Inge King and Bea Maddock: Respected figures in Australian art

 

The recent passing of Inge King, AM, and Bea Maddock, AM, saw the loss of two significant and highly respected figures in Australian art. We commemorate these great women in the Collection.

Inge King

Ingeborg Viktoria (Inge) King, AM, (1915–2016) was a leading non-figurative sculptor in Australia for more than five decades. Born in Berlin, she moved to Australia in 1951 and was a founding member of Centre Five, an important Melbourne group of modern sculptors who were strong advocates of contemporary sculpture in the public realm. King exhibited regularly from the 1960s, as well as producing many significant public sculptures. She was also a long-time member of the Gallery’s Foundation.

Inge King, Germany/Australia 1915-2016 / Sculptural form 1958 / Cast aluminium on wooden base / Gift of Inge King, AM, through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation 2015. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist

Inge King’s Sculptural form 1958, which she generously gifted to the Collection in 2015, is a primary example of the organic nature of her early work and her forays into carving and casting. Following her move to Australia, King’s work changed markedly from earlier emotive figurative abstractions in wood and stone. Sasha Grishin characterised this period as one of:

. . . gestation during which she acquired new skills, experimented with new materials and was struggling to come to grips with the Australian landscape and cultural environment and her own position as a migrant woman artist with two small children.1

In 1959, King began making welded sculptures, originally working the metal to make rugged expressive forms. Gradually, however, she both simplified and reduced them in form, but even the smallest of her sculptural objects possess a simultaneous intimacy and monumentality, a counterpoint to the imposing monumental style for which she is best known. King’s celestial Great planet 1976–77 is a monument in steel, painted black, with a circular void at its centre. Sculpture writer Ken Scarlett observed that: ‘beyond its formally satisfying design, Great planet has an air of mystery, an aura of power and a commanding presence’.2

Inge King, Germany/Australia 1915-2016 / Great planet 1976-77 / Steel, painted black/ Purchased 1977 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © QAGOMA

King’s interest in suspended sculptures was first exemplified by her Calder-influenced works of the early 1950s; Hanging sculpture, 3rd version 2002 returns to this preoccupation. Around 2000, her work turned to a long series of figurative abstractions, based on dynamic bodies in motion, mythical beings, birds and animals, of which this gift of the artist to the Collection is an example.

Bea Maddock

Beatrice Louise (Bea) Maddock (1934–2016) was born in Tasmania, and after training in Hobart in the mid 1950s, she left for London in 1959 to undertake postgraduate studies in painting and printmaking at the Slade School of Art, travelling to France, Italy, Holland and Germany during vacations. She returned to Australia in 1962, basing herself first in Launceston and Melbourne.3 She exhibited widely in Australia and overseas, and was a dedicated senior educator who moved in and out of teaching throughout her career.

Bea Maddock, Australia 1934-2016 / Tromemanner – forgive us our trespass I-IV (and detail) 1988–89 / Pigment wash and encaustic with wrapped and tied artefacts on canvas / Purchased 1989 with funds from National Australia Bank Limited through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © QAGOMA

Maddock worked with technical prowess across many media including drawing, photography and painting, though she is best known for her printmaking and artist books. Her oeuvre has gravitas, autobiographical introspection and a sense of quietude — isolation, loneliness and colonised histories were common themes. She explored the history of her home state of Tasmania, and the effects of colonisation, in two major works in the Collection. Maddock’s multi-panelled encaustic (wax and pigment) and collage landscape work Tromemanner – forgive us our trespass I–IV 1988–89 is a panoramic landscape with geographic texts in English and Aboriginal languages. Produced for ‘The Jack Manton Exhibition 1989: Recent Work by Twelve Australian Artists’, Tromemanner depicts the Saltpan Plains at Tunbridge and addresses the devastating colonial history of the island. Beneath the landscape and texts, Maddock included a series of artifacts in individual compartments. In 1992, curator Anne Kirker wrote:

there are 48 artifacts in all, representing the approximate numbers of bands (sub tribal groups) belonging to Tasmania . . . By choosing this Australian state as her focus, she not only asserts a personal identity with it, but faces up to the historical facts of the genocide of the original inhabitants of Van Diemen’s Land.4

Maddock followed Tromemanner with TERRA SPIRITUS … with a darker shade of pale 1993–98 — a 40-metre panorama in ochre, which Maddock gathered and ground by hand — a work that documents and meditates on the entire coast of Tasmania. The geography depicted across the drawing’s 50 sheets is again named by the artist in both English and Aboriginal languages, recorded respectively in letterpress and hand-drawn script across the ocean. Technically astute, the work combines aspects of drawing and printmaking through a stencil process, and takes viewers on a journey of circumnavigation, rewarding both the long view and close inspection.

