Abstract Photography

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Abstract Photography: Re-evaluating Visual Poetics in Australian Modernism and Contemporary Practice
by Gary Sauer-Thompson & Adam Dutkiewicz
Moon Arrow Press, 2016
ISBN 9780992434854 (pbk)
ISBN 9780992434847 (hbk)

In 2014 the Monash Gallery of Art presented an exhibition titled Photographic Abstractions that toured regional galleries in Victoria into the following year.
It included a number of contemporary photographers, but the artists who were included from before c.1970 were John Cato (1926–2011), Stanislaw Ostoja-Kotkowski (1922–1994), Wolfgang Sievers (1913–2007), Mark Strizic (1928–2012) and David Moore (1927–2003). The abstract effects the curators were interested in materialised through various techniques and approaches that challenge usual conceptions of photography and proposed a “photographic language” less concerned with documentation and more with sensual experience, triggering the imagination and questioning the way we look at life and our world. The photographers’ methods entailed cropping their images, employing unorthodox points of view, and focusing on formal and textural elements. Some even used experimental means to achieve their imagery, such as scanners or electronics, or they manipulated the photographic emulsion, or devised means of montage, with multiple exposures or collage. This range of approaches is also the focus of this monograph, which explores the obscured tradition of abstract photography in Adelaide c.1950−75.

GARY SAUER-THOMPSON presents work from his own series and writes two essays contextualising the subject and interpreting its reception in Adelaide and elsewhere.

ADAM DUTKIEWICZ researches the unexplored tradition of post-war abstract photography in Adelaide, and brings into the light the main practitioners: Stanislaw Ostoja-Kotkowski, Ian Davidson, Dušan Marek, Ludwik Dutkiewicz, John Dallwitz, Jan Dalman, Peter Medlen and Stephanie Schrapel.

Abstract photography offers a means of expression in itself and now constitutes a significant tool in the repertoire of many contemporary photographers and artists. In this book its development as an idiom is examined through a regional focus that points to its universal appeal.

Cover image: John Dallwitz: SB4.379
July 1963 Marino Rocks, 35mm slide

Background image: John Dallwitz: SB4.024
December 1960 Eucla beach, 35mm slide

Cover design: Michal & Adam Dutkiewicz

The book is available for $40 from the publisher: Box 3072 Norwood, South Australia, 5067; or through the Art Gallery of South Australia shop; Royal South Australian Society of Arts gallery; or Pepper Street Gallery shop.

The hardcover version is available from blurb.com:

http://au.blurb.com/b/7364756

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A Visual History: the Royal South Australian Society of Arts 1856-2016

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Front cover, A Visual History: The Royal South Australian Society of Arts, 1856-2016, Volume One, compiled and edited by Adam Dutkiewicz

A Visual History: the Royal South Australian Society of Arts 1856-2016
Volume One
compiled and edited by Adam Dutkiewicz
Royal South Australian Society of Arts Inc., 2016
ISBN 9780994648006

Volume Two will be produced in 2017

The South Australian Society of Arts was founded in October 1856, incorporated in 1894, and received its Royal charter in 1935 for the state’s centenary in 1936. Its aims were  the promotion of the arts, not only painting, photography, and sculpture but also of architecture, decorative design, and decorative and applied arts; and through loans, competitive exhibitions, lectures and the formation of an art library.

It presented Annual Exhibitions, initially in locations such as the Legislative Council and the Adelaide Town Hall. In 1861 the South Australian Institute, formed to house a host of affiliated cultural bodies, provided rooms for the Society in a new building on North Terrace. For some time the Society concentrated on establishing a school of art and design and founding a national gallery.  The School of Art began in its rooms in the Institute and after 1871 it became difficult to secure an adequate venue to house the volume of art work for its annual exhibitions. The National Gallery held its first exhibition in 1881. In 1884 the Society was recognised by Parliament and affiliated to the Public Library,
Museum and Art Gallery of South Australia by Act No. 296.

Charles Hill, 1st President SA Society of Arts, 1909-small

Charles Hill, artist and founder

With its focus on areas other than exhibitions, the Society suffered criticism in the press but received continuing support from government. With membership dwindling, the Society was regenerated by a band of dedicated members, including the Chief Justice, Sir Samuel Way, who had from time to time served as President when Acting Governor of the colony, and the newly appointed Director of the School of Design, Harry Pelling Gill, who was a Vice-President. This core group established a cooperative council comprised of artists, architects, accountants and businessmen who set about rejuvenating the Society, and it held its first annual exhibition for some years in new top lit rooms in the Institute in 1893. It published a significant, illustrated catalogue to accompany the exhibition.

The Society had formal affiliations with the South Australian Photographic Society and the SA Institute of Architects. It hosted the annual exhibitions of the spin-off society, the Adelaide Easel Club, founded by a small band of disaffected senior artists, including the brothers William Wadham and Alfred Sinclair (Wadham), Hans Heysen, Hayley Lever, Rose Macpherson (Margaret Preston) before the Society’s renewal, in 1892. It lasted until 1901, when it was amalgamated with the senior society once again.

SA Society of Arts exhibition 1893

Scott Barry (photographer): The SA Society of Arts Annual Exhibition 1893 – west room albumen photograph, RSASA Archives

In 1898 the Society expanded its exhibition programme to include the Federal exhibitions, formed with funds from the bequest of Thomas Elder in order to provide the means by which pictures could be acquired from artists across the colonies to form the core of an Australian collection for the National Gallery. The Federal Exhibitions ran until 1923, at which time it was decided they had fulfilled the intended purpose.

New rooms and a permanent gallery were added in a north wig to the Institute Building , opening in 1907; the Society still occupies these rooms and presents regular exhibitions in the gallery. In the 1920s the Society began to show more and more solo exhibitions by its star artists, and helped to launch the careers of ambitious young painters and etchers; people like Hans and Nora Heysen, Gustave Barnes, Leslie Wilkie, Will Ashton, Hayley Lever and d’Auvergne Boxall, Allan Glover, Fred Millward Grey,  Jospeh Goodhart, Marie Tuck, Dorrit Black, Horace Trenerry  and Max Ragless all showed solo exhibitions.

In the 1930s it promoted the Arunta watercolour painters, and was one of the first galleries in Adelaide to present work by the Papunya Tula painters in the 1970s and 80s. It gave birth to the Contemporary Arts Society in the early 1940s, through its junior, more modernist inclined members, and continued to show its annual and major exhibitions until it secured its own premises in 1964. It hosted annual exhibitions of the Adelaide Camera Club well into the 1950s, as well.

The Society was a base and means by which many refugee and migrant artists were able to build their careers in Adelaide after the Second World War. Artists like Dusan and Voitre Marek, Wladyslaw and Ludwik Dutkiewicz, Stan Ostoja-Kotkowski, Ieva Pocius, Alexander Sadlo, Stanislaus Rapotec, Lidia Groblicka and many others were Fellows of the Society and regular exhibitors in group, prize and in solo exhibitions. It has always accommodated potters, carvers, illustrators, photographers and creative and genre painters of all kinds.

