Posts Tagged ‘Victoria

30
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘The Greatest Wonder of the World’ at the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 23rd Feb 2013 – 12th May 2013

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Another fascinating posting, this time featuring Australian colonial photography. In 1951, a hoard of 3,500 glass plate negatives from the nineteenth century was discovered in a garden shed in Chatswood. In time, the find proved to be the most important photographic documentation of goldfields life in Australia. All negatives have now been scanned at high resolution and for the first time in 140 years, it is possible to see what Merlin and Bayliss (from the American & Australasian Photographic Company) photographed, with astonishing clarity and fidelity. “Many of the images in the Holtermann collection were created for an ambitious 1870s publicity campaign to sell the wonders of the Australian colonies to the world.”

What I find particularly interesting is the familiarity of all photographs of goldfields from around the world, whether it be Californian or Victorian – the working class men, the pictures of diggings, etc… but also the particular Australian vernacular that these photographs possess. The photographs could be taken no where else but Australia. Observe the abject poverty of some of the shopkeepers – draper, blacksmith, bootmaker and undertaker (who also acted as carpenter, joiner, builder and cabinet maker) – the timber clad facade of their buildings failing to conceal the bark structure behind (see Holmes, bootmaker, and Spiro Bennett’s store, Gulgong, 1872 below). And yet in their poverty they still thought it important to spend money on advertising with wonderful examples of distinctive typography that I have highlighted in detail – on the photographers, bakers and tent makers shops, on the undertakers facade replete with horses and funeral carriage, and on the painters and sign writers bark clad establishment. Contemporary typographers could have a field day studying these photographs for new typefaces!

Notice in the detail wonderful things:

The roughness of a man’s hand as they stand in front of their loot, the gold specimens;
The incongruous sight of toy dogs among the rough-and-ready types that inhabited a frontier gold town;
The riding crop tucked under the arm of one of the detectives;
The flour that covers the bakers shoes;
The decorative wallpaper hanging outside the painter and signwriters shack, the word ‘Sacred’ on top of the mirror, and his name ‘J.H. Osborne Painter No.2’ emblazoned on the side of his ladder.

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Of particular poignancy is the way the undertaker William Lewis leans in the entrance of his establishment. Propped up against the door (to stop himself from moving during the exposure), his hands stiffly by his side, his eyes stare straight ahead as though he is in a trance. In the photograph he has almost become the corpse that it is his business to bury. We must also acknowledge the temporary nature of these gold field towns, their unsubstantial character and the transitory life of the people that lived and died in them. Bootmaker William Holmes’ wife passed away a few months after the photograph of her family was taken. It was a tough life living on a frontier town. We can also note how desolate the major cities seem, as can be seen in photographs of Sandridge [Port Melbourne] and Pall Mall, Bendigo, with the odd carriage on the street and a single man standing on a street corner.

This is such a rich photographic collection and to have all the negatives digitised and available online is such a pleasure, such a treasure for Australian photographers, historians, researchers and the general public who, with an inquiring mind, can begin to understand the colonisation and conquest of this never empty country.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the State Library of New South Wales for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

“The State Library of NSW’s world-renowned photographic archive, the Holtermann collection, will be officially included on the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World register at a ceremony in May 2013… The Australian UNESCO Memory of the World program is part of an international initiative, which aims to safeguard the documentary heritage of humanity and recognise the significance of all heritage materials… Many of the images in the Holtermann collection were created for an ambitious 1870s publicity campaign to sell the wonders of the Australian colonies to the world. The campaign was funded by German-born entrepreneur, Bernhardt Otto Holtermann, who made his fortune from mining in Hill End. For the first time 100 amazing large format prints from the Holtermann collection are on show [until 12 May] in the State Library’s free exhibition, The Greatest Wonder of the World.”

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Beaufoy Merlin. 'Short Street, Hill End' 1872

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Beaufoy Merlin
Short Street, Hill End
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 5/No. 18504

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Hill End in 1872 was a gold town at its peak. According to the Empire 7 June 1872, “The streets were thronged by a motley crowd; the stores and places of business crowded with customers; the little theatre so densely packed by an admiring audience, that there was not what is facetiously called ‘standing room,’ and even the public-houses, whose name is legion, were crammed. Yet I saw less, far less, drunkenness than can be met with in any street in the metropolis after 10 o’clock at night. There were very few inebriates, no filthy dishevelled women, no crouching loafers, no abject vice. The general aspect of the crowds of decently dressed folk who thronged ‘The Hill’ was that of respectability – rough indeed in many respects, and loud and noisy too, in some instances, but not disreputable, and altogether good-humoured.”

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American & Australasian. 'Photographic Company Hawkins Hill 'Golden Quarter Mile'' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Hawkins Hill ‘Golden Quarter Mile’
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 71/No. C

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This panorama of Hawkins Hill was taken by Beaufoy Merlin, who erected his camera in a tree more than a kilometre away across a gully nearly 300 metres deep. In the centre of the image is Krohmann’s mine, with the twin buildings and two storied structure of Beyers and Holtermann’s immediately to the left of it. These two mines contributed to the 12.4 tonnes of gold extracted from Hawkins Hill, but such are the vagaries of goldmining, that Rapp’s, on the extreme right, returned little to its investors, despite digging to a depth of over 380 feet [115 metres]. An almost identical view of the Hawkins Hill ‘Golden Quarter Mile’ taken by Merlin appeared as an engraving in the Australian Town and Country Journal 18 May 1872.

