JANE O’SULLIVAN ESSAY ON ‘MEMORY BETRAYS EVERYBODY’

Many thanks to arts writer Jane O’Sullivan for her excellent essay on the ‘Memory Betrays Everybody’ exhibition.

Lighting the way home

Memory betrays everybody, especially those who we knew best. It is an ally of oblivion, it is an ally of death. – Joseph Brodsky

I visit on one of those crisp Autumn days when it feels like the sky is about to shatter. It’s been hot for too long, but the weather has finally turned and my body hums with it. This is what it should be like, this is what I remember. It’s a physical relief. Perhaps home is just the familiarity of knowing how things work, or what comes next. It’s a strange way to walk into an exhibition about exile.

Memory Betrays Everybody brings together the ex-Yugoslav artist and writer Dragana Jurišić, who now lives in Dublin, with the Croatian-born and Sydney-based installation and multimedia artist Biljana Jančić. It’s dark inside, and the first thing to break the gloom is a long table spread with documents; photographs and texts that are spot-lit like artefacts in a museum display case. At the far left there is a thick paperback book, Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. Published in 1937, West’s book is a kind of extended travelogue through Yugoslavia and a portrait of Europe on the brink of war. Jurišić took a copy of this book with her when she was finally able to return to the home she had left as a teenager. She loosely followed West’s path, effectively chasing a ghost through a country that no longer existed.

As she went, Jurišić took photographs and wrote notes, later piecing her experiences into the acclaimed photographic book YU: The Lost Country. Excerpts from this project are presented in Memory Betrays Everybody. One photograph on the table shows the notes Jurišić wrote in the margins of her book. Still so many burnt houses. Fuck.

Another photograph focuses on an old man holding a dandelion. There’s an oblique sadness to the image that gains shape in her notes. The man is grieving for a young child killed by passing car. He has been waiting hours for someone to come and collect the body.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing images is of a puddle of blood on top of a boulder. Jurišić’s notes, placed alongside the photograph, explain it as part of a history of animal sacrifice in the region. She seems to consider it largely in terms of cultural attitudes to hope and violence, but it also reads as a visual metaphor for a land recovering from war. The blood has yet to seep into the cracks.

While they’re documentary, these images are also part of a meditation on photography, memory and power. Behind the table, playing on a large screen, Jurišić talks frankly about her experiences losing her home, her country and her national identity when Yugoslavia broke apart in 1991. She says that her father was an ardent amateur photographer and when their house was burned down, thousands of his negatives were destroyed. She became, she says, “one of those refugees with no photographs, with no past”.

The impact of this moment speaks to the way that photographs can dominate or even override our own memories, at times seeming more solid than the unreliability of our own minds. For Jurišić, taking her camera back to her former home seems to have given her a sense of distance and control. She says it was like disowning a home that had displaced her.

In a curtained alcove to the side, Jurišić lays out her memories of what happened when she was a teenager. TV monitors hover in the shadows, stacked on top of each other. Some are in colour, some black and white. They play the same footage of a woman, out in the cold. The wind blows her hair and the fur of her hood across her face. The words of the voiceover are like strobe lights, illuminating small, sudden moments from the past.

I remember grabbing onto her until all my nails broke.

She says that about her mother.

I remember the soles of my red converse shoes melting.

She says that about returning to her home after it was burnt down.

I remember walking out.

These memories are voiced in a spare, matter of fact way, one flash after another. As they accumulate, the experience with the work takes on a fragmented, dreamlike quality. This is also mirrored in the dramatic installation of the exhibition, with screens and objects appearing to float in the shadows. Biljana Jančić’s large-scale photographs, which are exhibited in the central exhibition space, seem at home in this world of light and dark, even though they engage with very different ideas.

