Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category
On Sunday 12 February the Melbourne Town Hall and was packed with sellers, lookers and buyers attending the Sticky Institute’s Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair. At a guess, there could have been around 100 zine tables with a variety of zine-makers: both showing their own work, or representing other zinesters. For the visitor to the Fair there was an opportunity to see and handle almost any kind of communication that could put onto a sheet of paper, or into collated pages – folded, stapled, glued, stitched and sewn. Each ‘publication’ representing a personal approach to what the medium “zine” means to the author. And, as the ‘Zine’ is a slippery medium those within the discipline keep pushing the limits by integration of opportunistic technologies and ideas gleaned from contemporary media.
The content of the zines presented to us were from a broad church of visual and written media including: text as prose, poetry or as visual typographic forms, and calligraphy. There was a rich diversity of illustration from photo-realism to comic flat field work, photographs and even, in one sighted example – the ancient art of marbling. The narrative forms in these publications ranged from concrete poetry, prose, comic stories and disjointed stream of consciousness curated visuals.
In keeping with the tradition some zine makers aired their political opinions while others shared a fascination of contemporary everyday life. There were groups that concentrated on gender issues, music and issues of the street, while others presented dreamy naive and whimsical scenarios, adventures in suburbia, the road and outer space, nonsensical ghoulish and vampire episodes.
Our specific interest were zines based on or utilising photos sometimes referred to as photozines, as well as others that use photomontage in their narrative or conceptual work. Examples seen dealt with topics like the destruction of traditional family homes in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, skateboard stories, and a faux streetscape made up of photos of distressed buildings.
The Fair was a place to network. Greetings were made with like-minded people across the display tables and discussions took place about zines, life and art. We caught up with a few people we knew – David Dellafiora, Gracia and Louise and Glen Smith – Queensland’s zine hero Jeremy Staples was in the building somewhere but we didn’t get to meet. Zine-makers, or sellers, were keen to engage with us to tell the story of the work and where it fits with their practice and their life.
But did anyone sell anything? Many visitors were seen toting quite a few brown envelopes and calico bags filled with new additions to their personal collections. Perhaps a personal experience might shed some light on how success for such an event could be measured. It was right at the end of our shop, we had spent our budget and were talking to two young zinesters who were actually making their little photo zines on demand at their table. Their selling price was $3 and we wanted one of each but could only scrape together $5 in coin. One of the zinesters said ‘that’s fine, I’ll take the $2’, and stated that, ‘it’s important to have my zine out there…’
Being out there with your work. That is what zines are all about … your message in print as a democratic multiple … telling your story, was always what zines were about. That tradition it seems, continues…
February 13, 2017
SOME ZINES ADDED TO OUR COLLECTION
Trudi Treble – Instagram: trud.i
Glen Smith: https://nofrillsart.net/
Gracia and Louise: www.gracialouise.com
Field Study – https://daviddellafiora.blogspot.com.au/
Alice Fennessy Instagram: @alicefennessy
Claire Wakeford: www.clairewakeford.com
Ning Xue: http://www.xuening.me/me.html
UNTIL NEXT YEAR …
Copyright in the zines is retained by the authors. All photographs + text + video ©2017 Doug Spowart
Disconnection is a solo show by Brisbane photographer Thomas Oliver. The series consists of work that has been captured in London, New York, Toronto, Paris and (of course) Brisbane. The exhibition is accompanied with a catalogue essay written by Dr. Doug Spowart.
Artist’s Talk: Interview with Dr. Heather Faulkner, 11am-1pm Saturday 25th February
Full Exhibition Dates: Tuesday 13th – Saturday 25th February
Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10am – 4pm
Address: Project Gallery – QCA South Bank Campus, 226 Grey Street
OLIVER’s Artist Statement
Experiencing the ebb and flow of life in a capital city, it is easy to become consumed by the gurgling hum of activity. It sparks and pulses like an amped-up generator. We slip from one task to the next, leaving ourselves behind in the process. The lights flicker and the air vibrates warmly around us. And like a mad hive, our cities swarm with ghostly forms, smoothly transparent and faceless.
