Heads Will Roll…

Here is a “Heads Up” on three different artists who have headed-up in the name of art.

Sarah McConnellDropped Heads‘ (2008) [Ceramic 140 x 80 x 18 cm overall] from Access Gallery exhibition, Bayside Arts & Cultural Centre in 2017 – ‘Clay at Firbank‘ which was a survey exhibition of high quality ceramic work produced by Firbank Grammar students. The exhibition celebrated learning and craftsmanship within the medium of clay, showcasing works at various stages of learning, including the use of clay to create conceptual works for the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) level.

Rosemary LaingRemembering Babylon #7′ (A collection with Stephen Birch 2003) [Type C photograph 55 x 84 cm] from ‘One Dozen Unnatural Disasters in the Australian Landscape’ at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, 2005. Laing (Born 1959, Brisbane Queensland) now lives and works in Sydney. She originally trained as a painter in the late 1970s and began incorporating photography in the late 1980s. Since then, Laing has produced project-based photographic work, often cinematic in vision and real-time performance and physical installation rather than digital manipulation.

Ron MueckMass’ (2016-2017) National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Comprises 100 synthetic polymer paint on fibreglass [550 x 1480 x 5010 cm]. Mueck (born 1958, Melbourne) is an Australian-born hyper-realist sculptor. Inspired by the human skull ‘Mass‘ has reminiscences with Dutch still-life and the vanitas painting genre of 16th-17th centuries. See further information about Ron Mueck in my earlier post.

So it would seem, (based on the above), that if not placed correctly – heads will roll!

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In the Room and Around the ‘Bend

[Above left: Fisherman’s Bend (1963) and above right: The Room]

Australian artist Victor George O’Connor was born in Preston, Melbourne on 21 December, 1918. He studied at the prestigious Melbourne High School and studied law at Melbourne University where in late 1941, at the age of 23, he completed his law degree and went into the army. With an interest in both art and politics, he became active in the Australian Realist movement. His work is represented in the Australian National Gallery as well as in various state and regional galleries.

  • In the 1960s, O’Connor moved to Sydney where he became a full-time artist with frequent exhibitions at the Australian Galleries and the Victorian Artists Society.
  • In 1983, he bought ”Woodside” in Dromana; which would become his home for the next 27 years, where he continued his art.
  • In the late 1980s O’Connor rented a studio in Fitzroy, and painted scenes around Melbourne’s inner suburbs.

After the death of his second wife, in 2004 he had  aspirations about painting again, but due to arthritis in his hands and poor eyesight he moved into an aged-care home in Fitzroy,  where he died on 8 September, 2010, at the age of 91.

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Looks Like the Death of the Library

[Above: Architectural Fragment by Petrus Spronk].

Architectural Fragment (1992) is a Pythagorean triangle which expresses a strong association with the geometry of ancient Greece. The sculpture is made from Port Fairy blue stone and is situated outside the State Library of Victoria, on the corner of Swanston & LaTrobe Streets, Melbourne. It was created by Dutch-born, Australian sculptor Petrus Spronk. He was commissioned to undertake this as part of Swanston Street Walk Public Art Project in 1992.

  • Petrus Spronk immigrated to Australia in 1957 and trained as a ceramicist and sculptor in South Australia. These days the artist lives in a clearing in the forest, near Daylesford in Victoria, working in his studio and tending to his vegetable garden.

In ‘Architectural Fragment‘ the sculpture represents a fragment of the library emerging from the pavement as an archaeological artifact might.  Spronks’ intention was to create a dialogue between art, history and place. His inspiration was Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem Ozymandias which speaks of the fragile and transient nature of all that is human. Quoting from the poem the pedestal reads:

‘My name is Ozymandias,
King of Kings.
Look on my work you mighty,
and despair’.

Like a fallen classical monument ‘Architectural Fragment‘ reflects the past and alludes other transience of the present. However, it still looks like it is slipping away, representing the death of the library.

It is also a great skate board mount!

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Jack Dracula | The Marked Man

Photo: Jack Dracula by Diane Arbus.

