Posts Tagged ‘To all my relations

21
Dec
11

melbourne’s magnificent nine 2011

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Here’s my pick of the nine best exhibitions in Melbourne (with excursions to Bendigo and Hobart thrown in) that appeared on the Art Blart blog in 2011. Enjoy!

Marcus

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1/ Sidney Nolan: Drought Photographs at Australian Galleries, Melbourne, March 2011

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Sidney Nolan
Untitled (calf carcass in tree)
1952
archival inkjet print
23.0 cm x 23.0 cm

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This was a superb exhibition of 61 black and white photographs by Sidney Nolan. The photographs were shot using a medium format camera and are printed in square format from the original 1952 negatives.

The work itself was a joy to behold. The photographs hung together like a symphony, rising and falling, with shape emphasising aspects of form. The images flowed from one to another. The formal composition of the mummified carcasses was exemplary, the resurrected animals (a horse, for example, propped up on a fifth leg) and emaciated corpses like contemporary sculpture. The handling of the tenuous aspects of human existence in this uniquely Australian landscape wass also a joy to behold. Through an intimate understanding of how to tension the space between objects within the frame Nolan’s seemingly simple but complex photographs of the landscape are previsualised by the artist in the mind’s eye before he even puts the camera to his face.

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2/ Bill Henson at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, March – April 2011

This was an exquisite exhibition by one of Australia’s preeminent artists. Like Glenn Gould playing a Bach fugue, Bill Henson is grand master in the performance of narrative, structure, composition, light and atmosphere. The exhibition featured thirteen large colour photographs printed on lustre paper (twelve horizontal and one vertical) – nine figurative of adolescent females, two of crowd scenes in front of Rembrandt paintings in The Hermitage, St. Petersburg (including the stunning photograph that features ‘The return of the prodigal son’ c. 1662 in the background, see below) and two landscapes taken off the coast of Italy. What a journey this exhibition took you on!

Henson’s photographs have been said by many to be haunting but his images are more haunted than haunting. There is an indescribable element to them (be it the pain of personal suffering, the longing for release, the yearning for lost youth or an understanding of the deprecations of age), a mesmeric quality that is not easily forgotten. The photographs form a kind of afterimage that burns into your consciousness long after the exposure to the original image has ceased. Haunted or haunting they are unforgettable.

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Bill Henson
Untitled
2009/10
CL SH767 N17B
Archival inkjet pigment print
127 x 180 cm
Edition of 5

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3/ Networks (cells & silos) at Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), Caulfield, February – April 2011

This was a vibrant and eclectic exhibition at MUMA, one of the best this year in Melbourne. The curator Geraldine Barlow gathered together some impressive, engaging works that were set off to good effect in the new gallery spaces. I spent a long and happy time wandering around the exhibition and came away visually satiated and intellectually stimulated. The exhibition explored “the connections between artistic representation of networks; patterns and structures found in nature; and the rapidly evolving field of network science, communications and human relations.”

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Installation photograph of one of the galleries in the exhibition NETWORKS (cells & silos) at the newly opened Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) with Nick Mangan’s Colony (2005) in the foreground

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4/ Monika Tichacek, To all my relations at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Richmond, May 2011

This was a stupendous exhibition by Monika Tichacek, at Karen Woodbury Gallery. One of the highlights of the year, this was a definite must see!

The work was glorious in it’s detail, a sensual and visual delight (make sure you click on the photographs to see the close up of the work!). The riotous, bacchanalian density of the work was balanced by a lyrical intimacy, the work exploring the life cycle and our relationship to the world in gouache, pencil & watercolour. Tichacek’s vibrant pink birds, small bugs, flowers and leaves have absolutely delicious colours. The layered and overlaid compositions show complete control by the artist: mottled, blotted, bark-like wings of butterflies meld into trees in a delicate metamorphosis; insects are blurred becoming one with the structure of flowers in a controlled effusion of life.

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Monika Tichacek
To all my relations (detail)
2011

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5/ American Dreams: 20th century photography from George Eastman House at Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria, April – July 2011

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Diane Arbus
Untitled (6)
1971

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This was a fabulous survey exhibition of the great artists of 20th century American photography, a rare chance in Australia to see such a large selection of vintage prints from some of the masters of photography. If you had a real interest in the history of photography then you hopefully saw this exhibition, showing as it is just a short hour and a half drive (or train ride) from Melbourne at Bendigo Art Gallery.

