The New Abstraction of Testicular Wonderment.

23rd February, 2011.

Unbeknownst to the relative reason of a sunny summers day, I found myself queuing at the Mitchell Library request desk yesterday. And when ultimately it did become my turn to request, I payed special attention not to rush the pronounciation of my desired journal. "Kunstforum Please", I stammered like a nervous guy asking for a magazine with an almost suggestive sounding name. For you see I had once before blurted and tripped over this German art handle: ending up red faced in the gynecologists chat room of an abstract, security guard grilling. The prim library assistant had taken none too kindly, and the dishevelled look of my person only served to intensify the perception most seedy.

You may well ask what a footy loving ludite like myself would want with the latest edition of "Kunstforum" for it is surely filled to brimming with Germanic words and installations most illogical, however I do so love to gaze at the pictures and often chuckle to the point of moistening. Art is a funny caper in the "Kunstforum" sphere, and I do so appreciate a funny caper. Is it not true that the great Mel Brooks could not conceive of such a cutting edge spoof ?

Coming away from my bi-annual "Kuntsforum" experience, I wiped the perspiration from that corrigated sheet of flesh known in Gray's as 'me forhead', and could not help but be reminded of the words of  bespectacled artist and sometime collage photographer David Hockney. Many years ago "The Hock" was given the chance to paint the portrait of the great British poet WH Auden who suffered from the exotic Touraine-Solente-Gole Syndrome, a condition that manifests itself in craggy features, short stumpy fingers ... and stuff.  Upon completing the portrait the artist is alleged to have poured himself a nice cup of Earl Gray, snapped a Scotch Finger and said,

WH Auden

"I kept thinking, if his face looks like this, what must his balls look like ?" 
              - David Hockney   

Recent Offerings #4

 17th February, 2011.
As the giant, Romanesque dial  high up on the Woy Woy clock tower strikes its traditionally slurred and cacophonous eleven minutes past wine o clock, I plunge my free hand deep into the kit bag of hopeful endeavour. Gnarled digits scavenge hungrily in amongst the na├»ve batch of ‘recent offerings’: sweat forming a picket line of nervous shimmer just above my reddish pouty bits as the futility of everything begins its stark mantra that echoes oh so familiar…  “surely there was something just a little bit interesting housed in amongst these neg sleeves of not all that long ago !” …   

Photograph - Andrew Stark

Photograph - Andrew Stark

Photograph - Andrew Stark

Photograph - Andrew Stark

Photograph - Andrew Stark

Photograph - Andrew Stark

Photograph - Andrew Stark

Photograph - Andrew Stark

Enormous Chaos: Love… the Jacques & Bibi Story.

 14th February, 2011.

Bibi in Marseille, 1928. 
Photo - Jacques Henri Lartigue

As I endure my own form of faltering suburban domesticity, sliding with high ache from frosty to who knows where, I couldn’t help but be remarkably moved when recently I read the heartfelt diary of Jacques Henri Lartigue. And given that today is Valentines Day, a special poignancy is attached to the entries of the1920s and specifically the photographer’s vast disparity of emotion found at either end of his marriage to first wife, Bibi. 
For anyone who has endured a failed coupling could not help but empathise; feeling tremendous sympathy in the face of Jacques’ eloquently laid words.  Unbridled joy and a carefree euphoria, stalled cruelly by life itself; the union smashed upon the rocks of betrayal and loss as the lively decade played out to a most sombre personal conclusion.

Jacques & Bibi on their wedding day
 The boy wonder, Lartigue had been photographing at a genius level since receiving the gift of a camera from his father at the age of 7. He first met Madeleine Messager during the penultimate year of the Great War and quickly coined for his new love, the nickname, ‘Bibi’(as you do). Madeleine was the daughter of the much respected composer and Director of the Paris Opera, Andre Messager. And on the 17th of December, 1919, Jacques and Bibi commenced married life together…with tremendous hope in their hearts and an unreserved commitment

Jacques Henri Lartigue - Diary entries …

January 1920 –

“What am I ? And what am I doing here ? I am a married man – on my honeymoon. I think it must be the funniest thing in the world, me, a married man, on his honeymoon.
Bibi and I go everywhere together … arm in arm. We look at everything; we discover everything”.

“On her loving days Bibi is intelligent, charming and terribly funny. I will cherish forever the first photograph I took of her on our honeymoon.”

