MALLEE ROUTES

Photographing the Mallee 2019

Gary Sauer-Thompson (SA), Gilbert Roe (SA), Eric Algra (Vic), Lars Heldmann (SA), Stuart Murdoch (Vic)

Murray Bridge Regional Gallery, 7 December 2019 – 12 January 2020

Gary Sauer-Thompson, Tyre, Murrayville, Wimmera, Victoria – gelatin silver photograph

This is the last exhibition in a three-year project of photographing the Mallee regions, including the Wimmera, by photographers Gary Sauer-Thompson, Eric Algra and Gilbert Roe. The exhibition was expanded to accommodate all three rooms of the Murray Bridge gallery, and so required an expanded number of contributors, as Lars Heldmann and Stuart Murdoch. Director Fulvia Mantelli provided the extra exhibition space, helped to organize the exhibition, revised the colour of the gallery walls in the main room to dark grey, and devised the new spot lighting system which makes some of the work glow, as if back-lit. The result is a very large exhibition of photography of nearly 120 works, in itself an exceptional and substantial event in the local art calendar.

The realist and topographical approach of the photographers, being largely documentary, is juxtaposed with a post-conceptual awareness, taking heed, as Sauer-Thompson explains, that many now agree that the purpose of so-called contemporary art (if it needs a purpose) is to engage in a critically reflective way with the world in which we live. The post-colonial subtext hints of the missing histories of these eroded, ancient landscapes, prior to European settlement and exploitation.

Overall, the exhibition relates a grim story of abuse of the land, pragmatism, economic rationalism, overcropping and overstocking, and ultimately degradation. It exposes a failed or failing culture that set out to raze the original land then build upon that tabula rasa to suit prevailing capitalist systems that often proved to be unsustainable or became obsolete, because of changing technologies and climate, and modernising human behaviours. All this emerges through the eyes of the photographers who are attracted to their own subject matter within the exhibitions themes, within the vast landscapes and big skies stretching from east of Adelaide to the northern boundaries of the Murray, lower Darling and Murrumbidgee rivers and the southern border of the Dukes and Western highways.

Eric Algra is attracted to quirky and often amusing details and observations of human culture via traces of human presence; Stuart Murdoch observes legacies of human occupation and alterations of landscape; Gilbert Roe turns his attentions from contemporary agricultural or industrial uses and signs of human activity to pinhole studies of landscape details blurred through long exposures; Lars Heldmann engages more with ecological disturbances and transgressions of nature, often working in collaborative sculptural forms but also in a solo installation; and Gary Sauer-Thompson has a broader scope in his photographs, covering a wide range of subjects and presentations in both black and white and colour, and using varying framing systems.

The themes mentioned are threefold: Absent History, Space/Place, and Unknown Futures. The first occupies the Jean Simms gallery, and features work of historical orientation and mythologies, in black and white. The second occupies the main room, and is largely in colour except for the wall of work by Gilbert Roe, who works exclusvely in black and white, whether with large format or pinhole cameras. The third room heads in a more sobering and sculptural direction, gravitating around Heldmanns large floor installation Coked up marry darling, comprised of a mock salt pan and a blow-up of a discarded soft-drink bottle half buried under rock salt.

The landscapes depicted are often hopelessly compromised or completely ruined in terms of present and future potential, through their erasure of biological and cultural histories. Many of the places are ghost settlements or declining towards such an outcome. They are haunted by earlier settler usage, with overgrown and decaying sports and entertainment hubs of boom times side by side with abandoned buildings, facilities and engineering. Many of the structures shown are like rotting corpses with their bones and dismembered garments and flesh strewn about, the detritus and vestiges of a murder of culture, or a culture of murder, through systematic erasure, neglect, changes induced by modernity, decomposition, and natural erosion. The lifeblood of the landscapes and the settlements with agricultural and industrial economies, the rivers, have been overextracted and the land is succumbing or has succumbed to overgrazing, overcropping, toxification or salination. These images speak to unknown futures but the predictive outcomes of the Anthropocene are already sensed, deep in our own bones, for it may well be too far gone.

