A Picture worth a Thousand Words


Photographer: Malcolm Browne – Saigon, June 1963  (Associated Press)

“No news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as that one,”  John F. Kennedy.   The photograph captures Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk, Thích Quang Duc, burning himself to death in protest to the South Vietnamese Diem regime’s pro-catholic policies and discriminatory Buddhist Laws. The month before, flying the Buddhist flag had been banned, discontent rose and a mass of Buddhists protested, defying the government, flying the flag.  Government forces fired into protestors killing nine people.

On 10th June, correspondents were tipped off that something was going to happen. Malcolm Browne was one who followed this lead.  Duc arrived amongst a procession of around 350 monks and nuns. He emerged from a car along with two other monks, one placed a cushion on the road while the other opened the car boot and took out a five gallon can of petrol. Those marching formed a circle, Duc sat in the lotus position, one monk poured the petrol over his head, Duc rotated a string of wooden prayer beads and recited the words Nam mô A di đà Phật (“homage to Amitābha Buddha“), then set himself on fire.

Journalist, David Halberstam, who also witnessed the self-immolation, wrote:  “Flames were coming from a human being; his body was slowly withering and shriveling up, his head blackening and charring. In the air was the smell of burning human flesh; human beings burn surprisingly quickly. Behind me I could hear the sobbing of the Vietnamese who were now gathering. I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think… As he burned he never moved a muscle, never uttered a sound, his outward composure in sharp contrast to the wailing people around him”.

I was captivated by photojournalism from an early age, ten years old. My father had given me a Kodak Box Brownie camera and one of his friends gave me a book, “The Family of Man”. Since then, photojournalism remains my favourite form of photography. One still image, capturing a moment, not contrived or produced, an honest story, usually for telling news, but sometimes for wider purposes. Some are horrific, some inform or entertain. A truthful depiction without editorialising or misquoting.

My original copy of The Family of Man 1955, described on the cover as The greatest photographic exhibition of all time – 503 pictures from 68 countries – created by Edward Steichen for the Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition was curated to depict life from birth to death, through courtships, relationships, religions, the family community from all parts of the world – the happiness, tragedy – the scale of life.  It’s not possible to quantify the number of times I’ve looked through this book. Here are just a few of the photographs that resonated with “ten year old me”.

           
Photographs: Birth by Wayne Miller (USA), Hands – Russell Lee (USA), Twirling Skirt Kurt Huhle (Germany), China. George Silk (LIFE), Theologian Burma Bert Hardy (Pix, Picture Post)

           
Photographs: Dorothea Lange (USA) , Henri Leighton (USA), Bechuanaland – Nat Farbman (LIFE), Bob Jakobsen (USA), Morea – Michael Rougier (LIFE)

In the 1970s, I lived in The Hague. My camera, a Pentax Spotmatic, was a constant companion. When I left Holland to return to Australia, my friends gave me the book, “The Best of LIFE”.

 LIFE Magazine had been published for 36 years (1936-1972), bringing world news and events to its readers through the most memorable of photographs. In the book’s introduction, Ralph Graves, the last Managing Editor at LIFE writes, ‘Experience’ is the crucial word.  A great picture is not merely seen; it demands an emotional response. LIFE created such responses countless times for millions of readers.

        
Photographs:  “The best of LIFE” cover.  Three of possibly the best-known photographs from LIFE magazine:
(1) New York, Aug 14, 1945   Alfred Eisenstaedt. On V-J Day, photographer Eisenstaedt caught this sailor and girl, summing up the nation’s victory spree;  (2)   Dallas, Nov 24, 1963   Bob Jackson. The precise instant of a historic act of revenge is captured as Jack Ruby shoots Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald;  (3) Trang Bank, June 1972.  Nick Ut. Napalmed in error by a South Vietnamese plane, Phan Thi Kim Phuc flees from the  scene after tearing off her flaming clothes.

         
Photographs:  more outstanding photography from  “The best of LIFE”
(1) Berlin, April 1945. William Vandivert.   Driven by a fierce will to live, this political prisoner was just able to squeeze his head and an arm under the door of a prison building before being killed in a fire set by his German captors. (2) Burk Uzzle.  Jill Kinmont, a ski champion almost totally paralyzed after a bad fall as a young girl. Here she seems almost triumphant in the new life she made for herself as a high school teacher in Seattle. (3) Bill Beall  – Official’s Greeting.  This picture of a helpful policeman won a Pulitzer Prize. (4) Photographer not named.  Accused in 1937 of murdering a white in Mississippi, this black man was tortured with a blow-torch and then lynched.