It runs satellite groups, like the Sketch Club (est. 1923 by Henri van Raalte) and the Outdoor Painting Group. It maintains associations with other art societies and suburban groups, as well as formal affiliations with the Friends of the SA School of Art. It offers several prizes, including the Portrait Prize and Solar Art Prize exhibitions, as well as smaller prizes in its members exhibitions every year.

Its presidents have included architects, ceramic artists, sculptors, modellers, painters, etchers, illustrators, photographers, textile artists and art critics.

The first volume, which features the early history and officials of the Society, was released to coincide with the Society’s 16oth anniversary celebrations in October 2016. It is available from the society in two editions: for $75 (deluxe paperback) or $50 (economy paperback):

www.rsasarts.com.au

rsasarts@bigpond.net.au

Royal South Australian Society of Arts Inc., Level 1, Institute Bldg, cnr North Tce & Kintore Ave, Adelaide 5000; Postal Address: PO Box 177, Rundle Mall, Adelaide, 5000

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Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz

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Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz – photo by Peter Medlen, 1962

Upon his arrival in Australia in 1949, Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz’s art was not too
experimental: the paintings he managed to execute in Bavaria after the war were
solid exercises in landscape, still-life and portraiture, in which he searched to
find his “voice”. They were produced in a well-crafted, rather academic style, but
showed flair with brushwork and a finely tuned sensibility and flair for expression
and abstraction. His early paintings here, however, indicate an amazing and
torrential outpouring of pent-up creative energy. Wlad’s first solo exhibition was
at Curzon Gallery, Adelaide, in early June 1951; the work caused a sensation
among the circles of artists and exhibition-goers. During his first solo shows at
the RSASA patrons were seen queuing up the stairs and outside of the Institute
Building waiting for the gallery to open.

The enormous and wide-reaching impact Wlad had on the art world in
Adelaide extended beyond visual arts. The research undertaken on the Adelaide
theatre scene in the exhibition A Brush with the Stage (1992) fully
revealed his experience in theatre, both in Hohenfels in Germany and in
Adelaide. We discovered, for instance, that he had retained his concept sketch for
a set for the opera La Traviata, which he had prepared in post-war Germany, and exhibited it in his first major exhibition in Australia in 1951. It was a surprise to find that his sepia-coloured, daguerreotype-like sets for Francis Flannagan’s production of Alexander Ostrovsky’s A Man Must Live, in November 1950, were his first achievements to catch the eyes of critics in Australia. Soon after he was commissioned to design sets for Iris Hart’s production of Federico Garcia Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba (1951) and again for Flannagan’s interpretation of Ivan Turgenev’s A Month in the Country (1952). While recovering from his accident in 1957, he collaborated with Thomas Steel on the set designs for John Edmund’s productions of Fallen Angels and Bus Stop, and collaborated with Jacqueline Hick, with whom he often painted in the studio of Francis Roy Thompson, on Anna Karenina in 1959.

From 1959 until 1962 he ran his own theatre group, the Art Studio Players, resprising his activities in DP camps after the war, directing several productions and acting in some of them, including Maxim Gorky’s The Lower Depths (1960). He later acted in television dramas for Crawford Productions in Melbourne.  His final stage production was Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck for the Adelaide University Theatre Guid, in 1967.

In painting, Wlad’s exploration of modernist styles and his personal synthesis of them, in his first several years in Adelaide, were truly remarkable, especially in the context of Australian art of the period. This was duly noted by a number of people attuned to contemporary art, most notably Max Harris and Ivor Francis, who wrote glowing reports on this “New Australian” artist and the impact he was having on the local art scene.
Within a year Lisette Kohlhagen and Dorrit Black, before her death in 1951, were also heaping praise while the conservative reviewers were horrified. The debate about radical modernism in Adelaide was reignited well before the French Painting Today touring exhibition in 1953, an event often highlighted as a turning point in Australian art, as it heralded the rise of abstract painting.

Wlad had won the Cornell Prize at the Contemporary Art Society on its inaugural occasion in 1951 and again in 1955; in the intermediate years he won several medals and prizes, and later the Advertiser Prize (shared with Erica McGilchrist). He was one of seven artists featured in the film Painting 1950-1955 South Australia, selected by his peers at the CAS of SA. He was included in Survey 1 at National Gallery of Victoria in 1958; the Helena Rubinstein at Art Gallery of NSW in 1958; Contemporary Australian Art at Auckland Art Gallery 1960 (which later toured to two other public galleries in New Zealand – Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui and Christchurch Art Gallery); Recent Australian Painting, at Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1961; and Australian Artists at Raymond Burr Galleries in Beverly Hills, USA (1961).

He had major survey exhibitions in Royal SA Society of Arts 1961; Lidums Gallery 1975; Greenhill Galleries, Adelaide 1989; Hilton International Hotel, Adelaide, 1991; Royal SA Society of Arts 1993; BMG Art 1995; and Royal SA Society of Arts, 2005.

In recent years he was featured in Paint[h]ing at the Australian Experimental Art Foundation in Adelaide (2010), curated by Domenico de Clario; Cubism and Australian Art, at Heide Museum of Modern Art (2009), curated by Lesley Harding and Sue Cramer; and Modern Being, Art Gallery of South Australia (2016-17), curated by tracey Locka nd Ellie Freak.

http://aeaf.org.au/exhibitions/10_painthing.html

https://www.heide.com.au/exhibitions/cubism-australian-art

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Adam Dutkiewicz

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Adam Dutkiewicz, photo by Ursula Dutkiewicz, 2010

Adam Jan Dutkiewicz was born in Adelaide in 1956. He matriculated at Adelaide
Boys’ High School then went on an extended gap year during which he attended
the “university of life”. In the early-mid 1980s he studied Creative Writing,
Printmaking, Drawing and Painting at Hartley CAE and Communications
Studies as it transitioned to the Magill campus of the University of South
Australia. During this time he was managing editor and publisher of Words And
Visions (arts showcase) magazine, which became WAV Publications, producing
18 issues of the magazine and several books of fiction and poetry by mostly
South Australian writers. In 1986 he co-edited The Land of Ideas, a collection of
short stories for children, with Pauline Wardleworth; and in the following year
edited Tales from Corytella, the collected stories of Flexmore Hudson, his old
English teacher at high school. He worked as an assistant to Professor Ian Forbes
on the history of the Queen Victoria Hospital in 1987.

In 1990 he travelled overseas, absorbing art and theatre. Upon his return he completed his Honours year, working with Dr Catherine Speck. In 1991–92 he worked as an assistant to Dr Stephanie Schrapel and designer Katherine Sproul on the historic A Brush with the Stage exhibition, in conjunction with the Performing Arts Collection. In October 1992 he held his first major solo exhibition at RSASA and was elected Fellow and shortly thereafter President of the society.

