Jun 27, 2010

Meanwhile in Melbourne: the Autumn edition

Coming at you straight from the backstreets of North Melbourne,
Amelia's afternoon manifesto, or 'On Making the Most of a Sunny Afternoon'
1. Look up

2. And of course, look down too

3. Look for shapes

4. And colours

5. And textures

6. A bit of contrast is always good too

7. And above all, remember that there is ALWAYS time to kick Autumn leaves

Jun 23, 2010

Art crush: Cassandra Laing

 Cassandra Laing, Fortune Teller (it will all end in stars), 2007
image source: BonesMagazine

As an art nerd, there are few things that frustrate me more than seeing a beautiful painting/drawing/sculpture/photograph, and not being able to find out the name of the artist responsible. The I-must-know-more itch gets worse if it's a piece of art you bump into frequently, as has been the case with a large scale drawing by Cassandra Laing which looks over the foyer of RMIT's art gallery, where I have been volunteering over the past few months. Cassandra Laing, did you say? ID-ed at last?!

My art stalkerage usually takes discovery of artist's name as its point of departure, moves to scouring gallery listings and portfolio websites, poring over bios, and finishes up with me saving sets of images to drool over at a more convenient time (wow, I managed to make that sound really creepy, huh? This is art we're talking about, people!). However googling Cassandra's name produced very few results, several of them dead ends, others references to an America's Next Top Model she shares her name with. The little information I do have comes from a rather moving article written by The Age's senior arts writer, Gabriella Coslovich, back in 2007. Laing's incredibly detailed pencil drawings draw on themes of death and fragility for a very valid reason: Laing lost her sister to cancer in 2001, and was herself diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. Her move from painting to drawing was motivated by the effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment - yet rather than seeming like a mere neccessity, Laing's choice of medium seems completely appropriate for the delicay and poignancy of her images. The eye-popping level of detail in Laing's works is offset by their sheer scale - Fortune Teller (it will all end in stars) is over a metre in width and height.

The message of Fortune Teller becomes even more powerful when we learn of Laing's illness. She is commenting on our how we try to both know and control the future, and on the fultilty of this drive in the light of our insignificance against the backdrop of eternity, the cosmos. Whether it comes abruptly and early, or at the end of a long life, death is irrefutable, and we, like the origami forms Laing depicts, are beautiful, complex, but ultimately fragile and short lived. 

Wow. That's a lot of philosophising right there. I guess it goes to show the level of emotional response  great art can provoke. I acknowledge that not everyone who sees Cassandra Laing's work will feel as strongly about it as I do -- I am biased: I especially like drawing,  and cancer is a longstanding fear of mine, so her story is especially moving -- but I think it would be hard to look at it an deny its brilliance, purely on a technical level. Now if only I could locate more of Laing's work, and sit and stare at it for hours on end...

Cassandra Laing, Darwin Girls, 2006
image source: The Age

Jun 14, 2010

gadgetry + jealousy: iPhoneography

I have been for a while now flitting back and forth between an overwhelming desire to get myself an iPhone, and the more logical realisation that I. Will. Break. It. Bad. Bad. Bad. Idea. Clumsy people and combined technology just do not go well together, says I. And whilst I knew that iPhones could use the Hipstamatic ap to make digital snaps look all retro-Polaroid-delicious, I still thought that the resulting image was a bit...'off.' Well, that was all before I stumbled upon the photography....ahem, iphoneography of Michael Baranovic. Based in Melbourne, Michael uses his iPhone to document the places and people of the city. His skillful use of composition and light particularly appeal to me, because they are precisely the things I am striving for in my own photography. It sounds a bit dry, but I find the unexpected shapes and congruities formed by otherwise unremarkable aspects of day to day life really fascinating, even beautiful, and it is these brief glimpses of beauty and interest in the mundane that Michael captures so well.

Looking through the images, two questions in particular popped into my mind. Luckily for me, I was able to get answers to both questions form Michael himself:

-- Do you use any cameras other than the iPhone? What about the iPhone makes you chose it over other modes of photography?
I do own a Canon 7D but have been using the iPhone since I moved to Melbourne in February this year. It is always on me and lets me quietly explore the city. Because the iPhone allows me to be spontaneous, I now take many more photos than before. 

--What are you looking for when you take a photo?
The search for new images is taking me all over Melbourne, the city centre, old suburbia, the sea. I guess I am searching for in-between places - urban decay, new gentrification. Trying to find visual interactions between people and place.

I had an extensive list of favourite images from his tumblr that I wanted to post here but the sensible side of me (the one telling me not to get an iPhone. Clearly I need to learn to ignore it a bit more often) told me to whittle it down somewhat. And of course, by somewhat, I mean not at all. Enjoy.


All images from Misho Barannovic Photography. Many thanks to Michael for his answers.

