Jennifer Mills (b. 1966) Australia

watercolour, ink,  oil pastel

search artists @

Those familiar with Mills’ work will recognise her technical mastery of watercolour with which she intricately renders her subjects, and the oil pastel overlays which partially conceal these underlying images. The animals in question wear these smears and tattoos, and sometimes hide behind them. It is these markings which have evolved from abstract lines into specific images, revealing drawing within drawing. They still appear as spontaneous as scribbles, however more articulate. Self portraiture has played an increasing role in Mills’ practice.


Scott Campbell.


What Will Come (2007)—which is about the Italian-Ethiopian war of the 1930s—works on the principle that what is distorted in the projection gets corrected in the viewer’s seeing of it in a mirror. So the distortion is the correction and the original is the distorted.”
—William Kentridge

Today, we join Tyler Green—along with a number of other art blogs and websites—in spotlighting the important works found in the collections at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Seen here is William Kentridge’s anamorphic film, What Will Come (2007), as featured in two Art21 films: Compassion (2009) and William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible (2010). The work is included in the collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts, acquired by the museum in 2008.

Learn more about the “A Day for Detroit” initiative at Modern Art Notes.

IMAGES: William Kentridge, What Will Come (2007), installation view at 16th Biennale of Sydney, Australia, 2008. Production stills from the film William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible. © Art21, Inc. 2010. Artwork courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery.

Fiona Foley (b.1964) Australia

search @

Land deal is an installation consisting of flour to create a spiral shape on the floor, together with a blanket, knives, mirrors, axes, a box with beads (white and blue), scissors and a text. The text reads:

Land deal: After a full explanation of what my object was, I purchased two large tracts of land from them – About 600,000 acres, more or less – and delivered over to them the blankets, knives, looking-glasses, tomahawks, beads, scissors, flour, etc., as payment for the land and also agreed to give them a tribute, or rent, yearly.  John Batman

The objects chosen for the installation are closely associated with the words by John Batman about his purchase of the land on which the city of Melbourne now stands; they are a symbolic representation of the many Indigenous groups across Australia and the way in which their land was taken from them. The spiral shape echoes similar grooved designs drawn in the sand for Aboriginal ceremonies. Objects that Batman sought to trade have been here exploited in a different sense, making this work rich in its layers of implication and irony.

Whilst the piece pertains to the purchase of Melbourne and Batman’s land deal, as with much of Foley’s work, it equally reflects of issues of custodianship, land possession and occupation of her country, Thoorgine and other areas of Aboriginal Australia. Thoorgine was renamed Fraser Island after Eliza Fraser (wife of a British captain whose ship was wrecked on the island in 1836). In this case it was not so much the ‘purchase’ of the island but the forcible removal of the Indigenous owners who were dispossessed of their traditional land.  Gloria Morales (2002)

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010 
from: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002

Fiona Foley (born 1964) Badtjala language group, Wondunna clan, Fraser Island, Australia    Black velvet (1996) cotton fabric with cotton applique (each with handle)  9 bags: 99 x 20cm 180 x 200cm (installation dimensions variable)

The title of this work makes a bold claim for the viewer’s attention. Attached to a work made by an Indigenous woman artist, the words immediately suggest sexual contact between black and white by using the colloquial term for Aboriginal women by white frontiersmen. (The phrase is also the name of a heady cocktail of stout and champagne, with resonances of a combination of wealth and hardship.)

The work invites its viewers to consider the racism inherent in this term and to confront it. It packs a considerable political punch, and yet is deceptively simple in form: a series of modest cotton dilly bags hanging in two rows.

The nine stitched cotton bags are based on both traditional Aboriginal dilly bags and more modern equivalents made from flour bags or, more recently, those made by Third World manufacturers for First World counter-cultural markets.

The emblem stitched to the front of each bag is a red and black representation of the female sexual organ, an image as ancient as the prehistoric art forms of all the world’s continents, and as modern in its application as recent feminist political movements.  

Fiona Foley with Urban Art Projects  Bible and Bullets  installed 2004, Redfern Park, NSW.

 A group of cast bronze and stainless steel sculptural play elements and water play environment, inspired by the natural forms and seed pods of plants including lotus, yam, wrinkly nut and mangrove. The work also commemorates the Redfern Speech delivered by then Prime Minister Paul Keating at Redfern Park in 1992 and Djon Mundine’s dedication to Michael Riley. The work was commissioned as part of the Redfern Park upgrade and provides the Redfern community with an inviting and interactive destination for kids and grown-ups alike.