My Words for Thomas …
What makes photography a strange invention – with unforeseeable consequences – is that its primary raw materials are light and time.
John Berger died last week. But his work will continue to reveal insights on how we perceive photographic communications. Even now I continue to hear his words in my head as I write. Most of the time his voice inhabits my writing, saying the words that I have just typed. His writing and critical thinking offered new ‘ways of seeing and looking at photographs’ – as ‘quotes’ from appearances, photos and memory. The photograph presents to us information that has connections to a reality as in Berger’s assertion, ‘A photograph arrests the flow of time in which the event photographed once existed’.
But what happens when the photographic moment is slurred by slow shutter-speeds, movement of subject and camera panning? In this approach Thomas Oliver creates visual documents that could never have been seen by the photographer or an observer of the scene. These are documents of not a moment but of time passing. They transcend the instantaneous moment and suggest a visual concept of the subject’s spirit seemingly extracted by the act of photography–a tear in temporality ‘arrested’.
Oliver’s images also have a resonance with Gilles Deleuze’s discussion on Francis Bacon’s work in his 1981 book Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Deleuze highlights how ‘chance’ and the expressiveness of the random and indiscriminate effects of vigorous brush strokes inform Bacon’s painting. Deleuze proposes that: ‘there is no chance except “manipulated” chance, no accident except a “utilized” accident.’ In making his photographs Oliver has no way of knowing what each slow shutter release will reveal. He relies on his understanding of technique during the process of exposure to realize the potential for an evocative outcome.
For me Oliver’s photographs are based on the ‘manipulated chance’. He is ready to respond with the tools photography to capture the phenomenon of light and time in everyday places frequented by people. His work seems to also rely on his acceptance of ‘utilized accidents’. It is from this principle that his moments of strange and powerful visual poetry come into being.
But are they his photographs? My favourite Berger quote also relates to Oliver’s spontaneous street images. That there are things beyond us, I’m not talking about God or Gods, but rather more about the involvement of the ‘other’ in the making of art. Berger said it beautifully for me – his voice echoes in my mind:
The modern illusion concerning painting [I read photography here]. . . is that the artist is a creator. Rather he is a receiver. What seems like creation is the act of giving form to what he has received.
I respectfully present to you – Thomas Oliver’s Disconnection photographs of simulacra from the street.
Doug Spowart PhD
 Berger, John. “Appearances/the Ambiguity of the Photograph.” In Another Way of Telling: A Possible Theory of Photography, 47-52. Malden, MA, USA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2002.
 I refer also to Francis Bacon’s paintings based on Diego Velázquez’s Pope, Portrait of Innocent X (1650) and his portraits of friends, for example Three studies for a portrait of Lucien Freund (1964).
 Deleuze, Gilles. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Translated by Continuum. Continuum Edition ed. London: Continuum Books, 1981. Editions de la Difference.
 Berger, John. The Shape of a Pocket. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2001.
Recently Victoria’s ongoing research on the topic of montage in artists’ books was published. This paper discussed Peter Lyssiotis’ work and the use of photomontage.
‘Fractured Worlds’ (i) : Considering the photomontage work of Peter Lyssiotis
Photomontage is the cause before it becomes the picture. . . .
For me, ideas present themselves as a presence. Their full realization depends not so much on thinking them, but rather in making them…. (ii)
Spanning several decades of artists’ book production, Peter Lyssiotis’ work both openly probes contemporary political issues, while in many books, presents an enigmatic personal vision through his poetic visual narratives. Lyssiotis is a not only an artist and maker of books he is also a reader; he has an extensive knowledge of literature along with historical and contemporary thinking on art. Inspired by the political montage work of German artist John Heartfield, Lyssiotis brings to his photomontage compositions well researched and deeply considered thought processes. As he creates his montage work, Lyssiotis will often have metaphorical conversations with Heartfield. In a recent personal communication Lyssiotis poetically expressed this deep connection:
The shadow of John Heartfield always crosses the work I am making. Sometimes he’s so pleased he smiles and sometimes he gets so annoyed his shadow becomes pitch black. . . (iii)
In my research at the ALA, I look at Lyssiotis’ work not only for its content but also for the deeply considered and painstaking aesthetic work behind each montage production in image, page and book. In his statement in Products of wealth (cited in the epigraph) he discloses how the power of the work is developed through the making. It is this Material Thinking (iv) process that informs my ‘reading’ of the artists books I have chosen to engage with in this research. All artists’ books are invested with rich imagery drawn from the artist’s mind and hand, including computer or photo-mechanically generated and composed narratives.
