The city of Philadelphia is rediscovering its deep cultural heritage as a source of enrichment, and economic and cultural revival. As the Lonely Planet’s guide for the “Top 10 US Travel Destinations for 2013” noted:
Forget the cheesesteaks and tri-corner hat, Philadelphia is becoming known as an art capital. In addition to the world renowned Philadelphia Museum of Art, the formerly remote The Barnes Foundation, a once private collection of Matisse, Renoir and Cézanne, has a new central location. And it’s not just the big museums—Philly’s gallery scene is exploding with new venues like the Icebox garnering international attention and turning the Northern Liberties and Fishtown neighborhoods into the new hot arts hub. First Fridays, the monthly gallery open house, long a tradition in Old City, has expanded to the refurbished Loft District, where the party goes on in a host of new bars, clubs and live music venues.
For some time, certain staff members and postgraduates at Queensland College of Art (QCA), Griffith, have had the good fortune to be involved as contributors and participants in the significant revival occurring in the Northern Liberties area. In 2011, when Professor Nicholas Kripal and the other members of the Crane Arts team purchased the nearby magnificent old school buildings adjacent to Saint 5 Michael’s Church to transform them into galleries and studios, QCA was offered a very favourable lease on one of the prime studios on the top floor, with a view over the city. Since then, staff, adjuncts, and postgraduates from QCA have mounted two significant exhibitions at the Ice Box at Crane Arts: Australia Felix in 2011, and Compression in 2012. In October this year, the Ice Box will host a major film event featuring film and animation from the Griffith Film School.
“Souls are mixed with things: things with souls. Lives are mingled together and this is how, among person and things so intermingled, each emerges from their own sphere and mixes together. This is precisely what contracts and exchange are.” - Mauss The Gift
Designers have always solved problems, often creating new problems as a consequence. In order for a new entity, mechanism or system or to come into being, there must be an identified absence, a requirement or possibility for a new set of relationships between ‘thing’ and ‘other thing’, person or persons.
This catalogue accompanies an exhibition of paintings, prints and video where the experience of the everyday is considered anew.
The idea that a romantic undercurrent might apply to works that have an orientation to the everyday caused me to reflect on what kind of romanticism this might be. Romanticism appears to be the antithesis of the plain-speak of the everyday, for it often emphasises the subjective, the emotional or the transcendent. Generally the everyday in art takes as its subject matter the materiality or experience of the immediate world around us. Often them subject matter is seen to be trite, or at best ordinary and of small consequence; often there is an interest in the discarded, or something of marginal interest; representation is usually direct or straightforward; and often there is a focus on the abject, or the expressionless.
Contemporary Artists in Australia Investigate Place, Identity, Memory, and History through the Graphic Image
The ‘body politic’, the idea that a nation can be understood as a metaphorical body, was superbly visualised in the frontispiece for Thomas Hobbes’s seminal text, Leviathan, first published in 1651. This striking etching by Abraham Bosse is easily his most remembered print, largely because of its ability to visually translate such a concise metaphor. Born in the early 1600s, Bosse was a French-born, German Huguenot printmaker, who produced exquisite engravings and etchings throughout his life. His image for Leviathan is compositionally divided into geometric sections— evidencing his géometrique style. The top half is the most captivating section; it depicts a towering crowned giant whose body is constructed from hundreds of tiny bodies. He looks out over a cityscape and its surrounding landscape.
Place is a strange value; how does this term and status become designated to a specific location or geography? Some attributes of spatial recognition and identification must conspire to evoke a special condition of physical memory that embraces the establishment of place as a ‘something’ as opposed to a ‘nothing’. In most cases, this designation is not achieved as a substitution of something for nothing, but as an amalgam, a doppelganger of both nothing and something. This doubling conspires to make the term ‘place’ function simultaneously as a fusion of place and non-place. In the instance of the Australian subtropical city of Brisbane, it is a place created as much by erasure as by establishment. This act of erasure functions as a political act of active censorship of what already exists and has existed prior to one’s act of recognition and, in so doing, ensures the perpetual presence of the value non-place within the establishment of place. In one sense, the emphasis here is on what appears after the act of disappearance. There is the question of the persistence of place, something that endures after its disappearance, and speaks to an order outside of what appears as place.
