Posts Tagged ‘transformation


Exhibition: ‘Art and Alchemy. The Mystery of Transformation’ at the Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast (SMKP), Düsseldorf, Germany

Exhibition dates: 5th April – 10th August 2014


Theodor Galle nach Jan van der Straet (Stradanus). 'Destillierlabor' (from the series "Nova reperta") c. 1589 - c. 1593


Theodor Galle nach Jan van der Straet (Stradanus) (Belgium, 1523-1605)
c. 1589 – c. 1593
From the series Nova reperta
Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf
Photo: Horst Kolberg, Neuss



Since I have 7 alchemy symbols tattooed on my right bicep in a vertical line to represent the 7 chakras, I thought this was a suitable exhibition for a posting. I love anything alchemical, magical, spiritual – in art and in life. I have just had a couple of snowflakes tattooed on my forearms, one blue/green and the red/orange for an ice/fire combination. Each snowflake is unique and ephemeral, here and gone in the blink of an eye, just like we are. That is their, and our, magic.

The photographer Minor White said it is not just the images that matter, but the space between them that causes an ice / fire frisson. When looking at an exhibition I note how images play off of each other – in pairs, sequences and across the gallery space. It is a relatively simple thing for a photographer to take one good image, more difficult to put a pair of images together that actually says something, but when you get to a sequence of images (as in MW) or a body of work, this is were a lot of artists wane. The intertextual narrative, one woven from the imagination of the artist, does not resolve itself into a satisfying, stimulating whole. How many exhibitions do I see that have some good images but do not access the magic of the music.

Further, we must also remember that in Psychology and Alchemy, Volume 12 in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, alchemy is central to Jung’s hypothesis of the collective unconscious. “Jung reminds us of the dual nature of alchemy, comprising both the chemical process and a parallel mystical component. He also discusses the seemingly deliberate mystification of the alchemists. Finally, in using the alchemical process to provide insights into individuation, Jung emphasises the importance of alchemy in relating to us the transcendent nature of the psyche.” (Wikipedia)

Jung sees alchemy as an early form of psychoanalysis. The melting of base metal in a crucible and its reforming into gold can be seen as a form of individuation – the dissolution of the ego and its integration into the whole self. Basically the recasting or reforming of identity into a new Self. As the instructive text on Wikipedia notes,

“For the alchemist trying to understand matter and develop base metals into their purest form, gold, substances are grouped as being alike based on their perceived value. Jung documents as these alchemists collectively come to understand that they themselves must embody the change they hope to effect within their materials: for instance, if they hope to achieve the philosopher’s stone that can redeem ‘base’ or ‘vulgar’ metals, then the alchemist too must become a redeemer figure. It became apparent to the alchemists that they were trying to redeem nature as Christ had redeemed man, hence the identification of the Lapis Philosophorum with Christ the Redeemer. The Opus (work) of alchemy, viewed through this interpretation, becomes a symbolic account of the fundamental process the human psyche undergoes as it re-orients its value system and creates meaning out of chaos. The opus beginning with the nigredo (blackening, akin to depression or nihilistic loss of value) in order to descend back into the manipulable prima materia and proceeding through a process of spiritual purification that must unite seemingly irreconcilable opposites (the coniunctio) to achieve new levels of consciousness.”

Much of my early black and white work was based on an understanding of the magical nature of the (art)work. This is a fascinating area of enquiry for all artists because this is what they do – they see the world differently, reform it through their art and present it as a pathway for the future.



PS The catalogue to this exhibition is excellent with lots of interesting essays.

Many thankx to the Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


Marcus new tattoos February 2014


Marcus new tattoos February 2014


Pieter Brueghel the Younger (after Pieter Brueghel the Elder). 'The Alchemist' c. 1600


Pieter Brueghel the Younger (Belgium, 1564-1636)
after Pieter Brueghel the Elder
The Alchemist
c. 1600
Oil on wood
68.8 x 96cm
Private collection


David Teniers d.J. 'Alchemist in his Workshop' c. 1650


David Teniers d.J. (Flemish, 1610-1690)
Alchemist in his Workshop
c. 1650
Courtesy of Roy Eddleman, Chemical Heritage Foundation Collections
Photo: Will Brown


