Use By 2002: my first art exhibition

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Use By Invitation 2002
Use By Invitation 2002

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  6 October 2015


Accidental artist

We came back to Canberra from Brisbane in April 2000. My job in Brisbane had come to an end and I was in no hurry to work. I began looking for an icon that represented the late twentieth century and part of my lifetime. I’d been thinking of computer chips and boards and vaguely thought of making art.

White Australia, November 2000, Physical Mixed Media, 140 x120 mm
White Australia, November 2000, Physical Mixed Media, 140 x120 mm

Denise and I went to an exhibition at The National Gallery of Australia called Uncommon World: aspects of contemporary Australian Art between July and October 2000. We both liked Ricky Swallow’s work. However, in the exhibition I came across a work by Peter Atkins who as an artist made journals of obsessively collected detritus. His work was called Feeding ducks in the park, Sydney, 25 July 1999, which consisted of plastic bread tags collected over a long period, where people had been feeding the ducks in Centennial Park. The piece reminded me of a collection, indeed, the thought went through my head of beetles stuck with pins in a museum display. However, none of that was important to me. It was the breadtag that counted. Here was my icon!

Moghul 1, February 200, Digital Mixed Media, 300 x 210 mm
Moghul 1, February 200, Digital Mixed Media, 300 x 210 mm

I began playing with physical bread tag art sticking the breadtags onto cardboard backing. It was meant as a form of therapy to take me away from the computer. One idea was to create random art that one could theoretically build a machine to make. I re-joined PhotoAccess and foolishly undertook a Photoshop course and then I began to use the breadtag shape to paste photographs into.

Lindi Holly encouraged me to exhibit the artworks I was making in the members show and then lured me onto the PhotoAccess Board. It all went downhill from there. But, I do owe Lindi a vote of thanks.


Use By

Tag Light 2, March 2002, Aluminium, electrical fittings, 450 mm x 400 mm (irreg.)
Tag Light 2, March 2002, Aluminium, electrical fittings, 450 mm x 400 mm (irreg.)

Later Allan Byrne who was the senior conservator at the National Gallery of Australia encouraged me to mount a joint exhibition. He did warn me that it would be the hardest thing I ever did, but I paid no attention. My first two exhibitions were accompanied with bad backs and it was a very scary process. I think Allan was being overly kind to me, but he said he enjoyed making the three-dimensional breadtag inspired sculptures for his half of the exhibition.

Thus Use By was born held at Artspace 71 Gallery in Canberra from 10 to 21 April, 2002. The catalogues are given below. As well as photographs of works in the show, I’ve included a portrait Allan did of me in 2006 on a breadtag shape. It is more representative of his ongoing work. Allan has gone on to do an amazing number of portraits in oil. I think he goes from strength to strength.


The first positive reviews

Burma 3, June 2001, Digital Mixed Media, 300 x 210 mm
Burma 3, June 2001, Digital Mixed Media, 300 x 210 mm

I had no idea about the art world or how lucky we were that people actually noticed the exhibition and remembered it for years.

I did find out by providing publicity on ABC local radio and by meeting people who attended that quite a number of artists in Australia had used breadtags in their art, including one man in prison who made amazing three-dimensional sculptures using breadtags.

Sasha Grishin one of Australia’s premier art critics wrote the following brief review, which I suppose launched my art career for the next ten years. Sonia Barron was also supportive.


Review The Canberra Times 23 April, 2002

Exhibitions probe senses

By Sasha Grishin

Use By Artspace 71, 71 Leichhardt Street, Kingston, Closes April 21. Wed-Sun 11 am – 5 pm.

…Downstairs in Artspace 71, Use By is quite a stunning exhibition by Allan Byrne and Tony Stewart.

Life Perspective Mirror, January 2002. Wood, oil paint, brass hinges and mirror, 318 mm x 510 mm
Life Perspective Mirror, January 2002. Wood, oil paint, brass hinges and mirror, 318 mm x 510 mm

The central concept is the funny shaped little plastic bread tag found on supermarket produce with its “use by” date stamped on it.

