Friday, May 28, 2010

A visit to Sydney

A trip to Sydney over the next few months can include a feast of contemporary art at the 17th Biennale of Sydney, The beauty of distance: songs of survival in a precarious age.

The Biennale includes a broad range of artworks by Australian and international contemporary artists. The works are displayed in seven venues throughout Sydney, with its primary sites being the Museum of Contemporary Art and Cockatoo Island.

Amongst the diverse array of art forms and media in this year’s Biennale are some photographic works. For instance, the first room on the ground floor of MCA is taken over by a large installation of photographs by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu from China. Their work, Hong Kong intervention 2009 is a project in which the two artists invited 100 Filipino domestic workers to take a toy grenade and photograph it in their favourite spot at their workplace. These photographs are displayed alongside back-view portraits of the participants. The photographs are presented in a grid that extends almost to the top of each of the tall walls in this space.

A number of Roger Ballen’s photographs are on display in the convict precinct of Cockatoo Island. The run-down building that houses them is an eerie setting for Ballen’s surreal and disturbing images. Ballen’s Biennale display includes a selection of his documentary works as well as his staged compositions, some of which were included in the exhibition of his photographs at MGA last year. Along with his Biennale installation, Ballen’s Boarding House series is showing at Stills Gallery in Sydney until 29 May.

Yvonne Todd’s photographic portraits are also displayed in the convict precinct of Cockatoo Island and take over an entire cottage. They are not hung on every wall of the old and deserted building or grouped together in a straight hang. Instead they are scattered around on different walls as if they were family portraits hung in a domestic setting. Todd’s photographs draw on the conventions of traditional portraiture and require a second glance in order to note their strange and unsettling qualities. The unnatural and eerie nature of Todd’s portraits is accentuated in this setting on the Island.

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s installation, Faraday Cage 2010 includes black and white light boxes from his series Lighting fields and is based on his recent photographic experiments into the imaging of static electricity on large-format film. The installation was conceived specifically for Cockatoo Island’s abandoned Power House.

The Biennale also includes works by some of MGA’s collection artists including Christian Thompson and Brook Andrew.

Also in Sydney for the next few weeks is Bill Henson’s latest exhibition at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Paddington. It is a series of large photographs that juxtaposes sublime images of seas, waterfalls, skies, ancient ruins, statues and a female model. It is definitely worth a visit and will be on display until 2 June.

Stella Loftus-Hills

Cai Guo-Qiang
Inopportune: Stage One 2004 (detail)
Collection of Seattle Art Museum, Gift of Robert M. Arnold, in honour of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2006
Courtesy Cai Studio
The presentation of this project was made possible with the assistance from Shiseido

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Contemporary Indigenous photography at Horsham Regional Art Gallery

Adam Harding and Danielle Smelter have over the last year added a number of key works by Indigenous photographers to the Horsham Regional Art Gallery's exceptional collection of photographs. Photographs by Tony Albert and Fiona Foley recently joined pictures held in the collection by Ricky Maynard, Leah King-Smith, Darren Siwes and Brook Andrew. These photographs – alongside a work by Destiny Deacon on loan from a private collection – were until recently on display at the gallery in a wonderful, concise show that clearly demonstrates the strength of a collection rarely seen outside of the Wimmera.

Contemporary Indigenous photography demonstrated some of the ways Indigenous photographers have interrogated some of the myths of contemporary Australia. A range of strategies – humour, doubling or mirroring, shock – are seen throughout the work to meet this end. Many of us are now familiar with these strategies and their effectiveness – the idea that dominant images can be critically unpacked by drawing attention to the pictorial and visual codes used historically to produce and/or circulate myths.

But this little exhibition had a certain power because of its location. Who knew that Horsham had, for some time now, been putting together a sub-collection of pictures by contemporary Indigenous photographers? Like many prosperous regional centres, Horsham – and the Wimmera more broadly – has a troubled Indigenous history. My experience of the area during the seventies and eighties is of a place without Indigenous presence; the exceptions were a few references to the local Jaadwa people in placenames like Jardwa Park and Jardwa Court. We couldn't even spell it correctly. Although a few, very proud Indigenous families lived in the town, it was possible to live in Horsham and not encounter Indigenous people at all.

It's a different place now. The Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Coorperative and the Barengi Gadjin Land Council are both highly visible, and the municipal authority is also doing its bit to reconcile the region's settlement history. And all the while, under the astute leadership of Merle Hathaway and now Adam Harding, the gallery has been compiling a series of photographs that can assist this process further. I don’t want to sound like photography needs to play a grand social or historic role to be of use; but I can see how this show might have made a real difference to the Wimmera people lucky enough to have seen it.
Shaune Lakin
image: Tony Albert, Omptimism 8 2008, Type C print, 80 x 80cm, purchased through the Horsham Art Gallery Trust Fund, 2009

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

On 'Art Nation' this Sunday

For those who can't make a trip up to the Museum of Sydney to catch Up the cross: Rennie Ellis & Wesley Stacey, the exhibition will feature this Sunday on ABC's Art Nation (formerly Sunday Arts) including interviews with Inara Walden. 'Sir' Wayne Martin & Carmen.

Art Nation is on this Sunday at 5.30pm - ABC1 and 7.00pm - ABC2

Up the cross: Rennie Ellis & Wesley Stacey currently on display at Museum of Sydney explores the 'summer of 1970-71 in Kings Cross through the photographs of Rennie Ellis and Wesley Stacey, who together captured the sights, sounds and pulsating rhythms of life on the streets and in the clubs and private pads of Sydney's infamous red-light district.'

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Art chats at McClelland Gallery

11am Thursday 13 May 2010
Guest speaker: Dr Shaune Lakin, Director Monsah Gallery of Art
Download pdf

Sunday, May 9, 2010

2010 William & Winifred Bowness Photography Prize

The MGA Foundation will once again showcase the work of Australia's best photographers in Australia's most coveted photography award. Photographers from all over Australia are encouraged to submit entries to this year's Bowness Photography Prize. Each year, finalists are drawn from the breadth of Australian photographic practice: editorial, commercial, street and fine art.

Photographers will be competing for $25,000 first prize (non-acquisitive) and $1,000 People's Choice Award.

This year's entries will be judged by Gael Newton, Senior Curator of Photographs, National Gallery of Victoria, Max Pam, Australian photographer, and Shaune Lakin, Director of MGA.

Visit for more information on how to submit entries.