Rather than looking at the lived experience of exile and diaspora, Jančić’s practice considers displacement in visual and spatial terms. Past site-specific projects have seen her inserting sculptural elements into exhibition spaces, or placing coloured tape and light projections on the floor and walls. These interventions engage with and disrupt the way we see these spaces. Her projects often prompt questions about borders and demarcations, and highlight how unquestioningly we occupy and move within our physical environments. In Jančić’s work, space is not just an empty void to be filled, but something already shaped and imprinted by architecture, culture and history.

In Memory Betrays Everybody, Jančić presents three abstracted photographs from her 2018 series Concrete (variations). The grand scale of these works is at odds with their everyday origins: a box of tissues, lit up by the sun. Jančić has photographed them so that the tissues appear to be alternately reaching up like candle flames or buckling like the tin walls of a fire-damaged shed.

Texture is hard to discern. The surfaces are reduced to planes and facets, and the folds in the tissue are sometimes only captured in the palest of greys. These white shapes are set against flat, black backgrounds, letting Jančić play with ideas of negative space and form, pressure and resistance. There is a tension to these images. The forms feel both monumental and too fragile to last much longer. They are just soft tissue, after all.

In a political climate that seems to be gathering around the old monolithsnationalism, idols, monumentsthe work presented in Memory Betrays Everybody takes on added significance. On the main screen, Jurišić talks about what being an exile has meant for her, and how it has reshaped her whole way of being. She is alert and watchful, “constantly observant,” she says. Perhaps, among all the things she has lost, is the ability to ever be completely at ease.

Opening night installation shot. Photo by Laura Moore

SANNÉ MESTROM EXHIBITING AT HOME

Home is thrilled to be exhibiting work by Sanné Mestrom in our ‘The Portrait’ exhibition opening in late August.

Sanné Mestrom’s practice draws on 20th century iconic modernist works to explore the psychological, emotional and cultural significance attached to them. She explores how value is accorded to these objects, how they are always tied to their cultural and art historical contexts and how they may become substitutes for particular values or beliefs. Through replication, appropriation and disruption her work filters historical mythologies through her own systems of reference, questioning notions of lineage, originality and influence, further altered through her experience of ‘making’.

Mestrom holds a PhD in Fine Art (2008) and a Graduate Certificate in Public Art (2011), both from RMIT University. She was a studio artist at Gertrude Contemporary in 2010-11, and has also held residencies in Mexico City, 2010, and Seoul, South Korea, 2001.

Recent solo exhibitions include: Sanné Mestrom: Black Paintings, Mcclelland Sculpture Park+Gallery (2018); Corrections, Gippsland Art Gallery, Australia (2018); Weeping Women, Ian Potter Public Sculpture Commission, Monash University Museum of Art (2014); The Internal Logic, West Space, Melbourne and La Trobe Regional Gallery, Gippsland, Victoria, (2013); and The Reclining Nude, Studio 12, Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne (2012). Mestrom presented major new large-scale works at Encounters, Art Basel Hong Kong (2017) curated by Alexie Glass-Kantor.

Selected group exhibitions include TarraWarra Biennial: From Will to Form, TarraWarra Museum of Art (2018); Today, Tomorrow, Yesterday, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2016); Sidney Myer Fund Australian Ceramic Award, Shepparton Art Museum, Victoria (2015); NEW13, ACCA, Melbourne (2013); Future Primitive, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2013); Pretty Air & Useful Things, MUMA, Albury (2013); Ode to Form, West Space, Melbourne (2012); Figure & Ground, Utopian Slumps, Melbourne (2011); OCTOPUS 11 The Matter of Air, Gertrude Contemporary (2011); An ideal for living, Linden Gallery, Melbourne (2008); and Standing on the shoulders of Giants (with Kate Newby), Münster, Germany, 2007.

Mestrom was winner of the Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize in 2017. She is the recipient of an Australia Council Grant, City of Melbourne Grant, several Arts Victoria Creation Grants, winner of the Art & Australia Emerging Artist Award (2013), John Fries Memorial Prize (2011), a NAVA Janet Holmes Artist Grant, the Siemens Post Graduate Fine Art Scholarship Award and an Australian Post Graduate Award for her PhD research.

