Most people are so caught up in their fast-paced lives that they rarely pay attention to their surroundings. In his first solo exhibition Forever and a Day, at Canberra Contemporary Art Space in Manuka, photographer ALEXANDER BELL MOFFATT showcases a number of poignant images that challenge this tendency. Exploring forgotten suburban spaces and nameless faces, Moffatt creates rich street tableaux that offer viewers an opportunity to take time out from their lives and engage with the everyday scenes featured in his photographs.
In Forever and a Day,Moffatt presents his recent work. This includes photographs produced since completing his honours degree at the ANU School of Art last year. Describing his photography as a contemporary take on street photography, the artist is concerned with “capturing a particular moment”. Not driven by any one concept, he explores overlooked places and waits for an image to come to him. Although featuring works taken in several cities, including Canberra, Moffatt does not see his work tied to a specific area. Rather, his photographs have a timeless quality that reinforces his desire to “foster an increased appreciation of the spaces we live in”. These include spaces that may be familiar to some, along with those that are representative of the places we all co-exist with.
Moffatt’s interest in “the ambiguous beauty in the landscape” underscores each work featured in the exhibition. This concern distinguishes his photographs from merely documenting places, to engaging with them. The transformative power of light, a strong influence on the artist, contributes to the poignancy of his work. Intrigued by “the way light can change things”, Moffatt combines this with an interest in the sense of history possessed by the places he captures. The photographer leaves the interpretation of this history up to the viewer, allowing for the multiple meanings each person associates with a place.
Those familiar with Moffatt’s work may be surprised to see the inclusion of portraiture in the exhibition. The artist has recently introduced people into his photographs. As with his other photographs, these works were created organically. When creating portraits, Moffatt asks his sitters to find places that they respond to and leaves them to engage with the space without his intrusion. This enables the photographer’s interest in “finding the point at which people intersect with place” to emerge. A look at some of his portrait photography, which features in the show, confirms the success of this approach. Depicting ordinary people Moffatt has met on his travels, the images have a compelling raw quality and offer a window into the subjects’ lives. These, like each of the captivating photographs featured in Forever and a Day,invites viewers to look closer at the world around them and, in the process, see the beauty that abounds within it.
Forever and a Day opens at 6pm on Thursday November 10 at the Canberra Contemporary Art Space in Manuka and continues until Sunday November 20.
Here’s a new idea, a play about old wrinklies in love! True, it’s enough to make many an X or Y-genner spill their soy lattés in shock. However, Lawrie & Shirley is a bright, witty depiction of the very human face of love between the elderly. Subtitled “Love never comes too late”, the world premiere of the show was held at our own Street Theatre. In the story, Lawrie is a long time philanderer, wooing a succession of widows, having one night stands, then sneaking off before dawn. However, he meets his match in Shirley, creating a lasting bond between them in the final seasons of his life. The middle-aged offspring of the pair, set against both the unseemly idea of a romance between the couple and any risk to their inheritances, work to sabotage the relationship. They scheme with notions of nursing homes, soothing medication and powers of attorney. Their plans are sadly not needed, when the romance comes to an abrupt end against a roadside tree.
This show is a very ACT affair; written by local poet Geoffrey Page, with music provided by local violinist Ewan Foster and with a plot set in Canberra. While the title produces expectations of a two person show, it is actually a one woman act. The many lines of rhyming verse were passionately and vibrantly delivered by actress Chrissie Shaw, who has worked in Canberra since 1987.
The story was vividly conveyed in the form of a movie script, complete with set and camera descriptions and the sound of old projector reels spinning at both the start and end of the performance. Chrissie’s passionate lines were delivered against a backdrop of photos whose gentle depictions of wrinkled hands or passionate embraces of the elderly brought the subject of the plot into focus. Ewan Foster’s brilliant violin added a colourful backdrop to the story, with tunes varying from the Baroque to the Pink Panther theme. This is an entertaining and cleverly presented work, which brings a new, softer light on a subject which will become more prevalent as our population ages.
When you read the title of super-cute comedian JOSH THOMAS’ latest show, it seems like a lot to cover: Everything That’s Ever Happened, Ever. “What happens is when you do your show for the first time, literally, it’s for the Comedy Festival, and they ask you in like, October? Like now, if I was doing one next year – which I’m not – it’d be like, what’s your show named? – now. I had no idea what my show was going to be about, so, I just wrote back something that would sound like stuff would be happening.” So it’s a bit misleading? “It’s just all sod-all pointless bullshit that’s there in place of any better ideas.”
Thomas has been winning awards for seven years now, and he’s covered high school, family life, living at home, coming out, and his break up with another award-winning comedian, Tom Ballard. Now he’s struggling with a title that has been forced upon him by the mainstream media (and his chair on Shaun Micallef’s Talkin’ ‘bout Your Generation) – Gen Y spokesperson. “I get asked all the time… almost ‘Gen Y questions’. ‘Hey Josh, what does Gen Y think about the Carbon Tax?’ I don’t know. I don’t know anything about the fucking carbon tax.” He’s even been on the wrong end of News Limited: “I looked at news.com one time and they had this article that was like ‘Gen Y Slackers’ and it was about Gen Ys living at home for so long, and for no reason they just put a picture of me. Just for no reason. I haven’t lived at home since I was 18.”
He’s also been named one of Australia’s 25 most influential Australians by national gay and lesbian website SameSame, alongside Bob Brown and former Justice Michael Kirby – but he didn’t campaign for it. “I got mine because I’m on television, not because I have some skill or I’m doing any good or anything. I didn’t give myself the award. Do you know what I mean? I didn’t take that on. I wouldn’t put myself on the list. It’s not my fault.”
