Richard Dunn: Statements and Commentaries – 1978/1992
(1992)• Each new work carries its own constraints (1978)

Each new work carries its own constraints. After carrying out a work dedicated to Heraclitus called The River Image I had the intention of making a set of drawings which could be both formal, self-generating constructs and also may have to do with nature: ‘Ten Geometries from Nature’. I was struck by the paradox. That’s what I wanted to face.

Setting out with a camera I found it hard to draw the line between ‘Nature’ and a formal construct (the idea of something). The notion of geometry was as hard to escape as to recognise in the apparent shift and randomness of nature. I wondered how others might interpret the same scene. What would the metaphor be? Was I in an aesthetic or an economic situation? I wanted this to be clear. Each question posed was a ‘framed circumstance’; like a view through a camera lens or the boundary of a sheet of paper, and each new question posed raised a subsequent question.

The apparent shift and randomness of questions interface the levels of thought and experience being dealt with simultaneously. This is not nature, nor is it geometry.

Where does it leave us?

[From ‘Roadshow 1: Works on Paper’ Sydney 1978]


• There are many levels to working with art (1978)

“heuris’tic, a. & n. Serving to discover; – method, system of education under which the pupil is trained to find things out for himself.”
“mod’el, n; v.t. & i. Person, thing proposed for imitation; person who poses for artists; give shape to (document, argument, etc.); form (thing) after, on, upon, a model; act of pose as artist’s model; to plan or form after some model.”

There are many levels to working with art. To define one would lead to an exclusion of others. Response is defined by attitudes and concepts generating work. Attitudes towards work are determined by personal biases and cultural imperatives. Alternative readings are determined by personal biases, expectation and cultural conventions. My and your conception of a work which sits on the wall. As in a detective story al conjectures are founded on evidence. What follows from reading the evidence leads to a heuristic situation where further information may be gathered by analogy.

The following works have a specific context yet sit on art’s ideal wall. Flat and white. They move back and forth. Shifting attention among themselves. The invite attention to their visual language. When it comes to meaning it seem as though there is little one can say without the use of metaphor.

[From ‘Heuristic Models and Other Works 1976 – 1979’ Institute of Modern Art Brisbane 1979]


• Two Squares – placing a line / rationalising six squares placement (1979)

This title evokes two contradictory ideas at the same time. Thus it is a duality which rests at the centre of this work, in its structure and methodology. The anomaly which exists in an apparently objective system is a device used to expose a more subjective level of meaning.

Also, the title is a description of the way the work formally presents itself, a suggestion of illusion, but where the spectator is free to interpret that which the work itself shows.

It is for the determined viewer to resolve contradictions from personal experience and from clues within the work.

The inner mechanisms of this work may be compared to that of a detective story with conjectures founded on evidence; true and false clues.

This is a work more metaphoric than abstract, in spite of appearances. I would like to put the viewer into a ‘heuristic’ situation and thus into a dialogue where he may confront his way of thinking and his prejudices.

[From ‘The Work and its Context’ Sydney 1979]


• In spite of efforts to resolve contradictions (1979)

In spite of efforts to resolve contradictions within and though artwork each work tends toward a new set of circumstances which likewise demand clarity and resolution yet harbour their own contradictions. My feeling is that resolution takes place with time’s intervention where the growing independence from my intimate knowledge of a work allows for a more objectively based dialogue. The works thus inform me as I had previously informed them.

Two T’s results from Six Positions, 1978 [a set of six paintings] to which its is linked by a common attempt to deal with content on a number of levels while accepting the standard painting conventions of flatness and colour, applied through the vehicle of the traditional medium of oil paint. These are works made with a method of delay. Yet other levels of meaning are alluded to through titles and clues within the works themselves. Concepts standing outside the physical work inform its visual imagery, for this is work of a visual nature. Language here plays a role to reinforce or direct reading. Essentially, the viewer is asked to decipher and interface meaning derived from formal, linguistic, metaphoric and personal clues. This process which places a responsibility on the viewer also questions ways by which a visual work of art may be understood. Questions about ‘painting’ are raised through paintings’ means.

