Author Archives: Anne-Marie Van de Ven

Upcycled – waste not, want not…

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Budget option ‘bush pantry’, improvised using an oil drum, kerosene tins and length of water pipe, unknown maker, about 1930. Powerhouse Museum collection. 92/305

Budget option ‘bush pantry’, improvised using an oil drum, kerosene tins and length of water pipe, unknown maker, about 1930. Powerhouse Museum collection. 92/305

A new display opens at the Powerhouse Museum this week titled ‘Upcycled’, a word coined by German engineer and upcycler, Reiner Pilz in 1994.

‘Recycling? I call it down-cycling. They smash bricks, they smash everything. What we need is upcycling, where old products are given more value, not less.’ (Reiner Pilz: thinking about a green future, Salvo Monthly, No 23, October 1994, p14)

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Farewell to curator, Christina Sumner, OAM

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Christina Sumner, Principal Curator, Design & Society in the basement with textiles, including 92/775 Suzani (needlework), Collection: Powerhouse Museum

On the eve of of Christina Sumner’s departure we asked her a few questions about her experiences at the Museum over the last 28 years.


What have you enjoyed the most about working in the Museum?

Always always always it’s been the people and the collection. I’ve been lucky enough to spend every working day with curatorial and other colleagues who are bright, interested, articulate and as passionate as I am about the collection – building it, and committing ourselves to interpret, tell stories about and communicate the meaning of our objects to the wider community.

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Tribute to Harry Rogers: legendary Qantas poster designer

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Koala poster from Harry Rogers’ animated animal series of the 1960s 95/277/4 Collection: Powerhouse Museum

Sadly, the Powerhouse Museum farewelled two more supporters this year – poster artist Harry Rogers (b. 20 November 1929 – d.19 May 2012) and his wife Valmai (Val) Rogers, who died on 23 November 2012. Harry and Val were married for almost 60 years. Both were artists. They met while studying at East Sydney Technical College in Darlinghurst (now the National Art School), married in 1953, then moved temporarily to California where Harry studied Animation as part of a Summer Theatre Arts and TV Production course at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). This love of animation is reflected in his poster designs like the one above.

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Round and round the world we go, travel in the 1930s

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Dahl riding a merry-go-round, 1930s, Collection Powerhouse Museum

Dahl riding a merry-go-round, 1930s. Collection: Powerhouse Museum

I have just catalogued the 1930s photographs from The Dahl and Geoffrey Collings Archive as part of an internship project for my Masters of Art Curatorship at the University of Sydney. Although photography was only a small part of their practice, beginning in the mid 1930s, it paints a very broad picture of their holistic approach to art and design.

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Michael Callaghan 1952-2012

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90/91 Poster, `Buy CAAMA Cassettes', paper, designed by Michael Callaghan and Jeff Stewart, made by Redback Graphix, Wollongong, 1984. Collection: Powerhouse Museum

The above bi-lingual screenprinted poster design by Michael Callaghan, was produced at Redback Graphix in Wollongong in 1984 for CAAMA, the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (established 1980). CAAMA is owned by the Aboriginal people of Central Australia, and aims to advance social, cultural and economic benefits to local people. CAAMA was the first Aboriginal group in Australia to be allocated a broadcasting licence, and this poster is one of the earliest bi-lingual posters designs produced for an Aboriginal community.

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Books, the best thing since sliced bread

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(left) Hand-drawn Alphabet book handmade by William Harrison, Australia, 1894. 97/132/1 (right) E R Boyce, Beginning to Read, England, 1950s. 2007/108/1 Collection:Powerhouse Museum

In this National Year of Reading, it is appropriate that the Powerhouse Museum mounts an exhibition which celebrates excellence is Australian book design and publishing. While the Museum collection contains hundreds of books, including the two children’s books illustrated above (one hand made in Australia by 13 year old William Harrison for his niece in England, the other published in England but used in Australian schools), it holds very few winning books from the Australian Publishers Association (APA) annual Book Design Awards (BDA).
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Sydney Mardi Gras: a daring, dazzling and defiant display of difference

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96/305/2 'Cotton Blossom' costume designed, made and worn by Ron Muncaster, for 1994 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Collection: Powerhouse Museum

Over the next 4 weeks, if the rain abates and the sun shines, the city of Sydney will come to life as 1000s of men and women fly into Sydney from around Australia and the world for the 2012 Sydney Mardi Gras which kicked off last Sunday with the annual Victoria Park Fair Day. This festival follows close on the heels of its New Orleans counterpart.

