Posts Tagged ‘Stills Gallery

27
Sep
16

Review: ‘Polixeni Papapetrou: Eden’ at Stills Gallery, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 3rd September – 1st October 2016

 

This end of (life) cycle is the last body of work that Polixeni Papapetrou will make. It is the completion of an imaginative, bold and strong body of work that stretches from the late 1980s through to this series, Eden. Papapetrou has remained true to her vision as an artist, one that documents performative identities within constructed landscapes.

In this series Papapetrou again cleverly stitches together space and time: flowers stitched together in wreaths; prints of period dresses; and further prints in the backdrop made from postwar backcloth. This “fabrication” of the picture plane has been a constant throughout the artistic life of Papapetrou. If we look at the formal construction of an early work, Drag queen wearing cut out dress (1993, below), we can still see the same concerns for flattened perspective in this new series. The wrapping up of space (fabric, dress, flowers, body) in an intricately overlapping, planar field of view with no vanishing point.

The work desires to celebrate the beauty of nature and honour its transience through the symbology of beauty and death associated with flowers. But for me, the use of facsimiles or simulacra – prints of flowers on dresses and repeated patterns of flowers on cloth – diminishes the relationship between the sitters and the flowers, thus undermining the conceptualisation of the series. The sitter is no longer embedded in the cycles of life and, on this level, the work fails to engage with how we are nature. The sitters exist in a masked reality (like the wreaths in front of the girls faces), which is a masquerade or act, a disguise which takes us away from our true being. As in much of Papapetrou’s work, camouflage – to hide or disguise the presence of (a person, animal, or object) – is to the fore, but this time these photographs fail to transcend their origins as studio set pieces.

Further, I have never been a great fan of “dead pan” photography and what I find curious here is the closed nature of the girls. They are stiff, focused inwards, looking off into nowhere. They don’t feel that they are in a state of reflection. For a series that seeks to show “the condition of becoming from childhood to adolescence to adulthood”, the photographs seem to lack the energy vital for such a journey. The exuberance of nature doesn’t seem to extend beyond the prints and flowers. As I said of her work in an earlier posting, “what springs to mind, with the use of masks to disguise youth positioned within the decorous landscape, is the notion of “passing”. Passing on (as in dying), passing through (as in travelling), in passing (as in an aside) and just “passing” (passing yourself off as someone or something else) to hide your true character or feelings.” Like a bower bird collecting colourful things for its nest, there are bits of all of that and more in this new series.

This is not my favourite body of Papapetrou’s work. No matter. What we should do is honour this talented and determined artist for creating 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.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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

 

 

“If I do live again I would like it to be as a flower – no soul but perfectly beautiful. Perhaps for my sins I shall be made a red geranium!”

.
Oscar Wilde

 

The loss of Eden is
personally experienced by
every one of us as we leave
the wonder and magic and
also the pain and terrors
of childhood.

.
Dennis Potter

 

 

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

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
Drag queen wearing cut out dress
1993
Gelatin silver photograph
28.5 x 28.5 cm
Courtesy the artist and Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

 

Polixeni stitches space together in the same way that flowers are stitched together in a wreath – the one wand entwined within the space of the other – or vines or branches are woven on a trellis. The very word bower derives from a knot, a bow (as Shakespeare acknowledges with his ‘pleached bower’),[1] a tying together around an armature, where strands are interwoven, locked in, both strengthened and encumbered with their unity. They are ‘Together intertwin’d and trammel’d fresh’,[2] as the romantic poet Keats expressed it in his Endymion, a heady poem itself enmeshed with flowers and vine. In Polixeni’s photographs, however, the trammelled armature is the human herself…

In Eden, Polixeni weaves together much more than space but metaphor, metaphors of growth, nature, life-cycles, the sacred, the ideal; and even the all-over aesthetic field constitutes a kind of metaphor, the rhapsodic, the imaginary, the connected. The space that she has created is almost nothing but a metaphor, ‘her close and consecrated bower’;[13]…

Polixeni’s bower is fantastic in old and new ways: old, because it has forms of painting and sculpture within it where blooms and other plant-matter are brought together; and new because they gesture to a place so far beyond the studio…

This exclusivity along gender lines, like the image of the unicorn in the garden of a virgin, is also metaphoric: it stands for the preserve of the individual, the quintessentially safe place that is the interior, the inner realm of thought, the preserve of an unaffected psyche, an emotional haven, a bower of immanence. It has love in it, but deferred, otherworldly, imaginary and eternal.

Extract from Robert Nelson “Rhapsodies from the bower: Polixeni Papapetrou’s ‘Eden'” 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Blinded' from 'Eden', 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
Blinded
2016
From the series Eden
Pigment print
127.3 x 85 cm
Courtesy of the artist and STILLS Gallery, Sydney

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Delphi' 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
Delphi
2016
From the series Eden
Pigment print
127.3 x 85 cm
Courtesy of the artist and STILLS Gallery, Sydney

 

The name Delphoi comes from the same root as δελφύς delphys, “womb” and may indicate archaic veneration of Gaia… In Greek mythology, Gaia (/ˈɡ.ə/ or /ˈɡ.ə/ from Ancient Greek Γαῖα, a poetical form of Γῆ , “land” or “earth”) also spelled Gaea, is the personification of the Earth and one of the Greek primordial deities. Gaia is the ancestral mother of all life: the primal Mother Earthgoddess.