So don’t expect answers from the new show – just Thomas’ trademark nervous delivery. He’s been working non-stop on Everything That’s Ever Happened, Ever since last year; and as for the future? Don’t ask. “It’s not that simple. I don’t know what I should be doing. It’s the hardest part of my job, people keep asking me all the time things about ‘what’s been happening’. I have ideas, but I don’t want people to think I have the right idea. That’s all I ever answer to any question that people ask me, I don’t know. I just have to try and make up things in the interview, but I really don’t… I really don’t know.”
You can check out Josh’s stand up live at the Canberra Theatre on Saturday October 29 at 7.30pm. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased from canberratheatrecentre.com.au or by calling 6275 2700.
Beaver Galleries has just opened a show of paintings by Canberra artist ROBERT BOYNES entitled In the light of day. Formerly Head of Painting at the Canberra School of Art for 27 years, Boynes is highly regarded and is represented in the National Gallery of Australia, all Australian State Galleries, Parliament House, Artbank and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
In the light of day could refer to one of many aspects of his practice – the light essential to photography, the public and exposed locations where he takes his imagery or the act of seeing itself. The attitude that there is something persistent and common to the human experience resonates in this show. Acrylic, velvet and wood splice canvasses are utilised to explore the sounds, sensations and movement found in our urban spaces and streetscapes. He uses fractured images and shards of light to reinforce the transience of memory and complexity of sight. Boynes explains, in reference to all art, that “it’s the mad material with no surface logic that persists in the nicest way.”
Boynes cites Goya, Manet, El Greco and the practice of seminal figures within modernism as influences. As they skillfully drew together and contrasted the “message” and the “delivery” of a work of art. He is also captivated by less literal depictions of the world, like colour field painting, minimalism or even the soundscapes of John Cage and Philip Glass. He explains:
“I make paintings by transiting through photography and screen-printing. I would call it a multi-media mode of delivery. There is a reason that I have formed a unique language. It is the only way to express and reflect on my particular history of the day.”
In 1959, alongside the like-minded Barbara Hanrahan, Alun Leach-Jones, Udo Sellbach and Peter Haynes, Boynes juggled teaching and his scholarship at the South Australian School of Art. It was an extremely intense but formative period. As any student knows living and creating at once is a precarious balance. The nights he didn’t work were spent in Kym Bonython’s jazz cellar, a tiny place for coffee and cigarettes in Union Street, Adelaide.
Early on in Boynes’ career, Robert Lindsay advised that to find out what you do best and decide to keep doing it will be your greatest move. He has found this space yet concedes that there are peaks and troughs. A duality that also applies to conceiving the work itself, he says:
“What do I plan to do in the future? It’s always the same, to make better artworks. The next picture is always the most exciting, and the last picture is always your best. In there lies an untruth and self-deception. Then again, unless you have an art-ego you don’t go on to make more.”
The In the light of day exhibition is being held at Beaver Galleries (81 Denison Street, Deakin) from Thursday October 20 until Sunday November 13. The gallery is open between Tuesday and Friday from 10am-5pm and on Saturday and Sunday between 9am-5pm. You can also view the works online at beavergalleries.com.au .
Many of us believe we have a firm grasp of the English language and can wield the written word with clarity and aplomb. But if put on the spot, could we name the difference between a noun, verb, adverb and adjective? What about a pronoun or conjunction? Do you know exactly when and where to use an en dash over an em dash? And what about the placement of that pesky ’postrophe?
There are many books dealing with English grammar and language. Elizabeth Manning Murphy’s WORKING WORDS, the first book to be published by the Canberra Society of Editors, claims not to compete with them but to provide a complementary companion to books on grammar, style, punctuation, plain English, editing and the world of freelance writing/editing. In this ethos, it succeeds admirably. The 224-page book is presented as a collection of articles written by Murphy for The Canberra editor over a period of ten years, and is a thorough resource for both the beginner and the more experienced lover of language.
With a career spanning decades, it is clear Murphy is confident with her craft. As you would expect from an advocate of plain English – one of her numerous other books is on Effective writing: plain English at work – Working Words is written in a clear yet uncondescending style. Some passages on tense, participle and voice may spin the head of the uninitiated but are worth wading through in order to grasp the basics.
On occasion, lessons and their examples are repeated verbatim, sometimes in consecutive chapters. As separate articles one can see the need to retread previous material for the sake of clarity, but when compiled into a singular book read in one sitting, it becomes repetitious. Of course in instructional manuals repetition is a useful tool for committing information to memory, and with Working Words designed for dipping into this is an observation rather than a fault.
Breaking the chapters are whimsical sections called ‘itchypencils’ concerning observations on grammar in the wider world. These lighthearted pieces provide an entertaining pause, but the first two accompanying images are slightly blurry which is somewhat distracting.
But this does not detract from the overall quality of this excellent companion. With the proliferation of the veritable Orwellian newspeak of texting and internet chat – where abbreviations and numerical substitution increasingly breed and slap in a clumsy, ugly fashion like cane toads – it’s important to remember the basic mechanics and ideas of the English language. That was quite a long sentence; would you break it into smaller sentences? Did ‘cane toad’ seem a clumsy metaphor? Why? And would you recommend starting a sentence with a conjunction, as this very one has done? These are the sort of questions Working Words will throw up and solve, and thus improve your writing and editing as you go.