$19.95 9 771 446 360003
MAGAZINE OF AUSTRALIAN & INTERNATIONAL PORTRAITURE
........................................ ........................................ ........................................ ........................................ ........................................ ........................................ ........................................ ........................................ ........................................ ........................................ ........................................ ........................................ ........................................ ........................................ ........................................ ........................................ ........................................ ........................................ ........................................ ........................................ ........................................ ........................................ .... Macquarie Digital Portraiture Award 2015 The National Portrait Gallery calls all creative types to submit a screen-based digital portrait for the Macquarie Digital Portraiture Award 2015. With the generous support of the Macquarie Group Foundation, the National Portrait Gallery is now offering two award categories for the most outstanding screen-based digital portraits: a $10,000 cash award for entrants aged 18 and over, and an artistic residency for entrants aged 18-30, valued at $15,000.
Entries open 13 April until 30 July 2015. The exhibition of selected finalists will be displayed at the National Portrait Gallery from 28 August to 29 November 2015. Further information portrait.gov.au
03 Observation point Abdul Abdullah 04 Swimming every day National Photographic Portrait Prize judge Christopher Chapman connects this year’s entries to iconic contemporary american photographers. 10 No small wonder Joanna Gilmour describes how artist Sam Leach works on a small scale to grand effect. 14 Desperately seeking Sonia Esther Erlich’s portrait of Lady McMahon. By Angus Trumble. 18 Post digital Tegan McAuley looks at the evolution of video portraiture.
22 A real Pratt The death of a gentlewoman is shrouded in mystery, a well-liked governor finds love after sorrow, and two upright men become entangled in the historical record. By Sarah Engledow. 26 The transparent mask Cate Blanchett and the art of acting in Rosetzky’s digital portrait. By Karen Vickery. 29 Village people Christopher Chapman discusses the series newcomers to my village by Rod McNicol. 35 The silent partner One half of the team that was Eltham Films left scarcely a trace in the written historical record, but survives in a vivid portrait. By Sarah Engledow.
40 Dan the man Martin Philbey’s portrait of Dan Sultan. By India Bednall. 42 Air wear Aviation carried women’s roles in society to greater heights – fashion followed suit. By Esther Agostino. 46 All that fall Raimond Gaita comments on war and truth in the context of the First World War. 50 On show International and national portraiture exhibitions. 52 Tribute Tom Uren ac
PORTRAIT#48 AUTUMN 2015 Portrait is the magazine of the National Portrait Gallery King Edward Terrace Parkes Canberra ACT 2600 Australia 02 6102 7000 portrait.gov.au/magazine Editor-in-chief email@example.com Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
esther agostino (“Air Wear” p. 42) is Reference Support Coordinator, Research Centre, Australian War Memorial
joanna gilmour (“No small wonder” p. 10) is Curator at the National Portrait Gallery
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dr christopher chapman (“Swimming every day” p. 4) (“Village people” p. 29) is Senior Curator at the National Portrait Gallery
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raimond gaita (“All that fall” p. 46) is Professorial Fellow in the Melbourne Law School and Faculty of Arts University of Melbourne
india bednall (“Dan the man” p. 40) was recently the Curatorial Intern at the National Portrait Gallery
The cover: Jessica 2014 by Brett Canet-Gibson is a finalist in the National Photographic Portrait Prize and forms part of an ongoing photographic series called Face:Place, exploring the connection between people and the places they share.
illustrator alice carroll
tegan mccauley (“Post digital” p. 18) is Exhibitions Project Officer at the National Portrait Gallery
Copyright The material in this publication is under copyright. Excluding fair dealing purposes, such as private study, criticism and review, research and education, no part of the publication may be reproduced or transmitted without permission from the National Portrait Gallery. Where applicable, every effort has been made to contact copyright holders and acknowledge the source material. Errors or omissions are unintentional and corrections should be directed to email@example.com © 2015 National Portrait Gallery issn 1446 3601
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OBSERVATION POINT ABDUL ABDULLAH Bride 2015
wanted to be a journalist. I was very idealistic and I had a big chip on my shoulder. I wanted to investigate the human condition, drawing attention to those in need with the hope of someday effecting positive change. I was inspired by John Pilger and people like him who were out there making a difference. I didn’t want a job; I wanted a passion. But as I studied journalism I saw a future of rewording press releases and felt my self-determination being taken from me. This is not to say journalism is just rewording press releases but, needless to say, I fell out of love with it.
I was and still am a really curious person which is an asset in a journalist, but I wasn’t always interested in what was newsworthy. What really killed it for me was the reporting of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. In my last year of journalism I picked up an elective in ‘Visual Research’ and I met a lecturer called John Teschendorf. He showed me how art could sustain my curiosity and act as a vehicle for my investigations. I changed courses and was thrown into a world of theory and clever, well-spoken people talking about not a whole lot. Throughout it all my interest in people was unwavering. Everything else seemed trivial.
This interest naturally drew me towards portraiture and figuration, and by second year I was researching the Old Masters and contemporary practitioners like Jenny Saville and Lucian Freud. I understand there are many ways to investigate the ‘human condition’, and in a way all art attempts this in one way or another, but during my time studying journalism I learned the direct route is often the best one. I choose portraiture because I am interested in people. In an ideal world I want my work to change how people see and engage with their worlds, and people don’t connect with anything better than other people.
Negotiating a family portrait – a study of history, myth and identity 2014 Marzena Wasikowska Artist statement: At social gatherings smartphones rule. One person’s click-tolerance is tested, another is respected. Already a reverse shot exists.
Kid A 2014 Joshua Morris Artist statement: We had just watched the sun come up and it was finally breaking through the clouds, as my eldest son emerged from the ocean. I snapped five frames and this was one of them. It’s one of any number of fleeting moments that pass you by, or that you savour, or that you snap in an instant in the hope that it will bring back the sound of the sea, the smell of the salt and the feeling of being on holidays with your family, and loving it.
national photographic portrait prize judge christopher chapman connects this year’s entries to iconic contemporary american photographers. Photographs are so familiar to us. There’s a pleasure in taking photographs. Recording our surroundings, our interactions with each other, ourselves, can be an act of sharing, of exploring, of attempting to understand what it is we are looking at. Photographs from childhood, of friends and family viewed as prints in an album or spilling from packets, or viewed as a slideshow on a computer screen, raise up memories. Seeing ourselves as a child merges the image with an imagined memory. That singular picture fills out into a sensory-rich memory echo, prickling with the flush of intense emotions. From decades
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Who’s that lady? 2014 Ferne Millen Artist statement: ‘Who’s that lady?’ they ask, watching her sipping coffee at her favourite Torquay café each morning. ‘What’s that lady’s story?’ they enquire, as they watch her cross the busy Surf Coast highway, head held high, with perfect posture, resplendent in her stiletto high heels and recently purchased outfit from the Salvos. Everyone is aware of Jill’s presence in the town. She taught this person English or that person Physical Education. ‘Wasn’t she a ballroom dancer?’ Everyone claims to know her but no one really knows her or her past. Jill is known by many but remains an enigma.
ago, from last night, a hazy memory takes form. The emotional pulse of yesterday’s feeling still hurts hard. American photographers Larry Clark and Nan Goldin make photographs of such deep sensitivity they see past the bruised souls of those 6
they capture to a glimpse of the purity at heart. For Clark, going back to his home town and taking portraits of the older kids he used to hang out with was a way to validate an adolescence he felt he was denied, that he felt came late. In 1963 in Tulsa Oklahoma, Clark
could project his sense of self outward onto the bodies of the boys he wanted to be. In his photographs boys are sure of themselves, boys and girls make out. Clark’s silvery black-and-white prints distil that yearning for inclusion. Goldin’s portraits of herself, her lovers and friends share the painful honesty of true emotions revealed. In 1983, in New York City, the morning-after feelings were stripped raw. Her warm-hued colour photographs bring forth the heat of the body and its pulsing blood. Both photographers make portraits to try to understand
Sebastien Malone 2014 Juliet Taylor Artist statement: This image is part of a portrait series I have been photographing in clubs around Sydney and Melbourne. I would candidly take the portrait of the sitter and then make contact. These were taken completely spontaneously, capturing honest reactions, at first glance. You don’t know me, I don’t know you, but this is where we both are.
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Joey 2014 Elke Meitzel Artist statement: My work is largely inspired by real life events and I have a strong interest in the cinematic. The exploration of people, the subconscious and spaces feature frequently. This work is a highly constructed form of psychological mapping and is rooted somewhere in the space between reality and fiction. It forms part of a larger body of work exploring suburbia.
Ela Stiles 2014 Max Doyle Artist statement: This is a portrait of musician Ela Stiles. I have collaborated with her musically in our band, Songs, for many years. Recently Ela has embarked on a solo career.
themselves, those closest to them and those they want to be closest to. Here’s where feelings swell. For you, for me, for us, looking at photos of our youth, didn’t you know how beautiful you were? Memory holds the selfconscious feelings of adolescence. How does my body look as it changes? Who do I long for? When American photographer Richard Avedon set off on his epic journey to make portraits across America’s vast mid-west, he thought he was going to create a sweeping portrait of a typical kind of America. What he got was a series of portraits that are shockingly unguarded. Avedon’s skill was to convey that moment when self-consciousness is dropped. His portrait of thirteen-year-old Boyd Fortin holding a gutted rattlesnake was the first portrait he took for the series. The kid is an angel, with a cloud of
consternation flashing across his face. Here’s the wet grass and smell of the bush, wearing shorts, warm air, ambient sounds of nature resting and floating around, a calm place. Here’s the routine of swimming every day, the sting of cool water then your body forgetting the cold and recognising the familiar suspended lax gravity of the sea. The
expanse of ocean swell and the tilting horizon and rocks and beach. Do you remember the shiver caused by a breeze on your bare skin? A shiver that vibrates the skin like a brush on a snare drum. American photographer Collier Schorr’s photograph of a pair of college wrestlers is a classic image of athleticised masculine energy, 7
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Portrait of Ali 2014 Hoda Afshar National Photographic Portrait Prize 2015 Winner Artist statement: Soobatan Village, in northern Iran. It sits in a mountain range so high, it exists above the clouds. They call it ‘the dream of Iran’. In this village, I was told, the cleverest kids are sent to city-schools to be taught; the rest are made to stay, and most become shepherds. Ali was one of them. It was a warm morning. As I was walking, I saw him approaching through the mist that permanently clings to the road. He looked at me and my camera enquiringly. He said very little – mostly one word, over and over: alooche. It means ‘little berry’.
their bodies in tension and torsion. Schorr sees something else too, a sinuous rhythm in their contact like a dance. Here’s a kid with a bloodied nose, another with an ice-pack to his forehead. Here’s an army cadet – a boy on his way to becoming a man. Schorr understands the heaviness of the burden that adulthood imposes on everyone – the expectation of having to choose who it is you are going to be, to define your essential self from the set list of categories, and to be painfully aware of what it might mean to deviate from them. Many of the portraits selected for this year’s National Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition flicker with complex emotional registers. Outwardly bold, they suggest inner reflection. Surety is based upon serenity. Innocence is deepened by a flash of self-awareness. In the evening air, in space, self-hood is quietly energised. This year we received a record 2,500 entries. With Angus Trumble, the National Portrait Gallery’s Director, and photographer Nikki Toole, we selected 44 exhibition finalist portraits. While
Barry & Alkirra – The House in Carrington 2014 Katherine Williams National Photographic Portrait Prize 2015 Highly commended Barry, 17, cuddles with his newborn baby girl Alkirra. He will stay with his girlfriend Stevie, 17, for the first few days. Stevie’s sister, Sami, was also 17 when she had her baby and their mum, Jenny, was 16 when she had her first. Now they all live together in this house in Carrington. My parents are 70, I am 32, and I have no children. My life could not be more different than that of Jenny, Sami or Stevie’s. But over the years that I have been documenting them, we have found common ground and become friends.