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Heart' 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
Heart
2016
From the series Eden
Pigment print
127.3 x 85 cm
Courtesy of the artist and STILLS Gallery, Sydney

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Flora' 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
Flora
2016
From the series Eden
Pigment print
127.3 x 85 cm
Courtesy of the artist and STILLS Gallery, Sydney

 

In Roman mythology, Flora (Latin: Flōra) was a Sabine-derived goddess of flowers and of the season of spring – a symbol for nature and flowers (especially the may-flower). While she was otherwise a relatively minor figure in Roman mythology, being one among several fertility goddesses, her association with the spring gave her particular importance at the coming of springtime, as did her role as goddess of youth. Her name is derived from the Latin word “flos” which means “flower”. In modern English, “Flora” also means the plants of a particular region or period.

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Psyche' 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
Psyche
2016
From the series Eden
Pigment print
127.3 x 85 cm
Courtesy of the artist and STILLS Gallery, Sydney

 

Psyche (/ˈsk/, Greek: Ψυχή, “Soul” or “Breath of Life”). The basic meaning of the Greek word ψυχή (psūkhē) was “life” in the sense of “breath”, formed from the verb ψύχω (psukhō, “to blow”). Derived meanings included “spirit”, “soul”, “ghost”, and ultimately “self” in the sense of “conscious personality” or “psyche”… Portrayals of Psyche alone are often not confined to illustrating a scene from Apuleius, but may draw on the broader Platonic tradition in which Love was a force that shaped the self.

 

 

Colourful, abundant and compelling, Polixeni Papapetrou’s new series Eden arose out of a commission by the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP) in Melbourne to create works in response to the Melbourne General Cemetery. Papapetrou, photographed flowers obtained from the cemetery against a black backdrop to invoke ideas about mourning and remembrance. For Papapetrou, whose own plot is in the cemetery, and who, through illness, has faced her own mortality, it was a challenging and thought provoking assignment.

The commission led Papapetrou to delve into the language of flowers. The history of art is replete with images of flowers and they have a rich metaphorical resonance. In true Papapetrou spirit, what she has created in Eden, following on from the CCP work, is positive, philosophical and beautiful. Eden invites us to celebrate the beauty of nature and honour its transience. We, like flowers, are subject to seasons of growth, blossoming, and wilting. The young women in the photographs, in the Springtime of their lives, are surrounded by flowers; on backdrops, on dresses; held or worn, they adorn and overrun them. The lush colours and patterns are interrupted only by the faces and arms of the sitters, their expressions solemn and thoughtful, in contrast to the extravagance of the blooms.

Papapetrou has returned to photograph these subjects, including her daughter Olympia, at different stages of their lives. Eden uses the language of flowers to explore life itself, reflecting on the young womens’ metamorphosis from child to adolescent and adolescent to adult, and a oneness with the world, fertility and the cycles of life. They are enclosed in a floral embrace that symbolises their unity and acceptance of this miraculous thing we call life.

In addition to Eden, we will also exhibit a small selection of Papapetrou’s early Phantomwise works. These large-scale black and white photographs feature her young daughter Olympia between the ages of four and six wearing Victorian masks and performing various identities. As with Eden, these early works consider the potential for metamorphosis and the ambiguity between the ‘real’ and the ‘imaginary’, an ambiguity inherent in photography itself.

Press release from Stills Gallery

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Amaranthine' 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
Amaranthine
2016
From the series Eden
Pigment print
127.3 x 85 cm
Courtesy of the artist and STILLS Gallery, Sydney

 

The word is taken from ancient Greek and means everlasting or immortal (the same as the amaranth flower)

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Amaryllus' 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
Amaryllus
2016
From the series Eden
Pigment print
127.3 x 85 cm
Courtesy of the artist and STILLS Gallery, Sydney

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Eden' 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
Eden
2016
From the series Eden
Pigment print
127.3 x 85 cm
Courtesy of the artist and STILLS Gallery, Sydney

 

Traditionally, the favored derivation of the name “Eden” was from the Akkadian edinnu, derived from a Sumerian word meaning “plain” or “steppe”. Eden is now believed to be more closely related to an Aramaic root word meaning “fruitful, well-watered.” The Hebrew term is translated as “pleasure” in Sarah’s secret saying in Genesis 18:12

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Rhodora' 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
Rhodora
2016
From the series Eden
Pigment print
127.3 x 85 cm
Courtesy of the artist and STILLS Gallery, Sydney

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) "The Rhodora" from 'Poems' 1847

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
“The Rhodora” from Poems
1847

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Spring' 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
Spring
2016
From the series Eden
Pigment print
127.3 x 85 cm
Courtesy of the artist and STILLS Gallery, Sydney