Mestrom is a Senior Lecturer, Visual Arts (Sculpture) at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney.

Pictured is Untitled (Self Portrait, Underground), 2017, bronze, concrete and steel.

Sanné Mestrom is represented by Sullivan & Strumpf, Sydney.

Sanné Mestrom, Untitled (Self Portrait, Underground), 2017, bronze, concrete and steel

CHERINE FAHD EXHIBITING AT HOME

Home is thrilled to be exhibiting work by Sydney artist Cherine Fahd in our ‘The Portrait’ exhibition. Opening in late August the show will also feature works by artists including Bill Henson, Sanné Mestrom, Heath Franco, Tamara Dean and Lynda Draper.

“…there is an unwritten contract that grief is private, unphotographable. Even in the family album it is kept hidden. Family albums celebrate our moments of togetherness; birthdays, holidays and weddings as well as ordinary moments of domestic life. But what of death? What of images of grief and loss?

Apókryphos is a response to rare photographs from my family archive. In this series, I offer a forensic examination of mourning and the physical ways in which emotions are visualised, experienced and witnessed. Using image and text I have reproduced 24 photographs taken in 1975 of my Grandfather’s funeral and burial. Using a numerical system of annotations and footnotes, I forensically yet intimately guide you through the mysteries of the event portrayed, offering a visual and literary response to the photographs and to the unknown status of the photographer…”

Pictured is one of the works from the Apókryphos series – part of The National 2019 at Carriageworks.

Cherine Fahd, from Apókryphos – part of The National 2019 at Carriageworks.

‘MEMORY BETRAYS EVERYBODY’ OPENS TONIGHT AT UNSW ART & DESIGN

‘Memory Betrays Everybody’ opens tonight at Black Box at UNSW Art & Design

The show features the work of Dublin based photographer and writer Dragana Jurišić and Sydney based artist Biljana Jančić.

Join me for drinks from 5-8pm – hope to see you here!

The show will be open Friday and Saturday from 11-5pm.

‘Memory Betrays Everybody’, installation shot.

MEMORY BETRAYS EVERYBODY OPENING AT UNSW ART & DESIGN

Installing at Black Box  – UNSW Art & Design today.

Join me for opening drinks from 5-8pm on Thursday night. ‘Memory Betrays Everybody’ features the work of Dragana Jurišic & Biljana Jančic.

The show runs from Tuesday the 28th to Saturday the 1st of June.

“…our collective memory is shaped by the ideology of the day. The politics of memory enables a regime to record its rendition of the past. History is determined by this shared remembrance…”

Built in 1973, the monument at Mitrovica known as ‘Monument to the Mining Heroes’ was designed by renowned architect and academic, Bogdan Bogdanović.

Standing in the form of some lost Roman addition to Stonehenge, Bogdanović’s huge concrete monument in the town of Mitrovića is a homage to those lost if the fighting during WWII.

Mitrovića is one of many monuments scattered across the former Yugoslavia commissioned by President Josip Broz Tito to convey a sense of confidence and strength in the new Socialist Republic. Designed and built in the ‘60s and ‘70s by leading architects and sculptors, these memorials are located at sites of battles and concentration camps commemorating the victims of fascism in WWII.

The aesthetic beauty of these brutalist structures challenges their innate and commemorative intention. Devoid of signs of ideologies, war heroes or religions, these abstract forms were symbols of a modern and unified future.

The original intention for the creation of the monuments has resulted in their demise. As the Balkans War took hold in the early ‘90s and Yugoslavia fell apart, the monuments became touchstones for the inherent hatred, bigotry and fanaticism from the past – Nationalism destroyed Yugoslavia.

Nationalism is often the last refuge to those who have, or believe they have, no other options available to them. This last resort whether real or imagined can sometimes have tragic consequences. The gruesome scenes of the Charlottesville riots on August 12th 2017 and President Trump’s response to white supremacists’ actions had far-reaching ramifications around the globe.