Jack Dracula: “The Marked Man” had over 1000 tattoos which in his day were valued at US$6000. Some notables include: a pair of trompe-Poeil goggles, the winged cap of Mercury with a rose cluster across his crown; a two-foot wide eagle across his chest, a tiger and snake wrestling, a werewolf stares from his kneecap and on the inside of his under lip is inscribed the name DRACULA. He is also adorned with winged dragons, a peacock, geisha girl, a cigar-smoking skull, a hypodermic entitled Death Needle, the names of his three heroes: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney and on his fingers the initials of some obscenity which his girl friends were so good at deciphering that he finally converted the ones on his left hand into flowers.

Jack Dracula was was the stage name for Martin Semnack who was born on Christmas Day, 1935, in Brooklyn, New York. After a stretch in the US Navy he returned to Brooklyn but was unable to find permanent work and started hanging out in Coney Island. In 1954 he got his first tattoo. This was just the start of a fifty-year career as a tattooed man. In the 1950s-1960s Dracula worked with many tattooists including Eddie Funk, Tom Yeomans and operated shops in Camden and Philadelphia. He also worked in the 1960s as a sideshow attraction for Ringling Brothers Barnum Bailey Circus, Amusements American Carnival, Dave Rosen’s Wonderland Sideshow in 1957, Riverview Park in 1962, Jerry Lipko’s Shows in 1963, Palisades Park in 1964 and the Huber Museum in New York City.

  • A 1970s news article about Dracula stated that he was a gourmet cook, a certified wine connoisseur and an amateur archaeologist.
  • He was a well-versed opera fan and member of the Mario Lanza Institute.
  • Dracula also had a large collection of antique jade.
  • Diabetes and lung problems forced Dracula to retire in the 2000s and on January 18th, 2011 he died at the Park Pleasant Nursing Home in Philadelphia.

Dracula was an authority on necromancy and a writer and devotee of horror stories and introduced Diane Arbus to the literary netherworld.  The following is a fragment from his writings entitled “A visit From Count Dracula“.

‘Twas the night before Christmas
When all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Except a dead mouse.

Much of the information mentioned above was originally published by the Tattoo Archive © 1997 (Updated 2016).

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Ex Libris: To Library of Congress Subject Headings

Gil McKenzie – Ex Libris.  McKenzie describes this artwork: “Essentially my aim was to bring new life to old objects. In my sculpture, Ex libris, I used old books which I sourced from op shops, my own home, and those that were given to me by friends and family. Throughout my design process I worked with a huge range of pre-used objects, but I settled on books as I was drawn to the colours and textures of their covers and the aged brown colour of the pages.”

  • McKenzie became interested in the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, which is the celebration of beauty in imperfection, and felt that books epitomised this concept.
  • Wanting to make her art pieces unique and personal she began incorporating maps, such as topographical maps of local areas. She transferred the maps onto the books and carved contours into the covers and pages.

This work was displayed at the 2015 StArt Up: Top Arts. This annual exhibition presents the work of Victoria’s freshest and most inspiring young artists and builds on a well-earned reputation for being one of the liveliest and most visited exhibitions at the Ian Potter Centre: National Gallery of Victoria, at Federation Square.

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I Found it at the Dock

Barbara Rowe artist and Melburnian Docklands resident, uses material found throughout the Docklands area for her art. Rowe has also taken inspiration from the immediate surrounds to produce these woven forms.

  • Harbour Ball (2012-13) palm inflorescence. Found: Harbour Esplanade. Technique: random weave
  • Central Line (2014) nylon fishing line and driftwood. Found: Central Pier. Technique: knitted. (not pictured).
  • Jellyfish (2010) flax. Found: Etihad Stadium. Technique: twined. Inspired by jellyfish seen throughout the Docklands waterways.

Art display by Barbara Rowe at the Docklands Library aka ‘The Dock’, Melbourne.