During his time as President he oversaw the production of a number of historic exhibitions, including surveys for Jacqueline Hick, Francis Roy Thompson, Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz, the first of two survey exhibitions by visiting Chinese master artist Fu Hua, Rita Hall and the society’s Sketch Club. He also edited and produced Kalori, the society’s journal. During his presidency membership grew and he pursued an agenda of  eclecticism, elevated professionalism and modernisation of the society (he brought computers into the RSASA office) and its membership, which met with considerable resistance. His term received support from Quit (later Foundation SA), which promoted a healthy, non-smoking lifestyle, so he was able to publish an extensive array of catalogues
with most of the aforementioned and other society exhibitions. He exhibited the first example of digital art shown in the society. His dedicated and hard-working Secretaries were Jan Howser, Donna West Brett and Maria Maiorano. His Council were supportive and appreciative of his long hours and total commitment.

From June 1992 until November 2005 he worked as freelance art critic for The Advertiser newspaper and has also worked for Business Review Weekly, Art Monthly Australia online and The Independent Weekly (2006–08). He also curated several exhibitions of work by his father and other family members, and an exhibition on Polish-Australian artists for Polart at Adelaide Festival Centre.

In 1997 he was awarded a scholarship by the University of South Australia to undertake a doctoral degree at the South Australian School of Art in visual art history and theory. His thesis was essentially a history of abstract painting in Australia. He is the author of numerous catalogue essays and monographs, including on his father and uncle and other post-war, South Australian émigré artists and architects, and was contributing editor and writer for Australian Modern Design, published in Brisbane. His photographic essay of the salt fields at Dry Creek, The Path to Salt was published in 2012; since then he has produced a full biography on his late father; Francis Roy Thompson: Painter of Grace & Rebellion (2014) with Carrick Hill; and is currently working on a series of books on post-war photography in Adelaide, with photographer Gary Sauer-Thompson. Since 2011 he has pursued photography as his principal artistic medium.

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Ian Fairweather

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Front cover of Murray Bail’s seminal biography of the Scottish-born Australian artist Ian Fairweather

Ian Fairweather by Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz

Every retrospective exhibition is worthwhile for those who wish to study art, and the exhibition of the work of Ian Fairweather in the National Gallery [AGSA] gives the onlooker at least an idea of how the artist achieves the final phase of his development. Probably they would not consider this phase as important a contribution to art in Australia as his early period.

In the landscape and figure stud[ies] of his early work, he begins to animate objects successfully, but it is still only a discipline imposed upon his personal sensitivity. His baroque-like early paintings are the beginning of his departure to his extremely personal style. The robust lines which appear in the latest pictures are the result of those pencil lines clearly seen in his early paintings, which developed to his brush lines of the semi-abstract on such huge canvases. The early discipline of freely handled pencil lines lead to the vigorous brush curves which give proof that he broke completely away from the classical prettiness through the study of Chinese calligraphy.

In his last stage, different pictures arrive in solemn, organic forms . One can say that he redresses the European character of his work through the universal theme of people, into a critical simplicity transforming them into unknown surroundings of primitive-like eternity and sharply creates a transparency of background in which human bones and anatomical details from the static classical sense disappear. Those abstract lines liberate the paintings from his previous baroque schooling (No. 7) and introduce to us a contemporary mosaic on a high aesthetic level. Deliberate simplification of figures, disintegration of the two-dimensional forms by strokes and lines with light from the background make those figures move in magical rhythm – an organic harmony of dramatic clumsiness.

Every picture with those dark lines is free from static masses and yet suggest[s] realism through its artistic objective and emotional approach.

Ian Fairweather consciously discarded his previous pictures which only suggested the imitation and illusion of nature. He resigned from using perspective models and other literary means, but many of our painters today would be happy to have achieved as much as he had done at that stage. Years of experience and a long devoted life to art, allowed him to create a sufficiently organic style comparable to the language of forms in shorthand – a style in which elementary forms inherit a simplicity of compact lines and col ours. By simplification I mean reduction of mass by linear structure, or that the open planes superimposed on the contours of the figures are not a point of departure only, but are sharply defined contours of existence in the uni verse. The veteran artist’s inner experience comes to the surface like magic gestures of the spring of life.

Some criticism can be levelled at the poor material which he uses – cartons, cardboard, which is already buckled, and second-hand masonite scraps which he has joined together.

Criticism can also be made of the framing which he had definitely done himself, and which now deserves to be changed to a better quality by collectors. In hi s early work he used oil on cardboard and gouache. Some oil is already cracking – probably he has used house paint. All other works of his second phase are mostly painted in tempera or self-made colour.

But Ian Fairweather’s work cannot be dimmed by things of such minor importance, which cannot camouflage the heights to which this hermit has already climbed during his long  life.

Originally published in Kalori 3, no 4 (Dec. 1965), p. 14 (ed. Betty Jew)

http://www.biblio.com/book/fairweather-murray-bail/d/932205451?aid=frg&utm_source=google&utm_medium=product&utm_campaign=feed-details&gclid=CJ2a07HlldICFQsFKgod4O0HtQ

 

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Ludwik Dutkiewicz

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Ludwik Dutkiewicz with one of his sculptures, photograph by Graeme Hastwell, c.1990

Introduction to LUDWIK DUTKIEWICZ (1921-2008): A SURVEY
An exhibition of the artist’s work from 1950-2000s, RSASA Gallery, Adelaide, January – February 2011

Ludwik Dutkiewicz was born in Stara Sol, outside Lwow, Poland, in 1921. After traumatic experiences during the war, throughout which time he was protected by an older brother, Wladyslaw, he found his way to a Displaced Persons’ camp in Bavaria, where he stayed for
four years, working in a touring theatrical troupe and in administration.

He migrated to Australia in 1949 and settled in Adelaide. In 1951 he held a joint exhibition with Wladyslaw at the Royal South Australian Society of Arts (RSASA), after which he was elected Fellow. In 1953 he was awarded the Cornell Prize at the Contemporary Art Society of South Australia (CASSA) and won it again in 1954. He was recognized as one of several of South Australia’s most progressive artists of the era, who were featured in the film Painting 1950-1955 South Australia. He exhibited with a selected CASSA group in London in 1954, and was a member of the Adelaide Group, which showed work in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne until 1957. He was Vice-President or committee member of the CASSA from 1954-62, and lectured for several years at the South Australian School of Art.

Ludwik arrived in Australia as an expressionist painter but soon became a committed abstractionist. At that time there was almost no abstract art here, and certainly none in Adelaide: indeed, he and his brother pioneered that territory in South Australia. The brothers were attracted to this area as a reaction against the kind of art promulgated by the Nazis in Western Europe and Stalinists in the Eastern Block. They also believed fine
art should be imaginative and should free itself of tired and clichéd, representational forms; and that it had evolved in modern times to expand beyond illustration of people and their environment.

Ludwik joined the staff of the Botanic Gardens on 19 February 1953 as a botanical  illustrator. His work in this field was published in many journals and books, and has received international recognition. During his final years in the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium he concentrated on line drawings and his work features extensively in the early volumes of the Journal of the Adelaide Botanic Garden, The Flora of Central Australia
(1981), The Flora of South Australia by J. P. Jessop and H. Toelken (1986) and, in his year of retirement, Flowering Plants in Australia by B. Morley and H. Toelken (1983). He was also included in the 6th International Exhibition of Botanical Art & Illustration, Pittsburgh (1988). There are some 1500 of his illustrations in the Gardens’ archive.

