Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Fall Guy

Julian Assange is cooling his heels in a British prison as he awaits his day in court on Tuesday, December 14. On that day he will discover whether he is to be sent to Sweden to face 4 counts of sexually inappropriate behavior which include an accusation of rape. With Geoffrey Robinson QC, the human rights lawyer par excellence, rumored to be flying back to the Old Bailey to take part in the proceedings it is destined to be compelling reading.

The interesting part of all this is that back in August when these allegations first saw light of day, Assange was in Sweden and the initial charges were dropped and he was allowed to leave the country. Since then Cablegate has happened.

It is an interesting description for the WikiLeaks expos├ęs to be called Cablegate. Does this have something to do with the gated communities that the privileged elites build for themselves? Could it be supposed that if, when reading this you are in such a community, you are part of the problem rather than the solution? But I digress.

Now there is overt political pressure, read Joe Lieberman and Amazon as one example, being placed upon anyone who has an association with WikiLeaks the question does arise, what pressure is being placed upon Sweden? Unfortunately there are no leaks on this subject.

But as Assange does is porridge, presumably sans an internet connection, the infant terrible website keeps drip feeding its selected MSM outlets with juicy tidbits.

I mean just how dumb are our political masters? Do they really think that WikiLeaks is just one person? Do they think that if they chop off one hydra head another 100 won’t take its place?

It is the problem that got them into this mess in the first place. Whilst they continue to dissemble be assured the truth will come out eventually. And as to Julian Assange, the fall guy, I wish you all the best of British luck.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

And The Subject Is

“The subject of drawing is drawing itself," said the 2010 Dobell Prize for Drawing judge, Sydney artist Alun Leach-Jones, in his comments about Suzanne Archer’s winning work Derangement. He elaborated about his decision saying “Suzanne Archer’s winning work clearly shows her awareness of this profound aspect of the art of drawing – regardless of its apparent subject matter.”

Archer’s charcoal, ink and chalk pastel work, which the judge described as “expressive, darkly poetic and full of drama”, is a self portrait in which she is surrounded by the paraphernalia of her studio. A dehydrated kangaroo, a horse’s head sculpture along with a dead bird, snake skins, skulls, shells and various kinds of road kill, that have either been donated or found in nearby bush land, decorate the artist’s working space. "People say my studio's a little bit like a museum," she told The Australian newspaper.

Her interest in dead animals stemmed from a series of drawings she made in 2002 at Sydney University’s veterinary laboratories. About her subject matter Archer told the Sydney Morning Herald ''Often they're quite contorted and they're much more interesting poses than a live animal.” The 65 year old artist also said "Because I'm a mature-age artist, there is some concern with what the afterlife is about. I suppose because I've worked a lot with those animals that are actually dead, there is a link to thinking about life and death."

The Dobell Prize for Drawing is Australia’s most prestigious award for drawing, with a purse of $25,000 for the winning artist. The acquisitive award was initiated by the Trustees of the Sir William Dobell Art Foundation in 1993 and is administered by the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Derangement along with the 45 finalists selected from 635 entries is on show at The Art Gallery of New South Wales until January 30 next year. More information is available at the Gallery’s website, here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Friday, April 02, 2010

More New Work

Continuing on my interest in the manipulation of language in the vein of "The Sign Says" series these new works look at the proposition from a couple of different angles.
Like an Argument of Insidious Intent (2010)
5 archival inkjet prints of manipulated digital scans
each 16"x12"

Wall Labels (2010)
6 archival inkjet prints
of manipulated photographs
each 16"x12"

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Poblacion Becomes an Art Gallery

This is the 6th year that I have been walking around the barangay I call home enjoying the art created by my fellow residents. I wrote about it a couple of years ago, you can see the post here.

For those who wish to enjoy the art first hand I have made a map of the kalbaryo locations. It takes a good couple of hours to do the full circuit and comfortable walking shoes are recommended.

Enjoy. (click on the map for a larger version)

A New Work

Ceci n'est par un baiser (2010)
Archival inkjet Print
16" x 12"

Monday, February 15, 2010

Photography as an Art Commodity

As part of the "An Aussie in Manila" exhibition currently showing at Sinning Kamalig I gave an illustrated artist's talk last Saturday. For thsoe who missed it here is a transcript of the talk along with some of the pics.

The above is a photograph of the world’s most expensive work of art to be sold at auction. It’s Alberto Giacometti’s sculpture Walking Man I. The bidding started at $12m, 10 Bidders and 8 minutes later it was knocked down $104.3m. That’s $11.5m a minute, nice money if you can get it.

But how much would you pay for this photograph of the statue? Not that much for sure, heck you can download it from the net and make a print for about 15/20 pesos.

And therein lays one of the major dilemmas facing documentary photography. This is especially true of the stock photography market with the majority of the product of what was once a lucrative market now selling at 20 cents a pop.

Now you can do the Spencer Tunick trick of getting people to strip naked at some landmark destination call it an art happening and document the event. Like in the above pic of 600 people on a Swiss glacier commissioned by Greenpeace, although if others document the event the market is shot. Tunick overcomes this problem by restricting access to the site in the name of protecting the dignity of the participants. As a result he has the pics and if you want to see what happened at the happening, who you gonna call?

An alternative is Cindy Sherman’s approach. She dresses up in fancy costumes and shoots a self portrait. Her portrayal of Cinderella, above, is not your Disney presentation of Prince Charming’s desired squeeze, but then that’s Sherman’s bag; the representation of the feminine that challenges the main stream.

Then there is the presentation of the counter culture of sex and drugs and rock’n’roll. Nan Goldin has done very nicely from her work in the 60’s & 70’s. The above pic (Trixi on a cot, NYC, 1979) Reminds me of that great Tom Stoppard line “By the light of a post coital Craven A,” which hails from the same era.

