Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Peter Gardiner selected as a finalist in the Dobell Prize for Drawing

Peter Gardiner features as a finalist in the 2011 Dobell Prize for drawing, which can be viewed at the Art Gallery of NSW until the 5th February.

Peter Gardiner in front of 'Hexham (swamp)' 

"Peter Gardiner's Hexham (swamp) [...] is an unusual venture for Gardiner, who often favours the more dramatic scenes. The swamp is almost featureless but possessed of a strange, crackling vitality. The artist has filled the sheet with small staccato dabs of charcoal that extract a glimmer of individuality from the uniformity of the landscape"
Says John MacDonald in a review of the show for the Sydney Morning Herald's Spectrum (10/12/2011).

We also congratulate James Drinkwater for being selected as a finalist in the Dobell 2011.

James Drinkwater's selected work 'Trails Beginnings', part of a suite of works on paper featured in the March 2011 exhibition at our gallery 

In other Peter Gardiner news, we are proud to announce that the Damien Minton Gallery had been accepted into the 2012 Hong Kong Art Fair.  We will be exhibiting in the ASIAONE section with a development of Gardiner's Ravensworth Series.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Trinkwasser's Art Attack

We thought we might share some news from Berlin as it trickles in from Marten Bequest Travelling Scholarship recipient James Drinkwater. With Berlin arguably the street art capital of the world, and considering Drinkwater's existing practice of working with and transforming found materials, his 'trash can assemblage' actions appear as both a logical and astute exploration. Ragtag refuse becomes part of a whole, subsumed by James' signature style. Signing them off as "Trinkwasser" we only hope he's not becoming German for good. 

See images below of Drinkwater's 'Boss' project in Amsterdam. 

Godfather of street art, Blek le Rat

 tags a Drinkwater

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Jon Frum Art Foundation's '2020'

Damien Minton Gallery is proud to host the momentous '2020' project at our Annex Space. Statement from organisers Jon Frum Art Foundation below.

Alex Jackson Wyatt, 'Enough to store in a storage unit', Friday 14th October
Who: Jon Frum Art Foundation and Robert Lake
Where: Damien Minton Annex Space, 583 Elizabeth St, Redfern
When: 6-25th October 2011

Time: 6-8 pm (nightly)
What: 20 consecutive days, 20 local and international artists and art groups will stage 20 one-night exhibitions.

In the words of the organisers:
Jon Frum Art Foundation & Robert Lake are proud to present a new model of art exhibition practice, “2020” (twenty art shows in twenty consecutive days). 

The 2020 platform which is a hybrid of a number of art exhibiting models, aims to support experimental and progressive artwork, by creating a system that is part performance, part artist-run and part commercial thus enriching existing models of exhibition practice. Each morning the previous show will be dismantled and a new show will be erected for the 6-8pm opening. We are expecting to attract a new and different audience nightly increasing the cultural awareness of arts in Sydney.

In 2020, Australian and International emerging artists will be exhibiting along-side established artists, encouraging a supportive and nurturing exhibiting environment for our art contenders. The participating artists will be encouraged to liaise with one another for future exhibition opportunities, as our aim is to provide an International bond between artists, galleries and curators through the social aspect that the show will provide. 

The space, courtesy of Damien Minton, provides a progressive change in the way we view and exhibit art in Sydney by blurring the boundaries between commercial galleries and artist run spaces; it is free for artists to exhibit, we encourage sales, and encourage commercial gallerists to view and pick artists from our 2020 selection. Each of the twenty shows will run for two hours and will be streamed live across the internet, encouraging the projects potential for world wide recognition.

With web presence, blogs and social networking tools in place we anticipate generous media coverage for the 20 days and whilst the two hour duration of each show may seem short, the exhibition will continue indefinitely in cyber space in the form of live streamed video documentation. Australian audiences are encouraged to view a new exhibition every day for twenty days, either in person or live on the web at www.2020art2011.com. 

The future and long-term goal for 2020 is to exhibit annually, further bridging the gap between artists globally forming an alliance of contemporaries. As a progressive and experimental exhibition format the future of 2020 is very exciting. 

Full program:
For more information head to the Jon Frum Foundation website.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Philjames: 'A Moth in a Chandelier' in the Annex space

Philjames, Number 27, Oil on found vintage print, 400 x 300 mm
Next pop-up show in the Damien Minton Annex (583 Elizabeth St, Redfern) is Philjames, 'A Moth in a Chandelier'. Opening 23rd September 6-8 and running until the 24th September only. Read what Archibald Prize winner Guy Maestri says about Philjames' work below:

Philjames's art can be on one hand playful, even childish, and on the other, arresting, disarming, and shocking. In this body of work Philjames has juxtaposed icons of popular culture into sublime and kitsch landscape paintings sourced from opp shops and skip bins. The results range from comical to apocalyptic. But  he is not engaging in an act of destruction, more like a thoughtful readjustment. An offering of a new vision, or version, of the future.  Many of the protagonists in Philjames's paintings include people dressed in super hero suits, dumped in these alien worlds. A seemingly bizarre and incongruous act, these people in a second skin, unnatural in nature. Yet strangely poignant. Philjames is well aware of the world we live in. This is man vs nature in all our clumsy, unnatural glory.