From 1964, Ludwik shifted much of his creative energy into film. In a partnership with scriptwriter/photographer Ian Davidson he directed Transfiguration, which featured the music of Anton Bruckner and was shown in the Sixth Adelaide Film Festival; it received
an AFI award for Best Black and White Photography and is in the collection of the Museum Of Modern Art in New York. He made two other films in the mid-late 1960s with Davidson: Reflections and Time in Summer, the latter a feature film that was selected for the Berlin
Film Festival.

Dr Brian Morley, in the opening speech for his 1987 retrospective exhibition, observed that the “artistic output of [Ludwik] Dutkiewicz shows a remarkable dicothomy between the abstract paintings extending over more than thirty years carried out in his private time
and the accomplished botanical illustrations undertaken as a public servant.”

This book shows the convergences and divergences of these activities as well as the artist’s explorations over a range of media, highlighting especially many of his paintings in oils and acrylics, graphics and his black and white photography.

from Ludwik Dutkiewicz: Adventures in Art (Adelaide: Moon Arrow Press, 2009)

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Theory of Light & Line

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Brian Claridge, letter to Kultura, Paris, dated 30 June c.1955

The Polish-Australian artist, Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz, has developed his own particular form of expression. Two things were responsible for this. The first was the desire to escape the direct influence of any previous master, and not to merely continue to exploit an idiom already established. The second was the belief that there must be a way by which an artist can keep working without having to wait for his inspiration to suddenly happen – that he should not have to rely on the good fortune of a heaven-sent inspiration, but should be able to discover inspiration for himself by working with this in view.

An account of the method of working that Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz evolved as a result of these impulses is included in the enclosed paper.

There are two important consequences of this method outlined. One is that a most significant expression has resulted which I believe is a definite and important contribution to art. The artist has achieved, in those of his paintings which are so far based entirely on the method, work that must take its place in world art as advancing beyond the so far accepted artistic expressions. The other point that emerges is the possibility that this method as applied to painting is a particular aspect of a more general inception that will have applications in other arts and other fields of thought. It is this possibility in which we are now interested. This is suggested at the end of the paper.

So far, tentative experiments have been made in music and poetry, and with sculptural and architectural forms, with encouraging results.

I cannot help feeling that it is significant that, with Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz expressing his ideas purely in the terms of a painter, he has been able to give to non-painters the suggestion of a new approach in their own work (architecture in one case, music and poetry). This must mean that, somehow, he has been able to communicate through particular terms a more general conception. Although this has not actually been expressed, it has, nevertheless, been intuitively grasped and worked upon. This strongly points to the possibility of there being a more general and fundamental expression of his idea that, once formulated, could prove useful in many other fields of activity.

It was to consider this point that the enclosed paper was prepared and recently presented to a selected group of possibly interested people. Not all of them were necessarily familiar with the development of modern art. It was hoped to discover the reactions of others who may be regarded as authoritative in their respective spheres.

Those chosen were (i) a physicist with an interest in but apparently no deep feeling for or knowledge of art; (ii) the Professor of Philosophy at the Adelaide University who showed no feeling for art; (iii) the resident conductor of our Symphony Orchestra who is a scholar of music and a composer as well as an art lover; (iv) a lecturer in philosophy who has, apparently, a knowledge and appreciation of art; (v) a local art collector, dilettante – a most widely read and informed person with very definite opinions.

The general view of these people seemed to be an acknowledgement that the artist’s method was worth considering, but that it was, perhaps, only one of several methods that could give similar results. Little was said about the possible extension of the method, although the musician could see a limited application almost at once, and had a better appreciation at the end of the discussion. The last mentioned in the group above has subsequently said that he has tried the method and found it useful in drawing in which he is interested.

But generally, the people were unable to enter into the spirit of the idea, not able to rise above being specialists. They lacked the imagination to see possible applications of the way of working. I feel that here in Adelaide – and possibly in Australia – it would be well-nigh impossible to find authoritative people with an appreciation of arts and minds flexible enough to escape the limits of their particular line of thought to discuss and develop the idea with.

Further, artists with whom we’ve discussed it have only vaguely claimed either that they are doing something similar when their work proves conclusively that they are not, or that there are plenty of others already doing it, but cannot give any example when asked for it.
My reason for writing to you is that I feel it would be interesting to discover if there are any people working in this way at all, and to exchange ideas with them. This is the sort of investigation that needs sympathetic and creative minds working together, as has been the case with significant art movements. As we have not yet found such people in Australia, we are looking for ways to find them abroad.

I would greatly appreciate it if you or any of your writers would consider the suggested extension of the artist’s method. If you feel that it is worthwhile, perhaps you might publish something of these details in Kultura. Through this, interested people may have a chance of working together.

I am enclosing one or two reproductions of Dutkiewicz’s work which I hope will give you an idea of his work. One is a mural in my home that represents an earlier development of his method.

[Handwritten letter ends]

***

[On Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz’s “Theory of Light and Line”]

The role of the artist is to establish relationships between man and his world – to make new realms of feeling accessible – to give an emotional significance to aspects of our life that normally lack it.

This has been done by artistic methods which have been derived from the physical appearance of our world, or from the scientific knowledge that attempts to explain it, or has been done simply by intuition.

Further, the art of any era has only made real contributions toward establishing new relationships between man and his world when the methods have been consistent with the thought and knowledge of the time.

These methods, however, have always given rise to forms of expression in terms of man himself – man as existing in space and time interpreting other things and phenomena existing in space and time. Art has never appeared to seek further than this, although there have been philosophical suggestions that our experience of the world does not represent the true nature of things. This view has developed from Kant, who maintained that space and its characteristics and time are products of our consciousness. The placing of things in space and time exists only in us, and not in the things themselves.

No form of artistic expression has taken such ideas into account. Since the beginning of this century when these ideas, first suggested by Kant, were at last taken up by others, modern art, too, has developed forms of expression in terms of man himself – not in terms of man outside himself.

One of the last and most important statements in art considered to be in line with today’s thought and knowledge is that of the Cubists. This appears to be consistent with the new space-time conception described by Einstein and Minkowski1 with the simultaneous representation of various aspects of the one object, regarded as an artistic parallel to the ideas of relativity. We can no longer think it possible to fully describe an object from a single point of reference – a moving point of reference is necessary to fully comprehend an object.

But the cubist approach – the simultaneous representation of several facets of the object or group of objects is really just as inadequate as the single aspect represented by classical perspective. The cubist statement, from two or three, or even a hundred points of reference, all still with a definite relationship to the object, falls as far short of the infinite number of random points of reference suggested by the notion of relativity as does the single aspect presented by classical perspective. The cubist attempt to achieve full description now appears naive and inadequate. It can be regarded only as a first approximation – nevertheless an important one – to an art form fully parallel to our new space-time conception.

In the developments of cubism which were purely abstract, with no reference to any specific object, the art possesses no qualities in any way related to this conception. The moment the object is abandoned, the cubist approach loses its true and original significance. We find the artists returning to colour and texture, as, without the object, they have nothing to say other than in colour and form harmonies.

