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Archive for January 2020

BRITISH LIBRARY Acquires our cyanotype artists’ book

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We are excited to announce that the British Library has recently acquired our artowrk Australian Banquet, January 25/ 26, 1788.

In 2010 we wanted to make a work to comment and reflect on Australia Day and some of our feelings about the origins of the date – the implications of that event and the repercussions that we live with and navigate today. Through a scorchingly hot day in Toowoomba we worked with cyanotype solutions and selected objects – some from our home and others sourced from the food scraps from a local seafood smorgasbord restaurant on the day.

The work that we did that day emerged as the collaborative artists’ book, a broadsheet we titled, Australian Banquet, January 25/ 26, 1788.

We acknowledge the support in the negotiations with the British Library by our agent Helen Cole.

 

A statement about the artwork

Across Australia over the January 26th long weekend, people prepare, cook and consume food to mark this day in history.

For us, this work is our response to, and in recognition of, the ‘turning of the page’ in Australian history that this date represents. One day, January 25th 1788, Aboriginal people feasted on a diverse banquet of bush tucker as they had for thousands of years. The next day, the country was transformed by a new paradigm represented in this work by the table setting of the First Fleet.

Australia Day, for us, is an important time to acknowledge the First Peoples’ perspective and their knowing of land, culture and history and how it should be recognised as underpinning the diversity and identity of contemporary Australia. We, as descendants of European people, are seeking to understand and know more about our place within the longer history of this land.

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View 1: Australian Banquet, January 25/ 26, 1788

The 25th of January side of the broadsheet is viewed and contemplated.

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View 2: Australian Banquet, January 25/ 26, 1788

The broadsheet is then turned over to view the 26th of January side.

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View 3: Australian Banquet, January 25/ 26, 1788

Finally the broadsheet is held up to the light – the complex interrelationship between the two visual references to be seen and considered.

 

BOOK DESCRIPTION: A unique state artists’ book broadsheet

TITLE: Australian Banquet January 25/26, 1788

MEDIA: Double-sided cyanotype image in rice paper

DIMENSIONS: 37.6 x 77cm

PLACE & DATE MADE: Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, 2010

EDITION: 7 unique state variants

 

SOME REFLECTIONS ON THE BOOK’S HISTORY

 

 

COLLECTIONS, EXHIBITIONS & AWARDS:

2020 COLLECTION: British Library

2015 EXHIBITED: Books by Artists – The Webb Gallery as part of the Artists Book Brisbane Event, Conference at the Queensland College of Art, Brisbane

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

2014 EXHIBITED: Alternative Imaging  – Curated by Dawne Fahey at Two Doors Gallery, The Rocks, Sydney

2011: COLLECTION: Australian Library of Art, State Library of Queensland

2011 SHORTLISTED: Southern Cross University Artists’ Book Award, Lismore. Judge: Ross Woodrow

2011 EXHIBITED: BLUE – Arts Council Toowoomba members exhibition, Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery

2010 AWARD WINNER: Martin Hanson Awards, Gladstone Regional Art Gallery – Works on Paper

2010 EXHIBITED: Art BoundRed Gallery, Glebe, Sydney

2010 FINALIST: Josephine Ulrick & Win Schubert Photography Award – Gold Coast City Gallery. Judge: Judy Annear

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Text and © Doug Spowart+Victoria Cooper

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LOOKING AT PHOTOs IN THE GALLERY: a talk by Doug Spowart

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Doug Spowart in The Museum Project exhibition at Lismore Regional Gallery .…..PHOTO: Victoria Cooper

 

I’ve a lifetime of connection with art galleries from exhibitor to director and curator to reviewer. I’ve often pondered on how the gallery space connects with those who visit it and what insights they may take-away from that interaction.

Viewing an exhibition can be a very superficial activity or it can be one that can create the opportunity for a meaningful and personal experience.

I have often been interested in observing people in the gallery space and wondered whether they were: (1) an interested and attentive participant, (2) using the space for social interaction – with friends/partners/children, (3) there as a flâneur to be seen in the gallery or possibly (4) a person accompanying 1, 2 or 3.

