__MAIN_TEXT__

Page 1

Art Enquirer A CRITICAL ART WRITING PROGRAM BY THE INSTITUTE OF MODERN ART AND FLYING ARTS ALLIANCE


Cover image: Christopher Zanko, Austinmer Pastels (detail), 2018, acrylic on wood relief carving, 120x90cm. Courtesy of the artist and Edwina Corlette Gallery


Art Enquirer ISSUE NO.2

A CRITICAL ART WRITING PROGRAM BY THE INSTITUTE OF MODERN ART AND FLYING ARTS ALLIANCE


We are delighted to present the second edition of Art Enquirer in what is the second year of Institute of Modern Art (IMA) and Flying Arts Alliance (FAA)’s education program and publication. In July, nine senior high school students from around Queensland visited the IMA and FAA for a three-day immersive art experience. They began their tour of art galleries and artist studios at the Fortitude Valley gallery district, taking in exhibitions at the IMA, Jan Murphy Gallery, Philip Bacon Galleries, Edwina Corlette Gallery, and Mitchell Fine Art. Their tour also included visits to Metro Arts Gallery, Griffith University Art Museum (with a tour by exhibition curator Naomi Evans), and QCA’s Webb Galleries and Project Gallery. An arts-careers round table featured talks by IMA and FAA staff and independent writers and curators, Léuli Eshrāghi, and Freja Carmichael, which according to one participant “offered clarity and a real experience in the industry, something that is really not offered at our age”. Perhaps the most special event of the tour, however, was a visit to a unique artist studio complex guided by Milani Gallery’s Amy-Clare McCarthy, where the students heard from leading Brisbane-based artists Richard Bell, Gordon Hookey, and Ross Manning (who performed a memorable sound work), and caught behind-the-scenes glimpses of the artistic processes of artists Dale Harding and Sandra Selig. This inspiring experience was punctuated by intensive discussion, instruction, and development of draft essays that gave the students an opportunity to appreciate and digest the many ideas and artworks they had encountered, mentored by IMA staff and freelance art writer, Tim Walsh. Contained here are the final reflections of some talented emerging arts writers. Their contributions to Art Enquirer demonstrate the challenging, and at times provocative nature of the artworks they encountered, and their newly developed skills in analysing and writing about contemporary art. We thank the many organisations, writers, and artists who helped guide these students. We extend our sincere gratitude for the support of Brian Tucker Accounting, for assisting with travel bursaries, and Brisbane Airport Corporation, for helping enable this second production of the Art Enquirer.

Institute of Modern Art and Flying Arts Alliance, 2018


06 Richard Bell: Evaluating Ownership Ellie Maccoll

30 Feminist Art—How Far Have We Really Come? Jamisyn Chapman

12 Agency of Image Dara Ffrost

36 Connection Through Cultural Identity Will Sowby

16 Exposing A Tragic Past: Mandy Quadrio’s Speaking Beyond the Vitrine Oliver Rudling 22 Reflections in Reflections Lauren Kroll

42 Art’s Agency Against Sexual Violence in the Digital Age Liam Hunter 46 Suburban Reminiscence Sebastian Petroni


6

ART ENQUIRER ISSUE Nยบ2

Richard Bell speaking to Art Enquirer participants in his studio. Photography: Savannah van der Niet.


Richard Bell: Evaluating Ownership

Ellie Maccoll Trinity Anglican School

7

Richard Bell: Evaluating Ownership


8

ART ENQUIRER ISSUE Nยบ2

Richard Bell, Scientia E Metaphysica (Bell's Theorem), 2003, acrylic on canvas, 240 x 540 cm. Collection: Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory, Darwin. Courtesy of the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane.


Richard Bell: Evaluating Ownership

When Richard Bell (b. 1953) was growing up in the 1960s, he never imagined that one day he would be sweltering in a small room surrounded by colourful canvases and unfinished paintings, under a lousy air conditioner.1 In fact, until the mid-1990s Bell probably would have made fun of someone in his position; he was and would always be an Aboriginal rights activist. Now, sitting in his studio, Bell is both, describing himself as an ‘activist who masquerades as an artist’. 2 His witty and often sarcastic work tackles issues confrontationally and openly, demanding us to re-evaluate the authenticity and ownership of Aboriginal art and culture.

Bell’s 2011 exhibition, You’d believe me if I was a white man, at Milani Gallery in Brisbane, loudly expressed the feelings of many within the Aboriginal art community regarding the commodification of their work. Bold text is used to clearly communicate Bell’s indignation with the treatment of Aboriginal people. Each work, similar in aesthetic, bears comparable slogans making such proclamations as "Australian art / it’s an Aboriginal thing” and “Aboriginal art / it’s a white thing”—all of which relate to the shameful treatment of Aboriginal people as second-class citizens.

9

In his thesis ‘Bell’s Theorem’, Bell argues that “Aboriginal art [is] a white thing”.3 He supports this claim by using evidence that suggests that Westerners are the principal consumers in the Aboriginal art market, and therefore control what is created because artists only produce what will sell. Bell holds that “it is a great source of discomfort that Aboriginal art is not controlled by Aboriginal people”, attributing the increased awareness of Aboriginal art to a decreased quality of life. The more significant Aboriginal art is, the more of a commodity it becomes, transforming the culture and people into a resource to be exploited and abused. His fundamental problem with this system is the fact that both Aboriginal people and their art are being ‘pigeon-holed’ into a narrow definition created by white Westerners,4 despite having no singular aesthetic or movement. Fundamentally, Bell believes that Aboriginal art has become nothing more than a Western commodity, a sort of white person’s cheat guide to “being spiritually in touch”. Bell’s 2011 exhibition You’d believe me if I was a white man epitomises this theory.


ART ENQUIRER ISSUE Nº2

10

Richard Bell, One Day You’ll All Be Gone (Bell’s Theorem), 2011, acrylic on linen, 244 x 550 cm, 3 parts. Courtesy of the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane.

Bell’s One Day You'll All Be Gone (Bell's Theorem) (2011) makes a strong visual impact—vital in establishing a conversation between the viewer and the artist and ensuring that the social context of racism is clearly communicated. By contrasting bright and colourful complicated patterns with bold white text, Bell is creating an aesthetically bewildering work. The complexity of this work lies in its theoretical context. While not the intent of the artist, the mismatch of colour and intricate designs in the background can be interpreted as the multiple layers of Aboriginal culture. The right side of the artwork is devoid of colour (entirely white) and gives the impression it will eventually grow to cover all the bright and colourful paint on the left. Like the paintings, the White Australia and assimilation policies had a similar goal of white-washing Australian culture, customs, and people. By removing Aboriginal children from their parents and placing them in white society, the government aimed to ultimately destroy Aboriginal society. 5 The attention-grabbing statement, written in white, undermines all the labour gone into creating the background, possibly referring to the outside control of the

Aboriginal art market. The text reads, “The first shall be the last, and the last shall be the first”. The text on the work itself makes yet another comment on the nature of colonisation and the art market because it directly references the mentality of early colonial settlers in Australia, who believed that they were superior to Aboriginal people. They were the last here (after Aboriginal people) but claimed the land for themselves by, forcing Aboriginal people into servitude, perpetrating genocide and massacres, and spreading fatal disease. Aboriginal people are still not adequately recognised by the Australian Constitution, meaning that the First Peoples are the last to have their rights prioritised. The text is also a bible verse, which could be seen as a reference to the missions of the twentieth century. In conjunction with Australia's various assimilation policies, the missions all but eradicated Aboriginal culture by indoctrination through religious instruction and education. While living on these missions, Aboriginal people’s lives were tightly controlled— even marriages had to be approved by the state.6


Richard Bell: Evaluating Ownership

Beyond reference to the exploitation of Indigenous people and their culture, all of Bell’s works evoke raw feeling. In the ‘pigeonhole’ of the Aboriginal art world, race comes before the individual and the genre before the artist.7 This means that the identity of the artist is not as important as their identification with Aboriginal culture. This is in contrast with the Western art world, where the individual persona of the artist often dominates.