These works are specific cases rather than part of a general stylistic program. They are related through attitude rather than appearance to works utilising different materials and procedures. Generally speaking, alternate positions are referred to from which the viewer is asked to draw conclusions. One may say, to read between the lines.

[On ‘Two T’s (Double Illusions)’, Oil on Aluminium, two parts each three panels.
From ‘European Dialogue’, 3rd Biennale of Sydney 1979]


• ‘The Monastery’ and the ‘Condition for Seeing’ (1980)

The Monastery tries to evoke and demonstrate a state of mind with physical metaphors; visual and phenomenal clues.

Its five elements are grouped into three categories:
1 INDICATING THE CORNER (an image without colour), the room its base and height. A space without dimension.
(4 black and white photos, each 50cm square)
2 THE GREY CONSTRUCTION. To feel that which has been indicated. A corner to be trapped in? Claustrophobia or retreat? A painting or a room fragment or a wall?
(wood, zinc galvanising paint, chair, 274cm high)

3 THE LADDER. A tool to assist making work. A possible vantage point. A height to fall from. Another (shallow) triangle.
(eight rung ladder, attached column)

4 WALKING LEGS. A colourful alternative. Some human presence. Something to look up at; to change your viewpoint. An implied triangle.
(4 colour photos, each 12cm x 18cm, about 280cm above the floor)
5 THE COLOURED CONSTRUCTION (wood), supported as if squatting, knees apart. Or a billboard. Or carpentry. The other side of the grey construction.

The Travelling Version rearranges these elements emphasising the duality inherent in the ‘Monastery’. It relies on the photographs to indicate this other (absent) work or space, this cage of memory which a viewer could inhabit or wander through picking up clues from physical space.

Yet, the usefulness of Photography itself as reference to anything real (apart from its unfaltering aesthetic) may be questioned by the ‘Condition for Seeing: BLIND’.

[From ‘Frame of Reference’ Melbourne 1980]


• A Dialogue of Objects (1981)

Given: the view, the condition, the objects, the tools, then …

These four works [‘View’ , ‘Condition for Seeing No.1 – BLIND’, ’10 Still Lifes’, ‘Tools of Coincidence’] which at first glance own little in common but their inhabitance of the same space (and that of the viewer), bear a speculative resemblance as they beat about various parts of the same bush – attempting at one and the same time to erect and illuminate it; a metaphoric Christmas tree in the real space of the gallery.

The mental space that these works speculate on may serve as a model, or not at all conform to another viewer’s sense of interior decoration. Thus one bumps up against not only the duality of physical (literal) space and mental (metaphoric, even poetic) space with their concomitant connotations of Formalism contra content, but also the ambiguous mis-match of the metaphors themselves as they strive to articulate meaning. One is invited to make choices. Not only is there the problem of the significance of the objects indicated, their possible coincidence, but also the ‘language’ employed in any consequent discourse on how ‘things’ may be further ‘put together’.

There is perhaps, an element of chance involved in the meaningful coincidence of objects, just as things in the world encountered by chance can comply with an already stated meaning. For example to take, at random, any book by any Frenchman and open it, at random, can yield the following perhaps significant direction to “ask oneself whether, in this behaviour, as in these representations, a whole discursive practice is not at work: whether sexuality, quite apart from any orientation towards a scientific discourse, is not a group of objects that can be talked about (or that it is forbidden to talk about), a field of possible enunciations (whether in lyrical or legal language), a group of concepts (which no doubt can be presented in the elementary form of notions of themes), a set of choices (which may appear in the coherence of behaviour or in systems of prescriptions).” These remarks taken from their rightful context begin to slide into ours, as it were virtually ‘unassisted’ yet altered as they begin to suggest the behaviour of the objects at hand, framed by the mechanics of a camera lens, bouncing about in small spaces. By chance to misquote another Frenchman: “Each poetic object is thus an unexpected word, a Pandora’s box from which fly out all the potentialities of language.”

A clashing of spaces and things …

In this space (this gallery space) where interpretations need to be made. The tools and other objects (the discrete, domestic and worldly – even the View with its panorama of books, buildings and TV) serve to play out parts in a dialogue of objects; the continuum of events between things rather than the isolation of each and every thing itself. It is the potential of objects that they may suggest a past and a future – a kind of history of relationships. In the gallery space networks of connectors can be made, more dense than the isolated signs. “In it, no word (image) has a density by itself, Far from plunging into an inner reality consubstantial to its outer configuration, so as to form a superficial chain of intentions.”

