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Archive for February 2014

Buildings with tattoos: First Coat Street Art Festival

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Off Duggan St

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THE FIRST COAT STREET ARTS FESTIVAL

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The regional town of Toowoomba has been transformed over the weekend of the 21, 22 and 23 of February by a band of international, national and local artists, converting lane way walls into places of street art. Now dingy or dilapidated back lanes are the place where one can encounter art – or ­– has the art has come to us?

Street art or graffiti, whatever you call it was illegal with significant fines and community service being awarded those who were caught – perhaps even jail! Not being caught in the act as well as being outrageously brave in the places where work was to be placed and what it would say was what it was all about. Graffiti gave a kind of voice to a youth dispossessed by any means of being able to express how they felt or the creativity, perhaps even beauty, that can come from the nozzle of a spray can and a creative mind.

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Fintan Magee: 492 Ruthven Street: PHOTO Doug Spowart ©2014

Fintan Magee: 492 Ruthven Street

Fintan Magee: 492 Ruthven Street: PHOTO Doug Spowart ©2014

Fintan Magee: 492 Ruthven Street

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For years the domain of reckless and angry youth, the quickspray ‘tags’ adorned many buildings in public spaces. In time railway rolling stock became a moveable target for adornment. And while in the past, crews of official graffiti ‘strippers’ would attempt to remove these forms of creative expression it seems today that they have just given up–it’s far more interesting now to ‘graffiti-spot’ (like train spotting), at the train level crossings than ever before.

Working mainly in stencils the UK artist Banksy added to the genre’s acceptance in mainstream culture by his often ironic, humorous and insightful commentary. In his nocturnal art practice Banksy has maintained his anonymity and his works have passed into cult status.

Gone today it seems is the night work, gone too are dark clothes and a knap sack with a few cans–the limited palette of the graffiti criminal. Now, it’s all done in the light of day with the luxury of ladders, scissor lifts, fume masks and adoring fans. Most importantly is the visibility of the architectural canvasses being offered these artists.

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Liam Dibb’s cans

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National awareness, at least in Australia, arose through the acceptance and support of Melbourne’s laneway graffiti to the point where it has become a marketable tourist destination and has brought about the repossession of these once deserted grungy rear access thoroughfares.

Toowoomba’s ‘First Coat’ Street Art Festival has certainly left its mark on the town. Judging by the number of people walking around on the final day of the event, the media coverage and the deluge of Facebook posts by local residents it has captured the imagination of the community.

What remains is an assessment of the longer value of a project like this. Does the work look derivative of other places were this artform has been sanctioned? Will our children be doing graffiti workshops? – they are being offered in Toowoomba now, and will every wall become a tattoo-esque picture canvas? Will Toowoomba’s street art express community issues, concerns, icons and symbolism? Does the new street art become neutered in meaning becoming art entertainment, sanitised by its newfound sponsor – civil society and layers of government? Does any of this matter?

I’d like to think that out there somewhere – an angry young kid is expressing their life, concerns and messages to us by continuing in the foot-prints or sneaker-prints, and in the dark of night of those that have gone before…

Doug Spowart 

24 February 2014.

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Gimiks Born / Damien Kamholtz - 3 Bank Lane

PANORAMA: Damien Kamholtz – 3 Bank Lane

Gimiks Born / Damien Kamholtz - 3 Bank Lane

Damien Kamholtz – 3 Bank Lane

Alice Weinthal -

Alice Weinthal – 239 Margaret St.

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Liam Dibb at work – Mark Lane

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Liam Dibb at work – Mark Lane

Gimiks Born: Bank Lane

Gimiks Born: Bank Lane

In Bank Lane - PHOTO Doug Spowart ©2014

In Bank Lane

In Mark Lane - PHOTO Doug Spowart ©2014

In Mark Lane

PHOTO Doug Spowart ©2014

Pic 1 Bell Street

Duggan St

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Duggan St

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Duggan St

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Duggan ST

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LINK TO ABC Open + Toowoomba Chronicle pics+vids

http://www.abc.net.au/local/photos/2014/02/23/3950646.htm

http://www.thechronicle.com.au/videos/gimiks-born-first-coat/21759/

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About First Coat:

Toowoomba’s CBD – 19 artists – 17 walls – 1 weekend
21st – 23rd February 2014

First Coat is a street art festival brought to by Toowoomba Regional Council and GraffitiSTOP, in partnership with Toowoomba Youth Service & Kontraband Studios.

Over 3 days, First Coat artists completed multiple large scale murals being painted, a Stupid Krap exhibition and artist talks were presented by Analogue Digital.

Locations:

2 Station St, 16 Duggan St, 12 Little St, 488 Ruthven St, 296 Ruthven St, 6 Laurel St,

2 Mark Lane, 9 Bowen St, 86 Russell St, 5 Mark Lane, 239 Margaret St, 70 Russell St, 80 Russell St

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Proudly supported by:

Ironlak

Analogue Digital Creative Conference
Master Hire
40/40 Creative
Dulux
Coopers

ALL artworks © of the artists.

