Posts Tagged ‘Sue Ford Time

15
Aug
14

Review: ‘Sue Ford’ at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 17th April – 24th August 2014

 

This is hugely disappointing exhibition of the work of Sue Ford at NGV Australia, Melbourne. The artist deserved better.

There is no doubting the importance of Ford’s early black and white photographs. Images of this type had not been seen in Australia before, and looking back now it is hard to appreciate the impact that the Time series (1962-74),  Self-portrait with camera (1960-2006) and images of women had on the photographic scene at the time. These muscular, robust photographs, while not possessing great technical skill, are rightly acknowledged as seminal images in the history of photography in Australia. I cannot praise them highly enough.

However, this exhibition and the important series in it have been ruined by a disastrous hang. The first room is spoiled by an ugly, cheap looking round central installation which is covered by pinned images from the much later series Somewhere in France, 1917 (1995, below) inside of which is projected the video Faces 1976-96 (below). This huge installation simply destroys the sensitivity, size and presence of the small silver gelatin works, overpowering them with repetitive images of a much larger scale.

The second room features a haphazard disposition of Ford’s important portraits of women from her book A Sixtieth of a Second: Portraits of Women 1961-1981, the arrangement of which seems to have no rhyme or reason. It’s all downhill from there. It doesn’t help that Ford’s work looses focus after the initial succinct statements as she begins to work with experimental photographic techniques – photograms, multiple exposures and mirroring of negatives – and, starting in the mid-1980s, branches out into research of Indigenous histories which only results in serviceable photographs at best. What is more disturbing is how later work such as the powerful series Shadow portraits (1994, below) are displayed. I remember seeing this series many years ago at the NGV in St Kilda Road and being bowled over by their size and formal presence; here in a darkened room they are displayed piecemeal and all impact and import is lost. The whole room should have been dedicated to this series, surrounding you with scans of nineteenth-century cartes-de-visite, the empty silhouettes filled with magical photograms of indigenous Australian fauna. That would have been something.

Finally, the exhibition shows 1990s works such as Bima, Brenda and the Madonna (1992-93), Video land (Kakadu river tour) (1994) and Yellowcake (1991) which continue Ford’s interest in social and political issues relating to the Australian landscape. Featuring still images of video shot from a tv screen these fractured, distorted and oversaturated images are printed as colour photocopies and then displayed as fragmented images in a rigid grid system pinned to the wall. These are ugly works. They contain too many elements, the colour, distortion, and bounding box of the tv screen playing badly against the too rigid grid system of the colour photocopies. Ford’s work seems to tail off into something unnatural, a dissolution of identity that really has nothing constructive to say. Perhaps these works do parallel the physical, ecological and spiritual gulf that Ford felt existed between many non-indigenous urban Australians but I don’t really feel that connection in the work and her investigation doesn’t lead to good art. If you want to see the most excellent use of colour, collage, montage, weaving and layering you only have to go up a level at NGV Australia to look at the David McDairmid exhibition to see how it should be done… it’s like night and day, one artist experimenting for abstraction’s sake, and the other really knowing their medium, what they are doing and what narrative/message they want to communicate.

What we cannot take away from Sue Ford is the utmost importance of those feminist images of strong, independent women and the precious, jewel-like, time travelling portrait works. For Ford the process of taking, looking at and using photographs was implicitly connected to a sense of time, time in flux in which the faces of a doubled past (1962-74, 1976-96) are reanimated in the present allowing for a consideration of the effects of ageing and change. Ultimately, these are conceptual works that have great power and integrity.

Unfortunately, the itsy bitsy design of this exhibition doesn’t allow any of the work to shine. It is not up to scratch and not worthy of the artist. Did the NGV run out of time, money and inspiration or where there other factors going on behind the scenes, such as access to the work? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but when you put this exhibition side by side with the 2011 Time Machine: Sue Ford at the Monash Gallery of Art, there is no comparison as to which better conveys the importance of Ford’s work in the history of Australian photography.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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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.