many images showed insight, drama or sensitivity, those that really made us pause conveyed something more. Many of the photographs selected for the exhibition revealed to us something surprising about their subject – we could strongly sense their candour, or trepidation, as they revealed a glimpse of their inner self. All of the exhibition portraits are defined by clarity and a strong or subtle visual composition either in balance or in tension. The strength of these portraits is felt subconsciously. The creation of these photographic portraits – tender, haunting, atmospheric, and honest – is the result of the photographer’s eye. 9
No small wonder joanna gilmour describes how artist sam leach works on a small scale to grand effect. When Sam Leach won the Archibald Prize in 2010 with a portrait of comedian and musician Tim Minchin, the standard reaction was to observe how unexpected it was that such a small and meticulous work had so thoroughly trumped its brasher, bolder and mostly massive competitors. A mere sixty centimetres high and glazed with a layer of glossy resin, Leach’s winning work provided a delicate, jewel-like rebuke to what sometimes seems to have become standard portrait-prize fare. Firstly there was its arresting precision, the exacting application of paint, and a virtuosity of execution of the sitter’s features informed in part by the stimulus Leach finds in the work of Dutch still life and landscape masters, and in the seventeenth century generally as the period that saw the advent of scientific observation as a way of understanding the world. Demonstrating the influence of an artist 10
like Willem van Aelst – known for his arrangements of flowers, fruit and dead game in which illusions of light, surface and texture are impeccably rendered – Leach’s portrait of Minchin, like many of his works, was an examination of the nature of painting itself, and of how something as fluid or indefinable as a ‘likeness’ might be convincingly constructed in paint. No gimmicks, just Minchin, barefoot, in a velvety-looking olive green hoodie, standing in a corner in a room in his home, angling his head slightly towards one shoulder and turning his darkly underscored eyes to look at you. Minchin quipped that he liked the painting because it made his lounge room floor look clean, and that would please his mother. In addition to aiming for an accurate depiction, Leach said that he ‘wanted to get a sense in the painting of the fact that he’s quite a deep, careful thinker’, and admitted that he painted three portraits of Minchin before arriving at one that he was content with. Then there was the portrait’s much commented-upon size. His fourth
consecutive Archibald Prize finalist, Leach’s portrait of Minchin remains the smallest painting ever to have won it, as is so for the landscape with which he took out the Wynne Prize the same year – making Leach one of only three artists (the others being William Dobell and Brett Whiteley) to achieve that distinction. Of his typical choice to paint on a small scale, Leach has said that his intention is to create a sense of intimacy, to ‘draw the mind into the
A surface against which we can move 2014 Sam Leach Courtesy of Sullivan + Strumpf
Though portraiture is only an occasional aspect of Leach’s output, his crafting of these sealed, intimately-scaled and thought-provoking paintings, in combination with the underlying concerns of his work, provides a particularly apposite approach for portraits, the act of looking at which is in itself a kind of investigation, search or discovery. portrait 48 autumn 2015
paintings’, as he puts it, and encourage the viewer to engage with them closely. ‘Instead of having the entire space exerting influence on the viewer’, Leach prefers to ‘have the viewer project into the space of the painting’. The application of epoxy resin to the surface of his paintings plays an important part in creating this effect. As Leach explained of his Archibaldshortlisted portrait of former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett, for example, ‘the work is small in scale with quite labour-intensive detailing to encourage an intimate and individual encounter with the portrait. The whole painting is coated in resin, which forms a reflective barrier. This seals the painting in so that it is completely isolated from the world around it. At the same time, the reflection draws the viewer into the picture.’ Since his first solo exhibition, in 2004, Sam Leach has made a speciality of these modest, lustrous and flawlessly-realised paintings that, in both execution and subject matter, are also often suggestive of museum collections or cabinets of curiosity, and evocative of the various precise, invasive or irreversible methods applied as a means of stilling life: banks of pickled organs, floating in metho or formalin; moths and butterflies impaled onto paper; and plants flattened in crumbly leather-bound folios. His works consider the Enlightenment-era assumption of humankind’s superiority over nature, and the capacity for exploitation inherent in it, exploring the relationship between humans and animals and the way that science and technology shape our perception and understanding of the world. Leach’s 2011-2012 exhibition The ecstasy of infrastructure, for example, featured paintings created in response to those by artists Ralph Balson and Edwin Tanner, Leach finding an affinity between their engagement with structure and abstraction and his own interest in elucidating where empirical method and art intersect. In Leach’s paintings, bats, birds and insects, apes, marsupials and various other creatures are depicted as if in observance of conventions of still life or natural history illustration, but with motifs – dots, or LED-style digits, perhaps – indicating modern technology, or juxtaposed with machines and abstract shapes. Chimps disport themselves,
sometimes uncomfortably, in clinical, hard-edged settings; big cats are overlaid with prisms and targets; birds are reflected onto shiny surfaces as geometric structures; pandas and landscapes are revealed to be composed of cubist forms; and, in a series of
paintings inspired by images from the archives of NASA, vultures, goats and other creatures inhabit labs and scenes alongside men in spacesuits, tinkering with various contraptions. To quote one curator’s description, ‘these wee paintings have always had a
Tim Minchin 2009 Sam Leach Courtesy of the Art Gallery of New South Wales
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jarring element embedded beneath the lacquer’, a quality that spikes reflection on matters of knowing and scientific progress, and on the place or role of animals in the measures by which these states are achieved. Though portraiture is only an occasional aspect of Leach’s output, his crafting of these sealed, intimatelyscaled and thought-provoking paintings, in combination with the underlying concerns of his work, provides a particularly apposite approach for portraits, the act of looking at which is in itself a kind of investigation, search or discovery. Correspondingly, Leach’s paintings suggest the revisiting and remaking of another historical tradition – that of the cabinet painting, wherein a full-length figure or scene is shown in perfect detail and highly finished, but on a tiny, personal, or one-on-one scale. Collected in previous centuries by wealthy connoisseur types and typically displayed in little rooms, known as cabinets or closets, to which only intimates would usually be admitted, cabinet paintings made a perfect format for portraits in the old-school sense of the term: namely, a method by which the likeness, and purportedly the spirit, of a notable, desired or admired individual might be extracted and distilled into a cherished object, collected and preserved for posterity in much the same manner as a prized natural history specimen might be snared, stuffed, pinned or delineated. Disdaining the declamatory, in-yourface mode of some contemporary portraiture, Leach has devised a distinct, readily recognisable portrait style wherein his ongoing interest in ideas about art, society, humanity and nature coalesce with technical and conceptual rigour in works which elicit reactions such as inquisitiveness and empathy, and which invite or even demand intense, private scrutiny. You can stare at length at Kennett’s monolith-like face, rendered in remarkable detail and preserved alongside a similarly accurate depiction of a bird in flight, while Minchin, in a full-length portrait, stands as if awaiting inspection, but unerringly returning your gaze. This characteristic of Leach’s work assumes particular pertinence in the case of one of his more recent portrait subjects, Dr Mandyam Srinivasan am, a scientist whose research focusses on the minds of insects and on the
ways in which they might provide a model for an understanding of cognition and emotion in other animals, including humans. Professor of Visual Neuroscience at the University of Queensland’s Queensland Brain Institute, a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and the Royal Society, and the 2006 recipient of the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, Dr Srinivasan studies the way that insects – and bees in particular – see, think, learn and navigate, devising experiments whereby they are coaxed through mazes and other structures, trained to ‘read’ signs and symbols, or to turn left and right. The results of his team’s research to date have contributed to various projects relating to machine vision, camera technology and robotics, such as the development of autonomous navigation systems for aircraft for clients such as NASA and the US military. Incorporating motifs of Leach’s work – for example, the bee within a pattern of orange dots in the background, the Op Art-like design of the apparatus in the foreground, and, of course, the painting’s scale and resin-coated surface – the portrait of Srinivasan is the most recent work to have come about through the National Portrait Gallery’s commissioning program, a canny, double-edged strategy that initiates the creation of portraits of significant subjects by equally important contemporary
artists. Various curatorial incumbents have previously described the process as a specialised kind of matchmaking, pairing the profession, stature or persona of the sitter with an artist whose style holds a strong possibility of a more insightful and resonant result. In this instance, the artist’s seventeenthcentury sensibility and interest in the scientific developments of the era is mirrored in a sitter whose work is a contemporary continuation of the quest for understanding, the pairing, and its small, stunning result proving more than usually serendipitous.
Mandyam Srinivasan 2014 Sam Leach Commissioned with funds provided by Marilyn Darling ac 2014 A bird flies past Jeff Kennett 2006 Sam Leach Courtesy of the Art Gallery of New South Wales The continual whirr of machines 2011 Sam Leach Courtesy of Sullivan + Strumpf
Desperately seeking Sonia
by angus trumble. Lady McMahon reclines comfortably in a small armchair, her languorous pose traced in a long, partly foreshortened diagonal, further adjusted after the manner of an ‘angle shot’ in commercial fashion photography. The tilt of her head, the propped shoulder, the quizzical gaze, and the disposition of her carefully manicured hands suggest strength of character and a degree of tenacity that project through a gauze curtain of beguiling detail: the coiffure, the maquillage, the jewels, and, above all, the hosiery – sheer, flattering and unabashed. The title of Esther Ehrlich’s 1999 painting is Portrait of a Lady (Sonia McMahon), clearly a playful allusion to the sitter’s courtesy title, which derived from her late husband’s knighthood – Sir William died in 1988. Perhaps the 14
title of the portrait, as distinct from that of the lady, can also be read as a not entirely un-sceptical nod in the direction of social distinction, while the literal form of the figure surely hints towards what was known 150 years ago as the grande horizontale. She was certainly not that, but, after her death in 2010 at the age of seventy-seven, Sonia McMahon’s obituaries were almost unanimous in deploying the loaded term socialite. Who or what is a socialite? Someone who is prominent in fashionable society, is perforce fond of social activities and entertainments, and uses such prominence to work charitably for the common good? Or any two of these in combination? Maybe. The term is paradoxical because, like tycoon or statesman or celebrity the person to whom it is applied would probably not
themselves think to write it in the space on the form marked ‘occupation,’ while a person who did self-identify in this way (without irony) – admittedly this was before Kim Kardashian
– is, I suspect, in each case not likely to be a bona fide specimen. Nevertheless the term socialite is obviously class-specific, and must to some extent involve glamour. It is also a kind of spotlight term portrait 48 autumn 2015
projected into the upper reaches from below, for the earliest reference to socialite in the Oxford English Dictionary comes in 1909 in the Bay-Area Oakland Tribune. Importantly the term
therefore originated as a gildedage American colloquialism, and has ever since been closely allied with tabloid journalism and what used to be called the social pages. It seems also to coincide with
the transatlantic moment when society ceased principally to mean ‘high society,’ in the exclusive sense of ‘court and social,’ and broadened radically to embrace the fundamental state or condition
Portrait of a Lady (Sonia McMahon) 1999 Esther Erlich Gift of an anonymous donor 2014
of living or associating with others across a whole community. The quotation history of socialite, n., has duly evolved between the first and third editions of the OED, migrating from associations with aristocracy and a measure of artistic bohemianism, but definitely exclusiveness, towards the frivolous, the shallow, and the sybaritically rich. These are surprisingly moralising editorial modifications, and not I think entirely congruent with current usage in Australia. There is also the question of where exactly in the upper reaches the socialite spotlight falls, for no doubt there are still people who would be horrified to find themselves so designated by the press, either because this would be to penetrate a jealously guarded cordon sanitaire of privacy, or else to imply a degree of counter-jumping vulgarity, or a lack of the kind of discretion that is synonymous with tightly closed social circles such as those of the Alexandra or Queen Adelaide Clubs. At the very least, a socialite would appear to be able to pass freely in and out of these (I am guessing), but also to dwell with equal comfort in far more visible arenas, on red carpets, and in the glare of multiple flashbulbs. Some years ago I asked an Indian member of parliament, who, belonging also to a princely family, was enthusiastically Anglophile, whether she followed the test cricket; India was then on a winning streak. She smiled faintly, shook her head, patted my wrist indulgently, and replied with the single word: ‘Polo.’ A cursory scan of Australian Newspapers Beta, meanwhile, that awesome resource made available by the National Library of Australia, shows that SOCIALITE will most likely appear in midtwentieth-century newspaper headlines followed by the words WEDS, DIVORCES, ARRESTED, INDICTED, KILLED, FOUND DEAD, or QUIZZED ON RED AGENTS. It also tends to attract qualifiers, such as POPULAR, WEALTHY (fifty years ago wealth alone did not by any means define 16
a socialite), SYDNEY (there being apparently a dearth of socialites in Kalgoorlie, Ouyen, Cunnamulla, etc.), PROMINENT, BEAUTIFUL or HANDSOME, because, until
recently, socialite has been a gender non-specific term, there being numerous instances in the headlines of HUSBAND OF and WIFE OF.
