AAANZ Conference: Image Space Body, QAGOMA, 24-25 November Presented a paper at the conference titled: On Extending the Moment: Generational Repetition and Re-Presentation in Current Art Practice.
2015 Travels and Research
International travel allowed me to focus on architecture and in particular domestic space – a powerful symbol of desire, memories, dreams and place. In Los Angeles I toured Frank Lloyd Wright’s modernist textile block houses including the Ennis House (1924) which evokes pre-Colombian architecture or perhaps Mayan Gothic Revival and Hollyhock House (1919-1921). Hollyhock House provided the opportunity to look inside one of Wright’s houses, to experience the internal volumes – the constriction and the openness, the manifestation of prospect and refuge. And it provided an intimate view of the bespoke furniture Wright designed for the house.
In Los Angeles I also visited Rudolph Schindler’s West Hollywood House (1922). (Interestingly Rudolph Schindler worked for Frank Lloyd Wright from 1918 to 1931. Among other projects, Schindler supervised the building of Hollyhock House for the heiress Aline Barnsdall). In my 2003 PhD (Monash University) I wrote about Schindler’s West Hollywood house. An experimental dwelling, designed for two families – a co-operative house – often referred to as the first house built in the Modern style. While I consulted excellent primary references, by 2013 I came to the view that text, photographs, drawings and plans do not adequately convey the cerebral/physical/emotional experience of a large three-dimensional object, which cannot be seen all at once. I believe such entities must be experienced in the now whether they are sculpture, installations or examples of architecture.
From Washington DC I visited The Pope-Leighey House in Alexandra. This is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian houses (affordable houses for middle income families) originally designed for journalist Loren Pope in 1941 and now re-sited within the grounds of Woodlawn about forty minutes from Washington DC. It was Marjorie Leighey the second owner of the house (1946-1961) who effectively saved it from demolition when a freeway extension threatened the suburban house. Leighey gifted the house to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1964. Despite its modest size the house exhibits the same articulation of space and the framing of views that can be found in Aline Barnsdale’s expansive Hollyhock House.
In Palm Springs I came face to face with desert modernism and in particular the tract houses built by the Alexander Construction Company who in turn employed architects such as Donald Wexler and William Krisel. The design approach established the now-familiar 50s paradigm of garage, breezeway, glass window walls. These were not the houses of the rich and famous but affordable houses for families. In Australia we refer not to tract housing but subdivisions or housing estates. In the late 1940s and 50s affordable houses in Australia were designed to rapidly increase housing availability post world war II. Sadly architects of the calibre of Krisel and Wexler were not employed which meant that the affordable house in the new Glenelg North subdivision my parents brought was far from outward looking or light – instead it was unrelenting refuge without prospect. There was no seamless flow between the internal and the external and no reference to modernism, just a reminder of Adelaide’s obsession with the red brick.
Visiting Palm Springs, LA and the Grand Canyon in 2015 brought David Hockney to life and sent me back to look again at Hockney’s early swimming pool paintings – all in advance of the brilliant David Hockney exhibition which opened at the NGV International in 2016.
2017 Travels and Research
In May 2017, as part of a self funded art project, I have rented a mid-century Modern house in Palm Springs built by the Alexander Construction Company and designed by William Krisel. This puts into practice my theory ‘that text, photographs, drawings and plans cannot adequately convey the cerebral/physical/emotional experience of a large three-dimensional object, which cannot be seen all at once…such entities must be experienced in the now, in their entirety…’
2017 In The Studio
The Ongoingness of an artwork
as if dreams were saleable real estate is a work I began in 1979. The work combines my fascination with the domestic built form and the narrative (a mix of autobiography and social history). In this case the domestic built form consists of a series of photographs of esplanade houses that I loved as a child – houses I passed on the way to swimming classes at Henley Beach when I was five years old. I photographed a selection of these houses, first in 1979 (when I had no idea what I would do with the material), then 1999 and 2003. Eventually the material came together as a series of 33 A4 documents rather like real estate posters. The work was first shown at Bendigo Art Gallery in 2005 and the following year it was shown at Span Galleries, Melbourne and Warrnambool Art Gallery, Victoria. In 2015, thanks to the vision of curator Davey Warnock, the work was curated into an exhibition, Model Urban, shown at Manningham Art Gallery. It was at this time that I began to realise that only the demise of all houses or my death would end the ongoingness of the piece. In late 2015 I returned to the familiar esplanade to track the progress of change – to find those houses remaining and discover any lost. The work has now expanded into 44 A4 documents. A work that began uncertainly decades ago has become a seminal work within my practice with a life beyond my imagining.
The work continues.