[From ‘Richard Dunn’, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane 1981
quotes are from ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’, Michel Foucault and ‘Writing Degree Zero’ Roland Barthes]

• Paintings allow the creation of worlds (1979/1982)

Paintings allow the creation of worlds rich in meaning: many levels of meaning may be alluded to or dredged up in the viewer’s mind. Abstraction is not a barrier to images.

The multivalency of geonetric images is most fruitful for the viewer who cares to research familiar who cares to research familiar forms, familiar emblems.

In my painting ‘Untitled (Corner)’ 1979, the suggestion of formalism, with its pleasing shapes, textures and colours, is collided with, for example, the potential image of a window, a room’s corner, an open book, etc. This potential of the image is only a beginning – a native understanding – for me to elaborate on both literally and abstractly in later work.

Even photography with its deceitful images; its reconstruction of a constructed reality, is most certainly defeated by this simple painting which asks for interpretation in the rich fields of analogy and metaphor.

[From ‘The Seventies: Australian Paintings and Tapestries’ Melbourne 1982]


• ! THE SPIRIT OF PRACTICE ! (1982)

Practice is the prison of art’s making. All art is made; is the product of labour. This is our practice. Perhaps this simple formulation has not been clear.

If one was to say that all life is labour (is our practice) and art may be a part, does this tell us for example, (as Léger has pointed out) that the hands of the manager and those of the labourer have essential differences.

Artists have protested for some time that theirs is a thinking practice (intentional and managerial): a product of the eye, like the telephone; that art’s practice is conceptual – an understanding, a manipulation of informations. To paraphrase The Slits, Theory is a Practice Too. (This has caused an arrest in the hearts of our beloved expressionists – nee formalist. Those attached to the ‘doing of it’ with innocent motives).

It is not clear what is the link between our material and theoretical practices – even if we consider both. While not suggesting What these may be I want to suggest the idea of Ideologies (even a polemic). This & That. That the overt operations of our art practice (material) are attached to covert notions (of despair) within our generative theories.

The notion of labour (the practicing) invites an ennui when pitted against the virtual content. For although our art may involve labour and theory it seeks to bury both: to hide the present in history; to naturalise it. The alienation inherent in this relationship is analogous to the worker’s alienation from the directive source of his labour. Art practice is similarly alienated from the culturally generated theories (models) it serves when, for example, a romantic reconstruction of historical moments obscures acts in the present.

To think about art practice (as anything) must extend to us the notion of praxis; the active coordinate between our practice and our theory, which includes the idea of transformation (in the world).

This going beyond the practical implications of ‘practice’ provides a finer point from which to see the products of our labour and gives us a basis for further definition of that production’s relations with its cultural and subjective contexts.

Art praxis then considers the dynamic manifestation of artworks in the world giving them a value and independency apart from our wishes. (A foreshadowing, a desire for a particular end defeats us).

In our distance from the products of our creative praxis (other things in the world) we may begin to evaluate them ad independent cultural objects, even to doubt our intentions in bringing them about. Where our praxis remains largely theoretical – even where objects are involved – there is a particular weakness, for this is a praxis without an objective dimension (being about the world but not of it). Theoretical activity is no praxis at all as it transforms style, perceptions, representations, sensations but not materially the world itself. Theoretical practice transforms our subjective world while leaving our objective context untouched.

In the manifestations of our theoretical practice we are conscious that archival tendencies may deny the creative, transforming quality of our art to hold it under the yoke of the a priori; the model, the historically established, the socially normative.

The danger of what Sanchez Vazquez has called reiterative or imaginative praxis in art is that the work exists already in finished form, is prescribed. This counters the indeterminate character of creative praxis where ‘rules’ appear a posteriori; out of the work itself, and that work’s existing within the cultural nexus.

The truly practical component of our praxis (our working in and transforming the world) must defeat the narrow confines of our practice, from whence these notes come.

