The ease of digital photography = every one is a photographer.
Many don’t remember those scary moments when you waited to develop a roll of film. Did you wind the film on right, are you sure you heard the click? A time when taking three pics of the same thing was an extravagant waste of your limited roll of 24. A time when you were rarely in your own photos.
With Photoshop like apps there is no need to learn how to measure, mix, dodge, expose, burn or develop. With everything touch screen there is no need to print to share. Slowly film is becoming a dying art form, a lost function of a dominant media. A ‘video killed the radio star, photography killed painting, photography is dead’ kinda thing.
I have a friend who has a stockpile of unknown rolls under her bed. Unable to print them due to a lack of funds, she is on my lotto list of friends to help out. When she talks about taking photos you can see she loves working the camera. Manipulating frame and light to capture the essence of what she can see. The quality of the moment, or the experience. Last time we spoke you could see the gleam in her eyes as she chatted about the process of film photography, you could see the anticipation she had for those lonely rolls of film.
It was a similar gleam I saw in Renate Rienmüller’s eyes when I happened upon her at STACKS Projects recent group show, As if by Magic. My review is a little late but as I said in my first post I am writing about artworks I want but also, ‘continue to muse upon, reminisce about or years later still suffer from non buyers remorse.’ Renate’s work already makes me remorseful.
Her Lunar Caustic Study chronicled the life, thus far, of 10 palm sized aluminium photography plates. The intimacy of the small plates, housed in gorgeous velvet lined coffers, hark to the Victorian age with its obsession with death and science. Covered with 19th century photochemistry the plates were exposed directly to sunlight, without a camera and without a fixative. Because of this the metals and chemicals continue to individually react to the light around them. Growing and evolving like a chemical snowflake or a tiny metal fungus on a pathology slide. They are beautiful and inviting to view.
The smart little boxes of living chemistry were contrasted against large digital photographs of the plates at 304 days old. These large opal like discs set against black, coupled with their Lunar Caustic title evoked the mystical moon and the art of alchemy. Whilst chatting with Renata it was evident she revels in the role of artist alchemist and through these experiments plays amongst the visual boundaries of old school photography.
What I love about the work, other then the lovely organic petri dish forms and contrasting blacks, gold and silver, is the notion that the work will continue to evolve. The idea of them as a lifetime artwork, a work that evolves during the lifetime of the artist, owner and material. A work that is never the same and becomes aged and weathered by the curve of light.
AS IF BY MAGIC
12 - 29 July 2018
191 Victoria St, Potts Point, NSW, 2011
Thursday to Saturday 11 - 6, Sunday 11 - 4
The below poem was written in response to a panel discussion held at Kogarah Library on the 12th July for NAIDOC week, 2018. The panel consisted of Linda Burney MP, local Aboriginal elder Annette Webb and educator and artist Kerry Toomey. I found the conversations and shared histories very moving and this poem was penned in response to their family stories of stolen children and wages, especially Kerry Toomey's recollections of her female family members washing laundry.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all three women for their generosity and exceptional strength.
Kerry Toomey is currently exhibiting in the Broadhurst Gallery at Hazelhurst Arts Centre. Her show ‘Washed Out’ explores family, love and “growing up an outsider in your own country.” It is a broad exhibition showcasing the artists interests and experimentations within a multitude of mediums.
Get along to it ASAP as it finishes on the 24th July.
Quote taken from Hazelhurst Arts Centre 2018 program guide.
Hazelhurst Arts Centre
782 Kingsway, Gymea NSW
Mon-Sun 10am - 5pm
Washing clean, drying straight.
Thick linen, nice and white.
Warm from the sun, beautiful to embrace.
Sitting in baskets, learning to fold.
Picking with pegs, little dollies to hold.
Stories of history chattered about, with baskets slung on hips. They pottered about.
Thick linen, nice and white. Just a memory until tonight.
A woman told her washed memory and it resonated with me.
At its start she painted a picture I could totally see.
Of my grandmother, aunt, mother and me.
Folding washing and singing under a gum tree.
They shared their faith and their love. Their grief and shame.
Imprinted on me, themes from the past. Repeated time again.
But her white washed story bore a more sinister past.
Where she and her family could only speak when asked.
Always on guard less they came to take them away.
Here’s where her and my story started to stray.
Mine bore no record of theft, or repression.
Of a government hell bent on cultural suppression.
My family stories spoke of improvement and toil.
Of moving up the ladder, of getting the spoils.
Hers spoke of fear, time and time again.
Of unpaid work and generational shame.
Washing women clean, making them nice and white.
Out of mind, then out of sight.
Thick linen, white linen.
Background sound piece made with Audacity.
