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Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog

ADVANCE NOTICE: October 14 is World Photobook Day

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WPBD

Hi everyone – It’s on again WORLD PHOTOBOOK DAY – October 14 and I’m organising an event in Brisbane. Leave a message and I’ll get info to you as soon as I can get the details firmed up…

It will be a PHOTO BOOK CLUB EVENT…

hotoBookClub-Logo

Cheers  Doug

Written by Victoria Cooper Doug Spowart

September 22, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

BEING [photo]BOOKED @ QLD COLLEGE OF ART

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Heather introduces Doug's lecture...

Heather introduces Doug’s lecture…

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Last week we were guest presenters at the Queensland College of Art on the Gold Coast. We worked with photo media and digital media students and their lecturer Heather Faulkner discussing the topic of the contemporary photobook.

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Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart talking about photobooks....PHOTO: Heather Faulkner

Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart talking about photobooks….PHOTO: Heather Faulkner

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Doug presented a lecture on the history of the photobook and brought students up to date with the contemporary photobook including Ying Ang’s latest book ‘Gold Coast’. Students then were given an opportunity to hold, handle and view a range of contemporary photobooks from Australia and overseas including books by, Alec Soth and Brad Zellar, Martin Parr, Garry Trinh, Daniel Milnor, George Voulgaropoulos, Jacob Raupach, Lloyd Stubber, Emma Phillips, Kelvin Skewes, Joachim Schmid, James Mollison, Paul Graham, Gracia and Louise as well as a selection of zines from the Sticky Institute. We also presented a selection of our own photobooks and artists’ books. Of particular interest to the students was the structure, construction, printing and binding of photobooks.

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Students working on a sequencing task with Heather Faulkner

Students working on a sequencing task with Heather Faulkner

 

An important part of an accompanying tutorial covered ideas around the sequencing of images in photobooks and the ways in which narrative could be expressed. Students were then tasked to work with a series of images using unusual sequencing strategies that we suggested.

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We enjoyed the opportunity to engage with these students and discuss one of our favourite topics and share amazing books from our photobook library. Thank you Heather Faulkner for arranging this event…

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GEORGE PATON GALLERY: Artist’s Books (reprised) Exhibition

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Selfie

Artists’ Book Selfie

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Digging in the archive: past and present

 

Artist’s Books (reprised) [artists’ books 1978-2014]: George Paton Gallery, University of Melbourne

Dates: 26 August to 5 September

 

A recent show entitled, George Paton Gallery, Artist’s Books (reprised), promoted that it would be showing “four decades of investigation into the possibilities and limitations of the artists’ book form.” Whilst the exhibition as presented had some gaps in the chronology, it did live up to its claim of presenting a significant collection of contemporary works alongside a carefully curated group of seminal artists’ book works from shows presented at the George Paton Gallery in the 1970s and 80s.

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George Paton Gallery Website notice

George Paton Gallery Website notice

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Visitors to the gallery encountered a space resembling a reading room with trestle tables and bookshelves presenting the contemporary books for viewing, handling and reading. Some books were marked as ‘white-gloved’ handling whilst the majority was available for direct tactile experience. Enclosed in vitrines were the historical books on loan from the University of Melbourne archives. Interestingly during the 1970s and 80s these books would have only cost a few dollars to buy but now they attract significant values. Included in this prized collection of books are: Ed Ruscha’s Small Flres and Milk; 1964; Marcel Broodthaers’ A Voyage on the North Sea; 1973; Sol LeWitt’s Grids – using all combinations of straight, not- straight and broken lines; 1975; Richard Long’s The North Woods, 1977 and Dieter Roth’s, Gesammelte Werke, Band 7, 1974. These books were sourced from past exhibitions held by the George Paton Galley: Artists’ Books/Bookworks from 1978 and Artist’s Books and Not (e) Book! from 1982, the latter curated by Canadian Tim Guest.

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George Paton Gallery

George Paton Gallery

 

In all just over 100 books were available for viewing essentially coming from a ‘call out’ for artists book makers to present work for the show. There were some interesting names; Peter Lyssiotis, Theo Strasser, Sandra Bridie, mail artist David Dellafiora, zinesters Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison, and photo-newspaper publisher Jacob Raupach. Anyone with a preconceived idea of what an artists’ book is, or should be, may have been challenged by some of the works in the show – but what an experience it was to be challenged in that way. It was a rare opportunity to view and compare such a diverse and historical collection of artists’ books.