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Fictitious Realities are No Hi-Jinks

  • Above: Untitled “Babies” (2012), silicone, pigment, resin and human hair. (36 cm x 36 cm x1 8 cm) Courtesy of artist and Sullivan + Strumpf, Sydney.
  • Also: “The Hanging Man” (2005), silicone, fibreglass, aluminium, human hair, pigments (140 cm x 52 cm x 28 cm) Collection of McClelland Sculpture Park + Gallery, Victoria.

Sam Jinks (Born 1973 in Bendigo, Victoria) is a self-taught artist. After working as a commercial illustrator, he later worked on props and then stop-motion animation for TV and film.

  • By the 199os he was specialising in special effects and prosthetic makeup for the film industry.
  • Through this association he became familiar with high-tech professional materials and techniques that he developed and later used in his art.

Jinks uses realism to create Fictitious Realities involving the human body where his ability to render precise detail entices the viewer into closer inspection and identification with the humanity of his creations.

These works were exhibited at the Bayside City Council Fictitious Realities art exhibition.

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Old Spoke – For Oksep Pokes

OKSEP street art may still be found around Melbourne’s streets and lane-ways. His work is extremely dark and somewhat disturbing.

  • He has borrowed upon Wild Man and has re-imagined it with one of his dark and ghostly characters, grasping him on the thigh, shouting Oksep!
  • See also my previous post “Compare the Pair: This is Wild Man” where Oksep embraces Ron Mueck’s naked piece.

What Oksep really means is unclear. It could be the name of the street artist, or according to LookDef Oksep (Verb) is the part of speech that expresses existence, action, or occurrence. Or it could be an acronym for Pesko, Spokes or Pokes. Who knows? However, further examples of his street art can be viewed on Street Freak site on Flickr.

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All the Camp Dogs Sing This Song

  • Ku (2012) [Natural ochres with acrylic binder on milkwood] by Garry Namponan; and
  • Ku (2012) [Natural ochres and charcoal with acrylic binder on milkwood] by Roderick Yunkaporta.

Garry Namponan (born 1960+) is a Ku (camp dog) sculpture artist, home is at Aurukun, on the western coast of Cape York Peninsula. Namponan learned his art from his father Angus who also did bark painting. Currently Garry and his brothers are learning carving from Uncle Roderick Yunkaporta (born 1948+). The Aurukun artists work across a range of media including sculpture, printmaking, book illustration and painting.

Namponan studied art at the Bachelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, Northern Territory in the early 1980s and is one of the leading carvers of the Wik and Kugu Art and Craft Centre at Aurukun. His work has been in demand at exhibitions around Australia and he is proud that his younger brothers Leigh, Bevan and Lex, are following his artistic pursuits.

  • Jamu “Camp dog” (2001) – [Pandanus fibre, paperbark, feathers, earth pigments and glass, National Gallery of Victoria], by Lena Yarinkura (Rembarrnga artist, born c. 1961 near Maningrida).

Jamu (dogs) hold special practical significance for Rembarrnga women of Central Arnhem Land, as the artist explains: ‘The men used to go hunting with a spear and the women with a dog. If the men didn’t catch a kangaroo, the women would catch a goanna. If there were neither kangaroo nor goanna then they would eat traditional bush food such as sugarbag, lily root and yam’.

“Great kudos to Ku dogs – and Jamu dogs too!”

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Suggett | I’m Going Down the Corridor via an Ex-Goods Repository

Colin Suggett (Born 1945 in Warrnambool) is a mixed media artist who manipulates perceptions of reality with his miniaturized mixed-media models and tableaux that epitomize and parody contemporary technology and its intrusion into modern culture. Working since the 197os, Suggett addresses big ideas on a small scale using kinetic and trompe l’oeil effects, which engage and invite the viewer into his fictitious Lilliputian worlds.

His animated machines and figures are constructed with superb technical competency, employing robotic elements, lights and sound to create grand illusions that are Fictitious Realities on a small scale. These three items were part of Fictitious Realities exhibition (1 July – 3 September 2017) at the Gallery at Bayside Arts and Cultural Centre.

