'Podgaric' from the 2006-2009 Spomenik series by Jan Kempenaers
Max Dupain is one of Australia's most revered photographers. He developed an influential style of commercial photography that emphasised the geometric forms of his architectural and industrial subjects. Born in Sydney in 1911, he lived there all his life, photographing the city from the late 1930s.
For many Australians, Dupain's photographs define beach culture, and it was the beach that was the inspiration for his most famous and enduring images. A dedicated patriot, he believed in clearly and simply showing Australia's way of life. His 1937 photograph ‘The Sunbaker’, shot at Bondi Beach, became an icon that enjoyed worldwide recognition.
His early work was fairly conventional pictorial imagery, but by the mid-1930s he had broken away and taken up a Modernist, realist style, experimenting with light and formal composition.
From the 1950s Dupain specialised in architectural photography, which is the finest of his professional work. He developed a close working relationship with prominent architects including Harry Seidler, Philip Cox and Glenn Murcutt.
Dupain's philosophy could be summed up in two words, simplicity and directness. Dupain remained an adherent of black and white photography, he believed that colour was restricting in its objectivity and that nothing was left for individual interpretation.
In 1939, Dupain married photographer and childhood friend Olive Cotton, but they divorced soon after. A decade later, Dupain married Diana Illingworth and subsequently they had a daughter Danina and a son Rex, who also became a photographer. Dupain was given an OBE in the New Year's honours list, 1981. His photographs are held in most of the major galleries around Australia and as well by private collectors world-wide. Dupain continued working until his death in 1992 aged 81.
Roadside Stall Princes Highway by Max Dupain is one of the artworks from the Badger & Fox Collection we will be exhibiting at Home@735 Gallery in June. The show opens on Thursday the 15th, join us for drinks from 6-8pm.
Had a great studio visit yesterday with Sydney artist Mclean Edwards. We are thrilled to be exhibiting two of Mclean’s compelling portraits in our Invitational exhibition opening on Thursday the 15th of June. McLean Edwards studied at the Canberra School of Art. Since that time he has exhibited his work in numerous group and solo shows including the Archibald Prize at the AGNSW in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2013. His artworks are held in collections including 1346 Venice Collection, Australian War Memorial Museum, Canberra, Newcastle Region Art Gallery, Newcastle, Allens Arthur Robinson, Germanos Collection, Sydney, Artbank, Bond University, BHP Collection, Deutsche Bank, Hong Kong investors, PT Kodel (Indonesia), University of Queensland Art Museum and private Collections in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, UK and U.S.A.
Mclean Edwards is represented by Olsen Gallery Sydney.
Check out available paintings by Mclean Edwards at Olsen Gallery.
Opening on Thursday June the 15th, Home@735 Invitational will feature a selection of small portraits. One of the works is by Melbourne artist Steve Cox.
UK based Melbourne painter and writer Steve Cox is best known for his psychologically penetrating images of young men. His work ranges from portraiture to narratives to what he describes as stream of consciousness landscapes. He writes art-related and queer-related articles and reviews for a number of publications. He studied painting at the Victorian College of the Arts from where one of his main lecturers was Gareth Sansom. In 1983 he was awarded the Keith & Elisabeth Murdoch Travelling Fellowship and subsequently spent eighteen months making work in London and Cairo. In 1983 he was included in the survey of Australian art, Perspecta, at the Art Gallery of New South Wales
Cox’s work is held in The National Gallery of Australia, The National Gallery of Victoria, The Ian Potter Foundation, Melbourne, The estate of Francis Bacon, London and The estate of Reggie Kray, London. His work has been featured in Nevill Drury's New Art series of books, and in Sonia Payes' Untitled, a book of photographic portraits of contemporary Australian artists.
Performing Dog 1930’s, Silver gelatin print by French photographer Brassai will be featured in our June exhibition - Home@735 ‘Invitational’. The show will feature works from a prominent Sydney collection by some of the seminal photographers of the 20th century including Brassai, Andre Kertesz, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Max Dupain, Bill Henson and painting by Brett Whiteley. We will also be inviting a number of Sydney artists to contribute one of their works to be included in the exhibition across portaiture/figuartion, still life and landscape. You can see a portion of the collection at the online gallery https://badgerandfoxgallery.com
Born Gyula Halász (9th September 1899 - 8th July 1984), the French photographer Brassai took his name from his hometown of Brassó in Transylvania - now Brasov in Romania. Brassai studied art at the academies of Budapest and Berlin before coming to Paris in the mid-twenties.