Philjames often bolts these works to public walls, literally offering his art to the people, to be considered by those who may not generally consider art, and to encourage response and interaction. They get tagged, smashed, scarred and often stolen, but these are artworks which weren't Philjames's to begin with. He puts his hand to them, and releases them back into the wild. Some of them survive and are included in this exhibition, as works of anonymous collaboration.

I travelled through China with Philjames. All along the way he would pull out his pen and make "thoughtful adjustments" to signs, posters, graffiti etc. Or just leave small offerings for the hell of it. For example, on a riverboat on the Yangtze river he planted a small pink penis on a print of a manicured, english garden hanging on the wall of our cabin. I like to think it would still be there. Largely unnoticed, offering occasional amusement or bewilderment the unsuspecting traveller. Art for the people!

- Guy Maestri

View a selection of the works on our website

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bilums, bilums, bilums


A fundraising exhibition for the mother and child health clinic of the Paiga community, Eastern Highlands PNG.

TUESDAY 27 SEPT 2011 6-8PM
In the Project Room

Exhibition 27 SEPT – 15 OCT

Statement from organiser, community worker Paul van Reyk:

Take a flight from Port Moresby to the Eastern Highlands Province capital town, Goroka. Get on a PMV (mini-van, truck, ute) and bump head to Okapa on a road, which depending on the rains and how recently anyone's had money or energy to fix it will either be a reasonable gravel road or a series of potholes, wash-aways, and bogs, till you get to Ke Efu (ask the driver or any of the passengers cause it won't be signposted). Then trek for several hours, depending on your fitness and the state of the track, up and up and up then along the ridges through forest and hamlets, spectacular views to both sides of you, to Paigatasa, an area of scattered market gardens and bush material round huts housing 6000 people 2000 metres above sea level.

Like much of remote PNG, this area remains shamefully underserviced in health. Women and children still regularly die during childbirth for lack of access to midwives and hospital beds. Six years ago the community decided to do something about it. They asked Paul van Reyk, an Australian community worker, one of the first ‘white men’ to travel into the area since PNG independence, to help them build a clinic to deliver community mother and child health programs.

Since then, the women have been making bilums for sale to raise funds for the clinic and to supplement the meagre income they get from small coffee plantings. Contact with Western culture, materials and markets, have changed these gathering and market bags from brown bush material open styles to vibrantly coloured synthetic yarn close weave styles that play with the products and signage of their contact and development experiences. From bank logos to religious texts, football colours to mobile phone advertisements, anything and everything is used in these exuberant, individual creations without any hint of irony or embarrassment.
Money raised through sales at the exhibition will go directly 50% to the maker of the billum, and 50% to the mother and child clinic.

More information on Paiga and the project: www.paiga.com.au
See images of the bilums on our facebook page

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

'Art and the Animal' talk at Damien Minton Gallery

Art and the Animal
Talk at the Damien Minton Gallery July 9, 2011
Elizabeth Grosz

In truth, there are only inhumanities, humans are made exclusively of inhumanities, but very different ones, of very different natures and speeds.
Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 1987: 190.

Today I want to talk not really about Aboriginal art and about the magnificent works that have come to mark world art over the last forty years or more – the art of Papunya and Utupia artists and the work of others from the Western Desert. I have no particular expertise to do so. What I would like to talk about are the living connections between plants, animals and the earth that makes human art possible. I think that contemporary Aboriginal art states something about art that all the arts share but never explicitly address. So I want here to look at the peculiar relations between the earth, animals and art that have been largely unrepresented in most Western forms of art. Why does it make sense to ask about animal lineages, genealogies and connections – even bestiaries – when talking about art and architecture? What is at stake in our conception of the human when we place the human, not outside the category of the animal as has occurred since at least the C17th century, but within it? How are our conceptions of human accomplishments – whether in art, architecture, science, philosophy or in governance and in social and political relations – transformed when we place the human within the animal? How and why does the animal imperil human uniqueness and dignity? What do we gain in restoring the human to the animal from which it has come?

1. Art

Eight theses about art and the animal:

1. All of the arts, from architecture to music, poetry, and dance are the indirect products or effects of what Darwin calls ‘sexual selection’, the attraction to potential sexual partners, for the purposes of some kind of sexual encounter possibly leading to procreation. Sexual selection is not reducible to natural selection, the capacity to survive in given and changing environments, but is a potentially antagonistic principle which may at times imperil life for the sake of pleasure or desire. The separation of natural from sexual selection is regularly ignored in contemporary Darwinism, when, for example, sociobiologists suggest that sexual attraction and procreation are in fact indirect forms of maximizing the survival potential of one’s genes, that is, they are really forms of natural selection. For Darwin, sexual and natural selection are two irreducible and potentially antagonistic principles. If natural selection can help explain the remarkable variety and adaptations of life then only sexual selection can explain the extravagant, useless, sometimes imperiling qualities that have no survival value but nevertheless proliferate in abundance;