Far-right groups had gathered in Charlottesville to protest the decision to bring down a monument of Confederate General Robert E Lee. Protests came in the form of extreme references to Nazi ideology. Disturbing scenes of torch carrying white supremacists chanting ‘Blood and Soil’ and the death of a peaceful protestor, run down by an enraged white supremacist, were amplified by President Trump’s response ‘condoning’ the actions of far-right groups.

The commemorative sculptures scattered across the former Yugoslavia, including Mitrovića, are reminders of the evils of fascism. The preconditions for potential disaster are materializing across Europe. Rising support for far-right political parties including Alternative for Germany, the slide towards authoritarianism in Poland and Hungary, and the multitude of displaced Muslim refugees moving throughout Europe adopts a familiar pattern to the catastrophe that took hold in Germany the late 1930’s.

There are unnerving signs that present-day Europe is inching towards a repeat of past events. Advocacy of the far-right by the US President has aided this dark movement. Here in Australia, there has been a significant and unnerving move towards the right.

Nationalism is being cultivated and beginning to take root.

EMMA-KATE WILSON REVIEWS 08.05.19

Many thanks to arts writer Emma-Kate Wilson for her excellent review of our current exhibition.

08.05.19 at Home@735 Gallery review – written by Emma-Kate Wilson

‘08.05.19’ is an exhibition that explores form through texture, colour and shape. A seemingly simple task, to measure up the weighs of each element, yet the contrasting curation creates lines to depart from. The eye is caught at all angles. Opposing themes of traditional ideologies within femininity and masculinity are balanced through soft colours, smooth textures, and rough, hard edges; that at times, break from the mediated canvas or ceramic object.

Matt Butterworth’s ceramics are the perfect starting point for the conflicting materiality of form. Each sculpture defies classification. At Home@735 Gallery, Butterworth’s vessels are lined up on a shelf at the top of the stairs; they are denied a name, all simply titled Untitled #1, 2, 3, and so on, until 11.

However, each object has its own personality within a handheld-sized piece of ceramic. Completely useless as a vessel, as they are broken, with cracks exposing the pressure points of each sculpture. They then seem to grow abnormal flowerings from their smooth curves. They are glazed in a rainbow effect of soft muted colours. Or, gold, like a glistering object from Roman times.

Matt Butterworth’s ceramic pieces are paired with Louise Gresswell paintings; these too defy their medium, and the paint has sculptural qualities that veer out of the canvas. Unframed, the artworks are poised on the walls like hanging objects, rather than traditional 2D representation. Gresswell says these works, titled, Fractured (blue & black) or Untitled (red velvet), (both 2018), are about the action of the painting and embracing imperfection.

This embodiment of performance as painting is mirrored in the works of Kyle Murrell, whose paintings reflect the act of making, tracing the lines in a drawing action. Murrell exposes the repetitious activity, saying, “once I break the canvas, I know I am done.” Simply framed in light wood, the paintings return to an unconsciousness, and are heavily textured. Mediated by the natural frame, they are conflicts to notions of nature and drawing, expanding on human ideas through interruption.

Josie Cavallaro’s series Grazing on Graves (2018/19) continues the musings on form with nature, through conceptual disruptions. Her sculptures are composed of ceramic flowers, in pinks, yellows, and whites, resting on raw concrete hunks. The works are inspired by a friend’s visit to her mother’s grave at a cemetery in a regional town, where she was advised not to place fresh flowers on the grave as kangaroos eat them. Grazing on Graves becomes a consideration on grief and social ritual — reflecting onto the metaphors within the beauty of flowers, and practicality of concrete.

Chris Capper’s still life painting, Roses (1987) is hung above Cavallaro’s sculptures, depicting pink and white roses in a white vase. Roses marries well with the sculptures and resist the themes in the rest of the upstairs level. Through its stillness of form, the painting exposes the delicate nature of human expression.

Downstairs in the gallery, Capper’s other still life paintings transcend classification with geometric lines that divide the canvas into blocks of grey or burgundy. Capper combines the methodology of still life paintings with formalist abstraction to create representations of memory rather than reality.

