"It is said that in certain parts of New York, on the tops of tall buildings belonging to corporations which transmit data between sites by microwave, that roosting birds are sometimes cooked by data. Television signals, computer information, text or graphics. Photographs perhaps? Killed by images."
Photographers can be thought of as artists with very wealthy patrons, when their task is to produce images for advertising. With what strange intent those artists with the lens and the lights go about their work, creating the perfect mood for the product, the mood which will put the product in precisely the right position for the shareholders. And when it comes to food photography their focus is even more intense, feeling as they do the weight of centuries of the iconography of the still life painting, and knowing that they must find another angle, pull yet another trick from the hat in order to make that lamb chop, that pie and sauce, that plate of cereal, make a difference. It is a source of pleasure then, but not altogether surprising, to discover a collection of photographs of food which leave Bar-b-que Shapes far behind and enter the realm of the cinematographer, (Peter Greenaway comes to mind) the designer, or the painter, so that food becomes either a mysterious half-seen thing in a steamy Bangkok kitchen or couple of horseradishes tossed carelessly onto a distressed surface, all texture, shape and palpability.
The works in the exhibition See food: australian food photography 1957 - 1997 at RMIT's Gallery at Storey Hall were by the same photographers who make their living from advertising, and probably not all of their oeuvre would be as loaded with art history as these. Brian Brandt, himself one of Australia's legends of the lens, helped Director and curator Suzanne Davies make the selection from a group of his peers from the Society of Advertising Commercial and Magazine Photographers. The curators began with "a belief that the visual styling of food is an important indicator of shifting cultural values" and the collection which spanned 40 years, ended up reinforcing them in that belief The point at which the photographer's name became married to that of the "food stylist" is not clear, but most of the illustrations in the catalogue are from the nineties, and by this time the stylist is an integral part of the creation of the image.
As Brandt confesses in his little essay at the end The Tricks of the Trade, during a photoshoot with temperamental collections of comestibles of various kinds he could not do without the stylist - or indeed the prop stylist, or the assistant. The event has a drama about it; the food will start to disintegrate before their eyes if they do not move fast, yet the session could go on all night. People rush in and out with salad bowls or African artefacts, the lights move around, coloured gels and mirrors make the croutons glow, spray bottles of Evian are ever at hand and the alchemy starts to work.
If this collection tells us anything about shifting cultural values it says that in the nineties we crave the 'natural', rough vegetables, a bunch of white asparagus, some unevenly red and yellow capsicums, a whole fish (dead) with glistening scales and prickly fins. The paradox is that everything about these photographs is unnatural, posed, and the image is processed by the mouli of the aesthetic traditions we have inherited including Dutch still life, surrealism (a sleeping nude covered with eggplants), the dramatic chiaroscuro of cinema or landscape photography as well as other filters which these magpies of the studio have plucked from here and there.
Highly readable catalogue essays by Alan Saunders of The Comfort Zone and RMIT lecturer in art history Linda Williams explore the story of food and art, ancient and modern, including such truisms of our own time as the equation of food with pornography, signifying as it does today indulgence and excess, or consumption for its own sake, in contrast to earlier ages where food was scarce and its representation had another intent. The catalogue is surprisingly engaging in its content, carefully designed and printed in colour and is available from RMIT Gallery, (where the show was first staged) 344 Swanston St, Melbourne ph (03) 9925 1717.
Exhibitions to watch
On the Road - The Car in Australian Art, curated by Ted Gott and other staff of The Museum of Modern Art at Heide, includes work by Ken Whisson, John Brack, Robert Rooney and Margaret Dodd. 11 Dec - 20 March 2000
" After 21 May 1998 is an exhibition of art responding to the rapidly changing situation in Indonesia following Suharto's resignation in May 1998. Curated by Mella Jaarsma, Dwi Marianto and Damon Moon. Australian Centre for Contemporary Art to 29 January.
" Hurry along to the Palm House of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney to catch Nigel Helyer's installation swelter. It is the 6th in a series of 7 site-specific works curated by Michael Goldberg. Coming down 12 December/
" Local Knowledge is the first of a series of survey shows of established artists of the Illawarra region. The idea is that local people can relate very well to work by artists who live in their bioregion, especially if those works draw inspiration from the local environment. Wollongong City Gallery till 9 January.
" Michaelangelo to Matisse: Drawing the Figure, 250 master drawings by the great names of western art, borrowed from public and private collections worldwide Art Gallery of NSW until 27 February.