2. Sexual selection can be more explicitly linked to the arts than natural selection, to the extent that it functions to highlight, focus on, intensify, the bodies of beings exciting and beings excited by various forms of bodily display – in the courtship songs and dancing of competing birds, the dazzling displays of colors in sticklebacks and other erotically attuned fish, the loud and colorful encounters of various mammals in competition with members of the same sex over sexual partners. Sexual selection unhinges, deranges and complicates survival for the sake of intensification, providing a principle separate from that of mere survival;

3. Art, like science or technology, links living bodies to the earth, not wholesale but through the connections it makes between specific qualities –the shiny objects that appeal to bower birds, the balls that attract dogs – and specific organs. But unlike technology which aim to extract useful principles – regularity, predictability, order and organization – the arts redirect these forces through intensification to produce something no longer regular, ordered or manipulable but a force which actively alters the forces of the body itself, something appealing, irregular, unpredictable;

4. This emphasis on sexual selection rather entails that wherever art is in play, wherever qualities, features, forms have the capacity to brace and intensify the body, we must recognize that sexual selection is the underside of sexual difference. Sexual selection, the sexual appeal and attraction of members of the same species, is always at least two-fold, resulting in the development of at least two different kinds of morphology or bodily type, male and female, (but also commonly three types of morphology in the insect world), two different kinds of criteria for attractiveness, and two different types of morality;

5. Architecture is the first art, the art that is the condition for the emergence of all the other arts, for without some cordoning off of earth into territory, no qualities or properties can be extracted, resonate and transform bodies. It is only to the extent that both the body and the earth are partially tamed through the creation of the frame provided by a provisional territory that protects the living creature, and creates a temporary ‘home’ that art as such can emerge. Art is, for Deleuze, the extension of the architectural imperative to organize the space of the earth;

6. Art is the sexualization of survival; or equally sexuality is the rendering artistic of nature, the making of nature into more than it is, the making of a leaf into a sexual adornment rather than just a part of a tree.[i] Art is that ability to make qualities resonate bodies to the extent that this quality takes bodies away from their real immersion in a particular habitat and orients them to a virtual world of attraction and seduction. This is why the first art is architecture – for qualities to be extractable, a territory, that is a framed and delimited space, must first exist, a space of safety, competition, courtship and flight; only within such a provisional space, a space always threatened with deterritorialization, can there be the pure joy of qualities, the immersion of the living in intensities. Architecture is the bridge between life and art, the condition under which life complicates itself and finds transportable, transformable qualities for this complication.[ii]

7. If art is rooted in the ways in which sexual selection deviates from natural selection, making properties, qualities, organs and muscles function, not usefully but intensively, art is the capacity of materiality to function otherwise than what is given: art is the exploration of qualities and properties not for their use or exchange value, but only insofar as these qualities and properties do something, have some effect, on living beings. Art is the means by which nature, materiality, deviates itself from givenness, comes to function in other terms than the useful or the manageable: art is thus the space in which the natural and the material is the most attenuated, rendered the most visible and tangible for living beings; and

8. These qualities and properties, attractive to various forms of life, become art only to the extent that they can be moved, transferred beyond where they are found, sent on a deterritorializing trajectory, able to function elsewhere than where they originate or are found. Thus, while the raw materials for art are located within territory, as part of the earth, they become art, architecture, dance only to the extent they become transportable elsewhere to intensify bodies that circulate, move, change.

I want to use these broad claims to frame a more specific discussion of animal worlds through the work of the Estonian biologist, Jakob von Uexküll, a figure of immense interest to Deleuze, Agamben and others working on understanding the human in different terms than those that mark the Enlightenment. Uexküll is interested in understanding the worlds in which animals live from the perspective of those living beings themselves; he may be the first animal phenomenologist.[iii] For him, the most basic problem of biology is a problem of design, the bodily design of organisms, insofar as they find themselves within a particular context where their bodily forms, their organs and capacities must find a way of enabling them to utilize what they need from this context to survive and thrive. The problem of life is the problem of design; or put another way, life is artistic in the biological forms it induces, in the variations in patterns of living it generates, and above all, in the forces of sexual intensification it proliferates.

2. Umwelt

Darwin deflects art through the animal. Deleuze too links art to the relation between an animal and its territory. Uexküll develops an account of the centrality of the notion of milieu in understanding the ways in which particular species experience and co-evolve with their life-worlds. Uexküll discusses what he understand as the ‘musical laws of nature’ [Weltgesetz] (2001b: 118) that bind together in a complex duet the evolution of the spider and the fly, the tick and the mammal, the wasp and the orchid, the leaves of an oak tree and drops of rain, each serving as a motif or counterpoint for the other. Nature is musical, composed of living notes which each play their own melody, a melody complicated, syncopated and transformed through the melodies of the other living and non-living things with which it engages. For Uexküll, music is not just a useful metaphor for understanding relations between living elements within given milieus, it is a profound model by which nature can be understood as dynamic polyphony, always playing at least two tunes which produce resonance and dissonance such that forms, dynamic, interacting forms, result.