Brassaï’s love affair with Paris started at Montparnasse. The pulsating heart of art in Paris, the district was also known as one of its most colourful; its night-time population a kaleidoscope of petty criminals, hoodlums, streetwalkers and pleasure seekers. Brassaï’s first project seized the essence of nocturnal Paris in a series of grainy, textured pictures which set the basis for early street photography. Published in 1933 with the title ‘Paris de nuit', this portfolio remains the most famous exploration of the city's hidden underbelly and is considered a classic of early street photography. His series of photo-books of Paris graffiti have also been hugely influential.
One of the most renowned photographers of the interwar period, Brassaï's reputation was built on contributions to both commercial and avant-garde photography. His long-time friend, the author Henry Miller, nicknamed him "The Eye of Paris" for his devotion to the city.
He was close to many artists including Dali, Picasso, Matisse and Giacometti - many of whom are portrayed in his collection ‘The Artists of My Life’ published in 1982. His relationship with Picasso produced many famous portraits of the artist, as well as important publications including ‘Conversations with Picasso’. The book is a compilation of the photographer’s diary entries in which the image of wartime Paris stands alongside unknown aspects of the personality of Picasso himself. Unable to wander the city streets under the curfew imposed by the German occupiers, Brassaï dedicated the early ‘40s to photographing the works of Picasso in his studio, creating a unique photo-chronicle of the artist’s creative output.
Charted, 2013, oil on board by Patrick Hartigan will be one of the works featured in Home@735 Invitational in June. The exhibition will focus on a selection of the works from the Badger & Fox Gallery Collection - https://badgerandfoxgallery.com - including works by some of the seminal photographers of the 20th century including Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Andre Kertesz, Brassai, Gary Winogrand and Bill Henson.
Patrick Hartigan’s practice brings together drawings, paintings, film and written work made in response to his experiences of domesticity, travel and found imagery. Patrick Hartigan is the art critic for The Saturday Paper.
“…painting has been, and continues to be, central to my process but I continue to enjoy working across different media. Painting is a more visceral medium than others and therefore feels more suited to the mess and complexities of people…”
His work is held in collections including the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth; the Chartwell Collection, Auckland City Art Gallery, New Zealand; and Wollongong University, New South Wales, Australia.
My partner, artist Madeleine Preston and I will be curating a show - Home@735 ‘Invitational’ - opening on Thursday June the 15th. The exhibition will feature works from a prominent Sydney collection by some of the seminal photographers of the 20th century including Andre Kertesz, Brassai, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Max Dupain, Bill Henson and painting by Brett Whiteley. We will also be inviting a number of Sydney artists to contribute one of their works to be included in the exhibition across portaiture/figuartion, still life and landscape. You can see the works at the online gallery Badger Fox Gallery.
Pictured is Andre Kertesz (Hungarian American, 1894-1985) Untitled
André Kertész (2nd July 1894 - 28th September 1985) was a Hungarian-born photographer known for his groundbreaking contributions to photographic composition and his efforts in developing the photo essay. His ability to compose lyrical images, infused with wit and insight would remain a constant throughout his career. Neither a surrealist or a strict photojournalist, Kertész combined a street photographer’s dry humour and eye for the moment with the formal aesthetic of a modernist in his black and white photography. In addition to the street life of Paris, he also photographed many famous artists including Chagall and Mondrian.
He served briefly in World War I and moved to Paris in 1925. Due to persecution of the Jews and the threat of WWII, Kertész decided to emigrate to the United States in 1936, where he had to rebuild his reputation through commissioned work. In the 1940’s and 1950’s he stopped working for magazines and began to achieve greater international success. His career is generally divided into four periods; the Hungarian period, the French period, the American period and toward the end of his life, the International period.
In 1946, Kertész had a solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, featuring photographs from his Day of Paris series. In 1952, he and his wife moved to a 12th-floor apartment near Washington Square Park, the setting for some of his most iconic photographs. His late life Polaroids taken from within his apartment re-explored his concepts of life, love, and loss generated by his reaction to the hand-held camera itself.
In 1964 his photography was featured in a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art. With his work critically acclaimed, Kertész gained recognition in the photographic world as an important artist. The work of Kertész was featured in many exhibitions throughout the world, exhibiting into his early nineties.
Thanks to Brett East - @docqment - for his documentation of the exhibition.
I was interviewed on ABC Radio by presenter and Fairfax journalist, Jacqueline Maley. The show, 'Sunday Afternoon', went to air yesterday. Here is a link to the podcast: Sunday Afternoon on ABC Radio.
Thanks to everyone who came to the Monumentalism opening. Here is a video featuring image of opening night and works by the exhibiting artists. The vision is set to the sound of my band The Forresters - the song is 'Never Too Far' by the late and great Tim Hardin.
