Posted by: mikeyfreedom | July 13, 2008

To be s’pacific in art & society

im bringn sexy blak

I’m Bring’n sexy Blak BY Tony Albert

I live in Australasia apparently?…… or is it the Pacific rim?…….. Dinky di Austrayleeyahhh?

A pacific partner with Asian interests whilst being an American compatriot?……… HHhmmmmm? Politics and semantics aside, Australia is placed within a precarious position and its position is placed within secular understandings, understandings that lay in global economic desire rather then common sense or reality………. if you get my drift?

I have seen this T-Shirt worn a few times “London, New York, Milan, Paris…….Sydney?” Well, it never really sat properly with me, though that’s just me……….. why do people feel the need or see the need to go some where to be noticed, in order to be regarded by some to of come of age on the world stage? If you want to be noticed either make a lot of noise or just be who you are, putting an end in wanting to be like others, for want of attention or recognition. After all who made the bar of popularism so high anyway?

Why have we allowed commerce and fashion to center the worlds interests and admiration, is this the persona or identity we need?

Australian society with the coming of the Europeans has always struggled to find an identity, the Heidelberg School sought to show Australia as a harsh, unforgiving but beautiful land with a romantic pioneering soul, a country in growing influence from man’s toil upon the land. However, most Australian’s now as did then in the late 1800’s, live in the developing cities of the day and whilst the Heidelberg’s school‘s work is brilliant and indeed a reflection of Australia in that passage of time, it is however not a total depiction of Australia, perhaps more romantic and idyllic in some respects, though reflective of a small percentage of Australian’s, as it is indeed now, also, it was a vision of Australia that the Heidelberg school wanted Australians to embrace.

Captain no beard by Daniel Boyd.

In the late 1950’s a passionate and aspiring group of artists called the Antipodeans, comprising of Charles Blackman, Arthur Boyd, David Boyd, John Brack, Robert Dickerson, John Perceval and Clifton Pugh, to quote ” Artonview“, issue no. 20, 1999 : “The name ‘Antipodeans’ was suggested by Bernard Smith as one which would define the group’s place in the world without being overtly nationalistic. The geographic specificity of ‘Antipodean’, and its broader meaning of being diametrically opposite something, generally Europe, supports the notion that one of Smith’s original aspirations in establishing the group was to take his critique of international modernism to its centre – to exhibit in London, at a time when Australian art was beginning to have an impact there. In the event, a London showing of the Antipodeans did not happen, although each of the artists was included in a far broader survey of Australian art at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1961, curated by its director Bryan Robertson.”

It seems in this instance there was a game of forcing back, in that defining a uniquely Australian character for society and art, one had to remove themselves from history in order to forge identity, disowning roots in one way and in turn looking to their immediate environment to cultivate their new found sensibilities, leaving European perspectives behind? Whilst the Heidelberg school sought realism in landscapes and theactivities of rural life therein , the Antipodeans looked to abstraction and modernism as a road to maturity.

Down on his luck - Frederick McCubbin 1889

Down on his luck - Frederick McCubbin 1889

100 years on and the Heidelberg School paintings are printed in their thous- ands, adorning place mats, coasters and celebrated as true Australiana. The Antipodeans are toted as serious artists in Australian art history, heralded in art books and periodicals and occasionally exhibited to draw dwindling public interests in post modern art, all the while gathering increasing sale prices in auction houses as the remaining Antipodean generation parts from their palettes. We now look to a multicultural Australia with a growing Asian focus to influence and define our very beings, Australasia. Primed since the late eighties under Prime Minister keating, at first we envisioned links with Japan, but soon as the tourists trickled down in numbers, our interests deminished, China’s global restructing for the worlds multinationals as a factory plant and the looming olympic games has enhanced contemporary Chinese art markets, such artists as Yue Minjun and Zhang Xiaogang have experienced great interest, money and world popularity, (though “Richard Polsky over at ArtNet is predicting a decline and fall for Chinese Contemporary Art. (Which makes NY real-estate and art investor Howard Farber’s disposal of most of his Contemporary Chinese collection tomorrow at Phillips look well timed.)

But Polsky goes further, stating flatly:

“There’s nothing innovative here. In fact, other than its specifically Asian content, the work is totally derivative of Western art”.