Bea Maddock, Australia 1934-2016 / TERRA SPIRITUS … with a darker shade of pale (detail) 1993–98 / Incised drawings, worked with hand-ground natural pigments over letterpress and finished with hand-drawn script on Magnani paper / Purchased 1999. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist

The recent passing of these significant and highly respected figures is a major loss for Australian art, and we feel privileged to have the works of such great Australian women artists in the Collection.

Endnotes
1 Sasha Grishin, The Art of Inge King: Sculptor, Australian Macmillan Art Publishing, Melbourne, 2014, p.76.
2 Ken Scarlett, ‘Centre Five Revisited’, in Lynne Seer and Julie Ewington, eds. Brought to Light II: Contemporary Australian Art 1966–2006 from the Queensland Art Gallery Collection, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 2007, p.20.
3 Anne Kirker, ‘Bea Maddock’, in Janet Hogan (ed.), The Jack Manton Exhibition 1989: Recent Work by Twelve Australian Artists [exhibition catalogue], Queensland Art Gallery, 1989, pp.16-17.
4 See Anne Kirker and Roger Butler, Being and Nothingness: Bea Maddock [exhibition catalogue], Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1992, pp.13–22.

Kyla McFarlane is Acting Curatorial Manager, Australian Art.

Moving Pictures

 

The renovation of our Collection storage facility at the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) posed a particular challenge for the curators in Australian Art. The Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Galleries and Queensland Artists’ Gallery will be temporarily closed during the renovation period, resulting in many treasured works from the Australian Art Collection being away from view.

In the meantime, it was important that some of the Collection’s most loved works remain in the Gallery for our visitors to enjoy. We had an exhibition gallery next to the QAG Watermall available to us for this project and this is what happened next.

Change is afoot at the Queensland Art Gallery with the Collection Storage Upgrade project.

Before the Australian galleries closed, we identified works from each gallery that we knew were some of the most beloved, along with key works from storage. In Gallery 5, we wanted to showcase this selection while making reference to the storage space renovation. This resulted in Moving Pictures: Towards a Rehang of Australian Art, which includes a salon hang of Collection favourites, along with other significant works.

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Storage racks installed to hang ‘Moving Pictures: Towards a rehang of Australian Art’, Queensland Art Gallery / Photography: Natasha Harth
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Installation of ‘Moving Pictures: Towards a rehang of Australian Art’, Queensland Art Gallery / Photography: Natasha Harth

The salon hang is positioned on a metal grid that echoes our storage racks, giving visitors an insight into how paintings are kept safe behind the scenes when they’re not on display. Two sculptures by Queensland sculptor Daphne Mayo are also displayed in their storage crates, continuing the ‘open store’ narrative from wall to floor. The mirror-lined box in Gordon Bennett’s If Banjo Paterson was Black 1995 adds to this dialogue, while also bringing Bennett’s complex and critical response to cultural histories in Australia to this selection of Collection works.

And many Gallery visitors will be relieved to see that R Godfrey Rivers’ very much-loved Under the Jacaranda 1903 joins our small but significant selection of paintings of female subjects on a wall opposite the salon hang.

Queensland Art Gallery Gallery 5 Moving Pictures installation view
Daphne Mayo’s bronze sculptures Olympian c.1946, cast after 1958 and Susannah 1946, cast 1995 / © Surf Lifesaving Foundation and The United Church in Australia Property Trust (Q.) / Photography: Natasha Harth
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Under the jacaranda 1903 by R Godfrey Rivers hanging with Bathing hour (L’heure du bain) by E. Phillips Fox c.1909 currently on display in ‘Moving Pictures: Towards a rehang of Australian Art’, Queensland Art Gallery / Photography: Natasha Harth
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Visitors enjoying the salon hang of ‘Moving Pictures: Towards a rehang of Australian Art’, Queensland Art Gallery / Photography: Natasha Harth

Michael Hawker, our Associate Curator Australian Art, worked closely with our colleagues in exhibition design to configure the display of paintings on the salon wall – a tricky task when you consider the different sizes of the works, their diverse subject matter and even the presence of large frames. You’ll see familiar works by Russell Drysdale, Rupert Bunny, Vida Lahey, Ian Fairweather, Sydney Long, E Phillips Fox, Nora Heysen and many others on this rack. Once this was in place, the Learning team worked with Michael and our two volunteers to gather material for the ‘wobble board’ (a portable wall label on which visitors can see details for all of the works on the salon wall) and content for the interactive touch screens in the space.