Of the artists concerned with abstract art and not connected with the cubists, Kandinsky stands as most important, and something of a prophet. In his writing as well as in his painting, he tried to establish the principles of artistic harmony and counter-point, and was concerned with the psychic effect of forms on man. He abandoned objective painting in favour of abstract because he feared obscuring pure art by the emotions aroused by objects. He loved ‘only form that comes of necessity from the spirit, and had been created by the spirit’. He maintained that ‘the Philosophy of Art will in the future study with particular attention the spirit of things as well as their physical existence – an atmosphere will be created which will enable the human race to feel this spirit in the same unthinking way it now appreciates external appearance – and through this, the spirit of matter and finally the spirit of the abstract will become quite evident to humanity. From this new faculty will spring the joy of pure abstract art.’

Here is the suggestion that there will come an artistic expression which is derived from consideration of things outside of man and his space-time world – that art will be animated by the ‘spirit of things’ – not of particular things, but of all things – rather than by their outward appearance.

Kandinsky, though sensing the future course of art, did not himself go beyond the ‘musical’ aspect of art, his expression being based on the intuitive harmonies, rhythms and counterpoints of lines, colours and forms which comprise his Compositions.
Just at the time that Kandinsky was working and thinking in this direction, the challenge of Kant was again being taken up, and a first understanding of the problem he posed becomes evident. A new approach to the problem of space and time involving the conception of ‘the fourth dimension’ appears.

Kant asserted that everything known to us through the senses is known in terms of space and time, and, by the senses, we know nothing outside of space and time. Kant established the fact that extension in space and existence in time are not properties belonging to things, but are just the properties of our sensuous receptivity. In reality, apart from our sensuous knowledge of things, they exist independently of space and time. Perceiving things sensuously we impose upon them the conditions of space and time. Space and time, then, do not represent properties of the world, but are properties of our knowledge of the world which, in reality, has neither extension in space or existence in time. We require these aids for perceiving the world. A thing having no definite extension in space or existence in time has virtually no meaning for us. A thing not in space will not differ from any other thing in any particular, and may occupy the same place simultaneously with any other thing. And all phenomena not in time – not regarded in relation to past, present, and future would co-exist for us simultaneously. Our consciousness isolates things for us into categories of space and time, but the division exists only in us and in our knowledge of things, and not in the things themselves. Kant left the problem here, suggesting we could never know the real thing itself outside of space and time by nature of our psychic make-up. Schopenhauer, however, suggested we could, through intuition. Later suggestions are that it is possible to develop a higher psychic constitution which will enable us to really know things as they exist independently of space and time. This is the thought based on the conception of the ‘fourth dimension’.

This assertion of the existence of things outside of man’s perception of them – in no relation to the man-imposed divisions of space and time – is suggestive of Kandinsky’s idea of the spiritual aspect of things which he predicted would be the concern of the art of the future, and which goes beyond the mere physical appearance of things.

This leads to an art form in which the expression is not in terms of man himself and his sensuous knowledge of the world, but rather an expression which acknowledges the existence of things in themselves, outside of man. Such expression will result in the creation of new forms which will be derived from the discoveries of a consciousness roaming freely outside the limitations of space and time.

The new forms will exist in their own right, without reference to man’s sensuous knowledge of the world, without any particular reference to how man perceives the objective world, or how science suggests he might see it. The forms will be universally valid as regards the observer’s position in space and time. This, incidentally, will represent the true parallel between an artistic expression and the philosophical and scientific knowledge of our time.

The artistic forms will appear in a way similar to that which may be considered to be the way things, outside of man’s knowledge of them, have come to exist.

The art of Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz is an expression of this kind. It is an art form that takes man outside of himself. It is a first realisation of Kandinsky’s prophecy. Forms result from an understanding of the independent existence of things.

The method W.D. has evolved was arrived at purely intuitively from the desire to produce paintings in a manner entirely new, and which were in no way derived from the methods so far employed.

Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz starts with a series of arbitrarily chosen points in space, inside or outside the limits of the canvas. These are in no particular relationship to each other or to the artist. From any point to any other, pairs of lines are drawn completely freely, spontaneously, the hand guiding, not the mind. And so a kind of network is evolved upon the canvas, and from the intersecting lines, certain shapes and lines are chosen and consciously developed or refined, according to the artist’s aesthetic. Further, between each pair of lines is imagined and applied a colour, extending between the lines from point to point. Where the pairs of lines cross other pairs, so, too, do the colours. So new colours are born within the intersections in the same way as the shapes between the intersections are discovered. By this method colour and shape are thus two organic elements which cannot be regarded as separate, but only as an indivisible unity – they are born as one, together.

This represents the primary exercise, whereby the idea of organising and choosing shapes and forms is developed consciously. These shapes are still essentially flat – only two dimensional. Shapes so discovered may now take their place amongst other points and other discovered shapes, and again, by the same process, further organisation is possible. New shapes are discovered out of the old in an organic manner by a continuous process. But now the colours and disposition of the shapes develops a spatial quality which the first flat organisation of initial shapes lacked. Further, this spatial quality is in a constant state of movement, for it is related to no specific view point or horizon. Nor is it related to any particular number of view points or perspective frames. The forms exist simultaneously in all space and in all time they are viewed entirely outside space and time.
However, there is no reason why any previous convention should not be fused onto this method. But the important thing is that the method is in no way dependent upon them, and the most significant work is achieved when they are rejected.

Brian Claridge, Adelaide, Typed Manuscript attached to Letter, dated 30 June [c.1955].

Claridge was an architect who was Secretary and Vice-President of the Contemporary Art Society of South Australia, and before his death in 1979 was a Senior Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Adelaide.


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Dianne Longley

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Dianne Longley – Fantastic Grotesque

Wolfgang Kayser was the first writer in the modern era (1957) to chronicle the appearance of the “grotesque” in art and literature.i His work reflected an increasing awareness and connection with the artistic conceits of the Gothic era (12-13th C.), with its decorative embellishment of cathedrals and manuscript and cartographic illumination. However, its stylistic roots can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians and the ornamental and cloisonné work of the Gothic tribes and other barbarians and pagans.ii

Indeed, the term “grotesque” is aligned to the discovery of murals in the underground passages of the Baths of Titus in the ruins of Nero’s Domus Aurea (Golden House) by the court artist Fabullus, dating back to c.64-68 AD. These were reproduced as engravings in 1778 and then 1786 and have since fallen into decline,iii but stylistically this kind of decoration was already commonplace in the aforementioned forms. So the source of the word is “grotto” and it is related to burial places and the subterranean world; and the word “grotesque” was first used to describe an artistic style in 1502 and made its way into the cultural mainstream of Europe in Renaissance Italy.

Kayser drew on the writing of Cristoph Martin Wieland (1775), who identified three types of caricature: true caricature, exaggerated caricature and fantastic caricature, which he called “grotesques … where the painter, disregarding the verimisilitude, gives rein to unchecked fancy … with the sole intention of provoking laughter, disgust, and surprise about the daring of his monstrous creations by the unnatural and absurd products of his imagination.”iv

Dianne Longley connects with the latter form’s long history in her contemporary practice, conjuring personalized versions that are informed by an interest in illustration since the Middle Ages and contemporary, popular culture. Her references range from the aforementioned distant European origins to Japanese anime and kawaii. Such influences are particularly discernible in the intaglio and chine collé prints such as Unfolding and Steadfastness.