 

 

Stills Gallery
36 Gosbell Street
Paddington NSW 2021
Australia
Phone: +61 2 9331 7775

Opening hours:
Wed to Sat 11am – 5pm

Stills Gallery website

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16
Jul
13

Review: ‘Anne Ferran: Box of Birds’ at Stills Gallery, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 26th June – 27th July 2013

 

Anne Ferran. 'Agitated thrush' 2013

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Agitated thrush
2013
From Box of Birds series
Pigment print
72 x 48cm
Editions of 5 + 2AP

 

 

tar·ant·ism [tar-uhn-tiz-uhm]
noun
a mania characterised by an uncontrollable impulse to dance, especially as prevalent in southern Italy from the 15th to the 17th century, popularly attributed to the bite of the tarantula.

 

I have never been a great fan of Anne Ferran’s exhumations. Her digging into the ground of history and restoring, reviving (after neglect or a period of forgetting) traces of life and bringing them into light (through photography) – bringing them back to light – has resulted in images that are paradoxically pretty, lifeless. For example, photographs of patches of grass in Lost to Worlds (2008) are given great import as contemporary evidence of the site of a female convict prison, near the small village of Ross, Tasmania as Ferran, “continues to play with the invisibility of this specific history, using large-scale photographs to show what little remains today, and to collectively reflect on the difficulty of grasping a ruined and fragmented past.”

And… so… what else?

These photographs really mean very little, another example of an artist picking at the scab of history to what end, what purpose, other than to dig up deleted histories that are past their use by date. Move on, move on, nothing to see here!

And there is literally nothing to see, except patches of grass that are given import by the contextualisation of the artist, the “look at this, I think it is important because I have seen it, because I have researched it, because I am an artist, because I am aware” – when the interrogation actually means very little. It is like the prevalence of contemporary photographs of empty, abandoned spaces – abandoned petrol stations, hospitals, insane asylums – that are supposed to impart great poetry and narrative to the spaces. Ruin porn as Dan Rule termed it recently.

Thankfully, these latest photographs are of a different taxonomic order. They are vital, alive, full of swirling tarantism that beautifully expresses the trapped energy that Ferran saw in a 1940s photographic archive of 38 unidentified women who were patients of a Sydney psychiatric hospital. In their formalist abstraction the artist has perfectly captured the unquiet spirit of the women and – here is the crux of the matter for me – these photographs allow me to go further into the subject, they take me to a different place and don’t just leave me on the surface of the image / history. They speak to me, they n/trance in multiple ways like little of Ferran’s work has done before for I feel this work, this hidden narrative, in the artist’s performative shaping of reality. Suddenly these women, trapped in a space (of the photograph, of the archive) and place (of the hospital), can spread their wings and anonymously shake their feathers (their spirit) with declamatory enthusiasm. As an artist friend of mine Julie Clarke observed, “I was captured by the amount of folds in the fabric Ferran has used. Her emphasis on ‘felt’ as felt emotion and the feeling associated with those almost absent bodies is intriguing.” And how that felt emotion relates to the work of Joseph Beuys and his use of felt as insulation, warmth and a kind of comfort, here represented in institutional form (I am reminded by the markings on the felt of the arrows of prison garments).

As the text for the exhibition states, “This new series marks a significant shift in approach, as Ferran harnesses photography and performance in an endeavour to manifest the archive’s continuing power in the present. Ferran’s performers conceal their identities behind lengths and swathes of painted felt, in some cases creating strange and outlandish figures in a disorder of material, bodies and space.”

It is a welcome shift in approach. Ferran’s mental, material dis/order produces significantly more memorable images than what has “passed” before, imaging as they do a conflation of past, present and future rather than relying on the death of the historical archive evidenced in the deathly photograph.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Anne Ferran. 'Clamorous shrike' 2013

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Clamorous shrike
2013
From Box of Birds series
Pigment print
72 x 48cm
Editions of 5 + 2AP

 

Anne Ferran. 'Conspicuous kite' 2013

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Conspicuous kite
2013
From Box of Birds series
Pigment print
72 x 48cm
Editions of 5 + 2AP

 

Anne Ferran. 'Night whistler' 2013

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Night whistler
2013
From Box of Birds series
Pigment print
72 x 48cm
Editions of 5 + 2AP

 

Anne Ferran. 'Pale-headed flycatcher' 2013

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Pale-headed flycatcher
2013
From Box of Birds series
Pigment print
72 x 48cm
Editions of 5 + 2AP

 

Anne Ferran. 'Slender-throated warbler' 2013

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Slender-throated warbler
2013
From Box of Birds series
Pigment print
72 x 48cm
Editions of 5 + 2AP

 

Anne Ferran. 'Stonebird' 2013

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Stonebird
2013
From Box of Birds series
Pigment print
72 x 48cm
Editions of 5 + 2AP

 

Anne Ferran. 'Tricoloured sylph' 2013

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Tricoloured sylph
2013
From Box of Birds series
Pigment print
72 x 48cm
Editions of 5 + 2AP