On my last visit to Rome, October 2017, I happily chanced upon an exhibition “Roma in Liberta” (Rome in Liberty), photographs by Rodrigo Pais, at the Museo Centrale del Risorgimento. A new discovery. 180 images assembled on the tenth anniversary of his death. While his photos tell so much about Rodrigo Pais, his observations, access to politicians, glamour, lifestyles and communities, there was no biographical information about him at the exhibition. I’ve “googled” and still can’t find anything more than his images. After digging and digging, somehow I ended up at Penélope Cruz!!  Nevertheless, here’s some of Rodrigo Pais’ photo-stories.

              
Photographs:  Rodrigo Pais and his camera, on the back of a motorcycle. Some of his wonderful work.

I first saw Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photography way back then in The Family of Man book. Decades later, I went to a large exhibition of his work in Brisbane.  Volumes of it, so many stages, phases, people and places – I learnt he took the last photograph of Gandhi, before his assassination.  One room after another walked us through his extraordinary “expressions”.  Glass cabinets displayed newspaper editorials with Cartier-Bresson’s accompanying photography.

While the role of the photojournalist is not to appear participative in the image, not his/her creation, it is as though Cartier-Bresson never closed his eyes. He saw everything and missed nothing, those details that tell the story, while making a perfect light/subject composition.  To me, he’s The Photo Master – Matisse with a lens (coincidently he took a portrait pic of Matisse, below).  It seems impossible to imagine that one person could leave such a legacy. But, I’ve had to make a sampling selection from my big book titled simply “Henri Cartier-Bresson Photographer”.

               
Photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson:
(1)
Hyères, France 1932, (2)  Allées du Prado, Marseilles, France 1932, (3) Calle Cuauhtemocztin, Mexico City 1934, (4) Siphnos, Greece 1961,  (5) Ireland 1963, (6) Henri  Matisse,  Vence, France 1944

In a week where Assoc. Press released a photograph (credit: Jesco Denzel) of German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, leaning over the table while US President, Donald Trump, sits like a belligerent schoolboy ……this is a favourite tell-all Cartier-Bresson image.


Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson – Las Vegas USA, 1947

 

© 2018  All photographers/photo libraries as credited. Text tPRo/Pamela Reid

 

 

 

 

Art and About: in The Field


Photo: Background, Tony McGillick’s Arbitrator (Synthetic polymer paint on canvas)

There’s a not-so-new exhibition opening at NGV Australia. It’s a reincarnation. In 1968, when the National Gallery of Victoria opened its site in St Kilda Road, Melbourne, the premiere exhibition was “The Field”, showcasing the works of 40 Australian artists influenced by American Abstract Expressionism. Contrary to ‘usual’, these works were bold colours, strong lines, flat surfaces with hard edges and geometric shapes. Focussing on younger artists (some hadn’t previously held solo exhibitions and eighteen of the artists were under 30 years of age),  The Field was controversial, divisive, deemed “odd” and “not inclusive”, causing great aggravation for one Herald Sun art critic.

Today, the NGV opens The Field Revisited, bringing this ground-breaking exhibition back to life –  in 1968 The Field launched the careers of contemporary Australian artists including Robert Hunter, Peter Booth, Robert Jacks, Sydney Ball and Janet Dawson.

       
Photos: Sydney Ball’s Ispahan ; Vernon Treweeke “Ultrascope 5” (part). Lower section only, but if you enlarge you can see his female forms;  Alan Oldfield “Mezzanine”  (part); foreground (part) Nigel Lendon “Slab Construction 11”.  These four works are synthetic polymer paint on canvas and plywood.

At a preview floor talk, Beckett Rozentals, NGV’s Curator of Australian Painting, Sculpture and Decorative Arts, explained the exhibition’s history and the lengthy search to locate and restore original artworks. Some had been destroyed or dismantled by artists. These have been recreated for the 2018 exhibition, housed in the ultra-modern Ian Potter Centre. To replicate an authentic ambience, the walls are floor-to-ceiling tin foil, display stands have also been rebuilt to original design.

     
Photos: Becket Rozentals’ floor talk to NGV Members; listening to the floor talk alongside Michael Johnson’s “Chomp”; ABC TV filming the floor talk. Background Peter Booth “Untitled Painting”.

The Field Revisited certainly took me “down memory lane”.  I vividly recall a school excursion to the NGV (then housed in the State Library of Victoria) to see  “Two Decades of American Painting”, 1967 – my introduction to abstract expressionism. “Vivid” memories not only because of  “the WOW factor”, but the size of the works, large flat shapes of colour. Artworks stood alone, commanding their exhibiting space, rather than placed closely together. I also recall being uncertain about Jackson Pollock’s work.

My other recollection, triggered by all that tin foil, was of an exhibition at Tolarno Restaurant and Gallery in St. Kilda. This avant-garde gallery, alongside the restaurant, was the initiative of owners Georges Mora (art dealer and patron) and artist, Mirka Mora, who had built an entrepreneurial reputation around Melbourne with their studio and café at the top end of Collins Street (early 1950s), then later Café Balzac in East Melbourne. It was the 70s, I was Media Manager at an advertising agency, wore hot pants and body-shirts with Indian silk scarves to work. On a week day lunch break, some colleagues and I went to Tolarno Gallery. The exhibition was a dark room, all walls and ceiling were covered in tin foil with typically psychedelic coloured lighting projected onto, and moving around, the room. The floor was a white, moving ‘water bed’ like surface. We lay on the ground, watched the coloured lights reflect around the walls and ceiling, while listening to the sounds of……. farm animals. Memorable!

        
Photos: Loads of colours and shapes at “The Field Revisited”. I enjoy reading the “For Kids” notes e.g. third photograph is James Doolin “Artificial Landscape 67.5”.  Kids note asks “What sort of street signs did you see on your way to the Gallery today? What shapes and colours were they?”; last image Robert Rooney “Kind-hearted kitchen-garden IV”.  Kids’ note advises “This painting is based on the shape within a clothes peg!”

When photographing exhibitions, I have fun with their existence within the gallery space, often including the people who come to view them (refer my blog  www.pamelareid.biz/theres-an-art-in-people-watching). To see the artworks in their entirety:  The Field Revisited is on at NGV Australia, Federation Square, 27 April-26 August 2018, open daily 10am-5pm. https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/exhibition/the-field-revisited


“The Field Revisited” 2018 at NGV Australia

© Text and photographs Pamela Reid/tPRo 2018

 

Rome: Art is MAXXI-mus

In Rome, art and history is all around you, enriched by food, shops, people-watching. It’s my favourite capital city because simply ‘being in Rome’ is more than enough happiness. But, its only on recent visits that I discovered the contemporary art home of MAXXI.

On approach, you know you’re somewhere special. The building was designed by Iraqi-British architect Dame Zaha Hadid (1950-2016). When you walk into the foyer of MAXXI your eyes are looking up and around with the realisation that those strips of light are stairways to exhibition spaces. Everywhere, you’re visually guided to the next space and the next. A bit like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for contemporary art lovers.

              

Getting there: On my map, it looked straightforward. In fact, a straight line along Via Del Corso from my hotel to Piazza del Popolo, then continue on. I love walking, I love Rome,  I’ll stroll. I walked and walked briskly for well over an hour, in not the most picturesque of surroundings, each time thinking it has to be “around the next corner.”  Along the way, I was aware of the many passing trams travelling the same straight line, parallel to me.  Just where the tram (finally) curves around…there it is, MAXXI.  Afterwards, I caught the ‘straight line’ tram back to Piazza del Popolo, better informed for the next trip.  Don’t make my mistake.

Where to start with the art? All new to me (with the exception of a Gilbert & George photography exhibition on my last trip). The curation, as with the architecture, makes ‘space’ as important as the works.

So….”come with me, and you’ll be, in a world of pure imagination…” *

             
Photos: Letizia Battaglia’s powerful photojournalist images; striking gold curtain from the collective Zapruder; “Does this Mirror have a Memory 8” (collaboration with Sophia Lehulere); installation by Micol Assaêl.

Photojournalism is my favourite photographic style. Discovering Letizia Battaglia (born 1935 in Palermo, Sicily) was ‘explosive’.  Working for the left-wing newspaper L’Ora, Battaglia took around 600,000 images, focussing on the Mafia, its infiltration and assault on Sicilian life and society.   Extraordinarily, she could be at four or five murder scenes in one day.  Letizia Battaglia photographed so much death that she is quoted as saying, “Suddenly, I had an archive of blood.

“Take a look and you’ll see, into your imagination.
We’ll begin with a spin, traveling in the world of my creation” *

              
Everywhere!

And then…. I found Yona Friedman, born 1923 in Budapest (Hungary), his works defined as mobile architecture and people’s architecture.  A truly exquisite experience, his exhibition was an education, literally, as he notes philosophies for creation around the walls, e.g.
–        Mobile architecture implies trial and error process
–        It is the layman’s planning procedure
–        It starts with improvisation
–        and it continues with improvisation
–        irregular structures were conceived for the layman – the improvisator
–        they can be shaped by the hand (most of them)
–        they don’t involve exactitude of execution
–        but they can be objects of art.

Now in his mid-nineties, Yona lives in Paris, he’s still working and clearly “as bright as a button”.  I’d encourage you to have a look at his website www.yonafriedman.nl to explore his life and works.

          
Photos: the ‘floating’ magnificence of Yona Friedman’s people architecture; around the walls, “there are 3 pre-conditions for ‘people’s architecture’. It must be easy to assemble for a layman. It has to be an assembly of inexpensive technical components and easy to dis-assemble and re-assemble into a different pattern.”

I had a fun time “sketching like Yona”, practising his six circles make a box lesson. When I returned home to Melbourne, I started following him on Instgram  Coyly, I posted the photograph of my sketch at his MAXXI exhibition, adding @yona_friedman.  Kindly, he wrote a comment, “Thank you Pamela. How nice to see this! I love your sketch”
…..I think I’m in love, sigh!

“There is no life I know, to compare with pure imagination”,  from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
* Songwriters: Anthony Newly, Leslie Bricusse © Universal Music Publishing

MAXXI

 

© Pamela Reid 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art and about Europe: Paris Style


Photo:  Steps of Palais de Tokyo, Opening of 2017 Paris Fashion Festival

Who doesn’t love Paris (a rhetorical question)?  The city of romance, art and architectural history, fashion, people-watching. Films, books, songs, cruising the Seine, strolling the Champs Elysees, sitting on the steps of Sacre Coeur, wining and dining. Everybody loves Paris!

A recent trip with my sister was a return to Paris – we hadn’t visited together since (way back) in the Seventies. How fortunate that we arrived on, and found ourselves in the midst of, the Opening of 2017 Paris Fashion Festival at the Palais de Tokyo. So many ‘beautiful people’, paparazzi and plenty of attitude.  The very best of Bienvenue à Paris!

           

Usually, I commence “Art and about Europe” blogs with my morning walks.  In the city of love, Cupid rises at daybreak, his bow and arrow aimed at brides and their grooms, with the Eiffel Tower as a romantic backdrop.  

           

Art is in abundance in Paris….the big decision for the day is where to start?  As everything ‘now’ was fashion, how exciting to see an exhibition of Irving Penn’s photography at Le Grand Palais.

              
Photography by Irving Penn:  Three Dahomey Girls, One Reclining (1967); Large Sleeve (Sunny Harnett), New York (1951); Spencer Tracy, New York (1948); Carl Erickson and Elise Daniels, New York (1947); Audrey Hepburn; Irving Penn’s camera equipment.  

It’s a short stroll, along the Seine riverside, from Le Grand Palais to the Musée d’Art Moderne, exploding with colour and contemporary art.  

               
Photos: Larger-than-life Robert Delaunay’s Rythme 2 (1938); Narcisse – Jean Gabriel Chauvin (1939); Jean Besnard’s Synthèse Humaine (1930); Rivière Blanche, a massive string of pearls (Murano glass) by Jean-Michel Othoniel (2004); Alberto Giacometti’s Aika (1959); Portrait of Carmen Baron (1944) by André Derain.


Photo:  Out and about – Paris style.

The neighbouring Le Petite Palais houses the Museum of Fine Arts. An impressive “look up” experience (built for the 1900 Universal Exhibition), it is based on a trapezium shape, made up of four wings around a semi-circular garden bordered by a richly decorated peristyle. It is a welcoming mix of traditionally elaborate and open spaces to explore.

        
Photos: The winged angel in Le Petite Palais entrance; Large ceramic works around the garden; Soir Antique – Alphonse Osbert (1908); large male sculptures.

There’s much to see when wandering Paris…..and wander we did:
           
Photos:  Striking sculpture by Anna Quinquaid, outside the Palais de Tokyo;  A diminutive ‘me’ outside the very grand entrance to Le Grand Palais; art instruction inside Musée d’Art Moderne, of course we cruised the Seine; night light’s in a neighbouring building.

Some “must do” totally tourists photographs:
             
Photos: the impact of old and new outside Le Louvre; riding The Metro; Sacre Coeur, Montmartre; the best view of Paris……..and fromage!

Photo: Brides and fashion photoshoots combine as dawn breaks behind the Eiffel Tower.

 

© 2018 Photos and text Pamela Reid/tPRo  (excluding those of artists/photographers’ works)

   

 

 

 

Day & Night: At the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 


Xu Zhen’s enormous Eternity Buddha in Nirvana floats under the Leonard French glass ceiling in the Great Hall.