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6/ Time Machine: Sue Ford at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Victoria, April – June 2011

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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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This beautifully hung exhibition flowed like music, interweaving up and down, the photographs framed in thin, black wood frames. It featured 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); 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.

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.

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7/ The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), Hobart, August 2011

My analogy: you are standing in the half-dark, your chest open, squeezing the beating heart with blood coursing between your fingers while the other hand is up your backside playing with your prostrate gland. I think ringmeister David Walsh would approve. My best friends analogy: a cross between a car park, night club, sex sauna and art gallery.

Weeks later I am still thinking about the wonderful immersive, sensory experience that is MONA. Peter Timms in an insightful article in Meanjin calls it a post-Google Wunderkammer, or wonder chest. It can be seen as a mirabilia – a non-historic installation designed primarily to delight, surprise and in this case shock. The body, sex, death and mortality are hot topics in the cultural arena and Walsh’s collection covers all bases. The collection and its display are variously hedonistic, voyeuristic, narcissistic, fetishistic pieces of theatre subsumed within the body of the spectacular museum architecture …

Spectatorship and their attendant erotics has MONA as a form of fetishistic cinema. It is as if what Barthes calls “the eroticism of place” were a modern equivalent of the eighteenth century genius loci, the “genius of the place.” The place is spectacular, the private collection writ large as public institution, the symbolic power of the institution masked through its edifice. The art become autonomous, cut free from its cultural associations, transnational, globalised, experienced through kinaesthetic means; the viewer meandering through the galleries, the anti-museum, as an international flaneur. Go. Experience!

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Corten Stairwell & Surrounding Artworks
February 2011
Museum of Old and New Art – interior
Photo credit: MONA/Leigh Carmichael
Image Courtesy of MONA Museum of Old and New Art

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8/ John Bodin: Rite of Passage at Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond, August – September 2011

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John Bodin
I Was Far Away From Home
2009
Type C print on metallic paper
80 x 110cm

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The photographs become the surface of the body, stitched together with lines, markers pointing the way – they are encounters with the things that we see before us but also the things that we carry inside of us. It is the interchange between these two things, how one modulates and informs the other. It is this engagement that holds our attention: the dappled light, ambiguity, unevenness, the winding path that floats and bobs before our eyes looking back at us, as we observe and are observed by the body of these landscapes.

One of the fundamental qualities of the photographs is that they escape our attempts to rationalize them and make them part of our understanding of the world, to quantify our existence in terms of materiality. I have an intimate feeling with regard to these sites of engagement. They are both once familiar and unfamiliar to us; they possess a sense of nowhereness. A sense of groundlessness and groundedness. A collapsing of near and far, looking down, looking along, a collapsing of the constructed world.

Like the road in these photographs there is no self just an infinite time that has no beginning and no end. The time before my birth, the time after my death. We are just in the world, just being somewhere. Life is just a temporary structure on the road from order to disorder. “The road is life,” writes Jack Kerouac in On the Road.

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9/ Juan Davila: The Moral Meaning of Wilderness at the Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), Caulfield, August – October 2011

Simply put, this was one of the best exhibitions I saw in Melbourne this year.

I had a spiritual experience with this work for the paintings promote in the human a state of grace. The non-material, the unconceptualizable, things which are outside all possibility of time and space are made visible. This happens very rarely but when it does you remember, eternally, the time and space of occurrence. I hope you had the same experience.

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Juan Davila
Wilderness
2010
© Juan Davila, Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

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10/ In camera and in public at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, September – October 2011

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Kohei Yoshiyuki
Untitled
1971
From the series The Park
Gelatin Silver Print
© Kohei Yoshiyuki, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

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Curated by Naomi Cass as part of the Melbourne Festival, this was a brilliant exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne. The exhibition explored, “the fraught relationship between the camera and the subject: where the image is stolen, candid or where the unspoken contract between photographer and subject is broken in some way – sometimes to make art, sometimes to do something malevolent.” It examined the promiscuity of gazes in public/private space specifically looking at surveillance, voyeurism, desire, scopophilia, secret photography and self-reflexivity. It investigated the camera and its moral and physical relationship to the unsuspecting subject.

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11/ The Mad Square: Modernity in German Art 1910 – 37 at The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, November 2011 – March 2012

This is one of the best exhibitions this year in Melbourne bar none. Edgy and eclectic the work resonates with the viewer in these days of uncertainty: THIS should have been the Winter Masterpieces exhibition!