 

Anne Ferran. 'Feathered Emissary' 2013

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Feathered Emissary
2013
From Box of Birds series
Pigment print
60 x 80cm
Editions of 5 + 2AP

 

 

Over the past 20 years Anne Ferran has worked with the residues of Australia and New Zealand’s colonial histories, probing them for gaps and silences. She has been especially drawn to the lives of anonymous women and children, seeking to shed light on their presence, and absence, in museum collections, photographic archives and historic sites. It is characteristic of Ferran’s images that the subject is not what is seen but rather what haunts it, something only partially visible. Intellectually and emotionally engaging, her photographs have explored episodes of incarceration in prisons, asylums, hospitals and nurseries, giving voice to the spectres of the lost and unseen.

Box of Birds returns to the subject matter of her previous works INSULA and 1-38: 1940s photographs of 38 unidentified women who were patients of a Sydney psychiatric hospital. In a significant shift of approach, rather than exhuming traces of the past, Ferran harnesses photography and performance in an endeavour to manifest its continuing power in the present.

Ferran’s process alternated between the considered and the uncontrollable. Female performers were instructed to hold pieces of felt up to her camera, the 38 lengths of dyed and painted fabric recalling the crumpled clothes worn by the women in the original photographic archive. Other images were wholly improvised, the performers creating strange and outlandish figures out of a disorder of material, bodies and space.

In a deliberate departure from the 1940s archive, Ferran’s performers conceal their identities behind lengths and swathes of fabric, raising ethical questions about photography’s role in recognition, representation and expression.

All the work in Box of Birds aims to elicit the energy Ferran saw trapped in those 1940s photographs, their unquiet spirit.

Press release from the Stills Gallery website

 

Anne Ferran. 'Chorus No.1' 2013

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Chorus No.1
2013
From Box of Birds series
38 Pigment prints
60 x 42cm each
Editions of 5 + 2AP

 

Anne Ferran. 'Chorus No.2' 2013

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Chorus No.2
2013
From Box of Birds series
38 Pigment prints
60 x 42cm each
Editions of 5 + 2AP

 

Anne Ferran. 'Chorus No.3' 2013

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Chorus No.3
2013
From Box of Birds series
38 Pigment prints
60 x 42cm each
Editions of 5 + 2AP

 

Anne Ferran. 'Chorus No.4' 2013

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Chorus No.4
2013
From Box of Birds series
38 Pigment prints
60 x 42cm each
Editions of 5 + 2AP

 

Anne Ferran. 'Chorus No.5' 2013

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Chorus No.5
2013
From Box of Birds series
38 Pigment prints
60 x 42cm each
Editions of 5 + 2AP

 

 

Stills Gallery

This gallery has now closed.

Stills Gallery website

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14
Jun
13

Exhibition: ‘Tim Hetherington / Doug Rickard’ at Stills Gallery, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 22nd May to 22nd June 2013
In association with Yossi Milo Gallery and Head On Photo Festival

 

Tim Hetherington. 'Alcantara, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan' 2008

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011)
Alcantara, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

 

 

“Our generation is not attached to this myth of photography as objective reporting because we know it’s not. And so he and I had been kind of playing with the idea of, so where is that line? What does that mean? Are we, by definition, objective? Is there something else that can be reported about war that can be more about the experience? That touches on what it’s like to be there, on the individual conflict of what it means to be there? That’s what that particular work is about.”

.
Chris Anderson

 

 

The intimacy of war

Both of these series depict human bodies under surveillance. In one (Tim Hetherington) the subject is un/aware. Having given the photographer prior consent to be photographed while they were sleeping the American servicemen remain blissfully unaware of the result of the camera “snapping” them. Just as they seem to be on the very verge of snapping in the video Sleeping Soldiers_single screen (2009, below). The psychological scars of war don’t differentiate between awake and asleep, aware and unaware:

“The photographer wanted to reveal the soldiers how they must seem to their mothers: innocent, vulnerable. Still it is a portrait of the scars of war because, as Hetherington said, their sleep was often helped along by drugs… That a soldier allowed Hetherington to capture him while asleep illustrates the photographer’s dedication and connection to the platoon.” (Philip Brookman, Corcoran chief curator on the Washington Post website [Online] Cited 12/06/2013)

.
Hetherington spent 15 months in Afghanistan between 2007-2008 following the members of a 15-strong platoon of US paratroopers at one of the most remote and dangerous outposts in the war zone. He went on to make the award winning film Restrepo (2010) with the footage that he shot during his year-long engagement with the spaces of war. In repose, the US soldiers seem angelic, contemplative, or vulnerable: in the photographs posted here I see Adonis (Alcantara), foetal (Kelso), corpse (Lizama) and death mask (Richardson). As Michael Fried comments on the 1930s Walker Evans subway photographs were he took pictures of commuters with a hidden camera, “the notion that persons who are unaware of being photographed who at the limit are unaware of being beheld manifest the inner truth of their meaning on their faces.” This way of capturing an inner truth is rare in the history of art. While there are plenty of individual paintings that depict sleeping men in art I could find no body of work that depicts men sleeping in painting or photography.