Bibi on her honeymoon.
Photo - Jacques Henri Lartigue

“We have a good life …”

“To keep in good shape Bibi exercises every morning with her teacher. I sometimes exercise with her, but that apparently, is disastrous for her concentration. We laugh too much. I don’t understand why Bibi is so concerned about her figure. She tells me she does it for me and that I ought to be flattered. Life is full of excitement, surprises … and best of all, Bibi.”

1921 –

“I have a son ! He was born on August 23. His name is Dani, and he cries, he screams, he howls … and when Dani finally consents to give his public a vague, resigned smile of concession, everyone is ecstatic: he smiles like an angel”

“Yvonne (Printemps) is one month younger than I, Bibi two years. They are both flowers on the point of opening up to their moment of greatest beauty … so why do I still look like a bunch of green raisins ?”

1924 –

“Bibi in the last month of her pregnancy evokes an enormous tenderness in me. We are very close … in all senses. It seems to me, strangely enough, that I am waiting with more nervous expectation for this second child than I waited for our first. Bibi is not nervous. Quietly she prepares the room for the baby, irons the curtains, plays with Dani. She is tired … but happy.” 

Tragically the Lartigues second child Veronique, died shortly after birth.

Jacques attempted to forge a career as a painter throughout the mid nineteen twenties, adding, “Painting is my great passion”. And despite at one stage exhibiting his oils in the foyer of Gallery George Petit whilst Monet's work was on show inside, he was never to realize great success - 

Then in early 1929 Bibi’s father, Andre Messager also passed away. 

Bibi and Dani, Nice. 1928.
Photo - Jacques Henri Lartigue
February 1929 -

“Bibi is near to fainting in my arms.”

“To die on a Sunday. Messager, the always active man. I think about that. I think about a lot of things. My eyes are dry. Don’t I feel any grief ? Bibi weeps over her father … isn’t that enough to make my heart melt ?”

June 1929 -

“I am alone in the studio, my cluttered garret, high up in our house in Neuilly. It’s four o clock in the morning. Through the skylight I can see the whole city (Paris) bathed in the first glow of sunrise. I wonder how many unhappy people there are living in all the thousands of houses ? Am I one of those unhappy people ?
In a little while, I will go downstairs and lie beside Bibi. But first I must clarify my thoughts. I haven’t been very successful so far. It has been said so many, many times that a betrayed husband is the last person to know and to understand. A betrayed husband ? Me ?

Bibi in Nice. 1920 (autochrome)
Photo - Jacques Henri Lartigue
Bibi ! My little Bibi ! Bibi of our happy years ! Would she really betray me ? I realize, of course, that anything, absolutely anything, can happen in a lifetime; that the most improbable crises are always plausible. But this ? Bibi and that poseur ! Bibi, with her lack of patience, her knife-sharp judgments ! Bibi, the daughter of Messager ! But I shouldn’t have forgotten that Bibi is also the daughter of that Louis XV mother with her lace furbelows ! Does Bibi really love this man ? He loves her. Yes ! To him she is the Rolls-Royce he always wanted to have, when all the idiot can afford is a Renault ! I talk, I write, I think. But inside me the chaos continues ! I tell myself lies, and then I try to convince myself that what I just told to myself is the truth. I think: I love Bibi, she is mine. I don’t want to be concerned about anything else. There is a certain kind of suffering you can refuse. I am very sleepy, and I realize that I don’t know anything more than I did a few hours ago.”

Bibi. 1923.
Photo - Jacques Henri Lartigue
July 1929 -

“When I talk feverishly about the need to produce and to create, it really means that I’m in the midst of a crisis. Again I’ve become a spectator, an outsider, which, apparently is the only way I can live through these dramas. I have learned one thing: I should never have trusted our silences. I shouldn’t even have trusted the affectionate conversations we have had, Bibi and I. Our happiness has been assassinated ! We remain friends, we talk without anger, but the words – my words – are artificial. My second self, that cold, phlegmatic creature – my self-appointed referee – chuckles in a corner about my performance in real life.”

1930 -

“I live alone with my fantasies. Perhaps they are the best company a man can have?”

Paris is almost deserted. The smell of the hot asphalt evokes memories of other summers. And all those memories together form one great big, enormous chaos: love. There are old, marvellous, tender, indescribable memories that I never did, and never could, invite Bibi to share.” 

Jacques and Bibi were divorced during 1931.
Jacques remarried in 1934 to Coco Paulucci however this union dissolved a few years later. In 1942 Jacques met 20 year old Florette Ormea. They bought a house by the sea and were married in 1945, remaining together until the master photographer’s death during September 1986, aged 92.

Little is known of Bibi’s life beyond this period.      

