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Tag Archives: Monash University

bLOGOS/HA HA

Peter Tyndall’s blog, bLOGOS/HA HA is blogging as contemporary art; there is always an enjoyable conjuncture of images on it and it forms part of his greater work. In 2013 bLOGOS/HA HA was in the NGV’s Melbourne Now and Reinventing the Wheel; the Readymade Century at MUMA. I’m pleased to see it represented in exhibitions where it is displayed in physical (paper) and virtual (computer) forms. I’ve had bLOGOS/HA HA on my blogroll for years.

Adrian Featherston's photo looks at Peter Tyndall at Monash 1975

Adrian Featherston’s photo looks at Peter Tyndall at Monash 1975

Tyndall was my first local favourite contemporary artists when I was an undergraduate at Monash Uni. Tyndall was the first artist-in-residence at Patrick McCaughey’s brand new Dept of Visual Arts at Monash Uni. I was impressed that in the mid 1970s he had retrospectively retitled all his art the same title:

detail

A Person Looks At A Work Of Art/

someone looks at something…

This title was often accompanied by a schematic representation of the painting, a square with wire hangers (the hanging system of the galleries at the time) and a viewer, generally a family standing in front of it.

In the 1980s Tyndall had refined his title further adding, a line space as in the chorus of a song and then, what Tyndall refers to as the “meta-Title”,  LOGOS/HA HA in upper case. Tyndall played with his “meta-Title” in the title of his blog; considering the entomology of ‘logos’ and ‘web logs’ (as blogs were originally called).

There is a poetry to Tyndall’s title and repeating image. It is part of the post-modern experience, the endless quotation, the paradoxes, the hermeneutical elements building up meaning through repetition. Combining the conceptual and the visual in a sophisticated post-modern understanding of the image and communication.

Tyndall works in all media and his blog is a hyperlinked extension of this exploration of media. Blogging appears like the ideal for Tyndall’s art. Is bLOGOS/HA HA in one media or multimedia? This is the kind of links, interconnections, indeterminacy and paradoxes that Tyndall delights in.

Blogging presents another paradox to Tyndall, the private and the public. His art never expressed the private individual; all that the Melbourne Now exhibition guide notes “1951 – :born at Mercy Hospital, Melbourne, The World”. Tyndall reconciles this by posts on exhibitions, current events and protests in the art world (I learnt about the protests about no sketching at the NGV from his blog and wrote my own blog post). This is mixed with posts on Tyndall’s own exploration of repeating images of people looking at things, including art.

Communicating is at the core of Tyndall’s art and blogging. His writing is crisp and his choice of images to accompany the blog posts are inspired. His obsessions and his visual memory of interconnected images are perfect to display on the internet. As he explained in an email: “In daily practice, I observe that my present inclination is less to the slow and expensive means of the easel and more to the immediate, inexpensive and intuitive exploration via the digital projection-space. I do, each day, still make some things more-or-less in the traditional means, but usually quickly: drawings, collages, postcards, words, photos.” Tyndall thinks that more artists should blog to communicate, create, and exhibit commenting: “I’m surprised how few ‘struggling artists’ give themselves this easy opportunity.”

The size of his blog, built up by incremental additions over the years since 2008 (the same year that I started this blog), makes it Tyndall’s largest detail in his life’s work. It’s size is a matter of duration and it is as endless as Tyndall’s art mantra:

detail

A Person Looks At A Work Of Art/

someone looks at something…

 

LOGOS/HA HA

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Persons of Interest – Philosophers

The first philosopher who interested me was Bertrand Russell but I was a young and foolish teenager at the time. Then, at Monash University where went on to major in philosophy, I read, was lectured by and met Peter Singer. I appreciated both of these philosophers not only for their writing which clear and often aimed at the wider public and because of their political engagement. Russell’s popular writing engaged many issues from atheism to nuclear disarmament.

Philosophers are persons of interest. I don’t want to see them as secular saints, or exemplar human beings but just people who think too much or, at least, harder than most people. Often philosopher’s theories are wrong but that is what you learn in philosophy – how you can be wrong about what you might think is right. After majoring in philosophy at Monash and doing an MA in philosophy at La Trobe I had met and read a lot of philosophers

One thing that interested me about philosophers was that most philosophers are very interested and involved in things other than philosophy, unlike many other academics. Many philosophers are interested in science or politics and some are interested in the arts. This might appear just to be a point of trivia about philosophy but it is also one of the strengths of philosophers. (This can also be one of the great strengths of art, the wide-ranging interests and involvement of artists in other things.)

As I have noted on my About page, my art criticism has been influenced by Arthur Danto. I started to read Danto in my post-graduate studies and, as with Russell and Singer, I was also impressed with Danto’s activities outside of academic philosophy. Danto has been the art critic for The Nation, print making and running a New York gallery. Danto has been associated with the institutional theory of art but that would be a kind of mistake to associate him too closely. I have to agree with Carlin Romano in “Looking Beyond the Visiable: The Case of Arthur C. Dantwo” (Danto and His Critics, ed. Mark Rollins, Blackwell Publishing, 1993). Romano argues that a second Arthur Danto exists Romano’s “Dantwo” who is identical in almost every aspect to Danto but is not a Hegelian and more pragmatic. Would the real Arthur Danto please stand up?