Adriaen van Ostade. 'The Alchemist' 1661


Adriaen van Ostade (Dutch, 1610-1685)
The Alchemist
The National Gallery, London, Bought 1871
© The National Gallery, London, 2013


Hendrick Goltzius. 'Allegory of the Arts' 1611


Hendrick Goltzius (Dutch, born Germany 1558-1617)
Allegory of the Arts
Oil on canvas
181 x 256.6cm
Kunstmuseum Basel
© Kunstmuseum Basel
Photo: Martin P. Bühler


Johan Moreelse. 'The Alchemist' 1630


Johan Moreelse (Dutch, 1603-1634)
The Alchemist
Oil on canvas
90.5 x 107.5cm
Robilant + Voena, London und Mailand


Giovanni Antonio Grecolini. 'The Education of Cupid by Venus and Vulcan' 1719


Giovanni Antonio Grecolini (Italian, 1675-1725)
The Education of Cupid by Venus and Vulcan
Oil on canvas
48.9 × 64cm
Museum Kunstpalast
Photo: Horst Kolberg


Neo Rauch. 'Goldgrube' [Goldmine] 2007


Neo Rauch (German, b. 1960)
Goldgrube [Goldmine]
Oil on canvas
80 x 160cm
Private collection
© Courtesy Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014
Photo: Uwe Walter, Berlin



For the first time in Germany, an exhibition spanning all epochs and genres will be introducing the exciting link between art and alchemy in past and present times. 250 works from antiquity to the present, encompassing Baroque art, Surrealism, through to contemporary art from collections and museums in the USA, Great Britain, France, Mexico and Israel reveal the fascination which alchemy exerted for many visual artists. Artists featured in the exhibition, such as Joseph Beuys, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Max Ernst, Hendrick Goltzius, Rebecca Horn, Anish Kapoor, Yves Klein, Sigmar Polke, Rembrandt van Rijn, Peter Paul Rubens and David Teniers the Younger invite visitors to explore the mystery of transformation.

Alchemy was invariably practised in secret, but was by no means a rare occurrence until well into the 18th century: Eminent personalities, including Paracelsus, Isaac Newton and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, were alchemists, too. It was not until the Age of the Enlightenment that alchemy was ousted and became intermingled with occultism, sorcery and superstition. In connection with 19th and early 20th-century psychoanalysis alchemy was brought to new life.

The exhibition is divided into two major periods: pre-Enlightenment art, in particular works from the 16th and 17th centuries and the art of the 20th and 21st centuries.

In the pre-Enlightenment era both artists and alchemists laid claim to the ability to not only imitate nature but to even perfect it. This ambition is illustrated in the exhibition by casts from nature made by Bernard Palissy and Wenzel Jamnitzer. Their lizards and other creatures are extraordinarily life-like and yet have been immortalised in precious metal or ceramic as if petrified. The circumstance that artists and alchemists were ultimately rivals is exemplified by the Dutch artist Adriaen van Ostade with his painting depicting an alchemist in his laboratory, having failed to produce gold.

By contrast, the exhibition also includes works by artists presenting alchemy in a favourable light, such as portraits by Rubens and David Teniers the Younger, allegorical paintings by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Hendrick Goltzius, as well as three copies of the “Splendor Solis”, the most richly illuminated manuscript in the history of alchemy. Furthermore, an original manuscript by physicist Isaac Newton, contributed by the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, will be presented here for the first time in Europe.

The modern section of the show begins with Surrealism. Max Ernst, for instance, repeatedly took up the theme of the “Chymical Wedding” in his work. A particular highlight is the painting “The Creation of the Birds”, a key work by the Surrealist artist Remedios Varo. The Androgyne is an important theme, for instance, in the exhibits by Rebecca Horn. Joseph Beuys will be represented by a number of sculptures, drawings and collages, as well as a film and photo documentation of his action at the 1982 documenta. Moreover, the exhibition includes works by Anish Kapoor displaying his characteristic use of intensely coloured pigments. Further exhibits include selected works by representatives of contemporary art, such as Anselm Kiefer, Yves Klein, Alicja Kwade, Sigmar Polke, Neo Rauch and Gerda Steiner and Jörg Lenzlinger.