Brisbane, the capital city of Queensland, is a place stranger than fiction. This state is where “Crocodile Dundee”1 originated and is home to Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo. It is hot and muggy, punctuated by swaying palms and tropical cyclones. On land, Queensland accommodates some of the world’s deadliest spiders and snakes. And then there is the water. Growing up in a reef town in North Queensland, I was horrified by our newspapers that were regularly splashed with images of swimmers’ bodies laced with box jellyfish welts, followed by advice to wear pantyhose when taking a much-needed dip in the ocean.2 Despite these frightening realities, one of Queensland’s most memorable tourist slogans was “Beautiful One Day, Perfect the Next”. Cast by the Sun ruptures the artificial veneer of Brisbane’s supposedly trouble-free tropical perfection to look at its darker underside. The premise of this exhibition is to investigate the role of place in artistic practice. More specifically, is there an assumption that place in art is somehow more evident in photographic form? This question is presented in relation to the oeuvre of four artists—Ray Cook, Martin Smith, Bruce Reynolds, and Amy Carkeek. Prior to providing accounts of the artists’ practice, the following outlines Brisbane’s recent political history and shares views on Brisbane cultural identity.
Undermining Landscape | Jennifer Sanzaro-Nishimura
This body of work investigates the effects of mining on the Australian Landscape, in particular open cut mining. Australia is a mineral rich country that derives much of its income from mining and its associated industries. The Australian economy has become so reliant on the mining industry that devastating changes have impinged on the pastoral, farming and regional areas not to mention the Traditional Land owners. Politically it is a minefield of deceptive reports and Media.
Aquifer | Jude Roberts
The art making process I use is in response to the physical sites I have worked on in areas of the Great Artesian Basin of Eastern Australia. Drawing imprinting and transferring information from various specific water locations has developed my investigations into human concepts of time in relation to geology and history. Experimentation with various print making processes including lithography unearth the real, the imaginary, the tangible and the intangible as themes in my work.
Vie De Pacifique/Pacific Life | Pacific Perimeter Print Exchange 2012-14
Including artists from: Impress Printmakers Studio, Brisbane Taller 99 Studio, Chile University of Hawaii, Manoa Joshibi University of Art and Design, Japan Green Lane Studio, New Zealand Printmakers Association of the Philippines Motalava artists, Vanuatu
Impress Printmakers Studio have initiated this exchange to coincide with the 7th Asia Pacific Triennial in Brisbane, it also coincides with the Association of South Sea Islanders 150 Years Commemoration in 2013. Conceived, coordinated and curated by Impress president Jenny Sanzaro-Nishimura, it is a collaboration between printmakers from seven countries around the Pacific Ocean. Vie de Pacifique – Pacific Life gives the peoples of the Pacific a platform to express their concerns for the region through the many and varied forms of print media.
Beneath the Surface: Subterranean and Secret Narratives in the Work of Russell Craig, Tim Mosely, and Glen Skien
Questions of surface and depth are a central concern for contemporary-art printmakers; a tension exists between the flat spaces and uniformity of the digital print and the perceived enriched surface qualities of traditional printmaking methods. As Ruth Pelzer-Montada argues, this is essentially the dichotomy of contemporary art that Terry Smith draws out— that of ‘viscerality’ and its emphasis on materiality on the one hand, and of ‘enervation’ and its mechanical or screen-like surface, on the other. In many instances, this duality of surface can equate to the differences between traditional and contemporary modes of production. For purists, digitally produced printed images lack the unique surface quality that are common to traditional printing modes, such as intaglio, etching and lithography. Even screen-printing, once derided for its commercial flatness, is seen to have a more substantial materiality than the digital surface.
In many ways, this discourse of surface and how it relates to the old and the new is superficial for it suggests that surface is only appearance. Yet, if one looks beneath the surface of printmaking as merely elided to its materiality and visual effect, what murky secrets might arise from the subterraneous complexity of the contemporary art print? The artists presented in Beneath the Surface engage with printmaking as an expanded field of practice, including sculpture, assemblage, installation, and the digital. Although their conceptual concerns and printing techniques use vastly different approaches, through their work, it is not only possible to consider discourses of materiality but also to reflect on more abstract concepts of depth—where the print’s surface is a complex process of history that unfolds through time and space.