wotwedid

Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery

BOOKS AS ART: 30 YEARS IN THE MAKING – Catherine McCue Boes

with 7 comments

BOOKS AS ART: 30 YEARS IN THE MAKING by Catherine McCue Boes

Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery – 14 May – June 29, 2014

.

An observation of artists and artmaking in the regions…

.

Artmaking and artists from the regions are constantly sidelined by the power of proximity that pervades these ‘blessed’ centres of art and culture. People who make ‘real art’, it seems, come from places where populations are concentrated, like ‘big cities’ or localities where a place of learning (university) or an uber vibrant arts community exists. In Australia the place names of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart and perhaps Bris-vey-gas, are part of a roll call of significantly charged places for artmaking, presentation, commentary and critique. *[Note: artists’ books have a wider community of practice that is more inclusive due to the fact that regional centres tend to present events, awards and workshops that bring the city and country together. SEE https://wotwedid.com/2013/05/13/2013-libris-awards-the-judges-view/]

.

With this in mind, then consider my surprise when I recently encountered an exhibition of artists books at the Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery. The main gallery held one of the largest exhibitions of artists books I’ve seen for some time. The show was more impressive because it was essentially the book works of one person with additional books by others coming from the artist’s collection. The exhibition, entitled Book as art: 30 years in the making, was by Catherine McCue Boes a local Bundaberg artist. As the title implies the exhibition encompasses a significant period of time and the life of the artist.

.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Exhibition frontpiece

.

Engaging with the artists books on display was a challenge – I walked around the space, glancing at and visually grazing the works on display. In keeping with the gallery display norm for artists book display the books were not for touching with many in vitrine glassed cages. Many books were the concertina form that allowed for easy reading and connection with the narrative. The artist also presented alongside the books wall works to give the reader an idea of the contents of the book.

.

Exhibition installation of 'Books as art'   Photo: Doug Spowart

Exhibition installation of Books as art: 30 years in the making

.

After my initial viewing, the sheer volume of the work on display and the demands that such a volume of complex and at times conceptually dense places on the viewer, I had to go away and come back to the gallery for a second viewing.

On my return I was drawn to a number of the accessible concertina books. The first of was, In Paris 2012, which dealt with the artist’s personal experience of walking in Paris and the extraordinary things experienced. The book’s plain white paper surface is inscribed with diaristic jottings, a quick unfinished drawing of the Eiffel Tower, a textural pattern element, and deep-etched monochrome photographs of sculptures and architectural details. A pink abstracted form with a pigment-bled edge repeats over many pages – is it a memory of a figure walking in the rain with an umbrella or is it a self-portrait?

.

Books as Art: 30 years in the making Catherine McCue Boes Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery

In Paris 2012, Catherine McCue Boes

.

In another work, Preserved in Australia, an old Kodak folding camera has the concertina bellows extended ready for use. Spilling from the rear of the camera explodes a concertina of 20 or so images attached to the viewing hood. The book is derived from a period of time where the artist worked in Roebourne in Australia’s north west. The photos are from the early 1900s, loaned by their owners – residents from Roebourne as well as from the local Historical Museum. McCue Boes has metamorphosed the camera and it’s image legacy into a device for viewing history.

.

Books as Art: 30 years in the making Catherine McCue Boes Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery

Preserved in Australia, Catherine McCue Boes

.

An early book, First Revolution (Macbeth) Lithographs 1989, represents the artist’s reference to the Shakespearian theatrical character of the same name. These stone lithographs are accompanied by screen-printed texts on the verso page. In the style of the livre d’artist this large format book with it’s thick deck-edged pages and codex binding make it a strident piece of work. Whilst the book is firmly enclosed in a vitrine and opened to one page only, individual prints from other pages of the book are presented as a framed artworks on the wall.

The First Revolution is also referential to the artist’s major influence, an 1800s book of rococo etchings she discovered in the 1980s and bought at an auction. She states in the exhibition materials that: ‘this was the catalyst for me to not only collect artist books but also create them’. The binding, its construction, materials and its red covering are echoed in many works.

.

A New Book of Shields 1770-1800

A New Book of Shields 1770-1800

.

Books as Art: 30 years in the making Catherine McCue Boes Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery

First Revolution (Macbeth) Lithographs 1989, Catherine McCue Boes

 

The hybrid mix of traditional printmaking and digital techniques creates an opportunity for McCue Boes to extend the artist’s vision and the nature of the outcome. In the 2005 book The Red Shoes, Mark 3 the artist references the Hans Christian Anderson children’s story of the same title. Seven linocuts have been enhanced through scanning into the computer, being redrawn and with text added – the result is a blending of the tradition of print with the graphic elements of typography to convey the story.