The exhibition was conceived by Museum Kunstpalast in cooperation with the research group “Art and Knowledge in Pre-Modern Europe” at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, as well as a group of experts at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, which also provided many pieces on loan. A Wunderkammer of curious and exotic treasures from flora and fauna is offered for visitors to explore. In an extensive accompanying programme the subject of art and alchemy will be expanded upon by means of lectures, talks and guided tours.

Press release from the SMKP website


Jörg Breu the Elder (attributed) 'Splendor Solis' (Splendor of the Sun) 1531/32


Jörg Breu the Elder (attributed) (German, 1475-1537)
Splendor Solis (Splendor of the Sun)
Manuscript; parchment, miniatures in opaque color; calfskin cover
33.1 × 22.8cm
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Kupferstichkabinett
© bpk – Bildagentur für Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Kupferstichkabinett
Photo: Jörg P. Anders


Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. 'Sogenannter Faust' [Allegedly Faust] c. 1651‑1653


Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669)
Sogenannter Faust [Allegedly Faust]
c. 1651‑1653
21.1 × 16.2cm
Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Sammlung der Kunstakademie (NRW)
Photo: Horst Kolberg, Neuss


Francois-Marius Granet. 'The Alchemist' 1st half of the 19th century


Francois-Marius Granet (French, 1775-1849)
The Alchemist
1st half of the 19th century
Oil on canvas
61 x 48.3cm
Gift of Roy Eddleman Chemical Heritage Foundation Collections, Philadelphia
Photo: Will Brown


Max Ernst. 'Men Shall Know Nothing of This' 1923


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
Men Shall Know Nothing of This
Oil on canvas
80.3 x 63.8cm
Tate, London
Photo: © Tate, London 2013, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014


Victor Brauner. 'Le Surréaliste' (“The Surrealist”) 1947


Victor Brauner (Romanian, 1903-1966)
Le Surréaliste (“The Surrealist”)
Oil on canvas
60 x 45cm
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, NY)
© Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, NY) / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014


Rebecca Horn. 'Zen of Ara' 2011


Rebecca Horn (German, b. 1944)
Zen of Ara
Springs, motor, brass, electrical
D: 73cm
Private collection Rebecca Horn
Photo: Karin Weyrich
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014


Yves Klein. 'Relief éponge bleu (RE 18)' (blue sponge relief [re 18]) 1960


Yves Klein (French, 1928-1962)
Relief éponge bleu (RE 18) (blue sponge relief [re 18])
Wood, sponges, pigment dissolved in acetone
230 × 154cm
Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Modern Art
© Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf / ARTOTHEK / Photo: Horst Kolberg, Neuss / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014


Richard Meitner. 'Reductio ad Absurdum' 1977


Richard Meitner (American, b. 1949)
Reductio ad Absurdum
Glass and gold
25 x 80cm
Photo: Ron Zijlstra
© Richard Meitner


John Isaacs. 'Thinking about it' 2002


John Isaacs (British, b. 1968)
Thinking about it
Wax, wire, plaster of paris
15 1/2 x 12 x 13 inches (30 x 30 x 50cm)
Olbricht collection, Germany



Stiftung Museum KunstPalast
Ehrenhof 4-5, 40479
Düsseldorf, Germany
+49 211 56642100

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 6pm
Thursday 11am – 9pm
Closed on Monday

Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast website


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Review: ‘Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1 – 41’ by Nicola Loder at Helen Gory Galerie, Prahran, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 14th March – 7th April 2012


West Bengali woman embroidering the 'Disappearances'


West Bengali woman embroidering the Disappearances



Fredric Jameson wrote that in the postmodern world, the subject is not alienated but fragmented. He explained that the notion of alienation presumes a centralized, unitary self who could become lost to himself or herself. But if, as a postmodernist sees it, the self is decentred and multiple, the concept of alienation breaks down. All that is left is an anxiety of identity… In simulation, identity can be fluid and multiple, a signifier no longer points to a thing that is signified, and understanding is less likely to proceed through analysis than by navigation through virtual space.

Sherry Turkle. Life on The Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995, p. 49.



