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artist – John McRae Photography & Studio

Maree Azzopardi – “Fireworks” – Exhibition at the Gosford Regional Art Gallery

Maree pictured in front of one of the art works of the “Fireworks” series at Gosford Regional Art Gallery

My good friend Maree Azzopardi has a wonderful solo exhibition showing at the Gosford Regional Art Gallery. Maree and I have known each other for many years, both professionally and privately. We have shown our work together many times in group exhibitions across the globe including in New York, Malta and Rome, as well as in galleries here in Australia.

Maree has always impressed me as a really “gutsy” painter and I have long admired her work. If you happen to travel to the Central Coast over the next six weeks (the Fireworks exhibition 29 Oct – 13 Dec, 2022) make sure you visit the Gosford Regional Art Gallery to visit her show.

The following are my photographs of some of Maree’s works from the exhibition, with a text written by the Rome-based curator (and mutual friend), Jonathan Turner.

FIREWORKS

“If fire (…) was taken to be a constituent element of the Universe, is it not because it is an element of human thought, the prime element of reverie?”

Gaston Bachelard, The Psychoanalysis of Fire, 1938.

According to the mid-20th Century French philosopher Gaston Bachelard, the phenomenon of fire is situated at the crossroads of science and poetry. His studies included an approach to the components represented by fire, the libido and flaming passion, while his philosophical response to man’s basic instinct to control fire was his brilliant analysis of the myth of Prometheus, who was punished by the capricious Greek gods for his theft of fire and its subsequent gift to humanity in the form of knowledge and civilisation. 

Maree Azzopardi takes Bachelard’s Psychoanalysis of Fire, and reverts back to the aspects of the impulsive, transgressive nature of fire, its ability to cause unintended consequences, the destructive powers of wild-fires and the subsequent joys of rejuvenation. At the Gosford Regional Gallery, her new Fireworks exhibition of paintings, drawings, concertina books, ceramic sculptures and mixed media photographic works assess the complexities of damage and grief associated with fire, but also the healing powers of nature and positive energy. In her work, Azzopardi reaffirms a desire for transformation. She studies the coexistence of life and death, reminiscent of the Greek myth of the phoenix, the immortal bird which regenerates cyclically, or is reborn in a different way. Associated with the sun, the phoenix receives new life by being resurrected from the ashes of its predecessor.

Fire has no form, weight or density, and Azzopardi’s watercolours and canvases reflect this. Like Mother Nature herself, bush-fires are untameable. Soothe Your Sorrows was initially created in response to the Black Summer Fires. The text comes from a late 19th Century diary kept by Tottie Thorburn, an unmarried woman who lived with her sisters in Meroogal House on the south coast of NSW. Tottie was devoted to the Scriptures, and Azzopardi’s work is inspired by her independent, isolated life. In a painting representing fire and the pandemic, Azzopardi uses 12 panels as a sacred number symbolizing the Apocalypse. But all is not lost. Azzopardi depicts both the scorched earth and the regeneration of native wattle. 

“So after the fires, I created images using what I found, such as burnt branches used as charcoal and also the burnt bones of animals that I used as drawing tools,” explains the artist. “It became a sort of ritual of helping the scorched earth to heal, to release the spirits of the deceased animals, as well as addressing my own grief at what I had witnessed.”   

In her recent work, Azzopardi incorporates a variety of materials including gouache, Sumi and Indian ink, oil stick, sand, flecks of gold-leaf, burnt feathers and rattan matting she has salvaged from discarded cane chairs washed-up on the beach at the high tide mark. Her Wings of Desire series are photographs of dead seabirds printed on linen, with shimmering stitches embroidered in gold thread. One work featuring matted feathers and the gilded skull of a bird is dedicated to the Greek myth of Icarus, the man whose wings melted when he flew too close to the sun, and who fell to the sea and drowned. Meanwhile the shape of the bird skull itself is reminiscent of the beaked masks worn by medieval doctors in Italy to symbolically protect them against the plague, and now worn as traditional costumes during Carnival in Venice. Thus Azzopardi’s Fireworks reference the apocalyptic harbingers of pestilence, famine and war as the most pressing global concerns today, as well as the destruction wrought by floods and the Australian bushfires. Her theme is death heading towards rebirth, strife redeemed through spirituality. 

In a nod to the hyper-vigilance of Google Earth (sometimes Azzopardi’s landscapes are even viewed from above), her paintings offer a deconstruction of the contemporary gaze. Her landscapes explore the notions of what is instantly recognizable and what is magnified to the point of abstraction, what is naturalistic and what has been crushed, scratched and blurred. Formal questions centre on empty and filled space, on shadow and light. This is all part of Azzopardi’s questioning on the “exhaustion of images” and the deeper concepts of memory and oblivion.