Although the exhibition is of the still photographs, what I find most chilling however is how Hetherington melds the sleeping bodies with action footage in the video. The overlaying of the sound of helicopters onto images of the sleeping soldiers, the blending of bodies and machines, the reverberation of voices with the rat tat tat of heavy weapons fire is particularly disturbing. The look in the soldier’s eyes as he freaks out when one of his compatriots is shot at 3.24 – 3.38 of the video is frightening. The grief, the fear, palpable – and then to end the video with the corpse-like body of Lizama… THIS is the horror of war. Kill or be killed, boredom, nightmares, as if fighting and sleeping in a dream. Hetherington lays it all on the line for the viewer.

“For me, it’s kind of the closest thing I’ve seen, in any form, that actually shows what it must feel like to be in combat. You’re right there with the soldiers, and they’re not heroic; they’re really just struggling to come to terms with what is going on around them. That’s really what this is. So instead of showing them just being honourable, he’s showing this stuff, the scenes of them being in combat, as a kind of dream.” (Philip Brookman, Corcoran chief curator)

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

 

 

“The book and film are about the intimacy of war,” explains Hetherington. “And that’s what I see when I see the photographs of these guys sleeping. We are used to seeing soldiers as cardboard cut-outs. We dehumanise them, but war is a very intimate act. All of those soldiers would die for each other. We’re not talking about friendship. We’re talking about brotherhood.”

“You can get bored of taking pictures of fighting,” he says. “I got more interested in the relationship between the soldiers. That’s where the shots of them sleeping came from. If you go to these places you can sometimes get all your media oxygen sucked up by the fighting; we were lucky to have time to explore other things.”

“In America, soldiers are used by the right wing as a symbol of patriotic duty, but the truth is they are all individuals,” he concludes. “And the Left want a moral condemnation of the war. What I say is that if we have a full understanding of what the soldiers can and can’t do out there, it is a good starting point for peace-building. The heart of the war machine is in fact taking a group of young men and putting them on the side of a mountain. We need to understand that experience. Certainly if we have any hope of properly reintegrating them into society.”

Text from “Combat fatigue: Tim Hetherington’s intimate portraits of US soldiers at rest reveal the other side of Afghanistan” by Rob Sharp on The Independent website, 11th September 2010.

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011) 'Donoho, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan' 2008

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011)
Donoho, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011) 'Kelso, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan' 2008

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011)
Kelso, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011) 'Kelso, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan' 2008

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011)
Kelso, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011) 'Kim, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan' 2008

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011)
Kim, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011) 'Lizama, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan' 2008

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011)
Lizama, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011) 'Nevalla, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan' 2008

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011)
Nevalla, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011) 'Richardson, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan' 2008

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011)
Richardson, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

 

Sleeping Soldiers_single screen (2009) from Tim Hetherington.

 

 

In association with Head On Photo Festival, Stills Gallery is delighted to host compelling works by two internationally acclaimed artists, Tim Hetherington and Doug Rickard, brought to Australian audiences from Yossi Milo Gallery, New York.

Without the guns and artillery of war, or the armor of bravado and aggression, Tim Hetherington’s images of sleeping American soldiers are disarmingly peaceful and childlike in their vulnerability. Hetherington observed this active-duty battalion while they were stationed in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley during 2007-08, capturing beneath the camouflage the most intimate of moments, which are seemingly at odds with common reportage images of adrenaline-fuelled and stony-faced soldiers. Through his photographs, writing and films, Tim Hetherington gave us new ways to look at and think about human suffering. Tim was tragically killed on April 20, 2011, while photographing and filming the conflict in Libya.

Doug Rickard’s A New American Picture depicts American street scenes, located using the internet platform Google Street View. Over a four-year period, Rickard virtually explored the roads of America looking for forgotten, economically devastated, and largely abandoned places. After locating and composing scenes of urban and rural decay, Rickard re-photographed the images on his computer screen, freeing the image from its technological origins and re-presenting them on a new documentary plane. Rickard’s work evokes a connection to the tradition of American street photography. He both follows and advances that tradition, with a documentary strategy that acknowledges an increasingly technological world. Collectively, these images present a photographic portrait of the socially disenfranchised and economically powerless, those living an inversion of the American Dream.

Both artists are highly regarded for their contributions to contemporary photographic and film practices. Before his untimely death Hetherington received numerous accolades for his documentation of conflict zones, including the 2007 World Press Photo of the Year, the Rory Peck Award for Features (2008), an Alfred I. duPont Award (2009), and an Academy Award nomination for Restrepo (2011). His work has posthumously become part of the Magnum Photo Archive. Doug Rickard is founder of American Suburb X and These Americans, and his work has been widely exhibited including in New Photography 2011 at MOMA, New York, Le Bal, Paris, and the 42nd edition of Les Rencontres d’Arles. A monograph of A New American Picture was first published in 2010 and was rereleased in 2012.This is the first opportunity for Australian audiences to see many of these works, and it is also a new collaboration with the prestigious Yossi Milo Gallery, established in 2000, and focused on the representation of artists specialising in photo-based art, video and works on paper.

