David Jones, artist and poet (1895-1974) begins his PREFACE TO THE ANATHEMATA :

'I have made a heap of all that I could find.' (1) So wrote Nennius, or whoever composed the introductory matter to Historia Brittonum. He speaks of an 'inward wound' which was caused by the fear that certain things dear to him 'should be like smoke dissipated'. Further, he says, 'not trusting my own learning, which is none at all, but partly from writings and monuments of the ancient inhabitants of Britain, partly from the annals of the Romans and the chronicles of the sacred fathers, Isidore, Hieronymous, Prosper, Eusebius and from the histories of the Scots and Saxons although our enemies . . . I have lispingly put together this . . . about past transactions, that [this material] might not be trodden under foot'. (2)

(1) The actual words are coacervavi omne quod inveni, and occur in Prologue 2 to the Historia.
(2) Quoted from the translation of Prologue 1. See The Works of Gildas and Nennius, J.A.Giles, London 1841.

24 April 2013

Brack, Rooney and the Time Traveller

First, two announcements from the CCP about their current season of Robert Rooney artwork.

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Robert Rooney: A Night of Talks
TODAY! Wednesday 24 April 6—8pm

CCP : Centre for Contemporary Photography

Artist Philip Brophy, writer and curator David Homewood and Martyn Jolly, Head of Photography and Media Arts, ANU School of Art, speak on and around the work of Robert Rooney.

Children and adolescents are often seen as ragged kid-flaneurs, re-mapping familiar urban or suburban spaces. Using a diverse range of historical Australian sources, Martin Jolly will explore these secret, under the adult radar, territories and trajectories.
Martyn Jolly is Head of Photography and Media Arts at the ANU School of Art. He is an artist and writer. His book Faces of the Living Dead: The Belief in Spirit Photography came out in 2006.
David Homewood's talk will discuss the negation of artistic intention in Rooney's work from the late 1960s and early 1970s. It will focus in particular on the serialised depiction of the commonplace in several of his photographic works.
David Homewood is a writer and curator who lives in Melbourne.
Philip Brophy will discuss how Robert Rooney's painting draws upon a conceptual understanding of the figurative and iconic, and how that legacy relates to current modalities of painting-as-thinking-about-painting.
Philip Brophy writes on painting among other things. 
A discussion will follow, lead by the exhibition curators, Maggie Finch and Patrick Pound.

.  .  .  .

An exhibition of never-before exhibited black-and-white photographs taken by Robert Rooney with his Box Brownie camera between 1956-58. Created when Rooney was a student at Swinburne Technical College and influenced by Charles Blackman and Ben Shahn, among others, they demonstrate an early fascination with childhood, repetition and seriality—themes that have persisted throughout his long career.

A sense of freedom in the action of the children—playing on suburban streets, in schoolyards and at a suburban quarry and tip—is evident. The youths also play to the camera. There is a sense of complicity, awareness without self­consciousness. The apparent innocence of the now nostalgic scenes, however, is undercut by a melancholy note: this state is transitional. There is also the potential for danger.

These marvellous early photographs will be shown alongside three key paintings from that time, and a recent film The Quadrangle 1956 (2009) made with these early images. 

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bLOGOS/HA HA enjoys and appreciates the art of Robert Rooney. As we do that of John Brack. 
Brack (who died in 1999) and Rooney are two distinctively Melbourne artists with much in common. Both rooted in their plot of Melbourne, both working at home and rarely traveling outside their routine. (Of the same generation, Gerald Murnane similarly comes to mind.)  Both, through their reading and other communications, very knowledgeable about the larger world of art and ideas. Both of a mind mostly satisfied to find their reference material immediately about them. In the objects and routines of their own homes, streets and suburbs, and in the daily street theatre of stage set Melbourne. Both cool and formal in their productions. Free within their chosen genre limits.

Robert Rooney's art has previously been linked in kind to that of Howard Arkley and Ed Ruscha. (Downtown: Ruscha, Rooney, Arkley at the Museum of Modern Art Heide, 1995)  In this CCP season, mention is made of the influences of Charles Blackman and Ben Shahn. In the advertisements for his 1983 NGA exhibition Melbourne Cool, Daniel Thomas specifically linked Brack and Rooney. (Read here Memory Holloway's THE AGE review The School of Cool.)

On first seeing the 1956 Rooney image The Quadrangle, part of the promotion for this CCP exhibition, we were immediately struck by the similarity to John Brack's The Playground of 1959. And in that, from that, a greater commonality than previously appreciated. With a view from time further passed, certain things now appear closer together. Time and place, the personal and the social.

 Robert Rooney The Quadrangle 1956
 detail of The Playground, John Brack, 1959
Everyone's in place. But where's the dog?

 The Playground, John Brack, 1959            click image to enlarge

There she is now, outside the bLOGOS/HA HA office window. Zeitgeist traveller, Dogtor Who.

A Person Looks At A Work Of Art/
someone looks at something ...