwell, Victoria 3840
Australia

Opening Hours
10am – 5pm Monday to Friday
11am – 4pm Saturday and Sunday

Latrobe Regional Art Gallery website

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18
Oct
17

Exhibition: ‘The Summer of Love: Photography and Graphic Design’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Exhibition dates: 6th July – 22nd October 2017

 

Bonnie MacLean (American, born in 1939) 'Muddy Waters, Buffalo Springfield, Richie Havens (Fillmore Auditorium, 1-6 August 1967)' 1967

 

Bonnie MacLean (American, born in 1939)
Muddy Waters, Buffalo Springfield, Richie Havens (Fillmore Auditorium, 1-6 August 1967)
1967
Offset lithographic poster
Gift of Robert Bradford Wheaton and Barbara Ketcham Wheaton
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

Aubrey Beardsley and “The Yellow Book,” Art Nouveau and the Vienna Secession, Josef Albers, Dada, Surrealism, William Blake (a favourite of mine), photography, typography and graphic design. You couldn’t ask for more… except for those psychedelic colours!

As a friend of mine observed of the Grateful Dead, Oxford Circle (1966) poster – look where the tickets were sold: psychedelic shops, book stores, record shops and coffee houses. He actually saw the Grateful Dead play live while he was in America, and he said it was quite a trip. As Mark Feeney keenly observes, this art was “liberation in two dimensions.”

He is correct, for these posters and record covers reflect the cultural era from which they emerge – the official beginnings of Gay Liberation, Feminism, student revolt, protests against war and racism, civil rights, drugs, free love and peace. They are powerful and eloquent works of art that summon the noisy spirit of the age, a riotous poltergeist hell bent on change.

And all these years later, they still look as fresh and as relevant (perhaps even more so in this conservative world), as they day they were created. Just fab!

Marcus

PS. It always amazes me the cultural contexts in which photography can be put to use.

.
Many thankx to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“What’s fascinating is how the graphic designs manage to have a kind of coherence despite being such a jumble. Certain principles recur: curves, yes, angles, no; a pugilistic employment of colour (psychedelia really did look . . . psychedelic); legibility as afterthought. So do certain influences: Aubrey Beardsley and “The Yellow Book,” Art Nouveau and the Vienna Secession, Dada, Surrealism (among the album covers on display is, yes, the Jefferson Airplane’s “Surrealistic Pillow”). The presiding spirit is William Blake: “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” The last thing the Haight cared about was history, but history’s hand lay all over it.

The look of these designs is assaultive, overly busy, restrained only by the confines of poster size or album cover. That look still feels exhilarating: liberation in two dimensions. It must have felt close to Martian back then. NASA wanted to put a man on the moon. Why stop there? Gravity was just another law to flout. One of the 32 Herb Greene photographs in “The Summer of Love” shows Airplane lead singer Grace Slick looking at the camera and flipping the bird. Maybe that image, even more than Blakean excess, is the presiding spirit.”

.
Mark Feeney. “The MFA celebrates San Francisco’s Summer of Love,” on the Boston Globe website

 

 

Victor Moscoso (American, born in Spain, 1936) 'The Chambers Brothers (The Matrix, 28 March-6 April 1967)' 1967

 

Victor Moscoso (American, born in Spain, 1936)
The Chambers Brothers (The Matrix, 28 March-6 April 1967)

1967
Offset lithographic poster
Gift of Robert Bradford Wheaton and Barbara Ketcham Wheaton
© ’67 Neon Rose
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

Victor Moscoso

Victor Moscoso (born Galicia in 1936) is a Spanish-American artist best known for producing psychedelic rock posters, advertisements, and underground comix in San Francisco during the 1960s and 1970s.

Moscoso was the first of the rock poster artists of the 1960s era with formal academic training and experience. After studying art at Cooper Union in New York City and at Yale University, he moved to San Francisco in 1959. There, he attended the San Francisco Art Institute, where he eventually became an instructor. Moscoso’s use of vibrating colours was influenced by painter Josef Albers, one of his teachers at Yale. He was the first of the rock poster artists to use photographic collage in many of his posters.