Photographic interpretations of the works ©Doug Spowart – Contact me if you were an artist and I will send images to you.

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Creative Commons-by-nc-nd.eu

My photographs and words are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/au/

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MARIS RUSIS: ORIGINAL PHOTOGRAPHS @ Gallery Frenzy, Brisbane

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Masonic Hall, Barcaldine

Masonic Hall, Barcaldine

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The very nature of humanity is that each one who looks will see something different. So in these words, in this speech to open this exhibition, I’m in the privileged position to share what interests me about Maris Rusis’ original photographs. For a time I too was a disciple of the large format photography ‘zone’ – system discipline. I strove to develop what I’d call three skills: the conceptual – to see or previsualise; the technical to operate cameras and control chemistry; and the physical to lug the camera, all 50 kilos of it, to the place or subject of its use.

I found the romance of large format fieldwork is followed by the trial of the darkroom and the creation of a print reality – a manifestation of the subject as perceived by the photographer, at the time of capture. Chemistry, contact frames, darkness and the contemplative attention to time, temperature and agitation are an integral part of the process. So is, dare I say–image manipulation, dodging and burning-in to refine the distribution of tone, density and how these shape perception and direct the viewers eye as it rests on the image.

To bring an Australian light to the large format photograph Maris and I set out on a road trip from Brisbane to Canberra, Kosciuszko and Suggan Buggan in the late 1980’s. On this journey we shared cheap motels and backpackers, red wine and erudite conversation. Loading large format film holders in the cramped spaces of motel wardrobes and borrowed darkrooms we ventured into the high country and along roadsides. Photographing in the field was in part an endurance in the sweltering heat of mid-summer’s noon-day sun under the focussing cloth, and the privations of only being able to make 6-8 photographs a day – but each image was unique… a triumphant moment… a personal vision of light.

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Maris Rusis and Doug Spowart

Maris and I in a granite field with cameras in 1989

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Part of our large format journey included special access to the vaults of the National Gallery of Australia’s photography collection. On opening, the light entered each solander box and we peered into the contents. We held prints by Weston – Brett included, Adams (Ansel–not Robert), Minor White, Emmet Gowan and others. These were the masters whose works we could generally only encounter on the pages of books usually at reduced size. I remember at the end of that day we stood on the exit parapet of the NGA, as it was in the old days, and you commented: “From today we can view the masters of large format photography with a new kind of arrogance”. Meaning that what we were achieving technically and conceptually matched anything we saw in the gallery’s collection. In reflection we did this in Australian light and of Australian subjects far removed from the well-trodden ground of the American tradition.

While I continued into the early 1990s hunting photographs with the SINAR 10×8 in the field, I was seduced to explore an expanding frontier of photography with Diana, pinholes and ultimately digital. Maris remained true to attitudes, values and approaches to photographic process and image quality that are the essence of the thing itself. Light-lens-silver – a direct and simple transference through photonics guided at every increment by the photographer and their vision for the subject before them. The plunge of the image-making world into digital technologies usurped and liberalised the terminology, in particular the words ‘photographer’ and ‘photograph’. Subsequently, it seems now with the emancipation of imaging anyone can be a photographer and anyone can photograph – it’s that easy.

There was a time when I, like many, thought a photograph was infinitely reproducible and that the darkroom was a machine for making multiples – but each was a little different. The speed and repeatability of digital imaging became the ‘machine’ where each print is identical. Now we can value each gelatine silver photographic print as a bespoke unique state object – a handcrafted image where as two can be identical. Maris once postulated a theory that the photographer, in printing their photographs – in particular with dodging and burning-in, created two images. The finished print is a secondary image of the subject before the camera – the first image being the negative, and as the photographer uses their hands to do shadowy light work they create a self-portrait primary image.

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Views of Snow Gums, number 4

Views of Snow Gums, number 4

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This evening, through the photographs that hang on these walls, an experience is shared. The title of the exhibition ‘Original Photographs’ may be exactly what they are. Our viewing position for this work as stated, is located in the digital age – where contemporary technology and process is arguably antithetical to the exulted practice that created these original photographic objects before us. Now I ask – should the provenance of these framed works make a difference to how we look at and think about these photographic prints? Should there be a precondition to viewing this work that requires a study of the technique, the myth, the challenges, incentives and the rewards of those who work this way, and how we as viewers should respond? Or should there be nothing of that. A photograph is before us – look, connect, interpret, respond … then, cast your view to the next.

What then of these photographs? Some may think that these prints may well be from a dinosaurian photographic tradition. For me their existence proves that the ritual continues and that the photographer’s vision and the seductive quality of the photographic prints that emerge from the photographer’s toil are still valuable contributions to the art. And therein lies the importance of Maris Rusis and his work. Few have walked his path in the sunshine of single-mindedness, about living one’s life totally absorbed, at whatever cost – family, friends, poverty and pleasure, all secondary to the pursuit of personal photographic nirvana, usually of the real large format kind. Edward Weston once stated: ‘My true program is summed up in one word: life. I expect to photograph anything suggested by that word which appeals to me.’ Maris Rusis and Weston have many things in common.