During the 1970’s, the Yugoslav government produced a sticker book - titled ‘Spomenici Revolucije’ - featuring stickers of 252 monuments. Similar to collecting footy cards, school children were encouraged to buy stickers of anti-fascist modernist monuments at local kiosks to fill up their sticker books. This was an attempt by the government to try to install a feeling of unity and togetherness in the youth of new Socialist Republic. The first school with all the students’ albums completed would win a trip to the most important monuments: second prize was a colour TV set.
The compelling single channel video ‘All of Them in There' by Sydney artist and writer Kuba Dorabialski will be one of 5 projections showing in Monumentalism. ‘All of Them in There’ is a video installation and essay film, shot in Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Romania during October 2015.
Kuba Dorabialski presents a political ecology in an architectural landscape. ‘All of Them in There’ is a filmic dialogue between city and household, where concrete, walls, multilayered floors and staircases, repetitive balconies and windows, are (ex)changed via the crowd, observed by the narrator.” - Ashley Haywood
Croatian-born Sydney based artist Biljana Jančić will be creating a site-specific installation as part of Monumentalism opening at Kudos Gallery next Tuesday the 8th of November. Currently exhibiting work at the MCA’s Primavera and Tarra Warra Biennial 2016 curated by Helen Hughes and Victoria Lyn, Biljana has exhibited extensively including exhibitions at Artspace and Stills Gallery. She is the recipient of the 2016 Fauvette Loureiro Memorial Artists Travel Award.
Jančić’s large-scale architectural interventions investigate the way in which subjects and objects inscribe, delineate or territorialise sites. Her artworks operate as punctures that highlight, amplify or distort existing architectural features. These interventions can be seen as parallel to interferences in virtual spaces, where phenomena such as glitches and other ‘errors’ create an awareness of the fragility that belies the structures that organise our lives.
Biljana Jancić completed her Bachelor of Visual Arts in 2007 and PhD in 2013, both at Sydney College of the Arts. Her art making practice is supported by her critical writing and curatorial practice.
Losing all four of his brothers to the fascist execution squads in World War II, abstract sculptor Vojin Bakić was a significant figure in the context of Croatian and European modernism in the second half of the 20th century.
In the early 60’s, Bakić became a prominent figure in abstract expression and optical research. His vision and creativity resulted in a decisive change in the way large memorial monuments in the former Yugoslavia were designed.
His public monuments Dotrscina, Kamensko and Petrova Gora were exceptional examples of modernist public sculpture, displaying a departure from socialist aesthetics. During the Balkans War in the 90’s these memorials were neglected or destroyed.
Bakić’s most famous project was the memorial centre at Petrova Gora southwest of Zagreb. The 37 metre high stainless steel structure comprising angles and curves was completed in 1981. Holding an exhibition space and a café, the outlandish memorial was visited by school trips and work outings from all over Yugoslavia. The interior was devastated and looted after 1991, and the stainless steel panels covering the exterior of the memorial were stolen by locals.
Vojin Bakic died in 1992 in Zagreb.
Visual artist and musician Tim Bruniges will be creating a site-responsive sound installation as part of Monumentalism, opening at Kudos Gallery on the 8th of November. Working across a range of media including installation, sound and video, his practice is focused on exploring sound and space and their relationship with time. Bruniges’ site-specific sound work will use live input, amplification and manipulated feedback.
Bruniges is a current PhD candidate at the UNSW Art & Design. In 2013 he was awarded the Greene St. Studio artist residency by the Australia Council for the Arts and is a finalist in the NSW Visual Arts Fellowship (Emerging) 2016.
Bogdan Bogdanovic (1922–2010) the Yugoslav architect, urbanist, writer, and politician, designed some of the most remarkable memorials in Europe. Some of the most renowned works are Flower of Stone (1966), a memorial for the victims of the concentration camp in Jasenovac, the Dudik Memorial Park for the Victims of Fascism in Vukovar, Mound of the Unbeaten in Prilep Macedonia and standing in the form of some lost Roman addition to Stonehenge, Mitrovica.
Bogdanović taught architecture at the University of Belgrade, where he also served as dean. He was also involved in politics - as a partisan in WWII, and later as mayor of Belgrade. When Slobodan Milosević rose to power and nationalism took hold in Yugoslavia, Bogdanović became a dissident.
I caught the AGNSW Art Bus in early 2013 - visiting a number of Sydney galleries, the last stop on route was Peleton. Exhibited, was a video/sound work and photographic prints by Kusum Normoyle entitled, Accord with Air: Tjentište (2012), which features Normoyle performing alongside the Tjentište monument in the Sutjeska National Park in Eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina. It’s a compelling piece of work that also struck a chord with me, as the Tito commissioned monument designed by sculptor Miodrag Živković is not that far from where some of my family originates.