As Gary Sauer-Thompson describes it:

Today, the Mallee region is a kind of industrialised agricultural land factory where the scrub has been cleared once and for all. In the process animal and bird habitat were systematically destroyed to make way for more cleared acreage. The ancient ecosystems were shattered and now exist only in fragments or remnants. This ecological destruction coupled with the present day chemical poisoning and genetic modification was for capital accumulation and profit.

Coupled with the 201920 severe wildfires in the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island and across widespread areas in most other states, it is evident that we are now living with 21st century legacies of short-termism, reckless optimism and failed environmental policies. Without necessarily setting out to do so, the sum of the exhibitions parts reveals this wider picture with crystal clarity, and leaves us with the question of whether theres a better way forward that can be forged from experience and knowledge.

January 2020

 

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Modern Quartet!

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Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz, Bush, 1951 Adelaide, oil on canvas. Photograph by Graeme Hastwell.

Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz – MODERNIST QUARTET!

Charles Darwin didn’t operate with “spirituality” or the “Mind” – he left this for philosophy. Freud, in his psychoanalysis, studied the artist and his relation to fantasy. Van Gogh and Chagall were labelled as mad, and accused by critics of not being able to draw. All four were considered mad. In fact, the first two dealt with “Science fiction”, the second [two] “Abstraction”.

Human beings have always needed belief systems and icons. This brings out a structure in life for the simple human mind. Art serves precisely the same purpose. Every visual form brought into reality by an artist can be named according to a style. I couldn’t be attracted to abstraction unless I knew it was possible for human beings to create new things. My knowledge of Darwin, who put equal value on all life, provided the foundation for a shift in perception from human-centred consciousness.

Even the question of life on other planets is of interest to the imagination of artists. In today’s education system more visual conceptions are introduced, from simple geometry to computers, telescopes and microscopes. There is more emphasis on the visual side of culture in everyday life. If the complexity of eternity is camouflaged by religious concepts of all kinds, then symbolism is central to these representations.

To me, in my student days, to accept the story in the Bible of Moses’ vision of the burning bush was a symbol of God. This form of abstraction, in terms of thinking, took me ages to portray in my painting. It is difficult for a materialist to understand the concept of fire in someone’s vision, the connection of inner and outer. Perhaps Freud was able to explain this better.

Moses – seeing god as a cloud of fire, to lead [people] out of the desert – Darwin, Freud, Van Gogh, Chagall – in a kind of “Lucidum Intervale” … to the Promised Land.

To emphasise the circumstances of the science-arts axis in the 19th century, every one of them was “new” or engendered in that era. But in the 20th century the world became conceited, vast and full of motion. The world rushes on. Man went to the moon and returned. Today the sky, even space is not empty.

This quartet of individuals lived with great vision in a time of darkness. But they and many others opened up the darkness to a new dawn. Darwin didn’t talk of “mankind” but “organism”. Only the artists showed us by imagining those creatures that man is not made of glass. So “Heaven will come down to earth”.

Did they sacrifice all their knowledge and experience for us? I have no idea. All I know is that within the four walls of my life they were a window for me. For me, this quartet initiated humanism and introduced the change from “Romanticism”. They were able to transcend the socially imposed limits to reach acute knowledge and forms or ideas which cannot be compared with earlier creations of the 19th century. [This is a beautiful time].

The two scientists did not know the two artists, but all their actions and creativity were strongly criticised in the [early 20th] century. Why did I sculpt a portrait of Darwin or paint a picture “For Stravinsky”? To compare music and the abundance in our visual world I could find an abundance of Polish adjectives. The pluralistic culture of the world will continue. The size of a person’s vocabulary and the degree of comprehension does nor matter.

Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz
Kalori, vol. 30, no. 2 (Winter 1992) np.
(NB – slight edits to the original text by Adam in square brackets)

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Songs from Cold Mountain

SFCM cover

Songs from Cold Mountain
307 Poems by Chinese poet Han Shan (8-9th C)
In standard Chinese and English, trans. by Span Hanna
Introduction by the translator, with Pronunciation Guide
Appendices and Bibliography
352 pp, standard paperback (230 x 150 mm)

No one knows who Han Shan was. The name means “Cold Mountain”, after
the place where he lived, under a crag in the mountains of Zhejiang Province,
near the town of Tiantai. He was a recluse, avoiding visitors (as he frequently
tells us in his poems), but from time to time visiting the large monastery of
Guoqing Si (Kuo-ch’ing Ssu) at Tiantai, where he was befriended by two
monks, Feng Gan (Feng Kan) and Shi De (Shih Te). Legend has it that he
scrawled his poems on random surfaces: rocks, trees, the walls of houses.
Someone collected them, and the body of work has been retained. His life is
tentatively (but convincingly) dated around 720 – 810 CE.

In January 1991 Span Hanna was travelling in eastern China, and noticed
there was a Han Shan Temple nearby. He caught a bus and while in the area
found a bookshop where he bought some books, among them a complete
collection of Han Shan’s poems. It was a 1988 reprint by Guanghua Temple
(Putian, Fujian Province) of an older edition dated c.1932.

The book went home with him, and in June 2014 he decided to read it
formally, from beginning to end, and attempt to translate it, partly a project
to keep his Chinese skills alive, and partly also to share the work with a few
close friends who could not read Chinese but had some appreciation and
understanding of Chinese poetry and philosophy. This volume is a result of
those endeavours.

Cover image:
Unknown artist
Depiction of Han Shan Te’-Ch’ing, 1600

https://au.blurb.com/b/9546581-songs-from-cold-mountain

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Doreen Goodchild

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In One Small Measure Judith Brooks, an artist herself and Doreen Goodchild’s daughter, presents a lively account of her mother’s life as an artist in Adelaide and beyond, from the years immediately after World War One until the last years of the 20th century.
The monograph is presented to coincide with a retrospective of the art of her parents, Doreen and John Goodchild, for History Month at the Royal South Australian Society of Arts Gallery in Adelaide in 21 April – 12 May 2019. John Goodchild was President of the Society 1937– 40 and Doreen was the inaugural Secretary of the Society’s Sketch Club, founded in 1923.

Judith Brooks was born in 1936 in Adelaide. She grew up observing their lives as artists and later in life became an artist herself, exhibiting regularly in venues such as Kensington Gallery. She wrote a self-published book on her father after his death, in the early 1980s, with much of the research compiled by her mother, the subject of this book.

The monograph is published by the Royal SA Society of Arts.

 

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100th Anniversary Exhibition – Part Two

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Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz, Design for Adelaide Festival 1968

 

2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the Polish-born artist Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz’s birth. A commemorative exhibition of 40 works was mounted at Murray Bridge Regional Gallery in May-June 2018. Although a large exhibition, it was thought more could be shown – hence this second exhibition of another forty works – large, medium and small paintings, watercolours, drawings and sculpture – at Royal SA Society of Arts Gallery in Adelaide.

The exhibition is to be opened by Christine Garnaut, Associate Professor, Planning and Architectural History and Director, Architecture Museum, School of Art, Architecture and Design at University of South Australia on Sunday 20 January 2019 at 2 pm.

There will also be a book launch by arts writer Samela Harris of Adam Dutkiewicz’s latest monograph on the Adelaide sculptor Andrew Steiner OAM, Past President and Honorary Life Member of the Society. Steiner was a long-time friend of Wlad’s, getting to know him through his amateur theatrical group The Art Studio Players. Steiner acted in Wlad’s second production, Maxim Gorky’s The Lower Depths, presented as a fringe production for the inaugural Adelaide Festival in 1960. Samela’s father, Max Harris, described it as a “theatrical tour de force”.