As a reader of these books I now hold the object that represents the time spent problem solving, the years of knowledge in making and working with materials, the conceptual development of all elements that is the book–whether simple or complex, the aesthetic choices for image, page and text design, the many small or big decisions that are embodied in this work of art that is made to be held and considered by a reader. My challenge now is to find a way to share these insights with you as a distant reader who is unable to take in the necessary sensory and haptic experience of reading these works of art. In this blog I share my ruminations and questions that inspire me to read and read again many times these books of wondering and wandering, which are deeply poetic and sometimes melancholic.
I chose, Feather and Prey, for the deeply considered and poetic use of the page; the balance and arrangement of image, text and white space. Alternatively, Products Of Wealth has politically motivated photomontage prints tipped-in or glued onto the page. These are two very different ways of composing a narrative with photomontage and text and ultimately presented two different experiences for reading the montage.
Feather and Prey is bound in black leather with details of red leather on the spine and embossed images on the front and back covers.
These embossed images at the beginning and end importantly announce that the reading starts from the cover rather than from inside the book. Along with this distinctive book binding, the use of fine art papers and considered printing processes, suggests a reverence in the reading of each page.
The photo-elements in Lyssiotis’ montage narratives are no longer records of reality but now have emerged, through a process of poiesis, as visual codes with a new life and purpose:
In these images giant moths are nibbling away at the perfect mechanical reproduction that photography promises. They don’t rely on the traditional borders of a photograph to tell them when to start and where to finish. They don’t want to be a photograph; they would prefer to be maquettes for pieces of sculpture. (v)
These new hybrid images create a disturbance within the familiar routine of everyday practice and present an alternate way of perceiving and referring to the world. The visual semiotics of reality that photography represents is now channeling through montage–new spaces for imagining–a poetics of dreams.
But what characteristic does Lyssiotis identify in each element as he carefully separates them from their original contexts? Does this question really matter, as each fragment will be transformed having little relationship to its origin. These montaged elements are then fused together perhaps as a metaphorical act of transcendence and then placed or montaged within the page.
These fragments of images and text strategically appear across the white space in the book. In a short exegetic essay or artist’s statement on this book Lyssiotis discusses his intention for the white space in the book:
The white spaces here constitute something unassuming: a whiteness more like a whisper; something neutral.
In the whiteness there are things the photographic paper has not been allowed to reveal; these are not omissions, they are commissions … of sins, failed intentions, of habit. (vi)
I turn the pages and they ‘whisper’ of something hidden where only hints and clues are allowed through as the photomontage emerges through the white space. A cherub holds a curtain rope that reveals a narrow view of the sky behind.
Does the white space hide knowledge from the reader as if in a white out or a fog? Or is Lyssiotis creating a collaborative space with the reader to bring to the reading their own narrative or composition–a psychological montage of memory and life’s experience?
Lyssiotis’ texts are evocative, poetic and political and appear sparingly in different places on each page. The texts and their aesthetic placement on the page–a mise en page (vii) –add to the layering of the reading as a montage. In Feather and Prey Lyssiotis signals that perhaps there could be shifting meanings arising in the reading of the words and their visual placement on the page. In the book he writes:
Words always arrange themselves to tell
The same story: that things will change
But words are heretics and later,
In the fire they will deny it all.
In Products of Wealth the montages (viii) are not embedded in the page but rather pasted over the white space where the page becomes the carrier rather than part of the message.