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Gold Specimens from the Star of Hope mine' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Gold Specimens from the Star of Hope mine
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 71/No. T

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A month before discovery of the 286 kg Holtermann “nugget” [estimated to hold around 93kg of gold], Bernhardt Holtermann (second from left) Richard Ormsby Kerr (centre) and Louis Beyers (fourth from left) posed with 3,663 ozs [114 kg] of gold specimens from their claim. The specimens were described in The Sydney Morning Herald 28 September 1872 ; “To say they were good would be to say but little – they were almost without rival – magnificent – the talk of this town, where specimens are not unknown.” Holtermann took the best to the Sydney Mint for smelting, “as being clotted with gold it would be almost impossible to crush it in the ordinary way.” The item of clothing on the floor to the right is Beyer’s waistcoat.

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Gold Specimens from the Star of Hope mine' 1872 (detail)

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Gold Specimens from the Star of Hope mine (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 71/No. T

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'A domestic miner [Hill End]' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
A domestic miner [Hill End]
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 10/No. 70154

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Thomas Browne (better known as Rolf Boldrewood) was Gold Commissioner in Gulgong, during the period of Merlin and Bayliss’s photographs. Although this photograph was taken in Hill End, Boldrewood’s description of the domestic miner in his novel The Miners Right seems universal. “The thrifty miner who possesses the treasure, not less common on Australian goldfields than in other places, of a cleanly managing wife, is enabled to surround himself with rural privileges. A plot of garden ground, well fenced, grows not only vegetables but flowers, which a generation since were only to be found in conservatories… the domestic miner is often seen surrounded by his children, hoeing up his potatoes or cauliflowers, or training the climbing rose which beautifies his rude but by no means despicable dwelling.”

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Studio and staff of American & Australasian Photographic Co., Hill End' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Studio and staff of American & Australasian Photographic Co., Hill End
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 9/No. 18850

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The American and Australasian Photographic Company established a studio in Tambaroora Street, Hill End in 1872. Beaufoy Merlin’s assistant Charles Bayliss stands, hands in pockets, in the doorway, with studio operator James Clinton behind him. Beside the door is a frame containing large photographic views of Sydney, including the General Post Office and harbour.

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Studio and staff of American & Australasian Photographic Co., Hill End' 1872 (detail)

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Studio and staff of American & Australasian Photographic Co., Hill End (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 9/No. 18850

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Blacksmith William Jenkyns' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Blacksmith William Jenkyns
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 7/No. 18715

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William Jenkyns’ blacksmith and shoeing forge was situated in Clarke Street, Hill End. The condition of roads around Hill End ensured Jenkyns was busy. A correspondent to The Sydney Morning Herald 23 May 1872 wrote of the road between Bathurst and Hill End, “For miles at a stretch there is nothing to indicate that any money has been spent upon the road for years, and it is doubtful whether any portion of it has ever been properly made.” On 3 December 1872 another wrote, “I think I have travelled the worst of roads; for the sake of humanity, I hope there are none worse than those I have travelled.” Despite a superficial resemblance, the man on the right is not B.O. Holtermann.

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Gibbs, Shallard & Co., Colour Printers [188-?] 'Holtermann's Life Preserving Drops' 1872

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Gibbs, Shallard & Co., Colour Printers [188-?]
Holtermann’s Life Preserving Drops
1872
Poster

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There is no doubt that Bernhardt Otto Holtermann understood the importance and value of maintaining his association with the world’s largest specimen of reef gold. Unable to purchase the monster quartz and gold specimen when it was extracted from the Star of Hope mine in Tambaroora in 1872, he commissioned the American and Australasian Photographic Company to produce a photographic montage of him standing beside it. Photographers Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss seem to have carried out this assignment on more than one occasion, as Holtermann wears different clothing in the several known examples of the image.

Obviously pleased with the result, Holtermann used the montage on his business card and on the label to a patent medicine bearing his name. As an advertising ploy, the image of Holtermann resting his hand on the world’s largest hunk of gold can only have been interpreted as a symbol of success and a guarantee of the worth of his product. (Alan Davies author)

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B.O.-Holtermann-with-the-Holtermann-Nugget-WEB

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
B.O. Holtermann with the Holtermann Nugget, North Sydney
1874-1876?

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During the 1870’s goldrush in central New South Wales, Bernard Holtermann, his partners and miners brought the largest agglomeration of gold to the surface. It was not a nugget of pure gold but he was instantly rich! An even larger gold find was broken up when it came to the surface in late January-early February 1873 but it was not photographed. With his wealth Holtermann financed the photography of the goldfields, a collection of international significance showing the ordinary people from all over the world with their houses and businesses on the goldfields. This composite photograph was put together later to give the appearance of Holtermann with the gold on the veranda of his new mansion at North Sydney, now the site of Shore Grammar School.

Three photographs were used to create this image of Holtermann, (supposedly holding the worlds’ largest accumulation of rock and gold ever brought to the surface in one piece). He was posed in the studio with his hand on a headclamp, the nugget was inserted and both placed on a photograph of the verandah of his mansion, built from the proceeds of his goldmine. The “nugget” was found in Hill End, New South Wales on 19th October 1872. More than half of the 630 lbs weight was pure gold, value 12,000 pounds ($24,000). With gold worth say $1400 per ounce, the value today would be over $A7,000,000. Amazingly Holtermann’s mine had already made him rich before the discovery of this boulder and there was reputed to be an even larger aggregate in the mine!