Adam is also making a limited edition of his biography of his father available as a paperback for the first time throughout the exhibition. It will be available from the Society and the publisher for $60 plus postage and handling.

2019 also marks the 20th anniversary of the artist’s passing.

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Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz

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Peter Medlen, Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz 1962, gelatin-silver photograph

Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz (b. 1918 Stara Sol, Poland) was a painter, sculptor, writer, actor, stage designer and theatre director. After arriving in Adelaide in 1950 he was first noticed for his set designs for plays. He made a strong impact on art in South Australia with his forceful expressionist paintings and experimental and innovative modes of abstraction. In the 1950s and 1960s he was widely regarded as a leader of the lively modern art movement in Adelaide.
By the decade’s end he was included in publications on Australian art and international exhibitions in London and a little later Beverly Hills. After suffering head injuries in a car accident in 1956 he was forced to give up painting for a few years to recover his memory and colour vision. He formed the Art Studio Players, working with The Method from 1959-62 and producing several plays for the company, and directed two plays for the Adelaide University Theatre Guild, in 1959 and 1967. He later appeared as an actor in several Crawford Production television dramas in Melbourne.
He held over 40 solo exhibitions in Adelaide and other capital cities, and participated in over 100 exhibitions overall.  He continued painting until his death in Adelaide in 1999. Three survey exhibitions have been mounted since his death. A monograph was published in 2006 and a full biography in 2013, available through blurb.com; it was released in paperback in 2019.

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100th Anniversary Exhibition

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Opened on 5 May 2018 at 2.30 pm. Opening speaker: Dr Christine Nicholls, Senior Lecturer, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Flinders University.

An exhibition of work by the late Polish-Australian artist Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz (1918-1999).

http://theconversation.com/wlads-worlds-polish-resistance-fighter-slavic-space-age-modernist-legendary-australian-artist-96192

Wlad was trained in Poland and Paris, was a partisan in World War Two, and fled to freedom ahead of the advancing Red Army in 1945. He spent four years in a Displaced Persons’ camp in Hohenfels, Bavaria, before migrating to Australia in 1949. He settled in Adelaide in 1950 and lived there until his death.

The exhibition is curated by Dr Adam Dutkiewicz, the artist’s second son, who is a prominent Adelaide art historian and publisher of small press editions on local art and artists.  It presents a selection of around 40 works from the family collection and on loan from private collections and the Art Gallery of South Australia.

The exhibition is part of the 2018 History Festival and is proudly supported by the Royal SA Society of Arts, Inc. The exhibition concluded on 10 June 2018.

http://www.murraybridgegallery.com.au/coming-soon/2018/5/4/wladyslaw-dutkiewicz-100th-anniversary-exhibition

https://historyfestival.sa.gov.au/history-festival-events-search?field_event_date_picker%5Bdate%5D=27%2F04%2F2018&field_event_date_picker_1=&field_event_type=51&field_event_type%5B51%5D=51&field_tourism_region=1694&field_tourism_region%5B1694%5D=1694&search_api_aggregation_1=Wladyslaw+Dutkiewicz

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A second part to this exhibition was held at the Royal South Australian Society of Arts Gallery from 20 January – 10 February 2019. Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz: Adelaide Modernist, featuring an entirely different set of oils, watercolours and drawings, and was opened by Associate Professor Christine Garnaut, Planning and Architectural History, and Director, Architecture Museum, School of Art, Architecture and Design, University of South Australia.
A paperback edition of Adam’s biography of the artist – Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz: A Partisan for Art – was produced for the exhibition.

Christine Nicholls’ 6-page article on the 100th Anniversary Exhibition was published in Asian Art News 28, no. 4 (2018), pp. 52-57.

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