The Powerhouse Museum‘s collection includes a number of objects related to this internationally significant Sydney event, including David McDiarmid’s iconic poster for the 1988 Mardi Gras which places Australia on top of the world.

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95/339/10 Poster designed by David McDiarmid for 1988 Sydney Gay Mardi Gras. Gift of Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Limited, 1995. Collection: Powerhouse Museum

The design of this and other Mardi Gras posters captures something of the exuberance and the spectacular costume and float designs associated with the Mardi Gras parade.

This year Mardi Gras celebrates its 35th anniversary by welcoming the return of Kylie Minogue and singer/songwriter Sam Sparrow. Both will perform at Mardigrasland, the bejewelled party environment set to take over Sydney’s Entertainment Quarter for the final days of the 2012 party season. As part of Mardi Gras’ earlier 20th anniversary celebrations, the Museum mounted an exhibition titled Absolutely Mardi Gras: costume and design of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras (1997).

The 2012 Mardi Gras program is packed with events like the Fair Day, Drag Races, a Youth Festival, Pool Party, etc but its the Mardi Gras Parade (7.45 to 10pm, 3 March) and the After-Parade Party at Mardigrasland (10pm -8am, 3-4 March) which form the key spots on the calendar for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersexed communities to get together to celebrate differences and commonalities with friends, family and community supporters.

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95/172/1 Costume designed by Peter Tully, for 1990 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Collection: Powerhouse Museum

Peter Tully (1947-1992) the designer of the 1995 Mardi Gras costume illustrated above was creative director for Mardi Gras from 1982-1986. Under his tenure, the Mardi Gras workshop was founded and the Sydney Mardi Gras transformed from a political march to a cultural event. Tully and Ron Muncaster (1936- ), were two of Mardi Gras’ most spectacular costume designers. Muncaster’s ‘Cotton Blossom’ costume for the 1994 Parade is illustrated at the top of this post.

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98/173/6 and 95/339/3-1, Preparatory collage (on left) by David McDiarmid for the 1990 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras poster (right). Collage, gift of the Estate of the late David McDiarmid, 1998; Poster, gift of Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Limited, 1995. Collection: Powerhouse Museum

The Museum’s collection also includes the original artwork that is a conceptual collage for the 1990 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. This poster was also designed by David McDiarmid (1952-1995).

The Museum’s Mardi Gras collection has been developing over a 25 year period, mainly as gifts of the organisers, the artists or their family and friends. These wonderful objects shine a light on the history of Sydney Mardi Gras and the aspirations and concerns of the Mardi Gras organisers and participants. The poster collection includes all Mardi Gras posters from 1981 to 1998, but we are still missing the three earliest posters (1978, 1979 and 1980) and have also not yet acquired the posters from 1999 through to 2012. If readers have copies of any of these missing posters in good condition, especially the earlier designs, and be willing to donate them to the collection, please contact the curator at annem@phm.gov.au or 92170161.

Post by Anne-Marie Van de Ven

Hand-made Christmas cards

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Whipbird Christmas card, designed and hand-made by Suzanne Annand, 2011

Every year, around this time of the year, an envelope arrives on my desk which brings with it, pleasure and delight. This year, in response to the emerging community interest in the ‘hand-made’ (demonstrated in part by the enthusiastic response we’ve received to the Museum’s international Love Lace competition and exhibition), I thought I’d share some of this joy and delight with readers of the Museum’s ‘Inside the Collection’ blog.

This year the special envelope contained a decorative little hand-made cut-paper ‘Whipbird’ (above) with a glittering diamante eye! It had a metallic string thoughtfully attached so that the bird could be hung as a Christmas decoration. The card is the latest in a long running series of hand-made Christmas greeting cards that Suzanne Annand (nee O’Reilly) has been making since she was 8 or 9 years old, and one of a series that Suzanne has been sending to Museum curators since we first met Suzanne and Tony Annand in 1990, when the Museum acquired the Douglas Annand design archive.

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Sheep, Christmas stocking, koala and gumleaf, and black swan Christmas card desgins, hand-made by Suzanne Annand, 1990-2010

For these cards, Suzanne draws inspiration from the things she sees around her – the whipbird, cockatoo and brush turkey were regular visitors to her garden in St Ives, the lizard was seen on a trip she and Tony took to Central Australia, the King parrot was seen while sitting on the veranda at Napoleon Reef, 18km east of Bathurst, the sheep is wrapped in wool from the shearing shed at their property at old Bredbo (now Jerangle).

