Posts Tagged ‘Victorian College of the Arts

02
Aug
14

Catalogue essay: ‘Aspects of the Self (Revealed)’ by Dr Marcus Bunyan for the exhibition ‘Hidden Talents’ at the Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (MCM), The University of Melbourne, Australia

Exhibition dates: TBC

 

This is the catalogue essay for the exhibition Hidden Talents, an exhibition of the hidden talents of professional staff at the Faculty of the VCA & MCM, The University of Melbourne, Australia. The exhibition has been postponed until a later date but I did not want the catalogue essay to metaphorically sit under the bed with no one reading it.

The essay was written without seeing any of the art work for the exhibition (which is going to consist of knitting, performance, video, sculpture, painting, etc…). I have used my imagination to write about the subject matter, asking why it is important to reveal hidden aspects of the self.

Curator Tracey Claire observes, “Practicing artists are as likely to be found behind a desk as in front of a class at the VCA & MCM… Be it dancing, cycling, sailing, knitting, painting, writing, film making or performing, all the individuals in this exhibition are creative artists thriving in a melting hot pot of creativity… Professional staff tend to go about their business quietly, excelling in the dark arts of spreadsheet wizardry and effortless administration but in their private lives, conjuring mysterious creations. Toiling endlessly in the hours beyond their professional lives, yet inspired and nurtured by precisely this environment, they distill these experiences and produce magic.

This catalogue essay examines the significance of these activities and is accompanied by 5 of the very first black and white images that I ever took, long before I ever started studying photography in 1989.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

Keywords

Hidden Talents, The Self, Aspects of the Self, self-expression, image man, essence man, actual self, networked society, perfomative self, citational self, cosmopolitanism, hybridity, visibility, bricolage, Goethe, hybrid identities, identity formation, self actualisation, social transparency, The University of Melbourne, Australia, Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, VCA.

 

Download the Aspects of the Self (Revealed) catalogue essay (2.6Mb pdf). Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Zen' 1984

 

Marcus Bunyan
Zen
1984
From the series First experiments
Silver gelatin print
© Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Aspects of the Self (Revealed)

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

“In our era of internet ubiquity, the line that separates our selves from the media with which we self-express has dissolved, and the distinction between medium and maker is confused. As we publicise our private stories, and perpetually alter, rebrand, and repaint ourselves to the world, performances of self are status quo and everyone is an artist.”

.
Josephine Skinner 1

 

.
We are all performance artists. And this text is a performance piece, an aspect of myself as I choose to express it in this place and time. An aspect – appearance, look, character, view, interpretation, phase, countenance2 – which, like the word itself, is both stable and fluid, and will change at any time: perhaps even now; or in the future.

Having noted the amorphous nature of the wor(l)d, what I will do in this performance is examine the truths and separate them from the platitudes of Josephine Skinner’s quotation in order to understand not only that the private be made public but also why the hidden should be revealed. Of course, our sense of self changes when the private becomes open, public and possibly universal. I will ask why this is important and how it affects our sense of connection to other human beings. To do this I will examine my own private story, not to rebrand or repaint myself to the world, far from it, but because every life path has important lessons for us all.

In the beginning, I grew up on a farm. My parents were impoverished. It was subsistence living and we were the working poor. We had no running hot water and my mother used to have to boil water on a stove and fill a bathtub on the kitchen floor so that we could be cleaned. We ate what my abusive father shot and took the violence that he dished out. I used to explore the remote reaches of the land, out behind the pond at the front of the farmhouse and up the cart path into the forests, creating fantasy worlds to escape what was going on at home. There, fantasies became a form of escapism, for my imagination, for action,3 a place where I could create new worlds of magic, light and freedom.

My mother was a piano teacher and my father was a part-time singer. I started to study piano at the age of 5 years old under my mother’s tutelage. I had a natural gift and became a child prodigy, the youngest person at that time to attain a distinction in Associated Board Grade 8 examination, at age 11. I was sent to boarding school on a music scholarship at the age of 12, leaving all my school friends behind. There, in that upper class boarding school, I was ostracised because they found out I was gay (just as I was discovering it myself), and because I was a music scholar. My parent’s adage to life was what I would come to call Protestant work ethic: ‘you never work hard enough, you’ll never be good enough, you’ll never make anything of yourself.” This damnation has stuck with me and I have struggled against its prophecy, working hard to make something of myself, something I can be proud of. Even now my mother (I don’t see my father) still fails to recognise my achievements, my life path.

