ACTease February 2014
by Courtney Symes
“I ain’t no saint, but I’ve tried never to do anything that would hurt my family or offend God … I figure all any kid needs is hope and the feeling he or she belongs. If I could do or say anything that would give some kid that feeling, I would believe I had contributed something to the world,” Elvis Presley once commented to a reporter in the 1950s (source: elvis.com). Elvis fan or not, there’s something captivating about Alfred Wertheimer’s images of the fresh-faced 21-year-old Elvis Presley. Perhaps it is the genuine passion for music that Presley demonstrates in his performances, or the humility towards his fans that Wertheimer has conveyed so convincingly in his images.
Wertheimer was a photojournalist recruited by RCA Victor in 1956 to capture promotional shots of newly signed recording artist Elvis Presley. The 56 black and white digital pigment prints captured by Wertheimer are a “unique visual record” with a “cinematic power that makes Elvis’ road to fame palpable”. This exhibition offers viewers a rare glimpse of Presley’s rise to fame “before security and money built walls between him and his fans”. Elvis at 21, Photographs by Alfred is at the National Portrait Gallery until 10 March. portrait.gov.au
Also at the National Portrait Gallery this month, The Artist’s Diary: Portraits by Judy Cassab showcases six decades of one of Australia’s eminent and prolific portrait painters, Judy Cassab AO CBE. Cassab was born in Vienna in 1920 to Hungarian parents. She studied at the Academy of Art in Prague during the late 1930s, and then in Budapest during the early years of the Second World War. Cassab married Jancsi Kampfner in 1939. The couple was separated throughout the war when Kampfner was sent to forced labour camps in Poland and Russia.
Cassab managed to stay in Budapest and worked in a factory under a false identity to escape persecution of the Jews. The couple survived the war and moved to Sydney with their two sons in 1951. The year after arriving in Australia, Cassab’s painting of Dorothy (Andrea) Jenner – a writer and radio personality – was one of 83 entries selected for the Archibald Prize. Cassab’s career progressed with a solo exhibition at Sydney’s Macquarie Galleries in 1953, winning the Women’s Weekly Portrait Prize in 1955 and 1956 and the Archibald Prizes in 1960 and 1967. “By the end of the 1960s she was highly sought after as a portraitist and had also become a successful landscape painter.” Since 1952, Cassab has had 40 portraits exhibited in the Archibald Prize.
The portraits she has painted throughout her career range from commissions of “corporate leaders and social luminaries along with personal and intimate portrayals of family and friends”. The variety of subjects has resulted in a diverse collection of works that offer “a distinct and comprehensive record of Australian society and culture throughout the second half of the 20th century”. This exhibition offers a wonderful opportunity for viewers to experience the work of this talented artist, whilst observing a snapshot of history and prominent figures over the last sixty years. Runs until 10 March. portrait.gov.au
CCAS (Canberra Contemporary Art Space) centenary curators, Alexander Boynes, David Broker, Anni Doyle Wawrzynczack, Janice Falsone and Annika Harding have each selected two artists who they believe “delineate something of the future” for CCAS Gorman House exhibition, Future Proof. Featured artists include: Timothy Dwyer, Nicci Haynes, Gregory Hodge, Rosalind Lemoh, Brendan Murphy, Patsy Payne, Clare Thackway, Frank Thirion, Daniel Vukovljak, Jonathan Webster, and Jo Wu. The exhibition features a number of works that “have a futuristic feel, in the sense of being appropriately apocalyptic, but more importantly, they represent artists whose practices have become inextricably integrated with their daily lives”. Runs until 8 February. ccas.com.au
M16 exhibition, I Heart Television “unashamedly explores the good, the bad and the ugly in all things related to TV”. The impact that TV has on our lives is different for everyone, as the six artists featured in this exhibition demonstrate. Featured artists, Belle Charter, Clinton Hayden, Erica Hurrell, Aki Nishiumi, Tess Stewart-Moore and Samuel Townsend are all previous graduates of the ANU School of Art Photomedia workshop, who have reunited to exhibit their latest work. The exhibition showcases the artists’ interpretation of “contemporary culture and individual perspectives within society, centred around our fascination and relationships with television”. Therasa Stewart-Moore explores that way that TV serves as a form of escapism, especially for her clients with disabilities, Clinton Hayden examines the nostalgia that TV often evokes through favourite childhood films, whilst Samuel Townsend looks at reality TV shows such as My Kitchen Rules, Keeping up with the Kardashians and The Simple Life to further understand the fabricated lives these shows portray.
Also at M16, Keely Van Order’s The Hypercube explores “global concerns relating to technology, free will imagination and sensory overload”. Van Order showcases her findings through “spirals and interconnecting circular patterns to visually explore paradox, time symmetry and strange loops”, which are presented in pencil and ink drawings and as a collection of prints. Van Order’s works raise questions such as: “What does it truly mean to be a sentient being, rather than for example a computer or a star?” and “What is the distinction between individual consciousness, global conscience, and universal beliefs — and how might our technological advances mirror such aspects of existence?” Both exhibitions run until 9 February. m16artspace.com.au
Belconnen Arts Centre is gearing up for another exciting year ahead with a couple of Australian-focused exhibitions: Farming without fences – how Aborigines made Australia and The Neighbourhood Project. Helen Tiernan is the artist behind Farming without fences, an exhibition inspired by Bill Gammage’s book, The Biggest Estate on Earth – How Aborigines made Australia (2012 winner of the Prime Minister’s Prize for Australian History; 2012 winner of the Victorian Prize for Literature, and Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards [Prize for Non-Fiction]; and 2012 winner of ACT Book of the Year Award). Whilst The Biggest Estate on Earth explores the ways that Aboriginal people managed the land, Farming without fences examines the ways that ‘new-comers’ and First Australians viewed and managed the land. “Native flora and fauna, colonial interiors and the land’s inhabitants serve as symbolic references in this new body of work.” Don’t miss the chance to meet the artist, Helen Tiernan on Sunday 9 February at 3pm. Runs until 16 February.
Jacklyn Peters’ The Neighbourhood Project started with a question: “Are the characteristics of suburban homes and their residents, like many things, particular to place?” Interviews with local residents in one street of Kaleen (her home suburb) confirmed that she is surrounded by a diverse mix of people, with a variety of unique and interesting stories to tell. Peters will be hosting a Meet the Artist session on Sunday 2 March at 3pm. Runs from 21 February until 9 March. belconnenartscentre.com.au
Canberra Glassworks has two beautiful exhibitions scheduled for this month: Observations – Christine Cholewa and Clarity – Shirley Hersch. Observations consists of dramatic graphic wall installations. South Australian artist, Cholewa utilizes glass, photography and drawing to reflect “the ordinary moments of everyday life”. Shirley Hersch’s installation, Clarity, is “inspired by a deep sense of curiosity” and reminiscent of the sea with “its dreamlike qualities and fragile beauty”. A Gallery Talk for both exhibitions will take place on Saturday 15 February at 10.30am, with both exhibitions running from 5 February until 13 March. canberraglassworks.com