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Exhibition installation

Exhibition installation

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Antoni Jach’s Faded World and books by other artists

Lyssiotis, Theo Strasser books

Books by Peter Lyssiotis, Theo Strasser and others

 

After spending a couple of hours in the exhibition space I searched for a way of describing the show. Then I found a text that offered a perceptive critical evaluation of the artists’ book genre. Some relevant passages from this text follow…

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Artists’ books can most simply be described as those books which have been conceived, designed and produced by visual artists. As distinguished from those books about artists, such as a monograph of catalogue raisonee, or about art, artists’ books are instead complete artworks in themselves: they are artworks that are presented in the form of books.

 Since about 1960 a distinct genre of artists’ books has appeared. These are by artists who are self-consciously exploring the possibilities of printed books: the social dynamics of a reproducible vs. a unique art object; the aesthetics of the mass print media vs. fine art prints or deluxe editions.

 The contemporary genre of artists’ books is now a widespread phenomenon. Practically every significant development in western art has been reflected in the ongoing publication of artists’ books. There are books coming out of the movements of pop art, minimalism, arte povera, performance art, fluxus, happenings, and new image painting. Conceptual artists of the 1960’s and 70’s in particular, utilized the book form as a method of realizing artworks. We can regard these books now as a vein which runs through many areas of contemporary art and includes diverse movements, interests and preoccupations.

Or have the interests been so diverse? Pop art, minimalism, performance art, arts provera, were all movements distinct from (even antagonistic to) one another, yet they all belonged to a general tendency towards “non-objective” art… Briefly, this tendency has been reflected in a desire on the part of artists to explore new media, in an attempt to abandon the traditional (modernist) disciplines of painting and sculpture. It was/is in favour of the widened scope of the flux and flow of a multi-disciplinary approach. For example, an artist may be involved in sculpture as easily as film, performance, video, photography and/or books. Perhaps most significantly there has been a conscious determination to undercut the reification of artworks – society’s valuation of art – by concentrating on the non-objective. This has meant, for instance, producing works from common industrial or throw away materials (art povera, fluxus), works constructed only in theory (conceptual art, language art), imagery stolen from the banal repertoire of mass media (pop art) ….. All this seems to have been more successful as an ideal than as an actual practice. Minimal sculpture in the late 60’s was quite successful in the art marketplace. Conceptual art has been immensely influential, popular, and saleable. As much as these artworks were determined in opposition to the bourgeoise reification of art they were inevitably complicit with it. That is because capitalism is a social system which seems to embrace new ideas but in fact appropriates and establishes a commercial value for then.

 

Bling book - title and maker to be added soon

A book by Dianne Dickson

 

Artists’ books typify this interest in non-objectivity and reflect the internal contradictions of such an ideal in a particular way. In contrast to the traditional “livre d’artistes” of deluxe editions, artists’ books are usually inexpensively produced and sold. They are affordable, accessible and as plebeian as an art object can be. In fact they are almost too exemplary of the non-objective ideal.

As books they are not commercially viable simply because they defy the expectations of a mass market by presenting avant-garde information. Yet they have few patrons in the art world because their affordability to the public represents a low profit for a dealer. Also, books can not [sic] be viewed in the same way as other art objects; they must be held in one’s own hands and read. It is remarkable then that despite the contradictions and foils of art’s survival, artists’ books have become such a highly evolved genre of contemporary art, as evidenced by the works in this exhibition.

 

Suzannah Griffith's While The City Sleeps

Suzannah Griffith’s While The City Sleeps

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To illustrate means to make something clear by example, or to adorn a book with pictures. Within a publication, an illustration can be a picture, a drawing, a photograph, a design, or an ornament. Illustration is, of course, a prominent element in all mass media publishing. To consider all illustrations as a single genre is, in a way, quite boggling. It means imagining all magazines in the world and all the printed pictures.

With this imagining I try to analyze these pictures but have only an individual response to guide me. In principle my inquiries and suggestions are all subjective, my curiosity is intuitive, my critical remarks are speculative. These habits of mind and predilections constitute the trail of my argument. Because illustration operates as such an enormous social phenomenon, it is difficult to grasp its total meaning as a genre. It is too huge a concept. Yet paradoxically, all is intimately familiar.