Uexküll claims that an animal engages only with certain features in a milieu which are significant to it, which it can discern and act upon, those which are in counterpoint with its own organs. Each organism is surrounded by its Umwelt, a ‘soap-bubble’ in which each living being is housed. The lived world of the organism is precisely as complex as its organs. Each creature, animal and human, Western and non-Western lives a particular angle on the world, which highlights for it what its organs can perceive and act upon but leaves everything else undiscerned.[iv]

Organisms are sense-bubbles, isolated worlds, monads composed of fragments of milieus and organs, musical counterpoints creating a melody. The Umwelt is the sensory world of space, time, and objects that form perceptual signs for living creatures, the world that enables them to effect actions, to exercise their organs, to act. Uexküll calls it a ‘circular island’, a ‘wall of the senses’ (2001a: 107), a bubble-world, much like a creature enclosed in an invisible snow-cone, positioning the subject within the centre of a movable horizon. Each living thing lives in precisely the world which accords with its bodily organs. The lived reality of each living thing already includes, mirrored inside the organism, the forces that impinges on it from the outside.[v] Uexküll argues that we can understand this apparently perfect adaptation of bodily form in terms of the ‘musical’ or harmonic ‘laws of life’.[vi] This music of living things is composed, not of vocal or instrumental notes, but various tones, frequencies, forms of organic resonance. Each living creature is a series of tonal responses to various ‘melodies’ played by its Umwelt, various performances it undertakes – the world is composed not so much of objects but of tunes with which it can resonate, through its own ego-tone [Ich-Ton], its own specific neurological reactions and muscular contractions, its own characteristic behavior.

3. Home

What defines territory, if territory is the most irreducible spatial terrain for many animals? Many insects do not have territory. We are familiar with flies and mosquitoes. They fly back and forth: but they have no home, which is the necessary condition for territory (1957: 54-5).[vii] While the fly has no territory and thus no boundary as to where it may roam, the spider is firmly located in territory, the immediate vicinity surrounding its web.

In building a home, the spider defines both a home and the space surrounding it as territory.[viii] The web is the space of the home, and the surrounding region – the trees or branches between which its strands are threaded – are the spider’s territory. And yet the spider and the fly are still commonly bound together in a kind of musical duet in which the operations of each harmonize with the other without the slightest conscious planning or coordination. Uexküll discusses the production of the spider’s web as a kind of spatial counterpoint to the movements of the fly. The threads of the web must be both strong enough to capture the spider’s prey, yet invisible enough for the prey to be unable to see them. There are, for example, two kinds of thread in every web: smooth radial threads that the spider is able to stand on and spin from, and sticky threads that function to catch flies. The size of the net, its holes and gridding are a quite exact measure of the size of the fly or specific forms of prey for the spider. The fly is contrapuntal to the web: or equally, the fly, the web and the spider form a unique coupling. The fly is already mapped,[ix] its place accommodated in the spider’s bodily behavior before any particular spider has encountered any particular fly.[x] The goanna and its prey, the plants and their environment are all in a relation of harmonic resonance.

Each living thing is a melodic line in a symphony composed of the larger and more complex movements provided by its world. Both the organism and its Umwelt taken together are the units of survival. Each organism is a musician completely taken over by its tune, an instrument, ironically, of a larger performance in which it is only one role, one voice or melody.[xi]

Uexküll claims that if we could explore any tract of land carefully we would discover distinct territories that, like the ever-shifting map of nations, and of struggling groups within nations, represent a political division of the activities undertaken within them. Territories are divided and mapped by dogs through scent, by birds through the songs and dances that emanate from their nests, by spiders with their webs, and wasps, bees and ants in movements in and around their hives or nests.[xii]

The architecture of the home defines the space of territory which is the condition for the eruption of qualities, rhythms, sounds, colors, all capable of being extracted from objects to be able to be deterritorialized, transported elsewhere. Whether the ingenious elaboration in stucco of the neatly organized oval nests of termites, the beautiful ordered regularity of the honeycomb the architecture of the home is the condition under which art is unleashed on the world.

Without the bees’ attraction to the perfume of flowers and plants, there would be no art of smell for humans, without the bird’s capacity to make melodious tones to charm and amuse us or to strut about fluffing up its most dazzling and colorful feathers in acts of courtship we would be blunted to the allure of sounds, melodies, or color, texture and shape. These animal arts are the conditions under which the resources of nature are plucked or dragged away from their given context to become the raw materials of the human arts.

