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exhibitions

abstraction, coastal, digital, exhibitions, rocks

photography and abstraction

December 21, 2018

I notice that  the Tate Modern has an exhibition entitled Shape of Light: 100 years of Photography and Abstract Art,   one whose art historical approach refers back to the Museum of Modern Art’s landmark photography exhibition, The Sense of Abstraction in 1960.   The Tate blurb states that this is the first major exhibition to explore the relationship between the photography and abstract art, spanning the century from the 1910s to the present day, and it includes some of the contemporary work by Antony Cairns, Maya Rochat and  Daisuke Yokota.

The Tate exhibition    basically re-inserts the history of photography into the well-writ narrative of art history to make a necessary point: – that photography merits serious consideration within the category of abstract art, and that the camera’s attraction to the shape of light rather than the shape of solid form as we perceive it, changed the way images of all kinds were composed. It also suggests that there has been  a fruitful dialogue between abstract painting (Miro, Riley, Braque, Mondrian, Pollock, Kandinsky)  and photography over the  last  hundred years.

This raises a question: has this kind of dialogue come to an end in the 21st century rather than being  continued?

King’s Head abstraction

The curators place the 20th century’s avant-garde’s  photographic experimentations (ie., abstraction) in the context of wider developments in art, with examples of cubism, abstract expressionism, Bauhaus and op art providing benchmarks.  The  curatorial argument  is that abstract photography  has evolved in step with painting and that there is  a shared history.  The relationship between painting and photography has  been a symbiotic one, a close mutualist relationship that has benefited both art forms.

An alternative interpretation is that  abstract photography  followed behind abstract painting,  in that abstract  painters influenced the way photographic artists understood image and  that the photos are the  monochrome equivalents of paintings.  This  interpretation  reinforces the culturally conservative position of the supremacy of painting. This conservative  interpretation  overlooks the way that both Rodchenko and Lazlo Moholy-Nagy challenged the supremacy of painting by refusing to see any medium as more important than another and by working in fields as diverse as film, graphic and theatre design, sculpture, painting and light shows. The common tendency in the Australian art institution is to adopt the conservative interpretation. Continue Reading…

architecture, digital, New Zealand, Wellington

Photoforum Members Show 2018

April 2, 2018

I am participating in the Photoforum Members Show at Studio 541, Mt Eden, Auckland,  New Zealand. I rejoined Photoforum when I was at Photobook-NZ in Wellington after several years absence.   I submitted 3 images (medium format,  colour negative film)  for inclusion in the Members Show, which were made when I was   walking Wellington on a recent visit. The exhibition was oversubscribed,  so  the  curators/organizers  reduced the three images to two. However, it was only due to the stirling work at very short notice  by the team at Atkins Photo Lab in Adelaide that I was able to get the images printed, framed and couriered to Auckland.  We had a week to do it.

All  the images in the Photoforum exhibition are posted on  Studio 541’s website along with  the bio’s and artist statements.    These show a diverse range  of work that stands in opposition to, and digs beneath,  the NZ is beautiful or a paradise  school of photography.

 

 

Photo Forum Members’ Show 2018.

Photoforum  was co-founded in  1973 by John B Turner,  Tom Hutchins and Max Oettli to promote photography as an artistic and expressive medium, to encourage co-operation and collaboration amongst the photographic community, and  to provide mentoring  for photographers.  A secondary, but crucial  aim,   was  to encourage photographers to actively engage in the public risk-taking of critical writing and curatorial practice, outside of the universities and polytechnics.

Over its 40 years history Photoforum  has also helped to  nurture a critical environment, but there is still a lack of  critics and historians to better cover the field of photography in New Zealand. My memories of the early years when I was a member was that documentary photography has been  the dominant  language of PhotoForum photography.There is nothing like this  community-orientated non-profit organisation, which   has made valuable contributions to New Zealand art and art history,  amongst the art photographers in Australia.  We independent Australian art photographers are much poorer as a result of not having a similar DIY community of expressive photographers.       Continue Reading…

critical writing, exhibitions, photography

The National: New Australian Art 2017

May 23, 2017

The National: New Australian Art  exhibition is impressive. It is spread across three of Sydney’s major art institutions (the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) and Carriageworks), and it  claims to provide a  major focus on Australian art of our time. ‘Our time’, presumably, is  the contemporary postindustrial era of digital media, global capitalism,  mass entertainment,  constant flux, culture of excess,  and the proliferation of screens. This is  a time  of a  profound shift in orientation and sensibility as 21st-century Australia seeks to reimagine itself and to secure its identity within an increasingly globalised and interconnected world.

This inter-institutional project of contemporary art continues Sydney’s claim to be the country’s leading centre of contemporary art. This  claim  had been  previously based on the Sydney Biennale, and then  the Australian Perspecta series  from  1981 to  1999  at the AGNSW.  The National in  Sydney–Australia’s global city–is a six year initiative, with  three editions  in 2017, 2019 and 2021,  and it  will profile a mix of emerging, mid-career and established artists from around the country and practising overseas.The websites of the above  three institutions say that the new and recently commissioned works encompasses a diverse range of mediums, including painting, video, sculpture, installation, drawing and performance.

There is no photography was  my immediate reaction. This is confirmed by going though all the artists exhibiting in 2017.  No  photographers or photo artists. The closest is video art.   Photography, one can infer,  is not a part of contemporary art in post colonial Australia.   Neither are artists working in South Australia. Or Tasmania for that matter. So why these exclusion? Do  photographers and  the contemporary artists in the two excluded states  lack intellectual sophistication, critical nous  and the requisite  knowledge of art history?