One fascinating aspect of her work is the continuity of its style, as her art has remained firmly grounded in a certain type of illustrative drawing, neither classical (for she avoids fastidious realism), nor modern (for she avoids recourse to the deconstructive impulses of tachism and expressionism). It centres on the fine rendering and detail offered by drypoint engraving, but in recent times she has incorporated photography as part of an expanding repertoire of tools and devices, and has transformed such source material via the electronic means of Adobe Photoshop to allow her to explore media on and off the page.

In Fantastic Grotesque, Longley’s imaginative starting point was a workshop in photopolymer printmaking in April 2008 at Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery which stemmed from the donation of Pro Hart’s etching press and a subsequent residency in July that year. The botanical settings her hybrid creatures and human figures inhabit are sourced from that arid environment, vaguely threatening to many city-dwellers and for such reasons chosen as the location for the grand-guignolesque Mad Max films.

Initially Longley selected three sites from gardens in Terowie and Silverton and recorded them as digital photographs, then transformed the photographs into a series of computer enhanced, colour-heightened prints that provided a framework for her imaginative legerdemain. Individual items were dislocated from their original contexts, isolated and then re-formed into new, surreal landscapes, in which she could situate her menagerie of grotesques.

After that beginning, Longley found more possibilities for her characters, by changing their scale and adopting new roles and forms, and by linking past explorations with these new elements of her expanding universe of formal and fictional language. This process adds to the sense of an overarching narrative or cosmology in her oeuvre.

Longley’s media here ranges from traditional intaglio prints to bronze and pewter casts of cuttlefish carvings of various succulents that are transmogrified into bansai-like three-dimensional miniatures; there are also pokerwork and hand-painted Jelutong wood panels; and an installation of five extraordinary wooden prints cut by CNC router from vector files. The largest is life-sized and features her central fantastic grotesque – Fisher of Dreamsa woman emerging from the mouth of a fish like a female Jonah. The corresponding, deftly coloured major print on paper strongly evokes the type of imagery in the embroidered edges of Fabullus’ murals. Similarly, some of the pages of the artist book, Remember to Die, Remember to Live, an autobiographical meditation inspired by a 1924 photograph of the actress Gloria Swanson, are decorated in archaic drolleries.

Experimentation with new techniques and media reinvigorates Longley’s creativity and sustains her capacity to imagine, but her respect for historical forms is deep and enduring. The fusion of all these elements is attended by her felicity of expression and feminine aesthetic. In Longley’s world the grotesque is beautiful.

 

Notes

i Wilson Yates, “An Introduction to the Grotesque: Theoretical and Theological Considerations” in JL Adams & W Yates (eds.) The Grotesque in Art and Literature: Theological Reflections (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 14-15.

ii Germain Bazin, A Concise History of Art: Part One – From the beginnings to the Fifteenth Century (London: Thames & Hudson, 1958), 143.

 iii W Yates, ibid, 5. Fabullus was also known as Famulus. The mural designs were on the walls and ceiling, both al frecco and al stucco. They were documented for the art dealer Ludivico Mirri by a team of artists, and later recorded by Nicholas Ponce and published in his volume Description des bains de Titus. After their initial discovery in 1480 the murals were credited as a source of inspiration for Raphael. To view the 18th C. colour reproductions see the exhibition Neros Golden House at the National Museum of Warsaw, 6 May-13 July 2008.

iv W Kayser in W Yates, ibid., 15.

 

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Dianne Longley

Heavy Metal (1999) is curated by printmaker Dianne Longley, who dispersed 300 kilograms of leftover lead sheeting from the local smelter, for a commission at the Port Pirie Tourism and Arts Centre, to artists of her choice. The resulting exhibition is broad in content and appeal. It is an unusual case too, for it coalesces streams of talent from both the public and private art schools, as well as from country areas. The subsequent diversity of approaches – since they include sculptors, painters, printmakers and installation artists – shows that there is no distinct type of practice specific to individual institutions or locales. Several favourite South Australian artists are represented, some of whom take the opportunity to strike out in different and unpredictable directions.

Traversing the Echo is the title of an interactive, electronic book, available soon on CD-Rom and the Internet, featuring computer-generated images from three series by South Australian printmaker Dianne Longley. It is also the title of an exhibition at Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide, displaying the work-in-progress, along with original prints and their corresponding editions in folio and artist’s book formats.
Longley (b. 1957) was one of the first Adelaide artists to investigate new methods of etching, using ultra-violet sensitive solarplates that require no use of acid. This technique provided the production basis for the folio included in this exhibition, The Golden Rose (1995-96).

In it, Longley hand-drew, then scanned and combined these images with photographic material via Adobe Photoshop. Film negatives were exposed on polymer plates, which were then relief printed on a conventional press. In the folio, each print is separated by a page of text that informs of the history and symbolic intent of a particular rose or garland. It includes a cultured essay by Penelope Curtin.

Previously, Longley’s artist’s book, Night Sea Crossing (1994), bound in codex form (traditional western binding), won the Fremantle Artist’s Book Award. It began as black-and-white illustrations on scraperboard, which the artist scanned into computer and manipulated into distinct layers. The first layer was printed on archival paper; the second on transparent acetate using a laser printer. The images can be viewed individually or in composite.

Longley has relentlessly pursued the possibilities of computer-imaging in her recent visual practice. Her interest in desktop publishing and manuscript illumination permeates her evolving style, resulting in a seamless collage of historical illustration, state-of-the-art computer imaging and traditional printmaking techniques.

Her latest series, Compass of Change, appeals with its intense machine-colouring and density of texture. The images incorporate theatrical designs, mandalas and medieval illustration, recycling and synthesising a set of black-and-white lithographs from 1989. They were finally printed from disc on satin paper in three five metre lengths and bound as a concertina-style folded scroll, which can be viewed in codex form.

Longley’s art offers a visual summary of western civilization over the last 500 years, connecting Gutenberg’s press with the technology of the next millenium.

Published  review, undated file 1990s

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Calligraphy

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Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz, Calligraphy, c.1952 Adelaide, oil on canvas, 68 x 87 cm, Art Gallery of South Australia, Gift of the Dutkiewicz family 200, photo by Graeme Hastwell, 1988

On Calligraphy

Some people may wonder why my family donated this little painting to the Art Gallery of South Australia. It sits here quietly in this corner, in its palette and forms nicely complementing the work of Ralph Balson and Grace Crowley. The reasons are several. Firstly, it is one of the earliest abstractions made by my father, certainly in a style that was not entirely expressionistic. It was also one of the earliest paintings of this nature made in Adelaide, and it tells a great deal about a hidden history of adventurous and creative activity in South Australian art. When you read most histories of Australian art, you get a distinct impression that not much happened in Adelaide in the 1950s. But nothing could be further from the truth, and this little painting was one of the foundational pieces in that movement.