Prime Minister William McMahon with wife Sonia McMahon leaving Parliament House, Canberra, 9 March 1971 Picture by Ted Golding © Fairfax Press
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Yet Sonia McMahon, ‘socialite,’ was also the wife of the twentieth prime minister, and the granddaughter of William Matchett, himself one of the richest men in Australia and a prominent grazier in New South Wales. She was also, before her marriage in 1965, a qualified occupational therapist. To some degree she was also a fashionplate, having worn that dress to the Nixon White House. Yet I cannot think of another wife of an Australian prime minister who would ever have been described by our press as a socialite, with the possible exception of Dame Zara Bate (the widow of Harold Holt) or Ethel Bruce, although Lady Bruce was rather too tweed-coat, church-bazaar and sensible-shoes for that descriptor, and in any case it is debatable whether it would have been used here as early as the 1920s. Nor can one think of many wives or spouses or partners of former prime ministers who would have actively sought the distinction.
could be made between Sonia McMahon in Sydney and Susan Rossiter Peacock Sangster Renouf in Melbourne. Lady Renouf was recently described by the Sydney Morning Herald as ‘the welltravelled, much-married socialite,’ and it is not inconceivable that had Liberal Party politics developed along different lines, and had her first marriage not been dissolved when it was (1977), Susan Peacock might also have been the wife of a prime minister. So the dilemma we face, as with many other spouses or former spouses of high officials, is that in the National Portrait Gallery’s database Sonia McMahon currently dwells in the first level distinction of Government and leadership – prime minister’s wife, deeply unsatisfactory in this day and age. And in many respects, Sonia McMahon conforms happily to all the accumulating senses of socialite to which I have referred. She made frequent appearances in the Australian Women’s Weekly and Woman’s Day. She was often
Would Lady McMahon have been described as a socialite had she not been married to Sir William? It seems distinctly possible. Would Lady McMahon have been described as a socialite had she not been married to Sir William? It seems distinctly possible. A fruitful comparison
photographed sipping champagne with friends in the enclosures at Randwick and Flemington. She was a member of numerous boards and an active patron of many
charities, including the National Brain Foundation, the Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation, the Australian Cancer Research Foundation, the Microsearch Foundation, and Australia’s Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Association. Through the twenty-one months of their tenancy in The Lodge in 1971 and 1972, Sonia McMahon joined only two other women who have ever given birth during their husband’s term of office as prime minister, Margaret Fisher (in 1908) and Dame Enid Lyons (in 1933). Many more, however, have felt keenly, as Sonia McMahon certainly did, the competing demands and needs of sometimes very small children and a busy schedule of public commitments dictated by their husband’s commission to high office. The family was obliged, meanwhile, to endure the slings and arrows of a political life to which they
William and Sonia McMahon at their home in Bellevue Hill on Election day 2 December 1972 Picture by Vic Sumner © Fairfax Press Lady McMahon, Eileen Bond and Lady Renouf in the Moet tent at the Melbourne Cup 2003 Picture by Paul Harris © Fairfax Press William McMahon 1973 Victor Greenhalgh Gift of Paul and Wendy Greenhalgh 1999 Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
found themselves wedded, as much as they were from time to time permitted to partake in moments of victory. This, too, was part of the experience of Sonia McMahon when in 1971 Billy McMahon successfully stood for the leadership of the Liberal Party after John Grey Gorton resigned, duly took office as prime minister, but was defeated by Gough Whitlam in the general election that took place at the end of the following year. Far more of the personal resilience made necessary by living through and with those events – Sonia McMahon was twenty-five years younger than Sir William and only forty years old when his political career suddenly ended – has found its way into Esther Erlich’s Portrait of a Lady (Sonia McMahon) than the soubriquet, the mixed message, the label, the veneer of ‘socialite’ would ever allow. Lady McMahon is survived by two daughters, Melinda and Deborah, and a son, the actor Julian McMahon. 17
Post digital entries are now open for the macquarie digital portraiture award. tegan mcauley looks at the evolution of video portraiture. We spend more time in front of a screen than we do sleeping. This is not surprising considering the average 18
Australian household owns eight internet-connected devices (I alone own six). Digital screens and cameras pervade our day-to-day, CCTVs hide in ATMs, digital faces speak to us from billboards and we’re shooting, editing and sharing videos from our smartphones. Using the ‘1 Second Everyday’ app on my iPhone, I have started recording and editing one second of video footage daily, which will become a year-long video portrait of my life. This is more than a ‘selfie’ – this is an off-the-shelf, selfdirected bio-pic. I am just one in millions of consumers of video technology, actively constructing identity, becoming the star of my own show. I am also not
The Rays 1970 Raindance Corporation, Frank Gillette, Michael Shamberg, Paul Ryan video, black and white, sound courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York
alone in being slightly unsettled by this new world. What does this mean for artists today working in the half-centuryold genre of video portraiture? As soon as screen-based technology was available, artists were using it. By the mid-twentieth century, artists and
Global groove 1973 Nam June Paik video, colour, sound courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York Lost Love – Waiting for midnight at the Long Distance Call Building on Chang-an Jie so I can call her, Beijing 1998 2014 Tiyan Baker
portrait 48 autumn 2015
activists participating in the Fluxus and Conceptual art movement, which included John Cage, Yoko Ono and Nam June Paik, were ready for a new means of making experiential art accessible to the masses. Television ignited what American critic Bruce Kurtz called ‘an obsession with the present tense’, attributing ‘Newness, intimacy, immediacy and involvement’ as key characteristics of the medium. Despite its powerful potential for artistic expression, television was expensive, bulky, and controlled by advertisers and multinational corporations. This all changed in 1965 when Korean-American artist, Nam June Paik, walked into a New York shopfront and purchased a Sony Portapak video recorder, fresh off the first shipment to the US. Paik pulled out the camera on his cab ride home and started filming scenes of the Pope’s procession from the car window. When this footage was shown at a café later that night, video art was born. The first decade of video art saw many responses to the commercialism of television, particularly through mimicking mainstream media. American artist Frank Gillette, for example, was interested in shifting the power inherent in broadcast television back to the individual. His focus was to move from being a ‘passive’ recipient of commercialised media to creating the media in a new kind of ‘alternative television’. Gillette recalls turning on his video recorder in 1970 at the beach with his friends, passing the camera around ‘like a joint’, capturing their youthful musings, believing they could revolutionise the medium by putting it into the hands of the artists. For them, it was the intimate nature of the medium, the ability to get up close and personal, that interested them. Pioneering video artists responded to the promulgation of pop culture through television and advertising. Nak June Paik’s and John Godfrey’s video portrait, Global Groove (1973) is an electronic collage of pop icons and excerpts from television and magazines, subverting the language of television and giving audiences a ‘glimpse of a video landscape of tomorrow’. Paik and Godfrey’s commentary on media-saturated society combined with Gillette’s notion of being an ‘active’ participant may seem amateurish by today’s standards, but these early works were the visionary precursors to what unfolded in 19
subsequent decades for video art, and life. Globalisation, the Internet, and the almost daily release of new consumer digital technology have had a profound effect on video art. It has moved from single channel monitor displays to multi-channel, interactive installations. The Barbican Centre’s Digital Revolution exhibition in 2014, Geneva’s Centre of Contemporary Art’s Biennale of Moving Images (2014), and the National Portrait Gallery’s annual Macquarie Digital Portraiture Award (MDPA) explore and extend the potential of video portraiture in our expanding art world. Building on the legacy of early video artists, emerging Australian artist Xanthe Dobbie’s video, The Assumption of 20
Virginity (2013), a finalist in the MDPA 2014, comments on the contemporary creation of identity in this new media world. Dobbie replaces religious figures in Pietro Perugino’s sixteenth-century The Assumption of the Virgin and Four Saints with moving images of pop icons and internet sensations. Dobbie’s work reconsiders identity by casting-off outdated notions of female sexuality by showing ‘the Virgin’ rising above her male celebrity counterparts. Tiyan Baker, the winner of the MDPA 2014 , uses digital video’s watchful intimacy to explore selfhood in Lost Love – Waiting for midnight at the Long Distance Call Building on Chang-an Jie so I can call her, Beijing 1998 (2014).
An unsettling video portrait, recently exhibited at the 2014 Sydney Biennale by artist Daniel McKewen, Running Man (2008–14), focuses on a traditional subject of portraiture – the rich and famous. Five film stars perpetually run towards the viewer but never get caught by their pursuer and never get nearer to the viewer. McKewen’s interpretation of Hollywood masculinity asks ‘are these men running from their true self or a Hollywood construct?’ This postmodern use of the celebrity figure as a primary subject undermines settled notions of self and identity. The ‘true self’ is closely interrogated in contemporary video portraits where the celebrity figure takes centre stage. In
The Assumption of Virginity 2014 Xanthe Dobbie Running Man (2008–14) Daniel McKewen Courtesy of the artist
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Australian Director Warwick Thornton’s video portrait, Paul Kelly (2013), Kelly is portrayed as the Greek mythological character, Atlas. A stoic Kelly stands upon a pedestal, slowly revolving, head down, with the weight of a vintage VOX amp awkwardly resting on his shoulders. The heavenly backdrop and mysterious song creates a sense of otherworldliness, and the pedestal reinforces the legendary status of the subject. Kelly’s staged pose is without movement, until the camera zooms in and his eyes briefly lift to connect with the viewer. This subtle yet powerful movement not only kindles the viewer’s interest, but opens a small window through which Kelly’s mind, or spirit, is momentarily revealed.
As we all – willingly or not – generate enough video content to be stars on our own channel, the practice of video portraiture becomes an increasingly fascinating and important field for creative response. The questions posed by video artists fifty years ago about the homogenisation of culture and the place of the individual in mass communication remain unresolved. The search for an ‘inner life’ or ‘true self’ is an ever shifting and ambiguous plight, as we continue to negotiate the possibility of multiple identities. This has emerged as an area of interest for contemporary artists working in the medium at least partly responsible for this upheaval. As the celebrity takes centre stage for this kind
of video portraiture, we are enticed to look up from one screen to another and ask ourselves: are we not so different from the familiar faces staring back at us from the screen?
Paul Kelly 2013 Warwick Thornton Commissioned with funds provided by Ian Darling 2013
Sir Henry Barkly, K.C.B. Governor of the Colony of Victoria (Plate 1 of Sun Pictures of Victoria by Antoine Fauchery and Richard Daintree) 1858 artist unknown albumen silver photograph on laid down on cardboard Purchased 2014
A real Pratt the death of a gentlewoman is shrouded in mystery, a well-liked governor finds love after sorrow, and two upright men become entangled in the historical record. by sarah engledow. There was general rejoicing in the colony of Victoria when in mid-1860, Sir Henry Barkly gcmg kcb, the forty-five-year-old governor, married twenty-two-year-old Anne Maria Pratt, daughter of Major General Pratt, commander of the troops in the Australian colonies and New Zealand. The service, enacted at the raw, cramped Christ Church South Yarra, was 22
discreet. The party comprised only the bride and bridegroom; Barkly’s daughter Blanche as bridesmaid; Pratt; Mrs Pratt; and Captain Foster, aide-de-camp to the major general. The Argus reported that the church was handsomely festooned with flowers, and ‘notwithstanding the secrecy preserved two or three hundred spectators, mostly ladies, were present … The nuptial knot was tied by the Bishop of Melbourne … The bride wore a white moiré antique dress, covered with white lace, and a rich white veil.’ Annie Pratt had lived in Madras for twelve years before coming to Victoria, and her husband was familiar with other
parts of the world. Born in Rossshire, Scotland in 1815, Barkly started his career in business and politics before serving terms as governor of British Guiana and then Jamaica. Appointed governor of Victoria, he arrived in the colony on Christmas Eve 1856, just a few weeks after the first sitting of its newly-created parliament. Melbourne hadn’t yet turned twenty. Henry Barkly’s immediate priority was securing stable government – a challenge, as into the 1890s, as it transpired, the parliament was to comprise generally independent members who clumped and reclumped into factions according to the issues of the day, amongst them land settlement, education, constitutional and electoral reform and payment of parliamentarians. Barkly’s first wife, Elizabeth Helen Timins, accompanied him to the colony of Victoria, pregnant with a child that was probably her fifth. She lost no time in impressing the public with her ‘frank and natural manner, feminine tact, and savoir faire’, with ‘the intelligent interest she manifested in the various public institutions and undertakings, to which her attention and patronage were solicited’ and with ‘the cheerful activity of her cooperation with other ladies in the work of charity’. A gold lead was named after her in January 1857; the Lady Barkly Company operated for years to come. However, only four months after her arrival in the colony, and at the age of thirty-seven, Lady Barkly died. The Argus reported that in the nine days following the birth of her son she ‘suffered from a nervous excitement, producing depression of spirits, fits of hysteria, and at length a complete nervous exhaustion, terminating in death’. The paper referred to the ‘uncertain state of her health, together with prostration of spirits, and a foreboding anxiety by which she was oppressed ever since she last quitted the shores of England’. When Augustus Tulk announced her death to the many readers in the Public Library on 18 April 1857 the institution was closed for the rest of the day by general agreement. In due course it was reported that her body was enclosed in three coffins, the inner stuffed with horsehair and lined with satin, the middle of lead and the outer of wood, two inches thick and covered with superfine black cloth. Affectingly, Lady Barkly was said to have chosen her own burial site, knowing she would not survive confinement. A couple of weeks after she died, her infant son joined her in her portrait 48 autumn 2015
grave in the ‘new cemetery’ to the north of the city, opened four years before. It was months later, in November, that the Age ran a sensational story, contributed by a columnist for the Australian and New Zealand Gazette, about Lady Barkly’s involvement in a vehicle accident on the Princes Bridge. ‘Lady Barkly was very fond of driving her own pony phaeton … She drove well. We all admired her elegant ease and simplicity of style. One day she was driving up the slope of the Princes Bridge just as one of the St Kilda omnibuses was coming down … suddenly the reins broke … The omnibus came in contact with her phaeton, which was overturned in an instant. Lady Barkly was taken up almost fainting. The driver was speedily seized.’ According to this account, the amiable lady declined to press charges, and the collision had been hushed-up because the she didn’t want the driver of the omnibus blamed for an accident. The week after its publication in Melbourne, ‘The Death of Lady Barkly’ was syndicated to the Sydney Morning Herald and the Newcastle Northern Times. Twenty-first century readers might find it incredible that an accident involving an