Floor talks are a necessary part of the educative process carried out in an art gallery. It can transform the way art is introduced to a new audience and enlighten those wanting to know more.

 

At the end of last year I was invited to present a floor talk about an exhibition of photography at the Lismore Regional Gallery in northern NSW. The talk was to coincide with the gallery’s showing of The Museum Project a collection of American photography work from the 1970-2010. The project represents a selection of works from 7 photographers that cover a diverse range of approaches to photography. The photographers, and genre of their works are:

 

The Museum Project at the Lismore Regional Gallery

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I considered the invitation and proposed that the talk would be based upon the idea of ‘Looking at photos in the gallery’. Rather than a direct translation of curator’s didactics I decided that I would use my gallery and photography experiences to suggest a number of steps and questions for the visitor in their engagement in the gallery space so they may derive more from the experience. I also acknowledged that attendees would be interested in a commentary about interesting aspects of the works including the conceptual and technical approaches taken by the photographers. The works presented an excellent opportunity to also talk about different approaches to photography as a visual art form.

In my preparation for the talk I visited the gallery and made notes on the works as well as carried out online research about the photographer’s backgrounds, manifestos and techniques.

I thought further about the proposition of looking at photographs in the gallery and prepared a script for the talk. To make the talk more interactive and personal, I decided to hand make a little booklet for each attendee to refer to during the talk and as take-home information source. In the 2015 Artists’ Book Brisbane Event, I did a similar process where I made a booklet of my talk for each of the 60 attendees of the conference and rather than an electronic presentation, I performed the book …

The gallery staff member assisting me for the day, Claudie Frock, had printed up 25 A3 sheets of my 8-page fold booklet the evening before so that Joanna Kambourian, Vicky and I could make up the books.

 

The Looking at Photos in the Gallery booklet

The Looking at Photos in the Gallery booklet

 

Overnight before the talk Lismore, and South-East Queensland and North-East New South Wales were drenched with flash-flooding rains so I was pleasantly surprised in the morning when 25 people came along to the talk. There was also a small group of deaf people attending the talk and I was supported in my presentation by AUSLAN interpreter Bronwyn. After the acknowledgement of country and an introduction by Claudie we began the talk.

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Participant involvement is a necessary part of my presentation style and the question/answer format gave ample opportunities for attendees to interact in the talk. One of the gallery’s curators that attended, Fiona, added special insights about gallery installation, copyright and image conservation. The booklet process worked well and we managed to cover a diverse range of topics within the 1-hour time allotted.

 

You can download a PDF of the little A5 booklet LRG-Booklet

 

Vicky and I stayed on after the talk to connect with attendees who wanted to chat further and also to re-connect with two local photographers Jacklyn Wagner and Peter Derrett OAM who were associated with workshops that we had presented in Lismore at the Gasworks Art Centre and the Southern Cross University in the early 1990s. They presented us with a copy of the catalogue for a documentary project called Heart & Soul that featured people from around the region.

On leaving the gallery the rain had cleared to a sunny day…

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Vicky + Doug with the catalogue for the Heart&Soul exhibition by Jacklyn and Peter PHOTO: Peter Derret

Vicky + Doug with the catalogue for the Heart&Soul exhibition by Jacklyn and Peter PHOTO: Peter Derrett OAM

 

Doug with Jacklyn Wagner + Peter Derrett PHOTO: Dr Ros Derrett OAM

 

 

 

Please note the Booklet and the lecture are a work in progress to be added to in future versions – and it’s ©2020 Doug Spowart.

 

 

VICTORIA COOPER: Scroll works 1998-2003

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Victoria Cooper: Portrait

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Victoria Cooper talks about her early montage works in the form of 10 scrolls made in the period 1998-2003

The text below begins with a discussion about the first five scrolls, three from Mt Buffalo and two of Phillip Island clouds. This is the first public viewing of these early scroll works.