1

Richard Bell, “Artist talk”, Art Enquirer, (12 July 2018).

2

Sharne Wolff, “Richard Bell: ‘An ostrich will bury its head in the sand’.”

The Art Life. (2013). 3

Richard Bell, “Bell's Theorem”, accessed August 2, 2018, www.

kooriweb.org/foley/great/art/bell.html 4

Ibid.

5

“Assimilation Policy (1951 - 1962)”, Find & Connect , accessed

September 6, 2018, www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/sa/SE00796 “Remembering the Mission Days: Stories from the Aborigines' Inland

6

Missions”, AIATSIS, accessed September 6, 2018, https://aiatsis.gov.au/ exhibitions/remembering-mission-days 7

Franca Tamisari, “Showzoff and Positivity”, in Richard Bell: Positivity, ed.

Robert Leonard (Brisbane: IMA, 2007), 23–25. 8

Richard Bell, “Artist talk”.

9

Kate Barham, “'ABORIGINAL ART: IT'S A WHITE THING'”, Eyeline,

accessed September 4, 2018. www.eyelinepublishing.com/ write-about-art-5/article/aboriginal-art-its-white-thing 10 11

Richard Bell, “Artist talk”.

Franca Tamisari, “Showzoff and Positivity”.

11

Many of Bell’s works carry multiple meanings including his paintings that recognisably appropriate the style of American artist Roy Lichtenstein. Bell explains that the purpose of these works was “only to show white people that his paintings really would look good with their bedspreads or couches”.8 While he made this statement with a straight face, it is an obvious mockery of ‘art collectors’ who prioritise the aesthetic over the meaning. This could be a visual representation of his slogan “Aboriginal art, it’s a white thing”. By supplanting the recognisable works of a famous white artist with his own satirical works, Bell forces his audience to re-evaluate the ownership of one of his paintings—if it has been copied is it really his own work? Controversy has surrounded the use of Aboriginal motifs in Australian artist Imants Tillers's works; however, Tillers is not the only artist to make use of Aboriginal culture because of its commercial success.9 Bell has fought back at critics by suggesting that “if Western artists are able to appropriate Aboriginal art to make a profit why shouldn’t I be able to do the same with their culture?” 10

Bell’s purpose is “to test people's resolve, to provoke thought, and . . . discussion”.11 He puts the viewer on the spot and demands that they re-evaluate their beliefs and ideas. He compells them to reconsider their support of policies and industries that masquerade as beneficial but are largely destructive and devastating to the communities they exploit. Finally, he controversially appropriates Western art to explore the ownership of culture, revealing the full extent of colonisation and the effects of racism towards Aboriginal people in Australia.


12

ART ENQUIRER ISSUE Nยบ2

Agency of Image Dara Ffrost Kelvin Grove State College


Agency of Image

Woman's desire is subjugated to her image . . . as bearer, not maker, of meaning. —Laura Mulvey1 Dark Rooms: Women Directing the Lens 1978-98, curated by Naomi Evans, is a group exhibition with contributions from over twenty-five female artists working in photomedia to dismantle historical representations and expectations of the feminine and female alike.2 The individual works featured in Dark Rooms confront audiences with depictions of intimacy, trauma, and political narrative, empowering a feminine perspective. The detriment caused by being without power over one’s own supposed image and the effects of media influence had been overlooked for decades. By subverting male-directed feminine narratives, this exhibition showcases the vital inclusion of female-directed narratives that had been previously marginalised in art and the public sphere.

Nat Paton is a Brisbane born and based photographic artist, who works in portraiture, frequently depicting ‘unrepentant femininity’4 to contribute to the broadening spectrum of publicly recognised feminine imagery. Her work in Dark Rooms is no exception. Untitled, from the 1997 series Hot Stuff, is an Ilfochrome self-portrait, depicting the artist dressed as a devil with red painted skin and minimal clothing. This image immediately dismantles the expectation of female artists as demure or timid. The bright white and orange flaming background of the photograph contrasts with the deep red and black tones of the figure reclining on a refrigerator in the foreground, giving the image an almost animated appearance. Paton’s choice of facial expression and direct eye contact with the camera further facilitate the shock factor of the piece, putting

13

Building on iconic discussions of gender roles and their effects by such pioneers as Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex (1949) and Germaine Greer in The Female Eunuch (1970), feminist film critic Laura Mulvey coined the term ‘male gaze’ in her 1975 essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema".3 Here she asserted the importance of considering which perspectives shape representations of women in media. Reflecting on the creation of the earliest visual, literary, and filmic artworks, this important text seriously considered the detrimental effects of patriarchal representations of femininity and the female form, having a profound effect on Australian screen and photographic culture. The mid-1970s saw the beginnings of a backlash to the dominance of media by men, for men, led by established and emerging female artists autonomously telling their stories and directing the lens. These are the stories we see collated sensitively and powerfully in Dark Rooms.


ART ENQUIRER ISSUE Nº2

14

her in a position of seductive power. This image was later displayed on a billboard in Fortitude Valley, adjacent to the IMA's former Ann Street premises, appropriating the context of public advertising and working to subvert the ‘sex sells’ mantra into a strong political statement.5 This ‘She-Devil’ embodies Paton’s personal narrative of body positivity—being proud and unashamed of one’s body regardless of what the media portrays as the right size, shape, or colour. Further, as many of the other artists in Dark Rooms do, she disassembles the binding patriarchal belief that there is a right and wrong way to be a woman. Here, Paton takes these expectations by the horns and presents herself as a caricature of everything women are told not to be. There are many ways to empower and liberate, as demonstrated throughout the exhibition. Paton leads by example by exercising the agency of her self-image as a woman in the public eye; with bravery, hilarity, and intrigue, she demonstrates femininity on her terms.

You at Night implicitly references violence and skewed power dynamics, it also challenges the historical perspectives that previously glamorised or minimised the detrimental effect of violent imagery on women. In distinctively subverting the male gaze, Younger sensitively employs her own perspective and agency in creating vulnerable representations of the female form and violence. Dark Rooms: Women Directing the Lens 197898 is an exploration of the ways a number of Australian artists have represented femininity and the female form. As exemplified in the works of Nat Paton and Jay Younger, the show not only subverts previously held ideas of femininity but gives the authority of the gaze to its subjects, and lets women claim agency over their own images.