Jun 9, 2010

speaking of colour...

Yes, I know it's an ad for Dulux. But COLOUR + TIMELAPSE + GREAT MUSIC ('Go Do' by Sigur Ros vocalist, Jonsi) = the Amelia trifecta. I could watch and rewatch this for hours on end. 

Dulux Walls was filmed in India, London, Brazil and France, with real people painting real buildings. There is a site for the Let's Colour Project here, where you can track the individual projects around the world.  Essentially, it's transforming sad and grey areas with luscious colour, and getting local communities involved.

Found via The Cool Hunter.Which might I add, I found thanks to Mum, and she always does appreciate a nod.

Jun 8, 2010

the heart of darkness is rather colourful indeed

 General Janvier, North Kivu, Eastern Congo, 2010

Back during my carefree undergrad days, I studied literature as well as art history. The most longstanding result of my dabble in lit has been my continued obsession with Haiti and the Congo, as a result of reading Edwidge Danticat's Krik-Krak and Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness. With both of the obsessions, part of the drawcard is the fact that the countries are far to dangerous for me to ever visit, and I will only ever experience them second hand through documentary photography, and yet more written accounts. They will always maintain a bit of a shroud of mystery and uncertainty, especially with the level of military conflict in the DRC.

So, from this little backstory, it is hardly surprising that Irish-born photographer Richard Mosse's Quick series instantly appealed to me. Given my love of film photography, and its promise of unusual and unexpected effects, when I fould out that the entiure Quick series was filmed on aerochrome, a type of rare, US-government-developed infrared film, I loved it even more.

I think the series is telling as to what we consider to be beautiful, the way percieved beauty alters perceived meaning, and the extent to which someone looking at an image uses aesthetics to excuse objectionable content. At the end of the day, the images are undeniably beautiful. But the juxtaposition between the glorious colour and our knowledge that this is a place of terrir and violence gives them an incredibly unsettling edge, and it is this unsettling of the viewer which makes them so powerful.

 Everything merges with the night, on approach to Kinshasa, 2010

Colonel Soleil's boys, North Kivu, Eastern Congo, 2010

Battleground Bambou, Ituri, Eastern Congo, 2010

The trouble with classicists, Kinshasa to Bukavu, DRC, 2010

You made me the thief of your heart, North Kivu, Eastern Congo, 2010

Quick by Richard Mosse found via Nerdcore.
Tip-off that the series was shot in Aerochrome via we find wildness.

Jun 5, 2010

Russia again?

I don't really know much about Ramona Falls. The essentials: they are an indie rock side project from Portland. This is their clip for the song Russia, and it is quite simply, delightful. That is all you really need to know.

Found via BOOOOM.

PS: The clip reminds me of U2's video for The Sweetest Thing, an old favourite of mine, so maybe that's why it appeals to me so much.
PPS: I just found out that Ramona Falls are touring the States with the National, who I love, so maybe that's why I like their sound so much.
PPS: Ramona Falls' video for 'I Say Fever' is also well worth a look.

Jun 2, 2010


One of the twentieth century's most influential sculptors, Louise Bourgeois, died on Monday aged 98. Bourgeois' work was largely unknown until the artist was in her sixties and seventies, despite the fact that over the course of her life she produced some of the most challenging and confronting sculpture of the twentieth century.

Bourgeois' sculpture is large scale, psychologically loaded, and frequently unsettling. The now eponymous giant cast iron spider is a testament ot all these qualities. The work's title, Maman (French for mother) shakes things up even further. Who would call a spider Mum? What kind of feelings does Louise Bourgeois expect us to feel for this behemoth arachnid? Yet the knowledge of its title completely changes our experience of the sculpture. Suddenly Maman is much more than just a giant spider: the work is a meditation on relationships, protection and vulnerability. Plus, by having people walk underneath the statue, Bourgeois says as much about the pregnant relationship between viewer and art object as Donald Judd did back in the sixties. 

Other works reference sexual ambiguity, human frailty, and in the case of Cell (Glass spheres and hands), which can be found at Melbourne's NGV, the complexities od childhood. I've only briefly studied Bourgeois, so am certainly not the most authoratative source. If you do want to read a little more about her, there is an excellent write up at the art daily with Lydia, which I stumbled upon while googling Louise Bourgeois, and will now be keeping an eye on. There is also an intellgent and thoughtful article at the New York Times.

Image credits:
1. Maman at Milan's Musem di Capodimonte
2. Cell (glass spheres and hands) fromt he National Gallery of Victoria's permanent collection
3. Maman at the Tate, London

Jun 1, 2010

from Russia with love

Pasteups by Canadian street artist Specter, found at my old favourite, Wooster Collective. I love the scale, the detail, and the unexpected burst of colour in the grimy urban landscape.

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