Lady Annie Barkly 1863 Batchelder and O’Neill carte de visite photograph Purchased 2014 Sir Henry Barkly c. 1863 Batchelder and O’Neill carte de visite photograph on card Purchased 2010
omnibus and a lady would go unreported in the first instance. Yet we cannot know the extent of the discretion practised by the proprietors of newspapers of the day; perhaps respect for the governor, and his gentle spouse, was enough to keep the story out of print. Whether Elizabeth Barkly had an accident that set off a miscarriage; had an accident, but died of unrelated infection or birth trauma (‘milk fever’ or ‘post-partum inflammation’); or was never involved in an accident at all, will probably never be resolved, now. We know very well what Henry Barkly looked like. Even taking into account the fashions of the day, his facial hair – an unholy alliance of sideburns and gossamer beard strands with the chin left all-but bare – must surely have been remarkable. The National Portrait Gallery has several representations of Barkly in various mediums. One of them is a rare photograph by Antoine Fauchery, a Parisian artist and writer who was in Australia from 1852 to 1856, mining on the goldfields of Ballarat, keeping a store in Daylesford and running the Café Estaminet Français in Little Bourke Street. Having returned to Paris to publish Lettres d’un mineur en Australie
he sailed back to Melbourne, where at the end of 1857 he established a photographic studio and collaborated with Richard Daintree (later commemorated in Queensland) on a series known as the Sun Pictures of Victoria. Fauchery’s picture of Barkly, taken while the governor was still a widower, is one of the first five photographs issued in the first instalment of Sun Pictures. Its spectral aspect may be an effect of Barkly’s having moved a fraction during the exposure – portrait subjects were customarily clamped, but he seems to have been photographed loose. The suggestion of yearning and questing that strikes the twenty-first century viewer went unremarked in the review in the Melbourne Argus: ‘The portrait of His Excellency the Governor has much of the effect of a sepia drawing, but with a softness and delicacy of finish such as a sepia drawing rarely exhibits. It is especially rich in tone, and strikingly like the original, which (paradoxical as the assertion may appear) a great many photographic portraits are not.’ The Barklys were in the news that week; the following day a Newcastle paper ran a story with the unfortunate headline 23
‘Blanche Barkly the Monster Nugget’, about a 145-pound find on the Kingover goldfield in late 1857, which had been named in honour of the governor’s daughter. A second, later photograph of Barkly is a classic example of the studio portraits of Americans Daniel O’Neill and Perez Batchelder, who worked in partnership at 57 Collins Street from 1857 to 1864. The studio had several rooms, and a variety of props: lengths of oilcloth, canvas or drugget; chairs, pillars, plinths, a section of balustrade, painted greenery. Prominent amongst the floorcoverings was a cloth stencilled with marbleised black and white squares mimicking tiles; a different cloth went in a Turkish direction, with more elaboratelydecorated squares. Over the course of a few years, Barkly was photographed there on the ‘marble’ floor against a faux pillar; so was his father-in-law, Thomas Simson Pratt; his wife Annie was posed on the patterned floor; so was his successor, Charles Darling, his arm on the base of the lightweight column. Shortly after Henry Barkly and Annie Pratt married, the Argus reported that the couple was likely to honeymoon at the governor’s residence, Toorak, on account of the immediate departure of Major General Pratt for battle in New Zealand. An epithalamion published in the Age in August 1860 referred to Pratt’s departure for the first ‘Taranaki war’: Thy beauteous bride receives Our warmest love. Soon for an absent sire she grieves For now the trumpet blows War’s wild alarm, And Britain’s foes Their hostile forces arm; Thy father leaves thee Still a trembling bride And rushes to the field. The newlyweds maintained a high profile around the burgeoning colony. In 1860 Nicholas Chevalier designed a fancy-dress costume for Annie Barkly, trimmed with sheepskin and gemstone nuggets, appliqued with fern motifs (Ferntree Gully was then all the rage as a picnic spot) and accessorised with a lyrebird-inspired fan. In March 1861 a bag of fine Lady Barkly potatoes gained a special prize at the Melton Agricultural Society Show. Three months later Lady Barkly presented the Victoria Cross to Private Whirlpool of the Hawthorn Rifles for his valour in India. Major General Pratt arrived back in 24
Melbourne in April 1861. A year later, he was appointed KCB for his services in New Zealand. His investiture, by his sonin-law Governor Barkly, was brilliantly staged in the Exhibition Building: ‘The martial array, the varied uniforms of the military officers, the foreign consuls … and the gay attire of the ladies, together with the bright sunshine which streamed into the building, constituted a picturesque and animated coupe d’oeuil’, reported the Age. At the eastern end of the building, the governor occupied nothing short of a throne, with a canopy of purple and gold; the western end was decorated with flags and banners. Barkly’s private secretary and brotherin-law, Captain Timins – sibling of the securely-entombed Elizabeth – played a star role on the day, reading the warrant of investiture and the despatch signed by the late Prince Albert, Grand Master of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath. Barkly stood to give an account of Pratt’s military career of almost fifty
Sir Charles Darling c. 1863 Batchelder and O’Neill carte de visite State Library of Victoria Sir Charles Darling 1863 Nicholas Chevalier wood engraving State Library of Victoria
years; in Holland, in Gibraltar; with the Cameronians in India; at the assault and capture of the Chuenpe and Bogue forts in China; in Canton; and at Nankin, where he took a ‘leading part in many a hard fought-encounter, until, in … 1842, a treaty securing immense commercial advantages to Great Britain was dictated.’ (Amongst other concessions at the time, the Chinese handed over Hong Kong to the British.) After twelve years in Madras Major General Pratt was directed to assume control of forces in Victoria. ‘Here, if anywhere’, said Barkly, ‘you might have anticipated a respite from active military service; yet no sooner were you arrived than the breaking out of another Maori war called forth fresh proofs of your alacrity to serve your Queen and country, and afforded further opportunities for the display of skill and valour which had so conspicuously marked your previous career.’ Barkly proved a reliable interpreter of colonial affairs to Britain, and made no enemies in the colony. He was a strong supporter of philanthropic and intellectual movements; he was a founder and president of the Royal Society of Victoria, and helped to found the National Gallery, the Acclimatization Society and the National Observatory. He saw the triumphant departure of Burke and Wills, and the dismal end to their expedition. He saw his name attached to the Barkly Tableland, a huge area of the Northern Territory between Camooweal and Tennant Creek. But it all came to an end in the spring of 1863, when he was relieved of his Victorian post with very portrait 48 autumn 2015
little notice, and sent to govern Mauritius. Barkly was succeeded by Sir Charles Darling (1809–1870), who was to govern Victoria until May 1866. Born in 1809, Darling had first come to New South Wales as an eighteen-year-old, an ensign with the 57th Regiment. From 1830 to 1831 he served as military secretary to his uncle, Governor Ralph Darling, in Sydney. After returning to military school at Sandhurst and serving in the West Indies, he retired from the army and settled in Jamaica. There, he worked in various administrative roles that equipped him for the posts of lieutenantgovernor of Cape Colony and governor of Newfoundland, Jamaica, Honduras, and the Bay Islands in succession from 1855 to 1863. When he arrived in Victoria in September of that year he appeared to be the man with the experience for the job. However, every colony was different, and he inherited Barkly’s struggles with a post-gold rush colony in complex tumult over land laws, tariffs and the relative power of the upper and lower houses of parliament. Darling was soon censured for failing to check the dealings of his cabinet ministers and openly opposing further transportation. While the transportation issue died off, in 1865 twenty-two former cabinet ministers petitioned the queen about irregularities that Darling had allowed over the previous two years. He was recalled from office, and a successor was appointed, but he himself resigned from the colonial service in April 1867. Amidst popular outrage, based on the idea that Darling had become a ‘martyr in the cause of progress’, the legislative assembly tried (unsuccessfully) to make a grant of £20 000 to Lady Darling; but Darling met with no sympathy in England, having acted according to his own inclinations rather than exercising the restraint appropriate to his viceregal position. Finally, after complicated ramifications, in May 1868 Darling was allowed to withdraw his resignation and he was granted a retrospective pension, but he died a broken man soon after. Whether he really did age dramatically or not, various portraits of Darling indicate that his three years in Victoria took a heavy toll. In July 1863, Nicholas Chevalier produced a lithograph of a dashing character with wavy brown locks, clean-shaven with waxed mustachios, white-plumed hat under left arm, right hand on the lion’s head finial of a chair arm. By the time he
Sir Thomas Pratt c. 1863 Batchelder and O’Neill carte de visite photograph on card Purchased 2010
left, various photographers had recorded a pooped-looking administrator, his waist-length jacket straining, bags under his eyes and a great deal more salt than pepper in his puffs of hair. In fact, posed in the same way, against an identical pillar in the studio of Batchelder and O’Neill, he’s a dead ringer for Thomas Simson Pratt – twelve years his senior. This explains why the State Library of Victoria has two copies of the photograph of Pratt, one listed under the subject Thomas Simson Pratt and the other mistagged years ago as Sir Charles Darling. Perhaps it is the white-plumed hat that deceives; for the Earl of Hopetoun, too, wore a similar one in office as governor in the 1890s. Evidently the men were kept in position by different restraints; Pratt appears to have a third foot, while a thin strut is discernible behind Darling. In May 2010 the National Portrait Gallery purchased two Batchelder and O’Neil photographs and a mezzotint, the
three purportedly comprising portraits of La Trobe, Barkly and Darling, first, third and fourth governors of Victoria. Notes from the vendor suggested that the photographs of Barkly and Darling were taken as Darling took over from Barkly in 1863. Only after the Gallery was offered the photograph of Annie Barkly was the Pratt family investigated; only then did it become clear that the photograph purchased – and displayed – as a portrait of Darling is, in fact, a third photograph from the Batchelder and O’Neil Studio: one of Pratt, plausibly taken when Barkly knighted him in 1862. Institutional embarrassment aside, the only significant consequence of the mixup is that the Gallery’s now on the lookout for another portrait of a nineteenth-century Victorian governor. Yet a seditious question nags: what does it matter, what a long-dead person looks like? Having been in Mauritius for seven years, Barkly was sent to the Cape of Good Hope, where his eldest son Arthur served as his private secretary. As the Barkly family progressed to Mauritius, Bourbon and the Cape, Anne Maria collected plant specimens; she corresponded with Joseph Dalton Hooker about stapelias, odoriferous succulents in which Henry Barkly was very interested, and compiled A Revised List of the Ferns of South Africa. She is listed in the Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists, as is Emily Blanche Barkly. Lady Barkly was to outlive her husband by thirty-four years – and also to outlive Emily Blanche. Henry Barkly was recalled to England in 1877, having been constrained to make several decisions in Africa that proved regrettable. However, after his return he was made a member of the royal commission on Colonial defence. In retirement, as an elected Fellow of the Royal Society and the Royal Geographical Society, he applied himself to science and the development of the London Library. He died in 1898; the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states that four sons precedeased him. Arthur Barkly represented the Empire in Basutoland (his wife Fanny wrote Among Boers and Basutos: The story of our life on the frontier); the Seychelles; and the Falkland Islands. He ended his career as the last British governor of Heligoland, ‘the Gibraltar of the North Sea’, which was swapped between the British and the Germans in 1890 – the British accepting Zanzibar in return. 25
The transparent mask cate blanchett and the art of acting in david rosetzky’s digital portrait. by karen vickery. After thirty years of professional acting and fourteen years teaching at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) I was naturally drawn to the video portrait of Cate Blanchett by David Rosetzky commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery in 2008. As I first viewed the digital portrait I remember thinking that every acting student must watch this early in their training program. Cate Blanchett is one of Australia’s best known, most luminous and honoured actors. What might her digital portrait tell us about the art of acting? As my colleague, Dr Christopher Chapman, has described, ‘Rosetzky’s video portrait depicts Cate Blanchett performing simple movements, gestures and a dance sequence choreographed by Lucy Guerin within a set that refers to the contexts of film and theatre.’ Blanchett speaks in voiceover describing her working methods and approaches to character, focussing on her relationship to performance and transformation. Rosetzky’s portrait seems to me to be a work that explores an actor’s process. The video begins in close up on the actor’s hands; those instruments capable of an infinite variety of communicative gestures in our day to day interactions and amplified significantly on stage or screen. One hand controls the other through a circular sequence of isolations – turning the wrist downward, opening the palm slightly, curling the fingers, opening the palm – repeat. The series of manipulated hand movements allows us to observe how deliberate placement and articulation opens up the potential expressiveness of controlled gesture at the actor’s command. An actor selects consciously from the myriad of gestures which we perform unconsciously every day. 26
The filmed portrait next focusses on a head shot of Blanchett looking directly at her audience for several seconds before the shot fades out as a camera lens is changed – a reference to the technical aspects of film making. The director’s presence becomes apparent as our gaze is subjected to editing which intervenes and directs our relationship to the actor. With the camera shifting to a close up of Blanchett’s upper body, we watch as she moves a simple chair in a large warehouse space and sits looking directly at us. Her expression is neutral, ‘You’ve got to get to a place of neutrality. It’s like a neutral mask that doesn’t betray any emotion.’ One of the first phases in actor training aims to guide the developing actor to achieve a kind of neutrality in which personal tics and mannerisms will not intrude as the actor progresses toward a transformation into character. Early in the first year of actor training during my time at NIDA, students were filmed entering a room, taking a seat, saying their name, standing and exiting. In watching the individual films it was fascinating to observe the multiple minute permutations and tiny give-away physical and expressive details which intrude on our simplest actions, how much we reveal of ourselves in our simplest gestures. Towards the end of training the process was filmed again. If the actor achieves something near neutrality, the layering of character can begin: a posture, characteristic gestures, rhythms, centre of gravity can be assumed as the actor transforms from self to other. The sequence with the chair in Rosetzky’s video portrait of Blanchett is reminiscent of NIDA training under the movement master, Keith Bain, with whom Cate studied. ‘Speaking personally, there is no doubt that Keith was and is the biggest single influence on my work as an actor.’ (Introduction by Blanchett to Keith Bain on Movement, Currency House).