Professional success came in the form of the psychedelic rock and roll poster art created for San Francisco’s dance halls and clubs. Moscoso’s posters for the Family Dog dance-concerts at the Avalon Ballroom and his Neon Rose posters for the Matrix resulted in international attention during the 1967 Summer of Love.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Stanley Miller (Mouse) (American, born in 1940) and Alton Kelley (American, 1940-2008) 'Moby Grape, Sparrow, The Charlatans (Avalon Ballroom, 13-14 January 1967)' 1967

 

Stanley Miller (Mouse) (American, born in 1940) and Alton Kelley (American, 1940-2008)
Moby Grape, Sparrow, The Charlatans (Avalon Ballroom, 13-14 January 1967)
1967
Poster, offset lithograph
Collection of Patrick Murphy
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Bonnie MacLean (American, born in 1939) 'The Yardbirds, The Doors, James Cotton Blues Band, Richie Havens (Fillmore Auditorium, 25-30 July 1967)' 1967

 

Bonnie MacLean (American, born in 1939)
The Yardbirds, The Doors, James Cotton Blues Band, Richie Havens (Fillmore Auditorium, 25-30 July 1967)
1967
Poster, offset lithograph
Collection of Patrick Murphy
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

Bonnie MacLean

Bonnie MacLean, also known as Bonnie MacLean Graham is an American artist known for her classic rock posters. In the 1960s and 1970s she created posters and other art for the promotion of rock and roll concerts managed by Bill Graham, using the iconic psychedelic art style of the day. MacLean went on to continue her art as a painter focusing mostly of nudes, still lifes and landscapes.

 

Fillmore posters

Artist Wes Wilson was the main poster artist for the Fillmore Auditorium when he and Bill Graham had a “falling out” and Wilson quit. MacLean had been painting noticeboards at the auditorium in the psychedelic style, and took up the creation of the posters after Wilson left, creating about thirty posters, most in 1967. MacLean’s posters are included in many museum collections including at the Brooklyn Museum, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco collection and at the DeYoung museum. A few examples of her posters are in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art collection. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Stanley Miller (Mouse) (American, born in 1940) and Alton Kelley (American, 1940-2008) 'Grateful Dead, Oxford Circle (Avalon Ballroom, 16-17 September 1966)' 1966

 

Stanley Miller (Mouse) (American, born in 1940) and Alton Kelley (American, 1940-2008)
Grateful Dead, Oxford Circle (Avalon Ballroom, 16-17 September 1966)
1966
Handbill, offset lithograph
Collection of Patrick Murphy
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

Stanley Miller

Stanley George Miller (born October 10, 1940), better known as Mouse and Stanley Mouse, is an American artist, notable for his 1960s psychedelic rock concert poster designs for the Grateful Dead and Journey albums cover art as well as many others.

 

Psychedelic posters

In 1965, Mouse travelled to San Francisco, California with a group of art school friends. Settling initially in Oakland, Mouse met Alton Kelley. Kelley, a self-taught artist, had recently arrived from Virginia City, Nevada, where he had joined a group of hippies who called themselves the Red Dog Saloon gang. Upon arrival in San Francisco Kelley and other veterans of the gang renamed themselves The Family Dog, and began producing rock music dances. In 1966, when Chet Helms assumed leadership of the group and began promoting the dances at the Avalon Ballroom, Mouse and Kelley began working together to produce posters for the events. Later the pair also produced posters for promoter Bill Graham and for other events in the psychedelic community.

In 1967, Mouse collaborated with artists Kelley, Rick Griffin, Victor Moscoso and Wes Wilson to create the Berkeley Bonaparte Distribution Agency. Mouse and Kelley also worked together as lead artists at Mouse Studios and The Monster Company – producing album cover art for the bands Journey and Grateful Dead. The Monster Company also developed a profitable line of T-shirts, utilising the four colour process for silk screening.

The psychedelic posters Mouse and Kelley produced were heavily influenced by Art Nouveau graphics, particularly the works of Alphonse Mucha and Edmund Joseph Sullivan. Material associated with psychedelics, such as Zig-Zag rolling papers, were also referenced. Producing posters advertising for such musical groups as Big Brother and the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Grateful Dead led to meeting the musicians and making contacts that were later to prove fruitful.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Alton Kelley

Alton Kelley (June 17, 1940 in Houlton, Maine – June 1, 2008 in Petaluma, California) was an American artist best known for his psychedelic art, in particular his designs for 1960s rock concerts and albums. Along with artists Rick Griffin, Stanley Mouse, Victor Moscoso and Wes Wilson, Kelley founded the Berkeley Bonaparte distribution agency in order to produce and sell psychedelic poster art.