I have always loved the work of Nicola Loder ever since I saw her solo exhibition Child 1-175: A Nostalgia for the Present at Stop 22 Gallery in St Kilda in 1996. This exhibition is no exception. Loder is the consummate professional, her work is as imaginative and intriguing as ever and there has been a consistent thematic development of ideas within her work over a long period of time. These ideas relate to the nature of seeing and being seen, the mapping of identity and the process of its (dis)appearance.

This latest iteration of her ongoing series Tourist (described in detail, below, in the erudite essay by Stuart Koop) again involves de/reconstructions of identity through slippages, elisions, deletions, disappearances and transformations. In Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1 – 41 the shroud-like effigies that result from Loder’s project, a reference reinforced by the muslin cloth lying over the bench in the gallery space (see the installation photographs below), are a repeated re-presentation of a lost or missing identity: the disappearance of the person in their own minds; photography’s “capture” of the original person; Loder’s deletion of this identity (I was there) to be substituted by Photoshop’s geometric algorithms; the West Bengali women’s reinterpretation of this disappearance; and the reappearance of a new energy in the colourful, embroidered reinterpretations. I have very much a feeling of a spiritual energy in this last embodiment – think of the link between death and the spirit (as in the Shroud of Turin).

The images have multiple narratives and are already textualised but Loder disrupts this marking, the continual reiteration of norms by weaving a lack of fixity into her objects. In her reconceptualisations of space and matter Loder redefines the significations of the body in the fold of inscription, through a process of materialisation. But this materialisation, like the image seared into the fabric of the Shroud of Turin, still somehow eludes us. This is what makes this work so tantalising…

This interweaving of texts culminates in the body inscribed on another plane existing in, as Loder herself describes it, a “de-constructed non-space somewhere between image, imagination, identity, language and being,” which, as Stuart Koop observes, “is… not a removal or deletion but a reconfiguration beyond verisimilitude, beyond our appearance to others and ourselves.” This is the navigation through a virtual space that Sherry Turkle posits in the quotation at the top of the posting, where the self is decentred and identity is fluid and multiple.

Loder’s exquisitely sensuous description of disappearance allows us to see the phenomenal word afresh. I look forward with a sense of anticipation to the next voyage of discovery the artist will take me on.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

Many thankx to Nicola Loder, Stuart Koop and Helen Gorie Galerie for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


'Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1 - 41' by Nicola Loder, installation photograph at Helen Gorie Galerie

'Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1 - 41' by Nicola Loder, installation photograph at Helen Gorie Galerie


Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1 – 41 by Nicola Loder, installation photograph at Helen Gorie Galerie



Photographer Nicola Loder explores the way in which people see.

The purpose of photography is largely to make things visible. Inspired in part by her experiences teaching blind children photography, Loder reverses photography’s function using it instead to capture objects and experiences that aren’t visible. She embraces Photoshop but counters its typical role of improving clarity and focus, rather using it to collapse images into layers of pattern and colour.

Tourist #5: disappearing project 1 – 40 is a multi-faceted project that teases out notions of seeing and being seen and the role of creator as truth teller. Loder sent out a flyer inviting people who had disappeared to send her a full-length image of themselves with a written description of what happened when they disappeared. The stories and images she received range from out of body near death experiences to the mundane act of sleeping, each shedding light on what people identify as disappearing. Loder then manipulated the submitted images into highly colourful digital patterns, resonant of her earlier photographic work. She took the reworked images to India where they were embroidered onto muslin by local women in West Bengal. The result is beautiful hand-embroidered works that reflect the women’s personal interpretations of the images and incorporate their rich history, cultural patterns and iconography.

“The obliterated, atomised, reconfigured portraits ‘rematerialise’ as tapestries executed by women from a small rural village, at the margins of Indian society, who – but for NGOs dedicated to overcome disadvantage, in this case Street Survivors empowering rural women through skills development – are largely invisible to their communities, to politicians, as well as their castes.