This post is
dedicated to
Missa –
with love.

The Brave New World in Art Direction

10th February, 2011.

Beat Streuli -
a Willy Wonka Scholarship winner
Beat Streuli isn’t street really!  And yet this darling of the contemporary art movement includes amongst his body of work, pictures taken candidly in the public domain, pictures not terribly dissimilar to yours: mine, Barry Pascoe’s, or the stuff by that other person hovering just over there. Perhaps it’s the black skivvy, Allen Ginsberg kind of Christian name or maybe he scored one of those gold Wonka passes in his 10am carob fix, a shimmering code revealing the secret, contemporary art handshake … I’m really not too sure … more likely it’s the fact that he prints em up bigger than South Australia – contemporary art is after all the ‘footy mole’ of all art movements, i.e. uncontrollably hot for anything with rippling size, brash arrogance and a vacuous late night loudness.

Whilst remaining clueless to the Beat, I stumble and bloody my nose at what makes contemporary art contemporary whilst other current creativity is mysteriously deemed not contemporary. This conundrum has bounced about the Nowhere Man cranium for many a long age - naivety first giving way to hazy befuddledness, before a more current, snarling kind of animosity took hold, an atmosphere of pro activity setting beyond my left clavicle like an umbrella-less Molotov cocktail fusing in a particularly dirty glass.

Obviously something you find
at a natural history museum.
Turning toward academia I notice that Art dude Terry Smith has written a fairly current book entitled “What is Contemporary Art ?”, and whilst I haven’t read it (big words- ughh), I did browse a review of it in “Art&Australia” by Charles Green.  Now apparently contemporary art began in the 70s with Green/Smith adding, “Post modernism was an intermediate phase blurring the death of modern art in the late 60s, all of which has now subsumed within the capacious, globalised rubric of the contemporary”. This flickered the barest glint of an idea and yet I temporarily suppressed my ‘Eureka’ moment, continuing on with the review in the outside hope of receiving an answer to the book titles all encompassing question – much masturbatory meringue followed and yet predictably, no satisfaction was forthcoming.        

Upon reaching the ultimate dot of this wordy inconsequence I experienced an explosion of pent up frustration, an obstruction suddenly blurting free as I threw the magazine across the Borders sandpit in disgust. With fire in my gaze I eyeballed the fast moving security frenzy to my immediate right, before bounding into the open air like a somewhat arthritic wallaby with a middle ear infection. And just at the very instant I thought I’d made good my escape I garnished the moment by shouting back, “Youse Can All Get Rooted – I’ll Start Me Own Movement – You’ll See!”. The mad smile which accompanied such bravado was impressive, however quickly wiped from my face, as in my next stride I caught a rogue shoe lace in the crack between escalator step and oblivion and was forced to battle manfully over the proceeding ten minutes to ensure I did not end up as shopping mall sausage meat deep within the unrelenting workings of the sleepless staircase.    

 And that ladies and gentleman are the revolutionary origins of Art Vo-Veau, the latest, most all encompassing movement in the history of doing creative stuff. And just to keep those studious, steel rimmed bi focalites happy, I’ll proffer that the movements family tree has trunked, barked and branched from the Dadaists through Breton’s Surrealists and on and upward through the cheeky twigs of the Childish Stuckists. This is an art movement that questions reality, relinquishes structure whilst fully embracing the rapid demise of all that luvee luvee pretentious contemporary art drool. The Vo-Veauists will fight for the removal from galleries and art musuems of the ‘Novelty Meccano Installation’ (you know the flashing light bulb, technology based, oh ain’t that f**king clever kind of boys toys exhibit) as well as the ‘Marginalized Shock Tactic Piece’ (the used tampon on an unmade bed juxtaposing the sheep’s head set in a bath tub of verdantly fluoro jelly – sort of stuff). Basically it’s about a fair go for all non scientists (Einstein was not an Impressionist - although I have heard he was very good at charades).