 

  • In Corridor  (2003) – [Plastic, glass, fibreglass, aluminium, steel, paint, electrical components, (80 cm x 250 cm x 56 cm) Collection of McClelland Sculpture Park + Gallery, Victoria], a naked Dantesque everyman bereft of social identity and protection sits below a ticking clock in a cold utilitarian corridor between two lifts. He is in limbo at one minute to midnight, waiting for the arrival of a lift; will it be for the journey down to purgatory or his ascension to salvation?
  • Ex Goods Repository (Kinetic, 2017) – [Plastic, glass, metal, wood, paint, silicone, electronic/mechanical components (160 cm x 100.50 cm) Collection of artist]. Suggett presents a commentary on human needs over the ages, to create different gods; and by implication, how the procession of gods reflects on our present spiritual beliefs. The viewer encounters a ‘repository’’ a pseudo-scientific containment vault for hazardous materials. Within which sits a small elaborately ornate box (god box). Seemingly at random, an external red light on the vault flashes a red warning and the god box fractures, emitting an intense white light before returning to an inert state.
  • Going Down (Kinetic, 2008) – [Wood, metal, clay, paint, fabric, plastic, electrical/mechanical components (155 cm x 114 cm x 25 cm) Collection of artist]. Going Down was produced at the time of the global financial crisis and presents a critique of contemporary materialism.

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A Swine Young Family

“The Young Family” (silicone, acrylic, human hair, leather and timber) by Patricia Piccinini. (Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria.)

“The Young Family” features an aged, sow-like mother laying on her side with a litter of suckling pups; as an archetypal maternal scene. Her expression is world-weary and sympathetic. The eyes and skin of the mother seem very human, but she has a hairy back and hands of a primate; while her snout, long floppy ears and tail stub seem almost porcine. she has  a human demenour and maternal generosity – Piccinini calls her ‘beautiful’ saying she is not threatening, but a face you could love and a face in love with her family.

About the Artist: Patricia Piccinini (born in Freetown, Sierra Leone in 1965) arrived in Australia in 1972. She completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting at the Victorian College of the Arts in 1991. In 2014, she received the Artist Award from the Melbourne Art Foundation’s Awards for  Visual Arts.

  • Piccinini is one of Australia’s most acclaimed contemporary artists whose digital photographs, 3D forms and video installations creatively explore what is real or imaginary in this age of digital enhancement and scientific genetic engineering.
  • Her works question nature and possible outcomes in experimental biotechnology and its potential impact on society.  The art forms present hybrid, almost mythological creatures; which are often grotesque and uncanny in appearance.
  • Despite their strangeness and artificiality they are convincingly real and imbued with a touching ‘human’ vulnerability that elicits direct empathy from the observer.

Her most recent exhibition ‘Curious Affection‘ was held at the Gallery of Modern Art Queensland (24 March 1918 – 5 August 2018).

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Maersk | Warning: May Contain Traces of Smart Art

The cargo painting by artist Jeff Smart is called Study for Containers and Silos at Zivorno (1990), oil on board (41 cm x 53 cm).

Jeff Smart (Full name: Frank Jeffrey Edson Smart), was born in Adelaide on 26 July 1921. An expatriate Australian painter, he is known for his precision and depictions of urban landscapes that are ‘full of private jokes and playful allusions’. Smart lived in Tuscany for 40 years until his death from renal failure in Arezzo, on 20 June 2013, aged 91. For further information see my earlier post on Smart’s use of crates in art.

  • Smart once made the remark that he enjoyed spending time amidst the ambience of commercial ports and docks. He had a passion for sketching and photographing shipping containers, structures and sea-bound freight but occasionally would get into a scrape when a dockworker inquired: ‘What are you doing?

I think of this artwork every time I pass the docks and see the variety of international shipping containers appear, disappear and reappear during the year.

  • My favourite shipping container is the Danish company – Maersk. To sound its name out loud makes me feel like I am swearing, not like shouting out MSC, Cosco or Hamburg Sud.

Just saying it | Maersk!