Bird sounds from www.birdsinbackyards.net
Seven Figures, Elliott Bryce Foulkes (Wellington St Projects)
Opening 27th June till 8th July 2018
I come from a family of sewers…sew-ers. My dad is an upholsterer, always in his garage whipping something up. The sound of his industrial sewing machine and staple gun providing a constant backyard staccato. My dad is the original McGuyver. When we couldn't afford to go on holidays he doctored and extended an old windowless army tent. When we couldn't afford sleeping bags he made some from scratchie leftover beige upholstery linen. And when I wanted to get out of the school sport carnival, by becoming the cheer squad mascot, he helped create huge foam creatures for me to hide in.
My mum's a sewer too. Every school uniform, musical production, party and high school formal dress was cleverly designed and stitched by her. School holidays involved standing in your socks and undies while she pinned paper templates to you. Taking measurements, making alterations all the while barking instructions to wiggly kids through a mouthful of pins.
Then there was Nanna. Every chilly season we would be supplied with homemade cardigans and jumpers. Often made from leftover bundles of wool, clashing colour combinations that would rival the ugliest 70’s wallpaper. She would experiment with new patterns and stitches, keeping her hands busy and staying up late. The repetitive click and clack of the needles seducing her into a thready trance.
Because of this the Wellington St Projects and Gallery Pompom’s latest opening filled me with retrospective tactile pleasure. After navigating the tight streets of Chippo I finally found a park and trudged out into the rain. It was just after 6.30pm and even before I had gotten close to the Wellington St gallery I could hear the hubbub of people, this place was packed. Bracing for the ensuing claustrophobia I squeezed into the space.
By god it was busy, so packed and full of the darkly clad art set you could hardly get near the artwork. Being a shorty I ducked and weaved unseen, ever alert for an unannounced backward swung elbow or a reversing pointy heel. It was almost like swimming at an indoor European wave pool, more people than water.
Diving down at the front entrance, resurfacing near the bar, taking an alcohol aspirated breath, ducking down and completing a side stroke along the walls. Occasionally releasing expelled air in the form of an ‘excuse me’. The crowd was so intense that I felt like I might get swept off my feet at any moment. Resurfacing for a quick peck on the cheek with an old friend, diving down deep as the crowd thickened and swayed.
Once in position, with my nose just cm away, I familiarised myself with Elliott Bryce Foulkes, Seven Figures. Perfectly stitched and pressed geometric patterns, reminiscent of patch work samplers or flag semaphore. Not a pucker or over stretched seam in sight. Some made with bright contrasting colours, others with muted jewel tones and shapes. There were plenty of little sticker dots under most of the pieces and by the end of the night there was all but one left. It seems others thought them as confident, well executed and attractive as I.
Having had enough of the heavy population and with Gallery Pompom just a stone's throw away, I moved on. This space was also teaming with visitors and again I had to mindfully jostle my way in. There was a lot on show but I happily settled in the front room to enjoy Sarah Edmondson’s, According to Chance.
According to Chance, Sarah Edmondson (Galerie Pompom)
27th June - 22 July 2018
Here hung bright bold tapestries with even purposeful stitches, reminding me of a disjointed Kings Cross Coke-a-Cola sign. The artist had rendered segmented text with thick woollen thread and I thoroughly enjoyed the labour intensive tapestries which explored an accidental computer glitch, a dysfunction in reproduction. I could see the precision and exaction she had put into these pieces and imagined log hours with sore stiff split fingers. In some cases the artist had left areas bare, including the webbed support material as part of the image, breaking with the hierarchical rules of this specific craft. I’m not sure my nanna would have approved but I did. I wanted to remove the tapestries from behind the glass with the option to run my fingers through the nubbed surface. They called to be touched, caressed, folded and used.
While most of our interactions with fabric and sewing come in the form of mass produced clothing it was a pleasure to see these well executed precise colourful fractal like fabrications. I often forget to include textile art in my scope but these sophisticated experiments in cloth really caught my eye. Both artists drew with thread, drawing in timely stitches, creating form from repetitive, rhythmic practice. I imagined the frustrated moments in their studio, just like my parents when a seam faulted or the ‘fit’ wasn’t quite right. Forced to unravel, unpick and start again, constantly learning from crinkled mistakes.
The mechanical symmetrical stitches of Elliott Bryce Foulkes and the rhythmic hand pulled tuff of Sarah Edmondson reminded me that pattern making is a mathematical formula. Where needle and thread take no prisoners, showing any imperfections and fault lines. Leaving the artists held to ransom by their own choice of medium. I’ll have ‘those ones’ plus the artist's inexhaustible fortitude, just think what I could accomplish.
Wellington St Projects,
19-23 Wellington St, Chippendale, Sydney.
11-5pm, Fri- Sun
Galerie Pompom ,
2/27-39 Abercrombie Street, Chippendale, Sydney.
Wed - Sat 11am - 5pm
Sun 1 - 5pm