my contemporary reproduction of the play Salome—and its hideous orange cover—is one of the greatest things I own. and possibly one of the coolest things about me. gush.
the play was a collaboration (of sorts) between Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley. who were two rad dudes. who hated on each other. and who made a lot of shit I love. Salome re-imagines the mythology of the notorious bible character and was considered pretty risqué and things. Wilde wrote the text in French (in part, to escape English-language censors) and Beardsley was commissioned to supply illustrations (in part, because he wasn’t known for prudishness).
as a series, Beardsley’s illustration of Salome is my favourite of his oeuvre. it includes some of his most incredible line work and—I think—represents the most focussed project of his life.
the text is both like and unlike Wilde’s English works (of which I’ve always been fond). other than being an untraditional adaptation of a religious story (thus a subversion) and—okay—the strip/dance, and the suggestion that—maybe—there is a lot of nakedness … I don’t see why censorship was a concern. it is heavily poetic … but in a good way. and Salome’s dialogue with Iokaanan (essentially a series of monologues) is absolutely, completely, the greatest prose I have ever read.
here is some:
It is of thy hair that I am enamoured, Iokanaan.
Thy hair is like clusters of grapes, like the clusters of black grapes that hang from the vine-trees of Edom in the land of the Edomites.
Thy hair is like the cedars of Lebanon, like the great cedars of Lebanon that give their shade to the lions and to the robbers who would hide them by day.
The long black nights, when the moon hides her face, when the stars are afraid, are not so black as thy hair. The silence that dwells in the forest is not so black.
There is nothing in the world that is so black as thy hair … Suffer me to touch thy hair.
having feelings now. good night.
[image: Aubrey Beardsley, ‘John and Salome’ (1907); Oscar Wilde, Salome: a tragedy in one act [trans. Alfred Douglas] (1894). held as print at V&A: London.]
NGA director Ron Radford, addressing audience at the media launch of Space Invaders, which he describes as providing a ‘rare vision of the future direction of Australian art’. (and which opens tonight!)
a highlight of Space Invaders is this Zine display—visitors are free to unpeg and read!
1. the quality of being composed of matter, the physical aspect or character
2. the quality of being relevant or important
Materiality is the title and over-arching theme of the seventh Australian Print Symposium at the National Gallery of Australia this October. Initiated in 1989 by Roger Butler, the conferences are an exciting collaboration between the institution and a range of artists and art spaces. Materiality promises to be both educational and entertaining and is an opportunity for the general public to get involved with the ideas and discourse of the professional art world.
Butler is the Senior Curator of Australian Prints and Drawings at the NGA and has been responsible for the department since it was established in 1981. Over nearly thirty years, he has developed the NGA’s holdings into the strongest and most significant collection of Australian prints in the world. His enthusiasm for Australian printmaking is evidenced by his encouragement of wider appreciation of the print medium, and his dedication to the development of accessible education resources. To this end, and with the support of the NGA, he established the Australian Print Symposiums.
The Symposiums are hosted by the Gallery and held roughly every three years. Canberra is an ideal venue: there is a strong interest in and appreciation of prints in the Nation’s Capital – and it’s getting ever stronger. Over 23 years, the Symposiums have enriched public understanding of prints as art, and encouraged thoughtful academic study of the medium. At a time where contemporary printmaking is being influenced by a digital revolution, this year’s exploration of ‘materiality’ promises an interesting discussion.
Over three days Materiality will provide a forum for a range of arts professionals to explore notions that are simultaneously realistic and abstract. Past Symposiums have coincided with and complimented major NGA exhibitions, such as The Story of Australian Printmaking: 1801-2005 (2007), Islands in the Sun: prints by Indigenous artists of the Australasian region (2001) and The Europeans: Émigré artists in Australia 1930-1960 (1997). This year, the conference relates to a loose theme that explores ideas of Corporeality, Reality, Palpability, Perceptibility, Physicality and Experience.
When applied to art, the term ‘materiality’ relates to the physical and formal attributes of a work, but also to philosophical ideas of its reality and existence. Prints are replications of an original design, so by definition raise questions regarding artistic significance, physical state, uniqueness and authenticity. In this way, they encourage consideration of physicality with more abstract ideas of existence. Such are the sorts of conversations promised during the course of Materiality.
The earliest Print Symposium included a talk given by Ron Radford, who has since been appointed Director of the NGA, and the most recent symposium, held in 2007, saw local artist eX de Medici take the role of keynote speaker. This year’s keynote is the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art’s Glenn Barkley. As a curator at the MCA, Barkley is used to working with and speaking about cutting-edge local and international artworks. Ever since his early days at the Wollongong Museum of Art, his exhibitions and publications have demonstrated an ongoing interest in Australian art and the medium of print. Over the years, his work has particularly focused on artists’ books, zines and the use of text in art, and recently Barkley participated in the Sydney Writers Festival and the MCA’s Zine Fair. This wealth of experience makes him an ideal guest for a symposium that explores the conceptual qualities of prints in Australia’s contemporary art world.
Barkley will be joined by an amazing line up of guest speakers: Angela Cavalieri, Richard Tipping, Emily Floyd, Del Kathryn Barton, Adam Cullen, Euan Macleod, Billy Missi, Jon Cattapan, Julia Silvester, Paul Uhlmann, Caren Florance (Ampersand Duck), Luke Sinclair (from the Sticky Institute in Melbourne), Domenico de Clario, Lesley Duxbury, Marian Crawford, Tim Maguire, Robert Jacks, Mini Graff, Rae O’Connell (Djumbunji Press), Angus Cameron (Nomad Art Production) and Lucas Ihlein (Big Fag Press). Between them, these presenters have worked with an incredible variety of printmaking techniques, from linoprint to lithograph to photography and digital mediums. They include influential prizewinners, founders of art centres and central figures of art culture across Australia. They are teachers and curators, representatives from galleries and members of collectives, with cumulative experience and insight that is certain to stimulate dynamic and fascinating conversation.
As one of the few events in the capital to draw contemporary arts professionals based in the larger cities, the Print Symposiums are a rare and infrequent privilege for Canberra audiences. Further, the NGA conference is complimented by concurrent events and exhibitions staged across a variety of smaller galleries in the territory, including Nomad Art Gallery, the Australian War Memorial and Megalo Print Studio. Even if you don’t get a chance to attend the main Symposium events, there will be a lot of print love going on around the city this October.
Having said that, this year’s symposium is particularly accessible, with students able to purchase tickets for only $80 (rather than full $250). So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get your print on.
The Symposium took place on the October 15, 16 and 17. Click here for more information about past symposiums.
originally published in BMA issue 357 (too embarrassed to link, as it’s credited to a different author and in the ‘word on DVDs’ section. weird.)
the seventh Australian Print Symposium is on in Canberra from the 15th-17th, and you are all totes welcome to stay on my couch. it’s a nice couch. read my review or something. then book your tickets. students are only $80 this year. no excuse.
[image: Brent Harris. grotesquerie 3 (2002). NGA: Canberra.]
Alphonse MUCHA, Flirt (1899), lithograph. [private collection - click through is for the Mucha Museum in Prague]
so maybe it’s a bit ‘light’, but I love this image. it has inspired almost all my literary pursuits (not that they are numerous, or of particular value). I will credit this image in my thesis (if I ever finish a thesis). it opened my eyes and my heart to art pour l’art: showed me I could love works simply because I loved them and that academic indulgence wasn’t always a finality.* and that freedom … well that’s what art is, right?
*academic indulgence is still rad.