Tilly Kubany-Deane’s ceramic sculptures are also downstairs with Lisa Patroni’s monochrome paintings. Gold Loops (2018) is an example of Kunbany-Deane’s rejection of form. She creates departures from the vessel, standing at 53cm tall, with loops pushing out the clay form, providing alternative ideas to containment. Lisa Patroni’s paintings reverse this ideology in pure, white-washed oil of linen. Where other works in the exhibition are made of complexing narratives of form and shape; Patroni’s artworks offers space to meditate on the show.

‘08.05.19’ is a resistance to all measures of art, and the extension into the contemporary art scene. The works are small and inviting but densely layered to create a narrative that extends throughout every artwork. Memory and reality are placed within a juxtaposition that mirrors the history of aesthetic abstraction, the functionality of design, and the trace of personal artistic expression – at Home.

opening night at Home. Photo by Steve McLaren

XUE MO EXHIBITING AT HOME

Home is pleased to be exhibiting painting by internationally acclaimed Chinese-born artist Xue Mo in our ‘The Portrait’ exhibition in August.

Xue draws her subjects from her homeland of Mongolia and is singularly focused on the female subject, impressed by the ‘noble simplicity, natural beauty, and serene dispositions’ of the young fieldworkers.

Her portraits are more than representations of female beauty. Xue Mo’s premise is that the composition of these paintings acts as a focal point for meditation on such concepts as virtue, beauty, serenity, benevolence, and tranquility.

Xue Mo appears courtesy of Catherine Asquith Art Advisory, Melbourne.

Pictured is Naren Tuya (“sunset sunshine” in Mongolian), 2010, Oil on linen

Xue Mo, Naren Tuya (“sunset sunshine” in Mongolian), 2010, Oil on linen

BILJANA JANČIĆ EXHIBITING IN ‘MEMORY BETRAYS EVERYBODY’

I’m thrilled to be presenting work by Sydney artist Biljana Jančić in ‘Memory Betrays Everybody’, opening at Black Box at UNSW Art & Design next week. Join us for opening drinks on Thursday the 30thof May from 5-8pm.

The key theme in Biljana Jančić’s work is displacement. She works primarily with large-scale spatial interventions. These works respond directly to architecture and socio-historical contexts of spaces. Jančićregularly exhibits work in a wide range of independent and institutional contemporary art spaces.

In ‘Memory Betrays Everybody’, Biljana Jančić’s work Concrete (Variations 1-5) takes everyday objects and transforms them through photography. What is known at the moment the photo is taken is remade over time by the image. Images like memory can betray reality.

Concrete (variations 1-5)began as an observation of a tissue box sitting on the dining table. A single tissue had been illuminated by the afternoon sun in such a way that it almost appeared as if it was made of concrete. This gave the tissues a symbolic value, as tiny, ephemeral monuments to the fragility and revery of domestic space. In this project the tissue dispenser became a random form generator that revealed endless architectonic variations.

Pictured is ‘Concrete (variations 1-5)’, 2018,Digital prints on vinyl – from the NSW Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship finalists exhibition at Artspace. Photo by Zan Wimberley.

‘Concrete (variations 1-5)’, 2018,Digital prints on vinyl – from the NSW Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship finalists exhibition at Artspace. Photo by Zan Wimberley

 

MEMORY BETRAYS EVERYBODY – OPENING DRINKS MAY 30TH 5-8PM

“Memory betrays everybody, especially those whom we know best. It is an ally of oblivion, it is an ally of death. It is a fishnet with a very small catch, and with the water gone. You can’t use it to reconstruct anybody, even on paper.” – Joseph Brodsky

With its title taken from a Joseph Brodsky poem, the exhibition ‘Memory Betrays Everybody’ will be staged at The Black Box at the UNSW Art & Design.