Kusum’s performative style is incisive, extreme, abrasive and primal. Armed with a microphone and amplifier and using her physique - kicking, contorting and throwing her body on the ground; she creates loud, often public or architecturally/site specific performances. Normoyle’s work utilises extreme voice, audio feedback and the body’s relationship to materials and environment through these means for both performance and installation.
She is currently a PhD candidate at UNSW Art and Design under the supervision of Douglas Kahn and is an active member of the Sound and Materials Research Group at UNSW Art and Design.
Her work has been included in numerous exhibitions, festivals and events including Dark Mofo 2015, Primavera: Young Australian Artists, MCA Sydney 2013, ISSUE Project Room NYC, Superdeluxe at Artspace for the 17th Biennale of Sydney, Liquid Architecture AU, the NOWnow AU, N.K Berlin, UrBANGUILD JPN, Lines of Flight Festival NZ, and Dogodek: The Event, 29th Biennial of Graphic Art, Slovenia.
Jan Kempenaers, Tjentište from his 2010 publication 'Spomenik'.
One of the bloodiest battles in which the Partisans engaged against joint German-Italian forces was the Battle of Sutjeska. Also known as The Fifth Offensive, and "Operation Schwarz” the battle took place between 15 May and 15 June in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. On June the 9th, President Tito was severely injured when a bomb fell near the leading group. During the months of struggle over 7,500 of Partisan fighters of the Main Operational Group of Yugoslavian National-Liberation Army were killed. The Tjentište monument was built in 1971 and designed by sculptor Miodrag Živković.
The Tjentište monument also appears as one of the nine meditative portraits in the poetic-experimental documentary ‘Monument’ by Croatian multimedia artist Igor Grubić and has been photographed by Dutch photographer Jan Kempenaers in his 2010 publication ‘Spomenik’. Both Grubić and Kempenaers works will be showing in Monumentalism.
Brutalist architecture proliferated from the 1950’s to the mid-70’s descending from modernist architecture in the early 20th century. The term ‘Brutalism’ originated from the French word for ‘raw’ used by the finest exponent of brutalist architecture Le Corbusier describing his choice of material béton brut (raw concrete).
Brutalism became widely used due to the speed and cheapness of construction. It’s an architectural philosophy often associated with socialist utopian ideology. This style is prominent in European communist countries including Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Germany, USSR and Yugoslavia.
The memorials featured in Monumentalism are exceptional examples of Brutalist architecture from the former Yugoslavia. The exhibition opens at Kudos Gallery on Tuesday the 8th of November. Here are a few striking examples of Brutalism.
My partner Madeleine Preston met Austrian artist Marko Lulić at the 2014 Sydney Biennale when he exhibited his video, ’Space Girl Dance’. Through their meeting I started a communication with Marko. Our two families originate from the same region of Croatia. Early this year Marko sent me a link to his latest video work ‘Kosmaj Monument’ (2015). The video was part of a two-person exhibition at the MAK Center in Los Angeles. The exhibition ‘Spomenici revolucije’ - was a collaboration with LA artist, Sam Durant.
Spomenici revolucije was the title from a Yugoslavian sticker album from the 1970s, produced for children who were encouraged to buy stickers of anti-fascist modernist monuments to fill up their albums. The first school with all the students’ albums completed would win a trip to the most important monuments, second place winning a color TV set.
Lulić’s video features interpretive dance in conjunction with the Kosmaj monument located in present-day Serbia. Lulić juxtaposes the flux of bodies in movement with the static and imposing aspects of modernist monuments. The six free standing 40 metre high structures comprising the monument, commemorates the 5,000 partisans killed fighting against the German occupation in Southern Belgrade.
Dancers are shown creating contact through improvisation, while trying to establish a dialogue with the shapes of this specific icon. The video was shot at a cultural center in nearby Belgrade, an area with state-owned student homes built during the same era as the monument— both sites employed raw concrete to represent their respective utopian period.
Lulić has created a number of videos in the last few years with dancers interacting with public sculptures, seeing those works as both performances and expanded sculptural pieces that analyze and grasp the historic and socio-politcal essence of the objects they explore.
Marko Lulić is a Vienna-based artist, whose work is concerned with the intersection of architectural modernism, ideology, and aesthetics. Lulić has remade a number of modernist monuments, as well as reactivated them in some form by using those public sculptures as reference and/or location of his performances. He has exhibited extensively nationally and internationally at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade; Oldenburger Kunstverein, MAK, Vienna; Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam; Kunsthalle Vienna; Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb; Migros Museum of Contemporary Art, Zurich; 21er Haus / Belvedere, Vienna; Lentos Kunstmuseum Linz, Kunstverein Heilbronn, Grazer Kunstverein, Kunsthalle St. Gallen and Frankfurter Kunstverein. His work was included in The Biennale of Sydney; the 12th Swiss Sculpture Exhibition, Biel / Bienne; the October Salon, Belgrade, and the Chicago Architecture Biennial. In recent years he has also curated several exhibitions at the Secession, Vienna; Siemens Arts Program, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade. He won several awards such as the Kardinal König Kunstpreis, the Award of the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation, and the Erich Hauser Foundation Award. For the last five years he has taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Lulić is represented by Gabriele Senn Gallery.