 

 

For some time I have been thinking about the camera itself. Trying to explore its particular UNIQUENESS, coming to terms with the fact that I had been trying to ignore for some years, that the camera is actually a MACHINE. The machine has an enormous power easily abused. Man seems to misuse his machines continuously, with disastrous results for this century. In Time series I tried to use the camera as objectively as possible. It was a time machine. For me it was an amazing experience. It wasn’t until I placed the photograph of the younger face beside the recent photograph that I could fully appreciate the change. The camera showed me with absolute clarity something I could only just perceive with my naked eye.

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Sue Ford 1974

 

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Discussions between Bob Hawke and Galarrwuy Yunupingu' 1988, printed 2014

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Discussions between Bob Hawke and Galarrwuy Yunupingu
1988, printed 2014
Gelatin silver photograph
51 x 61 cm
Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Ross', 1964; 'Ross', 1974 1964-74, printed 1974

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Ross, 1964; Ross, 1974
1964-74, printed 1974
From the Time series 1962-74
Gelatin silver photograph
(a-b) 11.1 x 20.1 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with the assistance of the Visual Arts Board and the KODAK (Australasia) PTY LTD Fund, 1974 (PH171.a-b-1974)
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Annette', 1962; 'Annette', 1974 1962-1974, printed 1974

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Annette, 1962; Annette, 1974
1962-1974, printed 1974
From the Time series 1962-74
Gelatin silver photograph
11.1 x 20.1 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased with the assistance of the Visual Arts Board and the KODAK (Australasia) Pty Ltd Fund, 1974 (PH170.a-b-1974)
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'No title (Photogram of two hands and garden path)' c. 1970

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
No title (Photogram of two hands and garden path)
c. 1970
Gelatin silver photogram
27.6 x 34.7 cm irreg. (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gerstl Bequest, 2000 (2000.60)
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Vietnam: the six o'clock news' c. 1970

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Vietnam: the six o’clock news
c. 1970
Collage of cut gelatin silver photograph on offset-photo lithograph
19.1 x 24.3 cm (image and sheet)
Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Lyn and Carol' 1961, printed 1988

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Lyn and Carol
1961, printed 1988
Gelatin silver photograph
34.1 x 34.2 cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Purchased 1988 (372.1988)
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

 

“The ground-breaking work of Australian photographer and filmmaker Sue Ford will be explored in a major retrospective opening at the National Gallery of Victoria on 17 April. One of the most important practitioners to emerge in the wave of 1970s feminist photographers, Ford is recognised for her inventive and unique approaches to the medium and passionate engagement with feminism and gender issues, contemporary politics and the histories of Australia and its Indigenous people.

The exhibition will bring together more than 150 photographs, digital prints, collages and films spanning the five decades of Ford’s career, as well as important archival materials and, poignantly, several unseen works that the artist was working on at the time of her death in 2009.

Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV, said, “Sue Ford has a long and significant history with the National Gallery of Victoria; she was the first Australian photographer to hold a solo exhibition at the Gallery with her renowned Time Series in 1974, and we have been honoured to present her work many times since. It is appropriate, then, that the NGV presents this retrospective exhibition surveying and celebrating her artistic work and life.”

Ford’s Time Series 1962-74 is regarded as a key moment in Australian photography. In this work, black-and-white double portraits of Ford’s friends and associates were taken around ten years apart and displayed side by side. Some sitters were photographed for a third and even fourth time, producing a remarkable dialogue on the passage of time, identity and personal histories. The entirety of the Time Series will be on display in the exhibition, along with Ford’s long-term project Self-portrait with camera, an extraordinary series of 47 self-portraits taken between 1960 and 2006.

The exhibition will feature Ford’s social documentary and portraiture work; both political and personal, these images reveal intimate depictions of life in inner-city Melbourne along with powerful records of critical political and social milestones including the 1988 Barunga Festival in the Northern Territory. Her prolific output also allows for the exhibition to survey the development of her experimentation with photographic, film, printing and multimedia techniques since the 1960s, such as the photogram, multiple exposures and mirroring of negatives.”