Along with fellow artist Stanley Mouse, Kelley is credited with creating the wings and beetles on all Journey album covers as well as the skull and roses image for the Grateful Dead. Kelley’s artwork on the 1971 self-titled live album, Grateful Dead, incorporated a black and white illustration of a skeleton by Edmund Sullivan, which originally appeared in a 19th-century edition of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Herb Greene (American, born in 1942) 'Jefferson Airplane' 1966

 

Herb Greene (American, born in 1942)
Jefferson Airplane
1966
Photograph, gelatin silver print
Gift of Arlette and Gus Kayafas and The Living New England Artists Purchase Fund, created by The Stephen and Sybil Stone Foundation
© Herb Greene
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Cover photograph by Herb Greene (American, born in 1942) 'Jefferson Airplane, Surrealistic Pillow' 1967

 

Cover photograph by Herb Greene (American, born in 1942)
Jefferson Airplane, Surrealistic Pillow
1967
Album cover, offset lithograph
Collection of Patrick Murphy
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Wes Wilson (American, born in 1937) Photograph by Herb Greene (American, born in 1942) 'Jefferson Airplane, Junior Wells Chicago Blues Band, Tim Rose (Fillmore Auditorium, 16-18 December 1966)' 1966

 

Wes Wilson (American, born in 1937)
Photograph by Herb Greene (American, born in 1942)
Jefferson Airplane, Junior Wells Chicago Blues Band, Tim Rose (Fillmore Auditorium, 16-18 December 1966)
1966
Offset lithographic poster
Gift of Robert Bradford Wheaton and Barbara Ketcham Wheaton
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

In celebration of the Summer of Love’s 50th anniversary, this exhibition explodes with a profusion of more than 120 posters, album covers and photographs from the transformative years around 1967. That summer, fuelled by sensational stories in the national media, San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood became a mecca for thousands seeking an alternative to the constrictions of postwar American society. A new graphic vocabulary emerged in posters commissioned to advertise weekly rock concerts at the Fillmore Auditorium and the Avalon Ballroom, with bands such as Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and the Janis Joplin-led Big Brother & The Holding Company.

A group of more than 50 concert posters highlights experiments with psychedelic graphic design and meandering typography – often verging on the illegible. These include works by Wes Wilson, who took inspiration from earlier art movements such as the Vienna Secession, and Victor Moscoso, whose studies of colour theory with Josef Albers at Yale University translated into striking use of bright, saturated colours in his own designs. A grid of 25 album covers traces the influence of the famously amorphous lettering in the Beatles’ 1965 album Rubber Soul on countless covers and posters from later in the decade.

At the heart of the exhibition is a group of 32 photographs by Herb Greene, a pioneering member of the Haight-Ashbury counterculture and now a resident of Massachusetts. Many of his iconic images document the city’s burgeoning music scene, while a selection from a newly published portfolio offers a glimpse at everyday life in the Haight during the fabled summer of 1967.

Text from the Museum of Fine Arts website

 

Herb Greene (American, born in 1942) 'Ohio to San Fransico: Haight Street 1967 (Plate 17)' 1967, printed 2013

 

Herb Greene (American, born in 1942)
Ohio to San Fransico: Haight Street 1967 (Plate 17)
1967, printed 2013
Photograph, gelatin silver print
Private collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Greene (American, born in 1942) 'Ohio to San Fransico: Haight Street 1967 (Plate 20)' 1967, printed 2013

 

Herb Greene (American, born in 1942)
Ohio to San Fransico: Haight Street 1967 (Plate 20)
1967, printed 2013
Photograph, gelatin silver print
Private collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Greene (American, born in 1942) 'Ohio to San Fransico: Haight Street 1967 (Plate 30)' 1967, printed 2013

 

Herb Greene (American, born in 1942)
Ohio to San Fransico: Haight Street 1967 (Plate 30)
1967, printed 2013
Photograph, gelatin silver print
Private collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Greene (American, born in 1942) 'Dead on Haight' From the portfolio 'Brief Encounters with the Dead' 1966, printed 2006

 

Herb Greene (American, born in 1942)
Dead on Haight
From the portfolio Brief Encounters with the Dead
1966, printed 2006
Photograph, gelatin silver print
Collection of Jeanne and Richard S. Press
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

Herb Greene

Herb “Herbie” Greene (born April 3, 1942) is an American photographer best known for his portraits of The Grateful Dead, the iconic psychedelic rock band led by Jerry Garcia. Over 50 years, Greene’s photographs traced the band’s evolution from its roots in San Francisco’s psychedelic underground to global stardom.

His portraits of other rock and roll luminaries – including Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, Led Zeppelin, Rod Stewart, Jeff Beck, The Pointer Sisters, Carlos Santana, Sly Stone, and more – have been regularly featured in Rolling Stone magazine and several books documenting the music of the 1960s counterculture.

Known as “Herbie” by his friends, Greene won high praise for his ability to capture intimate portraits of the most revered figures in rock. That access was largely due to his relationships with the bands he photographed. Although he refers to himself as “just the guy with the long hair and the camera,” Greene lived in San Francisco during the 1960s rock revolution and was friends with renowned musicians, promoters, and artists.