1

Mulvey, Laura “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, Screen

Autumn, no. 16.3 (1975): 6–18 2

I Dream of You at Night, from Jay Younger’s 1986 The Tragic Romance series, is a gelatin silver photograph depicting a black and white scene reminiscent of film noir. A young woman is startled awake by something out of frame; in the background of the photograph is an open window showing the silhouette of a plane— seemingly on a trajectory toward the woman— evoking tension through vulnerability. Younger presents her subject as fearful, but not shocked, leading to the conclusion that this altercation may be a familiar one. The subject’s expression is highlighted by a contrasting bright white light, seemingly coming from a doorway, suggesting potential domestic or sexual violence. The formal qualities of this piece enforce a mysterious and unsettling partial narrative, one of tension, possession, and trauma. Much of Younger’s practice is “interrogating the position and status of women . . . and the invisible socialised barriers that contain and deny”, 6 and while I Dream of

Griffith University Art Museum, “Dark Rooms: Women Directing

the Lens”, Griffith University, www.griffith.edu.au/art-museum/ whats-on/2018/dark-rooms-women-directing-the-lens 3

Mulvey, Laura “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”.

4

Nat Paton, “About Nat”, Nat Paton, www.natpaton.com/about-nat.

html 5

Nat Paton, “Words”, Nat Paton, www.natpaton.com/words.html

6

Jay Younger, “Artist Curator Biography”, Jay Younger, https://

jayyounger.com.au/jay-younger-artist-curator-biography/


Agency of Image

Jay Younger, I Dream of You at Night from the series The Tragic Romance, 1986, gelatin silver photograph, 97.5 x 143cm. Griffith University Art Collection. Purchased 1986. Courtesy of the artist.

15

Nat Paton, Untitled 1 from the series Hot Stuff, 1997, Ilfochrome photograph, 28.5 x 41.3cm. Griffith University Art Collection. Purchased 1998. Courtesy of the artist.


ART ENQUIRER ISSUE Nº2

16

Exposing A Tragic Past: Mandy Quadrio’s Speaking Beyond the Vitrine Oliver Rudling Kelvin Grove State College


EXPOSING A TRAGIC PAST

17

The first encounter with Mandy Quadrio’s Speaking Beyond the Vitrine at Metro Arts Gallery in Brisbane immerses the viewer in texturally rich sculptures. As reflected in the title, Quadrio aims to dismantle traditional ways of viewing art by provoking the viewer to no longer take the role as a “passive observer of objects”, but rather to thoughtfully engage with the dark history depicted in the exhibition.1 Circulating throughout the space, the viewer will observe that Quadrio’s organic forms are made of materials that carry complex connotations such as steel wool and black velvet, which hold as much of a political message as the sculptures themselves. Quadrio’s work, specifically the symbolism of her media choices, provide a commentary on the atrocities of the Palawa (Tasmanian Aboriginal) people and the sexual objectification of Aboriginal women as part of colonial oppression. To comprehend these more implicit details of the exhibition, it is essential that the historical context of these materials and the artist's own background be considered.


18

ART ENQUIRER ISSUE Nยบ2

Mandy Quadrio, Holes in History, 2017, steel wool and kelp. Courtesy of the artist.


EXPOSING A TRAGIC PAST

Quadrio’s use of abrasive steel wool in her largescale sculptures such as Holes in History (2017), is a direct reference to the attempted genocide of her people. Just like steel wool—a harsh material for cleaning—the British aimed to ‘scrub out’ the Palawa people forever. Moreover, the desolate entangled landscape of the hanging steel wool sculptures suggest the dark truths hidden in the foundations of modern Australian society, and the historical violence that has resulted from colonial ideologies. Quadrio elucidates this in her artist statement: “my art practice acts to develop a visual language around personal and hidden histories”. 5 The steel wool gives texture to the atrocities committed against the Palawa people, and in turn, empowers the current generation of Palawa people.

Quadrio’s exhibition also comprises a set of sculptures made of black velvet. The historical term ‘black velvet’ originated as slang used by the English military in the early nineteenth century, “to describe Aboriginal women with whom white men had sexual intercourse”.6 This term has come to symbolise the broader objectification of Aboriginal women and their dual experience of racism and misogyny. For example, Aboriginal women were subject to sexual abuse, bride capture, infanticide, and constant fear of mistreatment. Lauren Robinson, a humanities writer from Deakin University, suggests that this colonial mistreatment of women mirrored Europe during the nineteenth century7—where men were regarded as superior and had dominance over women. The objectification, alienation, and foundational mistreatment of Aboriginal women is a theme contemporary artists are still tackling today. As acknowledged by academic Sandra Philips in her article on Queensland artist BonetaMarie Mabo’s 2016 exhibition Black Velvet: your label, Philips explains that “it’s also about the struggle not to let others define our identity”.8 Quadrio’s exhibition shares this aim of redefining and empowering Aboriginal women. Additionally, Quadrio encourages the viewer to discern the true and violent history of her people through her immersive artworks that transcend the emotionless vitrines of a museum, wherein the viewer is completely disconnected to the essence of the work and its historical significance. In particular, Quadrio’s work Sovereign Sensuality (2017) highlights the powerful impact of using black velvet to convey the historical narrative of her people. The vulvalike, flower-shaped sculpture is layered with black velvet and a large area of bleached velvet protrudes from the gallery wall. The dark colour scheme in the work serves to emphasise the area of bleached velvet. It can be inferred that the bleached velvet is a reference to the ‘whiting out’ of blackness and the colonial impact and

19

Quadrio is a proud Palawa woman from Tebrakunna (north-east of Tasmania), and her exhibition is an attempt to assert the sovereignty of her people. The Palawa people hold a “unique heritage that testifies to cultural continuity that is among the oldest living cultures on earth”, 2 in which a fundamental and spiritual connection with the land had been established long before the British arrived in 1803. Following years of conflict between the Palawa people and the colonial settlers, Lt-Govenor George Augustus Robinson helped establish a mission known as Wybalenna in 1834.3 This settlement saw the transition of the Palawa people to Wybalenna, or ‘Black Man’s House’, on Flinders Island. On agreed terms, the Palawa people moved to Wybalenna and waited “to return to their traditional country on the mainland of Tasmania as promised by George Augustus Robinson”.4 Instead, the promise was broken, and the Palawa people were left displaced and dispossessed from their lands, and even more tragically, they were severely neglected in Wybalenna. Subsequently, with little food, the spread of disease, and inadequate shelter, around 200 Palawa people died in Wybalenna.


20

ART ENQUIRER ISSUE Nยบ2

Mandy Quadrio, Sovereign sensuality (detail), 2017, kelp, bleached black velvet, string. Courtesy of the artist.


EXPOSING A TRAGIC PAST

control over Aboriginal women. On the other hand, even though it can be considered rather confronting to create sculptural vulvas out of the material that Aboriginal women were reduced to by the British, Quadrio guides the viewer to come to terms with Australia’s dark past but more importantly empowers Aboriginal women and the Palawa people in doing so. By creating these vulvas and then placing them on the gallery walls, Quadrio acknowledges these atrocities in Australia’s history but manipulates them to create a positive change for Aboriginal self-identity and sovereignty.