[From ‘Notes on Art Practice’ Melbourne 1982]


• 3 DIALOGUES; 3 DISCOURSES (1983)

The work ‘Barricades (The Sheet, The Monochrome & The Banner) 1848’, is the second of a trilogy of constructions commenced in 1980 – ‘The Monastery’, ‘The Barricades’ and ‘Der Brucke – The Bridge’. While all three have a strongly private motivation it may be said that the mechanisms of ambiguity, contradiction, and a certain psychological overtone are functional in a broader public context. The psychological basis of ‘Monastery’ may still be identified with the ‘personal’ yet this is a personal which can be translated through the more familiar practices of voyeuristic self-doubt, the cleaving of the Self from the Other, psychological claustrophobia, and the acknowledgment of desire. ‘Monastery’ indicates this interior world as separate from, and subject to, that which surrounds it. In this sense it can be seen as a masculine equivalent of the critical reappraisal and seeking definition of the feminine. This is a ‘spacial’ claustrophobia without any specific dimension. ‘Barricades’ seeks to extend this enclosed domain into the exterior world, using the tragic course of the 1848 Revolution as the locus of its three discourses. For it is here that the domination of a particular class (our present natural figures of authority) and a particular order of signs was established. The normalising authority within our cultural structures is especially apparent within the first two discourses; those concerned with the localised personal relationship (the construction of the couple) and the world of art and its constructs (indicated here by the museum), while the barricade itself is an image of considerably greater hope . This third discourse suggest an active response to the world – that art may be engaged in a particular way within the culture; that it may ‘speak the world’. Although this work is not programmatic it could be said that it indicates a tendency, a leaning.

‘The Bridge’ grasps more specifically at the problem of engagement as it confronts the domestic within a societal scale. As Jean Baudrillard put it “signs are produced by a certain type of social labour”.

This trilogy of works and also this trilogy within a work may be seen through the naturalising influence of an intuitive grille. Meanings are not locked into place, but are leaned upon, suspect within their own authorised codes.

[From ‘D’un autre continent: l’Australie – le rêve et le réel’ Paris 1983]


• SKATING ON THIN ICE (1983)

When concern is expressed for ‘Meaning’ in art 1(and in contemporary Australian art in particular) it may be assumed that ‘it’ is under threat rather than being located or described. ‘It’ is taken as a kind of given; a thing in itself, whole and independent. For to consider this ‘Meaning’, its mechanisms and functions, is to accept its factuality, as truth embedded somewhere between the warp and weft of the canvas. A classical notion indeed1 In the interrogation of Meaning the authotity of the word ‘meaning’ itself is left intact. To examinethis taupid pond we, at modernism’s end, turn our backs on it to observe the surrounding landscape. It is after all the ascription of characteristics to Meaning’s functions (its structure) that concerns us – not its content; that which fills it out. But what is meant by ‘Meaning’ anyway? Most commonly it has to do with ‘intention’ and ‘significance’. This is single point perspective: Meaning is what is intended or inferred. These are the twin vanishing points within our landscape. In this paper I want to talk about vanishing points, where meanings are constructed or effaced and in particular the vanishing points of the subject / object relationship.

Within the classical system of representation (as exemplified by that Leibnizian notion of observation and identity found in the Monadology) the referent is confirmed although viewpoints on it may differ, and thus give an appearance of difference. We have here a convergence of different perspectives on one object (a meaning). Let us imagine these two poles of classical representation with its single point of perspective mirrored before the transparent screen of the support. We can picture it like this: two tall pyramids sharing a common base – the transparency of the picture plane 2. Craig Owens in ‘Representation, Appropriation and Power’ quotes Leo Steinberg’s description of the “classical axioms” upon which the classical system of representation is founded as “the painting-as-window” and “the painting-as-mirror” 3. In both of these formulations it is the representation (as symbol and/or as mimetic) that is dominant over the materiality of the meachanism of representation which is thus rendered as ‘invisible’. While the significant implications of the painting-as-window formulation concerning property and appropriation are discussed by Owens, what is important to this discussionis the authority of the represented (the meant) over, even, its means of production. But I am suggesting two vanishing points. Put this way: The represented (via the picture) is the object of the gaze of the viewer (the possessor), whilst the viewer is the object of the rhetoric of the picture (the possessed).