While the renovations are taking place, the curatorial team in Australian Art are also working on a whole new presentation of QAGOMA’s Australian Collection for when the Australian galleries reopen in September 2017.

Moving Pictures: Towards a Rehang of Australian Art
Until 6 August 2017 | QAG | Free

APT8: Justin Shoulder and Bhenji Ra

 

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Justin Shoulder and Bhenji Ra (in collaboration with Jai Jai) / Ex Nilalang: Balud (production stills) 2015 / Single-channel HD digital video, 16:9, colour, sound / This project was assisted by a grant from Arts NSW, an agency of the New South Wales Government and supported by the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian State and Territory Governments. The program is administered by the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA). Developed for APT8 / Photograph © Gregory Lorenzutti / Courtesy: The artists

In the past two-and-a-half years, Justin Shoulder and Bhenji Ra have collaborated on performances and video, as well as club-based event production under the moniker of ‘Club Ate’, working with queer people of colour.

Justin Shoulder and Bhenji Ra are collaborators from Sydney, brought together by a shared cultural lineage within Australia’s Filipino diaspora. Shoulder works in performance, sculpture and video in his body-based practice, and Bhenji Ra is a dancer — working across diverse forms, from traditional Filipino and Vogue Femme — and installation artist, who frequently engages with subcultural communities, focusing on their visibility and lived experiences.

In their single-channel video Ex Nilalang 2015, the artists present the first three episodes of an Alamat (legend). The work was developed and filmed in the Philippines with community collaborators and performers. Ex Nilalang has a dual meaning: ‘to create’, and ‘creature’ — the artists ‘share[d] their skills in craft, dance and performance to bring to life innate mythical creatures’. They intend to accumulate these portraits across time to form an expansive ‘ecology’, describing the creatures’ DNA as ‘bred from the intersecting cells of gender, race, class, sexual orientation and spirituality’.1

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The first of these portraits features performance collaborator and friend Jai Jai, who is from Tacloban, where the recent typhoon hit. In Balud, her portrait, she is singing a song of resistance. She transforms into a glammananangaal, a girl from the provinces who covers herself in coconut oil in the evening, detaches the top half of her body from the bottom, and grows wings. Some of the mananangaal’s stories are malevolent, but in these portraits the artists seek to transform demonisation into positive resistance and transgression.

The artists observe that Filipino children are warned about the mananagaal, whose story is part of folkloric mythology passed down since colonial times. They are also interested in the influence of pop-cultural mythologies, as portrayed on television shows and in comic books. In the second Ex Nilalang portrait, as a sirena mermaid, Bhenji Ra channels the ‘Super Sireyna’ transgender beauty pageants that have featured on Filipino television since the 1990s. The artist sees the mermaid’s half fish–half human form as a fitting metaphor for the trans/queer experience and related narratives of the ‘ill-fated, queer body, not quite of this world’2

Shoulder’s creature, a jeepney hybrid, is in the realm of ‘future folklore’. His grandfather was a jeepney driver, and alongside this personal history, the artist is also interested in the history of the vehicle itself, a well-known and highly decorated form of public transport in the Philippines, originally made from reconfigured United States’ military vehicles.

For APT8’s opening and closing weekends, as part of the APT8 Live performance program, Justin Shoulder and Bhenji Ra perform Ex Nilalang: Incarnations 2015–16, which involves roving performances that see their creatures inhabiting QAGOMA’s spaces in procession, conveying their stories through gesture and sound. They see the appearance of these ‘spectral apparitions’ in our day-to-day world as akin to the experience of living between different spaces in their own lives.

APT8 Live Sundays is an ongoing program of artist performances and projects. After a vibrant array of live events on the opening weekend, APT8 Live continues to animate QAG and GOMA for the duration of the exhibition on Sunday 13 December 2015, 31 January, 21 February, 20 March and Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 April 2016 . Supported by the Commonwealth through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The artists are also presenting a project for APT8 Kids called Club Anak (Club Child), an immersive environment based on the concept of the digital avatar, with templates from which children can create mythological characters with physical strengths and attributes that move beyond the motifs of typical masculine pop culture.

Endnotes
1  Justin Shoulder and Bhenji Ra, artists’ statement, Ex Nilalang 2015.
2  Conversation with the artists, 26 August 2015.

The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT)
is the Gallery’s flagship exhibition focused on the work of Asia, the Pacific and Australia.
21 November 2015 – 10 April 2016

Exhibition Founding Sponsor: Queensland Government
Exhibition Principal Sponsor: Audi Australia