 

Sarah McConnell's 29 2011

Sarah McConnell’s 29 2011

 

Practically everyone looks through magazines, sees the pictures, knows what they mean. But try to separate yourself from a simple recognition of the picture and examine the picture as a conceptual model and you may understand how difficult it can be. An illustration is not simply a picture of an object or thing. In that object’s absence a picture is a way of visualizing it, recalling it or conjuring it. Then all together the medium of illustration is a way of visualizing the world. As illustration is a mass medium, it is certainly a very powerful and influential instrument of ideas. As a conceptual model, a picture is showing us how to think and what to think about.

Art characteristically departs from conventions. In leading the way from these conventions and artists can end up revealing and/or inventing upon a given culture, popular or otherwise. Furthermore, the artists’ books in this exhibition occupy a middle ground between the hermetic region of high art and the mass culture of popular illustration. They also embody a comparison between the two; they have been produced as a way of participating (in theory at least) in the mainstream of popular culture at the same time as they are an extension of art, extending beyond galleries and museums, and outside of the realm of the rarified art object.

 

Jon Hewitt's feel the confidence 2011

Jon Hewitt’s feel the confidence 2011

 

 

It may be noted that the photo works included in the exhibition are not photography books in the usual sense. For example in some books, the artist has exchanged the customary fine detail and high quality printing found in most art photography books for the flat, grainy, aesthetic of newswire or snapshot photographs, with all their vernacular associations. In other books the artist may manipulate the photographic frame by cropping it tightly to draw attention to narrative details or expanding it to the edge of the page for a window effect. Some books here constitute a repertoire of personalities through a wide array of photographic self-portraits. Others are collections of images specific thematic subject matter which suggests an interpretation of the complex meanings of culture and its institutions through the examination of its artifacts.

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Yasmin Heisler's formed in air 2014

Yasmin Heisler’s formed in air 2014

 

In opposition to the conventions of art photography, which dictate an aesthetic around the “integrity” of an individual print, these photo books, to some extent, are each engaged with the qualities inherent in reproduction by offset and other printing processes. The artists represented in this exhibition are utilizing photographs as something other than a clear, well-composed picture. In their books they manipulate the “natural reality” of photographs and so inform our recognition of photographic images with their mannered inventiveness.

There are also a few books included here which are constructed sculpturally to introduce a tactile sensation to the fingertips and so expand the act of reading illustrations into the field of sensory awareness.

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Bridget Hillebrand's Book of Chalk 2014 and Book of Stone 2014

Bridget Hillebrand’s Book of Chalk 2014 and Book of Stone 2014

 

Finally, just as the works in this exhibition are included towards an exploration of the social and aesthetic attributes of illustration, they also demonstrate a way of looking at and experiencing the world. Theses artist’s books reveal and embody a way of reading deeply into they dimensions of contemporary culture. As much as they foster an incipient consciousness they ask for sensitivity on the part of the reader.

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Tim Guest, the curator's essay for the 1982 George Paton Gallery Artist's Books and Not (e) Book!

Tim Guest, the catalogue for the 1982 George Paton Gallery Artist’s Books and Not (e) Book!

 

These words come from Tim Guest, the curator for the 1982 George Paton Gallery Artist’s Books and Not (e) Book! A copy of his catalogue for the show was made available at the exhibition. Guest’s commentary is as relevant today as it was in the early 1980s, and while we have moved on, and now view the artists’ book works of that time with a degree of comfort and acceptance, the new artists’ book works continue, as Guest points out to, ‘demonstrate a way of looking at and experiencing the world’. For me it emphatically confirms that artists’ book are still ‘edgy’ and still pushing limits.

 

Doug Spowart

September 5, 2014

 

DOWNLOAD the contemporary list of artists’ books gpg artists books list of works

 

DOWNLOAD the books on loan from the University of Melbourne ArtistsBooksloanselectionGPG2014 docx

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Part of the associated activity for the show – an artists’ book making event outside the gallery led by Michele and Laine. It was a a sunny and warm late winter’s day in Melbourne.