So I was abused at home and bullied at school. At boarding school I developed what I was told was depression but which was actually bipolar disorder, undiagnosed until I was in my forties. At the age of 16, I was one of the youngest people to go to the Royal Academy of Music and at 17 I went to the Royal College of Music full time. I moved away from home, which was a blessing, and started living on my own. It was a tough initiation into adult life but I was determined not to be dependent on anyone else. My parents finally divorced when I was 18 and, at the same age, the stress of my hidden sexuality leading me to have a nervous breakdown. After nearly a year recovering I came out as a gay man. I graduated with my degree at 21 and gave up being a concert pianist the same year. The time to start living my own life had begun.

I worked in pubs around London for years. I hated classical music (a rejection of the past) and was really into the funk scene. I was a dilettante, a person without real commitment or knowledge. Not once did I ever think of myself as intelligent or creative, it just wasn’t in my vocabulary. I enjoyed partying, holidays, friends and motor racing and started taking a few photographs. That was it until I was about 28 when I returned to Year 12 and university to study, study, study, to read Carlos Castaneda, Robert Johnson and Joseph Campbell, to devour Borges, Jung and Foucault – not the usual university curriculum for an artist, but I was searching for a spiritual way in life. These authors offered wisdom and learning, and a network to other authors and artists investigating similar subject matter. The start of a path had been found and an inquiring mind slowly emerged. I tell you all of this simply as a statement of fact – this was my beginning, this is what I went through, and this journey and learning informs my being and relation to other people and to the world.

Today, we need to understand our own paradigm of sharing, what we are prepared to reveal of ourselves now that we live in a networked society. In a networked society the private and the public self are no longer two endpoints of a linear dichotomy for the boundaries have well and truly been breached: mobile technologies, computers and social media bring the outside world into our home and we willingly promote our point of view to others. Our interior thoughts are advertised through our exterior relations and appearance – on videos, on mobile phones, through millions of images and informational flows that surround us everyday. Our performative self, our citational self constantly performs and citationally quotes our relations of our self to others through different nodal points, or contexts of connection. But our interiority is still different from our exteriority, even as we perform the self.

Yet, while it is correct that in our era of internet ubiquity, the line that separates our selves from the media with which we self-express has dissolved – we are still not yet fully immersed in this system. Critically, we still have a choice about what we reveal of ourselves to others. My degree as a concert pianist may appear at the bottom of my CV, and I may not tell many people about it, but how I imagine my art, how I write my words and my worlds, is inherently related to the line and ‘magic’ of music. How I relate to other people is based on my core values (strong moral code, loyalty, love of helping people) developed during childhood, core values that have remained stable but whose context may have changed over the journey from youth to adulthood. And because of our class (our position in the world and our contexts), we inhabit the privilege of that disclosure. In this moment, we can still prioritise what other people know of us. What we should not do is divest this choice from our whole selves, partitioning ourselves off in different contexts. We cannot act within our core values in one situation and not in another – unless we want to deceive ourselves and those around us – AND YET WE DO!

While our fundamental values remain consistent (the actual self) what is rapidly changing is the environment in which our social self operates.4 As Sally Shaw notes, “We are experiencing an important cultural moment: the next generation will not be able to recall a time without smartphones, the internet or other enhanced means of communication.”5 Globalised mass media, technological advances in communications, future generations’ normalising of the constant barrage of information and the endless pursuit of “stuff”6 (materialism gone mad) means that “image man” takes precedence over “essence man.”7 But all is not lost if we are prepared to be open to possibilities, to be brave in our choice of engagement with others, and be accepting in our attitude and perspective on life. As the artist Bill Henson observes, “Of course, we live with each other and get along using “civilisational logic” – go at a green light, stop at a red light. But there is a deeper logic – no less exacting or emphatic.”8