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“In 1872, the newly rich Bernhardt Otto Holtermann used some of his wealth to employ Henry Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss, of the American and Australasian (A&A) Photographic Company, to photograph gold producing areas and cities in NSW and Victoria for exhibition overseas. These images provide the most comprehensive and detailed record of nineteenth century goldfields life and, with the commissioned photographs, now form the Library’s Holtermann archive of 3500 wet plate negatives. The Greatest Wonder of the World features this extraordinary collection of nineteenth century documentary images. Through enlargements, digital images and a selection of vintage prints and wet plate negatives, the exhibition tells the remarkable story of the A&A Photographic Company and the philanthropy and vision of Bernhardt Holtermann.

In 1951, a hoard of 3,500 glass plate negatives from the nineteenth century was discovered in a garden shed in Chatswood. In time, the find proved to be the most important photographic documentation of goldfields life in Australia. The photographers responsible for the images were Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss of the American and Australasian Photographic Company, who had travelled to the town of Hill End in 1872 to record the rush. From there, they also recorded the burgeoning Gulgong and Mudgee goldfields.

In October 1872, the world’s largest specimen of reef gold, known as the Holtermann nugget, was unearthed at nearby Hawkins Hill and Merlin and Bayliss were there to record it. In an extraordinary act of patronage, the newly rich Bernhardt Otto Holtermann used some of his wealth to employ Merlin and Bayliss to photograph other gold producing areas and cities in NSW and Victoria for exhibition overseas. Proud of his own success, he believed that his travelling exposition would encourage immigration to Australia.  Merlin and Bayliss’s documentation was slow, with long exposures and the difficulty of processing one photograph at a time. Their wet plate negatives captured exceptional detail, but copies made in the twentieth century failed to reveal the wealth of information hidden within.

In 2008, plans were made to digitally scan the Holtermann Collection at very high resolution and this became reality through the generous assistance of the Graham and Charlene Bradley Foundation; Simon and Catriona Mordant; Geoffrey and Rachel O’Conor; Morningstar and numerous other benefactors. For the first time in 140 years, it is possible to see what Merlin and Bayliss photographed, with astonishing clarity and fidelity.”

Press release from the State Library of New South Wales website

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. '[French warship 'Atalante', Fitzroy Dock, Sydney, 1873]' Aug 1873

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
[French warship ‘Atalante’, Fitzroy Dock, Sydney, 1873]
Aug 1873

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This photograph of the French warship Atalante in Fitzroy Dock on Cockatoo Island, with Balmain in the background, was taken in August 1873. Built in 1865, the iron clad Atalante had a protruding brass bow for ramming lesser vessels. It had taken part in the Franco Prussian War in 1870 and at the time of this photograph was the flagship of the Pacific Squadron, under the command of Rear Admiral Baron Roussin. Beaufoy Merlin was particularly pleased with his photographs of the Atalante and wrote about them in the Town and Country Journal.

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. '[French warship 'Atalante' at Fitzroy Dock, Sydney, 1873 / attributed to the American & Australasian Photographic Company]' 1873

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
[French warship ‘Atalante’ at Fitzroy Dock, Sydney, 1873 / attributed to the American & Australasian Photographic Company]
1873

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“… One of the solar pictures which I took on the occasion of my last visit to the Atalante, of which an engraving accompanies the present pen-and-ink sketch, is taken  from the rocks to the north-west, and shows her “ram,” with its massive projecting extremity of solid brass, her swelling sides, portholes, section of the dock, and men at work. The steps to the bottom of the basin as well as [its depth], are fairly indicated. Probably there is no one more difficult to please in procuring a picture of this kind than the landscape photographer himself. I may therefore be permitted to say in behalf of the one referred to, that it gave me satisfaction.”

Sadly, these images of Atalante were among the last photographs taken by Merlin. He contracted pneumonia and died, age 43, in September 1873.

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. '[Merlin's photographic cart ?] and Mitchell's London Hotel, Railway Place, Sandridge [Port Melbourne]' 1870-1875

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
[Merlin’s photographic cart?] and Mitchell’s London Hotel, Railway Place, Sandridge [Port Melbourne]
1870-1875

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Herbert Street, west side looking north from Mayne Street and showing Barnes' Chemist Shop, Gulgong' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Herbert Street, west side looking north from Mayne Street and showing Barnes’ Chemist Shop, Gulgong
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18242

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The incongruous sight of toy dogs among the rough-and-ready types that inhabited a frontier gold town has been captured in this view of Herbert Street, Gulgong. According to the Empire 28 May 1872 “The streets – so to call the dusty avenues between the rows of shops and Inns – are thronged in the daytime, by much about the same number, though not, apparently by the same sort of persons, as the streets in Sydney. There is not the same bustling activity about them… There are also fewer women amongst them, and fewer well dressed men. The yellow, clay-stained fustian trousers which have never made and never will make acquaintance with the wash-tub, invest the lower extremities of every two men out of three…”

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Charles Bird, Medical Hall, Gulgong' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Charles Bird, Medical Hall, Gulgong
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18160

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The Medical Hall of Charles Bird Jnr was situated at the corner of Belmore and Herbert Streets, Gulgong. Charles Bird Snr. conducted another shop at the corner of Mayne and Herbert Streets, until the Medical Hall was sold and converted into a hotel in 1879. The Gulgong Guardian 20 November 1872 noted that Charles Bird had received a new disinfectant “which will be invaluable during the summer months to all who are unfortunate enough to live in those parts of town where stenches are pungent and plentiful.”