Press release from the NGV website

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Somewhere in France, 1917' 1999

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Somewhere in France, 1917
1999
Digital plan prints on paper
(1-54) 219.6 x 901.8 cm (overall) (installation)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1999 (1999.96.1-54)
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Shadow portraits' 1994

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Shadow portraits
1994
Colour photocopies (a-bbbb)
166.5 x 594.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1995 (1995.614.a-bbbb)
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Jim', 1964; 'Jim', 1969; 'Jim' 1974; 'Jim' 1979 1964-79, printed 2014

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Jim, 1964; Jim, 1969; Jim 1974; Jim 1979
1964-79, printed 2014
From the Time series II 1962-82
Gelatin silver photographs
(a-d) 11.1 x 8.2 cm (each)
Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Fabian', 1966; 'Fabian', 1974; 'Fabian', 1980 1966-80, printed 1982

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Fabian, 1966; Fabian, 1974; Fabian, 1980
1966-80, printed 1982
From the Time series II 1962–82
Gelatin silver photographs
(a) 11.0 x 7.6 cm, (b) 11.8 x 8.4 cm, (c) 11.3 x 8.2 cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales Contempo Group 2013 (265.1996)
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Self-portrait 1961' 1961, printed 2011

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Self-portrait 1961
1961, printed 2011
Type C photograph
26.0 x 19.9 cm
Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Self-portrait 1974' 1974, printed 2011

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Self-portrait 1974
1974, printed 2011
Selenium-toned gelatin silver photograph
19.9 x 18.0 cm
Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Self-portrait 1986' 1986

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Self-portrait 1986
1986
Gelatin silver photograph
8.4 x 6.5 cm
Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Dissolution' 2007

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Dissolution
2007
From the Last Light series 2007
Colour lightjet print
112.0 x 142.0 cm
Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne
© Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Bima, Brenda and the Madonna' 1992-93

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Bima, Brenda and the Madonna
1992-93
Colour laser prints
Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) 'Video land (Kakadu river tour)' (detail) 1992-93

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009)
Video land (Kakadu river tour) (detail)
1992-93
Colour laser prints
Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne

 

 

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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07
Jun
11

Review: ‘Time Machine: Sue Ford’ at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Victoria

Exhibition dates: 7th April – 19th June 2011

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Many thankx to Mark Hislop for his help and the Monash Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Sue Ford (1943–2009)
Self-portrait 1968
1968
from the series Self-portrait with camera (1960–2006)
selenium toned gelatin silver, printed 2011
22.8 x 24 cm
courtesy Sue Ford Archive

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Sue Ford (1943–2009)
Self-portrait 1974
1974
from the series Self-portrait with camera (1960–2006)
selenium toned gelatin silver print, printed 2011
19.9 x 18 cm
courtesy Sue Ford Archive

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“Choosing to photograph oneself, one’s life and one’s time exemplified the now well-worn slogan ‘the person is political’. Ford’s self-examination across the decades is unflinching and exacting. As Janine Burke wrote in 1980, her ‘psychological history [is] etched in her face for everyone to see’. Burke concluded that Ford’s self-portraits are ‘as honest as one can ever be about oneself’.”

Helen Ennis. Faces are Maps: Sue Ford and Portraiture. 1

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“The search for the self is a journey into a mental labyrinth that takes random courses and ultimately ends at impasses. The memory fragments recovered along the way cannot provide us with a basis for interpreting the overall meaning of the journey. The meanings that we derive from our memories are only partial truths, and their value is ephemeral. For Foucault, the psyche is not an archive but only a mirror. To search the psyche for the truth about ourselves is a futile task because the psyche can only reflect the images we have conjured up to describe ourselves. Looking into the psyche, therefore, is like looking into the mirror image of a mirror. One sees oneself reflected in an image of infinite regress. Our gaze is led not toward the substance of our beginnings but rather into the meaninglessness of previously discarded images of the self.”

Patrick Hutton. Foucault, Freud, and the Technologies of the Self. 2

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This is a solid exhibition of the work of beloved Australian photographer Sue Ford, essential looking for anyone wanting to have an overview of Australian photography.