With such things being reported, surely this show’s the art world for what it is, a exploited trendy commodity, whose value is in the price tag applied in a Auction house or high street gallery. That when art loses it context of culture and is soley percieved in economic terms, it can not produce an enduring identity or integral role in society, its presence is fleeting and its power temporary!

Years ago a now smug liberal politician Malcolm Turnball, though at the time a merchant banker made a charge for Australia to become a republic, what resulted was a referendum in 1999, in which Australia voted overwhelmingly against. Though the cards are back on the table it would seem? There are rumblings anyway?

Daniel Boyd

Republic or not, to be a republic is hardly the question, for culture has always defined a country, place and its people, for with in it is its languages, arts and music. However, art has traveled beyond the distinctions of post modernism and perhaps it is expressed best in the words of Art critic Robert Hughes,

” The art world is now so swollen with currency and the vanity of inflated reputation that it is taking on some of the less creditable aspects of showbiz. Hollywood doesn’t want critics, it wants PR folk and profile-writers. Showbiz controls journalism by controlling access. The art world hopes to do the same, though on a more piddly level. No other domain of culture would try this one on. No publisher, fearing that an unfavourable review, would attempt to stop a book critic quoting from some novel. No producer would make a guarantee of innocuousness the price of a critic’s ticket to the theatre. It just wouldn’t happen. But in art, it can. And since it can, as Bill Clinton remarked in another context, it does.”

Further more Art has transgressed the lines of currency and culture, that whilst the artist must be submissive or ruthless in the face of present capitalistic environments in order to survive, arts importance now a days is nothing more then a back drop to a jingle and 40 second television advertisement or magazine ad. The dollar is a catalyst for fashion, music, art and colour, generating, seducing, manipulating interest and a hook in the sale of a product or to propel a celebrity in to the social stratosphere. Whilst art movements and styles have come and gone, the digital age has made art more transient then ever before……… ooops a magnetic pulse, we just lost 1000 files of art history?

An artist must make a living and find that fine line between appreciation, success and sell out! It is an oh so hard line to walk! ………. national identity and character is even harder to develop and still yet Australia forgets not the Heidelberg school or Antipodeans, for it was the closest that we came to a vision and thus purpose in being a young modern nation….. but….. not really :)……. we thought so and some do still cling to…………

We are built upon an ancient group of nation’s in Australia, one of Aboriginal history, where character is defined by the environment, we were not meant to develop a new national character, but where supposed to adopt the one or the many already existing, a wide land of contrast, a land of organic ancient structure, whose truth is found in red dirt and mossy southern gums in winter times, white northern sands and sweltering summers, in indigenous peoples cultural understandings. In a land that is indeed girt by seas, but are neighbours to a rich and insightful creative legacy, a large island ebbing on the pacific rim, caught between south east Asian history at the top end, Papuan and Torres Strait links, within a modern Melanesian and Polynesian oceanic reality.

Robyn Kahukiwa

Yes there is undeniable European mix to Australia and with it a fading British conscience, though i think Australia’s future lay in the Pacific, in her geographical proximity, not it’s economic insecurities, but first we must find our selves in this own land……………….

Perhaps we need to look to the artist again as cultural bastions of change, creative spirits not the controlled and commercially manipulated artist or the socially driven self evacuous artist whose fling with conceptual-ism has left them with out skill and therefore also with out direction, with out purpose and inevitably with out a clue! Cultureless and spineless, trendy at least?

Though, the driven artist, the individual that seeks resolution of statement in their work, work that imbues cultural truths as much as whim and does not sacrifice art for fear of a critic shall always inwardly stand tall in their accomplishments!

The gallery door may not always open for such a one as this, but the halls of history are littered with such people, for who wants to be envogue?

As Picasso is quoted as saying “GOOD TASTE IS THE ENEMY OF CREATIVITY”


Here are a list of artists i find interesting and ones i deem as “ones to watch”, whose work need be looked at that little bit more closer perhaps and no doubt will hear much more from?

Feel free to add to the list if you see the need?

Tracey Tawhiao

More cash  by Tracey Tawhiao

More cash by Tracey Tawhiao

Art work by Filipe Tohi

Art work by Filipe Tohi

Niki Hastings-McFall

Shar Moreli

I will add to this in time!!! 🙂


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