We used to talk about love
Balnaves contemporary: photomedia
Eleven contemporary artists explore the emotions of love.
We used to talk about love features
major and often confronting work by 11 contemporary Australian
artists from around the world who explore the emotions of love, the
pleasures of the flesh, and the wistful nostalgia of recollection.
'All the pictures and moving images are marked by an overwhelming
sense of intimacy, yet despite the title, there is not a single love
heart in this exhibition,’ says curator Natasha Bullock.
Angelica Mesiti Rapture (silent anthem) 2009 (video still)
high-definition video, silent 10:10 min, image courtesy of the
artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery © the artist. Polly Borland
Untitled XXXII from Smudge 2010, chromogenic print 76 × 65 cm, image
courtesy of the artist and Murray White Room, Melbourne © the artist
If we used to talk about love, what do we talk about now? Can
pictures convey the mysterious enigma of love’s emotions? Across an
array of media including photography, collage, sculpture and
multimedia installation We used to talk about love considers some of
these questions. It is an emotional proposition about how pictures
convey feelings, embody memories and their sensorial properties.
From playfully dressed-up bodies replete with sexual suggestion to a
real-time disintegrating sculpture of a stargazing young man and to
collages evoking the memories and innocence of childhood, We used to
talk about love considers the variegated terrain of love’s language
– joy, elation, longing, loss, melancholia and memory.
To suggest the movement of love’s emotions as it swings from one
extreme to the next We used to talk about love is structured to
highlight the parlance of love from beginning to end. For the first
time since the galleries were opened to the public in 1988, the
now-named Franco and Amina Belgiorno-Nettis and Family Contemporary
Galleries have been architecturally reconsidered – in a
collaboration between exhibition curator Natasha Bullock and
architect Jan van Schaik of Minifie van Schaik architects in
Melbourne – with walls built to promote a more intimate viewing
experience and a determined passageway through the exhibition
experience. The aim is to take the viewer on an emotional journey by
clustering works around four broad ideas that are also spatially
To begin with the flesh considers the vexed terrain of the body,
flesh and desire. Polly Borland’s (USA/Aus) prints of dressed up
bodies playfully explore intimacy in the guise of fetish, Paul
Knight’s (UK/Aus) folded photographs of couples in bed conceal the
point of contact and Angelica Mesiti’s (France/Aus) sensual video
reveals young people in threshold states of rapture and great joy.
Expressive abstractions includes artwork based on complex social
relationships including Darren Sylvester’s (Vic) digital prints that
encapsulate the essence of a moment into a single visual statement.
Sylvester’s crisp style references photographic genres typically
associated with advertising and high-gloss magazines. David
Rosetzky’s (Vic) feature-length video, produced in collaboration
with actors, a choreographer and a dramaturg, highlights the complex
nature of contemporary communication and how we connect to each
other in this world.
An archive of feeling elaborates on the amassing of archival
material to reflect on memories and perceptions. David Noonan’s
(UK/Vic) collages of children and people evoke the bleeding nature
of memory, Eliza Hutchison’s (Vic) salon-style hang of more than 40
prints sourced from private moments and public events examines the
permutations of memory and remembering, and Justene Williams’ (NSW)
new seven-channel video installation with pillows, bread, stairs and
shelves is a poignant celebration of life, treading a line between
hope and futility, sustenance and dejection.
The final room, Filthy, crushing ending, examines artworks that echo
a sense of loss, absence and disintegration. From Glenn Sloggett’s
(Vic) photographs of decaying roses, street signs and abandoned dogs
that find beauty in the ordinary to Grant Steven’s (Qld) video of
floating words and melancholy music that riff off popular culture,
conceptual art and sentimentality and finally, to Tim Silvers’ (NSW)
commission comprising a life-size body cast made of watercolour
pigment and a suite of photographs that visually document the
sculpture’s slow decay, in situ, for the duration of the exhibition.
We used to talk about love is the seventh in a series of
contemporary exhibitions supported by the Balnaves Foundation.
A richly illustrated hardcover book
accompanies this exhibition. We used to talk about love comprises a
comprehensive introduction by curator Natasha Bullock, essays by
Lilian Hibberd and Vigen Galstyan, a work of fiction by Australia’s
renowned writer Gail Jones, and individual texts on each of the
artist’s works by leading curators, arts writers, artists and
academics. The book is an exploration of love’s various forms from
the intimate and cinematic to the speculative and thematic.
Ain’t there anyone here for love? is
a series of films, chosen by the Gallery’s curator Robert Herbert,
exploring the changing representations of love in cinema throughout
the 20th and into the 21st century. Attachment and detachment,
intimacy and distance, instability and endurance – the depiction
alters conspicuously over 70 years, as a result of cultural changes,
upheavals in society and shifting ideologies. This series presents
themes from versions of pure romance to vicious love-hate
relationships, all of which reflect on the impermanence and fickle
fashions of love.
Films in the series include Casablanca (dir: Michael Cutiz 1942), A
streetcar named Desire (dir: Elia Kazan 1951), Gentlemen prefer
blondes (dir: Howard Hawks 1953), A kind of loving (dir: John
Schlesinger 1962), Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? (dir: Mike
Nichols 1966), The honeymoon killers (dir: Leonard Kastle 1969),
Fear eats the soul (dir: Rainer Werner Fassbinder 1973) and Two
lovers (dir: James Grey 2008).
31 Jan – 21 Apr 2013
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney