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ALEX STALLING’s PORTRAITS [part two]

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Alex Stalling in her Portrait exhibition

Alex Stalling in her Portrait exhibition

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Portraits: Layers of Meaning

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

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

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Alex Stalling's Portrait exhibition

Alex Stalling’s Portrait exhibition

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

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Portrait #5

Portrait #5

Portrait #36

Portrait #36

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

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

 

#9

Portrait #9

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

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

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

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

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Doug Spowart

August 12, 2014

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MORE INFORMATION 

 

http://www.alexstalling.com/

 

THIS SUNDAY in the exhibition space:

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 10.48.30 pm

https://www.facebook.com/bespokemarkets

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

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SELFIES: A history according to Doug & Others

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Darren & Doug 'Selfie' @ Imagery Gallery C1987

Darren & Doug ‘Selfie’ @ Imagery Gallery c1987

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This recent Facebook post of a photo I made with Darren Jew in 1987 resulted in discussion around the idea of the ‘Selfie’ and my early connection with the technique. Around 12 years ago I discussed my inspiration and work with self-imaging in a university thesis – For your interest I publish the text here and add some images that date from my use of ‘Selfies’ in the 1980s.

For me the term ‘Selfie’ is a self image made by holding the camera at an arms length and angled back towards the photographer.

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Doug selfie @Birdsville 1983

Doin’ a selfie @ Birdsville 1983

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Self imagineering and portraits  (now called Selfies)

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For some time my photography has included the self-portrait.  The inspiration came from a friend (John Elliott) in the early 1980s who held up the camera before himself and friends and then fired the shutter.  He attributed his use of the technique to Jean Pigozzi a Hollywood paparazzi photographer who employed this method to make pictures which showed himself posing with the rich and famous subjects he photographed. In the book Pigozzi’s Journal of the Seventies Jann Wenner, then the Editor of Rolling Stone magazine, was to write in his introduction a description Pigozzi’s self-portraits as being: the ultimate fantasy of the fan in everyone: A picture of yourself with your favourite star. Conquests! Self-immortalisation!

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Jean Pigozzi with Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart with Jean Pigozzi

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My use of the technique was basically to make images documenting myself at tourist locations as I travelled usually as a photo tour leader. Perhaps I was a ‘fan’ of the location, the location was one of my ‘conquests’, or maybe I sought ‘self-immortalisation’ through the photo – whatever. For me it just seemed the logical way of resolving problems relating to the imaging of personal experiences.

Using a 35mm Leica rangefinder camera with 35mm, and later with a 21mm lens, enabled wide angled views and sufficient depth of field to achieve the view I wanted. These self-portrait images often exhibit a random approach to composition as precise viewfinder alignment was not possible. I took care not to ‘dress up’ for the photograph so my appearance is what it was – no brushing of the hair, no straightening of the collar. They are, as intended, frank and factual.

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Brishing off flies, Barry Caves NT, 1982

Waving away flies, Barry Caves NT, 1982

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In time these images formed a collection of “This is me at. . .“ pictures. They were a kind of “Foo was here” with me being the Foo graffiti figure. On occasions the only reason I would stop and photograph at a particular location was to capture another self-portrait for the collection. Sontag in her book On Photography alludes to this modus operandi in her comment that: Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs. Travel and self-imagineering was indeed to put me in situations where I could produce photographs that told of my experience – often in a humorous way.

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Riding a dragon doin' a selfie, China 1989

Riding a dragon and doin’ a selfie, China 1989

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With Vicky & helicopter pilot, Heartbreak Hotel NT c1992

With Vicky & helicopter pilot, Heartbreak Hotel NT c1992

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There were other aspects pertaining to self-imagineering work which encouraged my practice. I found that thrusting the camera before myself and in front of tourists assembled at the place of visitation was a kind of art performance. It was a spontaneous act; a celebration of experience that culminated in the ritual of photo taking. Self-imaging was crammed with fun and triviality. And having fun, and being seen to have fun and capturing that fun were certainly part of the agenda that drove my interest in this activity. The technique often caught on and doin’ a self-portrait became part of my fellow tourist’s recording rituals as well.

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Mark, Tony & Rob doin' Selfies @ the Qld NY Birder 1983

Tony, Rob and Mark doin’ Selfies @ the Qld NT Border 1983

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Abridged from a Graduate Diploma thesis entitled My Shadow and I by Doug Spowart 2002. The thesis contains a discussion on the artist as tourist and the self-image as a document of personal experience.

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SOME MORE IMAGES:

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Selfie shadows with camera and ring-pulls, Alice Springs 1982

Selfie shadows with camera and ring-pulls, Alice Springs 1982

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Self-port doug-72

‘Che’ (Doug) Selfie with Tony & Mark @ Three Ways NT, 1983

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Doug asleep on the coach after Steiglitz

On a coach in Central Australia 1982

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NEW UPDATES ON ‘SELFIES’

Texas town errects ‘selfies’ statue…

http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/31344/1/texas-town-erects-special-bronze-selfie-statue

TEXTS ON PIGOZZI

http://www.rencontres-arles.com/A11/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=ARL_211_VForm&Flash=1&FRM=Frame%3AARL_228&LANGSWI=1&LANG=English

http://www.helmutnewton.com/previous_exhibitions/pigozzi_and_the_paparazzi/index.html

A. D. COLEMAN’S COMMENT

http://www.nearbycafe.com/artandphoto/photocritic/2013/12/10/fine-art-photo-trickledown-1-the-selfie-a/#comment-33404

A RECENT ADDITION TO THE DISCUSION ON ‘SELFIES’ (Although I’d say it was a self portrait)

http://www.openculture.com/2013/11/the-first-selfie-in-history-1839.html

AND ‘THE OXFORD DICTIONARY ‘WORD OF THE YEAR’

http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2013/11/an-infographic-of-selfie

AND A SPANISH INFOGRAPHIC

http://www.meionorte.com/noticias/tecnologia/mania-de-autorretrato-veja-os-dez-piores-tipos-de-selfies-no-instagram-227982.html

ANOTHER INFO GRAPHIC (English)

http://www.bestcomputerscienceschools.net/selfies/

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Images and text © Doug Spowart

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Creative Commons-by-nc-nd.eu

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

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