These images become windows–looking into a montage hybrid world that may seem alien to us but paradoxically it is of us. Looking into the space of the image–rather than the page as in Feather and Prey–I am transported to a place where there is no space left to think… claustrophobic. The view shows the reader terrifying and perhaps even diabolic territories for consideration and reflection.
The edition consists of six separate books stored and presented in a bespoke box.
The books are bound using the simple pamphlet style, perhaps referencing the tradition of the political publication. The covers of the books are red and the box is covered in red and black cloth again suggesting the political nature of the reading. As I read, I notice that the 3D relief pattern of the letterpress texts (ix) seems to bite emphatically into the paper. Lyssiotis’ choice of font styles along with the red and black font colours also adds to the political tone that is invested in the photomontages and the binding. In book 6, Lyssiotis writes about the montage:
In these montages, the planet isn’t about to explode; the explosion has already happened. What is left is a fractured world
Finally, I find it interesting to note that these books were produced in the same year, 1997, and yet each have quite different approaches to the montage of image, text and page. Can these differences point to a deeper comprehension of the value in and values of visual reading? In this kind of reading the psychology and memory of the reader can be engaged in the transference of something more than knowledge and information.
So is the montage a space for questions rather than answers? Reading these artists’ books is in some way also a montage where the visual narrative and the artistic intention is adapted and interpreted by the memory and mind of the reader. Perhaps the nature of the montage hybrid including the page could be comprehended in terms of gestalt. As it is greater than the individual parts–the montage can be a holistic comment or reflection on the cultural and human questions of its historical location.
Victoria Cooper PhD
(i) Peter Lyssiotis, 1997, The Products of Wealth, Book 6: Political Photomonteurs Can Give You The Courage To Eat Bricks, Masterthief Enterprises, Melbourne.
(iii) Handwritten note sent by email to the author, February 23 2016. In this note, Lyssiotis presents an evocative and intriguing discussion on the montage works in his books Feather and Prey and The Products of Wealth. Although seemingly a dialogue between himself and Heartfield, it is more a self-critique informed by the Heartfield polemics and the political montage. This note will be published in full with the permission of Peter Lyssiotis in a future article I am writing on his work.
(iv) As presented in: Paul Carter 2004, Material Thinking, Melbourne University Publishing Ltd, Melbourne. In many ways this book is a philosophical discussion on the work and methodology of the artist including: the interaction with their materials, the intellectual nature of the artists’ visual research and their resulting art.
(v) In the ALA original Materials Archive there are several boxes of Peter Lyssiotis papers. This quote is cited from unpublished writing discussing his book “Feather and Prey” Call Number: item #29358/3 box # 13331.
(vii) This references the mise en scène in cinema theory.
(viii) The montages are black and white archival fibre-based silver gelatin photographic prints where Lyssiotis worked with Robert Colvin to print for this publication.
(ix) Texts were handset and printed by Nick Doslov, Renaissance Bookbinding
Curated by Ashleigh Campbell and Anne Keam.
When, how, and why did the locality Darling Downs come to be known as the Surat Basin? This question informed the exhibition curators Ashleigh Campbell and Anne Keam and with it came the recognition that such a shift was deeply important to the region’s connections and perceptions of their place.
Habitat is a word that accommodates the presence of life beyond the human shaped and perceived landscape. In any given habitat the living and the nonliving interact to the rhythms of the earth and the cosmos. As both observers and inhabitants, artists and scientists help shape human perceptions of and relations with the broader global environment. This includes the economy of the earth’s resources that supports humanity.
Campbell and Keam researched a broad range of influences including the natural and human habitat of the Darling Downs from colonial history to present. Through the eyes and minds of the region’s colonial and post-colonial artists, along with some scientific documentation and social artifacts, they sought to reflect on shift and its implications on the regions environment.
This exhibition brought together a diverse collection of works including: prehistoric fossils and other historical artifacts, references and narratives of the pastoralists struggle with the invasion of prickly pear cactus and other pests, floods and droughts. The artists represented in the show came from many disciplines. Paintings representing this landscape covered a range of movements and styles from romantic colonial pastoral period to impressionism, abstraction and modernism. Well known artists names: Kenneth Macqueen, Sam Fullbrook and Joe Furlonger are representative of the depth of creative work in this exhibition.
