T1-MMT-P5-s2 Collections of vessels at the AGNSW

Earlier in the week I was at the Art Gallery of NSW for the first of this year’s art appreciation lecture series (theme Collectors & Collections, starting with the Medici), and spent some time earlier looking for collections of vessels.

Liu Jianhua Container Series (2009)
http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/228.2010.a-kk/

Liu Jianhua Container Series

Liu Jianhua Container Series

Liu Jianhua Container Series detail

Liu Jianhua Container Series detail
Click image for larger view

The vessels of this series are linked by the glaze used – celadon on the body and a red glaze giving the impression the vessels are full of liquid. There is a range of form and height, and a sense of sparseness in the unadorned shapes. In this installation the vessels are grouped on a low bench in the centre of the gallery, just large enough to accommodate them. The visitor looks down into the rich transparent red. Individual vessels can be seen clearly, they are brightly lit, open to view, but despite individual beauty it is the group which has primary impact.

Longquan ware

Longquan ware

In contrast other vessels in the same gallery are displayed in rows behind glass within the walls. They are evenly but relatively dimly lit. Each has its own information label. They are related – similar materials and place of origin – but separate.

The gallery website for Liu Jianhua’s work shows a different arrangement, the pieces close but not touching, on the floor in the corner of a white room. It is just as effective in showing them as a series.

Unlike my proposed collection, there is a depth of cultural references and symbolic meaning in Container Series. China’s ceramic heritage is referenced in glazes and some of the forms, but combined with other forms and a distinctly contemporary installation. China as a producer of consumer goods, and its position as a growth art market add to understanding, appreciation and meaning of the work.

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Dale Frank Ambition 25 + regrets 10 + death 21 = 56 (2014)
http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/189.2014.a-zzz/

Dale Frank Ambition 25 + regrets 10 + death 21 = 56

Dale Frank Ambition 25 + regrets 10 + death 21 = 56

Dale Frank Ambition 25 + regrets 10 + death 21 = 56 detail

Dale Frank Ambition 25 + regrets 10 + death 21 = 56 detail
Click image for larger view

The bottles in Dale Frank’s Ambition 25 + regrets 10 + death 21 = 56 are one part of a larger whole. The grouped placement is significant, referring to the title of the work. In the group of 21 bottles each has a coin placed on top, I assume linking to the tradition of coins on the eyes of the dead to pay Charon. The total number of bottles is the artist’s age at the time. Is this the sum of his life, placed in service to art exemplified by the varnished plexiglass above? I took my photographs at an angle, wanting to avoid my own reflection, but perhaps I should have embraced the opportunity to create my own self-portrait. Given the title, ideas of life and death, this work seems in the tradition of still life, a commentary on a brief and shallow existence.

The individual bottles are anonymous, mass produced. The ideas behind the grouping contain the importance of the work – although it is also visually striking, being large, reflective, a glow of colour.

I feel uncomfortable about this work, as if I’m not in on a joke or there’s a conversation going on over my head. I don’t see this world of ideas as relevant to my current research purpose, my focus on materials rather than concepts.
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Fiona Hall Slash and Burn
http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/418.1997.a-ttt/

Fiona Hall Slash and Burn

Fiona Hall Slash and Burn

I wish I could include a better photograph of this work by Fiona Hall. It is stunning. The image on the AGNSW website is sharper, but for me it loses the atmosphere of silent screams, empty eyes, and random body parts.

Suspended in dim light are dismembered remains, knit from video tape still connected by an umbilical cord of tape to video cases lying on the ground. They are war films – Hamburger Hill, Apocalypse Now, Gallipoli. “Slash and Burn” can be clearing land, or more darkly, ethnic cleansing.

The media glorify violence, and make money from it. The victims are voiceless, anonymous, without number. The AGNSW website includes “Hall believes there is no hope for the sustainability of nature until human beings begin to treat one another with greater respect and understanding.”, but I see no hope in this installation.

Grace Cossington Smith The sock knitter

Grace Cossington Smith
The sock knitter
Click image for larger view

The use of knitting is poignant. Elsewhere in the AGNSW is The sock knitter by Grace Cossington Smith, showing the artist’s sister knitting socks for troops in World War 1. It is full of colour and quiet determination, comfort and hope. There is nothing quiet or domestic in Hall’s work.

Once again I find it difficult to find ideas to bring back to my own work. The individual parts were displayed in a strict grid pattern. There is variation in detail but the similarities mean the parts build as a group to create impact. In this post I am presenting works in the order I came across them – the AGNSW is constantly changing and all the works bar Liu Jianhua’s were new to me – and each seemed more serious, had greater depth of ideas, making my student explorations seem trite. I’m posting despite this, in a way demonstrating what my plans are not. However it is the next, final piece which silences me.
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Doris Salcedo Atrabiliarios (1992-1997)
http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/372.1997.a-o/

Doris Salcedo Atrabiliarios detail

Doris Salcedo Atrabiliarios detail

Doris Salcedo Atrabiliarios

Doris Salcedo Atrabiliarios
Click image for larger view

Here is loss, pain, emotion, violence that I cannot encompass. Presented in niches in the gallery wall, closed away from us by cow bladder stitched with surgical thread, are shoes of women who have disappeared in Colombia.

I stand quiet before this memorial.

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T1-MMT-P5-s2 Collections of vessels at the AGNSW
Textiles 1 – Mixed Media for Textiles
Part 5: A final piece
Stage 2: Research
Collections of vessels at the Art Gallery of New South Wales

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Goodyer girls long weekend in Hobart

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