JAN DUTKIEWICZ (b. 1911, Stara Sol, Poland, d. Katowice, Poland, 1983)
JAN DUTKIEWICZ (b. 1911, Stara Sol, Poland, d. Katowice, Poland, 1983)
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 Lock and Ellie Freak.
Below are links to major exhibitions the artist was involved with over the last decade and to his works on paper donated to the State Library of South Australia after his death.
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 a state 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; after which he produced a full biography on his late father, Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz: A Partisan for Art; Francis Roy Thompson: Painter of Grace & Rebellion (2014) with Carrick Hill; and Abstract Photography: Re-evaluating Visual Poetics in Australian Modernism and Contemporary Practice, with photographer Gary Sauer-Thompson.
Since 2011 he has pursued photography as his principal artistic medium. In 2014-15 he tutored at the SA School of Art and at the School of Communications at University of SA. Since then he was commissioned to produce A Visual History: the Royal SA Society of Arts, 1856-2016 (two volumes); a monograph on local sculptor Andrew Steiner (see Moon Arrow Press for entry); and a small monograph on the artist Doreen Goodchild, with her daughter Judith Brooks. In 2018-19 he presented two retrospective exhibitions of his late father Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz’s work to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth, at Murray Bridge Regional Gallery (for the History Festival) then at the Royal SA Society of Arts (where he had held many of his early exhibitions and been a member of Council and Selection Committee). Adam is currently working on another monograph on late-20th century art photographers in Adelaide with Gary Sauer-Thompson.
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 colours. 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 universe. 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 his 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)
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
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)
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.
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 Dreams – a 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.
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.
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