Some artists reflected on living with the natural environment as found in small corners of Patricia Hinz’s back yard in the work, Sanctuary (2014). Palpable in the drawing of Allan Bruce’s Stanthorpe, Late Winter (2008) is the feeling of being in the grand sun-soaked landscape of the Downs, and the relationship of small towns with the surrounding country. Bruce observes: “Stanthorpe is one of those towns where the natural and built environment coalesces almost seamlessly.” The inventiveness and creativity that pervades every farmer’s shed and bushman’s camp is embodied in the sculptural work of Dion Cross’ Grass Harvester (2014), that highlights the competition for pasture between man and animal during periods of drought. The fine drawings of flowers and fungi by botanical artists and illustrators through scientific documentation reveal a deep understanding and investigation of the natural life forms found in this region.
Phil Bazzo’s painting, Miles: At the Crossroads (Triptych, 2008) presented two concepts: the physical nature of the intersections of roads in Miles including the dynamics of heavy road vehicles and the metaphor of crossroads to infer change and concerns for the future. Both found natural and manmade objects and materials were also utilized as the visual language of protest. This was evident in the mixed media works of Jennifer Wright (Summers): Searching for Life in the Anthropocene 1 (2014), using tea bags, feathers, fabric pen & ink, watercolour and Anthropocene Nest (2014), that was made from plastic bags and pelican bone. Nicki Laws’ Habitat Gone (2014) collaged and embroidered the materials found in the fluoro safety barriers widely used in the industries found in the region.
The solastalgic plea for a balance with man and the land was also deeply felt when viewing the work of Barbara Hancock’s Brigalow Landscape (2014). Working with the land, technology and energy needs was also strongly referenced in the work of Sylvia Secomb (Mann), Synergism – Towards Regeneration I (2010), but also reflects on the question “What will we be leaving for those who come after?”
For the city viewer who ventures out into the region to connect with this show, there is a unique experience: to be in the space and place of the exhibition, Dogwood Crossing, Miles, within the Habitat it references. This site-specific exhibition presents rare opportunity to engage with the historical and contemporary issues of living with the land through the creative energy and perception of those who chose to live and work in this region. The curators have also published an extensive and informative online catalogue to accompany the exhibition: Habitat_Catalogue or online at http://issuu.com/ourwesterndowns/docs/catalogue/1
Beyond the facts and information, the presence of a growing connection and love of the Australian environment pervaded strongly throughout this extraordinary show. Through visual story telling and lived experience, the artists and the curators have constructed a layered topology of the Darling Downs. A telling image of how the effects of a changing human condition: technology, energy and food production can be identified and chronicled through the artist’s vision.
I am also privileged to have my work, 7 Gates (two forms: artists’ book, 2009; digital media presentation 2014), included in Habitat.
 Page 11, ibid.
 Page 21, Habitat: Environmental Art of the Darling Downs, 2014. The online catalogue for the show of the same name. See http://issuu.com/ourwesterndowns/docs/catalogue/1
Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award 2014
ENTRY DETAILS FOR THE 2016 AWARD can be downloaded HERE
Grafton Regional Gallery 18 October – 7 December 2014
The judge for 2014 was art critic and historian John McDonald.
Paul Klee is credited with stating that ‘drawing was taking a line for a walk’, and on viewing the current Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award at the Grafton Regional Gallery one would come to the conclusion that the line meanders down a very wide path. What is on offer to viewers of the exhibition is an opportunity to engage with the many ways of telling a story through the medium of drawing. The media of drawing, as presented in the show, can be lead pencil, charcoal, brush strokes, hot wires, swipes of pigments, resin glossed over marker pen, fine paper cuts, inkjet applied lines and lines engraved in Perspex and yet there’s much more that that.