 

1960s San Francisco

In 1961, Greene took photography classes at City College of San Francisco and later enrolled at San Francisco State University, where he majored in anthropology and communications. After moving into an apartment near the famed Haight-Ashbury district, he met Jerry Garcia at a bluegrass café called the Fox and Hound. The two became friends and Greene booked his first gig, a portrait session with Garcia’s band, The Warlocks. (The band would eventually change its name to The Grateful Dead).

As Greene’s reputation grew, some of the decade’s most iconic performers came to him for portraits and album covers. He photographed Big Brother and the Holding Company and its lead singer, Janis Joplin. He shot the cover for the Jefferson Airplane’s second album, Surrealistic Pillow, and captured rare portrait sessions with Rod Stewart, Jeff Beck, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Procol Harem and others. His portfolio landed him a job as a fashion photographer with Joseph Magnin and Co, a prominent San Francisco department store. Greene began to split his time between San Francisco and a new studio in Los Angeles. As the 1960s came to a close, his work with The Grateful Dead and other iconic rockers continued.

 

Greene and The Grateful Dead

Greene first met Jerry Garcia in 1963 at The Fox and Hound, a bluegrass café on North Beach in San Francisco. Both were just 21 years old, and Garcia had not yet formed The Warlocks, the band that would eventually become The Grateful Dead. He was playing as part of the Sleepy Hollow Hog Stompers, a folk trio. After one of the Garcia’s sets, Greene introduced himself. It was the start of a lifelong friendship. The pair remained friends until Garcia’s death in August 1995.

While many photographers have captured The Grateful Dead on film, Greene is widely regarded as the group’s unofficial photographer. Over 50 years, he shot just 10 sit-down sessions with the band, but his images’ intimacy offer a rare glimpse into the band’s evolution from a fledgling group to international stars.

 

Photography style and equipment

Despite ample opportunities, Greene did not photograph musicians on stage. Instead, he shot portraits of his subjects in his studios, backstage, and in his home. His pieces include both one-on-one and group shots, and he is renowned for his ability to capture intimate expressions from revered musical figures.

Green’s portraits were shot in both colour and black-and-white, and the bulk of his work was captured on Kodak Tri-X 120-roll film, using D76 developer. His go-to cameras were a Hasselblad and Mamiya RB67.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Wes Wilson (American, born in 1937) Photographs by Herb Greene (American, born in 1942) 'Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead (Fillmore Auditorium, 12-13 August 1966)' 1966

 

Wes Wilson (American, born in 1937)
Photographs by Herb Greene (American, born in 1942)
Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead (Fillmore Auditorium, 12-13 August 1966)
1966
Poster, offset lithograph
Collection of Patrick Murphy
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Alfred Roller (Austrian, 1864-1935) 'Ver Sacrum Calendar: August' 1902

 

Alfred Roller (Austrian, 1864-1935)
Ver Sacrum Calendar: August
1902
Calendar illustrated with color woodcuts
William A. Sargent Fund
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

Alfred Roller

Alfred Roller (2 October 1864 – 21 June 1935) was an Austrian painter, graphic designer, and set designer.

Roller was born in Brünn (Brno), Moravia. He at first studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna under Christian Griepenkerl and Eduard Peithner von Lichtenfels, but eventually became disenchanted with the Academy’s traditionalism. In 1897 he co-founded the Viennese Secession with Koloman Moser, Joseph Maria Olbrich, Josef Hoffmann, Gustav Klimt, and other artists who rejected the prevalent academic style of art. He became a professor of drawing at the University of Applied Arts Vienna (Kunstgewerbeschule) in 1899, and president of the Secession in 1902.

In his early career Roller was very active as a graphic designer and draughtsman. He designed numerous covers and vignettes for the pages the Secessionist periodical Ver Sacrum, as well as the posters for the fourth, fourteenth, and sixteenth Secession exhibitions. He also designed the layout of the exhibitions themselves.

In 1902 Roller was introduced to the composer Gustav Mahler by Carl Moll. Roller expressed an interest in stage design and showed Mahler several sketches he had made for Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. Mahler was impressed and decided to employ Roller to design the sets for a new production of the piece. The production, which premiered in February 1903, was a great critical success. Roller continued to design sets for Mahler’s productions. Eventually Roller left the Secession and his teaching post at the Kunstgewerbeschule to be appointed chief stage designer to the Vienna State Opera, a position he held until 1909. He died in Vienna in 1935. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

 

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts

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Wednesday – Friday 10am – 10 pm
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Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website

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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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