The beautifully hung exhibition flows like music, interweaving up and down, the photographs framed in thin, black wood frames. It features examples of Ford’s black and white fashion and street photography; a selection of work from the famous black and white Time series (being bought for their collection by the Art Gallery of New South Wales) – small, snapshot size double portraits, the first portraits taken during the 1960’s, the second around 1974, formalist portraits in which the sitter is closely cropped around head and shoulders with the photographer using the camera as objectively as possible, the double portrait used to display changes in identity over time; a selection of Photographs of Women – modern prints from the Sue Ford archive that are wonderfully composed photographs with deep blacks that portray strong, independent, vulnerable, joyous women (see last four photographs below); and the most interesting work in the exhibition, the posthumous new series Self-portrait with camera (1960-2006) that evidence, through a 47 part investigation using colour prints from Polaroids, silver gelatin prints printed by the artist, prints made from original negatives and prints from scanned images where there was no negative available, a self-portrait of the artist in the process of ageing (see the two photographs above and below this review).

One of my favourite photographs in the exhibition was Margaret with Emma, Redcliffs, Queensland, 1971. The black and white photograph features a grandmother with her granddaughter, close to each other, both wearing floral dresses of different pattern, both staring intently out of the image at what is possibly a television with a weatherboard backdrop. A dark form hovers at the upper left of the photograph adding a disturbing note to the image but it is the look on the grandmother’s face – a look of shock, enthralment, blankness with eyes wide, that is matched by the intensity on the granddaughter’s face as she stares intently – that transcends the distance between photograph and viewer, between grandmother and granddaughter across time and space. The process of looking and ageing captured by the ‘time machine’, the camera, in one single image. The viewer understands this photograph for we all experience the evidence of our bodies, our mortality. We relate intimately to how the photograph reanimates in the present this moment from the past, the momenti mori of the photograph, the little death becoming our future death.

This notion is particularly poignant in the series Self-portrait with camera (1960-2006), a work that Sue Ford was actively engaged with before her death. Smaller colour prints from negatives and Polaroids are here interspersed with black and white photographs up to about 8″ x 10″ in size: the series contains 12 chromogenic photographs, 7 silver gelatin photographs, 6 dye fusion photographs and 22 selenium-toned photographs (printed 2011). In dark, contrasty prints the artist has photographed herself looking down into the camera shooting into a mirror, looking directly into the mirror with camera, with the camera on a timer, with the camera in/visible, being shot by other people with the camera pointed directly at her, with the camera perpendicular to the artist shot by someone else, with Ford behind a movie camera, with multiple refractions in mirrors. Sometimes Ford even becomes the camera (as in the 1986 self-portrait below: I am the camera, the camera is me).

Ford becomes the “one who looks” knowingly at herself, sometimes the author of that observation, sometimes oblivious to it (until later when she has collected these images). As Burke and Ennis note, these photographs of self-examination across the decades are as honest as one can ever be about oneself. This a deeply political but also deeply psychoanalytical investigation: not to “take care of yourself” as a form of knowing as in Greco-Roman antiquity but “knowing yourself” as the fundamental principle of understanding yourself: a procedure of objectification and subjection in which the photograph ‘marks’ our status and the passage of time, that makes us who we are – photographs as vital techniques in the constitution of the self as subject.3

The mirror is frequently used in these photographs to portray the self. While it is true that these are strong, intimate, unflinching and exacting images in the use of the mirror the im(pose)tures of life are singled/doubled/tripled – a reflection of the psyche that lead to discarded images of the self that are of little use in understanding the substance of our beginnings or the overall interpretation of the journey. What they do offer is cumulative evidence of a deep, personal conviction into the inquiry: who am I?
Rembrandt famously painted, drew and etched himself hundreds of times in the process of ageing; Ford has likewise done the same. If, as Victor Burgin observes, “An identity implies not only a location but a duration, a history,”4 then the nature of photography (including Ford’s self-reflexive project), concerned as it is with space and time, becomes the mirror in a search for identity. Photography as a mirror on the world constantly repeats moments of illumination in a re/vision of eternal recurrence, a performance that is a hybrid site: both a homogenous (the same “I”) and heterogenous (a different “I”) site of self-representation, different every time we look. To that end I would like you to look at the self-portrait from 1976 (below). The artist is completely absent, her shilouette, her dark shadow swallowed whole by the blank photographic plate on the left hand side of the image as though Ford, the camera and an image of infinite regress have become one, eternally engulfed by space-time but open to re/view at any time.