This deeper logic, a logic that opens up spaces of inquiry, has links to creative, moderate cosmopolitanism,9 hybridity,10 bricolage and visibility. It is how creativity is changing how our talents are recognised by our friendship networks, our work colleagues or students, without having to justify or hide their existence. It is how the networked personality extends along a horizontal consciousness (not a vertical hierarchy), in which interior/exterior, self/other, is re/formed. Through respect, authenticity (and not anxiety about it!) and openness, we can embed the self into naturalised flows of increasingly open (media) systems. We have a new freedom to construct social relations across time and space for the horizon of social relationship – my body, the social body, the actual self – can become open constellations. Here there is fluidity in identity representation in which stable dimensions, persistent appearances and secure meanings are disavowed. This is coupled, however, with a paradoxical insecurity of those in power, evidenced by the proliferation of borders, walls, security cameras and protected areas.11

This new process of self actualisation enables a creative context, the context for understanding creativity, intelligence, self and what you bring to an encounter, what you are prepared to reveal of your self during that encounter – whether it be baking cakes, knitting scarves, making a video, documenting the self or creating, as I did in my childhood and still do in my art, imaginative worlds to express inner self. Through the lived practice of social transformation we, as social actors, have to rethink our hybrid identities and the function of our imagination as a world-making process.12 This process is about the exposure of the hidden; it is about social transparency; and it is about the emergence of something new.13

Finally, we can say it is neither about the roles we play nor the destination that many seek, but it is about the journey that we take and about rejoicing in that journey. It’s about the moment before ecstasy, the anticipation: of company, of environment, of friends, places, being human, that joy of being human. It’s an inquiring instability that leads, as in Beethoven, to the resolution of stability, a love of the human being and our existence. It’s about understanding the personality and possibility of being.
Instead of the byte sized tweet (in which we understand everything, in an instant), we understand our hybrid being only by moving mentally and physically through heterogenous spaces via flows, nodes and lexias, accessing different perspectives and viewpoints. If we are attentive and aware of these viewpoints, we can open up lines of inquiry and access spaces of plurality which may allow us to be better informed as to the value of self and others. Through an understanding of difference. Through an understanding of the obligation of all human beings to each other.

This challenge to established rhythms, institutions and boundaries – the polity of the state, the indifference of the masses, and the speed of informational flows – can be accomplished by both stepping back and contemplating but also by moving forward and engaging in acts of informed choice, thinking, believing, and relating to other people. This is where I disagree with Josephine Skinner’s quote at the beginning of this aspect of myself: performances of self should never become just so, status quo – for we must not be afraid to reveal aspects of our self and expose the hidden to light. In the day-to-day world, the roles we play and the masks we wear must never come to define who we really are. As Lou Benson observes, “If people begin to see their roles as their true selves and deny thoughts and feelings that are really present, they become estranged from themselves.”14

By not being secret but secreting wisdom and seeking creation we may ultimately find better paths through life. This journey is about being extra/ordinary, however that may be. It is about the ‘making present’ of our imagination in the moment we are in, being consciously aware of that moment, being happy in that moment without ego. It’s about what you do and who you are, not cowering behind the bulkheads.

.
“O God, how the world and heaven shrink together when our heart cowers in its barriers.”

.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

 

© Dr Marcus Bunyan
August 2014

Word count: 2,164

 

first-experiments-b

 

Marcus Bunyan
Brighton Pier (horizontal)
1984 From the series First experiments
Silver gelatin print
© Marcus Bunyan

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Craig in his Docs' 1984

 

Marcus Bunyan
Craig in his Docs
1984
From the series First experiments
Silver gelatin print
© Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Endnotes

1. Skinner, Josephine. “Totally Looks Like.” Exhibition catalogue. Stills Gallery, Sydney, June 2014.

2. as·pect [as-pekt]
noun

  • Appearance to the eye or mind; look: the physical aspect of the country.
  • Nature; quality; character: the superficial aspect of the situation.
  • A way in which a thing may be viewed or regarded; interpretation; view: both aspects of a decision.
  • Part; feature; phase: That is the aspect of the problem that interests me most.
  • Facial expression; countenance: He wore an aspect of gloom. Hers was an aspect of happy optimism.

Aspect as defined on the Dictionary.com website [Online] Cited 22/06/2014 http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/aspect

3. “The ubiquity of images and the constant enhancement of the modes for public participation have not only disrupted the conventional division between the agency of the artist and collective authorship but also underscore the necessity to rethink the function of the imagination as world-making process. Arjun Appadurai stated it most succinctly: ‘the imagination is today a staging ground for action, and not only escape’.”