" FEAST! Food In Art looks at how contemporary visual artists respond to one of the prime passions in life - eating - and the social rituals of food consumption, or its denial. Artists include Tang Da Wu, Matthew Ngui, Vincent Leow, Milenko Prvacki and Amanda Heng, Singapore Art Museum, 8 April - 27 June 2000.
" Water Medicine is a show about making the common element of water precious. 11 artists explore the myriad meanings of water using sound, all kinds of things (glass hotwater bottles?!) and of course water. With its source at the John Curtin Gallery in Perth it will be flowing around the country from February. Curated by Kevin Murray and John Barrett-Lennard.
" The Europeans: Emigré artists in Australia 1930 - 1960 is on the last leg of its national tour from the National Gallery of Australia. You can catch it at Geelong Art Gallery until 16 January and at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, 18 February - 24 April.
" The Moët & Chandon Foundation, in a change of focus, has commissioned a group selected from the artists who have made up the famous Touring Exhibitions over the past 14 years to make new work in response to a curators' thesis. The resulting new look M&CF Exhibition is on at the Art Gallery of NSW 16 February - 19 March.
" Modotti and Weston: Mexicanidad comprises 65 vintage photographs by Edward Weston and Tina Modotti made in the 20s while the artists were living together in Mexico. Art Gallery of NSW until 9 January.
" Sydney Metropolis explores the city through paintings, prints photographs and drawings by 60 artists and architects from Arthur Streeton to Jon Cattapan. Museum of Sydney 18 December - 2 April.
" The Seppelt Contemporary Art Awards features the 9 winners in various categories: Mutlu Çerkez, Jacqueline Fraser and Narelle Jubelin (visual art) Kerstin Thompson, Lyns and Wood/Marsh P/T (environmental design) and Gina Matchitt, Peter Prasil, and Georgia Chapman & Meredith Rowd - Vixen (object design). Each receives $6,000 cash.
" Audrey Hepburn: a woman, the style is an exhibition containing 110 examples of Hepburn's clothing from the early 1950s to the late 1980s. Audrey Hepburn is often referred to by the fashion media as the most important 'style icon' of the 20th century. She strongly influenced the fashion of the period as her clothes and accessories, some of which were designed by Hubert de Givenchy, Salvatore Ferragamo and Valentino, were widely copied. Also included is the original last of Hepburn's foot, made by Salvatore Ferragamo in 1954 and 10 copies decorated by 10 contemporary artists (Marina Abramovic, Arman, Louise Bourgeois, Christo, Enzo Cucchi, Yasumasa Morimura, Kenny Scharf, Andres Serrano, Daniel Spoerri, Lawrence Weiner). Powerhouse Museum, 7 December 1999 to 26 March 2000
Events next year
" Perth International Arts Festival at the Art Gallery of WA: home is a major exhibition for the and beyond. It looks, through telecommunications, music, design, architecture and new image technology, at notions of belonging at a time when our place in the world is undergoing dramatic change. 5 Feb - 25 April; also Ngayulu-latju Palyantja - We made these things glass and other installations from the Warburton Arts Project 21 January - 19 March.
American art/music cult heroes Brian Eno and Philip Glass, experimental theatre director Robert Wilson will be spending time at the Perth Festival in "formal and informal dialogue" with locals eg master classes and possibly collaborations. The Festival has a new director after two decades in Seán Doran, who has chosen the themes Water, Earth, Air and Fire for the next four festivals, not original perhaps, but with a certain primitive power.
" Telstra Adelaide Festival 2000 is going to the edge with an unprecedented number of world premières and a program which has a vast majority of shows exclusive to Adelaide. Director Robyn Archer is experimenting again by merging Artists' Week and Writers' Week into the first week of the festival; presumably in an pragmatic move to capitalise on the fact that most of the exhibiting artists are in Adelaide during that week for the openings of their shows. This will cause many to agonise between the two events which traditionally have been complementary rather than competitive. Beyond the Pale: Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art a survey of new indigenous art curated by Brenda L Croft is the major offering this year, and participating artists will take part in the first day of Artists Week. The opening of the new Aboriginal Cultures Gallery at the SA Museum should be a high point, though new museum displays of old material are notoriously difficult to get right, and some across Australia, with less stressful deadlines than the SAM are battling, have tried and failed. Let's hear your comments on it! Overseas content includes Monument to a Lost Civilisation , an installation by visiting Russian artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov and works by Bill Seaman (USA) and Matej Andraz Vogrincic (Slovenia). See the Broadsheet program due out in December. Festival opens 3 March 2000. Info from (08) 8216 4444
As usual the Adelaide Fringe will fill every available hall and foyer with shows of every description, opening on 25 February.