Sydney based artist and writer Kuba Dorabialski will be exhibiting his compelling poetic single channel video ‘All of Them in There’ as part of the ‘Monumentalism’ exhibition opening at Kudos Gallery on Tuesday the 8th of November. Shot in Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Romania during October 2015, ‘All of Them in There’ was first shown at Firstdraft in February 2016. Born in Wroclaw Poland, Dorabialski’s interest in the aesthetics of Eastern European politics stems in part from his background and from his interest in the violence the capitalist state wreaks on its citizens. This work speaks to the utopic elements of socialism and the failure of market based capitalism to effectively replace the system it so derides.
‘All of Them in There’ features architecture from Eastern European states including one of the Tito commissioned monuments. Niš – located in southern Serbia - depicts three concrete obelisks in the form of raised fists. Designed by Ivan Sabolić and built in 1963, the memorial commemorates the 10,000 victims of fascism killed at Bubanj plateau between 1941 and 1944.
Croatian multimedia artist Igor Grubić will be exhibiting his 2015 film Monument at Kudos Gallery in November. Monument is a poetic-experimental documentary, structured as a series of nine meditative ‘portraits’ of the massive concrete memorials commissioned by the former Yugoslav state. These sentinel forms were originally built to honour the Second World War victims of fascism.
His work includes site-specific interventions in public spaces, performances, photography and video works. He is known for his activism and his consideration of the public space as a means of expression. In 2000, he started working as a producer and writer of documentaries, tv reportages and socially committed commercials. His work has been exhibited extensively across Europe and at Monash University Museum of Art - ‘Concrete’ curated by Geraldine Kirrihi Barlow in 2014 and in 'Zero tolerance', MOMA PS1, NY in 2015.
Madeleine’s mother, Yvonne Preston was a foreign correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald. The Walkley Award winning journalist and her family spent a number of years living in China during the final period of Chairman Mao’s rule. Madeleine’s formative years were spent as one of a handful of foreign students living in Beijing through this turbulent era.
As part of her appointment, Yvonne Preston interviewed an array of leaders, dictators and despots visiting Beijing including Pol Pot, Yasser Arafat, Sadam Hussein and President of Yugoslavia, Marshall Tito.
The photo above was taken when Tito visited China in 1977, just prior their interview.
Tito was a master of playing both sides of politics - East and West. As the President of the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia (SRY) for 37 years, Tito had huge support from the West due to his tempered partiality to capitalism. Tito’s openness to the West lead to a steady flow of capital and resources into Yugoslavia, resulting in a rise in the standard of living for the majority of Yugoslavs during his presidency.
Tito was noted for his penchant for the finer things. Although this was at odds with his socialist ideology, his “Hollywood’ lifestyle was admired by his citizens and celebrated by the West.
One of the most extravagant examples was the now derelict, Haludovo Palace Hotel. Haludovo was an opulent accommodation and casino complex financed by Penthouse Magazine tycoon, Bob Guccione. Located on the Croatian island of Krk and designed in the Brutalist style by Croatian architect Boris Magas, Haludovo was a haven for the rich and famous. At a cost of 45 million US dollars, the mile long ‘Xanadu of glittering bulidings’ was a magnet for well-to-do American and British businessmen. Surrounded by the excesses of the ‘70’s lifestyle and Penthouse Pets as croupiers, this supreme statement of indulgent capitalism was ultimately irreconcilable with Socialism. Ultimately western guests failed to embrace the resort as expected and local residents were barred from gambling. The complex now lies in ruins.
Belgian photographer Jan Kempenaers will be exhibiting his renowned ‘Spomenik’ series as part of the Monumentalism exhibition. Extensively exhibited across Europe and the US, the series comprises of 26 images depicting the futuristic memorials built in the former Yugoslavia commemorating WWII battles. The series will be shown as a large projection with accompanying interpretive text.
Drawing on local knowledge and a map from the ‘70’s depicting the whereabouts of the monuments, Kempenaers traversed the Balkans between 2006 and 2009 locating and photographing these abstract structures. Devoid of people, these powerful images were an Internet hit after his book ‘Spomenik’ (a Croatian word meaning monument) was released in 2010 with a flood of blogs dedicated to these futuristic sculptural forms.