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Holmes, bootmaker, and Spiro Bennett's store, Gulgong' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Holmes, bootmaker, and Spiro Bennett’s store, Gulgong
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 3/No. 18314

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This timber clad facade fails to conceal the bark structure behind and the poverty of its inhabitants. This is Gulgong bootmaker William Holmes and his family outside their shop in Mayne Street west. His wife Emily, in the doorway, died a few months after the photograph was taken. The town’s short-term architecture was described in The Sydney Morning Herald 30 September 1872. “Gulgong is not singular in its buildings. The followers of alluvial rushes have ere this found that business is fleeting. As leads work out so does business tide away. Hence have we buildings of a temporary nature; and, although the town of Gulgong may be reckoned three years old, yet not a single brick building stands on its site…”

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'The detectives' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
The detectives
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18246

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These are detectives Charles Powell and Robert Hannan, outside their Gulgong office. They had plenty to do. In a letter to the editor of the Maitland Mercury 16 May 1872, William Collins stated “The people (except the bankers and storekeepers), are in general a rough and ready set, occasionally a fight is to be seen, but the very diligent police speedily settle such hostile engagements, by marching the pugilists to a place called the town cage, from which place they are brought in the morning before the magistrate, who has often heard of mercy, but does not know what it means…” Powell and Hannan arrested 14 Chinese for gambling in January 1872 and the Empire 20 January 1872 noted, “In all these cases the lawyers reap a rich harvest, and it was somewhat amusing to witness their actively and interest within ten minutes of the time of arrest.”

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'The detectives' 1872 (detail)

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
The detectives (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18246

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American & Australasian Photographic. 'Company William Lewis, undertaker' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
William Lewis, undertaker
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18168

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The establishment of William Thomas Lewis, Undertaker and Carpenter at the corner of Belmore and Herbert Streets was primitive, but his funerals were said to be carried out ‘with his usual taste and completeness’. In 1871, Gulgong lacked a suitable place for burials and the Gulgong Guardian commented several times on the growing outcry for a cemetery. The locals had a valid complaint, particularly because of the considerable mortality rate among the young. In April 1871 alone, nine children died in a fortnight. Even Thomas De Courcy Brown, editor of the Guardian, lost his daughter Rose, age 7 months, in December that year. In January 1872, there were 37 deaths in Gulgong, (including 21 children under 5 years) and 17 births. The newspaper complained that the new cemetery was still unfenced.

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American & Australasian Photographic. 'Company William Lewis, undertaker' 1872 (detail)

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
William Lewis, undertaker (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18168

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'John Osborne, painter and signwriter' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
John Osborne, painter and signwriter
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 4/No. 18372

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J.H. Osborne, painter & signwriter of Gulgong also supplied decorative wallpaper. It seems he painted faux marble headstones as well. Osborne’s bark clad establishment was located at 2 Medley Street, at the sparsely populated northern end of town, which explains the prominent display of his sign writing skill. The Empire 28 May 1872 commented on the temporary nature of buildings in Gulgong. “The shops and public-houses are, for the most part, of a very temporary and unsubstantial character, considered as buildings. A large proportion of them are capable of being removed, piecemeal, and set up again on a new diggings in the event of Gulgong declining in prosperity, and a rush taking place to another field within a day or two’s journey.”

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'John Osborne, painter and signwriter' 1872 (detail)

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
John Osborne, painter and signwriter (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 4/No. 18372

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“A meeting between gold miner Bernard Otto Holtermann and photographer Beaufoy Merlin in Hill End in 1872 resulted in one of the most astonishing photographic documentations ever undertaken. Holtermann had been associated with the recent discovery of the world’s largest specimen of reef gold, weighing 145 kilograms, extracted from the Star of Hope mine at nearby Tambaroora. Merlin, an itinerant photographer, had just opened a temporary studio in Hill End. In January 1873, the two announced their plans for Holtermann’s great International Travelling Exposition, which would publicise the potential of their adopted country to the world through photography.
Merlin and his assistant Charles Bayliss had already photographed some of the gold producing towns of the colony and Holtermann’s patronage enabled them to continue the undertaking, using a larger camera.

Merlin had begun his photographic career in Victoria in 1866 and within a few years had developed a unique style of outdoor photography. Charles Bayliss joined American & Australasian Photographic Company in Melbourne and the pair headed north into New South Wales, photographing towns along the way. When Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss arrived in Sydney in September 1870, they had already completed an extraordinary documentation of “almost every house in Melbourne, and the other towns in Victoria.” They were aware that their venture was unusual and contemporary advertising by the American & Australasian Photographic Company reflects a considered understanding of the photographic medium and an intellectual approach to their work.

“The chief characteristic and distinguishing feature of the Company’s style of work, is the introduction of figures into the photograph – the most complete and life-like portraits of individuals who happen, or may choose to stand outside, being incorporated in the picture. The A&A Photographic Company desire further to remind the public that these negatives are not taken for the mere immediate object of sale, but that being registered, copies can at all times be had by or of those parties residing in any part of the colonies wherever the Company’s operations have extended, thus forming a novel means of social and commercial intercourse.”