" One of the most interesting of these exhibitions is the 2000 Helpmann Academy Graduate Exhibition, a "best of" selection of work from the three art schools in Adelaide, Adelaide Central School of Art, North Adelaide School of Art and the SA School of Art, to be held in the Gerard & Goodman Building, Synagogue Place. Last Fringe the student shows around town added greatly to the fabric of the festival experience, and this one looks to be continuing the tradition.
" The Sydney Biennale has taken the unusual step of bypassing the role of supremo curator/director (for decades the norm for the big international biennials) and has invited six curators to do the choosing and interpreting - Sir Nicholas Serota (director Tate Gallery, London), Robert Storr (senior curator Museum of Modern Art New York), Hetti Perkins (curator AGNSW), Harald Szeeman (director Venice Biennale 1999), Louise Neri (independent curator New York), Fumio Nanji (independent curator, Tokyo), with Nick Waterlow chairing the group. It will open on 26 May 2000 and the program will be announced in January.
" Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival has announced its visual arts program which showcases Aboriginal art from Papunya in Central Australia, Australian icons from Glover to Whiteley, Greek antiquities relating to games, Dead Sea Scrolls, a retrospective for the late Lin Onus, an exhibition about sport in art, and a series of 'Shrines for the New Millennium' sourced mainly from the Pacific, amongst many other offerings. The shows open progressively from 4 August and may be designed to offer some solace to those who did not get tickets to the Games.
monash gallery of art is the new name of the former Waverley City Gallery in Victoria. The name change is in advance of next year's redevelopment of the gallery and its surrounding site. On 12 December local artists will be given five and a half hours to paint, draw or sculpt a piece in the parkland and the winner of Masterpiece in a Day will be judged by Director Jane Scott and board member Maudie Palmer.
McClelland Gallery outside Melbourne has also been reincarnated with major extensions and renovations. It recently reopened to the public with a Festival including an exhibition of sculpture and the unveiling of a new work by Lenton Parr within the gallery's well-known Sculpture Park.
RMIT University has bought The Capitol Theatre which was designed by Marion Mahony and Walter Burley Griffin, and has plans to refurbish the theatre and upper level foyer areas of the Melbourne landmark.
Monash University's new Art & Design building with its gleaming metal ribbon look has won the RAIA's Victorian award for architects Denton Corker Marshall.
Tolarno Galleries reopened in October in new premises in Flinders Lane, Melbourne. Commercial space was refurbished by architect Peter Flint with a salon feel more intimate than some of the more raw spaces of this now very lively gallery precinct.
The National Gallery of Victoria has moved to a temporary site while major renovations take place to the Roy Grounds building on St Kilda Rd. The Public gallery is now 285 - 321 Russell St, Melbourne, known as National Gallery of Victoria on Russell, and the administration centre is in North Melbourne.
People & Commissions
" George MacDonald is the new director of Museum Victoria
" Dr Caroline Turner, one of the driving forces behind the Asia Pacific Triennial at the Queensland Art Gallery is the new Deputy Director of the Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University
" Two Melbourne artists have installed new works at Southgate, on the Yarra as part of the ongoing program Texture. Ursula Bolch has made a mobile of spinning blue discs under the glass ceiling of the atrium, and Julia Gorman an installation of 6 giant shapes on the ceiling of the mid-level.
" Expressions of interest are being invited for a sculpture for the City of Bendigo to commemorate Federation. It will be chosen by competition with a budget of $160,000 for the winner. Sketch designs have to be in by 31 January 2000. Ph (03) 5443 4991 for an information pack.
" A major commission by Marion Borgelt titled Primordial Alphabet and Rhythm has appeared in Surry Hills, at the Sydney headquarters of News Limited. 15m high x 9m wide, it comprises 12 large painted panels and 10 low relief sculptural discs using symbols of communication of various cultures.
" Catherine Truman is the successful candidate out of six invited sculptors to make a $160,000 piece for the North Terrace-facing wall of the new David Jones building in Adelaide. She will make a 'flight' of skeletal leaves in bronze which will be articulated with fibre optic light at night.
" Discovery Channel has pledged to commission 2 half-hour programs of new documentary films by upcoming Australian filmmakers. Deadline for proposals is 3 December and completed films will be shown thoughout the Asia Pacific region to over 30 million viewers in 2000. Ph (02) 9280 1677
" The McGregor Summer School is a long-running event held on the campus of the University of Southern Queensland at Toowoomba in January each year. It caters to mostly people in rural and regional Australia who want to explore their creativity in visual and performing arts and make friends. Tutors come from far and wide and this time include Victor Majzner, Suzanne Archer, Heather Ellyard and Jill Kinnear. Phone (07) 4631 2755 for information.
