Poster, 'Newtown, under a blue moon', Type C photographic print, paper, photograph by Anne Zahalka, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 2010
This poster is one of several created for Anne Zahalka's exhibition Homeground!, which was displayed on four Newtown hotels during May 2010.
The poster is significant partly because it results from a collaboration with the Powerhouse Museum. Anne Zahalka first approached the Powerhouse in 2004 with the idea of creating contemporary photographic versions of the pub advertising paintings which adorned the exteriors of NSW hotels from the 1930s to the 1960s. The Powerhouse holds the largest collection of these paintings. The collection formed Anne's main source material.
Her other inspiration was a collection of photos of pub paintings taken by Jim Brown, a US serviceman who spent time in Sydney during the 1960s. Jim's photos are the only record of many pub paintings which did not survive Tooth & Co's decision to remove them from the pubs. In 2004 Jim lent his negatives to the Powerhouse for copying and the Homeground! exhibition featured prints of some of these plus reproductions of some of the PHM's pub paintings. Displayed on light boxes on the exteriors of the Town Hall, Zanzibar and Union hotels, Anne Zahalka's illuminated posters recaptured the allure of pub paintings, especially at night.
Pub paintings were unusual advertisements as they were mostly commissioned for particular pubs, with subjects reflecting their locality and clientele. Anne's carefully staged versions update the mid-century archetypes with an amusing variety of Newtown hipsters and other epitomes of today's inner West.
These include the pair depicted in the poster. Inspired by a 1939 pub painting of a couple strolling in Sydney's then theatre district, 'Newtown, under a blue moon', replaces 1930s evening dress with similarly fastidious Goth attire. In Gothic nomenclature, the occasionally appearing blue moon signifies the 'darkly beautiful' Goth aesthetic. Instead of an idealised city skyline, the Goth couple are framed by the Bank Hotel, for some decades a favoured meeting place for Newtown's sub-cultures.
Charles Pickett, curator.
This photograph was taken by Anne Zahalka in Sydney, New South Wales, 2010.
Anne Zahalka studied at the Sydney College of the Arts. Since the 1980s her work has formed the content of numerous exhibitions in Australia, as well as exhibitions in Berlin, London and Madrid. Her photographs have also featured in many group exhibitions and publications. She recently completed a large commission for Sydney International Airport.
Anne Zahalka's photographs are held by the numerous public collections, including the Australian National Gallery, the Art Gallery of NSW, the Art Gallery of South Australia and the National Gallery of Victoria.
This set of photographic works are the result of several years collaboration with the Powerhouse. Anne Zahalka first approached the acquiring curator during 2004 with the idea of creating contemporary photographic interpretations of pub paintings.
Although the idea had an obvious appeal it proved difficult to raise the funds necessary for a complicated project, involving models, costumes, props and locations. The initial proposal was that the Museum would commission a set of the photographs from the PHM acquisitions budget; however there were several potential problems with this approach. As a result a sponsorship proposal was developed with Malcolm Moir, then the PHM Corporate Development Manager, to approach some brewing and photographic companies. Carlton & United Breweries expressed interest but eventually rejected the approach.
Hence in 2005 Anne applied for a Women and Arts Fellowship to fund the project. A resubmission of this application was successful in 2006 and work on the project finally commenced in 2007, although it was delayed by other projects including a related exhibition of sports persons' portraits (Playing the Game!) which opened at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in 2009.
A proposal to exhibit the completed works at the PHM in association with pub paintings from the collection was rejected by PHM management in 2007. However in 2010 the Head On photo festival assisted Anne in approaching Newtown hotels as as potential venues for an exhibition. The resulting exhibition Homeground! showed in May 2010 at four King Street hotels.