Jonathan Turner, October 2022.

www.mareeazzopardi.com

Charles Cooper launches his monograph at Annandale Galleries

Charles Cooper is a well known, accomplished, incredibly talented artist who has an impressive CV and career. For many years he has been part of the permanent stable of artists showing at the prestigious Annandale Galleries, Trafalgar Street, Annandale. Charles also works as drawing lecturer at the National Art School

On Saturday 10 September, 2022 at the Annandale Galleries Charles launched a monograph of his work over the last 40 years. Dr Michael Hill, Head of Art History and Theory at the National Art School, spoke at the launch together with Joe Frost who contributed the accompanying text in the book. John McDonald (Art Critic) wrote, “”It’s illuminating to read Joe Frost’s description of Cooper’s career and trace the evolution of his work. While the artist’s themes and ideas have remained consistent, the formal innovations have never ceased.”

I captured a few images from the launch (selection pictured below). The book is available from Charle’s website: www.charlescooperartist.com

BRENDA CALL ME – Season 2

Courtney Act and Vanity are at it again. Following their very successful first season of the NOVA podcast of Brenda, Call Me, where our two partners in crime would meet each week to “chew the fat” on what had got them all fired-up, Courtney and Vanity will be back on the airwaves from this Thursday, May 19, 2022. 

In mid-April, we shot these promotional images at Sydney Props with the team from NOVA, as well as Stephanie Liebeck (On-site Stylist) and Russall Beatie (Head Stylist), both from Giant Panda King, who were responsible for the concept, set design and additional photo re-touching.

But wait…..there’s a narrative!

According to Courtney’s instagram (@courtneyact), while she was exploring the planet Octopoda, Courtney “has gotten herself into trouble” while on an Intergalactic Lady Grindr date gone wrong. 


“You don’t look anything like your picture! You have 9 arms instead of 8! BRENDA, CALL ME!”
“Don’t worry Brenda, I’m coming to save you.!”

While aboard the USS Brenda, in orbit around the planet Octopoda, Vanity hears a distress call from Courtney, whose intergalactic Grindr date has gone horribly wrong. “Don’t worry Brenda, I’m coming to save you!”

Vanity finds Courtney hand-cuffed to a Chick-Feather-Boa Tree and tells the 9 armed catfish, who looks more like an octopus, to scarper before she zaps him with her stun-ing gun.
Courtney and Vanity beam back up to the “USS Brenda” to relative safety.
Finally, the two friends celebrate in the safety of the mother-ship.

Catch these two characters from this Thursday on a weekly basis at NOVA Podcasts (Brenda Call Me). As Courtney states….”Vanity and I are bringing you more astounding honesty, friendship and some queer history!”

New textile works by Rhonda Pryor

Rhonda pictured with one of her recent works

I’ve been photographing Rhonda Pryor’s works and exhibitions for many years.  Originally Rhonda was my studio buddy when we both worked in the same warehouse building in Lilyfield – me with my photography and Rhonda in her painting studio. Rhonda has since moved on to work in a studio closer to home, but she continues to commission me to photograph and document her eye-catching works, which combine painting and textiles, both hard-edged and shadowy.

Rhonda writes about her work: “While studying for my master’s degree at Sydney College of the Arts, my media of choice evolved to photography and textile work. However, I feel my work still suggests a painter’s sensibility in many ways and has influenced me in working with oils yet again after a long break. Recent textile pieces range from tight, abstract and amorphic shapes with linen, to more fluid, evocative manipulations – like catching sight of something but not quite seeing or understanding it (much like the process of remembering).”

See more of Rhonda’s work at www.rhondapryor.com

“Not So Long As the Night” – Emily Jacir exhibits in Turin

My portrait of Emily Jacir, taken in one of her favorite streets in Rome, 2016

My friend, the Palestinian artist, Emily Jacir has a solo show at her Turin gallery, Galleria Peola Simondi, Italy (until 14 October, 2021). The photo based works, film and texts are her response to the ongoing conflict between the Israeli state and the Palestinian people in and around her ancestral home and artist’s studio in Bethlehem. Jacir’s house is 200 metres from the “Apartheid Wall”, the imposing security barrier which was supposedly designed to protect the Jewish Israeli population but instead serves to isolate and and antagonise Palestinian communities. As Jacir states in the text by Francesca Comisso, “the wall does not separate us from Israel, it separates us from ourselves”.

Emily photographed in Rome, 2016

I have photographed Emily several times over the years and one of these images was used by La Repubblica newspaper in the review of her current show at Galleria Peola Simondi.

“Fire-Ground” – new sculpture by Margarita Sampson

“This work comes from walking through the fire ground after the 2019-20 fires in the Blue Mountains….the textures, the still glowing logs, the xanthorrhoea stumps, the profound and shocking stillness,” says artist Margarita Sampson.

It is great to photograph Margarita’s work and spend a couple of hours with her magnificent and unusual creations. I wonder what’s next….?

See more of Margarita’s work at: Click here

Samantha Leith updates her image

Samantha Leith, with Sarah Damichi putting the finishing touches to make up.

It was a joy to photograph Samantha – performer, business strategist and motivational speaker – who is forever on the move. She is a great communicator with a vivacious energy and we had a fun afternoon shooting new imagery for her branding and corporate profile.

As Samantha says, “If you haven’t noticed, I’ve stopped listening to the ‘experts’ that tell you to only have one business. I happen to love and excel at being a multi passionate entrepreneur.” To find out more about Samantha visit her website here.