On a serious note, I didn’t imagine when I started writing this post that philosophers would be topical subject but with the Federal Member for Mayo, Jamie Briggs attacking the work of Professor Paul Redding’s “The God of Hegel’s Post-Kantian Idealism” as a waste of taxpayer’s money, I am unpleasantly not surprised. (Read more about this on Ockham’s Beard.) The Federal Member for Mayo is not a philosopher, has no serious academic qualifications and represents the anti-intellectual, anti-science, sports-obsessed, religious and conservative Australian mob.

Finally, I would like to thank John McKenzie for his PH227.04 Introduction to Aesthetics at Monash University for introducing me to a critical way of thinking about art. Ultimately it was that course that lead to me writing this blog. (Melbourne artist Julian di Martino also took McKenzie’s course – anyone else?) It was McKenzie who first put some photocopied pages of Foucault into my hand; a rare event in a department dominated by Anglo-American philosophy. And why I’m on the subject of the interests and activities of philosophers; Foucault worked as a journalist, wrote literary criticism and was involved anti-racist campaigns, anti-human rights abuses movements and the struggle for penal reform.


The moral meaning of the wilderness

In the wilderness personal identity is not defined – I like artists who keep on changing rather than one that keeps on churning out the same trademark work. So don’t expect more of the same from Juan Davila when you go to his exhibition that summarizes the last decade of his paintings at MUMA (Monash University Museum of Art). The exhibition is like going to one of those concerts where the band only plays songs from their latest album.

In three galleries of paintings at MUMA Davila takes the viewer from works that are familiar through to new directions in new paintings. Starting with the artist’s studio, with remains of his cut-up style but there is a change to Davila’s palette; it is lighter and the colors more subdued. The artist’s studio is the subject for the revolutionary realist Courbet but also for old Picasso endlessly painting nudes in an isolated loop of studio production.

Then in the next gallery there is an escape from the studio to painting en plein air. These Australian landscapes continue Davila’s change in palette along with a dramatic change of genre for Davila but not a change in political interest. What is the moral meaning of the wilderness? What is the moral landscape of Australia? Landscapes are the legendary great painting tradition of Australia, another way of conquering the land. Australians love the land, they love to mine, burn, despoil and finally turn into a nuclear waste dump. In Davila’s “Australia: Nuclear waste dumping ground” (2007) the bush runs out half way across the canvas then there is just a vacant sky and earth.

In the final gallery there are paintings of abstract, surreal forms hanging in fields of light paint. These inscapes, these psychological landscapes are another wilderness of paint and unknowable signs, a place between surrealism and abstract expressionism. Has Davila in these recent paintings attempted to revive the spirit of the Chilean surrealist Roberto Matta? (And, perhaps also, some of the late paintings of James Gleeson?)

This keynote exhibition of Davila’s recent paintings has previously been in Brisbane and Canberra. The exhibition also provides a platform for a new publication and a documentary video about Davila. The video was showing in MUMA’s lobby but I couldn’t see much of it on Saturday when it was crowded with people for the official opening of this and two other smaller exhibitions. “Collected Collaborations” a project based exhibition initiated by the Artist’s Book Research Group. And “The Devil Had a Daughter” printmaking with an allegorical, theatrical and macabre imagery; the exhibition takes it title from a dark and brooding monoprint by Janson Greig.

MUMA on the Caulfield campus still has that new gallery smell and an unfortunate name joining MOMA (Museum Of Modern Art), GOMA (Gallery Of Modern Art), MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), IMA (Institute of Modern Art), MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) etc. All these acronyms are making taking about galleries sound like a Kurt Schwitter’s poem with a limited alphabet.


A few of Monash’s artists

I saw some exhibitions by artists with connections to Monash University this week.

In the Sample case in Campbell Arcade is Lucy Berglund sculpture Mother/Lover/Other. Lucy Berglund is currently completing a Bachelor of Fine Art at Monash. Found basalt block of stone, familiar to all inhabitants of Melbourne as ‘bluestone’, wrapped, tied and taped. The tradition of wrapped objects goes back to Man Ray and the Surrealists, through Christo, and Berglund has little nothing new with the idea. However, the stone blocks wrapped in blanket material, nylon stockings, or bound with rope do have a primitive minimalist sculptural quality.

There are former post-graduate Monash Art and Design students exhibiting in a group show at Shifted, a new gallery and studio space on Albert St. The artists are exhibiting work in a variety of media: sculpture, painting, drawing and video art. The theme of the exhibition deals with the body in space but, like the media, there is no uniform method or ideology evident amongst the artists.

One of the exhibiting artists is Michael Brennan, who was once a member of 69 Smith St. proving that in this case an artist-run space can be the step to commercial gallery representation. I instantly recognized Brennan’s vertiginous perspective and surface of wrinkly dried paint. His current painting is less realistic, more urban and more thought provoking than the earlier paintings that I have seen.

This is just a brief sample of Monash fine arts students currently exhibiting in Melbourne. This small entry is my little celebration of Monash University’s 50th anniversary. I am a Monash alumni but that hasn’t influenced my critical judgment, as I never studied Fine Arts or Design at Monash University and have no connection with that department. When I studied at Monash University there was only one campus, at Clayton, and no Fine Arts department.


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