By contrast, Romanticism provides us with a plurality of vanishing points – a plurality of perspectives intersecting the same picture plane. Here, there is a reversal of Neo-Classicism (let’s call it, as I am also talking about historical moments). The priority is on the picture plane itself, that is on the surface, irrespective of viewpoints or of what is depicted (represented). Although this may sound quite ‘modern’ it is, in essence, coincidental with the French Revolutiuon and the first European depictions of the Australian landscape.

It is remarkable that it is exactly thropugh a Romantic idealism that renderings of the Australian landscape fictionalise that which they seek to record. Here I am thinking of the German Romanticism of von Guerard, the Claudean Arcadianism of Glover and Martens’ Turneresque ‘atmospheres’. Clearly there is no single biew on this place but a plurality of views on a plurality of places. Perspective is after all a method of projection, not of reception.

[From ‘On the Beach’ Sydney 1983]


• Double Trouble – The Cover Version (1984)

In current art practice, the Cover Version is a method of replicating, of stealing, rather than duplicating. (‘Current art practice’ in this sentence is itself a replication). For the cover version to appropriate the ‘residue’ of the original, can’t be its exact double. So it operates through its difference from the original to become a version of originality; the duplication of the idea of originality. In this process the first ‘original’ is lost within the copy to become a ‘stain’ on the surface of the new original. The cover version not only appropriates the status (meaning and authority) of the original but converges one author with another. In Harold Pinter’s screenplay, ‘The Betrayal’, characters are replaced by replicas of characterisations resulting in a confusion of identities not so different from that occurring in ‘current art practice’. In as painting the cultural position of the original with its ‘halo’ of memory is submerged under a new layer of associations with the cover version (Salle / Picabia). The cover version is thus a form of cultural colonialism.

The cover version moves towards a state of neutrality; it casts us adrift. The word ‘Expressionism’ now exists in the form of a cover version unattached to its previous problematic. With the stain of history dislodged, ‘Expressionism’ in its replicated state (perhaps best illustrated by art from Australia), serves to leach out the emotional involvement it pretends under the cipher of “expressive immediacy” and “the emotional power of the aesthetic act.” Here are layered upon layer the signifiers of private engagement, say, the mark of the hand, gathered up from other sources and montaged in to a new composite cover version. One gets the impression that all life is lived within the life of the Cover Version.

[From ‘ZG with Art & Text’ New York and Melbourne 1984]


• Contradictions stand at the heart of art practice (1985)

“As Plato remarks in the Philebus – it is bad to arrive too quickly at the one or the many.”
– Paul Ricoeur ‘The Rule of Metaphor’

1.
Contradictions stand at the heart of art practice. But rather than implying sets of oppositions and dualities (such as Form and Content, Abstract and Figurative, and so on), it is useful to picture a more heterogeneous , and perhaps disruptive practice built on the real, the economy of speculative discourse (metonymy), and the imaginative (metaphor). We can picture this as a grid ; a network of crossings, abutments and intersections.
2.
Even meanings though apparently fixed within this network are ambiguous and shifting; meaning is in flux; not wholly contingent but multivalent. An “already constituted meaning is raised from its anchorage in an initial field of references and cast into the new referential field which it will then work to delineate”, says Ricoeur in discussing this semantic dynamism.
3.
A good schematic representation of the point of intersection of these ‘fields of reference’ is Malevich’s Suprematist ‘cross’ which preserves that moment when a plane in one dimension crosses a plane in a second. The functional outcome of this mode for compounding images is to encourage the multivalency of each image and to throw into question established meanings.
4.
In general the concerns which meet within this conceptual model fall into the broad categories of Politics, Culture, Psychology. A partial list of inter-relating and overlapping sub-categories is (a) power, authority, the corporation, the institution; (b) the family, the couple, the home; (c) sexuality, patriarchy; (d) desire, the look, presentation, representation – Broadly speaking concerns that have a theoretical base in Marx, Freud and Saussure.
5.
Although this space may be inferred, the transformational practice of the studio both undermines theoretical orthodoxy and delimits multivalency of the discourse.