Mt Lyell open mine, Queenstown

The exclusion  of photography from this exhibition of contemporary art  suggests the obsolescence of photography. It is outmoded, like the juke box.

My understanding of contemporary  art—the works exhibited at international Biennali  or Documenta — is that it refers to that  period frequently characterised by an inherently decentred, cosmopolitan, digitalised and globalised world order. In Australia it would be the post conceptual art after the Australian  Bicentennial in 1988,  and in situating  itself reflexively within the  contemporary,  it  is  art  in which formerly peripheral Indigenous and Australian art now has a key role to play. There are  different forms of artistic agency – aesthetic, poetic, social, political—  in the present,  multiple perspectives on contemporary life in Australia as a country, nation and state, the emergence of repressed histories,  an archival impulse, and the turn away from medium specificities.

The   question is, given the importance of digital images  on the internet,  why are art photographers not seen as a part of the networking of mainstream contemporary art?  This is  one  that explores the fault lines in  any fixed notion of Australian national identity,   the  different issues of contemporary life,  and  the ruins of modernity?  It’s a puzzle, especially when you see this kind of Photography Festival; a puzzle that suggests the obsolescence of photography.  Continue Reading…

black + white, Indigenous, roadtrip

The Lumen Seed: Adelaide book launch

March 10, 2017

I will be  helping  Paul Atkins to launch  Judith Crispin’s  recent  book,  The Lumen Seed, at Atkins Photo Lab  gallery on Friday, the 17th March at 6pm. The launch will consist of an exhibition of some of Judith’s prints from the book, some background images made whilst we were at Lajamanu in the Tanami Desert in 2016,  and a conversation between Judith and myself about the book. The conversation will link photography in the form of a book  to contemporary  issues in the Humanities.Some of my snaps from the 2016 trip to Lajamanu will be amongst  the  background images.

The Lumen Seed raises  issues  for me about taking photography within remote Indigenous communities.  I only took  a few photos whilst at Lajamanu on this  trip,  as I felt like a cultural tourist,  and I was uncomfortable in that role. I  also wanted to avoid  viewing Warlpirri people at Lajamanu through the eyes of both  colonial anthropology and the eyes of 21st century ecology.

Tin, Lajamanu

Classical Anthropology  used photography as visual evidence for scientific (anthropological and ethnographic) research, and it historically worked with a  colonial gaze that had its  roots in the  evolutionary conception of primitivism (lowly race compared to western culture as the  pinnacle of civilisation ) in the  Darwinism of the colonial past. This colonial gaze viewed  indigenous people as objects,  whilst modern ecology, faced with  the massive loss of life-support systems, reverses the evolutionary model and constructs  Aboriginal primitivism  by seeing  indigenous people as close to Nature in  contrast to the present white Australian (corrupted) civilisation that is hostile to nature. Indigenous people are constructed as iving peacefully in tune with the nature  and preserving their ancient, “natural” wisdom.

The  photographs I  had in  the back of my mind  were those in  Spencer and Gillen’s early work in central Australia –ie., their photographs of ritual  performances (ceremonies) of   the Arrernte people of the McDonnell Ranges. These were done  the late 19th century and they  formed the basis for their Native Tribes of Central Australia (1899) book.

Aboriginal people, in this text, were  seen as dehumanized “survivals” from an early stage of social development. The inference was that Aboriginal traditions will not adapt and survive in changed forms, but rather will be misunderstood, trampled on and destined to disappear.  Since survival was believed impossible, it was  important to document  the ‘dying race’ of the ‘childhood of man’. A close study of Aborigines, whose demise was only a matter of time,   could provide an insight into the very origins of humankind.

Continue Reading…

architecture, exhibitions, topographics

Weltraum

July 22, 2016

The 2016 Shimmer Photographic Biennale will take place in the City of Onkaparinga in Adelaide, South Australia between 2 September and 2 October. Shimmer at the Magpie Springs  gallery is Weltraum.

Weltraum itself refers to world (Welt) and space (Raum). Literally translated it means ‘world room’. As an photo-based exhibition Weltraum refers to worlds or spaces waiting to be explored and opened up by Australian photo artists. The exhibiting  photo-artists  in Weltraum are Judith Crispin, Jeff Moorfoot, Stuart Murdoch, Gilbert Roe, Gary Sauer-Thompson and  Beverley Southcott.

The curatorial idea behind Weltraum is based around photo-media artists working on long term projects over a couple of years. This slow photography develops critical and poetic insights. The exhibition presents some work in progress from 6 projects,  some of which includes lens-based film based photography.

The image below is a behind the camera  shoot of Gary Sauer-Thompson photoshoot along the  Mallee Highway  for his silo project. Several images from this project —in black and white and colour— will  be featured in Weltraum:

silo, Galah, Mallee, Victoria

silo, Galah, Mallee, Victoria

Philosophically speaking the curatorial idea underpinning the work in progress  of long term projects   is that of a qualitative multiplicity. Multiplicity originates from a folding or twisting of simple elements. Like a sand dune, a multiplicity is in constant flux, though it attains some consistency for a short or long duration. Qualitative  multiplicities  differ in kind from one another, and their   porous boundaries suggests  ways in which things creatively evolve to form new and surprising assemblages. Qualitative multiplicities are associated with poetics, painting,  writing etc.  Continue Reading…