Text from the Stills Gallery website

 

Doug Rickard. '#32.700542, Dallas, TX (2009)' 2011

 

Doug Rickard (American, b. 1968)
#32.700542, Dallas, TX (2009)
2011
from A New American Picture
Archival pigment prints
66.04 x 105.41cm
Editions of 5 + 3AP

.

Doug Rickard. '#34.546147, Helena-West Helena, AR (2008)' 2010

 

Doug Rickard (American, b. 1968)
#34.546147, Helena-West Helena, AR (2008)
2010
from A New American Picture
Archival pigment prints
66.04 x 105.41cm
Editions of 5 + 3AP

 

Doug Rickard. '#40.700776, Jersey City, NJ (2007)' 2011

 

Doug Rickard (American, b. 1968)
#40.700776, Jersey City, NJ (2007)
2011
from A New American Picture
Archival pigment prints
66.04 x 105.41cm
Editions of 5 + 3AP

 

Doug Rickard. '#40.805716, Bronx, NY (2007)' 2011

 

Doug Rickard (American, b. 1968)
#40.805716, Bronx, NY (2007)
2011
from A New American Picture
Archival pigment prints
66.04 x 105.41cm
Editions of 5 + 3AP

 

Doug Rickard. '#82.948842, Detroit, MI (2009)' 2010

 

Doug Rickard (American, b. 1968)
#82.948842, Detroit, MI (2009)
2010
from A New American Picture
Archival pigment prints
101.6 x 162.56cm
Edition of 5 + 3AP

 

Doug Rickard. '#114.196622, Lennox, CA (2007)' 2012

 

Doug Rickard (American, b. 1968)
#114.196622, Lennox, CA (2007)
2012
from A New American Picture
Archival pigment prints
66.04 x 105.41cm
Editions of 5 + 3AP

 

 

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25
Apr
12

Exhibition: ‘Polixeni Papapetrou: The Dreamkeepers’ at Stills Gallery, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 28th March – 5th May 2012

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Wanderer No. 3' 2012

 

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

 

 

I absolutely love these. The colours, the spaces, the ambiguous vistas, the fantastical archetypes, the fables. What springs to mind, with the use of masks to disguise youth positioned within the decorous landscape, is the notion of “passing”. Passing on (as in dying), passing through (as in travelling), in passing (as in an aside) and just “passing” (passing yourself off as someone or something else) to hide your true character or feelings. Gay men did this in the 1950s and 60s all the better to fit into society, for if it was found that you were homosexual you could loose your job, your apartment and even your life. Of course, there is also the passing of time, the longing for misspent youth in these masked ephebes and adolescent women. Age shall not weary them…

Wandering, dreaming, remembering, keeping, collecting, counting. These neophytes on the path of life, both old/wise, young/hidden pass through (into?) our dreams. Papapetrou creates visions that elude the senses, visions that slip between dreaming and waking, between conscious and subconscious realms. As John Berger and Jean Mohr have observed,

“Cameras are boxes for transporting appearances. Are the appearances which a camera transports a construction, a man-made cultural artefact, or are they, like a footprint in the sand, a trace naturally left by something that has passed? The photographer choses the events he photographs. This choice can be thought of as a cultural construction. The space for this construction is, as it were, cleared by his rejection of what he did not choose to photograph.”1

As an artist Papapetrou has the intelligence to leave this nature/nurture question open in her photographs. Her skill as an artist is in choosing the right things to photograph. This enables her creatures to pass through liminal spaces, the space of our consciousness. Through this process a trace will always be left with us, for this is a strong body of work, well realised, in passing.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Berger, John and Mohr, Jean. Another Way of Telling. New York: Pantheon Books, 1982, pp. 92-93.

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

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Wave Counter' 2011

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
The Wave Counter
2011
From The Dreamkeepers
Pigment print
105 x 105cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Lantern Keeper' 2012

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
The Lantern Keeper
2012
From The Dreamkeepers
Pigment print
105 x 105cm

 

 

“These transitional places in one’s life are often the most creative, and as we grapple for answers and clarity what is often realized is ambiguity and confusion that reigns supreme. Like fairy stories, Papapetrou uses absurdity to make symbolic sense of world she struggles to understand.”

.
Susan Bright. Between Worlds catalogue 2009

 

 

In Polixeni Papapetrou’s work there is identification with the world of children that is rare and remarkable. She sees children themselves as ‘between worlds’, between infancy and adulthood. Yet she does more than identify, creating fantastical worlds that only adults can truly understand and relate to.

A man in blue striped pyjamas stands on a rock by the sea, leaning into the wind. His body seems young yet he supports himself with a walking frame. His face is old, oversized, a little grotesque. He is The Wavecounter. Like the other characters in Polixeni Papapetrou’s series The Dreamkeepers, he is lithe in body yet gnarly of physiognomy, both young and old. Gazing out in contemplation these dream keepers look with anticipation to the future, or is it with nostalgia to the past? The timeless backdrops of shoreline or hilltop reflect this ambiguity, echoing through landscape the collapsing of thresholds and blurring of boundaries.