Appadurai, Arjun. Modernity at Large. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996, p. 7 quoted in Papastergiadis, Nikos. Cosmopolitanism and Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012, p. 95.

4. “A natural extension of social comparison theory is the development of the self-concept. Self-concept is a person’s perceptions and perceptual organization of his/her own characteristics, roles, abilities and appearance. One’s self-concept is based in part on how one compares to other individuals with regards to traits, opinions and abilities … Self concept can have a number of dimensions which evolve from social comparisons and evaluations. The self-concept consists of:

  • the actual self (how a person perceives him/herself),
  • the ideal self (how a person would like to perceive him/herself), and
  • the social self (how a person presents him/herself to others).

Sproles, George and Burns, Leslie Davis. Changing Appearances: Understanding Dress in Contemporary Society. New York: Fairchild Publications, 1994, pp. 208-209.

5. Shaw, Sally quoted in Beesley, Ruby. “Challenging Normality,” in Aesthetica, Issue 59, June/July 2014, p. 52.

6. Ibid.,

7. “Essence man approaches life from the standpoint of being who he is without concern for the way he is perceived by others. Image man, on the other hand, focuses on what he wishes to appear to be. In reality, Buber admits, we are all a combination of both. But the tendency is to develop a life-style that is dominated by one pole of this duality.”

Benson, Lou. Images, Heroes and Self-Perceptions. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1974, pp. 26-29.

8. Henson, Bill. “Unfinished Symphony,” in the Weekend Australian Review, June 14-15, 2014, p. 5.

9. “The more moderate [cosmopolitan] alternative “is to say that, in addition one to one’s relationships and affiliations with particular individuals and groups, one also stands in an ethically significant relation to other human beings in general” … This second approach starts with rights rather than obligations, and holds that wherever people are joined in significant social relations they have a collective right to share in control of these.”

Calhoun, Craig. “‘Belonging’ in the cosmopolitan imaginary,” in Ethnicities, 3 (4), 2003, pp. 531-553.

10. “At the first level, hybridity refers to the visible effects of difference within identity as a consequence of the incorporation of foreign elements… Recognition of the second level refers to the process by which cultural differences are either naturalized or neutralized within the body of the host culture… The third level of hybridity is linked to aesthetic processes and can be thematized through the early modernist techniques of juxtaposition, collage, montage and bricolage.”

Papastergiadis, Op. cit., p. 117.

11. For these ideas I am indebted to the “Introduction: The Uncanny Home,” in McQuire, Scott. The Media City: Media, Architecture and Urban Space. London: Sage Publications, 2008, pp. 22-24.

12. Papastergiadis, Op. cit., p. 95.

13. “Hybridity refers not only to the ambivalent consequences of mixture but also to the shift in the mode of consciousness. By mixing thing that were previously kept apart there is both a stimulus for the emergence of something new and a shift in position that can offer a perspective for seeing newness as it emerges.”

Papastergiadis, Op. cit., p. 131.

14. “This is not to say that it is possible or even desirable to try to live in the day-to-day world without playing certain roles and wearing certain masks. Societies function through the role play of their inhabitants. But if people begin to see their roles as their true selves and deny thoughts and feelings that are really present, they become estranged from themselves.”

Benson, Lou. Images, Heroes and Self-Perceptions. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1974, pp. 26-29.

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Craig with halo' 1984

 

Marcus Bunyan
Craig with halo
1984
From the series First experiments
Silver gelatin print
© Marcus Bunyan

 

first-experiments-a1

 

Marcus Bunyan
Brighton Pier (vertical)
1984 From the series First experiments
Silver gelatin print
© Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Hidden Talents website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

03
Oct
10

Review: ‘John Davis: Presence’ at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 6th August – 24th October 2010

.

Many thanxk to Alison Murray, Jemma Altmeier and The National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. There is also another John Davis exhibition in Melbourne at the moment at Arc One Gallery until 16th October 2010

.

“In reality, I make one work over my life, so that when it’s all finished, there are a number of parts or contributions to an overall piece, each linking to another in some way.”

John Davis, 1989

.

.

.