Samantha Leith in the makeup chair, with Sarah Damichi

JUNE – UP-DATE

It’s half way through the year already and I have no idea where the time has gone. 

I am embracing the fact that there is only 6 months to go until Santa comes again and looking forward to the next 6 months of interesting challenges and achievements.

Here’s a quick summary of some of the highlights from the month of June…..


George Michael – Listen to your heart  

I was asked to cover the George Michael tribute concert at the Opera House Concert Hall on Sunday 8 June.  It was truly fabulous.  I mean you can’t go wrong with a 35 piece orchestra, some of Australia’s best voices and the classic beauty of George Michael’s exquisite writing.  Casey Donovan, Rob Mills, Hugh Sheridan, Andrew De Silva, Bobby Fox and Sheldon Riley were lead by the orchestra leader, John Foreman.  The crowd was as diverse as George’s musical career, spanning all age groups and demographics.  They were united in their enjoyment of what was coming from the stage.  Here are a few pics….


James Squires Landing

I enjoyed shooting for Xenia Contructions at the Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay.  What a superb locaton.  I shot in the early morning to catch the best light and avoid some of the foot traffic in that area.  Seeing the sun rise over the Opera House was golden.  Vivid was on at the time, so I managed to get a few shots with the Vivid light show in the background.  Here are some examples.


Trevor Ashley smashes it again!

I love working with this talented and intelligent artist.  Trevor Ashley is well known in the entertainment industry for his many portrayals of famous woman such as Liza Minelli and Shirley Bassey, musical theatre roles such as Miss Understanding in the original cast of Priscilla, Queen of the desert and Edna Turnblad in Hairspray, Thernadier in Les Miserables, many cabaret performances….and heaps of other things…if you want a better bio, head to wikipedia and search Trevor Ashley.  I can’t do him justice here.

I have shot many incarnations of Trevor over the years….I love working with him because he makes things seem easy.  They are only easy because this man is a conceptual genius and enjoys what he does.

During the most recent shoot we came up with this leading image for a new production that Trevor is appearing in at the City Recital Hall on 22 September, 2018, entitled, Trevor Ashley – Double D’s – Two decades of Divadom

Lead image for “Trevor Ashley – Double D’s – Two Decades of Divadom


 

Abba-solutely Fabulous

You know you’re in for a fun shoot when you have Rhonda Burchmore and Lara Mulcahy (mega-stars and mega-nice people) coming to the studio to work on a few new shots for their brilliant show, Abba-solutely Fabulous.

We originally met last year to shoot for this new show (Rhonda and Lara were both in the original cast of Mamma Mia)….and now it has become bigger than Ben Hur, packed houses all over Australia, and they need more images to continue the promotion machine.

Apparently the show is fabulously funny and entertaining and I am looking forward to seeing it when it next comes to Sydney.  Have a look at the programming and see if they are appearing near you, because I know they would be delightful to see. Click here for dates etc.

Look at the “teaser” below and tell me you’re not going to have a good time with these two lovely larakins.

Rhonda Burchmore and Lara Mulcahy for “Abba-solutely Fabulous


 

Shauna’s new look

I always love shooting the gorgeous Shauna Jensen…amazing vocalist with a long and impressive career in the entertainment industry….again look her up in wikipedia, Shauna Jensen for the full bio….or go and see her next performance.

Shauna has a new look and here’s a sneak preview from the shoot we did together, earlier this month.

The glamorous and talented Shauna Jensen with white hair…chic!



Taboo Talk

I have been shooting for a group of young people who meet once a month, in an open forum, to discuss various “taboo” subjects.  The images from the nights are used in their social media to promote future “Taboo Talks”.   Taboo Talks are the brain child of a couple of social workers, Amirah and Kosta and have been running for a good 18 months, discussing diverse subjects, frrom domestic violence to racism and everything in between.  The idea is to create a safe space where people feel free to share ideas and experiences with each other on a given subject.  A new topic is chosen each month and the discussion is headed and administered by nominated facilitators.  If you wish to know more they have a facebook page which you are welcome to visit.

 


The Wild Sculptural Interpretations of Margarita Sampson – Honey Funus

I have been shooting for Margarita for some years now and I am always pleasantly surprised with what she comes up with.  I know that when she rings to book photography that I am going to encounter the next wonderfully weird, beautiful and strangely animated, creature she has given birth to.  

This month was no exception.  I met “Honey Fungus” in all it’s glory of gaping orange deliciousness.  Honey Fungus’ friend looks a bit overwhelmed, I must say.  I always enjoy getting to know her little creatures as I click away.  For a look at more of Margarita’s work, click here.

 

Margarita working in her studio


Abbotsford Wharf

Hansen Yuncken together with Waterways are really stepping up the pace on the wharf up-grade roll-outs.  I shot another wharf this month.  The Abbotsford Wharf up-grade was opened to the public…so I ventured along the Parramatta River to an idyllic location for a ferry terminal at the end of Great North Road.  I really like the design of these new wharfs….in my opinion they look slick.  Here’s a few shots from the shoot….

 

Well there’s a few highlights from my month.  Please get in touch if you have any questions or queries on john@johnmcrae.com