Of course, Loder has paid these women, a means of recognising and honouring their work, a means of bringing them into view, at the margins of economy, welfare and community. Indeed, she has taken their portraits and documented them at work, and it’s a startling contrast. Our middle-class stories, anxieties and interests ending up in the careful hands of these women in colourful saris, sitting and working together, our (largely) passing concerns darned into the muslin cloth in their laps, our own saturated photographic hues indistinguishable from the bright chaos of folded cloth and pleated skirts, with their nimble fingers tracing our desires and cares in bright lurid threads.” (Stuart Koops, 2012)

For Loder India is a central tenet of the project given its multiple associations with disappearing, from the focus on meditation to the burning of bodies at the Ghats in Varanasi, the final act of disappearing. On a personal level Loder lived in Calcutta as a child and views her experience of leaving India as another act of disappearing: both her Indian Ayah (Moti) and India physically disappeared from her life. Involving the women from her Ayah’s village is Loder’s reflection on and tribute to those experiences of disappearing.

Press release from Helen Gorie Galerie website


Nicola Loder. 'Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 11)' 2012 Polyester thread, muslin 86 x 69cm


Nicola Loder (Australian, b. 1964)
Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 11)
Polyester thread, muslin
86 x 69cm


Nicola Loder. 'Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 16)' 2012 Polyester thread, muslin 86 x 69cm


Nicola Loder (Australian, b. 1964)
Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 16)
Polyester thread, muslin
86 x 69cm



Catalogue Essay by Stuart Koops

Nicola Loder has facilitated childrens’ photography projects before, on several occasions working with marginalised groups, including kids from low socio-economic and non-English speaking schools and kids from the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind. Indeed she chose these groups with purpose, to consider the role of photography in highlighting certain communities most often occluded on the basis of an incapacity – making the invisible visible, making those who cannot see visible to us, giving those without the means of expression a language we can understand – in many ways, reversing the polarity of familiar concepts, disrupting our conventional understanding.

In teaching blind kids especially, Nicola told me she felt like she was disappearing. Not surprising, I guess, when you try to describe the camera, the lens, optics, focus, framing, composition. When your identity or your role as a photographer dissipates along with the explanatory power of these foundation terms and concepts. And practical demonstrations must at first seem frustratingly pointless.

That profound experience seems to have led Loder to use photography in reverse, as the means to decompose images; to utilise Photo­shop’s algorithms, not to augment or highlight certain attributes in her portraits she ultimately took of these kids, but return images to an undifferentiated field of static, the digital correlate to the original photochemical chaos, the entropy of raw silver halides, which the ‘irrefutable sun’ miraculously sorts into resemblance. In short, to unphotograph the kids somehow, commensurate with their disability and her own disappearance in the workshops.

But it’s not just Loder who has had the experience of disappearing. It’s a profound sensation shared by many and for different reasons, and Loder has collected different accounts of the experience which illustrate the further registers in which one may ‘disap­pear’; from spiritual attainment in transcending physical reality to out of body transcendental near-death experiences, from relief at escaping a difficult situation, to feelings of terror as a child abandoned, or worse, abducted, from the social isolation and alienation of teenagers and adults, to a freedom or liberation from social constraint and physical containment, wanting to leave behind an unhappy circumstance or just wanting to be magically, wonderfully invisible.

Practically speaking, there’s considerable interest in – and information on – how to disappear, especially in America. In 2008 artist Seth Price published How to Disappear from America, excerpted text from found sectarian tracts, paranoid rants and helpful DIY tips to assist anyone wishing to get off the grid without a trace (burn your credit cards, dump your car, hide your tracks, grow your own, etc) including great suggestions about where to go (motorcycle hangouts, punk rocks groups, new age dance studios, soup kitchens, churches, and homeless shelters).

But Loder’s more interested in the personal, individual experience of disappearing. She asked for photo-portraits to accompany people’s descriptions of disappearing, from which she has seemingly excised each subject, using Photoshop as she did before with the blind kids, leaving a whorl of digital effect in the vacant space within their outline, set in high relief against a lounge-room, or a yard, or other family members. Yet on closer inspection this is perhaps a matter of transformation, since ‘disappearing’ may be very different from ‘deletion’.

In Photoshop we are each just so much chroma, luma and shape. A touch of the magic wand and we are separated from the rest of our lives, ‘lassooed’, a godly power to designate liberated from special-effects cinema by the Knoll brothers in 1988 and given to every geek with a Mac II. Since when it’s just too easy to be deleted; two clicks and we’re in the trash.

