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).

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Ian Davidson’s shot of the mural included in the black and white film Quest for Time (1956), directed by SJ Ostoja-Kotkowski

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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Photography

 

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Paintings

This gallery contains 18 photos.

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Adam Dutkiewicz: Sunlight 2010, acrylic on canvas, 95.3 x 75 cm

This is the archive of Dr Adam Jan Dutkiewicz, artist, writer, art historian, researcher, editor, publisher, book designer, proof reader, catalogue designer, exhibition curator and specialist in South Australian art and enthusiast for post-war architecture and design.

It includes material concerning Moon Arrow Press, his small publishing house, and earlier ventures in publishing, his history projects for other organisations, his essays on art and art history, and his own artistic output as a painter and photographer.

Adam is the second son of Polish-origin Australian modernist painter Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz, and nephew of Ludwik Dutkiewicz, abstract and expressionist painter and botanical artist at the State Herbarium in Adelaide. His brother Michal Dutkiewicz is an illustrator, comic book artist and commercial artist par excellence (a true wizard in Photoshop) and his sister Ursula a ceramist, sculptor and mosaic artist based in Melbourne.

He is an Honorary Life Member and Past President of the Royal South Australian Society of Arts Incorporated, and was art critic for The Advertiser and The Independent Weekly in Adelaide and the South Australian contributing critic for Business Review Weekly around the turn of the century. He also wrote for Art Monthly Australia (online) and was contributing editor for Australian Modern Design, published in Brisbane. He has exhibited his paintings in Sydney and Adelaide. He is currently Honorary Historian for the Royal South Australian  Society of Arts, having completed editing and compiling volume one of A Visual History: The Royal South Australian Society of Arts, 1856-2016 in 2016, which featured the early history, Presidents, Officials and Honorary Life Members of the society. He is currently engaged with producing volume two, featuring other significant artists, from 1909 until the present.

To date Adam has authored, co-authored, contributed to or edited (and often designed) 14 books on South Australian art and its artists, all of which can be investigated on this site.

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Adam Jan Dutkiewicz

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Front Cover: The Path to Salt

The Path to Salt: A Photographic Essay on the Cheetham Salt Fields, Dry Creek, South Australia
by Adam Jan Dutkiewicz
Moon Arrow Press, 2012

The Path to Salt is not only a striking visual essay about an extraordinary landscape, it can be interpreted as a metaphor for life, especially in South Australia, the driest state on the driest continent on earth, where the environment and river systems have suffered terribly under European habitation.

Dr Adam Jan Dutkiewicz’s long fascination with the Salt pans at Dry Creek, northwest of Adelaide, South Australia, came to fruition on a photographic field trip with Gary Sauer-Thompson in August 2012. Dutkiewicz and Thompson would later collaborate to produce Abstract Photography: Re-evaluating visual poetics in Australian modernism and contemporary practice (2016).

Dutkiewicz’s subsequent musings and thoughts about his connection to that landscape led him back to a story he had written in 1986, which has been revised for inclusion in this volume.

“Great piles of salt, in rows, resembling fibro-cement warehouse sheds with angular roofs, were reflected like crystals of gypsum in the wet pans, blue in the early morning sunshine.” The Path to Salt, a short story by Adam Jan Dutkiewicz

The book is available from blurb.com

 

 

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Nyorie Bungey

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Nyorie Bungey: Painted Words
South Coast Art Regional Art Centre, Goolwa, 2012

Nyorie Bungey remains a little of a mystery in the art world in Adelaide. She’s a mystery
because there’s not much about her on the record. You can look in Alan and Susan
McCulloch’s editions of The Encyclopedia of Australian Art but there’s nothing there; you
can go to Nancy Benko’s Art and Artists of South Australia and that’s of no use too. Shirley
Cameron Wilson in From Shadow to Light refers to Nyorie as “Nyora” and lists her among four new young women who were emerging on the scene in 1955. So we know she’s had a long career, extending over 55 years.

Such oversights were redressed to a certain extent in Max Germaine’s A Dictionary of
Women Artists of Australia, which does reveal part of the story. He describes her as born in 1938 and as a genre painter “in most media”; a printmaker, teacher and illustrator of several children’s books.

You don’t get much of an idea of what Nyorie’s art is like from that but the overall
impression is that her work mustn’t be all that impressive and that perhaps she is not someone to take too seriously. Nothing could be further from the truth: that invisibility has arisen because Nyorie seems unconcerned about seeking fame and reaching a vast audience and is content to get on with the job and work within a regional context.

Nyorie’s chosen medium is gouache painting, executed in small to medium formats –
nothing of monumental scale. Her idiosyncratic style depends on painting patterns and effects by suspending colours over a coloured ground: her figurative images are carefully designed and resolved with precision and attention to detail (and a steady hand).

For some time Nyorie’s imagery concerned recollections of life in the post-war years: it
has a personal style synthesised from Art Deco, Post-Impressionism and commercial imagery of the period. A certain suburban Australian resonance is important in her work. But it’s also about the textures of life back then, of doilies and lace curtains, of floral fabrics and geometric patterns in wallpapers, laminate and linoleum.

More recently she has responded to her new life down on the south coast in her art.
She has become a citizen of outlying areas of “the agapanthus capital of the world”, to use
a Peter Goersism, and has allowed a stream of coastal imagery to wander into dreams rather than memories in her art, at times embarking on a highly personalised yet sophisticated graphic engagement with western art history, from Botticelli to Matisse. And always in her work is a deep engagement with the evolution of children’s book illustration and the graphic worlds of fashion and costume design.

And so her new series, Painted Words, comprising twenty-five exquisite gouache paintings based on poems from an old poetry reader from her schooldays at Black Forest Primary and Girls Central Art School from mid last century. Her imagery now extends further back in history than before, informed by European folk tales, the theatre of Imperial Courts and book illustration from days of yore.

How literate her work has become, in its referencing of Medieval, Renaissance, Pre-
Raphaelite, Deco and Modern illustration, painting and commercial art and fashion; all fused through her method into a coherent package of styling through utter dedication, aesthetic application and her peculiar intellectual whimsy.

Phrases, sentences and verses from poets from Chaucer and the Shakespearian age to the
Industrial era inform her imagery, fleshing out the words that, for her, most captured feelings and emotions in these poems. They reflect the perceptions, manners, chivalries, modesties and sensitivities of their ages, camouflaged in lyric moments that convey profoundly intricacies, innuendoes and the unchoreographed dance of courtship and love.

Nyorie has found herself responding to a better realm, where the song of minstrels and
gentle music can stimulate her mind through the imparted knowledge of patient and skilled artisans, wise and beautiful things that still convey important understandings and pertinent messages about what it is to be human.

The nigh forgotten or lost labours of past eras, heartfelt and well observed word trinkets
that have survived centuries through our civilization and have contributed to its formation, now lie strewn on seldom visited shores. Nyorie has rediscovered their truths and sensibilities, and brought them back to centre stage.

Published as the catalogue essay for the exhibition

 

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