Michele Grimston and Laine Stewart and their Free Artist's Book activity

Michele Grimston and Laine Stewart and their Free Artist’s Book activity

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DOUG’S PHOTOBOOK @ Phoenix Art Museum Self-Published Show

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In Focus - banner

In Focus – banner

 

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Doug’s Blurb book ‘Proposal for New Australian Landforms’ has been accepted in to the INFOCUS: Juried Exhibition of Self-Published Photobooks at the Phoenix Art Museum in the United States. The exhibition will be on show from August 23 to September 28, 2014 in the Doris and John Norton Gallery for the Center for Creative Photography. The information that follows in this post comes from the Phoenix Art Museum’s site.  http://infocus-phxart.org/photobooks/

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About this Exhibition (From the Phoenix Art Gallery’s website)

Earlier this year INFOCUS, the Photography Support Organization of Phoenix Art Museum, called photographers to send examples of their self-published photobooks. The purpose of the exhibition is to explore the range of ways that artists are using newly available commercial technologies in order to express themselves. A jury, made up of seven industry professionals including, Founder, Indie Photobook Library – Larissa Leclair and authors of Publish Your Photography Book Mary Virginia Swanson and Darius Himes, reviewed 271 submissions from 15 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Australia. The exhibition represents the 151 books they chose, as examples of the wide range of photobooks being produced today.

We asked for books of any subject including retrospective, project-based, souvenir albums, fictional narrative, exhibition catalogues, poetic, biographical, or children’s books, and welcomed collaborative or collective books in addition to those by a single author. We found that in a well-crafted book, the artist considers every element of the book’s design, and uses each to enhance the finished product. Among the selections are noteworthy selection of paper weight and surface; cover material; printing method and reproduction quality; font style, color and size; text placement and justification (centered, aligned to the right or left); endpaper and title page design; binding (spiral bound, hard bound, paperback); size and placement of the images; sequence of the images; and inclusion (or exclusion) of and placement of the caption information.

 

INFOCUS - Photobook display

INFOCUS – Photobook display (from the INFOCUS page)

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Read a few words from the curator, Rebecca Senf

From the earliest years of the medium’s history, photographers have embraced the book form as a way to present, organize and disseminate their work.

Books allow photographers to expand their reach to a much larger audience and to control the presentation of their work. Publishing a body of work also increases prestige and permanence; by creating books, artists know that their printed volume, in libraries and private collections, will long outlive them. Within the art field, there exists a reverence for books, a reverence that acknowledges the care and attention that went in to producing them.

Publishing photographic books has rapidly changed over the last twenty years, with the impact of technology on book publishing and photography. Costs of paper, printing and binding have increased and profit margins for traditional publishers are narrowing, creating a risk-averse climate in which unknown artists have difficulty getting books published by existing presses. The bookstores where we once browsed and purchased books are being replaced by online retailers, which in turn, changes our patterns of buying and the way products are marketed. Furthermore, many types of reading (including news, correspondence, and recreational fiction) have moved away from sheets of paper and bound books to digital displays of various kinds.

Despite these massive shifts in how they are made, the desire to produce photographic books is only increasing. Young photographers want their artwork to be presented as a book, and photographic books continue to be produced, discussed, admired, coveted, collected, and sold.

“The Process and the Page: Developing Photographic Books,” on view at Phoenix Art Museum from March 29 to August 17, 2014, presented book-making materials from the archival collections of the Center for Creative Photography, to show how photographers have participated in the creation of their photographic books over the course of the last 100 years. Now, with the INFOCUS Juried Exhibition of Self-Published Photobooks, we can shed light on an important new phase in the story of photographic books – the ability of photographers world-wide to produce high-quality books of their work through self-publishing.

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The Jury

The photobooks in this exhibition were selected by:

Abigail Nersesian – Librarian, Phoenix Art Museum

Jennifer Barnella – Retail Sales Manager, Phoenix Art Museum

Joshua Chuang – Chief Curator, Center for Creative Photography

Becky Senf – Norton Family Curator, Center for Creative Photography

and Phoenix Art Museum

Mary Virginia Swanson – Co-author, Publish Your Photography Book

Darius Himes – Co-author, Publish Your Photography Book

Larissa Leclair – Founder, Indie Photobook Library

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Doug's Cover

Doug’s Book

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My book deals with the political scene and is a parody of the potential for government agencies and politicians to do absurd things for, as they call it, ‘the good of the people’.

SEE THE BLURB PREVIEW HERE: Doug’s Book.

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 CLICK the link below for a list of the accepted entries and links to the books

INFOCUS Photobook Exhibition list

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SELECTING AN APPA PHOTOBOOK DISPLAY

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Doug in the APPA space working thru the books on a cold Melbourne winter's day   PHOTO: Victoria Cooper

Doug in the APPA space working thru the books on a cold Melbourne winter’s day PHOTO: Victoria Cooper

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Selecting photobooks @ APPA: A methodology and the list.