The artists have adopted both the shape of the tag and the concept of commodification.

It is a provocative and probing exhibition which beautifully deconstructs aspects of our society, our dependence on technology and our phobias and obsessions.

There is a wonderful matter-of-fact understated quality in the show which is quite profound in its impact.


Review The Canberra Times 19 April 2002

Provocative use of the familiar

By Sonia Barron

Sonia Barron also gave us a good review in The Canberra Times. She concluded:

This is an exhibition which, in its exploitation of an object universally familiar and readily understood, is provocative and imaginative in its realisation; ranging across a broad spectrum of issues and ideas which concern us all.

For the full review see below.


Key words: Use By, first exhibition, breadtag, art, Allan Byrne, Tony Stewart, Lindi Holly, PhotoAccess, Sasha Grishin, Sonia Barron, Peter Atkins


Further information

USE BY Catalogue

Allan Byrne

Works

1 Tag light 2                                                                                                            $250

March 2002, Aluminium, electrical fittings, 450 mm x 400 mm (irreg.)

2 Tag light 1                                                                                                            $250

March 2002, Aluminium, electrical fittings, 450 mm x 400 mm (irreg.)

3 Remnant of an ancient civilization 6                                                          $450

February 2002, Pencil, sepia ink and gouache on paper345 x 560 mm

4 Stela                                                                                                                          $1,200

December 2001, Sepia ink and gouache on paper, 750 x 560mm

5 Remnant of an ancient civilization 2                                                           $450

November 2001, Pencil, sepia ink and gouache on paper, 348 x 560 mm

6 Life perspective Mirror                                                                                   $300

January 2002, Wood, oil paint, brass hinges and mirror, 318 mm x 510 mm

Lake Tabourie 2, July 2001, Digital Mixed Media, 300 x 210 mm
Lake Tabourie 2, July 2001, Digital Mixed Media, 300 x 210 mm
Random I, May 2001, Physical Mixed Media, 270 x 230 mm
Random I, May 2001, Physical Mixed Media, 270 x 230 mm

Tony Stewart

Works

USE BY – Computer Era

7 Random III – Use By Rand Corporation 1957                                                  $780

February 2001, Physical Mixed Media, 270×230 mm, Archive: # 010213T

8 Boolean I – Use By Mainframe Era                                                                     $820

December 2000, Physical Mixed Media, 270×230 mm,Archive: # 001208T

9 Random V – Use By Rand Corporation 1957                                                    $780

September 2001, Physical Mixed Media, 270×230 mm, Archive: # 010915T

USE BY – Human Kind

10 Lake Tabourie 2 – Use By Pristine Coastline                                                $380*

July 2001, Digital Mixed Media, 297×210 mm,

Edition: # 2 of 10, Archive: # 010713D

11 Moghul 1 – Use By Empire                                                                                   $380

February 2001,Digital Mixed Media, 297×210 mm,

Edition: # 2 of 10, Archive: # 0102O4D

12 Burma 3 – Use By Country                                                                                  $380

June 2001, Digital Mixed Media, 297×210 mm,

Edition: # 2 of 10, Archive: # 010609D

13 Pushkar Mehla 1 – Use By Nomads                                                                $380

April 2001, Digital Mixed Media, 297×210 mm

Edition: # 2 of 10, Archive: # 0104O7D

14 Khajaraho 2 – Use By Religious Revival                                                          $380

June 2001, Digital Mixed Media, 297×210 mm,

Edition: # 2 of 10, Archive: # 010611D

USE BY – National Identity

15 White Australia                                                                                                    $220

November 2000, Physical Mixed Media, 140 x 120 mm, Archive: # 001101T

16 Yellow Peril                                                                                                            $220

November 2000, Physical Mixed Media, 140 x 120 mm, Archive: # 001102T

17 4-Colour Problem — Use By Solutions                                                            $220

November 2000, Physical Mixed Media, 140 x 120 mm, Archive: # 0011103T

* Unframed editions $300


Review The Canberra Times 19 April 2002

Provocative use of the familiar

By Sonia Barron

Use By, Allan Byrne & Tony Stewart, Artspace Gallery, 71 Leichhardt Street, Kingston, Daily, 11 am to 5 pm, Friday 8pm, until April 21.