Catherine McCue Boes works with other artists in international mail art projects that are presented in another section of the exhibition. A collaborative work curated by the artist, entitled, Life Line, Flood project 2014, brings us back to the idea of the artist’s work being affected by the places they come from. In 2013 devastating floods inundated Bundaberg and upper reaches of the Burnett River. The swollen river gouged out land, animals, houses, trees and farms and significantly affected the land and people of the whole region. McCue Boes curated a collection of photos and texts from friends and assembled a concertina book that carries the sentiments of the contributors. The book is a narrative of many voices with text and image carrying the emotion and the spirit of the contributors. Art often has a dual role, that of the healing catharsis and also to present accounts that can inform those who did not witness the grief first-hand. While this work may be a little uneven in its attempt to blend the individual contributions it is profoundly successful in its purpose and outcome.

Working around to other books in the show a persistent source of inspiration is the artist’s surroundings and environment. I’m reminded of Lucy Lippard’s statement that: ‘Everybody comes from someplace, and the places we come from–cherished or rejected–inevitably affect our work[i]’. This is most notable in a body of work arranged on an island-like plinth towards the rear of the gallery. Assembled is a collection of books that relate to mining environments. McCue Boes works with photographic images, irony and conceptual play to present a variety of book forms and commentaries.

The book, Inspiration from the Artificial Environment 2012, consists of 16 photographic images and borders printed on canvas that are presented in a form that mimics wallpaper, soft furnishing and curtain material sample books. The patterns are photo elements flipped and flopped to form plausible, although somewhat 1960s dated looking designs for decorating your home. The reality of the source images is that they are the detritus of mining workspaces and consist of rusting drums, cable, pipes waste and pondage.

.

First Revolution (Macbeth) Lithographs 1989,

Inspiration from the Artificial Environment 2012, Catherine McCue Boes

.

Other books, some that are more book-like sculptural forms, are part of this body of work. Presentation includes commercial boxes, simulated strips of black and white negatives, abstracted photographs and industrial labels – one stating, ‘Danger – This energy source has been LOCKED-OUT’.

.

Books as Art: 30 years in the making Catherine McCue Boes Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery

Fragile 2012, Catherine McCue Boes

 

.A major contribution to this environmentally themed piece is the book/s, Fragile 2012, which is a collection of 12 small concertina books each containing 10 photographs. When assembled the covers create a full-sized image of flaming torch-like structures. The unsuspecting viewer may encounter these little photobooks as a pleasant visual wander through shapes, forms and colours. However the artist has seductively blind-sighted the viewer – these are not pretty and benign subjects. The accompanying didactic explains the photographs were made while participating in an artist in residence in a gas mining plant in Queensland. The artist adds to the didactic that: ‘The work demonstrates my concern for the environment and the depletion of the country’s resources.’

A position pervades many works in the show and I’m reminded of Lucy Lippard’s closing comment in the catalogue for the exhibition Weather Report: Art and Climate Change, where she speaks of the artist as a commentator, communicator and as one who acts as a provocateur. Lippard proposes, ‘… it is the artist’s job to teach us how to see.’ (Lippard 2007:11) Through these works McCue Boes is as an artist ‘teaching us to see’. The strength of her communiqué in these political works is achieved through with irony and humour, and the association with reality of the photographic image.

Books as Art: 30 years in the making is not an exhibition about art, or about making, or even about books. It is an exhibition about the very stuff of life and the human experience of the world – an experience that needs to be shared.

.

Portrait: Catherine McCue-Bowes

Portrait: Catherine McCue-Bowes

.

I’ve made a note also about the importance of proximity in regional centres as well – the ‘big city’ should come visiting sometime. They may be amazed!

 

Doug Spowart

July 28, 2014


VISIT CATHERINE McCUE BOES Website: http://catherinemccue.blogspot.com.au/

.

Reference:

[i] Lippard, L. R. (1997). The Lure of the Local: Sense of Place in a Multicentered Society. New York, The New Press. P36.

.

 

Review text © 2014 Doug Spowart

All photographs  © 2014 Doug Spowart

.

Creative Commons-by-nc-nd.eu

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

.

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAN ART BRING CLOSURE TO COMMUNITY TRAGEDY?

with 4 comments

 

Sunken Houses Didactic panels

Sunken Houses Didactic panels

.