In the margin Lenin writes “Practice is higher than (theoretical) knowledge, for it has not only the dignity of universality, but also of immediate actuality.”
– Julia Kristeva ‘Revolution in Poetic Language’

[From ‘The Pleasure of the Gaze’, Perth 1985]


• Crudely, the “origins of (this) work” (1986)

Crudely, the “origins of (this) work” are in labour; the substantiality of the material and its manifestation as (a) work. It may appear that the play of pictorial images, especially those which already exist, is a form of stealing which redistributes wealth; that the idea of appropriation of imagery is a way of revaluing other works. Yet the insistent use of images is in a material sense a means of referral both to history and the world of objects, say, as a functional redistribution of meanings.

Adrian Stokes speaks in ‘Reflections on the Nude’ (1967) of that art which favours “sifting for the parallel term, for the unconquerable natural or manufactured object, the ordinary objects of the outside world stripped or cleaned of our easier modes of appropriation by projection and of their subservience from the imaginative point of view to facile emotions and memories”. Montage is an act of compounding into one field the particularities of “ordinary objects” and their previously dispersed locales. Yet in the act of collage is a hammering together of physical objects, not simply a play with the fugitive image.

Fragments bear with them their localised histories as they move from one location to another. In collage, an image, material, form, or even act is transcribed into a new zone while bearing with it traces of the world from which it has been wrenched. Thus, the bringing together of disparate imagery is a means of carving out references to things which are ‘historical’ and ‘corporeal’ (and on another level essentially cultural), transformed into a new wholeness in their new context and through the material substance of the means of their re-presentation – the act and material of their production.

[From ‘Origins, Originality + Beyond’, 6th Biennale of Sydney, 1986]


• Two quotes: (1988)

‘ ” The facts of known history,” Vico writes, are to be “referred to their primitive origins, divorced from which they have seemed hitherto to possess neither a common basis, nor continuity nor coherence.” And: “The nature of things is nothing other than that they come into being at certain times and in certain ways. Wherever the same circumstances are present, the same phenomena arise and no others.” And: “In that dark night which shrouds from our eyes the most remote antiquity, a light appears which cannot lead us astray; I speak of this incontestable truth: the social world is certainly the work of men; and it follows that one can and should find its principles in the modification of the human intelligence itself.” ‘
Edmund Wilson, ‘To the Finland Station’, New York 1940.

“Appropriation, as generally practised, where images and motifs from other times and contexts are indisciminately taken up and reproduced in contemporary works, is in the mind an extremely suspect activity, at least when it is presented as a strategy in itself.
“On the one hand it seems to be making some particular virtue of the bald admission that most visual art can no longer find anything to say that is worth saying (at its most extreme reduction this position resolves itself into the position that there is nothing more worth saying than anything else); on the other hand it offers as a fait accompli, a kind of monopoly-capitalist vision of the world and its histories as a gigantic seamless garment where all different forces are denied, and nothing necessarily belongs in any particular time or place.
‘The logical corollary of such vision is, of course, that nothing need, or indeed can be changed. Historical and cultural differences are effaced in the codeless axiomatic in which all things are deemed equivalent, and equally contentless.
“Wishing to become engaged on a plane of social meaning, of conceptual effectivity, Dunn’s technique of referencing seeks to preserve specificities, to maintain and mobilise differences in a wider discourse where they may regain the critical charge which both postmodern practice and the logic of monopoly capitalism would defuse once and for all.”
Rob Horne, ‘Art and Possibility’, Sydney 1987

[From ‘Edge to Edge: Australian Contemporary Art to Japan’, Sydney 1988]


• Edifice (1989)

Zwei Bilder zusammenzubringen ist ein trügerisch einfacher Akt. Nicht jedwede zwei Bilder, sondern jene, die besonders sind.

Zwei Dinge zusammenzubringen ist ein alltäglicher Akt. Nicht jedoch swei Dinge, die einander auf die Art und Weise beinträchtigen, daß ein Bild die Unversehrheit einer monochromen Oberflåche untermineiren kann; beziehungsweise eine Oberflache eine andere verevollkommen kann.