Art is the human capitalization of these inhuman, animal qualities, the submission of these materials to other requirements than the instinctive. Art is the human transportation of these qualities, through framing, to any place whatever. The human arts are thus as inhuman as the human itself is: both are the transformation, the reworking, the overcoming of our animal prehistory and the beginning of our inhuman trajectory beyond the human. Art is that which most directly returns us to the animal lineage to the extent that art’s qualities are not purely bound up with the contents, the concepts, meanings, values art represents but primarily reside in its capacity to affect and transform life, that is, in what it does more than what it means. The animal reminds us of of this movement in which we are bound up, this movement beyond ourselves that our art best represents. The animal is that from which qualities emanate, territories proliferate, and life is framed, framed by more than need. The animal is that from which the ‘all-too-human’ comes and that through which the human moves beyond itself into a new kind of artistic animal. Contemporary Aboriginal art, perhaps more than any other, makes explicit the intimate and necessary connection of the human with the animal, plant and territorial environments that condition art and make all its qualities possible. It is perhaps the art most alive to the nuanced interconnections between all things.


Darwin, Charles, (1981), The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

---------------------,  (1996). The Origin of Species. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari, (1987) A Thousand Plateaus, trans Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Grosz, Elizabeth (2005) Time Travels. Feminism, Nature, Power Durham NC: Duke University Press.

Grosz, Elizabeth  (2008) Chaos, Territory, Art. Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth, New York: Columbia University Press.

Jakob von Uexküll, (1926), Theoretical Biology, trans D.L. MacKinnon, London, Kegan Paul, Tench, Trubner and Co. Ltd

------------------, (1957), “A Stroll Through the Worlds of Animals and Men. A Picture Book of Invisible Worlds” in Instinctive Behavior: The Development of a Modern Concept, ed Claire Schiller, International Universities Press, New York, 5-80.

------------------, (2001a), “An Introduction to Umwelt” Semiotica 134-1/4, 107-110.

------------------, (2001b), ” The New Concept of Umwelt: A Link Between Science and the Humanities” Semiotica 134,1/4., 111-123.

[i]  Of course the leaf itself is the result of its own processes of formation and the impingement of various forces to which its own form responds. Leaves are not simply random shapes but those random shapes which, through the eliminations of equally random but less useful shapes provided by natural selection, can provide the tree with maximal life, maximal utilization of competing and potentially scarce resources. We will rely in considerable detail on the writings of Jakob von Uexküll, whose works are also relevant to considering plant existence. The leaves of trees are in part the counterpoint of both the tree itself its various photosynthesizing requirements; but equally the leaf reflects and counterposes the forces of water and of rain, elemental forces which the tree must both withstand and utilize if it is to survive and proliferate:

One of the meaning factors relevant to oak leaves is rain. Upon striking a leaf, falling raindrops follow the physical laws governing the behavior of liquids. In this case, according to Uexküll, the leaf is the ‘receiver of meaning’, which is coupled with the meaning factor ‘rain’ by a ‘meaning rule’. The form of leaves is such that it accommodates the physical laws governing the behavior of liquids. The leaves work together by forming cascades in all directions to distribute rain water on the ground in optimal reach of the roots…

Wherever there is a point, its corresponding counterpart can be found. The physical behavior of raindrops is the counterpoint corresponding to the point of the leaf’s form… (Krampen: 420)

[ii] “The territory is first of all the critical distance between two beings of the same species: Mark your distance. What is mine is first of all my distance: I possess only distances. Don’t anybody touch me, I growl if anyone enters my territory.” (A Thousand Plateaus 319-320)

[iii] His work fits into the lineage of vitalist or biocentric works that runs from Schelling to Dreisch, Berg, Spemann, and D’Arcy Wentworth Thomson to Kurt Goldstein, Georges Canguilhem, and Oliver Sacks.

[iv]  ‘Everything that falls under the spell of an Umwelt is altered and reshaped until it has become a useful meaning-carrier; otherwise it is totally neglected.' (Uexküll 1982, p. 31).
[v]             No one, who has the least experience of the Umwelten of animals will ever
 harbour the idea that objects have an autonomous existence that makes them independent of the subjects. The variability of objects is the norm here. Every object becomes something completely different on entering a different Umwelt. A flower stem that in our Umwelt is a support for the flower, becomes a pipe full of liquid to build its foamy nest.

The same flower stem becomes an upward path for the ant, connecting its nest with its hunting ground in the flower. For the grazing cow the flower stem becomes part of a tasty morsel of food for her to chew in her big mouth. (2001 Introd, 108)

[vi] “It is thus musical and not mechanical laws that we need to study if we want to find out about the laws of Life.” (2001b: 117).