Papapetrou’s art practice has involved collaboration with her children and their friends for over 10 years. As they have grown and transformed so too have the roles they perform and spaces they inhabit. It is the awkward evolution of adolescence that informs the in-between space of The Dreamkeepers. To parallel the cripplingly self-conscious yet powerfully self-realising period of our lives, Papapetrou engages part reality, part fantasy from which a space of unreality emerges, the space of archetype. Here the anonymity afforded by masks separates her adolescent actors from who they really are, and allows them to stand in for us all. In this way, Papapetrou asks us to consider how masks, whether symbolic or literal, not only conceal identity, but also expand and transform it.

The aged masks do so in The Dreamkeepers by confounding adolescence, as the characters exude a quiet lack of self-consciousness, despite their disturbing appearance. They arouse a gentle pathos, reminding us of our own shapeshifting, of time playing out on our bodies and minds. The abstract meeting of these two ages may indicate the latent wisdom and self-acceptance that only realises with maturity, or the cyclical nature of our life spans that inevitably brings us back to the vulnerability of youth. In either case the work is a powerful testament to the surrendering of childhood.

Also on exhibition is a small selection of works from Papapetrou’s current work in progress. Using ghillie suits, she transforms her actors into animate objects – rocks with life and seaweed with attitude.

Press release from the Stills Gallery website

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Holiday Makers' 2011

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
The Holiday Makers
2011
From The Dreamkeepers
Pigment print
105 x 105cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Joy Pedlars' 2011

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
The Joy Pedlars
2011
From The Dreamkeepers
Pigment print
105 x 105cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Shell Collectors' 2012

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
The Shell Collectors
2012
From The Dreamkeepers
Pigment print
105 x 105cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Lighthouse Keepers' 2011

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
The Lighthouse Keepers
2011
From The Dreamkeepers
Pigment print
105 x 105cm

 

 

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15
Jun
11

Exhibition: ‘Robyn Stacey: Tall Tales and True’ at Stills Gallery, Paddington, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 18th May – 25th June 2011

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Come unto me' 2011

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Come unto me
2011
84 x 120cm
Type C print
Edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

 

 

Ozymandias

.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
.

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1818

 

 

Many thankx to Jessica Howard for her help and to Stills Gallery and Peter Timms for allowing me to publish the text and the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Help yourself' 2011

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Help yourself
2011
90 x 120cm
Type C print
Edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

 

 

Working extensively with historic collections since 2000, Robyn Stacey’s early projects dealt with Australian flora and fauna, exploring the Herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney and the Macleay collection at the University of Sydney. Over the last three years she has worked closely the NSW Historic Houses Trust to produce a series of artworks and a book focusing on three of their properties, Elizabeth Bay House, Vaucluse House, and Rouse Hill estate as well as the Caroline Simpson Research Collection and Library. In these works Stacey reveals her fascination with the still life tradition but also speaks about the Australian notion of home and what it means to our national psyche.

Stacey’s transformation of these historic spaces and objects allows us not only to glance into earlier worlds but also to consider hierarchies of taste, culture and knowledge. By using the still life to re-work and re-view the Trust’s collection she aims to deconstruct the traditional museum display. The objects are returned to an approximate albeit fictional reality, creating a sense that the settings have been left only momentarily and that people are never far away.

In this latest exhibition Stacey looks at the traces of inhabitation. Chatelaine for example, features a sumptuous collection of objects including Wisteria spilling out of an ornate vase on top of a beautifully carved side table. The objects are from the collection of Vaucluse House having belonged to its inhabitant Sarah Wentworth. Her convict past prevented easy entry into high society at the time. In this accumulation of tasteful things we see evidence of Sarah Wentworth’s attempts to assert her social position within a society that spurned her. In other works, which draw from the collection at Rouse Hill estate we bear witness to the varying fortunes of the Rouse family.

As well as being a reflection upon the nature and minutiae of nineteenth century domesticity these still lives also reflect our colonial history; the desire for betterment and the need to re-create what has been left behind through the transport of taste and knowledge systems.

Text from the Stills Gallery website

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Presentation (Apple)' 2011

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Presentation (Apple)
2011
90 x 74cm
Type C print
Edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Presentation (Pear)' 2011

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Presentation (Pear)
2011
90 x 74cm
Type C print
Edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

 

 

Playing a double game

We all have a penchant for hidden essences. They spur our desires. Sometimes, of course, a thing is just a thing: a cup merely a convenient way of getting coffee to our mouths; a car no more than a machine to get around in. Often, however, (surprisingly often in fact) we choose to invest such apparently lifeless objects with little souls, or what the psychologist Paul Bloom calls ‘realities that are not present to the senses’. Almost everything, it seems, is capable of leading a double life.