1

Jan Oliver, “Speaking Beyond the Vitrine”, Metro Arts,

accessed 6 August, 2018,, www.metroarts.com.au/wp-content/ uploads/2018/07/Mandy-Quadrio-Exhibition-Catalogue_online.pdf Patsy Cameron, “Feature Article - Palawa Story”, 1301.6 -

2

Tasmanian Year Book, 2000. Australian Bureau of Statistic, accessed 11 August, 2018, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/ Latestproducts/1301.6Feature%20Article72000? Graham Barker, “Sad history at Wybalenna”, Roaming Down Under,

3

accessed 11 August, 2018, www.roamingdownunder.com/wybalenna. php 4

Greg Lehman, “The Palawa Voice”. The Companion to Tasmanian

History, accessed 11 August, 2018, www.utas.edu.au/library/ companion_to_tasmanian_history/P/Palawa%20Voice.htm 5

Mandy Quadrio, “About”, Mandy Quadrio, accessed 12 August, 2018,

www.mandyquadrio.com.au/about/ 6

Ann McGrath, “'Black Velvet’: Aboriginal women and their relations

with white men in the Northern Territory, 1910-40”, Australian National University, accessed 11 August, 2018, https://openresearchrepository.anu.edu.au/handle/1885/116182 Lauren Robinson, “’A Book of Lies’: Settler impressions of Aboriginal

women”. Australian Women's History Network, accessed 11 August, 2018, www.auswhn.org.au/blog/a-book-of-lies/ 8

Sandra Phillips, “Black Velvet: Redefining and Celebrating

Indigenous Australian Women in Art”, The Conversation, (May 9 2016), https://theconversation.com/black-velvet-redefining-andcelebrating-indigenous-australian-women-in-art-56211

Mandy Quadrio, Sovereign Sensuality, 2017, kelp, bleached black velvet, string. Installation view: Metro Arts, Brisbane.

21

Ultimately, Quadrio’s exhibition Speaking Beyond the Vitrine is a thoughtful portrayal of Australia’s hidden histories that are often neither shared nor taught. Her use of steel wool and black velvet provide a material connection and symbolic insight into the experiences of the Palawa people and the sexual violence committed against Aboriginal women by colonial settlers. While exposing the dominant patriarchal and racist ideologies of the British colonists, she empowers and re-defines the identities of the women and Palawa people who were subjected to these brutal atrocities.

7


ART ENQUIRER ISSUE NÂş2

22

Reflections in Reflections Lauren Kroll Mount Alvernia College, Kedron

Overleaf: Installation view, Haegue Yang, Triple Vita Nestings, Institute of Modern Art, 2018. In view: Lethal Love, 2008/2018, aluminum venetian blinds, powder-coated aluminum hanging structure, steel wire rope, free-standing mirror wall, moving spotlights, scent emitters (wildflower, gunpowder), Dimensions variable; The Intermediate—Tinted UHHHHH Creature Inverted V, 2017, powder-coated stainless steel frame, steel wire rope, plastic twine, 360 x 400 x 180 cm. Courtesy of the artist. Photography: Carl Warner.


Reflections in Reflections

South Korean artist Haegue Yang uniquely expresses what it means to be human through collective and individual narratives. Art is generally perceived as an expression of personal experiences, but what if one were to communicate the stories of another? In presenting a varied selection of narratives, Yang evokes feelings of dislocation, instability, and isolation. These relatable emotions are portrayed through multisensory environments created by manipulating light, sound, movement, and even scents. The Institute of Modern Art (IMA) presented Yang's exhibition, Triple Vita Nestings, her first solo show in Australia, featuring the work Lethal Love (2008–2018).1 23

The work represents a tragic love story in Germany's recent history, concerning two public figures, Petra Kelly and her partner, Gert Bastian, who were resolute advocates for pacifism. In 1992 Bastian is believed to have killed Kelly before committing suicide. 2 Lethal Love exists as a manifestation of their isolation and fear—as the kind of seclusion from a ‘normal’ life apparent in political affairs and underestimated by the public. Yang powerfully revives their story, emphasising the loneliness that drove them to their untimely deaths. Lethal, meaning life-threatening, and love, meaning great passion and adoration, fuse together to form the title of Yang’s work. The title encapsulates the duality of emotion and conflict that is central to the human condition, such that we are “...capable of shocking acts of inhumanity like rape, murder and torture”.3 While it was believed Bastian and Kelly were in love, Yang explores their human instinct to give into ‘evil’, when the stresses of their lives overpowered their affection. Existing as a complex construction of objects, Lethal Love comprises of Venetian blinds, rotating lights, a mirrored partition, and two scents. The installation immediately stimulates a sense of mystery upon entering the dark, rather empty room. Thick scents of wildflower and gunpowder—an odd combination—startle the viewer’s nose. A symbol of life is paired with a symbol of death, supporting the theme of the human condition. Yang exemplifies the challenging nature of relationships through her compelling piece, reflecting on the tragic story of this German couple. The observer is encouraged to bring their own interpretation to this abstract work, despite its narrative inspiration.


ART ENQUIRER ISSUE Nº2

Lethal Love is a seductive work. Drawing focus to its movement, a series of spotlights smoothly rotate around the room, bouncing off a mirrored surface, climbing through the gaps between the blinds and drawing patterns on the walls. A transcendent view until, adjusting one’s perspective, suddenly the viewer is isolated behind a barrier of blinds.

26

Where there is love, there is fear, and where there is fame, there is isolation. Yang expresses how public, loving relationships do not always provide comfort, but also confinement and insecurity. While blinds serve a purpose of blocking out the outside world, a common feeling is one of being ‘shut out’. Furthermore, as the light continues to revolve, a bright light is transmitted every so often directly into the face of the observer. Momentarily blinded, a sense of vulnerability alarms the audience. Ever find yourself in a similar situation when driving home from work facing the afternoon sun? Struck by a brief feeling of panic, you claw at the sunshade above your head, feeling insecure about your ability to drive safely. Yang skillfully evokes this sense of instability; as her sculpture is kinetic, it is in continuous motion. She reveals the uncertainty of relationships the viewer can relate to. Petra Kelly and Gert Bastian, while lovers, struggled with balancing their personal lives with their demanding professions, and lost touch with the outside world. While from one angle, love seems beautiful, at another, one can question if it is really worth it. Yang immerses the audience in an atmosphere of unease to increase the intensity of this moment in German history. The viewer is encouraged to draw parallels between their lives and of those of the lovers in the story. While Lethal Love represents the tragic lives and deaths of activist Petra Kelly and her lover, Yang refrains from directly explaining the story. Her works are exceptionally abstract, empowering the audience to contemplate and arrive at individual interpretations. According to the IMA, her art “empowers us to perceive nested sets, or relations, between otherwise disparate lives”.4 It is not until reading about her exhibition that Yang’s intentions and the hidden narratives can be identified. Left to wander her exhibition without context, a sense of disorientation is also evident. This mystery of understanding the piece can add to that of the true motive of Kelly’s murderer, which remains uncertain today. A friend of Kelly, Sarah Parkin says, “Whatever was in his mind, I am convinced that he saw what he did as an act of love”.5 While members of German society attempt to make sense of Bastian’s actions, Yang’s work revives these unanswered questions through art. Yang manipulates the feeling of isolation in Kelly and Bastian’s story, and moving through the darkened gallery space, the audience is able to gather fragments of their private struggle.


