Art as Object?

All Kultured Out!

Rant Warning!

This weekend saw me hitting a few galleries on both Friday, and Saturday, not to mention spending some time shooting on Friday. I visited 3 shows on Friday, and 2 on Saturday. In order they were.

  1. A show at Fresh in Brunswick St, the name of which escapes me at the moment.
  2. ‘First Capture’, an Exhibition by First Year Fine Art Photography students, at Dantes
  3. The Current show at CCP in Fitzroy.[This will move off the front of the site eventually]
  4. “ Kiss my Gamut” The 3rd year graduate show at ‘The Foundry’ in Fitzroy.
  5. Natural Rhythm, Large Format Photography by David Roberts, 80 Gold St Collingwood.

The outstanding show for me was the 3rd year Media Arts show, followed by the 1st Year Fine Art show. [Disclaimer, both these shows of student work were by students who had either previously studied at PIC, or were taught by my old lecturers, at RMIT.] So today I'm going to try and hobble together some sort of exhibition review. My energies though are going to focus on the CCP show.

The current brochure for the show at the CCP lists the following Artists


One of these was not on display, and one was a projection which I assume runs at night. So already I'm down by two. Still I've got plenty to say about these remaining 3 shows.

great environments does not make great art

I'll begin with KIJEONG SONG. This person's work was entitled ‘Couples’. The opening sentence of the catalogue reads,
“KIJEONG SONG has been taking photographs of couples since 2001"
The next sentence then goes on to explain.
“ This series has developed an an interest in the ways in which intimate, domestic relationships problematise simplistic understandings of ethnicity, within today's multicultural society”
Yes I agree that these are issues that are worthy of contemplation, indeed given the erosion of our rights recently these are in fact the ideas that need to be talked about. What is is that makes us Australian, and conversely what is it that makes people ‘Un-Australian’? However for me the only thing I found intriguing about these images was the details of the couple's environments. This idea could have been taken so much further. The couples for example may have well been unrelated as most of the poses looked awkward and uncomfortable. The lighting in each of the shots was simple on-camera direct flash. A technique so well used by the likes of WeeGee, and Dianne Arbus. Here it just looked like… well simple on-camera direct flash. The harshness of the lighting really turned me off these images, combined with the awkward poses, and one image out of focus all together, this smacked of Un-professional work practises, or some one who just isn't able to work well with people and a camera? I did of course find the objects that are referred to in the catalogue as “overlooked”, but sadly this didn't get me thinking about identity in a multicultural sense, only in a personal history kind of way. Ultimately I couldn't get past the bad technique, which I'll sum up as, “Forced 35mm Snapshots”

More bad Technique hiding behind fuzzy theory

Gallery 2 at the CCP has a body of work by LEYLA STEVENS, entitled, Pale Worlds. It is a series of large format prints which appear on the surface to be portraits of people holding strange objects in strange environments. And indeed the catalogue blurb tells us that these are depicting… “ precise moments when someone attempts to undermine the structure of the everyday”.

Well I liked these images much more as they were quirky and colourful, Leyla obviously, knows and understands more about the central tenants of photography such as lighting and colour. The orange colour and the fabric running through some of the images were beautiful to look at. Overall the images themselves while not really obvious performance documentation were good examples of attractive art making. The minor technical issues I had with these images, such as the poor quality of the black and less than optimum quantity of digital information, were small and I enjoyed spending some time trying to draw parallels between the object people and locations. In particular the use of the orange onion bag and the roll of twine or string. I don't think I succeeded, and I don't care as good art doesn't ‘need to be understood’.

Great Photographic art work

Jane Burton's work, from the series ‘I did it for you’ was dramatic and cinematic, full of pauses and moments, frightening and comforting all in the one.

Basically a series of black and white images printed again, large, of night scenes in ordinary suburban locations.

Some of the prints had a female figure silhouetted in a window, in different poses, obviously staged. I find this a little troubling especially coming from a female artist. Does photography not have a bad enough reputation for being a ‘voyeur’? A small quibble I know, and as the other images are appear to be commenting urban identity and existence I can understand.

Something I don't understand is why this work is printed on type C paper? Which I assume has been through some form of digital processor. Fortunately it has been printed well so it's no biggie, just curious that's all?

So once again the CCP dishes up a mixed bag, I'd have to say that I regretfully don't make it to the CCP as often as I'd like so I have no real bench mark to compare the overall standard of this show, it also didn't help that there seemed to be two parts of the show missing. Nonetheless, Jane Burton's and Leyla Steven's work were very good examples of what can be achieved with a camera, and the prints were quite luxurious.

The CCP is an austere Melbourne Institution, it has been a focal point for much photo based work in Melbourne now for nearly 20 years. It is a publicly funded art space, with a subscription base of many many artists and photographers. However there never has been an avenue for written discourse and this is one of my biggest beefs of the space. One day perhaps they will have a letter to the editor page, or why not a blog?

The images I've used here are taken without permission.
Normal programming will resume shortly.

All of these shows from all the galleries visited this weekend had one thing in common. They got me thinking about presentation and the final product. Some were highly polished and well considered others were "done on the cheap" all were a relaxing way to spend a few hours.

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