John Davis
Australia 1936–99
Journey extended
1982
wood, twigs, calico, bituminous paint, paper, adhesive, cotton thread
(a-b) 35.0 x 60.0 x 610.0 cm (installation)
Private collection, Melbourne
© Penelope Davis & Martin Davis. Administered by VISCOPY, Australia

.

.

John Davis
Australia 1936–99
Collection 128
1996
twigs, cotton thread, calico
107.0 x 65.0 x 13.0 cm
Private collection, Melbourne
© Penelope Davis & Martin Davis. Administered by VISCOPY, Australia

.

.

John Davis
Australia 1936–99
(Spotted fish)
1989
twigs, cotton thread, calico, bituminous paint
55.0 x 145.0 x 30.0 cm
Private collection, Melbourne
© Penelope Davis & Martin Davis. Administered by VISCOPY, Australia

.

.

This is a superlative survey exhibition of the work of John Davis at NGV Australia, Melbourne.

In the mature work you can comment on the fish as ‘travellers’ or ‘nomads’, “a metaphor for people and the way we move around the world.” You can observe the caging, wrapping and bandaging of these fish as a metaphor for the hurt we humans impose on ourselves and the world around us. You can admire the craftsmanship and delicacy of the constructions, the use of found objects, thread, twigs, driftwood and calico and note the ironic use of bituminous paint in relation to the environment, “a sticky tar-like form of petroleum that is so thick and heavy,”1 of dark and brooding colour.

This is all well and true. But I have a feeling when looking at this work that here was a wise and old spirit, one who possessed knowledge and learning.

Since one of his last works was titled ‘Kōan’ (1999, see image below), a story “the meaning of which cannot be understood by rational thinking but may be accessible through intuition,”2 I would like to use a quotation from Carlos Castaneda and ‘The Teachings of Don Juan’ as an allegorical statement about the work and, more inclusively, about the human journey to knowledge and the attaining of a state of grace in one’s life.

Although I didn’t know John Davis I have a feeling from his work that he attained such a state. Stick with the quotation for it is through this journey that we relate to ourselves and world around us. The stuff of legend.

Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

.

.

“‘When a man starts to learn, he is never clear about his objectives. His purpose is faulty; his intent is vague. He hopes for rewards that will never materialize, for he knows nothing of the hardships of learning.

‘He slowly begins to learn – bit by bit at first, then in big chunks. And his thoughts soon clash. What he learns is never what he pictured, or imagined, and so he begins to be afraid. Learning is never what one expects. Every step of learning is a new task, and the fear the man is experiencing begins to mount mercilessly, unyieldingly. His purpose becomes a battlefield.

‘And thus he has stumbled upon the first of his natural enemies : Fear! A terrible enemy – treacherous, and difficult to overcome. It remains concealed at every turn of the way, prowling, waiting. And if the man, terrified in its presence, runs away, his enemy will have put an end to his quest.’

‘What will happen to the man if he runs away in fear?’

‘Nothing happens to him except that he will never learn. He will never become a man of knowledge. He will perhaps be a bully or a harmless, scared man; at any rate, he will be a defeated man. His first enemy will have put an end to his cravings.’

‘And what can he do to overcome fear?’

‘The answer is very simple. He must not run away. He must defy his fear, and in spite of it he must take the next step in learning, and the next, and the next. He must be fully afraid, and yet he must not stop. That is the rule! And a moment will come when his first enemy retreats. The man begins to feel sure of himself. His intent becomes stronger. Learning is no longer a terrifying task.

‘When this joyful moment comes, then he can say without hesitation that he has defeated his first natural enemy.’

‘Does it happen at once, don Juan, or little by little?’

‘It happens little by little, and yet the fear is vanquished suddenly and fast.’

‘But won’t the man be afraid again if something new happens to him?’

‘No. Once a man has vanquished fear, he is free from it for the rest of his life because, instead of fear, he has acquired clarity – a clarity of mind which erases fear. By then a man knows his desires; he knows how to satisfy those desires. He can anticipate the new steps of learning, and a sharp clarity surrounds everything. The man feels that nothing is concealed.

‘And thus he has encountered his second enemy : Clarity! That clarity of mind, which is so hard to obtain, dispels fear, but also blinds.

