Thursday, March 26, 2015

Polka dot: Habbot's Bell grey loafer

What is it about closing a definitive chapter in your work-life that sends you shoe shopping? It's got me wondering whether there is a uniquely symbolic dimension to shoes that I haven't considered until now. I cyber stalked these Habbot flats last week and followed it up with an in-store visit just the other day. This is the shoe crafted by an Italian artisan for an eastern suburbs housewife. The leather! Hand-hole punched detailing! The tassle! I love them.

At $390 they are way more than I like to pay for a pair of shoes. On the other hand I am in a vulnerable – or is that open – state of mind?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Trente Parke - The Black Rose

Last week I flew to Adelaide for the opening of the Trent Parke exhibition, The Black Rose, at the Art Gallery of South Australia. The exhibition, co-curated by Maria Zagala and Julie Robinson had been a topic of daily conversation between my twin and I for months, if not years.  There was no way I was going to miss it. Sharing my life with two curators I’ve come to understand that every now and again – and it’s really not that often – curator and exhibition subject connect in a powerful way.  I had a feeling that this was that kind of show.

A few things pointed in this direction: Trent Parke’s remarkable personal story, the project’s ambition (only seven years in the making) and the scale of the exhibition (carte blanche to the entire temporary exhibition space). In his early thirties, and newly a father, Parke’s thoughts turned to the traumatic memory of his mother’s sudden and unexpected death from an asthma attack when he was 13 years old. The exhibition charts Parke’s odyssey – an epic emotional, cosmic and vast geographical journey – undertaken with his own young family across the country and ending at his childhood home in Newcastle, NSW. Documenting birth, death, and the everyday banalities of suburban life, Parke and the exhibition curators have collated a selection of the thousands of mostly black and white photographs, in addition to multimedia and installation works, into a series of self-contained rooms that articulated the exhibitions themes.

Apart from the visual material, Parke wrote some 15,000 words to accompany the project: a diaristic collection of notes, recollections, dreams and observation, some of which appear on the walls and as part of the exhibition catalogue. These form an interesting adjunct to the visual works. The photographs, all formally exquisite and technically precise recall the documentary style of iconic mid 20th century magazines like Life.  (Parke is Australia’s only Magnum photographer – a difficult feat and rare honour). Parke acknowledges that he is not a writer in the short film that introduces the exhibition, and reiterates the statement in the catalogue despite identifying as a storyteller. His prose –  unabashedly pulpy and overwrought – is everywhere.  Parke’s widely divergent skills as a artist and writer had an interesting effect. I literally flipped between Amazing! and Terrible! every second step. The juxtaposition of very different modes – professional and amateur – added a compelling dimension to the exhibition. For Parke, this project was a total excavation.  

Parke’s exhausting and exhaustive search for meaning by way of documentary, vernacular and theatrical form powerfully conveys the messy, dislocating experience of trauma. At the exhibitions end I was in awe of Parke’s capacity for risk – emotional, professional and financial. It seemed to me the definition of courage.

Trent Parke, Black Butterfly from The Black Rose, 2014 gelatin silver hand print 120 x 152cm

The Black Rose
Art Gallery of South Australia
14 March – 10 May 2015

Thursday, March 5, 2015

sweetpolka website is live

We are live! Big thanks to Michelle Diconoski for help with words, Heartland Projects for photography and web support and you friends for your kind encouragement in getting this off the ground.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sketch pad

Heartland Projects whizz Emma (see my Heartland Projects love-in post, then read Emma's) is sending through shots from my folio shoot. Here's a sneak peak – a page from my sketchpad– that will make its way to my new website. That's right, mercury is no longer retrograde. Get set for some action.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I ❤ heartland projects

This week I've been going through the process of having my folio documented by Heartland Projects lead creative Emma Byrnes. This lady is amazing. I have always loved working on projects in collaboration – that's essentially why I am a designer – but once the project is at its completion, even if I am very happy with the outcome I'm usually left experiencing a little mort. Some light switches off inside of me. Good night. Documenting my folio has been on the top of my to-do list for a thousand years. I watch it get booted to the bottom of my list every other week. I blame it on a lack of time but really the thought of getting my work out for a camera lens has filled me with a weird, pathetic dread. On the other side, I'm here to report it wasn't that terrible. In fact, I was able to enter into that exciting, productive zone where creativity finds expression. Emma did more than document the work. She interpreted the genre with a sense of fun. For that and for Emma I am super grateful. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Dreams and Imagination: Light in the Modern City


I designed this catalogue Dreams and Imagination: Light in the Modern City to accompany the exhibition of the same name late last year. This was one of those charmed projects from the outset –  a creative joy from start (a coffee date with its writer and exhibition curator Melissa Miles in North Carlton during the last school holidays) to finish (the arrival of hand delivered freshly printed catalogues wrapped in paper and a bow courtesy of the always diligent team at Adams Print). When I break it down, what then constitutes 'creative joy' in a project such as this with several players: a gallery, an independent curator and a printer? It had a team of good listeners with expertise, a sense of confidence, and a healthy perfectionism. It had an adequate timeframe, not overly long, nor too tight. It had a great subject and visual material. And I had autonomy.

The exhibition – documenting modern photography in Australia – straddles the period from the 1930s to the 1970s. Keeping this in mind Melissa and I wanted the design to reflect the time and to keep the emphasis squarely on the photographs. Given that the photographs are all gelatine silver prints we decided on a monochromatic palette with a single steely blue as an accent. That accent appears only in the image credits and on the inside cover, a late addition thanks to Shane from Adams Print who was not certain that the shade of the cover and inside paper stocks would marry well – a good call).

The font is Quadraat, a digital serif font created by Fred Smeijers in 1992. Although it is contemporary in feel it actually draws on pre modern typefaces Garamond (from the 1500s) and Times (late 1700s). I've always liked using Quadraat for body copy for its qualities, legibility and a touch of eccentricity. The headings, credits and footnotes are in Scala, another font designed in the early 1990s. Both Scala and Quadraat were conceived in the Netherlands, a hotbed of typographic innovation. As I'm thinking about it, it strikes me as slightly wondrous that two font families from the other side of the world designed in the same language and within a year of one another would be so right for a historical project from the Antipodes.

Naturally, I am tormented by two or three things I would have done differently (goddammit!) but overall I was happy with the result. Can I say I like it? In fact I am not the only one. A number of people have liked this catalogue. One enthusiast, blogger Peter Costigan, has even posted on it. How nice is that?

Dreams and Imagination: Light in the Modern City 
Closes 1 March 2015
Catalogue costs $25 from the MGA shop.

Monash Gallery of Art
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Wheelers Hill Victoria 3150
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