Tag Archives: Sam Jinks

Jinks @ the Hellenic Museum

The shock and awe of encountering the goddess Iris, apparently in the flesh. Not that the woman with golden wings is delivering a message, her usual role. Installed in a darkened room in front of a large pool reflecting like a mirror. Why is Iris pouring a jug? Nectar for the gods to drink or water from the River Styx to swear by? Or simply watering the clouds for rain?

Sam Jinks, Iris

Imagine if you were an ancient Greek and encountered Sam Jinks life-sized statue of Iris in a temple. Jinks is a Melbourne-based, super-realist sculptor. The ancient use of polychromatic paints on statues, ivory eyes, gold leaf, and other elements that have been largely destroyed by time. There are even reports of animatronic sculptures in temples in ancient Greece. We have been taught to forget all the colour looking at the white marble remains. And the unpainted white marble has become a racist symbol of ‘civilisation’.

However, there were no temples to Iris, a minor divine figure, a servant of the Olympian gods, sent to deliver a handful of messages, to collect water, and pour drinks. Some say that she the mother of Eros, others that Iris carried the young Nemean lion in her girdle from the sea to the mountains. Her appearance on the Parthenon is her most glorious moment; a running woman, her light linen chiton rippling with the movement.

Why show a messenger in a contemplative and static pose? Was it just an excuse to make a winged woman? These questions beat like the wings of Iris, rattling like wings of pigeons, around the quiet galleries of the Hellenic Museum. Why? Was it just an excuse?

The Hellenic Museum in Melbourne is an odd mix between art, antiquities, history and cultural exhibitions. It describes itself as “inspiring a passion for Greek history, art and culture”. It is also located in Melbourne’s old mint, which, apart from its Neo-classical facade, has nothing to do with Hellenic culture. The old mint is an attractive nineteenth-century building with an impressive walk-in vault, as you might expect to find in a mint.

Jinks is not the only artist with an exhibition at the Hellenic Museum. In front of the building, there is Renegades, a street-art/graffiti-inspired installation out the front of the building by a Spanish urban artist, PichiAvo. Inside, along with Iris, there is a photography installation by Bill Henson, Oneiroi, in an attractive dark nineteenth-century room. However, the photographs of Greek landscapes and backs of women’s heads were bland and uninspiring. As well as a room of contemporary icon paintings. There was also a room of contemporary icon paintings.

Most of the Hellenic Museum is not art but exhibitions of archaic Greek and ancient Greek antiquities: pottery, jewellery, statues, marble carving, helmets and weapons. There are even some Roman marble carving and enough red-figure vases to satisfy most people’s interest. The rest of the exhibitions are about modern Greek history and culture, much of it donated by the local community members. These are focused on establishing the modern Greek nation with folk costumes, jewellery, pistols and other antiques.

One curious feature of the Hellenic Museum was that there no signs in Greek. After visiting many antiquities museums in Greece that had signs in English, it felt odd. They would be of no use to me, but as Melbourne has one of the largest Greek-speaking population of any city in the world, they would be helpful to some people. For all the talk of multi-cultural Australia, there is almost no public paid signs anywhere in languages other than English.


Ghost Artists

Continuing my exploration of the living-dead of the art world (after finding zombie artists in Melbourne see Art Zombies) ghost-artists were brought to my attention thanks to Karen Thompson (Melbourne Jeweler) and Richard Watts (Man About Town).

Ghost-artists are like ghost-writers and session musicians, they are the ones who make the work that the big name artists, like Patricia Piccinini, put there name to. Piccinini does not draw images of her sculptors, nor does she manufacture them, all she does is think of the idea.

“For me, the ideas for the work come first. I have an image or a vision, and then I think about how I would like it to exist in the world, as a sculpture or photograph or video or whatever. I them find the right person to collaborate with to create that artwork, working closely with them so that what I get in the end is what I imagined in the beginning. Often the work does change a little, because of the input from the people I work with. I have to trust those people a lot, and be able to communicate with them easily. They need to understand me. So I tend to work with the same people a lot, once we have a good relationship. In some ways it is like a write/director of a film, who works with a crew of people to realize their vision.” Patricia Piccinini (2003)

Of course artists since have always used studio assistants, fabricators and other people with technical skills but as they are rarely credited I am calling them ghost-artists.