Breton Girls Dancing -
Paul Gauguin was clearly a Vo-Veauist ahead of his time

The movements name is derived from the coupling of the French term for ‘meat of the calf’, with an earthy mimic, the famous Australian morning tea biscuit, the Iced Vo Vo. This pink fondant, coconuty strawberry jam staple is seen as a symbol of understated quality and is held up as a bold and contrasting metaphor to the ‘crass obviousness’ of current art practice - for when served on a plate alongside the chocolaty Tim Tams or Mint Slices the Vo Vo is invariably pushed to the side, ignored, even ridiculed – and yet unlike these flashy brown treats, the ‘symphony in pink’ can be consumed by the half packet without regret. In short Art Vo-Veau embraces a fresh and honest view. New and yet substantive – mains and desert – well rounded – profound.  Flashiness and superficiality need not apply for the latest chapter in art direction is hell bent on wresting back just a smidgen of credibility. Art Vo-Veauists embrace a charter of inclusiveness with an aim to relating emotionally (even spiritually) to as wide a range of socio economic and cultural clusters as individual taste permits. This is not lowest common denominator popularism, it is however an open front door and a welcoming pair of woolly lined slippers. Please let your rest be assured for Art Vo-Veau is the only art movement claiming to be 100% botox free.      

Contemporary Art is really just waiting to be put out of its own misery.

So there you have it – The Vo-Veauists have arrived – and all that is left to do is to spread the word, to grow our numbers and to use our universal inclusiveness (excepting of course, scientists, wowsers and anyone prone to use the word ‘narrative’ when clearly ‘story’ would do) to see off the final, convulsing death throws of those obnoxious and trite decades, an era art historians will remember shame facedly as the great contemporary morass.

We need a plethora of talented artists to put their names behind our cause – already the list includes a trinity of dedication -The Nowhere Man, L.M.Hemsworth and Andrew Stark – impressive? I agree. So let’s grow that list and shake the very foundations of this disgraceful art world deceit.  

Please feel free to voice your support for Vo-Veauism in the comments section below and please also visit the organization’s official Facebook page at  Art Vo-Veau

How ‘NOW’ Brown Cows.

7th February, 2011  

Back in those heady days of 1985 ‘The Smiths’ posed the somewhat existential question, “How Soon Is Now?”. And having scanned the book shelves of greater knowledge during the recent Jan’ heat wave season I’ve concluded that the book publishing fraternity answered Messrs Morrissey & Marr with a forceful reply of , “Never Bloody Soon Enough”.

For the printed plethora of NOWness has come to dominate recent front cover sensibilities; the three lettered present seen in the contemporary marketplace to be about as commonplace as rotting Warholian  bananas at the base of a snotty infants school day rucksack.

…. and here’s just a few to be getting on with -  


Baby Photography Now!
 David Nightingale

Photography Now
Mark Haworth-Booth

Pet Photography Now!
Paul Walker

Sydney Now
Inara Walden & Robert McFarlane

Street Photography Now
Sophie Howarth & Stephen McLaren

Marvin K Mooney Will You Please Go Now!
Dr Seuss

Wedding Photography Now!
Michelle Turner

Up Till Now
David Fisher

Iranian Photography Now
Rose Issa

The Naked Now
Richard Rohr

10 Ways To Improve Your Boudoir Photography Now
Edward Verosky

Farm Together Now
Amy Franceschini & Daniel Tucker

Apocalypse Now
 Karl French

Art Photography Now
Susan Bright

Stark Now
Tran Veganbauer & Andrew Stark

Where's Wally Now?
Martin Handford

And you know, whilst all these unimaginatively titled page turners present here as a curious stack of who knows what - the whole post was really just an excuse to play a Morrissey clip... and here it is - NOW!

Wise Words Indeed #3 – Charles Harbutt

3rd February, 2011

Many photographers are as equally eloquent of thought as they are in capturing the most mesmerizing of street images. One such sidewalk snapper is the former President of Magnum Photo’s, Charles Harbutt. During a splendid 1972 piece the brilliant American photographer contemplated ‘reality’, unfurling the following Wise Words Indeed…  

“Reality comes without adjectives, it just is. The photographer’s problem is to come to see the real world as it really is, like the boy hero of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’. In some ways, all photographers must become cavemen. Or aliens. Or children.” - Charles Harbutt

Photograph by Charles Harbutt

“The significant point is that if we are as open to reality as a camera is, that is as totally as a blank film to light, we in fact perceive meaning or feel emotion through reality’s own form.”  - Charles Harbutt

Photograph by Charles Harbutt

“Photography is the only medium that originates in and is caused by the real, historical, time-space event of a collision between a man, a camera and reality.”  - Charles Harbutt

Photograph by Charles Harbutt

“Writing about a visual medium tends to make the simple complex. If you want to make photographs, all you do is point the camera at whatever you wish, click the shutter whenever you want. If you want to judge a good photograph, ask yourself: Is life like that? The answer must be yes and no, but mostly yes.”  - Charles Harbutt

Photograph by Charles Harbutt

“Photography is a reality high”  - Charles Harbutt  

Photograph by Charles Harbutt