Below is one of Kempenaers’ works, his photograph of Jasenovac – a memorial built to the victims of a concentration camp located in Slavonia in northeast Croatia. Designed by renowned architect and academic Bogdan Bogdanovic, Jasenovac commemorates the reportedly 100,000 mostly Serbs, Jews and Gypsies who were exterminated, mostly by hand, at the WWII concentration camp. Known for having been one of the most barbaric death camps for the extreme cruelty perpetrated, Jasenovac came to be known as the Auschwitz of The Balkans. Bogdanovic’s architectural design ‘Stone Flower’ was created to symbolize renewal and forgiveness. The monument was vandalized during the Balkans War but unlike many of the other damaged structures has since been restored.
Jan Kempenaers lives and works in Antwerp, Belgium and is currently affiliated to the School of Arts Ghent. He studied film and photography at the School of Arts in Ghent and completed his PhD in 2012. Recent solo exhibitions include Triennale de Photographie et Architecture #5, Brussels (2015), Jan Kempenaers, Breese Little, London (2013), Spomenik, Fowler Museum, L.A. (2013), I’m not tailgating, I’m drafting, Still Gallery, Belgium (2013), Jan Kempenaers: Spomenik, Liquid Courage Gallery, Nassau (2013), Kempenaers was a participating artist in Back to the Future, Breese Little, London (2012) and The Architecture Biennale, Venice, (2010).
Kempenares has released a number of publications featuring his photographic work, a selection are available through Melbourne bookstore Perimeter Books.
Over the coming weeks I will be profiling the artists who will be exhibiting in Monumentalism. Here is a brief synopsis of the exhibition.
The decaying monuments from Tito’s Yugoslavia form the backdrop for ‘Monumentalism’ - an exhibition curated by Anthony Bautovich at Kudos Gallery in November.
Memorials from the past, these abstract structures were commissioned by President Josip Broz Tito to convey a sense of confidence and strength in the new Socialist Republic. Designed and built in the ‘60s and ‘70s by leading architects and sculptors including Vojin Bakic and Bogan Bogdanovic, these stunning gestures to modernism are located at sites of battles and concentration camps commemorating the victims of fascism in WW11.
Devoid of signs of ideologies, war heroes or religions, these abstract forms were symbols of a modern and unified future. Established as recreational areas to visit and cultivate a sense of national and cultural togetherness, these remote and isolated memorials now lay idle.
As the Balkans War took hold in the early ‘90s and Yugoslavia fell apart, the monuments became touchstones for the inherent hatreds from the past. Many of the monuments have been destroyed and even today the remaining memorials are being dismantled for their raw materials. The authorities turn a blind eye. From triumph to tragedy, these abandoned and decaying forms are a reflection of a broken and disbanded state. The original intention for the creation of the monuments has resulted in their demise. Politics created the monuments and politics has destroyed them.
Can the monuments continue to exist as sculptures? Can monuments derive a new meaning in a altered context? Do monuments have a purpose today?
The son of migrants from the former Yugoslavia, the curator’s interest in art from Eastern Europe was the catalyst for 'Monumentalism'. The exhibition will bring together International and Australian artists to respond to the emotional and social impact of the failings of the single party state.
My review of the Sydney Biennale - Cockatoo Island
2016 Sydney Biennale review by Anthony Bautovich
The Heartbeat of the Island
The boycott of the 2014 Sydney Biennale was an attempt to highlight the plight of refugees in Australia’s detention camps. Little has changed since the resulting withdrawal of founding sponsors Transfield, managers of Australia’s detention facilities. The camps remain, as does our indifference. What appears to have been affected is the level of financial support for The Biennale.
The theme of this year’s Biennale, ‘The Future Is Already Here – It’s just not Evenly Distributed’, is borrowed from a comment by science fiction author William Gibson. His quote refers to the evolution of technology and the fact that many people are denied access to fundamental resources, specifically the Internet.
Artistic Director Stephanie Rosenthal has closely overseen her vision for the 2016 Biennale. Rosenthal, Chief curator at Hayward Gallery in London since 2007, has brought together 85 artists from 35 countries. Unlike previous Biennale curators she has chosen to live in Sydney since last September. This engagement with the locale is evident in her considered curation - her careful selection and grouping of artists into ‘Embassies of Thought’ emphasizes concepts rather than aesthetics. Dubbed the ‘Embassy of the Real’, Cockatoo Island is one of the major Embassy venues along with the AGNSW, MCA, Artspace and Carriageworks. With the paring back of this year’s program due to the downturn in funding, Rosenthal has cleverly repurposed a number of smaller venues forming a constellation of alternative, temporary sites scattered throughout Sydney’s inner east.