Portrait of Cate Blanchett 2008 David Rosetzky stills from high definition digital video 9 minutes 56 seconds choreography by Lucy Guerin, sound design and composition by J David Franzke Commissioned with funds provided by Ian Darling 2008
portrait 48 autumn 2015
The following sequence shows Blanchett, apparently casually, donning layer after layer of mismatched items of clothing. At points she freezes, mid movement, indicating a fresh image, a heightened perspective, a hint or foreshadowing of what might follow. With each item of clothing, a new persona emerges, ‘Who I am is constantly shifting’. This sequence most obviously reflects Rosetsky’s stated aim, ‘I didn’t want to present the portrait as a definitive representation of Cate Blanchett – but rather an exploration of shifting identities and inter-changeability.’ The layering completed, Blanchett lies on the studio floor, eyes open, and hands on her belly. She stays prone, thinking and dreaming. She reflects on the characters she has developed for performance saying, ‘I do see them as people, but they’re not completely formed, in the way that you can dream about a person but when you wake from the dream; they’re shadowy, more of an essence.’ Finally, Blanchett disrobes and returns the garments to the chair. She clears the space by removing the chair, the shot widens and reveals the cavernous bare studio with scenery flats and properties stored – the bowels of the theatre. The space has been prepared for physical work. Lucy Guerin choreographed the playful movement sequence, neither dance nor natural movement, which typifies sequences learnt in actor training. Each isolation of a part of the body; each flick of the hand, roll of the shoulder, or turn of the head signifies a new possibility for the actor. Central to such training is the mindful exploration of the body in space and the expressive possibilities of simple movement. The actor focusses on the emotional and intellectual sources of energy production and the differing, subtle impulses compelling movement. The actor aims for specificity and economy. Guerin’s work is committed to an exploration of the everyday and a redefinition of the formal concerns of dance. There is a clear synergy between Guerin’s 28
choreographed sequence and the work of Keith Bain with actors which form a core part of Blanchett’s mature technique. Of Bain, Blanchett writes, ‘His teachings are the foundation of my technique. His suggestions are my notes to self and his deep generosity and passion are a true inspiration, and always the last thought to cross my mind before walking on stage or before ‘action’ is called is Keith’s exquisite metaphor, “to turn my headlights on”’. This commissioned work explores the neutral mask, the layering of character, the work of dreaming and imagining, and studied expressive movement and gesture. It is accompanied by Blanchett’s voice over edited from transcripts of conversations with Rosetzky about her working methods. In structure, the portrait replicates an actor’s process in developing a character early in rehearsals. The core message I read in the portrait is that great acting demands a kind of death of the self. The shape changing, androgynous ancient Athenian god of theatre, Dionysus, was a god of altered states, of actor to character, of sobriety to inebriation, and of life to death. The actor attempts to sublimate self to character but paradoxically, in so doing, reveals aspects of themselves in the imagined situation and circumstance of the character. Blanchett speaks of ‘making the mask transparent’, the ‘constant pull between wanting to be seen and not wanting to be seen’. Despite taking on the mask of the character, the actor’s job is to reveal rather than conceal. There is a tension between the neutralising of identity and a revelation of aspects of the self in the best acting which this portrait explores. Although this portrait’s stated focus is the transformation of the actor’s self to other, rather than a revelation of Cate Blanchett’s personal identity, paradoxically we see her clearly through the transparent mask. portrait 48 autumn 2015
portrait 48â€‚autumn 2015
portrait 48â€‚autumn 2015
Village people christopher chapman discusses the series newcomers to my village by rod mcnicol. Photographic portraits are distinct from those painted, sculpted or drawn. A painter might suggest the energetic personality of the subject through the use of expressionistic and bold brushstrokes. A sculptor might memorialise the subject through the use of larger-than-life scale. The soft lines of a drawn portrait might suggest informality or intimacy. It’s true that a photographic portrait can capture kinetic energy or hint at the complexity of a subject's inner life, but what happens when a photographer chooses to present his subjects without dramatic effect, simply still, face-to-face? Rod McNicol is one of those rare artists who have explored a singular artistic vision over the course of a decades-long career. Careful analysis of this sort often results in a sustained body of work that is sure in its intent. But the subject-matter has to hold steady, and the artist’s vision has to have sufficient depth of perception to avoid simple repetition. McNicol’s focus, for over thirty years, has been to explore a very quiet and gentle form of photographic portraiture. His look at other people has been framed by a consistent visual structure. Here is a person, framed equally always, their shoulders about half-way between the top and bottom of the frame, looking at the photographer. I can tell you that Rod takes only a few photographs of each sitter – the sense of stillness rests there in Rod’s studio, it settles and finds composure before the shutter opens and closes. Rod photographs those around him, his friends, and members of his social world. This world happens to be inner-city Melbourne, and this cultural landscape colours the tribal affiliations of his subjects, evolving over the decades. Rod lives in a densely-layered metropolis, but he sees his neighbourhood as a village. A village is defined by its size – a small grouping of domestic and civic buildings traditionally surrounded by agricultural activity. An urban village is defined by its social and cultural interconnections, its tribes and subcultures. McNicol’s home is his village of 34
inner north east Melbourne. His portraits are part of his village. They are titled ‘portraits from my village’ and ‘newcomers to my village’ and ‘pillars of my village’. His ‘portraits from last century’ are from his village too – young people photographed in the late 1990s, described by Rod as ‘from last century’. They might appear to be from well before last century too – their tribal dress could be medieval. Rod’s portrait of Patrick the Franciscan Monk was taken in 2011, but other sitters are adorned in contemporary urban robes and smocks, their village attire. In a radio interview about this exhibition, Rod identified a tone that he hadn’t noticed before. Not having seen all of these portraits together, it might have been a surprise for him to get some sense of an objective view of his own work, usually being inside of it, creating it. He recognised a feeling in the work as a group. ‘It’s plaintive’ he said. This word implies sadness and melancholy, but also wistfulness. Wistfulness implies yearning and longing. These portraits are quiet, they are calm. The series of double-portraits of the same person, taken twenty years apart, and the portraits of those holding a childhood photograph of themselves, strongly evoke the passing of time. But I wondered, what is this plaintive tone in the individual portraits? Has the photographer been able to draw out a deep sense of longing in these fiercely independent women? What is the yearning in the hearts of the young men who look into his camera? Or are his subjects reflecting back McNicol’s own desire to connect more deeply, at a more fundamental level?
page 15 Maryan 2010 page 16 Kirat 2010 page 17 Ansophie 2009 page 18 Seiya 2009 page 19 Tariro 2010 from the series Newcomers to my village Rod McNicol courtesy of the artist
There’s something transparent about the sense of calm in these portraits. Each person in these photographs is willing to look openly and without fear into Rod’s camera – and by the wonder of the photograph, they look openly and without fear toward us, too. These are portraits of a sentient being looking with quiet consciousness, Rod said in the radio interview. Sentient beings with thoughts, feelings, doubts and hopes, just like you and me. That may seem an obvious thing to note – that these people are people just like us, but what is more special is that McNicol is able to convey this inner sense of yearning with such clarity. There’s something transparent about the sense of calm in these portraits. Each person in these photographs is willing to look openly and without fear into Rod’s camera – and by the wonder of the photograph, they look openly and without fear toward us, too. portrait 48 autumn 2015
The silent partner one half of the team that was eltham films left scarcely a trace in the written historical record, but survives in a vivid portrait. by sarah engledow. In the bush there is a creature And he’s got a bushy tail He is not a kangaroo Or a mongoose or a snail He wears a suit and waistcoat And the smartest shoes and socks That’s Sebastian, Sebastian, Sebastian the Fox.
You may never see Sebastian He’s a cunning little fox He is hiding in the cupboards Or behind the hollyhocks He’s as clever as Aladdin And as sweet as Goldilocks … That’s Sebastian, Sebastian, Sebastian the Fox.
Patrick Ryan 1968 Mark Strizic Courtesy of the artist
The marionette fox Sebastian dangles in a real landscape on the outskirts of Melbourne. Secreted in the real dry grass, stuffed tail aloft and aquiver, he watches a human actor playing a swaggie grilling sausages over an open fire. His diagonal eyelids narrow, and he makes his play, nabbing a snag, hurling sauce in the man’s eyes and fleeing, stiffly. In the ensuing pursuit, including a real-time chase across a log over a stream, he floats, tiptoed, up into a tree. Forced to the end of a branch, he falls, apparently to his death. Remorsefully, the swaggie retrieves his limp form, cradling him tenderly before laying him on the grass and resuming preparations for his meal. After some time, with a twitch of the tail, Sebastian revives – to steal again. The swaggie, relieved, chuckles at the audacity of the verminous hero. Such is the simple tale told in the first episode of Tim Burstall’s Sebastian the Fox, ‘Sebastian and the Sausages’, which showed on ABC3 in Canberra on 22 July 1963 between the Test Card and the Eric Sykes show (followed by Dr Kildare). The many-stringed puppet was the creation of Peter Scriven, whose Tintookies had premiered in 1956 and whose stage show of The Magic Pudding made its debut in 1960. The episodes of Sebastian the Fox follow a reliable narrative pattern. Typically, Sebastian transgresses, and he suffers the consequences – poignantly; some time in the eighth minute, with a blink of his big eyes and a wave of his tail, he endears 35
Pages from Sebastian and the sausages 1965, based on the Eltham film series about the adventures of Sebastian Fox National Library of Australia
himself to his human antagonist. Alternatively, he’s simply captured or trapped in some way, and escapes. Sebastian’s movements inevitably want for fluidity but his operators, who included Igor Hyczka and Janet van Puffelen, gave him their all: in one episode the puppet rolls up a swag, in another he pumps up a tyre and in the climax to a story set in a grim Melbourne pet-shop, he hoists a genuine rabbit between his felt-and-wire paws. Sebastian the Fox, an Eltham Films production, exemplifies the combined simplicity and sophistication of children’s entertainment in the 1960s; but it’s entertaining and instructive, too, in its reflection of the physical environment, and personal intersections, in the artistic milieux of inner-Melbourne and Eltham – on the rural fringe to the northeast of Carlton – in the 1950s and 1960s. 36
The fox breaks into a potters’ cooperative in a whitewashed roughwalled outbuilding and clowns around on the wheel. Swinging rakishly from his own wires, he climbs the hayloft and throws eggs at the potters – played by real-life ceramic artists Peter Laycock (who had started selling pottery at Clifton Pugh's property Dunmoochin just outside Melbourne in 1960) and Tom Sanders (subject of a key Pugh portrait in 1957). Reprimanded, he atones by making some decent pots, and by the end he’s sharing pies with the men, his tail quivering with joy. He breaks into a painter’s studio – with a Pugh painting on its rough wall – and creates mayhem while a portraitist and his sitter take a break over tea. Barry Humphries, as the painter, compels him to clean up; but once he’s left, he and his subject, played by Rosalind Hollinrake, a wife of Humphries’s, are charmed by the self-portrait he leaves behind. The editor of the left-wing literary journal Overland, Stephen Murray-Smith (subject of a portrait by Fred Williams in 1980), appears as a diplomat in an episode about a bomb. The Age’s music critic, Dorian le Gallienne, wrote the theme tune, and the music for the sausage episode; after that, George Dreyfus supplied a stirring soundtrack that intensified the mischief, the suspense, the pathos and the eventual triumph. Sebastian’s adventures are divided between the cobbled suburbs of inner Melbourne and the pretty country nearby – just like those of the members of the Victorian art crowd of the period (brought to life in Sally Morrison’s biography of Clifton Pugh, After Fire, Hilary McPhee’s introduction to the diaries of Tim Burstall, Memoirs of a Young Bastard and Graeme Blundell’s autobiography, The Naked Truth). From the days of the Drift in the early 1950s, Burstall and friends including Arthur Boyd and Clifton Pugh might be at the Swanston Family Hotel, Matcham and Myra Skipper’s lovenest in Grange Place behind the Russell Street Police Station, at Joe Hannan’s in Carlton or in Arthur Boyd’s father’s Dodge chugging up to the country where Eltham’s painting, sculpting and potting population was expanding in handmade homes on unsealed roads. Sebastian the Fox pre-dated the establishment of the legendary Melbourne theatre, La Mama. In between, from 1965 to 1967, Burstall and his wife, Betty, were in New York, where he had had a Harkness Fellowship, studying with Paddy Chayevsky. She’d been exhilarated by productions she’d seen in makeshift experimental theatres there and on her return she was determined to introduce such a venue, with all that it might connote, to Melbourne. She found a space in Faraday Street, Carlton, and named it after a theatre she’d seen abroad. Graeme Blundell, who was in the first La Mama production in 1967, remembers Tim Burstall as ‘burly and, like Betty, often wrapped in hand-knitted pullovers’; he describes him jabbing the air with a stubby finger to make an incontrovertible point, talking close and pugnaciously, slopping his wine, guffawing and slapping his ‘meaty thigh’. As subversive theatre laid waste to the complacencies of inner Melbourne, Eltham continued to provide a complementary, ideologically compatible getaway for its practitioners and enthusiasts. Blundell and his ilk, in their ‘small, dank, Carlton actors’ houses … idealised the dreamy, fairy-like atmosphere of Eltham, the impression of festivity, and the idea of soul mates and artistically designed leafy salads … The Burstalls epitomised the Carlton understanding of Eltham as a haven for those who enjoyed art and language, adobe and rammed portrait 48 autumn 2015
