Image: Daniel Mudie Cunningham, Rhymes with Failure, 2014, HD video
Performers: Daniel Mudie Cunningham & Rachel Roberts. Music: George Tillianakis. Camera: Don Cameron. Editor: Vera Hong. Cello Designer: Drew Bickford. Courtesy the artist.
Rhymes with Failure Daniel Mudie Cunningham
According to Australian colonial folklore, Elizabeth Macquarie would sit on her sandstone Chair with her back to Sydney town and watch for ships from England sailing into the harbour. Perhaps she played a mournful tune on her cello as these colonial symbols of culture formation drew close. Barron Field, the first published poet in Australia, was probably nearby observing kangaroos as they hopped along the foreshore, their curiosity piqued by the English ships. Field’s best-known poem, ‘The Kangaroo’, rhymed “Australia” with “failure” hinting at his pessimistic view of a country that would later turn the kangaroo into a national mascot, an enduring souvenir, dog food.
Mrs Macquarie’s cello has been held in the Museum of Sydney Collection since 1992. The newly restored cello attracted media attention in March 2014, after it was played at the Open Day of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Daniel Mudie Cunningham requested loaning the cello for his new video Rhymes with Failure, but was declined: “Mrs Macquarie's cello's dance card has been very full this year,” wrote a Museum of Sydney curator to the artist in an email. “And her age and fragility have meant she's already had to use understudies. Might I suggest you consider using a stand-in cello to carry out your project? It would be unlikely discernable to the viewing public and give you flexibility in terms of what could be achieved.”
As the cello is believed to be the closest sounding musical instrument to the human voice, Daniel Mudie Cunningham’s work imagines that it speaks Mrs Macquarie’s voice all these years later. Along with her Chair, the sensual curvilinear forms of her Cello represent Mrs Macquarie as much as the kangaroo more broadly symbolises Australia. Renowned for her flair for ornament, Mrs Macquarie knew that a Chair is still a Chair, even when there’s no one sitting there. But a chair is not a house, and a house is not a home when there's no one there to hold you tight, and no one there you can kiss good night.
Daniel Mudie Cunningham is an artist whose work interrogates visual histories, popular cultures and oppositional identity politics. Primarily working with video, performance and installation, Cunningham’s work draws upon and re-imagines the vernacular image streams of everyday life and its connection to the past through the use of found photographs, video, music and text. Bec Dean wrote in Real Time: “Daniel Mudie Cunningham is an artist whose practice operates at a sometimes dazzling intersection between popular culture, performance art and fandom”. He is also a well-known curator, arts writer and lecturer.
Photography by Silversalt
Image: Christopher Dean, The best part of my job at the University of Western Sydney Kingswood Campus was giving an annual lecture on Rock Hudson & Doris Day (for Daniel), 2012, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 cm. Collection: Blacktown City Council. Photo: Adam Hollingworth.
GALLERY 3 (WALL)
The Pink Monochrome Project Christopher Dean
The Pink Monochrome Project brings together a collection of pink single colour paintings produced by Christopher Dean over the past seventeen years. The works are to be installed across the long wall of the gallery in chronological order from left to right. Although Dean has produced multi-colour and polychrome paintings in the past the colour pink has formed a central element of his artistic practice over the past two decades. Dean’s study of colour theory reveals that pink is a maligned colour especially in the context of modernist formalism. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe observed that “pink is a passive form of red and serves only to contaminate white” while Clive Bell famously stated that “pink weakens a composition”. In the context of the Russian avant-garde Dean’s doctorial research reveals that many practitioners of abstraction and monochrome painting including Kazimir Malevich stopped including pink in their paintings after 1917. This act of art historical self-censorship or ‘chromophobia’ as it is now known developed as a result of the fear of the powerful symbolism associated with pink. As recently as 2010, Barbara Rose’s monograph ‘Monochromes from Malevich to the present’ omits a chapter on pink monochromes yet strangely places some of Yves Klein’s rose monochromes within a chapter titled ‘Red’. Dean’s monochromes celebrate the marginalisation and exclusion of the colour pink.
Christopher Dean works as a practicing artist, writer, curator and teacher. Over the past twenty-five years Dean has exhibited widely in Australia and the United States. In 2000 Dean was awarded a Pollock-Krasner fellowship and in 2001 he undertook a residency the Australia Council Los Angeles Studio. Dean is currently completing a PhD investigating the history and culture of pink monochrome painting at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales.
Photography by Joseph Harb
MOP Projects is assisted by the NSW Government through Arts NSW
Image: Michael Butler, Hazchem, 2013, mixed media on board. Courtesy the artist.
GALLERY 2 He who has butter on his head should not go into the sun (#1)
Michael Butler’s art practice moves between (and incorporates) collage, drawing and Installation. An amalgam of satire, symbolism, eroticism and visual delicacy Butler’s meticulous and obsessively constructed narrative works utilise the inspiration of Flemish, Italian and Northern European medieval and renaissance religious painting and DADA collage. The title of this exhibition is taken from a Dutch proverb referred to by German novelist Hans Fallada (1893-1947) in his final work Alone in Berlin (1947). Like Fallada’s novel, Michael Butler’s work can be read as both morality tale and salutary lesson as to the dangers and realities of Fascist brutality and Totalitarian dogma – particularly for those who are intended victims and/or opponents.
Created following visits to Berlin (2004/2013) and Auschwitz-Birkenau (2004) Butler’s works focus specifically on Hitler’s Germany, and are concise and bitterly sardonic critiques of a society and culture which has lost its moral authority and certainty by embracing legislated criminality, persecution and mass murder. Butler’s work contains multiple aesthetic and conceptual references, readings and influences. The more ‘pictorial’ mixed media works link directly to the art and legacy of John Heartfield and Hannah Hoch. Whereas, the multi-panelled Triptych 1 utilises the portable altarpiece form used by 15th and 16th century Flemish artists such as Hieronymus Bosch, Gerard David and Jan Van Eyck. Collectively, Michael Butler’s collages can be viewed as a Last Judgement, but without salvation or redemption. Rather, Butler’s seemingly endless slicing, layering and intertwining of images and symbols illuminate a still dangerous history that is bleak and beyond rational comprehension.
Michael Butler lives and works in the Blue Mountains. Since 1994 Butler has held various solo exhibitions including Tatami World, Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest (2013), 8 Stiff Poles at the Royal Botanic Gardens (2000), The Engaged Cubicle at Performance Space (1998) and Raw Nerve Gallery (1997). Group exhibitions include Blacktown Arts Centre (Bent Western, 2012) Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest (Anita & Beyond, 2003, Boofheads and Scrubbers Revenge, 2003, Rude Shock, 2004), Wagga Wagga City Art Gallery (Please Be Seated, 2004), Casula Powerhouse (Parking, 1996), Liverpool Museum (Just Sensational, 2002), Campbelltown Arts Centre (+ Positive, 1994), Manly Regional Gallery & Museum (Shades of Pink, 2002), and Fujieda City History Museum, Japan (Shimai Toshi, 2004).