From Polly Borland's playfully dressed-up bodies, replete with sexual suggestion, to Tim Silver's disintegrating sculpture of a stargazing young man, this exhibition considers the variegated terrain of love's language.
Curated by Natasha Bullock.
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.
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 articulated.
To begin with the flesh considers the vexed terrain of the body, flesh and desire. Polly Borland’s prints of dressed up bodies playfully explore intimacy in the guise of fetish, Paul Knight’s folded photographs of couples in bed conceal the point of contact and Angelica Mesiti’s 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 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 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 collages of children and people evoke the bleeding nature of memory, Eliza Hutchison’s 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’ 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 photographs of decaying roses, street signs and abandoned dogs that find beauty in the ordinary to Grant Steven’s video of floating words and melancholy music that riff off popular culture, conceptual art and sentimentality and finally, to Tim Silvers’ 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).
Image: Paul Knight 19 months #1 (detail) from Untitled 2010, folded type C photograph, 88 × 98 cm, image courtesy and © the artist
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