earth, and the use of indigenous plants and landforms in landscape design.’ In the 1950s, Tim Burstall lived in Eltham with his young family, but worked in Melbourne, where he was a speechwriter and public affairs officer in the Antarctic Division of the Department of External Affairs (Morrison and McPhee evoke the relatively hard lives of the women and children left upcountry in half-built mud-brick follies during the week). He’d been commuting for some years when he decided to make a film on the weekends, the storyline of which was essentially boy wins goat, boy loses goat to rough rabbiter, boy gets goat back. Initially, using resources to hand in the office, Burstall tried using Sir Hubert Wilkins’s camera from 1930, but it was unsuitable and an alternative had to be hired. Gerard Vandenberg, a young Belgian photographer living in the area who had made portraits of the Eltham children, was his cameraman. Dan and Tom Burstall, and Marcus Skipper, son of sculptor and jeweller Matcham, played the young leads; and Matcham Skipper himself – described by Sally Morrison as the heart-throb of Eltham – played the rabbiter. The tracking shots were done from atop a VW belonging to Eltham’s resident mudbrick architect, Alistair Knox. The music was written by le Gallienne, another local resident whose home had been designed by Knox (and whose partner, Richard Downing, had been painted by Pugh). The Prize, as it was called, won an award at the 1960 Venice Film Festival. Burstall recalled that although his children, and his neighbours’, and his friends appeared in the film and at the time he and Betty actually had goats, ‘The Prize really grew out of memories of my own childhood, I guess, in England but grafted onto that was the kind of life that I thought my kids lived in Eltham at the time, which was pretty idyllic … they used to ride a horse to school … I think it is very beautiful in a very romantic and lush sort of way, the exact opposite of the usual cliché of Australian landscape, you know … the dustbowl.’ The Prize was the first production of Eltham Films, an enterprise founded by Burstall, at that time a Communist, and a friend of his, Patrick Ryan – who had money. Ryan and Burstall knew each other from Geelong Grammar. Ryan’s father, Rupert Sumner Ryan cmg dso, had been a student there before attending Harrow and the Royal Military Academy, whence he graduated with the sword of honour. While Ryan was deputy to the Earl of Erroll, High Commissioner to the Inter-Allied Rhineland Commission in Coblenz after the First World War, his sister, Maie, came from Australia to act as his ‘hostess’; but in due course he married the earl’s daughter, Lady Rosemary Hay. He became an arms dealer, working for Vickers, and in all likelihood a spy. In Australia, where the couple ended up after stints all over the place, Ryan acquired a thousand-acre property near Berwick, called Edrington, which he owned jointly with Maie. Edrington’s Arts and Crafts style house – now, the glittering nucleus of a high-end community for the aged – was built by a pastoralist in 1904, as a gift for a dancer named Fanny Dango. Over time, Rupert Ryan would build up the property’s livestock, pioneer flax production in Victoria and become United Australia Party member for Flinders. However, from the beginning, he neglected his wife and she took their son, Patrick, back to England with her. Maie Ryan married future statesman Richard Casey in London in 1926. Diane Langmore, in her biography of Maie Casey, relates that ‘Rupert allowed himself to be divorced – submitting to the humiliation of a contrived assignation at Brighton to prove his guilt – and
Tim Burstall 1975 by Kerry Dundas Purchased 2012
in return Rosemary permitted him to bring Patrick back to Australia.’ She married again in 1935. In accordance with the barbaric custom of his kind, Patrick Ryan was sent to board at Tudor House as a very young boy. From 1932, when he was seven or eight, he spent his holidays with Maie and Richard Casey – now treasurer – and their son and daughter at Duntroon near Canberra. He was close to Jane Casey, three years his junior, but to children, his aunt was legendarily frosty – or worse. According to Langmore, Maie intercepted letters to Patrick from his mother – ‘a startling example of the deviousness of which she was capable’. Cora Hancock, an English nanny, had come to Australia with Patrick, but she came to favour his cousin, Donn. So it was that ‘Patrick was perhaps the loneliest of the three children. Deprived of his mother, he received little attention or affection from his father, who never visited him at Geelong Grammar … Maie offered little comfort … Although Patrick continued to be treated as part of the family, Maie was as inattentive and undemonstrative to him as to her own children. She was absorbed in horse-riding, gardening and … painting.’ Caseys and Ryans, Conversation Piece 1938 shows Jane, Donn, Patrick, horses, dogs, a ginger cat and canaries against the backdrop of Black Mountain. In early 1949, the year he turned 24, Patrick married a socialite, Rosemary 37
Chesterman, and the couple moved into Williams Road in South Yarra. For about three years, she studied art at the National Gallery School and the George Bell School. Then, in early 1953, Rupert Ryan died; the Argus reported that the bulk of Rupert’s estate of £163 520 went to Patrick Ryan, journalist. (That year, according to the website australia.gov.au, a new FJ Holden cost £1 074 drive-away – 68 weeks' wages for the average worker.) Langmore relates that ‘bowing to some pressure from Dick and Maie’, Patrick sold his share of Edrington to them at its mortgage value; henceforth Donn was joint owner of the property with Maie. Patrick and Rosemary were free to travel to England; she studied at the Chelsea Polytechnic in the mid1950s. By the end of the decade they had two children; through the 1960s Rosemary exhibited in Melbourne. Rosemary Ryan is credited in an episode of Sebastian, in which the fox makes a mockery of the Best Dressed Man of the Year Parade in a woodpanelled Melbourne nightspot, packed with elegant smokers. Burstall and Ryan were partners from 1960 to 1970; but in the historical record, Patrick Ryan is no more than an occasional name, hardly better-represented than Rosemary Ryan’s paintings are in the Art Sales Digest. Even in the age of Trove, from which no published secrets are hidden, it’s easier to find information about a Burstall than a Ryan (try it: Patrick Ryan, Paddy Ryan, Pat Ryan, Patrick Victor Charles Ryan). On the public record, all that exists about Ryan, now, is random information; for example, that Philippe Mora’s silent film, Dreams In A Grey Afternoon, featuring stop-motion animation of sculptures by Danila Vassilieff and ‘rare footage’ of John and Sunday Reed, was first screened at a party at the Ryans’ home in 1965 (the year Ryan’s uncle became governor-general).
Patrick Ryan 1965 Clifton Pugh Courtesy of Patrick Ryan Collection Portrait of Patrick Ryan 1971 Fred Williams Purchased with funds provided by Tim Fairfax ac 2012
Pugh’s perspective on Ryan was that he was a ‘delightful man’, a ‘very romantic man who wants a great deal of drive.’ It may be the case that one way or another, men who have money get painted portraits; but men who ‘want drive’ don’t get obituaries, as a rule. 38
However, in this case, the equation between the written and the pictorial record doesn’t work out as expected. Of Tim Burstall, about whom very much is known, there are several good photographs, and a few more that are fuzzy but evocative; and there is, or was, a controversial Archibald-winning portrait. Of Patrick Ryan, we know very little, but his obscurity notwithstanding, there remain two sensitive painted portraits of Ryan by two of the best portraitists of his generation: Clifton Pugh and Fred Williams. Pugh painted him in 1965, and a few years later Mark Strizic photographed him; the photograph and painting are included in Involvement, a suede-bound volume of complementary portraits by Pugh and Strizic that even smells of Eltham. Pugh’s perspective on Ryan was that he was a ‘delightful man’, a ‘very romantic man who wants a great deal of drive.’ It may be the case that one way or another, men who have money get painted portraits; but men who ‘want drive’ don’t get obituaries, as a rule. Ryan doesn’t seem to have got any when he ran out of drive altogether at the end of the 1980s. Following The Prize, in 1961 Burstall and Ryan released a film about the ceramic sculptures of John Perceval; the following year Ned Kelly: Australian paintings by Nolan won an Australian Academy of Television and Cinema Arts award. Sebastian was followed by a further series of short films about Australian artists. Black Man and His Bride: Australian Paintings by Arthur Boyd won the AFI Award Silver Medallion in the Experimental category; and then there were Australia Felix: Australian paintings by Tom Roberts; Sydney Blues: Paintings by Robert Dickerson; and The Crucifixion: Bas reliefs in silver by Matcham Skipper. In 1965 Ryan produced a documentary, The Making of a Gallery, about the history and future of the National Gallery of Victoria. The 36-minute film is of the kind we watched as children in a Canberra government primary school, cooped in an airless room at the end of an upstairs corridor. To Australians in their fifties, the rolled r’s and long i’s of the narrator of The Making of a Gallery are as familiar as the voices of our family members. Surely the judgement ‘currriously modern’ dinned around our movie-cell, motes of dust revolving in the light from the projector and settling on the carpet tiles as the slithering violins, cymbals and sinister pulsing horns of the soundtrack drowned out the clack of the reel. Whether the colour was always off, or whether it’s gone off, is a matter for film historians, but as it stands, the whole of The Making of a Gallery is tinted pink. As the camera roves over paintings by Van Eyck, Tiepolo, Poussin, Pissarro, Von Guerard and Streeton the viewer is assailed by puce seas, rose rocks, pink clouds, mauve Israelites, Moses in a raspberry robe under a violet cloud, maroon horses tethered near the cherry canvas tents of the Heidelberg camp. Frenzied strings vibrate behind the woodwind section as the camera pans over works by Boyd and Drysdale. Dickerson calls for something jangling; a jaunty tune in an unsettling minor key accompanies Brack’s scurrying bureaucrats. We see John Brack himself, silently instructing a student at the Art School; the former NGV director Darryl Lindsay drags on a cigarette in his office; paintings are stacked and lean pell-mell in storage; a besuited curator, ungloved, pulls Blake’s engravings of the Divine Comedy out of a box and waves them in the air. The film includes fascinating footage of the gallery and its claret-coloured moat (‘fifty feet waaaide’) under construction. We see pinkprints of the building from various elevations. Bare-headed workers in low-vis singlets move around the site, artisans chip at bluestone blocks with chisels. portrait 48 autumn 2015
Finally, the architect Roy Grounds appears behind his desk in a claret-coloured suit, issuing the last word on the spire of the concert hall: ‘The function of the spire is one of the functions of architecture: to create an emotional experience’, he growls. ‘Christopher Wren didn’t put spires on his churches to keep the rain out. He put spires on his churches to say to the population, “There’s something very important happening here.”’ A movement that seemed of the utmost importance was the subject of the last great documentary production of Burstall’s and Ryan’s Eltham Films: The Antipodean Painters, narrated by the same man or his clone, which provides an entirely fresh perspective, now, on the group about which so much has been written. The film opens with footage of the Antipodean exhibition at the Victorian Artists’ Society in 1959 and slides into a view of Clifton Pugh in his virile heyday, jabbing at the easel. It moves through works of Arthur Boyd, whose glorious Old Testament mural for Harkaway near Berwick is examined in detail, before panning around Percival’s small sculptures: ‘Laaaike some hideous cloud of heads from Hiroshima is the group called The Population Explosion’ the narrator bawls over a cacophony of discordant piano. Blackman is accompanied by ominous recorders. A flute tootles as Dickerson presents people ‘at their emptiest in their pursuit of pleasure, playing cards at the park, or sitting disconsolately at the beach … modern images of exhaustion and failure, each locked in his own priaaavate world.’ As for Brack, the sentence is intoned against a score of meandering flute and bongos: ‘It is hard to imagine a more incaaaisive attack on the complacency and vulgarity of suburban laaaife than in this picture of three Melbourne matrons.’ In the late 1960s, Burstall and Ryan made their first feature film under the Eltham badge: 2000 Weeks, now famed, as Graeme Blundell recalls, as the first great failure of the Australian film industry. Clips of the film can be viewed online. In the first, the young protagonist struggles with the pronouncements of his friend, returned from abroad: ‘One of my recurrent nightmares in London was of waking up and finding myself back in the old home town … The things I tried to escape from when I left – the hideous provincial attitudes of everyone the awful mediocrity – to me Australia’s always seemed a nation without a mind.’ Ultimately, the mild protagonist asserts himself: ‘You seem to me Noel – how shall I put it? – morally corrupt. You know there are a lot of people in this country who don’t want to be simply second-class Englishmen or Americans – people who want to build a life of their own. You’re doing your best to see they remain colonials: culturally, economically, in every way.’ Its pitiable air of commitment notwithstanding, the film seems, now, to be saying things that demanded to be said, clearly, by someone, somehow; but Blundell recalls that it was ‘literally laughed off the screen’ when shown at the Sydney Film Festival at the end of 1969 and that Burstall was devastated. In the autumn of 1971 he bounced back bruised with Stork, a vulgar comedy much of which was filmed in his own living-room in Nicholson Street. He formed a production company called Hexagon and soon after, as if to prove that he was done once and for all with the arthouse, offered Graeme Blundell the lead in Alvin Purple. The rest is Australian cinematic history. The party to celebrate the first box-office-record-breaking week was at the Burstalls’ in Carlton. Thirty-three years later, at a special screening of Sebastian the Fox ‘The Bomb’ at The Eltham Community Centre, Burstall was felled by a stroke which proved fatal the following day. 39