Fiona Foley was commissioned through UAP to create an intuitive play-scape for the under 7 age group. Fiona gathered her reference material from walks throughout the local area, theming the play elements around native flora. The intention is to stimulate the imagination and senses as much as provide tangible cues to structured play activity.

These elements sit adjacent to other commissioned art works by Fiona, that more directly reflect the site’s indigenous social and political history.

proposal drawings and photo-documentation  search for Foley, Redfern Park. 

Edge of the Trees (1995) Museum of Sydney. Janet Laurence, Fiona Foley.

Twenty-nine pillars: sandstone, wood, steel, oxides, shells, honey, bones, zinc, glass, sound.    search @

A key work here is Edge of the Trees (1995) produced with Fiona Foley, who was responsible for its Indigenous component, in collaboration with architects Denton Corker Marshall, for the Museum of Sydney. Commissioned to address the site’s history and the first zone of contact between the original Cadigal people and their British colonisers and subsequently, the site of the first government house. Edge of the Trees allowed Laurence to realise her goal of wanting a work’s “space to have a sense of place”. The work’s 29 columns combine salvaged wood with a listing of individual and species names in Latin and Aboriginal languages, with the names of First Fleeters and embedded organic elements like feathers and bone, the lot bathed by a soundscape of Koori voices listing Koori sites lost in Sydney’s growth. Edge of the Trees proved prophetic for Laurence. Increasingly, she would exploit the “immersive” potential of installations while the multi-leveled collaboration demanded by the project would be a feature of her practice in succeeding decades.
Edge of Trees is also what Laurence calls “a memory space for the botanical history of the site,” the salvaged lumber coming from a native species that no longer grows in the area. The living world; past, present and future; has become an abiding concern in both her commissioned pieces and her regular practice.

She explains: “Our connection to the living, organic world is an ecological concern,” adding that she wants her work to “create spaces of perception that can bring us into contact with the life-world.” Does she consider herself an environmental artist? “I do,” she answers, “although I don’t like the term.”

cyanotype photograms  

search photogram and cyanotype @

Anna Atkins (1799-1871) England, botanist-photographer, illustration lower left from Atkins’ 1843 book Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions

Sue Pedley (b.    ) Australia, cyanotype from the Blue Jay Way series (2007)  ‘Blue jay way’: the phrase is highly musical in its rhyme and rhythm, almost like a birdcall. The Blue Jay is a species of North American bird, renowned for its brilliant blue markings and gull-like screech. The bird lent its name to a street in the chic heights of Los Angeles, where George Harrison wrote a song while waiting for a friend. Blue Jay Way was released on The Beatles’ psychedelic album Magical Mystery Tour in 1967 … Dr Jacqueline Millner, 

Contemporary applications of the photogram process:

Lucia & László - talk to the hand

László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946) Hungary/ USA
Photogram (1926) gelatin silver print    © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Lucia Moholy Czechoslovakia/ UK (1894–1989) László Moholy-Nagy (1925–26) gelatin silver print

search for both artists @

Read the article The New Vision of Photography


not knowing how to use a camera is like twentieth century illiteracy LM-N

Moholy-Nagy played a key role at the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau as a painter, graphic artist, teacher, and impassioned advocate of avant-garde photography. He made this image without a camera by placing his hand, a paintbrush, and other objects on a sheet of photographic paper and exposing it to light. While this simple process was practiced by photography’s founders in the nineteenth century and was later popularized as a child’s amusement, avant-garde artists of the twentieth century revived the photogram technique as a means for exploring the optical and expressive properties of light. With this shadow image of a hand and paintbrush, Moholy-Nagy ambitiously suggests that photography may incorporate, and even transcend, painting as the most vital medium of artistic expression in the modern age.

Moholy-Nagy was very intrigued by new techniques such as:
photomontage: the technique of manipulating & merging photographic images.

photograms: allowed the artist to capture a pattern of light and dark on a sheet of light sensitive paper without a camera. He merged his experiments with typography and photography and pushed the idea of the typophoto (especially in posters) which was the integration of word and image to communicate a message with immediacy. 

He thought that photographic images (with their objective view of the world) could free the viewer from depending on another person’s interpretation. 
He used techniques such as enlargement, distortion, dropouts, double exposures and montage. Light itself became a malleable medium for generating design and form.

Matt Calvert (b.    ) Australian

It is not unusual to find Tasmanian sculptor Matt Calvert scouring highways for splintered shards of shiny plastic. The reflective remains of broken taillights, headlights and indicators are gathered like prized jewels alongside the twisted relics of steel fenders and car door frames. As he collects each dilapidated item, Calvert wonders about the object’s history. Were there fatalities? How were families affected? The memory of his own father, tragically taken in a car accident when the artist was a child, comes to mind during the ritual of collecting and resonates throughout his ensuing artistic practice. As a result, Calvert’s meticulously assembled sculptures often incorporate striking symbols of loss, caution and memory.