Following this is a short statement about the next five scrolls, The Five Stories of the Gorge. There is a separate blog post about these scrolls that presents more details and exhibition history along with an image of each scroll.  HERE

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For those who can see, existence takes place in an unfurling scroll of pictures captured by sight enhanced or tempered by other senses . . . Building up a language made of pictures translated into words and words translated into pictures, through which we try to grasp and understand our very existence. (Manguel, 2001, p.7)

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Montage and digital narratives

Timothy Druckrey (1994) discusses the montage early in digital era: One of the central considerations in the emergence of electronic montage is the redefinition of narrative and the single image is not sufficient to serve as a record of an event but, rather, that events are themselves complex configurations of experience, intention, and interpretation. Nearly 30 years of the digital evolution, the montage and the collage in all its forms both traditional and analogue continues to shape perception and narrative of the human condition.

 

About my digital montage scroll works

My first major digital body of work in the late 1990’s was a series constructed visual narratives from photo-documentation in sites significant in my development as an environmental visual poet. In the digital medium, I then cut and blended my collected data/ resource of photographic elements into the multiple perspectives that visually tell my story through the form of rice paper scrolls. The sites were Mt Buffalo, coastal Victoria, and a small area of original forest near Toowoomba.

When I first encountered the landscape at Mount Buffalo, I was filled with a sense of awe. The most significant memories that remain with me are of the journeys from the valley to the summit. Over the years I have undertaken many walks that meander through or climb impressive granite landforms and rich stands of native flora. The Buffalo Scrolls were constructed from many individual elements of the analogue photographic material gathered on site and woven together in the computer later. Although initially informed by the tradition of Chinese and Japanese scroll making, I could not conform to the strict rituals of Asian art school but rather was guided in the production of these works by material thinking and the reflective/reflexive response to memory and corporeal experience.

 

Victoria Cooper (August, 1999), Buffalo Scrolls, Waterfall,
inkjet on rice paper in acrylic boxes,
Image: 107×27.5 cm, Scroll: 250×30 cm.

 

The digital environment provided me with a psychological space in which images could be combined, manipulated and layered in the shaping of my story. I utilised image manipulation software to ‘grow’ and distort the landscape. Through this process I found that I was directed to imaginative places beyond any original intent or pre-visualization. Although the work originates in my direct recordings of place, the fluidity of digital space allowed for experimentation and new work to transform and evolve any fixed idea I may have had. So in creating The Waterfall scroll, a large boulder became a precipitous mountain to emphasis the terrain encountered. The trail up to the waterfalls was a seemingly endless rock-formed staircase that proved to be a challenging path.

 

 

Victoria Cooper (August, 1999), Buffalo Scrolls, The Cathedral,
inkjet on rice paper in acrylic boxes, Image: 107×27.5 cm,
Scroll: 250×30 cm. Collection of the artist.

 

The Cathedral scroll journey across a watery marsh dotted with fragile alpine daisies is at times a precarious rock hop. Taking care not to step onto the vegetation beneath. In another of the Buffalo scrolls the ominous granite corridor of The Pinnacle defines the way through expanses of rock to the summit of the mountain in the distance.

 

 

Victoria Cooper (August, 1999), Buffalo Scrolls, The Pinnacle, inkjet on rice paper in acrylic boxes, Image: 107x27.5 cm, Scroll: 250x30 cm. Collection of the artist.

Victoria Cooper (August, 1999), Buffalo Scrolls, The Pinnacle, inkjet on rice paper in acrylic boxes, Image: 107×27.5 cm, Scroll: 250×30 cm. Collection of the artist.

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Victoria Cooper (August, 1999), Phillip Island Storm Cloud, left and right views,
inkjet on rice paper in acrylic boxes, Image: 107×24 cm, Scroll: 250×30 cm.
Collection of the artist.

 

My work with digital scrolls continued with the production of the diptych, Phillip Island Storm Cloud. These two images relate to the sense of anticipation felt when observing an approaching storm.