For Allan Byrne and Tony Stewart the familiar “use-by” tags which accompany so much of our manufactured produce is a fertile metaphor for much broader issues. While both artists use the form of the plastic tag associated with bread labelling each takes it in different directions.

Thinking of the ways in which human beings are assigned use-by dates in contemporary society, manifest by retrenchment, Allan Byrne in his objects and drawings touches on a diversity of issues.

These include a questioning of contemporary art practices, as in his drawing Stela, with the words “Art is more than material object” on a headstone. Human mortality is to the fore in his effective Tag lights made from aluminium. Illuminated from behind the central area of the tag form is perforated in one instance, and made from red glass in the other. The rounded slot of a tag is translated into a visceral shape, referencing the site of physical decay.

These and Life Perspective Mirror, made from wood, oil paint, with brass hinges and a mirror are skilfully constructed and invite speculation on life. The propensity for technology to outstrip our abilities to cope with change is wittily addressed in his fine drawings.

Remnant of an Ancient Civilization 6 and 2, I much enjoyed the former with its row of headstones with zip codes. What next?

Tony Stewart explores the potential of the bread tag as a symbol with reference to computer technology, to humanity and the landscape; all of which have potential use-by dates and are subject to change. Aside from titles such as Yellow Peril and White Australia, colour and arrangement provide clues to his themes. His digital mixed-media prints include fragmented images that address societies and ways of life that are under threat or subject to change. These are for me some of his most successful works, Such as Burma 3 — Use by Country and Khajuraho 2 — Use by Religious Revival.

This is an exhibition which, in its exploitation of an object universally familiar and readily understood, is provocative and imaginative in its realisation; ranging across a broad spectrum of issues and ideas which concern us all.


Further Photos and Slides of Tony’s Work

The photos are on Picasa albums to return use the back arrow on your browser. The slideshows can also be used as click through carousels. You can also navigate into a slideshow or carousel in Picasa. Top left or click on photo.

Photos of Tony’s Use By Works

For slides with captions see Slideshow of Tony’s Use By Works

Alternatively, go to Galleries  and Slideshows for more instructions


Other

4-Colour Problem, November 2000, Physical Mixed Media, 140 x 120 mm
4-Colour Problem, November 2000, Physical Mixed Media, 140 x 120 mm

PhotoAccess

Lindi Holly photography

Sasha Grishin

Review of Australian art a history by Sasha Grishin

Uncommon World: aspects of contemporary Australian Art NGA July – October 2000.

Peter Atkins

Documenting aesthetic responses

Peter Atkins’ constructed journals fulfil a necessary function. They document, order and account for the nomadic life lived by the artist. In so doing, they also define and articulate a very particular kind of aesthetic judgment, evidenced in the paintings certainly, but exemplified most persuasively in the artist’s journals. Made up of obsessively collected detritus, buttons, plastic tags…

Feeding ducks in the park, Sydney, July 25 1999 is a work that exemplifies this critical process. Over many months the artist took his young son Cato to Centennial Park. Whilst there he noticed discarded plastic tags. These had once fastened the packages of bread people brought to feed the ducks. Atkins began to gather these tags, noticing a striking modernist shape in the form and a variety of interesting colours. He was determined to gather as many as he could – which he did over many months. Some days there were more than ten tags scattered around, easy pickings; on others there were none. Eventually there were enough accumulated to construct a work and Feeding ducks in the park now forms part of the Journal (no. 5)… (Simeon Kronenberg)

Allan Byrne, Tony, May 2006, Oil on Board, 360 x 470 mm (irreg.)
Allan Byrne, Tony, May 2006, Oil on Board, 360 x 470 mm (irreg.)
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