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Doug Spowart

Written @ Girraween February 1, 2014.

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Maris and Doug 'Selfie' at the exhibition opening

Maris and Doug ‘Selfie’ at the exhibition opening

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FotoFrenzy-logo

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Maris has written a reply to this post that adds to this commentary of his work:

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Submitted on 2014/02/06 at 5:07 pm
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It is an uncommon thing to invest some decades of effort in making pictures by one particular medium to the exclusion of all others. And an explanation is perhaps merited.

Firstly, everything Doug Spowart has covered in his blog is true and revalatory. It sets out key moments that propelled me in my committment to photography. And I thank Doug for the good start he gave me. But to keep going I had to support the conviction that my chosen medium has valuable properties that are not obtained or replicated by alternative means. I still continue to make pictures out of light-sensitive materials and offer by way of flagrant self justification the following essay:

In Defence of Light-Sensitive Materials.

The word photography was invented to describe what light-sensitive materials deliver: pictures that offer a different class of imaging from painting, drawing, or digital methods.

These “light-sensitive” pictures are photographs and the content of such pictures is the visible trace of a direct physical process. This is sharply different to painting, drawing, and digital imaging where picture content is the visible output of processed data. Some other imaging methods that do not process data include life casts, death masks, brass rubbings, wax impressions, coal peels, papier-maché moulds, and footprints.

There is a general idleness of thought that assumes any picture beginning with a camera is a photograph. Most casual references to digital pictures as photographs are motivated not by deceit but rather by the innocent and uncritical acceptance of the jargon “digital photography”; a saying which has become so banal and familiar that it largely passes unchallenged; except perhaps here, now, and by me.

I use light sensitive substances to make pictures because of the special relationship between such pictures and their subject matter. The wonder of this special relationship is also available to the aware viewer. Making realistic looking pictures long pre-dates photography. Old and new techniques include photo-realist painting, mezzotint, graphite drawing, gravure, and offset printing. Recently analogue and digital electronic techniques can deliver the appearance of abundant realism at trivial effort and cost . But although these pictures may mimic photographs but they do not invoke the unique one-step material bond between a subject and its photograph.

The physical and non-virtual genesis of pictures made from light-sensitive substances has far-reaching consequences:

Light sensitive materials are utterly powerless in depicting subject matter that does not exist. A true photograph of a thing is an absolute certificate for the existence of that thing; an existence proof at the level of physical evidence. Quite differently, data-based pictures at best approximate testimony under oath rather than evidence.

Light-made pictures require that the subject and the substances that will ultimately depict it have to be in each other’s presence at the same moment. True photographs cannot recreate times past. The future is similarly inaccessible. Since true photographs can only begin their existence in the fleeting present they constitute an absolute certificate that a particular moment in time actually existed.

Light-sensitive materials are blind to the imaginary, the topography of dreams, and the shape of hallucinatory visions. The option of making a picture from light sensitive materials offers an infallible way of distinguishing delusion from reality. A true photograph authenticates the proposition that the camera really did see something.

Light-sensitive substances neither selectively edit nor augment picture content. There is a one to one correspondence between points in a true photograph and places in real-world subject matter. This correspondence, also known as a transfer function, is immutable for all subject matter changes.

The sole energy input for a true photograph comes from an illuminated subject. The pre-existing internal chemical potential energy of the light-sensitive substances is sufficient to generate all the marks of which a photograph is composed. Other external energy inputs are not required. Remember, photography was invented in, described in, and works perfectly in a world without electricity.

Pictures made from light sensitive materials are different to paintings, drawings, and digital confections in that their authority to describe subject matter comes not from resemblance but from direct physical causation.

It is these unique qualities of true photography, its limitations and its profound certainties, that keep me committed to the medium as an integral and original form.

My light-generated pictures are produced one at a time, start to finish, and in full by my own hand. The work flow is mine. No part of it is down to assistants or back-room people toiling to flatter my skills so I will feel good about paying their fee. I will continue to make pictures out of light-sensitive substances even if it comes to the point where I have to synthesise those substances myself.

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MORE IMAGES FROM THE SHOW:

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Views of Snow Gums, number 38

Views of Snow Gums, number 38

Views of Snow Gums, number 40

Views of Snow Gums, number 40

Laneway, Winton

Laneway, Winton

Open Air Cinema Fence, Winton

Open Air Cinema Fence, Winton

Shop Wall, Winton

Shop Wall, Winton

Views of Snow Gums, number 4

Views of Snow Gums, number 4

Views of Snow Gums, number 11

Views of Snow Gums, number 11

Views of Snow Gums, number 31

Views of Snow Gums, number 31

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All photographs © Maris Rusis. Photograph of the two photographers ©Maris Ruusis and Doug Spowart.

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