Nevertheless, it is not surprising that Merlin and Bayliss headed west in 1872 with the new gold rushes. The cry “Rush-O!” meant money for businesses, including photographers. A studio for the A&A Photographic Company was built on land owned by Holtermann in Hill End and excursions were made to surrounding areas by horse drawn caravan. The photographic process of the day required the photographer coat each plate just before use and develop it immediately before it lost sensitivity. For the itinerant photographer, this meant taking a portable darkroom wherever he went. Despite the difficulty of the wet plate process, the comprehensive goldfields photography of Merlin and Bayliss has provided a unique documentation of frontier life.

Merlin fell ill and died from pneumonia in 1873, leaving his assistant the task of documenting towns for Holtermann’s Exposition. Consequently, Bayliss toured Victoria the following year, but returned to Sydney in 1875 and began making giant panoramas of the city from Holtermann’s house in North Sydney. The venture was to cost Holtermann over ₤4000, but resulted in the production of the world’s largest wet-plate negatives and several panoramas. One, measuring 10 metres long, astonished audiences overseas and received the Bronze award at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876 and a Silver Medal at the Paris Exposition Universelle Internationale in 1878. Only a small percentage of the A&A Photographic Company’s output has survived, but 3,500 small format wet plates negatives (including extensive coverage of the towns of Hill End and Gulgong) and the world’s largest wet plate negatives, measuring a massive 1 x 1.5 metres, are held by the Library.”

Text from The Holtermann Collection website

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Charles Bayliss. 'The beginning of Home Rule' 1872

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Charles Bayliss
The beginning of Home Rule
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 3/No. 18278

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Home Rule, 11 km south-east of Gulgong, was only two months old when Charles Bayliss took this photograph. A reporter from the Gulgong Guardian was also in town and wrote on 13 July 1872, “During the past fortnight there has been a great improvement for the better in the appearance of the township at the Home Rule. Large and costly buildings are springing up in every direction and being fitted up for almost every trade. In hotels there is a great change for the better, as in several of them notably Messrs Wright, Moss, and Oliver, the accommodation is almost equal to any on Gulgong; so visitors need not fear that they will suffer hunger or thirst.”

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Charles Bayliss. 'Tent city, Home Rule' 1872

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Charles Bayliss
Tent city, Home Rule
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 3/No. 18285

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In the early days of gold rushes, miners usually lived in tents. Here tentmaker J. Booth has confidently set up his canvas shop in Home Rule. The burgeoning new field was described in the Sydney Morning Herald 22 May 1872, “On Friday last there must have been fully fifteen hundred persons upon the ground, and tents and habitations of every description were springing, apparently Iike mushrooms, from the ground, and such is the rapidity with which a gold-fields town is formed, I shall not be surprised to see the place well supplied with stores, and, of course, hotels, when I again visit the place about a fortnight hence.”

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Charles Bayliss. 'John Davey, baker' 1872

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Charles Bayliss
John Davey, baker
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 3/No. 18384

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With his shoes covered in flour, John Davey steps outside his bakery in the main street of Canadian Lead. Bread cost 6d a 2lb [5 cents per 900g] loaf. The woman and children to the right also appear outside Ruth Beck’s North Star Hotel, three doors away. The rush to Canadian Lead began in early 1872 and the Maitland Mercury 6 April 1872 was able to state “the Canadian Lead, where a month ago some four hundred people were, can now boast of a couple of thousands…” Not everyone was law-abiding. The Maitland Mercury 24 August 1872 related the story of Mrs Beck dropping a purse containing £21 [$42, worth about $2000 today], which was picked up by her little boy, but taken from him by two men claiming that it was theirs. The miscreants were arrested in Mudgee two days later, drinking the profits.

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Charles Bayliss. 'John Davey, baker' 1872 (detail)

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Charles Bayliss
John Davey, baker (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 3/No. 18384

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Beaufoy Merlin. 'Circular Quay from Dawes Battery' 1873

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Beaufoy Merlin
Circular Quay from Dawes Battery
1873
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 58/No. 285

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In mid 1873, Beaufoy Merlin returned to Sydney to continue photographing the city for Holtermann. The Sydney Morning Herald 2 August 1873 noted, “Mr. Beaufoy Merlin has taken a considerable number of photographic views of Sydney for the first section of ‘Holtermann’s Intercolonial Exposition.'” This image from Dawes Battery, past Campbell’s Wharf to Circular Quay can be dated to early September 1873, as the Haddon Hall (r) from London, is loading for San Francisco at Campbell’s wharf. Behind it is Aviemore and the ship in background in front of Customs House is La Hogue. Both Aviemore and La Hogue left for London on 13 September 1873.

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Charles Bayliss [American & Australasian Photographic Company]. 'Pall Mall, Bendigo' 1874

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Charles Bayliss [American & Australasian Photographic Company]
Pall Mall, Bendigo
1874
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 78/No. 2

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After the death of Beaufoy Merlin in 1873, Bernhardt Holtermann engaged Merlin’s assistant, 24 year-old Charles Bayliss, to continue taking photographs for his planned Exposition. This view of Pall Mall from Hadley’s City Family Hotel, Sandhurst [Bendigo, Victoria] was taken in April 1874. Bayliss photographed the town using the Exposition’s standard 10 x 12 inch [25 x 30cm] glass negatives, but for this image used a mammoth camera specially imported by Holtermann which took glass plates measuring 18 x 22 inches [46 x 56cm]. Bayliss also photographed Ballarat in June 1874, using the mammoth camera to produce a panorama from the town hall clock tower.