Featuring the work of Dublin based photographer and writer Dragana Jurišić and Sydney artist Biljana Jančić, the exhibition will present video, projections, photography and installation. Grab a set of wireless headphones at the entrance and be swept away by the audio visuals of Dragana Jurišić’s work, ‘I Remember’. Join me for opening drinks on Thursday the 30th  of May from 5-8pm. The show runs from Tuesday the 28 th May to Saturday the 1st  of June.

Image shot in Skopje, Macedonia taken from the book YU: The Lost Country by Dragana Jurišić.

Image shot in Skopje, Macedonia taken from the book YU: The Lost Country by Dragana Jurišić

MEMORY BETRAYS EVERYBODY AT THE BLACK BOX

“…by a small village along the coast, a 10-year-old boy is killed by a passing car. Waiting for someone to take him away.

Three hours later, we’re still waiting. Family howling in a house by the road. And the father … If pain had a sound. I did not know at first if they were people or wolves. The older onlookers wince; they know that sound well. It comes with the territory, it seems.

Younger people laugh nervously… They will not remember the inappropriateness of their behaviour when their time comes to experience pain like that. There’s a dandelion by the road. I take a picture. Don’t know what else to do. More screams. The old man standing in front of me bends over and picks up the flower.

Gently, he blows.

starigrad | Croatia

Image and text taken from YU: The Lost Country by Dragana Jurišić

I’m curating the exhibition ‘Memory Betrays Everybody’ at the Black Box at UNSW Art & Design. The exhibition will feature the work of two artists – ex-Yugoslav Dublin based photographer and writer Dragana Jurišić and Sydney based artist Biljana Jančić.

The show runs from Tuesday the 28th of May to Saturday the 1st of June – please join me for opening drinks on Thursday the 30th from 5-8pm.

Dragana Jurisic’s YU: The Lost Country guides the viewer through a pilgrimage, unfolding before them a myriad of lives and emotions onto the map of where Yugoslavia once lay. Through-out the series of photographs documenting new life and the remnants of past atrocities in the former conglomerate, Jurišić rhythmically inserts with almost Wes Anderson-like technicolour shots of her travel reading, where sprawling diary notes live in the margins telling of the encounters which shook, infuriated and moved her. Often filled with anger, these contrast against the awesome range of emotions captured in her photography, where domesticity, townsfolk, dereliction and grandeur sit side by side. The quest for her past runs throughout, borne from the jarring assertion that “Yugoslavia’, “Is there any such country?”, “No but that’s where I’m from.” – Jack Gibson for LeCool, September 2014.

Image and text taken from YU: The Lost Country by Dragana Jurišić

08.05.19

Home’s 08.05.19 exhibition opens this Wednesday from 6-8pm. The exhibition will feature work by Matt Butterworth (ceramics), Chris Capper (painting), Josie Cavallaro (ceramics), Louise Gresswell (painting), Tilly Kubany-Deane (ceramics), Kyle Murrell (painting) and Lisa Patroni (painting).

Pictured is Chris Capper, Roses, 1987, oil on canvas and Josie Cavallaro, Grazing on Graves – pastel, 2019, ceramic and concrete.

Chris Capper artworks courtesy of Damien Minton.

Chris Capper, Roses, 1987, oil on canvas and Josie Cavallaro, Grazing on Graves – pastel, 2019, ceramic and concrete

BILJANA JANČIĆ

I’m looking forward to working with artist Biljana Jančic again. Biljana will be presenting projections and installation in the exhibition ‘Memory Betrays Everybody’ opening at the Black Box at the UNSW Art & Design in late May.

The key theme in Biljana Jančić’s work is displacement. She works primarily with large-scale spatial interventions. These works respond directly to architecture and socio-historical contexts of spaces. Jančić regularly exhibits work in a wide range of independent and institutional contemporary art spaces.

Pictured is Biljana’s work Splinter, 2016, aluminium tape and painters’ tape from the Monumentalism exhibition at Kudos Gallery in November 2016.

Biljana Jančić, Splinter, 2016, aluminium tape and painters’ tape