[vii] The fly is itself a much underestimated creature whose morphology has enabled it to survive and thrive in a wide range of terrains and geographies. It has itself a quite rich world, marked by a number of I-tones, a flying tone (never direct or in a straight line but in a zigzagged line, an eating-tone, a walking tone: flies are by no means driven by instinct alone. Rather, their behavior is linked to the transformations of activity undertaken through the acquisition or transformation of meanings: a fly will continue to hit a glass window over and over until it switches from a flying-tone to a walking-tone:

…the fly, which comes to the window-pane, hits it with its head several times, and then no longer treats it as though it were air, but walks about on it as if on the ground…through the coming in of an indication, a rearrangement of the action is undertaken. (1926: 328)

[viii]  Uexküll likens the spider to the mole: the network of underground caves and tunnels the mole has excavated for itself is, for him ‘spread out underground like a cobweb…In captivity it plots its tunnels so that they resemble a cobweb.’ (1957: 55)

[ix] It does matter whether the codes instructing the spider are genetic or environmental or a mixture of both. There is much to suggest that even if the design of the web is genetically structured, it seems unlikely that the location of the web is genetically structured:

…individual spiders repeatedly make webs in their environments, generation after generation, because they repeatedly inherit genes instructing them to do so. Subsequently, the consistent presence of a web in the spider's environment may, over many generations, feed back to become the source of a new selection pressure for a further phenotypic change in the spiders, such as the building by Cyclops of dummy spiders in their webs to divert the attention of avian predators… In this case, although the bird predator may not be a direct part of the spider's Umwelt, this Umwelt has, nevertheless, accommodated itself so as to fit (though faking) into the bird's Umwelt. (Hoffmeyer, 2001: 390)

[x]             “In the case of the spider's web it is easy to point out the properties that
are contrapuntal to the fly. Here we have the strength of the threads that have to withstand the collision of the fly, and the thinness of the threads to make them invisible to the fly. The threads are of two kinds: smooth radial ones that the spider uses as steps and sticky ones that are for catching flies. The mesh of the net is also matched to the size of the fly's body. In the same way as with the spider's net one can analyze the counterpoints in the nests of birds and the labyrinths of moles. “ (1957: 121)

[xi]  The idea of the organism as a melodic counterpoint to its milieu, the milieu that comes to compose its territory is elaborated  by many examples in Uexküll’s writings. For example:

The dependence of the cellular musicians on the tune was already evident from the sea urchin experiments by Driesch. Cutting the embryo of the sea urchin in half reduced the number of cells to half but did not change the building tune. This was continued by the other half. This applies to all orchestras. When half the musicians leave, the other half  of the orchestra goes on playing the same tune.

Spemann reports an astonishing experiment. Inserting frog cells, that normally evolve into frog brain, in the mouth area of a triton larva, the insert obeys the mouth building tune of the triton larva, however, it does not become a triton mouth but the mouth of a tadpole, true to its origin.

One could do a similar experiment with a strong orchestra. When replacing the violins with horns in a certain movement, the orchestra can go on playing the same tune but with a very different tonal quality. (2001: 121)

[xii]  The body of an animal is an inverted map of its world; and equally, its world, the bubble-world it extracts from a larger blurring indeterminacy in which to live, is a projection of its bodily capacities. Similarly, the objects made, produced, by animals – nests, hives, webs, but also love objects, small toys, balls and objects of play – have their counterpart somewhere in the body of these animals. These animal-objects, objects constructed and invested with animal desire, are both the contrapuntal impression of materiality, of material forms – trees, branches, sticks, stones – used in animal construction and contrapuntal responses to the specificity of the animal body. Birds nests attest both to the form of treeness from which they are composed; but also each nest is a measure of both the form of the body of the bird whose nest it is, and particularly of the eggs the birds lays in the nest. In taking over the activities of other insects should they succumb to some illness or death, they reveal a kind of hidden design, a plan, in nature that is not designed by any planner but nevertheless adds up to a mosaic of impulses, orders, designs: “In this way we get the impression of a comprehensive harmonic totality,  because the properties of lifeless things also intervene contrapuntally in the design of living things.” (2001b: 121)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Connie Anthes selected as finalist in the 2011 City of Hobart Art Prize

Connie Anthes, Makeshift #4, 2011. Installation with painted black wooden rods & stainless steel bolts, dimensions variable.

The Damien Minton Gallery would like to congratulate Connie Anthes for being selected as a finalist in the 2011 City of Hobart Art Prize. The categories for this year's prize are 'paper' and 'wood'. Connie is one of 13 finalists selected nationally in the wood category. 

The City of Hobart Art Prize is open to artists, designers and craftspeople nationwide. It brings together contemporary visual arts, craft and design practice in a single exhibition. 

Prizes are: two $15,000 acquisitive City of Hobart Art Prize (one in each category), a $7,500 non-acquisitive MONA Prize and a $1,000 People's Choice Award. The prize is to be judged by Peter Hughes, Senior Curator (Decorative Arts), Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery,  Rachel Kent, Senior Curator Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, and Linda Michael, Deputy Director and Senior Curator, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Victoria. 

This work (pictured above) is part of Connie's Makeshift series; a series of site specific responses that challenge expectations of given materials. The Makeshifts, conceived as "drawings-in-space" blur the boundaries that have traditionally separated drawing, collage, painting, sculpture and installation, and are intended to be reckoned with, and made sense of by, the audiences' movement in relation to them. 

We look forward to presenting a solo exhibition from Connie Anthes at the Damien Minton Gallery in 2012 and wish her all the best in this prize.