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State Library of New South Wales
Macquarie Street, Sydney
NSW 2000 Australia
T: +61 2 9273 1414

Opening hours:
Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm
Saturday – Sunday 10am – 5pm

The Greatest Wonder of the World website

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06
May
12

Review: ‘Jane Brown / Australian Gothic’ at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 25th April – 12th May 2012

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As you should know by now, this blog tries to promote the work of less well known artists and subject matter. So instead of concentrating on the wonderful aerial bushfire photographs of the well-known artist John Gollings (showing in the same gallery in different spaces with the work of Michael Norton) I have decided to do a posting on the exhibition Australian Gothic by Jane Brown.

This is a good exhibition of small, darkly hewn, traditionally printed silver gelatin photographs, beautifully hung in the small gallery at Edmund Pearce and lit in the requisite, ambient manner. There are some outstanding photographs in the exhibition. The strongest works are the surrealist tinged, film noir-ish mise-en-scènes, the ones that emphasise the metaphorical darkness of the elements gathered upon the stage. Photographs such as Big TroutThe Female Factory, Adelong, New South Wales and Captain’s Flat Hotel, New South Wales really invoke a feeling of unhomely (or unheimlich), where nature is out of kilter. These images unsettle our idea of Oztraliana, our perceived sense of Self and our place in the world. They disrupt normal transmission; they transmutate the seen environment, transforming appearance, nature and form. Less successful in this quest are the bushfire landscapes. I feel these add little to the narrative thread of the exhibition and could have easily been left out in a judicious cull of the photographs. This would have made the overarching story line stronger still.

One of the best photographs in the exhibition is Lathamstowe (2011, below). This dark, brooding, intense photograph is a beautifully realised visualisation, one that balances scale, tone, light, form and darkness to create a haunting image that stays with you a long time after you have seen it. This one images says it all: the artist has talent. More please!

Many thankx to Edmund Pearce Gallery 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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Jane Brown
Big Trout, New South Wales
2010
Museo silver rag print
59 x 46 cm

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Jane Brown
Bushfire Landscape I
2011
Fibre based, silver gelatin print
16.5 x 20.5 cm

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Jane Brown
Bushfire Landscape II, Lake Mountain, Victoria
2010
Fibre based, silver gelatin print
16.5 x 19.5 cm

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Jane Brown
The Female Factory (convict women’s prison), Ross, Tasmania
2009
Fibre based, silver gelatin print
15.8 x 19.5 cm

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Jane Brown
Lathamstowe
2011
Fibre based, silver gelatin print
16.5 x 16.5 cm

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“I find it interesting how monochrome is used to differentiate the living and the dead, the past and the present. It has an ability to transcend the constraints of time, memory and death. I examine this a lot in my work – landscapes seem to have vestiges or traces of past life and memorials become otherworldly.”

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Jane Brown. Weekend Australian Review, August 2011

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“The antipodes was seen as a world of reversals, the dark subconscious of Britain. It was for all intents and purposes Gothic par excellence.”

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Gary Turcotte. “Australian Gothic,” in Marie Mulvey-Roberts (ed.), The Handbook to Gothic Literature. 1998.

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Comprising photographs taken in rural New South Wales, the ACT, Victoria and Tasmania, this exhibition takes its cue from the gothic imaginings of colonial Australia. We see images of a convict past, the bush Christmas, unforgiving landscapes and melancholic hotels. It carries echoes of the cinema of Wake in Fright (1971) and the Cars that Ate Paris (1974)Rendering visible the themes of the melancholic and the uncanny, Australian Gothic manifests itself in rural isolation – where the homely becomes unhomely (or unheimlich) and where nature is out of kilter.

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Jane Brown
Adelong, New South Wales
2011
Fibre based, silver gelatin print
16.5 x 20.5 cm

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Jane Brown
Tumbarumba, New South Wales
2012
Fibre based, silver gelatin print
16.5 x 19.5 cm

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Jane Brown
One Way, Hobart, Tasmania
2009
Fibre based, silver gelatin print
16.5 x 19.5 cm

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Jane Brown
Unheimlich, French Island, Victoria
2010
Fibre based, silver gelatin print
19 x 16 cm

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Jane Brown
Captain’s Flat Hotel, New South Wales
2012
Fibre based, silver gelatin print
21.5 x 17.5 cm

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Edmund Pearce Gallery
Level 2, Nicholas Building
37 Swanston Street (corner Flinders Lane)
Melbourne Victoria 3000

Opening hours:
Wed – Sat 11 – 5

Edmund Pearce Gallery website

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16
Feb
12

Exhibition: ‘The Prints of Martin Lewis: From the Collection of Dr. Dorrance Kelly’ at the Bruce Museum, Greenwich, CT

Exhibition dates: 2nd October 2011  – 26th February 2012

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One of the great pleasures of presenting this blog is introducing myself and my readers to forgotten artists. Here we have a dazzling Australian artist who died largely forgotten, especially, it seems, in his native country. He does not deserve this fate!

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How many works does the National Gallery of Australia hold in its collection?

6

Count them … 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

(and none displayed online)

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AGNSW 5, NGV 0

(and none displayed online)

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Tell me, is there something wrong with this picture?

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Many thankx to the Bruce Museum for allowing me to publish the images in the posting. Please click on the images for a larger version.