But segue forward 30 years to the work of Dash Snow.

And this aesthetic gets right in your face. The anti always travels in a 'bare' more direction.

For all of these the works of art exist outside the camera, either manufactured or observed, all the camera does is record the moment, make a snapshot if you will. These art works are also transitory, existing for just a moment in time in the case of Goldin and Snow, for as long as she stays in the costume for Cindy Sherman and about 20 minutes for Tunicks happenings. So how does the artist make a living from their art? By recording it for posterity and controlling the supply.

Which is another layer of complexity added to the paradox that all artists face; of not making works to gain public approval, to be liked or to be commercial, yet its necessity to make a living? Of which this talk is a part.

But, there are alternatives to the still photograph such as video for recording these ephemeral events and if you tube and the amount of video art appearing in galleries is anything to go by video is becoming a major contender.

Consequently the future of the photographic medium, like painting before it, lies within the medium, which the post processing capabilities of the computer has made very accessible.

I am a painter at heart who a decade ago adopted the camera and the computer as my principal art making tools and now instead of pushing paint around with a brush I push pixels around with a mouse.

It has been a journey of false starts, getting lost and taking steps backwards. The first pics I was prepared to show in public were from a series dubbed the Neon Series. It was almost like learning to draw again.

After a trip to the US and New York the work started to expand.

But I was getting very tired of the black velvet look and they morphed into this.

The building of a multi level car park inspired the Ripple Series of works.

Arriving the Philippines saw the making of what I call my tourist pics. It was all so new and different.

Then my friend and fellow photographer, Steve Axford, introduced me to a post production process that led to the deconstructed pics I make now.

Although I am pretty sure I stuffed up his process as my work is a lot more abstract than his, or perhaps that is just me.

The above work came about through my limited ability with Tagalog. When the family gets together and start talking in Tagalog at 100 mph I am left watching the body language. To represent this visually I went and shot street signage and deconstructed the shots until the language disappeared.

This is being followed up by the instruction works.

Having brought myself a scanner I am making works from the instruction manuals that come with various toys. For I often find them as indecipherable as room full of people talking Tagalog.

Of course there are other artists out there who are working within the medium and pushing the pixels about.

One of the best is Andreas Gursky. The above shot of the Formulae 1 race track in Bahrain I find particularly appealing.

Likewise LA Artist/photographer Michael Going and his distressed Polaroids.

And then there is Shephard Fairey and his Obama Poster.

Although, he has got himself into a lot of hot water for nicking the original pic for his poster from the internet and not crediting its creator. AFP is suing him for copyright violation but because of his 'remixing' of the pic he is claiming Fair Use. The judge’s decision on that is going to have far reaching implications, not least of which will be a legal definition of what is a photograph.

Many, I suspect, are hoping that the judge is for change.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

An Aussie in Manila

In the tradition of children the world over who pull their toys apart to see what makes them tick, the exhibition “An Aussie in Manila” deconstructs the adopted lifestyle of Philippine-based Australian artist Henry Bateman. In a visual exploration of his 4 years in the Philippine capital and through his unique approach to photography he examines and comments upon his Manila experience.

From a Metro Manila Shopping Mall to the Holy Week celebrations, from observations of the local art scene to a self critical appraisal of his own work, the work in this exhibition is an intellectual journey colored by an antipodean aesthetic.

What is it that distinguishes Manila in the eyes of this Aussie expat?

It’s not only the jumble of the urban streetscape or the overtly polite shop assistants. For Bateman there is more to this Filipino/Chinese/Spanish/American conglomerate. In this profligate meeting of East and West, where for most, the dance is attuned to the melody of the cash register his sojourn has become an enthralling escape from the eucalyptus.

Henry Bateman has been making art for over three decades. His first paid gigs were designing lighting and/or sets for a variety of Australian theatrical productions that ranged from straight theatre, through dance to musicals. In between these jobs he developed his studio practice.

He first showed his studio work in a group exhibition devoted to drawing at Sydney’s Boronia Gallery in 1984. This was followed by a solo exhibition of paintings, later in the same year, at the University of Western Australia. His 1985 exhibition “Hung up on a Wall” attracted controversy over the nudity depicted in the exhibition’s poster, a reproduction of one of the works on display.

At the turn of the century Bateman abandoned painting in favor of photographic based works. It was the post production facilities of the computer that attracted his interest. Over the years he has developed a unique approach to manipulating his photographs that enables him to express his thoughts about his subjects rather than rendering their literal representation. In 2007 a selection of these works were exhibited in Canberra at the Australian National University.

Bateman also writes regularly about the international arts scene for the Los Angeles based contemporary art website and about the local art scene for the Philippine based Expat Travel & Lifestyle Magazine.

The “An Aussie in Manila” exhibition is part of the Australian Embassy’s celebration of its National Day on the 26th of January, showcasing the best of Australian music and art. Known as Celebrate Australia 2010 it will also feature the exhibition White Hot: Contemporary Australia Glass, featuring the works of renowned Australian glass artists from January 27 to February 26 at the Ayala Museum. The Australia Day celebrations also include performances and master classes by didgeridoo virtuoso William Barton and the Orava String Quartet. The group is scheduled to perform on January 27 at Greenbelt 3 Park; January 28 at the Alabang Town Center; and January 29 at the TriNoma.

An Aussie in Manila” will be Bateman’s fourth solo exhibition in the Philippines and his second at the Sining Kamalig Gallery which is situated on the 4th level of the Gateway Mall, Araneta Center, Cubao, Quezon City. The exhibition runs from January 28, 2010 through to February 21, 2010. And at 3pm on February 13 the artist, Henry Bateman, will give an Artist’s Talk entitled “Photographic Art as a Commodity”.