 

CAN ART BRING CLOSURE TO COMMUNITY TRAGEDY?

 The exhibition SUNKEN HOUSES by Brad Marsellos and Heinz Riegler, Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery, March 12 – April 27, 2014

 

I’m standing in a dimly lit gallery surrounded by large-framed dark black and white photographic images. A somber soundtrack plays echoing the mood of the visual imagery. From outside the sound of rain pelting down enters the space and mingles with the exhibition’s audio. Rain is a sound that may normally not present a concern, particularly in a country frequently in drought, however the exhibition before me represents the effect that significant rain and runoff can have on our communities.

.

Gallery installation

Gallery installation

.

Just over twelve months ago, after days of torrential rain, the Burnett River at Bundaberg broke its banks submerging residential and commercial properties across the town. River cities historically deal with these events, however on this occasion the power of the river, and the duration of the flood, meant that after the water’s subsidence a significant area of urban space was obliterated. North Bundaberg suffered the most with houses washed off stumps, crashed into other homes and disappeared. What was left was utter devastation and a community dislocated, angry and in shock. The flood torrent had taken homes, belongings and also the sense of place and comfort that one feels in ‘being at home’.

Over those days the town had its heart wrenched from its foundations. Recovery, rebuild and move-on are the common expectations that usually follow such calamities. Government agencies and support groups rally in an attempt to facilitate the renewal and regeneration. However underlying the good works there still lingers memories, emotions and an all pervading the sense of loss.

When a community hurts the artist also shares that feeling and they may be called into service to make sense of, and perhaps through their art, help heal their community. So for local photographer Brad Marsellos, the story of the flood and the community became a 12-month project. Motivated to document and track the community’s response to the calamity Marsellos states he has: “… a strong passion for people and narrating lives, [and] believes photography allows the viewer to glance a moment in time and have the image take you on a journey.[i]”

The exhibition Sunken Houses, at the Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery, is the public presentation of Marsellos’ commitment to his community and this documentary project. In the gallery large black and white photographs are presented in wide bordered black frames. The photographs capture a sense of impending doom through dark dramatic light, and often-stormy clouds.

.

Pic 3

March – It happened months ago

.

The curatorship and gallery craft involved in this show intentionally creates a space for contemplation of, and connection with, images of a community still in the shadow of the flood. All lighting in the gallery is subdued with the images spot lit creating islands of light. The accompanying soundtrack is described by the artists as ‘an immersive and emotive score’, and pervades the senses of the viewer. The composer was Heinz Riegler, a multidisciplinary artist who lives and works between Europe and Australia. The musical score was designed by Riegler to not only compliment the photographs, but to also represent his personal response to the stories and emotions of the Bundaberg community.

.

.

Marsellos’ images go beyond the plethora of documentary and news images that were broadcast during the event and in its aftermath. These photographs, their presentation, and the musical score, work to touch directly with deeply etched memories of the flood. Writer and intellectual Susan Sontag in her book Considering the Pain of Others[ii], makes the observation that ‘pictures allow us to remember’. She adds that:

Harrowing photographs do not inevitably lose their power to shock. But they are not much help if the task is to understand. Narratives can make us understand. Photographs do something else: they haunt us.

 .

Pic 4

August – Still cleaning

.

On their own these photographs may haunt and shock. Usually the viewer would leave the room taking with them the emotional state that was created in the gallery space. But this exhibition is different, there is a ‘message wall’ set aside in the gallery for visitors to tell their story – to express and share how they feel. Visitors either added to the wall or paused to read the cards and reflect upon the comments already posted. Perhaps this is evidence of the relevance that, ‘narratives can make us understand’, as Sontag suggests.

.

Comment wall

Message wall

Comment card Can't Sleep

Comment card ‘Can’t Sleep’

.

While the curation of the images, space and the musical score drench the gallery with a sense of tragedy and loss, the ‘message wall’ gives a release to the emotive tension. The combinative effect then of the exhibition is to create an overpoweringly emotional cathartic experience. First proposed by Aristotle, later by others including Freud, catharsis is considered as a psychotherapeutic treatment. Aristotle defined catharsis as: ‘purging of the spirit of morbid and base ideas or emotions by witnessing the playing out of such emotions or ideas on stage.’[iii] An exhibition like Sunken Houses may re-connect the community with memories and their experience of the event and through that connection provide much needed emotional healing.

Does the exhibition then function in a cathartic way? A Bundaberg News Mail report on April 16, 2014 published online, reported that the exhibition attendance had at that time broken all gallery records and stood at 2,500 visitors. In the article Brad Marsellos made a number of comments relating to the response of locals and out-of-towners to the exhibition and their reaction to the show.