So stellen beispielsweise Blumen, die man einem Gartenhandbuch entnimmt oder Verpackungen von Produkten die Malerie vor gewisse Probleme, besonders wenn man sie einem Bild aus der Revolution von 1848 gegenüberstellt. Das Entgegengesetzte ist eher wahr. Die Geschichte kann immer noch die Gegenwart heimsuchen. Diese Probleme der Malerie sind so fesselnd wie die Art und Weise, in der man Leinwände aneinanderfügen kann, und doch haben sie ein Spannungsverhältnis zueinander, wie die Wagen eines Zuges.

Ich erzählte einem Freund: “Ich arbeite gerade an einem Bild von Leuten, die Möbel aus dem Fenster werfen”, und er sagte: “Gibt es irgendwas, das ich gebrauchen kann?”

Bringt man Dinge zusammen oder reißs man sie auseinander? Bilder und Dinge werden aus einem offenbar nahtlosen Kontinuum geworfen. Das kann von Nutzen sein.

Im Suprematismus und Minimalismus haben wir zwei historische Augenblicke, die das Sezieren des ästhetischen Objektes demonstrieren.

Zu diesen Zeitpunkt bedeutet es einen Widerspruch, fiktive Objekte mit einer realen Oberfläsche in Verbendung zu bringen. Zwei Welten treffen sich, und jede von ihnen verliert ihre Integrität. Der Sinn der Malerie ist, auf einer Oberfläsche die Widersprüche von Material, Objekt, Produkt, Geschichte un Produktion im Brennpunkt zu vereinen.

[To bring two pictures together is a deceptively simple act. Not just any two pictures, but two particular pictures.

To bring two objects together is an everyday act. Not any two objects however, but exactly those which affect each other is such a way that would allow one to undermine the integrity of a monochrome surface or where one surface may complete another.

Flowers, for instance, taken from a gardening book, or product packaging, present certain problems in painting, particularly if they are compounded with a picture from the 1848 Revolution. Within the opposition there is a greater element of truth so that history is still capable of haunting the present. These problems of painting are as fascinating as the manner in which canvasses can be joined together, and yet there is a tension in the way in which they are connected, like that between individual carriages which form a train.

I told a friend, “I am working on a painting of people throwing pieces of furniture out of a window”, and he replied, ” Was there anything that I would find useful?”

Are objects joined together or are they being torn apart? Paintings and other objects are catapulted out in a seemingly endless continuum. This could be useful.

In Suprematism and Minimalism represent two great historical moments which demonstrate the jettisoning of the aesthetic object.

At this moment in time, it is a contradiction to relate fictitious objects to a real surface. Two worlds meet, and both lose their integrity. The purpose of painting is to unite on one surface the contradictions of material, object, product, history and production in one focus.]

[From ‘Prospect 89’ Frankfurt am Main 1989]


• Curved Space (seeing double) (1990)

“… imagine the particles as little tops spinning about an axis. However, this can be misleading, because quantum mechanics tells us that particles do not have any well-defined axis. What the spin of a particle really tells us is what the particle looks like from different directions. A particle of spin O is like a dot: it looks the same from every direction. On the other hand, a particle of spin 1 is like an arrow: it looks different from different directions. A particle of spin 2 is like a double headed arrow; it looks the same if one spins it around half a revolution. Similarly, higher spin particles look the same is one turns them through smaller fractions of a complete revolution. All this seems fairly straight forward, but the remarkable fact is that there are particles that do not leek the same if one turns them through just one revolution: you have to turn them through two complete revolutions! Such particles are ….”
-Stephen W Hawking ‘A Brief History of Time’

[From ‘The Readymade Boomerang: Certain Relations In 20th Century Art’ 8th Biennale of Sydney 1990]


• Fractal City (1992)

Look at the city at ground level or from a distance and the city reveals itself in distinct ways. To the pedestrian it is interesting or offensive; it provides vistas or blocks our way; it is stimulating or tedious. At a distance, its mass provides skyline, the image of the city. Above all, the city houses memory places in which we place ourselves and that record the passing of our time. Newly built parts of the city eradicate memory and are without time.

Our view is that the city is mutable, although buildings of worth become fixed points in our schema. In the future city, instant public memory places can be created – squares, parks, alleys, streets, buildings and other objects – defining spaces, providing vistas which enhance the sense of the city from the perspective of the city dweller. We recognise that a future city will grow from the haphazard patterns of the 18th century CBD and the 19th century grid of the eastern commercial district enhanced by its refiguration as ‘fractal city’.