 

I was recently given the opportunity to select books from the Asia Pacific Photobook Archive for their wall display over the next month. While selecting a book to look at and buy in a bookshop can be a challenging enough, the task to review the archive and select around 30 books was daunting. I figured that I needed a methodology.

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After some thought I put my ideas to Victoria Cooper, photomonteur Peter Lyssiotis, and APPA Director Daniel Boetker-Smith – here’s what we came up with:

  • that I’d attempt to make a book array that mirrors the Asia Pacific geographical region
  • that I’d select work that was reasonably contemporary
  • that the names of the book makers would not unnecessarily bias my selection (interestingly the photographers of books from locations like China, Japan and south east Asia were quite unknown to me)
  • that where possible I would select photographers working on their subject matter relating to their own country (the books of some localities were made by visiting photographers).

 

I wasn’t just going to look at books. As I reached out for, and held each book, I’d consider it as an object, feel its presence and weight, the tactile and sensory experience of the thing. Then I’d engage with its mechanical properties of turning the pages and becoming acquainted with it as a communicative device. In this the following would be considered:

  • layout
  • typography
  • images and their sequencing
  • paper, production and binding methods
  • it as a narrative form.

 

In the final moments of engagement with the book I’d need to make a judgment call – was it successful? Whatever that may be? I am a firm believer in Roland Barthes’ proposition that the moment a written piece, I would say a book, is passed to others to read/view that the ‘author dies’ and that the ‘reader is born’. So, as the reader, I was to make the following decisions. I should note that towards the final stages of geographical assemblage I called upon Daniel and his extensive knowledge, to suggest books from, or about specific areas to be considered by me for inclusion.

 

The Doug Spowart APPA Selection

The Doug Spowart APPA Selection

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Here is selection of the geographic locations, their makers and the titles:

 

Dubai/Surfers Paradise – Sean Fennessy ‘Gold’

Iran/Australia – Katayoun Javan ‘Correspondences: A photographic journey between past/Iran & present/Australia’

India – Munem Wasif ‘Belonging’

India – Pablo Bartholomew ‘Outside In’

Bangladesh – Shahidul Alam ‘The Birth Pangs of a Nation’

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Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 5.31.27 pm

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Burma – Bruce Connew ‘On the way to an ambush’

Cambodia – Isabella Capzio ‘Where the water once was: Boeung Kat Lake Phnom Penh

Thailand – Hiro Imai ‘Bangkok’

Thailand – Miti Ruangkritya ‘Thai Politics no.2’

Laos – Michael Greenlar ‘Remnants of a secret war’

Malaysia – Welan Chong ‘Please mind the gap: Singapore’

Hong Kong – Douglas Khoo ‘Be Still Hong Kong’

Sri Lanka – Nihal Fernando ‘Sri Lanka: A personal Journey’

China – Huang Qingjun & Ma Hongjie ‘Family Stuff’

 

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 5.29.55 pm

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China – Li Kejun ‘The Good Earth’

China – Zhang Xiao ‘Coastline’ (?)

China – ‘Lens on Wesi Lake’

China – Vincci Huang ‘Eyes in the air’

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Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 5.27.38 pm

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China – Wu Chenghuan ‘Street Fighters’ Beijing

Taiwan – Paul Koolher ‘Political Chaos’

Japan – Bruno Quinquet ‘Salaryman Project: Business Schedule’

Japan – Chie Murakami ‘Japanese Girl’

Japan – Sun Yanchu ‘Obsessed’

Japan – Big book Japanese cities

Japan – Saori Ninomiya ‘Requiem’.

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Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 5.28.26 pm

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Japan – Shuichiro Shibata ‘Bus Stop’

Japan – Zhao Renbui & Satoshi Katnoku ‘The whiteness of a whale: a project with The Institute of Critical Zoologists’

West Coast American book

Canadian book

Philippines – Dina Gadia ‘Buxxxom Grind’

South Pacific region – Monini Chandra ‘Album Pacifica’

Mexico – Isabella Capezio ‘Feathered Serpents & Visions of the Mother’

Australia – George Voulgaropoulos ‘Children of Auburn’

Australia – [n]

Australia – Emma Phillips ‘Volcán’ (Variant ?)