The title of the exhibition, The mad square (Der tolle Platz) is taken from Felix Nussbaum’s 1931 painting of the same name where “the ‘mad square’ is both a physical place – the city, represented in so many works in the exhibition, and a reference to the state of turbulence and tension that characterises the period.” The exhibition showcases how artists responded to modern life in Germany in the interwar years, years that were full of murder and mayhem, putsch, revolution, rampant inflation, starvation, the Great Depression and the rise of National Socialism. Portrayed is the dystopian, dark side of modernity (where people are the victims of a morally bankrupt society) as opposed to the utopian avant-garde (the prosperous, the wealthy), where new alliances emerge between art and politics, technology and the mass media. Featuring furniture, decorative arts, painting, sculpture, collage and photography in the sections World War 1 and the Revolution, Dada, Bauhaus, Constructivism and the Machine Aesthetic, Metropolis, New Objectivity and Power and Degenerate Art, it is the collages and photographs that are the strongest elements of the exhibition, particularly the photographs. What a joy they are to see.

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Albert Renger-Patzsch
Harbour with crane
c.1927
gelatin silver photograph
printed image 22.7 h x 16.8 w cm
Purchased 1983

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23
May
11

Exhibition: ‘Monika Tichacek, To all my relations’ at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Richmond

Exhibition dates: 4th May – 28th May 2011

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This is a stupendous exhibition by Monika Tichacek, at Karen Woodbury Gallery. One of the highlights of the year, this is a definite must see!

The work is glorious in it’s detail, a sensual and visual delight (make sure you click on the photographs to see the close up of the work!). The riotous, bacchanalian density of the work is balanced by a lyrical intimacy, the work exploring the life cycle and our relationship to the world in gouache, pencil & watercolour. Tichacek’s vibrant pink birds, small bugs, flowers and leaves have absolutely delicious colours. The layered and overlaid compositions show complete control by the artist: mottled, blotted, bark-like wings of butterflies meld into trees in a delicate metamorphosis; insects are blurred becoming one with the structure of flowers in a controlled effusion of life. The title of the exhibition, To all my relations,

“has inspired an understanding that all animist cultures’ peoples have who live in close relationship to the earth. We are all related, we all exist in an interdependent system. The ecosystem is such an unbelievably complex, harmonious system. Every drop of rain, every insect, every micro-organism has its place for the perfect functioning and health of nature… The title is an acknowledgement and honouring of all that is live-giving, every little element that makes up the big picture of life on earth.” 1

It was very difficult to pull myself away from the beauty and intimate polyphony of voices contained within the work. I loved it!

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Many thankx to Karen Woodbury Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs and Art Guide Australia for allowing me to publish the text in the posting. The text by Dylan Rainforth was commissioned by Art Guide Australia and appears in the May/June 11 issue of Art Guide Australia magazine. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Monika Tichacek
To all my relations
2011
diptych
gouache, pencil & watercolour on paper
244.0 x 300.0 cm overall

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Monika Tichacek
To all my relations (detail)
2011

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Monika Tichacek
To all my relations (detail)
2011

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Monika Tichacek
To all my relations (detail)
2011

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The Cycle of Nature – Monika Tichacek’s To All My Relations
Dylan Rainforth

Anyone used to the immaculately controlled, exactingly lit photographic and video mise en scène that Swiss-born artist Monika Tichacek presented in such series as The Shadowers, for which she won the prestigious Anne Landa Award for Video and New Media Arts in 2007, may be surprised by the direction her work has taken in her latest exhibition. To All My Relations consists entirely of works on paper – watercolour and ink drawings that evince a tension between abstract, gestural shapes and bleeds of colour, recalling (just for convenience’s sake) Kandinsky, and intricately rendered natural forms that owe more to the scientific, zoological and botanical narratives of the Endeavour voyages of Captain Cook, Joseph Banks and the artist Sydney Parkinson.

The work has come out of an intensive period over the last few years in which Tichacek spent considerable time in the jungles of South America and the deserts of the United States, as well as time spent in the New South Wales bush and studying nature books. “I’m getting more and more interested in the cellular, microscopic imagery that you get when you enlarge something and peer deeper into the structure of how material elements are composed, and that really coincides with my interest in Eastern philosophies of Buddhism and many other things too. I guess I’m looking as deeply into the nature of something as is possible but I’m trying not to do it so much with my mind – but of course that’s very challenging,” she says, laughing lightly.