“Every time I visit the space I read the many stories, messages of hope, recovery and continued struggles by members of our town that have been touched by this natural disaster.”[iv]

“Everyone has an experience of the floods and tornados – whether it be as an observer from afar, a flood affected resident or someone who is still rebuilding both physically and emotionally today and I’m honoured to think this exhibition is assisting some with their recovery process.”[v]

At a time when it seems that the importance of art and artists in the community is being downgraded by government defunding of art agencies, grants and opportunities for art education, it is humbling to see the effect that art can have on the community such as this. While the images may live on in the memories of those who witnessed the Bundaberg floods of 2013, the sensory experience of image and sound through the art of Marsellos and Riegler, will represent a compassionate and empathetic contribution – one that made a positive difference.

.

Doug Spowart

20 April 2014
[i] Gallery didactic panel
[ii] Sontag, S. (2003). Regarding the Pain of Others. New York, USA, Picador, p.89
[iii] McKeon, R., Ed. (2001). The basic works of Aristotle. New York, Modern Library, p.1458
[iv] NewsMail. (2014). “Sunken Houses exhibition draws a crowd.” Online. Retrieved April 16, 2014, 2014, from http://www.news-mail.com.au/news/sunken-houses-exhibition-draws-crowd/2231539/.
[v] Ibid

.

Gallery visitor photographing the wall mural

Gallery visitor photographing the wall mural

.

Comment card

Comment card

Comment card

Comment card

.

Pic2

March – Is what it left

Bananas

March – Anger

.

.

Facebook Comment about-SunkenH pm

A Facebook Comment about Sunken Homes

.

.

OTHER LINKS:

 

http://www.news-mail.com.au/news/sunken-houses-exhibition-draws-crowd/2231539/

 

http://www.abc.net.au/arts/blog/arts-desk/Sunken-Houses-Bundaberg-deals-with-flood-devastation-through-art/default.htm

 

Sunken Houses photographs © Brad Marsellos © soundtrack Heinz Reigler.

Installation photos and documentation of the artworks and review text  ©Doug Spowart

.

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/

.

.

.

.

.

BUNDABERG: A New Nocturne Community Project

leave a comment »

.

NOCTURNE BUNDABERG: Stage One of a new community project concept

Vicky and Doug go tropical (shirts anyway) in Bundaberg

Vicky and Doug go tropical (shirts anyway) in Bundaberg

.

We’ve been in Bundaberg this week (January 5-12)doing preliminary work on a new concept in our nocturne work. Here is the overview of the project:

.

In April 2014 Bundaberg Regional Galleries will be hosting an artist in residency program with artists Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart. An exhibition of their Nocturne work including new images from this region will be on show at CHARTS Gallery at Childers during April in conjunction with the Queensland Festival of Photography 5. The artists will be also working on their next Nocturne photodocumentary project, entitled Nocturne Bundaberg Region. As with the previous Nocturne Muswellborook and Nocturne Grafton projects the photographs they make will be posted on the Nocturne Bundaberg Region Facebook page so that communities can connect with the project, and importantly, share their stories about each place.

.

Talking with Trudie Leigo - Exhibitions Officer @ Bundaberg Regional

Talking with Trudie Leigo – Exhibitions Officer @ Bundaberg Regional

.

To extend the community’s connection with the project, Victoria and Doug will be working with a small group of photographers from across the Bundaberg Regional Council area to be contributors to the image-making part of the project. The participants will be selected using an EOI process that will be launched on the project’s Facebook page by the end of the month. Successful applicants will be advised in mid-March and they’ll attend a workshop in specialist aspects of nocturnal photography, image enhancement and the safety considerations for this work. After attending the workshop the local photographers will have an opportunity to add their images to the project’s Facebook page. Preferably, applicants should be 18 or over. Other community members may be invited to post images as well.

Any community member or person who has stories inspired by the photographs can post comments to the Facebook page..

.

The Nocturne Bundaberg Region’s Facebook page images, as well as the community conversation derived from the project, may be incorporated in other outcomes including exhibitions or publications associated with the project. A selection of images may go into the Picture Bundaberg Archive.

.

Nocturne Bundaberg Logo

Nocturne Bundaberg Logo

.

All photographs © 2014 Cooper+Spowart  for the Nocturne Bundaberg community documentation project

.

.

Creative Commons-by-nc-nd.eu

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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

.

.

.

%d bloggers like this: