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Art around Melbourne: Leading Ladies


Photo: Eva Rothschild’s “Kosmos” exhibition

There are two new exhibitions on in Melbourne that give centre stage to female artists: Polly Borland’s Polyverse at NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) and Eva Rothschild’s Kosmos at ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art).  Beautifully curated, with a breadth of work, both exhibitions emanate a feeling that there is more to come, a sense of “you ain’t seen nothing yet”.

Australian photographer, Polly Borland (she now lives in Los Angeles) has a well-established reputation for her surreal photo-portraiture.  Possibly the best known here is Nick Cave in a blue wig, blue girls’ dress, stockinged face with over-painted lips, in the NGV’s permanent collection.  While I was familiar with how she distorts or camouflages the face to create her portraiture, I hadn’t seen the extraordinary works, the Monster series, where the body is abstracted using constricting elasticised fabric to create something inhuman, extreme in shapes, while colourful and sculptural.

            
Photos: from the Monster series (inkjet print); Pip Wallis, Curator, Contemporary Art at NGV

Equally mesmerising is the Tapestries series, where Polly’s photographs were re-created in tapestries by prison inmates, with the aim of foster their well-being. The tapestries are displayed to show both front and back of the needlework, the front being an accurate depiction, with the back highlighting the physical act of creating the work, where thread crosses and inter-weaves.

        
Photos: from the Tapestry series

Polly Borland’s most recent works (2018) titled MORPH, further challenge  the concept of abstracting the human form. These photographic works are three – even four – dimensional.  On approach, the shapes are unidentifiable. As you move past, the experience is one of amorphous to realistic.  Descriptions of these works address psychoanalysis from the nebulous to images created in the mind.  All Polly Borland’s work has a visual language, engaging an intensity, curiosity. With MORPH, she takes it one step further and guides you through the process.  Fabulous!

  
Photos: MORPHing – as you move from one side to the other
(Inkjet print on rice paper on lenticular cardboard)

 

It’s special stepping into an exhibition where the sculptures say “my space”.  That’s how I felt walking into Eva Rothschild’s Kosmos exhibition at ACCA. Each room is a whole, but each work is distinctly different in structure and medium.  They’re linear, architectural, probing, urging you to firstly, take in the mass, then closely discover.

            
Photos: Eva Rothschild’s sculptures and installations.

Irish-born Eva Rothschild (she resides in London) explores numerous materials to create form, scale and textures. As a visualizer, possibilities seem endless to her.  Kosmos is such a welcoming experience, I didn’t want to leave.

           
Photos: Eva Rothschild’s sculptures and installations.

Polly Borland Polyverse exhibition – NGV, until 3 February 2019.  https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/exhibition/polly-borland

Eva Rothschild Kosmos exhibition – ACCA, until 25 November 2018.  acca.melbourne/exhibition/now-next    


Photo: Polly Borland MORPH

© 2018 Text and photographs Pamela Reid/tPRo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Way We Were in the “Super 70s”


Photo: Town Craft, Sydney (influenced by Yves Saint Laurent)

There’s a flawless exhibition at Rippon Lea Estate in Melbourne. It’s a strut down a memory catwalk for my generation.   The 60s had been an explosion of British music and Mary Quant. We soaked it up, bought the vinyls, read the magazines, covered our bedroom walls with posters of pop stars in sartorial splendor.

By the 70s, the Australian fashion industry had burst forth in a liberty of self-expression. It wasn’t “anything goes”, but “whatever feels fabulous” ….and we were!  From lace to leather, floral and paisley prints, crocheted cuffs and collars, flowing peasant style, beading and embroidery, satin, jersey knit, hot pants and flared jeans. Colours too traversed the palette. Norma Tullo and Prue Acton gave us everything feminine, but I shopped at The House of Merivale with its body shirts and wide hipster belts.  The “Super 70s” exhibition has it all.

                

Housed in the exquisite Rippon Lea Estate’s 19th Century mansion (completed in 1868), it could be considered not possible to fill those glorious, decorative rooms with fashions from the Seventies and make it authentic, but it works.  There’s lighting, props, soundtracks and tableaux from the era. In a room of unforgettable wallpaper, pottery, deep orange/red artwork framed in thin dark wood, we watched on a familiar television (a handsome piece of four-legged furniture with bakelite knobs) as Jill Clegg, Sally Browne, Adele Palmer and other fashion designers from the era talked about their Seventies world.

I was curious about the Curator, Elizabeth Anya-Petrivna – National Trust of Australia (Victoria), and went looking.  The initial impact is her youth, Elizabeth’s academic studies commenced in the Nineties: Bachelor of Arts, Humanities, Cultural Studies (LaTrobe Univ), Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies, Museum Studies (Deakin Univ) and a PhD, Fashion History (School of Architecture and Design, RMIT).  All her work, degree of research, creative intelligence and what has to be true passion, culminates in an exacting showcase for my generation and all visitors.

              

Volunteering:  some words about the National Trust volunteers at Rippon Lea Estate whose pleasantness complemented our enjoyment of “Super 70s”.  My friend is recovering from foot surgery, using a walking stick, and struggled along the pathway to the ticket booth, where the welcoming lady suggested we borrow a wheelchair from the tea rooms. Another helpful volunteer directed us via access into the exhibition (we were given a map indicating accessibility around the estate and its gardens) .  Angela, looking splendid, dresses for the occasion. She makes all her clothes – her Mother taught her to be resourceful. Inside, there were other volunteers, seemingly always looking out for any visitor who may have an enquiry or need assistance. One young man told us he works for a major bank where they are asked to spend two working days a year ‘giving back’ to the community.   On the way out, I commented, “They must sprinkle all the volunteers with happiness glitter at the start of each day.”

Photo: Volunteer Angela – dressed for the occasion

 

“Super 70s” exhibition is open daily 10am–4pm, until November 4
 
www.ripponleaestate.com.au/event/super-70s

 

© 2018 Text and photographs Pamela Reid/tPRo 2018

 

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