Briony Downes  (2006)

Reko Rennie, Nahdia Noter, Trae Campbell, Ji Duncan-Weatherby, Tyrrelle McGrath, Brandon Phillips, Isaac Phillips, Josh Addo and Josh Nolan. Welcome to Redfern (2013)

Reko Rennie Always was Always will be (2012)

I used the geometric diamonds, referencing my associations to north-western NSW and the traditional markings of the Kamilaroi people. RR.

images: Sharon Hickey, Paul Patterson,,

Samuel John Neele (1758-1824) Pimbloy: Native of New Holland in a canoe of that country (1804) engraving  search @

carved tree near Dubbo NSW, photo: Henry King 

For thousands of years Aboriginal groups in central NSW marked important ceremonial sites by carving beautiful, ornate designs on the trunks of trees. The carvings, comprising symbolic motifs, intricate swirls, circles and zigzags, were intended to be long-lasting but, instead, only a handful of the trees on which they were carved are still alive today.

In the early 1900s several amateur anthropologists, including Clifton Cappie Towle, showed an interest in indigenous culture, documenting and photographing rock art, ceremonial sites, and examples of tree carvings. Thanks to their photographs, which are currently on display at the State Library of NSW, the art form can be glimpsed by the public.

Exhibition curator Ronald Briggs says the practice of carving trees was abandoned more than 100 years ago, which makes it difficult to understand the original meanings behind the designs.

“I think of them as a warning to people walking by that this is a special area, a warning to you that the site is spiritually significant,” he says. “They’re really quite powerful.”

Central and western NSW were once dotted with sacred, carved trees, particularly regions such as Gamilaroi country (an area that stretches from the Upper Hunter Valley west to the Warrumbungle Mountains and north into south-west Queensland) and Wiradjuri country (a region bordered by the Lachlan, Macquarie and Murrumbidgee rivers).  In these areas carvings marked the burial sites of important men and served as powerful initiation symbols for boys making their transition to manhood.

In Molong, four trees that were carved in the 1850s still surround the burial site of Yuranigh, a Wiradjuri man who was a guide to explorer Sir Thomas Mitchell. Sadly, this is a rare exception. In most other cases the plight of the carved trees is tightly bound to the dispossession of Aboriginal peoples after European colonisation.

“The last recorded ceremonies took place at least 100 years ago, around the time that Aboriginal people were moved into reserves and were rewarded for practising European ways and encouraged to accept European-style funerals and tombstones instead of trees,” Ronald says.

Most of the 7500-odd sacred tree sites recorded in NSW have been destroyed by land clearing, bush fires, farming and natural decay. Today, Collymongle in north-west NSW, is the site of around 60 surviving carved trees, the greatest cluster remaining in the state. Natalie Muller  June 6, 2011

Christian Boltanski (b 1944) France Chance (first installed, 2011, Venice Biennale) 

Steve Dow 13/12/13.

 Born in Nazi-occupied France, artist Christian Boltanski was too young to remember that his Jewish father hid for 18 months in a cellar under their Paris apartment.

It was only later, as a child, that Boltanski heard the stories of his father’s survival.

Much later, minus a formal art education, he channelled the idea of chance into his sculptures, photography, films, paintings and installations, beginning with a 1990 work that questioned why the occupants of one house in Berlin were killed by an allied bomb but others were spared.

 He once said that he had not identified as Jewish until his father’s death in 1984.

”Of course, we knew we were Jews,” he says in art curator Catherine Grenier’s book The Possible Life of Christian Boltanski. ”My father’s hiding place was right there in the house - but it wasn’t something we talked about and it filled me with shame. I really only took ownership of it and showed it in my work after my father’s death.”

On the eve of bringing his large-scale work Chance to Carriageworks for the Sydney Festival, Boltanski says there is very often a trauma at the beginning of any artist’s life.

”In my case, it was an historical trauma,” he says from Paris. ”If I’ve asked so many questions about chances and about dying, it is because when I was three or four I heard so many stories about dying.”

Installed at Venice Biennale 

One walks through the labyrinth of metal scaffold of Boltanski’s Chance with the “clock” rooms to either side. The labyrinth is a baby-factory, at the centre is its opposite. The moment of extinction, visualised as a montage of fragments from faces. It is both light and dense, elegant and disconcerting. 

search @

The Missing House (1990), Berlin.  Uni of Minnesota page on memorials:

Visual InvestigationS

view archive

Ask me anything