Australia – Lilli Waters ‘She Raw’

Australia – Ingvar Kenne ‘The Hedgehog and the Foxes’

Australia – Melissa Deerson (Coordinated) ‘Docklands Field Trip’ Melbourne

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Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 6.09.44 pm

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Australia – Louis Porter ‘Bad Driving’

New Zealand – David Cook, Wiramu Puke and Jenty Valentine ‘River–Road: Journeys Through Ecology’

New Zealand – Solomon Mortimer ‘Solomon’s Travels: Volume One 2012’

New Zealand – Lucien Rizos ‘A man walks out of a bar: New Zealand photographs 1979-1982’

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Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 5.21.05 pm

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Antarctica – Ann Noble ‘Ice Blink’

 

END OF LIST  (Some books are not listed here…)

 

 

Doug and APPA Director Daniel Boetker-Smith       PHOTO: Victoria Cooper

Doug and APPA Director Daniel Boetker-Smith PHOTO: Victoria Cooper

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Thanks must go to Daniel’s ongoing support of this project and making this resource available for us all — And also thanks to the photographers for contributing to the archive.

 

Cheers  Doug

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APPA Sign

 

 

 

WISEMAN ON SAFARI @ Brisbane’s Maud Gallery

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Respectfully Intruding by John Wiseman @ Maud Gallery, Brisbane

August 6  – September 13, 2014.  The exhibition was opened by Ken Duncan on August 8.

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Maud Gallery window

Maud Gallery window

 

John Wiseman’s photography exhibition Respectfully Intruding at Brisbane’s Maud Gallery presents an invitation to go on safari and peek over his shoulder while he observes and photographs wildlife on the African savannah or in the Costa Rican rainforest. Luckily for us his invitation is to the gallery and the trials and complexities of journeys to exotic places are made easy for us. He also saves us the trouble of waiting, waiting, fighting impatience and the agonies of cramped photography vehicles and observation hides. Dust, flies, mosquitoes, things that will sting or eat you are not part of Wiseman’s plan. We are also spared the burdens of travel, airports, border guards with guns and the grind of life in these exotic lands. What we are given are his photographs.

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Maud Gallery installation

Maud Gallery installation

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In the white spaces of Maud Gallery, a kind of ‘safari of wonder’ is encountered –as the visitor wanders through the exhibition of wildlife and flora images. Rhino, elephant, leopard and lion of Africa inhabit the front room. Then in contrast to the ochres, browns and blacks, there are birds, flowers, frogs and snakes in green, yellow and turquoise of the rainforest that inhabit the large inner gallery. The bridge between these two environments is the photography style and vision of John Wiseman.

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Leopard

The Lioness

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We are no stranger to subjects like these as they have adorned National Geographic magazines, a thousand Attenborough ‘Life on Earth’ TV programs and countless coffee table books. We may have become so familiar with these subjects that these new works may just become just another ‘one of those’. But I would say look again. Wiseman is no quick snap wildlife shooter – his images exhibit careful consideration for subject and the moment captured. His arrangement and design of the image and concern for lighting takes images to the perfect moment that we think only Photoshop fakery could reveal. But these are real images from single exposures straight out of the camera without much post capture treatment.

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Blue Eyes

Blue Eyes

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Individual images stand out and draw your attention to the framed photograph – for those who love cats, a stunning image of a leopard with clear eyes will hold you in it’s mesmerising and piercing gaze. In another photograph entitled, ‘Family Portrait’, a lioness and four playful cubs look off camera with ears pricked up, attention aroused – for the viewer there is an ability to take in that frozen moment. Someone with an understanding of safari photography will wonder low long and what patience it took for Wiseman to get such an image.

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Family Portrait

Family Portrait

Hummingbird

Blue Hummingbird

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In the Central American space humming birds dance and glide in many frames. Frozen in flight, something that is particularly difficult to photograph, these birds are like airborne jewels with iridescent colouring attracted to equally colourific blooms. Once again Wisemans mastery of technique gets the photo but his sense of design, moment of capture, concern for background and subject placement make these extraordinary photographs. A multiple electronic flash setup is used to create these images and in a few photos Wisemen has synchronised the flash with a slow shutter speed allowing a frozen moment, as in the other images, to be combined with the blur of the wings in the longer moment of capture. For me this tells the greater story of the little bird’s hovering capacity and the beauty of this feathered flight.