Reflections in Reflections

27 Lethal Love, 2008/2018, aluminum venetian blinds, powder-coated aluminum hanging structure, steel wire rope, free-standing mirror wall, moving spotlights, scent emitters (wildflower, gunpowder), Dimensions variable. Installation view, Haegue Yang, Triple Vita Nestings, Institute of Modern Art, 2018. Photography: Carl Warner.


28

ART ENQUIRER ISSUE Nยบ2

Lethal Love, 2008/2018, aluminum venetian blinds, powder-coated aluminum hanging structure, steel wire rope, free-standing mirror wall, moving spotlights, scent emitters (wildflower, gunpowder), Dimensions variable. Installation view, Haegue Yang, Triple Vita Nestings, Institute of Modern Art, 2018. Photography: Carl Warner.


Reflections in Reflections

Haegue Yang uses abstraction to give new life to well-known classical narratives that speak to the human condition. Creating compositions from sculptures to videos, she brings drama and imagination to contemporary versions of enduring human stories of love and tragedy. Lethal Love communicates one story of many, showcased as part of Yang’s exhibition, Triple Vita Nestings. A real-life biography is woven into Yang’s kinetic sculpture, replicating feelings of loneliness and seclusion and compelling the audience to reflect on their shared experiences.

1

Institute of Modern Art, “Haegue Yang: Triple Vita Nestings”, IMA

Brisbane, https://ima.org.au/haegue-yang/ 2

biennaleofsydney, “Haegue Yang”, biennaleofsydney, www.

biennaleofsydney.art/artists/haegue-yang/ 3

World Transformation Movement, “What exactly is the

human condition?”, WTM, www.humancondition.com/ freedom-expanded-book2-what-exactly-is-the-human-condition/ 4

Institute of Modern Art, “Haegue Yang: Triple Vita Nestings”

5

Isabel Hilton, “What Killed Petra Kelly?”, Independent, 1992, www.

independent.co.uk/life-style/what-killed-petra-kelly-they-had-beenhtml

29

heroes-of-our-time-she-was-like-a-modern-joan-of-arc-his-1559264.


30

ART ENQUIRER ISSUE Nº2

Feminist Art— How Far Have We Really Come? Jamisyn Chapman Mary MacKillop College


Feminist Art—How Far Have We Really Come?

I am trying to make art that relates to the deepest and most mythic concerns of human kind and I believe that, at this moment of history, feminism is humanism. —Judy Chicago1 Griffith University Art Museum’s Dark Rooms: Women Directing the Lens 1978-98, curated by Naomi Evans, provides a multitude of feminist perspectives within a single exhibition. By presenting the diverse points of view of twenty-eight Australian female photographers, Dark Rooms challenges our assumptions of feminist progress in the era of #MeToo by inviting us to reflect on the experiences of women in Australia from over the last forty years. The mix of humorous, political, and confrontational art allows audiences to recognise the solidarity between women who have faced different forms of oppression. This exhibition challenges our proactiveness in advancing the feminist movement and the progress, or lack thereof, made by Australian society over this four decade period. The result is a call to action sparked by the question: How far have we really come?

The 1960s saw the rise of the feminist art movement in which artists reflected on the everyday lives and experiences women faced. 2 Artists' perspectives on women’s socio-political status and personal experiences encouraged change and expanded the definition of ‘fine art’.3 By highlighting feminist issues that had been overlooked or ignored, the feminist art movement sparked important conversations and confronted subordinate gender roles. To contribute to the lasting impact of feminism, exhibitions such as Dark Rooms should promote diverse representations of issues and perspectives to both recognise the achievements of over one hundred years of feminist activism and acknowledge the progress that is still to be made. The medium of photography first flourished in Australia during the 1970s, following the rise of Australian cinema in the mid-1950s.4 Photography remains one of the most powerful mediums in the twenty-first century as it allows viewers to analyse a single moment in time. The different photographic methods used by the artists in Dark Rooms, such as

31

Dark Rooms invites viewers to appreciate the variety of approaches and tones—both serious and funny—within Australian feminist photographic art. Although each artist might be understood as feminist, they have made a range of political statements based on their very different real-life experiences. Thus, Dark Rooms takes an important position by exhibiting artworks that are diverse in the stories they share.


32

ART ENQUIRER ISSUE Nยบ2

Julie Rrap, Persona and Shadow: Madonna, 1984, colour photograph, 193.8 x 100.9cm. Griffith University Art Collection. Purchased 1985. Courtesy of the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney and ArcOne Gallery, Melbourne.


Feminist Art—How Far Have We Really Come?

33

Maree Cunnington, Loss of memory from the series Secretions, 1997, Ilfochrome photograph, 61 x 41.5cm. Griffith University Art Collection. Purchased 1999. Courtesy of the artist.

spontaneous capture, elaborate staging, or digital revision, work to add symbolism and allow audiences to recognise feminist allegory. There are spontaneously captured moments from artists including Ruth Maddison and her series Women Over Sixty, created in the 1980s. Maddison photographed communities she felt essential to the development of

activism and feminism and to celebrate the everyday lives of women.5 Other methods used include staged photography where the artist manipulates mise-en-scène, colour, and composition to create meaning. Jay Younger’s photograph I Dream of You at Night (1986), for instance, uses mise-en-scène and colour to create a sense of fear and oppression. The vertical lines surrounding the main figure, both from the wooden VJ


ART ENQUIRER ISSUE Nº2

34

boards and the curtains in the background, connote prison bars, perhaps suggesting that the subject is confined. Moreover, the black and white colours with harsh shadows reflect the film noir period in which women were depicted as ‘Femme Fatales’ who deserved and ultimately received ‘punishment’ before the conclusion of each film.6 Other artists in the exhibition further digitally manipulated their original photographs. Persona and Shadow: Madonna (1984) was created by Julie Rrap to challenge the institutional sexism she experienced in 1982 in a gallery in Berlin.7 Here Rrap appropriates the work of Edvard Munch through taking self-portraits and mimicking the stereotypical representations of women in Munch’s work.8 The photographs were then digitally placed on top of a photograph of a background she had painted. To fit the photographs of herself in the designated mould on the background, Rrap used a computer program that distorted the images of her body. The shattered photograph tells the story of a discriminative history that has yet to be fully corrected.9

One of the most powerful elements of Dark Rooms is how it allows us to reflect on our own lives. Each of the artworks exhibited was created by women between 1978–1998, yet, in 2018, these artworks are still relevant in contemporary Australian society. This relevance is evident in the recent #MeToo movement, in which women from all over the world shared their stories of oppression and sexual harassment—much like many of the women featured in this exhibition who shared their stories through photography.

1

Judy Chicago, No Date. From “Getting to know Judy Chicago:

A feminist art icon”, Third Draw Down Blog, posted 4 December 2017, https://www.thirddrawerdown.com/blogs/news/ getting-to-know-judy-chicago-a-feminist-icon Wide Walls, last modified 2018, www.widewalls.ch/ how-art-fought-for-womens-rights-feature-2015/ 3

Ibid.