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Compare the Pair #19 | This is Wild Man

Australian sculptor Ronald “Ron” Mueck (born 1958, in Melbourne) grew up in the family business of puppetry and doll-making. After spending time working in the family industry, Mueck turned to sculpture. He first came to public attention with his sculpture “Dead Dad” a portrayal of his recently deceased father – at roughly half-scale which was included in the 1997 exhibition Sensation at the Royal Academy of Arts, in London.

Mueck’s works appeared as part of SKIN, at the Ferens Art Gallery, which included Wild Man, (featured above) and a few other Mueck sculptures. His sculptures are renown for their minute details of the human body, playing with scale to produce engrossing visual images (a style known as hyperrealism). Mueck wants his audience to believe that his figures are experiencing certain emotions and for us to empathise with these feelings.

  • Wild Man (2005) shows signs of extreme anxiety, even terror; as he grips the stool and his toes press down onto the floor. Despite the sculptures height (approx. 3 meters high), Mueck has made him look doubly vulnerable. (He is made from polyester resin, fibreglass, silicone, aluminium, wood and synthetic hair).
  • OKSEP street art can be found around Melbourne’s streets and laneways. His work is extremely dark and somewhat disturbing. He has borrowed upon Wild Man and has re-imagined it with one of his dark and ghostly characters, grasping him on the thigh, shouting Oksep!

What Oksep really means is unclear. It could be the name of the street artist, or according to LookDef Oksep (Verb) is the part of speech that expresses existence, action, or occurrence. Or it could be an acronym for Pesko, Spokes or Pokes. Who knows? However, further examples of his street art can be viewed on Street Freak site on Flickr.

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Can We Can Do It? | Yes We Can

The Infamous “We Can Do It!” poster which has become a symbol of women’s empowerment has remained popular since its inception in 1942. The original depicts a 17 year old WW2 factory worker who modeled for the poster which was dubbed ‘Rosie the Riveter’ during the War years.

In real life ‘Rosie the Riveter’ was Geraldine Hoff Doyle (born in Inkster, Michigan on July 31, 1924 and died on December 26, 2010 in Laning, Michigan, aged 86).

In 1942, Geraldine Hoff found work as a metal presser at the American Broach & Machine Co. in Ann Arbor; taking on roles, including factory work, that were formerly considered “male-only.” It was here that a United Press international photographer took a picture of her which was re-imaged by artist J. Howard Miller for Westinghouse Company’s War Production Coordinating Committee.

  • This became the We Can Do It! war effort poster which was also used for anti-absenteeism and anti-strike campaigns.
  • Later, during the 1980s, the poster began to be used by advocates for women’s equality in the workplace.
  • Re-envisaged in the early 2010s it was used by Australian street artist Phoenix during the ‘Gillard Years’.

Phoenix the Street Artist borrowed from this infamous poster during the Julia Gillard campaign as first female Prime Minister for Australia (2010-2013). For further information on Phoenix the Street Artist see MY POST or Phoenix’s site.

Can We Do It? | Yes We Can

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The Art of UNICEF Never Gives Up

[Above: Nicolas Fimbari – The Procession – Italy]

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) provides emergency food and healthcare to children and women in countries that have been devastated by war or other significant emergencies.

UNICEF was created by the United Nations General Assembly on 11 December, 1946 and its first Chairman was Polish physician Ludwick Rajchman.

  • These days UNICEF operates in over 190 countries and territories to save children’s lives, to defend their rights; and to help them fulfil their potential, from early childhood through adolescence.

UNICEF has been selling greeting cards for over 70 years. These cards are beautifully designed and made with a commitment to sustainable forest management and responsible use of the planet’s natural resources.

  • The image “The Procession – Italy” is from a timeless vintage 1960s Christmas card design for UNICEF by Italian artist Nicolas Fimbari.

For those of you who will be celebrating on 25th December:

Merry Christmas | Joyeux Noël | Buon Natale | Frohe Weihnachten | Feliz Navidad | Nollaig Shona Dhuit |Boas Festas | Zalig Kerstfeest | Prettige Kerstdagen/ Zalig Kerstfeest | Wesolych Swiat | Gëzuar Krishlindjet |Eftihismena Christougenna| Sretan Bozi and many more festive greetings to you all

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