b. 1945, Aoteara, New Zealand
Lives and works in Adelaide, Australia
Ian North is an artist who is also a widely published writer on the visual arts. He employs photography and painting to address considerations of place, identity and post-conceptual authenticity, in recent years crossing the Pacific by container ship and undertaking a sea voyage to East Antarctica to photograph the maritime environment. Has produced many bodies of work, including the portfolio Felicia: South Australia 1973–78; Canberra Suite 1980-81 (pioneering medium format colour film as an art medium); three Pseudo Panorama series, 1985–1988 (combining painting and colour photography); Home & Away, 1992; Haven, 2001/2013; East Antarctia 1915, 2015; Southern Ocean off Snares Islands 2015.
He has exhibited in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide (sixteen solo exhibitions), and in group exhibitions in London, Asia and the United States. His work is represented in fifteen Australian public collections. His publications include books on the Australian modernists Dorrit Black and Margaret Preston in the 1970s and a range of essays on the impact of the Indigenous art revolution (including ‘Expanse’, 1998, ‘StarAboriginality’, 2001, and ‘The Kindness of Kathleen Petyarre’ 2001). He has also addressed the intellectual relationship between art and neuro-aesthetics (‘Notes Towards a Natural Way to do Art History’, in North [ed.], Visual Animals, 2007).
North was Director of the Manawatu Art Gallery, Aotearoa/New Zealand 1969-71, immigrating to Australia to become Curator of Paintings at the Art Gallery of South Australia 1971-80 and Foundation Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Australia 1980-84. He subsequently served on the National Gallery's Council, working with curators on the NGA’s acquisition policy, and also on the boards of the Biennale of Sydney and the Art Association of Australia and New Zealand. His qualifications include MA and MFA degrees in photography from the University of New Mexico. He held a personal chair at the University of South Australia where he was Head of the South Australian School of Art (1984-1993). He is currently Adjunct Professor of Visual Arts at the University of Adelaide where he is a member of the J M Coetzee Centre for Creative Arts.
In 2014 he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (AM) and a Doctor of Arts honoris causa from the University of Adelaide.
ARTIST STATEMENT -
Commencing in photography, via the virtue of the gift of a medium format camera at age 12, Ian North has been making photographs for six decades. One of his recurring subjects is the South Australian Fleurieu Peninsula and in this display, timed to coincide with the launch of a publication on North, ten panoramic colour photographs continue his interrogation of landscape and identity.
- Art Gallery of South Australia, 2018
FLEURIEU ART PRIZE
SAMSTAG MUSEUM OF ART
GAME SYNOPSIS -
Direct contact battles between two contestants occur in triangular spaces. Physical triangulations reflect the opponent’s respective states of ‘desire’, ‘reality’ and ‘expectation’ within the binary law of domination and subjugation that maintains them, reflecting a global system of desire and fate continuously moving and consuming each-other.
As a primal tension structure, a triangulation indicates our existence as products of desire (mother-father-child), as natural bodies integrated in a social space of com-promise (political fate), to consume and satisfy production (economic fate), to deal with a contentious existence in an occupied space, subject to personal and external beliefs.
The competition strive for difference where difference is not allowed to occur. Competitors wear neutral white outfits and abstract “landscape” masks. Referencing classical Greek tragedy, the masks eliminate identity and transform the contenders into anonymous territories, each competing to conquer the opponent. The structure conforms to a territorial battleground where the actions, through infinite repetition, direct towards a sterilization of the external image, where cultural judgment is deprived of its absolute force.
What is desired is manifest: a struggle for difference or a violent acceptance of equality
Armed with electric hair clippers, two contenders battled against each other. To neutralize individual status, contenders wore white overalls and a white abstract mask. Competitors battled to overpower each other, attacking and shaving the head of the other, able only to shave a small amount of hair before their roles were overturned, dominance and subjugation. Eventually, neither contender had any hair left to cut. Bald, they returned to their resting positions.
Hair eliminated and not allowed to grow back. The body is controlled by force, restricting its capacity for difference. Denied its production, hair is hindered from protection or image production (individuality). Through cycles of domination and sub-mission, the action is inconclusive: no one wins, and individual signs are neutralized. Bodies are rendered non-productive, left in a perennial symbiotic tension.
EAST ANTARCTICA,1915 -
‘There are twelve images in this show, each about 55 x 150 cm. They are inkjet prints of East Antarctica, the remotest part. I took them in 2012, on a voyage commemorating the centenary of Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctica Expedition (AAE). I used film, the negatives of which were digitally printed. I drew on the prints with the simplest and most basic of media, charcoal (unforgiving though, on the soft art paper I used). One work is left pristine, paused as it were.
You might be able to tell me what they are all about. Clearly they play fast and loose with scale, and hence meaning. Sure, the heroic age of Antarctic exploration and World War One overlapped, if not as literally as depicted here. Then of course there is melting, gravity, entropy and the operations of nature. Someone I showed these works to spoke of an over-riding sense of crisis. Maybe that is to say enough.’