It’s my daughter, Annie, and her husband Sam’s first wedding anniversary. The gift for this occasion is ‘paper’, a symbol of the strength that comes from the interlaced connection of paper’s individual threads. How fortuitous then, that the National Gallery of Victoria has an exhibition by Louise Paramor, “Palace of the Republic” – wonderful vibrant paper sculptures, along with a room of her colourful plastic assemblages.   A smart lunch,  followed by a day at NGV Australia, was the perfect Anniversary gift.

The much larger-than-life paper sculptures are new works using the ‘honeycomb’ technique which the artist learnt during a one-year residency in Berlin, 1999. The plastic assemblages are constructed from found objects.  There’s fun in identifying all those bits’n’pieces, the building blocks of each sculpture. 
                    
Photos: Annie and Sam, “Palace of the Republic” by Louise Paramor. Exhibition is on at NGV Australia until 12 March, 2018.

There’s always room to roam around the contemporary space of NGV Australia. Currently, when you enter the foyer, you immerse yourself in “Spirit and Memory” by Japanese born Akio Makigawa (1948-1999). He moved to Australia in 1974. Described as ‘Zen-like’ (they are), his sculptures are constructed from primary materials, including stone, steel and wood. Makigawa’s works are presented on each floor, they call your attention as you arrive by escalator.  A beautiful sight!
                   
Photos: “Spirit and Memory” by Akio Makigawa. Exhibition is on at NGV Australia until February 2018.

A powerful video installation by Mel O’Callaghan,  “Ensemble”, is at NGV Australia until 12 March, 2018.  Australian, Paris-based, Mel’s work explores human behaviours in relation to ideas of resistance and endurance.  “Ensemble” is a two-channel work depicting three firemen turning the hose on a man who pushes forward against its force. Previously Ensemble 2013 was shown at the Centre Pompidou, in both Paris and Malaga, and the Institut d’Art Contemporain Villeurbanne/ Rhône-Alpes in Lyon, France in 2016. NGV Australia has acquired this work.
       
Photos: “Ensemble” – Mel O’Callaghan

Across the road at NGV International, the inaugural NGV Triennial has just opened. This massive exhibit features work of over 100 artists and designers from 32 countries, a “festival” of contemporary art/design, presented across technology, architecture, animation, performance, film, painting, drawing, fashion, tapestry and sculpture.
https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/exhibition/ngv-triennial

It was coincidental that I had booked to attend an evening forum in conjunction with the opening of the NGV Triennial. Hosted by Matt Anderson, International Culture Editor of New York Times, the topic was “Are Artists and Designers Agents of Change?”. Speakers were six of the artists/designers whose work is showcased at the Triennial: Alexandra Kehayoglou, Brodie Neill, Josephine Meckseper, Richard Mosse, Simone Farresin (Formafanstasma) and Elliat Rich. They each gave insight to their purpose and outcomes.
              
Photos: Matt Anderson hosts “Are Artists and Designers Agents of Change?”; Gallery foyer installation, Estudio Campana; The gallery café has been transformed into a Moroccan theme by artist Hassan Haijaj; rear Neo-classical sculpture and head of Xu Zhen’s Eternity Buddha in Nirvana.

The forum was after gallery hours, which meant exhibition spaces were closed, but it did give us the opportunity to peek at those works around the immediate foyer/ground NGV level.  There’s an explosion of impact as soon as you step inside: Chinese artist, Yu Zhen’s, “Eternity Buddha in Nirvana”, its more than 14 metres in length, a reclining figure surrounded by replicas of Greco-Roman, Renaissance and Neoclassical sculptures – the Dying Gaul, Farnese Hercules, Night, Day, Sartyr and Bacchante, Funerary Genius, Achilles, Persian Soldier Fighting, Dancing Faun, Crouching Aphrodite, Narcisse Couché, Othryades the Spartan Dying, the Fall of Icarus, A River, Milo of Croton.

For Japanese style and sparkle, there’s the Nendo exhibition of fifty chairs. Each Manga-inspired chair plays with the element of design and line.
           

There’s so much to see.  Thankfully its on until April, with a summer nights program (19-28 January, 6pm-midnight) that includes a food fest presented by Supernormal Natsu as well as the Moroccan café.  Plenty of opportunities and times to enjoy all aspects of NGV Triennial.

…..can’t wait!


“Spirit and Memory” by Akio Makigawa  – NGV Australia

 

© Photos and text Pamela Reid/tPRo 2017