At Mount Buffalo and Phillip Island, I wrestled with both a fear of taking risks when encountering new and difficult terrain and a strong curiosity to explore the unknown. The scrolls reflect the memories of conflict and fear together with a sense of wonder I experienced within this sublime landscape and, in some ways more broadly, my life.

 

 

Installation of Victoria Cooper's Five Stories of the Gorge
Installation of Victoria Cooper’s Five Stories of the Gorge

The virtual to the physical

The digital montages can only be seen in the electronic medium through the action of ‘scrolling’. Therefore, as some of my early inspiration came from the Asian form of presenting narratives, I utilised the rice paper scroll transformed the virtual to physical, tactile form. The scrolls are displayed in the vertical format and unravelled from their acrylic container to reveal the entire image. The viewer can enter the scroll at any point as with the initial perusal of a written story and, if engaged fully, can follow the narrative through from beginning to end.

 

The Five Stories from the Gorge Scrolls

Following this initial work I became more interested with the concept of small and intimate spaces found in everyday life. Five stories from the Gorge, presents a more intimate connection with the environment than the Buffalo series. Instead of trekking up precipitous climbs of distant mountain regions, I followed forgotten pathways and looked into the small, enclosed spaces of this gorge environment near where I lived. I made many journeys into the gorge and on each occasion I took time to absorb many sensory impressions as well as creating a digital photographic record.

As with the Buffalo work, I found that the single viewpoint photographic image did not give me the dynamic reading I sought. So again I created a series of montage scroll works synthesised from my collected visual recordings and sense-memory.

The physical environment of the gorge presented me with some complexities when blending the changes of photographic perspective into a seamless passage through the landscape. Central to this work was to attempt, by the use of scale and viewpoint changes, to reconstruct how the eye scans a scene. As the eye of the observer focuses on single viewpoints then moves to another it not possible to take in an entire scene with a single perspective. With this characteristic of visual perception in mind, I set out to recreate the landscape visually from multiple viewpoints. So in this body of work I seamlessly combined disjointed and sometimes perceptively conflicting views to form images that go beyond the static visual document.

During my visits to photograph the gorge, I also collected objects from the site. For me, the found elements provided a different narrative opportunity. In the scrolls Chaos and Order I investigated these natural elements presented in groupings as a kind of language. These pictographs form poems made up from a natural vocabulary associated with the visual form of the written word.

Each element was scanned into the computer to obtain a replica of their likeness, the objects themselves were later returned to the site to continue their natural cycle. The scroll, Order, begins the dialogue by suggesting the elements of a genetic code. The arrangements of the seeds and leaves and other fragments are seemingly organised and uniform but, on closer observation, there are subtle differences to the repeated segments.

Chaos came as an answer to the cyclic relentless processes that continually ebb and flow through time in nature. It is the interruptions, upheavals and the process of change that nurture and ensure survival. Though these scrolls are without the scenic detail, they are the essence of the region, a distilled manuscript of the cycles and disruptive events in nature over time.

The Chaos and Order scrolls alongside the Hillside scroll

The Chaos and Order scrolls alongside the Hillside scroll

 

Five Stories from the Gorge, investigates the idea of wilderness and nature that exists in or on the edges of these human inhabited spaces.

 

The Gorge – from the series Five Stories from the Gorge 2001

 

Throughout the process of image collection and construction I was informed by the influences of visual poetry, environmental art and my scientific background. The landscape paintings of William Robinson and Lin Onus have both innately influenced the way I see and work over my career. These reconstructed spaces are as fictional as a Tolkien novel but at the same time provide the evidence of existence as if collected in a Darwinian exploration.