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Martin Lewis (1881-1962) was born in Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia on June 7, 1881. He was the second of eight children and had a passion for drawing. At the age of 15, he left home and traveled in New South Wales, Australia, and in New Zealand, working as a pothole digger and a merchant seaman. He returned to Sydney and settled into a Bohemian community outside Sydney. Two of his drawings were published in the radical Sydney newspaper, The Bulletin. He studied with Julian Ashton at the Art Society’s School in Sydney. Ashton, a famous painter, was also one of the first Australian artists to take up printmaking.

In 1900, Lewis left Australia for the United States. His first job was in San Francisco, painting stage decorations for William McKinley’s presidential campaign of 1900. By 1909, Lewis was living in New York, where he found work in commercial illustration. His earliest known etching is dated 1915. However, the level of skill in this piece suggests he had been working in the medium for some time previously. It was during this period that he helped Edward Hopper learn the basics of etching. In 1920, after the break up of a romance, Lewis traveled to Japan, where for two years he drew and painted and studied Japanese art. The influence of Japanese prints is very evident in Lewis’s prints after that period. In 1925, he returned to etching and produced most of his well-known works between 1925 and 1935 Lewis’s first solo exhibition in 1929 was successful enough for him to give up commercial work and concentrate entirely on printmaking. Lewis is most famous for his black and white prints, mostly of night scenes of non tourist, real life street scenes of New York City. During the Depression, however, he was forced to leave the city for four years between 1932 and 1936 and move to Connecticut. When Lewis was able to return to the New York City in 1936, there was no longer a market interested in his work. He died largely forgotten.”

Wikipedia entry for the artist

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Glow of the City
1929 
Drypoint, 11 ¼ x 14 ¼ in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Late Traveler
1949 
Drypoint, 9 7/8 x 11 7/8 in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Fifth Ave Bridge
1928
Drypoint , 9 7/8 x 12 in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Grandpa Takes a Walk
1935 
Drypoint and sand ground, 8 7/8 x 11 ¾ in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Quarter of Nine, Saturday’s Children
1929 
Drypoint, 9 7/8 x 12 7/8 in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Shadow Dance
1930 
Drypoint and sandpaper ground, 9 ½ x 10 7/8 in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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“The Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, presents the new exhibition The Prints of Martin Lewis: From the Collection of Dr. Dorrance Kelly from October 2, 2011, through February 19, 2012. Recognized as one of the premier American printmakers of the first half of the 20th-century, Martin Lewis (1881-1962) left an indelible mark on the landscape of the art world. Although not as publicly well known as some of his contemporaries such as Edward Hopper, Lewis was a highly skilled printer who was greatly involved in the artistic scene of New York City during the 1920s and ’30s. This exhibition features more than thirty etchings and several canceled plates by the artist from the private collection of Dr. Dorrance Kelly of West Redding, Connecticut.

The exhibition The Prints of Martin Lewis: From the Collection of Dr. Dorrance Kelly provides a brief biographical account of Lewis and showcases some of the artist’s best technical prints. Lewis was an acknowledged master of the intaglio techniques of printmaking, experimenting with multiple processes including etching, aquatint, engraving, mezzotint, and dry point.

In 1915 he produced his first documented etching, Smoke Pillar, Weehawken. Images like this one documented the scenes of everyday life as they played out in the thriving metropolis around New York City. Lewis portrayed all aspects of city life including dockworkers, skyscrapers, tugboats, and pedestrians – mostly the ladies. He produced magnificent prints that captured the energy, bustle, and occasional solitude of New York. With his move to Connecticut in 1932, Lewis investigated another topic through his printmaking: country life. This firmly entrenched Lewis as a prominent American scene artist, as his prints captured the intersection between the urban and rural environments and shed light on the slowly emerging suburban culture.”

Press release from the Bruce Museum website

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Windy Day
1932 
Drypoint, 9 7/8 x 12 in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Politics
1936 
Drypoint and sand ground, 9 ¾ x 10 5/8 in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Little Penthouse
1931 
Drypoint, 9 7/8 x 6 ¾ in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Bay Windows
1929 
Drypoint and sandpaper ground, 11 ¾ x 7 7/8 in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Chance Meeting
1940-41 
Drypoint, 10 ½ x 7 ½ in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Relics (Speakeasy Corner)
1928 
Drypoint, 11 7/8 x 9 7/8 in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Snow on the “El”
1931 
Drypoint and sand ground, 14 x 9 in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT
T: 203.869.0376

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday 1 pm – 5 pm
Closed Mondays

Bruce Museum website

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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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21
May
11

Review: McClelland Sculpture Survey & Award 2010 at McClelland Gallery & Sculpture Park, Langwarrin, Victoria

Survey dates: 21 November 2010 – 17 July 2011

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“[Massumi] posits ‘a physiology of perception’ in which he analyses sensory forms of knowledge as being driven by affect. Massumi understands affect as a moment of confrontation in which there are many possibilities, a moment embedded with potential responses, reactions and directions which is characterised by a sense of openness … narratives produced through affect are the result of the tensions and interplays between form and content or space and objects and the viewer.”

Kate Gregory and Andrea Witcomb 1

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Meandering around the trails of the McClelland Sculpture Park is a wonderful experience; the meandering provides the suspense and excitement of a treasure hunt. Unfortunately, viewing most of the sculptures of the McCelland Sculpture Survey Award 2010 that are the prize of such a treasure hunt left me a little disappointed. I had little feeling for most of the sculptures dotted around the landscape. As conceptual ideas I understood their rationale but most left me cold and emotionally unengaged – they had little affect upon me.