“The exploration of feeling is quite important to me – it’s quite a departure from what I used to do, which were certainly works that came from a very inner landscape but then the execution would be very conceptual, obviously – it had to be and this new work is much more intimate.”

That challenge to the rational, objective Western subject is informed by Tichacek’s exposure to indigenous traditions in South America and other places.

“In 2006 I had a research grant and I went to the Amazon because I wanted to look more deeply into animist cultures, meaning cultures that really see the land as living and as alive with energy and with spirit or ‘beingness’. So I went to the Amazon and spent quite a long time there and also in the mountains in Peru and saw a little bit of Central America and also North America in the desert. I spent time there and really learnt a lot about their indigenous ways and got to participate in a lot of things and experience a lot of things. In the Amazon shamanic tradition there is a process – they call it dieting – you spend a few months more or less alone, existing on very limited foods. You get very little, limited food and very little contact and they give you different traditional plants that, through the communion they do, they are ‘told’ to give you. And you are encouraged to connect with this plant for its healing properties to come through. So that was quite an amazing time to get quite still…”

The exhibition title comes from a Native American ceremony. According to Tichacek, “It’s always said when entering the sweat lodge and it’s an acknowledgement of being related to everything in nature, every being, the understanding that without all these other relations one wouldn’t exist. In those cultures it’s much more understood – we’ve lost that understanding because we can just buy things in the supermarket and eat them but if we lived that way we would probably remember a lot more that we are closely related to everything around us.”

From this perspective we can see that this new work is not a complete departure from Tichacek’s earlier work after all, yet its intentions are radically different. Both the natural world and shamanistic knowledge played their part in The Shadowers. Professor Anne Marsh has described Tichacek’s video, played out in a violent scene occurring between three women (one of whom Marsh characterises as a witch doctor or shaman) in a forest environment, as “stretch[ing] the boundaries between body art, ritual and sado-masochism by assaulting the senses and transgressing the social realm. In psychoanalytic terms it tears at the screen of the real and immerses the viewer into the abject world of instinctual response where language has no authority.” [i]

Pain, sado-masochism, ritual and endurance certainly have their place in shamanistic traditions – one need only think of any number of initiation rites – but now Tichacek is looking for a less conflicted relationship with nature. “The work has always been very personal and I guess in The Shadowers that nature relationship was starting to come in but it was very tense and very violent and very confused. The continuation of that theme is still there – the exploration of how to understand the experience of the self and what we are doing here and how we come to exist. That’s definitely been there before but this new work is more in the realm of psychology and the previous works are more in the realm of the female body.”

To All My Relations will present several drawings, with one in particular being conceived on a massive scale that Tichacek intends to convey the sense of awe we experience when surrounded by nature. The artist will also stage a performance – something her interdisciplinary practice has always embraced – at the opening. Although she had not completely determined the details when I spoke to her the performance was inspired by a drawing she made a few years ago and will symbolically connect the artist’s body to the roots of a tree.

“I always feel like [performance serves] to bring my body into it. Although I feel like my body’s very much in these drawings there’s something about performance that’s really physically present.”

Dylan Rainforth.

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This text by Dylan Rainforth was commissioned by Art Guide Australia and appears in the May/June 11 issue of Art Guide Australia magazine.

[i] Marsh, A. The Shadowers: Haunting the Real; essay available on Karen Woodbury Gallery website.
www.kwgallery.com/artist/monika-tichacek/26, accessed 03/04/11.

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Monika Tichacek
To all my relations (detail)
2011

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Monika Tichacek
To all my relations (detail)
2011

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Monika Tichacek
Birth of generosity
2011
diptych
pencil & watercolour on paper
70.0 x 114.0 cm overall

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Monika Tichacek
Transmission
2011
pencil & watercolour on paper
150.0 x 125.0 cm

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1. O’Sullivan, Jane. “Artist Interview: Monika Tichacek,” on Australian Art Collector website, 19th May 2011 [Online] Cited 21/05/2010.
www.artcollector.net.au/ArtistinterviewMonikaTichacek

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Karen Woodbury Gallery
4, Albert Street
Richmond, Vic 3121

Opening hours: Wed – Sat 11-5pm

Karen Woodbury Gallery website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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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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