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Hummingbird

Hummingbird Feeding

Scarlet Macaw

Scarlet Macaw

Toucan in the rain

Toucan in the rain

 

The Costa Rican rainforest also has its share of frogs that perform for Wiseman’s camera. Colours, backgrounds, movement and clarity once again reflect Wiseman’s fascination for the natural world. Other images that evoke response include a toucan in the rain, and the sinister shapes of snakes, the most beautiful of which hides camouflaged in the framework of a heliconia flower.

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Frog

The Serenity of Sleep

Snake on heliconia

Viper on heliconia.

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In an artist’s statement Wiseman states that he finds in his photography adventures: ‘The intoxicating excitement of the animals of Africa; the size, beauty and grace of these creatures and the love of the chase.’ And that most certainly is evident in the photographic works presented to us in this exhibition. And unlike many who venture, or have in the past, ventured into exotic lands in search of the hunt and big game with a gun – John Wiseman has been, and shot big and small game, and presented his trophies of the living things for us to observe and share his excitement and wonder of these things.

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John Wiseman reading up on Costa Rican birds

John Wiseman reading up on Costa Rican birds

 

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Doug Spowart   18 August 2014

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Texts and installation photos © Doug Spowart 2014     Photographs from the exhibition © John Wiseman

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ALEX STALLING’s PORTRAITS [part two]

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Alex Stalling in her Portrait exhibition

Alex Stalling in her Portrait exhibition

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Portraits: Layers of Meaning

Portraits [part two] An exhibition by Alex Stalling at Culliford Gallery, Toowoomba. July 28 – August 24, 2014

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Alex Stalling’s latest exhibition Portraits [Part Two] will certainly challenge the idea we might have of what a portrait can be. The bare white walls of the Toowoomba Art Society’s Culliford House Gallery, are punctuated by 20cm square pieces of white art paper onto which the artist has meticulously drawn and painted a ‘portrait’. Now these portraits are not of people we might know, someone famous, auntie Ethel, a sleeping child or a happy couple – they are … of animals – meta animals!

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Alex Stalling's Portrait exhibition

Alex Stalling’s Portrait exhibition

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Stalling has essentially created works made up of the shape or outlines of different animals. The animals sometimes morph and overlap – other times they are juxtaposed to suggest associations. A deer’s head and antlers adjoin a similar shape at 180o to form what looks like tree roots. A prancing deer dances with the outline of a upright bear. A moose stands on top of another, and a doe stands yet again on top! These works are like Mr Squiggle drawings gone wrong, or prints where the paper has jammed in the printer.

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Portrait #5

Portrait #5

Portrait #36

Portrait #36

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Many animals are bedecked with garlands of pink and orange flowers. This decorative element links individual artworks in the exhibition. A limited palette of flat colours of brown, orange, bright blue, pink and dark green also provides a cohesive aspect to the show.

The confusion of meaning continues. As if to create a cryptic challenge to the viewer – the animal outlines are partially filled-in often with bright and fluoro colours, but not in ways that help identification. The colouring implies another shapes or patternings which are partially obscured by the outlined edge of the animal. It is as though the animal outline has been cut out to reveal the abstract flat colour shape below on a background sheet.

 

#9

Portrait #9

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From a distance the outlines and colour shapes may appear to the gallery visitors as maps of continents, countries or localities. The colours perhaps define boundaries within those spaces. Moving up-close the another interpretation emerges – but it too, as discussed, is puzzling. Every image becomes a game, a riddle of confused meaning, a mind recognition trick, something that can amuse, entertain or stimulate the viewer to action.

Just who are these animal motifs a portrait of? The artist? A thought? And idea? A dream or muse, or influence? Or all of these…

The strength of Alex Stalling’s Portrait works is that they are not unchallenging easy-lookers, but rather works that demand the viewer to seek within themselves a resolution to a visual challenge – there, maybe they will find their ‘portrait’, and the meaning within the artworks.

Perhaps too, when an artist does a portrait, it also becomes a self-portrait of the artist themselves …

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Doug Spowart

August 12, 2014

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MORE INFORMATION 

 

http://www.alexstalling.com/

 

THIS SUNDAY in the exhibition space:

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 10.48.30 pm

https://www.facebook.com/bespokemarkets

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Text and installation photos ©2014 Doug Spowart     All artworks ©2014 Alex Stalling

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