Embodied forms of knowledge production apprehended by the senses, such as affect, produce new forms of understanding. Emotional responses open up possibilities for interpretation. In this sense, affect is important for the maintenance and production of memory as well as social and cultural understanding. For the historian Dipesh Chakrabarty, it is the subjective, felt response that is the most relevant for contemporary forms of political, social and cultural engagement – how emotional responses open up possibilities for interpretation.2

“Narratives produced through affect are the result of the tensions and interplays between form and content or space and objects and the viewer.” I felt little of that tension and interplay when viewing most of these works.

While understanding that, for an award of this nature, the work has to be self-contained, has to sit in a particular environment that the artist has only a general idea of (not a particular position) when proposing the work – on the evidence of this survey it would seem that contemporary Australian sculpture tends towards one shot statements that lack nuance and layering in composition and meaning. An understanding of how the work inhabits space and the aura that the work projects is notably absent from most of the works. Most are exercises in design rather than aesthetically pleasing artworks, the design aspect of making art works for these competitions having taken over from making work that has an emotional connection to the viewer and relevance to the world in which we live. As evidence see the photographs below and those on the 2010 Finalists web page and note how many are seemingly masculine, square/ oblong/ totemic/ monolithic structures, compositions that assume the viewer cannot decipher sensual, layered narratives that are revealed over time, through space. There is little music and pleasure to be had here!

Notable exceptions include the primordial, reflective eggs of Matthew Harding (Primordial, 2010, below); the wonderfully tactile, sensual, stitched bronze dogs of Caroline Rothwell (Tygers I, II, III, 2010, below); and the incongruously placed, limpid, distorted, rusting Holden HQ Kingswood Station Wagon by Jason Waterhouse (Glory Days, 2010, below) covered in pine needles that delighted, surprised and made me feel something (about the work, myself and the world we inhabit). This was my winner, hands down. The most unedifying experience of the afternoon was walking under the black table of the winner, Louise Paramor’s Top shelf (2010; see 2010 Finalists web page, row 5, fourth from left). While the “brilliant assemblage” looks acceptable from a distance, “the oversized table acts as an altar upon which the saccharine paraphernalia of a modern, disposable age sit as objects that have been elevated for aesthetic contemplation,”3 the underside through which the viewer walks was the most emotionally dead space I have had to endure when viewing contemporary art over the past few years.

Gregory and Witcomb observe, “sculpture gives shape to emptiness, to space, as much as to material form.” The space to produce new forms of understanding that offer the viewer fresh perspectives, that allow the viewer to have a openness and receptiveness to the sensuality of the work and it’s placement in and relationship to, the world. The space to breathe, to touch, to explore, to be excited, to create and bring forth memory, to bear witness to the engagement with our senses. We are the product of numerous interactions with our environment; this survey, rather than leaving me feeling uplifted and informed through these interactions, left me feeling rather dead and deflated.

In this sense I loved the landscape but I didn’t feel most of the art.

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All photographs © Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.
For photographs of all sculptures please see the McClelland Sculpture Survey & Award 2010 Finalists web page.

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Adrian Mauriks
‘Strange fruit’
2010
Epoxy resin, steel, paint

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Alexander Knox
‘The mill’
2010
Galvanised steel, paint, timber

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Caroline Rothwell
‘Tygers I, II, III’
2010
Bronze

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Chaco Kato
‘A white nest: 2010’
2010
Yarn, steel pegs

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Colin Suggett
‘National Anxiety Index’
2010
Steel, aluminium, fibreglass, paint, plastic

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Daniel Clemmett
‘Development’
2010
Recycled steel

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Dean Colls
‘Alexander the Great’
2010
Corten steel

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Greg Johns
‘To the centre II’
2007
Corten steel

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James Parrett
‘M-fifteen’
2010
Stainless steel

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Jason Waterhouse
‘Glory days’
2010
1972 Holden HQ Kingswood Station Wagon, acrylic filler, steel, paint

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John Eiseman
‘Watching and waiting’
2010
Bronze

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Jud Wimhurst
‘A moment of media-tation’
2010
Wood, plywood, acrylic lacquers, 2 pac paint, mirror, polycarbonate, polyurethane resin, polyester resin, epoxy resin, fibreglass, acrylic fresnel lenses

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Matt Calvert
‘Night imp’
2010
Aluminium, toughened glass

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Matthew Harding
‘Primordial’
2010
Mirror polished stainless steel

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Robbie Rowlands
‘Fell for silo’
2010
Felled pine tree, decommissioned steel grain silo

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William Eicholtz
‘At the altar of Terspichore’
2010
Polymer cement, synthetic glaze

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1. Gregory, K. and Witcomb, A. “Beyond Nostalgia: the Role of Affect in Generating Historical Understanding at Heritage Sites,” in, Knell, S.J., Macleod, S. and Watson, S. (eds). Museum Revolutions: How Museums Change and are Changed. New York: Routledge, 2007, pp.264-265.

2. Ibid., p.263.

3. Lindsay, Robert. Art and Nature/Nature and Art. [Online] Cited 15/05/2011. www.mcclellandgallery.com/pdfs/Art%20and%20Nature%20Nature%20and%20Art%20-%20Robert%20Lindsay.pdf

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McClelland Gallery & Sculpture Park
390 McClelland Drive
Langwarrin, Victoria
3910 Australia

Opening hours:
Tues to Sun : 10am – 5pm
Closed on Mondays and
some Public Holidays

McClelland Gallery & Sculpture Park website




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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