portrait 48â€‚autumn 2015
Dan the Man by india bednall. An Indigenous man in the public eye, Dan Sultan takes proud ownership of heritage but is adamant that it does not dominate his identity. Sultan is equally proud to be part Irish, claiming a deep connection with Australian and Irish soil. Martin Philbey’s intimate 2011 photograph of the awardwinning singer-songwriter captures the essence of this complex Australian performer. Although aware that his identity will always be bound up with his heritage and by stepping into the limelight he is an Indigenous role model, Sultan would rather be known for his music than his family’s inherently interesting story. Sultan’s mother, Roslyn, of the Eastern Aranda and Gurindji people, is a direct descendent of Vincent Lingiari, the Wave Hill stockman and land rights leader. Part of the Stolen Generations, Roslyn was taken from her family at the age of seven. She was eventually reunited with her mother and Sultan wrote about their ordeal in his song 'Roslyn’, which he performed at Federation Square for National Apology Day in 2008. Sultan has spoken about the desecration of Indigenous culture, yet emphasises that he is not a political activist. He is, at the core, a musician who believes patience and respect go a long way. Born in 1983 in Alice Springs, Sultan’s Irish father worked for the Aboriginal Legal Service, which led the family around the country, giving Dan a taste of both urban and outback life. As a teenager to get exposure and earn some money, Sultan played open mic nights in Melbourne pubs and it was there that he met his future collaborator, Scott Wilson. With help from John Butler’s Seed Fund they recorded Homemade Biscuits (2006) and Get Out While You Can (2009), which earned ARIAs for Best Blues and Roots Album and Male Artist of the Year in 2010. Delivering a fusion of country, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll Sultan’s music is a blend echoing his multifaceted identity. Paul Kelly, who described Sultan as one of Australia’s great soul singers, invited him to perform on the 2008 tribute album to Kev Carmody, Cannot Buy My Soul. Known for his charisma, magnetism, and hip-swinging dance moves, he was dubbed Australia’s Black Elvis by songstress Clare Bowditch. Martin Philbey said he wanted to show Dan ‘stripped back to the essence of his being with no other distractions’. The photograph, a finalist in the 2012 National Photographic Portrait Prize, was acquired for the Collection in 2013. 41
Air wear aviation carried women’s roles in society to greater heights – fashion followed suit. by esther agostino. Even today portraits of the aviatrix convey a powerful sense of allure and exhilaration. Throwing caution to the wind with their daring adventures, the exploits of the aviatrix captivated the world and the zeitgeist of an era of progress when women began to radically challenge conventional gender roles. Although the first powered aircraft had been invented in 1903 by the Wright Brothers it was in the 1920s and 1930s that aviation made its most significant developments. Aircraft became more technologically sophisticated, able to fly longer distances and capable of taking passengers to see the world. It was also a period in which record breaking flights were being attempted. In 1927 Charles Lindbergh made his solo transatlantic flight, and the
following year Charles Kingsford Smith’s transpacific flight made international headlines. Plane travel quickly became associated with adventure and glamour and their pilots became the celebrities of the day. Women flew solo as early as 1909 but public attitudes to female pilots had not changed much since 1910 when Orville Wright stated the commonly held view that ‘women were too nervous to fly’. Decades later women would still contend with condescending remarks. Aviation was tied up with ideas of heroism, speed, risk and adventure, and was considered a fundamentally masculine realm. Male pilots often guarded their practice closely, obstructing women who wanted to learn the necessary Mrs Bonney flying from Australia to South Africa via Siam. Singapore 1937 (in her aeroplane, ”My Little Ship II”) 1937 unknown photographer Purchased 2012
Amy Johnson before setting out on her flight to Australia 1930 Cliff Postle National Library of Australia
skills. However, such sentiments only encouraged the women who proved that they too could become part of aviation history. This was a new era, and women were conquering the domains of men and machines. The aviatrix was breaking aviation records, and proving that flying was certainly not for the faint-hearted. They relied on their mechanical and navigational skills to get themselves out of dangerous situations. Many encountered turbulent conditions, exhaustion and mechanical problems, as well as having to land their planes on rough terrain – some lost their lives. In 1930 Australian aviatrix Lores Bonney began flying lessons in secret. Eventually her husband purchased her a DH60 Gipsy Moth aircraft, which she called ‘My Little Ship’. Being a leather manufacturer he also had two full-length suede flying suits made for her. When she landed at Croydon airport on 21 June 1933, she became the first women to fly from Australia to England. Extraordinarily, every step of her journey was reported in the Australian press, ‘Mrs Bonney’ becoming a household name. Like the rest of the world, Australia was developing a keen interest in flying. Featured on the cover of the Australian Women’s Weekly magazine, the image of the aviatrix conveyed both a sense of adventure and glamour. Often described as the quintessential modern woman, she reflected a radically changing social landscape. As historian Robert Wohl suggests, ‘flight became a metaphor for the transformation
Amy Johnson wearing a woollen suit from the collection of flight clothes designed by Madame Schiaparelli for her solo flight from London to Cape Town 1938 Unknown © Sasha/Getty Images
of consciousness, its liberation from the constraints of normal day-to-day existence’. Travelling abroad, un-chaperoned, she was in charge of her destiny, creating her own adventure. And it was these associations around the figure of the aviatrix that were so powerful in helping to shape and redefine, images of women during the 1920s and 30s. English aviatrix Amy ‘Johnnie’ Johnson, the first women to complete a solo flight from England to Australia in 1930, became a media sensation in Australia. Splashed across the newspapers and magazines of the day, she quickly became a public spectacle, with the press taking every opportunity for photographs wherever she landed. In the many photographs of Johnson waving to the crowds in her glamorous flying outfits, she could be mistaken for a film star. Her appearance itself was a crucial aspect in defining her public persona. References were continually made to Johnson’s hair and clothing during the weeks she spent in Australia. Her short hairstyle, practical yet perfectly slicked, was attractive to young Australian women, and hairdressers had many requests for an, ‘Amy Johnson wave’ or ‘Johnnie shingle’. Johnson’s status as a media sensation was united with her enormous visual appeal. When Johnson emerged from the cockpit of her plane, she was the picture of glamour, exuding refinement and elegance and her worldly sophistication was enhanced by her association with one of the most significant avant-garde fashion designers of the time. Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli embraced plane travel as an opportunity to express her modernist aesthetic and had designed a collection for Johnson portrait 48 autumn 2015
to wear on her flights making Johnson fashion icon. In the 1930s an article in Harper’s Bazaar described Schiaparelli’s clothes as having, ‘the essence of modern architecture, modern thought and modern movement’, elements perfectly suited to the aviatrix. A series of photographic portraits taken of Johnson in a modern
apartment wearing the collection designed for her by Schiaparelli show just how influential the image of the aviatrix was during the early twentieth century. For all their air of casual relaxation, the portraits are not accidental, but rather carefully crafted and posed images. Schiaparelli designed a collection of tailored suits
with skirts in white, navy and black, and made classic cut shirts in bold artistic prints. For Johnson’s record breaking flight from Croydon to Cape Town South Africa in 1936, she was photographed wearing a Schiaparelli ‘mist-proof blue woolen suit, with a divided skirt’ and a blouse made of signature print fabric that featured newspaper clippings about Schiaparelli’s fashion, collected from England, Sweden, Germany and France. Johnson described the outfit to the press as the combination of ‘smartness with utility’. Significantly, white was encouraged for flight-wear during this period, as it helped to perpetuate the idea of flying as a clean and luxurious form of transport, unlike steam engines. Much of the public fascination that surrounded the aviatrix was the fact that these women were engaging in new modes of fashion. Experimenting with unexpected modes of dress, the aviatrix took to the skies wearing clothes designed for practicality as well as style. The association between freedom and movement linked her to the Flapper, the new women of the 1920s who had dramatically transformed women’s fashion by removing the corset, raising hem-lines and cutting their long tresses. Considering warmth as well as ease of movement, dresses, stockings and heels would have proved cumbersome in the cramped cockpit of a plane. Modesty was also considered for flight wear. Therefore, the traditional men’s style flying suit was adopted by some aviatrixes. A full-length portrait of Lores Bonney shows her in front of her Little Ship wearing a pair of white overalls. Discarding the high heel, Bonney opted for a pair of twotone flat brogue shoes, traditionally worn by men as sports wear. She also adds a decorative scarf, which was a fashionable item during this period after being popularised by the automobile drivers of the day, who sped along roads in their open-air cars, scarves flailing behind. Looking at this portrait, ‘Mrs Bonney’ was well removed
from the image of the average married women of the day. The most famous of all aviatrixes was American Amelia Earhart, who gained international celebrity in 1932 when she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She was known for her daring sense of adventure, a characteristic that was often expressed in the many portraits of her during this period. She was routinely portrayed as though she had just stepped out of her plane, wearing her flying outfits and with her cropped, slightly disheveled hairstyle and sun freckled face. Although we now take women wearing pants as normal, aviatrixes who started wearing them during the 1930s created a stir. Earhart’s outfits were not polished refined ensembles like Johnson’s; rather, she would wear a crinkled white shirt with a loose fitting tie, long pants and knee high leather boots. Combined with her willowy frame, she helped to popularise the androgynous style. She often wore her signature brown leather bomber jacket, goggles and flying cap. It all added to the impression of Earhart as a free spirited adventurer. Earhart’s look became iconic, and she was photographed for magazines such as Vogue, and her portrait even placed on a well-known brand of cigarettes. Aware of the popularity her image had created, Earhart debuted her own fashion line in 1934, in which she incorporated aspects of aviation gear into everyday wear, such as propeller shaped buttons, parachute chord or a tie belt. Perhaps more gimmicky than fashionable, the Earhart fashion label did not take off. However, her image itself was later used in major advertising campaigns, and is still referenced today in popular culture. The women who embraced aviation broke new boundaries. They entered a male dominated practice, and succeeded in pioneering their adventures. As gender and culture historian Prudence Black has articulated, their images encapsulated what could be achieved in a modern society. portrait 48 autumn 2015
Mrs Bonney flying from Australia to South Africa via Siam. Singapore 1937 (full length portrait) 1937 unknown photographer Purchased 2012 Australian Women’s Weekly 22 May 1937 National Library of Australia Australian Women’s Weekly 27 July 1935 National Library of Australia
Amelia Earhart, Chicago, Illinois 1928 unknown photographer © Chicago History Museum/Getty Images
All that fall as the national portrait gallery prepared all that fall: sacrifice, life and loss in the first world war for the centenary of anzac, raimond gaita comments on war and truth in the context of the first world war. If one is Australian, especially if one loves this country, one will understand anew or more deeply why the people of a young nation came together, across the land, in a fellowship of grief so profound that it became an essential part of what it means to be Australian. It was foolish, we then realise, to condescend to the crudity of the propaganda. Worse, in doing so we offend against its victims. Who can claim with justified confidence that in the clamour of great 46
upheavals they will retain an ear for what rings false. ‘Hold onto your reason’, someone will say. And, of course, we must because, as everyone knows, emotion can cast it aside; can cause us to ignore or deny facts and arguments that are not congenial to beliefs to which we are emotionally committed.