And where better to seek out these double lives than in the historic house museum? Here the Regency candlesticks, the ormolu clocks, even the gardening tools and saucepans, come already imbued with a special significance, for here the domestic has been raised to the level of theatre.

The choices Robyn Stacey has made from the wealth of objects at Elizabeth Bay House, Vaucluse House and Rouse Hill Estate are by no means the obvious ones. They are not necessarily things of high status or great beauty. She is equally attracted to the rusted sickle, the well-thumbed book, the peeling painting and the old postcard: everyday things that bear the traces of long usage. Through judicious juxtaposition, dramatic lighting, and the addition of her own evocative flourishes, she dramatises these humble items, teasing out their souls and revealing their double lives.

What Robyn is doing is transforming inanimate objects into surrogate people. In the absence of their corporeal selves, those who made their lives in these houses are reborn through what they owned, loved, used and made. And, in the process, their stories are expanded into the realm of cultural history.

Chatelaine, for example, enlists flowers, a silk shawl, a richly decorated Staffordshire jar and the titular chatelaine itself (a sort of female version of the Swiss army knife) to reconstruct nineteenth-century ideals of femininity. Only when we discover that it is intended, in part, as a homage to Sarah Wentworth, the mistress of Vaucluse House, does its gentle irony morph into poignant masquerade. For, despite being married to one of early Sydney’s richest and most powerful men, Sarah’s impoverished and morally compromised background led to her rejection by polite society. So these outwardly vivacious mementos also serve as emblems of one woman’s tragedy and, by extension, the tragedy of many women’s lives at the time.

What could be more richly evocative than the cornucopia of flowers, fruits, grains and agricultural implements assembled for Rouse and the Cumberland Plain? What, indeed, could be more shamelessly calculated to provoke astonishment? This virtuosic picture is at once a homage to and a respectful parody of the European still-life tradition. Ostensibly it sets out, in almost forensic detail, what was once grown in the gardens and fields around Rouse Hill House, every leaf and petal historically accurate as to species and type. In that sense, it can be appreciated as an authentic record of nineteenth-century colonial gardening and agriculture. But of course it is much more than that.

We don’t have to be au fait with seventeenth-century Dutch iconography to be able to tease out the allusions in those overturned baskets, those pomegranates spilling their seeds, those provocative little asparagus spears, the decaying timber and the butterflies, nor to be touched by the pathos of that hand-made house-brick in the foreground, impressed with a heart. These symbolic clues qualify and complicate our initial response of unguarded optimism. Here and there, melancholy and loss begin to intrude. And the longer we look, the more enveloped we become by a stifling air of artificiality, as if everything has been stilled and embalmed. Initial delight slowly morphs into an eerie silence. It is in their delicate balance of abundance and ruin that all these photographs find their moral core. They are awe-inspiring, in the eighteenth-century meaning of the term.

This is true even of apparently simple works such as, for example, Presentation (Pear). While its reticence seems a world away from the fecundity of Rouse and the Cumberland Plain or Chatelaine, the underlying themes correspond. In fact, Presentation (Pear) is a composition of such elegant straightforwardness that we might suspect a trap. And indeed we might be right.

On a substantial marble pedestal sits, somewhat incongruously, a ripe pear with a fly on it. A butterfly has come to rest nearby. There are just these four individual components, each with its own tale to tell. Combined, however, into a Joseph-Cornell-like assemblage, they assume an almost mythical dimension. The massive plinth, its pomposity worthy of an Ozymandias, can be seen as representing the vanity of human ambition. The pear has long been a symbol of birth and fecundity, the fly represents decay, and the butterfly the brevity of life. Yet such pat interpretations will probably strike a modern sensibility as overdetermined or too reductive. These days we are not inclined to take this sort of thing too seriously, and the very transparency of the symbolism in Presentation (Pear) is perhaps a warning that we should not. There is a good deal of self-referentiality here. The symbols keep turning in on themselves.

What these photographs are, in fact, inviting us to do is to momentarily assume a double life, to surrender to the romantic perceptions of past generations without abandoning our modern scepticism, to experience a pre-scientific world through a post-scientific consciousness so as to understand not just the material world of past generations but also to enter into their way of thinking. As in the cinema (and these photographs are nothing if not cinematic) we are being invited to suspend our disbelief and imagine ourselves in another time, not for nostalgia’s sake, but for the opposite – to strip away sentiment and to see ourselves more clearly.

Thus, beneath their apparent sumptuousness, Robyn’s artfully contrived tableaux are playing a crafty double game of de-familiarisation.

Peter Timms

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Early Morning Rouse' 2010

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Early morning Rouse
2010
110 x 75.6cm
Type C print
Edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Chatelaine' 2010

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Chatelaine
2010
110 x 82.5cm
Type C print
Edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

 

Robyn Stacey. 'The Royal Guard' 2011

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
The Royal Guard
2011
90 x 76cm
Type C print
Edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Venetian Beauty' 2011

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Venetian Beauty
2011
120 x 107.7cm
Type C print
Edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

 

 

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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