The dating of Calligraphy can partly be determined, even though there is no date included with the signature, because of the signature “Dutkie”, which usually designates a work painted before 1954. After that time he usually signed his work “WD”.

The artist held 7 solo exhibitions in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne from 1951-55; 10 group exhibitions including in Regensberg (Germany) and London from 1946-55; and unfortunately he did not retain catalogues of all these exhibitions. No catalogue of the period with this work can be found. However, very similar work from the period has been dated and catalogued. Most pertinent is an oil on canvas slightly larger than this titled Bush (1951), which is an abstracted landscape, virtually reduced to a series of vertical brushstrokes evoking the colours and dryness of the sclerophyll forest. Calligraphy has a similar treatment in the background, but the artist has taken a small yet logical step on by suspending a series of lines over the backdrop.

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Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz: Bush, 1951 Adelaide, oil on canvas, photograph by Graeme Hastwell

The dating can also be determined by comparing it with other works in similar vein from the period: Composition (1953); Television (c.1954); Bird’s eye view (c.1954).  The Shapes in Space series of 1954-55 was the most mature manifestation of this approach in his early painting. Indeed one of these works, which was reproduced in the first editions of Alan McCulloch’s Encyclopedia of Australian Art, has been captured in two different photographs that indicate the changeover in his use of signatures. One photograph has the early longhand signature, while the other, presumably after a few minor alterations to the picture, shows his initials.

My father’s related Colour-Music paintings, especially For Stravinsky (1954), Concrete Music (1954) and Toccata (c.1955), extended on the ideas struck upon in the earliest abstract works, such as Calligraphy, but were expanded upon and writ large (around 5 x 8 feet).

Another reason we donated this work was that it resembles a mural in one of the earliest modernist homes of the 1950s, designed for his family by the architect Brian Claridge. The mural was photographed in black and white and also included in the film Quest for Time, made in Adelaide in 1955, I think, by Stanislaw Ostoja-Kotkowski and Ian Davidson, in a shot that prophesies the famous image through a convex mirror in Losey’s The Servant. If you’ve got the time or inclination you can see this image in Davidson’s self-produced volume Art, Theatre and Photography: Remembering Stan Ostoja-Kotkowski (1922-1994) in the AGSA Library.

As far as I can tell from the records, the painting Calligraphy was not exhibited again until the 1970s. So that’s the research into its provenance.

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Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz: Mural, Claridge Residence, Stonyfell, photograph by Rob Potter

When I look at Calligraphy I think of two things. My initial question, of course, is why is it called Calligraphy? An answer comes if one considers the background as a wall of rock, and the lines represent the first carvings of a primitive person in that rock wall. One can see the beginnings of shapes that underpin the early alphabets. There is also a suggestion of a mathematical diagram.

I know that at around this time my father was producing a series of paintings based on his encounter with Aborigines in Western Australia shortly after his arrival in this country. In 1953 he exhibited the series, including work such as Churinga , which clearly showed he had absorbed the use of line and the kinds of information recorded on Aboriginal artefacts and in their representations of mythical, human and animal forms. It is likely he developed his interest in depicting scenes from an aerial perspective through his study of Aboriginal art, as much as his interest and awareness of Malevich’s Suprematism. It was quite usual for modernists in central Europe to explore regional folk art to underpin their work, just as Picasso, for example, delved into Iberian and African art to develop his Cubism.

So, the title might not only suggest a background of a cave wall and the first steps towards writing and the semblance of letters, but also an aerial view and tracing of a journey of some kind over or through a landscape. It might represent the flight of a bird, a kite, glider or plane. One interpretation is that the background refers to the high-rise skyline of a city. The lines then might record a series of excursions, a tracing describing his journeys around the city on a particular day or series of days.[1]

A second thought is that the lines might also suggest some proposals for new forms in an architectural plan, a new architecture that breaks up the tyranny of rectilinear forms. In his own way, in this type of work my father was not only experimenting with line and form, but also conducting a dialogue with art movements such as Suprematism and other geometric painting. For example, in Sydney up until then Balson and Crowley in their Contructivism had relied on Platonic geometry and flat, untextured planes of colour in their paintings. My father would not have liked the more fussy and pedantic versions of modernism that celebrated rectilinear form. He always tried to avoid obvious solutions in his art.

I’ve mentioned the very interesting comparison with the contemporary work of Balson and Crowley, and others such as Frank Hinder, in their so-called “Constructivism” that emerged in Sydney from around 1940. The artists who tackled Constructivist ideas in Adelaide in the early 1950s were mostly migrant artists: Wladyslaw and his younger brother Ludwik Dutkiewicz, Alexander Sadlo and a little later, Ostoja-Kotkowski. Until their arrival, only Douglas Roberts and David Dallwitz had touched on this territory in Adelaide. Frank Hinder was a Futurist as well as Constructivist in Sydney; and similarly, Sadlo was more inclined to Orphism, Futurism and Op Art, as he became interested in representing movement, rather than compositions of abstract shapes.[2]

One of the interesting shifts in the work of Sydney Constructivists was their changing palette. In the 1940s, their origin lay in the work of Mondrian rather than Cubists or Futurists; and their palette reflected his emphasis on primary colours (sometimes with an added dimension of reflective metallic paint). As the decade proceeded, Balson, in particular, devised subtleties in secondary and tertiary blends by overlapping planes of colour. By the early 1950s, however, there was an inclination to investigate more monochrome or tonal paintings, often based in earth tones, similar to the kinds of colours we see here in Calligraphy and other work by the Adelaide Constructivists.

Eventually I came to the conclusion that I had to differentiate the two strains, as the Adelaide artists who operated in this territory were doing something quite different, with colour but especially with form and line. We can see in this painting the twisted and curving of the straight lines that dominated most of Balson’s canvases. So I decided to call it “Organic Constructivism”, as the Adelaide artists were more grounded in Expressionism and the theories of Kandinsky, initially in Concerning the Spiritual in Art. In Point & Line to Plane Kandinsky described a line as the movement of a point in time and developed this idea and how it might be used in abstract painting. The Organic Constructivists’ method involved a fusion of gestural, “calligraphic” expressionism and more conventional constructivism in painting; and it was concerned with visual representations of space-time.