The unfathomable deep 2014 Lee Grant Courtesy of the artist
Sentimental art cannot take us to anything that might rightly be called ‘the reality of war’ or to the reality of anything else. When we are moved to believe something by art, or by what someone has said or done, or by a charismatic personality – by anything whose understanding requires thought and feeling to be inseparable – critical reflection must eventually yield to trust that we have been rightly moved. Only a sensibility nourished by attention to what can show up sentimentality and other forms of the false that are intrinsic to the understanding of the heart can justify the trust. Reason cannot – not alone, at any rate. Usually it is not because emotion defeated reason that we affirm beliefs that we regret holding and having acted upon when we become morally clear sighted. It is because we were bereft of a sensibility, educated and disciplined, that would have enabled us to detect the sometimes crude, portrait 48 autumn 2015
sometimes sophisticated, sentimentality, pathos and so on in the propaganda that seduced us. All that fall reminds us that perhaps Australians never mourned so deeply as they did in the later years of the First World War and its aftermath. Because bodies were not returned to their homes for burial, the grief was sometimes bitter and desperate enough to drive people mad. We would now say it was hard for them to reach closure, but the concept of closure is inadequate because nothing can ever fully reconcile us to the death of those we love; nothing can abate the mystery that a human personality has disappeared. The mystery of death is inseparable from our affirmation that human beings are irreplaceable and precious â€“ precious to some particular people, of course, but also precious, period. That, I suspect, rather than fear of death, is the deepest impulse to believe in an afterlife. Nonetheless, though it does so inadequately, the idea of closure gestures towards our need to be able to consent to our grief without resentment or bitterness that would poison our souls. It is therefore for the sake of dead soldiers that we should remember them truthfully. Jingoistic lies dis-honour them. No one wants to die in cloud-cuckoo-land and no one with
This too shall pass 2014 Lee Grant Courtesy of the artist
self-respect wants to mourn there. Truth is one of the most precious gifts we can offer dead soldiers. It is how we honour the dignity of their humanity. To trust that truth is never alien to anything precious is, I think, essential to understanding, in our bones, that we are mortal creatures. If, therefore a truthful narrative of our dead soldiers conflicts with comfort for the living, respect for the dead requires that we be truthful and gently turn aside protests that half-truths will allow them to rest in peace. But I am speaking now of truthfulness as it concerns a narrative of war, truthful to soldiers considered as soldiers, not simply as individual human beings whose psychological particularity we must take into account. Looking at the world with a fearful eye I find it impossible to believe that war is over for us. Deepening political instability in many regions of the earth may cause even more people to be uprooted than were uprooted last century. Strong nations are likely to protect themselves, as we have done, in ways that become increasingly brutal, testing the relevance and the authority of international law. In such circumstances nationalism turns ugly. We see its terrible consequences in history and we see them now in many parts of the world 47
where people are murdered in the name of nationhood. Good people defend the slaughter because of their national or religious allegiances. True to the same allegiances, others fall silent when they should protest. The conditions of modern warfare, especially of what we call ‘asymmetrical warfare’, make it harder for us to acknowledge that we share a common humanity with our enemies; demonstrated, for example, when Allied and German soldiers shook hands to establish a truce at Christmas in 1914 so that the dead could be buried; and when Anzac and Turkish forces buried their dead together at Gallipoli. If we are not to sleepwalk to the next war we must determine and then try to create the conditions that enable the humanity of our enemies in war to remain visible to us, even as we fight fiercely knowing that we have no option but to kill them. Propaganda that radically dehumanises the enemy should be regarded as a crime against humanity because it intentionally destroys those conditions. Sometimes it undermines our capacity even to find intelligible that shooting enemy prisoners or killing women and children of the enemy are crimes. There is, however, an important challenge to what I have said. It is not doubt that such conditions can be created. It is 48
That will fall here 2014 Lee Grant Courtesy of the artist
the belief that they are almost certainly not desirable. When civilians risk their lives for the sake of others, we call them heroes. Soldiers are expected to do it as a matter of course, for their comrades, their nation or for a cause. What can enable them to do that? Can we ask them to be lucid about what it means to go to war; should we encourage denial that death will stalk them? Must we partially dehumanise them so that they can kill? (Many soldiers do not shoot to kill.) Must we dehumanise the enemy so that our soldiers are more ready to kill them? Is it not irresponsible and, indeed stupid, to send soldiers into battle who are psychologically unable to kill without hesitation, to kill before they are killed? I do not know the answers to these questions. Part of any answer, however, must be that we should, as a sacred national duty, do all in our power to become, individually and as a nation, resistant to the romance of war, to become people who would never joyously go to war, who would go only as a last resort, having honestly exhausted all other possibilities, providing that doing so did not render us incapable of winning when we acknowledge the necessity – the real necessity – to fight. That last qualification registers the fact that nations must sometimes ignore well-intentioned but futile efforts to prevent conflict, by the United Nations for example. portrait 48 autumn 2015
Another part of the answer derives from the imperative to think hard about patriotism, collective guilt and shame, and the place of international law. Love of country is always a mixture of gratitude, pain, joy, sorrow, pride, shame and sometimes guilt. In the circumstances that make them appropriate, each can be a form of love of country, just as severe criticism of one’s country can be a form of loyalty to it, and the desire to love without shame and without lies is a form of concern for its welfare. The task therefore is not to disparage the very idea of love of country, as some who have been understandably shell-shocked by the murderous consequences of belligerent nationalism do, but to find ways to block the many paths that love finds to jingoism and to open paths on which jingoism can find its way to love. In Crimes Against Humanity Geoffrey Robertson said that last century saw the acceptance of the idea of international law and that this century would see its increased enforcement. The first part of that is true. It is now impossible for nations to profess that the pursuit of their national interests should be entirely unconstrained by international law. The task for the nations of the world is to ensure that the second part of Robertson’s statement becomes true.
Have you forgotten yet? 2014 Lee Grant Courtesy of the artist
Love of country that is clear-sighted acknowledges that other peoples love their countries and that they will fight and die for them, nearly always believing that their cause is just. To try to ensure that the world becomes a community of nations – constituted as a community because each nation freely renders itself answerable to international criminal law – is the best expression of that acknowledgment. Such acknowledgment does not constrain the right of states to pursue their national interests. Rather, it as an enlargement of the concept of the national interest to include the realisation that citizens desire to love their country without the shame that would follow if it were to act in ways that would justly bring it before an international criminal court. That does not mean we should wish to become citizens of the world ruled by a world government. It is best that we remain citizens of particular nations that are part of a community of nations and who find in that community the realisation that all the peoples of the earth share a common humanity. That is one of the ways that jingoism can find its way to love. This is an extract from All that fall: Sacrifice, life and loss in the First World War published by the National Portrait Gallery. Lee Grant’s photographs are presented in the exhibition. 49
international Édouard and Marie-Louise Pailleron 1881 John Singer Sargent © Des Moines Art Center, Iowa; Katy Perry 2010 Will Cotton Promised gift of the James Dicke Family © Will Cotton; Life is only one! 2007 Yoshitomo Nara courtesy of the Asia Society, Hong Kong; Maori Chief I 2015 Lisa Reihana courtesy of New Zealand Portrait Gallery Te Pukenga Whakaata © Lisa Reihana
Eye Pop: The Celebrity Gaze National Portrait Gallery, Washington 22 May 2015 – 10 July 2016 Celebrity faces are everywhere. The National Portrait Gallery, Washington works to include portraits of people who transcend fame and recognise them for achievement in its collection. This exhibition questions the separate roles of subject, artist and viewer in creating and experiencing the celebrity gaze. Many of these portraits are masterful photographs, however, painters, printmakers and timebased media artists are also represented, including Will Cotton who presents Katy Perry as an airbrushed confection. npg.si.edu
Sargent: Portraits of artists and friends National Portrait Gallery, London 12 February – 25 May 2015 John Singer Sargent was the greatest portrait painter of his generation. Acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic, he was closely connected to many of the other leading artists, writers, actors and musicians of the time. His portraits of these friends and contemporaries, including Auguste Rodin, Claude Monet and Robert Louis Stevenson, were rarely commissioned and allowed him to create more intimate and experimental works than was possible in his formal portraiture. This exhibition of over seventy portraits spans Sargent’s time in London, Paris, Boston and New York as well as his travels in the Italian and English countryside. npg.org.uk
Tranquillity Disturb’d: A contemporary look at historical New Zealand New Zealand Portrait Gallery, Wellington 12 March – 31 May 2015 Tranquillity Disturb’d: A contemporary look at historical New Zealand features new art work by three well established New Zealand artists, Gavin Hurley, Lisa Reihana and Nigel Brown. The intention of the exhibition is to both demonstrate the diversity of contemporary portraiture and provide an alternative perspective to accepted versions of history. All three artists work focuses on the impact of Captain James Cook’s three visits to New Zealand in the late 18th century. The exhibition provides highly personalised and alternative images to the norm provoking debate and demonstrating the continuing power of portraiture. nzportraitgallery.org.nz
Life is Only One: Yoshitomo Nara Asia Society, Hong Kong Centre 6 March 26 July 2015 ‘My characters are all self portraits in a way. But the emotions that I feel can, of course, be universal. Often the characters are representations of me but they are also representations of the countless others who identify with them.’ Life is Only One: Yoshitomo Nara presents a rich selection of paintings, sketches, photographs, sculptures and mixed-media installations covering a broad range of his oeuvre in the past two decades. The exhibition is a journey into Nara’s open-ended interpretation of life. asiasociety.org.hk
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Portrait of a man c. 1575 anonymous master © Art Institute of Chicago; Beau & Leon 2014 David Rosendale; Untitled (Julia) Jitka Hanzlová 2000 courtesy the artist © Jitka Hanzlová; Sketch Portrait of Sir Alex Onslow 1896 Tom Roberts Purchased with funds provided by L Gordon Darling ac cmg 2006; Patriotic crochet table cloth: Delaney family c. 1919 unknown maker Australian War Memorial
national portrait gallery
Faces Then: Renaissance Portraits from the Low Countries Faces Now: European Portrait Photography since 1990 Centre for Fine Arts, Bruxelles 6 February – 17 May 2015 During the Renaissance the individual was given a place in society and wealthy citizens were keen to have their portrait painted. Faces Then is an exhibition of portraits from the 16th century by masters such as Quentin Metsys, Joos van Cleve and Joachim Beuckelaer. These portraits were painted in the main centres of the Netherlands and often had a different role to play. In the 1990s photographers rediscovered the portraiture genre. Since the fall of the Wall they have used photography to question the identity and place of the individual in the digitalised and globalised world. Faces Now exhibits the works of thirty-one renowned European photographers, including the likes of Tina Barney, Anton Corbijn and Stephan Vanfleteren. bozar.be
National Photographic Portrait Prize 2015 21 March – 8 June 2015 The National Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition is selected from a national field of entries that reflect the distinctive vision of Australia’s aspiring and professional portrait photographers and the unique nature of their subjects. This year, over 2,500 entries were received, the most ever. portrait.gov.au
Uncommon Australians: The vision of Gordon and Marilyn Darling 6 March – 14 June 2015 Uncommon Australians: The vision of Gordon and Marilyn Darling showcases portraits acquired through the generosity of the National Portrait Gallery’s Founding Patrons, L Gordon Darling ac cmg and Marilyn Darling ac; and pays tribute to the Darlings’ persistence in turning their private dream of a gallery of portraits of ‘uncommon Australians’ into a tangible collection in a purpose-built home. portrait.gov.au
All that fall: Sacrifice, life and loss in the First World War 27 March – 26 July 2015 Focussing on the wide-ranging theme of loss and absence, All that fall: Sacrifice, life and loss in the First World War provides a moving ‘portrait’ of loss during the First World War on the Australian home front. Powerful symbolic images, including contemporary works, evoke the emotional intensity of loss. The exhibition opens with declamatory enlistment posters, conscription leaflets and satirical cartoons lampooning both sides of the bitter conscription debates. The private pathos of women’s and families’ sacrifice is detailed in delicate petit-point embroidery and the badges and medallions worn to indicate their sacrifice – the bodies of sons and husbands offered to the war effort. Contemporary works commissioned for the exhibition speak of transience and absence. All that fall: Sacrifice, life and loss in the First World War is the National Portrait Gallery’s contribution to the Anzac Centenary. portrait.gov.au
Gloves off (Tom Uren) 1996 by Ralph Heimans oil on canvas Purchased with funds from the Basil Bressler Bequest 2001
dward Tom Uren ac (1921-2015), former Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party, was a major campaigner on environmental and urban-planning issues and rights for veterans. He became active in left-wing politics after the war, during which he was a prisoner of the Japanese. Becoming member for the western Sydney electorate of Reid in 1958, he held the seat until he retired 32 years later. He was Minister for Urban and Regional Development in the Whitlam government and Deputy Leader of the Opposition in 1976–1977. In the Hawke government he held
several portfolios before retiring to the backbench in 1987. He retired from politics in 1990 and became a Life Member of the ALP in 1993. A great volume of Uren’s correspondence and official papers is held by the National Library; his autobiography, Straight left, was published in 1994. Tom Uren lived for most of his life in Balmain, Sydney, where he was born. The portrait Gloves off refers not only to Uren’s early ambitions as a boxer, but to his multifarious political battles for social justice and heritage conservation of areas of inner Sydney (which can be seen in the background).
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The National Portrait Galleryâ€™s collection companion presents the great and the good amongst the flawed and the obscure in an anthology of the art of portraiture. $34.95
Available from bookshops or online at portrait.gov.au
Published on Mar 1, 2015
Published quarterly, Portrait is the preeminent journal of Australian and international portraiture. This issue features Abdul Abdullah, Sam...