4

Olivier Laurent, “This Is Why Film Photography Is Making a

Comeback”, Time, 26 January 2017, http://time.com/4649188/ film-photography-industry-comeback/ 5

Marcus Bunyan, “Review: ‘Photography Meets Feminism: Australian

Women Photographers 1970s-80s’ at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne”, Art Blart Blog, comment posted 30 November 2014, www.artblart.com/2014/11/30/review-photography-meetsfeminism-at-the-monash-gallery-of-art-melbourne 6

Maree Cunnington created her Secretions series in 1997 as an investigation of public versus private life. Secretions is reflective of Cunnington’s experiences because, when she was in the process of making these photographs, her brother died from a brain tumour.10 The photographs and their titles, hon-our, Breath, Trust, and Loss of Memory, are representative of the failing communication between Cunnington and her brother. In contrast, Janina Green’s Reproduction: Blondes (1986) is more satiric. Green and her family immigrated from Germany to Australia after the Second World War; consequently, Green has struggled with her concept of self and defining her national identity.11 Reproduction: Blondes intends to challenge the idea of ‘ideal beauty’ and reflect her own personal struggle with belonging.

Angie Kordic, “How Art Fought for Women’s Rights’,

2

D. Estaire Cabañas, “The Representation of Women in Film Noir:

An approach to American Society in the Forties” (Bachelor of English Studies, University of Valladolid, 2017), www.uvadoc.uva.es/ handle/10324/25746 7

Marcus Bunyan, “Review: ‘Photography Meets Feminism”

8

Ibid.

9

Ibid.

10

Griffith University Art Museum, Secretions. Didactic panel to

accompany the artwork Secretions (1997) shown at Dark Rooms: Women Directing the Lens, 12 July–30 August 2018. 11

Griffith University Art Museum, Reproduction: Blondes. Didactic

panel to accompany the artwork Reproduction: Blondes (1986), shown at Dark Rooms: Women Directing the Lens, 12 July–30 August 2018.


Feminist Art—How Far Have We Really Come?

35

Maree Cunnington, Trust from the series Secretions, 1997, Ilfochrome photograph, 61 x 41.5cm. Griffith University Art Collection. Purchased 1999. Courtesy of the artist.


36

ART ENQUIRER ISSUE Nยบ2

Connection Through Cultural Identity Will Sowby Marist College Ashgrove


Connection Through Cultural Identity

37

Drawing on the stories of his ancestors, Wall Composition in Reckitt’s Blue by Dale Harding, a descendant of the Bidjara, Ghungalu, and Garingbal peoples of Central Queensland, explores the political discrimination, social alienation, loss, and hardship that his people endured as a result of colonisation.1 This artwork, recently commissioned as part of the re-presentation of the Australian Art Collection at the Queensland Art Gallery, epitomises Harding’s connection to his ancestors and culture. Harding’s work fills the gallery wall on which it is installed, drawing inspiration from the stencilling techniques used in the rock paintings of his ancestors in Carnarvon Gorge. These ‘rock galleries’ provide insight into thousands of years of Indigenous cultural heritage and art, which Harding attempts to recognise and express in a contemporary manner. 2 Harding’s art practice not only explores the techniques and processes used by his ancestors, but also seeks to preserve the history of his community, making sure cultural knowledge is retained by his and future generations.3


ART ENQUIRER ISSUE Nยบ2

Art Enquirer participants viewing wall paintings at Dale Harding's studio, 2018. Photography: Savannah van der Niet


Connection Through Cultural Identity


40

ART ENQUIRER ISSUE Nº2

Dale Harding installing his new commission Wall Composition in Reckitt’s Blue (2017) onsite at the Queensland Art Gallery.

Harding’s wall composition derives its name from a laundry whitener, Reckitt’s Blue, a vibrant blue colour used in his mural. This material has historical connotations and is representative of a time of great turmoil and hardship for Aboriginal people in Australia.4 Reckitt’s Blue was a popular laundry product from the midnineteenth century and used by Harding’s female family members who were forced into domestic servitude following colonisation.5 In the wall painting, Harding has used this pigment instead of the ochres traditionally used in the rock art his ancestors painted. The ultramarine blue colour can be found on Indigenous artefacts, such as boomerangs and shields, and its connection to domestic labour serves as a stark reminder of the hardships endured by Harding’s people under government rule. The stunning blue colour is contrasted against the crisp white walls of the gallery space. Harding’s decision to use this colour expresses his profound knowledge and understanding of the stories of his people and the need to share this history.

The stencilling method used by Harding takes its origins from that of his ancestors, who used this technique on objects such as boomerangs; shapes such as spheres as well as hands were stencilled onto walls, leaving both a positive and negative stencil.6 Similarly, Harding stencils objects onto the wall—in this case, a shovel at hand from his very own studio, where the artwork was first composed.7 This stencilling technique creates areas of open space providing harmony between objects. The use of repetition, pattern, and the syncopated movement of the shovel through stencilling and mouth-blown spray painting add significance and emphasis to the composition of the work. Harding states that his stencilling work with Reckitt’s Blue has been used “to form a composition that is referencing, more than imitating or copying, the lineage of a long landscape format”.8 This method is how Harding’s practice acknowledges the stories of the past, and revitalises them for future generations.


Connection Through Cultural Identity

Harding uses gouging, which imitates the techniques of rock carving and petroglyphs used by his ancestors on sandstone walls, as an extension of the methods he uses to work into the gallery wall.9 The work spans the entire length of wall and symbolises the rivers, landforms, and waterways of the Aboriginal communities throughout Central and South East Queensland.

Through these connections, the artist is able to provide powerful insights into his own story and that of his ancestors, and inspires the audience to understand and respect the unbroken bonds to the land and culture of his peoples.

1

Liverpool Biennial, “Dale Harding”, last modified 2018, Liverpool

Biennial, www.biennial.com/2018/exhibition/artists/dale-harding Kyla McFarlane, “We Start with the First Australians: Telling the

2

A sense of cultural identity, important to Harding through his connection to ancestors and country, is expressed in his artworks using different media and techniques and replacing traditional Aboriginal cultural forms with alternative representations.13 The unifying thread of his artworks is connection: to family, through the use of Reckitt’s Blue laundry whitener that weaves together the stories of multiple generations of women; to country, through the use of gouging technique to represent the land; and to culture, through the use of stencilling to signal his reverence to his Elders and ancestors.

www.blog.qagoma.qld.gov.au/dale-harding/ Kitty Scott, “Future Greats: Dale Harding”,

3

ArtReview Asia, 2018, www.artreview.com/features/ ara_summer_2018_future_greats_dale_harding 4

QAGOMA. “View the installation of Dale Harding's wall composition”,

QAGOMA (blog), last modified 24 October 2017, www.blog.qagoma. qld.gov.au/dale-harding-wall-composition-in-reckitts-blue 5

Dale Harding, Hendrik Folkerts, and Angela Goddard, Body of Objects

(Brisbane, QLD: Griffith University Art Museum, 2017). 6

Angela Goddard, “Dale Harding: Material Traces”, Art Guide

Australia, 15 September 2017, www.artguide.com.au/art-plus/ dale-harding-body-objects 7

QAGOMA. “View the installation of Dale Harding's wall composition”.

