The joy of coincidence – similar pose, different continent


Ceramic figure by Dutch artist Frans Franciscus, 2021

Sometimes in the art world, coincidences can be a great joy. I just received an invitation to a solo presentation of new ceramic sculptures by Dutch artist Frans Franciscus (www.fransfranciscus.nl), showing one of his elongated, nude figures. Franciscus has posed his male subject upside-down, like a naked totem. Immediately I was reminded of one of my own works, a surreal portrait of Olympic diver Matthew Mitcham. In my photograph taken in Sydney ten years ago, Matt poses in his diving trunks, balanced on his hands in the abandoned rail yards at Lilyfield.

John McRae, Matthew Mitcham, Lilyfield, 2011

The silhouette and mood are very similar in both of our works. Franciscus says he “combines or re-arranges compositions of old masters depicting biblical stories in an up-to-date and idiosyncratic fashion.” Using sculpture, paintings, drawings and photographs, his art tackles racism, discrimination and social discomfort. I sometimes do the same thing in my photographs. Frans Franciscus, who is also a great friend of my mate the Dutch artist Erwin Olaf, will be featured in “This Art Fair” to be held at the Kromhouthal in Amsterdam, August 26-29, 2021, with seven new sculptures presented in his solo called as “Clay Only”. Inspired by medieval and Renaissance painting, Surrealism, religious iconography and classical mythology, Franciscus’ artwork always tries to create space for a broader view on humankind.

My portrait photograph of Matt was taken in the industrial area still “under development for the West Connex”, at the site next to the Lilyfield light rail, from where you can see the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was taken as part of a fashion shoot that I was staging for the Australian label “Gossip”.  I had decided to incorporate different narratives into the fashion shots … to that end I enlisted “extras” to appear in the backgrounds. Matt, who at the time lived nearby, was included as part of this concept. 

John McRae, Fashion shoot for Gossip Couture, 2011

This was only three years after Matt had won his gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in the 10-metre diving event, with what is still the highest-scoring single dive in Olympic history.  My photos were taken in March, 2011.

Works by John McRae as part of the project: The Mother in Art by art.es magazine in Spain

John McRae’s work is featured as part of “The figure of the mother in art: an embematic representation of love” by Pepe Alvarez and Fernando Galan, published in art.es in December 2018 (pages 59-64). It is part of the special issue of the Spanish art magazine dedicated to the theme of the mother. The article discusses the broader concept of maternity in Michelangelo’s “Pietà”, the female viewpoint as presented by the contemporary artists Nathalie Djurberg, Leiko Ikemura, Francesca Marti’, Isabel Munoz, Yoko Ono and Cindy Sherman, and the work of James McNeill Whistler, John McRae, Roman Ondak and Tatsumi Orimoto. John McRae is represented by Lois (2006), a portrait of his dead mother. This work was chosen as a finalist in the 2006 Olive Cotton Award for Photographic Portraiture at the Tweed Regional Gallery in Murwillumbah, Australia.

 As the art.esarticle states, “The figure of the mother, and maternity as a concept, have played an important role in the historical development of mankind as reflected in its cultural manifestations. The cult of the mother is as old as humanity … a link to the earth, making the mother the only real and tangible point of reference.”

Shanghai – Update!

Hello Hello,

 

Well another week has passed!  And boy, did it pass quickly.  I am now on the home stretch with only little more than a week to go.

 

The teaching classes have been fantastic, with the kids moving well in terms of their understanding of photography and their willingness to take risks and find out what they can do.

 

We plan to have a small exhibition at the end of the week and invite all the parents into the centre for a bit of a look and some nibbles.  That’s going to put a bit of pressure on the interpreter.  LOL.

_MG_9938_MG_9860_MG_9992

 

When we’re not in the class situation our time is spent traveling around to the various galleries and exhibitions that are on in Shanghai at the moment.  The art scene here seems very vibrant and relatively open.  I have seen some brilliant work here by various artists and marvel at the relative freedom these guys have to pursue their work.  Firstly, they seem to take enormous risks in terms of what they are willing to pursue….many of them change style and subject as they would change their clothes, allowing themselves the freedom to pursue new ideas without considering how the market will respond.  I like this approach.  You may say that these Chinese artists have less of a free voice, with censorship present on every level of Chinese society……however, I seem to think this small barrier to absolute freedom of speech is surmounted easily and confidently by the artists who’s work I have seen, by innuendo, satire and irony.  The censorship merely forces the artists to become more creative and subtle in the way they approach the subject or comment they wish to make….the comment is still made!  Secondly, with China’s amazing industrial might, the artists here have access to materials and labour that may have been prohibitive to other artists elsewhere.  They can also not limited by scale.

_MG_0591 _MG_0325 _MG_0486 _MG_0482 _L8E6358

Exhibition of finalist’s images – Shoot The Chef

If you’re anywhere near Star Casino over this month, drop in and have a look at the 24 finalist images from the “Shoot The Chef” competition, on exhibition in the foyer area.

Ali & Osso Buco

Ali & Osso Buco  John McRae, 2012 (Critic’s choice winner 2013 Shoot The Chef)

Finalist’s images on exhibition at: The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont 2009 from October 10 to October 31