Whether looking down, looking toward or looking inward these fantastic photographs show a strong, independent women with a vital mind, an élan vital, a critical self-organisation and an understanding of the morphogenesis of things that will engage us for years to come. Essential looking.

Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Sue Ford (1943–2009)
Self-portrait 1986
1986
from the series Self-portrait with camera (1960–2006)
gelatin silver print, printed 2011
8.4 x 6.5 cm
courtesy Sue Ford Archive

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Sue Ford (1943–2009)
Self-portrait 1976
1976
from the series Self-portrait with camera (1960–2006)
selenium toned gelatin silver print, printed 2011
24 x 18 cm
courtesy Sue Ford Archive

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“On 16 April 2011, the first major exhibition of the work of the late SUE FORD for two decades will open at Monash Gallery of Art.

Sue Ford (1943-2010) was one of Australia’s most important photographers and filmmakers. Ford studied photography at RMIT and in 1974 was the first Australian photographer to be given a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria.

Ford passed away in 2009. Before her death, she was working with Monash Gallery of Art on an exhibition of her work which would feature her final major project Self-portrait with camera (1960–2006). This series of 47 photographs has never been shown before, and presents a compelling self-portrait of an artist. It underscores the central role the camera played in Ford’s life. Self-portrait with camera will be shown alongside a survey of Ford’s black-and-white photographs from the 1960s and 70s and examples of her most iconic work, Time series (1960s–1970s).

The exhibition describes a period when photography was charged with political and personal meaning. As photographic historian and contributor to the publication accompanying the exhibition Helen Ennis states: “Ford’s approach to art making has always been straightforward … She does not cultivate a mysterious artistic persona [since] … her art practice is purposeful; it is the outcome of her view of art as a political activity that is democratic, liberating and relevant to contemporary society.”

As MGA Director and curator of the exhibition Shaune Lakin states: “This exhibition provides a great opportunity for Australian audiences to reassess the work of this important photographer, whose work was always at once political, beautiful and elegiac. In an era when the photograph has become a highly disposable thing, it is important to acknowledge its role as an agent of change and memory.”

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art

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Sue Ford (1943–2009)
Lynne and Carol
1962
selenium toned gelatin silver print, printed 2011
38.0 x 38.0 cm
courtesy Sue Ford Archive

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Sue Ford (1943–20
Carol, Little Collins St studio
1962
selenium toned gelatin silver print, printed 2011
37.9 x 38.1 cm
courtesy Sue Ford Archive

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Sue Ford (1943–2009)
St Kilda
1963
selenium toned gelatin silver print, printed 2011
38.0 x 38.0 cm
courtesy Sue Ford Archive

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Sue Ford (1943–2009)
Untitled [Bliss at Yellow House, King’s Cross, Sydney]
c. 1972-3
selenium toned gelatin silver print, printed 2011
47.9 x 34.2 cm
courtesy Sue Ford Archive

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1. Burke, Janine. Self-portrait/self-image 1980-1981. Melbourne: Australian Directors’ Council, 1981. p.4 quoted in Ennis, Helen. “Faces are Maps: Sue Ford and Portraiture,” in Lakin, Shaune (ed.,). Sue Ford: Self-portrait with camera (1960-2006). Melbourne: Monash Gallery of Art, 2011, np.

2. Hutton, Patrick. “Foucault, Freud, and the Technologies of the Self,” in Martin, Luther and Gutman, Huck and Hutton, Patrick (eds.,). Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault. London: Tavistock Publications, 1988, p.139.

3. Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish, quoted in Gutman, Huck. “Rousseau’s Confessions: A Technology of the Self,” in Martin, Luther and Gutman, Huck and Hutton, Patrick (eds.,). Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault. London: Tavistock Publications, 1988, p.99.

4. Burgin, Victor. In/Different Spaces: Place and Memory in Visual Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995, p.36.

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

Opening hours:
Tue-Fri: 10am-5pm
Sat-Sun: 12pm-5pm
Mon/public holidays: closed

Monash Gallery of Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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