But in Loder’s work our data is recast, colour intensified, details blurred, outlines softened, curves modified, screens overlaid and so it seems Photoshop’s myriad algorithms – set against their intended technical imperative to optimise appearances – might provide a metaphor for our disappearing, which is indeed not a removal or deletion but a reconfiguration beyond verisimilitude, beyond our appearance to others and ourselves. And while we might lose visual coherence as an image, we are inscribed upon another plane altogether, one at odds with photographic realism, and which Loder describes as a “de-constructed non-space somewhere between image, imagination, identity, language and being.” Like the shimmering dissipation of Kirk on the teleporter’s deck in Star Trek, these subjects are transported to another realm, different orders of reality merging into a new volatile blend. Perhaps it’s a higher plane too where all souls mingle and coalesce as either zeros or ones, a digital afterlife in which everything is equivalent and a new digital equanimity prevails.

Stuart Koops 2012


Nicola Loder. 'Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 8)' 2012 Polyester thread, muslin 86 x 69cm


Nicola Loder (Australian, b. 1964)
Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 8)
Polyester thread, muslin
86 x 69cm


Nicola Loder. 'Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 17)' 2012 Polyester thread, muslin 86 x 69cm


Nicola Loder (Australian, b. 1964)
Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 17)
Polyester thread, muslin
86 x 69cm


Nicola Loder. 'Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 18)' 2012 Polyester thread, muslin 86 x 69cm


Nicola Loder (Australian, b. 1964)
Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 18)
Polyester thread, muslin
86 x 69cm


West Bengali women embroidering the 'Disappearances'


West Bengali women embroidering the Disappearances



Helen Gory Galerie

This gallery is now closed.

Nicola Loder website


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Exhibition: ‘The Navigators’ at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 5th May – 29th May 2010

Artists: Lionel Bawden, Penny Byrne, Nicholas Folland, Locust Jones, Rhys Lee, Rob McHaffie, Derek O’Connor, Alex Spremberg, Madonna Staunton



Lionel Bawden (Sydney, b. 1974) 'formless worlds move through me' 2010


Lionel Bawden (Sydney, b. 1974)
formless worlds move through me
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac
51.0 x 51.0 x 9.5 cm



Some good work in this exhibition – especially the Staedtler hexagonal coloured pencil constructions by Lionel Bawden. Beautifully crafted by hand they remind me of ghosts, the ‘millefiori’ (thousand flowers) of Italian glass and the inside of caverns with their stalactites.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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


Alex Spremberg (Australian, born Germany 1950) 'Inside skins' 2002


Alex Spremberg (Australian, born Germany 1950)
Inside skins



These artists have been selected for their interest in ideas of assemblage and re-use of pre-existing materials. Working across a range of media, each artist in the exhibition employs a process of manipulation to create completely different concepts and forms with their finished works. These works comprise of found objects and assembled from disparate elements, scavenged or foraged by the artists and juxtaposed in inventive ways. All works included in The Navigators take on their own form and imbue a new meaning to the original source materials.

Not originally intended as art materials, yet these artists have seen potential for a new idea in the materials; creating a new thought for the object. The original useful element of the preformed material thus comes under more aesthetic and creative significance. The impetus for such artistic practice is located in a desire by these artists to re-use, re-model, reshape and recycle within their practices. Despite an obvious interest and emphasis in the materiality of the works, the conceptual underpinning are the key motivation within these varying works and pose questions regarding the value of the objects within society. The artists included in The Navigators are continuously surveying and navigating their practice, allowing for deeper exploration in their work.

The exhibition will include various two and three-dimensional objects that interact with each other in unique ways. In the example of Lionel Bawden’s sculptures, his work exploits hexagonal coloured pencils as a sculptural material, reconfiguring and carving into amorphous shapes. Here the rich qualities of colour are explored as pencils are carved, shaped and fused together. Bawden explores themes of flux, transformation, rhythm and repetition as preconditions to our experience of the physical world. Bawden’s wall mounted works ‘the caverns of temporal suspension’ explore shapes within and outside the work as they hover ominously, melting, conjoined, growing, in transformation. These works are at the forefront of his current practice.