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Lizard Christmas card, Suzanne Annand

To create these highly personalized and appealing Christmas card designs, Suzanne uses readily available materials like coloured paper, tissue and card, diamantes and sequins, holographic stickers, metallic ribbons and threads, and sometimes natural ‘found’ objects like the dry gum leaf. Some are concertina format, others folded, but mostly each is shaped into an easily recognised form.

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Penguin, Christmas tree, boomerang and cockatoo Christmas cards, designed and hand made by Suzanne Annand, 1990-2010

The materials are combined using simple techniques like paper cutting, origami folding, crumpling, knotting and threading, gluing, over drawing and hand painting, in an intuitive process which leads each year to a delightful new design.

Suzanne attributes some of her inspiration to the privilege of watching, and sometimes even helping, her father-in-law, Douglas Annand work. Annand is renowned for skilfully integrating a hand-made aesthetic into his unique and usually very sophisticated commercial artworks and designs like his iconic Qantas x Australia poster of 1972 (which Suzanne watched him create with coloured Letraset strips) or the memorable ANTA Black Swan poster design of 1954, which has obviously directly provided inspiration for Suzanne’s black swan Christmas card (above).

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing and reading about Suzanne Annand’s delightful designs. Thank you Suzanne for making Christmas each year just a little bit more charming and delightful with your hand-made cards! Wishing you, and our readers, all the very best for Christmas and the New Year – from all the staff in the Museum’s Design and Society curatorial department.

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Santa stuck in a spider web Christmas card, designed and hand-made by Suzanne Annand, 1990-2010

All card images courtesy of Suzanne Annand
Post by Anne-Marie Van de Ven

Evolution of a 1950s fashion model

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97/272/1-1 Janice Wakely modelling Gala Gowns in Zurich, photographed by Henry Talbot, 1960 Collection: Powerhouse Museum

Discovering the many aspects of one woman’s career was one of the most interesting aspects of my 20 day internship at the Powerhouse Museum. Under the supervision of Curator Anne-Marie Van de Ven I’ve just finished cataloguing the Janice Wakely modelling and photography archive. This archive includes photographs of Janice, photographs by Janice, magazine and newspaper tear sheets and clippings, plus biographical material. The photographs document the career of one of the most prominent Australian fashion models of the 1950s and 60s. During this time, Janice was a highly sought after fashion model with great success both in her homeland of Australia, as well as overseas in London, Zurich and Paris.

The archive contains photographs of Janice Wakely as a fashion model, taken during the 1950s and 1960s, many by leading Australian and international photographers of the day – including Helmut Newton, Bruno Benini, Athol Shmith, Henry Talbot, David Franklin and the British photographer Terence Donovan. The majority of the prints are photographs of Janice modelling in the different photographer’s studio, however there are also some showing Janice modelling outdoors and others where she appears at special publicity events, like the publicity photograph of a group of models for the All Australian Fashion Parades in 1962. Other photographs show Janice with her contemporaries – internationally renowned hairdresser Vidal Sassoon, pre-eminent fashion designer Hardy Amies, and photographers Henry Talbot and David Franklin.

While many of the photographs were taken in Australia, primarily Melbourne, there are also photographs of Janice in London, Switzerland, New York and Delhi, including a photograph taken of Janice in 1960 by British photographer Terence Donovan, a prominent British photographer and major figure of the ‘Swinging London’ scene of the 1960s.

Janice shared close working relationships and friendships with the photographers she worked with, and some greatly influenced her career and her later transition into photography. Her passion for photography began during some of her earlier modelling assignments where, between takes, she would pick up a camera and take pictures of the photographers and other models at work. Helmut Newton was the first to encourage her to take up photography, introducing her to darkroom and camera techniques in his penthouse studio and on location.

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97/272/1-2/12/3 Photograph of Helmut Newton by Janice Wakely taken at Lorne, near Melbourne, 1959 Collection: Powerhouse Museum

Her archive consists of several such photographs including candid and intimate shots of her photographer friends and colleagues. Most photographs were taken in Melbourne and Sydney while some were taken overseas in Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea, including photographs taken by Janice of Henry Talbot and Helen Homewood during an overseas assignment for Woman’s Day with Woman magazine which took them to Hong Kong, Thailand, India and the United Kingdom. These photographs provide an interesting ‘behind the scenes’ view of a photographer and model at work during a photo shoot. There is a unique series of candid photographs of photographer Helmut Newton and model Georgia Gold on a beach in Lorne, Victoria, which Janice took during a photo shoot for the first issue of Australian Vogue.