‘It forces the man never to doubt himself. It gives him the assurance he can do anything he pleases, for he sees clearly into everything. And he is courageous because he is clear, and he stops at nothing because he is clear. But all that is a mistake; it is like something incomplete. If the man yields o this make-believe power, he has succumbed to his second enemy and will fumble with learning. He will rush when he should be patient, or he will be patient when he should rush. And he will fumble with learning until he winds up incapable of learning anything more.’

‘What becomes of a man who is defeated in that way, don Juan? Does he die as a result?’

‘No, he doesn’t die. His second enemy has just stopped him cold from trying to become a man of knowledge; instead, the man may turn into a buoyant warrior, or a clown. Yet the clarity for which he has paid so dearly will never change to darkness and fear again. He will be clear as long as he lives, but he will no longer learn, or yearn for, anything.’

‘But what does he have to do to avoid being defeated?’

‘He must do what he did with fear : he must defy his clarity and use it only to see, and wait patiently and measure carefully before taking new steps; he must think, above all, that his clarity is almost a mistake. And a moment will come when he will understand that his clarity was only a point before his eyes, And thus he will have overcome his second enemy, and will arrive at a position where nothing can harm him any more. This will not be a mistake. It will not be only a point before his eyes. It will be true power.

‘He will know at this point that the power he has been pursuing for so long is finally his. He can do with it whatever he pleases. His ally is at his command. His wish is the rule. He sees all that is around him. But he has also come across his thirst enemy : Power!

‘Power is the strongest of all enemies, And naturally the easiest thing to do is to give in; after all, the man is truly invincible. He commands; he begins by taking calculated risks, and ends in making rules, because he is a master.

‘A man at this stage hardly notices his third enemy closing in on him. And suddenly, without knowing, he will certainly have lost the battle. His enemy will have turned him into a cruel, capricious man.’

‘Will he lose his power?’

‘No, he will never lose his clarity or his power.’

‘What then will distinguish him from a man of knowledge?’

‘A man who is defeated by power dies without really knowing how to handle it. Power is only a burden upon his fate. Such a man has no command over himself, and cannot tell when or how to use his power.’

‘Is the defeat by any of these enemies a final defeat?’

‘Of course it is final. Once one of these enemies overpowers a man there is nothing he can do.’

‘Is it possible, for instance, that the man who is defeated by power may see his error and mend his ways?’

‘No. Once a man gives in he is through.’

‘But what if he is temporarily blinded by power, and then refuses it?’

‘That means the battle is still on. That means he is still trying to become a man of knowledge. A man is defeated only when he no longer tries, and abandons himself.’

‘But then, don Juan, it is possible that a man may abandon himself to fear for years, but finally conquer it.’

‘No, that is not true. If he gives in to fear he will never conquer it, he will shy away from learning and never try again. But if he tries to learn for years in the midst of his fear, he will eventually conquer it because he will never have really abandoned himself to it.’

‘How can he defeat his third enemy, don Juan?’

‘He has to defy it, deliberately. He has to come to realize the power he has seemingly conquered is in reality never his. He must keep himself in line at all times, handling carefully and faithfully all that he has learned. If he can see that clarity and power, without his control over himself, are worse than mistakes, he will reach a point where everything is held in check. He will know then when and how to use his power. And thus he will have defeated his third enemy.

‘The man will be, by then, at the end of his journey of learning, and almost without warning he will come upon the last of his enemies : Old age! This enemy is the cruelest of all, the one he won’t be able to defeat completely, but only fight away.

‘This is the time when a man has no more fears, no more impatient clarity of mind – a time when all his power is in check, but also the time when he has an unyielding desire to rest. If he gives in totally to his desire to lie down and forget, if he soothes himself in tiredness, he will have lost his last round, and his enemy will cut him down into a feeble old creature. His desire to retreat will overrule all his clarity, his power, and his knowledge.

‘But if the man sloughs off his tiredness, and lives his fate through, he can then be called a man of knowledge, if only for a brief moment when he succeeds in fighting off his last, invincible enemy. That moment of clarity, power, and knowledge is enough.”

Carlos Castaneda. ‘The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge’3

.

.

John Davis
Australia 1936–99
You Yangs
1980
twigs, cotton thread, papier mâché, string, wood
196.0 x 90.0 x 30.0 cm
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Purchased, 1980. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation with funds from Dr W. R. Johnston
© Penelope Davis & Martin Davis. Administered by VISCOPY, Australia

.