Stepping off the 301 bus at Circular Quay, I cross the street and ‘tap on’ at the dock. A ferry ride on the harbour is a simple pleasure for Sydneysiders. As Australians, our environment allows us freedom of choice, a diversity of possibilities and the entitlement to move freely. Passing between the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, the ferry filled with families, tourists and seniors heads towards Cockatoo island - the former penal colony and more recently Navy ship building facility provides an industrial backdrop for artwork by 21 artists: 2 are Australian.
Leaving the ferry, I head along Burma Road towards the Upper Island. Dozens of tents line the right hand side of the thoroughfare. Resembling a military bivouac, the site is the Island’s permanent camping ground. As I approach the first cluster of installations housed in the Convict Precinct, the air is filled with a constant, resonant beat. The pulsing, low frequency punch is the sound of Room of Rhythms – Long Distance Relationship, 2016, a work by Turkish artist and musician Cevdet Erek. With a background in sound design and architecture, Erek is known for his site-specific installations. His work for the Biennale is immersive both aurally and emotionally, and penetrates the Upper Island. As Burma Road steepens, and I near the doorway to the Convict Barracks, the pulse of Erek’s work intensifies like the heartbeat of the Island.
Entering the Convict Barracks through a single door, leaving the reverberation behind, my senses turn to the work of Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota. Shiota’s installation, Conscious Sleep, 2016 is housed in a dark, damp rectangular room. A minimal amount of natural light emanates from two small windows and the entry and exit doors. The room has a musty odour. Small, dimmed stage lights are perched adjacent to the ceiling. The lights subtly draw attention to the hundreds of metres of tangled black thread cocooning a series of beds. Their unadorned, metal frames lean against the sandstone wall at an acute angle. The beds are generously spaced unlike those of the original convict inhabitants; the linen is a pristine vivid white. Dust has started to settle on the web of black thread. The capture of memory and emotion of the enveloping thread is a trait of Shiota’s practice. Living and working in Berlin for 20 years, Shiota is renowned for her intricate, large-scale creations, using everyday objects, weaving them into their determined domain.
Passing through the room, a permanent plaque is fixed alongside the exit door. It is an excerpt from a report on the conditions of convict life on Cockatoo Island, 1861. A portion of the text from the plaque reads “…double tiers of double sleeping berths, with coffin-like apertures opening upon a narrow central passage. In this passage are placed night-tubs for the common use of the men during the 12 hours they are locked up… He often sees them at the iron gratings gasping for fresh air from without, and he ‘wonders how they can live’.”
There are parallels to draw with our nation’s cruel past and the treatment of refugees – perhaps not in severity but certainly in principal. The difficulty in making work about this level of callousness is undeniable; nonetheless Shiota’s work has the capacity to trigger our emotions.
From the exit door, several metres across a common gravel courtyard is the former Mess Hall housing the work of Miguel Angel Rojas. The 70-year-old Columbian artist challenges the viewer’s perception with his subtle examination of the impact of colonialism on indigenous cultures. Piedra en el Zapato, 2016 – meaning ‘stone in the shoe’, is an understated and resolved work.
The dominant feature of Rojas’ installation is the floor. Fashioned from earth and sand sourced from Cockatoo Island, the work is a painstaking reproduction of Victorian era tessellated floor tiles. Tonal browns and dirty white colours have been flawlessly arranged in a pattern, adding a performative element to the artwork. An enormous rock inhabits the right part of the room. Sandstone in appearance, the form has a number of Aboriginal style carvings on the upper surface. The tones embodied in the rock are identical to those of the tessellated tile pattern. The rock represents our indigenous peoples’ bond to the land and the heritage of their culture. Freshly welded prison like bars, suggestive of both the island’s history and the impact of colonization on the indigenous population, border the viewing area - preventing people from walking on the tiles.
Since the opening, visitors have either purposely or unwittingly disturbed the pattern of the outer tiles. ‘Do Not Touch’ signs and an accompanying low-level perspex shield have been installed. Running repairs have been attempted – unsuccessfully. I sit down in the corner of the small viewing area, take in the work and watch the reaction of a number of visitors. One after another they enter and leave within a few seconds. The signs, for those who take the time to read them, have altered the nature of the work. The exactness and subtlety of this installation conveys a sense there is nothing to see.
Leaving the Convict Precinct and negotiating a precarious concrete stairway leading to the lower level of the Island, I am again confronted with the throbbing beat of Erek’s sound work. His constant aural reminder reorients one’s awareness of the environment.