Penny Byrne’s work makes use of vintage porcelain sculptures that are adorned with a range of materials. Through this process, Byrne makes the base sculptures appear starkly different to that of the original, taking on new connotations that are often humorous and quirky but also convey political and social issues. In her work Mercury Rising. Hunted, Slaughtered, Eaten vintage porcelain dolphins and new plastic Manga figurines are employed to relate to the annual Japanese slaughter of tens of thousands dolphins as highlighted in the documentary ‘The Cove’. The Japanese eat the dolphins and then suffer mercury poisoning due to the high mercury levels in the dolphins flesh, leading to symptoms of madness.

Nicholas Folland’s Navigator sculptures are indicative Folland’s continued interest in utilising, modifying and experimenting with various sourced materials. These sculptures comprise of various upturned intricately detailed crystal objects that sit above a wood panelled shelf. These glass object are lit and act as beacons or floating satellite cities. Folland personifies the intrepid creative explorer via his navigation of various found materials.

Locust Jones’ three-dimensional globes are made from papier mache and pictorially and graphically convey global issues. These works sit on the floor and allow the viewer to orient themselves around the works allowing for a detached, objective perspective on contemporary societal issues. The quickly worked surfaces reflect a stream of consciousness in process. Imagery and themes are taken from various media such as the Internet, photojournalism, film culture and nightly news broadcasts.

The two sculptures in the exhibition by Rhys Lee imbue associations of debris and deal with found objects such as a money box, a dead bird and a clowns face. These trophy-like pieces are decorated by old, worn and found vintage materials that engage with the everyday. The intimate scale of these works do not account for the potency of symbolism and accumulation of collected ideas. The blistered silver patina and bronze sculptures allude to a dark gothic sentiment that extends beyond the morphing forms. The shapes have been smashed, manipulated and stuck back together again resulting in frozen miniature icons that represent a contemporary zest for defiance.

Rob McHaffie’s works comprise a pastiche of painted anonymous unrelated objects and shapes that somehow come together to create unlikely compositions and formations. The highly skilled execution of McHaffie’s paintings attracts the viewer, who is then faced with a banality in subject matter, often of depictions of clothing, crumpled paper, plants and disfigured creatures and figures. These perfectly rendered images of everyday objects are unsettling in their clarity and realism, which are then skewed, moulded and displaced in unlikely relationships. There is a sense of a deliberate haphazard nature to McHaffie’s work that draws upon a range of elements brought together to mimic something else. Humour surfaces through this stylistic creative process.

Derek O’Connor’s re-worked painting collages resemble distorted and fragmented realities and stories via the manipulation and playful technique of alteration and re-use of book covers and record album and EP covers. O’Connor’s characteristic gestural sweeping luscious brushstrokes are employed with precision yet allow for organic spontaneity. The old material takes on new meaning and are given new life via O’Connor’s creations.

Alex Spremberg’s work Inside Skins highlights the artist’s accidental processes at work. This sculptural piece was made as an ancillary to his broader practice – working with acrylic, enamel and varnish on board and canvas. These objects where literally created via chance – an after thought that was noticed to be a finished piece in its own right. Left to dry within their containers these ‘skins’ were extracted and proved to provide aesthetic attraction and conceptual ideas of the ready-made.

The mainstay of Madonna Staunton’s practice surrounds the physicality of assemblage. Essentially she is a collage artist. The components of her two- and three-dimensional assemblages are usually drawn from old, faded and battered discards such as frames and chairs that are carefully put together in new ways and given another life. A play between precision and randomness animates her work. Her sensitivity to tonal and formal arrangement always remains acute during this process and the results are austerely and chaotically beautiful.

Press release from the Karen Woodbury Gallery website [Online] Cited 20/05/2010 no longer available online


Nicholas Folland (Australian, b. 1967) 'Navigators 1' 2008


Nicholas Folland (Australian, b. 1967)
Navigators 1
Glassware, table and lightbox
25.0 x 110.0 x 87.0 cm


Nicholas Folland (Australian, b. 1967) 'Navigators 2' 2008


Nicholas Folland (Australian, b. 1967)
Navigators 2
Glassware, table and lightbox
25.0 x 110.0 x 87.0 cm



Karen Woodbury Gallery

This gallery has now closed.


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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, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor 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.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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