Many sites are presented in the intersections of the future city. Of these, we have identified as examples sites at the extremes of scale; Pitt St Mall as a small section of street closed to traffic is only partly successful as a pedestrian plaza or bazaar; the container wharves between Walsh Bay and Darling Harbour present a vast site for a complex, large urban project.

[From ‘Future City’, Sydney – with Graham Jahn, architect 1992]


• Not art, not architecture (1992)

In this installation, Desire Lines and Circles of Confusion, a light bulb before a particular object suspended in the space of each bay casts a shadow on a flat ‘image’ on the wall. As in the relationship between art and architecture, the shadow relationship between object and image forms itself into a third object; the exact nature of which is indeterminate. ‘Desire Lines’ indicates wished-for pathways through the city, thus are architectural in origin. ‘Circles of Confusion’ on the other hand, is a term that comes from photography. It is the name for out-of-focus points of light in photographic prints, resembling after-images caused by a bare light bulb.

Art in architecture is usually the object physicallybefore it, like the Calder sculpture before Australia Square; or embedded on or within, like the Frank Stella paintings in the lobby of Grosvenor Place or the Albers illusionist graphic on the border of the MLC Centre disguising the Commonwaelth Bank’s neoclassicism. Although art, by its scale, is not usually a literal facade, it is other than architecture but subservient to it, just as a tie-pin is subservient to, but other than, a tie.

To work in the space between art and architecture is to work in a zone that is neither and both. This is a zone in which art and architecture respond appropriately to context and place as equivalents. Sometimes art-like, sometimes architecture-like, the work made in this zone is a collaboration without assigned or predetermined roles.

But what does an artist understand of a brief, or an architect of uselessness? When we think of fin the art of architecture, do we first consider the function of a building as conceptual, as an idea alone? Th level of idea, of meanings, of allusion, is the shadow zone where architecture and art begin to resemble each other or where they merge. This is the zone of ‘Desire Lines’, a work that adjusts the perception of a space, but could equally be the creation of a functioning habitable building or the reorganisation of the city itself.

[From ‘Synthesis 6’, Sydney – with Graham Jahn 1992]


• Blick aus dem Fenster (1992)

The ‘View from a Window at le Gras’ into the farmyard is the first photographic image capture by chemical means and was made by Nicéphore Niépce in 1826/7.

The few reproductions of ‘View from a Window at le Gras’ into the farmyard that exist are radically different. In Beaumont Newhall’s book ‘Latent Image’ it is reproduced dull, upside down. This unrecognisable image is the subject of the red painting, View from a Window. In a German book on the history of photography – Wilfried Wiegand’s ‘Die Wahrheit der Photographie: Klassische Bekenntnisse zu einer neuen Kunst’ – it is reproduced clear, right-side-up as ‘Blick aus dem Fenster’. The painting ‘Blick aus dem Fenster’ in the Baillieu Myer Collection of the 80’s at the Museum of Modern Art at Heide is based on that reproduction. The act of painting from the reproduction of this photogravure was also an act of interpretation. Does the smudge on the horizon near Cholon-sur-Saone mark the beginning of the Industrial Revolution? The photograph is an historical and cultural icon. The act of painting it, quizzes its image whose source is long-since long to empirical evidence.

In another sense, the photograph, like this painting from which it is drawn, is without pictorial subject…In fact, the subject of this photograph is photography itself. The process for fixing a fugitive image still innocent of the applications that await it. To look at this photograph is not to look upon a landscape at a distant remove in time but rather at the astonishing moment when a transportable image was made by chemistry, not hand and eye. In this sense the photograph reflects itself. The slow process of painting ‘Blick aus dem Fenster’ is precisely the distribution of painting a prefigured matrix according to the reproduced image. It reassigns and is guided by the grain that maps the fragmentary and transitional nature of the image. Speculative rather than determined in its purpose, this stands in refreshingly stark contrast with the utilitarian value of the image, particularly at the other end of its invention.

[From ‘The Baillieu Myer Collection of the 80s’ Museum of Modern Art at Heide Melbourne 1994]

Copyright Richard Dunn 2012