8

Louise Martin-Chew, “Dale Harding discusses his incredible year”,

Art Guide Australia, 30 September 2017, www.artguide.com.au/ dale-harding-discusses-his-incredible-year 9

QAGOMA. “View the installation of Dale Harding's wall composition”.

10

QAGOMA. “Dale Harding Wall Composition in Reckitt’s Blue 2017”,

QAGOMA Learning, last modified 2017, www.learning.qagoma.qld. gov.au/artworks/wall-composition-reckitts-blue/ 11

Ibid.

12

Louise Martin-Chew, “Dale Harding discusses his incredible year”.

13

QAGOMA. “View the installation of Dale Harding's wall composition”.

41

Wall Composition in Reckitt’s Blue conveys Harding's emotional ties to his people's land and history and draws the viewer into the space.10 In the top right corner of the wall installation, there are three spectral outlines representing three female figures of different generations (mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother).11 The placement of these figures illustrates the significance of Harding's matrilineal heritage and their shared history as domestic labourers. It also underscores strong maternal connections within Aboriginal culture. The unbroken gouge in the installation demonstrates an important connection to country and water and the strong ties to family and land.12 Shovel handles replacing hands or boomerangs, and the immense scale provides a cultural continuation of the works found on the walls of his Elders in Carnarvon Gorge. All these references back to his heritage and community convey to the viewer the importance of his connection to country.

Story of Australian Art”, QAGOMA (blog), last modified 4 May 2018,


42

ART ENQUIRER ISSUE Nº2

Art’s Agency Against Sexual Violence in the Digital Age Liam Hunter Indooroopilly State High School


Art’s Agency Against Sexual Violence in the Digital Age

43

Created at a time when the possibilty of the Internet seemed limitless, Eugenia Raskopoulos’s Untitled no. 3 (1998) addresses the potential for misuse and manipulation of power online. Some twenty years on, we are still grappling with “technologyfacilitated sexual violence”—enacted through cybercrimes, sexual assault, and the sharing of sexually explicit images without consent.1 These issues have been the subject of continual media focus and public debate, however this confronting photograph by Raskopoulos exhibited as part of Griffith University Art Museum's Dark Rooms: Women Directing the Lens 1978-98 powerfully cuts through the discussion.


ART ENQUIRER ISSUE Nº2

44

To effectively address such a complex subject, concepts such as scopophilia, which in psychoanalytic theory is the sexual pleasure derived from looking at the human form, 2 are critical. The “male gaze”, an idea developed by feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey, explains that through scopophilia, the female form is inherently sexualised by heterosexual society for pleasurable viewing by men.3 While Mulvey speaks on the function of the male gaze in cinema, her theories are applicable across all media, and can certainly be applied to new technologies.4 Voyeurism and the male gaze are prevalent in Internet culture. Rather than merely objectifying women and subjecting them to a specific standard of beauty,5 in certain online subcultures such as the growing phenomena of DIY Internet pornography, women are additionally measured against a standard of “sexual excellence”.6 The concept of the male gaze, which predates this recent online trend, helps us to understand that women are always viewed as objects of sexual desire—regardless of erotic or unerotic context. Pornography, however, exaggerates this tendency with women largely represented in positions of passivity and willingness; “the woman depicted is herself not actively desiring . . . she is only there to be sexually desired and taken”.7 In this sense, women are stripped of their independence, own desires, and potentially the right to consent.8 Raskopoulos’s photograph Untitled no. 3 depicts a woman whose head is being forced down by a hand out of frame—her open mouth and its contents are pixilated to hide its sexually explicit nature. This distortion of her mouth symbolises the silencing of women’s voices, the removal of their independence, and the establishment of the perceived irrelevancy of their desires as promoted in porn. The viewer feels her pain and her cruel subjugation; the close-up framing allows for an uncomfortable, distressing intimacy.

A dull, desaturated colour palette draws the life from the image and reminds the viewer that this is a sordid, perhaps even sorrowful moment they are witnessing. Abstracting and disguising the image to remove its explicitness mirrors an ignorance towards, or an acceptance of, the sexual violence directed against women endorsed in Internet pornography. In 1998, Eugenia Raskopoulos warned of a future in which this treatment of women became normalised through this violent yet concealed imagery. Raskopoulos’s critique of pornography is still relevant. Not only is sexualised violence against women commonplace, it is increasingly normalised through Internet culture, particularly through continual and repeated exposure to pornography. Over half of 11–16-year olds have seen online porn at least once, and in males, feelings of shock and distress tend to decrease with repeated viewing.9 Raskopoulos uses abstraction to confront us. Rather than feeling disconnected from statistics and facts, art has the power to instil a deeper understanding of human feelings. Art allows issues not just to be known, but felt.10 It acts as a starting point for discussions like these, discussions of issues in a modern, ever-changing, digital society. Twenty years ago, Raskopoulos warned us of the effect of Internet pornography and its impact on violence on women. We did not heed her then, but we ought to now.


Art’s Agency Against Sexual Violence in the Digital Age

45

Eugenia Raskopoulos, Untitled no. 3, 1998, Ilfochrome photograph, 77 x 99cm. Griffith University Art Collection. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program by the artist, 2000. Image courtesy the artist, KronenbergWright Artists Projects, Sydney, and ArcOne Gallery, Melbourne

1

Nicola Henry, and Anastasia Powell, “Sexual Violence in the

Digital Age: The Scope and Limits of criminal Law”. Social & Legal Studies 25, no. 4 (January 2016): 397–418, https://doi. org/10.1177%2F0964663915624273 Daniel Chandler and Rod Munday, A Dictionary of Media and

2

Communication (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016). Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, Screen 16, no.

3

3 (October 1975): 6–18, https://doi.org/10.1093/screen/16.3.6 4

Ibid.

5

Alice H. Eagly et al., “Feminism and Psychology: Analysis of a Half-

century of Research on Women and Gender”, American Psychologist 67, no. 3 (2012), http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0027260 6

Mari Mikkola, Beyond Speech: Pornography and Analytic Feminist

Philosophy. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017). Antonia Quadara et al., The effects of pornography on children and

7

young people. Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies, https://aifs.gov.au/sites/default/files/publication-documents/rr_ the_effects_of_pornography_on_children_and_young_people_1.pdf 8

Ibid.

9

Ibid.

10

Olafur Eliasson, “Why art has the power to change the world”,

World Economic Forum, (18 Jan 2016), https://www.weforum.org/ agenda/2016/01/why-art-has-the-power-to-change-the-world/


46

ART ENQUIRER ISSUE Nยบ2

Suburban Reminiscence Sebastian Petroni Marist College Ashgrove


Suburban Reminiscence

47

Christopher Zanko, Austinmer Pastels, 2018, acrylic on wood relief carving, 120x90cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Edwina Corlette Gallery.