The City of Hobart art prize exhibition runs from 23 July - 18 September 2011, at the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery (TMAG) in Hobart.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

James Drinkwater wins the Marten Bequest Travelling Scholarship for painting

James Drinkwater, ‘Talking with Poppy’, 2011, 1600 x 1500mm 
James Drinkwater is back on our news page for winning this prestigious scholarship award. Here's what the judges had to say about James:

"The judges unanimously chose James Drinkwater as the recipient of the 2011 Marten Bequest Travelling Scholarship for Painting. The judges believe that James Drinkwater is a young painter who shows great potential and commitment to the language of painting. The judges noted James’ consistent and thoughtful approach and the ongoing development of his work. Above all, the judging panel was impressed with his sensitive handling of the medium."


Catherine and Jennifer Strutt win the 2011 Muswellbrook Open Art Prize

Catherine and Jennifer Strutt, 'Home', 2010, mixed media, 1035mm x 1035mm
Congratulations to Catherine and Jennifer Strutt for winning Section A (a two dimensional painting of any subject in any medium) for their work 'Home'. The Muswellbrook Open Art prize is hosted by the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre and is running for the 41st time this year. Congratualtion to Peter Gardiner also for receiving a Highly Commended in the prize.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

William Rose essay

William Rose, Blue, oil on marine plywood, 1960
The following essay was written by Tristan Sharp, Assistant Director of the Newcastle Region Art Gallery in the catalogue 'William Rose - Composing Space, 19 March to 29 May 2011'
"The works by William Rose (1929-1997) in the collection of the Newcastle Region Art Gallery bring insight into the artist’s practice and career. Including two paintings, five works on paper and one rare lithograph, they represent each decade of the artist’s career from the 1950s to the 1990s and are the basis for the exhibition William Rose Composing space.

The exhibition has been enhanced by some twenty works selected from the estate of the artist, many of which have not been seen since they were first exhibited or never publicly displayed. They bring context to those in the Gallery’s collection and together present a focussed survey of the development of Rose’s oeuvre. Rose’s name today does not instantly command attention, despite the national and international recognition he achieved and maintained during his forty-year career.

Bringing together this range of work is an underexplored exercise that affords unexpected rewards. Rather than being overwhelmed by repetition, one can attune to their subtle nuances; marks and notations, palette, spatial variations and rhythms, all corralled, at times barely contained, within the space on which they are laid down.

The artist and art critic James Gleeson advised when viewing Rose’s work, “Only close attention will reveal the fact that every painting is a wholly new raid upon the intangible, always aimed in the same direction yet always uncovering a new variation, a subtly different nuance of form or motion.” 1

Throughout his career, Rose did not wander from his signature style or drastically change its form. Repetition with variation was his mantra. He was proud of his consistency. Indeed Gertrude Stein’s quote ‘a rose is a rose is a rose’ was parroted by his detractors while defiantly embraced by the artist himself - because a Rose was going to be a Rose forever. 2

Born in 1929 and raised in the Newcastle suburb of Carrington, Rose left school at seventeen and worked the variety of industrial jobs expected of a young man growing up in the city. He developed an interest in art, first attending night classes at Newcastle Technical College before moving to Sydney in 1950 to pursue it more seriously at East Sydney Tech and the National Art School. He lasted no more than three weeks at either institution, which he, “…found unacceptable in my revolt against the academic short comings of Anglo-Australian art teaching”3 preferring what he called “the University of the Street.”4 
His short tenure at art school did pay some life changing dividends though. He met fellow Novocastrian John Olsen and through him Robert Klippel who were connected with the local Sydney bohemian art scene and studio space in ‘the loo’ (Woolloomooloo). Both artists remained life long friends, sparring partners and supporters. He was also introduced to Early Modernism by tutor, then friend John Passmore, and he met fellow art student and future wife Sharn.

Rose was self-taught. He absorbed and synthesised everything he could to develop his vision as an artist. The pioneers of early Modernism and their assault on the academic traditions of representation and subject matter, these were the ideas that resonated tremendously with Rose and his anti-establishment sensibilities. Cezanne, Picasso, Mondrian and Kandinsky, are all embedded within the DNA of a Rose composition.
Rose first exhibited publicly in 1954 with the Contemporary Art Society, Sydney and in 1956, along with Olsen, organised the seminal 1956 exhibition Direction 1 at Macquarie Galleries, Sydney.  It lasted one week in December of that year and was a sensation. It thrust the then 27 year old artist to national prominence along with Olsen, Eric Smith, John Passmore and Robert Klippel. Both Untitled 1954 and September1956 have been included in the exhibition representing these two defining moments for Rose.

Three years later Rose and Olsen instigated the 9 Sydney exhibition at David Jones’ Art Gallery, Sydney with Peter Upward, Carl Plate, Stanislau Rapotec, Clement Meadmore and art critic Robert Hughes amongst others. It was a direct response to art historian Bernard Smith’s Antipodean Manifesto and the importance it placed on figurative traditions over the ‘fashion’ that was abstraction.