– Ian North: extract from a letter to a friend, 17 February 2015
SOUTHERN OCEAN OFF SNARES ISLAND
ARTIST STATEMENT -
Allan Sekula asserted some years ago that the sea was no longer available as a metaphor for the sublime, a view itself that now seems out of date. We may be trashing the oceans and asserting our power in undermining pre-modern or romantic conceptions of the sea, but, setting irony aside, never before has awe before nature been such an important stimulus to strategies for our survival. On the high seas one may experience the ocean as primordial—hence Conrad:
"If you would know the age of the earth, look upon the sea in a storm. The grayness of the whole immense surface, the wind furrows upon the faces of the waves, the great masses of foam, tossed about and waving, like matted white locks, give to the sea in a gale an appearance of hoary age …"
Most of the world’s trade is conducted by container ships, blunt instruments of globalism. These vessels are seemingly facing worse storms than hitherto, while island nations like Kiribati—a source of cheap labour for the container trade— contend with inundation. Meanwhile our culture jitters with what David Denby terms the Western Disease: the need to keep moving for fear of seduction by lotus-eaters, a weather eye out, increasingly, for typhoons
ARTIST NOTES -
‘As the world shrinks, paradoxically it becomes more terrifying: humans increasingly resemble a plague of ants clinging by their fingernails (or ants’ equivalents) on a rock hurtling through space. The world is too small, too known, too exhaustively overrun to provide symbolic or actual refuge. Photographs of the familiar might offer some reassurance in spite of our consequential unease. Finding significant visual relationships in the world before us (for we are not talking about attenuated ‘circles and rectangles’ formalism here) seems to offer pleasures sanctioned by cultural conditioning and evolutionary inheritance.’
‘Skies and streetscapes—romanticism and the everyday—have been important in my work, from the earliest juvenilia. My first attempt at ‘serious’ oil painting was a Turneresque picture of roiling clouds at sunset over Auckland Harbour, the second a suburban street scene depicting the view from our front gate. I have been periodically photographing in the streets since 1963, and found myself again working in them with a particular sense of purpose in 2008, using a panoramic camera and encouraged by an awareness that it was almost thirty years since I shot the Canberra Suite (1980-81).’
‘I formed the idea of a comparable group of photographs might constitute an Adelaide Suite, also employing medium format colour, shot over a period of around twelve months. A similar aesthetic applies—the images are full frame, ie with no cropping—but the Adelaide works are even more consciously concerned with connections and contrasts of nature with the built environment, and in particular between skies and roof or fence lines. The Canberrra works were more ostensibly deadpan, relying on light to bring disparate elements into an apparently artless harmony; in the Adelaide work more expressive undertones come further to the fore, with the built form and the skies not so much contrasting as swirling together—I trust— in a gestural completeness. ‘Nature’ is a term which embraces everything. It may no longer be denied, in an era of global warming.’
TODAY ALL YOUR PLANS ARE GOING TO BE SUCCESSFUL! - BY STEPHANIE LANE 2010 -
"When the wind and the weather blow your dreams sky high
Sail away, sail away, sail away"
— Noel Coward
The trigger for this exhibition was a small painting, Sail Away, which I made in late 2001 for a fundraiser exhibition. The image floated, forgive me, into my mind, seemingly connected in some way to September 11. A second version of that picture appears in this exhibition. A number of related images came to me at around the same time. Other projects precluded my painting them until several years later.
I stood at New York’s Ground Zero early in 2002. My spontaneous reaction: ‘this is bad, but no excuse to go ape-shit around the world’. A forlorn thought, because since the 1950s even pretexts have been virtually redundant. Countering fascism with fascism is disastrous, yet sweet, sick dreams of empire blend with childish fantasies of conquest and adventure for many of us, I guess. For evidence, look around you, and not, of course, just at the exhibition.
But these are certainly not edged political pictures. I used to enjoy drawing pirate galleons and smoky sea battles when I was seven or eight. The big wave could be from my bathtub of those years, when I liked to create, relative to the size of toy boats, such maritime monsters. Terror, the Iraq/Afghan wars, the brute realities of nautical commerce and the European Space Agency’s MaxWave project all reaffirm a connection between dreams and reality. A need to venture something of the real thing led me to traverse the Pacific on a container ship in 2006. I am not the first nor surely the last—however cool we have been about nature, a warming planet not withstanding—to see the void as a promise of freedom.
To each and every one: fair winds and a following sea.
ARTIST STATEMENT -
I propose this clutch of photographs as a celebration of pastoral beauty and as a provocation. They are produced, for authenticity, by entirely analogue means (film, chemicals, hand printing). I took the images in 2001 while on a mid-winter residency at Bundanon, the rural estate on the Shoalhaven River, New South Wales, which Arthur Boyd left to the nation. In 1968 Stanley Kubrick visualised an astronaut traversing a so-called stargate in his movie 2001. The latter year that also saw, a month or two after my residency, the most horrifically audacious terror attacks in history. Against such imaginative feats, virtual and real, Bundanon’s enclave of farm, bush and river seems a haven indeed.
When living there I found myself, willy-nilly, channelling the photographic likes of John B. Eaton, a farmer-pictorialist of the 1930s. Postcolonial anomalies were, not surprisingly, everywhere present in the flora and fauna, emblems of a world ever threatening the Bundanon bubble. There is no way back to the garden unscathed. I met on Bundanon’s staff a refugee from naval service during the first Gulf War. He had been shocked by the spectacle of American missile barrages directed against Iraq. My one excursion to the outer world during my residency took me to the University of Sydney to hear Slavoj Žižek, palpably agitated in his search for future free of capitalism’s depredations. Such things are circumstantial and coincidental—every age has its attendant dramas and disasters, every artefact its shifting, modifying context. I adventitiously experienced intensities of beauty at Bundanon that were (of course) tied to the particularities of the place as well as wider cultural traditions of sanctuary and transcendence. What price the resultant propositions? Among other things I see them as teasing the edge of convention, a fine line to walk. As Stephen Bann once observed (about the sculptural gardens of the Scottish poet Ian Hamilton Finlay), a retreat can also be an attack.