ART ENQUIRER ISSUE Nº2

48

Within Austinmer Pastels, Christopher Zanko weaves an intimate narrative through his distinct portrayal of a suburban identity and its link with the perpetually shifting nature of Australian architecture. The interplay of identity and culture are themes present in the artist’s paintings of localised suburbs. Zanko’s sentimental narratives are epitomised by Austinmer Pastels. The artist aims to bring attention to the pernicious architectural modernisation, which deconstructs and reconstructs Australian culture: an underlying dilemma, which ultimately drives his artistic practice. Comprehending the vulnerability of old structures to the progression of modern society, Zanko ensures the legacy of the typical Australian suburban home through his wood relief carvings.1 Exhibited at Edwina Corlette Gallery as part of The Platform 10 group exhibition, Zanko’s Austinmer Pastels is part of a compelling and exquisitely detailed series of depictions of suburban life. 2 Using acrylic on wood, Zanko carved and painted a stylised suburban home, rendering it with a slick aesthetic. Upon closer scrutiny, the true textured nature of the artwork reveals the meticulous and repetitive artistic process of wood relief carving. Each line incised is decisive, creating both resolute angular forms and asymmetric organic patterns. A discernible instance of the contrasting forms is the unsystematically patterned shrubbery breaching and obscuring the linear structure of the house. Due to the carved lines and bright chiselled patterns, there is no definitive focal point, yet two-point perspective may lead the viewer’s eye to the vertical post (to the left, near the bins), which defines a third of the artwork. Zanko successfully imbues his work with these

skilfully used design elements and principles through the interplay of his chosen mediums and artistic techniques—woodcarving and painting— in a multi-stage process.3 When surveying the artwork, the viewer sees an exterior view of an Australian house. Zanko’s inspiration emerged from the cultural milieu of suburban life in Wollongong, south of Sydney. What has arisen over decades in this location can be described as an “eclectic mix of architecture that reflects each wave of economic and social change”.4 This means, in the context of the alluring seaside city also being a region notorious for its heavy industry, Wollongong’s varied past results in a melting pot of architectural movements and designs. Zanko’s stylistic choice and presentation of architectural design are reminiscent of Howard Arkley’s airbrushed paintings of Australian suburbia; although Zanko prefers muted tones, rather than the vibrant floral patterns for which Arkley's work is known.5 Austinmer Pastels typifies the suburban architecture of Australia, sporting a Dutch gable roof design— generally referred to as heritage design—which is an amalgamation of the Hip End and Gable designs.6 The vernacular architecture presented within Zanko’s artwork has cultural significance for Australia because the artwork is an addition to the artist’s growing archive of the diminishing picturesque charm of regional Australia.7 Zanko’s artwork merits recognition for his revival of the mid-twentieth-century aesthetic through his nostalgic pieces: an aesthetic further manifest in the 1950–1960s-era striped awnings, which cast sharp abyss-like shadows across the face of the house.8 The shadows that shroud the windows and sections of the timbered façade and porch starkly contrast the muted and pale tone of the frontage and the light blue gradient of the sky. The skilful proficiency and manipulation of contrast and tonal value transform the plain urban composition into a foreboding and enigmatic image. These shadows in conjunction with those across the ground lend the mundane


Suburban Reminiscence

façade an air of decrepitude because the prominent darkness gives the painted carving the appearance of withering away where it merges with the black border. Zanko’s calculated use of negative space cleverly hints at the urban redevelopment of Wollongong, which threatens to tear down and rebuild regional towns.9 This use of negative space contrasts to the organic patterns—the greens of the partially concealed tree and the front lawn, and the bright foliage, which is punctuated by natural red highlights. The red, yellow, and grey bins, the balls, and patchy grass, all lend the work an air of realism. With a cursory glance, these attributes could be easily overlooked. These small bursts of colour and homely belongings serve to vivify the plain exterior.

Zanko succeeds in forming a distinct portrayal of a typical Australian suburban identity, a reflection of the past, which is based on the exploration of his own subjective perceptions, and the dynamics of Australian culture and society. This artwork represents how the desire to preserve our history through the conservation of suburban architecture, still resonates in much of Australian society. The quiet backwaters of Wollongong laid the foundation for Zanko’s work, providing a form of reminiscence on the present state of iconic mid-twentieth-century suburbia, and acting “as a mark of their historical past and power”.10 Through Austinmer Pastels, Zanko develops the atmosphere of a homely dwelling— an egress from and a harbinger of the rapid development of modern society.

The Egg & Dart, “Christopher Zanko”, 2018 , www.egganddart.com.

au/christopher-zanko-bio 2

Edwina Corlette Gallery, “The Platform Ten “, 2018, www.

edwinacorlette.com/exhibitions/9236_the-platform-10-tim-allenliam-ambrose-john-bokor-bridie-gillman-jane-guthleben-dankyle-charmaine-pike-vanessa-stockard-christopher-zanko/9699/ austinmer-pastels 3

Carrie McCarthy, “Christopher Zanko Bio”, 2018 , www.

edwinacorlette.com/artists/christopher-zanko/~bio 4

McAuliffe, acquisition report, the Vizard Foundation Art Collection

of the 1990s files, the Ian Potter Museum of Art, the University of Melbourne, 1994, n.p. 5

Creative Outdoors Adelaide, “Dutch Gable – Heritage”, 2018,

www.creativeoutdoors.com.au/adelaide/pergola-specialist/main/ dutch-gable-heritage-adelaide/ 6 7

Carrie McCarthy, “Christopher Zanko Bio”.

Chad Randl, “The Use of Awnings on Historic Buildings, Repair,

Replacement and New Design”, National Park Service: Preservation Brief 44, April 2005, www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/44awnings.htm 8

Carrie McCarthy, “Christopher Zanko Bio”.

9

Ibid.

10

Ibid.

49

These material hints of culture and personality are emblematic of the artist’s attachment to the location and substantiate the notions of intimacy and familiarity with the suburban setting that Zanko provides for his viewers.

1


Published by the Institute of Modern Art (Brisbane).  ©Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, and the individual authors, artists, and photographers, 2018. Designed by Sarah Thomson, Communications Officer, Institute of Modern Art. Printed by Spotpress, Australia. ISBN 978-0-6480181-3-1 This work is copyrighted and all rights are reserved. Apart from any use permitted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without the prior written permission from the publishers. Co-Directors, Institute of Modern Art: Aileen Burns and Johan Lundh Assistant Director, Institute of Modern Art: Madeleine King Curator of Public Engagement, Institute of Modern Art: Sancintya Simpson Development & Touring Manager, Institute of Modern Art: Jenna Baldock Executive Officer, Flying Arts Alliance: Kerryanne Farrer Former Scheduled Program Lead, Flying Arts Alliance: Jess Cuddihy Current Scheduled Program Lead, Flying Arts Alliance: Julie Robson

The IMA is supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland, and from the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council for the Arts, and through the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian Federal, State, and Territory Governments. Flying Arts Alliance Inc is supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland, the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation, the University of Southern Queensland, and corporate partners and benefactors. Art Enquirer is proudly supported by Brisbane Airport Corporation and travel subsidies were made available thanks to Brian Tucker Accounting.


WWW.IMA.ORG.AU WWW.FLYINGARTS.ORG.AU

Profile for Institute of Modern Art

Art Enquirer 2018  

The Institute of Modern Art (IMA) and Flying Arts Alliance (FAA) present 'Art Enquirer', a collaborative education program and publication....

Art Enquirer 2018  

The Institute of Modern Art (IMA) and Flying Arts Alliance (FAA) present 'Art Enquirer', a collaborative education program and publication....

Advertisement