Following Direction 1, Rose’s career developed quickly. He was selected for important international exhibitions of Australian art including the Pacific Loan Exhibition in 1956 which toured Auckland, Honolulu, Vancouver and San Francisco on board the Orient Line’s S.S Orcades. This was followed in the 1960’s by Paintings from the Pacific, New Zealand; Recent Australian Paintings, Australian painting Today (Untitled 1963 is included in the exhibition) and Antipodean Vision, United Kingdom; Paris Biennale, France and Young Australian Painters, Japan. Rose held over 20 solo exhibitions throughout his career with most of the major Sydney commercial galleries as well as a major solo exhibition at the Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York in 1982, from which three paintings are included.

Of the eight works by Rose held in the Gallery’s collection, the most significant are the two paintings Rhapsody in Blue 1959 and February painting 1975. Purchased by the Gallery from Von Bertouch Gallery, Newcastle and Gallery A, Sydney respectively, both works are excellent examples of Rose’s signature style. The shift from an open to closed structure and use of positive and negative space within the composition is apparent when comparing the two. Both are an ongoing attempt to delineate an unseen but sensed ‘fourth dimension’, but the former is open, ongoing and pulsing beyond the frame. The latter very obviously and deliberately contained and constrained, almost vibrating due to its confinement. The influence of music, especially jazz and classical, is clear in Rose’s titles and a consistent subtext of any of his compositions. He would listen to it loud when working in the studio. Names of the months in which works were painted were also regularly used, not only denoting a time of creation but a sense of mood and tone related to a season.

Rose realised early that canvas would not do. Painting on masonite board, and later marine ply was essential. Both were strong enough to withstand the thin slashes of oil paint applied or rather etched in, with a sharpened kitchen knife. The size of the paintings is due to the stock size of masonite  rather than any particular desire of the artist but it increased exponentially once the lighter marine ply was available.  This was the nature of Rose’s studio practice - happenstance, experimentation, and the use of what ever was available at the time. The absolute aim being not to slow down any opportunity to activate intuition, improvisation and spontaneity at any time.
Rose’s physical ailments equally influenced his practice. In 1967 he won the Transfield Prize, the prize money enabling a second ear operation to rectify his declining hearing, a life long problem. “Since my last operation which gave me back my full hearing, my paintings have become explosive. Where once I painted sombre, bluey-grey colours, now I am using yellow and red – bright awareness colours that live,” Rose declared.5 Rhapsody in blue 1959 and February painting 1975 bridge this time and transformation in the use of colour. Curiously Rose also noted he was a more likeable fellow when he was deaf. Once he could hear everything, he argued with everyone.6 Something many people would note as both endearing, frustrating and quintessentially William Rose.

Drawing is the foundation of Rose’s practice, in its own right, as a way of limbering up for painting, and within his painting technique itself. Most usually scratched out in ink with a stylus, early works from the 1950s were skeletal linear experiments. With later works from the 1960s on, like those in the Gallery’s collection, Rose would build form around the dashing point and line structure with watercolour or pastel, solidifying the composition together. The affect being more organic, and more akin to agitated bio-morphic organisms found in rain forests, under a microscope or on newly discovered planets. Such was the continuous micro to macro view that Rose was attempting to tap into with every mark.

William Rose has made a significant contribution to Australian art and yet his work is still not very well understood. This is because he has created his own private language, an imagery which is his way of investigating and describing the universe. 7 People find all sorts of physical suggestions– skyscrapers, dockyards, scaffolding, battleships under construction, space stations in orbit or industrial landscapes – and in a way they are right. It would be strange if his visual surroundings either from Throsby Creek in Newcastle or the skyline of Sydney years later were not embedded in there somewhere. 8 Rose would always discount this though, he lived in his ‘own place’ where machine, nature and self met and became indistinguishable. Rose was always trying to get to the truths underlying experience, with little more than paint and a sense of something greater than himself.

In Rose’s own words: “The essence of my work from my very first showing in 1954 is to prove that the easel painting as such is not an anachronism. That it can still work beyond the artificial subject representation and is still a worthy vehicle for artistic search.” 9

William Rose always claimed that his artistic philosophy and style were moulded in Newcastle. It is fitting that this survey of his unique body of work, is presented back here in his home town."

Tristan Sharp
Assistant Director
Newcastle Region Art Gallery

1                  James Gleeson, Australian Painting Studio Series, Modern Australian Painters, 1970, pp 110.
2                  John Olsen, Indelible impression of a Rose in full bloom, Sydney Morning Herald, 24.December 1997.
3                  Jill Sykes, Rose aims to make the heart sing, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 April 1982.
4                  Christine Franz, Exhibitions catalogue New Directions 1952 – 1962, The Lewers Bequest and Penrith Regional Art Gallery, 1991
5                  Gloria Newton, An artist also sees with his ears: operation which restored hearing has given painter new world, The Australian Women’s Weekly May 22 1968.
6                  Ibid
7                  Laurie Thomas, A new sort of alphabet, The Australian, 24 June 1967.
8                  Ibid
9                  William Rose, Artist statement, in Exhibition catalogue The Paintings of William Rose: Metaphysical Australian Structure, Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York, 1982