At the beginning of the 1950s the idea of The Fourth Dimension began to circulate in Adelaide as a concept central to much modernist art. The then director of the Art Gallery of South Australia, Robert Campbell, even delivered a lecture at the Contemporary Art Society of SA in which he mentioned this idea, which was in the first years of last century invoked by Apollinaire in writing on the Cubists. It was regarded as “the dimension of the infinite” or “a higher dimension” and in modern art it often became code for visual transformation or the attempted manifestation of the sublime in art.[3]

It seemed to develop three different meanings for artists: the first stemmed from 19th C geometry as a higher dimension of space; the second was based on Einstein’s science, referring to time (in turn based on his mentor Minkowski’s notion of space-time); and thirdly, the “hyperspace philosophy” in which the Fourth Dimension was a true reality perceivable through the attainment of higher consciousness. The latter emerged from the “philosopher” Ouspensky, who believed that humans experience an incomplete sense of space; and through the cultivation of a new kind of logic (Tertium Organum), a new and higher consciousness could be experienced. His ideas were particularly influential on the Russian Futurists and Suprematists.[4]

I know my father was interested in these ideas at the time of painting Calligraphy. In the next few years, with the help of Brian Claridge, he even developed a “manifesto” around the idea of synthesis in art.[5] It proved to be the basis of a strand of his painting throughout his career, and was most evident in his sculptures, such as the street decorations he made for the 1968 Festival. His understanding, according to a WEA lecture (c.1960), of this concept was more in line with Einstein than Ouspensky.[6] In an interview with Hazel de Berg (1962) he indicated he saw the Fourth Dimension as an idea that could be applied to art in an imaginative way to move it forward into new territory. He used the metaphor of a plane flying to Darwin to explain his ideas on how he built images in his art that moved on from purely abstract representations.[7]

The Fourth Dimension is an idea underpinning much modernist art: perhaps some of the best and most widely known examples are Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), Marcel Duchamp’s Nude descending the staircase (1912) and The Large Glass (1915-23) and Max Weber’s Interior of the Fourth Dimension (1913). It was crucial in the development of the art of Len Lye, who around 1930 connected the Fourth Dimension and the Dreamtime in his art,[8] and Lucio Fontana in his White Manifesto (1946),[9] to name two major figures.

Calligraphy offers a local insight into this rich vein that brought forward so much interesting activity in modernist art, and shows the conceptual territory and the attempted connections between art, mathematics, physics and even metaphysics in Australian art in the early years of the Cold War.

Finally, I should add that if you are interested in finding out more about Adelaide’s progressive modernism of the 1950s and 60s, you might read chapters 5 and 6 of my thesis Raising ghosts, which inserts Adelaide’s post-war modernist history into the story of Abstract Painting in Australia. If you want to know more about my father’s life and work, you might investigate my biography, titled Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz: A Partisan for Art (Moon Arrow Press, 2013).

Notes for a talk for the Art Gallery of South Australia, Tuesday 22 April 2003, 12.45pm

Endnotes
1. “I am doing just a simple thing. For me the imaginary starting points are very essential. The starting point, I mean, can be here – my bus or this cigarette, as the first one – the second can be probably Port Adelaide or even Darwin; and if I join these two points in a first line, a straight one, my imagination is directed strongly towards each one; then the second line, it will be a curve, it will be probably, for example, to fly by the aeroplane, and if I combine these two lines with my starting points, the sphere in between starts to design for me a picture, in essence, and if I still found more points and dislodged them, I have more and more that is coming as an image.”

Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz, Interview with Hazel de Berg, 10 August 1962

2. Sadlo’s influences lay with Kupka and later Albers, rather than Kandinsky, and his early experimental work at times resembled a fusion of Picasso’s cubism and Duchamp’s penultimate and most famous paintings.

3. Brad Ricca, “Signifying Nothing: the Fourth Dimension in Modernist Art and Literature,” http://www.cwru.edu/artsci/engl/VSALM/mod/ricca/paper.html [obsolete link].

4. Linda Dalrymple Henderson, “Mysticism, Romanticism, and the Fourth Dimension”, in Maurice Tuchmann et al, The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890-1985 (Los Angeles County Museum of Art/Abbeville Press, 1986), 219-37.

5. W. Dutkiewicz, [“Cosmic Theory of Light & Line”(after N. Claridge)], submission for Kultura, Paris, c.1955, TL & TM – see dutkiewiczarchive

6. [The Fourth Dimension & Minkowski’s Geometry]
“From the point of view of geometry according to Hinton, the question of the 4th dimension may be examined in the following way. We know geometrical figures of three kinds:
Figures of one dimension – lines;
Figures of two dimensions – planes;
Figures of three dimensions – solids.
A line is regarded here as the trace of a point moving in space.
Let us imagine a straight line limited by two points, and let us designate this line by the letter a. Let us imagine this line a moving in space in a direction perpendicular to itself and leaving a trace of its movement. When it has traversed a distance equal to its length, the trace left by it will have the form of a square, the sides of which are equal to a line a squared.
Let us imagine this square moving in space in a direction perpendicular to two of its adjoining sides and leaving a trace of its movement. When it has traversed a distance equal to the length of one of the sides of the square, its trace will have the form of a cube.
Now if we imagine the movement of a cube in space we will achieve a trace which we will call a figure of the higher dimension.
If we examine the way in which figures of higher dimensions are constructed by the movement of figures of lower dimensions, we shall discover several common properties and several common laws in this formation.
If, in fact, when we consider a square as a trace of the movement of a line, we know that all of the points of this line have moved in space; when we consider a cube as a trace of the movement of a square we know that all the points of the square have moved. Moreover, the line moves in a direction – perpendicular to itself; the square in a direction perpendicular to two of its dimensions.
Consequently, if we consider our fourth figure as the trace of movement of a cube in space, we must remember that all the points of the given cube have moved in space. Moreover we may deduce from analogy with the above that the cube was moving in space in a direction which is not contained in the cube itself – a direction perpendicular to its three dimensions.
Summing up, I did say that the properties of [the] fourth dimension may be obtained by the movement of a cube in space. It is right to suppose that the assemblage of lines drawn from every point of a cube’s interior as well as exterior, the lines along which the points approach each other or retreat from each other constitutes the projection of a four dimensional body.
From the practical point of view, the architecture of today is very near to these ideas, thanks to all the experimentation done by painters on canvas over the last one hundred years.”

W. Dutkiewicz,  Lecture for WEA, c.1960, probably written with assistance by Brian and Nancy Claridge.

7. W. Dutkiewicz, in Hazel de Berg, op. cit.

8.  “During his youth in New Zealand and Australia, (Len) Lye gained deep respect for the integrity of the aboriginals’ philosophy of dreamtime and their art. Dreamtime is the aboriginals’ belief that the visions of dream and trance represent a higher, spiritual dimension (a fourth dimension) that – true, perfect, and eternal – is superior to the corrupt reality of the waking state. Lye called dreamtime ‘the original Surrealism’ and blended its notion of the superior validity of dream and trance with old-brain/new-brain psychology and automatic writing (Tusalava, 1928) based on aboriginal sacred drawings as they appeared in his dreams and a series of drawn-on-film abstractions (beginning with Colour Box, 1935) that metamorphose continually into new unexpected realms.”

William Moritz, “Abstract Film and Colour Music” in  Maurice Tuchman et alThe Spiritual in Art: Abstract painting 1890-1985, p. 309.

9.“After several millennia of analytical artistic development, the moment of synthesis has arrived. Prior to this moment, specialization was necessary. Now however this specialization amounts to a disintegration of the unity we envisage.
We imagine synthesis as the sum total of the physical elements: colour, sound, movement, time, space, integrated in physical and mental union. Colour, the element of space; sound, the element of time and movement, which develops in time and space. These are fundamental to the new art which encompasses the four dimensions of existence. Time and space.”

Lucio Fontana, “The White Manifesto” (1946) in Charles Harrison & Paul Wood,
Art in Theory 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas.

See http://theoria.art-zoo.com/the-white-manifesto-lucio-fontana/

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