Rosenthal’s calculated curation of the work on the Upper Island and her ability to pair an artist’s work to a specific site is a tribute to her skills. The quiet contemplation of the Upper Island is a stark contrast to the installations framed by the gigantism of the Turbine Hall. The nature of a space dictates the scale of the work. Scale has become a key consideration when selecting and creating artwork for major exhibitions and Art Fairs. Size often equates to impact, however size can also suggest overblown and less thoughtful works.
Two key installations showing in the Hall are by three Asian artists – Lee Bul, Korakrit Arunanondchai and Boychild. South Korean Lee Bul is regarded as one of the most important female artists to emerge in the 90’s. She is perhaps best known for the work Rosenthal’s Biennale marketing department have been utilizing in their publicity, the much-photographed Diluvium made in 2014. Her work for the Sydney Biennale Willing to be Vulnerable, 2016, is a new work. Bul creates her artwork with a team of assistants in her residential studio complex in the Hills in Northern Seoul. Her site-specific installation, monumental in scale, fills a large section of the Turbine Hall, a vast 1640 square metre space. The artwork is an elaborate interconnected assemblage made of plastic, reflective metal surfaces, glass, LED lights and paint. The space is broken up into three indistinct sections by enormous sail-like plastic sheets, harboring motifs of cranes, air balloons, carousels and unidentifiable figures. The installation draws the viewer in with traces of the everyday yet is simultaneously surreal. A suspended silver Zeppelin-like object, suggestive of the ill-fated Hindenburg Airship, dominates the central portion of Bul’s installation.
Huge plastic floor sheets covered with painted abstract images are draped over stands adding an architectural dimension to the work. Paint has started to peel away from the plastic sheeting. The work is said to be interactive yet there are ‘do not touch’ and ‘do not walk’ signs placed throughout the space. The tent-like structures draw in small children who are told to move on by volunteers. These instructions are at odds with the catalogues’ claim that Willing to be Vulnerable is an interactive work.
Bul examines the human condition and the concept of utopia, searching for what is out of reach - an investigation of the human capacity for destruction.
‘Our plans about utopia are undoubtedly going to fail. But as human beings, just because it’s destined to fail doesn’t mean we should stop dreaming about it. We need to keep trying, don’t we?’
Bul's work is installed in the bay next to artists Korakrit Arunanondchai and Boychild. Arunanondchai’s installation incorporates his video work, Painting with history in a room filled with people with funny names 3, 2015-16 and the remnants of the opening night performance by transgender artist, Boychild.
The big draw card on opening night was the one-off performance Untitled, Lip Sync#225, 2016 by Boychild. Hundreds of the Sydney art cognoscenti crammed around a lengthy runway to catch a glimpse. The artist’s eccentric moves and hypnotic gestures were recorded by a torrent of mobile phones. At the far end of the catwalk were a number of large containers of acrylic paint. The artists’ performance began with her smearing herself in primary coloured paint and rolling along the runway. Her gestural performance, painting the denim-covered platform with the contours of her body was viewed simultaneously on the enormous LED screen.
‘The character and body of the artist acts as a vessel for the work: flesh is treated as canvas, and an ever-evolving palette of makeup provides a tool for communication’.
The coloured paints on the artists’ body intermingle, blending together over the course of the performance. Terminating at the end of the catwalk, they read as a tonal brown. Through her contortions and unique movements, Boychild took on the character of Naga, a mythical serpent featured in the Korakrit Arunanondchai video that screened prior to the performance.
At the head of the catwalk was a huge ‘lounge room’ set up featuring oversized beanbag like denim-covered cushions. The cushions are arranged in front of the massive LED screen showing the video. Arunanondchai’s work is beautifully shot featuring quick cuts and fast paced editing to a background of strident dance music. English subtitles draw your eye to the bottom of the screen.
The video is shot using drones and hand held cameras. It is overloaded with an eclectic mix of images ranging from pop culture references to billboards, cityscapes, technology and animals. His pastiche of styles blurs the line between reality and fantasy. The barrage of information lacks a linear narrative structure prompting the audience to form their own interpretation of the work. In the video, Arunanondchai appears with a group of friends all dressed in his signature acid wash denim. They perform formation dance routines that suggest a Thai boy band and pop video clips. Both Arunanondchai and Boychild ‘wear paint’ as if they are themselves artworks in the process of being created.
Heading towards the ferry dock the heartbeat of the Island starts to fade. I think about how technology and the pace of life have influenced the way we perceive and respond to our environment. Having time to stop and contemplate is becoming a luxury. I think about Lee Bul’s reference to an unattainable utopia and about the simplicity of Rojas’ work; its ability to evoke awareness of dispossession and marginality. As the ferry heads back to the Quay and the figure of Cockatoo Island recedes, my thoughts drift to another Island to the North of Australia.
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