" Submissions of 35mm slides for the initial selection stage of the Fifth National Indigenous Heritage Art Award are due in by 31 March. Prize money totals $44,000 and this year a new Reconciliation Prize will be introduced where Australian Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists can jointly submit collaborative works. Works are required to depict Indigenous heritage places. Phone 1800 687 093 for info.
" Visual Arts/Craft Fellowships of $80,000 each over two years went to artists and craftspeople Dale Frank, Nicholas Mount, Susan Norrie, Robert Rooney and Margaret West.
" Fiona Hall is the winner of the $50,000 1999 Lowenstein Sharp Arts 21 Fellowship selected by Doug Hall, Director of the Queensland Art Gallery. Conditions are that the artist must be over 36 years old, and must have been exhibiting for at least 10 years.
" Ricky Swallow won the $100,000 Contempora5 prize jointly run by the Ian Potter Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Victoria. The decision was greeted with incredulity by many due to the age of the artist (25) and his relative lack of track record compared with other finalists, and indeed the inaugural winner, Fiona Hall. Swallow's work was one of the public favourites at the Melbourne International Biennial.
" Winners of the 1999 National Digital Art Awards organised by the Institute of Modern Art are First Prize jointly won by Martine Corompt and Philip Samartzis for Dodgem an interactive soundscape installation, Second Prize to Melinda Rackham for an interactive CD-Rom Carrier, and Third went to Suzanne Treister for No Other Symptoms - Time Travelling with Rozalind Brodsky, and two education prizes - tertiary to Mari Volonaky, secondary to Van Lee.
" National Works on Paper Awards of The Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery were won by Robert Jacks (major award, $4,000 non-acquisitive) with an artist's book and Jennifer Buntine the other award ($1000 non-acquisitive) with a gouache The Journey.
" The Samstag scholars for 2000 are Sally-Ann Rowland, Károly Keserü, David Ralph, Paula Wong, John Harris, Marco Masci, Troy Ruffels, and Elvis Richardson. The Samstag scholarship is the richest in Australia, with the 8 recipients sharing well over $500,000 in stipends, airfares and institutional fees for study in visual arts overseas.
" Zhong Chen won the SA Premier's Award for Emerging Artist of the Year and has chosen a year's mentorship with painter John Young in Melbourne.
" Helge Larsen has received the Visual Arts/Craft Fund's Emeritus Award ($40,000) for his achievements as a jeweller and silversmith over a career of 4 decades. Bernice Murphy has been awarded the Emeritus Medal and $10,000 for her contribution to contemporary art in Australia.
" Raymond Arnold has won the Shell Fremantle Print Award with his multi-plate etching relief print which will be acquired as part of the $5,000 prize organised by the Fremantle Arts Centre. Second prize went to Angela Cavalieri for an artists' book.
" There has been a drastic fall in local film production in the last year or so, and a boom in foreign film and TV drama projects in Australia, according to figures announced in November by the Australian Film Commission. The shadow minister for the arts Duncan Kerr warns that we must resist becoming simply a production house for foreign investors and decries the funding policies of the government which ignore the needs of the Australian film industry.
" Tim Storrier recently launched Metamorphosis ... a moth's promise, an exhibition of 300 works in the Sydney CBD office foyer of sponsor Deutsche Bank. The work is by homeless, jobless and disadvantaged youth who have taken part in ARTWORKS! a course run by Sydney City Mission and the title refers to the path of moth from cocoon to flight.
" VISCOPY is gaining ground in the battle for hearts, minds and distribution of copyright fees and now has about 750 members including new joiners Bert Flugelman, Marion Borgelt, Sally Smart, Brenda L Croft, Yenda Carson and Ray Thomas. VISCOPY distributed over $90,000 to visual artists for the January to June 99 period, with some royalties coming from their international affiliates. A great achievement.
In the screen rights area VISCOPY has been consistently working with Screenrights in the identification of artists' works in programs copied from television broadcasts. In 2000 VISCOPY will be distributing royalties due to screen artists from 1991-1998 - a big task. They would like to hear from any member or indeed any artist whose work has been featured in a television program because it will assist in identification.
Australian art overseas
" History and Memory in the Art of Gordon Bennett, a ten-year retrospective (see review this issue) is on at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, UK, until 23 January. It will tour to the Arnolfini Gallery and the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, in Oslo later in 2000.