 

Victoria Cooper

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SEE A BLOG POST ABOUT The Five Stories of the Gorge: HERE

Bibliography
Timothy Druckrey (1994). ‘From Dada to Digital, Montage in the twentieth century’, Metamorphoses: Photography in the Electronic Age, Aperture, 136, Summer, pp 4-7.
Timothy Druckery (1996) editor. Electronic Culture, Technology and Visual Representation, New York, Aperture Foundation Inc.
Alberto Manguel (1996). A History of Reading, London, Harper Collins Publishers.
Alberto Manguel (2001). Reading Pictures, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WOTweTHINK: Joe Ruckli’s ‘LIGHTNING WITHOUT FLASH’

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Walking into Joe Ruckli’s exhibition Lightning Without Flash at the Queensland College of Art’s Web Gallery was a little like entering into the subject of his documentary work.

The white walls of the gallery evoke the opal miner’s white clay tunnels of Lightning Ridge in northern NSW. Here and there the glimmer of what opal miners call ‘colour’ appear in the form of photographs arranged in rows and in one random gallery hang.

In the center of the room on plinths sit piles of ‘potch’ – miners slang for junk opal in the form of Keno tickets, fractured clay clods, crumpled beverage cans, machinery debris and a ‘roly-poly’(tumble weed).

 

Lightning Without Flash QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

Lightning Without Flash…… Installation QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

Gallery visitors at the exhibition opening ... PHOTO: Doug Spowart

Gallery visitors at the exhibition openingPHOTO: Doug Spowart

 

In traditional documentary style Ruckli’s ‘miner’s tunnel’ presents visual material that tells or invokes stories about place.

Ruckli’s human inhabitants live hard lives working in difficult conditions.

  • A hand holds a wallet in which a well-handled 1960s b&w portrait of lady looks out of the frame – the thumbnail of the hand is damaged and cracked and a fly sits on the knuckle…
  • A 50s+ lady stares challengingly at the camera, hand on hip the other resting on the doorway to her ‘home’ – behind her head a circular dark shape, perhaps a window, acts like a halo. There are layers of meaning here…
Lightning Without Flash...... QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

Lightning Without Flash…… QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

Lightning Without Flash...... QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

Lightning Without Flash…… QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

 

The human occupied space where people live and work is depicted as a run-down, rough and inhospitable place.

  • A caravan surrounded by assorted re-purposed corrugated iron sheeting hides within a barren withered land.
  • A ‘room’ of walls made of bits of bags, iron sheets, wood and bush poles seems like an abandoned hermit’s lair laid dormant for a century.
  • A shop in the street ‘Peter’s Opals’ presents a stark elevation despite the beauty of the stones inside for sale.
Lightning Without Flash...... QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

Lightning Without Flash…… QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

Lightning Without Flash...... QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

Lightning Without Flash…… QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

 

The natural space is tough enough for plants and animals without it being overlaid by the detritus of human habitation and exploitation.

  • Bushland slashed by the track of grader blades, scattered bleached kangaroo bones and shrubbery covered by powdered bulldust giving the appearance of a snow scene.
  • A kangaroo skeleton lies in profile, its running pose is gradually being smothered by wind-blown dust to perhaps one day to be found as a fossil of this time…
Lightning Without Flash...... QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

Lightning Without Flash…… QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

 Lightning Without Flash...... QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

Lightning Without Flash…… QCA Webb Gallery PHOTO: Joe Ruckli

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Ruckli has selectively, through his image and ephemera collecting, presented us with a first-hand experience of Lightning Ridge. It’s an alien space that few of us will ever encounter. But for one moment, in this white ‘tunnel’, we came to experience something of what lies behind the opal’s seduction. So powerful that it drives human endeavour to live, work and endure the hardships to strike the illusive and lucky find.

And we wonder about the gem – once extracted from its hiding in the claystones and then polished – destined for another place to adorn, as a jeweled accessory, the lifestyles of another world …

 

Doug Spowart with editorial support by Victoria Cooper

13 Jan 2020

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What is WOTweTHINK?

We attend many exhibitions and lament that these shows rarely have personal or reflective commentaries published about them. Our concept is to condense our thoughts into an Instagram-like short/sharp rought draft post. We hope that WOTweTHINK may encourage a broader discussion …

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A SELECTION OF OTHER IMAGES FROM THE EXHIBITION

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