Janice’s photographic prints are as much a documentation of the careers of the photographers, as they are of Janice’s own career. There are many original prints in good condition, given to Janice by the photographers. The archive is an important documentation of the Australian fashion industry of the 1950s and 60s and how that industry fitted into the wider global context, with many of its industry professionals working both domestically and overseas. It also provides examples of high fashion tastes and styles during the era, and reveals how fashion developed and evolved from the 1950s into the 1960s.

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97/272/1-4/1 Penthouse brochure,Janice appears bottom right, photograph taken by Janice Wakely, 1965 Collection: Powerhouse Museum

Janice’s skills as a fashion model and burgeoning photographer reached new heights in 1962 when she and fellow model Helen Homewood opened the Penthouse Modelling Agency and Photographic Studio, in Helmut’s old penthouse studio. Through this agency, Janice and Helen trained and booked jobs for new modelling talent while Janice also captured the model’s test shots and carried out assignments as a photographer. The archive includes some unique personal works, like the photograph that Janice took of ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev rehearsing for ‘Le Corsair’ in Melbourne.

This archive demonstrates Janice Wakely’s transition from fashion model to photographer, the establishment of the Penthouse Agency and how she balanced and found success through both professions. It also provides important documentation of some of Australia’s most prominent fashion photographers in practice. The collection compliments others in the Powerhouse Museum including those which document the works of photographers Henry Talbot, Bruno Benini and Helmut Newton and photographs of other Australian fashion models of the era, such as Helen Homewood, Georgia Gold, Jan Stewart and Margot McKendry.

Helen Dunlop, Curatorial Intern with Anne Marie Van de Ven, Curator, June 2011

Aesthetics, sensuality and the visual image

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Left: Dancer Antonio Rodrigues, photo by Bruno Benini, Melbourne, 1960s. Benini archive acquired with funding assistance from the Australian Government’s National Cultural Heritage Account, 2009.
Right: Saint Sebastian by Guido Reni. Prado Museum, Madrid

It is an interesting analysis to see how the male form is conceived aesthetically within two very different contexts and mediums. The seventeenth century painter Guido Reni, and the Italian-Australian fashion photographer, Bruno Benini, were very different individuals. Nonetheless certain characteristics of both men are of comparative interest. Reni and Benini were both Italian. Guido was born in Bologna, home to Europe’s first University and a hub of seventeenth century artistic activity; Bruno, in the picturesque Umbrian town of Massa Marittima, sixty-five kilometres south-west of Sienna. Guido and Bruno’s depictions of the nude have also both been interpreted by some in erotic terms.

The sensuality of Guido’s semi-naked saint, caught between pain and in an ecstasy that transcends the pain of martyrdom, has been seen as erotic by popular art historian Simon Schama. In his series The Power of Art, Saint Theresa’s ecstasy by the sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini is even conceived as tantamount to orgasm. None of the male nude photographs by Benini were included in the recent Benini exhibition, Creating the Look: Benini and fashion photography (30 July 2010 – 18 April 2011).

I believe we do a certain injustice to both depictions of the naked form in seeing it predominantly through these post-Freudian eyes. The sensual and sexual are rather contained within both these pictures via conformity to particular aesthetic cultural discourses. In Reni’s case, this is embodied in an intimate expression of Classicism and in Bruno’s of twentieth century Modernism. For a pre-Freudian, seventeenth century audience, the key to Reni’s painting was perceived in the action of the pose. Somewhat related to what the Frenchman Andre Felibien, derivative of Aristotle, called, The Unity of Action. This encapsulated a theoretical belief in pictorial clarity that required the thoughts and intentions of an individual, to be conveyed in the action of the body. Thus the saint’s tilted head, the gaze of his eyes and the contraposta of his torso, are all subtly crafted to lead the viewer’s thoughts beyond the transience of both sensuality and pain, to a meditation upon the constant and the eternal. The painting is thus carefully set up as an aesthetic paradox between the visual and the intellectual.

In quite a few of Bruno’s pictures the body is viewed reductively. This originated with the photographer Alfred Steiglitz, who in the 1930s began photographing parts of the body in isolation. This was a transition from the Formalism of Modernist painting to the camera lens. As such, the body in many of Bruno’s photographs becomes an abstracted quasi-architecture. The sensual and erotic are explicitly contained within the confines of an expression of shape for its own sake.

In both pictures we are not simply looking at a naked figure. The erotic and the sensual are not free agents rather both are culturally prescribed, and thus contained, by differing aesthetic discursive agendas.

Post by Dominique Millar, Curatorial Intern (Master of Art Curatorship, University of Sydney)