.

John Davis
Australia 1936–99
Evolution of a fish: Traveller
1990
twigs, cotton thread, calico, bituminous paint
110.0 x 130.0 x 18.0 cm
Private collection, Melbourne
© Penelope Davis & Martin Davis. Administered by VISCOPY, Australia

.

.

John Davis
Australia 1936–99
Nomad (detail)
1998
twigs, cotton thread, calico, bituminous paint
(1-150) 163.0 x 1400.0 x 18.0 (variable) (installation)
Private collection, Melbourne
© Penelope Davis & Martin Davis. Administered by VISCOPY, Australia

.

.

“The National Gallery of Victoria has opened John Davis: Presence, celebrating the work of influential Australian artist, John Davis (1936-1999). The exhibition draws together over 40 works by the artist including sculpture, photography and installations.

David Hurlston, Curator, Australian Art, NGV, said this important survey charts Davis’s development as an artist, from his early works, produced during the 1960s, through to his critically acclaimed sculptures and installation works leading into the nineties.

“At the core of his practice, particularly evident in his late works, was an awareness of ecology and a sensitivity to the elemental forces of nature and the effect of human actions. Now, at a time when issues relating to the environment seem more pertinent than ever, Davis’s sculptures have even greater resonance.

“John Davis was a pioneering Australian artist who during his life achieved a critically acclaimed international reputation as a sculptor and installation artist. This important exhibition has a particular focus on the artist’s interest in found and fragile organic materials, and the powerful evocation of the landscape,” said Mr Hurlston.

A highlight of the exhibition is a series of works featuring fish. From the mid 1980s, Davis used fish in his work as a symbol for human movement and relationships with each other and the environment. Davis commonly referred to his fish as ‘nomads’ or ‘travellers’ and once described his works as ‘a metaphor for people and the way we move around the world; a statement for diversity’.

Frances Lindsay, Deputy Director, NGV said: “Davis’s mature works reflected his sensitivity to the landscapes that surrounded him. Visitors will be excited by the vision of this extraordinary artist as they explore his development from the early sixties through to his death in 1999. This exhibition is a special tribute to one of Australia’s great conceptual and environmentally aware artists.”

Born in Ballarat, Victoria, in 1936, John Davis studied at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. In 1972 Davis travelled to Europe and America before returning to Australia the following year to take up a position at Prahran College of Advanced Education. In subsequent years Davis was a senior faculty member at the Victorian College of the Arts and continued to travel widely and exhibit regularly in America, Japan and Australia.

John Davis was awarded a number of prizes, among them the 1970 Comalco Invitation Award for Sculpture and the Blake Prize for Religious Art in 1993. He participated in the inaugural Mildura Sculpture Triennial, and he represented Australia at the Venice Biennale in 1978.  Davis was also the first artist whose work was profiled in the NGV Survey series in 1978.”

Text from the National Gallery of Victoria website

.

.

John Davis
c.1992
Photo: Penelope Davis

.

.

John Davis
Australia 1936–99
Kōan (detail)
1999
twigs, cotton thread, calico, bituminous paint
(a-l) 20.0 x 430.0 x 1086.0 cm (variable) (installation)
Private collection, Melbourne
© Penelope Davis & Martin Davis. Administered by VISCOPY, Australia

.

.

John Davis
Australia 1936–99
River
1998
twigs, cotton thread, calico, bituminous paint
(a-l) 300.0 x 1070.0 x 90.0 cm (variable) (installation)
Private collection, Melbourne
© Penelope Davis & Martin Davis. Administered by VISCOPY, Australia

.

.

1. Anon. “Bitumen,” on Wikipedia [Online] Cited 02/10/2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitumen

2. Anon. “Kōan,” on Wikipedia [Online] Cited 02/10/2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kōan

3. Castaneda, Carlos. The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. London: Arkana Books, 1968, pp.84-87.

.

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Federation Square

Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

National Gallery of Victoria website

Bookmark and Share




Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

Join 2,214 other followers

Follow Art_Blart on Twitter
Art Blart on Pinterest

Lastest tweets

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.

November 2017
M T W T F S S
« Oct    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Archives

Categories