" John Kelly, now living in the UK, pulled off a big coup with the help of his Paris agent Stéphane Jacob, the result of which was Cow Up a Tree on the Champs Elysée from September to November, in the company of 50 works by high profile international sculptors eg Tony Cragg, Daniel Buren and George Segal for the event Les Champs de la Sculpture II. The Cow and the Tree are 8 metres high in bronze, weighing in at 5 tonnes, and reflect what can happen to cattle in the wake of flash floods as well as referencing the fake papier maché cows William Dobell was asked to make during the war to confuse the Japanese. After touring to Holland, Japan, and Taiwan, the cow will be looking for a new home.
" Imants Tillers has been given a retrospective (1975 - 1999) at MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Monterrey in Mexico.
" Mutlu Cerkez participated in the 6th International Biennial of Contemporary Art in Istanbul Sept - October 1999.
" Waterworks documents the influential South Australian project of the same name in which artists made new works in five regions across the state relating to water, its history and its current critical situation. This was a major and exemplary community cultural development project (1997 - 99) of Country Arts SA and principally funded by the Australia Council's regional arts fund. The Federal Minister Peter McGauran recently commented that Country Arts SA is acknowledged nationally as the premier rural and regional organisation and a model for others. This high quality and beautifully photographed book is a bargain at $12; order it on fax (08) 8447 8396, or jane.hyatt.sacat.org.au
" Adorned: Traditional Jewellery and Body Decoration from Australia and the Pacific by Anna Edmundson and Chris Boylan examines the ethnographic collections of the publisher, the Macleay Museum at the University of Sydney and the private collections of members of the Oceanic Art Society of Australia, with insights into the value of these items in complex systems of trade, social relations, aesthetics and identity. ph (02) 9351 2274
" Contemporary Melbourne Architecture is a survey and evaluation of the multifarious additions to Melbourne's built environment over the past decade. Author Joe Rollo, architecture writer for The Age newspaper identifies what distinguishes successful projects and hands out some brickbats. Publisher is UNSW Press, ph (02) 9664 0902.
" Shared Visions by Annette Blonski is a collection of interviews, essays and personal anecdotes which celebrate the contribution which women have made to the television industry. Published by Australian Film Commission ph 1800 226615.
" Use of Artistic Work in Australian Publications is a recent report which helps to define the patterns of ownership governing the use of artistic works in Australian publications was prepared for Copyright Agency Ltd and VISCOPY. It is a study into current practice, patterns of ownership and relevant contractual arrangements related to artistic works. Not surprisingly the survey found that no copyright in fine art (to use the old terms - that's painting, sculpture etc) was owned by publishers. However, given the high use of illustrations etc in educational publications, approximately 20% of this copyright material was retained by publishers.
" A New Design Philosophy: an Introduction to Defuturing by Tony Fry, looks at how and why the world has been designed into unsustainability and how to use this knowledge find new paradigms for design. Published by Univ of NSW Press.
" Grandiflora is a lavish book of portraits of individual flowers, some colour, some black and white. It was written by a Sydney florist Saskia Havekes and photographed by her partner Gary Heery and is quite hypnotic in its seemingly endless supply of shape and colour. Published by Viking $60.
" Bareback: a Tomato Project resembles an artist's book except that it is a commercial publication printed in full colour. It has text, images, layouts, grids, patterns, it has a sci-fi story of sorts interleaved with some very prosaic diary-style writing and images of everyday things. A book which teases an puzzles. Published by Laurence King Publishing in London.
" Tree Stories is a book by the photographer Peter Solness of his four year labour of love to photograph and document the spiritual relationship that people have with trees. This grew from his investigation of logging in Papua New Guinea some years back. His exhibition of the same name is on at Stills Gallery, Sydney until 23 December. Ph (02) 9331 7775 for details.
" Spirit Country: Contemporary Australian Aboriginal Art by Jennifer Isaacs draws on the Gantner Myer Aboriginal Art Collection which was shown in San Francisco this year, for the first time. It is divided into the Desert, the Kimberley, and Arnhem Land, Tiwi Islands and the Gulf country and is a series of short introduction to regional styles and individual artists with an unusually large number of very big colour reproductions. Published by Hardie Grant in association with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco $49.95
Living Treasures/Hidden Treasures
We are researching an issue of Artlink on the theme of significant talent which has not received adequate recognition by the art world and the market even after a lifetime of work as an artist. Readers are invited to nominate senior artists whom they think fit that description. Please write, fax or email us with your reasons.
Other themes for 2000 are: March - indigenous arts; June - Asian art and Australia; Sept - Hidden treasures; Dec - revisiting the debates: two decades of Artlink.