The public does not expect that a composer to play all the instruments and record, mix and master all their own music. Nor do they expect an author to edit, print and bind their own books. However, the great artist theory of visual art history, with lone genius creators, has ignored, obscured and made ghostly the people assisting the artist. Pop art attacked this image of the artist but the idea lived on in the public’s idea of art to the extent that Mark Kostabi was able to shock the public in the early 1980s by telling 60 Minutes that he hired other artists to think of his ideas.

Credits are not given for many of the roles in the art gallery either: curators do get a mention, sometimes, but not the exhibition installers who hang the work or the catering. The list of credits for an exhibition is considerably shorter than contemporary film or computer games credits. Patricia Piccinini did credit Sam Jinks and Peter Hennessey for their help in producing her work during a speech but is this enough? Sculptor Isabel Peppard (who exhibited at 696 Ink) has also done work for Piccinini. Most people know more about the job of set dressers and grips than the existence of exhibition installers and studio assistants. The argument could be made that the lack of credits doesn’t matter on the basis of trivial importance. Do we really need to know that Mott Iron Works. made the urinal for Duchamp’s “Fountain” or is this trivia? More credits to studio assistants and other ghost artists would help the public to understand, avoid historical debates about who did what and give credit where credit has long been due.

See my review of a Sam Jinks exhibition.


Sam Jinks – Sense & Sensational

Hyperrealist sculpture has become part of contemporary art in a way that hyperrealist painting has failed. Contemporary hyperrealism is sensational. It is the contemporary art waxwork museum. It is both a popular and a booming media. There are many Australian artists doing hyperrealist sculptures Martine Corompt, Sam Jinks, Ron Mueck and Patricia Piccinini.  Ron Mueck’s exhibition at the NGV earlier this year was very popular and was defined as “hot” by Melbourne Hot or Not. Patricia Piccinini has grown more popular since she moved from digital images to hyperrealist sculpture (her hyperrealist sculptures are manufactured by Sam Jinks).

I saw Sam Jinks exhibition at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Jinks has been exhibiting around Melbourne for the last decade but this is the first time that I’ve seen his work. There are only four sculptures on exhibition but they are all sensational. Not all of the sculptures in this exhibition are hyperrealist – there are two shrouded figures in the exhibition that are not hyperrealist. These figures are part of a symbolist fantasy, a contemporary gothic memento mori; continuing Jinks reputation for spooky sculpture.

There are a lot of sensory aspects to Jinks sculpture in this exhibition. His “Woman and child” 2010, shows an old woman in long nightgown holding a very young baby. The woman’s eyes are closed and the baby’s eyes are just open. It is about the sensation of life and life perceiving sensations. The sculpture is almost a quote from David Hume’s Enquiry concerning Human Understanding; for Hume all perceptions are derived either from sensation (“outward sentiment” in Hume’s words), depicted by the baby’s open eyes, or from reflection (“inward sentiment”), represented by the woman’s closed eyes.

Jinks’ sculpture of two entwining snails is also about sensations. It is also very beautiful in an alien way. The greatly enlarged surface of the skin of the monopods is beautifully rendered and their baroque entwining forms make this clearly art rather than a didactic model.

The sculptures are sensational; it is startling to look at the baby’s face in “Woman and child” and find open eyes. It is sensational to see giant hyper-real snails or the shrouded figures with their draped skeletal forms.

Why has hyperrealist sculpture become so popular? (Whereas hyperrealist painting has not had a similar revival in popularity.) It is 33 years after Paul Thek’s celebrated but hyperrealist sculpture “The Tomb – Death of a Hippie”. In 1967 hyperrealism was seen at the time as part of Pop Art but contemporary hyperrealism has nothing to do with Pop Art. Sixties hyperrealism was probably mislabeled by the media, unsure how to classify this kind of art they lumped it in with all the new art. The contemporary generation of artists is more appreciative of the sensational aspects of hyperrealist sculpture. The science fiction and comic book aspects of these contemporary sculptures have been embraced. And the quality of these sculptures has also improved sensationally since Thek’s painted plaster cast.


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