A drawing can emulate the camera’s slice of focus, and ability to capture a shape, a form or an association of elements. It can also be part of a process to unlock alternative or new ways of seeing or considering a subject. It may be the result of an artist’s doodle emanating from an unconscious experience. Some see drawing as a lesser art as it is usually a preliminary to the art making. In this space however, drawing in all its varied forms represents the strength of the discipline and easily dispels any challenges to it being an autonomous finished artwork.
Some viewers may have an expectation that drawing relies on evidence of draughtsmanship will expect to see works exhibiting that skill. But just drawing to exactly mimic reality is not the way of the artist. In work entitled ‘Fit for Duty’ 2014* by Christine Wilcocks takes the direct transcript of a subject to another level in a portrait of a World War I soldier. The work comments on the man’s physical examination prior to being admitted to the army. The portrait’s eyes are covered by blankness and textual elements and an aggressive inkblot form provides the viewer with a reflection on the artist’s idea of the work.
A work about documentation is a study of a beetle by Petrina Seale entitled ‘Home Studies in Nature II’ 2014 uses coloured pencils on a white paper ground – the truncated composition to draws attention to the of the subject.
In another work by Matt Foley entitled ‘Hotel Lake Eacham’ 2014 the artist has created a study in light of a dreamlike space, a vignette of a place imbued with a darkness and depth of black pigment that is the stuff of half remembered recollections.
Four large framed pieces by Bruno Leti entitled ‘Ashes to Ashes’ 2013-2014 is a textural surface of the paper, abstracted, patterned, colourless with blurred edged shapes like fragments of memories. The work comments on the artist’s personal experience of the destruction of places of personal significance by fire. The work itself is partly pigmented by the charcoal retrieved from the fire.
Klee’s line was taken for a dance into a seedy bohemian den by Wendy Sharpe in her work ‘Backstage Burlesque with Venetian Mask’ 2013*. A female figure being dressed presents an impish grin towards the viewer – provocatively displaying the comfort of her nakedness. Brightly coloured pastel gestures define other figures surround this main subject all preparing for the stage performance. Close viewing reveals squiggly lines that allude to other stories within the work.
Anthony Bennett’s ‘e pluribus anus – a portrait of tony abbott’ 2014 makes a political statement about his subject. A skull with Micky Mouse ears is repeated twice on a white ground made glisteningly hard by its shiny resin coating. One of the skulls is in the process of de-colouring and the pigments dribble down the large-scale work. Bennett’s drawing has all the freneticism of a hastily sketched graffiti work interrupted by a police car coming around the corner.
.Todd Fuller’s work ‘A Dance for Paul Klee’ 2014* celebrates Klee’s metaphor for drawing. The digitally presented artwork is of a choreographed dance performance that has its origin in a movie. The film has been overlaid by gestural line work positioned based on the movement of the dancer. Flourishes of colour, most noticeably red, follow and trace the subject’s animation across the screen.
The overall winner of the $20,000 prize was ‘Keys Bridge in Flood’ 2014* by Emma Walker. The work is 150 x 150cm and represents the movement of water through a flooded landscape. Gazing longer at the work the viewer is captured by the vitality, rush and flow of the graphite, charcoal, pencil and pastel marks on the paper. These marks become the substance of the artist’s inspiration – they are the water, they are the flood, they are the emotions that come from the artist to us. All of these things are in that drawing….
15 November 2014
* Denotes work was acquired
Other works acquired include:
- Michael Cusack ‘Vista’ 2014
- Lee Hyun-Hee ‘108 defilements’ 2013.
The 2014 JADA will travel to seven venues over the next two years including; Manning Regional Gallery, Cowra Regional Art Gallery, the University of the Sunshine Coast Gallery, Glasshouse Port Macquarie, Redcliffe City Gallery, the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery and the Tamworth Regional Art Gallery.
A catalogue for the show contains an introduction by GRG Director Jude McBean, artists’ statements and images of the works.
For details contact:
Please note: Photographs of artworks are the copyright of the artist. All images were made by the author in the gallery space and may have elements of reflection and lighting variations that are not part of the original artwork.